So I mentioned a while back that I am writing a book about our rescue – the trials etc and also about how nature helps people grow and cope. Anyway, I wanted to pop the start here. it’s not been edited and is a very rough draft but I just need some suggestions: how does the narrative voice feel? Does it hold the attention? Thanks xx
I have always loved nature. My father was the kind of man who walked you through fields pointing out the hidden nests and dens I would never have known to look for. We would use his car keys to dig up a ground nut when he saw their green leaves under the hedges. We would crouch down by a ploughed field while he pointed out the baby lapwings and the parents calling from overhead.
Those were the memories I held the dearest of my father. He worked a lot when we were growing, and his free time he spent at the golf club, so those rare moments when it was just me and him were so precious and everything he told me felt like a secret shared.
My father was what I like to call a Wildling. As his daughter I am one too, although my sister is less so as she took after my bookworm of a mother.
A Wildling is someone who hears the call of nature from anywhere – a classroom, an office, bed – and can’t ignore it. It is someone who has the attention span of a butterfly and the mischievous nature of a corvid. Wildlings walk around barefoot so they can feel the ground beneath their feet more keenly. They love the fresh smell of the air around them and the song of birds. As children they play excitedly, coming up with games outdoors rather than on the screen of a tablet or mobile phone. A Wildling hears the cry of nature to it and runs happily after it.
When my father was a boy he lived on Dicconson Lane in Westhoughton. It was close to an old railway track, but perhaps more importantly it was close to Borsdane Woods. He told me of the many times he would escape from school to go hide and play in those woods. He knew all the paths, all the trees and hiding places. Even now, when we walk through a much changed landscape, he will point to a bend in the path and tell me of the old Oak that once stood there, or the best place to gather conkers in a little alley of “conker trees”. He likes to pass on all the knowledge he has and I think he wishes he’d had a son, but then I was never one to shy away from challenges he would see as “boyish”. I remember him daring me to walk over a fallen tree a good few feet over a brook. I was small at the time but I eagerly ran over and climbed onto it without a second thought. I also remember the horrified shouts of my mother as I shakily made my way across. When I was safely back on land she berated my father for encouraging me
So, my father, raised another Wildling in me. I spent much of my time in school daydreaming through lessons. I bored easily and had the memory of a goldfish when it came to equations and historical dates. I excelled at creative writing because of the freedom it held. Write what you want and let it take you wherever it wishes to go. If I had to read a book it meant that I had to sit still long enough to get through the pages and this was a challenge. I was lucky to walk away from school with anything at all – but a natural intelligence got me through several of my exams: that and the desperate devotion of my elder sister. I remember her helping me to revise for my history GCSE. She came up with new and inventive ways to force my attention to the page. I’m not sure how she did it but I am forever grateful.
Growing up my family always had dogs. It’s something that I have come to realise was part of the reason I was able to spend so much time outdoors. Dogs have to be walked and my father knew all the best walking places. There was a road called Breeze Hill that led to a path that looped through nothing but farmers’ fields. It took almost three quarters of an hour to walk round but it was a perfect escape from roads and buildings. In the distance you would see the mountainous outline of the “slag heaps” – a small landscape made from shale and other abandoned debris that the dirt bikers used. The fields were full of cows, and sometimes one would walk over and lick your hand with its harsh, braille like tongue. There were farmers working the fields in their tractors who would stop to wave, or horses that you knew by name who would come over so you could play with their ears.
Although not that long ago it seems like forever, and that ‘forever’ has taken its toll on my childhood home like you wouldn’t believe. Gone are many of the fields, the farmers and even the slag heaps.
I felt the pain of those ripped up hedges, trees and fields deep in that space where I was still the same little girl running to keep up with my father, or picking blackberries from those hedges until my fingers turned purple. I felt it also because I knew of all the lives that would have been lost or displaced by the diggers that had come.
People say that nature always finds a way – and perhaps that is true – but why should it always have to keep looking for one?