Monday, November 10, 2008


It’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks. First, the boyf and I went to Barcelona for five fab days. I remember going there when Inter-Railing in the early nineties and the place scared me half to death…

Now it’s thrilling for different reasons – a truly vibrant, cosmopolitan city. I’m glad I don’t write guidebooks as it would be seriously tough to find new ways of describing the place, but suffice it to say, if you’ve been there, you’ll know and if you haven’t been, you should. As soon as humanly possible.

I didn’t do much writing but I took loads of photographs and notes, and the city might well turn up in my fiction before too long…we also caught up with friends who’ve moved there and had a severe dose of lifestyle envy.

The down was that while I was away, my aunt died. She had been ill for many years but was still only in her sixties and I think it’s always a shock when someone important dies. My best memories of her are from when I was a little girl and visited her house which had – luxury of luxuries – a piano! My aunt and uncle were both extremely musical and made their living playing and teaching the piano and violin. I used to buy sheet music of my favourite West End shows (I was a bit of an actress wannabe, but my ambition was thwarted as I was a useless dancer) and ask her to play my favourites while I sang along. Evita and Annie were particular favourites – the poor woman (and neighbours) must have been well and truly fed up with The sun’ll come out tomorrow and Don’t cry for me Argentina by the time I left each time.

She also introduced me to the delights of curry (and those yummy little pre-made orange sorbets in the shell you can still find in more old fashioned Indian restaurants). Music and masala. That’s what I call a positive influence.

Again, I'm slightly at a loss to describe how I feel about it all (call yourself a writer, Harrison?). The funeral is this week and I am hopeless at funerals – the opening to Brown Owl's Guide to Life is semi-autobiographical – so I probably won’t post about it again.

Straight after Barcelona, with memories of my aunt uppermost in my mind, I went to The Hurst, the Arvon Foundation Centre in Shropshire, which was home to playwright John Osborne. Although I used to work in the Midlands region for the BBC, I had never had much time to admire Shropshire at leisure and the countryside was mind-bogglingly gorgeous. It wasn't a taught course - I've done two previously, both outstanding and recommended for all writers - but a retreat, where we were at leisure to work on our own during the day, then come together for dinner in the evenings. I spent the week chatting and sharing experiences with other writers, getting started on my next book (the whiteboard came with me in the car) and going for a few lovely walks.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a spiritual person – as with most other things in my life, I find it hard to make a decision about where I stand on creation – but the landscape around there really did make me appreciate the spell-binding beauty of life. During my Friday walk, I kept seeing rainbows everywhere, including several that melted into the trees. The photo doesn’t quite capture it, but it was gorgeous.

Downside was being unable to watch the TV after the Obama victory but oddly listening to the radio made it seem more special, like being in a WW2 drama, relying on the wireless to bring the news we’re all hoping for…the speeches made by both the winning and the losing candidates moved me deeply. I hope...well, I guess we're all hoping the same, are we?

Oh, and I had lots of lovely food. And got 11,000 words in the bag. That’s the wonder of no broadband.

Here’s to rainbows, and dreams, and curries, and music, and my aunt, and making the most of what we have…


Blogger JJ said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt, Kate. Lovely though that you have wonderful strong memories and debts (curry! what an aunt) to her.

Barcelona. Wonderful. I went twice while at art college and I too am envious of your friends.

The retreat sounds lovely. Shropshire sort of features in my book. I wonder if I can wangle a trip there? Maybe not from Bangkok, eh?

2:46 am  
Blogger Mummy said...

So sorry to read of your loss, Kate. Funerals are surreal things. I read Brown Owls Guide to Life whist still grieving for my mum (will I ever stop?)- it certainly helped me through so thank you.

I've never been to Barcelona so it's lovely to hear about it. My Dad lives in Spain so maybe we'll try to fit it into the journey next visit.

The retreat also sounds lovely. Not too far from me either, will have to look into it!

10:14 am  
Blogger Lane said...

So sorry to hear about your aunt. What a wonderful lady she sounds.

I've been to Barcelona once and loved it. Top of the list for a return visit.

12:40 pm  
Blogger liz fenwick said...

So sorry about your aunt - hope the funeral is okay. Thinking of you.

btw - weel done on all the writing!

5:00 pm  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

You describe how you feel rather well, in my opinion. Aunts are important and yours sounds like an excellent example of the species. I've been to the Hurst, it's a beautiful place, good for a little healing - and 11,000 words is great, well done!

7:01 pm  
Blogger ChrisH said...

I'm sorry to hear about your aunt.

11:10 am  
Blogger Sally Lawton said...

A very moving and inspiring post. I'm very sorry for your loss Kate, sending big hugs x

11:08 pm  
Blogger jh said...

Sorry to hear about your aunt, Kate. But what memories! Sounds like a very good reason to have regular curries in her honour.

Jude xx

9:57 am  

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