INSPIRATION: The Walls Have Ears (and Eyes)

(From a work in progress – ‘Appleheart’)

There is a saying: “The walls have ears.” It means that you should be careful of discussing secrets too loudly because you never know who is listening. I used to think it started in World War Two because of all the secret spies in dark, belted raincoats. But no… as early as 400BC in Ancient Greece they had listening posts installed in their palaces to eavesdrop on gossiping visitors.

But, sayings aside, walls really do have ears. And they have eyes too. The first time I learnt this I was five years old and at my grandma’s house. I was in trouble for stealing a biscuit from the cupboard without asking, and my punishment was to stand in the corner of the hallway facing the wall. That sounds strange, but Grandma was a retired Geography teacher and missed her job with all her heart. She would talk to my brother and I as if she was taking a class, and liked to test us on capital cities and river names.

Standing in the corner of my grandma’s hallway in my disgrace, the stolen shortbread still melting on my tongue, I placed my hands on the walls, closed my eyes and saw Grandad.

He stole in quietly from the garden in his gardening slacks, mud on the knees, holding a small bottle of golden liquid. Peering around like a burglar, he lifted the bottle, took a swig, and opened the hall cupboard. With supreme care the lid was screwed back on, the bottle lifted high and placed behind a tin of paint on the top shelf. Then he tiptoed back outside and came in again, this time full of noise. Stomping feet, sighing, swishing hands together. ‘Hey, Joan, put the kettle on, will you?”

When my grandma released me from the corner and I told her what I’d seen, her face drained of colour. She marched over to the hall cupboard, moved the tin of paint to one side and brought forth the half-empty bottle of golden liquid with a shaking hand. She surprised me with the force of the sobs that bent her in half.

When I saw Grandad that day, he had already been dead for two years from liver failure, and she continued to find hidden whisky all over the house for a long time to come, each bottle a painful slap in the face.


For more on ‘Appleheart’, which takes place in a haunted Art College :

APPLEHEART First Day Nerves

APPLEHEART Upside-Down

Thank you for reading!

The Odd Disappearance of Violet D’Ath and New Zealand’s First Gothic Novel

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I’m currently working on a top secret, wonderful project and was deep into some research when something quite odd happened… I stumbled upon an obscure article referencing New Zealand’s first Gothic Novel ‘The Ice Station’, written in 1912 by Violet D’Ath.

The storyline sounded so good I immediately decided to find a copy and read it. But it wasn’t that easy, as you can probably tell by my title. Continue reading

Writing and Cucumbers

Cucumber Fail

This is a picture of my cucumber crop so far. Impressed? In all my years on this planet, I have never seen such a curved cucumber. It’s a definite cucumber fail.

A while ago, I started to write a story that appeared, half-formed, in my head. And it was SO good. At least, the SEED of it was. I worked on it on and off for a few days and then it began to mutate into something that barely resembled the original idea. Suddenly I didn’t know where it was going, or even how to take it back. I was forced to abandon it.

But the thing is, you never need to throw writing away, because every piece of writing contains something useful. In the same way that the mutant cucumber can be turned into compost, I can add the disastrous story into the rich mix of practise and imagination that will nourish future stories.

As long as you keep on doing, nothing is wasted.

“Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”Denis Waitley

Alternative Fact #1 from ‘Blackwood’

 

Guy Garderobe

Christina realised her chances of getting away unscathed were hideously low without some kind of brilliant intervention, but her mind was so busy being terrified it couldn’t think of anything brilliant. So, instead, she settled for the oldest trick in the book which, at that point of time, was not very old at all.[1]

Continue reading

Odd Writers #7: Sitwell’s Spooky Habit

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Writers are funny things. When the dreaded writer’s block rears it’s ugly head, they often think back to when they were writing really well. What were they doing then? Had they had three cups of coffee instead of just one? Were they using a red pen or a blue one? Had they gobbled down cornflakes for breakfast, or Cocopops? Was their computer exactly 23.5cm away from the edge of the desk?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of: ‘If I do this, this and this, in that order, I’ll be able to write some good stuff today.’ But some writers can go a little too far… Continue reading

Odd Writers #5: Schiller’s Rotten Writing

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German poet (later called ‘the pop-star of his time’), Schiller believed in the magical power of apples. AND, after he died, his mate kept his skull on his desk. Beat that!

Goethe popped round to Schiller’s one day while he was out and decided to wait in his office for him to return. A strange smell pervaded the room, and Goethe prowled, his nose in the air, looking for the source. It was stronger as he approached Schiller’s desk. He neared, sniffing, but could see nothing to cause the smell. He frowned and sniffed again, tentatively pulling open the desk drawer. Continue reading

Odd Writers #4 : Robert Shields & His Enormous Diary

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Diaries are supposed to be full of secrets and intrigue. They are a place to store our wildest dreams, and crazy thoughts we would never let out of our confused little heads in a million years. The idea of someone discovering your diary should be an unthinkable thought, filled with icy horror.

Rev. Robert Shields’ diary was absolutely not one of those diaries. It was a whopping 37.5 million words long and filled 94 boxes – the equivalent of 500 good-sized novels. How did it get so big? He simply documented his life every five minutes of every day for a quarter of a century.

There may well be secrets and intrigue hidden within those pages, but the six pages available to the public contain treasures like these:

“7 a.m.: I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.”

“7:05 a.m.: Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used five sheets of paper.”

“6:30-6:35 p.m.: I put in the oven two Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese at 350 degrees.”

“6:50-7:30 p.m.: I ate the Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese and Cornelia ate the other one. Grace decided she didn’t want one.”

Out of all my ‘Odd Writers’ so far, Robert Shields has to be the oddest!

Odd Writers #3: Demosthenes

Could the humble razor be a major secret weapon for writers?

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Demosthenes, the great Athenian Speech Writer and Orator, thought so.

To keep himself holed up in his purpose-built underground chamber, working away like a demon, Demosthenes would often shave half the hair from his head. He would be so ashamed of how odd he looked that he wouldn’t leave the chamber until it grew back.

But, then, he lived a very long time ago.

Fast forward to nowadays and nobody would bat an eyelid at a half-shaved head. So we have to declare the razor defunct in the modern writer’s toolbox. Back to the drawing board 😉

(Photo Credit: Unsplash | David Sedrakyan)