I see it is over a month since I last posted on the blog: forgive me, but somehow the summer holidays always overwhelm me. It is a long, long time to entertain children and to keep them from being glued to small screens. Or big ones.
However, term has resumed. I have a child starting GCSEs. This makes me feel very old (though not as old as I’ll feel in two years time when my youngest starts hers!) The work-life balance resumes a routine, which may not be a perfect balance but at least I know when the spaces are.
Writing has, sadly, taken a backseat too. I have almost finished editing Draft 2 – which may be Draft 22: I don’t really keep count, but I know my next job is to print it all out, again, and go through it, again, and try to make it better. ‘Making it better’ seems to be all I have done for the last two years, and that is slightly driving me mad. I don’t want to publish unless it is the best it can be, yet there is a point – has to be a point – at which I say, “Enough is enough!” That point is coming ever closer!
I will write more, and more regularly, as term goes on, but meanwhile let me go back to filling my days with writing rather than routine.
To be even more honest (gosh, this is painful!), I did dabble with it when I was a teenager, bullying my way into a game that my cousin and his friend were playing. It was probably a happy couple of hours, although my main memory is of being told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t a game you could just come in and play; it took a long time, days indeed. Still, I played, and only for that wet Saturday afternoon.
But this holiday I really, truly played it. Just a beginner’s game, along with a bunch of other beginners and with my husband taking on the role of Dungeon Master.
For the uninitiated, D&D is Dungeons and Dragons: the game of teenage geeks (boys) in my childhood. It turns out that (a) my husband was one and (b) my son is becoming one. My evidence for these weaknesses is that when my son heard of D&D he looked it up, found some instructions and sent them to the printer. Unfortunately, it was 87 pages long, plus appendices of similar length. A week later the printer spewed out the final sheets. Thus evidence of my son’s interest, and my husband’s tolerance as he kept changing the ink cartridges and topping up the paper. (I would have switched the whole thing off!)
But this last week we holidayed with friends who have children of a similar age to mine, and it turned out that they too were interested in trying D&D. So a starter pack was purchased and, on a wet day (there were plenty of those!) we landed in a cafe and commenced our adventure.
(And yes, a motley collection of six adventurers + DM caused much hilarity among the other customers.)
Here is the link to writing. The first thing we did was to take a sheet of A4 and create our alter-ego. We could be human (where’s the fun in that?), halflings (or hobbits, I understand), dwarves or elves. There are probably other options, but we were a select bunch. I was the sole dwarf. What I enjoyed was describing what I was like (short), what I liked doing (hitting things), what my aim was (revenge on the people who had destroyed my father’s mine), and what my weakness was (OCD). It turns out that when I was allowed to go shopping with my Gold Pieces I was able to buy soap! I spent a lot of time washing green goblin goop from my hands after I had smashed them to death with my Great Axe.
To date I haven’t written a novel, although ideas bubble up every so often. Writing about my own experiences in my Zambian memoirs has the ease of the characters being already created: I can picture them in my mind, know their quirks and characteristics. But in a novel, everyone is made up. There can be a lengthy process describing their looks, their life-history, their abilities and failings. For a multitude of people in the story, this takes time to create.
D&D gave me the chance to create a new persona with simple boxes to complete, ensuring a motivated character with flaws. Really: Kathra Ironfist was a well-rounded dwarf (in more ways than one) that defended her heritage and stood by her friends.
My only problem is that none of my ideas for a novel involve a dwarf with OCD. Perhaps I need to re-think my writing future…
We have been on holiday. It is good to spend time away from home, away from the phone, away from the internet (although my son would disagree with that, seeking out all the Free WiFi spots he could possibly locate). It is good to see new places, or revisit old haunts, and to spend time with the family. Yes – even the grumpy teenage ones.
It also gives my husband some rare time out and about. In shops, even. This is quite dangerous as, unlike me, he really enjoys shopping. Nothing gives him more joy than seeking out a great bargain. His enforced time off work this winter with his broken leg has been more disastrous for the bank balance than I care to admit: internet shopping can be done from the sofa and its amazing what ‘bargains’ can be found online…
So you can imagine his joy one evening when he came back bearing the fruits of his labours: Cheddars. For those unfamiliar with these delicacies, they are very cheesy cheese biscuits. We all love them – even my son, who can’t stand cheese. Drooling quietly over the two packets my husband took great pride in telling us he’d bought them at Poundland [other discount stores are available…]. Two packets for £1. A bargain! Originally £1.39 each. He had made a saving of £1.78.
I checked them over. They seemed in perfect condition, and the best before date was the end of September, so I could see no reason why they’d be so heavily reduced in value. Still – who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? We put them in the cupboard to have as a picnic treat on the journey home.
When packing on the Friday night I set them aside, together with some crisps and some chocolate (don’t judge our diet too harshly: we were on holiday! And there were a lot of apples already in the picnic bag…) On the Saturday morning everything went in the car, carefully thought through.
Apart from the picnic snacks.
They languished behind in the cupboard, exactly where I’d carefully put them to one side.
I mean, there’s always something you leave behind, isn’t there? (I also left a nearly-full bottle of shampoo in the shower. I am just too generous for words.)
And they were still a bargain. Even if it ended up being a £1 cost for no benefit whatsoever.