Writing 101: Be Brief.

The letter looked like just another piece of litter until I picked it up. The name on the front was written beautifully though smudges by the dampness of the ground. But the name was meaningless to me. Looking for clues I read the letter.

Simple, beautiful and heart felt. The letter was apology, and plea. The letter told of a broken marriage, a love pushed too far, of ties that should bind stretched till they snapped.

I didn’t know who had written it, but the desperation touched me. I need to get this letter to the owner, for better or worse.

That was then. I did find the author. They reclaimed the letter, with a heavy heart. As I understand it, the recipient had thrown the letter away. It hadn’t penetrated her heart in the way it had touched mine. Too much anger and scar tissue.

I wonder where they are now?

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Writing 101: A Room With A View.

On arriving at the beach the first thing to do is squeeze into a wetsuit. There are many types of beach. There are beaches for walking on with your dog, there are beaches for lying on to absorb the sun and there are beaches where you can surf.

Apparently the things that make a beach a good surfing beach all happen out in the sea. The shape of the sea floor and the prevailing tides and winds are what makes a beach have good waves. But this beach is a good surfing beach on-shore too. The fact that the wide ribbon of sand butts up against a craggy vertical cliff face gives it an insulated feel. People don’t spot the beach from the road. The people who are here know someone who knew someone else, and the word got around.

The cliff itself is magnificent when you are close up. You can see individual layers, stones and shells. Grass and small plants hang tenaciously to this surface.

The sand is golden yellow, fine and soft under your feet. Where it is wet, closer to the waterline it is darker, more solid. Walking on it leaves perfect impressions of your feet that slowly soften and crumble until the next wave washes it away.  The bay is west facing, and the sun has just passed its zenith. The afternoon belongs to me and my surfboard.

Having secured the board to my ankle I walk quickly into the sea. Salt water slides under the cuffs, wetting my calves. The immediate shock of the cool water fades quickly as the wetsuit does its job, holding a layer of water, warmed by my body, against my skin. As the water gets deeper I lower the board to float on the sea surface. Holding it, I push on. Once I’m up to my chest I jump onto the board and start to paddle outwards. The waves lift the nose of the board, but the breakers are behind me, and I can swim out to the depths easily.

Sitting up on the board, hanging my legs over each side I turn to face the bay. The sun glints on the waves and illuminates the water and the sand. Out here the cliff’s roughness is softened by distance. I can still see the layers of the rocks and soil that make up the cliffs, but not the details.

Turning to look over my shoulder I see a likely candidate for a wave I can ride. I sink back down onto the board, and begin surfing. Riding waves is a strange way to spend time. There are periods of inactivity forced on you, waiting for the right wave to come. There are moments of excitement, and even moments of terror as you lose all concept of which way gravity is pointing. Those who like it know that it is a magical experience. A way of connecting with nature, with its rhythms and its rules. Time after time I ride the board in towards the shore, then paddle back out to catch another wave, thrilling, my nerves singing with the joy of being alive, here and now.

Later, when tiredness has sapped my ability to go for another ride, I head back to shore. The sun is dipping towards the horizon, but still warming the sandy bay. Carrying the board away from the water’s edge I find a patch of sand, put my board down and then lie down. Being by the sea, being washed in its seemingly limitless expanse, and being serenaded by the crashing and splashing of its wave heartbeat is always a contemplative time for me. I think about how I love the sound and sight of waves, how lucky I am to be alive in the here and now. I think of friends and family, of the people who have touched my life over the years.  And I think about how I love to watch a setting sun sinking towards the sea, heralding the closure of a beautiful day.

Writing 101: Three Songs That Matter To Me.

The latest blog101 challenge is to follow some other blogs and some tags. I’m guessing that others who have taken to following my blog over the last couple of days have done so as part of the same challenge. This might explain why, when I write about how I don’t have a faith, and in fact reject the notion of a faith I end up with two new religious bloggers following me. Ho Hum.

Time to Face The Music.

In the absence of a writing challenge for blogging101, I’m falling back to the writing101 assignment. This calls for me to write about three songs that matter to me. Of course, the issue with a post like this is that it is entirely reliant on the day, mood and recent musical exposure. What did I listen to on my iPod on the way to work this morning? is the sun shining (actually, yes, yes it is) etc.

So I’m going to have to go for today’s picks, with the caveat that it would probably differ in at least one track a week from now.

Song 1: Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd.

The album, also called ‘Wish You Were Here’ is, without reservation my favourite album. Unfortunately my wife hates Pink Floyd (preferring entirely disposable pop), so I tend to listen to it when I’m on my own.

I love this particular track because it puts me in mind of my time at University. It reminds me of my old house and class mates, and of my early adulthood. It reminds me of when I moved on in my musical tastes from the stuff that the radio was playing.

And when I was able to see David Gilmour live in London some years back, he walked out onto the stage, stood in the spotlight and started to play this, and the hush in the audience was electric.

So this is a song that speaks to me about my memory, about my life.

Song 2: East Easy Rider – Julian Cope.

Another song with strong memories. In the early nineties I spent the Christmas holidays in Morocco with four friends. We had gone primarily to surf, but there was also a local motorbike rental place, and a few times we hired bikes to explore the country. All but one of the bikes were 125cc trail bikes, the other was a 250cc bike with a more laid back chopper styling. One afternoon I had an hour to kill and decided to take this bigger bike for a spin on my own. I headed out of town, following the coast road northwards.  Like many coast roads this was cut into a steep descent down to a rocky shore, so as I rode along I had the Atlantic to my left, and a cliff to my right. Being late afternoon the sun was low in the sky casting my shadow against the cliff.

When I look back at the experience it was one of the points in my life when I was most at peace. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, or protective equipment, but the road was quiet and I wasn’t going particularly quickly, just enjoying the wind in my long hair, the sun on my skin and the experience in general.

As I rode along I began to sing, and this was the song that felt appropriate. It wasn’t long after the album (Peggy Suicide) had been released and I’d been listening to it pretty continuously, so that, combined with the title and the sentiment seemed to fit.

Good Times.

Song 3: Blood Wedding – Oysterband.

I wrote above that I was going to struggle to narrow this whole thing down to three tracks, and I really have. The only one that was obvious was number 1. I ended up picking this because the three ‘go to’ acts that I listen to when I don’t know what to listen to are reflected in this list. And when it came to picking an Oysterband song, there were many I could have chosen, but the one that was played at my wedding made sense.

Our wedding wasn’t anything like the one in the song by the way. No drunken uncles pissing up the walls or anything like that. And it is worth pointing out that it wasn’t our ‘first dance’. That was the far more romantic ‘Thankyou’ by Dido. But after the first dance this was the one that got the party started!

Reflections.

When I was trying to choose the tracks to write about I spent a lot of time scrolling around on my iPod, and it was a timely reminder of how consuming music has changed. I had vinyl records that required you to sit, almost reverentially around a stereo. I had cassettes which were robust in terms of being able to move the playing equipment around, but which relied on fragile tape which I was practised at repairing when it broke or got scrunched. I had CDs which were robust, and had excellent sound quality, but held only one album each. I had an MP3 CD player where you could play MP3 encoded CDs which could hold ten or more albums on a single disc. And then I had an iPod, smaller than a CD case, but holding every single CD I own, as well as downloaded podcasts and audio books. And because of that I could try different songs, test what they meant to me and write the above. It isn’t profound, but my 12 year old self would have thought it was fantastic.

Other Racers and Riders.

There were tens of songs that I would happily have included on a different day, or in a different mood. A short list:

Thankyou – Dido

Put Out The Lights – Oysterband

Mother – Pink Floyd

World Shut Your Mouth – Julian Cope

Reward – Teardrop Explodes

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Either Oysterband or Joy Division version

Duelling Banjos – Any version

Benzadrine – Thea Gilmore

She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult

Pictures of You – The Cure

Victim of Love – Erasure

Tom’s Diner – Suzanne Vega (the original, non-beatbox version, I saw her live in Birmingham, and she just walked out to the microphone and sang it without any accompaniment)

Homophobia – Chumbawamba

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana or The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

And I really could add to this list pretty much all day…

Another Type of Blog.

I love the idea of actually having the self discipline to write a blog. I really should make the effort every day, even if it is a minor brain dump.

I have tried a few different tools for blogging. The obvious ones like blogger.com and WordPress. The one I have tended to like most, largely for its geek credentials is Nanablogger, a Bash based blogging tool!

But I have now created this blog, and I will see if I can be bothered to write regularly here.