On Writing

On Writing

Hello, have another random thought dump. unedited, foibles, mixed tenses and all x

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Mum on her last visit from the UK to Australia brought out some poetry I’d written at infant and junior school. I’ll dig it out and share it for you, it’s very cute.

I journal most mornings, I aim for 5 out of 7 days a week. Some journal entries I keep. Others, I burn.

I carry a pad and pen around with me. If I’ve got a bag, I’m also likely to have another pad and my diary with me, just in case.

I buy new notepads, notebooks, pens in volume – trying to get all the feelings out my head into words. It’s noisy up there. And messy. Convinced each time, that this new fresh set of blank pages will help.

Reader, it doesn’t.

I’ve written myself out of holes, written myself into corners. I still love the smell of fresh note paper. Inhaling the smell of the glue as I open a notebook for the first time.

I’ve been converting One Last Hundred Chances into a screenplay. The formatting is completely different to how I’ve written before, but as I pull out the descriptions and rely on the words to tell the story, the images dance behind my eyes.

When I get to Gildredge Park in the book, I remember the times we went there as children.

The hills we’d roll down over and over. Endless picnics with one set of grandparents, it was also close to where Mum worked, so we’d meet her there for lunch sometimes. We’d walk around the mini-art gallery if it got too hot, go and visit exhibitions on rainy Sunday afternoons. I can still smell the parquet floors, sadly the original building left to the town is now being left to ruin after being sold off. With the collection moved to a building next to the concrete monstrosity that is the Congress Theatre.

[An aside, Art Garfunkel played at the Congress in 2003. During sound check, he complained about the acoustics, and was told to wait until the crowd came in. He still wasn’t happy when he started the show. His fury made the local paper, because you’d think he’d know what he was talking about].

[Another aside, if you brought a package holiday to Eastbourne during the summer, it would include coach travel down from where you live, (bunging up the sea front for us locals as you were unloaded), a weeks’ bed and board and a theatre package. Total pot-luck as depending on what week you arrived, would dictate what you would see at the theatres (plural, it had three, all of which would put on a pantomime each Christmas, the aforementioned Congress, Devonshire Park and Royal Hippodrome. Eastbourne also had 5 or 6 cinemas at one point too. I digress).

Sometimes it would be a repertory group on tour, other times it’d be previews for the West End. Other times, it’d be a full-on touring production of a musical direct from the West End. Mum and I watched Copacabana, several Sondheim’s, a couple of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s and most memorably, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Nicholas Parsons was the narrator, Jonathan Wilkes was Frank. All the Transylvanians were the ushers, guiding people to their seats with their torches (euphemism). The lights went down to a packed house, elderly ladies with handbags on their knees. They were happy to be seeing Nicholas Parsons, but a bit bemused that a lot of the the audience were dressed in scrubs with pearls and rubber gloves, or in hot pants and lingerie. If you’ve seen it live, you know how it goes:

  • Brad – b@stard
  • Janet – b!tch
  • Water pistols, rice, newspapers, doing the Time Warp, the whole shebang

Lights up at the interval, half the audience had left.]

I remember visiting the park after the huge storm in 1987, seeing the trees that had been skittled in the winds. Trees we’d sat under and against, trees we counted to 100 while leaning on their trunks.

I remember climbing around and along the walls of the park, a gang of kids, best friends for the day and for as long as we played. Walking through the shades of the trees to the playground, hearing the thwack of tennis balls on hard, grey, asphalt courts that burned your feet when you ran over them. Looking at the robins, squirrels and quietly enjoying carefully curated gardens and walkways, with secret benches under arbours.

The hot day that instead of an ice cream, I convinced Nanny to buy me a bottle of Perrier, as I knew I’d like it. I’d seen how enthusiastically people were drinking it on the adverts. I felt so grown-up and sophisticated when I drank it. I remember the acerbic taste, but valiantly finishing the green bottle. If it’s any consolation; I still don’t like it, but love other sparkling water.

I remember the poodles I saw at one gate, like Matryoshka¬†dolls, matching tartan jackets on a cold day. They ended up in the book. I think I will always get asked how much of it is autobiographical. I think I will always reply, the Eastbourne bits. Here’s the fishpond for you, at the top of Gildredge Park. It’s smaller than I remembered.

A picture of the fishpond at Gildredge Park in Eastbourne. It looks like autumn, as the leaves are starting to turn on the trees. It also looks smaller than I remember.

Photo credit

One day, instead of walking from home to the train station to get to college in Lewes, I spent the day in the park instead. I knew I simply couldn’t get to college. At the time, I didn’t know if I was depressed, anxious or what; but Mum kicked me out the house and told me to get going. I played truant a lot from school and college, I’d just have to leave, not knowing what else to do. I know now, it’s classic ADHD overwhelm.

That day, I stopped at the station, and brought a new note pad from WH Smiths. I walked up to the park. At a guess, it was winter 1993.

That was the day I saw the poodles.

I sat on a picnic bench and started writing in my fresh new notebook. I remember my hands were cold, as every so often I’d need to sit on them to warm them up.

I remembered that day while I was on a course last week. I don’t know why it came into my head; during a break, in amongst the scribbled flowers, alphabets and doodles, I was again sitting at the bench, missing college. As clear as it is I’m typing this now. I remembered that when all else failed me, I brought a book and wrote it out. It’s what I’ve turned to time and again, that to order my brain, I can’t just rely on thinking things through. As I said, it’s noisy up there.

I had a little moment in a blue stone basement in Ballarat for the teenager I was. I’ve been referred to a psychiatrist so I can be prescribed medication for ADHD. She’s in Sydney, but there are no practices here with room to take me and I need another layer of support above what I’m already doing.

I’m 48 years old, I’m only just learning that I can’t do all the things. Or if I do the things, I pay a cost somewhere else. If I push too hard; I’ll be in bed by 7pm, or for most of the weekend. If I do too much, I won’t feel able to meet with my friends and family.

If I pace myself, make sure I rest, eat well, avoid social media and the news, I can do some of the things.

If I leave the house 9-5 for five days like I did last week, I will need a day or so to recuperate afterwards. I pre-planned this, but on my leave days Monday and Wednesday (ANZAC Day on Tuesday), I slept more instead of doing the things I thought I’d be able to do.

I guess what I’m saying is, when I need to stop, slow down and reconcile what is going on, I write. Sometimes those thoughts filed away will arrive in a book, written 30 years later.

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