IN MY ELEMENT - WHAT'S YOURS? by Valerie Laws
|Me, by 'my' sea where I live, lighthouse behind me.|
I’m disabled and can’t walk much, so swimming is my only form of hard exercise, and water is where I'm free and as good as most other people: I love it and am addicted to it. I often find my thoughts collecting round one of my writing ideas, a poem, a play, a novel, and lines of dialogue or ideas for plots or phrases pop into my head as I charge up and down. The pool is indoors, though the sea is just over the road - I don’t mind swimming in cold water, in fact I’ve done it when the heating has broken at the pool, and I’ve swum in water cold enough to stop your ribs expanding and to get
|My local beach: hot blues, icy waves!|
But I love to swim outdoors and my holidays and travels abroad all revolve around the question, is there a big outdoor pool? (A small pool is not worth getting my hair wet for, though in desperation I’ve managed in puddle-sized pools, swimming so many short lengths to make up a mile I’ve got dizzy with turning.) Is the sea swimmable-in? As a wildlife fan I love to snorkel too, and have seen and swum with amazing critters in the oceans of the world. The freedom of movement water gives us takes us back to our original homes in the ocean - there is even a theory that humans lived by and in the seas after evolving out of them. And that’s why our head hair keeps growing, while the rest of it doesn’t, for our babies to cling to in the water! If I can get a good pool I happily swim a mile every day for the duration of the trip.
|Christmas on the Great Barrier Reef: me and my new friend.|
When I snorkel I can’t wear fins, so I have to swim front crawl for hours at a time in the ocean, which is hard work especially in a wetsuit or stinger-suit. Swimming with my grown up children on the Great Barrier Reef with many species including reef sharks and best of all, turtles that chose to swim with us, make eye contact, and stay with us for ages, was the best ever Christmas day! I’ve had some scary encounters as well of course, suddenly face to face with bizarre jellyfish, almost mown down by boats, chased by a Titan Triggerfish. The sea is fundamental to me and my whole way of thinking. Because I live by it and grew up by it I know where it is, relative to me, at any time - if I go somewhere well inland it feels odd not having it nearby even if out of sight. The sea is dangerous, wonderful, teeming with life and ideas: I can love the sea without expecting it to love me back. Being on the beach and near to it in all its many moods and seasons has got me through bereavements, divorce, bad moods, creative hiatuses, its majestic, powerful, indifferent beauty adjusting my perspective.
|Poster for The Selkie, my stage play.|
The sea is a major part of the setting of both my crime novels, which are set in my neck of the woods, I mean rockpools. THE ROTTING SPOT is set on a headland, an almost-island joined only by a footbridge to the mainland. The sea lashes at the cliffs and is part of the plot in various ways.
The new book, THE OPERATOR, despite having a medical theme, also involves the sea, in particular the mouth of the river where spectacular storms send rainbows of white water crashing right over the pier, and even the lighthouse on the end. I’ve set a scene here which is full of danger and action even for my fitness-freak, and yes, superswimmer, heroine Erica Bruce.
|Tynemouth Pier, a location in my book The Operator.|
Do you have an element, a force of nature, or perhaps an urban landscape, somewhere that you feel at home, or that calls you as the sea calls the Selkie and calls me? Somewhere that washes into your writing, and carries ideas into your head?
THE OPERATOR (BRUCE AND BENNETT CRIME THRILLER 2) ON KINDLE:
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THE ROTTING SPOT (A BRUCE AND BENNETT MYSTERY) ON KINDLE:
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