Where do I start? It hasn’t been a great week for writing here. I’m very distracted by the obvious carrying-on out there in the world, but I’m also looking for a new place to live. Our landlord has obviously found herself in a pickle even though we have been meticulous about paying our rent. In short – it sucks – but these are the times we’re living in! I would love to buy a house but everything is obscenely over-priced where we live and our business is the priority…sooo, I’m struggling to prioritise writing a time-travel romance story set in Paris…
In my journaling last week I asked this question: After three years of daily writing, what do I have to show for it? I am fairly certain my inner critic asked it in a snarky voice. The bitch. So I answered the question!
- Writer friends. The number one thing in my life that I didn’t have before is my lovely writer-friends both online and IRL. I have a small group of flesh and blood buddies who write and some who also self-publish and it is wonderful to hang-out with like-minded peeps! It’s also wonderful for bouncing ideas around and asking questions. My writer friends are truly a blessing. Kate, Kellie, Laura, Olly, and Lizz here on the GC and so many online especially the lovely Liliana Lopez.
- Daily morning pages and the remarkable side-effect of silencing the damn voice in my head.
- 300+ blog followers. 500+ blog posts on everything from the writing journey to meditation to travel to philosophy.
- 2 novels, a novella, 30+ short stories, 9000+ social media followers, a novella first draft, and 2 novel first drafts. Between the blog and the fiction I have written around 1,000,000 words in 3 years.
- A legitimate excuse to scroll through images of stone circles on Pinterest. I’ve always been a nerd but when you’re a writer it’s a plus!
Here’s a snippet of the writing I’ve done this week. It’s probably going to change completely…
This is not a love story.
It all happened such a long time ago it seems like another lifetime. When you asked me to write about how we met I couldn’t remember many details and you wouldn’t tell me why you wanted this story written from my account but hey, I have just discovered you’re actually my boss. I can’t really complain about getting the day off to sit in a cafe and write but I admit I feel like a school child writing about what I did on my holidays.
How did I meet Paul? I might remind you here that you asked me to be brutally honest. You wanted me to write about myself and June and how we met you all those years ago. I thought it was lost to time but as I start to write, it is coming back to me. I know everything, of course, that happened after. I don’t condone it, but at least I know why she acts the way she does. You don’t want me to write about that though, do you? I suppose you want me to write this down to remember that it didn’t start out this way… She didn’t hate you back then.
Do you remember that first day? That steaming hot Saturday in the hot, hot summer of 1994. I recall you were a very big drinker. Do you remember anything at all, of that summer? If you did, I guess you wouldn’t be asking me to write about it. For us, June and me, it was a summer of Ibiza and festivals and too much booze. We told everyone back home we were backpacking but we weren’t, we were touring. We were all on 18-30s bus tours. You could do that back then, lie, I mean. No Instagram. No Facebook. Our friends thought we were so brave but we were being herded around museums en-masse and exiting through the gift-shop just like everyone else.
I had forgotten this but we weren’t on the same tour as you. Our tour was coming to an end and our last two nights were in Paris. You guys were halfway through your six week camping tour. I don’t know how you survived. You called it your European offensive of camping, drinking, and shagging. You could certainly be offensive at times.
Where was I? Yes… Summer, 1994. That summer was a time of fires and pollution and the elderly dying in their homes from heat exhaustion. Some of our fellow campers went home early, or retired hurt, as you guys kept insisting, using your Cricketing terminology. The long hot days traipsing through old city streets and far too much alcohol took it’s toll even on the young and fit. We lost a couple along the way. There was a broken leg (a swiss guy jumped off a fence and landed badly somewhere in Italy…) and alcohol poisoning. Our bus left one of the James’s at the hospital in Pamplona, throwing up blood. The other James seemed a bit lost without his namesake. There was always at least two James’ on every bus tour. June told everyone she still remembered the surnames of the nineteen James’ that had attended her junior school. The teaching staff called the boys by their surname to save confusion. Everyone laughed at her anecdote. She always commanded attention.
Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked. You wanted me to write about that time in detail, but you wanted to keep it light, happy. You guys were happy. When we met up in that open-air bar at the campsite outside Paris, I remember you and your friend with the weird name… (Digga, yes. What an odd guy he was.) Anyway, I remember you two were the loudest Australians I had ever met and that’s saying something. You were so happy. If I close my eyes now, I can see your face, your big, white teeth, your mop of curly hair. You seemed to be interested in everyone, asking about where they’d been and where they were going next (You were off to Amsterdam – you were excited about that!)
I remember too, later… hours later… that you and June spent a happy ten minutes talking about how many times you had nearly crossed paths, how many times we were in the same city, the same bar, often separated by mere hours. That conversation happened not long after the sex, which happened just a few hours after you met.
But then, you know that, don’t you?
This was before you went to Cambridge. I didn’t understand what the big deal was then. You wanted to see the Continent first, you said, before university ate you up. How did you know even then that you would spend ten years with your nose in a book, to emerge with a doctorate and a discovery that made you…well you know, made you a fortune. How did you know then that you would be a husk?
So yes, our paths finally collided with yours in Paris, on that baking Saturday afternoon. Once the tents were up, a big crowd of us from different bus tours left the campsite on the outskirts of the city and stumbled and fumbled our way to the Metro with the aim of seeing the Eiffel Tower, finding booze and being free of our tour leaders. As cool as they tried to be, the tour leaders may as well have been parents for all the freedom they allowed. No food on the bus, no drinking on the bus, no sex on the bus, no loud music. One girl said their history obsessed, teetotaller tour leader said “oopsie daisy” when anyone swore. Paul and Digga’s tour leader would have been saying “oopsie daisy” a lot. It is quite possible you guys were the instigators of that excursion?
Paul and Digga. Just those names said together like that evoke an almost physical reaction in me. I want to dance. I want to run bare breasted across a street. Over the years I’ve thought about that night often, but because of what happened after, I pushed those happy memories away. But those two nights, Paul, they were some of the happiest of my life. I smile, sometimes, when I reach for a bottle of red in Sainsbury’s or if I’m with friends in a garden somewhere, on a warm Summer’s night. That unscheduled, unsupervised excursion into Paris was mad. June’s mum would have been furious because she hadn’t turned eighteen at the time.
We found our way to the Eiffel Tower by way of a tiny supermarket where we bought all the wine on the dusty shelves. I bought some food, crisps mainly, but most people just bought bottles of rough red for a few francs. You were very popular. You were friendly and generous and the only one with a bottle opener. You were so proud of that Swiss Army Knife. I remember you telling me how it was almost confiscated on entry to the Vatican so Digga decided to wait in the piazza rather than lose it because Digga didn’t ‘do’ churches anyway. I remember you said he was a legend and put your thumb and forefinger up to form an L on your forehead. I’d always thought that sign meant ‘loser’.
I can’t fill in the details of course, but I seem to recall something about a “lost week” on Bali, then apparently the pair of you jumped on a plane, turning up in London in the same boardshorts you’d been wearing all week. Everyone knew Aussies were up for anything, but you guys were off the chart. At first you seemed a little like the Odd Couple. People liked Digga straight away, but you seemed a bit superior on first meeting. Sorry, you said to be brutal. You were quite serious. I am not sure we ever asked… how exactly did you meet Digga? I seem to recall that Digga was a groundsman at a local high school, but you told us you were off to Cambridge to study a field of science no one had ever heard of. No one cared if you were a bit of a toff because you had a bottle opener.
You wanted me to describe you, how you were then. I can picture Digga like it was yesterday. Everyone loved him on sight. A huge, friendly guy, he helped everyone with their bags and basically erected the tents single-handedly. Digga was funny, loud and scruffy. You are a bit tougher to describe because I know you now. The edges are a little blurred. How to describe the Paul I met in 1994. You were… are, tall. You have those flecks of grey now, sorry, but you had those gorgeous floppy curls. I said you looked like an Australian Hugh Grant.
Do you remember? You laughed and asked who Hugh Grant was.
In the weeks after, when the dazzling summer withered to a wet, cold autumn and we were all back in our cubicles dreaming of our next vacation, at least we had stories about Paul and Digga. Yes, I remember the ‘a’ on the end of his name. I remember that story now. He said he’d been christened Digga by the boys he worked with because he was very good at digging holes, and you said, ‘Someone has to be.’
If this had all happened in the era of social media, we would have stayed in touch with everyone, but it was the 90s; we just went home and got on with life. If Facebook had been around, we would have shared those stories for a few weeks, maybe stayed in contact with a couple of people until even that petered out. Then a year later we would have seen the memories popping up to remind us about the time we snogged a stranger after downing a bottle of red wine but before throwing it back up again, then showed our tits to a lorry driver from a bus window.
I wonder what happened to Digga. I know all about what happened to you.