Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year’s Eve

Typical! Me and J have been struck down at the last innings of the year with that infernal cold that has been drifting around the country – just when I thought we had avoided it! I haven’t even been commuting, which is prime lurgy trading ground… but it was very draughty in that pub the other day, I was practically sitting in the open-fire place. Okay, I blame that.

So plans for tonight (friends, pub, live band) may well be scuppered – all I feel like is curling up under a blanket watching Mary Poppins with the cats. Blooming cold!

Apart from the sniffles, I am looking forward to 2009. I think it will be a great year in its way, and I can’t wait! There are so many things I want to do, not least with the book, and all I need is a clear head to get started!

So let’s see, apart from the biggies, this coming year I would like to achieve:

- A holiday with J – anywhere! We deserve one!
- An improvement in my lindy hop skills
- A regular-ish yoga class
- Another visit to that grand second-hand bookshop in Lincoln
- Affording a car (affording anything would be nice)
- Some sort of painting / creativity / craftiness
- And to remember to occasionally go fly a kite (yes I have just watched Mary Poppins!)

Wish you all a grand New Year 2009!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Stop Fiddling!

Finally, after what feels like forever, I have clicked open a certain rather long Word document. My words look back at me, slightly dust-covered, slightly forlorn. ‘You’ve left us too long!’ they reproach me. ‘Did you see how many real books out there mention the 1940’s? By the time you come to push us out into the world you’ll have missed your market!’

“But it’s not just about the 1940’s!” I tell my words crossly. “It’s about…” I stop, as my words lean forward eagerly. ‘Tell us!’ they say. ‘Tell us here and now, and then maybe when you dither again for a year someone else will take your idea and flog it down the river!’

Their attention is unnerving, and I look over my shoulder. My bland room stares back at me. I turn back. “It’s about stuff,” I finish lamely. I’m not falling for that old chestnut.

And so, I blow off the dust and start again at the Prologue. The itch to rewrite and meddle again comes over me, and before I know it I have deconstructed and rebuilt the first paragraph. Oh when does this constant fiddle ever stop? I think I was happy with the prologue once. I think I am happier with it now. Gosh, is this the story that will never end though, one wonders? Okay, the prologue is now done. Again. At least, I am not touching it until after lunch. Sighs.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Good King Stephen

Like Wenceslas, I looked out upon a feast of Stephen, but my feast was the 800 or so pages of Stephen King’s novel from this year, Duma Key.

I am a big fan of Stephen King’s ability to make people disappear into his stories, and this quality was something I particularly appreciated whilst commuting. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of horror writing, but I am a fan of any author that can do this conjuring trick. I also admire the longevity of his stories; the way they creep and linger in your mind way after the book has been shut and put back on the shelf.

Duma Key is a very long book, yet it didn’t outstay its welcome with superfluous passages, as I didn’t feel the need to skim and skip over the surface. I fell into the book very quickly with the excitement readers get when they know they are about to tumble down a good rabbit hole, and for the first 500 or so pages I barely surfaced for air. Yet for me the pace didn’t last, as the brilliant atmosphere built from the beginning finally congealed and trickled away with an unconvincing denouement. Similar descriptions from ‘It’, similar sleight of hand from ‘The Shining’, similar feeling from one of his shorter stories, The Langoliers – and somehow each one meant more in its previous state than here in its reincarnation.

But having said that, this is still a very good book – I am just inordinately fussy when it comes to my favourite writers. I want to be astounded each and every time, and have my investment in their world pay back a dividend of hours well spent. Duma Key was a good investment in that sense, it may not be the best book for me from Stephen King’s extensive back catalogue, but it certainly had the power to hold my attention, and capture my imagination.

It also made me want to write.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

I have already laid down my great escape plans for today – various Christmas’ past have taught me to be as wily as the Cooler King when it comes to certain family get-togethers. So before I double-check the map and the motor-bike, I shall take this opportunity to wish you all a lovely day today, however you celebrate it, and a peaceful and happy time in 2009.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas Shopping

I have just laid out all my Christmas presents to start wrapping them, and the smug feeling I had on buying them early has evaporated like morning mist.

I could have sworn the pile looked an impressive bounty when it was still hidden in carrier bags, yet out of the bags and it appears all I have bought this year is an angry tomato magnet.

Okay, well there are a few more things than the magnet (which is for a friend that hates tomatoes; she'll love it), but pushing it altogether and I am worried. I have also left it far too late to go out shopping today, so will have to do everything tomorrow and Tuesday, which is of course when I am out of town visiting folk. I shall have to strive to be pleasant company yet dive off into shops at every given opportunity.

You’d think, honestly, that what with one thing or another, this year I should have had time to a) make own cards, b) gift-wrap all presents in the style of Country Living photo shoot c) bake own confectionary range and d) do this all well before now. Instead I have made all the cards, but not posted them yet, I have wrapped two presents more in the style of crap-wrap, I have not been near a baking tray since the cheesecake / biscuit concoction of 2007, and still have nigh on everything to do. Agh!

So – the plan for the rest of today is to wrap my meagre little pile and then make a cunning list in order to get everything sorted before Christmas Eve. I do not want the usual Christmas Eve panic, still sticking everything in sight at midnight, whilst glugging down glasses of Baileys. Instead I want to be welcoming visitors to my garland-covered front door wearing some sort of fabulous gown. Actually, I want to be in that Marks and Spencer’s advert, lounging around with Twiggy and Take That. I bet none of them spend Christmas Eve picking cat hair off their Sellotape.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Wine is Evil.

And that is all I am going to say about that.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Everybody knows that

One of the things I most remember from childhood reading is that a lot of narratives used an all-knowing lofty stance when educating their young readers.

There seemed to be a fashion for informing when writing for children - using the statement ‘but of course, everyone knows that’. Sometimes it would be with a sprinkling of truth, such as the one below:

Percy the kitten went over to the saucer and happily drank the top of the milk (as everyone knows kittens like that bit best).

Or it would be something quite bizarre, like:

The polar bear was wearing a red woollen scarf (as everyone knows that red is a polar bear’s favourite colour).

The result gave me a slight feeling of inadequacy. I didn’t know that kittens like the top of the milk, or that a polar bear's favourite colour was red. But the author has just told me ‘everyone’ knows – you mean to say no one told me? Everyone knew apart from me? I viewed books as all-powerful guides – if they said ‘everyone knows’ then surely they must be correct, on both the statement, and the fact that everyone around me were surely information hogging gits. Text printed in a book meant Truth, Justice and The American Way. Well, perhaps not the latter two, but definitely ‘truth’ – unless it was something obviously mad, like Doctor Seuss.

I’d test this ‘everyone knows’ theory by asking my mother, not yet realising this would ultimately confuse me further. No, she didn’t seem to know that polar bears like red woollen scarves, but she did know cats liked the creamy top of the milk. My mother was the voice of adult reason, twenty foot tall, and my light shining ahead on the path to adulthood (which explains A LOT!). So I’d go back to the book, unable to dismiss the statements as one of those baffling jokes adults like to play on children, and equally unable to totally believe them to be gospel.

As I got older I saw through them for the author trick they were, but I do remember that perplexing time of wondering whether I was the only one in the world who didn’t know, and wanting to believe polar bears only liked red scarves.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Crafty Christmas

I decided to make Christmas cards to send friends and loved ones this year, completely forgetting that cat-hair gravitates towards pritt-stick like docile iron-filings obeying a stern magnet. It seemed such a good idea at the time…

I have a rather sizable collection of art and craft materials – mainly from my time studying illustration and discovering the delights of a cheap University shop. But my hoarding started way before then – somewhere in my cupboards I have vicious smelling bottles of ancient poster paint, painted pebbles and shells from random holidays, and scrap-books full of cut-out cards. One day all my collection will be in one place and I will be able to throw manky bits away, sigh happily and create wonder with the rest of it. At least that is the fond hope. In the meantime, I keep a selection of useful bits easily accessible, things like tissue paper, card, beads, and shiny material, basically stuff I can play with should I feel inspired.

Did I tell you I used to sell hand-made cards? I left a job after two years, sick of not being creative, and decided that I would make cards and sell paintings. I threw myself enthusiastically into this idea, and although I made some foolish mistakes (never buy cardboard frames and then put them somewhere they will warp), I did have a shop selling my designs, and I had a stall on a farmer’s market. It was fun, but not a way to make a living - at least not how I did it!

Anyway, I decided that I had all the ingredients to make Christmas cards this year, so to speak, and it was silly to buy a new packet when I had everything to hand. Of course though, I had to buy more Pritt-stick, as my old ones had dried to a crisp, and then I had to buy blank cards and envelopes, as the ones I had were tiny. And then there is actually sitting down to make them... so far I have spent £3.50 on this venture, and it has taken me a whole day to produce ten cards.
Maybe not so economical in the long run, come to think about it. I more than likely could buy a box set of cards from Woolworths for about ten pence, given their sad state of affairs. But will they have bonus cat hair? I think not.

These are my main designs so far (I generally create a few designs I like, and then repeat them, occasionally switching the colours around). The sheet music on the top card is from one of my favourite songs (hymn?) The Holly and The Ivy, and the empty tag on the second card will be for the person's name. The candles on the next cards are made from beads. I have another ten to make, and then that is it for this year - no more! Anything I do at the moment that is not a) job-hunting or b) editing makes me feel guilty and worried, but card-making today was a lovely distraction!

Monday, 8 December 2008


Hooray – one of my hugely long application forms cast out into the world has netted me an interview next week! I am really pleased, firstly as I didn’t think this would happen until next year, and secondly as the job itself sounds really interesting. I shall have to do a ton of research between now and then, but already I can feel my confidence return in bubbling rushes, like the fizz sparkling through newly-opened champagne. Phew – considering much of that was fast pouring down the plug hole, it is brilliant to feel happy again.

When being asked about my availability, I would love to answer in excited gushing bursts, like below:

‘Yes! Of course I am available! What date suits me? Whenever is best for you! Six in the morning, eight in the evening, anytime! I can jog alongside you reciting successes while you are in the gym, I can shout my CV over a bathroom partition, I can serve you tea and pass my portfolio along with the biscuits! Anytime, I don’t mind!’

But of course that didn’t happen. Instead I consult an imaginary calendar, (as am very-imaginary-important) and we settle on a date / time in a grown up and adult manner. It is only when I am off the phone do I yell ‘yippee’, caper around the living room and phone J to excitedly gabber down the phone at him. He excitedly gabbers back. Woohoo!

And even if I don’t get this job, it is all good experience at the end of the day, so it really is a win/win situation. I have shortlisted a few more jobs to apply for this week as well... but all of a sudden I feel inspired to edit the novel instead. Confidence and happiness work wonders!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Let me show you my shower…

When you stay overnight with friends, there will come a moment where they will feel compelled to explain how their shower works, as if only yesterday the invention stopped us all sluicing in puddles.

The explanation will nearly always involve a demonstration, at which point we will both troop into the bathroom so the host can point at the shower while they speak, and show me the taps. My response to such wonders will be to nod gravely in the manner of a visiting expert, possibly the Antiques Roadshow Shower Specialist (with a forte in 1980’s stainless steel).

All showers, enthuse their owners, are a little temperamental. You have to coax the hot tap and caress the cold until you get water that won’t scald or freeze off your assets. Every person I stay with has a different technique – I am waiting for the one that says the shower will only work if you knock three times on each tap before serenading the thing with songs from MGM musicals. It’s the bathroom equivalent of OCD – soon I will have to touch everything shiny in the room just to be allowed to get some water out of its annoying, sprinkly head.

And that’s if the shower is a straight-forward affair, god forbid if it has a lever to switch it between shower or bath, or a switch to turn on before you step in, or basically anything. Some showers I have been introduced to are like an assembling puzzle on the Krypton Factor.

‘So switch this on before you enter the bathroom, and then stamp on the dodgy floorboard, and then feel up both radiators just because everyone always feels up radiators, and then turn that switch, move that lever and then the dial behind controls the temperature so keep an eye on that as it creeps, turn on the taps and off you go! Oh but if you forget the exact order of what I have just said then you’ll turn on the neighbour’s bath instead, cause a flood and drown his cute kittens. Enjoy!’

It’s a shower, I want to say, how hard can it be? Yet I am never puzzled or amused by the demonstration of the shower, it’s an expected ritual when staying somewhere overnight. If the host does not mention the shower, I will be compelled to ask about it, and whether it is ‘easy to use’. What am I expecting, the Einstein of showers? Some sort of MC=Shower to complete before I get in? But just as I am never puzzled to be shown a shower, despite my thirty-odd years of experience with such watery things, so the host will never be curious as to why I have asked.

And no matter how many explanations or demonstrations, I always without fail will turn the bath on first, but at least no cute kittens have come a cropper. Yet.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Bendy working practices

‘You should have a very flexible approach to work…’ says the form – my problem is I just read this as ‘bendy’. I have a very bendy approach to work. A very wiggly advance on employment.

Yes – I am still bobbing along (bobbing along) at the bottom of the beautiful briny sea of application forms. The places I am applying for all interview in January, but I really didn’t expect to get somewhere before Christmas, considering the various crunchy state of my chosen industry. I think they are all waiting to see what Santa brings them (Santa being the Financial Director of course).

The only problem with bobbing along (bobbing along) is that I should be full-speed ahead on the book, but every job application not only takes me ages, but takes my thought-process miles away from being creative. It’s all formal and grown up ways of expression, and although my book is not written in the style of lolcats (I can has novel?), it’s not written in the style of application forms either.

Oh well, the end is in sight with the current form so if I just stop thinking ‘wiggly’ when I see the word ‘flexible’ I shall get there. Let's end the post on a giggle...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

On the Job Hunt

Early: Hm. ‘Must be fluent in Dutch’. I click on the link anyway, just to see if the job advert is just teasing about the language skills involved. Ah. Dutch embassy – probably not. I slink out of the link hopefully un-noticed.

Mid-morning: Hm. This looks promising, mainly because it pays a stonking fortune. I click on the link anyway wondering what the catch is – usually something that involves java and multi-platform and programming, in which case I shall yet again slink away. My job searches so far seem to involve a lot of enthusiastic but random clicking and then a slight pause for reading job spec before backing away feeling a bit thick.

Lunch: What is one good at, anyway? Oven bleeps madly from downstairs. Oops, I appear to be over-cooking the fish. Will scrub ‘chef’ from job applications.

After lunch: ‘Please state why you are applying for this post’. Ah, if only I could, dear application. It would go something like this:

I am applying for this post as I am skint and want your money. I think I more than likely can do your job, at least it all sounds fairly ok apart from that programming bit but I am sure someone can just show me the html thingie and all will be well. I also have never worked in that part of London before and wonder what the shops will be like. Pip, pip!

But instead I have to cover such realities with words like experience and competent and deliverables and website infrastructure. Sigh…

Snack-time: I think I will gnaw off my own fingers if I have to write my specialist skills essay one more time. Why can’t there be one form to rule them all, in the style of Lord of the Rings?

After-school: I have totally lost the willpower to do these forms. The job description is interesting, it’s just every time I try to start a new section on essential or desirable skills my brain opens the sneaky hatch behind my left ear and slopes off to watch children’s TV downstairs. I might as well fill the form out in crayons and seal it with chocolate for all the good I feel it will do me.

Before dinner: Suddenly gone all efficient. Why now? Six sections yet to complete, but the fact I have filled in three means that I am amazingly pleased with myself. I may celebrate by watching something mindless. Or I shall continue with form as on a role (and it has to be sent away tomorrow, on pain of death). Hm, best carry on then.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Coffee in Cafes

I found an independent café last week (more tea shop than anything else) and I am in love with it already. It is tucked between a jewellers and a restaurant facing a village green, it has proper table-cloths and lady-like chairs, and even better you can get 2 coffees and a cupcake for £3. This will not break the bank at all (since it was broken a while ago) so I think I can definitely afford to go there once a week and indulge my writer fantasies.

It is a bit of a stomp to get there, mind you – fifty minutes when wearing trainers, no doubt six hours if wearing heels. This is why I don’t usually wear heels – I walk so much that there’s no point to them (ahem) - I’d be so slow I may as well go backwards. Besides, something strange happens to the world if I even elevate myself by a mere inch, the gravity is definitely different at those lofty heights.

So a trainer’d stroll in the November sunshine was just the ticket for today, and was a nice reward for yesterday, when I spent all day on job websites. I have two more Applications of Joy to knuckle down to, but that is for tomorrow. Today was for me.

I like observing how the world behaves in cafes. Last week there was a mum and her young daughter, and I couldn’t help get interested in them, as the mother had said ‘no cakes’ as they walked in. Bearing in mind that this is possibly the goo-iest, chocolate-ist, and Famous Five-ish like tea shop in the world, why on earth would you bring your child to it and then say they couldn’t have any cakes? The reason apparently was because ‘they were having dinner later’ – a poor excuse if you ask me. Tea shops are for eating gooey things and for feeling sick and spoiling appetites, not for boring old thoughts of the pork chop to come.

Today a man had come in purely to speak on his mobile phone, loudly and at length about his late invoice. Don’t panic world, he arranged to speak to HSBC in the morning about his mortgage, so all is well – phew! I was so relieved for him. Except apparently he was meeting Ian at the A10 roundabout, as they are all going up west later to get hammered, only if Dave is up for it, of course. The problem was it was Dave’s daughter’s birthday, so maybe not… oh how I worried. I debated for ages whether I should turn around and join in, as clearly he was including me in his conversation, but thankfully Mr Irritating left to the icy chill of my glare.

Editing is going well – I am still revising chapter three, and it really does work better in a café. Me and the novel are going through a love-hate relationship at the moment – sometimes I like it and want to dance nose-to-the-sky in the manner of Snoopy as I love it so much. Sometimes I hate it and think it sounds like something Adrian Mole would have sent post-haste to the BBC (Adrian Mole being Sue Townsend’s fictional pretentious wannabe writer). In-between these two moods is a sort of stubborn perseverance, and a cat. Cats can be found in the middle of everything in life, so it seems.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Sunday thoughts

Titling a post ‘Sunday thoughts’ sounds like it should be an introduction to Songs of Praise, and that you will find me poised with a benevolent expression in a book-lined study ready to impart my goodly wisdom. Instead you find me wearing really old green cords dug from the bedroom time forgot, paired with an equally striking green jumper. Think, if you will, of a 5ft5 runner bean, but with red socks, and you pretty much have my ensemble for the day.

The bedroom time forgot is the spare room, the room I grew up in from the age of months to 15 years until I graduated to my elder brother’s room when he moved out. Over time, it has been turned into the ‘I’ll-just-put-that-in-there’ room, and soon enough it was piled from floor to ceiling with stuff. Everything I have ever thought I had thrown away has reappeared in that room when I least expect it. My mum simply hates getting rid of anything, and all has sentimental value attached to it – eg, your dad once sat on that cushion. Even if my dear dad did once sit on it when he was alive, there are other things to keep for that sort of reason, and not blooming cushions. You get the idea.

The worst is when I contribute to the bedroom time forgot with my own piles of junk, i.e. the boxes of books from the flat. I have to rearrange everything to fit them in, which takes a day of Krypton Factor style sliding and slotting. And that’s when the fun begins – my mum suddenly becomes convinced that all the items she ever needs or desires are to be found within that room. Recently, and fair enough, it was the Christmas decorations. I growl and plan a day of rearranging in order to find them, and then spend hours lugging things around, having to stop constantly to find cats and lift them out of trouble as they cause yet another small avalanche of old clothes. I find all sorts of things I last threw away in 1993, rescued and hidden in the spare room. I get rid of two black bin bags of nasty out-of-shape moth-eaten clothes and tell mum on no account is she to go through them and get anything out. I expect I shall see that misshapen woollen black skirt yet again one of these days.

Finally I find the Christmas decorations and emerge victorious. I pack everything away and close the door – success! Except now mum thinks I haven’t found them all. ‘Where’s that gold garland? It must be still in there’. This is the sort of thing I shall hear from now until Christmas Eve, when she finds everything else she needs in the cupboard under the stairs. I am starting to think my whole house is held up on old fluorescent T Shirts, broken wicker baskets and various knitting magazines.

My other Sunday thought is why is it easier to type (or at least think of what I want to write) when I have the Word doc page size set to 75% or 100%, but when I have it at 150% and therefore easier on my eyes, can I not type at all?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Accident waiting to happen

There has been an accident waiting to happen for the last three years in the room I am currently occupying. The problem is, no one expects the mishap, and so it waits, like the rickety shelf over-stacked with books, like the trembling clothes rail in the wardrobe, for a prime opportunity.

Today was such an opportunity.

Redundancy brings with it several forms to fill in that need a legal mind to ponder over before you can wave off the whole sorry business. So today I was running around getting everything done and dusted, and between runs I came home to get spruced up (as one has to look ones best, appearances are everything) before going to my office for the last time for a final sign off. Everything I needed to take with me was in my bedroom, being stepped upon by an adventurous cat, and I had just left the room for a minute.

That was all it took.

To explain the scene – my bedroom door opens into the room, beside a wall. There is enough space for the door to open, and then straight in front is the side view of a heavy wooden dresser. Leaning on that side, facing the door, is a folding wooden chair. This was the accident waiting to happen. I always walked past it and thought, hm, better move that chair, but of course never did. So my adventurous cat moved it for me, by jumping up on the dresser, knocking the chair over onto the door, which then crashed shut.

I spun around on the landing and stared at my closed door. Oh no, I thought, as I pushed against it and realised it was jammed by the chair, which was now wedged between the door and the dresser. No! It would only open a crack, and so I had to wiggle my hand through the gap, at the cost of my wrist, to see if I could feel where the chair had fallen. There was one moment when I thought my hand had got stuck, and I had visions of me, and the cat, sitting forlornly either side of the door for the foreseeable future, but thankfully, after much wiggling, I was free. I then got a bathrrom mirror to see if I could angle it around the wedge and find out where the chair was, and this revealed the chair was practically flat to the ground. This set back turned me temporarily into a fishwife, but I wasn’t brought up on Blue Peter for nothing.

I knew I needed something strong, that could bend around a 90 degree angle and yet lift up the chair. As luck would have it, I’d bought a roll of Christmas wrapping paper, and it was still on the landing. So I jammed that around the gap, and waggled everything ferociously for a few minutes, and to my great relief and supreme thankfulness the chair moved, and the door opened. It was a happy moment, for both me, and my inquisitive little tabby cat, who just gave me an enquiring ‘meow?’ as she walked regally out of the room.

The chair is now firmly out of harm’s way, but have I learnt my lesson? The clothes rail creaks ominously as I hang away my coat. After all, what is the worst that could happen?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

If in doubt, head to a café

JK Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter book in a café near her flat. Below, if my wibbly wobbly boing-there-it-goes mobile internet connection lets me, should be a picture of the very café.

Now, I’m not sure where she used to live exactly (Scotland being a big place), but that is a rather nice upmarket looking local café. It even has a hanging basket, which is a sign of high society indeed. Now if I wanted to write in my local café, I would be sitting at a chipped Formica table on a screwed down plastic chair, while people around me stare into the distance and dribble. Anyone actually wanting to linger beyond finishing their cup of muddy tea would be viewed with deep suspicion, or indeed would also be dribbling. It further doesn't help that every café around here smells of fried egg sandwiches, in fact the local shopping establishment in general smells of one giant fry up. They are not exactly the most inspiring of venues, so I’ll give the local ones a miss.

But I do like the idea of uncurling from of this awkward spot I have to sit in using my computer, and going for a stroll in the November sunshine. This settled, I decide to print out Chapter Three and take it with me in search of a nice café that doesn’t smell of fried egg. Forty minutes of striding gets me to a brave new world. I’ve yet to uncover an independent café (and when I do it shall get my patronage) but in the meantime there is always the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Getting a sofa in one of these places requires a lot more dedication than I can usually be bothered to muster, so I take my tall soya café latte (coffee, just say coffee) over to a table, and start reading through Chapter Three. It really does work wonders, within minutes I am in my own little world, writing and crossing out and editing and twiddling my pen deep in thought. I end up staying there nearly two hours, and could have definitely bedded down for the day (except I would have emerged a caffeine and sugar fuelled wreck by closing time). As it was, I did 6 pages longhand and am completely overhauling Chapter Three with enthusiasm. This is great news, as I really need to pep up my motivation these days, and not only with coffee (although that was rather nice too). Depending on the weather tomorrow, I might just well stride out again.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Progress at last!

Even though it has not seemed an outwardly successful week (no job news as of yet), enough progress has been made to make me feel brighter.

When I was at University I interviewed two marvellous people who were, and still are, a successful author / illustrator team. We stayed in touch over the years, even though I am the sort of person that leaves address books in a mucky state, and so, having yet another abode to share, I wrote a letter of news and stuff to send their way. I also asked if they would mind reading through the first chapters of my book (i.e. what I will send out to agents) and share their opinion. Being thoroughly nice, they said they are happy to do that, so I shall send it their way after Christmas. This has given me a new lease of life with the editing and redrafting, as in my mind I am treating them as important agent types, so it has got to be, well, better than it was. And this sort of mild pressure is helping enormously.

The chat I had with good friend I confirmed that I need to bring one character forward and play to my writing strengths. I feel at my strongest when using subtle humour within writing, which probably mirrors the way I tell a story or relate a tale to friends. I do love a good yarn (and incidentally J is the king of a good story – beautiful build ups and killer punch lines that make me laugh and laugh), and so it leaks through into my writing.

I now have added a prologue to the novel as it really seemed to need it, and it has had such an impact. I think the beginning sentence captures attention, and this lasts through the short ride to the last sentence of the prologue, which turns everything on its head. This feels (to me) like the best way in to Chapter One, and I am so happy, as it has set the scene beautifully – not only for this book, but for the other story idea I have in mind which is connected with this, although not a sequel.

So this led me to Chapter One, and it became clear I needed to completely change the first five pages as it seemed to leap all over the place. This was a hard one, as the beginning was the original idea I had for this story, way back in 2004, and I was reluctant to change it. But I had to, and really all I did was whip out those pages so the beginning now makes sense, and then I found I could include the best of those scenes in Chapter Two, where they fitted perfectly.

I have also been editing and taking out various crap I left behind from the first redraft. Sentences like this: ‘She tried to close her eyes again…’ She tried? Were they stuck open with super-glue? Were they stitched to her eyebrows? It is amazingly hard to see such stupid errors sometimes. I think my thought process is a bit dyslexic, as I know what I mean in these instances, but it does come out in a bit of a jumble at times. I am now on Chapter Three, I am happy to report, and I am going through it with new eyes.

Today was also rather good as a magazine feature I wrote earlier this year got published, which means I can finally invoice for it! I was commissioned and submitted it back in July but for various magazine reasons it has only now seen the light of day. Luckily I subscribe to this magazine or I might have missed it! As it is the invoice is winging its way electronically towards west London even now. Handy timing methinks!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

How goes the edit?


3pm: I am finally happy with the first 141 words of the story. I shall not change them again! (At least, until someone with more knowledge than me says get thee to an edit pronto). Now let’s see how I do with the next 106,000 words…

3.20pm: Already changed what I said I wouldn’t. Now I am finally, finally happy. Or at least I think so. *peers at the first bit again* Drat.

3.40pm: The cat has come to sit on me for a cuddle as I type, purring away, and he has just farted. Ye Gods… a cat fart is bad. I haven’t the heart to push him off, and so I sit, pulling a face that would curdle butter, breathing in cat fart, typing grimly away. Thanks little ginger cat buddy.

6pm: “She’s found room for the lamb!” is the joyful shout from below. This is in reference to the freezer packing up this morning, and the fact our neighbour can squish in mum’s frozen leg. Of lamb, that is, not her own as that would be wrong. I make a noise that hopefully interprets as 'well, what a relief, we do have a lovely neighbour, best news I've heard all day' but actually sounds more like 'hm'.

7pm: Dinner with Mum and J (after explaining about the lack of two key ingredients for the mushroom pasta I was going to cook), is courtesy of the Chinese restaurant up the road. We order far too much rice, as per usual, and ignore the free prawn crackers. The cats pose around the chair legs in various contortions hoping for food, until I shut them in the kitchen. The glares through the glass door directed to the dinner table have to be seen to be believed.

10.30pm: I am back tapping at the computer, and in a giddy moment of editing I slice off five entire pages from the start of the book. I have now got a prologue you see, and the first bit of chapter one doesn’t quite fit anymore. Snip! I sit back all happy about being ruthless, and then prudently save the chopped pages elsewhere.


9am: Oh My God what have I done?! I scan the beginning of the first chapter. I know eventually the read will be better for it, but oh my giddy aunt. I've given myself a headache, that's what I have done. Eek!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Staying Cheerful

It’s a tricky thing, staying positive at the moment. I’ve started calling jobs Applications of Joy instead of Doom, giving the whole process a more upbeat feel, but it still doesn’t change the fact the future is as murky as paint water.

The main problem for me is being back at home in my childhood bedroom. It hasn’t changed since I was a teenager. I left the majority of stuff in it when I moved out (Stuff R Us should be the family motto, apart from it sounds less toy shop and more taxidermy than I’d like), and so here I sit, in a room that by and large hasn’t changed since I was 15. It feels, well, sort of odd. It has an air of melancholy, like the young me was pickled in a jar ages ago and is still here somewhere, starry-eyed about the future. Yet here I am, and here I sit, and nothing feels right, not one bit.

You know it is bad when I start rhyming.

But then I try to stay positive, as the good thing is no bills m’lord, and that is exactly what I need right now, at this moment in time. I say ‘no bills’ – well I do pay my mum a bit each month, and then there is the cats insurance, and a myriad of other strange small amounts – but nothing like the big hitters – flat rent, mortgage, electricity - those are the hard ones. So – all good, right? If only moods were so easy!

I can sense my cheerfulness is slipping of late; I get uptight easier, over-react to silly things, more cynical with bigger things. Nothing sits easy with me – I’m constantly thinking about what the hell am I doing? Am I doing enough? Am I letting life slide? Am I opting out? I worry I’m not being a good enough friend, girlfriend, or daughter as I feel so overly occupied with my internal analysing. I find myself doing more childish things – reaching for books I last read while in school uniform, running through old shows and theme tunes on youtube – I’m probably just riding a wave of nostalgia being back here, so maybe I should enjoy it! Or I’m taking comfort in these memories… or of course it could be I am regressing into a small childish blob. *lobs analysis out of the window*

Still – more Applications of Joy coming up, and I promised I’d cook mum and J dinner tonight. This may have been a trifle foolhardy, since I basically agreed I’d make the equivalent of mushroom pasta and know full well there are no mushrooms, and possibly no pasta. So this means a stomp to the corner shop to pick over whichever road-side vegetables look still vaguely edible, or I ask J to buy his dinner in its natural raw state and bring it to me, where I can boil it to within an inch of its life. If you get the impression I'm not a natural born chef I'd say you were very astute.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Job Applications

I spent all last week preparing a cracker CV with which to impress potential employers, and the first job I apply for doesn’t want CV’s, as it has its own application system online…

I managed to connect my wibbly wobbly mobile Internet early this morning, and then clicked on the job description. The page slowly unfolded before my eyes – a veritable online assault course of an application form complete with clicky hoops for my Internet dongle to jump over. I narrowed my eyes at the dongle; it saucily winked its blue connection light at me. Healthy enough at the moment, it seemed to say, but you just wait until you want to submit that form ho-ho!

I told it sternly that I’d had enough of its shenanigans over the weekend (it took me simply hours to watch the whole series of Moondial on youtube) and set to with the application form. My word. I have never applied for a job that seemingly wanted me to sweat blood through my finger tips and pass out over the keyboard in order to get within sniffing distance of an interview. When I started that form, I thought the job sounded interesting and it was worth a punt. When I ended that form, I thought if they don’t call me back tomorrow first thing straight away with interview date / job offer then I shall demand their heads on a pike. Seven hours that form took me – that was a day’s work just even applying! It’s not like I’ve asked to be Prime Minister, or a brain surgeon. I’d understand if it took seven hours then, and possibly a multi-choice quiz. And of course the dongle loved me trying to press submit – oh the fun we had!

I’m sitting here at the moment with all my windows open, which is very strange for me, but I’m desperate for some fresh air. This is because the whole house smells of bad fish. Sigh. It really has been one of those days.

My mum said to me there was some smoked salmon fillets in the fridge if I wanted some for lunch. This is the same mum that once made me green bread sandwiches to take to school – the day blindly trusting youth went in the bin along with the sandwiches. So, ever wary, I went downstairs at lunchtime and poked at the salmon fillets – use by October 9th, said the label. Not a chance, I thought, but it was then I made my first mistake. I put them back in the fridge.

Later, mum was home and clattering around in the kitchen. I, upstairs with the door to my domain firmly shut, didn’t notice anything odd until I felt a slight rumble of tummy and decided to go downstairs to see if there was anything worth rumbling about in the kitchen. One step outside and the smell almost bowled me over. Mum, oblivious, had decided there was nothing wrong with fish smelling fishy and thought she’d cook the little blighters anyway. Cue teenage like explanations of why you shouldn’t cook old fish (‘Yuck! Urgh! Oh My God I’m going to die!’) as I whipped them out of the oven, into a bin-bag and away down the garden.

So now I am back, door once again closed, internet connection all perky from its daily bit of fun, and am off smoked salmon fillets for life. Apart from that, all is well. I might try and watch Moondial again…

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Curse that Meddling Credit Crunch

I’ve become a victim of something that sounds like a cheap healthy cereal – sadly been made redundant. Agh!

How can one person be so oblivious yet observant at the same time? Ever since I joined this company in July, there have been group emails doing the rounds seemingly every week. They have all been the sort that say ‘so and so is sad they didn’t get to say goodbye but they hope everyone except the boss will come for a last pint of ale at the Boozer’s Tavern next door’. I didn’t really pay it much attention, as people slunk out the office door with all their possessions (herbal tea bags, high heels, company pencil and pack of mint tic-tacs) in a cardboard box. It just didn’t occur to me that it would be redundancy that would get me out of the door; I thought the dodgy coffee would get me first.

But it appears cut backs are in order, and it has now reached my department. Last in (me) means first out (cunningly one day before my probation period ends), and sadly that is that!

Or be it so sad…? The people were nice although I hardly knew them, but the job itself, well, it was boring me to tears. The problem was, as you all know, I was in a rush to find anything back in July to get me out of the money pit, and I chose that job as it was easy to do, and they were quick to employ. Foolish me – it was so easy that my brain was melting. It wasn’t challenging in the slightest, and while it may have eventually had potential, it’s not the end of the world at all. At least I am back living with my mum and not paying any (major) bills!

So I am dusting down the CV and I am determined to find a job that is interesting. I also plan to use this time to crack on with the novel polishing and rewrites – in a weird way this has come at a great time for me, as I really needed more time on the book! The world moves in mysterious ways, is all I can say…

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Stepping up a gear

I have to tell you this quickly, before it goes past midnight and today will be forever lost in tomorrow. But ever since Wednesday I have been poking and prodding the novel, wondering if perhaps it needs a change here and there. And joy of all joys, I can see how to improve it, it's like all is now clear? Strange feeling, but I feel like I am moving to the next stage with it - thank gawd for chats with friends, eh?!

So I have been using lunchtimes at work to sit in a little coffee shop around the corner, far from the milling tourists, and scribbling ideas down in my note pad. It's hard to leave your desk, sprint out of the office, buy something that warrents you sitting in the shop and then settle, open your pad and think right - go! But it has to be done - windows of opportunity have to be opened! Otherwise they remain shut, which is a bit hot and stuffy, especially when you live in the Sahara (aka my mum's house).

I have also been putting tonight to good use by cracking on with the new changes. I love them! I don't want to go to sleep! I think for sure this will be a good thing. The only problem is a lot now needs to change - whereas before this was a skinny novel that needed a few more pies, now I am stuffing in the steak and onions. Ye God, my analogies need work.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Worries that Wait behind the Door

And so they’re back! From out of space! I just walked in to find them here with that panicky look upon their face! I should have changed my stupid story; I should have thrown away the pen, if I’d known all along I’d start worrying about it again!

I met up with good friend I last night who hasn’t read my story, as I wanted to pitch it to her and see what parts of it hook her in. It was an interesting experiment, firstly for me in talking about it and thinking of what sounded the most captivating (and then wondering if the bits I was disregarding needed to be in the novel at all), as well as seeing her instantly like the sound of one of my main characters.

I have had such a good response with him with everyone that has read this (and there’s not many – a few friends basically), the character is fun, interesting and you care about him – my pal last night was asking me all sorts of questions about him, some of which I guess I hadn’t pondered, as perhaps my attention was more on the main female character. This led me to wonder whether I should increase his role slightly, as god-dam it, he is a very fun character to write, which is not to say the female character isn’t, but perhaps he is just as important as her, in a way.

I think it’s because I use him as a foil for the female character, they are complete contrasts. The female character is based in reality and her situations are very real human ones, hence research into different historical decades, and being careful with details. But he – well, he is more free as he is not confined to reality so I can just play with him, and I guess that shines through the pages.

So now I am all worried again, as I feel I should capitalise more on him and perhaps change a few things… oh it’s a long slog this, as anyone else writing a book out there will no doubt know!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Autumn Gold at Leeds Castle

Regardless of how blustery the weather is, I always like to celebrate my favourite time of year with some sort of show, be it a harvest, craft fair, or a chestnut gathering walk in the countryside. Last year was the inspiring ‘Dig for Victory’ in St James Park, and this year was the Autumn Gold Flower Festival at Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle is not in Leeds, a fact that everyone will clamour to be the first to quiz you upon. ‘Going to Leeds Castle – do you know where it is then, eh? Eh?’ is the question asked as you soon as you mention your visit, and if you reply confidently ‘Kent’ then watch as faces drop slightly. I bet the real Leeds is a bit disappointed that the castle is not in their city – they should get their own back by having a Kent Castle. I would, if I was in charge of Leeds.

It was once the Saxon Manor of Esledes, which probably explains how it became to known as ‘Leeds’ and has had many a portly royal figure stride around its sumptuous grounds, one of them no doubt wondering how to dispose of the current wife at his side. But its last owner, Lady Baillie, very kindly bequeathed the castle to the nation in 1974, and it’s been ours to play in ever since.

The Autumn Gold show brought the colours of harvest into the castle itself, with each grand room further enhanced by creative flower, fruit and vegetable displays. We filed past pumpkins, admired apples, and ogled onions, and then it was time to find the restaurant, as for some reason we were all suddenly really hungry…

We got to the restaurant before the main rush, and even then it was packed, with shivering folk ordering soup. As soon as we were seated I became one of them, as huge cold gusts of wind hugged my neck every time the door was opened and peckish people ventured inside. 'Soup please!' I said, refusing to relinquish my scarf and coat, as the door banged open and shut, letting in people driven demented with hunger from viewing artistic displays of food all day.

‘Four soups’ announced our waiter, sloshing one bowl down in front of J’s mum, leaving the rest of us wondering exactly where the other soups anounced were, as it was blatantly 'one' soup on the table (and napkin). But the rest arrived shortly afterwards, and were all very nice - not that I stuck my spoon in all four to tell you that, though.

After dinner we viewed the world’s oddest museum – the ‘Dog Collar Museum’. I did think perhaps it was just a quirky name until I got inside, but no, it was just dog collars, and as fascinating as they are, I do think an museum for them is stretching interest slightly.

This picture was my favourite display in the castle - a dress made out of flowers and fruit. Beats dog collars... still, we left that room quickly behind us and decided it was 'time for outside' - as the rain stopped squalling and the sun peeked out briefly behind a cloud, obviously not enjoying the view, as back it went again for the rest of the day. Stumping along thinking fond thoughts of fleece, which is where my thoughts tend to lead me in cold weather, we were in time for the birds of prey display. But the best was yet to come...

Leeds Castle has a maze!

I love mazes, and this one was very well done indeed - it was very hard to work out the way to the middle. J immediantly scooted off in front, I bolted the opposite way, and poor J's mum and aunt were instantly lost. And so was I, to be honest, glaring down at a puddle that I was sure I had seen before (I had, three times). Oh yes, this was a maze to be reckoned with.

I made it to the middle first, only because I heard someone ahead of me say 'aha!' in a very knowing way, and quickly followed them. I then had the pleasure of standing up high on a mound and trying to direct J and his mum and aunt, who by now had bumped into eachother again. 'Which way?' asked J, and I called 'by that hedge!' which probably wasn't the best directions to give in a maze come to think about it...

Still, we got out in time for tea, which I am very happy to report.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

It’s the Internet, Jim, but not as I knew it

Since I might not be back at my mum’s for long, I decided I didn’t want to sign up for broadband, mainly because of the bother of installing and running cables everywhere that mum can eye suspiciously. So I have gone for a ‘3’ mobile pay-as-you-go internet dongle - and look! Here I am at home, online, and posting to my blog – surely all is well!


I’m not altogether sure me and my new little dongle buddy are going to get along. It says my connection is HSDPA, which stands for How Slow Does Piddly Attachment go, or something… although to be fair I have been insisting it downloaded the 600 or so emails I had stacked up in the ether waiting for my Inbox to become active again. I also expect it to be able to handle youtube, posting pictures, opening more than two web pages at once, and not choking if I have outlook and photoshop open at the same time. So far my expectations are very high, and the reality is everything is rather s-l-o-w. And since my standard response to slow websites is to click refresh repeatedly, I can see me and the dongle are shortly going to be having words.

But at least for now I can read your blogs, and catch up a little with the outside world without feeling furtive at work. So I’m back, but not at full throttle just yet. Still, its nice to be home!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I’m So Tired…

What happened to the joie de vivre from yesterday? This morning felt like surfacing from hibernation, regardless of the early night last night. What’s going on, body clock? I think it’s SAD. The winter months will see me gradually become more mole-like. God forbid I end up living in a country that only sees a smidgeon of daylight, like Iceland. I’d be barely awake – and as productive as ant in a swimming pool.

Talking of ants… I used to give ants swimming lessons when I was a nipper. There was a pond in my friend’s garden and I was worried the ants nearby might drown, so I filled a bucket with water and put little floating things on it like leaves and twigs, and then dropped ants in and tried to get them to swim to the floating things. Unfortunately they just sank…so far from helping the ants, I just drowned a few instead. I do feel guilty about that, but I was only little and full of the joys of swimming lessons…

Talking of swimming lessons, do they still make you dress up in naff pajama’s to jump in the local pool and rescue a brick? How to embarrass a range of children all at once – everyone shivering in nasty flannelette, sniggers of laughter at the ones still dressed in Winnie-The-Pooh print… and all in aid of a poor brick. I’ve never yet had to use my skills to jump into a canal and rescue someone from drowning (or indeed, a brick) , but it’s nice to think that I can be a heroine when dressed in flannelette.

Talking of flannelette, does this material still exist? And what did it mean – ‘like’ flannel? So flannel, but not quite?

Sigh… get the feeling this is a long day?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Searching for ‘the hook’

Just as songs need that all important hook to reel in listeners, writers also search for that all important tag line to attract your attention. It will be on the dust jacket, in the review, in the PR sent out, and more importantly – it needs to be in the initial letter you send out to agents. With that in mind, I have been doing some heady research…

Every enquiry letter needs that all important shiny silver dangly bit, so I have been writing and rewriting ‘hooks’ for what feels like days now. The only problem is that I have started reading them back to myself in the manner of Don Lafontaine, the deep-voiced man who brought so many film trailers to life.

This does not make for a serious ‘hook’. Consider the following (in a deep voice)…

“In a world brought to its knees, Florence Delaney stands alone and unchallenged by the dark forces of the night, until a long-held family secret unites her with the very forces she has grown to despise.”

Ok, that actually isn’t a description of my novel, which is a darn shame as I rather like it! But why is it so much easier to make up these film-style voice-overs than seriously sum up the contents of my masterpiece?

“In a world dominated by Potters, Jayne stands alone and rather lonely with her pages covered in point size 12 Times New Roman font, until an agent peers down from their lofty cloud and extends the rope-ladder of representation.”

Hmm. A little work is needed, I feel.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

London Open House

It’s that time of year again when posh buildings, societies and normal folk with unusual houses throw open their doors for free to the delight of curious souls like me. Sadly this year I was very disorganised – what with all the recent months fun and games I completely forgot to book anywhere - so all my favourite buildings on the ‘to see for free’ list were out of the running. That said though, it is perfectly possible to just wing it, and roam around seeing what you can find – as long as you are prepared to find huge queues.

We started our day yesterday with a visit to the Linnean Society, which is part of Burlington House, the same place that houses the Royal Academy of Arts. The Linnean Society is the world's oldest extant biological society (I had to run to the dictionary for the meaning of ‘extant’ – although I guessed it must mean the opposite of extinct – nice to be confirmed) and has a most gorgeous library, with a first edition of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ – presented by the author himself! I stared at it hoping to feel wonder but nothing happened, even though I gave it a reverent 20 seconds. I shuffled off, letting the next person gaze in awe at the closed book in a glass cabinet. ‘Look – the wax seal of Darwin’s beagle!’ came the excited hushed murmur (or something rather like it) – inexplicable words to my ears. It was like listening to a different type of English – absolutely made no sense to me, but everyone else there seemed well versed in it and happy so I just eavesdropped here and there, nodding sagely and hoping not to get engaged in conversation.

The library was rather magnificient – carved wood that stretched ever up to a beautiful ceiling, a balcony running around with yet more books, statues and paintings of famous old biologist folk pictured frowning at foliage forever more. It smelt like heaven – if you like books you’ll know what I mean – a musty frusty smell of old paper, sunlight and study – I could bottle that smell and carry it about in a bottle in the manner of an old alcoholic, to be sniffed when needing a boost. You often get actors that mention the smell of greasepaint and theatres – creative professions seem so sensual. I never hear of accountants thrilled by the smell of old calculators, dentists happy with the smell of that foul pink drink, doctors in love with antiseptic.

I got a book to read at one of the long tables, mainly for the thrill of pretending I was a learned member of the society. It was a study on the genetic make up of African Violets – pages of detailed illustrations with notes and diagrams. It makes you wonder how people get the sponsorship – study something obscure, want to take it further, propose book on obscure thing, get money behind you and off you go. Maybe your only audience is fellow professors – but at least you then become the Grande Dame of Violets and get to go to Africa and sit and draw in the sun.

I left the Linnean Society and really wished I was a member – that I had studied biology and could go there and get really excited about Darwin’s beagle, or be the famed earwig illustrator of old London town. There is a niche for everything, as I am slowly beginning to discover.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Scrabbling in the loft

Me and J, relegated to being 16, sat in my mum’s living room last night watching television. There were only 25 or so channels to flick through, being freeview, and we couldn’t find QI, so we were soon casting around for a distraction.

“Let’s play Scrabble!” I said brightly. I was sure I could find it somewhere under this roof, and I was right – it was in the loft. I stood under the trapdoor and eyed it thoughtfully.

Now, the loft at my mum’s is a perilous place that only I can access. My mum is too scared of the ladder, and everyone else in my family is too old, too young, or too fat to clamber above – hence it is the one safe place I can store things to rescue them from the fate of being carted off to the local car boot sale if ever I turn my back. The only downside is that things that go in the loft invariably get covered in loft dust – records cannot go above as they will get warped, and unless you wrap it very well, it all becomes a bit of a dirty old mess.

There is another problem with the loft.

The trapdoor hatch barely laces shut – it appears to hold on by a thread of metal. Once opened it is very tricky to close, you have to keep pushing it up hoping the lock catches, and I always worry that it will swing down unawares one day and smack me on the head.

Hence eyeing the trapdoor thoughtfully - was it worth opening it to win a game of Scrabble against J, or should I leave sleeping trapdoors lie?

A minute later I was climbing up the step-ladder to open the hatch. As ever, it swings open easily, releasing a small puff of dust as a greeting. I balance on top of the step ladder and wave the pokey stick up at the loft ladder, trying to get it to drag down. As ever, it falls fast and heavy, and I catch it and steady it, coughing slightly in yet more dust. The odour of faded paper drifts downs from above – ah, the loft. A dark yawn above has appeared in the ceiling, and up I climb into it, bravely sticking my hand into the small pit between floorboards to turn on the switch. Light illuminates – well - a pile of dusty pap, to be honest. Bin bags full of things that should have been thrown years ago, boxes ditto, furniture we have hidden over the years – and my board games. Juinor Scrabble is within sight - sadly never progressed to adult.

I grab at it, not wanting to actually climb into the loft, and soon am climbing back down with my dusty prize. But that was the easy bit – the hard bit is trying to close the damn thing again.

Several minutes go by as I try to bully the hatch into closing. All it does is fall down on me again – I’m not closing this time, it seems to say. I push, it falls – this repeats for a long while, until I call the ultimate weapon upstairs. J takes one look at the hatch – he and it are old enemies. Two tries later it shuts in defeat.

Twenty minutes later I also shut in defeat – how come the only word I can think to spell in Scrabble is ‘trots’?

Not-Open House

All this week I have wanted to work on the novel, and so far each night I have done nothing more taxing than dinner and a light snooze in front of the television. I turn on the computer, load up Word, look at it for a second and wander off. The only time I seem to be all keen and raring to go is when I know I should be hitting the sack instead (around 10pm).

I always get more inspired creatively at night, I have no idea why – it must be that feeling of encroaching darkness, of nestling in. Maybe I need a sense of security to leave me free to use my imagination and fly away… or maybe I just like the idea that it’s late and although I could, I can’t. Hmm… need to work on that I think. Still all is preceding semi on track, I just need to crack on with it!

This weekend is London’s Open House, and like a berk I haven’t booked anywhere this year – which is so silly as everywhere gets rammed solid unless you book. So on Saturday me and good friend R are going to take our chances and see where we get – I fancy nosing around the old Daily Express office in Fleet Street, or perhaps somewhere around Westminster like the Foreign Office. I really wanted to get into one of the Gentlemen’s Clubs (I’m nosy, alright?) but all fully booked, sadly. Such a shame, I wanted to waltz around and see what life is like in one of these 'men only' clubs! Such an imagination I have!

I also want to get one of those pay-as-you-go ‘access to the Internet’ card dongly things. It’s horrible being off-line at home! I need to be able to update this from there – not here where I am always conscious of someone spotting me, even though I leave time at lunch for this sort of thing. Still… *quick look around, presses publish*

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Little Boxes, in the Hallway

Once again I am back at my mum’s surrounded by boxes full of books, or full of cats, so it seems. I spent all weekend pushing and pulling them (the boxes, not the cats) around like some weird Krypton Factor game – and succeeded in shoving them all into the spare room and shutting the door on them. Be gone boxes!

Little boxes in the spare room
Little boxes held with sticky-tacky
Parcel tape, sticking to everything
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a brown one and a brown one
And a brown one and a bro-wwn one
And they're all made out of sticky-tacky
Parcel tape just the same.

Being back at home has its plus sides (mum’s lovely, hard to get her to take money for rent, save lots), and its down sides (being the oldest teenager in town, not so convenient for work, being one of those sad adult children that return to the nest type statistics). But it’s only for a short pause, and a bit of breathing space, and then onwards and upwards! I am ever optimistic...

... which is more than I can say about the title of the novel. I finally set up my computer again (no Internet, but one shall suffer through) and looked at the title, and was suddenly struck by the age-old question - 'is it any good?' Agh - the indecision... can I see it on the shelves? (Yes). Does it sum up the novel? (Yes). Is it too girlie? (Sigh, maybe). Is it 'too' clever? (No). Is it clever at all? (A little, ish.) Will it make you choose it from a shelf? (I don't know!) Will it make an agent like it? (I don't know!) Will it make a publisher go for it? (Agh!)

So I spent all night worrying at it and trying to come up with another title, but everything I was thinking of didn't quite match the story. So maybe I had a night of unnecessary panic. It's staying as is now, unless the tube ride home reveals something magical (an 'on-time' train the other end would be a start).

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Death by Crystallised Ginger

There are certain indicators in place to warn you when you are getting old – that sigh that accompanies sitting down (or standing up), slippers – last worn aged 7 – become a rather sensible idea, and snacks like crystallised ginger suddenly seem strangely palatable.

Anyone get the feeling this is birthday week?

I was passed a small piece of sugary ginger the other week and, since it was 4pm - the time I am usually bug-eyed from lack of sugar - I took the bait, and was soon bug eyed for another reason. Ooo the sugary sharpness – yes, I had found a new obsession. Be gone Twirl bars.

The next day saw me with my own tub of crystallised ginger. This is going to be fantastic, I thought – semi (cough) healthy, and sweet – how can you go wrong? Oh the naivety. I soon realized my error 4 ginger bits in – my tongue was practically melting. I have discovered the sweet that is impossible to binge on – any more than 6 in a row and I fear I am breaking out in a red gingery sweat.

And so my little tub of crystallised ginger sits by the keyboard and haunts me. I like it, I want it, and every time I go for it I have to judder back, whimpering, until the ginger taste dies down. I am like a stupid puppy when it comes to sugar. So will I learn? Or will I keep getting my nose rapped by ginger? Only time will tell.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Blue Plaques

Bob Smith, 1711 – 1752, Plumber, lived here (but died around the corner)

Nearly every time I look up in London and see a blue plaque the name being commemorated is completely unknown to me. I’m not sure if this is a woeful ignorance on my part of 18th century philosophers or a woeful misguidance of the authorities on who to bestow a plaque.

How do they choose – is it perhaps done by sticking a pin in the Victorian equivalent of the Yellow Pages (the Distemper Pages, perhaps) and seeing who they get? What elevates a person to be selected for a blue plaque – what criteria do they use to be nominated? From the English Heritage website it appears to be:

That he or she has been dead for at least 20 years, or has passed the centenary of his or her birth. It is also vital that at least one London building associated with the nominated figure survives unaltered.

It just goes to show how much history we have in this city for there to be buildings that stand ‘unaltered’ for such a long time! The person also has to have done something noteworthy – nominating my great-grandmother for her (rumoured) delicious roast potatoes probably wouldn’t quite cut the mustard in Blue Plaque world.

The strange but marvelous thing about blue plaques is that you think you have no idea who that person is, as the description will just say ‘composer’, ‘industrialist’ etc, but when you google them you realise they wrote ‘Rule Britannia’. However, since you’d have to make a note of their name, and then hurry yourself to a computer to do your research it almost negates the point of identifying where they used to live.

The latest blue plaques to be screwed to a wall were for actor Alastair Sim, and the ‘Pioneer of the Screw-Propeller’, Sir Francis Pettit Smith. Even though the latter surely invented something of note, I would still walk past his house slightly confused.

Let’s look at notable deaths in 1978 to see if we can pinpoint any likely upcoming candidates… How about Ronald George Wreyford Norrish, a Nobel Peace Prize winning chemist? He sounds like a typically obscure choice. Or Nicolas Bentley, author and illustrator – heard of him? Perfect.

I think I’ll have a word…

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Books are too heavy, man

Sony’s electronic book reader was launched last week – a rather smart looking thing that is capable of storing 160 books whilst weighing the same as a small pea. Okay, I might be exaggerating about the weight, having no scales, or, perhaps more importantly, no electronic book reader to compare said pea to, but the weight issue of books really hit home when attempting to move over 300 of the buggers out of the old flat this weekend.

No matter how carefully you pack them, no matter if you invest in the right ‘book boxes’ to help store them, they still feel like you are picking up a box full of bricks. Even worse for poor J who does the main bulk of the carrying - I do feel guilty as he lugs yet another box from my ‘library’ down the stairs while I hover behind with a few paperbacks.

It has made me rethink (slightly) my opinion of electronic reading gadgets.

I was definitely opposed – it was like pushing CDs to a vinyl lover. I love the whole package of being a book-reader – the design on the book cover, the feel of the book in my hands, even the smell of the pages in some cases. I like to carry one about with me at all time (at the moment I am reading ‘Kes’), and didn’t see the appeal of carrying 160 in electronic format – I certainly wouldn’t wish to flick between books like I do my ipod. And as for holidays and travelling – the former I would be worried whether I dropped it into the swimming pool, the latter it would surely be nicked before you put on your second flip-flop. So what was the point, I thought?

Yet after gazing at the stack of boxes in the removal van, yes I can see the point. Only half of them do I keep and collect as I like the whole package – the hardbacks of Tom Sawyer, the delightful old illustrations of Agatha Christie’s books, the pulp fiction books, the TV / film tie-ins of the 70’s, the classics – these are the ones I am proud to display on my shelves. The Harry Potters, Bill Brysons, Dan Browns, Stephen Lawhead – I may love the stories inside but I don’t fall in love with the package. So these could, almost, go on an electronic reader and then I save myself the hassle of lugging them around… but… at the end of the day, I prefer to read the book rather than look at yet another screen. So it looks like me and my mini library will be coexisting together for a good while longer yet.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Too early

The alarm emits a rasping buzzzz, a sound just designed to seep under my eyelids and hammer my brain until I wake and growl. I like the idea of waking to melodic fm, but fear my brain will simply sing along as I slumber, and so I break the day with a face like a bull dog chewing a nettle.


I am now practised enough to complete the complex 'dip and swoop' manoeuvre when grabbing my free newspaper from its stand. The trick is not to stop moving but to do everything seamlessly - walk, dip, grab, swoop - and you're off, but with a printed collection of murder, mayhem and some cute story about a kitten to absorb en route.

Still early

I am trying to stay true to 'the one' - ie the one sachet of sugar that I put in my coffee, but no matter how much I try to stay faithful I am soon slinking in a second sachet. Fidelity is doomed. I love them both.


Some bugger always nicks the nice bits out of the salad bars in the canteen, don't they? If its pasta and olives, all the olives will be gone. Why - why?

Getting later

Every so often for amusement I stare straight ahead and touch-type for a bit. I then read back what I have wirtnn and it will look a bit like this.


I have a seat on the tube - yeay! Every time the tube doors open at a new station I peer surreptitiously for pregnant women and old folk. I hope against hope none of them choose my carriage as I don't want to stand up. I will if I see you, honest. I just hope you choose the carriage next door.

Later still

I join the long queue of commuters at the check out as we all stop at the same shop after getting off the homeward bound station. We all have things like milk, bread and wine in our hands. I assume there is a nation of 30 somethings that only eat milky bread and swig wine until the cows come home. And provide more milk, obviously.


I am in bed and still the day runs through my mind like an eternal slide show without an off switch. It wasn't that interesting to warrant this private show, but the projectionist seems to have wandered off somewhere. Time for me to join him - goodnight!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Not so sure with the job at the moment… when I took it I suspected that there was a bloated monster bully lurking within that building, and sadly I was right – there she blows! While on the whole its not me she has her sights on, the very fact she is there, and I used to know her and how she operates, makes me feel a bit dispirited. Her gaze is like a lighthouse – pretty soon she will spot me in her deadlights, and then make my life subtly hell, as that is what she strives to do. Marvellous, I think, just what I need right now.

So am I debating… while I have no qualms about sticking this out – life’s too short, isn’t it? At least that’s my thinking…

The sort of songs I am listening to at the moment seem to reflect the way I am feeling – lots of Carpenters classics, and melodic harmonies - slightly bluesy whimsical songs, lyrics that ponder the future. I feel like I am in one of those rare moments in time when life can be viewed from two diametrically opposing angles – it can either look all crap, or all with a brink of promise. It doesn’t help that my moods swing violently between each viewpoint every day – one minute depressed, the next quietly optimistic. It’s all very strange…

I viewed a cottage at the weekend – oh it almost ticked all the boxes! It is in my favourite location ‘of all time’, very Agatha Christie, two bedrooms a decent size, a small courtyard garden (that was really a walled box with a pot plant) and within walking distance of a train station. The downsides are it has no bath, parking would be away down the road, and the front door opens straight into the front room. It is also opposite a pub – a very nice pub, so fairly handy, but could be noisy come spilling out time. It is a whole £150 cheaper than the flat… not saving a great deal there though, eh? I am going to arrange to see it again with J at the weekend – see it through his eyes, I might be cottage-biased and think all is lovely when it has rising damp and holes in the roof.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Of Twirl bars and packing

Almost through August! This is like the last bit of an exhausting relay race for me, thankfully I haven’t dropped the baton (unlike some – ouch) but have it in my grimy mitt and am running for dear life at the finishing line. This has been the summer of bills and scrubbing down the sofa looking for pennies, of recycling and stocking the hatches with Twirl bars before buttoning them down. I shall be so pleased to get to pay day in September and take a breather.

We have a moving date for the flat – going back in June we asked to be let out of our contract as the rent and electricity bills this airy flat racks up is extortionate. Yet only in September - and two days before my birthday – can the landlord release us, so we will be finally free from the huge bills! Sadly it doesn’t look like we will be able to afford deposit etc for a new flat when we vacate the old, which means in September I will be a year older, pot-less and back at my mum’s. That is not the right way of thinking to feel a confident, contributing member of society; it’s the sort of thought that wonders if ‘mad failed bag lady with 100 cats, lives in parent’s shed’ lies within my future. J has assured me this won’t be so, to which I nod and agree, while privately thinking ‘mad failed bag lady and partner, 100 cats, 3 dogs and a playstation, living in parent’s shed’.

But I am trying to stay positive – it really is near the end of this skint phase, as soon as the next pay checks roll in then we’ll be able to pay a few things off and start anew, and it will be nice to live somewhere that isn’t so greedy with our cash!

So – with that in mind I have started looking at flats and houses that are more affordable. Now this is where the first hurdle comes in – I like the type of cottages last seen in an Agatha Christie novel. I want a small and cosy little place, with a courtyard garden, a spare room for books and computer, trailing plants at the kitchen window and some sort of period detail. J on the other hand likes penthouses – the sort seen in some upmarket American HBO programme – all gleaming chrome, polished wooden floorboards and some sort of gadget that works the windows. Trying to marry these two ideas together is nigh on impossible – we both have to settle for a little less that our ideal. So I will go for a flat as long as it has some sort of quirk, and J will go for period detail as long as it is not too small. Together it boils down to wanting to be close to the train station (me), parking space (J), bathroom with window (both), space for bikes (both), dishwasher (me), good kitchen (both), and central heating (ME!). So far we have lived in 3 places that have all been lovely in their own ways, so here’s hoping place no 4 turns out to be a just as nice.

This also means I will be off-line for quite a while… I am already gutted, and I have over three weeks left of broadband time! I think I will be able to post to here at work, so that should be ok – but I use a computer for everything – banking, travel arrangements, news, staying in touch… It will be a weird old time without access to the T’internet.

And finally, back to packing. I am trying to see it all with new eyes and think can I get rid of that? Take it to a charity shop? Chuck it? Recycle? Freecycle? I have been trying to whittle down piles of papers and old magazines – very reluctantly in some cases, as if I keep things its always because I think there is an idea in there worthy of further exploration! But now I have to show no mercy – space is not infinite, I am beginning to discover.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Life through a lens

Oh life, you busy thing you. If I’m not working all hours under the sun, then I am lying instead on the sofa like a wilting flower with an achy petal.

I am beginning to think my head is conducting some sort of internal eyes vs computer monitor battle – reading the screen at work seems to be giving me a headache, but putting on my glasses to read the screen now also gives me a headache! I think the computer monitor is winning, and the whole caboodle is conspiring to send me down into the depths of the nearest glasses shop.

I’m not a natural glasses wearer. I only need them for reading and even then only when my eyes are a bit tired, as I am typing this quite merrily without the addition of anything perched on my nose. Yet I have to admit that the words are clearer when I do drag on the dreaded glasses, as long as I stay looking at the screen and don’t attempt to look anywhere else. The instant I do its like I’m in the House of Mirrors at a funfair, everything seems all over the place, and I feel as blind as a bat. I also hate the feel of them pinching my nose, and the little snappy case, and the silly bit of cloth – it’s all so fussy. Yet I could never wear contacts – the thought of them make me feel ill. I’ve watched many a friend fish around for contacts that have slipped around their eye, something worse than many a horror film, and done my time patting around dodgy pub carpets to find the ones that mysteriously drop out. No, you can keep contacts. I’ll suffer the contents of the little snappy cases for a little while longer.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Blooming Doves

The doves are back. No... *voice tails off in despair*

Thankfully they are not back in the kitchen, but have been seen circling the flats in a rather haphazard manner. Poor things are probably lost - anyone missing a few doves from their coop lately? Not quite sure what that does for Sunday's analogy either -blooming doves.

Anyhow, today's lunchtime was again spent quietly in the vicinity of the Kensington Palace shop, on my secret mission. This was, as you may recall, to discover what is the tackiest thing you could buy if money was no object, and so far a heavy pair of silver crown diamonte cufflinks were the hot favourite. Today I had more time, and hence could be a bit more discerning, wandering from glass cabinet to tastefully arranged display, reeling back in shock at the amount of embroidered crowns one can fit on a toiletry bag. I paused for a long time in front of the Princess Diana bookmarks, and then hovered in front of a regally purple velvet bag with a crown design made of sequins. I admired it from all angles - yes, this was truly hideous. I then wandered back to make my comparison with the crown cufflinks and was instantly struck by their shiny magnificance. We have a winner folks, you just cannot beat the crown cufflinks.

This leaves me needing a new mission for lunchtimes... a circuit of the Round Pond? Or - yes, I have it. A walk of discovery. I shall make each lunchtime a mission to find something new - be it statue, church, blue plaque or something simply odd. I shall take a camera. I shall look like a spy. Good thing I'm not near the Brompton Oratory... but perhaps that is a tale for another day!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

When Doves Fly

When you live nine floors up, the last thing you’d expect on entering the flat is to find unexpected visitors. But this is exactly what happened to J’s mum when she entered her kitchen to make a nice cup of tea – she discovered two unwelcome bird guests had already hopped in via the window.

A panicked phone call to J, and there we were, en route to save a nice lady from a close encounter of the bird kind. Not that my role as a bird buster was anything to glorify – mainly I offered support from behind the closed door. But then J called me over to point out our bird guests – and two rather startled looking white doves peered back at me from the top of the cupboard. We couldn’t get close enough to read their tags, but holding back the net curtain did wonders – in a flap of feathers they were free and soaring away into the sky.

This makes a nice analogy for the novel… I sent it away this weekend. I was getting everything together on Friday, and it suddenly dawned on me that the date was 08/08/08 – surely that means magic must be in the air? So the novel has gone - I’ve set three chapters free to soar away in the post. Eek!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Kensington Palace

Lunch times can be a little lonely when you are in a new shiny place of employment, but luckily for me, Kensington Gardens is proving to be my saviour. It is so nice to work somewhere within sight of the green stuff. Mostly I wander across with my salad (and my ‘ever so naughty, really won’t shift the belly’ bar of chocolate), and find a little spot to sit and read, but even on rainy summer days there are things to do.

Such as exploring the Kensington Palace shop.

This is free to enter, unlike the Palace, and you can browse around as many Royal postcards (50p for a posed Diana) and fleur de leys embroidered wallets as you can stomach. I had a good look around the other day, and wondered who on earth buys such tat? Or where do the shops ship the tat in from – is there a giant warehouse somewhere in Windsor that churns all this stuff out – lavender soap, crown cufflinks, porcelain corgi dogs? I wandered from one over-priced glass cabinet to the other, trying to decide what, if money was no object, was the worst thing I could possibly buy. So far it could well be the diamante crown cufflinks. I shall bee-line there tomorrow and make further enquiries. Perhaps a corgi will pip the top spot - there was one that did have a particulary nasty glint in its jewelled eye.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Pay day!

Got a welcome email the other day at work, asking me if I’d like to come along and collect my cheque. Like to? I was there at the ladies desk before she’d even depressed the ‘send’ key. So – thankfully, the bank account has had a puff of warm money blown into it, and what with that, and J’s cunning plan (he is rather good at cunning plans, much better than me) it looks like the rent is a done deal.

The electricity bill has stopped glowing as well, mainly because I dropped it behind the sofa. What? Ready Steady Bills – can’t see, won’t pay. I am sure this works until someone somewhere throws a switch and the flat plunges into darkness…

I’ve had Blur’s ‘The Universal’ whirling around my head for the last three days. This is mainly because it is not on my iPod. I’ve worked out that it doesn’t matter I have 250 songs of goodness and joy on my ipod, I shall always get fixated on the one that isn’t there, and long to hear it until all I have playing on the inner radio is that song, on repeat. So tonight I’ll acquire it (ahem) and tomorrow I shall listen to it once, and then get equally fixated on something else I don’t have.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Passing out before pay day

So there I was, back in the swing of commuting, working all the hours and attempting to further the redrafting today, when I decided to see how the bank account was holding up. I just checked it online and it’s plunged me into the pit of despair, a nasty gloom-ridden pit which currently is to be found circling around my chair in the spare bedroom. I still have two weeks to go before the first pay packet, with the certainty that it won’t be a full month’s wage, and the grim belief that I’ll be on emergency tax, and the rent is due in nine days and I’m £400 short.

Sadly J is pot-less as well as his new job doesn’t start until mid-August, so I imagine his first pay packet won’t be anything to write home about until the end of September. We’re doomed I tell you, doomed.

I can’t extend my overdraft any further as the bank won’t let me (tried it, computer said no), and the only option is to possibly get a credit card and hope against hope that will work, even though it will be yet another thing to which I owe money. This really has been a shit year for timings. I hope J has a cunning plan… can’t think for the life of me what it could be, though. We’ve had an electricity bill that is so red it practically glows, there will probably be another threatened court case via council tax in the not so distant future – and in the background I’m supposed to forget all this and happily write my novel! Oh it’s a joke – honestly, if this book ever makes it into the public then it has been written on the back drop of adversity, there has been so much angst in this past year I’m amazed I have even managed to write anything at all.

And the worse thing is my working week starts again tomorrow – only one day off this week so today has felt like a badly cooked half-baked Sunday. Time enough to do the weekly washing and iron a shirt, then you’re back in it, only of course with no money for lunch. I've had it with today, I'm going to bed…

Saturday, 26 July 2008

This is Edit-day, Wear a Smile

Not quite Tiswas, but if you count the shower as a bucket of water than I’ve had more than my share – blooming hot in this flat today! And I never thought the day would come when I said that…

I’ve been pretty tired this week – I am on early shifts, which mean getting up at 6 to get my train, and it is a huge culture shock from working at home and rolling out of bed to switch on the computer. I actually like the shift times, but have been very tired – yesterday I was in bed by 9.30pm! But today has been all about editing and cracking on with the novel.

It’s moving at a rate of knots, I have to say. At the moment I am on chapter 7, and I hope that means I’m not missing a ton of things… There is also this ‘prequel’ business… I think I mentioned before that I had a glimmer of another idea for a book that ties in with this one. If so, then I should allude to it during a few key moments through this novel, but I haven’t worked them in yet, I need to think more about it. It’s times like this I wonder just how long it took JK Rowling to plan her Harry Potter books – it must have been years! As if you are doing sequels then they have to make sense from the very beginning, so she’d have had to have known how they ended before she wrote her first sentence. Respect…

Oh well, onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Labelled with Love – Squeeze

Like Up the Junction, this is a song with a narrative heart tinged with a downbeat sentiment, but enhanced with a plaintive delivery.

This song is like listening to a story book, but with the bonus of a nice repetitive chorus. The lyrics on the whole are very simple, but every so often there will be a lyrical loop or alliteration that will just sound genius on the ears. It is a real pleasure to listen to songs that have been written with a eye and ear for poetry, it makes such a difference. And it’s sung with a nice swooping tone on certain words – perfect to try and emulate - try it!

She moved home alon-e without friends or rel-a-tions
Lived in a wo-rld full of age reserv-a-tion

Labelled with Love tells us the story of an older lady – the sort of lady people grimace at and quickly walk past in the supermarket before they get a whiff of Eau De Pee. But then we see into where she lives and what an empty struggle it is – there’s nothing left for her in life apart from her memories, unlocked with whisky. Further to that we hear what she was like as a younger lady – adventurous to marry an American pilot during the Second World War, and go off to Texas with him. Yet he was an alcoholic, and the sentence ‘he became drinker and she became mother’ leads me to believe not that she had children, but that she forego motherhood in that sense to look after her husband instead. The next part ‘she knew that one day she’d be one or the other’ was her insightfulness that one day she’d too turn the same way, but with no inclination to prevent it, even though he died from alcoholism. After that she came back to the UK only to find there was nothing left for her here, except for the old age she once predicted – bottles labelled with love.

Oh how depressing and sad, yet strangely this is a beautiful song, although something does jar with me, in both this and with Up the Junction. Both songs have a sentence within them that, to my ears, sounds lazy – as if the songwriter couldn’t find anything else suitable to rhyme so he stuck in a sentence thinking ‘it’ll do’, and the problem is the rest is so nice that it just doesn’t ‘do’ – if you see my meaning. For me with this song it is the lyrics in bold:

She crossed the ocean back home to her family
But they had retired to roads that were sandy

I get what he means – they’ve gone to Bournemouth, or similar, but I can’t help wishing he’d strived for higher there. To me that is the sort of poetry I'd write when I'm stuck. And with Up the Junction it is the lyrics in bold:

No more nights by the telly
No more nights nappies smelling

In that song he’d already used the word ‘telly’ to rhyme with ‘smelly’ – and this repeat just feels like it doesn't enhance the song - it's not a chorus, it doesn't tell us anything new about the character's predicament - it's just... well, filler - and I hate thinking there is filler on songs I love, as the rest is just so good!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Are you ready?

Today I have been researching agents thanks to the help of such mighty books as The Writers’ And Artists’ Handbook 2008. I also have in my collection The Writers’ And Artists’ Handbook 2006, the same again for 2005, and possibly even the 2002 vintage edition tucked under my old bed at my mum’s. Please let this be the last year I buy this book – lovely though it is, if I stored them all in one place my shelves would fall over.

It seems the big question every agent hints at is ‘are you really sure your novel is ready to show me?’ The tone implies that unless you are on draft twenty of the entire thing then you really shouldn’t send it anywhere near people who know what they are doing. This makes total sense – sometimes you don’t see mistakes straight away, and if people are sending submissions stuffed full of typos, errors and plot-holes I can see it doesn’t give an agent the best impression. The novel could be brilliant, but the agent would have to expend a lot of energy to get it up to selling standard, whereas they could simply go for somebody else’s polished novel instead.

Do I think my novel is ready to send to agents? I really don’t know now… I have been rinsing and scrubbing the first three chapters for the past month on and off, but the rest of it needs a dip in bleach. So do I continue re-drafting the whole thing, or send off the first three anyway, as there may be a wait (of up to two months, potentially, so says the Great Book), and that should give some good scrubbing time, in-between long hours commuting and working like a demon. Sigh…

I also have an eager reader… good friend A’s mum saw the first three chapters at her house and asked to read it, and now she wants the next lot! This is great, as it means I’m getting a nice range of ages to read this for me, and it also spurs me on editing chapters four & five. So maybe I should just keep going… it’s a bit hard to work out how many drafts I am on though. As when I was writing it I kept going back to edit… I think I will count the real first draft as the first edit of the whole finished thing, in which case I am only on (first draft) chapter 4 out of 22. And then when I reach the end I’ll repeat the process - maybe after that I can answer the question ‘are you ready’ with confidence, as I queue up for the latest blue rinse and a pension.

Hmm, so it seems I need a plan. I’m just going to have to utilise lunch breaks for editing, and be especially strict some evenings and at weekends. I can do this, I know I can, and I’m not going to spoil it now. Also it means I can dream on a little longer and not send it anywhere just yet – did you notice that? I did.