Thursday, 5 August 2010

Writing Before Writing


I could write before I could read or write.

Picture this. A little girl less than three years old, playing outside a house in Lancaster. With her head of Shirley Temple curls she is winsome, prettier than she will ever be in the many years to come. She is chalking on the sill of the big bay window vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

She stands back. That looks right. Just like she’s seen her mother do. But then she frowns her characteristic frown. Is it all in one, or are there breaks in the line of squiggles? She runs inside the house and climbs onto the mantelpiece where she knows there are letters behind the clock.

Letters are big in her house these days. There are letters from Daddy who’s making aero engines in another city. Mammy reads these out to them all. They always end love Bill. There are letters from Cy, the Canadian soldier who stayed once and carried the little girl on his shoulders. Her mother smiles as she reads them. Then there’s the letter that made her mother cry, about Jimmy, whose plane crashed in America. There’s a photo of Jimmy on the mantelpiece in uniform: a sharp face with smiling eyes.

The little girl takes one of her Daddy’s letters and looks carefully at its neat loops. Ah yes. There are gaps between the squiggles. So she goes outside and with the corner of her cardigan – knitted in Fair Isle by her Auntie Louie – she rubs the sill so there are now spaces between some of the squiggles. Now she has done some real writing.

Vvv vvvvvv vv vvv vvvvvv vvvvvv v vvvv vvv


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