Claire King

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Archive for December, 2016

Smaller than I remember it.

Posted on: December 22nd, 2016 by Claire - 1 Comment

I’ve just been to France for 3 days, back to the village we left at the very start of this year after having lived there for 14 years. When we left, we had no home to go to.  But we packed up and went because unless we were in the UK we simply couldn’t organise the new house, jobs and schools that we needed to. It was a leap of faith, and indeed it took weeks and months to get everything in place here. Meanwhile, despite having leapt, I was still tied to France, with a company still registered there, my house not sold, taxes, bills etc all still needing to be dealt with. When you’re an adult, it seems, burning bridges is a long, slow, time-consuming smoulder.

This week, right before Christmas, the time came to sign the final papers for the sale of the house. I could have gone alone, but it would have felt strange and lonely, and besides, the whole family wanted to see people we left behind there, so we went as a family. Our journey over started on a foggy Sunday morning in Bristol, and ended that evening, driving in the dark up winding French lanes that echoed with years of our footsteps, and those of the dogs that the girls knew their whole lives but are no longer with us. All of it so familiar and yet stripped, somehow, of its homeliness. The girls talk fondly of France, and have had time enough here for it to have already become an idyllic place in the past, and yet the closer we got, the stranger it felt.

When we finally got to the house and unlocked the door,  the two girls ran upstairs, keen to go and see their old bedrooms, which they emptied and swept almost a year ago. When they got there they were puzzled. “That’s really weird,” they said. “It’s smaller than I remember it.” And “It doesn’t feel like my room anymore, it feels like a dream.”

I think they were learning, for the first time, that a house is not a home. Places are smaller than we remember them because we fill them with our lives, with all the memories tied up in our daily rituals and our personal affairs. If you take all of that away the walls shrink back to house-shape again, until someone new comes to make them into a new home.

But there was just one place in the house where we all felt a small pang of loss, where we had left something of ourselves that we couldn’t take with us. And so in one last little ceremony we did this, adding two last marks on the wall where we’d tracked the girls’ heights since they were old enough to stand up:

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And then we locked up. Signed some papers. Handed over the keys and turned the page.

Driving back from Bristol last night, up through the fog, the turning point of the winter solstice seemed perfectly apposite.  It’s so good to come home.*

 

*This Christmas in Britain alone, 120,000 children will have no home to come back to. To help them, please visit the Shelter website and donate. 

 

Five Hot Trends in 2017

Posted on: December 12th, 2016 by Claire - 7 Comments

I am rather buoyed by the announcement that the Pantone colour of 2017 is Greenery, and that in 2017 we are going to revitalise and reconnect. Less screen, more green, perhaps:

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With that in mind, I’ve looked a bit further into the fashions and trends of the coming 12 months and am pleased to offer you some predictions for what’s going to be à la mode in 2017. I’d be happy to hear your predictions too:

OUT: Believing climate change and our natural world is primarily affected by other people.

IN: Taking personal responsibility and action in our every day choices.

 

OUT: Passive aggressive facebook chain letters. Twitter activism.

IN: Sending real letters to real people. Picking up the phone. Taking action.

 

OUT: Sharing links to clickbait, propaganda, disinformation and any other kind of fake news, even to show disapproval.

IN: Rewarding good journalism by paying for it and sharing it with others.

 

OUT: Consumerism. Really, we’re done with that now, right? And that includes at Christmas.

IN: Communities. Investing our time and money to create positive change in our communities.

 

OUT: The first person I see write, “Well, 2017, you’re not much better than 2016 are you?”…

IN: Telling people how much you appreciate them while they are still alive. Helping those in need. Making things better through small acts of kindness that will add up to a whole lot.

Happy New Year, friends. xxx

Writing, not writing.

Posted on: December 1st, 2016 by Claire - 1 Comment

Many of you will know that we moved from the South of France this year, and ended up in Gloucestershire. What with moving countries, buying a house, selling a house in France, moving schools for my daughters, starting a new job, catching up with all the friends we’ve missed while we were in France and so on, it’s been really hard to fit much writing in this year.

That’s OK. I’ve a new novel on the go and it will be done when it’s done. For me these fallow writing periods are not wasted. Living is a good preparation for writing. Feeling the stresses and anxieties of change and running the gamut of emotions is all useful stuff when it comes to getting inside the heads of characters. I still take notes, catch fleeting inspirations, keep it all for later.

And the shock of the new is something I think all writers need to experience as often as possible. New environments and experiences open our eyes, shake us out of complacency and bring back our close observation of the day-to-day that brings fiction to life by making it ring true.

We now live very close to a canal, and one of the delights of this year has been my daily walks along the towpath. I have loved seeing how it burst into life as spring approached, and meeting the neighbours:

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There are a resident pair of swans who began building their nest, eventually laid eggs and then hatched a brood of cygnets. Watching how their behaviour changed, with each other, with the nearby humans and with their cygnets was a daily surprise.

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One day as I had turned and was walking home, a kingfisher flew across the towpath in front of me and turned west, up the canal, pausing on every other tree, taking my breath away completely.

In summer the canal was buzzing with life, both animal, human and plant. It was the place the surrounding communities converged on in the evenings to get together and relax.
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We had a gentle autumn, with a proliferation of perfect garden spiders’ webs and plume moths .
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And as the sun has got lower in the skies, the light has begun to hit the water differently, and the water itself has regular phases during the day – in the morning the canal is still and glassy, but later in the day it shifts, and the reflections become rippled and distorted.

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Today is the first of December. It was a frosty morning, but I am noticing too that there are parts of the landscape where the frost doesn’t melt all day.stroud-england-frome-gardens-28-april-2016-1-of-10-3

And today the big surprise was to find  one of the shadier stretches of the canal iced over, the frozen reeds in the water fanned out under the surface.

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There was a crow, which I’ve not seen here before, perched in the low, bare branches of tree with a flock of black-headed gulls swooping around it, complaining at its presence. The crow was holding her ground and every now and then shouted ‘bugger off’. At least that’s what I imagined she was saying.

And over in the fields across the river, the cows’ breath condensed in the chilly air.

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After 14 years in the same place, all of this is new, all of this is different. Noticing these small delights is the food for thought that will bring my next novel to life. So although I barely made a dent in an ambitious target word count for November, I am writing, just not writing.

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