Friday, October 26, 2012

Maps and laps...

# I keep thinking, it'll be alright if I just get on the road... If I run, I can free my worried mind... # - Semisonic 


It's been a hectic few months for my usually idle notebook, fingertips and keyboard and I'm glad to say that I missed out a post here on the blog in September for no small reason...  I've been busying my scribble writing for the whole of 2012 so far and then things have intensified in September for me polishing off the next new draft of my first
 novel (the third big draft so far in fact)   You can see my next post in November for an in-depth analysis on all this but it's been a mammoth task...
But I wanted to take a short break from all that frenzied staring at my computer monitor to post about a couple of other things I've been up to recently which, while not directly writing-related, do help me to keep focused in my creative thoughts and always get my inventive juices flowing on the written page...


Sometimes one of the best tactics to get me writing is to actually walk away from the keyboard (or, I should probably say "run"!) I'm a bit of a fresh-air fiend anyway but I love getting out and stretching my legs with another hobby of mine: jogging (swimming is good too, incidentally - some of my best story ideas have come to me in the silent meditation of repetitive laps of my local pool).  So having missed both the local Blaydon Race and Great North Run this year I decided to accept the offer from a friend to join a relay running team and attempt the Kielder Run-Bike-Run in the latter part of 2012...  The Kielder Marathon itself is only a couple of years young but on the same weekend as that mammoth run, the same route is rode and run by a 3-person team, and my friend, his dad and myself formed the "Almost There" team, raising money for St. Clare's Hospice in South Tyneside.

I was set to potentially run the "easy" bit and the part that had all the glory, being the last of the relay and running the final 6k.  But it was over terrain that as a road runner, I'm not really familiar with.  Still though, the scenery around Kielder keeps you going, even on rather warm October afternoons...  Something else that kept me going as I paced out the cinder paths up and down the last leg of the lakeside route was my thoughts about writing more of 'Novel Number 2'...  Kielder is deep in the heart of "Border Revier Country", the era that acts as a backdrop to "my History Mystery".  It's in this region that there were some of the more major skirmishes between the Scot and Northumbrian cattle raiders during the 16th century and actually stepping into this wild yet beautiful landscape, even today, 400 years later in much more peaceful times, a writer can really soak up the atmosphere and setting by the bucketload.

The run itself went well - and although we didn't win any of the top three placings, we didn't embarrass ourselves either.  This run had actually followed another exercise in following maps (see my last blog post for more on my 2012 obsession with maps and my writing!) when I performed more laps around the history of my hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne.  Heritage Open Days is an annual event which I've posted about before but each year when September rolls around, I make sure I book an afternoon or two from work to be able to tramp around the oft-forgotten alleyways and dusty buildings that tell the past stories of "Old Newcastle"...  Apart from finding out about a brilliant volunteer project I may try to get involved in during 2013, and walking the line of the old town walls over the course of a sunny if at-times chilly afternoon, the highlight of Heritage Open Days on Tyneside this year for me was climbing the tower of St. Nicholas's Cathedral with my father...

The church is actually one of the oldest in Newcastle and has always been at the heart of the city (today it's near where a future tourist centre is planned to be based) and is brilliant inside, holding some of the oldest graves and crypts from the Toon's past as well as a grand collection of old military flags from forgotten campaigns of the Northumberland Fusiliers and other regiments that really evoke their hidden history as you stare up at the holes torn into them and tattered edges of the fabric.
But it was this particular Heritage Open Day, advertising the rare opening of the cathedral spire that had caught my eye - a chance to climb to the very top of the church and see a city I've known since birth in a different way and view the streets I meander down on a daily basis from a new perspective.  So I cajoled my parents into a trip down to the cathedral that day and my dad actually joined me on the narrow and stumbling walk up the old stone steps which have witnessed so much secret and hidden history of Newcastle...

We stopped halfway up to view the bell room and peak out of the windows but it wasn't until we were at the very top and were able to catch brilliant views across the city that the full effect of this one-off experience sank in.  To the south, we could see the top of the Castle Garth and across the River Tyne towards Windmill Hills and St Mary's Heritage Centre in Gateshead.  To the north, there were views across the tops of buildings we hardly ever looked up at, and there in the distance was the top of Grey's Monument with the Earl himself at about the same height as us for a change...  Looking West, we could see the Central Station with trains coming and going as if they were Double-O model gauge, and we even got a rare chance to view the old Post Office building from the top down (a place I've often stood outside of and marvelled at from street-level) - such a shame it's not still THE main post office of the Toon nowadays...

Without turning this post into too much of a history lesson, I'd recommend anyone to take the chance to go up and view the sights of the city from this great height - it lifts you out of yourself and the day-to-day routine that we all get stuck in, and as I said, inspires this writer to greater things, with one foot in the past, thinking of old maps and the twists and turns of the plots of adventure...

I'll round off this post and indeed my late summer of scribbles in 2012 with 2 final teaser trailers (since I missed out posting in September!) for my short stories which I've been developing this year... One is for a tale about finding your true path in life, looking to the past to help point the way to the future.... 




...and the other is a story about resisting a future that appears to be mapped out for you by your past...




(to find these stories 
across on my Official Writing Website 
all you need to do is click first 
on a group of objects there
that could be made by breaking a boulder apart...
and then on an object that looks like 
it's a funny photo of a likely pair from the past...)

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