Image courtesy of @MichaelSchultzPhotography
I don’t hold much truck with wishing life away, however I am embracing this new year with hope and a big sticky dollop of gratitude that 2017 is no more.
Frankly, it couldn’t have ended fast enough.
For my little family, it was a massive year of adjusting and of sustained emotional exhaustion. Oh yes, there has been the good stuff, too. Juicy, joy-filled stuff. We have rekindled old friendships, have made wonderful new friends and have the living, breathing blessing of our community by the sea. We have soaked up time, sad and happy, with our New Zealand family – including Christmas spent snuggling this gorgeous babe pictured. We, along with our hundred friends voted in a gorgeous Prime Minister who cares about social justice and equality in all its forms. And even though we don’t have it written anywhere in our house: We laugh! We love! We live!
But emotionally and creatively, moving our whole life down under has been full on.
To an outsider’s eye, our home is a nest that appears we’ve been living here for decades and have missed several crucial spring clear outs. We have objects and books and junk and art on shelves, on walls, collected from either side of the planet and places in between, found on adventures, gifted from friends and family. Many things are made from our own hands. Everything has its place, and there isn’t a box left to unpack in the whole house. Actually, there is a box in the shed that has random teaching resources that I am willing to bet hubby will never, ever look at ever again, but that doesn’t fit where this little rant is going. So pretend I didn’t mention it.
As far as I’m concerned, there are no physical boxes left to unpack.
The tricky cartons we are yet to get to are inside of us. That is where the headspace is hiding that will help me write consistently, the great rush of satisfaction of taking something that is pinging, without form in my head, and expressing it in words. It is where that extra magic time for busy hubby will be hiding, that will see him get lost in drawing in his studio. It is where I’ll find the resilience I need to keep chipping away at a project in between all the noisy life that takes up most of the day. The self-belief and the faith.
All these boxes, their contents roughly scrawled on the outside with a permanent marker long ago left in England are right at the top of the to list for this year. The tape is worn and ready to rip off with one little flick with a fingernail. I know, because that loose tape is really irritating my insides. It is scratchy and ticklish and tells me those boxes are waiting for my attention on a daily basis.
Bring on the unpacking, 2018. And you reading, have any boxes hiding? Go on, get them out with me.
There is no other way to describe it, my family and I have been in a washing machine for the past six months. I wrote the previous, empassioned post at the beginning of us packing up our lives in England and moving almost as far away as you can get, to New Zealand. On the way, we stopped in Fiji to do some volunteering as a family, and then once we got here, we've been finding our feet, getting a roof over our heads sorted, and trying to breathe while we are spun around, again and again, in the crazy emotional tumble that is moving countries.
Of course I knew all this while I was getting awfully hot under the collar in my last post about the referendum. And I have laughed like it is oh so hilarious that we voted IN and then left the country to move to the other side of the planet. It doesn't show massive loyalty, really, does it? But that's the way it is in my little family. It isn't that men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but men are from England and women are from New Zealand, and it is time for us to have some New Zealand time.
And so here we are.
When you live inside an emotional washing machine for six months, you are forced to live very much in the moment. Our hearts were torn in two. We left one bloodied half in England, and lobbed the other half across the globe to our family and friends, to the West Coast ocean, to the people who live next to it, to the Tui croaking their drunken cry in the flax flowers, and bit by bit, we have been gathering all the pieces up again. We have not had the head space to create, to reflect, to write or to draw. We have been moving, tending our children, putting one foot in front of each other, making new friends along the way, working our bodies hard, and generally just being inside it, this crazy life.
But now, with great relief, I can see the door is almost open, we’re about to tumble out, and then we can finally brush ourselves down, look back on all the crazy experiences we’ve had along the way, and sometime you’ll see some of them come out into a story or two, I imagine.
Until then however, my family and I are nesting. Happy 2017!
It is not without irony that I have been getting increasingly cross about the #Brexit campaign. After all, years after the EU was formed, the next logical capitalist step was the formation of the EEC. Damned EEC, it rang the death knoll of the majority of New Zealand’s trade with the UK and marked the start of decades of economic hardship for my home country. That hurt, But over time, we had to concede it was logical. We live on the top of the planet, you’re all the way down the other side right next to Europe, so it does actually make sense you should trade with them…
And now there is a referendum. What a dirty word that has become. I know that this country is feeling the pressure of a big population. It’s tough. Access to housing, the NHS, roads, social services, all stretched to breaking point because of a lack in government investment over decades, and more recently, the appalling, unjust banking crises. Laying the blame for all of this at the feet of the hard working migrants from Europe is complete crap. This economy has had huge benefits from the migrant workforce and the money that flows in either direction as businesses have become intertwined with each other across borders over the past decades. It needs better management and long term planning by parliament, and quite possibly a massive magic wand to make right. But the other side of the coin is, of course, that if you get sick of being here, you can always go and work and holiday where you want across beautiful Europe. That’s actually quite amazing! All we have is Australia.
Throughout the campaign, I have also been thinking a lot about why the EU was formed to start with - in response to the tragic carnage of two world wars that left fifty million people dead in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. After it was formed, the second half of the century saw fifty thousand people killed in comparison. And now the game has changed again - war by insidious terrorists whose recruitment relies on people being broken, disillusioned and often homeless. The world needs the EU to be strong, to shoulder the burden of refugees fleeing war outside its borders, to be a strong influence for change. If it breaks up, the result will be brutal.
The EU is far from perfect, and it is under what feels like sometimes insurmountable pressures, but it is yours. So far, it is the most successful peace project in history. Please let’s keep it that way.
She’s out there now! Chasing Charlie has been officially launched with the support of the lovely staff at Farnham Waterstones and a whole lot of heart from family and friends. It is an amazing feeling to see a truckload of hard work all dressed up in a pretty cover and being held in the hands of smiley people…
… and hopefully they’ll still be smiling when they finish it. Thankfully the reviews have been happy so far - including 4 stars in Heat mag’s Top 5 Reads, oh my eyes.
Please enjoy it, support your local bookstore if you can (in the UK), or check out my page here that lists all the places you can buy both the paperback and ebook online. For those readers who have already gone with Sam to chase Charlie, thank you for your support!
In the meantime, I will continue trying to peel myself off the ceiling.
Photographs by Gabriel Monteregge
It's getting closer! I am counting down the days for the official launch of Chasing Charlie on April 21st. When this little baby arrived in the mail, I was proud as punch, and I can't wait for other people to enjoy it too. Of course, you kindle readers out there are busy downloading it already, you early birds you, fantastic.
Throughout the launch time, I will be doing a tour around a bunch of blogs run some fabulous, unashamed book lovers. I'll be blogging about all sorts of things, including writing, life and love.. I hope you enjoy them!
So far, I haven’t consciously put myself into any of the characters in my stories. My friends and family may beg to differ when they finally read Charlie’s Tail, and I’ll be cringing inside a dark cupboard somewhere while they do it. However, the main character Sam and I do share something in common - our reluctant acceptance that we’re part of the big girl’s club. We are both adults now, apparently all grown up. And like her, I catch myself wondering so often, how can that be right?
When it comes to parenting, I often wonder, when are the parents coming home? This babysitting job is dragging on something chronic… and with my writing, I find myself blinking with disbelief that my first novel is getting published in April. Can it really be true? Doesn’t that only happen to real grown-ups?
And I’m not being coy, of course I know that just like Sam, I have pitched up here to this right now by working hard. I’ve grafted for many days, months, years – getting on with business, while juggling a life of busy-ness. I paid for childcare while I had a baby and toddler at home, so I could write. Now, I get up in time to get to my day job early so I can write. It doesn’t just happen. You do it, day in, day out, and piece by piece, it comes together. But all of that hard work, and the knowledge of the hard work (and the wrinkles from the hard work) amazingly doesn’t automatically mean I always feel like an adult.
Not that I want to feel grown up all the time, either. I don’t want the big kid causing trouble inside this woman’s body to leave home. She shows me how to laugh and cry and stomp my feet. But all the same, I have been a so-called adult for a healthy half of my life. You’d think I would have got used to what this entails, right?
Of course, come April, I will be celebrating! I will leave my dark cupboard and get super excited about Charlie’s Tail being read by you all. But will I feel more grown up? I’ll have to get back to you on that one…
Linda writes contemporary fiction for both adults and children.