Skip to content

Life Is A Road Movie

Lost In France

The first car I ever bought; the only car I've ever bought entirely by my own choice and with my own money, was in 1986: a sand gold Ford Capri, SFX 761V. I had only just learned to drive. I'm not a natural driver! I can't tell left from right (a brain-quirk that gets worse under stress), but I loved that beautiful car, even if it wasn't very young or very healthy, and I loved the adventure of driving. The most exciting trip we took together was the time I spent three weeks in Cumbria looking after my big sister's hens, in the long dry summer of 1989: alone with Gabriel after Peter spent a weekend (except briefly visited by Lisa Tuttle). . . It was punchy stuff. My skills at getting a long-nosed motor around stiff bends on narrow lanes had to improve rapidly. My sister's house, an old farm, doesn't exactly have a road leading to it. More like a very skinny track, with a nasty drop to the side . . .

SFX 761V replaced the little old red Renault, which was such a dog. I can't recall its registration number: I vividly recall the hours we spent crouched under a plastic tarp outside our front door in the freezing rain, in the month of the Challenger disaster, trying to fix the carburettor). When my lovely car had pretty seriously died (and we nefariously sold it; in that order), we bought a white Toyota Corolla. It looked more ordinary but served us well for a decade; if you don't count the time the drive belt snapped in media res, on our first road-trip, summer of 1990. This was the car of the Aleutian Trilogy years. Which then became, folded differently, the years in which Life, my science fiction that would also be a mainstream novel; my mainstream novel that was really science fiction, was conceived, gestated, and carried to term.

Up and down the motorways to visit my parents in Manchester; a trip best enjoyed on the way home, in darkness, at speed, in the mesmeric dazzle of those streaming lights. Around and about the lanes of Sussex, Kent, Essex, with my Ann Halam kit, visiting schools, libraries, Adult Basic Education; gatherings of librarians and teachers. Always perilous adventures, because I was okay on the road, no good at destinations. Streets, augh! The last half-mile could easily take me most of my journey time. But best of all, the Lost In France trips,

When writing a literary novel, you tell the story of your own life. It is de rigueur. You base your story on your family's tussles and foibles, etc etc. I may have taken to science fiction and fantasy partly, or even mainly, because of my distaste for this idea. Not to mention my healthy fear of repercussions. But when devising a fictional biography, obviously it makes sense to use the biography you know best as a scaffold. Saves thinking time*. So I did, and of that scaffold, the sequence that survives close to intact in the printed organism (so to speak), is Anna's road movie; her relationship with the road.

In the nineteen nineties I knew all about global warming (I just had no conception the brute could move so fast). I knew the dreadful cost of recreational air travel, but I went on flying long haul, and not only for work reasons. Africa, India, Thailand. I knew I should either stop hypocritically worrying or sell my car and take the bus; but I went on driving. Those road trips in France, all summer long, were my compromise with physics** in its purest, most perfect form. Pack the car. Double-lock the front door, leave it all behind. Live in a tent, in the beautiful lonely places of La Belle Fance, where there's always a donjon, a river, a magical forest; forage your food and don't ask where you're heading, just keep going, driving forever, into the thrilling dark . . .

Okay with roads, not good at destinations. Could be an epitaph.

(more)

*(I used the same technique in Bold As Love. Near-future rocksters Ax Preston and Sage Pender were born in the same year as my son, so that I would know, I wouldn't have to make it up, what music they'd loved when they were eight, or twelve, etc).

** You can't. But we all behave as if you can. As if you can say to the wildfires and the rising tides, "okay, let's make a deal, let's both make concessions". See Obama and the Arctic

This post, the second in a series, has been brought to you by the PKDick award storybundle



Trackbacks

No Trackbacks

Comments

Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.


Form options

Submitted comments will be subject to moderation before being displayed.