The open eye…..


I’ve had blogging in mind for some time now, but blame Jo Nesbø and his gripping crime novels for eating into my writing time. Distraction is delightfully everywhere. And I’m a willing participant. Pinning my mind back down again is a problem. Inspiration and food for that imagination is all around us – in everything, if we only open those eyes. I’d be tempted to add…. remember to look up. However, as you’ll no doubt remember, looking up in Bergen can earn you a rather wet face. Looking down as a result of this actually led to one of my more unusual pieces of inspiration.


Whilst waiting to cross the road, and contemplating my sodden shoes, I spotted it. There on the pavement, plain and insistent on a slip of paper. “Du er ikke stygg.” Or – You are not ugly.

Wow, I thought. What a vote of confidence from the ground in front of me! I felt ridiculously cheered. And then it was off. My mind. Chasing the concept of more messages from inanimate objects around me. The same part of my mind that spent much of my childhood hoping to find a wardrobe which would grant me access to Narnia. Well….you never know.

This little interlude had the effect of heightening my senses for the remainder of the day – a reminder that inspiration is there for the taking. It takes practise, but you can get into the habit of observing life around you like an artist. Sizing it up and completing shapes. Adding colour palettes. Adjusting elements to suit the style of writing you prefer. I try to exercise these writer observation muscles even whilst apparently sitting in one of my favourite cafés.  A woman “parked” her dog right outside the window whilst she collected her caffeine. And I observed said dog for a few minutes, met his mellow gaze …  and wrote the equivalent of a thumbnail sketch of him. By which time his owner returned, the dog yawned and uncoiled his springiness into action, shaking his chocolate wool in careless elegance. They headed off up the mountain. My notebooks are filling up with characters, animals, scenes. And also feelings. It can be challenging to figure out how you convey exactly a certain emotion – it may feel clumsy at first. But if you have the presence of mind to whip out that trusty notebook whilst experiencing said emotion, a few key words can later transport you back to the accuracy of the moment.

Memory is unlocked by senses. I rounded a house corner recently and came upon a perfect tub planted up with pinks, a delightfully old-fashioned flower whose sweet scent transported me immediately back to my Scottish childhood when gardens were filled with rose bushes which actually had perfume, unlike many of the anaemic versions provided today. Of course, with my profession as a musician, my aural memory is often all too easily triggered. Sometimes my brain will obligingly produce a symphony for me to listen to all night. Every single page of the score. Not the ideal moment.

Before autumn … and the rain … settled in, I spent one of the last unusually mild days escaping the latest surge of tourists, enjoying my cappuccino seated in one of Bergen’s many exquisite backstreets. Here, the white painted wooden houses jostle for space, punctuated by quaint Narnia- type lamps and proudly enlivened with bright flowers flowing over tiny balconies. The sun reaches down between the buildings and finds my whiteness. Cobbles here require the kind of sensible footwear tourists may wish they had remembered to pack. And everyone is making wild guesses about the coming weather, judging by the frankly alarming assortment of gear people carry. The residents are barely bothering with a precautionary brolly.  My ears picked up bits of passing conversation which drifted in and out of earshot like a faulty radio. I remembered to look up. And considered the seagull, impassively occupying the lamp post. They are as big as cats, some of them, with startlingly human voices. They sound exactly like someone trying to imitate them, as they whine, complain and bicker amongst themselves. This one has legs which trigger another memory. When my daughter first began to draw, she would offer up pages covered with stick people. We dutifully queried the large  blobs drawn midway down the legs. “Those are knees of course!” came the slightly scornful answer that children manage so well in the face of adult ignorance. I laughed to myself whilst considering the similarities of seagull knees. Maybe a children’s story idea was hatching…..

On my way home, still with eyes determinedly open, lo and behold there appeared the second message of the day. A Post-it pink heart casually stuck to the wall of a house. “Vær grei,” it advised. “Be nice.”




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