It’s not often I come home from somewhere and want to jump on the laptop to blog about it. But, after a one night stay in London, I wanted to record the trip, so I don’t forget a part of it. It was wonderful. I don’t want the feeling to go!
Yesterday, when we set off for the flight, I felt very little – it had been a very busy few days getting ready to leave, to sort out the house, the kids, myself. Getting up early to get to the airport, separate the liquids, find the rarely used passport, was more a chore than something to look forward to. While my friend Helen and @supasambo were jittery with excitement, I felt… meh.
After a number of hours travelling (what is the story with flights NEVER being on time these days – add hours on to the time you expect to arrive at) we got to our apartment and straight across the road for food and drinks. We took a taxi then to Clapham, where we were attending the launch of Insights, a beautiful short story collection printed by Claret Press.
St Paul’s Cathedral was full. There was wine. In a church! I opened the book to find my story was first and felt proud for some reason. Only later did I realise the stories were listed alphabetically. (No Arnolds or Binchys before Cassidy then).
A shakesperian acTOR read one of the stories and we learned that the aim behind the collection was to gather stories of humanity – to get us all to think a little differently about experiences of disability and mental illness. It was a noble cause.
At the break I spoke with Tracy Chevalier, who was written ten novels (one of which The Girl With a Pearl Earring was made into a movie and sold five million copies) and she couldn’t have been nicer. She said she had read my story and we great chats about London, community, Brexit and writing. She signed my copy of Insights, even though she didn’t want to because she doesn’t feature in the book, but it was special for me and she signed it from a fellow writer. (Happiness!)
After the break, five of the authors in the collection took part in a questions and answers session with Tracy and despite my reservations (we had itchings to get out to the bright lights of London) there followed an engaging, funny and informative session. I’ve been to many launches in Ireland and lots of panel discussions with well established authors. Here, we had five completely different authors, of different ages and different backgrounds, talking about what inspired their writing. They all had something to tell us and as a writer, I loved it. My two friends found it fascinating too and I think we could take some of that in Ireland to our events – writers who may not be household names yet have so much to offer – more writers of all types on panels please 🙂
Hotfooting it back to Liverpool Street where we were staying we stopped into an amazing Chinese takeaway where the food was cooked up in front of us and after gobbling it up, we went for a drink.
And then… we went home to bed.
Wha? Bed? London, of a Saturday night with two best of craic girls, no kids and a few sterlings in our pockets?
Lads, it was amazing. Between the travelling, the event and the drinks, nothing appealed more than stripping into our PJs and getting into that big cosy bed. With the knowledge that a FULL NIGHT SLEEP lay ahead of us, no nightclub could pull its through it stinky doors.
As we chatted and laughed, I remembered the teenage days of endless sleepovers with our friends, six or seven girls, crammed into sleeping bags on every part of the floor. These days, we don’t even manage phonecalls because evenings are taken with the minding of overtired children, or commutes or working into the night.
It was so good to just talk. To giggle. To make bad jokes and not feel bad about it.
My heart soared.
The next morning, like sleeping beauties newly awake, we wandered round the corner into a live brass band playing in Spitalfields Market. We sat and listened to glorious Christmas hymns, wondering how we had come to be in this place.
For breakfast we queued at the The Breakfast Club and somehow were whisked through a fridge into a secret cocktail bar.
They must have seen our fresh faces and realised we needed alcohol immediately.
We couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces as we ordered amazing food and drinks. Being on a weekend break with no hangover was a revelation. The staff were fantastic at The Breakfast Bar and we could have stayed waffling, eating and slurping for hours, but we had one last stop before it was time to head for our train and flight home.
Below Duck & Waffle (a much sought after eatery) is Sushi Samba and they have spectacular views over the city. We took the rocket lift that spat us up into the sky, leaving our stomachs on the ground.
It was pricey, but the drinks we had were yummy. All around us were Londoners enjoying their Sunday brunches. It reminded me that even though life can feel like a goldfish bowl, minding kids, cleaning, worrying about the bills, there’s a whole other world going on around us, and when we can, we should try to get out and experience it. For about an hour I got to pretend I was loaded, fancy free and and it was completely normal to spend my Sundays sipping from sugar cane tumblers on the 39th floor of a skyscraper in one of the largest cities in the world.
Sigh. And then it was time to go.
Although our break was a short hop, its effect was massive. I felt completely different on that journey home – awakened, positive, energised.
It was a treat, but it was also a reminder that the simplest of things – eating, talking, laughing, are what make us happiest.
While we were in London for the launch of the book my story was in, my stepdaughter Abbie was attending a Jessie J concert in Dublin – I’d won the tickets for sending in a short poem to 2FM radio station a few weeks ago. It’s funny the good things that come from writing – from taking a chance, from saying… why not?
For every win, there are ten rejections. But it makes the wins so much sweeter.
This weekend in London brings to an end to a busy month of writing events for me. I was delighted to be asked to read at Murder One Fest at the start of November and I caught up with and met some new wonderful writers there. I had a lovely chat with Claire Allan who had lots of advice for me and was delighted to meet Lisa Jewell and Ruth Ware in person. This week I took my books and my daughter to a meeting of our local girl guides and spoke to them about what it’s like to be a writer and the importance of reading. The enthusiasm was inspiring – and I hope it encouraged, in some small way, the readers (and book buyers!) of the future.
The performance that took up most of my time was the spoken word support slot for Stephen James Smith in the Droichead Arts Centre.
I’m happy with how everything went. It was a real challenge and I knew it would be. It took me quite a while to write the piece, based on Romeo and Juliet, the 1996 movie by Baz Luhrmann. I used to it to express the zeitgeist of the time and our feelings and emotions as 13 year old girls as we encountered an Ireland coming out of control of the church and facing into a new world of technology and of ‘girl power’.
As I expected, the performance part was fairly tough – remembering and delivering 3000 words with no prompts was difficult. I did stumble a few times, but I got through it, and I was proud of that. I may be performing it again next year and I will approach it differently I think – what I realised with spoken word is that you are there to engage with the audience, rather than perform TO them, and when I did relax into it, I could almost feel the crowd relaxing too.
Afterwards I remembered that Doolin Writers’ Festival are running a video poem competition for the first time this year, so I took the time to do up a short video of some of the spoken word piece. It’s all shot on my phone, in a type of snapchat style – I know it’s fairly rough, but I think it’s not without its charms! You can view the piece below, and it gives an insight into the type of writing style and performance style I used.
So, what’s next? Well, now it’s time to knuckle down. I’ve been working on the research for book three for some time now, but I’ve a lot to get through as I’m writing about a real person and their life. While it’ll be a bio-fiction, I still have to read as much material as I can get my hands on. I’ll be travelling in January to do in depth research and I’m looking forward to that. It does feel like a mammoth task though – but I’m loving it so far and am excited about the manuscript.
While I’m here, don’t forget that my debut novel December Girl is still available – timely, considering the month that’s in it! I’d also encourage you to order a copy of Insights; I’ve only started reading some of the stories and they are powerful, beautifully written and are already changing my perception of disability and its effects.
We’ve a busy December in this household with Christmas and commitments – this is the first year that our four year old really knows what’s going on we’re excited to ramp up and create our own Christmas traditions.
It’ll be hard to concentrate on writing and research in this month, but to be fair, with one novel completed, a new book deal signed and a few others bits and pieces from this year… I might just take a little break : )
Till the next time, keep reading.