Friday, 15 June 2012

Setting myself a challenge Day 1......

It is 07.45 in the morning and I’m sitting in the garden, a large mug of tea beside me, the sun is shining, and the photograph embellishing this posting is of my view. I am at the beginning of over 2 weeks holiday and after a day of relaxing yesterday, I wonder; can I use this opportunity to develop something I’ve been longing to do for ages.
I’m not a good writer, but writing and ideas do flow continuously for me. I am dreadfully undisciplined. My mind is continuously flitting like a bee in a lavender field from one idea to another. For years I’ve had ideas for books on the go, only to have them stall after chapter 2 as I’ve decided to write another book, or have gone bird watching, whatever distracts me at that moment.
Discipline however is what makes a poor writer into a good writer. The best writers often set a period of the day to pen verse. I’m very much a morning person, and so, here’s my challenge. Often I wake with 2, 3 or more ideas buzzing wound my head. Can I write 1000 words a day on a topic which interests me on that day and have it published on the blog before lunchtime? I know I will fail, I’m an Aries male, my birth-chart apparently shows a fiery quick personality prone to sudden U turns of mental thought, but I’m going to give it a go.
And so by now I’m 253 words into the piece. This bodes well; where do I begin? What will be today’s topic? What sizzling composition will be the World premiere of this quest to write 1000 word a day this fortnight?
Well how about being unable to recognise a very familiar face.
On May 23rd I was invited along with a hundred or so other people to attend the National Trust’s first Octavia Hill Awards luncheon at St Martins’ in the Field London. Not only do I have a huge admiration for the work the National Trust do, as well as a long history volunteering with them, but Saint Martin’s in the Field is a church I’ve long wanted to visit. A perfect day was ahead of me.
You may recall back in late May we had a mini heat wave. And so it was on this Wednesday morning I unfurled myself into a jacket, new shirt and tie and headed off to the train station at Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire. Until 3 years ago all I knew of Wiltshire was Salisbury, erstwhile home of Prime Minister Edward Heath, and Stonehenge, erstwhile home of ancient folk. Those ancient folk would be shocked to see the site now, tourism rampant, fast food outlets and the prerequisite gift shoppe. For atmosphere I’d recommend Avebury.
I do go off at tangents, sorry, where was I? My partner Julie drove me to the station and while waiting for the 09.35 to Paddington, we chatted in the sun. It was hot already. Clear blue skies broken intermittently by the smallest of cotton wool weather clouds. House martins and swallows wheeled and circled across the Kennet and Avon canal nearby. A perfect May morning. 
I like this station, it is small, surrounded by pastoral countryside, with memories of Will Hay’s “Oh Mr Porter” coming to mind as the 3 carriage, stops-all-stations train set off. Seated on the train we were off and the adventure begins. Stopping at the rural halt of Kintbury we then reached Hungerford in Berkshire.
Alighting onto the train and then sitting opposite to me was a very tall, very English gentleman, in smart suit, carrying one of those wonderful battered soft briefcases which call out, I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and long before you were born. This slim gentleman of middle years had an academic countenance, I was puzzled. He reminded me of a friend from home, but it wasn’t him. This gentleman was famous; had I seen him on the television? Who was he?
We have all been there I suspect; we see a familiar face out of context and then wonder where we know this person from, if indeed we do know them at all. Sometimes recognition is easy. I once stalked the actor Anthony Head in Lyme Regis. Well almost. We bumped into each other in a café, literally, not metaphorically. Pardons, oh I’m sorry, and further pardons were made and he left the café. For the remainder of the day our paths kept crossing in other parts of the town. It was becoming embarrassing. Visions of the long arm of the law apprehending me in a Bertram Wooster style flicked through my mind. After the 5th encounter, I just smiled and said “it’s not your day seeing me again”. And that was the last I saw of him.
I fell into a reverie, who was this man, this familiar face sitting opposite me on the train? Was he a Member of Parliament? An actor of stage or screen? I didn’t think so. Sitting opposite me as we trundled along towards London it was hard not to keep looking at him. Diversion tactics were employed, looking out of the window, being extraordinarily interested in the patterns of the seat fabric. No it wasn’t coming; I just couldn’t work it out. Arriving at Paddington I followed him as he walked along the platform. At one point someone came up to him, shook his hand, and although I missed the words, it felt like a fan saying thank you. Even more intriguing.
However after a wonderful, if extremely hot luncheon in London, I arrived at Paddington to get the 3.30 train back to Bedwyn. There, on the platform, this same gentleman. No I wasn’t stalking him, pure coincidence. This time we were in separate carriages as we headed back to Wiltshire, but still I mused on who he was. At Hungerford he alighted and that was that.
From then until last week I have occasionally mused over who he was. It bothered me I couldn’t put a name to a face. Then, last week I watched a BBC4 documentary on the Wellington Bomber.
It was Sir Max Hastings.
There you go 1033 words written by 08.35. Will tomorrow be as productive? And yes, this is me being un-disciplined; I’m 33 words over my target. A publisher would not be amused…..


  1. Hi Andrew, Good to catch up with you again. Over two weeks spread ahead of you to do with as you will, how lovely! Good luck with your challenge, you have made an excellent start with a most interesting account. I remember I saw a woman in a store once who I knew was someone I recognised but didn't actually 'know'. I ended up puzzling over it for a long time before it came to me that it was the actress Claire Bloom...at least I think it was, the problem being that it had been so long since I saw her, I only had an impression left in my mind's eye. So whether it was really Claire Bloom or whether I turned someone into her, I shall never really know ;-)

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy your holiday...and your challenge and that you have some good weather! It has been dreadful here with hardly a butterfly, damsel or dragon to be seen!!

  2. Hi ShySongbird nice to hear from you, just been perusing your blog, or should I say revamped blog. Very nice, love the yellow wagtail photos.

    I'm going to try and write about whatever comes into my head for the challenge, rather than always writing about wildlife, however your comment on delayed spring emergence of inverts, may just be an inkling of an idea. Watch this space. Regards, Andrew

  3. Look forward to reading your musings Andrew! Remind me to give you some hints of "hidden places" to go in Salisbury. There IS an beautiful city under the gift shops and tourism... trouble is us Salisbury people like to keep it too ourselves :)

    PS Here's a couple to keep you going... have you been to Fisherton Mill Gallery? Worth a visit as it's right in town, housed in a gorgeous restored mill http://fishertonmill.co.uk/about-us/ also if you're looking for a pub with some history go and have a beer in the Haunch of Venison http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/foodanddrink/top-100-famous-pubs/8718245/Haunch-of-Venison-Salisbury.html

    1. Hi Jane, thanks for the comment and the encouragement. It's a challenge I've set myself. If people also like to read it, I'm pleased too. And thank you for the links to Salisbury must-sees. I shall have to wander.....

  4. Wonderful post Andrew. I remember once walking round a supermarket in Padstow Cornwall and seeing someone who looked exceedingly familiar but I couldn't put a name to the face. Some weeks later I saw Anthony Head (a real coincidence with the content of your post!) on tv and thought "that may have been the person in the supermarket". I was never sure though so glad you were able to work out who the familiar face on the train was.

    Look forward to reading more of your challenge.

  5. Hi Ragged Robin, he seems to get about :-)