In deciding to write a novel this year, I have become a much more active writer. I am multi-tasking a number of writerly undertakings: I have been working on a plot for the novel, which prompted me to get back to researching the particular place, historical era and key figures relevant to the story. I have been reading much more, and reading in a more mindful manner, noting down all kinds of useful things during the reading and learning more about writing in the process. I have joined a writer’s group and am learning more about critiquing the work of others, reading my own work in public and accepting constructive criticism. And of course I have been writing more.
Today, Louise Doughty (A Novel in a Year) gets me writing again:
When I was little I broke my arm. I’m not sure how old I was, but I was in lower primary school, maybe around grade two. Anyway, my parents ran a corner shop – or as we call them in Australia, a milk bar. The shop was small and stocked all the usual suspects: newspapers and magazines, bread, cigarettes, etc. but what I was interested in most were the lollies. On this particular day, I was in the shop and I fell when climbing on a stool to reach a tissue from a box atop a tall cupboard.
Behind the shop, but on the same property, were stables in which the milk man used to keep his Clydesdale horses. Now, I would think this must have been way back in ancient history, but it really wasn’t – I’m not old! But for whatever reason, my local area still had horse-drawn milk deliveries. I’m not sure how often they delivered milk, but I think this must have been the last horse-drawn cart in town, perhaps even in the whole region!
There was a counter where we served customers from, and the lollies were displayed here within a glass cabinet. To the right of the counter was a doorway going out to the stables. But just to the left of the doorway was the cupboard. I can’t tell you anything about the cupboard and would not even remember it now, but for the fact that it was involved in the broken arm incident.
The Clydesdales at our shop had long ago taken a liking to the sweets, in particular to these small chocolate coated mint lollies that I have never come across since. I used to steal handfuls of these and share my booty with the horses, placing them on my open palm for them to munch. I’m sure they loved me for this. I wonder what became of these horses when the delivery became mechanised?
I now know that my arm was fractured near the wrist, but at the time all I knew was that it hurt up near the shoulder. While I don’t remember it, my parents took me to the hospital and there my shoulder was x-rayed – but of course nothing was found and I was deemed to be merely sore and shaken. I went to school for two weeks, unable to lift my arm to shoulder height.
Finally the school nurse came in for a knit inspection (I think) and my mum came into school to tell the nurse about my still sore arm. After inspecting me for some time, prodding and squeezing my arm in painful ways and making me lift it as far as I could then trying to lift it further herself, she deemed my arm broken and sent me off for more x-rays which confirmed the wise nurse’s suspicions.
Much to my disappointment, I didn’t get plaster (which was the only reason I could see for breaking a bone), but had my arm trussed up in a triangular sling for six activity reduced and boring weeks.