Killing One’s Darlings or Uphill all the Way

UP HILL ALL THE WAYOver Christmas, a writer whose blog I follow wrote of ‘killing his darlings.’ It was moving in a disturbing sort of way. The ‘darlings’ were of course his own creation, his words, 60,000 of them. The decision to abort  after investment of time and energy, to say nothing of creative juices, because they were troublesome and he had grown tired of their company, a bold and decisive move, right  at the time.

I know what 60,000 words feels like, their gestation, tricky and slippery, delivery as likely the same, and that gnawing doubt they don’t deserve to see the light of day.  So much easier/ better to kick them into touch, give up altogether.   But, after so long, they have taken on a life and characters of their own. I can’t do it, not now, not yet, not while there are still hopes and dreams and breath left to finish the race.

I know  the power of a good night’s sleep, or the fillip of being shortlisted, even if only to finish also-ran, just to keep on keeping on till the next hurdle/ slap on the back.

Obstinacy, pig headedness, or simply self justification?  Time will tell.

The View From My Window

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After drear and ruinous storms, yesterday’s sun was a gift, a blessing and a surprise. Spring is in the air and the step.

While no one was watching the hellebores have been doing their thing. Last year they were so disappointing – in our garden at least – and we lost many. What delight to find them thriving.

A strong believer in omens, I have the feeling that this year will be fruitful.

A Lonely Goatherd in Spain

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A large herd of goats crisscrosses the road.  Traffic stops to accommodate them as they veer first one side then another.  It is quite a sight.   I get out to take a photo.  There is a boy shepherding the  goats, dressed in long shirt and trousers and a Berber hat. A dog is with them, almost an airedale to look at.  I  follow a few meters off the road along a sun-drenched dirt track now heaving with goats.

When I am ready to take the picture the goats are in shade, their dun colour horns and skin merging effortlessly with the earth, only some of their toggles catch the light.

The boy stands proprietorially scrutinising the herd as I watch –  neither of us seeing what the other sees.  I try to comment on the weather, his age, what it is the goats find to eat in the dust-bowl here; inanities all. He does not rebuff, but it is plain as the jostling backs of the animals that I am not behaving well in his world and the best way to be rid of me is to ignore me.

The boy does not register surprise when he sees me with the camera.

Do you mind? I ask not giving him a choice.  The goats and the dog, he does not mind. Not today, the answer for himself and he disappears into a semi derelict, ramshackle concrete shack and rummages. He is probably ‘sin papeles’ and would not like  any proof of himself to be known. Maybe there is nowhere else for him or his goats to go.

Soon he has whistled up his dog and the goats have turned so that they are all running towards me. The herd splits like brown, running water  round me.   An empty plastic container abandoned in the scrub is caught up with their running and the tapping of their cloven hooves on the hard earth so that the noise crescendos as if a veritable flood swirls round and threatens to wash the feet out from under me. Then they are gone, down another dirt track, with the boy in his Berber hat whistling to them.

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Dancing

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We have heard that there is dancing in Agost, a small town in the hills above Alicante.  The dance is to do with coming of age and harvesting oranges, from what we can glean, and has nothing to do with the industry that once made the town famous.

Potters made pots here from the stony earth from as early as the 6th century.  Every household in spain used pot for storage, for cooking, for tiling, for plumbing. Every bride collected a trousseau of pots varnished inside and out for special occasions, or just inside for daily use.  Now there is plastic and making pots the traditional way using  hand sealed ovens, three tiers high, built into the hillside, is a dying art.  The last of the ovens closed this year. The fire that had to be stoked to burn for five days and nights, husband and wife, father and son working  one alongside another, is to be replaced by gas and a switch that can be remotely controlled.

The dance is so steeped in tradition that none of the old dears lined up in their plastic chairs outside the local police station to watch could tell us much except that it was always this way. Today was the day mothers danced with their eighteen year old sons and this in some way prepared the sons for the orange harvest.

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The sons  dressed as if for Jack Vettriano pictures in neat black suits and black fedoras, perhaps the traditional Sunday best of Spanish peasants. The mothers wore snoods made of many tiny flowers and knitted dresses with a bright zigzag weave, (pre Courtauld, or Mary Quant)

The dance, more of a procession, was very repetitive.  We could not decide if the main male move was a scything action for picking up oranges or more of a cape swishing.  The mothers resolutely kept their hands in front as if holding a net for oranges or even an invisible train.Think Emperors New Clothes.  All the young men disappeared for an hour allowing for many changes of partner. The mothers had sweets tipped on their heads and the young men were hit a few times with the packets. The children were a law unto themselves. Some danced alongside, others made up their own game pulling each other round by the hoods of their coats.  Everyone seemed to really enjoyed it.

It was, however, a privilege to see this ‘not for tourists’ fiesta.  The only other outsiders were a German couple who, fortified with drink, thought it  deadly dull and left early.

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Spain and Los Reyes

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We are in Spain for ‘Los Reyes’.

Here, Christmas comes at Epiphany when the three kings deliver their gifts. Last night we watched the kings’ arrival by boat along with whole towns-full of others and truly delighted small children. The Kings were joined by an entourage that must have taken months to prepare. A cavalcade of horses, angels, bands and pages accompany each king  and parade through the streets handing out sweets by the handful.  Some of the pages, mostly teenagers,  stop to eat loads on the way.

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Small children are invited to sit on the king’s knee and tell what they would like.  Some, of course, are so terrified they run off screaming.