Life Is Story and Stories Are Everywhere

Just recently I penned a guest post for another blog, the topic of which was the reason I write. I know people write for many, many complex reasons, and I think there is more than one reason that compels me to make up stories, but certainly one of the biggest reasons is simply to live more lives. To become other people, to step into their shoes, to create them and control them, to live with them and die with them. It’s the same reason I read, I guess. So that I’m not just me, living this one life.

What I also notice, as I go through my one, short life, punctuated by the lives of the people and worlds I have lovingly created, is how stories are everywhere. How they make up our lives and our worlds, and our day to day existence. Maybe you don’t always notice them, but if you look, stories are everywhere. Everything is, in fact, a story. Or at least, the potential for one. The inspiration for one.

When you get an idea for a story, it’s because you asked a question. You asked, what if? You asked, why? You asked, what is going on here? And you wanted to know the answers to those questions, so you made some up.

Children are wonderful at doing this. Natural play in childhood is nothing but stories and make-believe. I find this utterly enchanting. How they lose themselves completely in made-up worlds. These worlds and stories might make no sense at all to us, the adults, but to them they do. They set them up and let them roll. They start them out of nothing, out of the thin blue air. And they carry them on, for weeks, sometimes years.

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Look at this Playmobil set up. My 3-year-old got given a box of the stuff this week but it was his 10-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister who set it all up like this. I walked past it while tidying up and found myself wondering what was going on. There is one fellow, an outlaw, tied to the roof of a wagon, for instance, and I wanted to know why. There are a lot of rifles placed on a table in the sheriff’s office, and this was also obviously part of the story. The kids had dinner and went back to the Playmobil. I had to do other things, but I would have loved to know what happened next to all these people! This might look like play, and it is, but it’s also a story in action, one that I am sure will develop over the next few days.

A few days ago my youngest sat down to do some drawings on his chalkboard. I wasn’t allowed to join in, I was only allowed to watch. He started drawing big circles and little circles with lines joining them, up. He chatted to himself and when I asked about it, he gave the circles all names like Hop and Plop and Poop and said they were all holding hands because they were friends. They didn’t have faces, but some did have bananas! He then drew a square around them all and said they had gone into a house. This went on for a while, with my son adding further layers to the story. It was a lovely moment, art and storytelling interlinked quite naturally!

Children are just natural storytellers, and we should notice and cherish and encourage this as much as possible. Tonight, one of my older sons early creations, came back to visit us, and I was once again reminded how naturally children construct stories and carry them on through their lives.

When he was almost three, my older son used to get scared at night and get into our bed. We would ask him about this and he would talk about odd little creatures he called the Muckoos. In the day, his sisters would question him, and he would describe them in ever greater detail. (They were small and spiky and multi-coloured and liked to steal biscuits) They also kept him awake at night with their noise and they did lots of naughty things around the house. As the story grew among us all, my son started blaming the Muckoos when things went wrong. I wrote a story about it at the time, which I still have, and may one day do something with!

I’ve never forgotten the Muckoos, and I quite often call my littlest son a Muckoo, as in my mind it sums up a small child, mucky and messy and troublesome and cheeky! I sometimes call him Muckoo Madness, and he will retort; I am not Muckoo Madness!

Anyway, sometimes we have trouble getting the littlest one to bed, and my older son has been helping out the last few nights, by pretending to be a creature called Gavin, who loves stories. This in itself, is just gorgeous. He insists on sitting on a pillow on one side of me, while his little brother sits on the other side. They both get toys to cuddle and we all choose one book to read. Then ‘Gavin’ has to go back to his cave, and my little son happily goes to bed. What a way to use storytelling to encourage a young child to sit still and listen to stories! Tonight, my older son remembered the Muckoos, and ‘Gavin’ told us he was a Muckoo, in fact, the last of his kind. Quite a poignant moment, I felt! It was magical to witness this ‘story’ resurfacing after so many years and I am quite convinced it will continue to develop further layers and complexities…

And for anyone wondering what the last Muckoo looks like, my oldest son agreed to draw one for you!

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

It’s a tense time right now in the UK. The nation has felt divided since Brexit and the looming snap election has opened that wound and stabbed it with a dirty stick. My personal Facebook page is an endless landslide of anger, fear and finger pointing. And yes, I’m finger pointing too. I’m as angry as the next person and truly believe our country needs to vote in favour of hope and change. But this is not a political post. Nor a negative one. I need a break from all of that and decided to write a post about the things that make me cheerful. And not just cheerful, but bloody glad to be alive…

Walking barefoot

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We all did this when we were little kids. We didn’t think twice about it. We had to be reminded and nagged to put our shoes on before we went outside. Now people think you’re weird if they see you walking around without shoes on. But being barefoot makes me feel happy. It makes me feel calm, safe and grounded to feel the warm earth or the wet grass under my toes. It makes me feel somehow looser, sillier, younger and freer. Try it some time. I do it whenever I can. I truly believe in some powerful way it helps you to feel reconnected to the earth and to nature. And we could all do with a bit of that.

Cake

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Tea and cake. Coffee and cake. Wine and cake. Take your pick but make sure there is definitely cake. A nice big flat slab of it. Any cake will do. Me, I’m not fussy. (Unless it’s banana, ugh) Apple cake, carrot cake, coffee cake, fruit cake. Every now and then only a big fat squashy chocolate cake will do. The kind you get all over your face while eating. I think cake is another thing that makes me feel like a little kid. The whole act of making one, from cracking the eggs against the side of the bowl, to shaking the flour through the sieve, to sitting on the doorstep to lick the bowl out afterward. Happy times. I find making a cake cheers me up. I find eating cake has the same effect. Win, win.

Watching Children Play

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I mean the kind that doesn’t involve adults. Just little kids playing like no one is watching. Just totally lost in their own little worlds. Whether it’s building Lego, or pushing cars about, or making little figures move around. I find it spellbinding. I sometimes catch my little one holding two cars or two dinosaurs and making them talk to each other. ‘Hello’ says one, ‘hello’ says the other. There might be a bit more chat before it descends into a language only he can understand. It’s magical to me that he’s totally happy to be alone, to be playing with something he chose, to be directing that play the way his developing mind sees fit, and that it is all totally real to him. Warms me up no end.

Greenery

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This is one of my photos from the lane I walk down every day. At this time of year from one end to the other, it’s like a tunnel of green. There are Oaks on both sides, gigantic majestic relics of yesteryear, spreading their arms across to the other side, shading the way. Splashes of colour from rhododendron, dandelions, daisies, dead nettles and pink clover. Bees humming through the wild flowers. Pigeons cooing on the telephone wires. Crows flapping past in two’s and threes. And when I turn my head, wherever I look I see a wall of green. So much green. It’s the same in my garden, due to the trees we have and the trees around the area. They are all so huge that my windows are filled with green. It makes me feel like I can breathe easier, just knowing they are there.

Singing Loudly To Music

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I do this whenever I can and I have the worst voice ever. In the car, once the kids have been deposited and there is no risk of me embarrassing or deafening them, I turn it up loud and sing along. When I’m cooking the dinner, I put on an old CD, turn it up and dance around the kitchen while singing at the top of my voice. The best thing about music is the way it installs memories in your brain that will then later be exploded every time you hear that song. Tastes, smells, sounds, emotions, all will come rushing back in a an overload of nostalgia. Plus, singing and dancing cheer me up. As long as no one is watching or listening!

Night Skies

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I’m lucky that I live in a beautiful place with a beautiful garden, but wherever you are in the world, you can go outside at night and look at the sky. This always cheers me up and calms me down. Like walking barefoot in the day, sitting up to watch the sunset or lying on the ground under the stars, is the best way to feel reconnected to the earth. It just makes me feel steady and still. Sometimes I feel like the day belongs to the people, and the night belongs to the animals. It feels a bit like trespassing to sit and enjoy it with them.

Dreams

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When I was a little kid I dreamed about being a writer. I also dreamed about being a mother and working with animals. All of these dreams have come true. But you never drop dreaming, or at least you shouldn’t. I dream of writing more books and of writing the one that sees me find true success. I also dream of owning a vintage VW Campervan. A real old style hippy bus. I’d like to live in it eventually and leave the house to the kids if they need it. But before that, I want to go travelling. I want to jump in the van every single weekend with the husband the kids and the dogs and go somewhere we have never been before. I want to work our way all around the UK and then move on to Europe. I want it to have crochet blankets and wind chimes and lots of cushions! We’ve been saving up for nearly three years now. It’s a family thing. we’ll get there one day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my personal reasons to be cheerful list. There are so many more things I could have added it to it, like reading and writing, gardening and going to see live music. How about you? What cheers you up when the world feels like a scary place? What’s on your reasons to be cheerful list? Please feel free to comment and share!