Eight months ago, I started writing a book. Over the next 3 months I wrote about 12,000 words that make up the beginning and some of the middle of the story. Then I got a bit stuck, the inspiration left me as I spent my evenings talking to fellow travellers, rather than just siting on a bunk with my computer writing.
I’ve been thinking about the book a bit more and I think I’ve worked out a bit more of the plot, where I’d like things to go and what’s going to happen next. Time, however is my enemy. Work is hectic and deserves the bulk of my time, but I don’t want to only spend my time working on school things. I need to have a bit of a life too. Not loads of one, but a bit. I’d like to speak to people and go to gigs and theatre performances and films. I’d like to spend more than 20 minutes cooking. I’d like to watch TV on the TV without it being on my computer. So when would I fit in the time to complete another 70,000 words?
The good thing is that as I have no deadline, I can take my time and write as the inspiration hits me. All I need to do is keep a notebook with me so that perhaps I can use those hours on the bus too and from school productively, scribbling down ideas if they pop into my head.
But the question is, should I keep on with it? I’m not going to look into doing anything with it until it’s nearly done, and I’m a fair way off that so far. I sent the first 6,000 words to some friends to read to see if they liked it and they did. So since I’ve not touched it for 5 and a half months (Microsoft Office tells me so) I thought I’d put the opening section up here for your fresh eyes. Please leave any comments below…
“What can I do for you today then Laura?”
“I want to work with peasants Miss.”
My wandering mind snaps back into the room. I think I’ve heard her correctly, but considering I’m sitting across the desk from Laura Campbell, my most tenacious and misguided student, I can’t be fully sure.
“Peasants, Laura?” She can’t really have meant peasants.
“No, Miss! Pheasants! I just love them, since I’ve met Seymour I mean. I really think this is what I’m meant to do.”
I take a second to scan her expression. Of course, as is usual in my now regular fortnightly meetings with Laura, her face is completely sincere. This girl couldn’t try and wind me up if she tried. The thought wouldn’t even cross her mind. At this moment she really and truly believes that her future career prospects lie within pheasants. I stifle a disbelieving groan and flash a quick smile at her.
“Ok, well as always Laura, it’s great that you are thinking about what you’d like to do with yourself in the future, but I think that maybe you’ll need to explain a bit more for me and we’ll see if this is a possibility for you to pursue. Who is Seymour?”
She beams at me with her wonky little smile and starts talking so fast that she can barely get the words out in a sensible sentence.
“You’d love him, Miss, he’s my new pet pheasant, I found him in my back garden.”
Of course he is. Seymour is a pheasant. I really want to drop my head onto the desk and start stapling myself, but that wouldn’t be very professional now would it so I just nod encouragingly and she continues with a voice full of excitement.
“He just turned up the other day, I’ve fed him a bit and I think we’ve got a real connection.”
In some ways, I’m impressed. In this part of Newcastle there are some kids who would struggle to recognise a sheep, let alone a pheasant, so she’s obviously done a bit of research. Laura has, however, this term alone declared that her destiny is within astrophysics – fat chance – beauty therapy, being an Amazon delivery specialist – her words, not mine – tattoo artist, gymnast and becoming Bansky. I still feel my heart drop a little every time I see Laura’s face appear at my door as I know that no matter what she comes up with I have to formulate some realistic ways she could achieve is, frankly, exhausting. And last period on a Friday, the weekend before my 27th birthday is not really the best time for me to be discussing a career involving pheasants. But that’s what I’m here for so the conversation has to continue.
“Ok, well I think it’s fair to say, Laura, that you are unlikely to find a job role that will involve only pheasants…” Her smile drops a bit and her lip starts to tremble a little. “…but there are bound to be some options that could incorporate your new found interest.”
“How about becoming a game keeper?” I quickly type into my careers database to bring up the information “Let me see… yep, you would normally work on a country estate making sure there is enough game, so pheasants and deer, that sort of thing for clients to shoot.”
“Urm, ok, how about an RSCPA inspector? I can’t guarantee that you’d be working with a lot of pheasants,” I can’t believe I’m actually saying this “but you may get to help some out.”
“Oh, no Miss. I wouldn’t like to see an animal in harm.”
“So that will rule out being a vet” As will her dismal science results “You could try working for the Forestry Commission, there could be a fair few pheasants living in woods and copses that you’d come into contact with.” I’m really grasping at straws, I mean really, bloody pheasants? But this time she seems to be considering my suggestion.
“Hmm, that might be a possibility, but would you mind telling me something else?” I cannot begin to guess where she might be going next.
“Would there be owls in the woods, Miss?”
“Well that could be a distinct possibility Laura, yes.”
Her brow furrows, her lips pursed together as she thinks about the newest information.
“I don’t think that would work for me really. I don’t like trees, the dark scares me and I find owls to be tricksy bastards!” And there it is.
“Laura, mind your language please!”
“Sorry Miss, but they are, I’m sure they’d pick on Seymour too. They’re horrible owls are, they pick at you in the night.” God, what goes on in that girls head?
“But thank you Miss, this has been very informative as always, I shall have to think about it carefully. Same website as usual?” I nod. She gets up from her chair by balancing her hands on the arm rests, swinging her legs underneath her and almost leaping from the seat.
She saunters to the door, it’s the only way to describe it, opens it, pauses and turns back with a very stern look on her face. She taps the door frame with her badly bitten fingernails and almost whispers to me.
“You won’t tell your friends in Hexham about Seymour will you?”
“Of course not Laura, but why?” I don’t have any friends in Hexham, I have no idea where she’s got that idea.
“Well you know what they’re like up there, I don’t think they’d take kindly to Seymour and I expect they would come hunting him! I’d never bear it if he was hurt!”
And with that she turns back to the open door, turns a full circle and a half and heads off down the corridor.
I slump into my chair, trying desperately not to burst into fits of laughter, open the bottom draw of my desk and pull out a Toffee Crisp. I unwrap it and start to nibble off the toffee layer. There really is no explaining Laura Campbell.
Thank God it’s 3.20. I tidy the desk – if you can call opening the top drawer and throwing everything that shouldn’t be there into it tidying – shut down the computer and scan the room for anything else. Nope, it seems alright. Which is good because for some inexplicable reason the Head insists on checking all the rooms at the end of the week, normally muttering something about ‘tidy environment, tidy mind, better working’. Not for me, I almost live off chaos but you’ve got to keep up appearances haven’t you eh? Especially when you are on a rolling annual contract.
I grab my keys, bag and coat and head out the door and to the car park.
I’m not getting changed at home tonight, I’m getting ready at Andrea’s. You’d like Andrea, I do, which is lucky really because we were thrown together in fresher’s week 8 years ago and have been stuck together ever since. She was studying English Lit whilst I picked Music and Education, we both ticked the form looking for a mixed flat but got stuffed into a 7 girl (7 girl!!!) flat instead. Thank god there were 3 bathrooms with separate toilets.
She’s funny, clever, stupidly pretty (it sometimes makes me physically sick how amazing she can look coming off a three day bender whilst I’m troweling on make up just to look like a recently revived zombie) and she’s straight talking. She has managed to put up with me through all the various dramas – when my parent’s split up and my Dad left the country to live with Jose, when my grandma died, when my first uni boyfriend broke up with me. I was the first person she told when she got the job in Paris and was shitting herself about moving away. She was the first person I told when I got together with Paul 6 years ago – although since we were snogging each other’s faces off right in front of her, I don’t suppose it was a huge shock. Not my finest hour. Sorry about that Andrea! I was the first person she told that she was getting married to the Frenchman. And she was the first person I told about the baby. I’ve not even told Paul yet.
We’d not exactly planned to get pregnant, but it seems it’s happened anyway. Of course it’s something we’ve talked about, 6 years together, saving up for a house, he’s not proposed yet but we both know it’s just something we’ll do. We’ve talked about it in the past anyway. So yeah, my birthday party tonight I’ll tell him and I know he’ll be over the moon. I guess it might take him a little while to get used to. I was shocked at first, which is why I turned to Andrea. I’m 26, nearly 27 and barely feel like a grown up, so how can I think of being responsible for another person?
‘Look at what you do for a living, you’re great with kids.’ Andrea poured me a stiff orange juice in her kitchen two weeks ago. ‘You’ve talked about this with Paul, right?’
‘Well, not exactly, I mean we did, straight away when we started going out – what do we want from the future, do you believe in marriage? Where do you want to live? Kids, all that crap – bugger I’m going to have to stop swearing at home if I’m going to be a mum. Shitting hell! I’m going to be a mum!’
‘You managed to curb it for school, but until it’s 2 or something, you can probably get away with all sorts of shits and buggers and bollocks. Who are they gonna tell?’
‘I guess. You think he’ll be pleased though? It’s not as if we planned this and he’s been so caught up with work, it’s like we barely see each other.’
Paul is working for a property management firm and has been taking on extra responsibility lately. It means we’ve been a bit like ships in the night – he’s been on call for the last two months, so can be rung at any time by his tenants when there’s something going on with their home. One of the other managers booked a cowboy plumber when the regular was off on paternity leave and there’s been loads of problems. I think it’s costing the company loads to put it right and Paul’s getting calls left right and centre.
‘But you’re buying the flat soon aren’t you, it doesn’t help having separate places at the moment. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled, he’s great with the nieces and nephews, a natural. Try not to worry about it too much. So… when are you going to tell him?’
‘I’ve got a doctor’s appointment next week, so I want to make sure, I don’t think you can always trust these home tests, you know? So the week after. I know! My birthday party!’
‘Umm, Abs, do you think that’s the best idea? I mean, I know he’ll love it but it might take him a little bit of time and in front of everyone?’
‘We’ve been together all our adult lives, we’ve planned a future, and I think this will make it really special for him. It’s got to be more special than finding out from a piss covered bit of plastic right?’
So I decided. My lovely, darling Paul, is going to find out on my birthday that around October time we’ll be parents.