Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Take Notes When You Travel; Frightened in London

Buckingham Palace
Everyone is talking about London this week, and I’d imagine we
will for a long time to come. How often does the world get an
opportunity to see a real handsome prince and pretty Cinderella
like princess? It’s exciting and a good dose of optimism in a
troubling time. When I see all the images of crowded Buckingham
Palace grounds I shudder. When we were there we pretty much had
the place to ourselves. I love the travel pictures and look at them
often, hoping to return to London soon.
Tower of London Beefeater

The most important travel images are the ones I write down; my experiences. London offered many unforgettable experiences that made it into the tiny black book I carry when I trip around the globe. I never leave home without one. I have one from Paris, Dublin, London, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and everywhere I’ve ever gone.

For example, the Oregon Coast is a place that stirs my emotions and conjures up images that I use in the novel I’m writing. When I’m writing and need some imagery or emotion, I mine those journals for the great tid-bits that tend to snuggle in deep in the recesses of my memory. Like travel photos that make me go, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” I need notes to make me think “Oh yeah, how could I forget that?” I don’t know how I could forget it, but I can.
If you’re a writer, take notes on the life around you. Capture those tasty nibbles and nasty bits. Write them down for later. If you don’t you may forget how snug the hostess’s blouse was and that all eyes were on her as she moved across the room at the National Gallery dining room; a busty Da Vinci-esq Madonna clad in blue satin, come to life. Or what a London Pub’s warm beer and hot Sheppard’s Pie smelled like when they plopped it down in front of you, or the excitement of standing in a crowd of paparazzi on Downing Street when Tony Blair’s car pulled out of the gated drive and you missed it because you were blinded by all the flashing cameras and shoving ‘journalist’.

Tower of London Sir Walter Ralegh’s
writing desk in the prison.

Or how uncomfortable it was to stand on a street corner
surrounded by 20-30 Burka clad women – a hundred angry
eyes glaring down at me. I feared I may be pushed into the
oncoming traffic. It was the day the world news reported that a
British teacher was arrested for allowing her class in Khartoum to name a teddy bear Mohammed. We stayed close to the hotel that day. There was palpable anger in the streets; the huge Muslim population of London was protesting. My husband and I were very uncomfortable walking from our hotel to Buckingham Palace, the parks and Trafalgar Square for a few days. But, when I look at my touristy London pictures, I forget all that. It’s when I read my notes that I recall we feared for our lives one night; the prickles of angst on my skin, how we walked in silence, clinging to one another. How I’d only seen real fear in my husband’s eyes once, when I had cancer, and then again in the streets of London that week. You can’t photograph that. Well, I suppose I could have, but then I would defiantly have been tossed into the traffic. I read those notes and I think, “How the heck could I have forgotten that?”

So writers, take notes.


This entry was posted on April 30, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
Gloria Kempton

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