One of the lovely things about being the child of a teacher is that you get to spend school holidays together with your parents. When you are small these feel like loooong, lazy breaks. When you are older they feel far too short! I was reminiscing with my mother, over Christmas, how, as soon as the holidays started, my father (a Chemistry teacher and housemaster) would disappear into the library and sometimes be gone for hours. Then he would come home with a pile of books into which he disappeared again, on and off, throughout the holidays, and in my mother’s words, “no one could get through to him” while he was reading.
Since moving to the city, my husband and I have enjoyed exploring lots of lovely different things to do that can be classified as ‘Date Night’ , but oddly enough, one of our favourites is a trip to the library. Apparently this library is the only one in the country to stay open until 11pm and it is a mere ten minute meander across the cobbles from what we now call ‘home’ – very convenient. It is a place designed with ‘experience’ in mind. It is well thought out with poetry on the walls, diverse styles of music that never repeat chugging in the background, ever-changing, elaborate displays in the foyer, a restaurant, comfy seats and even a theatre and cinema. It is the hub of artistic culture in the city and buzzes as such, so that even in the evening there is still much going on. It is a pleasant place to go together, husband and I, hand in hand.
I am very picky and choosy about what I want to read and it takes me a long time to make up my mind and decide what to take out. My husband always waits patiently for me. Last night he was extra patient as he wanted to explore the city clocks and find out which chimes a ring of bells every fifteen minutes. It meant positioning ourselves around the city centre at each quarter of the clock and we missed a few while perusing through the books, but he didn’t seem to mind. It is holiday time after all.
The library book options are very up to date and I think I am still a little old fashioned in my taste. But last night, I pulled a book from the shelf that I have already read and turning it over showed the blurb on the back to my husband. It is a book set in one of the schools my father taught in. The author is somehow related to Tolkein – I can’t remember how. I read the blurb out loud and this time it really jarred me. I think it was because of the location. It jarred me to find it in my local library (but why not, it is a very good read) and to sound out the names of the two main characters who incidentally have names the same as my father.
As writers we write so much from what we know – actual fact disguised in fantasy. We have to. That’s the way it goes. We pinch a little bit of this and mix it with a little bit of that creating a fresh recipe of fiction cooked in the imagination. There is no way I resent the writer using my father’s names. I understand the process, but for some reason yesterday, it jarred. I think it was all to do with the context.
I find myself living a very different way of life, now, to how it was when I wrote Elin’s Air. I’m in a different place, literally, as well as in lifestyle. Though I knew I wouldn’t be able to write for a season I did not know how long the season would last or what it would hold. And now I begin to wonder, is it time to write again? If it is, what shall I write?
The idea for Elin’s Air was conceived in the quiet, creative time after one Christmas. Should I write a sequel; or, as someone recently asked me, an historical novel set in the context of this city we now live in; or should I revisit some old manuscripts and see if they are any good? I realise that one of my old writings, set in Devon thirty years ago, could perhaps be put into historical novel genre for the next generation!
Is there a chime of bells to tell me it is time to write again? Do I have the time? Is it time? If it is, what should the context be that I write about? Or will it jar?
Every musician knows how important it is to get the timing right.