Sunday, 20 January 2008


If you saw yesterday's post then that should make sense :)

Chapter 15 is pressing ahead, sadly with the help of a tub of Heroes chocolates. I wish I had the willpower to heave all Christmas chocolate in the bin. But ooo... mini crunchies...

Saturday, 19 January 2008

An Extra Worry

Well, everything is cranking up a gear the way life does when you really want to be winding down. I am knee deep in Chapter 14 today (and hopefully tomorrow) – it should be a short chapter, so hopefully tomorrow there will be a short post saying Eureka and then you’ll know I am on Chapter 15. Not quite the final push but the finish line is there, glimmering in the distance.

However, in the manner of a children’s sports day obstacle race where you have to stop every so often and fling on dressing-up clothes, all sorts of odd work related things are popping up out of the woodwork. Such as…

Monday I am working as an Extra on a short film.
Tuesday I am seeing a (hopefully) fab nutritionist for a newspaper article that I want to write/file by Weds.
Wednesday I have to file different copy for a magazine, which is pretty much all done, just waiting on some more info.

And in-between that I need to write 3 chapters and finish the novel, get travel insurance, make witty hen party cards for Cape Town, speak to accountants, get niece birthday present, pay rent, pass another flipping house inspection, pack suitcase, and something else that I cannot remember. Eek! Oh yes, there is another magazine that I may be writing for - the Editor is a bit hard to pin down though. So perhaps that can wait until I come back.

I am quite interested about the Extra thing though – I only signed up to an extras website a couple of weeks ago as a side while I am looking for work, so in the meantime if anything extra-like comes up I can do it rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs. Also it is all life experiences for writing in a way, seeing new characters etc. I didn’t seriously believe anything would come of it, at least not yet, but just got a phone call to say I was wanted for Monday – woohoo! A whole day with real people... I am hoping it will be a better experience than when I went for my one and only audition back in 1992 for an Alan Parker film – everyone auditioning had a really fake voice and a sort of whooping laugh – very, very odd. Oh... unless the small print mentioned fake voices and whoops? Anyway, whoops aside, I didn't get the part, but considering it was for a film set in Amsterdam about young navy cadets (or something, hazy memory) and I was 16, my mum told me adamently that I wasn't allowed to get it anyway. And once the voice of doom speaks... (joke, mum. Love you!)

Thursday, 17 January 2008


The music madness continued today, and culminated in a grand soloist performance movie-clip by yours truly to her camera. This is what happens when you work by yourself for a long period of time – the possibilities for amusement are endless. Somehow I have also convinced myself I can sing somewhere down the line.

Rest assured, my little movie-clip is not likely to assault your ears on youtube anytime soon, although I honestly think I would make a good Nancy, should the part in Oliver ever skip down my street and beseech me to tread the stage. This is highly unlikely; the last time I did any ‘acting’ I played the donkey narrator of the Christmas Nativity in junior school. Stop sniggering at the back there! It was a highly important part, with a costume made of a short grey jersey and a pair of tights. I’m not totally sure that would be allowed in this day and age…

Although I am so geared for chapter 14, I have had to cease work on the novel and do some real work – most of which involves research – hence having music on very loud and singing whilst working. Favourite songs to sing so far have been numbers from the musical Oliver!, 'What’s Up' by Four Non-Blondes, 'Poison' by Alice Cooper, 'The Clapping Song' by Shirley Ellis, and 'Robert De Niro’s Waiting' by Bananarama. Did I tell you I interviewed Keren from Bananarama a few years back? She told me that they only met Robert De Niro once but they were all really shy – aww! Not still waiting then, sadly.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Music to Write the Words Going By

For some reason, I seem to like working to certain songs on repeat. I listen to them pretty much 20 or 30 times a day, and then a new song is ‘the one’ and I listen to that forever and a day instead. Such as Chapter 13 (and I am pleased, so pleased to report that it is finished!) was written mainly by the help of Take That.

This is quite a confession… You see, I was never a ‘Thatter’. They came on the scene just when I grew out of boy bands and was about to plunge headlong into grunge. My boy band (as everyone has one lurking in the music closet, or the girl band equivalent) was New Kids on the Block. Now I have said that publicly, can anyone point me the way to the virtual stocks? I thank you.

However, it appears the sneaky under-the-radar subliminal advertising on the television is more influential than one would think. All Christmas I have been inadvertently bumping into the Morrison’s advert using the Take That song ‘Shine’. It didn’t make much of an impression, until last week I suddenly I had to find it on youtube and listen a gadzillion times while writing Chapter 13. Why is that? Does it mean that after 20 or so listens, you will like the song no matter what? Is it because it sounds a smidgeon like ELO’s Mr Blue Sky? Perhaps it is just a really well crafted song? Who knows – but there I was, listening to Shine, being all inspired.

Then last night whilst flicking channels I came across the Pet Shop Boys ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’ and enjoyed it, thinking I hadn’t heard that for a while. I get up today, click open the novel... and suddenly need to find that song on youtube and listen to that all day instead. I seem to listen, do a page, listen again, do another page… Bizarre.

Now I find myself sitting down and humming U2’s ‘Vertigo’. I was humming this when aiming things at the sink... erm, I mean 'washing up' earlier. This is how the madness starts, you know. I have already found it on youtube and listened to it four times. Whoops, five. *clicks open chapter 14*

Monday, 14 January 2008

Slow progress

Chapter 13 creeps ever onward… The reason being is I have to stop and check facts quite a lot during this chapter, as it is written around a real life event, and so it would be absolutely awful to get anything wrong. So far I feel like I stop and research every five sentences. This is a sample of my day so far…

Oh the weather was wet… did they have plastic rain hoods? What were they called? What sandwiches would people have packed? Were thermoses around? Was rationing still in force? Did they get extra rations for Coronation day? Were plastic cups around? Was foil and Clingfilm? What time in the morning should they leave? What time did transport run? If you got into central London by eight in the morning, where on the route would you go? Where would be closed? Where would be too packed? Why are some people saying they got a ‘ticket’ to stand places? How did people get a ticket? Would you have feasibly seen anything? Is it still raining? Where did people go to the loo? What were those Rosetta things called? What countries were in the procession? If you have fought in the Second World War, would you wear your uniform (as a crowd member) or just your best suit? Can you make periscopes? What would the tube map look like… oh, no Victoria line. Where was Marshall & Snelgrove? Was Charing Cross station decorated?

This is just a small snippet – I feel like a child constantly asking questions that lead into more questions, until the Internet responds like an adult and says no more!/crashes on me. And then of course I am weaving my story around all this, which is sort of like throwing mud at the walls to see what sticks… haha, what a nice way to describe it. My life's work yer Honour, and it be mud, aye...

But good news – I have managed 3255 words, it’s sort of fun to research/write, and I’ll have a specialist subject should Mastermind ever want me to enliven their show. Coronation Day, 1953, is in the bag.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

St Martin-in-the-fields

Yesterday I decided to try and get over this odd writer’s block with chapter 13 (sorry, C, still not done!) and go get inspired. Chapter 13 is all about the Queen’s Coronation Day in 1953. So good pal R and I decided to go and walk the route to see if I could pick up any hints and tips to work into the novel. And while we were up there milling around, someone pushed a leaflet into our gloved hands about a classical music concert at St Martin-in-the-fields.

I love that about London, the fact that there is always something going on around the corner, and it doesn’t have to cost your left kidney. Cheap tickets were £6, and although it is lovely to see the orchestra, it is not strictly needed, as you can close your eyes and drift into the music even from behind a pillar. As well as the fact that we are both pretty skint, so cheap seats it was.

And it was great! The orchestra was the Belmont Ensemble of London, and they were playing Bach, Mozart, Purchell, and building up to Vivaldi Four Seasons. We sat in the top aisle, on hard dark mahogany church pews, and the music simply soared around us in that beautiful church.

Classical music sings to my soul. It can be heartbreakingly beautiful, uplifting, fantastical… I gazed across the hall above the subdued lighting from the candelabras and my mind danced with dust motes in the light. I dreamt of creating oil paintings again, I imagined two girls sitting opposite were actually angels (as their white coats behind them almost looked like wings), I thought of the novel and that one day it will be a reality, I saw myself waltzing back down an aisle to Vivaldi, I pictured a studio filled with light, I imagined being a mother, I saw a theatre stage lit up in all its glory, I saw books stretching high to the ceiling, and a garden glimpsed through a window. I imagined a huge ensemble dancing for me, colours and light retreating and forming, patterns and shadows and half-lights...

And before I knew it, I was sketching again, something I haven’t done for years. It was near the end, during the Four Seasons L'estate, and I quickly sketched my view of the church on the back of the playbill.

And now I feel all inspired again - quick, chapter 13!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Novel thoughts

It has actually been good to be away from the novel for a bit, as I did the grand read through yesterday from the beginning to get the feel of it again. I also read it aloud to see how it sounded – this actually turned out to be most important, as the rhythms of the words really kicked in when spoken aloud.

I noticed that there were a few paragraphs that seemed clunky that I will have to go back to – odd POV and tense changes that I have to tighten. But the main thing I noticed was that I repeat the same words very close together, or use the same description again and again. AGH! In fact, it feels very much like a bony outline of a novel that needs to eat more pies.

Another interesting thing is my main character is an old lady, yet sometimes I think I make her sound more like me. So I need to go back and check that she sounds her age consistently and doesn’t veer into modern terminology. She might have picked up on some things but it’s the pattern of speech that should stay the same.

So – lots of work ahead! But I am ignoring all that above until later, must break chapter 13 today! No matter what, I need that puppy finished, as I promised C it would be done! Oh boy…

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Commuting is fun (repeat)

Hello and Happy New Year – finally! Luckily everything did get sorted, with minimum disruption, and now all is declared fine, which of course makes me suspicious. But enough of 2007, let’s kick things off again!

As you may remember, the self-imposed deadline for finishing my novel is now ticking loudly in my ear. I have to, without fail, finish it by Jan 24th; at least to complete a first draft. There are a couple of reasons for this date, one is that I am going on holiday with friends on Jan 25th to Cape Town, where my lovely pal S and her fiancé are getting married, and I am her bridesmaid. I have been looking forward to this for so long (it was already in the budget!), and I always saw this as the deadline for finishing the book. Not only that, but my project manager friend C will be on the plane with me, and she expects to read a copy on the flight, so I cannot fail her! The other reason is, of course, that I need to start earning real money again soon, which is something I have been thinking a lot about recently!

So with that all in mind I have been reading Paul McKenna's book of confidence, which is great, although I don't think all the positive thinking in the world can put a happy slant on commuting, which is something I may be going back to sooner rather than later. I know no one likes it, but I had managed to forget how completely awful it can be. Such as yesterday evening...

The following takes place between 7pm and 10pm...


All day: Every time I glance at my mobile I realise the battery is dying. Oh still there! No, dying. Oh… dead. Whoops, no mobile. Still, I won’t need it, right?

7pm: I am in west London (Shepherds Bush tube station) and have decided the easiest way to get home (with minimal walking / steps involved) will be catching the Central line to Oxford Circus, the Victoria line to Highbury & Islington station, and the overhead train from there. The minimal walking thing is because I not only am I lugging a suitcase (work stuff, not fun stuff inside), 3 carrier bags (also mainly filled with boring work stuff) and a handbag; I am also wearing boots that are killing me. Never mind, onwards and downwards… I stagger onto the Central line.

7.25: Lug my stuff off at Oxford Circus to change for the Victoria line, only to hear the announcement that the Victoria line is severely delayed. Ah. Bugger. Quick, maybe I can lurch back onto the Central line… The doors close in my face. Bugger. Again.

7.27: Ponder whether the announcer was lying. You see, they sometimes say a line is delayed and that you should really travel another way, when in reality the problem might be cleared in a few moments and then you get a seat on a fairly empty tube. Decide however that this time they mean it, as the platform is packed with disgruntled commuters who would have been on the Victoria line. Now we are all trying to get back on the Central line to get the tube further down, as the next place to change should you want to go north will be Holburn, for the Piccadilly line. I will then go to Finsbury Park station to get my overhead train, rather than Highbury & Islington, which is only accessible on the Victoria line.

7.30: The tube draws up and there is a small sigh of dismay in the air as the tube is packed and no one is shifting. However, along with that sigh is the steely eyed determination everyone on this platform has about getting home. People square shoulders as the tube doors open – young, old, male, female – it is a no holds barred fight for freedom. Me, my suitcase, 3 carrier bags and stupid annoying handbag are swept into a corner of the carriage roughly the size of a small pea.

7.31: My trailing scarf (another enormously stupid idea) has trailed itself over several commuters, all of which doing their level best to ignore it. I ignore it as well, being that I cannot move to free it anyway.

7.38: Holburn! I can breathe! Ah, but it looks like everyone wants that Piccadilly line. And the reason I wasn’t changing here in the first place is because there is a long walk, and stairs, and an escalator… bugger.

7.48: Made it to the platform, except it is just as bad as the one at Oxford Circus. I stagger down the far end (a good tip is always to go to the ends unless you know where your exit is!) in the hope that an end carriage will be emptier.

7.51: End carriages are packed. Cannot get on the first train. Listen to an argument between commuters about someone pushing ahead. It sounds vicious.

7.55: Finally get on tube. My view is a small triangle of window (showing rushing blackness) between people, arms reaching up like branches to hold on where they can. I can smell after work drinks, cigarette smoke, sweat… I focus on that fact that it is only six stops to go. Or seven… damn.

8.20: The Piccadilly line is delayed. The news is met with apathy; nothing surprises anyone down here in the pit.

8.35: Get to Finsbury Park, and remember that I have to now lug everything up a spiral staircase to the overhead trains. I have no time to get ready for this as I am caught in a sea of people, all determined to get up those stairs. So up I go, yet people are also coming down… Now there are quite a lot of people coming down, so that should make you wonder what is going on with the trains up above, however I don’t have time to stop and think, a man has just barged past me carrying a rucksack, hitting everyone in the face with it, including me. I think of ways to trip him, and by the sounds of the mutters in the crowd, am not the only one. Another man barges into me, but says sorry, so I forgive him. I forgive him even more when he asks if I need help with my suitcase and carries it up the other 2 flight of stairs. Yay! A nice person! Just the one!

8.45: Am finally up the stairs, and up the other stairs to the overhead train platform. It is totally and utterly packed. This is a bad sign, as it means one of the train lines isn’t running. I rest up in a small corner by a drain hating everything – trains, suitcases, handbags, that stupid trail-y scarf, these amazingly stupid boots, the train guard as it’s surely his fault…

8.50: The announcer has said there are no trains, none to where I need to go anyway. I go to call J and realise my mobile is dead. Damn… but then I see those old fashioned pay phone thingys and lug everything over to one. After the slight gasp of horror that it now costs 40 pence (40 pence!) I fish out two 20’s and call J. Nothing happens and I realise that the phone is out of order. Oh typical… I drag everything to another phone and have the novel experience of queuing for a pay phone. What year do I live in again?

8.55: Slot in my two 20p’s, and listen to the phone ring, and ring. Damn, where is he? I go to put down the receiver but then that stupid 1571 answer phone thingy kicks in, and I lose 40p. This somehow, after everything, makes me even crosser. I slam down the phone and the shifting queue behind me (has everyone’s mobile died?) look alarmed. ‘Does it not work?’ asks one man with panic in his voice. I reassure them that it is only me that has a problem. They all look relieved. The sods.

9.00: Decide to drag everything down to the Piccadilly line again, and try and get to Southgate, as from there I can get a cab.

9.20: Tube terminates at Arnos Grove, the stop before Southgate. Mr Livingstone, I just want you to know that at this moment, 9.20pm on Wednesday 9th January 2008, I was thinking of you, and not in a nice way.

9.30: Back on tube, get off at Southgate and stagger to the free phone to call a cab. This is great, it goes straight through to a really reliable cab company, and within minutes I was sailing home.

10pm: Arrive home to J, who gets plus points for having a surprise dinner ready, but minus points for not hearing the phone over the wonders of the Setanta Sports channel.

So today I have been back writing, thinking please, please spare me the commute! The novel is surely the only way out but I am still on chapter 13 (what with various things going on, nothing has advanced very far since we last spoke!) and that means I have 5 chapters left to go in 14 days. Can it be done? Stay tuned to find out! *Quickly reaches for the Paul McKenna book*