Pangolin Issue 44

Walking my grand-daughter back from a children’s party on 12th May, a kerfuffle of feathers fell in front of us, close enough for me to take this photo with an ordinary phone. A sparrowhawk with a collared dove impaled on its talons – not an everyday sight on our city’s cobbles.

I have been thinking about the unexpected a lot since Pangolin 43. Five days ago, our latest grand-daughter whooshed out of the womb and into the world before any help arrived for her mother. All is now well, thanks to our daughter, her husband, the paramedics and midwives. Phew!

I took a half-term break from writing novel 2 but managed to finish the ‘homework’ for my Cinnamon Pencil mentor Tamsin Hopkins before the family drama broke. She is happy with the shape of the story now. One of my next tasks is to work on the voices of three middle-aged women, two of whom are at the core of the plot. It is helpful to be reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, on Tamsin’s recommendation. I am soaking up the way that Strout uses intimate third person so brilliantly.

Strout does foreshadowing well too – something else that I need to work on. When surprising and even shocking events happen, my readers must believe they could have occurred, especially if there is a particular reason why this turn of events might affect this person at this specific time. Building a sense of foreboding is quite an art in literature, much easier in film and with music. In real life I have been blessed with a positive default mode, at least I think it’s a blessing. Lately I have started to feel more of those little anxieties creeping in like the clothes moth larvae that are surreptitiously gnawing away in the recesses of the Cundallhouse. What fun it will be to find original ways of transferring on to the page the insidious rumblings in a character’s mind, or the calm before a calamity.

In a moment that we may live to regret, my mindful soulmate signed us up for the local ‘open gardens’ in two weeks’ time. Well, it’s for St Gemma’s and the Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods so who wouldn’t? The risk assessment form landed yesterday. Why did I not expect a risk assessment? Where do we start? Perhaps the small but toe-crushingly heavy granite table-top which has rusted free of its moorings, the broken panes in the greenhouse – hiding their lethal potential, the tiny pond now entirely camouflaged by weed, next door’s excitable Irish terrier, the house chimney pots that rock every time a pigeon or crow lands on them – terracotta time-bombs that one of these days might …

I will let you know how we get on in Pangolin 45, due to emerge on July 2. In the meantime don’t forget to support the real pangolins.

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