The challenge part of my daily blogging adventure is now starting to bite. Finding something new and interesting to write about every single day, then finding something new and interesting for Claire to experience, is proving tricky.
When my life is a monotony of childcare, writing, editing, housework and dog walking, it’s tough to find the new. I’m re-reading old familiar books (Pride and Prejudice at the moment) because I don’t have the time, energy or mental space to start any of the dozens of new books on my ipad. Between editing Baby Blues and staying on top off Two-Hundred Steps Home, I’m full.
It seems even I have a finite amount of words. Me! The girl whose mother still complains she talks too much, and now thinks the same of her children. Me, the girl who famously accompanied her father on a road trip from Sussex to Scotland (around twelve hours), talked non-stop and apparently didn’t repeat herself once. Until the day he died my father wouldn’t let me forget it. Ironic now that it’s my children’s incessant talking that drives me batty.
It seems strange that it took me so long to realise my career needed to be built around words, rather than numbers. Thousands upon thousands of words are always in my head, jostling for space, clamouring to be heard. But it seems that, finally, the well is dry. Maybe not of words but certainly of ideas.
It’s a common piece of advice for writers that the well must be replenished. Rest, holidays, reading, getting out and experiencing new things, are all essential to a writer to keep them fresh. I long to take a break from blogging, a break from Claire. But with Baby Blues clogging up my free days (it has to be finished by the end of August or it won’t happen this year) I barely have time to research each daily post, never mind getting ahead.
So apologies if this blogging challenge is dragging for you, too. I’ve reached the soggy middle, with 143 posts left to reach the end. I don’t regret starting it for a moment, anymore than I regret getting married or having children. That doesn’t mean that, sometimes, a break (or a full night’s sleep) wouldn’t be welcome.
Maybe it’s time to take a leaf out of Claire’s book and run away to a hostel for a bit. Call it research. Ah, if only! Still at least I can write about it and re-live the time I did just that.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
The alarm rang through Claire’s pillow and she let out a groan. The barbeque had gone on until late the night before and, although she’d observed the shenanigans over the top of her iPad, it had been entertaining after a fashion; watching the bronzed and beautiful people from the bus slowly drink themselves out of their clothes and into the hot-tub.
She’d torn herself away when the spectacle threatened to become x-rated. Despite only drinking one or two stubbies, as the Kiwi’s called their small cans of lager, her head still felt like it was wrapped in bungee-cord.
Beneath her and across the room two more alarms set up their caterwauling. One a thumping beat of a pop song, the other a clanging bell. More groaning and fumbling around to silence the evil machines followed, and Claire smiled.
If my head hurts this morning, that’s going to be nothing to what those guys are going through.
Trying to remind herself why she’d opted for such an early start, Claire crawled out from beneath her covers and made her slow way down the bunk bed ladder.
Thank goodness I thought to pack last night.
She pulled on the clothes laid on top of her rucksack and stuffed her night things into a pocket. Within five minutes of her alarm waking her, she was outside the room and ready to search for coffee.
The queue for the bus was the sorriest sight Claire had ever seen. A dozen ashen faced, subdued, teenagers stood with heads low and earphones in. As she’d already consumed one coffee and was on her second, Claire was able to smile indulgently at their suffering. She was looking forward to the day trip: twelve hours of doing exactly as she was told sounded perfect after a night of little sleep.
Claire climbed on the bus and sat near the window, ready to be wowed by the scenery she had read so much about. Caffeine kept her eyes open, even though the motion of the bus did its best to lull her to sleep. Looking around, she could see that most of her fellow passengers were already snoozing.
What a shame, to miss out on so much.
At the first stop some people didn’t even make it off the bus. Claire walked past them to visit the forest where they were going to “hug a tree”. It seemed a bit hippy, but she’d given herself permission to be a tourist sheep for the day.
Walking through the forest, Claire felt the muscles in her neck straining as she continually gazed up at the enormous kauri trees towering above her. Their trunks stretched smooth all the way to the sky, forming a canopy of leaves high above. Behind her, she heard the guide tell them that hugging a tree would bring good luck.
I’m not hugging a tree; I’ll look like an idiot.
Glancing round, Claire saw people wrapping their arms around the giant kauri trees, their hands not even reaching halfway round the circumference. Soon, she was the only person not embracing the rough bark.
Oh, what the hell. I could do with some luck.
Claire stretched her arms wide and inched her fingers across the ridges in the tree’s surface. Closing her eyes, she rested her face briefly against the bark and listened to the sounds of the woodland. Behind the chattering of the tour group, she heard the busy silence of a forest living a life separated from people. She could almost feel the sap rising under her fingers and the pulsing life of the soil beneath her feet.
Surprised to find tears under her eyelashes, Claire pushed herself away and hurried after the group, who were already heading back to the bus.
At last they reached the Cape at the top of the peninsular: the place where the Tasman Sea met the Pacific. Climbing up to the summit, Claire felt as if she were ascending right into the heavens. The sea stretched all around, only slightly darker than the sky. A tiny white lighthouse and a signpost showing how far away they were from the places of the world, were the only evidence of human life.
Beneath them, the two oceans crashed and fought, one light aquamarine, the other royal blue. A long line of white waves marked the clash of their meeting and Claire could feel the power from where she stood, high above the sea.
Leaving the group, she walked towards the point where the grass fell away into nothing. Near the edge, a narrow footpath wound down the cliff side. It reminded her of the tiny path above Old Harry, where she had seen the family gather to say their last farewells to a loved one.
Something drew Claire’s feet forward and she inched her way to the edge, swallowing hard at the sight of the steep drop. She was about to walk further when she heard the sound of someone coming up from below. As she waited the English man from the bus came into view, pulling himself up with his hands on the grass.
“I wouldn’t go too far, it gets pretty lethal down there.” He smiled and, before she could respond, was gone.
Claire sat on her bottom and scooted down the path far enough to be out of sight of the cliff top. The man was right; she could see the dust and rubble of the path below her. Settling herself on the grass, Claire made do with her little place of seclusion. She stared at the sea and allowed herself to get lost in her own thoughts.
It was the silence above that alerted her. With a fluttering heart, she turned round and scrambled back up to the top of the bluff. The lighthouse stood alone and proud with no people in sight. Her heartbeat picked up, and she ran to the other side of the building and all the way down to where the bus had been parked. She looked frantically left and right, and ran a little further down the road. But it was pointless.
The bus was gone.