My 1st effort so read and review please x
|15 years after discovering that the world was more than my garden, my school or even my town. I was alone and looking for something to do as much as anything. Since leaving college with endless false options, being told to 'make the most', that 'the world is there for the taking', and 'you can do anything'. I had already discovered that each of these promises were hampered by the need to achieve within social norms and to try new things but only with a view to settling down.
I had never been, or even desired to be, a high achiever. I never aimed for mediocrity either but it usually found me in most pursuits. I was a better than average learner, a lower than average sportsman, average at making new friends and sadly less than average at keeping in touch with them. My life growing up felt like it was always leading to the point where I would be outstanding but just not yet. Mediocrity never mattered The point where I was outstanding would come, and people would see my mediocrity was merely me warming up to the point where I was, and would stay - outstanding. Whilst still waiting for this seminal moment to arrive it became abundantly clear that it may in fact not.
I am - apparently - in my prime, that is to say my body is unlikely to get any better than it currently is. It means I am unlikely to achieve in any great sporting sense, and it has always seemed unfair to me that the journey to the summit of a humans physique is 25 years give or take, while from these heights there is only a decline, but one that means for 70 or so years the body gets worse and the sense that you are further from the summit becomes ever more obvious. A reverse of this, where the body develops and improves for 70 years, then rapidly declines seems a much better way. It would have given more opportunity to consider how I was going to be outstanding and given me the time to get there. Friends started careers, got married, had kids. I however felt in no rush to start my life, and enjoyed the preamble, the preface, the bits at the start. I was waiting for the first chapter to begin and making absolutely no effort to get there. Waiting for outstanding to come to me.
The only thing I considered myself above mediocre at was writing. I had signed up for evening classes but they had continually told me what to write and I had not grown up enough to enjoy the correction that makes us better than mediocre. I decided to write a book. Why start with a short story or poetry or finish someone else's novel as seemed to be the only objective of my evening class. I would write a masterpiece and I would begin the first chapter of my life. Within a week it became clear that as someone with only a preamble of a life, I lacked any experience to base my novel on, and even a short story would require a creativity of mind that I lacked. I would in all normal circumstances have sat back at this point, reflect for 5 or so years on my lack of experience and then begun to plan a marathon I would run in 3 years time, or a foreign language I would start to learn sometime next year, making sure I kept it vague so as to not have to actually do it. But in a moment of uncharacteristic decisiveness I quit my job as an up and coming nobody and after about an hour online I booked a flight to the smallest dot I could find with an airport. I would have an experience. I would write a novel.
Starting is so much harder than ending a book. I have no experience of either but as I sat in departure gate 27 of Heathrow airport and opened my laptop to begin my masterpiece I felt like a fan at a football game that has shouted abuse all game from the sides only to be told at half time he was to get changed and play centre mid. The reality of actually writing a book was going to be harder than I had thought. I decided that for now it would be based on my fellow passengers and I would begin by making notes on their appearance, character and names. At worst this would fill up the 11 hours until I reached my first port of call in Hong Kong and at best these unwitting people would be the unknowing stars of the greatest novel of our age, a masterpiece of fictional literature.
Anne-Marie, 45, used to be a dancer in shows, but got too old so now travelled the world using dance as a tool to bring communities together. She has always been happy, has a husband and 2 children
Likes : Russian literature Dislikes : Moustaches
David McLaughlin, 76, a retired pilot. He's dashing and smart but upsets people by saying what he thinks and not what people want to hear. He has 1 child but hasn't seen them for 5 years
Likes : People with string opinions Dislikes : People in his space
Sally McLaughlin, 72, Reads her husband better than he knows, finds it funny that her husband is so outspoken but wishes he thought things though a bit more. Was a nurse for 28 years and still helps out as a volunteer at the hospital cafe.
Likes : 1980's American comedies Dislikes : the Daily Mail
Finding my seat I was strangely comforted to find myself sitting next to David. And strangely disappointed to discover that far from being being a pilot he had in fact been a postman for most of his working life. A postman is an admirable profession but far harder to weave into any story ideas I was planning to develop. Far worse was that David was not only not married to Sally but appeared to not even be on the same flight. I would have to develop their characters further from reality than I had planned. Having said that I was very pleased to note that Anne Marie appeared to be a very happy lady if a little more obnoxious than I had in mind. David, or Gerry as he preferred to be called, offered inspirational conversation in a way that men my age are so often incapable of. He had travelled widely, read broadly and generally excelled at life. I would rewrite his character and have him as a wizened old guide to whomever was to be the star of my novel.
A good story needs a good muse. A muse must be eminently likeable, outrageously vile or more often a combination of the two. I would begin the search for my muse from the cast around me, then work out a plot for them as I wrote. This, in retrospect, is a terrible plan as any muse, no matter how likeable or vile is lost if the plot offers them no direction. I had no plot to speak of yet. I checked in, crashed out and searching for inspiration I slept.
I had arrived only 1 day before I met her. I could not decide on a name for her, a profession, likes or even dislikes I could only agree in my mind that she would be my muse. Over the next week as I tried to weave her into the lives of my growing cast list I became infatuated. Stalking her at breakfast and dinner to assess her tastes and their meanings as to who she was:
Orange juice - Clearly she was healthy and had vitality
Salmon and cream cheese bagel - She was going to enjoy life and clearly did enough exercise to burn off the calories
Fish of the day - A risk taker and clearly someone with a bigger budget than me
When I had finished following her for the day I retired to my room to work on a plot and how I could encourage my muse onto the pages of my book and what wisdom David / Gerry might offer to guide her.
Sometimes stories move too quickly and details get lost in the rush to tell the best bits before we have really got to know why we should care in the first place. My book was bedding down well apart from attempting to include conversations that didn't sound too contrived but that had more purpose than the reality of actually talking. My real story was, at this point frighteningly similar.
'Are you from here?' I said, thinking that this would be a great introduction and open up conversation and perhaps days of getting to know each other, discoveries that we had everything in common and a best selling novel off the back.
'no sorry' she said returning at once to her juice and bagel, and leaving me no room for any follow up. It is hardly the prose of a master. In my novel this would lead to a brooding and a catching of the eye. In reality it led to just the juice and a bagel. I am not a determined character, and a lack of enthusiasm sent my way will normally be enough to return me to my malaise, but as events unfolded, my muse and I were about to become worthy of truly great literature. Whether I could do it justice time would tell.