This is a blog about By All Means (Nine Arches Press), a short story collection by Tim Love. It's ISBN 978-0-9570984-9-7 and is on sale from Inpress

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Olga, December '76

A visit to Cambridge University Library sparked off this story. There was a little exhibition about Pink Floyd (a Cambridge band). When life dishes up symbolism like the strange-but-true pig story, it's a shame to waste it. So I added a plot-line to create broadly parallel themes: money and practical problems versus Art and Principles; artistic differences; people going their own ways, growing apart.

In the Afterword to her "The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge" novel, Patricia Duncker writes "Novelists need help with their inventions". She then lists about 26 names - experts in French law, Jodrell Bank, Hebrew, gardens, etc. I'm not very good with names, and I'm not a novelist, but I think I need similar help. I went on a 3-day peace march in the 1980s but I wasn't at all active. We passed through Cambridge - only the second time I'd been there. Somewhen on the march we stayed in a Friends Meeting House. I can't recall where but if it was in Cambridge it would have been where Cambridge Writers now meet. The only memory I used from the walk was that people were (probably correctly) suspicious of a guy who was taking lots of photos. I read a book about UK protest movements to fill in details, and found out that one tactic used by peace protesters was to live in trees so that they wouldn't be cleared to build bypasses. Residences have extra protection under law, and if a postman delivered mail to a tree-dweller, that made the tree a residence. I think the info-dumping's fair enough - the narrator's an academic after all.

The room in the story's an amalgam of many student rooms, with additions. The woman is a similar mix of memory and imagination. The main character, living for a day a flashback of how his life was, decides once and for all on his future. At the end we discover that he's no longer following that alternative lifestyle. Instead, he teaches about it, and gets his kids to unconsciously live out his erstwhile dreams.

Given that he's re-assessing life options, I think I should have more explicitly suggested he wasn't happy with how his life was going. That would have made returning to the Olga-style a more serious possibility. Also, I was worried about how she knew his term-time phone number (this was long before mobile phones). I decided to avoid the issue rather than try to give an explanation.

And here's a watercolour I did years ago.

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