Saturday 17 September 2011

Dusting the Piano

As I was flicking off a faint sprinkling of dust from my piano today, whilst studiously avoiding the burgeoning forest of cobwebs hanging from the lights above my head, I had to laugh at my priorities.

Whilst not claiming to be in the same stratosphere as a concert pianist, I am in love with my piano. I’ve pretty much always had one around, but none so fine as this. It was last November when I became the excited owner of my Yamaha Y3; a proper piano, loud, crisp and with notes that play however many times you touch them. Of all the inanimate objects in my house, the piano is my favourite which is why it receives most of my limited cleaning concentration span.

I’m going away tomorrow, to cycle the Pyrenees across France with nineteen others (hence the, admittedly, limited pre-‘holiday’ cleaning) and the fast approaching prospect has me lurching from great waves of excitement to petrified nausea. It isn’t so much the cycling uphill which worries me, I either will or will not get up, it’s the losing the pack, losing my way and ending up in Spain (sense of direction is not a phenomenon known to me), or my brakes failing downhill. At this late stage there is nothing I can do about this so I have to practice a little distraction.

From thinking how nice it would be able to sit down at the piano instead of on my bicycle seat on my return, I started thinking about which of the two pursuits I prefer. Cycling is much more sociable but for total relaxation, the piano wins every time.  And then there’s running. That’s my favourite sport, not least because I write my best ideas in my head while I run, but because it’s the ultimate drug - I know because I’m addicted. 

If I was on a desert island, which would I have, piano, bike or trainers? Of course I’d also have to have a notepad and pen. And books; a mobile library which turned up on Thursdays. I cleaned (sketchily) the entire house to the choosing between the aforementioned items and aside from dismissing the bike on the technicality that the wheels would get stuck in the sand, I couldn’t choose between them. However I did conclude that there wasn’t anything else I couldn’t do without (other than a special request for my favourite people to join me, of course). As my chosen items would all fit inside the mobile library van, I decided my demands weren’t excessive.

So while I’m away, I thought I’d leave you pondering the same question: you have a day to pack, which activities would you take with you and why?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Larkism – the sequel

Three months ago, I began an experiment into Larkism. The question was whether I could turn this hardened night owl into a lark.

It was a tough call. There’s nothing I like better than tapping the keys after midnight in an otherwise silent house with no untimely interruptions and no nagging to-do lists – none that can’t be hushed until morning for fear of waking the family, at least.  And there are few things I like less than getting up on the command of the alarm clock when it’s still dark, to take that long, lonely walk downstairs to the kettle, knowing I could just turn over and have-a-few-more-minutes.

Or so I thought.

Since that life-changing day in June, I have been jumping out of bed at 5am like the archetypal lark and have discovered that my love for that chunk of day rarely previously experienced  (following sleep, anyway) knows no boundaries. These days, if I wake after 5am, I’m cross. This is why:

- Having a set two hours of time at the start of the day has made me more focused and thus more productive. Whatever happens, by 7am I have two hours of writing behind me and I feel more fulfilled than I often used to feel all day.

- I’ve discovered that the hours between 10pm and 2am weren’t four but two and a bit. Midnight was the beginning of ‘faffing’ time. I was slower at every task than I’d realised, easily distracted and much as I think there’s a place for Facebook, Twitter, emailing and home shopping, I don’t think it’s worth a lethargic two hour chunk of my life every day.

- I’m tired at night and I like it. I can’t pretend to be exhausted like my they-broke-the-mould-when-they-made-this-particular-lark husband but I’m happy to wind down. The day has more structure and it feels more natural.

- I like the fact that by 4pm and home from school time, I can have double digit hours of constructive work behind me. The pressure of always trying to figure out just when I could fit in another hour of writing is no longer there. I still write in the evenings but now it’s a bonus.

- Before my foray into Larkism I was not firing on all cylinders. People used to marvel at how I could survive on four hours sleep a night, comparing me to Margaret Thatcher (DON’T even go there) but I’ve realised that survival was exactly what I was doing. I had a diet of tea (I still do tea) and lists. In my owl days, notes scribbled in the small hours were the only way I could possibly get my children to school with the correct allocation of sandwiches, clothing, homework and plaits. It took me until around 10am to manage anything near lucid thought without my array of prompts.

So, after my three month experiment into changing body clocks, it’s a definitive yes to Larkism for me. I think underneath I’ll always be a natural owl – I can’t imagine ever leaving a party early because my bed is calling – but for an easier, more fulfilling way of living, this lark is setting her alarm for 5am for the foreseeable future. In the words of the wonderful, Jimmy Cliff, I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

How about you?

Friday 9 September 2011

My Name in the Credits

I have just peeled myself away from cloud nine to share my excitement at clicking on Christine Tyler’s wonderful blog, only to see my name in the list of credits J
I really enjoyed being part of the Sparkfest and am very happy that one of my posts hit enough of a chord to earn an honorary mention. Thanks Christine! Well done to all, I’ve copied over the list as I’m sure the blogs must be worth a look. I’m going there now…

Christine says: Sparkfest Interviewees!
Ready to find out who our future interviewees are? Interested in some of the entries that caught my eye? Here are some more of my favorite reads.
If you haven't read them already, you really should!

Shelly Brown--saw an author go through the throes of "phase one," and then witnessed their immense success. You'll never guess who it is...

Jackie Buxton--gained inspiration from real events and compassionate people...and some hypocritical ones

Ru--talks about Stephen King and some awesome philosophy on Amidala

Bess Weatherby--makes me wish I wrote about Tolkien.

Lisa Vooght--gives us the best story I've ever read about a book signing, and a sense of what we can achieve as authors and mentors.

Pocketful of Playdough--made me cry.

Bonnie Borrow--shares a story about her crush that I more-than-kind-of wish had happened to me.

Interview winners are:

1) Tyrean--makes me want to know more about "The Horse in the Well"

2) Mel Fowler--shows us the games we play with our sisters in the yard can grow up with us.
(Mel, you must be having a good week. That's 2/2.)

3) SB Stewart Laing--reads a book that makes his blood boil, so he writes a better one.

4) Dawn Hamsher--makes a Spark a prompt in itself. She also changes her life when a person helps her draw near to God in her writing.  

5) Emily Seuss--answers an ad for "someone kind of like Queen Latifah from that movie," and ends up in the middle of Nerdfighteria. If you know what that is, you are awesome.