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The importance of scribbling ideas down & the musical backdrop to my third novel

Back in 2012, I wrote a very short piece for the London Literature Project. The idea was to create a fictional snapshot in exactly 60 words, focusing on a place in London at an exact time. I was living in Twickenham, a suburb of London next to the Thames. I knew I wanted to set a novel that started there, on Eel Pie Island to be more precise, a tiny island that once played host to musical legends The Rolling Stones and even Bob Dylan. I had no idea , however, where my novel was going back then. So I just penned a few lines:


23:30 Island of Memory

I’m walking over the bridge to Eel Pie Island, a tiny smudge of green and grey when it rises from the Thames, unbidden, a memory from my youth: the pre-bridge clash of wooden oar against the riverbank, clambering desperation as the music beckons and ensnares us with no hope or need for escape from dusk till dawn; the lost generation.

Eel Pie Island

Strange thing is, I had completely forgotten about these few lines until yesterday. Now immersed in my third novel, they came back to me suddenly when my character walked over the bridge to Eel Pie Island, many years after he danced on the sprung floorboards as a teenager to the beats of the Eel Pie bands.

It occurred to me that we never know what will happen with these ideas we have, which is why we have to write them, even if they are just a few lines, or even a few words. Back in 2012, publication was still a dream. But I never felt anything other than a writer, for as long as I can remember. So I kept writing flash fiction, longer stories, poems, haiku, even the odd play here and there. And now, four and a half years later, my protagonist Jim is walking over the bridge and remembering this intensely lived time from his youth. At the same time, these few lines are stretching out their hand over four and a half years saying to me, See? This is why you had to write those words in 2012. 

But my postscript to all this is that if you write, I’d really encourage you to keep scribbling those ideas down, no matter how small – you never, ever know when and how they are going to resurface.

A couple of weeks ago, I put a call out to the baby boomer generation amongst family and also through the facebook book groups I’m part of, asking what songs they were listening to in 1967. I thought it would be really interesting to hear the songs that would have been the back drop to Jim’s life in Twickenham in ’67. Of course, I could just have looked this up myself, but it’s been much more fun involving people.

I put the results on this youtube playlist – do have a listen if you feel like having a little trip down memory lane. And if you want to add another song, drop me a line and I can keep adding to the playlist!

Thanks for reading this. To compliment this blog post, read about Music as a creative force in writing, How to get kids writing with jazz & A call out to all you baby boomers for 1967 memories. ♥︎


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What readers are saying about The Girl and the Sunbird:

‘This is a poignant, heart-wrenching, impactful story that I won’t soon forget.’

‘I envy anyone who is still to read this.’

‘It’s one of those books that weaves itself into your soul and stays with you long after you reluctantly read the last page.’

‘A brilliant book, an epic story, this book deserves to be read by everyone.’

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