I had the pleasure of attending my first event within the Ipswich Arts Festival, supported by the Writer’s Cafe (a platform for new writing), and hosted by local independent Coffeelink. It is set in a setting new to me from when I lived in the area twenty-five plus years ago, it has become a trendy marina and an attractive area.
The reading slots are for five minutes and I had no intention of reading. I did have a copy of Maggie’s Child in my bag but decided to sit back and relax after a busy, hot day and enjoy the hard work of others. My crime-writing friend Dave Evans, popped his name down on the list, as did several other writers. After a discussion (think persuasion of the forceful kind) with him, I put my name on the list. I sat back in preparation to get a feel of what other writers were about to say, found a quick passage to read and hoped it was short enough.
Their friendly, easy-going personalities put me at ease – until …
They decided to not go down the list in order but to see who had the neatest handwriting. As I have such an odd name and always write it out in capitals, (to save embarrassment of spelling it all out), GLYNIS SMY jumped out at them and I had the privilege of opening the evening.
I say privilege when I actually mean terrifying, stress-creating, palm-sweaty and altogether horrifying realisation I was to be first up at the mike. I’d never been to one of these types of event so didn’t know what was expected of me, and now I’d have no comparisons to make; no guidelines!
My butt had been in the chair for no more than fifteen minutes and in that time I’d glanced at the small piece to read, plus Maggie’s poem (I was a way down the list remember, thought I’d got time), now I scanned in the desperate attempt to find something else. Maggie’s Child is set close to the town where the event is held and I thought it would be the ideal book to read from but wasn’t sure opening an event with a woman giving birth was ideal. While standing in front of the microphone I cut the opening chapter down in my mind, swiftly glanced down to the passage I felt more comfortable with and stammered my way through my introduction of me, mumbled a rough outline of Maggie and shoved my head into the book. I could hear the words (and the silence), and could feel the evening sun streaming on my face through large glass windows adding to the sweaty palms and now over-perspiring forehead!
I did not wait to hear the ping of the five minute kitchen timer, I was done. The final words stood out and Maggie whispered, ‘end here. Finish where love no longer lives’. So I did. The polite listeners applauded and I went in search of my bag for something to pat down my forehead, upper lip and to gulp down the cool water awaiting. It was over. My turn was over, I could sit back and enjoy the evening without wondering about my turn to come, and enjoy I did! My goodness did I have writing envy! Such talent from the quiet, the confident, the flamboyant and the shy.
David grinned like a Cheshire cat and sat back smugly – until …
Yes! Mr. Smug, you also have neat handwriting and your name stood out on the list!
I loved it, he shared his story and it was disappointing when it finished, as were all the readings and just as you got hooked the kitchen timer pinged out its message.
Andy and Ed shared their work and the evening came to a close. Andy’s poem Granddad was one I’d heard before and it made me cry the first time. I held back the tears last night and thought to my dad and of how proud of me he would have been. The poem highlighted the loss of a person’s character through Alzheimer’s and as you know, I lost my father to that dreadful disease two years ago.
I have never seen your eyes-
nor looked into your heart-
it beats deep within-
the rhythm of life-
tick- tiny- tick tock-
timing is crucial-
days are long-
breath of life.
The passage I read from Maggie’s Child
His tiny fists punched the air. Maggie drew him close and held her cheek against his downy head. ‘Hush, little one, all is well—you survived. God be praised! Know this, I will always love you. My heart will always hold you close. It is torn in two as I look down upon your beauty. Forgive me, but I cannot burden you with my life. When I next hold you, it will be in Heaven when we are reunited in the afterworld. I cannot let you live in my world on earth. You deserve better, and my husband does not deserve you. He is not your blood, and I cannot bring myself to inflict him upon you. Your true father will never know you exist. He made his choices in life, as I have to make mine.’ Her voice was soft and tender as she crooned the only words she would ever say to her child.
Maggie wiped away the tears and gathered her belongings. The little boy lay in a wicker basket she had woven from soft wood. She had made a quilt in secret, from rags and old clothing casual farm workers had left lying around over the past six months. From the moment she realised her pregnancy, she had prepared for this day. Each item had to be anonymous—there could be no connection to her or the farm.
She tied a rag around her waist and wedged it between her legs to absorb any blood. It chafed as she moved. She was sticky and sore, and the walk across the field to the roadside was a long and painful one. Each bump of the basket tugged her insides. Now was not a good time to stop and adjust the rag for comfort.
Maggie reached the long main road leading into the centre of Redgrave village. It was tree-lined with large horse chestnut and sycamore trees. A russet carpet of leaves lay across the pathways, and the white tower of St Mary’s church was to her left. It indicated the south side of the village and marked approximately one mile away from where she stood.
Maggie turned her back to the majestic building and looked to the distance at a lone, large shape on the brow of a hill. Dark and dismal against the powder blue skyline was the outline of her home. It sat central to smaller buildings and appeared forlorn among the furrowed lines of grey, brown fields and dilapidated fencing. The north side; the side that love forgot.
Update on Maggie’s Child Amazon Ranking:
This week made me smile! Maggie knocked Thomas Hardy down a notch, she stepped on D. H. Lawrence’s head, and sat beside Danielle Steel.
3rd July 2015