The Art of Distraction: 2013 365 Challenge #116

Decisions, Decisions: Which shot for the April Volume?

Decisions, Decisions: Which shot for the April Volume?

I’ve found something I’m really really good at. Distraction. It’s 2pm, I get the kids in 3 hours, and so far today I’ve filled out one author interview and tidied up this morning’s blog post (it was written at 2am after going out to dinner and was a bit shaky. Probably still is). And I’ve Vaxed the carpets. Um. That’s about it.

Haven’t even managed lunch yet. It’s 2pm, did I mention that? Where has the day gone? What have I been doing all day apart from making the carpets wet and smelly? Oh yes. I bought an iPad mini, so choosing a case for that took twenty minutes. The vaxing took quite a while as I’ve never used the machine before (it scares me) but grew tired of nagging husband to get on with it.

Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach: Image Copyright Trevor Wright

And I’ve spent an hour trying to choose a front cover for the April volume of Two-Hundred Steps Home, seeing as it’s May next week. (I know, seriously?)

I’m struggling to pick a cover this month because I didn’t get where I thought I would by the end of the month: Sky and Claire were supposed to spend some time on the beach, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. (Maybe I’ll try and write that post today.)

The location hasn’t been as dramatic or recognisable this month as in previous months and, if I’m honest, I haven’t had as much time to think about each post and so there isn’t really a theme apart from travelling with Sky.

I’ve narrowed my choices to two options: rainy day or beach day. Above are the cover-images I have in my lightbox thus far, so I thought I’d post it and see if any jumped out. For those of you who have read any or all of this month’s installments, do any of these images seem compelling? I have a couple of favourites but it would be interesting to get an independent view.

Right, let’s write about beaches.


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:


“Can we go to the beach today, Claire? Can we, can we, can we? Please?”

Claire prised open sticky eyelids and looked at the girl jumping on the bed, her blonde hair lit from behind by the sun pouring through the window. For a moment Claire wondered if she was being visited by an angel, after her visit to the Shrine. You can’t convert me, I’m a non-believer. Go away.

The jumping persisted and Claire groaned. It was worth a shot. Her body felt welded to the mattress, as if a nefarious doctor had sedated her in her sleep. Oh. My. God. How can I be this tired? Even when I did those bloomin snow hikes I didn’t feel like this. Her brain present an image of Fi coming in to confess all after the Pennine Way walk. Alright, fair enough, I felt like I was dead then. But all I did yesterday was walk from the steam train to the Shrine and back. Not exactly strenuous.

Flashes of the afternoon and evening events returned in vivid colour as sleep retreated. Sky sobbing in fear that her mother was going to die. Sky falling asleep in Claire’s arms so she felt she couldn’t move for two hours, not even to get her iPad. A rejuvenated Sky demanding games and entertainment until late in the evening. A stubborn and shouting Sky refusing to go to bed. Then a night-time of screaming, as Sky’s daytime fears transformed into night terrors.

Claire focussed her bleary eyes on the jack-in-the-box child still shaking the bed. Kids must be bullet proof. Sky seemed to realise the jumping wasn’t working and lay down next to Claire, snuggling in under the duvet.

“Sheesh! Your feet are cold.”

“Sorry, Auntie Claire. Did you sleep well?”

Claire opened her eyes wide and examined Sky’s face to see if there was any trace of irony or evil intent. Clear blue eyes gazed back, brimming with sincerity.

“Don’t you remember having bad dreams, poppet?” Claire reached out and brushed the hair away from her face.

Sky shook her head. “Sorry, Auntie Claire. Mummy says I often don’t wake up when I’ve having nightmares.” Her face fell and tears gathered in the rims of her eyes. Claire was about to offer more support about Ruth’s condition when Sky spoke. “Does that mean you’ll be too tired to take me to the beach today?”

Claire laughed. Kids certainly live in the now. “We’ll go to the beach today, I promise. Let’s just get packed up and check out and we can ask at reception which is the best beach between here and Hunstanton. We can’t check in until later anyway and it looks like a nice day.”

Sky jumped up, her face shining like a star. “I’m packed already. Shall I help you? What can I do?”

Claire inhaled deeply and swallowed down the inexplicable urge to weep that swept over her.

“Wow.” Sky ran along the boardwalk through the pine trees and stopped as if she’d hit glass. “Auntie Claire, look!” She turned and beckoned Claire forwards. “It goes on all the way to heaven.”

Claire walked up to stand by her niece and took in the view, inhaling deeply the scent of salt and pine. Who knew there were endless sandy beaches on the East Coast? Why did we never come here as children? Probably we went to the South of France or were packed off to relatives. Funny that I don’t really remember having family holidays.

The beach stretched endlessly to either side from where they stood, with sea directly ahead and blue sky above. It looked like a picture postcard. The only moving things between sand and sky were distant dog walkers and two galloping horses. It’s not really a family beach, I hope Sky doesn’t mind.

The man at reception had provided a list of sandy beaches and they’d chosen one near the hostel so there would be no chance of missing out on the sun. Besides, when we’re cold and tired I’ll be able to coax Sky to Burnham Market for lunch. Claire remembered that much at least from British beaches. Even on a fine day the wind could be chilly and energy-sapping. She’d contemplated buying a wind-break at the shop where they purchased Sky’s bucket and spade, but the mental image of her niece laughing while she wrestled with the garish stripy contraption convinced her the purchase was unnecesary.

How am I going to occupy her here? No ice cream sellers, no rock pools or crabs or donkey rides. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She felt a tug on her sleeve and turned her attention to Sky.

“Come on, Auntie Claire, I want to make a sandcastle.”

It felt exposed down on the beach. The wind whirled past them as if it was in training for a long distance race and had no time to stop. Claire could see coloured shapes spinning in the sky and scrunched her eyes up to focus, wishing she’d bought her sunglasses. Sky followed her gaze. “What are they?”

“Kites. Big ones, by the looks of it.” She followed the lines down from the dancing shapes and saw leaping and dancing on bottom end too. “Kite surfers. Brrr, rather them than me. I bet that water’s freezing.”

Claire continued to watch the twirling of the boards and kites, as Sky ran onto the sand and began digging. Something about the freedom of the movement pulled at her. I wonder if they do lessons? That might be a fun challenge. Then she looked at the bent head of her niece, furiously filling her bucket. Oh yes. I forgot. Not until after school starts again, unless they offer babysitting too. Poor Ruth, no wonder she has no life. It’s like having a permanent chaperone. I wonder if they’d let a six-year-old try it? Might be a bit dangerous for a child I guess.

She filed the thought away for later, and went to sit on the sand next to Sky.