Friday, 25 November 2016

The Art of Autumn



Autumn in Cambridge is like a Monet gone mad. Trees and earth and river move around you, and through you, in swirls. You walk into this breathing artwork every day. Nothing is static.


The leaves float down from tress brushing your arms, the river curves, light sieves in through cracks. The bird-man throws his grains in an arc making the gulls swoop down and up. A cocker spaniel runs after a ball. Next to you, moorhens plough ripples in the water. Cyclists peddle by.

And you walk on. You take everything in, you take nothing in.

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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Know you

I notice how the rhythm of this blog keeps changing as my life does. Now that I'm trying to edge a bit more time towards my fiction, while trying to work and live a life and get silly with Chotto-ma, I find less time to write to you. Okay, ramble to you. I miss that. (You better miss it too!)

Blogs have their limitations, don't they? You get to know me better than I do you. But, if you've been on any length of this journey with me, it'd be nice to change that.

I closed the Peppercorns Facebook page a couple of years ago. But my personal Facebook is there, and these days it seems easier to connect with people there, in little bursts, when I don't quite find the time to write longer posts. So if you've been reading what I write, and following this blog, please come along and find me on Facebook if you're on it. It's where I share bits of goings-on, in a fairly selfie-free, non-opinionated space. Haha. (No, really.)

Of course, you can add me as a friend, or click 'Follow', depending on the boundaries of your privacy. But hopefully, it'll let me get to know you outside of this blog, where it's me doing most of the talking!

Also: We just got back from Paris, and since I haven't had the time to sit down and put Paris into words, I'm doing Paris in photographs on FB in small daily doses.

You'll find it, and me, linked here.

Come say 'hi'!


Sending you crunchy autumn leaves and hugs,
Pia







Sunday, 16 October 2016

Wildling

One day, after an early morning walk by the river, I came back home with this photograph, and the unexpected urge to write a poem. I did write the poem, and today, it was published by Strands Publishers, making my grey and wet Sunday feel all bright and sunny. It's incidentally my first publication in India, which makes it even more special.

The poem is called 'Wildling', and it's there below the two feisty swans, and online at http://strandspublishers.weebly.com/lit-sphere/wildling

I hope you enjoy it, this piece of my river.


Wildling


Morning has broken
                 
open, bleeding into the river.

The streetlamps are still on.

Two swans float up in unhurried hunger

for bread I do not have.

Twenty-two huddle farther up the river

asleep, their necks wrung

into their wings. A lull

of white feathers on which water does not stick.

Their river is always dry.

It is land.



My river runs by me

reflecting runners, dreams and detritus.

A life of moorings and unmoorings,

a mirror of semi-truths -

where the light of a dog-pissed streetlamp

looks like flecks of real gold.

I stand still, very still. Watching

my body ripple and quiver like a wildling.

A swan passes by and I shatter into pixels.

But I can wait, I have nowhere I need to be.

The waters will calm, I will patch together again.




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(Please feel free to share the link on social media, or just with the person sitting next to you - Strands is a wonderful independent publisher, and really deserves the support.)

Friday, 7 October 2016

Eight

To Chotto-ma:

You turned eight today. So I'm sitting here trying to draw you a phoenix because I know it'll make you squeal with joy.

As you grow older, I find myself less willing to write about you. Not about the books you love and the rocks you collect, but about the person you are. Your thoughts, your heart, the way you look at the world - the things that really matter, the things that make you the very unique eight-year-old you are. So if you're reading the blog some day, when you're as old as me, and see the silences here, know that I'm keeping you to myself. I'm keeping you to yourself.

When we decide to leave our phones and cameras at home for the day, and then suddenly find ourselves living a moment - like you picking wildflowers in the sunset - and I wish I could take a photograph, you remind me of what I'd once told you, "Ma, we can take a photo with our memory."

So that's what we're doing, Ba and I. We're taking photos in the privacy of our memories. And telling you, every day, with words and squishes and the occasional phoenix, how much we love you.

You make us believe in magic.




























Monday, 12 September 2016

How the Hills Roll

We ended August by driving out to the Lake District, and from there onto Scotland, and got back last week. But as usual, it's taken me longer to come back to this space. I quite enjoy keeping away from the laptop these days. As much as I enjoy coming back to catch up with those of you who are still here. I hope you've been well!


When we reached the Lake District and our little, whitewashed B&B in the village of Near Sawrey, I looked at the hills and realised that I'd forgotten to pack my watercolours. For this, I'm thankful. I could never have done justice to the light and the land, to the greens that were at once opaque and translucent, the ferns that were delicate and raucous, and the dew-soaked smell of wild things.



I could not have captured the trickle of the brook, the scores of tiny snails clinging onto half-eaten leaves, or the smile of the woman who invited us into her garden for freshly-picked runner beans.




I would not have known how to paint the din of the village pub, the warmth of strangers with whom we had many long conversations as we sat with our pints in the evening, nor the wisps of smoke that rose from our coil of Cumberland sausage. 

This was the same pub that Beatrix Potter had painted in her Peter Rabbit books a century-and-a-half ago. And much like the pub and her paintings, her hills haven't changed. They speak straight to your soul, they slow down your thoughts, they inspire poems, and roll on as gently as they always have.


We walked up the hills and down, we met people who told us stories of how their great-grandfathers had built their houses, grown their gardens and died with a love of The Lakes in their heart. We stopped to pick blackberries. They'd been washed shiny from the rains of the night before. We ate the blackberries standing by the road. The bushes were prickly, the fruits sweet and tart. They stained our fingers the same shade as the sky at sunset, when the last light dipped behind the hills.






Blackberry-Picking
by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.



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Saturday, 23 July 2016

40 and Fiction

I turned 40 yesterday - and it turns out, 40 is a ridiculously good thing to be.

It started with an email the day before my birthday. The subject said 'Fiction Commission' and was from an editor in New Zealand who'd read my fiction online, and wanted to commission a story for her journal. I sent her a story called 'Dugdugee' which I’d whittled and tweaked for over a year, and within hours it was signed off, sold, and slotted for publication in September. 

THEN, I get another email from the lovely editor of Berfrois, a magazine I absolutely love, saying that they’d be publishing my story ‘Driving North’. The story was published yesterday. On my birthday! (I told you it was ridiculous.

AND finally, I got to wake up in Copenhagen with D and Chotto-Ma and a hundred sweet messages and phonecalls from all over.

And I thought, damn. I should've turned forty years ago.

PS. Here's my desk today. A strip of green called Sonder Boulevard in the Vestebro area of Copenhagen. This city is so my kind of place! Next to me, D and Raya are on their fourth game of chess. 

And here's 'Driving North' on Berfrois. This story surprised me with it's journey - it was longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award and shortlisted for the Brighton Prize last year. It was subsequently published in Rattle Tales 4, a print anthology. And now, in this great new home.

Of course, you have to be nice and read it because it's my birthday. Let me know what you think!

Love,
P



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Day Harry Potter Came Home

Every day, Chotto-ma eats breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a fourth meal which consists of devouring pages and pages of J.K. Rowling's imagination. The Harry Potter books have been Daily Dietary Requirement for the past year-and-a-half when they first came home. She started book one on her sixth birthday, and I saw her world shift a little. She has been eating steadily through them since. She reads them, re-reads them and then goes back to the first book and starts all over again. Oh there are other authors in between. And there's a book on Greek mythology weighing as much as she does, which she loves (she can tell you intricate details about every god, from Hera to Cronus, and their dark and twisted lives). But even gods don't wield the same power as J.K. Rowling.

We tried to space out the Harry Potter books, googled them for age-appropriateness, but after finishing each book, Chotto-ma would sit in front of the bookshelf, quietly, looking up at the set with the mournful eyes of a cocker spaniel. "Wait till you're eight" was obviously not going to work.

She has the final book left - we've managed to keep it for the school summer holidays, which means an excruciating wait of another fifteen days. This holiday incidentally includes a road trip through Scotland and ends with Edinburgh, where we're going to do the Harry-Potter-walking-tour, and visit the cafe where J. K. Rowling wrote. The seven-year-old goes on her first pilgrimage.

While she waits this Excruciating Wait for the final book, she has decided to redesign the Harry Potter book covers since she doesn't like the ones they come in. So the books have now been covered with white paper, and yesterday, she finished illustrating the first one - 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.'

For the Muggles amongst you, the cover shows The Forbidden Forest, with a dead unicorn lying on the forest floor dripping silver unicorn blood.

Here it is, from Chotto-ma, to share with you. It made me awfully proud.






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