Friday, 15 October 2010

#FridayFlash Night and Day

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tock, tick...

Sylvia wakes with a start from a sleep she hadn't meant to take. Her knees are stiff and her back is sore.  The Roman numerals on the clock are at four thirty already. The sun has already reached the bottom of the hill, painting her sitting room wall red and orange. Funny how she used to hate that clock: the over-large gold leaves and the distorted cherubs seemed to sum up everything she disliked about her mother-in-law, Alison. How many afternoons had she and Paul sat in this very room, keeping Alison company, to that relentless tick, tock? Alison, whose days had ceased to please her, so she must destroy theirs, forcing them to stay and listen to her endless complaints -sciatica, rheumatism, loneliness. It was always such a relief  when Paul's sister took over, and they were released to the night air, the moon, the stars, the dancing.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tock, tick...

She's old, she needs me, Paul would say, as he whirled her across the dance floor like Fred Astaire. Though Sylvia knew it was true, she didn't want him thinking that way too long. She'd pull him with her into the music, and soon, he was singing a different tune, Night and day, you are the one...She smiles at the memory. Time was, when her feet could glide to that tune and she could dance through to pink dawns and still feel fresh and ready for more. Such days they were, when her hair was black, and she could follow her desires so easily: when an hour with Paul seemed to last a thousand years. Now Alison is dead, Paul too, the children left home, and those days may as well have been a thousand years ago.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock...

The rim of the sun is hanging on the horizon, sending shafts of red across the sky, making  the moon blush. That clock has ticked its way through so many of her suns and moons in this house that  she's come to love it for its ugliness. She even loved Alison a little in the end, as the years softened that sharp tongue and  the arrival of grandchildren brought some comfort. Now Sylvia's own days are an uphill struggle, and walks are something to dread, she can understand the old woman somewhat better too. Still, it was more pleasant living here in the later years, once the kids were grown, when it was just her and Paul, and Sinatra sang as they danced...Only you beneath the moon or sun. Those were the days when her hair was still dark, and he still thought her beautiful. Vanity of vanities - he wouldn't think her lovely now.

Tick, tock, tick,tock, tick, tock...

Outside the shadows are falling. Night rushes across the garden, masking the signs of Spring - the almond tree beginning to blossom, the sparrows laying nests. She ought to get up and make herself a cup of tea, maybe ring Gill, who worries too much. Only last year she would have leapt up the minute she awoke, but, her legs still feel shaky after her sleep, and she needs to catch her breath. There's no hurry after all. She might as well sit here for a while longer. She closes her eyes. Her breath shallows. And a voice sings to her across the years...Its no matter darling where you are, I think of you... She smiles, stretching out a hand for one last dance.

c Virginia Moffatt  2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cradle Song

This poem was written for an assignment last year, inspired by a true family story. My twin sister has just found the birth certificates of the two babies, Winifred and Wilfred Clark, so it seemed a good day to post it.

Cradle Song.

They wrapped you in white blankets,
swaddling you tight to keep you warm.
It was not enough to ward off death,
who came and wrapped her chill, thin fingers
around you both. Your mother’s face
crumpled, as pale as the tiny tissue-white
bodies, she cradled, unbelieving.
There was no coffin small enough to carry
such tiny bodies. Your father found a drawer,
empty now of baby-linen, just large enough
to lay you in. It was too early for the two
of you to be at rest. Still, the warm earth
welcomed you, wrapping you in her tender
arms, as the wind sang to you in your sleep.

c Virginia Moffatt 2009

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Rave Review - "The Writer's Tale" by Russell T. Davies

It's not often that I read a book I love so much I can't put down. And I've never ever put one down and started blogging about it straightaway. But "The Writer's Tale" by Russell T Davies (former front runner for Dr Who) is just so brilliant that I have to tell you about it. I've been dithering about getting hold of a copy for ages now. I knew I'd enjoy it but the £30 price tag has been a tad off putting (For goodness sake BBC, some of us struggle to fork out half that for a book). So yesterday, when I saw it in the library, I grabbed it with both hands. And have been pretty much reading it ever since.

I've blogged about the great RTD here, which gives you an insight into why I love his work so much. What makes "The Writer's Tale" so special for me is that it is a treat for me both as a fan and as a writer. The book is basically a series of emails between Davies and the TV journalist Benjamin Cook. It begins by Cook asking whether Davies would be prepared to talk about how he writes an episode and quickly becomes the story of how The 2007 Christmas Special, and 2008 Series 4 are written. Seeing the ideas first form and change is absolutely fascinating. For several months Davies and Cook correspond about the new companion, Penny Carter, and then suddenly there is an option of Catherine Tate returning as Donna. Out goes Penny and Davies has to quickly think how/why Donna comes back, though using some of the same material. Only he and Cook ever know Penny existed and both are a little sad at the "demise" of this unwritten character. Yet when Series 4 is complete, Cook pays the ultimate compliment that Donna was way better than Penny would have ever been. (Interestingly enough the name stays as a journalist who gets caught up peripherally in the events of Episode 1).

Similarly we see Davies struggle with narrative points in the Series Finale. Why will Donna have to leave the TARDIS? (He comes up with a brilliant solution).How does he get all the companions from various places to be with the Doctor at the end? how does he get Rose to go off with Doctor 2 without it undermining her first departure? This last one is particularly interesting as most viewers felt that it didn't quite work. Davies is honest enough to realise he'd written himself into a corner when he'd come up with the idea of 2 Doctors and then made it central to the finale's resolution. He writes and rewrites the scene, and though the final version is better than the first - it's still a bit of a miss. But you have to admire him for trying.

The other thing that is interesting is how difficult he finds it to write. You'd think a writer of his stature and experience would find it easy. Yet  it seems like he flies by the seat of his pants every time, procrastinating all day and writing into the middle of the night, right up to the morning of production. That's either depressing or encouraging to writers like me. I'm an optimist so I'll take encouraging every time. And he's honest and sometimes quite impossible, and arrogant, yet also deeply humble. In a very long email he completely dissects his own behaviour at the BBC launch of the Titanic episode and is disgusted with the false notes he plays. I find that very heartening and human.

Finally, I love this book because it ISN'T prescriptive. Davies cut his teeth in script writing years ago. He doesn't need to be taught, because he's worked out for himself there are natural pauses that make a 3 Act structure. I like the fact he kicks against us needing to read Robert McKie to write. I do love the Robert McKie book too and found it useful, but it's refreshing to hear a successful writer say they're not bound by it. The book ends with a quote about gaining your writing voice that sums it up perfectly:

"Gaining a voice, whatever that is, comes with experience and practice - and the writing, again, is indivisible from the person. Your voice tends to be something that others  talk about, about you. It's not something that you think about much yourself, and certainly not whilst writing. I never - never - sit here thinking, what's my voice? You might as well ponder, who am I? It is, in fact, exactly the same thing. You can wonder your whole life and you'll never get an answer to that."

This is a great read - I hope your local library has a copy.