Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Project Memoir

Seven days until my MA Manuscript has to be handed in and I'm busy polishing off the theoretical essay (poetics) and trying to resist any big edits to the stories themselves.

I'm starting to think about my next project now. Before he moved to Prague I promised my dad that I would visit various members of his extended family in an effort to accumulate memories before they are lost. I hope to get started in September, but while we were on a two day break in Cornwall last week I got an early taste of what might be in store when I volunteered to type up the memoir of a deceased member of my husband's family. The memoir was 11,000 words and I managed to get it all on the computer in between walks in the rain and an obligatory visit to the Horse and Jockey for pasties.

Here are a couple of delicious excerpts from the memoir:

I have a vivid memory of a winter when we had very heavy falls of snow. This meant of course, a feverish need to build toboggans. One field we used was very steep but it ended at the bottom with a thorn hedge and a sudden drop onto a lane – a drop of ten to twelve feet perhaps. I was so intent on making my ride longer than the others and didn't take evasive steps quick enough, crashing through the thorns into the lane. Considerable damage was done to face and hands and clothes and the toboggan was a write-off. Another winter in later years was particularly hard when the road from the village to Sandy Way right on the moors was blocked. Several miles of road had to be dug out, and on a Sunday. I walked up this road that was barely passable and the formation of the snow drifts were fascinating. They literally hung in graceful curves, blotting out the hedgerows and actually overhanging the roadway. Further up onto the moors was a herd of deer. I counted 28, the largest number of deer I have ever seen. 

Yet another time I was with **** helping him with the sheep “docking”. Quite a large stream ran through the field. **** got through the ewes and came to the ram. He had to stride the ram to do the docking, facing the tail end. I was holding the horns by standing in front of the ram. I don't really know why I did, but I decided to let go the horns so the ram just took off. Well **** being very short in stature, his legs couldn't touch the ground so he could only hang on like grim death to the woolly backside. The ram of course, made straight for the stream and I could only watch, fascinated at the outcome. The ram reached the stream, tried to leap the stream and upended **** into the stream. I didn't wait for more, but decided it best to make for home. I believe I passed the ram on the way. These episodes stand out in my mind. Life was never really dull in these old village days, when the doctor did his visiting on horseback. About the time that I can remember, he went about in his car I can remember him taking out my tonsils in the bedroom with a bowl at my feet. Just put the forceps down my throat and chopped them off. Some years later I had to have them done again, only this time it was on the kitchen table and I was given chloroform.

I went to St. Austell for an interview with a dentist, a Dr *****. I went there for a trial month but it was soon obvious that I could go along with his way of doing things. He chain smoked and was more drunk than sober. His language was atrocious. He even smoked while treating his patients. One day I was in the surgery with him when he dropped about half an inch of cigarette ash down the women's cleavage. He just put his hand down the woman's dress and tried to get it out – she just kept her mouth open and her eyes shut. 

Sunday, 15 August 2010

If you swallow a pip...

When I was younger I thought that eating an apple pip might just cause a tree to grow in my stomach; something that seemed entirely possible and utterly magical at the time. One day I picked the pips out of my apple and also collected the pips from my siblings' apples. There were five of us, so there were a lot of pips. I ate every pip. But nothing happened. This experience led me to conclude that trees can't grow inside humans, although it appears that plants can. Here is the story of Ron Sevden who had a pea plant growing in his lung.
As an adult, the thought of a tree growing inside me is less appealing. However, this summer I've enjoyed growing lots of plants and trees outside in my garden, where they belong.
Here are photographs of some of the things I've grown.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Summer Holiday reading

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller (Vintage classics)

Nude (Salt Modern Fiction)     The Cranes That Build the Cranes                                                          


In the interests of my MA manuscript I won't be blogging much this month, but I will be making time to read the above books.

The Uncommon Reader is our summer book club choice. People wanted something short and funny to read during the holidays and I'm hoping it lives up to the reviews.

Raymond Carver, Italo Calvino and Jeremy Dyson have all been on my 'must read' list for some time. I've started each book and I'm looking forward to reading more.

I've just finished Living Dolls which is reviewed here and here. I hope to review it myself at some point, although it won't be until next month because I'll need some time to organise my thoughts.

Nude is an interesting collection of short stories. Here is a review which leads with a quote from the story 'Unmothered', a startlingly beautiful account of the loss of a child: the language and imagery in this story are breathtaking - it's a story I will definitely come back to. I had mixed feelings about some of the stories; each was undoubtedly well written, but I felt unsatisfied at times. 'An Amarna Princess Up North' and 'Night Fishing' are particularly memorable and absolutely satisfying, beautifully written and surprising in the way that I like short stories to be. The opening lines of each of the stories are showcased on Nuala Ni Chonchuir's website here.