Walkabout

Writing starter by Inbali Iserles

In my book, The Tygrine Cat, a young cat called Mati stumbles upon a community of street cats at Cressida Lock, a market-place based on Camden Lock in North London. Once a year during the summer holidays, when I was a girl, my mum would take me to Camden Market with my older sister, Tali.

We lived in Cambridge and the drive was arduous but it was worth it! Camden was overwhelming, full of exotic food and colourful characters. It was there that I spotted my first punk, sipped my first chai and bought my first knee-length boots. Set loose on the sprawling market, Tali and I roamed between vibrant stalls. These adventures took us up flights of winding stairs past sound systems competing with thumping bass. For hours we lost ourselves in the markets cavernous tunnels. And finally, growing hungry from our efforts, we bought chips in grease-proof paper and headed to the overgrown banks of
the lock to watch Camden unfold in its sinister majesty. Because Camden was a wild sort of place a market of extraordinary energy but one where a sense of mystery and danger crept just beyond the stalls.

I believe that stories are everywhere, if only you keep your eyes open. The best thing about this story starter is that you don’t need to know what you’re looking for when you begin! You just have to lay your hands on a camera, a disposable will do, or perhaps a camera phone. The camera lens is your eye to the world. When researching The Tygrine Cat, I revisited Camden Lock with my digital camera. It was a bitterly cold winter day but the traders were out in force, standing behind their stalls clutching mugs of warming tea. Without a clear idea of what I was looking for, I gave myself a walking tour, snapping away on the camera. I captured details: the traders hands in fingerless gloves as they clutched the chipped mug; the pattern of rugs hanging from hooks; broken paving slabs and tufts of grass that burst between them. Peering through the camera, I saw the urban landscape that would eventually become Mati’s world in The Tygrine Cat.

Camera in hand, you’re ready to begin

  • Take a walk around you neighbourhood with a camera you could even start with your home or school. Perhaps youve lived there all your life but try to imagine it as if you were seeing it for the very first time.
  • What do you see through the lens?
  • What details can you pick up?
  • Look around you: is the place well looked after? Is there mess? Is there litter?
  • How do you feel when you look through the cameras eye?
  • Is the world you are seeing friendly? Is it scary?
  • What sort of person would come here?
  • What sort of animals?
  • You dont need to stick to your normal eye level: try crouching or climbing onto steps. Does the world look different from above or below?
  • Keep the images in a scrapbook and annotate with things you remember like smells and sounds.