I am back in the Northeast of England and my routine of writing will seriously be disrupted for the next two weeks or more. I have finally taken the plunge, pardon the pun, to have my ancient bathroom ripped out and replaced with more modern furniture and fittings. My experience of the devastation left behind when any form of building or repair is done in the house, has meant I have been putting off the evil day. However, the seen and unseen holes that make the bathroom feel like Siberia when the winter wind blows from the frozen north has finally persuaded me that it was time.
The house has seen two world wars and no doubt a number of homeowners have come and gone. It is therefore way overdue for a facelift. It was with dread that the day of the invasion arrived. Although I have managed to find two craftsmen to entrust my home with only because they came highly recommended, there follows the inevitable mess, regular intakes of breath as only a tradesperson can do, a sign of either disaster looming or disapproval of everything you have bought or not bought. There seems to be an unspoken message that whatever obstacles they encounter that makes their life difficult has to be your fault.
The excitement I felt at finally finding the tiles I wanted, having visited every tile shop within a hundred mile radius, the various bathroom fittings I spent days searching for on the internet, go pop like a bursting balloon with one intake of breath, clearly communicating disapproval. Every item poses an almost insurmountable obstacle. You cajole, placate, revert to a stern voice and make endless cups of tea and spend a fortune on biscuits to move the work along. It is not a conducive environment for serene reflection and creative inspired writing, especially with the cacophony of loud noises emanating from the bathroom, some of the noise apparently classed as music!
Instead, I decided to use the time to carry out the research I will eventually need to do for my book. The research provides me with a break from the endless rounds of sparring with the builders, which in turn provide some entertainment away from the research. The years of developing the discipline of academic writing, provided me with not only a level of skill in researching, but also an appreciation of how necessary it is to spend time engaged in research and its contribution in helping the writer begin crafting their story.
This is the period I now face. It is interesting, when you read or listen to the different approaches of writing by other authors. Some prefer to carry out most of their research before putting fingers to keyboard or pen too paper, if you still favour this tradition. Others will do their research as they go along. I tend to belong to the latter camp as I’m not always sure where my thoughts will lead me and therefore the research that will be required to support the direction I eventually pursue. Putting on an academic hat, I could argue that the research will of course guide the direction and therefore the writing. I know, it is difficult to escape a discipline that channeled your thinking for so many years, but I’m learning!
I am in a particular phase of my writing whereby I need to do some background research on the society and community in which Eugene and Pieter lived their lives. It is important because our societies play a significant role in who we eventually become and why we make the choices we do. These choices will contribute to the lives we will eventually live and the experiences we will encounter.
I mentioned that Eugene and Pieter lived in a conservative environment with strong prejudices against anyone different and gays, in particular. Due to the power of its influence on their lives, I consider it necessary to provide the eventual reader of my book with an understanding of this environment. Eugene and Pieter live and have lived in South Africa and although it has changed significantly after the end of apartheid, many of the prejudices remain.
Despite having spent my formative years in South Africa, I left many years ago and the country is now less familiar to me than the many other countries in which I have worked and lived. I am therefore carrying out research into South Africa, both current and past, to familiarize my reader with the backdrop in which Eugene and Pieter lived and loved. It is also a journey of rediscovery for me and some things are familiar and others are not.
Not only am I finding out about the social environment in which their lives played out, but also of the nature of prostate cancer. My research is therefore increasing my knowledge and understanding of the many facets of prostate cancer. I am particularly impressed and grateful for the enormous amount of information and support I have gained from Prostate Cancer UK. More about that next week, should I survive my sojourn with the builders unscathed….