Friday, 2 September 2011

Summertime and writers go out in the Miriam Halahmy

Writers constantly need to replenish their imaginations and for me that has always meant taking to the road. When I was young I travelled all over the UK and Europe, sleeping in youth hostels, tents, barns, railway stations and under the stars on the beach. 

The earth belongs to me ( and to you of course) and I have continued to travel all my life. I have paddled in four oceans and withstood temperatures from -30C all the way to +45C. I have spoken in languages from Russian to Arabic and everywhere I went I always had a notebook at the bottom of my bag. 

This summer I started a new book and I had to dig very deep for the words. My travels took me to Crosby beach within sight and sound of Liverpool and its great historic docks.

On Crosby beach are 100 cast iron life-size figures, sculpted by one of our great modern artists, Anthony Gormley ( Angel of the North.) The figures are made from casts of the artist’s own body. They are dotted along 3km of the foreshore and 1km out to sea.  Gormley says, “they harness the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature.” 

When we first reached the beach at 11.00am the tide was in and huge waves crashed against the concrete walkway. The sculptures were completely covered but as the waves rose and fell; heads and sometimes shoulders were revealed like upright drowning men. 

People hang jumpers, scarves, sunhats and even a motorbike helmet on the sculptures, casting them as modern scarecrows trying to frighten the gulls and the wind farms out at sea.

 By 4.00pm the beach was like a different planet. The sea had receded by almost a quarter mile and all along the damp sands we could see the iron men facing out to sea as if seeking a new world. Gormley calls the installation, ‘Another Place’ and says, “This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal...

The entire experience blew a new world through my body and my mind, giving me inspiration, mystery, imagination, pictures, colours and streams and streams of words. If I am to remain true to my art of writing and writing without compromise to the edge, then days like this are the structure and sculpture that I need to propel my work forward.
Do you write to travel or travel to write?


  1. Beautiful post Mariam.
    Personally I travel to travel, but must admit I do get inspired by places - Angel's Fury was inspired in parts by visits to Bali and Gibraltar (neither of which appear in the book) and Yorkshire (which does). As a writer I never know where my inspiration will come from - I don't try and force it by e.g. travelling to a specific place, but if it does turn up, I'm very grateful!

  2. I agree, I just find travelling anywhere away from home can get me writing. Something about that old restlessness I suppose.

  3. I saw some of Gormley's sculptures/installations in London along the South bank years ago. It was very surreal seeing these statues perched on the edge of buildings or the middle of Waterloo Bridge. I often choose places to go to and afterwards realise that I went to those places to check stuff out!

  4. Love your post, Miriam. I think I write because I need to write and I travel because I love to travel. If the two overlap then even better! My work-in-progress is partly set in Tuscany, but I actually wrote the first draft of the book before I got to visit it! For me, it doesn't matter which way round it happens, as long as I get to write and travel!