Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Behind Closed Doors..."

Caroline Smailes is pretty, she's bright and at thirty-something, she clearly has a big writing future. Very recently, she called in to chat with one of my writing groups. I'd never met her in person...merely chatted through emails and but it was a treat to meet her and I know my class agreed. We had a great morning.
Strangely enough, when Caroline arrived, we were looking at an extract from Jeannette Winterson's " Oranges are not the only fruit" (the main character telling of her mother's "daily household preoccupation" with The Heathen next door, :"Put some clothes on...Next Door's at it again..")
We then worked on List poems, each line starting " Next door...", then listing ( "creatively", of course!) stuff Next door got up to...( great results: funny, moving, lyrical...we got the lot!) so THIS was all very (accidentally) relevant....
Caroline's second book is an ebook novella. "Disraeli Avenue" tells of a street of similar houses, where no household is really the same, where folk hide secrets which ( I'm cliche-ing; but cliches are cliches because they're SO very accurate, e.g: "make your blood boil", "your toes curl")...and as Caroline says, the book gives you "a mosaic of working class life".
It's a crisp idea; characters who were lightly featured in Caroline's first book ("In search of Adam", published by The Friday Project)... are given voice and their stories more vividly told...
Caroline's book can be downloaded free from her website ( see address above) All that's asked is a donation for a hardworking Charity ( " One in Four" ) which offers support for folk experiencing sexual abuse and violence.
By joining in, you're helping a great cause AND you'll enjoy a writer of whom we'll hear more...
Thankyou Caroline for coming to see us!
But Now For Something Completely Different:
Yesterday, I spotted a lovely old fellow sitting by the chemist counter in our local supermarket; Mr P 's been a neighbour for years and he must be 90. He was awaiting a prescription and the reason was obvious; his eyes were piggy-small and red and they streamed with cold.....but on seeing me, Mr P grinned, then asked after me, my family...and on saying goodbye, he touched his cap, yep, he touched his cap ( a deerstalker , something my long-gone dad would've described as " nifty" or even possibly " natty") ...then as I backed away with my wire basker swinging madly, he raised said deerstalker in gentlemanly salute.
I was touched, deeply. No-one's touched their cap at me for years, let alone " doffed" it. Doffed?
Does anyone under 40 even know what "doffed" means??!
I think the "trying-to-look scary" Hoodies who hang out on scary bikes outside the supermarket should do some doffing...lift up their hoodies occassionally, smile broadly...and we'd all feel a lot better.
OK, I'm easily pleased, but Mr P ( at 90-something) made m'day!


Blogger Caroline said...

Pretty? Ha! You are lovely :)

And when I was asked who had influenced my writing, I explained that Jeanette Winterson had. Such a cohesive visit!

Thanks so much for this post and for inviting me along. I saw the report in the Chronicle. Please thank whoever wrote it.

Hope you're ok and that all goodbyes were forward thinking ones.

Take care

11:53 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Hello Caroline!
There should be something for you in your snailmail tomorrow; that's if I get m'self to the box!!
It was lovely having you.
The Chron stuff was written by Peggy Woodcock; she's in the class and she also writes frequently for the Chron.
Not really goodbyes, as Ill see them all again, out/about....
BUT ho hmm,I keep getting new ideas for lessons etc...creating workshop exercises by accident in my YES, Ill miss them and much as I intend doing my own writing stuff, I can see m'self quite likely wanting something similar to my classes before long...

12:08 pm  
Blogger Bee said...

Ok, I just turned 41 -- but I definitely know what "doffed" means. Maybe it's because I come from Texas -- where men still wear cowboy hats, which still have to be doffed to the ladies.

BTW, did anyone read Jeannette Winterson's introduction to the (freebie!) Guardian guide to Ted Hughes? I thought it was very perceptive; it said some interesting things about how nature inspired his work; in fact, I thought of your friend Ann.

Your writing class sounds like great fun. I wish it was handy to me! I am going to start writing with a young girl -- lots of natural talent; needs some extra attention -- and I will check in with you for ideas.

wonderful post!!

1:07 pm  
Blogger Bee said...

OOPS! I meant Lucy -- not Ann. Ann is someone I blog with on cooking ideas!

Sorry, Lucy!

1:09 pm  
Blogger Debra said...

Hi Jan,

I read your entry and thought so fondly about my classes with you and list poems and Jeanette Winterson. How I miss your classes and I'm sure everyone else will too! Could you do online workshops for those of us who are far away? Its hard to keep up the ideas!I really wish I'd met Caroline - I will check out her book. Sounds just up my street!!

Lets keep in touch!

7:55 pm  
Blogger elizabethm said...

Jan, would love to join Friends of Litfest. my email is on my profile I think. These classes sound great and now you are stopping them!

9:18 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks, and yes, writing classes can /should be fun..

And yes, I'll miss the classes fact, I am already!
Caroline lives on the Wirral (once your part of the world)
...and yes, she writes very much your kind of stuff.
Just read your blog re you all in Turkey..

9:30 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Shall get back to you ASAP

9:56 pm  
Blogger Debra said...

Isn't it amazing that once you move away from a place you find out who you should have met?...

7:55 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I have a very hattified family, and my eldest is a great maker of grand gestures. Much doffing around here.

Pleasant to have a peek at your class...

5:01 pm  
Blogger Jon M said...

A good dude is Lady C. Helped me a lot with my writing too!

5:10 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

Thank Peggy for me. Snail mail arrived today - many thanks. I'll post it on to them.
You are lovely.

6:24 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Cue for a story??!

Sounds a very interesting family, yours, Marly!
I have visions of you all seated, smiling, in hats.

Hope she sees your glowing commentS!

So snails moving pretty fast locally...

9:45 am  

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