A sunny Sunday afternoon

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The sun shone over Emily’s face as she sat basking in the high midday sun. It was warm and soothing, and made a brilliant orange colour when mixed with the pink skin of her closed eyelids. Beside her, she could feel ToTo panting gently, his tight, soft curls tickling her calf as they brushed her with each breath. Emily was thankful for the blanket that her mum had laid out for her and her sisters to sit on late that Sunday morning, as she could feel the spikiness of the grass beneath it that was trying, and failing, to scratch her bare legs. Around her, a busy bumble bee buzzed closely past her ear and into mum’s white butterfly bush and the tuneful whistle of the birds was the only thing audible in the still, summer sky.

For most of the morning, her and her younger sisters Mya and Jodie had spent their time running about the garden playing chase and hide and seek. When Mother had brought baby Beatrix out and placed her on the blanket for them to watch for a while, they lounged about beside her making Daisy chains and periodically cooing over the cheerful babbles and excitable legs kicks that the tiny human was emitting. Sitting down was a welcome relief to Emily, who was pleased to get the chance to catch her breath after this morning’s rather active shenanigans and play. 

Emily was having such a wonderful Sunday that she did not want it to end – the thought of school tomorrow loomed over her head as it did most weeks, and although she didn’t mind school that much she supposed, it was definitely more favourable to play with her sisters all day in the glorious sunshine. There was something about being outside that made Emily feel free and happy – she’d always enjoyed the great outdoors since she was very young and understood just how very lucky she was to have such a large garden in which to play. She remembered fondly about the times that Daddy swung her around by her arms in big circles, as if she were flying, and the times that the two of them both went out butterfly hunting with a paper and pen so as when they found one, they could both sit as quiet as possible whilst drawing the pretty little thing. Nowadays, Daddy seemed much busier – too busy in fact to even look at Emily’s drawings let alone partake in such activities. Luckily for Emily, she had her sisters to keep her company, and there was no denying that they kept her very busy indeed. Mya, with her signature hair bow was always full of beans – and being the youngest (not including the baby) this was no surprise. She would always be the one that was running about the garden at such speed she would oftentimes be transformed into a giggling blur. Jodie, the second oldest, was much more reserved and laid back, always following along with whatever crazy plan Mya had concocted that day. Emily felt as if she were a comfortable balance of the two girls – she enjoyed running around, causing mischief and exploring her surroundings, but she also enjoyed sitting down with a nice book, or drawing with her coloured pencils when or if she got a spare five minutes alone.

Emily was keen to make the absolute most out of the remaining time before her and her sisters were to be called in for their early tea and made to sit at the dinner table until everyone – even the adults – had finished their plates. Aunt Maggie especially took such a long time to eat – as most of the adults did – usually spending such an inordinate amount of time just chatting about boring adult things. One would think that they did not have anything better and more exciting to do such as play chase and make potions out of lake water and blossoms. How boring it was to be an adult, thought Emily, as she saw the curtains of the back window flicker and her mums face peering out about to summon the four of them – five counting ToTo – to the dining room.

Commentary:

I chose this picture because of the serene atmosphere it gives off. The sun is shining and the girls look calm, content and happy. Plus the dog and baby are sweet as anything!

With this passage, I wanted to close my eyes and put myself right there in the picture, feel the sun on my face, and really experience what it would be like to be one of the children in the photo – to be carefree and full of adventure and curiosity.

I didn’t do too much research for this one, instead reverting back to remembering how it felt like to be a child. The social context didn’t feel all that important to me as I wanted to focus on what was going on in that garden, at that very moment in time, and to live in the present, not the past or the future, which children are very good at doing and adults less so.

In terms of challenges, I needed to be careful not to be too self aware or older than my years, as I was taking up the role of a character who is much younger and less informed than myself. I have attempted to look at the world with fresh, curious and untainted eyes, whilst still introducing an element of conflict – a distant father figure. I have made sure to tackle said conflict in a naive, carefree and untroubled manner rather than anything too serious so as to avoid an unbelievable character who is too emotionally developed for her age.

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Everything

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John balanced on his haunches in the centre of Trafalgar Square, holding Kitty gently under her elbows. The velvety fur of her double-breasted coat was soft between his fingers  and he could feel the warmth of his little girl emanating through the layers. She was at that age where she was able to stand almost unassisted, but was still comically unsteady – like a drunken adult or new-born calf learning how to use all four legs. Looking at the little human that he and his beloved Lizzie has created still amazed him all those 12 months after she was first placed in his arms. And with her light brown curls, slightly oversized ears and a smile that resembled a chipmunk, she was the spitting image of her mother – beautiful. The distant hum of chatter was audible in the gentle chill of the mid March air, and although from an outside view the square was bustling with tourists, the only people John could see were Kitty and Lizzie.

Times like this were rare for the small family of three. John was, and had always been, incredibly busy with his job – at first, a pilot in the second world war, and now a commercial pilot for long haul flights – often spending days at a time away from the family home. Before Kitty was born, although he missed Lizzie greatly, it didn’t seem quite so bad – but now, with Kitty growing at an astonishing rate, he felt like he was missing out on big chunks of his daughters life – which rendered memories such as these evermore precious.

As he crouched there, limbs entwined with his daughter and Lizzie snapping away on the new Kodak camera, a pigeon fluttered passed. It was a little too close to John’s right shoulder for his liking, but Kitty followed it with her eyes, in awe of the creature. It settled a foot or so in front of her, and she squealed and giggled with delight. Flapping her arms in excitement, she began an attempt at moving closer to the bird, which was now pecking at some disgusting looking crumbs on the floor. John admired his daughter’s chubby knee as it wobbled cautiously in his peripheral vision in her attempt at putting one buckled shoe in front of the other. Noticing her cotton socks pulled up over her tiny ankles, he simultaneously melted a little and bursted with overwhelming pride. That was his daughter. His wonderful, perfect little daughter. Such moments of overwhelming love affirmed to him what he knew the minute he held Kitty for the first time – that he would do anything for that little girl. Anything at all. It was not until after she was born that realised that it was possible to love something so small and new to the unfathomable degree that he loved her. He loved Lizzie just as much, of course, but in a different way. Kitty meant everything to him and more.

At that moment in time, the term ‘everything’ was metaphorical – he had Lizzie, friends, family and a great career also. Pretty soon however, unbeknown to him, she would be all that he would have left. She would be his everything, his only, and he would have nothing else.

Commentary

What I was immediately drawn to with this picture is the sheer love and adoration that the father has for the child. You can see it in his body language and most definitely in his eyes. The happiness of the little girl is also just too adorable for words. I feel that this image is capturing a very special memory that is intimate for the three people involved – the child, father and the person taking the photo, and that such moments are oftentimes pretty rare. It was these thoughts and feelings that I wanted to portray in my passage.

In terms of research, I attempted to date the photo and decided to go for the 1950’s – 1955 to be exact and I had a little look into the social context of the time, what major events happened that year and more specifically, the jobs available that were common in the era. Although not much of this comes across in the passage aside from the main characters job, all of this information helped me get into the mindset of someone who lived in the era.

Writing this passage has been beneficial to me because it brought me out of my comfort zone. Although with my novel I am writing as a male, much of what I write is very familiar to me because it is set in modern day Britain and tackles a lot of issues that I am knowledgeable of. With this passage, I had to get myself in the head of the father figure in the photo, who is different to me in several aspects; gender, age and time period – I know very little about the 1950’s, and most other eras that precede my own. I think the biggest challenge for me though, is the fact that that the character I am writing as (in third person) is a parent, which I have no experience of being (guinea pigs don’t count apparently!). I figured that the best way to overcome this challenge was to focus on the strongest type of love that exists in this world and run with it.