Unboxing 

I have just returned from the garage and now the dogs are even more confused.

Given that I am supposed to be resting my leg and doing only essential things with it, like kicking people who annoy me – kidding –  I have taken the slow and steady approach to getting ready for the mini-break we are having. Normally, we just chuck things into the back of the car, based on the lists I have drawn up, but this has been a slower and therefore more methodical approach.

For the last week or so I have been noting down titles and subjects that I want to expand on and maybe get some fiction drafted while I have a few days with nothing to do but stare at a back garden while Lucy tries to take down the sprinkler system, but it is hard. I have one idea for a novel knocking around – nothing too fancy, just a chick-lit-read-on-the-beach type of thing (that will make me a millionaire when the airport bookshops buy it, mwha hahahaha) and then these odd things that have caught my eye over over the last few weeks. One of these would make a terrific central idea for a poem – and probably has already been used to that effect – but I am no poet, so will need to work out how to wrangle the image into prose.

Annoyingly, somewhere in the ten or so boxes that we put in the garage temporarily when we moved here six years ago (and where, of course they have resided ever since), is a notepad I know I won’t have thrown away, but I can’t find it. It has a list of about twenty one-sentence descriptions of ideas for plots with a twist. I remember very clearly getting up one morning about ten years ago and just knocking them out. At the time I was doing a film course, so these were all ideas for short films, but I wish I could find them so I could have a go at fleshing some of them out. In my mind, of course, they are all pure genius, but I am pretty sure if they had been, I would have gone on to develop at least one of them further, surely?

Going through these boxes, is of course, lethal. I find all manner of files with short stories I have written that are still awaiting publication somewhere. I did submit one to radio for consideration, but that was in the days before I realised stories for radio work best when they are a certain length, and contain dialogue so the reader can vary the performance. Mine took about an hour to read and was pretty dialogue- light. It was written in the days when I was a bit scared of dialogue.

So the dogs, already rattled by the appearance of the suitcase, who have been engaged in a dedicated campaign of flopping and sighing since I dragged it from the cupboard, have now had the added complication of boxes to deal with. They follow me into the garage, a place previously only known as the scene of a number of exciting mouse-hunting safaris and watch as I pull books and files from boxes and flick through the yellow pages. They are not sure what to make of it all.

As I sift through the boxes’ contents, I know they are not the right files straight away, but there are drafts of letters I wrote, and replies received. There are short stories I have written, which I am still unable to get any distance from to re-draft, and there are folders with opening pages of stories and then handwritten notes for development. In the end I spend a good couple of hours in the garage, without finding what I went in for, but with a load of reminders of the writing I used to do.

So maybe I should not try and visit these boxes for inspiration just now, but let my mind unbox the ideas as they come to me – they are far more likely to be ideas I can develop, as they are bubbling about now, rather than dredged up from ten or twenty years ago. 

One of the things that was not there was a composition I submitted for my end of school matriculation. I found the exam paper, though. Nineteen or so subjects to chose from and the one that I had circled: Write a restrospective of your own funeral. Thankfully my response was handed in to examiners many years ago, never to be seen again. I can only imagine what my 17-year-old self wrote, given my flair for the dramatic, which was already fully developed. That one can definitely stay buried in the box.

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