Claire King

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Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

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.

Unplugged

Posted on: July 5th, 2015 by Claire - No Comments

We plug things in to give them energy:

Our phones, our computers, the TV, tablets, games consoles…but most of us have noticed that being ‘plugged in’ ourselves actually saps our energy.

There are lots of positives to the way we communicate these days. I love hearing what my friends are up to on Facebook and I love chatting about writing on twitter. I like that you can send and receive messages instantaneously and for free, it’s practical. But somehow these things can come to seem like an obligation, as though we have to be permanently plugged in so we can respond instantly, or within a couple of hours. And an obligation like that can be a burden, draining your energy.

So, since the kids school broke up early for summer because of the heatwave, I decided to give us all just a few days breather. We got in the car and drove north for about three hours, where we set up camp  alongside the Hérault river in the Causses & Cévennes national park, somewhere none of us had ever been.

Cauldera

Cirque de Navacelles – Cauldera formed by a river

Pic Saint Loup

Pic Saint Loup

All gadgetry was banned (although I admit we adults did take our phones and use the cameras, we did switch off from social media). We took water pistols, notebooks, swimming costumes, colouring books and a guitar and bought some postcards to write. We also borrowed a donkey for a while.

Child leading donkey

Child playing guitar

We played Story Cubes a lot at mealtimes. If you’ve not heard of these I do recommend them, they are just little boxes of dice with pictures on, so when you throw them you have a ready made story prompt. We all loved them and it got quite competitive to see who could tell the most engaging story.

Of course we all read too, although I had taken along an optimistic stack of books – two novels and a short story collection – but in the end I only read a few chapters because of all the conversation we found ourselves having.

We could only be away for three days (which wasn’t nearly enough time to enjoy the region properly, two weeks would have been nice) as Mr King had to go off to work and we have our gîtes to look after now the school holidays have started here, so it’s not as if it was some kind of gadgetry cold turkey, but it was lovely. We all enjoyed it and no one missed the electronic games or the social media that we sometimes reach for automatically in our spare minutes.

Man colouring in

Mr King is doing “Man Colouring”

I would love to say that when we got back the kids have turned completely feral and that Minecraft and DVDs have been forgotten, but of course they haven’t. But unplugging ourselves briefly has replenished our energy and set the tone for the two months of summer holidays that lie ahead. I recommend it.

—–

Camp by Robert Louis Stevenson

The bed was made, the room was fit, By punctual eve the stars were lit; The air was still, the water ran, No need was there for maid or man, When we put up, my ass and I, At God’s green caravanserai.

PS: My kids had never heard the word ‘ass’ before (in this context at least), so they loved this poem…

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