One of my earliest memories, is sitting on my grandad’s knee in a thick cloud of pipe smoke, (aromatic, home-grown, probably illegal now!), listening to some mystical words on the Home Service: Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne and Dogger; easterly, veering south-easterly. Becoming cyclonic?
What was all that about? What did it mean? Didn’t matter.
Then, the wonderfully warm voice of Daphne Oxenford, who died last year: ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then, I’ll begin.’
Ah, lovely. Listen with Mother. Or, grandfather, in my case.
More fond memories, of sitting under the kitchen table, hidden by fringing on the chenille tablecloth and listening to my mum, her sisters, my grandma – the rise and fall of their voices, the buzz of gossip. Knitting needles clicked, teaspoons clinked. A lot of laughter, some sniffing and tutting.
Even then, that ritual – the music and rhythm of words and voices – seemed so seductive.
At seven, an only child and living in my head, I became an avid reader, anything and everything – copying out pages and pages of Enid Blyton to see how she did it. (How did she do it!)
The habit of plucking out words from texts, started around then.
This is a small part of my ‘office’ at home. It’s a bit like a mouse’s nest – a mess of fluff and feathers, paper, pens, post-its. (My mind’s probably much the same.) On every wall, bits and bobs – phrases, poems, hints, tips, pics – from Ovid to Spike Milligan. They spur me on, slow me down, lift me up. I’m still collecting, just can’t stop it.
Who else remembers Shannon, Rockall, Viking, German Bight? Light icing! In South Utsirra? Magical, seductive. Don’t you think ?
And what was that song? Faraway places with strange-sounding names, calling, calling me. It’s why I wrote An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy!