The Time Between Space
Author: Charlie Laidlaw
Release Date: July 2023
Genre: Commercial/literary fiction
Granddad once told me that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on Earth. Just think of all those sandpits, beaches and deserts! That’s an awful lot of stars. He then told me, his only grandchild, that I was his shining star, which was a nice thing to say and why I remember him talking about sand and stars. On clear nights, with stars twinkling, I often think about him.
I still believe in my grandfather, and admire his stoic acceptance in the face of professional disdain, because I believe in the unique power of ideas, right or wrong, and that it’s our thoughts that shape our existence. We are who we believe ourselves to be.
I gave up believing in my father long ago, because speaking other people’s words and ideas seemed like a lame excuse for a job, even if he was paid millions, and met the Queen on several occasions. She must have liked him because she awarded him an OBE for services to film, theatre and charity. Charity! Who the hell told the Queen that?
I stopped believing in him one Christmas Day, a long time ago, when he simply didn’t turn up. It wasn’t his presents that I missed, or even his presence, but the warm, fuzzy feeling of being important to him. During that day of absence and loss I concluded that his wife and daughter couldn’t much matter to him, otherwise he’d have made a bigger effort to get home. That Christmas Day, my father was simply somewhere else, probably in a bar, immaculately dressed, his hair slicked back, the object of male envy and the centre of every woman’s attention for miles around.
In that respect, Dad was more tomcat than father, except that by then his territory, his fame, stretched around the globe. I know this: by then he had a Golden Globe to prove it. He gushed pheromones from every pore, squirting attraction in every direction, and even women with a poor sense of smell could sniff him out.
I feel mostly Scottish, but am a little bit Italian. It explains my name, Emma Maria Rossini; my dark complexion, black hair, the slightly long nose, and thin and lanky body. Obese I am not, and will never be, however much pasta I eat, and I eat lots. It also explains my temper, according to some people, although I don’t agree with them, and my brown cow’s eyes, as an almost-boyfriend once described them, thinking he was paying me a compliment, before realising that he had just become an ex-almost-boyfriend.
But mostly I am a child of the sea. That’s what happens if you live for long enough by its margins: it becomes a part of you; its mood echoing your mood, until you know what it’s thinking, and it knows everything about you. That’s what it feels like when I contemplate its tensile strength and infinite capacity for change. On calm flat days in North Berwick, with small dinghies marooned on the glassy water, and loud children squealing in its shallows, it can make me anxious and cranky.
The sea, on those days, seems soulless and tired, bereft of spirit. But on wilder days, the beach deserted, or with only a hardy dog-walker venturing across the sand, with large waves thundering in, broaching and breaking, then greedily sucking back pebbles into the foam, I feel energised: this is what the sea enjoys, a roaring irresponsibility, and I share in its pleasure. We are all children of the sea, I sometimes think, or should be – even those who have never seen an ocean or tasted its saltiness; I can stand for hours and contemplate its far horizons, lost within myself, sharing its passion. In the Firth of Forth is the ebb and flow of my past and my existence, wrapped tight against the west wind. It is what I am, placid and calm, or loud and brash.
I still hear the sea, the shush of waves and the screech of seabirds, in the Edinburgh flat where I now live. Children of the sea are like that; it’s in our blood, coursing through our veins; it reminds us where we came from, where we were born, and tells us without compassion that it will still be around long after we have gone.
When I was small, the pulse of the sea’s waves would find a rhythm with my own, or maybe it was the other way around; I felt melded to the sea, that we shared some great secret, temporarily forgotten, and that, inexplicably, we were one of a kind.
I sometimes wonder if I would feel the same if I’d been born in Italy rather than Scotland. Would a warm Italian sea speak to me in the same language as a cold Scottish one? Do the oceans of the world speak a universal language? – or do cold seas speak of ice, and warm seas of fire? When I lie in bed at night, I hear the measured breathing of the sea, marking time with my own breathing, timeless and eternal, lulling me to sleep.
My Italian bit is the fault of my grandfather, who is utterly bonkers. Not in a knife-wielding, dribbling sort of a way; just that he lives in a parallel universe of numbers and equations that only make sense to him. If you’re a mathematical geek, you might have heard of him. If you’re not, then you won’t have. Of course, I utterly adore him.
About the Book:
The Time Between Space is a dark comedy about love and loss, and how a childhood falsely remembered can years later distort what we feel about those closest to us.
The story follows the protagonist, Emma, during her childhood and adult years in Edinburgh and East Lothian. Emma Maria Rossini should be the luckiest girl in the world, except that’s not how she sees it. She’s the daughter of a famous film actor and a loving mother, and a gilded life of privilege seems hers for the taking. She also happens to be the granddaughter of an eccentric Italian astrophysicist.
But when tragedy strikes, and her world begins to fall apart, she reinvents childhood memories to find someone to blame.
Poignant, humorous, and heart-breaking, Emma’s story reminds us that we are never as alone or as unconnected as we believe ourselves to be. Its central message is that, even at the worst of times, a second chance can often be just around the corner.
In coming to terms with her life and the deaths of her parents, Emma finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.
About the Author:
Charlie Laidlaw is a PR consultant, teaches creative writing, and lives in East Lothian. He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and was previously a national newspaper journalist and defence intelligence analyst. His other novels are The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, Being Alert!, Everyday Magic and Love Potions and Other Calamities.