The Kindness of Strangers

By Nora Vasconcelos

kindeness by NVS

Finding the kindness of strangers is something that always brings back to me my faith in humanity, and I should say that I’ve been truly fortunate, because in many occasions, particularly while traveling, I’ve found a friendly hand coming to my help.

I remember in this moment particularly two situations that have marked my affection for the English people.

It was my first day in London, after some years I hadn’t visited the city, and even when I remembered well the main landmarks, I still needed the help of a map to move around.

While opening my map -yes, one of those that spread everywhere and unfold in an awkward way while fighting with the wind- a businessman who passed by me in a hurry to catch his bus, came back to see how he could assisted me.

Surprised, and really grateful, I thanked him, but asked him to hurry up so he could catch his bus. But he didn’t leave. He said he’d take the next one. He wanted to be sure I’d understood all the directions correctly so that I wouldn’t get lost.

One I got my bearings, I assured him I was really sure what way to go. It was only then when he left, in a hurry again, walking fast to catch the next bus that was arriving at that moment.

Some days later, after doing some traveling around the country, my bags had grown in size and weight, as it always happens when one is having a great time buying those unique things that you know you’ll be able to find only in that little hidden store of a charming town in the countryside far away from where you started your journey.

So, coming back to London, I didn’t find any problems getting onto the train, as it was a terminal station. But where I was supposed to get off the train, it was meant to continue to other stations, so I’d only  have a little time to pick up my luggage and leave the train.

I was still on route to my stop and I worried for a moment. I said to myself “how am I going to take everything out on time!” But the anguish lasted only for a short time, as I knew, I was sure, that someone would help me out. And so it happened!

Faster than I could realize it, a man and a woman helped me to carry my bags while exiting the train. So so nice of them!

Then, a couple of minutes later, while I was trying to place the bags in a way that I could carry them all the way to the door of the terminal in which I could take a taxi, a young lady, wearing a suit as if she was coming to the city to work, took one of my bags, smiled at me and said “let’s go”. And she helped me all the way until we reached the right exit.

Those moments, and the faces of these two people, have remained in my head over the years. Helping me feel better when times are hard and I need some certainty that in this crazy world there’s always someone kind enough as to take some time or go into some trouble, just to be sure that you wil be alright.

To all those kind people out there, thanks again!

***

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

 

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Enjoying the process of writing

By Nora Vasconcelos

Ian

“I think Artificial needed the time it has taken me to write it, to understand where the characters were going, and what journey the book would take me on.”

One of the most amazing things about internet is the way it connects us to the rest of the world, giving us the chance, not only to learn most of what happens everywhere immediately, but also, to achieve goals that for some time they might have seem difficult to reach.

That is the case of the international online challenge that every November thousands of writers around the world take. Thanks to the initiative National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, many manuscripts are completed in one month, from which, published and unpublished books give a sense of completion and success to those who dedicate their days and nights in order for them to make their dreams come true.

Last November, I met Ian Robinson, a writer from Hertfordshire, England, who lives with his wife and family, as well as with a multitude of pets. At that time he had just started with the NaNoWriMo challenge and I found very interesting how this project became the incentive he needed to complete an old manuscript.

Ian spent most of his early years living abroad, and worked in the public sector for 27 years until retiring this year, then he launched his own business, Bladeshunner Ltd.

A little more than one month has passed since the beginning of our conversations about his writing aims, and now, that he’s achieve his goal, he’s been very nice and has shared with me some of his experiences while working on his manuscript:

How was it that you decided to be part of the NaNoWriMo challenge?

I used it as an opportunity to complete my first novel rather than starting a new one. My novel, Artificial, had been with me for over thirteen years and I was half way through, so I decided it was time to finish what I had set out to complete. I had also had the privilege of meeting other writers and authors who have provided advice and encouragement.

Once you committed yourself to this challenge, how difficult was it to go on with it?

I think writing is as tough as we wish to make it. Personally, I try and enjoy the process, and if that means a book takes years to complete, then so be it.

I don’t believe in forcing myself to write a certain number of words each day. The discipline of writing each day I found to be the most beneficial thing. It makes you routined and gifts you the space to do what you enjoy. I reached the 50,000 word limit simply because I wrote more on some days than others.

I think Artificial needed the time it has taken me to write it, to understand where the characters were going, and what journey the book would take me on. After all, there are plenty of things in life we have to do that we would rather not, so why make writing one of them!

Which was the toughest part of achieving your goal, and how did you manage to cope with the difficult times?

The toughest part was giving myself the time to write, giving myself permission to write, that was the biggest challenge. My writing times were when the kids were all in bed, then I wrote. Having my family’s support during the process was a major help.

What is your manuscript about?
Artificial is about following one man through a year of his life. The main character is a man called Arthur Wint, an unassuming type of guy who is in his late thirties, living at home with his mother.

The book is set in the mid-eighties, just before the Miners strike in the UK, and is set within the county of Nottingham. Arthur is a gardener by trade and he works for an eccentric retired Psychiatrist. From his interactions with her and others, we see how his life evolves. The book is a mixture of humour, life, music and crime!

What was your inspiration for this novel?

In the beginning it was to present my wife with a book I had written, as she collects first editions, particularly the first thousand Penguin books. This still is my purpose, but in addition I also wanted to write a book that a reader would find entertaining and thought provoking. I intend when published to donate 10% of year-end sales to the Muscular Dystrophy Charity.

In my spare time, when not with the family, I enjoy music, play drums, I’m an ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy campaign, and play wheelchair basketball with The London Titans.

Now that you’ve completed your manuscript, what’s next?

I have three other novels I outlined when I first started Artificial. I kept the notes and will look at one of these to resurrect it and continue with it whilst editing this one, and looking for a publisher. But as in life, where next?.. is always an open and unknown area.

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