We’re so close to Christmas, it’s practically here!
This is the second to last of these posts I’ll be making this year and how has it almost been a year since I started this project? Now, eleven months into it, I’m really appreciating these snippets of everyday. I’m so excited to, come January, mash all the months together and see the colours of the months, the change of the seasons, and what may practically be the essence of 2019.
But first, let’s contemplate November and what that brought with it!
I gave NaNoWriMo my best shot, and though I didn’t get to 50 000 words I’m really proud of how far I got!
Work work and a bit more work
Walks in the forest behind the student village
Tons of exam reading
A lot of meetings and student politics-work
My parents visiting, and a lovely concert with my mum!
A Christmas market
A very messy student flat as both my flatmate and I are mid-exams
The first snow of the winter!
Many an early morning
The first two exams of the semester (two down, two more to go)
A wonderful early Christmas dinner with Trine and her family
I am attempting NaNoWriMo this November! I’ve got 20 865 words, which is a bit behind schedule, but as I’m doing it at the same time as I’m preparing for my exams and as I’ve got work, I’m quite proud of those almost 21 000 words. I don’t think I’ll reach 50 000 words, but my goal is to at least cross the 30 000 mark. My story is a fantasy, magical realism-esque narrative about Mira – a young girl who is part of a circus that appears at dusk and leaves before sunrise. No one has ever seen the circus travel in closed off carriages across dusty cobblestones, it appears like magic, exactly where it’s needed every night. All the coincidental bystanders can remember of the purple tents and the silver eyes looking at them from the various booths and stalls, and through their own dreams and illusions, is a carnival appearing on the rooftops of the grey and dusty city.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any sort of prose-form creative writing on this blog, so here’s the first few paragraphs of the draft I’m working on for Nano!
The Cinerous Circus
No one had ever seen the Circus travel, not even the crew that travelled with it. Mid-movement, mid-laugh, and sometimes even mid-sleep, the crew of the Cinerous Circus would feel that little tingle in their fingers, that smoke-like sensation of having themselves dissolved into the powers of the Circus as she decided on a new route, a new destination, a new home for the night.
Stood by the foot of her bed, arm raised towards the book case on the wall, as if she had just been interrupted in putting back a book, Mira came to. Her fingers were still curled around a paper spine, but the book was on the floor. She shook her head for a moment, before letting her hands quickly pat their way down her front. Arms, legs, coat. She had everything she needed. Good.
She reached a hand into the soft, worn lining of her dark grey and purple coat. Her hand came back up clutching a card. The back of the card was adorned by green sprigs of ivy that seemed to be alive, moving, wrapping around themselves, accompanied by a spatter of stars, gathered in unfamiliar constellations.
She looked at the card. A lone figure slinking away from peering eyes, away from crowds with their backs turned on her. Seven of swords. Thief? The feeling of being watched came over her and made the hairs on her arms stand on edge.
“A girl is quickly flitting through an unfamiliar street. She has stolen something which belongs to her. She has stolen something which has been hers all along.”
Mira’s tarot readings always read like stories in her head. She simply opened her mind and let the stories find her, let them linger in that space between her consciousness and her memories, that space she was starting to realize that not that many people could reach for. This reading made no sense. This was a new city, a new rooftop –- why on earth did she see stories of thieves stealing what was already theirs? Why would thieves steal what was already theirs in the first place?
She turned to look over at her mother’s bed. She was there, black and blue hair shining in the light from the bulb hanging on a single string in the ceiling. It was a shy little light source, with a black cast iron frame. It looked heavy, but Mira knew it wasn’t. A lot of her mother’s possessions looked like something they weren’t. A lot of Circus looked like something it wasn’t.
Her mother was just coming to. She was sat on her bed, hands neatly clasped and placed in her lap, like she’d done this a thousand times before. She had done this a thousand times before. So had Mira, to be fair, but the excitement of waking back up without having the faintest idea of what would make itself visible to her outside of their little tent, always made her too excited to be as calm as her mother.
Mira chewed her lip for a moment. The card she had just drawn dampened her excitement a bit, but she was determined not to let it worry her too much. Maybe just a little bit.
She went to the slit in the tent, the make-shift door that could be drawn. It hushed all the sounds from the outside world better than any wooden door ever could, and any fabric door ever should.
Oftentimes, all she could see were chimneys and rooftop ladders and maybe the odd, very tall, tree. Other times she saw birds and clouds passing in quick formations. But sometimes, oh, the very best of times, she could see other houses. She could see windows, or bridges or clock towers with clocks just striking midnight.
“What can you see out there?” her mother asked. Mira put the card to the back of her mind, banished it to thoughts she were to think tomorrow and focused on what she could see. This was their game. Her mother stayed seated on the bed as Mira slowly pulled the tent slit open, just enough to have a peak outside. She looked out at the town.
“I can see a chimney,” Mira told her mother, who closed her eyes and nodded. Mira could see her left-hand raise and start to move in the air in front of her. “And I can see birds, but they’re not awake, they’re lying on their nests.” Her mother nodded again, hand still moving. She was sketching, her parchment was the thin air and she had no ink or quill or anything to set a mark. But her lines still appeared. Curved lines through the air, drawing up small grey birds that came alive under her hands.
“Tell me about the stars,” her mother
said. Mira peered further out through the slit in the tent and looked up.
“There is a great big one right above us,” Mira said, “and it’s surrounded by three others that makes it look like the stars have gathered for tea. They’re flickering, like they’re dancing.” Her mother nodded, her hands never stilling. The buildings and the roof tops and the chimneys, all existing in grey lines, like the outline of a shadow or the seams of a smoke ring. Mira looked back in through the tent door, watching her mother’s hands. She always struggled with looking away when her mother drew up her images. But she knew they weren’t for her, and so she looked back at the town.
“Oh,” Mira exclaimed, “I can see a
tower! A big tower.”
“Does this one have a clock in it
too?” her mother asked. The last town they’d been in had had a tower with a
clock in it, but the hands of that clock had been as asleep as only a clock can
be in a town of mourning. Mira nodded her head. Her mother hadn’t opened her
eyes yet, but she noticed the nod. Maybe she heard it. Mira had always been
sure that her mother never looked with her eyes anyway.
“And is it about to strike twelve?” her
mother lifted her hands in the air, putting them behind the image she’d made,
framing it, protecting it, making it clearer to see against the colour of her
hands, instead of the backdrop of her dress.
Mira nodded and turned back so her head was inside the tent again, and in that second, the big bell rung. Mira’s mother was prepared, and in a swift move, she pushed her hands in front of her. She pushed the smoke line drawing away.
It kept its shape, and it was as if the
grey birds flew past Mira in a little flock, like the bell tower floated past
her on invisible wings. Mira loved this part of arriving at a new place.
She loved to see how her mother always managed to draw up the perfect rendition of any new town, before sending it on its way, grey feathers floating through the air. Mira never knew where she sent it, but she could only hope it drifted on its way before hitting some poor passer-by over the head.
“Nothing’s ever so good you shouldn’t let it go,” her mother said. She always said that, timed like clockwork.
Then her mother walked over and joined her by the tent flap which was partially opened. She put a hand on either side of the curtain, and with a move of her arms that straightened them all the way out, she flung the curtain open wide.
«A new night, little bird,» she said to Mira, as she looked out at the familiar Circus on an unfamiliar rooftop, «a new place.»
Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or have you done it before? How’s it going?
Okay, I promise I won’t start this post with “how has October come and gone already, this year is flying by so fast!” but I guess, by saying I won’t, I allowed myself to do it anyway. October’s been a strange and busy month, with lots of traveling, a lot of assignments and uni work and thankfully, some wonderful moments with good friends. The weather has also made it perfectly clear that we’re reaching the last months of the year now, as the winter coat has been dusted off and there are no valid reasons to not put on mittens and a hat before leaving the house. Secretly, I’m really here for it.
October has brought along:
Two trips back and forth between home-home and uni-home
My mum’s birthday and thus a lot of cake, lovely food and family time
Some wonderful bonding time with my little nephew
Oliver’s baptism – which was a fairytale in itself
A lovely trip to the place my sister’s husband is from and getting to know his family better
Learning a new craft! (It’s called Hardangersøm, a type of traditional Norwegian embroidery, and I love it!)
A lot of beautiful concert experiences at The Church Music Festival in the Cathedral
A lot of studying, assignment work and exam revision
Some very productive study sessions with Trine, plus a lovely weekend with her lovely family
Halloween spent binging Netflix-shows and eating all the sweets that no children came to collect
It’s a Sunday morning, and I’m in bed with a cup of tea.
My Norwegian Language and Text book is laying discarded on the floor. I’ll pick it up in a moment, I think, I just need to sit here a little longer. Slowly, tired hands reach for all the notions I take for granted when I speak, notions I’ve now worked to put names and categories and theories to.
Learning the in depth grammar of your own language is a strange experience. Suddenly you start to question the syntactic structure of every sentence before it leaves your lips. No words are uttered without scrutinising and analysing their semantic meaning, and you start to think about the oddities of the language you grew up with.
One part of me isn’t too sure about all this “thinking”. It wants to keep the intuition of language alive, wants me to not think too hard about anything, really. Another part of me loves it. It feels like mindfullness, like I don’t take any words for granted any more, like I’m actively appreciating every sentence.
Cliched and a little pompous, I know. But for the last 5 years, I’ve been so caught up in “perfecting” my English, so adamant to drop my accent, to never have to stop to look for the right words, that I feel like I’ve neglected Norwegian a bit. Like I’ve shoved her to the back of my mind, given her a ragged blanket and said “I’ll be back for you in a second,” only to forget about her as her tea has gone cold. But now, as I’m revising for this last exam of this degree’s first year, I’m gently untangling the cobwebs from her hair. I’m taking the cup from her hands, refilling it with piping hot tea, and giving her blanket a good airing out.
Norwegian is the language in which my grandmothers sang me lullabies, and my parents wished me luck before every first day of school. I wrote my first stories in her, and read my first books. When something shiny and new came along, I neglected her for a while, thinking this new language was so much prettier, much more interesting and useful, but studying the science behind how she works as a language, has really made me appreciate her again.
The last couple of weeks have been intense, stressful and honestly really nice. The study group have gotten together to exam-revise, and we’ve made sense of a lot of confusion. We’ve read, we’ve asked questions, we’ve done our best. Copious amounts of tea have been consumed, we’ve bickered and gotten frustrated, but we’ve also left with more questions answered than asked. Throughout this year together, we’ve taken on British and American politics, international communication, English language history, a lot of in depth grammar and linguistics; all things we knew embarrassingly little about before starting this course. Now we know a lot and I’m proud of us.
And so when I take my Norwegian exam tomorrow, I may stumble over some questions, because Norwegian is a stubborn language, and with her tongue stuck out, I think she wants to get back at me for leaving her in her corner for so long. I may mess up some verb forms, some tempus and modus-conjugation, maybe confuse “konjunktiv” for “indikativ” or something else with a complicated name. But that’s okay, cause I’ve finally caught up with my language again, and from now on, I’ll make sure we won’t grow apart.
Some days, “exam revision” turns into “the weather’s so lovely today,” and “I should really finish this paper,” becomes “you feeling ice cream?” Long hours hunched over books have to make space for hours sat in silence on the docs, phrase structure grammar admits defeat to sea gulls and the sound of lazy waves, and I can feel myself take a deep breath.
Some days. Some days. Days like today. When hands clutch ice cream cones instead of pencils and “to do” lists are called “today I may” lists, those days I like to stop for a second, lap up some early April sun with closed eyes and a relaxed jaw, and remind myself that life is pretty great.
And so it is time for Christmas music, lanterns and candles, and the annual return of the Grinch pyjama trousers!
This WWW Wednesday isn’t all that Christmassy, except from one book, just because I’m really bad at reading Christmas books! This time of year I always want to be like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, where she says she reads Pride and Prejudice every Christmas, but I guess I still just haven’t found my Christmas book yet. (Okay, this is a lot of Christmas)
However, I’ve been reading other things these past few weeks.
WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, and anyone can join the fun! All you have to do is answer three simple questions (“The three Ws”):
-What are you currently reading?
-What did you just finish reading?
-What are you planning on reading next?
I am currently reading Snøsøsteren by Maja Lunde and Lisa Aisatio
This book is something different. It’s a story that makes you feel all the big things, by showing you the small, if that makes sense? It’s about a boy who’s lost his sister and is worried that Christmas will forever be cancelled now, but then he meets a new friend who apparently will show him that grief and mourning and rejoicing over things like Christmas candles and hot chocolate with whipped cream isn’t mutually exclusive.
I haven’t gotten very far into it, because it’s like an advent calendar in a book; 24 small chapters, “a Christmas story in 24 parts that creates the magic Christmas feeling so familiar from the works of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and H.C. Andersen’s works.” 24 parts that will make up one wonderful story just in time for Christmas Eve. Also, the illustrations are gorgeous and done by one of my favourite illustrators, Lisa Aisato. You should definitely check out her work!
Blurb (translated): Christmas Eve is coming up, a day that’s also Julian’s birthday. Usually, this is the best day of the year, when the Christmas tree is decorated and the candles lit, the air filled with the scent of clementines and gingerbread, and the fire in the fireplace is crackling contentedly. But this year, nothing is as it should be. Julian and his family are carrying a sorrow in their hearts after their sister Juni died, and Julian can’t help but think that Christmas is cancelled. Then one day, Julian meets Hedvig, who reminds him how lovely Christmas can be, and Julian starts wondering if maybe it can be Christmas after all?
Just finished Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Oh, this book’s got me in a mood! I really wanted to love it, but it felt like it was just trying to do too much, and I struggled to get to the end. It’s supposed to be a sci-fi “space opera” sort of love story, but the fantasy elements are so well-written in it that the sci-fi feels a little bit out of place. The characters, the dialogue and the setting all feel like epic fairytale settings and I kind of wished that the author would have stuck with that. It also felt like it ended quite abruptly, while the start dragged on for a while.
Still, it is a really good book. The story is interesting, the world-building intense and so detailed, and the idea of someone acting as a body double to the monarch, and what playing the role as someone’s duplicate might do to a person, is really interesting. The relationships between the characters are also well-written, I loved the shifts in the dialogue between Maram and Amani, and the moments between Amani and Idris.
Blurb: The crown of Dhiya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken. But I was not a slave and I was not a spare. I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.
Next, I’ll be reading: The name of the wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Giving this another go!
I got this book for Christmas in 2016, and so many people have told me it’s their favourite book ever. I’ve started it a couple times, but something’s always gotten in the way of getting further in than a chapter or two, but not this time!
Blurb: I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.
Do you have any books you have to read the second December starts? Any Christmassy reading traditions or recommendations? Please drop me a comment!
I’ve missed posting bits and bobs on this blog lately and really hope to get back into it again, soon! Uni’s taken over my life a little bit at the moment, but the last month or so has been a really good one. Crazy busy, but good.
The last few weeks I have been lucky enough to:
find the world’s smallest cinema screen with a good buddy
visit too many Christmas markets for it to still be the first week of December
do some translation and interpretation jobs
enjoy some very light snow
have some late nights fighting off a cold
study for multiple exams (currently done with 1 of 4)
do a lot of stand work with a charity I care about
make a makeshift Christmas tree out of a tiny plastic palm tree
have some really good cake
try and fail to make a gingerbread house with some wonderful people
and have a lot of tea
I haven’t managed to get in as much reading time as I was hoping, but still, I’ve got what I needed done. Plus, I’ve found a new flat from January on, and managed to decide on where to do work experience and where to study abroad next year! Back to England, I go, to work hopefully in Sheffield and to study in York.
I really want to make some more Christmassy posts throughout December! Both because I’m really excited for Christmas, and also to think about stuff that aren’t my exams.