Sunday, 30 December 2007

Very Floody Funny

What a sorry looking blog this has been for December! I swear I can see dust building up on the words below and to everyone (anyone?) that has clicked here wondering if I’d ever update I promise all will soon return to normal!

Although probably not until January 15th… basically we have had a huge plumber type crisis over Christmas involving drips and leaks behind tiled walls and the downstairs neighbour banging on the door in her dressing gown at 3am saying she was experiencing a waterfall. It looks like the plumbers will have to dig up the bathroom and hallway (both floors are concrete) to find if an old pipe is leaking, and until then the water is off, so sadly the flat isn’t really liveable at the moment. And of course, that is the only place I have broadband… luckily we have other living arrangements if necessary, but until this is cleared up for certain I think my time on here is going to be limited.

So in the immortal words of the Governor of California, I vill be back, and I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, and that 2008 is your year when all dreams can be a possibility. Looking forward to catching up with you all very soon (and a dry flat!).

Jayne x

Friday, 14 December 2007

Labour of Love

Not a post praising Gordon Brown’s political party, but a post instead about that band from Birmingham, UB40.

My brother had the VHS of Labour of Love, which was a series of UB40 songs linked with a back story of love and life in Thatcher’s Britain, acted out by the band. For some odd reason I loved it when I was growing up. I think it was because I had a secret crush on lead singer Ali Campbell, and the story highlighted by the songs was this gritty world far away from me, populated by boxers and boozers, building sites and Brummies.

The VHS tape died a death years ago, and since then I have kept an eye out for another copy, although now it would have to be on DVD as I no longer own a video. It looked like a lost cause… until a random youtube surf earlier today revealed some kind person has uploaded the four parts of the film! I have put them all here so I can find them again... and it seems some 'not so secret' crushes never fade away...!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Coffee Shop of Wonder

Although it is rather hard to ‘pop’ anywhere at this time of year, yesterday I managed to pop to Stoke Newington in North London in the hunt for Christmas presents. Although there is really just one place a person has in mind if they are popping to Stoke Newington, and that is of course Church Street.

Church Street is a winding lane (bear with me) off the main High Road that leads all the way to Clissold Park, which is cemented in my memory as the park where my Nan fainted one hot summers day when I was but a nipper, and that while she was recovering with a ciggie in the shade of the porter’s cabin, the porter very kindly bought me an ice-cream. Oh happy days… apart from the Nan fainting bit.

Anyway, Church Street itself is where every yoga bendy bean munching individual that cannot afford N1 aspires to live, ‘so close to all that culture, darling’ as they look towards the high road and shudder at the close proximity of winking neon, promising kebabs and cheap phone calls to Nigeria.

It is very strange, this influx of trendies to the area. I do wonder if they think they are being very ‘right on’ by having an N16 address, especially the ones you see pushing super power baby buggies, or with expensive Meccano-like fold up bicycles. But that’s London for you – in one direction rich, the other poor! And people that live in the Church Street vicinity are definitely rich, the food shop Fresh and Wild do not plonk their organic roots into the ground otherwise.

I was in Church Street as one of the shops is my secret weapon when buying presents for the J, although one quick poke at the parcel will reveal the present is of the material persuasion, as opposed to containing a Wii. And what does J want? A big fat Wii, of course. The budget doesn’t extend to things like that; I absolutely cannot spare a penny for a Wii. (I've done it again, made myself chuckle. Oh dear.)

But this post was called The Coffee Shop of Wonder and yes, this is a real place, a real coffee shop, called The Blue Legume. The front of the cafe/restaurant is nearly always busy, but the mosaic tables around the back are a place to dream over a coffee, to write wishes and scribble secrets.

It is my happy place. The coffee is pretty decent as well.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Back with a Tall Tale

Hello! Sorry about going AWOL, been feeling a little grotty lately, although much better now (waits for the collective sigh of relief…) and hopefully back to regale you with tales of daring deeds on the run up to Christmas. Oh the tales I can tell! Shall we take a moment to ponder The Tale of the Marvellous Map Reader? Ah, I know, what about The Tale of the Phantom Bus? Hmm, not to your liking? You are a tricksy customer but come closer, I have a story that will please you… *blows dust of tale book*... it is called When The Ladybirds Come Home

Once upon a time there was a wannabe author freezing in her garret spare bedroom, feverishly typing a novel of the darkest comedy (and sadly making herself chuckle every so often, as she is that sort of person). A mirror hangs to the right of her, and she catches herself in the act of winding yet another scarf around her neck. For a moment she wonders who let the bag lady in, before she realises that the poor unfortunate is herself. “Enough of this!” she cries, casting off scarves, woolly hat and gloves aplenty, “it is time for the BIG heater!”

The BIG heater lives in the main room. It is the source of all joy and wonder to the freezing author, as although she knows it gobbles money, it also produces goodly amounts of heat. The BIG heater is only turned on in dire emergency (which currently happens everyday around 3pm) and HAS to be turned off in about 20 minutes max as otherwise the freezing author and her partner J will be very poor very quickly. However today the author clicks it on and basks for a while in the main room before her phone rings and it is good friend R, calling for a chat. The result of the chat is that 20 minutes later the author is once again ensconced in her small garret spare bedroom… and the BIG heater has been forgotten.

Oh dear, this is bad. Still, the author is blissfully unaware of the heat piling on in the main room, as she has shut her garret door. An hour goes past, and she starts to feel a bit warm, but all that happens is that she takes off her second jumper and gets down to work again. More time passes and she is now down to a t-shirt and jeans. “Funny, must be rather mild today,” she tells her printer (sadly she does talk to odd things like that) before a look of horror crosses her face. The BIG heater!

She dashes in the main room and turns it off, but it is too late. The entire flat is a sauna. And even worse, J is due home any minute and the author will be discovered basking like a lizard. Never has the author moved so fast in her life, not even when she won the 100m sprint in the 3rd year of junior school. She runs around flinging open all the windows she can see in the hope that some of the heat will disperse to breathable levels, and it is then she notices the smaller window above the dining table, the one that is never usually opened. “Must open more windows!” she cries, and clambers on the table, undoes the catch, pushes it wide…

…and a nest of hibernating ladybirds fall down onto the dining table. The author shrieks to high heaven as ladybirds scatter all over the place, and then the timer on the cooker goes for dinner.

**interlude for brief panic**

J comes home at around 15 minutes later, but by then things are under control. The ladybirds nest window is shut, giving those that escaped the Day The Window Opened some much needed rest. Dinner is served ladybird free, and luckily J doesn’t notice the strangeness of open windows as the author has the ultimate distraction up her sleeve, which isn't usually where she hides the remote control but today exceptions can be made.

“Oh look, Top Gear!” she says. Works every time.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Practical Criticism

If someone told you your hat looked awful, then that is really quite rude. If someone said your hat looked awful as the colour clashed with your hair, then at least there is a reason for the rudeness. If someone said your hat looked awful as the colour clashed with your hair but if you wore a green one it would look lovely, then that is what you want – rude, reason and solution!

Practical criticism isn’t rude though, it’s helpful and very much needed. Most people don’t like to think they could do something better, they like to think whatever they have submitted or done is already the best as wouldn’t that be nice – perfect again Miss Ferst! Why thank you *collects bouquets, blows kisses*

But I still have so much to learn about writing. I am beginning to think I am not a natural (how arrogant was I – a natural, darling!) but it is true! All my life I thought I was pretty good at writing and I think the potential is there definitely, but I struggle with grammar. We were never taught it at school – English was writing stories and reading books, not dissecting how or why sentences are formed. I was never taught it at home either – my family are from the east end – proper cockney! No one bothered with books except me. Studying for English ‘A’ Level was like a slap in the face with a comma. I passed, but after years of being the top person in English because it was just writing stories, and then suddenly being pretty average as now it was all about ‘how’ you write, came as a bit of a shock.

Nowadays, I think I have more of an idea of what goes where but my word it has been an uphill journey, and boy does it ever continue! I am going to have to go over this novel with a fine tooth comb when it is finished. But at least I know my weaknesses, so I know what to look for (plucks stray ellipses, punches irregular tenses) which is always a bonus.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bach Flower Remedies

To write, I need to be able to focus on that and nothing else. Ages ago, I explained how I like to tidy the flat so everything is clean and shiny before I sit down at the computer, this is so I don’t write two paragraphs and groan about the washing up. Same with my thoughts, if I have any other article ideas or work to do, then I need to get it out of the way before I can get into a story. I like to clear the decks so it’s easier to see the whole picture.

To pitch ideas especially, I need to feel confident and happy. It sometimes feels like you are working out a sequence of code, the right combination of letters that will form the best email to make editors out there think ‘what a fab idea!’ I cannot find this code when I am not in the right frame of mind, I write bog standard boring emails that even I wouldn’t answer. There is no point pitching anything when not confident and happy.

To feel confident and happy, I need to feel calm and at peace with myself. And that is just impossible at the moment. I wish I could confide in you further! Anyone got any good relaxation techniques? I find it impossible to meditate, if I sit still for longer than 10 minutes all that happens is I get cold. And I haven’t had a chance to get to my yoga class recently – I do have a yoga DVD, but the worst thing about doing it at home is that if you get the stretches just a little wrong it can really make you ache, and not in a good way.

I’ve been reading up about the Bach Flower Remedies – lots of little potions you can combine that will hopefully do something. I notice their ‘remedy of the month’ is Elm for stress. Handy… and that’s on their homepage, so it’s obviously a stressful time of year for all.

Hmm, let’s see – they have a little quiz to find out which one to buy (and these are not cheap, so you have to make sure you buy the right ones). But what do I chose – Find Joy and Hope? Well, yes, but don’t we all want that? Live and Let Live – hmm, let bygones be bygones, accept what has happened… nah. Live The Day – um, in theory… Reach Out To Others – aww, nice sentiment but… Know Your Own Mind – well, yes that would be nice. Face Your Fears – oh that could be it. Stand Your Ground – Maybe! So then you do a mini quiz… answer a couple of questions… Right, apparently I need Mimulus. Possibly Walnut, possibly Agrimony... White Chestnut... Can I mix them I wonder? Will I turn purple?

Okay, I’m going to give them a bash, even if my friend said her work colleague got tipsy drinking Bach’s Rescue Remedy throughout the day. Surely they don’t have alcohol in them… oh, well they do a bit. But it’s not like proper alcohol… its special flower alcohol. And since I'm not aiming to swig it... it may just do the trick!