Emma is currently...

  • Addicted to: Fruit and nut mix
  • Listening to: Band of Joy - Robert Plant
  • Reading: Naples '44 - Norman Lewis

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


You may have noticed that it's almost Christmas. I certainly have. For one thing, it's been snowing, and as usual the country has gone AGHIUHEHOIHHHAAAHHHHHHH SNOW and everything has ceased to function. The roads are like ice rinks, no one can get anywhere, it takes everyone five hours to get home from work, our driveway (which is a massive hill) becomes a death trap. On the plus side, everything looks pretty. Here is our garden:

The second one is smoky because our neighbour likes to have massive bonfires for no apparent reason. Ironically, it has been snowing almost every day, but it is forecast not to snow on Christmas Day. Pah. I'm hoping that at least some of the existing snow will remain on the ground so it still looks nice.

Our house is looking pretty too. We really go to town at Christmas...lights, decorations, Christmas scented air fresheners, little bowls of nuts all around the house, and my mum has even made an amazing Christmas cake this year. Here is the tree, with some of the presents already under it (more to come though, yay!):

Doesn't it look lovely? I have also been doing lots of Christmassy things. The day after I came home from uni my mum and I went to Cologne (in Germany in case you didn't know!). They have a famous Christmas market there - lots of little stalls selling handmade gifts, food and
Gluehwein (mulled wine, of which a lot was drunk). It was great fun and it even snowed. On the first day we did loads of Christmas shopping, and on the second day we went on an excursion: a boat trip down the Rhine, and then we went to a picturesque little village on the side of the river and did some wine tasting.

Here's a picture of the Christmas market in Cologne:

On Sunday I went to a lovely candlelit carol service. On Monday my friend and I went to London for what has become our yearly tradition: we get pizza, then we go to Harrods and pretend to be posh, then we go ice-skating outside the Natural History Museum. We then usually go back to mine or hers to drink hot chocolate and watch Love Actually, but we couldn't do that this year since it took us two hours to make the fifteen minute drive home from the train station (because of the snow). The drive was actually quite fun though, because we played Christmas songs very loudly and had a singalong. I'm not ashamed to say that I love Christmas songs!

I've basically been doing anything I can to avoid the two beastly assessed essays I have to write for next term: one on Andrew Marvell and the other on Jane Eyre and Rebecca. I've been ploughing through my reading though! I've recently read Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, Germinal by Emile Zola, the first Lord of the Rings book (that was for fun, not for uni), Possession by A.S. Byatt (brilliant, I'd really recommend it), and The Atom Station by Halldor Laxness...now I'm reading The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (it's a lesbian novel I am reading for my Feminism module...it's pretty dull to be honest!).

Tonight is the Wednesday reunion. When everyone from my school comes back from university for the holidays, everyone goes to the local pub on a Wednesday. The evening consists of people hugging and exclaiming, "HOW ARE YOU? IT'S BEEN SO LONG! I LOVE YOUR HAIR!" before retreating into a corner with their close friends and muttering, "Well he's put on weight! Eurgh, she's changed so much...ever since she went to uni she thinks she's so cool," and the like. It's a bit awkward really, but it will be great to see my close group of friends, many of whom I haven't had the chance to see yet.

Christmas Day aside, I'm really looking forward to Boxing Day. There's a tradition in a nearby village where they close all the roads and hold a race/pub crawl. Basically people get into teams and choose a theme; they then dress up in costumes and make a "pram" relating to that theme. The teams have to race their pram between the various pubs in the village, buying a drink in each one. People get drunk in the morning and fun is had by all. This year our theme is safari: our pram is a jeep and we're all dressing like different animals. I'm the antelope and have spent most of today making a pair of paper mache horns. I forgot how fun paper mache was!

Anyway, I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful Christmas and New Year (if I don't update before then) filled with much loveliness, hot chocolate, mince pies and tacky straight-to-DVD Christmas movies. :)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The little black book.

I've recently taken to carrying a little black leather book with me everywhere I go. Every time I have a random interesting thought, or I want to remind myself to do something later, or I am struck by something I see or hear and what to put it into a story, I scribble it down in my book. Horribly pretentious, I know, but I think it's a great idea for every writer to have one. How many times have you felt inspired but had nowhere to capture the feeling? This way I never forget the ideas I have for my stories. On top of that, it's entertaining to flick back through the book and recall how I felt at a certain time.

I suppose it's similiar to the commonplace books we learnt about in our Seventeenth Century module. Writers used them to jot down interesting pieces of rhetoric they learnt, or quotes they liked, or facts that could be useful to them. Some of these commonplace books still exist. This, for example, is John Milton's:

It's fascinating to see his actual writing (the fact I don't particularly like Milton aside). However, I think his book is possibly a little more...academic than mine is. When people see me in the library hunched over my book, scrawling things very quickly, they must think I'm a really deep and artistic person and that I'm wrtiting down something profound and intense. This is not the case. Here is a quote from my book, and it's pretty representative of the whole:
The man sitting across the aisle from me on the train is wearing my nerves down the threads and writing in this book is all I can do to stop myself from leaping across the gap, tearing the phone from his hand and jumping up and down on it repeatedly whilst screaming for him to SHUT UP. Admittedly he is speaking in a language I do not understand but this makes it even worse because he keeps laughing every few seconds and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS SO FUNNY!!!
Hm, profound. I wonder if Milton has any angry rants in his book? I doubt it.

Anyway, I think that every writer should have a book like this. We let so much of life pass us by, as if we're sitting on a bus and everything is just a blurred scenery that passes us by. We should be taking snapshots of it, even the mundane things, to look back on later. Synecdoche is the technique of describing the whole by reference to smaller parts of it - you can create the feel of a whole crowd just by describing the hats people are wearing or the sound of their voices. In the same way, the little details of life, the things we barely look twice at, can be used to create something really vivid and realistic. But we need to capture them before they slip away and we forget them forever.