Why we need to find solace in our imagination during troubled times: Ian McMillan

At times like this we need to make the most of what we have, says Ian McMillan. (JPIMedia).At times like this we need to make the most of what we have, says Ian McMillan. (JPIMedia).
At times like this we need to make the most of what we have, says Ian McMillan. (JPIMedia). | jpimedia
On a normal day (remember them?) I would try to manage two strolls; my early stroll just as dawn was yawning and trying to decide whether to get up or not, and maybe an afternoon stroll to let the spring sunshine warm my heart.

These days, of course, I’m sensibly restricted to one stroll so I’ve taken to a concentrated burst of climbing up and down stairs to get my step count up. Now, as a writer, I usually use my strolling as fuel for my imagination. I force myself to see something new on my perambulations, which are invariably on the same route around Darfield. I see this as honing my writing muscles for the day when somebody, once this is all over, rings me up and asks me to write the song for the next-but-one James Bond film.

But because I’ve reduced my strolling I’m finding that my brain is less… less… what’s the word? Ah yes, inventive. However, hard times call for hard thinking, so I’m going to try to squeeze some images from my stairs/step jaunts.

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Second things second: how can you make observations from just trudging up and down a flight of stairs in a semi-detached house? Well to start with, I’ll try to find ways to talk about the carpet; the redness of it, the swirliness of it, the way it clings to the stairs like a too-tight shirt. What does it look like, what does it remind me of? It could be a sunset. It could be the edge of a special Yorkshire galaxy where all the stars look a bit like flat caps. It could be a memory of one of those shirts I used to wear when I was a sixth former.

Ah, memory: I’ve lived in this house for nearly 35 years, so these stairs really are a ladder to memory. I’ve carried my three grown-up children down them when they were babies. I’ve stood at the top and thrown a balloon down for them to catch. My son Andrew, as a little boy, fell from the top to the bottom and was winded but eventually croaked: “I’ve broken my voice box!”

And just before this whole shutdown started, my grandson Noah and I used the stairs as a bookshop; I’d be the bookshop and he’d come and buy a book or vice versa. A simple game for simple times, or the simple times we used to have.

Time to go up and down the stairs again. See you all at the top of this long, long climb.

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