One of the best things to come from blogging are the other bloggers you encounter.
My guest today is Geoff Le Pard, a man who has, what I would call, a wicked sense of humour.
Geoff and I have many a banter in the comments we leave on each other’s blogs, and he always seems to have time for me. He can certainly bring a smile to my face and, if he can do that, then I can guarantee he can bring a smile to your face. He’s a great family man and a huge, huge lover of the game of cricket. I recently got into some hot water with him when cricket made my list of top ten things I hate about Summer, but I think he has forgiven me…I hope!
His blog, TanGental, is written as if he is talking to you over a cup of tea and a Jammy Dodger. He’s friendly, always willing to lend a helping hand, and an excellent writer and author.
Ladies & Gentlemen, meet Geoff Le Pard.
As a child I enjoyed dressing up. As a 1960s hippy in odd grey wig; as a paratrooper using my dad’s flying jacket and red beret (I’m probably breaking some law here) together with a 10 year old’s handlebar moustache; impersonating my idea of a country bumpkin. I was a gorilla for my 30th birthday. But after that, the opportunities seemed to diminish, apart from Ike Turner at an office do and my much acclaimed Mrs Doubtfire for a dancing competition.
Back then, I enjoyed the freedom to drop the everyday me and adopt a different persona. I don’t especially want to act, to be on the stage, performing for others. No, I do this for myself, to create my own little world into which I can imagine myself.
It’s the same with writing. When I first put pen to paper, in July 2006, I gave myself permission to let go. I see that moment now, as I type this post: sitting at that pine-topped table in a gloomy Devon kitchen. I had no clue – none at all – about what I was about to unleash. I had this notion I would like to write a book. I had this idea for a story but no idea how far it would go. I really had no understanding what was involved. Would it be a short? A long short? A novella? A novel? Like ordering a coffee, it seemed to come with so many variations and there was no one to guide me.
All I had was a scene. Three men, once close friends but now grown distant brought back together by tragedy – the death of the wife of one of them. They go on a walk together, something they had once planned and never undertaken. And while they are walking and talking all sorts of secrets are revealed, with unexpected consequences. I, for one, had no idea as I typed the title – Right to Roam – what those consequences would be, both for my characters but also me. The title was rubbish by the way; it made it sound like a legal essay on the foundations of the Ramblers’ Association. I changed it to ‘An Allergy to Friendship’.
The first chapter, introducing the men post tragedy came easily enough. I bashed that out the first evening. My kids had brought two friends each and all six children were splashing in the hot tub of our holiday home. My wife was sewing and listened as I read her my first ever words. She said nice things and we discussed where I might take the story next. I couldn’t wait to get back to my laptop.
A day or two later I wrote a scene, in the coroner’s court looking into the reason for the wife’s death. As I thought about the husband’s feelings – how he might speak, what he would be going through, I experienced some of the self-same emotions that I assumed he would be feeling. Actually felt them: a soreness around the eyes and something of a lump in my throat.
It felt both right and very strange. This was entirely make-believe yet it was as if it were real.
Later, I needed to write a sex scene. I had all sorts of thoughts in advance. I didn’t want it to be trite or cringe-worthy. What I certainly didn’t expect was it was arousing. Now that did feel weird. I was experiencing something I had not foreseen. That my characters were indeed part of me. I supposed I was experiencing some sort of Method Writing process where I invaded my characters.
I was dressing up in my imagination, adopting a variety of other’s clothes. I had recaptured something I had lost, even if only inside my head.
Today, I have my imagination more under control. I have understood that the reality is the other way about. The characters take me over. Maybe that is the reason I finding scripting out a story hard. Often is the time that I have begun to write a chapter or a scene, with a clear purpose in mind and yet the characters have a different agenda. I can wrestle them for a while but like Jim Carey in the Mask (has he ever done anything better?) once I put on their clothes I am at their beck and call.
It amuses me, to sit at my desk, tapping away at the key board with those around me assuming I’m indulging some sort of passive pastime while in fact I’m squirming with some shared embarrassment, shaking with some righteous if vicarious anger or holding back the tears.
It is perhaps why I cannot write certain things. Or at least why they are so very difficult. Physical violence I find especially tricky but I cope; sexual violence however is, to date, beyond me. If, moving ahead, a story takes me there I’m not sure how I will manage.
I’m glad that, once I stop writing the characters settle down, finding a dusty corner of my imagination in which to sleep until I call them to duty. For the time being I remain in control. But I do wonder if, one day, they won’t rest so easy when I shut the lid of my laptop.
Maybe my reclaimed fancy dress urge, which emerged at my 30th Wedding Anniversary last summer is the first sign that the protection around my imagination is beginning to fracture…
For those who don’t know me, I write about all sorts. It might be walking (http://geofflepard.com/2015/04/03/c-is-for-chepstow/).
It might be food (http://geofflepard.com/2014/05/01/food-for-thought-2/).
I’ve talked about my holiday catastrophes in Dick Head Tours (http://geofflepard.com/2014/08/30/dickhead-tours/) and some of the things that have moved me, such as the festival my son and his friends put on last year for a dearly departed friend of theirs (http://geofflepard.com/2014/09/16/in-memoriam-sam-harper-1989-to-2013/).
My dad appears quite a lot, and I’ve posted on his experiences in and after WW2 using the letters he wrote to Mum (http://geofflepard.com/dads-letters-dad-in-palestine-1946-1948/).
As for writing, I’m posting a novel in weekly instalments – Buster and Moo – that you can follow (and read the early chapters here) (http://geofflepard.com/my-work/buster-and-moo/) as well as a serial 99 word flash story that uses a prompt and can be found here (http://geofflepard.com/marys-story-a-saga-in-flash-bites/).
I hope you find something to amuse and enjoy and look forward to your visits.
Thank You Hugh, for being such a kind and generous host.
A big thank you to Geoff for kindly agreeing to write a very thought-provoking guest post. Check out some of the links in his post and join the very friendly blogging community he has built up. I’ll see you there.
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