Before it Begins, An Article by Author Yvonne Marjot

Susan Finlay Writes

I often hear from people who want to write a book but don’t know how or where to begin. Or from people who have already written a book that’s ready for publication but don’t know how to get it published. I recently began a new blog series, Writing and Publishing Tips From Authors Around the World, to help writers.

Yvonne Marjot

The nineteenth contributor is U.K. author Yvonne Marjot and she’s here to talk about what happens after you finish writing a novel.

Before it begins, or, what to do between finishing your novel and publishing it, by Yvonne Marjot

Writing’s wonderful, isn’t it? You love the moments when time flies past your flashing fingers on the keys, and a thousand words pours out of you onto the paper, and it’s just how you thought it would be. You hate the times when getting a sentence out is like wringing blood…

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The Calgary Chessman – an archaeological romance

TCC cover art front

THE CALGARY CHESSMAN enters the Top #100 Genre Chart on AmazonUK (26 April 2015)! Time for an excerpt…

I quartered the beach, down to the water’s edge and back to
the machair, gradually becoming calmer as I wandered. I kept
my head low, glancing out to sea occasionally when the waves
came close, not focusing beyond the headland where haze on
the horizon prevented me seeing even the closest islands. The
greenish grey of the sea blended imperceptibly into the sky, and
all the colours of the landscape were subdued. For a moment, I
felt disorientated, as if gravity had inverted and I was walking
upside down on a great curved dome, feeling that at any
moment I might fall into the flat, featureless surface above me. I
shook my head and kept my feet moving.
Slowly some memories seeped into my mind; images of a
small boy flickered across my inner vision, like photos in an old
album. It’s easy to forget what treasures are tucked away in
there, behind the grey divide. Sometimes they feel so immediate
that they shock me right into that other world which was once
so real. It’s so much easier to live in the past than to face what is
in front of me.
My foot scuffed against a tuft of grass and I came back to
myself. I’d walked the beach up and down, and fetched up
against the edge of the machair again. Last night’s high tide and
wind had dislodged a whole chunk of cliff edge, and the lump
had slid down the dune-face, exposing a vertical slope of fresh,
white sand. In it was a dark hollow, a deep space about the size
of my fist. I put my hand in to see if it would fit. My knuckle
grazed something hard. Scratchy. Not like the rounded pebbles

and wave-smoothed pieces of driftwood lying on the beach.
I pulled my hand out quickly and shivered, thinking of
sheep bones. Okay to look at, found scattered on the grass
while out walking. Not so nice to touch, unseen. With a faint
hiss, the little hollow collapsed and something rolled out of the
hole and landed at my feet in a damp clump. I bent down to
dig it out. My fingers closed on a pale ivory-coloured handful, a
little darker than the sand, squat and squarish and about eight
centimetres tall. Not a sheep bone. I pulled out my hanky, spat
on it and rubbed the object. I stared at it.
I was holding something like a gnome sitting on a chair;
rather ugly, but with complex, carved clothing and draperies. It
was surprisingly heavy. The figure was vaguely familiar; even
though at the same time I was sure I hadn’t seen anything like it
in my life. I went to drop it back where I’d found it, but
changed my mind at the last moment and put it in my pocket.
After all, I could easily throw it away later.
A superstitious voice in the back of my head muttered about
omens. I’d come out today looking for something to knock me
out of the self-destructive track of my life. Perhaps this was it?
Or maybe it was more bad luck? Either way, picking up litter
should make me feel good, and at least this was more
interesting than the usual plastic bags and empty bottles.
I glanced back up the beach to where the family had set up
camp. The boy was crying; I could hear his voice, piping like
one of the little birds that run along the shoreline. He was in his
father’s arms, being comforted. The woman was down at the
water’s edge. She had rolled up her trousers to paddle, and the
little girl jumped and splashed, clinging tightly to her mother’s
hand. The woman seemed happier, her stance relaxed. Was that
because she was away from the man? Or were they the happy
family they appeared to be? I wondered if I’d ever learn how to
tell the good relationships from the bad, or whether perhaps all
marriages were as secretly miserable as mine had turned out to
be. Her husband walked over and she greeted him with a kiss
and took the boy from his arms. She might have been smiling. I
gave them the benefit of the doubt.

50 Essential Works of LGBT Fiction

Some gorgeous books in this list. I’ve only read a few, just added others to my wishlist. The big one that jumps out is Dhalgren – I read a lot of Delany in my late teens and you never forget his writing. Not sure I’d recommend it as a ‘good’ book but it possesses the power to paint a different colour into your mind.

My ‘The Calgary Chessman’ series has major supporting characters who are gay, although the protagonist of the first two books is a heterosexual female. The relationship between the men forms the primary sub-plot, which grows in importance as the series progresses, however both characters have complete lives of their own, and both play a major role in the plot, irregardless of their orientation. That’s how I believe it should be – our sexuality is a vital component of our lives, but it’s not the only focus. LGBT characters have the same right as any others to be believable, and to lead full lives. Mine would never let me get away with less!

Flavorwire

Here’s the thing: “LGBT” is not a genre, but if you walk into any big chain bookstore, you’ll likely to find a “Gay and Lesbian” shelf in the literature section. Works of fiction that heavily feature queer themes are often ghettoized, only placing an unfortunate stigma on indelible pieces of writing that, while attracting a small group of readers, only serves to alienate others. While we’re still waiting for queer literature’s mainstream acceptance — The Great Gay Novel, if you will — there have been numerous novels and plays published in the last century that have illuminated the multifaceted queer experience among a diverse, wide-reaching community. While this list is no way a definitive canon of the best in queer literature, it does include some essential works that can provide entertainment, introspection, and comfort to those who identify as queer or straight.

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Treading on Dreams

Here’s the excellent novel from Jeff Gardiner (Tirgearr Publishing) about the journey we all make into full adulthood – and the inevitable mistakes and disasters along the way. Jeff does romance-with-humour and darkness-with-hope very well, and this is a great example. Jeff is the editor of my first novel, The Calgary Chessman, published by Crooked Cat.

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - FB banner

Hi Yvonne. Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s kind of you to let me do a guest post about my contemporary novel, TREADING ON DREAMS (Tirgearr Publishing) which is currently at the sale price of only 99p/99c. It explores the difficult subjects of unrequited love and obsession, with student, Donny, pining for housemate, Selena, who is engaged to the seemingly perfect, and older, Melvin. In the extract below, Donny finally gets the chance to spend a day with Selena – alone. He tries everything in his power to not waste this opportunity to impress her.

One recent reviewer said: “The journey is intriguing and Jeff Gardiner depicts it with adept skill! Treading on Dreams is an engaging, fast-paced story that defies prediction and yet has enough intrigue and romance to totally thrill every reader!” (Crystal Book Reviews)

Blurb:

Donny is obsessed with his housemate, Selena – but his love is unrequited. He enthusiastically accepts her willing friendship, which only fuels his deepening fantasies.
Jaz is their crazy landlord who likes sleeping with women – lots of them. He takes pleasure in educating the once innocent Donny in the hedonistic pleasures of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It blows Donny’s mind.

Selena is engaged to Melvin – the perfect man – but is also keen to befriend the ever-demanding Donny … until she falls pregnant and her wedding looms.
Donny expresses his true feelings at the wedding, causing mayhem and anger. But there remains a chink of hope: perhaps Selena’s marriage to Melvin is not quite as perfect as it seems.

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 500(1)

Extract from TREADING ON DREAMS:

A few days later, Selena furnished him with the best news ever:

‘I’m afraid Melvin can’t make it on Saturday now. Some vital medical conference has come up. Do you still want to go to London?’

He had to fight to stop himself from grabbing her and kissing her on the spot. Here was his chance to spend an entire day with Selena and have her to himself. At night, he imagined a million ways to seduce her, fantasising kissing her and telling her how beautiful she was.

Finally, the great day arrived and Donny’s ablutions and preparations became slightly excessive. Neatly shaved, doused in cheap aftershave, and dressed smartly in chinos and a collared shirt, he made bacon sandwiches for them both for breakfast to set them up for the long day ahead.
On the tube, they got on the first District Line train, got off at South Kensington, walked through the subway and out to the corner of Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road where ahead of them stood the imposing edifice of the Natural History Museum.

‘I remember coming here when I was five,’ Donny told her. ‘The blue whale was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe its enormous dimensions. I never realised that they’re bigger than any dinosaur that ever lived. Awesome.’

They entered the crowded front lobby. Families sat round the dinosaur skeletons; groups of foreign tourists huddled together to listen to talks given in various languages. Donny followed the complex map to sort out a logical pathway through the labyrinthine galleries.

Pointing to a booth, Selena followed him into the darkness where a film played about sperm whales. It was a magnificent sight to watch them up-end and flick their tails leaving the fluke standing perpendicular in slow motion.

‘Isn’t nature incredible?’

His heart raced when Selena decided to rest her head on his shoulder. The touch of her cheek through his shirt coupled with the hot darkness made him flush until he had difficulty breathing. How he wanted to hold this moment in time. Sitting stock-still, not daring to move, he closed his eyes and imagined what her skin would feel like to touch.

He finally awoke from his reverie when Selena moved and stood up.

‘Let’s find some lunch.’

They chose a small brasserie and ordered lunch. Selena selected scampi and potato skins, whilst Donny preferred the Cajun chicken with fries.

Next, they caught a tube to Covent Garden.

As they ambled down a narrow side street, they slowed down behind a woman who was dawdling in front of them. From nowhere Donny was shoved firmly aside. A figure dashed past, towards the woman and before their very eyes, he snatched her handbag from her shoulder. She screamed and turned round to them.

‘My handbag. He nicked my handbag. Get him!’

At first, Donny wondered whom she was speaking to. The swiftness of the action left him confused. He’d just seen a crime happen and this poor lady was shouting for him to help. He looked ahead of her and saw the man turn the corner. If he ran, he might catch him. But it would be useless. He’d be lost in the crowds never able to keep up. So he stayed where he was. The woman breathed heavily and leant against a shop window. Selena went to comfort her, leaving Donny ambling behind. He knew he should say something.

‘He’d gone before I could do anything. Sorry.’

‘Call yourself a man? My purse, credit cards, driving license, mobile…what am I gonna do? Thanks for nothing.’

My God, how stupid of him. Why had he hesitated? Why didn’t he run after the thief? He imagined now what a hero he might have been if he’d run and called out, even scared the man into dropping the bag, but it was too late now. The man had got away and he looked like a coward. He kicked a stone and walked on. Selena caught up with him.

‘It’s okay, Donny, there was nothing you could do. She doesn’t want any help. I said I’d phone the police but she got funny with me. I assume she’s alright.’

‘Let’s go home.’

On the tube train, Selena fell asleep and Donny shuffled in his seat until he positioned his arm around her and the scent of her hair filled his nostrils. He gently woke her up when they drew into Ealing Broadway station.

What would it be like to wake up next to her each morning?

During the short walk home, their hands met and Donny took hold of hers. To his delight, she didn’t complain or pull free. As they reached the front door, their hands unclasped.

‘Thanks for a lovely day, Donny. I’ve really enjoyed myself.’

‘No, thank you. I had the best time ever. You’re great company.’

‘Well, I suppose I should get to bed,’ Selena yawned.

‘Can I tempt you to a drink? Bottle of white?’

‘No, really, I shouldn’t or I’ll never get up in the morning.’

‘Okay. See you sometime tomorrow then. Night.’

‘Night, Donny.’

She disappeared upstairs.

Donny stayed downstairs for a while, flicking through the channels before deciding to go up himself. Once in his pyjamas, he contemplated creeping into Selena’s room just to glimpse her once more, but knew he never would.

Snapshots of the day pulsed through his head like an electric current filling him with a thrilling sense of confusion and bliss. But then suddenly they were all wiped away by the memory of a shadow pushing past him, followed by a scuffle, and scream.

‘Call yourself a man?’

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - FB banner

Buy Links for TREADING ON DREAMS:

Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Gardiner_Jeff/treading-on-dreams.htm

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Treading-Dreams-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00J4Z63PI/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427895419&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=jeff+gardiner+treading+on+deams

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Treading-Dreams-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00J4Z63PI/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

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Author Bio:

Jeff Gardiner is a UK writer who was born in Jos, Nigeria. His first novel, Myopia explores bullying and prejudice among teenagers. Igboland is a novel of passion and conflict set in war-torn West Africa. Treading On Dreams is a tale of obsession and unrequited love. He has recently signed a three book deal with Accent Press for a trilogy of YA fantasy novels.

His acclaimed collection of short stories, A Glimpse of the Numinous, contains horror, romance and humour. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines. Jeff also has a work of non-fiction to his name: The Law of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock.
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

For more information, please visit his website at http://www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/

Aurora in Tatters, an alternative fairy tale

My writing friend Kim Walker https://nutsandcrisps.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/my-lovely-blog-hop/ has tagged me in this blog hop. My current work-in-progress is a novel with fairy tale aspects, so I thought it might be nice to post this short story, also based an a traditional story that we all know.

Aurora in Tatters

(A well-known fairytale in new clothes)

Deep in the long-ago, when days were long and the rivers were full of fish, there lived a reindeer herder, who spent the days running with his herd over the wide tundra. The joy of his life was his wife, Anushka, and their baby daughter, Aurora, named for the flickering curtains of light that hung in the midwinter sky.

In the summer, Anushka rode alongside her husband and shared the work, and the baby was wrapped in richly embroidered garments and lashed to her cradle, which hung from the back of the largest reindeer, so that her earliest memories were of snow and trees and the yellow grass and tiny flowers of the tundra, all swaying and moving in a rhythm of hoofbeats punctuated by the sound of harness bells. But one day, when Aurora was still a young girl, Anushka sickened and died. A reindeer herder cannot manage his herd alone, so Aurora’s father took another wife: a strong woman with half-grown daughters of her own.

The woman was a good worker, and handled the reindeer well, although she preferred not to sully her hands with domestic work. Her daughters were spoilt and idle, and the lazy girls would beat and pinch Aurora until she agreed to do all their chores for them. When Aurora tried to speak up, her stepmother scolded her for her wicked lies. Her father looked at her with sad eyes and said, “Aurora, it’s not like you to complain,” and for his sake she tried not to respond to her sisters’ spite.

Not long after, Aurora’s father also died and she was left alone in the world apart from the stepmother and the wicked stepsisters. Now the work really began. There was mending and weaving to be done, and the dense, colourful woollen embroideries of the Sami, until her fingers bled and ached. There was cooking, and collecting fuel, to keep her sisters warm and fed while they lay before the fire and gossiped about this one, or that one who had caught their fancy. And of course there were always the reindeer. Aurora’s strong, young fingers were ideal for teasing out burrs in manes and coats, for reaching deep into straining bodies to ease the birth of calves, or just as a comfort for youngsters to suck on when they were first weaned.

The mother could not run the herd alone, and the sisters had learned nothing about the beasts, so it was for Aurora to check hooves and antlers, soothe sore joints and groom hides, comfort the weanlings and gut and strip the carcasses of mothers that had not made it through the dangerous hours of birthing.

There was no new clothing for Aurora, no footwear when her feet grew, no rich, decorated holiday coat or fur-lined hood to comfort her days. Her clothing grew grey and ragged with use, and her breath froze on the lining of her hood, so that on winter days the icicles jangled and rattled against her face. The sisters spoke of nothing but the coming summer gathering, when all the herds come together and there is feasting and dancing. This year the son of the most powerful herder would choose his bride at the solstice celebration. There would be a great dance, all day and all night, to find out which of the young women had the strength of body and will to make the best match, and both sisters fancied themselves as the chosen one.

Come the day, Aurora was exhausted. She had been up all night, sewing through the long, long hours of midsummer half-light, and had completed her sisters’ festival coats with moments to spare. They had shown their thanks with a pinch and a kick as they left the tent, swept away by their mother to enjoy the day. Aurora lay on the floor, too tired to move, and closed her eyes – just for a moment. Her eyes shot open again at the sound of a voice. She scrambled to her feet and turned to face the woman who had just pulled open the flap.

Her figure said she was young, but her face was lined and full of experience. She was dressed from head-to-toe in embroidered finery, white on white, and the absence of colour was somehow more beautiful than the colourful work Aurora had spent her best talents on that morning. Her mukluks and hood were made of a sumptuous, buttery-white fur. Her eyes were black, and bright. Aurora had never seen her before.

She held out her hand and Aurora took it, bemused. “I am Anelka,” she said, “and you are my sister-daughter. I have come to bid you join the dance.”

“No, no,” Aurora protested. “I can’t go to the dance. I have nothing to wear.” She pulled her rags around herself and hung her head.

Anelka gestured to a bag that lay at her feet. “I had thought you younger,” she said, “but you are thin enough. I think these will fit.”

Aurora upended the bag and out poured the most gorgeous embroidered garments, made of finest wool and bearing her own family’s sigils and designs – the narwhal, the tundra lily and the great ice bear. The clothing fitted her perfectly. At the end her aunt slid her own feet out of the beautiful ice-bear fur mukluks and passed them over to Aurora, along with the bear fur hood. Aurora’s fingers, tired to the bone, ached as she tried to tie the laces and her hands shook.

Anelka knelt and tied the laces for her. Then she handed Aurora an otterskin bottle. “Drink it,” she said. “It will help.”

Aurora tipped the bottle to her lips. She tasted lichen, herbs and the strong, harsh spirit the reindeer herders brewed, distilled over ice in the bitter winter nights. She drank. The concoction worked like magic – dispelling her fatigue and filling her with confidence. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes brightened. Throwing her arms around her aunt, she hugged her hard, then ran as fast as her legs could carry her to join the dancing.

It took half the night for her to work her way in to the central group. All round her, the older members of the gathering were failing, one by one, and settling down to drink, and talk, and watch the young ones dance on. At around midnight, her elder stepsister gave in, stumbling to the side and sinking to the ground. Groaning, she clutched her ankle and moaned, “if only I had not worked so hard today. I am sure I could have lasted the night.” Her sibling lasted scant moments longer. Her complaint: “I am sure the ungrateful child has made my mukluks with a wrinkle in the sole, and now I have a blister.”

Aurora danced on, blissfully unaware, shaking out her plaits and stamping the ground down under her strong, long, never-tiring legs, shedding her layers of beautiful clothing as the hot summer night wore on. As dawn fluttered across the sky, the half-light broadening into the golden glow of a new day, she raised her head and at last everyone could see her face as she met the eyes of the man for whom they were all in competition. They were the only dancers still standing. He was tall, not a youth but in the first strength of his manhood. His grey eyes warmed as he looked on her, and he held out his hand. “So, it is to be you,” he said as he lifted Aurora’s hand above her head and turned her in a full circle, so that all the people could see her.

Aurora dipped and twirled in this final step of the dance, but as the drums thudded into silence and the singers’ voices fell she stepped away. Her voice rang out clearly over the heads of the gathered crowd, although her words were directed to the man who stood before her.

“I thank you for this dance – I will always remember it. I am sure you would make a wonderful husband, but I am not ready to marry. I am going with my aunt into the deep north to hunt the great ice bears. Perhaps when I come back we can dance the summer dance again, and we will see who has the strength to finish.”

Her partner gave no sign that he was disappointed. His face was grave as he bowed his head to her, although a smile quirked the corner of his lips. “I shall look forward to it,” he said. His hand rested, briefly warm, in the small of her back as he escorted her to Anelka’s side, and he bent and scooped up the pile of her discarded clothing and handed it to her.

His father joined him, and the two reindeer herders, old and young, stood and watched the women walk away. They moved lightly, like wild animals themselves, through the reindeer and the herds closed around them. As they disappeared from sight, the younger man bent to pick up something lying at his feet. He laughed. In his hand he held one, beautiful, ivory-coloured bear-fur mukluk.

TCC cover art front_MG_4463 edited

“My Lovely Blog” Hop

Here’s fellow Crooked Cat author Kim Walker on what got her reading (and writing). I’ll be hopping onto this trail on Wednesday – no idea what I’m going to write yet!

Nuts and Crisps

hibernationThanks to my friend and fellow author, Christina (https://funnylass.wordpress.com/…/…/12/everything-is-lovely/), and this blog hop thingy, I’m finally getting round to my first Nuts and Crisps post of 2015! All being well I should have a post from another fellow author, Jeff Gardiner, on Wednesday. Looks like I’ve surfaced from deep hibernation at last.

So, the first memory that comes to mind was searching for my beloved grandfather. I was four and had just been told he’d died. I looked under furniture, in cupboards, everywhere for him. That sense of confusion and loss left a hefty imprint. Nowadays parents have some very good books to help young children with bereavement.

Books are one of my passions. In second grade (age 7), I was one of the Scott of the Antarcticoldest children in the class, often bored and given to disruptive behaviour. In desperation, my teacher began to give me books with the instruction…

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Feeling bookish

Jo Bell’s a poet I admire. I may have more to say on this subject in future, but this reblog is really about Gilbert White. White’s Natural History of Selborne is one of those magical books whose mundane title conceals wonders. It sits on my shelf alongside Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (and would probably be quite comfortable with Thoreau, if I could stand him). White’s gift was to observe with care, and to make us care when we read his words; his world was quite small, and parochial, but he gave us all of it. Here, in Jo’s poem, she gives me the cockiness of rooks, and makes me regret that I’ve still never heard the nightingale sing. She’s made me want to read old Gilbert again, and that’s all to the good. (Scroll down to go straight to the poem.)

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

This Spring, I will mostly be plugging my own book. Forgive me. If you follow me for more general poetry news, there will still be plenty of that. The stream of ME ME ME announcements will soon dwindle but for now, here’s a short summary of both title and book.

It’s a plain-speaking book but not, I hope, a simple or crude one. By my reckoning a poet should be in the business of windows, not chandeliers. I want to look through a poem, not at it, to see the world more clearly.

My world may be different than yours. Mine probably has more boats in it, for a start. If Kith revisits the themes of my last book Navigation, that’s inevitable. I still live on a narrowboat, making my England both smaller and larger than that of the average bank dweller. My love life still mimics John Arnold’s description of war – “long periods…

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Spring at last, or so the blackbird says

flowering cherry

Over the last few weeks there have been several days when I’ve thought to myself, sun – check; not raining – check; flowers appearing – check; oh, it must finally be spring. Snowdrops have come and gone, daffodils have appeared all over the place and cheered us up with their yellow radiance. There have even been some periods of actual warmth.

But every time I start to think that spring has won the battle against winter, the clouds descend, the temperature drops and we get another blast of it. Two days ago I spent the day off sick from work: curled up on my armchair, clutching a mug of hot lemon drink and a box of paper hankies, wrapped up in a big blanket and shivering. It seemed that every time I glanced out the window, it was snowing again, or sleeting, or snailing, or fleeting – or some other variation on winter precipitation.

Today is different. Okay, it rained a lot during the night, and now it’s grey and cool and drizzly, but there’s a promise of mildness in the air, a new freshness. And when I walked up the hill from the post office this morning everywhere I turned my ears I could hear birdsong.

In my garden it’s not only the usual suspects – chaffinches, tits and blackbirds. When I put my head out the back door I saw that the hedge was crammed full of the little local flock of sparrows, which I’ve hardly seen over the winter. Jenny Wren is back on the fencepost, and there’s a new robin patrolling the lawn (replacing the one my naughty cats ate in February).

Up the hill at the back, an entire army of blackbirds is pulling out the dead, long grass to line their nests, and tits are swooping back and forth in every direction. Even the hooded crows up in the old tree sound a little less mournful now that there’s light in the sky and a sense of warmth behind the clouds.

Out on the roadside there seems to be a nest in every tree, and the battle for territory and mates is hotting up. Bluebell spikes are pushing through (down south I expect they’re already beginning to flower, but here in Bonnie Scotland they are true May denizens) and pussy willows and hazel catkins waft their yellow pollen over everything. Yes, it’s definitely spring. The anti-histamines in my medicine cabinet confirm it, whatever the weather.

And down on the Main Street there’s not a parking space to be had; the cafes are full of damp tourists knocking back Death by Chocolate and giant pieces of gateau, and every house painter on the island is hard at work on one façade or another. We may yet be blessed with another flurry or two of snow, or a run of hard-frost mornings, but the tide has turned. Spring rises, on moontide or storm surge or sun-drenched sea mist, or maybe on a week of sunshine to mark Eastertide. No matter – it comes, regardless, as the blackbirds know. There’s no stopping it now.

From Texas to Poldark, via The Shire

demelza 1aidan_turner_poldark1

There’s an interesting article in The Times today (‘When TV is your style guru’, Harriet Walker) about the way in which, these days, we get our fashion information direct from film and TV – the article cites programmes such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men as being particularly influential.

Now, I don’t think this phenomenon is new. If I look back to my own teenage obsession with fashion, it was influenced far more by film than by magazines (which I couldn’t afford) or newspapers (which were bought, rarely, by my parents and not available for me to read).

I always had an interest in clothes, fed in part by my Auntie, only six years older than me, who passed down some very trendy 1960s clothing. I especially remember the hot pink tartan kilt and matching skinny rib jumper, and the lurid orange nylon bell-bottom jumpsuit that produced marvellous amounts of static, creating a lovely light show under the bedclothes, or in any darkened room.

But the experience that suddenly made me aware that fashion was created, and then fed to the public, as opposed to being a response to public taste, was going to the cinema to watch the John Wayne film Hellraisers. This film about oil well cappers, based on the freely reimagined fictionalised biography of famous oil firefighter Red Adair, was costumed by a wonderfully inventive and elegant designer, Edith Head.

It’s probably fair to say that my attention was caught by the clothes not only because they were especially gorgeous, but also because the film was pretty slow. And then there was that essential moment of serendipity – the following day I went to play with a friend, and her Mum had a fashion magazine with an article specifically about the film costumes, and their designer. It was the first time I’d associated a particular person with design, and it led to a happy few years searching out Yves St Laurent and Chanel and a wealth of other designers, and hunting down other films dressed by Edith Head (there are a lot!) not to mention becoming one of those sad people who sits in a darkened cinema and watches the credits roll up.

These days one of the things that impresses me is the quality of costume design in modern productions. Gone are the days when the crew could mock something up out of metallic knit and call it chain mail. One exemplar of this drive for perfection is Peter Jackson, whose Tolkien extravaganzas, deservedly trumpeted for their creativity and production values, should also be appreciated for their painstaking attention to detail in costume design – everything from the weave of elven cloaks to the design of jewellery.

I was thinking on just this topic last Saturday, when I watched the most recent episode of Poldark. I know it’s hard to tear your attention away from the swooningly lovely Mr Aidan Turner, but do me a favour – next time, take a brief glance at the dresses worn by Demelza (upmarket peasant girl, but beautifully made and fitted) or Verity’s half mourning – delicate subtleties in shades of grey. And the menswear is just as good – subtle differences in station and attitude in matters as simple as the turn of a cravat, or the length of a coat. Another example of this drive for realism and believability in costume design is Outlander, recently filmed in Scotland and showing on Amazon Prime. Gorgeous work, from hessian rags to full tartan regalia, all with just the right amount of dirt for verisimilitude.

I am eagerly awaiting the sight, when spring finally arrives, of kilts on the street in numbers, or the return of the cravat. No, there’s nothing new in looking to film and television for fashion tips. It’s been going on since the first Victorian playhouse opened. Long may it continue!