Nobody told me I was going to write a book. I’ve always read obsessively, I’m the sort of reader that will read the cornflake packet six million times over breakfast, simply because it has words on it. I’ll daydream in the bath, on the sofa, in bed at that time in the night when all decent folk are snoring and allow the images to pass over my brain. But I’ve never actually written them down.
Until last year. Last year, the sleep deprivation finally hit big time. My normal medieval pattern of waking up halfway through the night for several hours had been severely compromised by ten years of children not sleeping either. Several hours on either side of my normal pattern I’d be disturbed. The long hours of persuading small children back to bed and stopping them from waking the wage earner up. Yes, I know it’s the twenty-first century here, but he does earn the money and also has to get up early, so sharing the waking is not an option for us.
Lying on the edge of your bed, with a small child plastered to your back or sitting in a darkened room and waiting for your child to drop off enough not to notice you leaving does funny things to your brain. That strange feeling in the night becomes something else, a presence. Staring out over the rooftops, expecting to see a figure up there. A presence uncompromising as the constant getting up in the night. It refused to let go.
The story spent well over six months rattling around my brain, gradually filling out to the point where I got irritable if I forgot parts of it. Shortly before the summer break last year, I took the plunge, I had to get this thing out of my head.
Working early in the mornings while the husband had gone to work and the children were in bed. I stole our only laptop. The one that had the children’s favourite game on it, for me ‘to play games on’ in the evenings. Complaints from the children, “Dad, Mum’s on the computer...again...” And words flowed out. The endless typing of the images seen in my head, at a snails pace, walking through the castle with all senses switched on. Smelling the dust and rot, feeling the terror of not being able to escape, trapped. The knowledge that mine isn’t a twenty something rubber band heroine who can bounce back from any problem. She’s real, she hates heights and she wants to get back home.
Because that’s what it was about, being trapped, having to do the things I had no choice about. Home wasn’t reality, having no sleep and looking after children. It was a reality of not having to do the chores of every day life.
The last child is now sleeping beautifully. We bought her a midi-bed. She feels safe and my sleep clock is slowly re-setting itself. Am I still writing? You bet.