Friday, 29 January 2010

My Day

6.35am: Alarm goes off. Me and Siamese cat blink at it blearily from the warm bed. We both give each other a look as if to say ‘nahh’ and snuggle back down, me under the duvet, him cosy above.
7am: Really have to get up. Light goes on. Movement commences.
7.20am: Dressed and showered, spooning out tuna for pampered puss.
7.30am: Porridge with chocolate buttons in front of BBC One. Cannot remember a thing of what they were talking about.
7.40am: Fly about house looking for coat, scarf, pen, mobile. Cat lies in wait at top of stairs. I avoid his trap and tickle his head instead.
7.50am: At train station, buying pricey monthly travel-card. Train draws in just as I finish – hoorah!
8.53am: Pop up in another part of London.
9am: Start work. Make coffee.
10am: Start eyeing up little box of blueberries on desk
10.05am: Mindlessly scoffing blueberries
10.10am: Decide to stop scoffing as have to eek out fruit until lardy pizza lunch at 2pm. Will only have next blueberry after eleven.
10.26am: Ponder tea instead.
10.33am: These blueberries just aren’t going to make it.
10.40am: There are only seven left now, and two are squidgy.
10.50am: The only sounds in the office are the air-conditioning and spoons scraping cereal bowls.
10.52am: Glug water instead.
11.16am: Ooo made it! Blueberries now devoured. Time to eye up my banana… Nope. Won’t.
11.47am: Worrying thought in middle of work stuff. Do I know what genre my book is? Is it just contemporary fiction? Okay let’s see. It’s contemporary (in that some of it is in the recent here and now). It’s historical (as some of it dates back to 1939 and other early decades). It’s a bit fantastical (as it involves an angel and gives Death a a bit of a bashing). And if I put contemporary, historical, fantastical fiction on my query letter I will be laughed into the dustbin. Oh dear…
12.10pm: Thoughts drift to my banana. Must leave it alone until 1pm, not worry it. I must not be a banana botherer.
12.10 and 30 seconds: Office colleagues wonder why that quiet girl in the corner has just laughed uproariously to herself.
12.27pm. Will die if don’t eat that banana. Resist, resist!
12.30pm: Startling thought in middle of work stuff. Is chapter fourteen actually crap?
12.50pm: The banana is down. Repeat, the banana is down…
1.36pm: Emerge from work-stuff to glug water. Disappear again.
2.00pm: Yeay – lunch! Scurry out with lovely colleague H.
3.02pm: Back at desk. Think I have a lemonade rush. Or a cheese/bread/pizza rush. Feel surprisingly light-headed!
3.20pm: Ooo handed an urgent work mission!
4.11pm: Busy, busy…
4.20pm: Waiting for others now. Time for a coffee! Notice all the exclamation marks since lunch. Am hyper on cheese.
4.37pm: Damn. Mission sadly thwarted until Monday.
4.57pm: Feel a bit sick from pizza overload.
5.08pm: Eight minutes past home-time…
5.13pm: Waiting for tube
5.18pm: On tube, redrafting chapters 7 – 9 from the print outs I remembered to take with me this morning.
6.08pm: On train, still redrafting.
6.25pm: Home! Elderly Siamese cat makes precarious way downstairs to greet/yowl at me. We play belly rub for a while. Heating goes on.
6.40pm: Pampered puss is fed evening meal of ham and biscuits. He eats better than I do.
7.00pm: Am lured into The One Show by Ricky Gervais, and the promise of a model village. Am somewhat fascinated by model villages. And Ricky Gervais always just tells things how they are – comedy gold for topical shows.
7.30pm: Have a small glass of vodka and diet coke to celebrate end of week.
7.45pm: Cat on lap, home computer on. Will do a round robin email check, and then crack open chapter fourteen. I am going to post this now, but will continue to add to it as the evening goes on.
7.56pm: Still formatting this post! And I have decided that I really must listen to the Spencer Davis Group Gimme Some Loving before anything else happens. I liked it well before it was used in that advert with Martine McCutcheon preaching about tummy yoghurt.
8.20pm: Open Word document. Look at novel. Novel looks back at me. Right, I say to it, cracking my knuckles.
8.30pm: Must stop obsessively checking for comments on blog post. Must stop replaying ‘Gimme Some Loving’
8.33pm: Darn clicked again. Stop!
8.37pm: Just looked up that model village. It has a lovely website:
8.40pm: One more youtube song and then I’m done.
8.50pm: With chapter 14 now (and another small glass of vodka and diet coke, after all it is Friday). Put The Queen's Coronation on youtube to give me some relevant background noise. How amazing is it we can use the Internet like this for research? Bloody fantastic. Hic.
9.00pm: I think I used to do things on Friday nights. Like go out and socialise and stuff. Am I old, or am I hermit, as The Killers might sing.
9.10pm: Texted good friend S.
9.12pm: If a left ear burns does it mean someone is talking bad about you? Oh hold on, the right is a bit warm as well. Okay – both ears are burning. So that cancels everything out presumably and no one is even vaguely thinking of me. Okay… nice…
9.20pm: Back to it. And I wonder why I don’t get things done.
9.27pm: Yeay! MusicObsessive, of the fab music blog, has left a comment. I am definitely flapper (see comments below).
9.52pm: Decide to have late supper of ryvita, mayo and ham, along with cup of tea. Mmm.
10.00pm: Loving the fact I have 27 followers. What if they all decided to comment at once? I would be swamped with bloggy goodness.
10.01pm: Found a dark chocolate Mars bar in the cupboard. Pounced and devoured it at once. Feel infinitely happier.
10.30pm: Getting tired now. Cat is back snoozing on my lap.
10.44pm: Do I write better when tired I wonder? As chapter 14 is going quite well.
11.00pm: Managed 785 words of redrafting. At least that is something. And if I go to bed now I can get up early and start again, although hopefully not in a scary Groundhog Day scenario. Goodnight!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Boo to Boots

The one thing I hate with a passion is shopping for boots. This is due to my somewhat ‘curvy’ calves, a description far kinder than what I usually call them - ‘sumo calves’. Now if I had aspirations of being a sumo wrestler then sumo calves would be a perfect accessory, but since the rest of me is rather petite, then all it seems I have aspirations of is being a weeble. Still, at least I won’t fall down when I wobble, eh?

So boot shopping is always fraught with disaster. I gaze longingly at the belted and zipped varieties, those leather beauties with ‘no give’, shapely and tall specimens for coltish lucky females. I linger, imagination fitting me with slim calves, prancing around in my lovely boots. Perhaps I’d even wear long stripy socks with my boots, and the horizontal bands wouldn’t look like my legs were in wide-screen only. And then I’d sigh, dreams dismantled, and head over to the large pull-on Welly’s.

Every so often, usually once a year, I forget I have curvy calves. I get fooled and seduced by new-season boots, and tempted into trying one on. There is always a moment of hope, which usually lasts until I try to make the zips marry and realise there is a vast desert of leg between each side. With luck this won’t be when I have slim calved ladies each side of me, but if I do then I just give a knowing chuckle and wry shake of the head, as if to say ‘who put that giant leg there?’ and then slink away.

The worst is if you ask shop assistants to help you. I mention the need for a wide-fitting boot, and they always disbelieve me, and show me some skinny laced leather thing. ‘No’, I will say, ‘show me your nicest elephant leg boots please’. They only ever listen once I have demonstrated the calf in all its glory.

This happened once in Top Shop. The assistant looked me up and down, ignored my plea for an elephant-leg and handed me a stylish leather boot instead, telling me that it would definitely fit. So resolutely I tried it on, and the zip didn’t go up beyond my ankle. ‘You do have large legs, don’t you?’ she said in surprise. Mmm, thanks for that.

So is it any wonder that I always buy the first boots that fit? No lingering, debating, or shopping around for me when it comes to buying boots. If a pair fits then I am at the till quicker than you can say ‘stretchy’. So today I am the proud owner of a new pair of boots, bought at lunch-time. I have absolutely no idea whether they are stylish or even suit me. They fit, and that is the only criteria I ask for – hooray! Unleash the dresses and skirts!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On

Why does life expand like a soggy sponge just when you don’t want it to? The novel has once again been languishing on the hard drive while I wait for trains, debate work-stuff, roll brainless on tubes, lie limp through yoga, create splats (soup), wash up splats, wash hair, feed cat and get extraordinarily tired-out by 9pm. I’m not partying, drinking (much), nor have any excuse whatsoever apart from I’m sad at heart, its January, and January is far from the madding payday.

I was doing so well after Christmas! But events conspired against me. I’m sure I will pick up again soon. I opened chapter 13 yesterday and did a few minute revisions, stared for twenty minutes at one sentence and then sloped away again downstairs to stare instead at a television. There is no thought required for a television; it acts as a passive brain-blocker. Sometimes that is the only requirement for an evening.

I am still reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, written in 1933. It is a remarkable book. Vera is really alive in its pages – her writing voice is quite unique, and gets across so completely her personality. There might be a full review coming up one day, but for the meantime this passage struck a chord with me:

But I was clearly enough aware that parents brought up in the nineteenth-century tradition would have preferred, not unnaturally, a happily married daughter producing grand-children to a none-too triumphant Oxford graduate floundering unsuccessfully in that slough of despond which lies just inside the gateway of every path to the literary life.

Oh that slough of despond. It’s been over seventy years since that sentence was first written, and yet I completely understand, sympathise and agree with her words. I can see it oh-so clearly, my particular slough, it bubbles noxious gasses through clinging marsh mud. I seem to carry it everywhere I go, and I stand in it with every conversation I have. I also feel ‘none-too triumphant’ these days, and that I am floundering unsuccessfully without being able to have the strength of conviction and the energy needed to propel me forward. But there is hope also in her words – that the ‘slough of despond’ is one of the final barriers in the path of being an author. So I have to keep calm and carry on.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter in London

London is a lovely city in which to point a camera. All these photographs were taken on Saturday 9th January 2010.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


The month-long seclusion in a friend’s parents house would be ideal for writing, were it not for the following things:

1. Work
2. Extra hour /faff time added to commute either way to allow for strangely snowy vista
3. Stupidly signing up for another month of Bikram Yoga torture
4. Looming Tax Return
5. Preoccupation with making soup


I am fortunate enough to have a job I enjoy, for a company I like, alongside folk who are nice to work with. I do realise how extraordinary that is! I do hug the nice job (metaphorically speaking) every opportunity I can. This week saw the successful launch of something I have designed/been working on pretty much ever since I arrived here eight months ago, so as you can imagine it has been a busy start to 2010. Not much time and energy left over in the evenings to write, but the balance should go back to normal now.

Extra hour / faff time

What is it with overground trains in this country, and weather? Do they build trains with nervous dispositions? Signal failures, unannounced delays, and cancellations – the slightest hint of white in the sky seems to guarantee commuter mayhem. Stoically we stand on the platforms and wait, and wait, scalding tongues on too-hot station coffee, and breathing mist into the cold morning air. Several rammed, steamy train rides later and people emerge in offices like survivors who have braved a dangerous journey - red-nosed and grinning, unwinding scarves and stamping Wellingtons.

Bendy torture

I do love Bikram Yoga. I do, honest. It’s just that Bikram Yoga doesn’t especially like me. Maybe I am just not cut out to be one of the zen-like people that sit in calm contemplation in class. This is no doubt due to the way I arrive, a whirl-wind of scarves and bags, fresh from spending forty minutes cursing the slow Metropolitan line. I then have to throw everything off, hurry into my shorts and top, fling everything into one of the only lockers left (either the very top row or very bottom), and then dash into the sauna to grab a mat and throw it on the ground. Then class begins! No wonder I don’t feel very zen. I am beginning to suspect those calm contemplative folk don’t actually work for a living.

Tax Hades

This has to be done as I was still self-employed for some of the last tax year, but I hate doing this with a complete passion. I am just really thick with maths. No matter how much I stare, tap calculators, pencil figures and frown at forms I inevitably end up in a mess. Hence doing the worse thing possible and leaving it to the last few weeks… but those official brown envelope reminders are starting to scare me, so it has to be done.


Leave me alone and unaided in a kitchen, and something strange happens to me. I start to imagine I am the new Delia Smith of soup-making. Saucepans will clatter down from on high, knives will be wielded, vegetables will be sliced and diced. Sometimes a commentary will be given to the sink, or the cat. I will not follow recipes – pah to recipes! And hence I will create a splat. Tasty splats granted, but still not the sort of thing you’d serve someone else if you want them to come back. More work needed, I feel.

Despite such diversions, I’ve made it to chapter 13 of the redraft. Whoo! And hello to new followers - thank you for investing time in this blog! You are very welcome.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


And so a brand new year, and a brand new decade has begun, complete with a winter wardrobe of white. I have also decided to change the scenery, and have agreed to house and cat sit for a friend’s parents for a month while they are away. Luckily I got settled in before the snow, and am now blissfully enjoying my own space. No longer will I feel like a crazy person if I want to write in the middle of the night, or from 6am, or anytime I want!

I have been left with enough food and drink to stock a small but sturdy army, there is chocolate to be found most everywhere I look, and am already old friends with the cat. I have also worked out the various heaters, although my slight OCD is in full force with the bar fire in the main room – is it off? Is it? Shall I check again 10 minutes later? And again? I also brought my hard drive and printer across (I really should get a lap top one of these days!), and now have a little home office sorted. It is really nice here, a time to breathe, and to step out of the normal routine.

The plan now is of course full speed on the writing. Through various reasons, I haven’t managed any more on the novel since December 29th, so now I have to pick it back up again, keep calm, and carry on. There is still normal work to fit in around that, but now I can come home and write all the time without my mum’s suspicions of what I am doing. In her world, (think Daily Mail, sadly), the Internet is where people go to talk seedy in chat rooms, arrange to meet killers, download porn, or give away bank details. Hence her fear every time she hears me tapping away upstairs! I tell her I am writing a novel, but this goes down the same as it would if I said I was planning to be an astronaut. She’ll try and get excited about it, for example if I use the same analogy she would ask about my space outfit, wonder if I should go for a nice green instead of white, but warn me not to spend all my time researching stars. If I then tried to talk seriously about space and shuttles, she’d nod, her eyes would glaze, and she’d point out that Eastenders is on. So being here neatly skips all that, and gives me the space I need to crack on. I am loving it already!