Listening Through Closed Doors

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Image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/

I’m sure many of your parents, like mine, told you that no good comes of listening to conversations not meant for your ears. But when you’re a bored teenager sometimes listening to an adult conversation can be quite revealing. How else were we to learn about life?

On one occasion my parents’ saying proved to be wrong and what I heard became a turning point in my life. The conversation unfolded between my father and a woman who often visited us, the very woman written about yesterday with the silver grey hair and the pink volkswagen car.

Said woman disapproved of the freedom I was given since I had started competitive swimming. She’d apparently seen me biking home from training with some boys.

‘You give that girl too much freedom,’ she said. ‘She’ll end up getting herself into trouble.’

Now I was at an age where girls getting into trouble meant only one thing, they found themselves pregnant. I was about to burst through the door in protest, but my father’s reply stopped me. His answer was simple.

‘We trust her,’ he said.

They were such powerful words and even though he never said as much to me personally he didn’t need to. His trust always came to mind when I found myself getting involved in teenage shenanigans.

So, conversations listened on through closed doors are not always a bad thing.

On Being the Middle Child

Apparently yesterday, Sunday 2 April, was middle child day. Living in the southern hemisphere as I do, I’ve only just found out about this. We’re already more than half way through Monday as I write.

However, the whole concept of middle child fascinates me for two reasons, the most obvious one being that I am a middle child. I’ve read so many things about the negative side of being a middle child, especially of feeling left out, but that hasn’t been my case at all. I loved being a middle child. The family position proved very advantageous to me.

You see, while the other two were being doted on by our parents, as middle child I was left to be independent and free. There were plenty of times, especially during my teenage years, when I was grateful for my parents not really knowing what I was up to. And then, if I wanted to curl up with a book on my own, no one actually noticed.

The other reason I was interested to learn about middle child day is related to one of my current writing projects. I’m exploring what life was like for me in the 1950s and 1960s through the eyes of a middle child. The revisiting old memories is proving lots of fun.

So, to all middle children out there, I hope you had a happy day. I’d love to hear about your middle child experiences and whether it was a positive or not-so-positive experience for you.mice-395831_960_720

The Ideas are Starting to Flow Again

It seems I’ve been in hibernation, but really I’ve been working full-time. Nothing like a stressful day to kill creativity. However, life changes and now I find myself with time to write my stories again. So it’s back to work on my next book, plenty of time, doesn’t have to be finished till late next year.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2712018-the-resurrection-of-a-major-writing-project

I’m getting excited about the prospect of researching and writing again. Life is looking up.

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Writing Prompted by the Words of Others

Last night I sat down to write, having not written for almost a week. My writing brain took fright at being expected to think, to come up with something, to produce some writing. The blank page stared up at me, like all good blank pages do, chastising me for my neglect.

Something had to be done, so I wrote the following at the top of the page. “Open the book I’m reading at a random page. Choose ONE SENTENCE from the page and write it down. Then keep writing for ten minutes.”

The book I grabbed was “To the River” by Olivia Laing, the story of the River Ouse in Sussex in England. The first page I randomly opened contained a historical story of no help at all. I tried again. Still no sentence appealed. The third attempt offered several gems and I chose the following:

‘And there was the Ouse, all of a tumble, the sun skating off it in panes of light.’

A vision immediately came to me of the swimming pool I spent so many years of my teenage life in, the pool my latest writing project is telling the story of. I noted the time – after all I needed to write for ten minutes – and started writing with ease, describing the atmosphere on the night of an important swim meet, with the lights beaming down on the water and the darkened sky above the outdoor pool. I wrote for about 20 minutes.

My short piece of writing wasn’t brilliant, but the pool at night wasn’t something I’d thought about including as part of my work in progress. I made a few reflective notes to myself at the bottom on how to make improvements, turned off the light and went to sleep.

A few hours later – as often is the case with writers – I awoke, my brain having processed my scribbling while I slept. There was nothing to do but turn on the light and write down the wonderful ideas drifting through my brain. I jotted down a few interesting words, a couple of possible metaphors and a few more surprising images I recalled. That was it, lights out and back to sleep until morning.

The prompt of a random sentence from another’s writing hadn’t occurred to me before. Although the book I read spoke of a river and my book is about a swimming pool, the water and reflection of the light gave me enough similarities to get started. I’ll certainly use the words of others as a prompt again if my writing is shy about revealing itself to me.

What about you? What tips do you use when the words refuse to come?

Remembering Brylcreem Vending Machines

The local swimming baths, or Munies as the Municipal Baths were known, was the gathering place for all the local teenagers on a hot summer Sunday afternoon where I lived. Everyone flocked to the pool, either to swim and cool off, or to flirt with the opposite sex. At times the crowded water looked more like a wall to wall carpet of wet bodies. To find somewhere to sit on the wooden seating above the dressing sheds on both sides of the pool meant stepping over swimsuit clad bodies stretched out on towels.

The Brylcreem vending machine sat on one wall of the pool surround, attracting quite a following during the early 1960s, especially with the lads hoping to attract the girls’ attention. After their swim the lads would dry off, flick their hair into place and head for the Brylcreem machine. For one brown penny, or maybe it was twopence, the machine  spewed out a dollop of Brylcreem into the waiting hand, enough to smooth through the boys hair and tame their wet locks.

Girls hung around the machine as well, also hoping to be noticed as the boys sleeked their hair into place with the greasy white cream. Imagine healthy young, tanned teenage bodies clad only in swimsuits on a hot sunny day, the girls eyeing the lads as they put on impressive grooming shows. Teenage hormones ran rampant.

I remember one sad summer when we arrived back at the pool after the winter closure to find the Brylcreem machine had been removed. The longer and more unruly hairstyles heralded by The Beatles and other pop groups caught on with the boys and greasy swished back hairstyles with every strand in place lost their popularity.

A little bit of recent research reveals Brylcreem was the first male hair styling cream invented, having been introduced in Birmingham UK in 1928. Its popularity lasted until its demise in the 1960s, but much to my surprise Brylcreem is still available in small red containers today.

Do any of you have early memories of Brylcreem to share? How did effect your social life? Can you remember Brylcreem vending machines?