Thursday, 28 February 2008

Last chapter

I started the last chapter today. What a strange mix of feelings I have - I want this to finish, it has to finish, I'm scared of it finishing... and yet still the words write themselves, almost, and I get that close to saying goodbye with every completed line.

For some reason, today's spate of work has been accompanied by Julian Lloyd Webber playing 'Variations' (or more commonly recognised as the South Bank theme). It has been my background music all day, and so far has helped me write 1333 words, but as ever when on a roll, I have to go out and cannot cancel where I am going. Darn... *clicks replay, eyes clock.*

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The Ladybirds Are Coming

Those of you that have read this might recall my dilemma, that being I have a nest of ladybirds snug in a little-used window frame in the living room. The way the window is built means the hinges are at the top and the window opens outwards, and as I don’t open it, the ladybirds have nested on the hinges, as there is a small gap above that gives them access to the living room. I hope that explains it, they are rather odd windows – sort of like a big arch. Anyway, throughout the cold months, apart from that unfortunate day when I tried to open the window and legions of ladybirds plummeted to their deaths (yes, I still feel the guilt), I haven’t touched it, and they have once again gathered and slept easy. I think there are thousands in there, and all just waiting for the warmer weather…

Tonight at dinner I noticed seven ladybirds lazily crawling around the window frame. Then I saw one on a spare chair, flexing its wings. Then one landed a little too close and I flicked it with the cloth placemat, its fate unknown (I’m not a Saint, ok?). I now look at the closed window and wonder… what on earth do I do when they all wake up? Passing back through the living room I noticed a ladybird making itself comfy on my settee, presumably about to make free with the remote control. I mean – what do I do here? And what if they remember I was the inadvertent ladybird killer of 2007?

I think I am going to have to start shutting the bedroom door. Just in case. That, and hope for snow.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Chapter 19…

…Has been seriously flying. As soon as I decided to draw a line under chapter 18, the words seemed to flow with ease. Maybe it’s because this chapter only has three characters in it, maybe it’s because there is less dialogue, but whatever the reason, last night I was on a serious roll, again writing until way past midnight. In fact, I actually finished the chapter, although I am spending from now until again probably midnight polishing the rough edges.

It is official, I do write better at night. I guessed this way back here, but have struggled against it every single day, trying to force creativity before 4pm. See, the thing is I feel guilty if I am still lying in bed when J gets up to go to work, I feel like some awful jobless Lady Muck, so I get up at the same time, and then try and start work at 9 like the rest of the world. Only nothing happens, pretty much, even though I sit at the computer trying to type until about 4.30pm, when it all suddenly unlocks. I then work all the way up to midnight or past, until I have to stop as am knackered. Yet the next day I get up early again, to appease the guilt, and the same pattern continues. It is wearing me out to be honest, as I get eye strain from staring at the computer, and there is absolutely no reason to be sat here if I am not writing. I could be all guilt-free and happy, and then start the day at 4.30pm.

I think the guilt stuff is because this is a first book and I have no idea what, if anything, will happen with it. If this was a second book, or I had an agent/publisher, then I would relax about it and choose a different rhythm of working, and my day would be 4.30 - midnight and all would be well. I am definitely a night owl on this.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Cast of Thousands

How have I ended up with so many characters? The first part of the book (as it can almost be split in two) has mainly two characters, with a few others that are ‘seen but not heard’, almost. Yet the second part has five main characters, and all of them seem to spring dependent people of their own, so I am now struggling to keep up to date with all of them. Agh – the key is to limit the people – it is like building a collage, the best pictures are those with a limited palette. Sadly I cannot see how to chop any characters away, in my mind it all seems natural for them to be there. Hmm, maybe it is because I have just written a very busy chapter.

I decided to draw a line under chapter 18 – I might have to go back and expand upon it though, as not totally happy with the ending. It is probably the one I am least satisfied with, which makes me worry all sorts of ‘perhaps I’ve lost it!’ type thoughts as it is the newest thing I have written. I also dislike starting a new chapter when the old one still seems hanging in the air. What I need is… hmm. I almost need a way to see the whole thing at once… *eyes up the wall*.

See, if this was the sort of rented flat that thumbed its nose at three month inspections then I could hijack that wall right there (points) and pin notes all over it, showing me how everything links. (This is no doubt precisely the reason why three month inspections happen. As it is, they inspect the walls for new nail marks - I can imagine blue tack stains would go down a treat.)

Or... if I had a place of my own, like a garage, or a shed, then I could paint a wall white and scribble directly onto it with arrows showing what is all happening. I then could simply paint over it when the book is done, and start again! Voila! Ooo I like that idea. Shame I am currently missing a garage, shed and indeed, wall, to make it viable. I might have to resort to the whiteboard, but that is already covered in notes and useful things, like what year every chapter is set in - very important to know, that! Hmm, okay, let’s downsize… ah, a sheet of A0 would do it, only I left all my art paper and materials at my mum’s. A4 just won’t cut it, unless I do tiny writing. Hmm, or I could get sellotape and stick lots of A4 printer paper together to make A0... and then possibly I could waste even more time by not writing. Ah-ha... I'm onto you, subconscious...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Celebrity spotting

The other night saw me with good friend R in a pub in Camden, not far from Chalk Farm tube station. I was early, so decided to wander up from Camden tube, a grim depressing sojourn that I have no intention of repeating any time soon. God – what happened to Camden?

Ok, the area near Camden tube itself – the self-proclaimed ‘Camden Market’, Inverness Street and all the way to the drug sellers on the bridge, well that has always been grotty. I knew that back in the day, so no surprises there. But what with the recent coincidental fire (funny how the powers that be wanted to refurb the market and were met with local resistance, and now a fire which eventually forces a refurb – yes, very strange), and the horrible, awful slaying of the Stables market – it just hasn’t got any soul left for me. Row upon row of stalls selling tat – I am sure some gems are left, but where? I haven’t the heart to look.

So I left that behind, vowing not to return, and made my way to the pub. It was early, so me and R got a table just behind three guys, one of whom was name dropping about his night at the Brits faster than you can say Alan Carr with his pal Chris Moyles.

Yes, it was them, with Alan Carr fresh from whatever ding dong thing he presents on Channel 4, banging on in the loudest voice possible about hanging out with Mischa Barton, and the red carpet, and Brit this, Brit that… At this point R leaned over and said who they were, as until then I thought perhaps it was some bod in advertisings first corporate night out at the Brits, or something. I did exactly the same thing when I first went to the Brits – you all go out the day after and gossip like hell about who you saw doing what, and it’s almost like a badge of honour if you can manage a drink of anything alcoholic after the free-for-all shenanigans that happen at the Brits after party. It was quite reassuring to think celebrities do this sort of thing as well. I wonder if it was Alan Carr's first time there, as Chris Moyles seemed a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. Or perhaps he just is not so loud.

But the best thing? The pub served Pear Cider. Mmm.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Overheard in... Boots

The scene: standing in a queue at lunchtime waiting for a free till. In front of me is a rather rotund bloke with crew cut hair, and his thin, glasses wearing mate (presume colleague). Behind me is a lady in her late sixties with a man of similar age (presume husband).

Conversation in front:

Fat bloke: I mean, how many of us actually, actually (waves hand around) actually learn anything anymore? I felt like my mind was being expanded. I mean, who types up subnet in their spare time? They must be a freak! (said rather pointedly).

Colleague: (chuckles sheepishly) Yeah.


Fat bloke: So if you want to come around anytime and look at the program?

Colleague: Oh yeah! (enthusiastic).

Conversation behind:

Wife: Oh look at what they’ve got here, this is all to help old people, look at that! A long sponge on a stick!

Husband: Oh yeah (manfully dredges interest).

Wife: (keen, leaning forward) And look at those, that’s what Edna uses to get her stockings on. Look!

Husband: Yeah. Right. (obviously got a mental picture of Edna, isn’t happy with it).

Wife: And they’ve got… (pause). Well, we’ve got that, that must be in the wrong section. Look – a jam jar opener!

Husband: Hmm.

Wife: They haven’t got a tin opener though, our tin opener is very good.

Husband: (thoughtfully) Opens tins.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Slow going

Chapter 18 has reached 2000 words, whoopee-do. I am still in that odd mood with it – such as this morning I suddenly decided it was imperative to writing conditions for me to tidy my office/spare room/the bit in the flat that I appear to live in. In fact I tidied it to the point of dusting; this was how desperate I was to avoid writing anything. Next I’ll be ironing… *shudders dramatically*

I rewrote the nasty effort I did yesterday, and then I sat for a while with an actual pen sketching how I think this chapter will pan out. It is that whole thing of seeing a complete picture again; from the shoes they are wearing to the news headlines of the day – no matter whether or not I mention any of it. I’ve gone for 1964 by the way – it was the lyrics to I Feel Fine by The Beatles that swung it, although that means my wedding (well, the character’s wedding) is now set in December (as that is when the single was released) which was a bit wet and chilly. Perfect wedding conditions, no?

But… is life perfect? This is a real story, at least, to me – and weddings are not always glitz and glam. Still, I am not totally sure about the date… which I think is one of the main reasons I’m not happy. Why would people get married in December? I can imagine some circumstances might dictate it, or perhaps people wanted to be unusual… but I think sort of March – October are prime wedding months – December feels a bit… perhaps too different, at least for these characters. And what about pictures?

Oh – actually though… hmm. Perhaps it does fit in after all. I'll stick with it for now!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Tap, tap… long pause… silence.

This was the sound of me trying to start chapter 18 today. It is like I have developed an allergy to this chair, this computer, this room – every time I have sat down here, I have swiftly buggered off again to do something else. Yet back I come, drawn like an unhappy moth to a flame, to dejectedly do some tapping, stop for research and then boom – off I go for a flutter.

Not that I have anywhere to flutter to, apart from perhaps the kitchen. I put the kettle on far more times in a day than I actually drink anything. I opened cupboards, I pondered washing, I stared into the fridge. I watered the plants, I tidied the flat, I played some music, I sent some emails, I did yoga. I even put on the Paul McKenna cd in the hope that I’d get something done, and fell asleep mid-listen.

And now I have pinned myself here (been sitting here 30 minutes now, the temptation to get up and go make a annoyingly boring herbal tea is very strong), and have written 162 words. Not a very auspicious start!

Yet, as ever, I now feel more ready to push on – I am such a night owl with this. I will try and get on a bit more, if I can get at least to 1000 words then that is something, even if I do delete it all tomorrow. Just going to make a cuppa first though…………………….. *disappears*

Sunday, 17 February 2008

The ‘three chapters left’ time warp

Yay! Just finished chapter 17 – what a monster it was! So now starts chapter 18, and according to the chapter plan I am jumping forward a few years to 1965. Or it might be more suitable for 1964, not sure yet. Still I am sort of leaning towards ’65 – as arguably my favourite Beatles album ‘Rubber Soul’ was released – flimsy reason though, as it was released in December and this chapter will be set in the summer, so it’s not even going to be mentioned! Ah, I don’t know – I’ll see how it goes tomorrow, it depends on how I picture the characters.

Looking at the chapter plan, I still seem to think there are three chapters left. I thought there were three chapters left back when I was on chapter 16. Maybe there is always going to be three chapters left? Maybe there is some odd ‘three-chapter’s to go’ time warp that I need to get over – it’s all very strange. Perhaps as well there is a fear of actually finishing – as then comes the time to actually go out there and try and do something with it. And what if people hate it! I’ll sob into my Asda value beans should that happen.

Anyone interested in how the budget is holding out, by the way? Before, I was paying myself a monthly wage from my savings to my current account, so there was a sort of balance, but the savings have gone now and the current account has tipped into the overdraft. I can support myself for about, well, perhaps the next two months rent. I don't expect J to support me, to be honest, neither of us can live where we are without two wages coming in. I might sell off a few old bits I have collected over the years - be a bit of a wrench, but you can always collect things again, right? (Looks at old annuals and sighs.) Ah well – if my old ‘tat’ as some might say (the culprit has a 'J' in his name) helps me to finish my dream, then it has a price more than gold to me. I guess I need to start looking up costs of things again, find out what the going rate is for a few of them. I’ll let you know if anything comes up trumps for me!

I guess I have gone philosophical about the budget now – I was a lot more angsty in January, but now realise that in a way, this was exactly where I planned to be all those months ago, so it shouldn’t come as a shock. Even though it did, a bit… I think when you have always been careful with money, to see yourself willingly sending it into thin air with nothing replacing it is a bit… well, scary and out of character! But I have been making in-roads with job enquiries, so hopefully it will all work out alright. And I have over 80,000 words written - definitely worth it!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Chapter 17

What is it about Friday night/Saturday mornings? For some reason, they have turned into my most productive hours of the week, and if only I could keep my eyes open I think I could write the whole darn book by 6am.

Maybe it is because I feel guilty that I have come to the end of a week without finishing a chapter, so as there is more pressure I can go full speed ahead? Whatever it is, it works - tonight chapter 17 has leapt ahead in leaps and bounds - 16 pages, 6,170 words and no sign yet of quitting.

The only problem is I get tired, so think this spurt of energy will only last until 2, like it did last week. Perhaps next week I shall plan it better, get up late and then start writing from say 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It does seem to be the time I like best.

Long old chapter though, this number 17. I have been surfing youtube to find various things to put me into 1962 - music, old TV shows, pathe news segments - been stuck on listening to Chris Montez 'Let's Dance' for what feels like the last hour. Also I have had to find out a lot of things on motorbikes - the Triton, record racing, rockers, the Ace cafe - so it's been a fair amount of research as well tonight. Interesting stuff though - not sure if I would have been a mod or a rocker. Bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who (of course), The Kinks, The Small Faces - I like all of these and they are described as mods. The Beatles, as self-confessed by Ringo, were 'mockers'. Maybe I would have been the same, sat on the fence maybe - best vantage point, of course!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Happy Socks

Over the months sitting here tapping (or, more truthfully sitting here staring at Word thinking 'ummm...'), I have found out that what I wear seems to affect my productivity.

For example, it would be very easy to slob around in PJ’s or old tracksuits all day. The plus side is that it is much easier to sit and type in these sort of clothes, especially as my chair is a straight backed wooden old monstrosity so I constantly end up curled in some yoga-type position in a bid to get comfy. The down side is that I rather like my other half to fancy me, and I am not sure going the way of Waynetta Slob is the way to his heart. I also don’t seem to get much done, as perhaps my body still thinks it is relaxing and therefore why am I trying to get it to write stuff? It wants to eat chocolate and watch the telly.

I have tried the other end of the scale, getting dressed up as though I am on my way to work, in smart clothes. The plus side is that I feel like I am now in a ‘working day’, so my mind is more alert and open to the possibility of getting things done. The down side is that it is bloody uncomfy to sit at the computer all day in smart togs, when all that may see you is a passing magpie.

So middle ground it is – although I do like to dress a little in the style of the decade I am writing about. I have one of those wardrobes that let’s me get away with this – half functional, half last seen in my Nan’s wardrobe. So the 1940’s chapters were accompanied by blouses, the 1950’s a polka dot scarf made an appearance on at least two occasions, and now I am in the 1960’s and am mad for retro prints. I’ll get to the 1970’s and suddenly will feel the urge to wear polo necks and maxi dresses, you wait and see.

Oh – and happy socks. Does anyone else have these? (A resounding ‘no’ echoes throughout the weird wide web). I have favourite patterned socks that sort of seem to give me a boost when I wear them… (watches as everyone backs away in alarm.) I call them my happy socks - who needs expensive stuff? Let happiness be fuelled by £2.99 cotton stripes and polka dots! Hoorah!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

These trainers are made for walking

It occurred to me last night that I must be of the last generation that knew their home borough intimately within a ten mile radius.

Growing up, many games were played outside in the street, and we all walked and cycled everywhere – we knew every short cut, every alleyway, every turning, every park. We knew the best pond to fish for tadpoles, we’d scrambled down every bank of the nearby stream, and I had possibly climbed every tree with low branches in the whole of the borough. I had my favourite climbing trees, my favourite blackberry bushes, we knew the best hill to cycle down, where to stock up on ‘sticky buds’ and ‘flea darts’ to throw at people, and how to pinch primroses so they fluttered down like parachutes.

I still live in my home borough, and enjoy walking around no matter what the weather, mentally awarding points for pretty gardens as I go. Yes, I am the one that peers at your roses, and no I do not want to steal your gnomes. I do not award points for gnomes, although perhaps if you have a cheeky stone mole dressed as a minor then you may just raise a smile. Mostly, I like people that care about their gardens, as it’s enjoyable for passers by, and I think people that prune are less likely to swear in your face and steal your trainers.

Mostly, I walk in solitary splendour, as everyone else I know prefers zooming around in cars. J prefers a walk that goes from A to B for a reason, as opposed to a walk that drifts round in a circle staring at roses. Good friend R likes walking and exploring with me, except we don’t live in the same place enough to make the most of it, sadly. So mainly it is just me, wandering along.

As I walk around, I realise how much of the borough is now off limits to me, as a careful adult. For example, no, I will not take the short cut through the alley at the back of the football field that goes over the bridge and through the park. In fact, I will probably never see that little bridge again as it is now somewhere that my adult eyes picture mugger/rapist/murderer! hiding behind every bush. I will also not cut through any park (and so miss the gorgeous roses in Park B), or take that side alley around the back of a row of houses (although mostly that was to skid around on my bike and nick wormy apples from a back garden.)

There’s no point in saying I feel sorry for the generation behind me, as they laugh at my sentiment from behind tinted car windows, watching films on hand held DVD players and furiously texting LMFAO to friends. They don’t care about primrose parachutes, and I can’t say I blame them, but it does feel like an awful shame, sometimes.

Monday, 11 February 2008


All day I have sat at the comp and thought, right! Write! And then got up to do something else. And what is bloody typical, is that I sort of fancy cracking on with it now, but J is home soon and I want to spend time with him instead. Rats.

Also I feel a bit, sort of, pants – got a cranky old digestion at the best of times but recently it seems to have upped its game. Apparently I have too much sugar in my blood, and a possible low thyroid thing going on… I have a diet sheet to follow that is the sort of thing given to people that shop in Waitrose. Or at organic farms. One thing for sure is that finding bloody Scottish Oats proved impossible in Asda (or any oats apart from Oats So Simple – which isn’t that great. I need the sort of oats that slap you around the head while drinking Irn Bru, apparently). And rye bread was out the window.

But I am sick of feeling well, a bit sick. Not even sick enough to warrant sympathy. Just off colour, peaky, under-the-weather – that sort of thing. Bah. I’m trying to give up caffeine in the hope that I will feel better – so far it appears to be working, except herbal teas are so boring, and make me want to stick my head in the sugar bag.

I am also a little bit concerned with how much I take solphadine… before you get alarmed, it is only one a day, possibly two. But that is tons, really, in the grand scheme of things, and I want to cut it out, but at some point each day I will feel like pants enough to think it warrants one. I know it’s addictive, and part of me wonders if it is contributing to the feeling pants thing, sort of exacerbating the problem. I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and I’ve noticed that definitely over the last two years I have increased from perhaps 3 a week, to 1 a day. Rats, again. When I finish this novel I will do a week without and see how I feel. It really is a silly thing to create problems for yourself when there is really nothing wrong, so hopefully I can kick that habit sometime soon.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

On a roll

It is official, my life is this novel. I have sat here since 9 Friday morning, tapping and singing and doodling and humming (I sound a delightful dinner companion, don’t I?) and now it is amazingly nearly 1.45am the next day and I am still here! Hmm, can you get deep vein thrombosis from sitting in the same position for too long? *runs to wiki*

Recent surgery? Nope
Advanced age? Nope
Obesity? Nope
Infection? Does insect bites from Cape Town count?
Immobilization? Yes! Although of course I can get up and move around… so not strictly speaking...
Female sex? Well what does wiki mean here, I wonder? Being female already makes me prone? Or are lesbians somehow more at risk? Confused…
Use of combined (estrogen-containing) forms of hormonal contraception? Hmm, worrying...
Tobacco usage? No, although J does smoke in the house, although I usually frown at him until he opens a window. I then shiver pathetically until he throws a blanket over me. When we first lived together he tucked it around me. Now he throws it at my head. I am beginning to think my beguiling ways are fading.
Air travel? Yes – well, recently. And it was squishy (sorry Ben, I know that is your pet’s name. I quite like it.)

Gosh, am surely on a danger list. Maybe I should get up and quickly throw a few shapes. Then get cramp.


There is method in my madness, as I have finished chapter 15 (drum roll), I have finished chapter 16 (second drum roll) and I have started chapter 17! Yes, round of applause please! The only slight down side is that this is shaping up to be a 20 chapter book, so I still have the same amount of chapters to go. Still, a wise music obsessive once said, 'it's always easier to change what you've got, but you can't change it if it's not there', so the trick is to keep plugging onwards!

Except I really might go to bed now instead. Suddenly have gone all sleepy... *checks wiki-list for sleepiness caused by deep veins having a party. Realises sleep is a usual occurance at nearly 2am. Calm is restored*

Friday, 8 February 2008

Jeremy Beadle

Subtitle: How I find out about News Items in 2008

I click ‘send/receive’ on my outlook email, and watch as the figures reveal just seven new correspondences overnight. Ignoring emails about The Guardian archives for writers, and press releases about The Futureheads and something called The Adam and Ron show, I go instead to an email newsletter from a website called Retro To Go, and look at all the lovely radios, furniture and prints I cannot afford to buy. Then I read that the BBC are finally closing the school gates on Grange Hill. I obviously haven’t watched Grange Hill for years, but am saddened that the BBC didn’t find a way to update the school drama in a way that was relevant to 2008, in the way I was saddened that TOTP was gradually left to die in a forlorn Sunday slot.

So I think I might blog about Grange Hill, and go to youtube to see if I can find a Young Ones clip of Ben Elton doing a spoof of Grange Hill, saying they were the only kids in Britain that didn’t say f**k. As even though my generation think it was gritty and realistic when we watched it, perhaps there is a bit of that rosy glow thing going on there. However on youtube I find instead some tribute to 80's/90's TV shows, and click on that instead as I eat my cereal. Oh yes, Russ Abbot. Blankety Blank. TV-AM…. My eyes wander down the comments, although I usually don’t read them as all that LOL U SUCK! gives me a headache. Then I see RIP Jeremy Beadle and think what?

I copy and paste Jeremy Beadle’s name into google and click on the first entry, wikipedia. Uh oh, the entry has a death date, this could possibly be true… at this point I think it is time for serious news and go to the BBC website. And it is confirmed…

I loved Game for a Laugh when I was kid, and it was television my whole family sat down to enjoy. I can still remember my dad’s rich chuckles, which is priceless to me considering he sadly passed away a good many years ago. Later on, You’ve Been Framed made me long for a camcorder, as we watched large VHS videos being slotted into state of the art clunky video recorders to play for an audience. Isn’t it funny how dated technology can get so quickly?

Although I must admit, the premise of Beadle’s About scared me rigid. I find watching it, and the sort of shows that sprang up in its wake, almost painful viewing. This is a marked difference to what I thought about Game for a Laugh – perhaps I grew up more and my sense of humour changed, but I started to feel really sorry for the ‘victims’. Jeremy always did seem to time it well and appear just when it looked like said victim was about to call the police/punch a bystander/collapse in hysteria though.

In later years I accidentally caught his LBC show one Sunday, and it was bloody funny, not to mention informative. I couldn’t believe it was the same man that used to terrorise people with his fake beard on television. And hearing his voice made me feel all nostalgic and happy – one of those voices you grow up with, that somehow seep into your subconscious without even knowing it.

Yet it is only with his death at the age of 59, did I realise he did so much work for charity and raised over £100 million for good causes. Bless the man, so many people go through life without even giving a pound in the right direction. Even nicer in a way that it was not publicised, but just quietly got on with, like so many other people in the public eye no doubt do with little fanfare. Decent people, all of them. RIP Mr Beadle.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Cape Town

Oh, the Cape Town Races sing this song, doo-dar, doo-dar…

Can it really be all over so quickly? I had looked forward to my South African holiday for so long and yet blink and it is over, I am back. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to update this blog before I left, it really was the Week of Stupidly Busy before I and three friends left for Heathrow. Why is it always like that I wonder? I also had spent the week throwing an increasingly random selection of clothes at my suitcase, in the hope that some of it might turn fashionable after 12 hours of flight.

I flew with Virgin Atlantic, and my seat was one of those squishy awful ‘in-the-middle-of-a-4-row’ type ones, you know, the type where your legs don’t quite fit, and every time you stand up you knock the blanket off the person next to you. However, arriving in Cape Town and seeing friend S made up for it – we did one of those huge squeal-y greetings as seen in the film Love, Actually. But the heat! Four wilting English roses followed friend S to her car to hug her air-conditioning.

We stayed in this guest house, and were straight in the pool, although the water was freezing! And the sea around Cape Town is like ice, so much so there are a colony of penguins at Cape Point (where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean). But the beaches were gorgeous, wide expanses of white sand... and the waves are a surfers wet dream.

It was very hot during the day - around 40 degrees, but at night cooled down enough to need some sort of wrap (if you are me, everyone else just looked sort of pleased to breathe!) I also avoided the dreaded lobster pink, and most of my time was spent helping friend S with the preparations for her wedding, although to be fair, S is a super efficient sort of lass, so everything was well in hand, and all I had to do was turn up for my bridesmaid dress fittings.

These were held with this terrifying designer who seemed determined to stick a pin in me somewhere. Everytime we agreed on something and went away, the next day an additional 'unagreed' item would appear on the dress - beading, a different colour ribbon... It was so funny.

The food out there was exquisite, and the currency exchange is so in our favour (Brits) that we were all in that happy and incredibly rare state of affairs where you can pick what you like off the menu. I was glued to fish and salad, until (veggies, turn away) I ate an ostrich steak. Oh My God... it was gorgeous. Everything was gorgeous. Can I go back? Please?

Although our first taxi driver did his best to scare us into paranoia about how dangerous the city is, everything was fine. Obviously, we didn't go about waving jewellery and dangling handbags, we did always lock the car door when travelling, but I didn't get that air of menace like in a way I had been expecting. But then again, we stayed in lovely places with people who live there, so perhaps that made a big difference.

I spent one day writing my book on the veranda of the guest house - I borrowed a laptop and quietly got on with it while everyone else went shopping. It was so nice to do this, I absolutely had a ball sitting there writing with such lovely scenary surrounding me. I also finished chapter 15 (hooray!), so now only have 3 left. This is good, as I am now sliding fast into my overdraft (another good reason why sitting and writing was much better than going shopping!). I emailed the chapter back to me, and felt all good about life. When I am a proper published writer type, then I want it written in my contract that I get a few weeks abroad to muse storylines. It works so much better than sitting here in the cold flat staring at/ignoring bills. Funny that, eh?

The actual wedding itself was a complete fairytale. We packed up and drove off into Africa, until we came to a safari campsite. Hippos lived in the large lake, and the pool was warm, so you could lie in the water and look out over the mountains.

Friend S looked beautiful, her hubby-to-be looked very handsome, and it all was just perfect. An traditional African choir shifted and sang as we all walked down the aisle, they said their vows under an archway, and in the distance a rhino family came along to see what all the fuss was about - how perfect is that! Then the main wedding party got into safari trucks to go up the mountains for pictures.

Now I have to point out three things here. One - the terrifying designer had made a cock up with my dress, and had sewn the zip about an inch (or three) too tight. It did up, but I was in danger of fainting as I couldn't breathe! Two - I was wearing high heels, and three - long dresses! All of which were perfect 'clambering into a safari truck' gear - oh it was hilarious! But we saw so many animals - zebra, giraffes, springbok, rhino, puff adders - tons and tons. Not too mention these three darlings...

But how quick the time went! And now we are all home... and I need to get cracking! I think I have two more weeks where I can just think 'novel' and then it will be job search galore. I never thought back in September when I started writing that February would come around so fast. But time forever flies, doesn't it, and hopefully something amazing will happen that will make my bank account spring up like snowdrops. Or something...!