A Moving (Re)Discovery

Manuscript Status: On Submission

Writer Status: Impatient, nervous and a little bit stressed. Pretending not to be all of the above.

So, being on submission doesn’t mean the writing stops. Of course not. I’m ploughing on with a first draft of a new (if by ‘new’ I mean nearly a year old already…I had edits to work on for my agent, plus, like, loads of other things…) project. The aim is to get the whole draft completed as soon as I can. I’m hoping to get the call saying “drop whatever you’re working on, you have more edits to do!”. And I’d quite like to have punched in the final full stop on draft one by then; you know…for the sake of tidiness.

But of course, this writer still needs a break from the… er… stress of writing. I’m always on the lookout for a break (and I heard that, whoever just shouted “procrastinator”!). Yesterday’s procrastination, I mean break, came in the most unexpected and delightful form.

My husband is currently assisting his parents with a house move from the family home of thirty-five years. Naturally, this means some artefacts from the dig have found their way into our house, and how we’ve laughed at his year six story-writing workbook, (be warned, husband, there’s material there for a whole new blog).

Along with his childhood scribblings and doodlings have come some gems of children’s literature that he read as a child, including this wonderful book:

IMG_20170719_180906525This charming – and somewhat defiant – story (a Philippe Fix creation, with story for pictures by Janine Ast and Alain Grée…I assume it to be French) features three characters: the eponymous Beebo, a chap in his later years; Mop, his friend; and Hector, a hamster. I haven’t worked out who Mop is in relation to Beebo; he seems to live in Beebo’s flat whilst Beebo works on the Paris Metro, walking through the towering streets of Paris every day.

IMG_20170719_180655211

In our era, I doubt we’d see a story about an older man and a young boy being friends make its way to the book shop shelves. And Mop’s origin is never explained. Nor is the reason why Beebo inherits a run-down old mansion (which they turn into every child’s dream fantasy house). There are inconsistencies aplenty, none of which would jar with a young reader.

IMG_20170719_180517628

I like to think that Mop is nothing more or less than Beebo’s younger self, or perhaps the childhood friend Beebo never had…because as charming as Hector is, a hamster is a poor substitute for a pal.

But if we fail to work out who Mop really is, there is no mistaking what the story wants to say – at least, not to my adult eyes, (is it even possible for an adult to read a children’s book with a child’s eye? We know too much. We’re tainted by the horrors of life. We can only lament the loss of innocence).

This is a story about friendship – real, or imagined.

IMG_20170719_180842419

This is a story about the evils of unconstrained capitalism and supposed progress. Yes, even a picture book can deal with the heavy-weight subjects. In this respect The House That Beebo Built is a story for all time; especially poignant right now.

This is also a story about the triumph of hope when all seems lost. And if that’s not a message we want kids to read about, I don’t know what is.

IMG_20170719_180603601

It is a story about escape. From those that would destroy that which you have worked for. Escape from a world gone mad and bad. Escape from the disappointments and strain of life. Actually, it might be about escaping from life itself.

I think it might be a story about death.

IMG_20170719_180628823

Our friends end by building an ingenious stairway to the sky, which can only be a metaphor for the final journey. And they don’t forget little Hector: he gets to play in the vast hamster wheel in the clouds. At least, in my mind he does.

Naturally, we can make of this story whatever we will. And it doesn’t really matter, because what charms the most, what grabs the attention, what makes us smile – and it’s what my husband cherishes so much – are the beautiful, joyous illustrations. And it’s those that I really wanted to share.

I hope you enjoy them too.

PS. Amazon have a copy for £185. And no, husband, it’s not yours! Because your House That Beebo Built is now our House That Beebo Built.

Advertisements

‘Baroque’ as a place to go to……and a new flash fiction inspired by Botero.

Baroque.

I’ve been thinking about this word recently. It has cropped up a couple of times and has become stuck in my head. Firstly, I discovered the fantastic, (or fanciful, flamboyant, florid and fussy- thank you Mr Thesaurus), Baroque in Hackney blog, and then it appears again at the Botero exhibiton I mentioned yesterday: ‘The Baroque World of Fernando Botero’ at the Glenbow, Calgary.

If the word were a place, I would want to visit it. It is inviting, interesting and myserious. (Belle Epoque has a similar effect on me).

Of course, over the years I have used ‘baroque’ thinking that I knew its meaning; and I probably had a certain grasp of what it meant in the same way that I know roughly what ‘rococo’ means. Now, I begin to see it more clearly. The dictionary helps: it is bold, vigerous and exuberant. The blurb at the exhibition puts it more practically: ‘willing and able to break the rules of classical art.’ There’s no doubt that Botero’s view of the world breaks a few rules. Maybe that is what is so inviting about the word: it’s a bit naughty and goes against the run of things.

I’m less sure of what Baroque music is, but intend to find out.

I’d be interested if anyone else has a word they would like to visit.

And now to my new story. As promised, it is inspired my my trip to Calgary, but neccesarily stems from my visit to the Botero exhibition there. As I mentioned yesterday, I was treated to a virtual private audience with the works on display. How rare to be able to stand/sit in front of a wonderful work of art without a single person intruding on your thoughts. And then to have this for every one of the 80 or so pieces? It was an experience I have never had before. Not good for the museum’s bottom line, but wonderful for my view of Botero’s sculptures’ bottoms. (Couldn’t resist that. It’s amazing what a night’s sleep does for your sense of humour). Enough of this, on with the show….

RESPECTING THE RULES

There were no other visitors in the gallery and yet James felt an overwhelming presence. As he made his way to the centre of the space, he sensed that his progress was observed by the over-sized faces on the canvases.

Mournful eyes peered out from each corner of the room, pained and without hope.

James fixed his gaze on a quartet of musicians; they played a soundless folk song to an unseen dance hall, their eternal rhythm frozen in a melancholic moment.

Sitting on a bench in front of a giant sculpture of a voluptuously naked woman, James began to take notes.

‘I wouldn’t do that Sir, if I were you.’

James stopped writing. The words were low, whispered and resonated with metallic depth. Holding his breath, pen poised above the page in a concrete grip, James turned slowly. He looked into her smooth eyes.

‘Thank you Sir.’

The voice came from over the sculpture’s unashamed rump; a museum guard stepped out and approached.

‘They don’t like it, you see,’ he said.

‘Who doesn’t?’

‘They don’t,’ said the guard, gesturing towards the rest of the gallery.

‘I thought that was taking photos,’ said James.

‘It’s not the gallery,’ whispered the guard, ‘this lot don’t like it. It makes them nervous.

James scanned the wall; motionless agreement surrounded him.

‘I think you’d better leave.’

At the entrance, James looked back. The guard was returning to his place in the corner.

‘Sorry everyone,’ he was saying, ‘it won’t happen again.’

copyright: flyingscribbler 2010.

The Orchestra

Botero's The Orchestra