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...