Friday, 25 February 2011


Reader, a whirlwind caught and carried me away. A burst of creative energy assailed me and I could not, would not, fight it. But then, who would?

For those new to my blog, eighteen months ago I started writing a novel. It began as a piece to pass the time. A pithy little thing, five pages long. And yet, some days later, it was ten pages. And some time after that, it was twenty. My character had not finished telling her story and so I listened to her pleas. What started as a short story soon evolved into something far more complex. The Novel.

I'd always wanted to write a book. I'd read a lot of them, which helped. Liked the feel of words as they played and slipped from my mind. A blank white page never scared me. It tempted, with possibilities and promises. What could I do with it? Who knew? I'd certainly have fun finding out.

Other people recognised my eagerness to write. In my Year 6 leaving book that I got from primary school, aged eleven, an old teacher had written: 'Be sure to send me the first copy of your book.' Over the years, every so often, my Granddad would ask me: 'So, when are you going to write this book of yours?'

It's been a struggle. There have been days when I could not bear to look at it, think or dream. I've grappled with distrust; of my own imagination and my possible talent. At times I've loved it so much I envisioned marrying it, settling down and having kids. I'd stroke the pages on the screen like it was my precious. Other times I've hated it so much I'd print the whole thing just to rip it up and throw it in the garden, praying for rain to wash it away, from print and from memory. And then I felt bad for wasting a tree.

But through all that, the days of love and hate, the weeks of missing motivation, the months when inspiration left me in the lowly pit of despair, somehow, it has happened. I have finished. I have written a novel. I am full of accomplished glee, like I've reached the top of a mountain and my lungs are full of the freshest air. I'm just like Maria in The Sound of Music, without all the singing.

But now, dearest reader, comes the hard part: the dreaded edit. My lungs are suddenly empty, I've tripped, tumbled down the mountain side and I've hurt my head.

What. Have. I. Done?

Friday, 4 February 2011


As a child, my street was peppered with children on bikes and roller skates, discarded skipping ropes and goalposts made from hub caps. The road was empty but for a handful of cars: the perfect playground. From the playing children, parents became friendly too. Neighbours borrowed garden tools, helped in fixing cars and deliberated world events on the front step.

Twenty years later things have changed. Despite the recent influx of new families to the street, no children play outside. Bikes are a distant memory and roller skates a forgotten invention. At the end of the street, where cars do three-point turns, a football, deflated, peeps through grass as high as kneecaps. The gesture of a wave or smile elicits a response of wriggling discomfort. We live in a strangerhood of people who come and go; eyes glazed with disinterest, focused only on themselves.

Over Christmas, one telling incident occurred. We awoke one morning, 3am, to a woman running hysterically up and down our road. Within minutes her screams woke every house. Unable to ignore anyone in distress, least of all a visibly frightened woman, we went outside to investigate. Asking one of our neighbours what was going on, his only reply was, 'Yeah, my girlfriend's drunk, what's it to you? You're only my neighbour.' He was right, of course; we are only neighbours. But not long ago, that actually meant something. It's a terrible shame to see the descent; to have grown up in a street once so sociable, now devoid of any neighbourly concern.

Today, society is insular. People have closed their minds, and doors, to the prospect of having a relationship with their neighbours. Community spirit is just that; an essence of something that once was.

Why has this happened? Community spirit was once an integral part of our nation's identity. During the Second World War, Britain was known for its street parties; a social gathering of neighbours under a canopy of coloured flags. Tables and chairs of different height and style would line the street and everyone came together. Drinking tea from an assortment of china cups, people joked, children danced and friendships were built - as war raged on around them.

In terms of human relationships, little has changed. But the outside world has altered drastically. With the advancement of technology, children now play indoors; essentially removing the basis for all neighbourhood networks. If the children do not interact, there is no reason for their parents to either. The impact of terrorism and an increase in anti-social behaviour has also weakened local neighbourhoods. People are wary and distrustful of strangers and so we isolate ourselves to feel safe. Combined with the growth in online social networking, there is little wonder why we have seen a steady decline in community spirit.

But think of what we are missing. A step away from our front door there is a wealth of potential on offer. Support, camaraderie and common ground. Friendship. What better reasons are there to go outside and make the effort? Share more than just a party wall and a garden fence.

Reader, what say you?