Wandering on the beach, I pick pebbles off the sea shore. They looked like colourful jewels, all glistening, so I give them to Mum to put in her pocket. Later I turn them out on the floor of our hotel room. Oh no – what happened? My sparkling stones are now lumps of drab rock.
A few days later we meet the man on the promenade. He is selling string bags of pebbles that look as bright as my own stones used to be. Yet they’re dry. How did he do that? I polished them, the stallholder explains. I put them in a tumbler with sand and gravel and grit, for hours and hours, until they wore totally smooth. And now they look as fresh as when I first picked them up.
Perhaps I’ve merged two separate holidays in this childhood memory, and perhaps the actual dialogue wasn’t quite so loaded. But I did collect pebbles, and I did meet the man with the polished stones, and I still remember.
Pieces of writing are like those pebbles. Pulled fresh from the sea of your mind, they’re all shiny and enchanting. Time passes, and they look like rubble. Polishing is what’s needed – not to change what you’ve created, but to put it back the way it’s meant to be.