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Using my senses

I am immensely fortunate – although many wouldn’t agree – that, in order to get to work, I have a 25 minute walk at 5:15am to reach the station. Yes, that means getting up at sparrow’s cough each day and yes, that means I get home each evening and go straight to bed during the working week. So why do I consider myself fortunate?

Easy! Because at that time of day, the world is calm and free from the noise and bustle and frenzied behaviours of humanity. At 5:30 in the morning, as I walk through the graveyard, it is just me and nature (and possibly a few medieval ghosts but they’ve never bothered me). As I walk, I can allow the natural world to happen to me and that, in turn, finds its way onto the pages of my books.

Using my senses as I walk and then capturing that in prose is something I have always done. In Line of Duty there is a sequence when Dale and Allin walk to the local town, in which the mist rises and forms a distinct layer above the ground. That was based on a real experience and I can still remember it vividly.

I was in The Netherlands at the time and had gone for a run at daybreak. The sun was rising, the earth warming and, as I ran across the nearby nature reserve, the mist lifted off the ground and sat, about a meter above, like a blanket. It was so tangible and yet so ephemeral that I knew I wanted to capture it. I had no camera (this is in the days before smartphones – or even digital photography I think) and anyway, it wasn’t just the image that was amazing. It was the feeling and the sound that went with it: a stillness and clean damp and calm of that morning. So I wrote it. That has fixed it in my memory even though the words I have still can’t quite do it justice.

So, my writer friends, here is an exercise for you to try. Get up early one morning and go for a walk. Get your five senses going and tune in to the world about you. What can you hear? And see? And feel? Does the air smell different at dawn? Can you taste the damp in the air? Really allow yourself to experience the world as it wakes. Then, go home and write it down. Don’t worry about where to fit it into your work for now. Just capture the wonder of those moments and enjoy them in your words.

One day, you’ll thank me for making you get out of bed at stupid o’clock….

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