A Year of Writing: Days 1-3

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Day whatever of #writing and after#100daysofwriting I am working on the dialect in my Bodmin Moor story. The dykes around Taw Marsh have broken and sickness is getting closer to the farm. Yes, it’s like a dramatic moment in The Archers.

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I am always concerned about racism in #writing, whether it is sensationalist or just there to provoke but it is hard in our society at the moment not to hold up a mirror to how we still talk about groups we see as immigrants (remember when the media talked about them as refugees and how that changed when Brexit leered onto the scene? All those poor buggers fleeing across the Mediterranean landing on the Greek Islands suddenly became an immigrant peril and then demonized until we saw the dead bodies on the beaches. Now, we have forgotten that die toddler on the beach, it’s okay to hate them again). History tells us that when something becomes scarce or in danger of becoming scarce that society’s zeitgeist looks for some group to blame. See Germany post-Great War, see Hungary, see Russia, see the USA, see Britain, it is often easier to blame, lump together and demonize others but it isn’t. It’s often easier to say that ALL society thinks like this. It doesn’t.

The easier thing is to not be afraid, it takes less energy, it abundantly better for your health and will not involve you being converted in to something you never wanted to be converted in to. I’m not preaching here but I am considering how we use words, there’s one below, a given casual word in my childhood, bandied around at school, by extended family, by school friends, by an entire community. The sting of it has never gone away, I once saw it daubed on a newsagents wall in a bid to drive a poor family out. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now, it is a word that makes me wince, and my knee jerk is to say, ‘Are you a moron? If so, shut up’. Sometimes I have to fight that because you want a dialogue with people who often use words they don’t fully understand in a way they think is socially acceptable. I like to talk to these people, using other abusive words, such as, ‘whitey’, ‘honkie’, ‘cracker’, ‘red neck’, and tell them that these are only ‘socially affectionate’ terms. I’d like to say we’ll eradicate this nonsense in the next 20 years but the generation that is coming seems too at ease with hateful words around race, sexuality, gender, faith and belief. So, here’s what happens when casual hate goes unquestioned. The casual racist strides out on centre stage and calls it British Values, or American Values, or worse still, family values. It couples like the beast with two backs with casual sexism, casual gender inequality, over zealous religion creating the divine leader and right wing believes all under some stupid flag which is often upside down.

If you want to avoid this, there is a simple prescription for all your ills: embrace the chaos and fear, ask questions and laugh at hate in all its pure forms.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bodmin Moor story that uses a hateful word spoken by an idiot but questioned by his son.

Gramfer sayst, I dreamt it, cuz I’m soft in tha head and hard in me pants but he knew it was true by winter cuz tha Deol girl got fat and tha Miah son showed up one day after some sort of scruff, his face all swollen and fat like he’d been ripening for tha table. Than tha rains came like a humdinger and whan tha rains left so hade tha Deol’s douter and tha Miah’s son and no bugger talked about tham agen, but after that tha hate just got wust, and now thay’re getting ready to scruff agen and Gramfer goes to tha hatch and hollins down, ullon yaw! And they ullon on. Than he’s down tha ladder and I can hear them hollin, and Gramfer talking all calm and quiet, as if to say, yous listen to me y’buggers, y’in me house and I can tell you to jump the country if I wants but he doesn’t say that, I bet he thinks it cuz no matter what you say about tha differences betwix Deols and Miahs, thay’re all pakis. No one wants tham, so faather once sayst. Grammer thoft faather was a bad un. She used to sit me on her knee in tha kitchen and point at tha blue plate she hade on tha dresser, willow pattern, she sayst, her mawther hade tham, passed them to her, than her Grammer hade them and passed them to her mawther who passed them to her but she hade no bugger to pass them to cuz my mawther was bad un and she’d attracted a bussa-head who opened his mouth afore he used his brain cell. Dafter than a sheep, she sayst, tha willow pattern tells a story of two lauvers who flee their parents, and she thinks me mawthar took that story to heart cuz she did a flit with me faather, got in the family way, dumped me and me faather on them and jumped the country for Bristol. That’s me Gramfer gabbing. Grammer doesn’t say that, she gets all dewy-eyed, nearly a balin, but she chokes up and tells me that mawthar was morrish for better things than me faather, that she woke up and smelt tha sheep muck on him and did a bunk.

Tha lauvers on tha plate are pursued by tha faathers but that’s just a story, in real life Gramfer thoft it was tha best, especially after tha water men did for me faather. I was too like me Grammer, sayst Gramfer, kind hearted and daft as a brush. I sometimes think what me faathar said about pakis was just that, sheep shit, he alliss hade a thoft on everything. Got me Gramfer proper jumping whan he pulled out his soap box and got on it about that and tha other. Faather wud alliss sturt with ‘I’lltellywot’ and Gramfer would groan, place his head in his hands or make some excuse about something needing doing. Gramfer go out to see tha Deols, thay were tha only other bolling on the farm then and tha Deols haden’t put a claim in on tha kitchen cuz back than theer were four of us. Grammer wud just stare at the blue plate and dream of lauvers. I can hear Gramfer gabbing calm and quiet, and tha Deol Faather has calmed and tha Miah Faathar has calmed, and you can hear tha kids hollin at them in another tongue, and them replying, I thinks of them nodding and honking, their thin kids behind them, holding back their thin arms, they’re all bone, a fight betwix them wudden be anything to get hot about, I’ve hade pisses that haave lasted longer and hurt more. Dowers slam and Gramfer comes back up through tha attic hatch, shaking his head. I arsts if they hit each other, I feel proper zad that I may haave missed a scruff but Gramfer just shakes his head and sayst, giss on! They’re just thirsty. He pauses as if he wants to say something more but he stops and sayst, it’s all a’goento shit. He’s right, it’s all proper rubbish here. Theer’s nawthan to do, up North I bet they has parties, and girls, and beer and things that go fast, and rain that tastes like fucking sugar.

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#writing the Bodmin Moor story this evening. Touched by the story of how people meet in a world where mass suicide off the Lizard becomes a parade of children, mothers and fathers. Whole families throwing themselves off the edge of the world. It is told in away that shares how two lovers met, how they decided to cling to life and how this parade was a sign of worse things to come.

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