Thievery: Nesting by Lynsey May
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
One Thursday per month, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from Lynsey May.
‘Nesting’ is published online at Imagining Scotland.
Declan doesn’t want to find out what is stashed under the stairs, he’d rather run back up them and drink his post-work beer and talk about the sad, far away things happening on the news. But now he’s here he must finish looking, and even though the blanket doesn’t look as though it’s big enough to cover anything but a child, he is finding it hard to bend over and lift it. He wishes he’d brought something down with him and casts an eye around the dusty leaves and scraps of paper littering the floor, looking for a stick or something similar. There’s nothing to help him.
I suppose all of my stories are stolen from somewhere, somehow, but I’d say the majority of them are made up of so many fragments of here and there, it’s hard for me to work out which actual event inspired what. Not so for Nesting. There are parts of it that came from nowhere, but at its heart is a very clearly defined memory.
When I was small, holidays to my grandma’s house were a proper treat. As well as living right next to the beach in Cellardyke, as writer and English teacher, Alison Thirkell (grandma to me) always told the most amazing bedtime stories. Hearing her homespun tales, making strawberry tarts together and running down to the beach to play are some of the kind of childhood memories that feel so idyllic I can barely believe they are true. Lucky for me they are, I have photographs to prove it.
The holidays are mainly light in my mind, sunlight on the sand, the glow from the fireplace, but there’s smudge of grey on the lens, a child’s clumsy fingerprints. Closer, the smudge is a moment, a fact. I remember very vividly having a tantrum under the dining room table, refusing to eat the soup that had been put in front of me.
My grandmother’s head swung down, visiting me among the legs of the adults, a place I thought wholly mine, and gave me what for. She asked me how I thought I would feel if I’d spent a long time making something, and an ungrateful little girl said she hated it without even trying it. I can’t remember whether I stopped crying, whether I ate my soup like I was supposed to or whether I stayed there sulking for a while longer. I do know something sank in, and it never really left me.
I suspect I’d never so succinctly understood that other people had feelings before, certainly not people who had only one function in my mind, for example, to be my grandmother. In a way, it doesn’t matter why I remember it, only that I do. And smudges like that are destined to end up in stories, blighting the lightness of a page.
I’d like to think I ended up a more likable character than my protagonist is, but I was interested in looking at the ways a momentary experience in childhood can stay with you, transforming your perception of yourself and your place in the world, while the grown ups around you go on with their own lives, feckless, unaware or temporarily forgetful of their power.
BIO: Lynsey lives, loves and writes in Edinburgh, where she’s very happily surrounded by cafes, bookshops and the mix of Scottish sweetness and inherent bleakness she’s always trying to capture on paper. You’ll generally find her immersed in a book or procrastinating online, come and help her out on the latter at www.lynseymay.com