Childhood Revisitations

This is a writing experiment for someone who wants a boost of energy to take their revising deeper, or anyone who’s come to a bit of a halt in their drafting. It could also be a valuable exercise in the early stages of planning a book.

Writing experiment: Reread a favourite book of your childhood, or a favourite fairy story or myth you first encountered as a child. Perhaps choose something that was once important to you, but that you have not read in ages. You might have even forgotten most of its details, or there might be several variations – in which case it could be interesting to compare them.

It’s also good to listen to audio versions, or maybe to get someone to read them to you. Sometimes listening can arouse memories and deep feelings in a way that reading a printed page cannot. (Though audiobooks were not an option back then, I now am remembering my vinyl 45 Read Alongs of Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and Disney’s It’s A Small World …)

As you read/listen, jot down any details that strike your attention. Characters, objects, settings. Turning points, emotional shifts, inexplicable but enthralling twists and reversals. Look out for powerful archetypes, or currents and themes that have played a role in your future life. Also jot down any particular lines or scenes that really pop out to you, or things you didn’t notice before.

Now: consider how these striking ingredients can serve as vectors for your work-in-progress in some way. VECTOR: a quantity that possesses weight and momentum as well as direction. How can these new ingredients add ballast and depth and forward-moving energy to your story?

You could add details in a literal way: the Little House books invite you to trap your characters in a snowstorm, or Alice in Wonderland gives you a disorganised tea party. Or you could translate more deeply, if indirectly, e.g., developing a character’s princess complex (remember that men can be princesses too). Or rereading The Secret Garden might help you see how a clearer focus could be built around the loneliness of a protagonist. Or you could introduce, however loosely, three wishes into a story to help give it some shape and pacing through repetition and progression.

I recently reread ‘The Pomegranate Seeds’ from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales. I was reading an edition originally read aloud to us at primary school; my teacher gave it to me on her retirement – yes, I was teacher’s pet – so this particular volume already had magic powers.

Hawthorne’s retelling is forty pages long, more fleshed out and fictionalised than some of the sketchy renditions I would later encounter in other contexts. It uses the names Proserpina and Pluto from the Roman version, which in turn is based on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades; there are always retellings.

There are plenty of archetypes: innocents and predators, and mothers – in this reading, Ceres (Demeter) figures more strongly as the protagonist, and this time I felt this story more deeply as one of loss and reconciliation and compromise.

I found myself latching on to a few details in this read too. The number six of the pomegranate seeds. The dryads and naiads: I’ve always been fascinated with these spirits of woods and water, and I realise that this was probably the first time I encountered them, at the age of seven.

I was also intrigued by the line that tells us that Pluto pats Proserpine’s cheek, ‘for he really wished to be kind, if he had only known how’ – an oddly human (or inhuman) detail.

I also noted that the seven-year-old me had no idea he’d be reading Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter as an American Studies undergraduate some eleven years later, or buying the collected novels of Hawthorne in a used bookstore in Provincetown at the turn of the century.

And rereading this little red Tanglewood I was whisked back to Mrs Bentley’s classroom. I remembered the nature table, and the portable shelf of library books. I remembered listening to her read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Wind in the Willows.

And I also remembered the time I played Rumpelstiltskin in a school play. I had to wear green tights and a green crepe paper tunic, and spin a polystyrene spinning wheel and sing a song, and I still know all its lyrics OFF BY HEART. Spin wheel, spin / Turn wheel, turn / And every straw / Upon the floor / Turn to shining god. I probably need a therapist to unpack all this! A Jungian, please.

And Rumpelstiltskin is not only a story of hiding your name, your truth, but also the story of HAVING A FUNNY NAME. Duh, I only just saw that one! Seriously: I’ve only recently realised the burden and trauma of GROWING UP WITH A FUNNY NAME. Millions of words have been devoted to critiques of white male heterosexual privilege and the inequalities of economic class, but has anyone ever studied the psychosocial effects of the name you inherit?!

But: we all come to live with our truths, and I’d never change being a Wille.

All these triggers, all these elemental details. All these haunting and defining motifs – these themes of a life. It’s rich stuff that wakes something inside us that brings our writing to life. Many of these stories from childhood are so deeply part of who we are. The flying carpet, the magic wardrobe, the talking animals, the little details we’ve forgotten or read differently as adults: they captured our imaginations as children, and they trigger our imaginations today.

I guess we could worry about copyright and the use of other people’s ideas, but hey: the school for wizards existed before Harry Potter, right?! So many of these stories are retellings, based on archetypes. The important thing is to make these ingredients our own, and to shape and express them in our own way.

Later you might want to explore this rich field further, but for now don’t overthink this task. Just reread the magical texts of your childhood with a notebook to hand, and see how you can relate various themes and details to your work today.

Where do your eyes and heart and mind take you, and how do you bring your findings back into your writing? How do they give you details or currents to work through in your drafting and revisions?

Further resources on archetypal stories, childhood reads and fairy tales
Library of Congress, Classic Children’s Books
Folktexts: A Library of Folktales, Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
Maria Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales
Jack Zipes, ed., The Great Fairy Tale Tradition
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey
Victoria Lynn Schmidt, 45 Master Characters (my go-to reference for frameworks for balancing masculine vs feminine journeys in story)
Marie-Louise von Franz, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves 
Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke, The Mythic Journey
Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey
Ursula Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

If you are looking to buy any children’s books, I *highly* recommend The Alligator’s Mouth in Richmond (now able to fulfil online order requests in the UK). SUPPORT YOUR INDIE BOOKSHOPS! The book world relies on them.

Also check out Zoe Gilbert’s London Lit Lab workshops based on analysis of fairy tales and folklore.

Tulip Fever

This month I was going to make a thoughtful post/papal address – something topical on slow writing, or productivity, or how to crochet a big gay rug for lockdown dance parties in your big gay commune. But everyone is a poster/pope now, and there is so much guidance and advice and ‘content’ out there that we could spend a lifetime of quarantines just reading the index.

Also: though I am very good at slow writing, I am no expert on productivity – preacher, heal thyself, etc.

Also: someone beat me to the big gay rug.

So instead I am going to post a writing experiment inspired by something that’s far more important. Something that has been a real salve of late.

TULIPS. 

I love tulips. I love gardens and I love gardening. We have a tiny garden, and I fill its beds with ferns and shrubs, and I fill the gaps with pots, and I fill many of those pots with bulbs. And one day in spring you turn your head, and colour and texture and form are there where they weren’t before. Especially in the bold form of

TULIPS

I planted 345 tulip bulbs back in November/December, and every morning since early April I have gone out in the garden to check on their progress. Cruellest month, my arse; Eliot is as bad as Plath, who described a tulip as a ‘wound’ – insert Scream emoticon! Two misery-guts together, spectres with their mugs lurking above Anglo-American poetry.

Back to my tulips – not wounds, but salves, comforts, great joys. Just a few duds this year (a pot of Tulipa humilis Liliput that I fear I waterlogged). Otherwise: the tulips are a thesaurus of pinks and plums and oranges.

And their names! Some grand, some silly, some wtf. And each name belongs to its tulip – sometimes a perfect fit, sometimes a less comfortable description but an interesting combination all the same. Trusty Ballerina, fey Orange Angelique, lush Jan Reus – admire his crimson hues at the top of the page. Prinses Irene like a flirty divorcée, hunky Havran, seductive Paul Scherer the sales director. China Pink: spiky and funny and intelligent – a scientist, I suspect (see just above). Each has its own personality, profession, deepest yearnings.

Sometimes they talk about me behind my back while I’m drinking my tea, like these Ballerinas above.

Sometimes I have to break up fights – check out these Queens of the Night ganging up on a couple of those bitchy Ballerinas in the rain.

Some are flashy, and even when they are getting old and a bit crispy at the edges they love to show their drawers. They remind me of my nan. These above are called Burgundy, but they look mauve to me. Which just goes to show: appearances are deceiving. Also applies to my nan …

So far this year I’ve taken 236 photos of tulips on my iPhone. I keep them in a special album, which is why I, unlike Priti Patel, can provide accurate statistics. I’ve posted some others on my Instagram. Sometimes I feel I am overdoing it with the photos, but I guess that’s what photographers do – you just take pics until you are happy with one. And they make me very happy.

From the vantage of my hermitage, and after however many weeks it is (three, six, a Priti thirty-four), I’ve come to realise that dogs and plants and books are on the whole my preferred company.

In other tulip news, I broke the longest fast of book-buying in my life, and ordered myself a belated birthday present in the form of Anna Pavord’s The Tulip, which for some reason I never got round to reading before. I am glad I waited, as last year it came out in a sumptous twentieth-anniversary edition, and it is GORGEOUS. Tulips for year round – and for planning my pots for 2021, and beyond.

Anyway, at the risk of being a bit Let Them Eat Tulips: I want to use tulips for a writing experiment in which you create a story. This is what I propose:

1. Pick half a dozen of your favourite tulips. Use some of the inspirations listed in the links below. Or go out into your garden or to a florist and pick some yourself, if you can. Be drawn to their hues, their shapes, their names perhaps, and what they represent to you.

2. Write their names down the side of a piece of paper. (Leave space for working beside each one.)

3. Now put them to work. Sort these names out. Take notes. Some of the names will be characters. Some will be settings, either the names you give to places, or places you can take your story to. Some might be the names of random objects that will set your story in action. Some might have other resonances: themes, workplaces, ambitions, character flaws.

4. And now: put all of these names together into a story. I’m here thinking of Ursula Le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, where you put various ingredients into a container and then work out their connections: How do they describe themselves, and how do others see them? What are their deepest yearnings, and their inner conflicts, and how do these create tensions among the group? How do they sit in each other’s company, and what do they give or take from each other? What part of the world are they in? What story do they have to tell?

Then write it up. You can change names later, if the tulip names seem a little too peculiar for the story you end up with. Or you might just want to create tulippy variants.

Have fun with this. It is often a good idea to start with a name, and then just let your imagination go wild. You could ever do variations with the names of other plants: types of roses, the brassy monikers of heucheras, cultivars of apples. Or extend this idea to other catalogues: the names of yoga poses or cars, or product names from Ikea.

If you want some inspirations for tulip names, though, try some of the following links and departure points (excuse us, Black Knight and Don Quichotte!):

* The tulip pages at Avon Bulbs (my favourite supplier)

* Elegant Tulip Bulbs (new to me, but this site apparently lists over 3,700 tulip names – can’t be true, or can it?! you might have to Google some of the images)

* Other garden catalogues – Parker’s, Sarah Raven, Jacques Amand

* Arthur Parkinson’s Instagram

* Forde Abbey on Instagram

* The RHS

* Annie Proulx, whose use of names for characters and places is astonishing. Absurd, even, but I’m not complaining. Jack Twist, Lightning Flat, Brokeback Mountain, Quoyle, Petal Bear, Dakotah, Charles Duquet. Some of those could be tulip names.

* Google

* And not tulip but ever so colourful – if you really want to crochet that rug: Artist Fritz Haeg on How to Make a Rug from Materials in Your Home

And now farewells, from Orange Angelique …

… Black Night, Don Quichotte, China Pink, Havran, and Barcelona … and …

… probably my fave of all, lusty Jan Reus.

We’ll be welcoming in the summer by then, but note that I am teaching an online workshop on Perfect Plotting for The Literary Consultancy via Zoom on Wednesday 24 June at 4-6pm – more details at this link.

And I am planning other online workshops too. Subscribe to my blog for further information when it’s ready.

 

Syllabus for an Indie MA in Creative Writing 2019

In an earlier post I discussed how writers can assemble their own self-directed programme of studies: a DIY MA in creative writing.

Following further posts about that on Twitter last week, and inspired by my inner teacher as well as Lynda Barry’s wonderful book Syllabus, I’ve put together a syllabus for anyone who might want more specific guidance on what a good writing programme might need to include.

Follow this link for a PDF of the DIY MA in Creative Writing for 2019-2020 (version 1.3).

(This is very much a work-in-progress. As I tweak and add updates or corrections, I’m amend the date and version on the final page, just in case you too are a little obsessive about such things.)

A brief overview: it has four modules:

  • Craft Seminar
  • Writing Workshop
  • Manuscript Project
  • Professional Development Masterclass

I’ve chosen four textbooks that are in my experience the most helpful (and affordable – at current prices their total cost is less than £50):

  • Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction (tenth edition)
  • Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax
  • Stephen King, On Writing
  • Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft

The content is based on my own teaching in MA and MFA programmes as well as craft masterclasses and workshops I’ve taught such as the ones that I run with Words Away; it’s also informed by my intuition and experience from over thirty years of working as an editor and mentor.

This syllabus is never going to be a substitute for a classroom, physical or online, where you can speak and listen to a teacher and interact with other writers. But it does suggest readings and activities for anyone who wants to develop knowledge and skills not only of the craft of writing but also of the business of publishing.

One unit of five classes of the Craft Seminar, Styling Your Prose, is devoted to style, syntax, and grammar, which is something that doesn’t get much focused attention in most MA programmes I’ve investigated in the UK; these are the aspects of craft that really help a writer develop a stronger voice, and for me (and many readers and publishing professionals) voice is what defines a piece of writing. This unit is where I recommend reading (and rereading) Constance Hale’s excellent Sin and Syntax.

An important part of an MA is being part of a writing community and getting and giving feedback on writing, so it will be important to seek out writers who can help with this. On another occasion, and in collaboration with others, I hope to share more tangible suggestions for how writers can, e.g., find writing partners or create a writing group, and locate more specialised resources on genre. But for now, if you have any ideas on this or anything else that would be suitable for someone embarking on studies in writing, perhaps you could post them in a comment below?

 

A few tips for getting started

* Practise some (or even all) of your writing away from your masterpiece-in-waiting. Sometimes we put a great deal of investment in ideas for books, and this can get in the way of the actual process of learning. There can be greater freedom in using exercises and writing flash fiction or short stories; fresh and powerful things often emerge too. Spend some time developing the craft and your intuition as a writer – then tackle your novel. Your passion for a project will still be there.

* Develop writing as a regular practice. Julia Cameron recommends morning pages: three pages of freewriting. Natalie Goldberg gives lots of prompts for you to tackle in a notebook. Robert Olen Butler insists that you write every day to maintain the creative energy in your zone or dreamspace. Explore for yourself; find what works for you, but – as with any craft – regular practice will make writing come more easily.

* Write in short spurts. Timed writings of ten minutes using prompts can generate a lot of material. You might want to edit it later, and you might not even want to use any of these words – but good stuff often surfaces in these short bursts of writing, particularly, e.g., in the last minute of a ten-minute write. And then you can take this good stuff and make even greater stuff with it later.

 

PS and while I’m here: if you are interested in an in-person workshop, we still have spaces in the Everyday Magic workshop I am running with Words Away on Saturday 28 September. Using the idea of the Four Elements, it looks at craft and creativity through the lens of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. It’s a day full of reading and writing and listening and talking that, I hope, brings fresh perspectives on writing and new inspirations for writers.

 

Only Connect: Writing Experiment No. 74

1.

I saw Bhanu Kapil reading at the LRB Bookshop on Friday. An intense but joyful event – tales of migrants, tales of violence, tales of family, rites of mud and glitter. Also: birthday cake on the summer solstice: that magical.

Bhanu posed a question – two questions – directly, simply in her writing:

What did you inherit?

What did you reproduce?

Inheritance and reproduction: energies to seek out in our writing.

2.

I am reading Ocean Vuong’s debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. And O! It really is gorgeous. I also recently read the profile Ocean Vuong’s Life Sentences in the New Yorker, and noted the following description of his style:

The structural hallmarks of Vuong’s poetry—his skill with elision, juxtaposition, and sequencing—shape the novel, too, and they work on overlapping scales: passages are organized by recurring phrases, as are the chapters, which build momentum as a poetry collection does, line by line. Most of the novel centers on Little Dog’s childhood and adolescence, but Vuong roams in non-chronological circles through a wide field of intensified memory. The narrative occasionally extends backward, to visions of Little Dog’s mother and grandmother in Vietnam, before he was born, and it briefly reaches forward, in a few passages that signal that Little Dog has become a writer.

(Update 25 June 2019) I’ve since completed the novel. It really is gorgeous, and brilliant, and in so many ways. I’ve also since read a couple of reviews – one of which comments on how in the book ‘a lot of information … comes to the reader in a jumble, out of sequence, as remembrances after the fact’.

Now: this response suggests that this book might not be for every reader, particularly those who want their stories laid out clearly in the manner of representative realism.

But: for me these very dislocations and refusals are part of the book’s design – they are its essence. I think some things in this book – scenes, images, statements, fragments – operate outside of the usual conventions of rendering time and space, lacking obvious consequence.

And that’s fine by me. In fact, that’s more than fine. This is a novel that among other things is about the Vietnam war, immigrant experience, gay lives, and the limits of the body. It’s inevitable that such things leak out, resist definition.

Some writers might consider this in their own work with caution, perhaps. This is after all a novel written by a poet and some of its forms and gestures will feel more familiar to readers who’re comfortable with some of the conventions of experimental poetry. But I strongly feel there are matters here that any writer can consider: character, voice, story, and what happens when things refuse to be pinned down. This should have an appeal to any reader or writer who lets themselves be: open.

Ocean Vuong talks more about some of these matters in a podcast with Barnes and Noble. I quote one selection:

Desire plus powerlessness is momentous feeling. I wanted the characters to move a little and feel a lot … The [fiction textbook] is all about plot: what’s the plot, and secondly: what’s the conflict? That’s also the formula: you need a plot to move through, and you need conflict.

And I was very suspicious of that. Perhaps because I’m a poet, in many senses we are plotless. And I thought: I don’t know if that’s how I feel as an American, as a person. I wonder if I live in a linear plot? To me it feels much more like proximity. The way we sit beside our loved ones. The way we move through the world, meaning tension and drama happen simply by proximity. The way chemistry works, you have oxygen and hydrogen: fine on their own. Put them side by side and all of a sudden: water. That was how I thought of the structure of the novel. It was blind faith. It was not the go-to form.

But I wanted something more faithful to what it meant to live as an American, in which we move from space to space, and meaning, drama and the substance of our lives happens because we are side by side each other, not because we are in a linear plot device.

3.

I relate these ideas to my recent blog post on alternatives to conflict in plotting.

Whether you are writing something that’s non-chronological or something that’s more linear, have a go at this writing experiment:

* Take some index cards and some Post-it notes. (You could use Scrivener or some mind-mapping software, if you prefer, but I really do think there is a great value in physical interaction.)

* Use the index cards to write down the chapters and/or scenes of your book, identifying the key CHANGE that happens within that chapter or scene. What takes the story forward?

* Then lay the cards out on a table or desk. (Or if you have lots of cards or not enough desk space, do a few at a time, perhaps moving through a stack of cards you keep at your right then gradually stack to the left as you work through them.)

* Next, using the Post-its, identify the CONNECTING ENERGY that fills the space between each of the index cards, and how that energy is achieved. It might be an overt matter of cause and effect: what happens in one chapter might lead to the events of the next. Or it could be more subtle, or the jolt that comes from a twist, or an abrupt shift of setting or point of view that delivers some reward through juxtaposition, or the question that’s raised at such a point (it might be as simple as: why are we now here?). Consider, for example, the energy arising from:

  • twists
  • information gaps
  • surprises
  • unexpected changes
  • reversals of fortune
  • turns
  • recurrences
  • variations
  • juxtapositions
  • elisions
  • chronology
  • jump cuts
  • flashbacks
  • flashforwards
  • overlaps
  • frames
  • contrasts
  • dislocations
  • mosaics
  • fragments sitting beside each other
  • alignments
  • questions
  • inheritances
  • reproductions
  • expanding horizons
  • contractions in focus
  • refusals
  • leakages
  • reactions by characters
  • cause and effect

That last one – cause and effect – strikes me as an important one overall.

For these points, think about: spikes of energy; connections; questions that prick our curiosity. How are these scenes/chapters and connections SEQUENCED? How might a CONTRAST create a forward propulsion? I am also thinking how both Ocean Vuong and Bhanu Kapil are writing narratives of migration that are made up of smaller pieces, even fragments: how do your own stories possess a quality of MOVEMENT that arises from the whole being greater than the sum of the parts?

Do this for both scenes as well as chapters eventually. It’s useful to consider both the connections between bigger units of narrative, and also those closer up, scene by scene.

Once you have finished this exercise, you might want to spread out all the Post-its in order, and see what you have: what patterns emerge? You might want to tabulate the connections and energies you find into a list. Are there gaps that could be made into something more interesting, or could the very fact of their gappy nature be heightened and made into a feature of the work? Are there points where the writing feels a bit too chronological (ploddy): might it increase the energy to introduce a gap or a disruption between two chapters or sections? How can the larger work gather MOMENTUM? Consider the types of connections listed above, and others of your own reckoning. See what you can find.

What’s the mud and glitter that holds together your work?

If you want to take this exercise further: use your index cards and Post-its to compose an outline in narrative form of a next draft.

‘Heart’ Words vs ‘Head’ Words: Guest Writing Experiment No. 73 From Zoe Gilbert

I’m really happy to introduce a guest writing experiment from Zoe Gilbert. She’s chosen a topic that I myself encountered in one of her excellent workshops – Zoe’s teaching is *highly* recommended (see link below), and so is her book Folk, a truly original work of fiction that was one of my favourite books of 2018.

Over to Zoe:

***

The English language is a richer resource than we might realise. Thanks to the influence of many languages arriving on our islands over the centuries, we have enough synonyms to warrant a thesaurus (not all languages have one of these). Especially useful to the creative writer is learning to distinguish between words with Anglo-Saxon, or Germanic, roots, and those that derive from Latin, or related romance languages. I like to call these two sets of vocabulary in English ‘heart’ language and ‘head’ language.

Germanic words are our heart language: they are direct, simple, concrete, and go straight to the heart with their emotional impact. Think of words like home, hearth, love, hate. They are sometimes onomatopoeic, blunt, informal or downright rude (think of the best swear words).

Latinate words are our head language: they are formal, academic, abstract, and appeal to the rational mind. Think of words like intellectual, superior, consideration, providence. They are sometimes emotionally distancing, elitist, technical or jargonistic.

Learning to spot which kinds of words you are using gives you the power to choose for effect. Think of the difference between writing ‘gut’ vs ‘intestine’, ‘sluggish’ vs ‘languorous’, ‘irk’ vs ‘displease.’ You can do this by feel, or enjoy an intense relationship with online etymological dictionaries until you get the hang of it.

If you want to create ‘oomph’, aim for Germanic language. If you want to prioritise the rational over the emotional, or create distance, use Latinate.

 

Exercise: take a scenario and write it twice, once using as many formal, Latinate language words as you can, and once using Germanic language words. Use a thesaurus or etymological dictionary if you get really stuck. You might find that the different words require different sentence structures, too.

Here are some scenarios to try out:

  • An animal attacks its owner
  • A lover ends an affair abruptly
  • A person discovers something unexpected in their house

Alternatively, make up your own, or take one from a story you are working on.

Here’s an example of the first scenario, written two ways.

A          When Phoebe saw the wound, anger flooded through her. Could she share her home with this fiend? In battle, which of them would win? She backed away, into the kitchen, to think through her next move.

B          When Phoebe perceived the perforations to her epidermis, a sensation of acute hostility cascaded through her. Would it be possible to inhabit the same space as this demon? In combat, which of them would be victorious? She retreated to the kitchen to consider her strategy.

 

Zoe Gilbert is the author of Folk, currently longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and she won the Costa Short Story Award 2014. She is currently completing a PhD on folk tales in short fiction, and teaches creative writing at London Lit Lab. You can find out about her courses on using folk tales in fiction here.

 

***

Back to Andrew: Thanks, Zoe! This really is one of the best exercises – really getting down into the mire of language. I remember being in a Zoe workshop where we forensically went through an Angela Carter story looking for Germanic and Latinate words – it’s a great exercise in reading too, and I am in fact very shortly going to be tasking students to look for Germanic and Latinate words in one of Zoe’s own stories.

If you’ve not read Folk, you can find out more here – I’m clearly not the only fan!

And before we go: on this day of days, let this exercise honour the many languages and cultures that have always made up these islands – and always will. Vive la différence!