Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Screen life: the films I've loved

Today I'm sitting at my computer in three jumpers, looking through the window at snowflakes swirling around the garden. As ever, I'm peering through a screen at the real world beyond. The pandemic has turned us into a nation of voyeurs, gleaning our entertainment from Zoom, television, mobile phones... and now windows.

A snow globe in front of a window
Living in a bubble
Not that I'm complaining. I've had my fresh air this morning and it's chilly enough in the house, let alone outside. I'm also quite a fan of Zoom and its ilk. Without video conferencing, I wouldn't be able to read Jacqueline Wilson to my nieces, catch up with family/friends, watch live theatre, enjoy Arts Society talks or take part in an upcoming Chinese New Year quiz this weekend. This is life in 2021.

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Imagine a world

Here we are again in Covid country. Either I've become habituated to lockdowns, or I secretly crave a quiet existence, as I'm not finding it too hard this time around... as long as I ration my consumption of the news. Occasionally, for my own buoyancy, I need to think about something other than mounting Covid cases.

A photo album showing the World Trade Center
Photos of the twin towers in my album
The big distraction for me in lockdown 3 has been my writing. I'm inching towards the finish line (first draft) of my latest novel about New York in 2001. When I conceived this book in the summer, it was intended to be a light piece of escapism, based on my own experiences of living in Manhattan during the late 1990s (more City, not much Sex). Inevitably the story has become a shade darker as September 11 looms in the latter stages of the plot line. 

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Because I'm happy

I'm feeling happy today. Naturally, I'm unable to be happy without taking time to analyse why. This is the ideal state we all aspire to, the holy grail of modern life and a prized commodity during these quiet lockdown days. 

Russian Blue cat sits on Black Labrador
This makes me happy
I read recently that believing we can achieve happiness is a misguided notion. Better to live a useful life, where happiness becomes a byproduct (if we're lucky). This was said by somebody famous, though I can't remember who (possibly a former American president or First Lady - I've overindulged on US politics recently).

Wednesday 23 September 2020

The essence of summer 2020

Hubby and I nipped out for a walk first thing yesterday morning. The mist hung over the green hills of Turville while the sunlight was so piercing I could barely keep my eyes open. It felt like the last breath of summer... a chance to wander through the fields, past hedgerows and along chalky banks with the sun's warmth on our skin. We even spotted a some ragged purple flowers - a flash of floral excitement late in the season.

The countryside around Turville
The last day of summer?
Our beautiful walk coincided with the step-up in regulations to control the coronavirus. After a relatively carefree summer, it looks like we'll be hunkering down at home for the foreseeable future. I can feel the seasonal melancholy setting in...

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Exiting the corona cocoon

It has been a confusing time. In some ways, I've found the last few weeks of relative freedom more challenging than full-on lockdown. As we emerge from our Covid chrysalis, we are coming to terms with a 'new normal'. There are different rules/guidelines to navigate and we are a still long way off from going to the theatre, throwing raucous parties, or even going on a foreign holidays (despite all the talk of air bridges).

A field at sunset, full of white and red poppies
Hoping for a sweet summer
From talking to friends, a fair few of us are questioning the lifestyles we had pre-lockdown and are hopeful of a fresh start. And there are people (like me) who are feeling unsettled and unsure about what the future holds. 

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Sweet and sour

The first time I ever sampled sourdough, I was at a business lunch with a contact in New York during the late 1990s. Mid-conversation, sitting in the chichi restaurant, I remember picking up my diamond-shaped bread roll and taking a nibble. My goodness, I thought to myself, that bread has gone off! 

A loaf of sourdough bread on a table in a garden
Sourdough: 'bread with an old soul'
Picture credit: Will Lam
Perhaps I didn't hide my grimace well enough because my companion smiled and told me that 'sourdough' was a New York speciality. I felt a pang for the French-style bread I might have been given in a London restaurant back home...

Wednesday 8 April 2020

While the livin' is easy

We got our letter from Boris yesterday. Poor man - I'm sure he didn't imagine he'd end up in hospital himself when he was sitting there, chewing his pencil and wondering what to write. His words - we must slow the spread of the disease and reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment - are steeped in irony. 

Digging in the vegetable patch
Tending to our new vegetable patch
Instead, Dominic Raab is left in charge. Two nights ago on the BBC, he looked faintly queasy at the prospect. Incidentally, he was in the year below us at university so it feels rather odd that he's now our de facto PM - like our generation has come of age. Or a bit like my friend Sarah or Cathy running the country, except Sarah is too busy looking after the children of key workers and Cathy is reading the news. 

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Brave new world

What strange times we live in. I walked into a petrol station yesterday to fill up my car and got terribly excited when I noticed multiple packs of loo roll in the aisle. A rare sight these days. In our household, a shortage had been looming after several visits to my local supermarket last week proved fruitless. I had to resist the urge to buy up more than my fair share.

Even the dog's worried about food shortages 
- he raided a food bin this morning 
Our days are weighted with an underlying sense of dread as we wait for the coronavirus to unleash its full force on our shores. Yesterday's restrictions on social contact - recommended by the prime minister and his advisors - will change our lives in immeasurable ways. For me, the consequences of these restrictions are only just sinking in. Can I still meet a friend for coffee? No, not really. Will book club get cancelled? Yes. And what about Pilates? 

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Time with the tribe

This one is about friendship. The long-lasting kind. I've just got back from a reunion weekend with my university besties and I'm still basking in the after-glow. We drank too much champagne/wine/gin, ate too much chocolate/cake/canap├ęs and contended with Storm Ciara, but my goodness it was worth it!

Four friends walking along a path together
The journey's more fun with friends
Picture credit: Harriet Bell
So often we take our friendships for granted, particularly during the decades of parenthood and middle age. Even the early narratives of our lives are spun around meeting a romantic partner, or having a child... and yet in the background, friendships run deep like a rich seam.

Monday 25 March 2019

The march of a million feet

The word march was a misnomer. It was more of a gentle stroll on a mild spring day. A great tide of humanity rolling through the famous streets of London - Park Lane, Piccadilly, Whitehall; everyone chanting and waving placards. This was the People's March, a historic protest against Brexit, with hundreds of thousands voicing their call for a second public vote.

Thousands of anti-Brexit protesters on the People's March in London
A constant stream of protesters
I woke up on Saturday morning undecided as to whether I should go. (We're currently planning a house renovation with an endless 'to do' list.) But then I watched a clip of Anna Soubry on Channel 4 News talking about the death threats she's received for speaking her mind on Brexit - vile letters posted to her home address. Soubry's closing words were: "Get on that march and show them we've had enough."

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The power of friendship

First page of a new novel
Chiselling away... page one!
Just when you thought An Author's Notebook might have died and gone to blog heaven... here I am! The reason for my absence has been book-related: I've spent January finishing my third novel. I'm nearly there (New Year's resolution - tick!) although I'm still tinkering around the edges.

I actually finished writing the book over a year ago, but have spent all this time chiselling away at it, refining sentences and teasing out themes. Most usefully, I've been addressing feedback from a small group of readers - most of them writers themselves. I've been so lucky with the people I have met through my CBC creative writing course, as well as a few supporters closer to home.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

The power of chocolate buttons

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Little One stamps the pavement outside our house with her new Startrite shoe. "Don't wanna go to school," she wails. "Got no friends."

"School sucks," agrees her older brother, "but you have to go, otherwise the police will come and arrest Mum." 

Sign saying: All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt

I glance across at him to see if he genuinely believes what he's just said. It appears he does. Wow! Those white lies I used to tell him have still got some mileage. 

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Different minds

My husband and I were playing a fun game the other day. He would point to random objects in the house and I had to say where they came from. For example, he picked up the juice squeezer and I responded, "Engagement present from Cathy and John." 

Testing times:
Who gave us the juicer?
This went on for a while, eliciting gasps of admiration from him every time I nailed the answer. He eventually caught me out on the toaster (I couldn't recall where we got it or what the old one looked like). "I can't believe you can remember all this stuff," he said. This is from a man who spends on average five minutes a day looking for his keys/phone/work pass. 

Tuesday 30 May 2017

School reunion

Nothing quite prepares you for a journey into your own past. Last weekend I caught the 08:42 train to Cheltenham and travelled back in time to an all-girls boarding school that was my home from the age of 11 to 18. It was my first visit back in 25 years - a great deal had changed and yet so much remained the same.

Shauna and I outside our old boarding house in 2017...
After leaving school in 1992, I spent most of my early twenties feeling a vague sense of emancipation, having escaped the rules and regulations of institutional life. Ever since, I have cast my school days in a slightly negative light, partly to entertain new friends but also because boarding took its emotional toll. So when a school reunion was mooted earlier this year, my eagerness to go back took me by surprise. 

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Friendship 'trumps' politics

Many of us will remember where we were last Wednesday. The day a borderline racist and a man who thinks nothing of mocking the disabled became the leader of the free world. I actually cried in my kitchen when I heard that Donald J. Trump would become the next president of the United States.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our American friends
These seismic events were all the more poignant because one of my dearest friends - an American - happened to be staying with us at the time, along with her two children. We all struggled to comprehend that Trump was to succeed President Obama, a man who by contrast exemplifies everything that is great about America.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Pause for thought

On Sunday evening, as I was quietly reading my book, I experienced a zapping sensation in my head. A bit like when you crick your neck, but it was inside my brain. Shucks, I thought, I've got a brain tumour. Naturally, I consulted Dr. Google and it turned out I was experiencing a symptom of perimenopause. Fab. (Although, marginally better than a brain tumour, I suppose.)

Emma Clark Lam and birthday cake
In the days before I'd even heard of perimenopause!
My 43rd birthday is looming, which means ageing is on my mind at the moment. A friend of mine, Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, is a big advocate for breaking the taboo associated with menopause and the various indignities that women face as we grow older and wiser. So in the spirit of sisterhood, I have decided to highlight the challenges of the dreaded 'change'.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Dogs and friendship

A few weeks ago I persuaded my friend Emma to join me on an organised dog walk to raise funds for the Red Cross. "Will it be very doggy?" she asked hesitantly, after agreeing to accompany me. "Oh no," I assured her, "it's more of a charity thing really." (I should mention that Emma is not a dog lover, preferring to admire the canine form from afar - at a 100 yards if possible. She puts up with my own Labrador Pickle, but only because she is my friend.)

"Did someone say dog biscuit?"
So this morning we set off for our appointed meeting place in the rain. "Shame about the weather," we murmured, "oh well, never mind, we'll survive!" (and all those other inanities one mutters to show fearlessness in the face of the British weather system).

We arrived at the village hall - a.k.a. start of the walk - amongst a twirling, whirling pack of dogs. "Slightly more doggy than I anticipated," I said to Emma, by way of an apology, as we picked our way through multiple Labradors, golden retrievers, a couple of pugs, various terriers and a Cockerpoo. Pickle, it must be said, was in doggy heaven, careering around the garden in a sea of fur.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Old acquaintance be forgot?

In amongst the mobile ringtones and the ping of my computer, there is a new sound in our house: the shuffle of a letterbox opening and the plippety-plop of many envelopes falling to the floor. 

Where once I might have left the bank statements languishing on the doormat for days, now I pounce upon the Christmas cards with relish. There is something satisfying about those handwritten envelopes and the promise of what lies within: news, photos and tidbits about a life on the other side of the world.

Christmas is many things, but in my mind it has become a time to consolidate friendships. Facebook does a good job of tending the outer circle, but Christmas cards can reach beyond that network to aunts and uncles, childhood chums and even old work colleagues. The sort of people you rarely see anymore, but still like to hear from.


Christmas cards on display
Messages from auld acquaintance
The memories I share with these acquaintances make up the patchwork of my past. Our interaction is proof of another self that I inhabited years ago - now evolved but not quite shed. Each snippet of news also reminds me of how life plods on outside my narrow sphere - children grow up, marriages are made and broken, loved ones pass away. 

Robert Burns expressed something of this in his poem about remembering long-standing friendships. As one year ends and another begins, it has become a tradition to take stock of the communities that surround us.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

In this age of efficiency, Christmas cards have also managed to outlast the grasping tendrils of technology. The joy of slow communication has seen a resurgence recently, and aside from a few typed newsletters, cards still bear a written hand and travel the old-fashioned way. Admittedly they are arduous to write, but cards received bring a tangible token of friendship onto our thresholds.




Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot