Wednesday 21 August 2019

A change is as good a rest by Anne Booth

I am just at the end of a lovely holiday, first in Northumberland, and then in Yorkshire, visiting relatives.

We took our very elderly dog, Timmy and our younger dog Ben with us. We were a bit worried about Timmy travelling and got some calming tablets and filled the back of our VW van with his carpet and a dog bed so he would feel at home.

What we didn't expect was Timmy getting a new lease of life when we took him to Lindisfarne. This is a place we have been to often over the years - he was only 9 months when he first came on a family holiday there. We stayed in a rented house on the island for two weeks, and he had lots of long, happy walks by the sea and, famously, ate my husband's cooked breakfast in one enthusiastic golden-retriever-gulp. Over the years we came back often to stay in the house, and then even when we were staying on the mainland, we would always have a day trip to Lindisfarne. Now he is nearly 14, and most of his eye sight has gone, and he has a tablet every day to help him walk, as his legs can get a bit wobbly, and he sleeps a lot and only has very short walks. I worried about how he would cope on holiday, but we couldn't leave him in kennels, and we all needed a break. We were prepared to take turns to stay back in the cottage with him as he slept, and not go out much.

This year, we were staying on the mainland but booked a dog -friendly pub on Lindisfarne for a family birthday celebration meal and we took both dogs with us so nobody would be left behind. It felt as if as soon as Timmy got there, and sniffed the air, good memories came back. He wagged his tail and looked very happy. We took him back to Lindisfarne the next day, and he walked with a happy bounce, his gorgeous tail waving as he trotted along. We don't know if he remembers his puppyhood, but it was so lovely to see his energy briefly return. We took Ben for a longer walk, but left my daughters with Timmy on the beach, and my daughter took this gorgeous picture of Timmy. I think he recognised the smells and just really enjoyed himself.

So what has this to do with writing?

 I have to go to Lindsfarne/Holy Island whenever I go to Northumberland. I, like Timmy, love this place so much, and it played an important part in my latest novel 'Across the Divide'. This 'thin' place gives me life too, and this time, even though we weren't on the island, we ended up going to visit it at least 4 times in one week, at different times of the day. One of the times I met the lovely illustrator Helen Stephens and her daughter there, so that makes me love the place even more! I will never tire of beautiful Northumberland. It makes me so happy. We also went to Alnwick, which I love, and where I had lovely memories of family holidays.

I think I need, as a writer, to re-connect with things which made me happy when I was younger. I used to draw all the time as a child, and I just don't do this any more. So I am going to try and do more illustration. Last year I loved doing some courses with Claire Alexander at The House of Illustration and have signed up for more this winter, and in February there I did a wonderful collage course with the illustrator James Mayhew . I  am very excited and lucky, as I am going to go an an Orange Beak Illustration retreat soon, and I hope that I can properly recover my childhood confidence and delight, just as Timmy re-discovered his bounce when back in Lindisfarne.

I also need to not be scared to try new things. I have signed up for a part-time Theology degree. My faith has always been very important to me,  and I have always also been so interested in Theology as an academic subject, and think it is very relevant today, and the place where I am going to study it is really beautiful. It will take 6 years if I do it part-time, 3 years if I do it full time. It might be that circumstances will mean that I can't finish it, but I think, like Timmy, I need to breathe fresh air and remember old feelings, and I hope it will give me, and my writing, a spring in my step.

What gave you joy when you were younger which you need to re-connect with now? What would give you and your writing a new spring in your step?

Here is another picture of Timmy at Lindisfarne. He is living his life to the full, smelling every smell! I love him so much and am so lucky to live with him.


Joan Lennon said...

I'm going to Lindisfarne later this week and will think of you and Timmy! And yes, here's to new ventures and rediscoveries!

Anne Booth said...

How lovely! I felt an ache in my heart leaving it, and am seriously thinking about moving to the North East! Have a wonderful time x

Penny Dolan said...

Beautiful and what a lovely story. Good wishes with your course, Anne, and your time of renewal.

Feeling slightly jealous about all this mentioning of Lindisfarne. May have to make my own plans too.

Susan Price said...

Lovely blog, Anne: all of it so true. Good luck to both you and Timmy - good luck with your courses. May you find in them what Timmy found on Lindisfarne.

Moira Butterfield said...

Thank you, Anne. This is VERY good advice - to reconnect with one's childhood joys. I intend to sit down today and really think about how to do this.

Sue Purkiss said...

I was at university in Durham, and went to Lindisfarne quite often then and since. It's a very special, magical place, and it's too long since I've been there!