This week has been quite a productive one, on the whole. Term is now in full swing, and work has been settling into manageable patterns, for the most part. I’ve also had a night out with the South West chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, which is always fun, inspiring and a real boost to my creativity. There were thirteen writers around the table at The George Inn in Lacock, Wiltshire, this time, and the air was alive with writerly (and not so writerly!) chat and laughs. I always come away feeling inspired by the amazing writers I am lucky to spend the evening with. I’m also really fortunate to be a part of a really supportive Facebook group, which was set up shortly after the Mumsnet ‘Get Published’ competition a couple of years ago, and the lovely, talented writers on there certainly helped me to stop flapping and start plotting book 2 this week. The exercise front has been good, too, with a ten mile cycle ride and a swim on the same night, and a couple of good to-and-fros to school.
But the writing has been a real focus this week, too. I’m still riffing on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and I’ve been playing around with a couple of little fanfiction vignettes as well as watching the film in short instalments just before I go to bed for only the second time round, but it’s amazing how much I’ve noticed on a second viewing! For instance, I hadn’t noticed the first time that there are actually two pictures of Jim and Bill from their younger days. See…
It’s so obvious, knowing the outcome of the film, why this is, but first time around I didn’t spot it. Connie Sachs (‘the seriously underfucked’) has the picture on the left, which makes sense; she adores both Jim and Bill, and this picture shows them as two individuals and also two equal halves of a whole. They’re both gazing directly into the camera and their smiles, hands and heads are mirrored. Open faces, open eyes, truly at ease. Connie, who remembers them both from when she trained them in the early years of the Circus, calls them ‘The Inseparables’ for good reason.
The other picture, though, has a much deeper resonance. After Jim’s apparent death during the botched Czech mission, Bill’s flashback shows him clearing out Jim’s possessions from his flat, and he’s brought up short by the photo on the right. This time, the body language is different. Bill’s still looking directly at the camera, but Jim’s gaze is turned towards Bill, his right hand lower down on Bill’s shoulder and his eyes half closed in an expression of what appears to be genuine delight and love. It looks as though Jim is lost in the moment – his eyes are focussed on Bill’s mouth, and it’s almost as if, a few seconds later, there might even have been a kiss. He looks like a smitten lover. This is no longer a shot of two friends; it’s a declaration of love, at least on Jim’s side. In view of the events of the film, and the fate of both at the hands of the other, this reading isn’t, to my mind, too far off. Bill’s still presenting the appearance of confidence to the pointed camera, but Jim’s caught in a moment of vulnerability, where his true feelings for Bill are captured for posterity. Of course, if you take this reading, it then makes perfect sense that Bill would dispose of this copy of the photograph after Jim’s ‘death’, to avoid any potentially revealing recriminations and the compromise of his position as the mole.
With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder I’ve been playing around with these characters again! Here are a few random lines from the one I’ve been working on over the past couple of days:
Sometimes Jim thinks that the love he has for Bill will kill him; or worse, keep him alive. The darkness of it, the all consuming passion, the way that he struggles to breathe in Bill’s presence, even after all this time; it’s so far removed from everything else in his life.
There’s never really been anyone else. He’s no monk; there have been half-drunken fumblings portside of some foreign posting when the dual aches of physical desire and loneliness became too much, but no-one else ever compared to Bill. Bill, who has typists and hall boys coming out of his ears. Bill, who asked him what his dilemma was at Oxford and who has basically been that dilemma ever since. Bill. The Alpha, Omega and everything in between.
I wanted to play about with the idea that Jim’s love for Bill is expressed more intensely than Bill’s for Jim. Bill remains promiscuous to the end, but Jim is implied to remain mostly faithful (at least that’s my reading of it). That notion of an all consuming love, that is deep, dark and possessive but also transcends any other encounters is one that fascinates me, especially given the choice Jim makes at the end of the screenplay.
Then there’s this. And I make no excuses for my own ‘artist’s eye’ on Jim Prideaux ;).
Jim is lying across Bill’s double bed, legs too long to lie any other way. He’s tangled in the sheets, yet another cigarette in hand. Yet another post-coital cigarette. The bed linen is stark white against the burnished olive of Jim’s skin, and the contrast takes Bill’s breath away.
Bill sits on the end of the bed, reaching for his discarded clothes. He turns for a moment to observe his friend, lover, other half, and the man’s beauty, the fall of those long limbs, the elegance of those hands, the darkness in those bruised eyes, gives him almost divine pause, as always.
Both are snippets from another story that I may or may not get around to finishing, but for the moment I’m just having fun playing with imagery. After all, the tragic love story of these two spies is what drives the narrative of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Mark and Colin are pretty easy on the eye ;).
I have finished a couple of short vignettes, though, and they’re here if you’d like to read them. The Perfidy of Love and Last Friday Night. Something tells me I might be writing about them for a little longer yet!