Island Blog – Dot Dot or Dash

Last night we had a thunderstorm. Huge flashes of greenish light illuminated the darkness in my room turning the furniture into eerie monsters. The thunder didn’t bother with clapping. It roared like a god in a filthy temper. And the show went on, and on, and on. I could have been at a rock concert. Sleep gave in and curled up without me and I turned to my book for solace, two books actually, one on meditation, the other on Forgetting Self. Each time the lightning flashed I startled, counted, held my breath as the storm rolled around the Blue Mountains then deafened me with an explosion of thunder so as to make me ask myself what would happen if the sky really did fall down. I don’t remember when it grew calm again but by then it was already light and the day was rising into life.

Sipping strong coffee the storm thinks me. Not just the thunder and the lightning but my part in the performance. I was there. I heard it, saw it, thought about it, tossed and turned inside it, sighed at it and read to distract myself whilst it made its attention seeking journey across my night. I watched the way ordinary becomes extraordinary, the eerie furniture in greenish light, noticed how the flash-shadows menaced my thinking, felt the anticipation, acknowledged my insignificance beneath such life/death power. This its what Life does. That’s what I thought. Life lives on and Life is everything, everyone and everywhere. And I am not everything, nor everyone, nor everywhere. I am a small dot in a vast and endless tapestry of colour and form, shape and design, texture and flow. My world is piddling in this everywhere-ness, just a blip, just a dot and yet I can believe, in my arrogance, that my world is of tantamount importance. More important than yours, for instance, with a more considered layout and healthier stuff in my fridge; my Christmas tree is bigger and better decorated; my children more polite; my floors cleaner, my day more organised, my diary up to date and my appliances all charged.

What foolish nonsense is this! Even writing it down I smirk at such thinking and yet such thinking thinks me at times because in creating a warm wrap of ‘smug’ I feel safe in this everywhere and everyone world. Unless I decide to unthink the thinks. To change them.

I have used my time here in the African bush for much unthinking. With my piddling world many thousands of miles away it has been possible to look back, forward and at each moment and it has been a splendid journey. In ordinary life I/we tend to run through the trivia, listing it, dealing with it, sorting out the bits that don’t fit, dashing through the to-do list in order to arrive. Why is that? Is it because we feel we must get through everything in order to win a prize? Where is this prize anyway? I’ve never won it and that’s for sure. All I achieved was over-tiredness and a mouth full of scratchy nips. Did I seek pity from those I scratchy nipped? When I was too busy ‘Sorry, Thingy, I’m too busy to chat just now, got to dash’, to give of my time (so much more precious than yours by the way) and way too behind on the day’s to-do list to listen to your story down the phone line (I’ll call you back……yeah, right!) did I consider you for one single moment? I don’t think so. Although we say, particularly at Christmas, that we will give more time/of ourself to our family, friends, neighbours and strangers, we mostly unthink that once the gloom of January sets in. We get all emotional about change but once a year. Sounds ridiculous to me. How can anyone change but once a year? I’m changing every day, don’t know about you. I believe that life is change and the whole flipping point of being a dot on the tapestry of Life is to make a difference to the whole. Without the dot that is I, the dot that is you, this line would merge with that line. We dots are important, critical in fact, as long as we think beyond our piddlingness and pay attention to our dotting process. We could be a big dot. We might even be a scatter of dots, depending on how wide our loving arms can reach, on what kindnesses we proffer and how often we proffer them. Inconvenient? Absolutely. Interruptus? Of Coursicus. Infuriating? Oh yes. But, the inside feeling that comes from knowing we showed kindness, respect and affection to whoever disturbed our extremely valuable time will leave a glow inside that no outward success can ever bring.

And that is the Prize.

Island Blog 104 – The Unfinished Line

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Painting a new canvas, I think about lines.  I was taught at art school to let the eye finish the line, meaning that I, as the painter, should leave it half done, indicating by it’s direction and the flow of the piece where the eye might like to take it.  It’s essential to the composition, the alternative leading to a dizzy spell because our eyes will always seek a resolution.  We want to land somewhere and go ‘ah!’ and if we can’t do that, we won’t like the painting at all.  We will be confused and all over the shop, deducing that the painter was too – that he/she just dithered brushes over the canvas without direction.

Writing employs the same rule of thumb, indicating to the reader where the lines are and allowing them to bring the line to it’s resting place, but not telling them exactly where that place is.  If I am too bossy and organising in my story, I leave nothing to your imagination.  I don’t allow you to relate, through your own life experiences, opinions, ideas to this character or that one,  because they are too stereotyped, too plastic, too finite.  You will be yawning by Chapter 3 and probably won’t read the whole book, unless you are one of those people who can’t bear to waste 8.99.  I can easily bear that.  If I find myself yawning by Chapter 3, it’s off to the doctor’s surgery with it, or the local charity shop, which very possibly isn’t very kind of me.

In life I find the same rule applies.  If I am a woman who has a need for a rigid set of lines around her life, I lose out, because, although no-one will tell me I am stuck in my self-absorption, I nonetheless am.  If what I say has to be how it is, then I am not allowing anyone else to complete the line, and, beyond human politeness, I will be skirted around in wide circles because I got boring by Chapter 3.

The good news is that opportunities to be dynamically fascinating and compelling come around over and over again as we begin a new venture, such as having a baby or maybe we leave the family home, or we notice we are turning into a lizard.  I am only a lizard when my hairdresser pops the black cape around my neck a bit tight and I have to wrench it off and remonstrate with her – a remonstration that always makes her chuckle.  Otherwise, the lizard bit goes mostly unnoticed as I avoid at all costs, a magnifying mirror.  Seeing too closely anything in my life can have me pulling on my old anorak and moping along the long and whining road until I realise that nobody is following me anymore and I am quite alone.

Time for some new lines to be drawn, lines for a new adventure, indicating direction, begun but not finished.

So, off I go, this time as a guest speaker at Wigtown’s Book Festival, next Saturday lunchtime.  I have no idea what to expect, no idea how Island Wife will be received, and all I am taking is myself and my reasonably ok skirt and sassy boots, my eyes for looking out and my ears for taking in.  I don’t need to control anything beyond myself and, in that place of freedom, of letting go, I find my sense of humour, alive and well and waiting for me by the side of the road.

I may meet delays, I may get lost, I may forget to pack something vital.  It might rain or snow.  Wigtown might be wiped out by aliens on Friday afternoon, or the hotel we are staying in may have lost our booking confirmation.  But this part-time lizard isn’t going to worry about any of that.  She is just going to draw a few lines.

For someone else to finish.

Island Blog 37 – New Road

Island Blog 37 - White Wood Sprite

 

Things are hotting up for the launch of my book, Island Wife, to be published by Two Roads on March 28th.  The Hodder team, of which Two Roads is an imprint, are working hard on press releases, magazine reviews, media opportunities and book signings.

As my penultimate son would have said when the excitement in him rose like a wave….’I can hardly bear my seating!’

People, friends, ask me ‘what does it feel like?’

Like champagne in my veins.

Like a moon flash on the sea loch as the storm clouds part.

Like the smell of sunshine after rain, or the first cuckoo in Spring.

And so much more.

Far more.

That’s my new name.  Honest, no kidding.

‘Farmor’ means Father’s mother in Swedish and it is the name my new little Viking grand-daughter will probably call me on her Swedish days.

I digress somewhat.

Over the next few weeks, my story will be heavying down the post-people and the carriers as the copies wing their way around the country.  E books will ding through space and time to settle into Kindles and Ipads and people in dentist waiting rooms will forget the tropical fish for as long as it takes to read some review on me and my book.

I will find my book in shop windows, or held in hands on a train, or a bus.  Will I say anything?  Will I bounce up all full of beans and introduce myself, offer to sign the copy and leave just knowing they will spend days buzzing with the excitement or will I slide past with a flicker of a look and hope I am not recognised?

Honestly, I just don’t know, for who is born for this, for a sudden chance at some level of fame, be it good fame or not so good fame?  Who knows, when stepping into new shoes (haven’t bought them yet) or onto a new path, what to do or what to say?  I won’t know my surroundings and we are always better when we know our surroundings.  And people will look at me differently once they have read the bones of me.  I wonder what that will feel like.  After all, for most of the year, I hide myself happily away on the island, sometimes seeing not one person all day long.  Now it seems I must walk this baby into the world, which is what I always wanted, always dreamed of.  Not the publicity, although I am sure I will enjoy it all, but to touch on another’s life, to make a connection through my story, with theirs, with yours, perhaps, and to tell you without telling you at all, that you can do it too, whatever it may be for you.

I might meet you on this new road.

New Road.  Two Roads.

Island Blog 19 – On Character and Wheedling.

They say that we are born with our own personality and that we grow our character.  I am watching ‘character’ appear daily in a little baby. Each little ‘quirk’ lands on me like a feather, the tickling kind, and I laugh out loud.  Even at this early stage of life, it seems, a human creature has something personal to say in response to the world, to us who care for her, and her statements lift into the air and become a new piece in the puzzle.  Not that we are puzzled, but more, captivated and enchanted at the way this child is sinking her flag into the land, claiming her stake in it, singing her own song.

I know that the world will affect her growth, that stuff will block her chosen flight, or hem her in and limit her choices, but that is an old chestnut in my opinion, for we can all fly if we just open our wings, whatever life we land in.

 

As my five kids appeared and began to show their colours, I wondered, not a little, how much colour any mother could take on.  It sometimes seemed as though the whole house was like a wild abstract multi media canvas and I needed shades to look at it.  How, I asked myself, as nobody else was listening, can there be five completely different characters born from me and their father, when we are just us with limits and baggage and issues and no time to talk about any of them?

 

I never got an answer, but I can tell you, that life was both hilarious and scary at one and the same time.

The way to work with such an abundance of personalities was in the collective, or so I thought.  We called them ‘the children’ and stuffed them into the Landrover along with the dogs and sometimes, a pet lamb or two.  When the older ones (by a short leg) made their claim on later bedtimes, or specific opportunities, denied the ‘little boys’ it seemed like a very big deal, not least in the required explanation and subsequent justification of this new treat.  Stretching the day a little, a later bedtime, a larger portion of supper, an excuse from washing dishes because of Important Homework (as opposed to reading 3 more pages of Enid Blyton out loud with particular attention to commas and full stops) required a brain shift, well-toned arms and one of those calm strong voices that always sounded like a sqwalk from my mouth.  I remember having to stand on a chair as they lurched uncomfortably into the teenage years, just to look like I was taller and therefore, in charge.  But I never felt ‘in charge’, not really, and often, when I looked back, after an encouraging wheedle or two, the only living things following me were the faithful collies, the pet lambs and Isabel the hen, not one of which had the slightest clue what I was wheedling about.

 

Now I look at my five rebels and see fine young adults, with buckets of humour, common sense and character.  So maybe they were following after all.

 

Blog 19 (V2)

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…