Grave Goods – Melissa Harrison
Melissa Harrison is a novelist, nature writer and columnist. Her most recent book, All Among the Barley, was the UK winner of the European Union Prize for Literature; At Hawthorn Time was nominated for the Costa Novel of the Year and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She lives in Suffolk, mostly, and London a bit.
Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost
The obvious answer for a writer is a pen and paper, or a laptop, or a typewriter – and of course, that’s what I’d really like. To avoid being boring, though, I’ll say a camera. Back when I was becoming a writer and hadn’t yet realised it, one of the most useful things I accidentally did was learn to take pictures using a proper DSLR. It taught me to slow down and look properly rather than glancing or assuming, and forced me to choose one thing over another to put a frame around: all vital skills for a novelist. But more than that, it freed me because it felt like play – something creative without serious consequences – whereas writing felt deadly, overwhelmingly serious.
Nowadays, while I still take a lot of photos, I’ve become lazy and mostly just use a smartphone. Wait – can I take my smartphone, and is there 5G in the afterlife? Because then I’ll have a camera and a notebook, and a diary app, and maps…
Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast.
When travelling – especially to literary festivals or book-related events – I usually make sure to have a Tracker bar secreted about me somewhere, because organisers sometimes forget to feed you and Trackers are a non-smelly, non-messy, quick-to-eat snack, ideal for nibbling on even in the most restricted of coffins, cairns or cists. The full-size ones are getting harder and harder to find, though, which is causing me some disquiet. I joked recently to another author that they’ve become so rare they’re being traded as currency in some parts of South London. I’m fairly sure he believed me.
Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer
A silver necklace with a ring on it, about which no more need be said.
Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading.
The book I love best – and which made me a writer – is Brian Carter’s utterly extraordinary A Black Fox Running. But I worry I’d grow sick of it if that was all I had to read while dossing around endlessly in the marble halls of the dead, which would be gutting. Instead I’d take something like The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside, edited by Alan Taylor: seasonal snapshots of the rural landscapes I love so fiercely and will miss so deeply, seen across time and through all sorts of eyes.
Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport.
A Ouija board for contacting the living: I quite fancy doing some kind of really creative haunt to pass the time, and it strikes me that it might be a good way to get started, until such time as I’ve learned all the tricks of the trade.
My best friend in primary school had a Ouija board (her brother also kept dirty mags under his bed, and they were allowed fizzy pop. I loved going to her house). We played with it once, after school, and her bedroom lamp fell over for absolutely no reason. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so scared in all my life – except for the time I was staying in a holiday cottage in Weardale and the kitchen radio switched itself on at 3am and when I crept down to investigate there was a massive horse looking in at the window.
Holiday cottage, pitch black out, kitchen window. Just jumped out of my FUCKING SKIN. pic.twitter.com/eTSuEkTX0d
— Melissa Harrison 🌾 (@M_Z_Harrison) January 9, 2017
A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.
Hold tight x