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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I'm having a Rebecca de Winter moment

The arrival of spring has turned my head to flowers.  Walking the dog brings pure pleasure as I breathe in the fresh, warm air, feast on people’s gardens brimming with colour and discover wild flowers growing in the hedgerows, woods and fields.  It’s a beautiful time of year and I would love a garden large enough to grow hundreds of flowers so that I may cut some to bring inside and arrange in vases around the house (I would need a large house, too!).  I imagine myself as Rebecca de Winter strolling around the garden wearing a straw boater and a pretty frock, a basket in the crook of my arm and a pair of gilded scissors in my lace-gloved hand.  Ah, the romance of it all.

But if I had a garden large enough to grow a plentiful supply of flowers for my imaginary numerous vases, what would I grow?  Most flowers look beautiful outside but it’s quite a different matter when you bring them in.

I’ve tried to love lilies and though I admire their elegance and beauty, they’re not for me.  They smell great but knock a ripe stamen and a puff of orangey-brown pollen explodes leaving a yucky stain that’s impossible to remove.  Experience has taught me to place the vase in a difficult to reach corner or upon a high shelf – somewhere completely out of the way where the pollen can’t reach me.  If it were possible to erect an electric shield, I would do so: anything to keep those little orangey devils in a state of containment.  But there’s still the end of life disposal (the lilies, that is) and I can guarantee that just approaching the vase galvanises the pollen into action and with a last-ditch effort they will try to stain whatever they can:  bookshelf, carpet, my crisp, white blouse……..

I’ve read that if you cut the stamen head off before it becomes ripe, you don’t get the pollen.  But isn’t that rather a lot of effort to take over some cut flowers?  To be honest, the trouble with lilies is that they’re a bit overblown and high maintenance: they’re the supermodels of the flower world.  Beautiful to look at and gorgeously, heavily scented but they need to be handled with kid gloves or else they’ll soon turn on you and mark you for life!

Carnations are always a popular choice but for me they don’t do a lot.  I suppose the best that can be said of them is that they last a long time when cut.  They try, absolutely they try with their frills and their frothy, delicate colours.  They make a dependable buttonhole and a good filler in a bouquet but a bunch of them stuck in a vase is all froth and no flavour – a bit like an overpriced cup of coffee.  Disappointing. 

I am quite partial to a gerbera but sadly I don’t think they’d grow in an Essex garden.  They’re very pretty and come in a huge array of colours.  But to be honest, they do have a drawback (besides the fact that I can’t grow them): their stems are slightly alarming.  No real leaves to speak of and very weird, bendy stalks that make the flower-heads look a bit off-balance.  The flowers bloom boldly and shout:  ‘Look at me!’ and that’s where the problem lies.  The whole effect is a bit artificial and shouts of exhibitionism.  Exhibitionists are often very interesting at first glance but when you look a bit closer, delve a bit deeper, they can be quite alarming.  I mean, you wouldn’t want one perched on the sideboard in your sitting room, would you?

Daffodils are jolly.  No two ways about it and they’re very nearly perfect.  They bravely stand against cold March winds, rain and snow and their tenacity is astounding.  Or is it stupidity that makes them shoot up so early in the year?  They colourfully open themselves up to you – a lovely yellow smiling face that greets and welcomes with no regard at all for their own comfort or survival.  The ‘pleaser’ of the flower world, much like our greyhound – wants to please but completely clueless.

And so to my perfect flower.  The tulip.  Yes, I know I could’ve chosen from many other flowers and the tulip isn’t particularly sophisticated but what can I say, I love ‘em!
Their pale green stems are beautifully blanketed by thick, matching green, tall leaves.  A support system that is quietly understated and confident in its ability.  It knows its job – it’s there to support the beautiful flower-head formed of simply shaped, waxy petals forming a perfect cup that delicately unfurls.  The tulip is a lady, a favourite old aunt: demure and sweet.  It holds itself perfectly, not shouty and loud but with a quiet subtlety that is charming.  Even the way it sheds its petals is graceful, the head gently releasing them one by one to float slowly to a resting place at the foot of the vase.  I can’t think of a bad word to say about the tulip.  It’s perfect.

Yes, if I were Rebecca de Winter, I would grow tulips and spend sunny afternoons picking blooms to bring inside to fill my many vases.  Of course, besides the huge garden and large house, I’d also have to speak to Mother Nature and see if she could arrange for tulips to bloom all year round………or perhaps I should choose roses in the summer?  Chrysanthemums in the autumn?  And in the winter?

Maybe I need to think this through.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Time for scratching the creative itch

Social media is a wonderful thing.  I love Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends and Twitter for those I call my ‘Pen Pals’.  There is no doubt that some people use Twitter to unashamedly promote their work but most of the people I follow are in it to have fun, be helpful or to try and make the world a better place.

Sometimes people will offer advice on the writing process or publishing industry (traditional or indie) and I try to read as much as I can to improve the way I write and to be prepared for the all-important submission (whenever, if ever, I reach that point).

A couple of weeks ago a tweet by @ellisshuman piqued my interest:  I have a family, I have a job, but I need to create!  ‘How I Found Time to Write in My Busy Schedule’.

I have a family, I have a job and I need to create!  All three are essential pulls on my time and when friends ask me how my book is coming along, I find myself making excuses for not having the time, ie spending time at a work (a must) and spending time with my family (a pleasure).  Why is ‘family time’ often considered to be non-productive and therefore non-essential?

It’s family time that makes everything okay – it centres and grounds me and allows me to fly……it provides a stable foundation for carrying out the day job and a sanctuary from the sometimes harsh world outside.  Family time allows me to be me which provides the gateway to creativity.

But recently a lack of time has been a bar to creativity.

Thankfully, I read Ellis Shuman’s blog post where he shares just one single tip on how he fits writing into his daily schedule while still doing everything else he has, and wants, to do.

He leaves for work an hour early, goes to a coffee shop and writes.


With my equilibrium teetering, I decided to try Ellis’s simple advice; what did I have to lose?

And so for the last two weeks I’ve been leaving for work an hour early and what a difference it has made to my day!  Traffic is lighter and the journey is very calm and relaxed.  Once parked at work I go straight to a coffee shop or find a secluded place in the canteen and I write for an hour.  I find the journey helps to focus my mind so when I sit down to write, that hour a day is incredibly productive.  I have no time to sit and dilly dally or let procrastination take over.  This is my time.  I have left home an hour early to do this, and I treasure it.

An hour a day isn’t much, but it provides a constant, steady flow of work.  The plan is to add longer chunks of time at weekends, if time allows.  And if there isn’t any time for writing at weekends because there’s a family barbecue or shopping trip?  That’s okay, I can enjoy myself knowing that I have time set aside each weekday to be creative.

So thank you, Ellis Shuman – I no longer feel guilty about wanting to spend time with my family and I have found a way to scratch that creative itch!