Island Blog – Words and Showing Up

When I was a student, I learned how to write good English, to enunciate clearly and to employ slang or swearwords only in the playground or in whispery corridors. Now, still a student, still learning, I play with my words. Words are like music, they sound soft or harsh, harmonious or discordant, resonant of the very thing they describe. Onomatopoeiac. My dad would have a fit at some of my words. I think he considered loose language to be a sign of laziness, an unwillingness to search for and then to produce a word most fitting. He had a zillion words in his mouth and was never short of just the right one, bringing in a goodly measure of humour and exaggeration, just like a pro. Once, with his head inside the drinks fridge, he announced that ‘we are perilously low on lemonade’. He could spoof it anytime he chose. I think I get my passion for word invention from him, from Roald Dahl and from other great storytellers who lifted words up for scrutiny, oft times laying them down again, all tapsalteerie, just for effect.

To play with word assemblage is to dance with fairy feet over the rules of engagement. Words have double flipped over the generations. Some have been lost, new ones found and elevated to dictionary standing. Playing scrabble with me is never going to please a dictionary pedant. In fact, no dictionary pedant would even consider it. There is only one person I can play scrabble with and that’s my youngest son who has more crumjumbling words in his head than anyone else I know. The game invariably dissolves into hysterical laughter as one or other of us attempts to explain the meaning of whatever word we have just laid down on the board.

We are taught not to exaggerate, not to overstate with words and yet where’s the fun in rules like that? Sounds very beige to me and I love colour and lift, nonsense and musicality. Life is tough enough already. We do well to remember that having fun is good for our health. And, in that, I take courage and inspiration. Could be the lyrics of a song, a line snatched from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; could be a flow of words from a passerby #therearelessofthosefornow; could be a crash landing in my own head whilst buttering a salmon steak. Could come from anywhere but if there is music in it, then it grabs my attention and I take a good look see.

This morning, around 5, the sun cast red across the sea-loch. A fingermist hovered over the still waters, tree reflections shimmying like dancers. The goddess of the breeze obviously thought it was her turn. Tickling the surface with her fingers, she lifted the runnels and rivulets into bubble swirls and sent them all on a trajectory for the wide open maw of the Atlantic Ocean. Gulls dipped, oystercatchers twillopped overhead in a cacophony of oystercatcher-ness, and one lone young whitetail soared like a big showoff almost level with Cirrus, although, of course, he was nowhere near those ice clouds. It just looked like it from down here, from stuck down me, gravitously cemented to Mother Earth with my neck a paperclip as I watch and watch till, with barely a wing beat, he slides 10 miles to the other side of my looking. A lift of light and the starlings arrive like a football crowd to the bird table. There have to be 15 of them, babies open-beaked and squeaking, parents madly gathering seed, feeding, gathering seed, feeding and on and on till Lady Night finally says Enough! Sleep!

I remember it well. And I am glad I do. I have known the times of overwhelming, my times of flight, high as Cirrus but not quite, my lifts, my joys, my swollen ankles, my sleepless nights, my troubled days, my moments of supreme peace, my ages of gloom. All of these colours, all of these states of being, these words are me, are you too. It is how and who we are. It bothers me (for about 3 seconds) that the greatest requirement in this life is to keep showing up, first, to keep learning, second, and to keep applying said showing up and said learning, ad infinitum for all eternity, forever and then some.

Easy Peasy.

Island Blog – Day One

I have been here a while trying to find a way to start my blog, having never blogged before in my life.  Do I say ‘Dear World’ presuming the ‘World’ is just gagging to read all about me, or do I just launch in, mid-air, so to speak?  Actually the whole ‘beginning’ thing is always scary.  It’s so much easier not to begin at all, whether it’s a painting, or a blog or a whole book.  So much more pleasant to anticipate beginning, to tell friends I am beginning, then go home, make coffee and watch the clouds scud by with a grumpy sou’westerley up their asses.  Can I say ‘asses’?  I suppose I can spelled like that, like they did in the old days before the word ‘donkey’ was invented.

I am Judy Fairbairns and I live on a wild Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides.  Surrounded by a temperamental ocean, we live a smaller life than those of you in huge cities, and yet, it’s a bigger life in truth.  We have to learn about Mother Nature and how to live under her rules.  And that is the backdrop to my book, Island Wife, to be published by Hodder and Stoughton in March 2013.  Seems weird writing that number, all new and shiny and full of what……beginnings?

It took me years to begin Island Wife, which had no name at the outset.  I just had all those stories, all those memories, feelings of joy and agony, anger and laughter, all those words overflowing into my mouth and down my arm and onto a page, with, it seemed, nowhere for it to go.

Like most girls, if they are honest, I dreamed of a charmed life.  I was going to do it differently.  I was going to find true love, true happiness, true contentment, like the lead fairy in a bedtime story.

And then I met a man, an adventurer, older than me, one who had, in his own words, lived a whole lifetime already.  Hooked to his star, I ran to keep up, to fit his ideal, and to make it look like it was second nature to me. I stepped out of my shiny party shoes and into the wellies of a farmer’s wife.

It was not without the odd miniature disaster…