100 days of writing? Hell, why not?

I spent the weekend in London with a good friend, who also happens to be a writer. To me, she is a writer in the truest sense, because she shows up, time and again, whether she feels like it or not. Such discipline is the very thing that I have struggled with for years. That’s why I admire it so much when I see it. I still don’t have it, maybe never will. But I won’t stop trying to achieve it, because I know from those around me that it can be achieved, in spite of life’s voracious attempts to get in the way. And if they can achieve it then so, in theory, can I.

Just now I saw another friend – also a writer – mention a 100 day writing challenge that she has agreed to take part in: “No word targets – just a promise to turn up every day for 100 days however I feel and whatever happens.” I am drawn to this, and so, without further thought or over-analysis, I will commit to it. I don’t know what I will write, but it will be something, and it will be every day. Some of it I will post on this blog, some of it I may not. I will surrender myself to the universe and see what happens. Because, why not?

Every story starts somewhere. So, once again, let’s begin…

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Tat’s Life

I’ve been fascinated by tattoos for as long as I can remember; intrigued by the stories they tell, by their boldness and their permanency. I had my first one done around the age of nineteen, and whilst I can’t say it was the most profound of experiences (if I recall correctly I’d imbibed at least two pints of cider after a university lecture and had dragged my reluctant friend to the tattoo parlour with me intent on getting a dragon on my hip, but when we got there and they didn’t have any dragons in the book I opted for a four leaf clover instead – lucky I’ve never regretted it. But then, how can you regret luck?), it set me on a path of discovery that I’m very much still following today.

Each tattoo since that first one has held more emotional significance. The second, a literal translation of ‘inner strength’ into Cambodian script on my lower back, was done after a long term relationship ended badly in 2007, and I wanted to mark the start of my recovery by remembering the happy time I had spent alone in Cambodia before news of my ex’s infidelity broke. The next one came along after a stint of travelling in 2011. Written in English on my foot, it is the last line of a Buddhist prayer (‘May all beings be free), the full version of which my parents kindly gave me as a talisman on a necklace before I commenced my travels. On that trip I had a magical experience with a green turtle whilst diving in the Perhentian Islands off the coast of Malaysia, which I felt was relevant to the last words of the prayer (and hence also to the meaning of the tattoo). I also happened to meet the person I sincerely hope to spend the rest of my life with, who makes me feel more free to be myself than anyone I’ve ever known.

And then there’s the newest addition to the tattoo clan. I’ve been toying with this one for a while, and it’s been particularly difficult because it is related to the thing I’ve struggled most with for the majority of my adult life: Writing. Some of you may know I went part time a year ago to focus more on my writing, but due to a severe lack of discipline on my part, ‘success’ (whatever that means) hasn’t materialised in quite the way I’d hoped it might. So I’ve recently decided to take off some of the pressure, to try and write ‘for love’ instead of fame and fortune. And to help me both with my writing and with the new transition I’m about to make to life as an expat in Brussels with my partner, I decided one more tattoo was appropriate – this time the unambiguous word ‘Believe,’ written as if by a feather quill, which is also included in the design, and which stretches over onto the top of my arm.

I’m sure none of my tattoos will be to everyone’s taste, but all that matters to me is that they are to mine. Not only that, each one (with the exception of the clover, but I love it nonetheless) marks important stages in my life – beginnings, endings, declarations of hope. Each to their own, I say. Maybe I will be embarrassed by them one day, when I’m old and wrinkly and they no longer look as good as they once did. But, like my wrinkles, my tattoos will go to the grave with me, and they will tell the story of adventures, of love, of aspiration: They will tell the story of a life well lived.

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Ghostly goings on

Having spent the past hour procrastinating by watching Ghost Adventures on Really (I know, I know, shame on me) I felt it appropriate to discuss that very topic in today’s post. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the paranormal, which I think stems from an experience I had as a small child in a stately home in Oxfordshire. I remember standing on the upstairs landing at the end of a long hallway lined with portraits and being rooted to the spot, inexplicably struck by terror. Even now all these years later I remember it vividly, and when I told my mother she was amazed I remembered as I’d been so small at the time.

A few years after that incident there were some rather odd goings-on at our family home. It only lasted a short while, but during that time the sign on my bedroom door was removed and stuck back on the other way around, and a shirt belonging to my step dad that my mum had hung to dry in the spare room was found with its sleeves tied in a knot (only me and my mum were present at the time and both adamant we hadn’t done it).

Whilst my own experiences hardly offer conclusive proof in the afterlife, they’ve certainly made me question the existence of ghosts – and other peoples’ stories have only served to back up their existence. My ex-boyfriend’s family had some stories of their own about their family home, one of which involved his brother leaving a jigsaw on the kitchen table one night and returning the following morning to find it completed on the floor (and before you ask, there was nobody else in the house at the time, so unless it was a thief with a keen interest in jigsaw puzzles I’d suggest this was rather odd, to say the least). I stayed there many times and always noticed a chill on the lower landing at the back of the house – not knowing for some time that was where my ex’s sister once claimed to have seen an old lady in a rocking chair.

I can’t prove the existence of ghosts any more than the next person, but I do believe in an afterlife, and in the possibility of souls becoming trapped between this world and the next if they feel they were unjustly taken from the world, or if they have a message for the living that’s preventing them from passing on. Some might think I’m crazy to hold these views, but I know what I felt that day on the landing as a small child in the grip of fear. And unless they too have experienced that fear I’d politely suggest the doubters keep their views on the matter to themselves.