This is a beautiful world, where ugliness creeps in and tries to dominate. As a child, surrounded by fields and trees, protected by a loving family, I was happily unaware of anything more evil than the boggy area I got stuck in one day as I walked by the stream.
However, in school I felt alienated from those around me, because I came from a different culture than them. While I was as British as my contemporaries, this was a small village school in a rural location, and all of the children came from families who had lived there for generations; probably forever. My mother was a Scotswoman; a ballet dancer, and my father had been a professional photographer with a successful studio in London. When he hit forty, he decided to change his life, and gave up his business to move himself, his pregnant wife and his three sons to North Devon, where he became a farm labourer. I was the bump in my mother’s belly.
Although I was born in the area, I was never accepted as a local. My accent was different, and so was my background. I was heavily influenced by my father’s eccentricities, and was considered strange. ‘Ers a bit mazed een the aid’ (translation: she is a bit mad in the head) was the way the locals voiced it.
I am grateful to my parents for encouraging individuality, but as a child, proud though I was of my heritage, it made interaction with those around me difficult. When climbing trees, turning cartwheels and running through fields I was confident and complete, but I shied away from most company.
I discovered the magic of books as soon as I learned to read; the way the heart would beat faster as I held a new volume in my hand, the feather tickle in my chest and stomach as I opened it, caressing the flyleaf while I held myself in suspense, putting my nose to it and inhaling the fragrance of paper. What secrets would this book contain? Only after that ritual would I open it, suddenly exhaling, and taking another gulp of air as my brain registered that I had been holding my breath.
My teacher had told me that there were twenty-six letters in the alphabet. I had counted them and she was right. And there they all were, between the pages of the book. Twenty six letters that can be arranged in finite ways to make words, and then those words can be arranged to make sentences – so many sentences saying so many different things, or the same things in different ways. It was so exciting, and I wanted to do it. I found I could do it, and everyone told me I did it well, better than anyone else in the school, and better than anyone else in the other two schools I went to afterwards.
I could have a glittering future as a writer! Well, how could I refuse to make a living out of the thing I was most passionate about? So I took the obvious course. I left school as soon as I had the chance, without gaining any qualifications, and got a job in a factory.
Yes, truly, that is what I did. I loved writing but I hated school.
I had fun. It was easy in those days to step out of a job on a Friday, and into a new one the following Monday. Over the years I worked in several factories, a few hotels, I spent a year in Art College, nine months as a student nurse, I was an ecclesiastical embroideress for a while and I owned and ran a retail business for almost twenty years. During that time I married a good man, had two children, foolishly divorced him, had two more children with a partner and sensibly left him to move into a place which was loosely termed a commune; where I managed their huge permaculture garden.
Since then I have worked as a cleaner at a holiday resort and been warden of a woodland holiday campsite, living in a tent with no electricity on site, which was the most enjoyable and rewarding job I have ever done. I’m supposed to be going there for the next summer season, but have decided not to, because I would it would make it impossible to carry on with this blog, or to do any writing to speak of, as I use a word processor now, and can’t seem to go back to the old way.
As you can see, I have spent my life jumping over walls into brambles, but I have never stopped writing, because sometimes when I write I feel connected to something powerful and loving, and I no longer feel alone, and sometimes when I read what I have written I am moved to tears by the words, those twenty-six different shapes on a bit of paper, arranged in a different order every time, and saying so many things so beautifully.
And I often wonder, where did they come from? They seem to have a life of their own.
I write short stories, and occasionally poems, taking inspiration from the way people respond to both advantage and adversity in life. I try to keep my stories short, because I think it makes more people likely to read them, and because the messages are often very simple, not really requiring embellishment. I like to write stories of less than 100 words sometimes, because it feels somehow like painting.
I started writing this blog because I have come to believe that I have something to say, and that my words can move people. This blog was intended to be a first tentative step to see if anyone out there liked what I do, and if so, to try to get published. After only a week I’m no longer sure whether that is the direction in which am aiming.
For financial reasons, it would be practical for me to make a living from my writing, but at this moment what really matters to me is that I may be able reach out and do something which will benefit others. I have seen and experienced some terrible things in my life, and often found myself unable to move forward until the right words appear before me in written form. Only a few days ago I was in despair until I found a lovely poem from an amazing person on a WordPress blog. I read her words and immediately knew what I action I needed to take.
So in a year’s time, I hope I have a good following of people who will benefit in some way from my words. I hope that I will have made contact with parents and partners and children of addicts, because we can help each other. I hope that I will be part of a supportive community of people with shared interests. I hope I have figured out more substantial way in which my writing can be of use to others.
And I hope it will be an adventure.
© Jane Paterson Basil