Bitter Sweet Memories

I am currently travelling away for business and although I put my career as an academic on hold, I continue to engage in my passion of working with individuals on a one-to-one basis. In business parlance I would be known as an Executive Coach, but in essence what I do is to help my clients make sense of their world.

So, here I am, in the Northern part of England and together with France, I see it as my other spiritual home. I shall not be tempted to write pages of eulogy as to why this part of the world is so special, but for those of you familiar with the Northeast of England, you will need no persuasion. As for the remainder of you, I recommend a trip to this the best-kept secret of the British Isles; you will not be disappointed. Although frequent travelling means a break in the flow of my writing, it also makes a contribution to the overall writing process, which I will explain.

I am very fortunate to have a home opposite glorious parks and headlands, leading onto miles and miles of golden sandy beaches. The sunset over one of the lighthouses near me is just one of many delights the beaches around me has to offer. Although the scene remains the same, every day is different depending on the weather, as it so often is in England. One day the sea will be angry and batter the piers and beaches with powerful waves leaving a foaming white wash behind. Only the brave or foolhardy will walk along the beautiful coastline, straining against the cold, stormy northern wind. The next day it could be sunny with a calm sea glistening in the sunshine and you would be forgiven for thinking that you find yourself in the Mediterranean.

I digress and return to the point made earlier that the breaks in writing is part of the creative process. Having spent many years on and off in France, I have come to appreciate the quality of a good wine because it goes through the natural processes of fermentation and aging. To me this is a relevant metaphor for writing; it needs periods away from the writing process to allow a maelstrom of thoughts and ideas to ferment and distill into coherent and creative ideas.

In my blog last week, I shared my internal struggles to decide who would be the narrator of Eugene and Pieter’s story. Having finally made the decision to write it from my own personal experiences, I misjudged how emotional the journey was going to be. In a way, had it been a third party telling their story, I would have been removed from the emotions to a certain extent as it would be their story and not mine. Equally, the emotions wouldn’t be my emotions, but the emotions of another.

It took me many months before I could even begin the process of writing as I had to delve into the precious as well as the painful memories I have of Eugene. It was as though I was reliving these memories all over again. My journey is taking me through the very special times Eugene and I had shared, especially in our younger years, followed by sharing our love of travelling. Then during the latter years, dealing with the painful memories of making the most of the brief time we had together. This was made even more painful as I was many thousands of miles away from Eugene and Pieter and physically being there, offering practical support was very difficult, if not impossible.

Even now, whenever I work on their book, as I have come to think if it, I find myself in tears at some stage or other whilst writing. Strangely enough, I am also comforted by a feeling that Eugene is there with me, reliving the many happy memories we shared as well as providing comfort and inspiration when I falter. One of the many memories was of Eugene visiting me at the time when I got my first Cocker Spaniel, called Scally. He was very much taken with her, especially the softness of her fur. Being a person that expressed affection spontaneously and abundantly, Scally was showered with many cuddles and hugs.

I have found it both beneficial as well as comforting when I have periods of writing where I have precious memories of times shared with Eugene and Pieter such as at my home in the Northeast of England. Another memory is the fun times we’ve had when preparing Christmas dinner. We all come from families that love good food and the enjoyment of it is as much in the preparation as the consumption thereof, as the photo of Pieter and Laurence, my husband, will testify. This was taken during one of the festive seasons they spent with us.

Physically being here in the Northeast therefore allows these memories to percolate to the surface. As I glance up at the lamp to the right of my laptop, my eye catches the small, beautifully carved metal figure of an angel that hangs from it. Eugene bought it for me whilst we enjoyed afternoon tea and cake at an outdoor tea shop on one of my last visits to them in South Africa. It is engraved with a prayer, “May God bless you” which when I look at it always makes me aware of the presence of Eugene.

I am conscious that this posting has exceeded the limit of the word count I have set for my blogs, but I hope it has given you a further insight into my writing journey. The sun is shining, a rare sight in this part of the world, and I shall therefore continue my reflections whilst enjoying the cool wooded parks and a walk along the golden beach before the rains once again blow in from the North.

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