Bristol 17.7.19

Summer – that is the Summer break – is fast approaching but this year there’s no expectations. I’m trying not to plan and ‘make the most’ of time. Just live it. Don’t live in the future. This change is important.

I don’t why I’ve started writing – I’m about to meet Imilia on Alma Road to interview and old lady who is a medium and a bit of a ‘character’. Expect the unexpected is probably the right way to think. If it wasn’t going to be her I was going to see the Extinction Rebellion protest with their pink boat which they park in a busy street to hold up the traffic. They turned up on Bristol Bridge on Monday and I think plan to stay til Friday. I know they have a big contingent in Bristol. They have 200 strong meetings at the Malcolm X Centre every Wednesday.

Tiffany stopped over last night. Slavic features and raven black hair that runs like a black sea down her back. I haven’t done it in an awfully long time and it felt like a huge relief. A knot untied. It was also a test of nerve and guilt. Neither of which seemed to loom large in my mind. Am I entering a new phase of life – a greater maturity – dare I say it? Greater self knowledge? I hope so.

Seeing David for the last time today. His funny gawky looks and his long uncomfortable pauses where we both stare into space while the fake fire slowly glows yellow between us and we listen to the footsteps or singing of yoga addicts above our heads. But he’s been great: if nothing else he’s made me aware of another way of thinking or what could be improved in my often hair brain, wired way of thinking…

Reading bits of ‘Singing for Mrs Pettigrew – A Storymaker’s Journey’, Michael Morpurgo’s short stories for children, along with explanations of the writing process and how he got into it. Interesting to hear how he says he needed to belong to a place to become a good writer. Talking about the importance of place and its influence on written characters: “I suppose I hadn’t realised this because I had not lived it myself, and that was because I had never stayed long enough in one place to comprehend just how powerful and profound this sense of place, of belonging, might be in our lives.” This struck a chord. Am I longing to belong? To a place. I seem to have spent years on the move, never really settled, a part time itinerant, even during term time going between the flat in Bristol and the cottage in Somerset. Always wanting a change of scene. Belonging will come with a person. A partner for life and then a place to settle, to know, to explore and to become a prism through which I can explore myself. Without doubt that would help me creatively. I can feel it in just the same way Morpurgo did but not yet. Not yet. There must be another way of writing before I get to that point.

Morpurgo’s first book was the diary of a farm which grew out of his “burgeoning sense of belonging.” “It was a book that made me look and listen, made me ask why, made me begin to understand, made me long to belong.” Yes, I could see myself doing that and why don’t I? Looking at the bits and pieces I’ve started on in the last few months I see ideas floating about with no fixed sense of where it will go. Experimentation is the way at this early stage. Write what you know is most people’s advice so I have focused on education: my 2 pieces for The Tablet’s ‘The Teacher who Inspired Me’ column. Hopefully another piece for The Tablet about provision for children in care for the October issue. Various interviews with Heads or Team Leaders in Somerset schools and PRUs regarding funding and its knock on effect (need to get on with this at some point). A job from Hank where I interviewed Katherine Gleeson about Imprisonment for Public Protection and her campaigning work to try and protect the mental health of IPP prisoners who are frequently self harming or taking their own lives. I made this into a 900 word article to give Hank some background on her before he went to interview her but perhaps I should make this into a bigger, more comprehensive article.

A lot of what I do is interviewing people and this is what interests me. Everyday people. The people you pass on the street and will probably never see again but most of them have a great story. Perhaps I would do this and turn it into the story of a community, rather like Ronald Blythe’s ‘Akenfield’ (have just fired off an email to his publisher to request an interview). Perhaps it would be the basis for another story like Morpurgo, whose story about the army buying horses from his village in World War 1 became the inspiration for ‘War Horse’.

Profiles of people. That would be interesting. People – journalists – make a living out of that. What about a collection of interviews rather like Nigel Shakespear’s ‘Times New Romanian’, which consists of many snapshots of ordinary people’s lives in modern day Romania.

If nothing else, it’s good to be thinking about it and doing a Diploma in Journalism (coming up in September) will help to focus what I want to. I can’t help but think of what Morpurgo says – that a certain place, a certain time of life will provide a new form of inspiration. A place – I don’t where yet – will help me find my voice.

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