…happily ever after.


Today’s photograph is in a corridor of the outpatients block, it’s a bit like an airport. I was there for yet another visit to the prostate department to hear results of tests, got to have more in 6 months. This was at 2pm, on a bright windy cold day.

Write what you know about.

How many times have we been advised that?

It is good advice, especially to begin with. But then we need to develop our writing. We do it, we tell stories about places and people who have never existed, we’ve never been to. Google Earth has helped, I wrote a couple of chapters which took place in Venice, I’ve never been there, but Google took me to where I wanted and an online property agent had a video going round a building for sale which gave me good detail of the interior. Those are quite useful and I used the same for a home on a beach in South Carolina (somewhere else I’ve never been) it featured a few times in Underpainting, and I was able to place characters in rooms which existed.

Those are places. Probably harder are relationships. For me it would be the relationship with your own children, it is easy to watch friends and their children as an outsider, but what about that inner feeling, inner love. I remember a former colleague saying that as soon as she gave birth she immediately loved that unknown being more than anything else, without thinking about it. And yet another had great difficulty loving her two children, luckily a quite rare thing, but part of relationships.

I am now separated, I sometimes wonder why I got married, though there were times when it was by far the happiest time of my life, in my writing I have only ever used the period of slowly moving apart (on my side anyway) and loss of attachment. I would find it quite difficult to write about the inner feelings of say a couple who had happily been together a long time, as some of my friends have been.

Happy long term relationships do not always make interesting plots and I have found in reading writers find them hard to make interesting, look at Arnold Bennett in the Clayhanger trilogy, the third book is far less interesting when the protagonists have got together. No wonder fairy stories finish with ‘…and they lived happily ever after’, happiness is actually quite boring. If we look at our own happiest periods in relationships they are probably periods when feelings of safety, calmness, certainty are to the fore.

What brought these thoughts on has been reading Orkney by Amy Sackville, a beautifully written novel about a ‘honeymoon’ and the strange relationship between two people. The writing is poetic without being complex, it combines myths and legends and memory, with the reality of a situation the first person narrator fails to understand or foresee. Quite a wonderful book.


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