I've always seen my self as being a bit like a cork on water going through life – bobbing about here, bobbing about there, going with the flow.
I've never been a planner or a plotter. I didn't wake up one morning with a life-plan in my head – a high-flying career mapped out enabling me to buy a house before settling down and having my 2.4 children before I turned thirty, and getting the dog. I've never been one of those people who, when they go abroad, read up voraciously on where they're going so they know where all the places of interest are, the history of the place, the best places to eat. I like nothing better than wandering up an alleyway (hopefully not one full of muggers and worse) to see where it leads when I'm in a place I've never been before.
So ... when I lost my hearing through viral damage, although it was quite scary at the time, I soon began to go with the flow of it all. Concentrate on what I could do and not fret (too much) about the things I couldn't do any more. Writing seemed to fit that bill
I could do that on my own. Anytime. Anywhere. Something that didn't take all day to do that I could fit in around the family. Something like short stories. I started off well enough. But then I discovered there are thousands of short story writers out there all fighting for the same magazine slot. And those slots got less and less as magazines pulled in their horns, saving money in a recession.
What else could I write? While I was pondering the idea when my daughter-in-law – a sculptor – asked if I could write something about her and her work for a bit of PR as sales had slowed down. I'd never written a feature in my life, but between us we cobbled something together, my son took some fantastic photos of her work, and I walked into the offices of Devon Life (part of the Archant Life group) and offered it to them for their Art pages. Gratis.
Well, who doesn't like a freebie? And so another little go-with-the-flow adventure started
I was subsequently sent (and paid to go) to interview a man who etched and gilded mirrors – think those beautifully ornate bar backdrops in Westerns that get shot to pieces in a gunfight. A man who was a dead ringer for George Clooney opened the door to me – and that isn't the creative writer in me talking, he really did look like George Clooney. And if that wasn't enough, before shaking hands with me he ran his fingers through his hair, sprinkling it with flecks of gold.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
I've since discovered that gold leaf sticks to everything and the best way to get it off your hands is to rub them through your hair – but that knowledge has never quite taken away that wonderful, magic, moment for me. And I got a short story out of it about a little girl who had to change schools and was called a liar by her classmates when she said her daddy had real gold in his hair. And off went the short story writing again.
I'm going to Italy next April with a gardening group. I can't remember offhand exactly where I'm going now. Turin? Genoa? It doesn't matter. I know what day and time I have to pitch up at Bristol Airport for the flight and the rest will be an adventure.