On the last Friday before the lockdown started, I raced around London, telling stories to bewildered, discombobulated school children. I chose stories about travelling to new countries, overcoming insurmountable odds, sailing into bright futures. Then I got the 37 bus home and stared at the wall.
Will is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, so while my life slowed and stilled, he was off into central London every day to his new job – what excellent timing, love – at University College Hospital. Most of his team were off or redeployed, things felt uncertain. At the best of times, he doesn’t drink enough during the day. So I started to record very quick stories and Whatsapp them to him everyday at elevenses time. Each of them is the length it takes to boil a kettle and make a cuppa (depending on the levels of limescale in your kettle, I suppose). I called the folder I stored them in Kettle Boilers.
The tales were rough and ready experiments. I’m in no way selfless – I thought I’d practice how to tell with economy and pace, because I am shamefully self-indulgent about those even when everyone on the bill has been given strict instructions about timings (frequently by me). I tried to keep them under three minutes. The stories were thrown together fast. There are stumbles and mistakes. There are attempts to add animation with my very basic laptop and more basic drawing skills. Some days I got better, some days I was useless. But I sent them to Will anyway. They also track my lockdown headscarf obsession, a noticeable increase in chocolate-induced facial padding, and the days when I found breathing hard. I learnt loads – by doing them, and on some days by watching Will watching them (because he didn’t have time to stop for a cuppa at work, so I made him watch them anyway.)
Eventually, I stopped, and started work on other things – One Minute Whispers audio stories, and online Toe Dipper workshops. Oh boy, I miss being in rooms with people.
But the last 8 Kettle Boilers are episodes of a Norse myth that I was once advised (in good faith) not to tell. So I never did, for years. They are ramshackle and I have literally scribbled on them. I wasn’t going to do anything with them apart from send them to Will. I don’t know if Will got anything from being fed a daily story, apart from grimacing at the bodily fluids in them (he’s very sensitive, for a nurse.) But I’ve been thinking about how I hug my creative stuff to myself, just in case. I do that a lot. Just in case what?? And when I come to think of it, the story is perhaps about just that. But I wonder – only in retrospect as I write this – if I’ve started to face, with no make up on, that hugging tendency, as well as experiment in economy and pace, and make a nudge for Will to put the bloody kettle on.
Here the episodes are. In the spirit of not hugging things too tightly to ourselves, if you get to the end of Episode 8, and you’d like to get in touch, share your thoughts, experiments or scribbles, I’ve added a contact form.