Who cares what you look like

I sometimes look in Animal, the clothes shop which describes itself as a “UK action sports lifestyle brand”. it’s fashionable action-wear and accessories which started from two surfers making their own watch straps which would withstand extreme surfing. They sell all sorts of clothes for BMXers, skate and snow boarders, skiing, mountain biking… oh and surfing… but their clothes have now become popular on the high street. How I wish I was an age to be able to wear them… I actually think I would have looked a bit silly in them even if I were the right age! There are other stores which I like, but really the clothes and accessories are for younger people with young people’s figures and style…

I’m actually quite happy as I am, I’m not into fashion and never have been really… I’m sure no-one ever looks at the clothes I’m wearing anyway! I saw a lady the other day who was wearing ultra fashionable clothes, make up, jewellery and she did look very smart. Tight black leggings, flat, very smart ankle boots, short black skirt, a black beret with some brooch or something fastened to it and what to me looked as if it might be an expensive grey jacket. She had dyed her hair black to match her outfit, her make-up was impeccable… all in all she looked very smart, very trendy and up to date.

She was about seventy; she was wearing the sort of out fit a twenty year-old might wear… and I thought, I bet she is really pleased with the way she looks. I bet she spent ages trying on different clothes and looking in different shops to find exactly what she really liked and what she thought would work as an outfit with all the accessories. I bet when she got ready to go out she took real care, not only with choosing what to wear, but doing her make-up and hair perfectly, putting her beret on just so, and choosing accessories to complete the look.

I was wearing boots, old jeans, a red jacket which has seen better days and I’m not sure if I had remembered to brush my hair. When we left home, I didn’t even think to look in the mirror, it just isn’t that important to me except if I am going somewhere special. I don’t think the fashionable lady noticed me but if she had she probably wondered that I seemed so indifferent to fashion.

The lady in black had no doubt dressed for herself, to please herself, because after all why should she care what anyone else thinks?

Hint, hint!

In my novels I like to have a surprise at the end, but I want it to be a believable surprise, I want it to fit in with the rest of the novel, and even when it is revealed I want my readers to think, ‘Yes! Of course!’ To that end I seed my plot with little clues and hints, which I hope will not give the game away but will, if the reader remembers them, add credence to the conclusion.

In my novel ‘Radwinter, Thomas is wandering round the shopping mall rather unhappily, wondering what to get his wife Rebecca for Christmas; he sees a bottle of ‘Oh Lola!’ by Marc Jacobs; it is very pretty and it is pink, Rebecca’s favourite colour. However Thomas is not sure she would like it and it is very expensive, so he decides against it. later in the story he sees she already has a bottle.

“I nearly bought you a bottle of that perfume yesterday… just as well I didn’t,” she gave me such a strange look; I wondered if she thought I was being critical for spending so much. “I’m glad you treated yourself to something nice, you deserve it, you work so hard.”

Big clue…, hint, hint, hint!

Radwinter is available on Amazon


Picturing me

I often wonder what I really look like… yes, I know I can look in the mirror, and yes, I have photos of me and in some of them I look ridiculous and in some I look quite nice, and I have seen videos of me, so I could describe myself to someone… but that doesn’t really let me objectively see myself.

When I think back to my life, what does the person I’m thinking about look like? I know I have dark hair and dark eyes and brows, I know I am shorter than I think I am, and probably not as sturdy as I think I am, but what impression did I give to people I knew me, how did I stand or sit or look at people and things, or not look at people or things. Sometimes people have misinterpreted my expression, quite often people thought I was unhappy, but really, I wasn’t… I guess in repose my face must look sad. Sometimes people have thought I was being silly… understandable really because quite often I am, but sometimes just my expression was silly and really I was being serious.

I’ve been thinking about this because as a writer I need to have an image of ‘my people’ in my head, and if the story is being told from the point of view of one character, whether it is a first or third person narrative, I need to let my readers know what the ‘me’ in the story looks like. In one of my stories ‘The Double Act’ the main narrator in the first part is Genet, so to let the reader know who she is I let her look in he mirror at herself fairly early on so that the reader has an image of her; this however only gives  her main features, pale, freckled skin, grey eyes, red hair.

A few chapters in, the point of view slips, just for a few sentences to someone else. In the second part of the book, he becomes the focal character, but this is how he sees Genet in those early chapters:

her wide welcoming, happy smile was the first one he’d seen from her. Her face was alive, her clear grey eyes bright, and despite the pink nose and cheeks, despite the hair, darkened to copper and plastered to her pale skin, she was so beautiful. 

Genet would never describe herself as beautiful, but the reader needs to know she is so she is.

In my most recent novel, ‘Radwinter’, the story is told in the first person by Thomas and he describes himself in the opening paragraphs:

My name is Thomas Radwinter; I’m just really ordinary, and nobody would really notice me… I’m about five foot ten… well, maybe five foot nine, reddy-brown hair, and hazel eyes. I’ve grown a beard because everyone said I was baby-faced and when you’re thirty-two and look like a giant baby it’s a bit ridiculous.

Later on he says:

Rebecca told me I just look like a bundle of clothes, well, a fat bundle of clothes she said to be precise. Considering she buys all my things that’s hardly my fault… but she says I’m fat so maybe that’s my fault… 

I hope this gives the reader the same image I have of Thomas, but who knows how he will really be pictured… I have enough difficulty picturing myself!


Radwinter is available as an e-book on Amazon


Push/pull, left/right, on/off

I’m sure if I was at school as a student these days I would have been diagnosed with an ‘ism’; not only do I have a fundamental problem with left and right (I can remember if I concentrate) but even when I read a sign which says push or pull I do the opposite, and electric switches are another difficulty. I remember volunteering to go into the school hall at junior school and see what the time was – I guess the teacher had forgotten her watch or forgotten to wind it; I stood for ages in the hall staring at the big clock face high on the wall trying to work out which way round it was. Turning keys in locks… that’s another thing, if I want to unlock a door I can’t always immediately figure out which way to turn the key!

When I’m doing Tai Chi, even if I see the instructor doing a movement, I somehow do the opposite – whether he is facing me or whether he is facing away. If I come down the stairs of the car park at our shopping mall, I always turn the wrong way and end up in the toilets, when we stay in a hotel, I always head the wrong way down a corridor… I don’t know what ‘ism’ I have but I definitely have one!!

Seventh son?

Septimus Powell, was he the seventh son of Mr and Mrs Powell? Here is a gravestone in memory of him in the churchyard on top of the hill in Uphill. He first appears in the 1841, along with a host of others living in Stogursey, but there seems no other Powells, and no separate numbers of houses, which is a mystery to me at the moment.

Meanwhile, far away in those days, in Nether Poppleton in Yorkshire, there is another Septimus Powell; he is aged twenty and living with his brothers, Henry George and John, and his mother Martha. His brothers that are living at home are older than him, so there may have been three others who have already left home, making him the seventh in the family.

In 1851 Somerset Septimus is living in Bristol with his sister and grandmother, both called Constance, and another sister Sarah, in Bristol. Yorkshire Septimus is now living in Tadcaster, famous for brewing, and he is  living and working on his brother George’s farm along with his other brother, Henry.

Another Septimus has been born in Bulith Wells in Wales; he, poor little soul, is described as a pauper and living with a farmer and his wife, John and Elizabeth Williams. No doubt he was a little servant and labourer for them.

In 1861 Somerset Septimus has had a might change to his circumstances as recorded in the census; he is now a wave manufacturer, whatever that is, employing fifty men and twenty boys. That seems a big operation, until I notice his uncle William F, is a state bottle manufacturer employing 117 men and  42 boys.

Little Welsh Septimus, now aged 22 is still with William Jones although I think Elizabeth must have died; William is now a farm bailiff and Septimus is a carter. Yorkshire Septimus is now living at Great Ouseburn in Yorkshire, is married to Harriot, has two children, John and Hannah, and is a market gardener.

On the census there appears yet another Septimus Powell, who is only three years old. His father is named Rosiland Powell… yes, Rosiland; he is a dispensing chemist and lives in Bristol with his family although he and his wife Sophia, both come from Nottingham. They have other children as well as Septimus, Rosilind, Edward and Sophia, Walter, Cuthbert and Clara.

The Septimus from Somerset is now married to Emily and has a son Arthur. In 1871, Septimus and Harriot from Yorkshire are living near Leeds with their daughter, sadly Welsh Septimus died at the age of 24, and there is yet another man of the same name, living in Lancaster. Who would have thought it would be such a popular name?!

In 1881 another Welsh Septimus has arrived… he is looking after his daughters, Mary, Catherine, Margaret and Sarah, and little Septimus his son, because his wife has died; he is a labourer in a stone quarry… a hard life to support and look after five children. Septimus from Somerset has now arrived in Weston-super-Mare with his wife, son, and daughter, Constance, named after his mother and sister and Yorkshire Septimus is living with his wife, still in Great Ouseburn.

I started my little investigation to try to find out if the man born in the churchyard was the seventh child in his family…. it was such an unusual name, so I thought, that it would be a fairly straight forward task; in a way it was but I also found that there were more men and boys with that name than I could have imagined! I think perhaps it was just a name people liked!