A Year of Writing: Days 1-10

So, I’ve done #100daysofwriting and have committed insanity by stating that I will do it for a year. To prove to all here as I am doing on my page on Facebook, please like me there too, it stops me from thinking I’m pissing in the wind, I am posting my day to day thoughts in blocks of ten.

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I am reading this…

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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In Bodmin Moor and the grammar and spelling has broken Word. After changing all the ands to an’ a warning message came up to say that the spelling function was incapable of carrying on, was broken, destitute and going to live with an Aunt in Swansea, nuff sayst. Sometimes you have to know the rules to break the rules, I tells it but it’s a chuckle-head, agen and agen, I tells it but it don’t listen none, it’s a’goen to Swansea #writing

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I miss to some extent writing day and number, this little thing gave a sense of achievement, of ticking off a list. So here goes with my hashtags #writing and#day6. There, I am deeply satisfied with that, though when I get into treble figures I may not be so and may sound like I am gloating, which is not the case, it’s just a way to know where I am and how far I have come. This brings us to the end of the third draft of my Bodmin Moor story, The Song of the Metal Grasshopper, and like the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, the boy has to become the ant but in the end he’s still a grasshopper in a tin being protected. He’ll only become the ant after we’ve left him and maybe see him again in my novel fifty years later. If he makes it, I doubt he will. This now gives me a time frame, 2040, average temperature UK is 37.4c and in 2080 around 44c. This short story is in the SW on Bodmin Moor in 2080 at the start of desertification. Even SW water are talking about this! This is when we meet our protagonist and my novel of the same name is based around 2130. Not far into the future by any measure, more separates us from the start of the Victorian era, By 2130 there could be an additional 2-4c on top of the 2080 temperatures. Makes you think whether we are all grasshoppers pretending to be ants. Temperatures of 46-48c has a massive knock affect on population, births and deaths, that’s before we even discuss topography and plants.

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Day 7 of #ayearofwriting…deep sigh of gratification for using that hashtag and day. Keep on counting, kid. Driving in the car yesterday and my son is discussing when he will retire, and it strikes me that he will retire (under new and improved legislation from Stallag 10 leaders down in London in the year that The Song of the Metal Grasshopper is set. I find myself apologising to my son, he’s horrified that the world is heating up and that there could be problems with water in the future. Then it strikes me, the Grandfather in the story, is my son in some shape or form. That the kindness he shows is the kindness that old man shows, and there sits his grandson in pain and danger. I wonder how many people will step up in those years. I hope my imagination and the science have got it wrong, but they didn’t get it wrong about the hole in the ozone layer in 1980s and they where spot on when they said it could repair itself if we ditched CFCs. It’ll be gone by 2060. So what future do our descendants have? Do we blame our parents generation or our grandparents generation? Or, the generation that took part in the Industrial Revolution? The blame game is rather pointless. The solution game is in front of ushttp://www.newsweek.com/nasa-hole-earths-ozone-layer-finally-closing-humans-did-something-771922

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Day 8 of #ayearofwriting and I am rattling at a stroll through the edit of The Song of the Metal Grasshopper. The yard has become a backlet which always brings me to how we see passageways in the UK. From backings to snickets to ginnels. To a myriad of regional dialects and slang words for the day to day lives of our ancestors. Language links us across the generations, reaches back to the very origin of the word. My concerns are that the English language is undergoing gentrification in the most insidious branding way. I am not going on about the Americanisation of our language but the influx of marketing into our language, or cultures being appropriated and often abused in a way that is both gob smacking and offensive. I have no problem with cultures fusing and creating new ideas, new words but I do have a problem with cultures being used as a fashion with little understanding of the language or slang. This is why I am treading a fine line with the Cornish slang, it has to be in the story, it has to be set in the SW but it cannot be a parody and that means it takes time. It cannot be hollow, a marketing brand to sell a story.

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Day 9 of #ayearofwriting and I am on the cusp of double figures, and that is somehow must satisfying and less soul destroying as day 1. It as least feels like I am as base camp. With The Song of the Metal Grasshopper I had around 15,000 words to draft and already I am below 9,000 as one idea or image is taken out. The problem with drafting is finding things that worked as you started but as you progressed in the early drafts, developed, changed and the original image or idea became clunky. So, the fabs at Sladesbridge that open the story are just a tale but a tale that won’t happen to either the Gramfer and his gramson. So why keep it? It doesn’t really build the universe for the reader. It’s just an aside, and that is the difference between me at 40 something and me at 20 something. The younger me would have argued to keep it because of some nonsense about it building the story. It doesn’t, it just slows it down, at least when these two see things they know what they are and that is the type of world they live in, the immediate rather than the dreamed. So, when the gramson sees the tandem he knows the car the dealers usually drive is broke and that they’ll be angry, so its best to do one before they starts in on him.

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Day 10 of #ayearofwriting and I am drafting the mawther section in The Song of the Metal Grasshopper and now know that any novel will be in Manchester but a fragmented city confined to the suburbs and away from flood plains. I think of the absent mother in the story and how his mawther is a metaphor for his detachment, that it isn’t about the world becoming dog eat dog, but about how even mothers and fathers betray their children in a world of heat and thirst.

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