Jude Hayland https://judehayland.co.uk Author Tue, 12 Jan 2021 10:40:12 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 https://judehayland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cropped-512-32x32.png Jude Hayland https://judehayland.co.uk 32 32 152348356 Those Were The Days My Friend … https://judehayland.co.uk/uncategorized/those-were-the-days-my-friend/ https://judehayland.co.uk/uncategorized/those-were-the-days-my-friend/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2021 10:40:07 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15860 Groping my way in the darkness towards the alarm this morning, sliding into the shower vaguely conscious and casually cladding myself in garments that mean I appear at least somewhat respectable from the waist up to my online students, I remember other January mornings of other Spring terms – and however undesirable our particular current...

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Groping my way in the darkness towards the alarm this morning, sliding into the shower vaguely conscious and casually cladding myself in garments that mean I appear at least somewhat respectable from the waist up to my online students, I remember other January mornings of other Spring terms – and however undesirable our particular current conditions are, I assure you I’ve had far more unpleasant starts to the new year!

Take the Spring term – an inappropriate name for a stretch of some 3 months spent mostly freezing and chipping ice from windscreens – of 1978. Most of you probably have no instant recall of the early months of that year. Some of you were small children and many others not even born.

But I was.

And I was embarking on a full term of teaching practice.

Any teachers out there will recognise the horrors of teaching practice when you are not even being paid for your exhausting efforts of trying to be the most dynamic and inspirational figure that has ever stood in front of a class of disaffected and enormous 14 year olds whose names you don’t even know.

My teaching practice was in Abingdon and I was a lodger on the fourth floor of a Victorian house in Oxford, living alongside another student and a family of five. A lovely family, warm and friendly and delightful, who were, nevertheless, the most untidy and chaotic people I have ever met in my entire life. There were objects on every surface, the smell of cooking – in particular, frying – perpetually hanging around and endless bicycles and books and shoes and boots cluttering the long, narrow hallway on the ground floor.

And there was, of course, as was normal in 1978, one bathroom for all of us. And one toilet inside that bathroom.

Mornings were, to say the least, challenging. The trick was to get down four flights of stairs and into that bathroom before the rest of the family possessed it, draining it of all hot water and any semblance of floor space to stand on that was not covered in discarded, wet towels.

It meant a very, very early alarm.

And, of course, the house had no central heating. I had a small electric fire in my slip of an attic bedroom and can still remember the way I used to push off heavy blankets (duvets? Get real and wait another few years …) and leap for the switch to the fire, grab dressing gown and slippers (when you are in your very early 20s the sight was probably not as unappealing as it now sounds)and hurtle down the four floors in hope of being the first to reach the bathroom which was in the basement of the house.

And there was snow that winter. And in 1978 there was no such expression as snow days. No-one cared if students – we still called them pupils then – slipped and broke ankles in the playground or if teachers’ cars slid precariously around the car park endangering lives.

It was the Spring term of 1978 that made me acutely aware of the slender gain in light that slowly grows daily – I used to drive home from Abingdon to my tiny room in the house on Botley Road, watching for signs of more light in the sky, daffodils in the hedgerows, clutches of crocuses – counting the days to the end of dreaded teaching practice …

Later, even once I’d acquired my own bathroom, Januaries remained bleak.

Who finds getting up and dressing in the dark an attractive notion at any time? The impossibility of distinguishing dark navy opaque tights from black ones is the first challenge of the day and there is nothing worse than reaching break time and realising that you made the wrong choice and that your style conscious class of 15 year old girls have been judging you for it all morning.

And classrooms in January are either freezing or smelly and stuffy. There seems to be no middle ground. Possibly it’s the same with offices, but never having grown up enough to leave the environment of school I wouldn’t know.

So forgive me for sounding all Pollyanna like, counting blessings and all that, but there are worse things (providing you are well and fortunate enough to have space and sufficient food to eat) than this particular January. At the moment at least.

Take even this particular morning.

My 8.00 am class of year 7 students had no idea I hadn’t made my bed, was wearing Tesco’s best leggings and sweatshirt, hadn’t fed the cats, properly brushed my hair or taken my Vitamin D tablet. Granted, the internet was not at its best – I couldn’t hear half of what they were saying – but that wasn’t my fault. (or at least I don’t think it was) I could airily blame Teams, blame area difficulties and wish them on their way at the end of the lesson and head for the kitchen.

To make a pot of good coffee to my own liking – to stack the dishwasher, the washing machine, placate the cats, plump the sofa cushions – attend to all those other bits of life – and spend an hour or so working on novel 4 before my next lesson.

Flexibility.

Freedom.

The warmth of hearth and home and the ability to earn money without leaving it.

For me, it certainly beats spraying the windscreen with de-icer – or if you are like me, remembering at the critical moment you haven’t bought any – searching for gloves, forgetting books, returning to collect them, urging your eyes to open wide enough to negotiate dark roads and treacherous surfaces.

So although January 2021 might not be anyone’s ideal month of their lifetime, I can tell you one thing.

It beats a lot of others for me.

And it certainly beats January 1978 – that time way back in the 20th century when, despite what now seems like my idyllic youth, was, in fact, my equivalent of annus horribilis all rolled into one month!

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My Unwritten Retrospective Diary of 2020 … https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/my-unwritten-retrospective-diary-of-2020/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/my-unwritten-retrospective-diary-of-2020/#respond Sun, 27 Dec 2020 11:41:31 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15842 I don’t write a diary. It seems to me that if life is going spectacularly well, there is no time nor point in transcribing that happiness to paper. And if life is bleak – well, who wants to squander time in morose self-obsession that, read later, will seem simply that. So no diary for 2020....

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I don’t write a diary.

It seems to me that if life is going spectacularly well, there is no time nor point in transcribing that happiness to paper. And if life is bleak – well, who wants to squander time in morose self-obsession that, read later, will seem simply that.

So no diary for 2020.

But if I had written one it might well read something like this …

JANUARY – something very vague and easily dismissed on the news about some virus in a remote city in China – 9 dead, evidently, how awful.

FEBRUARY – at Athens airport. Why are so many people wearing ridiculous face masks? How over the top and unnecessary. Back in London, what a brilliant exhibition on Troy at the British Museum- but the crowds! Shuffling shoulder to shoulder around the exhibits. People breathing down your neck. The same later in the squashed upper circle at the theatre – knees touching strangers’ knees for the entire performance. Oh well, where’s the harm? That’s glorious, crowded life in the city.

MARCH – all this virus business is getting a bit more serious. In fact, very serious.

Ah. Lack of loo rolls. No hand sanitizer. Lockdown. Furlough. New phrases entering day to day vocabulary.

APRIL: Zoom. It’s a thing ……but I’ll never cope with it.

Deserted streets – long walks – more long walks. Did Easter actually happen?

MAY: Zooming – no problem. Meeting number, please? Password? Waiting room? No, can’t fit you in at that time – the day is almost back to back with zoom meetings, you see. Will pencil you in for next Wednesday at 4.00 pm

JUNE: Great excitement! Hardware stores open! HOMEBASE – my saviour! Delight over paint colours replaces my deprived browsing amongst clothes racks – who knew a colour chart could be so thrilling and that it’s possible to have 246 different shades of white?

JULY: A train journey to London in a deserted carriage! Shops open again! Joy of all joys. The sad sight of deserted, boarded up theatres remains and looks so joyless and so – well, simply wrong.

AUGUST: Fortune smiles on the fortunate – and Crete allows us in – we embrace our house, water the water-deprived plants, sit at near empty cafes, tavernas, wander streets devoid of the usual summer tourists. But the sunsets and the spectacular starry night skies are the same. No virus can rob us of their beauty. And at least I will be back next month.

SEPTEMBER: Well, no – only on penalty of 14 days in isolation on return. So no celebration of my son’s birthday in Crete, no few days with close friends, – but things are, at least, gradually getting back to normal at home.

OCTOBER: Or not. And we thought we were doing so well ….the year’s rollercoaster continues.

NOVEMBER: Lockdown. OK, we know how it works this time round. And there’s light at the end of the dark November tunnel as Christmas lies ahead of us with the promise of 5 days for family and friends. We can keep going until then – hope on the horizon and all that …

DECEMBER: Trees are up, lights are on, presents are wrapped, shopping is completed and ….

So near and yet so far.

Christmas is not so much cancelled as changed beyond most people’s recognition.

Still, at least we are all experts in zooming by now – I can even do break-out rooms – and the entire nation has apparently taken to their screens to reinforce their family bonds.

Which is, after all, what it’s all about anyway.

So that was the year that was if I had recorded it in diary form.

I’m glad I didn’t bother.

That instead I was working on proper writing projects – final editing and reading of MILLER STREET SW22 and sending that off to the publisher and getting on with novel 4, THE ODYSSEY OF LILY PAGE.

I hope you all had a reasonable Christmas and I send my strongest and warmest wishes for 2021 –

And we do, after all, have the promise of those vaccines to comfort us – a very real hope on the very close horizon.

Now that might just be something worth recording in a diary!

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So Where Were You When … https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/so-where-were-you-when/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/so-where-were-you-when/#respond Sun, 20 Dec 2020 18:21:45 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15838 As a Capricorn, I embrace the idea of the goat’s slow, steady progress up the mountain and although the zodiac sign insists on a sea goat, a mythological creature, I prefer to identify with the mountain goat – the kri-kri – only found these days on the island of Crete. I am never the leader...

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As a Capricorn, I embrace the idea of the goat’s slow, steady progress up the mountain and although the zodiac sign insists on a sea goat, a mythological creature, I prefer to identify with the mountain goat – the kri-kri – only found these days on the island of Crete.

I am never the leader of the herd, always the one catching up after everyone else has reached the tape. Us Capricorns are renowned as late starters, but our finish is worth waiting for – however long it has taken us to climb.

So it tends to be with films. With a song. A singer or actor. Everyone seems to have discovered them before me.

And without doubt I am always the one lagging behind when it comes to tv series.

The whole nation appears to have inside knowledge of something that I have chosen to let pass me by. I might listen to friends’ recommendations, patiently endure their adulation for a particular actor or episode or scene, but do little about catching up.

Until the moment is right.

And then I become the bore, wanting to seek out people who watched the first series years ago and now have only distant memories of what I have just seen for the first time.

It’s been like that with The Crown.

Yes, I know all of you started watching it in a golden era when tiers only had connections with wedding cakes and the smell of hand sanitizer did not waft quite so freely on the wind, but I’ve only just got there. (Be tolerant – remember I’m a Capricorn …)

But I haven’t just been dipping a toe in – it’s been full immersion. I’ve devoured Series 1 and Series 2 on consecutive evenings through December. And it’s not so much the royal relationships and domestic side of things that hold me spellbound on the sofa each night. It’s the social and historical events we heard about as children that seemed to bear such significance for parents, aunts and uncles.

The abdication crisis. The coronation of the ‘young queen.’ The pea-souper fogs of London. Suez.

And just as I was about to lose interest in The Crown when I had to say goodbye to the incomparable Claire Foy and Matt Smith and attempt very unwillingly to believe in their new counterparts as series 3 took over, I was pulled back again with the appearance on the screen of the single word Aberfan.

And suddenly I wasn’t watching remote, historically interesting occurrences, but a memory.

An event that connects and takes its place along with those other startling days that never leave us. One of those I know where I was, what I was doing when I heard the news of Aberfan. Of Dallas, Texas on a November day. Heysel Stadium. Hillsborough. Lockerbie. Dunblane. The World Trade Centre.

Strange how we always seem to need to say where we were, what we remember. As if we want to make a connection with the tragic event, acknowledge the shadow it cast over our lives.

Say Aberfan and I am in maroon school uniform walking along the streets of Rickmansworth with my friend, Liz. We speak of it, I remember, in hushed tones of shock and horror. It is probably the first event of such tragic magnitude that we have ever known.

Say Dunblane and I am in the kitchen with my 18 month old son as the news on the radio seems to invade the safety of our home. The chance, random violence of the world hovers and I scoop up my child, wrap my arms around him in inadequate protection.

Of course it’s not only the tragedies we recall.

We all – well, those of a certain age – have our I remember getting up in the middle of the night to watch the moon landing story. But it’s tragedies that take us by surprise, intrude upon our mainly mundane lives in a way that suddenly make the mundane rather an attractive feature.

And now here we all are, in the middle of making our own memories along the lines of I remember the Christmas of the pandemic when we had to share a 20 lbs turkey between the two of us, when the prosessco stocks lasted well past Easter, mince pies were compulsory at every meal and the sound of constant cracker pulling in an effort to get through the wretched things affected our hearing.

I wonder what we will all make of it, how we will talk about it once we are out of the metaphor of the dark tunnel that every politician seems to insist on using.

Already, I can tell you where I was when I first heard an item on the radio in January about some virus in remote China – something of so little relevance to me that I dismissed it as news of no importance and waiting patiently for the theme music of The Archers.

Just as well the scientists were a little more pro-active than me and actually engaged with the unfolding news or 2021 would be looking as desperate as 2020.

A very happy Christmas – and I am trying not to say that ironically …!

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The Contents of Writers’ Handbags … https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/the-contents-of-writers-handbags/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/the-contents-of-writers-handbags/#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2020 11:44:28 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15830 How much can you tell about a person from the way she writes? (and I am limiting myself to the feminine gender for the sake of this blog – however biased and partial that might seem!) The other day I was re-reading one of Penelope Lively’s wonderful novels. I love them all and have read...

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How much can you tell about a person from the way she writes?

(and I am limiting myself to the feminine gender for the sake of this blog – however biased and partial that might seem!)

The other day I was re-reading one of Penelope Lively’s wonderful novels. I love them all and have read all of them numerous times – initially, of course, for their stories, but in more recent years to see quite how she does it. They are relatively short. Not a word is wasted, nothing surplus to requirements as it were. No fussy unnecessary adverbs or time-wasting delay with the narrative. Yet she manages to tell a compelling story, a highly organised story and create entirely believable characters.

Which led me to think that Penelope Lively is no doubt a very organised woman. A tidy woman. A woman whose drawers and cupboards are neat and never filled with laddered tights that can never be worn. A woman who can use cling-film efficiently and does not lose the top of the toothpaste tube or have lipsticks without tops and a pool of old receipts and used tissues festering at the bottom of her bag.

It’s what I now think of as The Handbag Test.

What would this particular writer’s handbag look like?

Margaret Drabble, another writer I love and hugely admire and constantly re-visit, is of an entirely different nature, I suspect. I can imagine Margaret Drabble’s fridge filled with various, dubious left-overs that eventually get thrown out after weeks of gradually shifting their position to the back row to lose status and appeal. Her prose is again narratively compelling, rich where Lively’s is sparer and her characters somehow more volatile, precarious, in the way they conduct their fictional lives.

Margaret Drabble’s handbag? Oh definitely large and the sort that collapses on the floor of the car, spilling contents, some of which never quite make their way back into the bag and are discovered months later rolling their way to the back seat.

Anita Brookner’s handbag would, of course, have been of exquisite Italian leather. One of those upright bags that accommodate only a power compact (do people still have those things with mirrors and neat little puffs to dab at their noses?) a neatly folded, cotton handkerchief and a Letts’ diary with narrow pencil in its spine. And as for her kitchen cupboards and shelves – only tins of anchovies and olives and bottles of premier cru Beaune and artisan cheeses would dare make an appearance. Can you imagine Anita Brookner ever buying baked beans or a Ready-Meal? No. Exactly. Her prose reveals all.

Several years ago, I went to the Winchester Writers’ festival and met the fiction editor of Woman’s Weekly. At the time, the magazine was publishing a lot of my stories, both in the weekly magazine and in their Summer Specials. The editor looked at me and said, “I would recognise you from your stories – you look like the way you write.” Fortunately, I never contributed any crime or fiction filled with dark, sinister types ….but it was an interesting comment and no doubt one that holds some truth.

Some writers spend time describing what their characters look like – others leave it entirely to the imagination of their readers.

Some writers describe clothes, the way someone walks, talks – others ignore these aspects.

And do we notice the inclusion or lack of such things when reading the novel? Does it enrich our understanding of a character, their motivation and attitude or detract from the power and vision in the readers’ minds?

I can never decide whether a reader wants to know such details or finds them an intrusion. I know I need to feel I can ‘see’ my characters, but worry sometimes if I am delaying the story too much by such descriptions.

What do you think?

And do try the Handbag Test next time you are reading a novel – and even the shelves of the fridge test to see if they are likely to be pristine or potential sources of food poisoning – it’s surprisingly revealing!

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WELCOME TO MY NEW LOOK WEBSITE! https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/welcome-to-my-new-look-website/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/welcome-to-my-new-look-website/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 12:14:48 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15820 It’s been a while – I am sure your lives have been rolling along absolutely fine – lockdowns permitting – without my weekly or fortnightly musings on matters vaguely writerly or readerly – but a lot has been happening behind the scenes and now I am able to blog again on my newly designed website...

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It’s been a while – I am sure your lives have been rolling along absolutely fine – lockdowns permitting – without my weekly or fortnightly musings on matters vaguely writerly or readerly – but a lot has been happening behind the scenes and now I am able to blog again on my newly designed website and introduce you to a few new features.

For a start, there’s my splendid logo revealed today for the very first time! Hope you like it. Then, if you take a tour around the new website, you will see that in future, readers will be able to buy books direct from me rather than going via Amazon, my publisher, high street book stores – although those outlets are still, of course, available. The advantage of buying direct from the website is that each copy will arrive in the post – or be delivered by hand if local – with additional treats such as book marks, a short story, postcards, some flash fiction or whatever the give-away of the month happens to be. Something for free, in other words!

And pre-ordering my next novel is also available.

MILLER STREET SW22 has just gone through the final proof reading stage post typesetting, cover image and design approved – more of that in my next blog – and now there is little I can do, but wait for the first copies to reach me around February 2021. The official release date and the first day when the novel will be available from bookshops and Amazon and all other online outlets is April 28th 2021 – but ordering through my website will bring a copy to your front door some two months ahead of that date!

It is terrifying ‘letting go’ of the manuscript – sending it off in what will now be its completed form. Always there’s the need to improve, to go back, cut, re-write, change words, sequences – and setting that urge aside is very hard. But I’ve now abandoned my family of characters in MILLER STREET SW22 to their own fate – it really does feel a little like waving goodbye to one’s precious child at the school gate for the first time!

News on THE LEGACY OF MR JARVIS – in January, YOURS magazine is offering 25 copies of my second novel as competition prizes – all you have to do, evidently, is turn to page 103 of the fortnightly magazine – January 12th edition – for information, fill in a coupon or apply online for the giveaway and a copy of MR JARVIS could be with you within days – absolutely for free. What’s not to like!

And just before I go – with a reference to one of my earlier blogs on the hazards of mask-wearing – yesterday I experienced a new mask low – on a very wet day in London when the rain failed to let up for a single second, masks, I discovered, get very wet too. And wearing a wet mask on a bleak day in winter is even worse, I assure you, than sporting a clammy warm one in the heat of mid summer!

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WELCOME TO MY NEW WEBSITE! https://judehayland.co.uk/uncategorized/welcome-to-my-new-website/ https://judehayland.co.uk/uncategorized/welcome-to-my-new-website/#respond Fri, 04 Dec 2020 11:25:35 +0000 https://judehayland.co.uk/?p=15816 The post WELCOME TO MY NEW WEBSITE! appeared first on Jude Hayland.

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Those Were The Days My Friend …

Groping my way in the darkness towards the alarm this morning, sliding into the shower vaguely conscious and casually cladding myself in garments that mean I appear at least somewhat respectable from the waist up to my online students, I remember other January mornings of other Spring terms – and however undesirable our particular current conditions are, I assure you I’ve had far more unpleasant starts to the new year! Take the Spring term – an inappropriate name for a stretch of some 3 months spent mostly freezing and chipping ice from windscreens – of 1978. Most of you probably...

512

My Unwritten Retrospective Diary of 2020 …

I don’t write a diary. It seems to me that if life is going spectacularly well, there is no time nor point in transcribing that happiness to paper. And if life is bleak – well, who wants to squander time in morose self-obsession that, read later, will seem simply that. So no diary for 2020. But if I had written one it might well read something like this … JANUARY – something very vague and easily dismissed on the news about some virus in a remote city in China – 9 dead, evidently, how awful. FEBRUARY – at Athens airport....

512

So Where Were You When …

As a Capricorn, I embrace the idea of the goat’s slow, steady progress up the mountain and although the zodiac sign insists on a sea goat, a mythological creature, I prefer to identify with the mountain goat – the kri-kri – only found these days on the island of Crete. I am never the leader of the herd, always the one catching up after everyone else has reached the tape. Us Capricorns are renowned as late starters, but our finish is worth waiting for – however long it has taken us to climb. So it tends to be with films....

512

The Contents of Writers’ Handbags …

How much can you tell about a person from the way she writes? (and I am limiting myself to the feminine gender for the sake of this blog – however biased and partial that might seem!) The other day I was re-reading one of Penelope Lively’s wonderful novels. I love them all and have read all of them numerous times – initially, of course, for their stories, but in more recent years to see quite how she does it. They are relatively short. Not a word is wasted, nothing surplus to requirements as it were. No fussy unnecessary adverbs or...

WELCOME TO MY NEW LOOK WEBSITE!

It’s been a while – I am sure your lives have been rolling along absolutely fine – lockdowns permitting – without my weekly or fortnightly musings on matters vaguely writerly or readerly – but a lot has been happening behind the scenes and now I am able to blog again on my newly designed website and introduce you to a few new features. For a start, there’s my splendid logo revealed today for the very first time! Hope you like it. Then, if you take a tour around the new website, you will see that in future, readers will be...

images 4 1

OUT OF THE STORM – a piece of flash fiction

A piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago, experimenting with 500 word length – it seems appropriate for recent weather conditions! Somewhere, not too distant, a door bangs.  Stable, barn or shed, the dull and comfortable thud of wood against wood. Rose moves to the window, stares into the darkness, presses her face to the cold pane to see shapes.  Objects.  A figure.   But the night is too dense, moonless, stars entirely obscured by blankets of clotted cloud.  Besides, there are no cars.  No sign of human life out there where, on such a night, even the moles...

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THE PERILS OF THESE DASTARDLY FACE MASKS …

Who would have thought? Of all the subjects I imagined I could write about when I first embarked on writing a blog, face masks were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. But like those various other words and phrases that have entered our  common  day to day usage this year – think furlough, social distance, zoom calls, test and trace – we live in strange times – which has become a new common phrase in its own right. So face masks are now our daily friends – or rather our fiendish, obligatory companions. And for all the undoubted wisdom...

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MAKING THEM REAL …

Characters – the essential ingredients in any novelist’s store cupboard. In fact, for novels that are character rather than plot driven, these people form the foundation and structure of the whole business. For me, it’s where it all starts. Not with a high speed, complex and action driven scenario that will propel the thing from the first page through to the last. Not at all. My novels always start with an idea for a character. And then another and another intrude until, rather like gathering a host of admirable and fascinating friends together, something has to happen. They can’t all...

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A CELEBRATION OF LIBRARIES

This week, as most book lovers and avid readers will know, is LIBRARIES WEEK, and a chance to celebrate our wonderful, much-loved and treasured libraries that for many of us have been an essential part of our entire lives. In fact, it often feels as if libraries have been more formative and vital to me than any other national institution. And I am sure many other readers feel the same. My earliest memory of The Library, though, is before I could even read and was no doubt still in a pushchair. I remember my mother visiting the Boots Lending Library...

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MOTHERS AND SONS in LITERATURE

A child needs your love when he deserves it least – Lionel Shriver’s line from We Need to Talk about Kevin which sums things up so succinctly and entirely that it seems any other words written about mothers and their relationships with their children are redundant. But of course some of our most famous works of literature have at their heart this extraordinary bond and since in the past ten days or so I have both celebrated my own son’s 26th birthday – and yes, there were fewer than 6 of us there! – and taught HAMLET online to some...

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WHAT’S IN A NAME …?

Quite a lot, it seems. In a name, that is. Juliet might have thought, in the throes of youthful passionate love at first sight, that it didn’t matter what Romeo’s name was, but readers of novels often respond differently. And writers too, of course. In the recent live Facebook interview I did with Hillingdon libraries, I was asked by a member of the online audience how I choose the names of my characters – a great question that actually took some thought to answer. After all, names are so important. We all hold connotations and associations with names. Names suggest...

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OUT OF THE STORM – a piece of flash fiction https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/out-of-the-storm-a-piece-of-flash-fiction/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/out-of-the-storm-a-piece-of-flash-fiction/#respond Sun, 01 Nov 2020 19:31:27 +0000 http://judehayland.co.uk/?p=2119 A piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago, experimenting with 500 word length – it seems appropriate for recent weather conditions! Somewhere, not too distant, a door bangs.  Stable, barn or shed, the dull and comfortable thud of wood against wood. Rose moves to the window, stares into the darkness, presses her face to the cold pane to see shapes.  Objects.  A figure.   But the night is too dense, moonless, stars entirely obscured by blankets of clotted cloud.  Besides, there are no cars.  No sign of human life out there where, on such a night, even the moles...

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A piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago, experimenting with 500 word length – it seems appropriate for recent weather conditions!

Somewhere, not too distant, a door bangs.  Stable, barn or shed, the dull and comfortable thud of wood against wood.

Rose moves to the window, stares into the darkness, presses her face to the cold pane to see shapes.  Objects.  A figure.   But the night is too dense, moonless, stars entirely obscured by blankets of clotted cloud.  Besides, there are no cars.  No sign of human life out there where, on such a night, even the moles and badgers and hares have the sense to keep to their burrows, their lairs.

She turns back to the womb-like warmth of the room, the night-light dim, shedding pale subdued shadows across the space that harbours the two of them.  She feels heavy, weighted in a way that consoles.  The ability of her body to nurture and sustain new life astounds her.  All these years it has concealed this extraordinary skill, this marvel, a knock-out party trick, conjuring flesh from flesh. She is exulted by her god-like powers of creation.  Let There Be Life!

Yet exhausted too.

Consecutive hours of sleep now elude her.  In her long white nightgown, foolishly virginal, she clambers across the untidy bed, props pillows, closes her eyes.

Then thinks she hears an engine and is alert again, ridiculously hopeful.

But it is only the wind, chastising her, teasing such fancies, punishing branches, bushes, roof slates so that by morning she expects to see a shocked landscape wearily inspecting for damage.

And now the noise is here beside her.   Small muted suggestions of sound that gradually swell to more agitated protest.  Eagerly, she turns towards the mound of blanket that is now moving, fists and feet, small nuggets of pink quartz, struggling for freedom.  Cries pierce the silence and she picks up her cargo, nestles his miniscule frame against hers, feels his soft head bury into the shelf of her shoulder, custom made, it seems, for such  purpose.

Now there is stillness again, only the softest snuffles as the baby feeds, sucking easily and fully, a natural, an expert in only three days.  She fears she might be drowning in love.  Is it possible?  An excess of the stuff filtering through her veins, her bones, so that she is insulated, cocooned, needing no other comfort.

Or so she tells herself.

The wind is beginning to subside.  Like the high point of a fever, it has reached its nadir and is now retreating, cowed, no longer a constant; there are moments of respite, snatched interludes of relative calm.

So this time Rose knows she is not mistaken.

For there is no wind blowing at the moment the car pulls up, the engine cuts.  The sound of his tread on the path is clear.  She holds the baby so close, their hearts beat in unison.

For his arrival, she knows, is acceptance.

Out of the storm of their lives, he is choosing to embrace this unexpected, utterly astonishing gift of their child.

She opens the door.

Welcomes him in.

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THE PERILS OF THESE DASTARDLY FACE MASKS … https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/the-perils-of-these-dastardly-face-masks/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/the-perils-of-these-dastardly-face-masks/#comments Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:42:56 +0000 http://judehayland.co.uk/?p=2112 Who would have thought? Of all the subjects I imagined I could write about when I first embarked on writing a blog, face masks were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. But like those various other words and phrases that have entered our  common  day to day usage this year – think furlough, social distance, zoom calls, test and trace – we live in strange times – which has become a new common phrase in its own right. So face masks are now our daily friends – or rather our fiendish, obligatory companions. And for all the undoubted wisdom...

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Who would have thought?

Of all the subjects I imagined I could write about when I first embarked on writing a blog, face masks were not exactly at the forefront of my mind.

But like those various other words and phrases that have entered our  common  day to day usage this year – think furlough, social distance, zoom calls, test and trace – we live in strange times – which has become a new common phrase in its own right.

So face masks are now our daily friends – or rather our fiendish, obligatory companions.

And for all the undoubted wisdom of wearing them, they are hitched to all sorts of problems.

The first of which, I’m finding, is the wearing of earrings.

Little did I think that the virus would affect and influence, indirectly, my choice of ear attire.

Suddenly, hoops are out. Or rather when I do wear them I am involved in a complicated business of tussling and untangling the strings of the face mask from their circle and end up nearly ripping earlobe and  mask and swearing vociferously. Long dangly versions are not much better, this time usually unseating themselves as I  put on and remove the mask. So it’s studs for the duration, it seems.

Then there are stairs.

I have no idea why wearing a face mask should affect my ability to negotiate stairs. But suddenly, my equilibrium feels uncertain, my judgement tenuous and I approach going down stairs with the trepidation of a toddler who has just managed the task for the very first time. In fact, I’m tempted to face the stairs and go down on my knees backwards in the way we remember instructing our small ones to do years ago.

Then there’s the choice of mask itself. And of course two minutes after the wearing of them became mandatory in certain settings, the plethora of the ones available on the market grew many fold. So now it’s added to the decision of what to wear each morning. It’s a case not only of but if I wear that skirt those boots won’t go with it and actually is it actually boot weather yet or can I still get away with shoes but on the other hand those clouds look ominous and it’s bound to rain and so boots will be more sensible but who wants to be sensible – you know, that sort of daily anguish – but also which face mask to wear? Should it colour co-ordinate or does that make me look as if I am taking the matter of this virus too flippantly? Face masks seem to have become a form of fashion statement yet can also be used as a judgement against one’s social and community conscience, it seems.

And have you noticed how some people seem to be using face masks as a way of declaring their non-conformity by wearing the oddest and most outrageous of coverings? I’ve seen Pinocchio type masks with very long noses and fish-like mouldings that look, quite frankly, most alarming. I mean I’m all for avoiding the ghastly pale blue medical ubiquitous objects that seem to me the face mask equivalent of those pale pink NHS glasses that some children used to wear many decades ago in primary school – but caution in all things. I don’t want to be scared by Shrek-like coverings on the faces of passengers en route from Winchester to Waterloo.

And we all know about glasses steaming up. And masks smeared liberally with a range of luscious coloured lipsticks.

We’ve all encountered the situation of smiling and greeting a complete stranger because, in a face mask, that man or that woman looks just like someone we know very well. And the opposite, of course, walking past a close friend who looks nothing like themselves with a face half clad in fabric.

But perhaps the most sobering effect of all this facemask-wearing business is the bar on communication it causes. Not in the sense of talking or greeting people, but communicating a mood, a warmth, a sense of inclusion by the exchange of a smile.

Because masks seem to seal us off into our own private worlds as we walk around shops, stand waiting on station platforms. As the woman at the post office said to me the other day, people look so withdrawn, so sad and weary all the time. And I think it’s true.

So perhaps I shouldn’t condemn the wearing of the odd and bizarre masks at all.

Perhaps if we all tried to outdo each other in the extravagance of our face coverings we might at least cause a laugh, a bit of shared hilarity between us.

Even if our consequent smiles and facial expressions are hid behind those obligatory masks …

 

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MAKING THEM REAL … https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/making-them-real/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/making-them-real/#respond Sat, 17 Oct 2020 14:28:03 +0000 http://judehayland.co.uk/?p=2107 Characters – the essential ingredients in any novelist’s store cupboard. In fact, for novels that are character rather than plot driven, these people form the foundation and structure of the whole business. For me, it’s where it all starts. Not with a high speed, complex and action driven scenario that will propel the thing from the first page through to the last. Not at all. My novels always start with an idea for a character. And then another and another intrude until, rather like gathering a host of admirable and fascinating friends together, something has to happen. They can’t all...

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Characters – the essential ingredients in any novelist’s store cupboard.

In fact, for novels that are character rather than plot driven, these people form the foundation and structure of the whole business.

For me, it’s where it all starts.

Not with a high speed, complex and action driven scenario that will propel the thing from the first page through to the last. Not at all.

My novels always start with an idea for a character. And then another and another intrude until, rather like gathering a host of admirable and fascinating friends together, something has to happen. They can’t all just line up and stare at each other until given permission to go home.

It’s the same with the characters that come into my head. A story, a plot of sorts, weaves them together, justifies their proximity to each other and allows me to decide their fate and fortune within the course of 300 pages or more.

My new novel, due out early Spring 2021, started with the character called Catherine Wells. I was at Hyde Park Corner one day 3 years or so ago, and a woman came out of a building and walked ahead of me towards Piccadilly. At the same time, she walked her way into my third novel, Miller Street SW22 – however pretentious that sounds.

And working now on novel 4, called The Odyssey of Lily Page, my protagonist, Lily, was spotted waiting at a bus stop in Roseberry Avenue in London. I was on the number 341 bus making my way to Islington in early April 2019 when I saw this woman and knew instantly ‘who’ she was and how central she would be in my next novel. In fact, in some undefinable, abstruse way, that complete stranger provided me with the entire premise for the novel.

And now while my characters in Miller Street SW22 are undergoing the typesetting stage of their journey into print, I am spending huge amounts of time with Lily Page and the rest of the cast of The Odyssey of Lily Page.

And the use of the word ‘cast’ is not accidental.

Perhaps all the years spent teaching drama has made it inevitable that I approach the development of my characters rather the way an actor prepares for playing a role. I have to know how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, what they like to eat, their taste in clothes, their hairstyles, any preference for tea or coffee. For vodka or wine.

And however much I might dislike some of the motives or actions of one or two of them, I have to understand them. Empathise to some extent with what is driving them. Of course, I don’t write crime. My characters may be guilty of duplicity or have transgressed in some way ( and most usually have …)but they are not physically violent. So it makes it easier to find a chink of connection.

Konstantin Stanislavski was a theatre practitioner who is known to all drama teachers and students worldwide. There is no space here to expound on his importance as a director at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – but for me the basis of what is known as the Stanislavski technique developed for actors to enhance their characterisations serves the novelist equally well in helping them create authentic characters on the page.

For a start, there’s the idea of what Stanislavski called the magic if. If I was this person, how would I feel? What would I want, how will I set about getting it, what do I need to overcome? Then there’s emotional and sense memory. What have I felt and experienced that relates to what my character is feeling or experiencing – what emotions can I recall and use to build the emotional truth of my characters?

For Stanislavski, the psychological realism of a character is dependent upon an actor tapping into their own lives for felt experience and emotional memory and the same serves the novelist so well.

So do some of his famous exercises.

Spend a day with your character, he would say to his actors. Become your character for some hours and see the world through their eyes. Experience their hopes, dreams and disappointments.

And observe. Watch. Focus. Be constantly alert and aware.

Look at that old man, that young girl, the woman in the cafe, the man on the train. Obviously, some discretion is needed here to avoid accusations of voyeurism or worse, but writers, like actors, develop ways of studying faces and gestures without being too intrusive.

At least I hope so.

And although I have a hundred notebooks to record such things, it’s not really necessary as the ones that are going to inspire and stay with me really do stick.

Like Catherine Wells now safely embedded within the pages of Miller Street SW22.

Like Lily Page, now wending her strong presence in The Odyssey of Lily Page. 

 

 

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A CELEBRATION OF LIBRARIES https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/a-celebration-of-libraries/ https://judehayland.co.uk/general-blog/a-celebration-of-libraries/#respond Fri, 09 Oct 2020 10:54:42 +0000 http://judehayland.co.uk/?p=2099 This week, as most book lovers and avid readers will know, is LIBRARIES WEEK, and a chance to celebrate our wonderful, much-loved and treasured libraries that for many of us have been an essential part of our entire lives. In fact, it often feels as if libraries have been more formative and vital to me than any other national institution. And I am sure many other readers feel the same. My earliest memory of The Library, though, is before I could even read and was no doubt still in a pushchair. I remember my mother visiting the Boots Lending Library...

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This week, as most book lovers and avid readers will know, is LIBRARIES WEEK, and a chance to celebrate our wonderful, much-loved and treasured libraries that for many of us have been an essential part of our entire lives.

In fact, it often feels as if libraries have been more formative and vital to me than any other national institution. And I am sure many other readers feel the same.

My earliest memory of The Library, though, is before I could even read and was no doubt still in a pushchair.

I remember my mother visiting the Boots Lending Library in Pinner which was above, I believe, the actual Boots Chemist, itself a very small, narrow shaped space smelling somehow of medicines and Elastoplast. Perhaps my memory is fanciful and I am conjuring images of a dusty, attic-like space with rows of dull, cloth-covered books – I would have been very, very young – but nevertheless I do remember its existence.

And the move that the library made to a larger, separate building near the River Pinn and close to Woolworths before making another and far more impressive move to a new. purpose-built premises that seemed to me to offer a kind of Aladdin’s cave and wonderland – spacious, open, airy with a large children’s section and later, a space to study – and it was somewhere I spent, it seems to me, a considerable portion of the next 15 to 20 years or so.

Initially, of course, as a regular book borrower.

And even now I can remember the excitement I always felt when going to the library in search of a new book to read. There might be a Lorna Hill on the shelves that I hadn’t read – or was happy to re-read – another  Pamela Brown and The Swish of the Curtain or Blue Door Venture might await me. Borrowing books for me as a child was the highlight of the week.

It was, of course, a very different era with very different habits. Buying books was a treat – and occasioned by a Book Token for a birthday, a cashed-in postal order or  pocket money saved over months. Book shops outside London – and probably every other major city – were small and few and far between. People quite rightly lament the demise and struggle faced by independent book shops these days, the dominance of Amazon and onslaught of online purchasing – but some of us of a certain age will recall that, in our childhoods, simply finding a book shop at all to visit was an achievement.

Libraries, therefore, ruled.

Back to The Boots Circulating Library that my baby/toddler self vaguely recalls.

Florence Boot, wife of the founder of the business, an enthusiastic champion of the arts, was the person who convinced the expanding Boots empire to move into the circulating library business. Already flourishing during the late 18th and 19th centuries, these libraries existed by way of subscription which meant that their membership was targeted at the middle classes who could afford such fees. Boots introduced 3 subscription schemes: one for borrowing on demand, one for borrowing new books and one cheaper version for borrowing books already published. Later a Pay As You Read scheme was added. One of the attractions of the Boots Libraries was that books could be returned to any branch – so wherever you were in the country you could offload your books and borrow new.

By 1965, however, the network had considerably shrunk and in 1966 they closed completely.

But by this time, I was lurking among the shelves of the splendid new public library in Marsh Road, Pinner, my three precious library tickets in hand. (how did I not lose them? I lose everything!)

And lurk I did, spending hours after school, before drama classes, after ballet classes, a convenient and safe place for my mother to meet me to take me home. I still hold onto the smell of the place – a mixture of bookish paper, parquet floor polish and …well, just books!

And it continued to be a great refuge, later on, for revising for A levels, in particular. Somehow, I associate Wordsworth’s The Prelude and Milton’s Paradise Lost with Pinner library, learning notes and quotes at a quiet table during the Easter holidays before the exams.

Libraries have continued to feature endlessly and persistently in my life.

(it is possibly no coincidence that my oldest -in the sense of most enduring – friendship is with Carol, a librarian!)

As a student, then as a teacher (before the internet allowed access to all the information you needed for the next day’s lesson …) and then back to the babies and children’s section as a parent with my son.

And now, as a writer myself.

In fact, the co-operation of libraries to have my novels on their shelves and to welcome me – Hillingdon and Yeading libraries, thank you SO much! – to events has been heart-warming. I feel as if I have come full circle – and that the importance of public libraries is as central as ever to my life.

Of course these days many libraries have a new name.

In Winchester, our library, housed in the wonderful old corn market building (always makes me think of Hardy and Bathsheba Everdene standing her ground over the price and value of the corn …)closed for some years for refurbishment to open again, a very phoenix, with the name – Discovery Centre.

It still does not sit well with me.

It sounds too science-like, space-like, too technical and unliterary for my tastes.

Yet what else to call it?

After all, our libraries these days do so very much more than offer books to read.

They provide access to computers – which is access itself to many other worlds. In ‘normal times’ cafes often comprise part of the offering alongside small galleries, performance spaces, community events, children’s activities, book groups and more …

Books are only part of a very exciting and all-encompassing and embracing cultural treasure chest.

And libraries are, of course, all the better for it. Gone are those stereotypical, hushed and dusty places which deter rather than encourage visits.

So a new name is no doubt warranted. Just not sure what it should be …

Anyway, as Libraries Week draws to an end tomorrow, let’s celebrate how lucky we are to have them – if, indeed, our own local public library has escaped the appalling, catastrophic closure that has affected so many in the country.

But that is a subject for another time, another blog….

Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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