Monday, 6 June 2016

Is it the plague?


I got back from Finland on Friday night and looked down at my legs which had been itching the entire flight. Goose all mighty! They looked terrible. My first thought was the plague or something similarly deadly, but then I remembered all the mosquitos from the evening before. The huge red marks must be bites, although I'd never had them as bad before. I sought some expert advice and apparently I might now be extra sensitive to Finnish mosquitos since I haven't been properly bitten by them for a few years. My immune system is becoming British! (I won't pain you with a photo.)
Anywho, it was otherwise a lovely trip with great weather (most of the time)! The main reason I went over was the theatre related meeting I've mentioned before. It went really well, I'm really excited and there is lots to think about! In addition to that I had a great opportunity to see my 4-week-old niece for the first time (hurrah!) and also slightly older members of the family and dear friends.
 On Thursday my friend/host and I challenged thunder and rain (relying on the weather forecast that promised nicer weather for the evening) and took a ferry to Vallisaari, an island outside Helsinki that was used by the military for many years but has recently been opened up to the public. We had a wonderful time. In most places nature has taken over the old structures and it's a very nice place to walk and have a picnic. It also offers great views of the sea and Suomenlinna. Unfortunately the mosquitos enjoy it too ...
But I can happily report that the bites are getting better. Maybe I should get a few Finnish mosquitos in a jar so I can "fortify" myself throughout the year? I'm glad I didn't get any ticks though, which are also common in Finnish nature. Here in London my main concern is the spiders!

Anywho, I hope you had a great weekend and enjoy the rest of the week!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Weekend Away

Hello, hello!

How are you? I feel like I've just come back from Miss Marple-land!
I can never take photos of the sea that makes it justice ...
Thorpeness is a very picturesque village by the North Sea. It used to be a small fishing hamlet, but then in 1910 a rich Scottish barrister bought the whole area and made it into a private fantasy resort for friends and family. It wasn't until the 70's that a lot of the properties were sold off and today about 400 people live in the village in winter, and about 1600 in summer because it's still a popular place for holidays and there are plenty of houses to rent on the beach and in the village. (There's also a huge population of bunnies, small and large, to the dismay of the golf course, I'm sure. But they wouldn't sit still for a photo.)

Thorpeness' two sights (in addition to the beach): The House in the Clouds and The Windmill:
We had a wonderful time. It's great to experience real quiet and real darkness. We went down to the sea several times a day, just to look at the water, breath and walk. One evening we sat on the beach and watched a thunder storm slowly roll towards us over the sea. When the rain finally hit us everyone bolted up and ran.
So peaceful. 
During the day we worked a lot. We sat in our little cabin, which had a delightful nautical/80s decor. I got through a first edit of a project and feel quietly optimistic. It's lovely to go back to a text after a bit of a break, with fresh eyes, and realise there might be something there. I wasn't completely deluded when I wrote the first draft.
My favourite place to write. It had amazing light!
A couple of evenings we then walked along the beach to Aldeburgh, about 10 kilometers in total, to buy supplies (the local village shop closed at 4pm and the caf├ęs and restaurants soon after) and to eat fish and chips. The coastal town is also a popular holiday destination and used to be the home of composer Benjamin Britten.
Yep, we went there.
So all in all, a fun, productive and refreshing weekend away! I would just say, if you ever decide to go, do reserve plenty of time and patience for travel! We encountered cancelled trains, delayed trains and trains held up because some emergency on the tracks. We then ended up with a taxi company that seems to have all kinds of issues ... On our way back yesterday they'd forgotten about our booking and we barely made our train home.
Whenever I got stuck I'd look out this window and feel calm. 
But we're here now, back in London and I'm determined to make this relaxed, slower pace last. I have about a week before I fly off to Finland for a few days. There's an exciting theatre related meeting booked in, and I'm also going to see my new niece! Hurrah! But we'll get back to that ...

I hope you had a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

And we're off!

... quite soon anyway.

Having grown up on the coast of Finland, I'm a child of water and woods, and so is my friend. Together we decided to ditch London for a long weekend and find a nice spot for a DIY writing retreat. We're leaving for Suffolk tomorrow. There might not be loads of trees (?) but we'll be right by the sea and we're counting on lots of fresh air!
A tiny bit of the Gulf of Bothnia seen from the Finnish West coast.
 I really look forward to getting stuck into some editing. Sometimes a change in scenery can be great for the creative juices. I'm also looking forward to walks on the beach, sitting in the garden with a book and a cup of tea (when it's not raining) and late night chats with my friend.
Trees are GREAT! Until they fall on top of your summer cottage ...
The little cabin we're staying in doesn't have wifi so I probably won't be blogging. I might do a bit of Instagraming though so if you're interested you can find me on madicken_m. I'll probably link the photos to Twitter as well, if that's your social media of choice.
By the time summer reaches Finland and you muster up the courage to have a swim, you're so pale you're practically see through ...
Right, enough self-promotion! I hope you have a lovely weekend and I'll see you when I get back from the coast!


Thursday, 12 May 2016

If the Emperor says

I'm reading some Marcus Aurelius at the moment. He was a Roman emperor, a Stoic philosopher and he's a hard taskmaster when you just want to hit the snooze button for five more minutes instead of getting up to do some editing ...

At day's first light have in readiness, against disinclination to leave your bed, the thought that 'I am rising for the work of man'. Must I grumble at setting out to do what I was born for, and for the same of which I have been brought into the world? Is this the purpose of my creation, to lie here under the blankets and keep myself warm? 'Ah, but it is a great deal more pleasant!'  ... 

... You have no real love for yourself; if you had, you would love your nature, and your nature's will. Craftsmen who love their trade will spend themselves to the utmost labouring at it, even going unwashed and unfed; but you hold your nature in less regard than the engraver does his engraving, the dancer his dancing, the miser his heap of silver, the vainglorious man his moment of glory. These men, when their heart is in it, are ready to sacrifice food and sleep to the advancement of their chosen pursuit. Is the service of the community of less worth in your eyes, and does it merit less devotion?  

So said the Emperor. Now I'm not sure how much of my writing is of service to the community but I do feel it's what I'm supposed to do. And sometimes getting something done means you just have to get up and do it. You can't always feel comfortable if you want to be productive and creative. You can't always wait for the right mood or inspiration, sometimes that comes along once you've actually started. (And sometimes it doesn't, but you still put the effort in ...)
I love a good coffee shop, but very little beats a sunny park (when there's also coffee in it). 
At the same time I do believe it's important to take care of yourself if you want to be productive and creative in the long run. Learn how and when you work best and how the rest of your life affects these patterns. I know my writing patterns pretty well by now. I know that I need to be well-rested and well-fed. That means going to bed at a reasonable hour because I want to be up early, and not skipping meals. (So even if I'm prepared to sacrifice food and sleep for my work, it's in my best interest not to.) I know when to take a break so my brain can work on its own without me yelling at it to figure something out. Walks are good for that. Coffee with friends too. Anything really that allows your subconscious to work its magic in peace.

Going into a blind panic is rarely helpful. Being kind to yourself when you're doing your best but still falling a little bit short is very important. Give yourself plenty of second chances. After all, the Emperor also said:

Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it to be beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity. 

Those are my thoughts anyway. (Apologies to any Stoics who feel I've taken things way out of context.) I hope you're all doing well and look forward to the weekend!


(Quotes taken from Meditations, Penguin Books, 2004) 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Just throw it out

Draft - A preliminary version of a piece of writing. (Oxford Dictionaries)

The word for draft in Swedish is utkast. I love it because directly translated it means outthrow. It's an apt description of writing a draft, especially a first draft, when you often take what you've got and just throw it onto the page to see what sticks. Go on! Something is better than nothing! Sure, sometimes a lot of research and thought has gone into the first throw and the aim might be a bit more precise, but other times a piece of work can also benefit from some rather instinctive, let's see where it goes, word chucking. (You can always tidy up the mess later ...)
Sometimes you throw something on the page and then you immediately throw the page in the bin ... 
This came to mind a few days ago when I was commissioned to write a play for a theatre in Finland. It's going to be my first play in the Swedish language, (Confused? Have a read.) and having only worked as a playwright in the UK, I'm quickly realising there's a lot of theatre related terminology I only know in English. I'll have to do a bit of word research so it doesn't sound like I've never seen a play in my life. It's all good though, because with this project, on top of a couple of other projects I'm currently working on, I'll be a happy busy bee for the foreseeable future. Hurrah!

I hope you're all doing well!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Prison Talk


How are you?

I've done this before, shared some of the things I read for research. (I love a bit of research!) Right now it's all about women's prisons in the UK, mainly in the 80's and 90's but also present day. It's a fascinating topic, but not that much has been written about it. (Orange is the new Black might be a popular TV series but I'm not sure it's the ideal background material for my next play ...)
When Amazon tells you a used book is in Very Good condition it apparently means it comes with all the pages. (Not necessarily that they're attached to the actual book.)
Two of the books I'm reading are A Woman In Custody and From The Inside. They are both true stories written by women who spent time in the British prison system in the 80's and 90's. Every woman's experience is of course personal, but what seems to surprise many is the care and kindness some members of staff show. Remand centres and prisons can be very harsh and restrictive so every gentle word, generous gesture and moment of understanding is precious. (You don't need to be in prison to appreciate any of those things ... ) Many women are extremely vulnerable when they are taken into custody and being treated with respect and dignity seems to make a big difference in how they behave towards themselves and others. It also affects how they look at the future.

I've only just started but look forward to learning more. If you have any tips on books or articles I should read or videos I can watch, do get in touch!

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

White lace and beaded shoes

Guess what, I went shopping for a wedding dress today! No, no, not for me (good heavens) but a dear friend of mine is getting married this summer and we went out to find her something very very nice to wear.
It was a treat, watching her try on the different dresses. I remember trying on my mum's wedding dress when I was about 10 years old, and already then it fitted me quite well. I was never one of those little girls who spent hours planning their weddings, barbie dolls at the ready, but I do recall playing out wedding scenarios with the kids next door on hot summer days. I didn't call the shots back then and I'm sure I ended up marrying my brother.
My mum and I also had a phase when we'd watch those reality wedding programs on TV together. (Come on, at one point it was pretty much the only thing on Finnish TV, foreign and domestic. It had to be super cheap or super expensive. Either the bride had to be in the dark or the groom. Brides battled it out amongst each other and everything had to happen over a weekend. The surprise wedding dress never fitted ... ) I would get so annoyed with the Bridezillas who made a huge fuss over absolutely everything and made sure they spent at least twice their maximum budget and then had to remortgage the house. Of course I know they probably got picked for those shows because they were divas to begin with and most brides keep their emotional meltdowns within reason, but wow ...
"My" bride didn't cause any kind of drama at all and we found a gorgeous dress! I felt honored to take part and it's always fun when you get to do something a little out of the ordinary. Now I just have to find a dress for myself, keeping the location in mind. Its going to be wonderful but hot!

I hope you have a joyful weekend!