Trains and Planes (but probably not boats)

Guest Contributor Wendy Unsworth

img_1923This week, like many, many people, I will be traveling home for Christmas. There will be several stops along the way. Purchasing tickets, planning the whole thing out, has prompted me to ponder on where home is for me these days and in a wider sense, the meaning of home.
I have always been a wanderer! Unlike my siblings and wider family who have all stayed in our hometown, on the Lincolnshire coast of England throughout their lives, I moved away in my twenties and just kept going.img_0038
I think it must be that way for many who leave the family area; they go seeking something new and then move again and again.

I’m certainly not complaining; travel, I believe, has greatly enriched my life. It has also taught me a great deal. There have been wonderful experiences, excitement and times that simply remind me how precious life and health are.

No one who has seen a img_1924Zambian mother, nursing a child, sick with malaria, laid low during a military coup, or been cut off by flood waters, will ever feel that they have a right or need to endlessly moan about the late bus or the long queue at the post office. Or whether the supermarket is going to change the stock around again so that you can’t find a damn thing…

So, home to me has been many places and, in all the most important ways, those places are still home. When I think of them, I miss them all, and if I were there right now, I know I would feel part of it again, and feel as though I was home.

At present, I am spending half of my time in Scotland where my ‘official’ home is (that’s where all the bills land!) but also a lot of time in the Alentejo region of Portugal where my son and his beautiful young family live. This area of Portugal is dotted with cork oak forest, and small hamlets and the pace of Life is slow.

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In Scotland, I have the advantage of living in a similarly, small community (with my daughter and son-in-law) but also within easy reach of beautiful, historic Edinburgh or the magnificent and wild Highlands.img_1925
I am not enamored of concrete jungles and always feel at my best with nature around me. So rather than think of home I like to think of my special places and the special people who inhabit them. Some of them I will probably never go back to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of them. Amongst those people, family, friends and sometimes strangers, I know I would always feel welcome and a part of their world.

So wherever you are this Christmas, in the heat of the sun or knee-deep in snow, I wish you the company of those dear to you and the feeling that you are home. A glass of wine, a gift or two and, of course, a good book!

Merry Christmas.

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If you enjoyed Wendy’s post, let her know, at Wendy Unsworth, and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

A Love of Words

Guest Contributor Wendy Unsworth

Image source -pixabay

Image source -Pixabay

Now that the festive season is upon us again, most of us try to take some time to pause from our busy, everyday lives and turn thoughts to friends and family, both past and present.

We all remember our loved ones in our own special way and, for me, the legacy left to me by my father is, I believe, a strong part of the reason I am here today, amongst this wonderful community of writers and readers. And yet, he lived in a different world to the one I now inhabit; I find that both sad and fascinating in equal measures.

My dad died a long time ago, almost thirty years, actually, of a brain tumor in his early sixties. He never had the chance to own a computer or a mobile phone. He didn’t know about the World Wide Web. He did write letters but, as far as I know, never wrote anything creative. But he did love words. It has taken me a long time to realize that fact.

Image source -pixabay

Image source -Pixabay

Ever since I was a little girl people said I got my ‘green fingers’ from my dad and it’s true, I can remember way back to the time when he would give me little packets of flower seeds and show me how to sow them. When I was still in primary school, I conscientiously watered a sunflower every day until it grew way over my head. I thought it might be a beanstalk. It wasn’t, but it was another love that my dad was nurturing in me, even though at the time I didn’t know it.

But back to the words… As I began to explain, my dad was a simple, hard-working man. He could be, what I interpreted to be at the time, quite impatient and aloof. Now, that I have raised a family of my own (and one-half the size that I grew up in) I realize a house with four kids all spread out in age wasn’t the easiest thing to manage. He was hands on, would often cook Sunday lunch, and he liked to do DIY but was never any good at it.

He served in the army, in the closing stages of the war and when it was over never got any other chance to travel the world, though he would have liked to. He had a lot of curiosity about things he had never seen. When I was a young teenager, we would often sit up late on a Saturday night, long after Mum had gone up to bed and he would like to theorize about how the pyramids were built and what the future of space travel might be. He always had his own strong opinions, and he liked to expound them in his own rich, often quirky language.

And it’s the language thing that I wanted to mention because, although he wasn’t a literary man my dad clearly had a great love of language. He had favorite quotes from books and poems that he would often incorporate into ordinary conversations. I can see him now, getting up from his chair and announcing ‘I will arise and go now…’ quoting from The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats and revelled in the alliteration of the ‘lake water, lapping with low sounds’ and would repeat the line often.
img_1914Dad also liked to make up words.
I was quite far into my grammar school years before I realized that obstroculous wasn’t a real word at all. I wrote it in a school essay and was rewarded with red underlining and a cluster of question marks in the margin. I looked it up, dumbfounded, as it was a word I had known all my life around my dad. And English mattered to me at school. It was the subject I was good at. Imagine my surprise when I found out the word didn’t exist!

I confronted my dad about my less than perfect score on my essay and he, rather sheepishly, told me that the word he routinely mispronounced was obstreperous,  but he disliked it and thought it sounded like a medical condition, so he adjusted it to a word he thought more fitting. And it wasn’t the only word that had undergone this treatment; I requested that he tell me anything else I should know before I fell foul of my English teacher again.

At that time and age I thought this habit of my dads was rather odd and embarrassing, but as I grow older, I realize that it was just a part of Dad being dad and it was one of his pleasures in life.

I never adopted my dad’s habit of actually changing words that I don’t like but, as he became ill, I realized I didn’t want his inventions to disappear completely from our family and began to occasionally use a few of his strange forms of words, mainly in jest, and in his memory.

Only the other day my daughter and I were discussing our gardens. We are both keen growers. I asked her if she had considered trying to grow beans and she instantly quoted,
‘Nine beans rows will I have there and a hive for the honey bee.’
It gives me a warm feeling to think that these small but img_1913significant traditions run through families.
Thanks, Dad, for a love of words (and plants)

The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a beautiful poem. Do look it up if you don’t know it; I am sure you will love it.

 

If you enjoyed Wendy’s post, let her know, at Wendy Unsworth, and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Write Who You Know

Welcome to the Cow Pasture Guest Contributor, Wendy Unsworth –  Wendy Unsworth, Books & more

Image source  Pixabay

Image source Pixabay

The accepted advice to writers is very often, write what you know and when I first heard it I thought it made a lot of sense. It still does make sense, sort of…
Bookshelves are peppered with court-room dramas penned by ex-lawyers, police procedural by cops and war stories by ex-military personnel. I can see how that works. Budding writers with this kind of background have a flying start, they know things that us ordinary mortals don’t know. They can write a very convincing and authoritative line on criminal profiling or surface-to-air missiles.

But what about the rest of us? I, for example, have been lucky to travel a lot and live in very different parts of the world. I’ve had a few different jobs, raised a family. But I haven’t been into outer space and I’ve never professionally (or otherwise – I hasten to add) dissected a human being. So does that preclude me from Sci-Fi and stories that require an insider’s description of a mortuary?

img_1906No, it doesn’t, but it does mean that if I want to write a credible story about a geeky young scientist who seems like a total fruitcake but whose genius is going to save the world from a mega-quake, I’m going to have a harder job than if I had just retired from on a dazzling career in seismology. I would need to do my research extremely thoroughly. No problem. Writers do that all the time. Writers create worlds and whether it is a contemporary concrete jungle or a kingdom, so far away that nobody has heard of it (yet), ravaged by marauding dragons, they have to get it right.

So, if knowing your fictional world, with its landscape and its skill-set is not necessarily a pre-requisite but, we accept, can also be achieved by careful research and understanding, is there anything else that a writer must vitally know?
The answer for me is yes. I need to know my characters, inside out, upside down, backward and forwards. I need to know what they would do if…

With time and perseverance, I can gather the knowledge I need to create the landscape of my story. I can read other books, I can google it, I can watch YouTube and I can ask people in the know. But if I really want my story to come alive I must get to know the characters who walk there, as only I can. These are my people, I don’t want to introduce them to the world if they are still strangers to me. And knowing them, I need to be true to them every time, no matter how much their refusal to go down into the deep, dark cellar while the wind howls and the lightning flashes, messes with the plot. I need to be absolutely sure that their actions and reactions are theirs and not mine and I need to respect that.
Know who you write. This is my mantra. When an author truly knows his or her characters they leap out of the page and stalk the reader right through to The End. They are memorable. They make us, the reader, think, question, admire, loathe.

And that’s what all writers want. (readers too!)

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If you enjoyed Wendy’s  post, let her know, at wendyunsworth.com, and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.