I’ve just signed up for WordPress Writing 101 and the very first challenge is a twenty minute free write, no subject, just a ramble through the inside of your own head via your fingertips.
I’ve set the timer on my phone, so here goes.
When you say the words ‘Free Write’, for some reason I think of the radio programme ‘Just a minute’. Now, for all of you under 45 and those who don’t live in the UK, ‘Just a minute’ is a panel game where the contestants have to speak on a given subject without pausing, deviating or repeating themselves for sixty seconds. This is not as easy as it sounds. Have you ever tried to riff on one subject for sixty seconds without repeating yourself? It makes you realise how limited your own vocabulary is.
During the game, other contestants can challenge the person talking and take up the baton themselves, so that they then have to continue talking for the rest of the sixty seconds. I guess it’s a parlour game but transferred to the radio.
Obviously, the best parlour game is charades. When I say best, I mean best and worst. I’ve spent many a Christmas with family, half of us half-cut, forcing ourselves away from ‘The Great Escape’ on the TV to show that we’re more educated than the stereotype couch-potatoes that we actually are, trying to come up with a mime for ‘Dumbo’ without actually being able to think of anything that rhymes and still being politicly-correct enough not to pretend to be stupid.
Half of the time you’re playing charades, you have to explain what’s going on to the older, deaf members of the family, though you’d think they’d understand it better, as you have to use a lot of sign language to compete. The other half of the time you spend trying to explain the rules- again- to young members of the family who don’t remember ‘Give us a Clue’ with Lionel Blair or don’t know how to mime a cine-camera because they’ve never seen anything take footage that doesn’t have a microchip inside it.
There are so many things that I grew up with that my son would not understand- ice on the inside of my bedroom window because we didn’t have central-heating, black and white TV, only having three channels,Sunday closing for shops, the total lack of internet, Ipods and everything else that he loves and takes as part of life, part of life that has surely always existed.
I guess it’s the same for every generation. My mum grew up without any TV at all, only radio. Mind you, she also grew up above a grocers shop, making paper bags for flour and sugar out of flat sheets of paper and having to cut the mould off the cheese before weighing it out for the customer- a different age.
Memory is a weird and diaphanous thing. Once my mum’s generation’s gone, no one left will know what it was like to live that kind of life, that hand-me-down, making do, having the same-stew-pot-on-the-stove-for-the-whole-of-the-winter kind of life.
Is that necessarily a bad thing, though? My son recently did a project at school called ‘Has there every been a better time to live?’ They looked through several centuries with their varying technologies, lifestyles and living conditions and almost unanimously voted that today is the best time to live. For all the worries and problems and there are many, who could argue with them? Certainly in the developed world, anyway, we have better nutrition, life expectancy and entertainments than in any other period in history.
Try living through the fourteenth century- nothing but war, famine, civil unrest and Black Death, for pretty much the entire one hundred years. Truly brutish and short existences. I mean, people lived the whole of their lives, pretty much slaves to some over-fed warmongering lord, toiling on the land, breaking their backs to die at thirty of malnutrition or the ‘flu.
Do you think they were resentful, do you think that they thought ‘what the hell did I do to deserve this life? Surely being a slug or a butterfly would be better? At least they don’t know that there’s a king or a lord or an earl down the road how’s living a more comfortable, better-fed, more privileged life.’
I mean, are slugs jealous of birds because they can fly? Do moths get jealous of butterflies cos they can go out in the daytime and look at the sun? I dont think so. Jealousy or envy is a purely human and rather corrosive trait.
How much better off would we all be if we didn’t have ‘Cribs’ to show us how crappy our own lives are compared to the rich, famous and smug? Wouldn’t we all be happier without TV, without the media showing us all the awful things in the world and the internet enabling us to slag the next person off just because their hairs not great or they’re carrying a few extra pounds?
But then, if there was no internet I wouldn’t be able to do this challenge and meet all the people I’ve met since I’ve been blogging and that would be a very sad thing.
Firstly, my I say that yes, I have gone through, sectioning the text (it was too much of a block and unreadable, man) and I’ve corrected the misspellings (many) and added punctuation the odd word for clarification. I’m sharing this with the world- it’s gotta be slightly legible.
Interesting how much I can write (badly) in twenty minutes. I usually write so little, drafting, redrafting, copy and pasting. If people just wanted to lap up my BRAIN VOMIT (ooh, nasty), then I could’ve written fifty novels this way by now.
Nice exercise, though.