Tag Archives: Britain

A hidden garden (or two…)

A few posts back, I used a photo noting the way in, and Jill Weatherholt asked if that was my garden.  That shot was from an English garden; our village hosted an annual Hidden Garden Day on the first Saturday of July.  Some years, like this year, were sopping wet; we heard from a friend that any sun would be appreciated.  But sometimes England suffered from a hose-pipe ban (water rationing), and in 2006, that was nearly put into effect.  We didn’t know it would be our last summer in Yorkshire, so blithely we tromped from open house to open house, admiring gardens small and large, a variety of flora and ideas.  Back gardens (and a few in front) are all what the gardener has in mind.

Much like a writer; so many genres and novels sprout from our multitude of experiences and perspectives.  Only so many plots, but that never got William Shakespeare down!  Down the centuries stories still pour like the ever-raining British skies, or the endless California sun.  Summer was in force yesterday; I wore shorts and a t-shirt on my road trip, running the A/C on my way home.  It might be the middle of October, but try telling that to the Golden State.

But back to hidden gardens…  Floral beauty was the biggest thrill on that warm, un-Yorkshire-like day, and I took many pictures, which now I treasure like gold.  Of course I imagined we would be there for years  but life has a way of changing on a dime.  Instead of sitting at home, watching Wimbledon, I trekked about our small, tucked-away hamlet, with its school, few pubs, post office, and a branch of the surgery (doctor’s office) from the nearby town, following on our map which gardens were on display.  Friends joined us, a large crowd in our relatively tiny village, not far from York.  Those days are idyllic upon reflection; a warm summer’s day, long sunshine permeating well past nine p.m.  On the day, 2 July 2006, I held my husband’s hand when not shooting the landscapes or chatting with pals.  My eldest came along, but she hadn’t yet told me about NaNoWriMo; my goodness, how events sit as place markers   On that day in 2006, I wasn’t even considering noveling.

Or living in America, only another English day, rather stunning for the perfect weather, if not a bit dry.  It was simply one more event in my British life, as if it would always be that way.  But days slip away, all the more reason to capture words and plots.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

So many lives, moments, characters…  Even in cats, and bassets of course.   They were all loitering behind those gates, as if each was a novel, hoping I would brave the adventure.  Lush blooms on winding vines, or plants in pots, all sorts of stories waiting.

I didn’t expect to leave that village as we did, abruptly and premature.  Or that’s how it felt, at the time.  But I came back with one NaNoWriMo in my back pocket, pictures on hard drives, memories as abundant as the rain there, the sun here.  No correct balance, sometimes that’s how it goes.  Sometimes the gems stay hidden for ages, like no one will ever find them.

But sometimes the gate swings wide, all kinds of gifts waiting.  Maybe you’re NaNo’ing this autumn, or just poking about that garden, waiting for the rain.  It’s all part and parcel of the whole, which is constantly changing in gorgeous, unexpected ways.

Caught behind the bars

Right now, in the grand scheme, I’m prepping the next novel in the pubbing queue.  Giddy excitement swirls with slight exhaustion, but as I drink the morning tea, my immediate task is this blog entry, warming up the brain so when I reach for that novel, I’ll be ready to absorb the remaining chapters.  I can’t just jump right into the work; I need tea, sometimes a tune or two (“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford at the moment), a glimpse at the hummingbirds, swooping around the feeder.   This has been my routine for over five years, although the h’birds have only been a part of it since 2010.  I started my first novel in Britain, for NaNoWriMo 2006, but for all intents, the writing really began here in California, in Silicon Valley.  I started blogging about writing five years ago, as if the eleven years I lived in Yorkshire had no bearing on this gig.

But that would be so wrong.

I wrote back there, journals and letters, I love writing letters!  Actually, I love writing cards; I have boxes of them, and postcards too, piled all over the place.  My husband used to collect stamps, so we order various designs, but I have to scold when he puts the cool ones on bills.  PG&E doesn’t deserve Gregory Peck or The Incredibles.  I still send snail mail; postcards to nieces and a nephew and my godchild, nice cards to my daughter and other loved ones.  I love writing cards, but I adore affixing stamps.  My husband asked if I missed the old types, but no, I prefer adhesives.  I still have to lick envelopes.

I have always loved to write, but my wildest dream was to craft novels.  Letters and copious journal entries served their purpose, keeping the dream alive.  In November 2006, I started my first NaNovel, and never looked back.  I just finished a Camp NaNo tale, and am gearing up for the full monty in two months.  There is nothing better than writing a book alongside several thousand others all over the world, a huge virtual write-in for thirty days breaking the solitude that lasts the other three hundred thirty-five days a year.

Writing is an isolated task, not even the hummingbirds catching my full attention.  Yesterday I noted the above picture on my screen saver; our last English house was set along a fairly quiet village road.  I didn’t recall that shot, spent a good twenty minutes trying to find it.  We took tons of pictures in the UK; digital photography made it easy to snap without serious thought.  Maybe we were also trying to capture those moments, aware our English adventure wouldn’t last forever.  Eleven years was a long time, but now we’ve lived in California for over five, many books written in the meantime, heaps of cards sent and goodness knows how many blog entries posted!   I’m not the type to get lost in the past, but while frantically searching through folders of our British years, I wondered if that picture was a fluke.  How had it landed on my screen saver, from when was it taken?  Finally I located it, from 2006, in June, on the first.  On 1 June 2006, I had no idea about NaNo, that I would start a book that autumn, or that in a year, I wouldn’t live in Yorkshire.  All I knew were those bars, that house, fresh asparagus.  Our across the street neighbors grew asparagus, and my youngest helped prepare it for sale.

It seems idyllic, a day from my past easily forgotten, except for the pictures that stir so many memories, and not so small wonder for what has happened since.  Since 2006, I’ve written a plethora of drafts, published nine of them.  I’ve moved back to my home state, my eldest has gotten married.  I feed hummingbirds, which I had never even seen before!  Yet I am drawn back to that shot, those iron bars, that British summer’s day; I had recently turned forty, wasn’t sure what that new decade would hold.  It’s been wondrous, it’s been hectic.  It’s been day after day of the little and large, and quite wordy.  This morning, it’s rather blog-filled and reminiscent-heavy, also hummingbird-laden.  And it’s just another moment.  In a minute, it too will be gone.

Staying on track

I’ve been writing solidly since 2008, and as I’m somewhat prolific, manuscripts have collected.  Not all of them will be published, but I thought many would.  Revising would consume a decent chunk of time, but time seemed plentiful.  Right now I’m prepping the last three of a series; one of the themes is more time than money.  Usually that’s the case, but well into my forties, I have to reassess.  And as I do, I start looking at novels, wondering just where do some belong?

When we lived in the UK, we thought we would be there for ages, hence we did little travelling to the continent, concentrating on seeing the folks back home.  Those relationships were cultivated on holidays, and in letters.  I made (and I do mean by force of will) my kids write weekly notes to grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  The kids complained, it was a tedious ritual, sort of like writing a lot of fiction that might just sit in a computer until the end of time.  The kids didn’t get back many responses for their output, but sometimes it’s not what we receive in tangible manner.  It’s what comes from the exercise, whether it’s stronger family bonds or paragraphs and chapters, all from one sentence after another.  Older manuscripts have their strengths, but many weaknesses.  What I write now isn’t just cleaner prose, but a more disciplined craft.  And there is only so much time.

As a family, we enjoyed Disneyland Paris.  My husband and I loved Spain and Ireland and I adored Belgium.  While I never did hit Kettering or Leicester, I embraced Yorkshire and am glad for the rest.  Equally I’m grateful for every book I’ve written, but not all will see the light of day.  Sacrifices are made; my children didn’t explore Europe, but my daughter’s wedding hummed to the bliss of close family reunited.  Time is precious; I want to make mine count.

Blogging, Olympics, and Doctor Who

Two weeks ago the Olympics began, and as a former resident of Yorkshire, England, I watched the opening ceremonies with more than a touch of pride.  Danny Boyle pulled off a British extravaganza, Team GB has excelled, and while I don’t when I’ll get back to my second home, one day it will occur.  Several cuppas will be enjoyed in the process.

I started blogging in the UK; my eldest was in America, doing a year of high school, living with my husband’s sister’s family.  My daughter wanted updates from our northern English village, introduced me to Blogger, and I’ve been poking around blogs ever since.  Switching to WordPress during the Opening Ceremonies, I followed the excitement while adding posts and pages.  I like WordPress; building my website was far more easy than I imagined.  I will always recall trying to sort some techie detail while going between the LA Times, the BBC, and the NY Times, wondering just how was everything going to fall into place; the blog, Britain’s shine on a world stage.  So far, it’s all been pretty fantastic.

Now, as the Olympics wind down, the blogging well in hand, another topic tugs on my heart; Doctor Who will start up again, maybe by the end of the month.  We began our foray into Who-dom when my husband took our eldest to Manchester for her SAT’s.  We didn’t know all of us would be coming back to America, but she was, for university.  They watched the Ninth Doctor in Manchester, then brought him to our village, where Doctor Who took firm residence.  We lugged him back with us in plots and Daleks; my eldest has a Dalek in the guise of a now empty bubble bath container, and the sign for the newlyweds’ parking spot at the reception contained a Tardis and book of spoilers amid wedding rings and other pertinent info, like Parking Reserved, the big date, etc, etc.  It’s been a funny summer, what with her wedding, little writing (although it’s going well now, and will be attended to as soon as I wrap this up), Olympics, new blogging site, new website too.  And now, as it comes to a close, there’s Doctor Who.

Many songs from previous series’ soundtracks inspire my writing, I’ve felt the blessed hand of exquisite drama fall on my shoulder after watching more than a few episodes.  The writing is so often spot-on, a perfect blend of sci-fi and the heart.  Plenty of heart, as The Doctor has two.  It’s been a summer of heart-wrenching moments, from watching my eldest say I do, to the inspired and magical effort of all Olympians, but especially those of the host nation.  I am a Californian first, then firmly set in northern English soil.  Cut me and I bleed Yorkshire tea.

Big things will occur in Series 7; Amy and Rory will depart, a new companion revealed, great music from Murray Gold and the National Orchestra of Wales to absorb.  I probably won’t blog much about Doctor Who, unless I come here raving about the top-notch scripts or the fate of Mr and Mrs Pond.  But I wanted to note, as the Olympics herald their last medals, as I feel quite at home here on WordPress, just a little of what makes my heart sing.  Blogging, as I just can’t stay away from it.  Sport, which even at its darkest moments revives the soul with athletic grace and stamina.  And of course, The Doctor.  He doesn’t use a gun, often doesn’t have a plan.  But somehow, usually the best occurs.

And when it doesn’t, those two hearts ache more than we humans could ever know.

The morning cuppa

If nothing else, other than my faith and husband, I cannot survive without tea.  British tea.  With milk.  No sugar.

I can sacrifice a lot.  A lot.  But not tea.

The electric kettle is on again, as the pot is brewing, but will need a top-up.  Eleven years in Yorkshire still dwells deep within me, within all my family.  The need for a cuppa remains, as does a shout-out for Team GB!

(Photo is from 2006, when we still lived in Yorkshire, the full compliment of afternoon tea courtesy Emma Bridgewater pottery made for Betty’s cafe, Morrison’s scones and clotted cream, Betty’s jam and cake.)