Back in rainy London

London. It’s eight days since we landed at Heathrow. The day after we left Finland the temperature in my hometown dropped to minus 27. Cold enough to make your hair turn white with frost and your nostrils stick together when you inhale. London hovers around 7 plus. Drizzle-gray. Sunshine and showers. Mostly showers.

Today I walked past the big house and the deer at Clissold Park. The sun was out. Orange light in the puddles. Bright and early joggers rushing past. I stopped to say hello to the deer. Then I met up with Madicken and we spent the morning writing together in a café. All the other customers had brought their laptops too. Madicken spotted an actor sitting behind us. It’s very north London. I wrote some words and I was pretty happy with them. Then I came home and read about the publishing industry and suddenly everything felt impossible. I did my taxes. I downloaded Spotify again and created a radio station based on Sia. I’m clicking thumbs down on anything that isn’t Sia.

This month is one of small tasks. It’s too early for a big picture. There is one thing and then the next and maybe soon the year will start taking shape. I took me a week to shake the post-Christmas fog. I went home to Finland and didn’t turn on my phone for the first five days. A sweet, disconnected rebellion. Gerry and I went for long walks when it was light. The inlet near the house thawed and then froze over again. The ice was washed up by a storm and looked like panes of broken glass, crushed and squeezed together. I’ve never seen it like that before. I ate well and often. I spent some time in the sauna. My muscles unwound themselves. I relaxed and stopped thinking about work, the future, everything. It takes a while to resurface from that. So here I am, tensing up again, telling myself I should do more yoga, writing lists and trying to get a sense of where this year will take me.

Image by David Marcu.

Goodbye November, hello December

I wrote this yesterday.

Last day of November. It’s storming outside, the wind is bouncing between the block of flats I live in and the one of the other side of the rail road tracks. It’s hitting windows and scraping tree branches along the walls. Sometimes a train rushes past. I hardly hear them anymore and only notice if it’s a big freight train screaming and whooshing.

London is still grey and it’s getting colder. I’ve spent the day transcribing an interview. I don’t often record the interviews I do anymore, but I’m glad I had this one on tape. There are good quotes that will only work verbatim.

December is falling into place and it makes me happy. I’ve started scheduling things and it’s a relief to know what will happen when instead of staring down a huge pile of stuff that just has to be done at some point. I think the most stressful part of being a journalist is the period before a story comes together, before I’ve started booking the interviews, when everything is still an idea. As soon as I know who I’m going to speak to and when I start relaxing, then I know it’s possible.

I’m starting to realise it’s the same with creative writing. I’ve come up with a new system. I need to know exactly what happens, from every characters’ point of view, throughout the whole book. The more I know the more precise I can be when I’m telling the story. In my previous attempts at writing creatively I’ve always been rushing, trying to get the story out as quickly as possible, because otherwise I fear I might lose it somewhere along the way (and I often do lose it somewhere along the way). But if I instead write it out quickly, in a not very coherent fashion, using plenty of clichés and a multitude of other literary sins, it already exists and all I need to do is slowly, carefully craft it into something that sounds good. Now that I’ve realised this one thing putting a book together seems more possible too.

Photo by Samuel Zeller.

A short interlude about summer in London

The chervil is wilting on the balcony, a sign that summer has turned and London is tired. There have only been a few storms since June. It’s comforting to know you can’t have heat like this without the occasional release of thunder.

One storm woke us up in the middle of the night. A huge bang at five in the morning. It sounded exactly as if someone had slammed a giant hammer against a metal roof. The rumble reverberated between the council block, our apartment building and the train track below. It was so loud you could almost feel the house vibrating. The vikings must have known what they were talking about because the image of a giant bearded god hammering away above the clouds suddenly felt very real. There were flashes of lightning too and thunderclaps following almost immediately after. I don’t think I’ve ever heard thunder like that before and if I had been a child I would have put my fingers in my ears and cried.

Except for that theatrical night London has been suffering with a slow-burning fever. It’s been dry and hot, but never hot enough to be truly uncomfortable. On windless days the exhaust fumes and city dust turn the air syrupy with pollution. This is when I give up and want to lie down like a tired dog, my tongue hanging out, my head heavy on my paws. Those are days when it’s worth shrugging and giving in to the fact that you will probably not get much work done and your head will feel like it’s been jammed full of cotton wool.

There are other days, better days, when white clouds race each other east and planes zoom high above. Those are the days when the heat is bearable, when the sunlight feels pleasant on my skin and I smugly imagine my body soaking up all that media-hyped vitamin D. Those are days worth collecting, a little star next to each in my calender. Days when the streets hum with happy summer thoughts, busy Londoners hold open doors and bus drivers smile at you.

Each summer in the city seems to pass quicker than the one before. I want to remember this one. With its dust-filled hot days and blue skies. I want to remember the thunder storm and the herbs on the balcony that have gone to seed.

The manuscript

About two years ago I was sitting on the sofa in our living room on a Sunday. I remember the afternoon quite clearly. It was a grey late summer’s day, I was a bit bored, thinking about different ideas for stories when suddenly an idea for a full length novel popped into my head. I was a bit taken aback, reached for a pen and paper and quickly scribbled down my thoughts. I’ve since lost that piece of paper, but the story kept growing inside my head. I got to know the characters. I spent days with them. And slowly, during the last year and a half a manuscript took shape.

Today printed it out and sent it off to the publisher.

I don’t know where this manuscript will take me. I don’t know if more than a handful of people will read it. But I’m happy to have sent it away. I feel I owe it to the characters. They’ve lived inside me for so long. Hopefully they’ll get an opportunity to play out their story for other people as well.

Writing this book has been a real journey, both emotionally and professionally. The working title for this project was Rädslan, Hoppet och Gåvorna (which means the fear, the hope and the gifts). It’s not a very good title, I know, but the emotion behind those words kept pushing me through the writing process. Something inside me told me I had to finish this manuscript. I needed to finish this book.

I feel lighter now. It’s in the post. It’s out of my hands, for now.

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At the writing retreat

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Hello good people of the internet. I think I might have accidentally stepped back in time. Perhaps it was the over-booked train from Paddington that caused it to happen. Somehow the cumulative pain of old people having to stand in the corridor transported us back in time. We have arrived at some point in the 1930s I suspect. A black taxi picked us up at the train station and rushed us to the old manor. Luckily both Madicken and I were able to bring our laptops and for some strange reason (only known to the time-gods) we also have a pretty good wifi connection.

Other than that we’re being well fed by our hostess who is cooking up a storm every day. There are berries and yoghurt for breakfast. Lovely pots of coffee and (gluten free) toast with jam. For lunch we have big hearty salads and cheese and in the afternoon there is always cake!

But enough about the food. We’re also doing some writing of course. That’s the whole purpose for stepping into this time bubble. I’m re-drafting and so far it’s actually going quite well. But perhaps the time travel has messed with my head. I can’t be too sure.

We also go for walks. There are plenty of animals around here. Madicken’s already made friends with a donkey called Max and a goat called Geoffrey. The donkey is quite sweet, but the goat just looks slightly mental. He seems to be constantly hungry. There are also several sly farm cats, a talkative ginger cat and lots of ducks, chickens and a rooster waking us up in the morning.

I’ve taken more photos, but I think I’ll save them for another day. I’ll leave you with a shot of a part of my manuscript resting peacefully on the windowsill. Tomorrow I will leave it to one side and indulge in some science fiction writing. Oh I like it here in the past I think.

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