Friday, 31 December 2010
1. If you are having 27 family members to lunch, and they say can they bring anything, never, ever say "no - just bring yourselves!" This is daft, and you will live to regret it.
2. Do not buy a small nifty vacuum cleaner by a very well-known manufacturer. Yes, it's light and easy to carry about. Yes, it's quite pretty. But it does not - repeat not - do the business. There is no point in having a vacuum cleaner if you have to follow it picking up all the fluff it has decided to ignore. You can carry it up the stairs (we live on four floors) with one finger, but what's the point of that if it won't do what it's supposed to do?
3. When you wisely replace it with a bigger (heavier) one, get someone to show you how to put it together. True, there's a sheet of instructions with no words, just pictures and the word"click" written in various places (nothing clicks). There is also a helpline functioning practically round the clock (that in itself should arouse suspicion). But when the helpful operator tells you she's sitting with this same model of cleaner balanced on her knees and the wheels facing towards her, and can you see the little grey button on the left? trust me. You can't.
4. The thing (in this case, the vacuum cleaner) which fitted so nicely in its cardboard box when it arrived will never fit back in again once you've taken it out. It just won't. It's like some kind of Chinese puzzle.
5. Echinacea does not prevent colds (which is why we are not out partying this evening). By the way, has anyone else noticed that tomorrow will be 1/1/11?
Happy new year!
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Unlike Teresa, who is uncompromising and fearless in her approach, we don't shred these, but we collect them until after Christmas, and then award a prize for the best/worst. One of our regular winners is yet to arrive (maybe we've been struck off?) but this year I would like to announce that the winners are (cue fanfare) Mr. and Mrs. H.
These people are barely known to us, and have - wait for it - seven children, plus enough grandchildren to people a small village. They are all (naturally) high achievers, and appear to be scattered across the globe, bringing happiness and prosperity to all those who are fortunate to come across them. I lost track after I'd counted 27 names - not one of whom I'd heard of - and immediately awarded them the prize. Really, there was no contest.
Why do people do this? My brother, one of the worst offenders (hello there, Steve) says "people want to know". But I say, no, they don't. If they have no children, they don't necessarily want to hear about yours. If they have - er - low-achieving children, they certainly don't want to hear about all those straight As. And in any case, the people who really want to know (family; close friends) will have been told already.
There is an entertaining little book - The Cat that could Open the Fridge - which is a collection of round robin gems (eg a school report that said "in Sophia, you have given us a little diamond. All we have to do his polish it". See what I mean?).
But after all this, I'm afraid I have to confess that we enjoy the round robins, if for all the wrong reasons. For without them, there would be no competiton. And for us, that is part of the fun of Christmas.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
I wasn't going to. As I struggled to and fro laden with shopping bags (we are close to the shops, so rarely have to use the car) , I was determined to hold out against the shopping trolley. That little voice kept telling me I wasn't old enough; that a shopping trolley was the beginning of the slippery slope (together with thick stockings, big knickers and bubbly grey perms). But then I saw it.
It was bright and blue and cheerful, with yellow daisies. It was very, very cheap. and it called to me. In I went, and wheeled it about a bit. It was wonderful. It turned on a sixpence, was easy to park, and had plenty of room. So I bought it.
How did I ever manage without it? I wheeled it through the streets of Devizes (pulling, not pushing. You don't run so many people over that way), light as a feather (although by now, competely full) and wondered how on earth I had ever managed without it.
It is my Christmas present to myself (John's present to me is apparently stranded in Turkey, so I need cheering up). And I LOVE it!
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
We writers do a lot of waiting. We wait for an agent to reply, for a publisher to reply, for a book to sell. We (or should I say, I ) check emails, check the post, start hoping for verdicts long before they can possibly be expected to arrive. In a way, I find waiting paralyses me. I can't settle; I am preoccupied - even obsessed - wiht whatever it is I'm waiting for.
I know I'm not the only MNWer waiting at the moment, and I wonder whether they (you) are feeling the same way as I am. I can't settle to writing another book (after all, if this one doesn't sell, then there may be lessons to be learnt before I launch myself into a new one), so the creative part of my brain is jiggling up and down saying "come on, come on, COME ON!" but I have to ignore it. I am preoccupied with the waiting.
But never mind. There's Christmas fast approaching, sons arriving with and without new babies, snow to be shovelled (I have to get out and do it before our 80-year-old neigbour - who has the energy of ten of me - skips out with her shovel and puts me to shame), and today's list of Things to Do to be tackled. So I must stop faffing about and do them.
But once again, a very happy Christmas to all MNWers (and anyone else passing by). And if you're currently waiting, may whatever you're waiting for happen soon, and be just what you wanted.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
I like you. I really do. I like your wholesomeness; the fact that you are down-to-earth, and when you're on the TV you don't do that coy thing creeping down to the (studio) fridge in your nightie to pig out on something fattening; the fact that you remind us to put on our oven gloves in case we burn ourselves. You are a nice person.
But I can't get on with your recipes. I've tried. I really have. I know I'm in a minority. I know it's almost certainly my own fault. But there it is. Last week we had friends to dinner, and I tried your recipe for ratatouille. I followed the instructions minutely, cut the veg in inch-thick slices (which really went against the grain, but you are Deila and you know). Well, it was a disaster. Although I gave it extra cooking time, it was like chewing boot leather. It didn't work. I love ratatouille. It's one of my favourite dishes ("why didn't you stick to to your usual receipe?" asked my daughter. Good point. But I thought that because you are Delia, yours would be even better. It wasn't). So I shall put my Delia book away for a while. Maybe I'll try again one day; maybe I won't. At the moment, I need time to get over the humiliation of watching seven people trying to look as though they're enjoying something horrible.
But have a wonderful Chrsitmas, anyway, and no hard feelings, eh? After all, with so many fans, you don't really need me.
Friday, 17 December 2010
*My daughter thought of calling one of her daughters after me (second name), but didn't want to upset her mother-in-law. Quite right, too.
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
I felt strangely cheered by all this because (a) it was quite amusing seeing all these miserable people buying things to make them happy, and manifestly failing, and (b) because I've pretty well finished my Christmas shopping (please note, Aliya), found some half-price Christmas crackers, and am feeling quite jolly.
I was going to finish this with a fairly amusing cracker joke from the newpaper, but sadly I've already forgotten it (I can never remember jokes, except for one that's so rude that there's hardly anyone I can tell it to).
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Monday, 6 December 2010
We just missed this on the Today programme this morning. But it's worth sharing.
I absolutely HATE this weather, can't ride the horse (who's out in a field eating snow) and am still toying with various plot ideas. We only have one elderly neighbour to look out for, and she's friskier than I am. Unlike Aliya, I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, and I haven't started on the Christmas cards.
But this pic made me realise things could be worse.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
And then there are people like me. As someone once said, the plot for a first novel is relatively easy, since that's the book you've (probably) been incubating for years. Hence the notoriously difficult second novel. I seem to have second novel syndrome each time. It takes me ages to happen upon (that's usually how it seems) a good enough new plot. It's a bit like trying to get pregnant, without any of the fun. So here I am, wasting time blogging (between Christmas shopping, and making mince pies), and waiting for that plot to drop into my head. Which is quite frightening, since maybe it won't. Maybe I'll never have another plot or write another novel. I rather envy the NaNo people, who had the discipline to write a novel in a month. The imperative to write may well have inspired the plot. Too late for me this year (although there's no reason why I can't set myself a personal NaNo). I've got a vague plot about people stuck in ia lift, but is that enough for a novel? If I were an Ian McEwan, certainly it would be. Sadly, I'm not.
On a lighter note, I read in the paper today that a company is designing larger cat flaps for fatter cats, since apparently feline obesity is becoming a problem, and ordinary cat flaps are too small. This got me wondering: there must be a fine line between a fat cat and thin burglar. I hope they know what they're doing.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Oh well. We soldier on.
*One of my favourite words. I told my six-year-old grandson about it, then unwisely bet him he wouldn't remember it. So every time we meet, it's the first word he says. Oh, that and onomotapoeia. He likes that one, too.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
(And good luck to others waiting, especially Alis and Aliya. I do hope you get your news soon.)
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
My little granddaughter phoned this evening to ask if I will sponsor her for a sponsored spelling test. I am on safe ground here, for this is a child who once spelled Tuesday "clak". No-one ever discovered what Tuesday and clak had in common, but my own theory is that because they have too many boring spellings to do she just thought: sod it, I'll write down the first letters that come to mind. Wise child. Anyway, I'm giving her 25p per word, but I think my money's probably safe.
This got me thinking about sponsoring in general. Sponsored spellings are fine, because spelling tests are dreary, so the sponsored person has to do something unpleasant - perhaps even useful - to earn the money for their cause. But when it comes to sponsoring people to, say, trek through the Andes or go white water rafting in Patagonia, that's a different matter. What you are doing is paying for them to have the kind of wonderful holiday you will never have and couldn't possibly afford anyway.
On another tack altogether, one of my sons is thinking of keeping bees in his loft (there's no room in the garden). This is an interesting idea, but I'm not sure whether it will work. For a start, the bees will have to get out, which means the weather will presumably get in. But at least it will keep the bees away from the children. Another son, who also hankers after bees (and who does things like making his own cheese and contructing a water bath for cooking food in) doesn't know about this yet, but I'm pretty sure that he too will want bees in his loft when he gets to hear about it. I'm not sure about bees, myself. There's just so much honey one family can eat, and I've always thought it rather unfair that we take the bees' honey and give them sugary water instead. Do they not notice the difference?
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
My year is puntuated with the regular activities of the Archers; lambing in January (awfully early - they lamb much later round here), with much shivering and complaining in the lambing sheds, through summer and the single wicket contest (I've no idea what that means, but that's what the Archers do in the summer) to, finally, the infuriating Linda Snell's annual Christmas pantomime (every village has its Linda Snell. In our last village, she lived next door. Enough said).
One one, level, the Archers is deeply boring ("It is Monday moring, and Phil is opening his post." How my children used to hoot with derision at lines such as that one), but on another, it's wonderfully reassuring; a kind of aural security blanket. So long as people are making cherry yoghurt and delivering calves and drinking down at the Bull in Ambridge, life can't be that bad.
Monday, 22 November 2010
My sister, disabled from birth and now wheelchair-bound, lives in sheltered accomodation. For Children in Need, the warden sat in a bath and invited the residents (nearly all elderly) to throw things at her. Amusing? Entertaining? No. Not really. Having got over the cringe factor, my sister gamely opened some tins of things and threw them at her, but nobody else joined in. You wouldn't do this to a group of, say, bankers, doctors, coalminers or whatever. But the disabled are fair game. At Christmas, this same establishment is visted by the mayoress, who distributes gifts of tinned food and teabags. Nobody wants or need these gifts, but (presumably) the mayoress goes away feeling all warm and fuzzy, becuase she has done a Good Deed.
And then there's my uncle, about whom I've blogged before. On his birthday, the home where he's a resident organises a cake (with candles, naturally) and crackers and paper hats, and we trog along and have a little party. This is equally cringe-making. He doesn't know how old he is, or that it's his party. He is bewildered, and thrown out of his (very limited, but safe) routine. His housekeeper, who adores him, thinks this is all lovely. But it isn't. It's awful. His 94th. birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I would ike to boycot the party and pay a separate visit instead, but that will hurt various people and make me very unpopular ("his niece never even came to see him on his birthday!"). I am his next of kin. It's expected of me. But this year, I don't think I shall go. Other people won't understand, but my uncle, when he had his wits about him, would have agreed with me.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Shopping trolleys are for the old, the decrepit, those who can't carry all their stuff. In other words, shopping trolleys are for me. But I am in denial. I can carry my stuff; of course I can. And if it means putting seven heavy bags down in a puddle in order to pay for the eighth, well, that's ok, isn't it?
No. It's not. My arms are still aching from this morning's little jaunt, and the veg rack (Aliya, please note) is groaning under the weight of, among other things, onions as big as my head, which are far too big to be useful, and there are enough sprouts in the fridge to feed a small army. But rather than cut down on the shopping - I can't resist a bargain* - I am finally going to buy a shopping trolley. I actually went into a shop and looked at some this morning. They were hideous. And while I told myself that shopping trolleys aren't fashion accessories - they aren't in the same category as, say, handbags (I don't really do handbags, but that's another story) - I shall be getting one. Because it's the sensible thing to do.
But not yet.
*Someone once said that a bargain isn't a bargain unless it's something you want/need. Very wise, but hard to live up to.
Monday, 15 November 2010
First, the grated cheese. A while back, I discovered industrial sized bags of ready-grated cheese at our local market. This is great, because I keep it in the freezer, and if I need any, I can just dig out a handful or two. As a friend (who is even lazier than I am) said: "it's wonderful! You don't have to wash up the cheese grater any more" (I don't know what kind of grater she has the cleaning of which is more arduous than the actual grating. I didn't ask).
Tumble dryers. These are wonderful for purposes of "ironing" anything that suddenly needs attention and you can't be bothered to get out the iron. They are also useful for cleaning purposes. Last week I "cleaned" a very dusty pair of curtains by giving them a whizz in the tumble dryer. They look great. Of course, they probably aren't exactly clean, but who cares?
Why am I blogging about this? Because I still haven't heard from Agent, and unlike Alis, who forges bravely ahead with her next novel as soon as she's finished the last one, my brain is still stuck in what I suspect is still the WIP (or will be again, very shortly), and I need something to take my mind off it.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
His latest purchase is a kitchen knife. This is used, he tells me. by the best chefs. Indispensible. This knife is very large, and very, very sharp. And (and this is the point of this post) every time I use it (yes. I am allowed to. "I see you've used The Knife" he says smugly, each time he notices), I cut myself. I just have to touch the damn thing, and I bleed.
It happened again this morning. In a rare domestic moment, I decided to make soup for lunch (I'm in waiting-for-Agent's reply mode, so need to keep myself occupied). And I used the knife. And I cut myself. Twice. And we're out of the right kind of plasters, so I'm bleeding all over the place, and into the soup. This thing should come with a health warning and a large first aid kit. But I shall continue to use it. Because it's very, very sharp.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
I've now been through it about three more times - does that make it four drafts? - and while I have quite enjoyed the process (partly becasue I hate saying goodbye to a book) I find more and more things to change. So when do I let go? Does anyone ever think (as I used to - oh, happy days!), that's it? Done? As near perfect as possible? Or do they feel, as I do in my new drafty state, that the more I change, the more I see that needs changing, from plot lines to using "but" twice in a sentence. Ad infinitum.
I've got to the point where I think it's as ready to go as it ever will be, but that moment when I ping it off into cyberspace will be really difficult. At least in the old days, as you parcelled it up, then walked to the post office, waited in the queue, had it weighed and stamped etc. you had time to change your mind...
Saturday, 6 November 2010
if I hadn't fallen off the horse at all, no-one would have told me I was lucky. When you come back from a ride (or a car journey, or even a walk) unscathed, no-one tells you you're lucky. But have an accident of any kind, and if you're still breathing, you're lucky.
Seven years ago, I broke my back. And boy, was I lucky! Everyone - but everyone - told me how lucky I was. I could have been killed, broken my neck, been rendered helpless or my brain turned to mush. But lo! I only had to spend weeks in hospital (and in pain), so I was lucky. So many people told me I was lucky that I began to feel that falling downstairs (I know. How unglamorous is that?) was a really lucky thing to do. But while I didn't mind saying myself that I was lucky, I really objected to people with lovely, whole unbattered spines telling me I was lucky.
I'm beginning to stiffen up now. Having caught the horse (who really was lucky since he'd wanted to go home anyway), walked (a long way) back to the yard where he lives, made sure he was all right, and got myself home, the bumps are beginning to make themselves known.
But I must keep telling myself: I'm lucky.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
The previous night, one of them had "issues with their hoggets". I love that. It sounds like a medical condition. (A hogget - I had to look it up - is a yearling sheep or colt. I do hope it wasn't a colt.) And there was a strong preference for scallops and fennel throughout the competition (maybe scallops and fennel are in this year?). But I shall miss it. Now, when I try to do anything remotely clever in the kitchen (like mashing potato), I think of Monica and her rolling eyes, and I shudder. Being a writer is hard. But being a chef....
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Monday, 1 November 2010
(You need to click on the pic to appreciate Geoffrey's outfit, but even then it's pretty obscure)
Saturday, 30 October 2010
I notice these things much more now that I write more. Points of view, too. Some writers seem to get away with jumping from one POV to another, and it can be quite jarring. But would I have noticed before I had to examine my own writing so carefully? I'm not sure.
* I don't wish to be disparaging about DF; I read, and enjoyed, many of his books while feeding my 3rd baby. He's good holiday reading, and tells a pacy story.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
now out) overcooked and then undercooked the lamb in the posh restaurant, and I worried about what they'd do with all that wasted meat. After all, while shepherd's pie is one of my favourite things, it's not pretty, and it's definitely not "fine dining".
I have dealt with medical emergencies and cardiac arrests, and they don't bother me at all. But cooking for those judges, against the clock and with the cameras filming, just doesn't bear thinking about. But it's wonderful TV. Roll on next week, and the final!
But where was Monica?
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
1. Nick Clegg smokes! Shock, horror. How could he, when we're all looking to him to set a good example? What ridiculous, tabloid bollocks. Of course the poor bloke can smoke if he wants to. Why on earth shouldn't he? It's not illegal, or hurting anyone else (unless he blows smoke in the baby's face). I've never smoked, but I will defend - well not to the death, but I'll defend - anyone else's right to do so.
2. "Five-a-day"*. Why does that annoy me so much? I was reading in the paper something about a fruity drink, and was told that "it also counts as one of your five a day". Do they (whoever they are) really think we all sit around counting up to five, and then breathing a sigh of relief before reaching for the chocolate/cake/pork pie or whatever. It makes me want to eat anything but five a day. Three, eight, seventeen - anything but five. And how many peas (for example) make a helping? How much cabbage? Does half an avocado count? Does anyobody know? Does anybody CARE?
* For anyone who doesn't know (can there be anyone?), the government recommends that we all eat five helpings of fruit and/or veg a day.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
I should have seen this coming, of course. It was never brought out in paperback (Pan Mac) as it "lacked commerciality"(their words). It was just a matter of time before it disappeared altogether. But it was my first; the book that made me feel I might one day be a novelist; the Richard and Judy competiton runner-up (I'll never forget the jubilation); my first full-length literary baby. And now it's gone.
This hit me far harder than I would have thought. I knew I was being stupid; that I've written a second (and I hope, third) better book(s); that poor Ernest would inevitably sooon be out of print. But it felt like a little death in my (very small) literary family. There is still hope, as the screen producer who has bought the rights is still trying to make a screenplay, but while I very much hope this works out (for her even more than me, because she's put so much time and effort into the project), my book is dead, as a book. Unless I become very successful indeed, it won't be brought back to life. And I feel enormously sad.
Friday, 22 October 2010
"That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me," he wrote in A Journey. "On that night of 12 May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct..."
I wouldn't really call that bad sex; or any sex at all, when you think what does get written. But there's something disatasteful about it, all the same.
To much information, Tony. Too much information.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Well, here's my nice new award, courtesy of Teresa (thank you, Teresa!). I'm not exactly sure what it means*, but it's very pretty, and brightens up my blog, which needed a picture. And of course it's always good to have an award.
It's a very long time since I had one (an award, that is). In fact the last one was (I think) a medal for nursing, presented by the Queen Mother, a very long time ago. I had to learn to curtsey (harder than it looks). We all had tea with the QM afterwards, and as she only ate a tiny bite of her sandwich, I'm ashamed to say that the rest of us shared it (the sandwich) when she had gone. So eating the royal toothmarks is probably up there with having a novel published.
*Could you tell me a bit more about it please, Teresa?
Monday, 18 October 2010
Take A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. A brilliant title, and I can't help wondering whether some of the novel's success is due to that title (I have to confess that while I enjoyed the novel, I enjoyed the title more). I've just read her latest - We Are All Made of Glue - and I think the title is much much better (or more memorable) than the novel itself. Likewise, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and (dare I say) The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night Time (thought I did love it).
How do people choose the titles for their novels? I can't remember for the life of me how I came to choose Dead Ernest (except that, obvously, it was about Ernest, who was dead). Birds and Bees was a compromise; I wanted something quite different; Macmillan suggested The Facts of Life (!). My WIP - Basic Theology for Fallen Women; not sure how I thought of that title, but I love it. It's probably the only thing I love about the book but it's a start (it's also the main reason I haven't abandoned it in difficult moments). And apparently it (the title - that's all there was of it at the time) went down well at the London Book Fair. Now all I have to do is make the novel as good as the title, which I have a horrible feeling isn't going to happen.
Friday, 15 October 2010
I find this question almost impossible to answer. Synopses are hugely difficult; the kind of mini-synopsis people are asking for is worse. Even trying to give a mini-synopsis of, say, Peter Rabbit would be bad enough ("well, there's this family of rabbits, and the baby rabbits are told not to go into someone's garden. No. Wait a minute. Their mother is going shopping, so they're on their own. She's a widow, because Mr. McGregor - he's the one whose garden they're not supposed to be going into - ate her husband" etc etc). To express the meaning/intent/plot of a WIP (or finished novel) is worse.
How do you sum up the plot of your WIP/finished novel? In a couple of sentences? Is there a knack? I'd love to know.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Here, you have pale, trembling contestants cooking fiddly, decorative little meals, against the clock, and with the judges literally leaning over their shoulders as they cook, clucking, rolling their eyes, and shrugging with dismay at each misplaced fragment or extra half-squeeze of lemon. Last night, they had to make tiny little souffles, plus a caramel sauce, in just 10 minutes. It was quite terrifying to watch. "Do you think your souffles will be cooked in time"? one of the judges asked gleefully of a miserable contestant, who was watching his pale, liquid efforts not rising through the see-through door of the oven. What was the poor guy supposed to say? Of course the souffles didn't rise; they never stood a chance.
The food in this programme is all fiddly food (I've posted about this before, but I have a bit of a thing about it). It's the kind of food which might do as an appetiser, or a subect for a still life painting, but it isn't a proper meal. I little mouthful of this; a small puddle of that; a garnish of tiny twigs...I simply don't see the point. As my eldest son (a very good cook, with a proper man's appetite) says: "people want pie". Exactly.
But I shall continue to watch this mesmerising programme, and keep everything crossed for the poor wretched cooks, and hope that, notwithstanding the extraordinary food, everyone manages to come out of it alive.
Monday, 11 October 2010
Saturday, 9 October 2010
But if I had to choose a pen name, it would be Matilda Davenport. She was my great-grandmother, and I think hers is a magnificent name. It has a touch of gravitas (which Frances Garrood most certainly does not).
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Why, oh why, do I always have the full English? Because I've paid for it, that's why, and because I think I'm going to enjoy it. But I never do. It's invariably too filling, too fatty and too fattening. So, every time, I swear that next time I'll have a boiled egg. I loved boiled eggs. They're one of my favourite foods. But every time, I succumb to the full English, because I'm greedy and I never learn.
And the knickers. We have no M&S here (or only a food one) so on the way home, we visited Leamington Spa, and I bought 20 pairs of knickers. Which sounds as though I have some sort of medical problem, which I haven't, but I got carried away. I just love new knickers. Sparkling, new, white knickers, £4 for 5 pairs. And there's a wonderful sense of freedom in throwing away all the old ones, which have gone grey in the wash. I'm really looking forward to it.
But just to raise the tone, I bought a shiny new ice cream scoop as well.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
When I gaily (well anxiously) sent off the WIP to my agent, I expected her to say a simple yes or no (this is what has always happened before, with MNW). But what she said (after suggesting - no, ordering, though ever so nicely - a great many alterations) was: "this is the first draft". Which came as a bit of a shock.
I was reminded of this because several other MNWs, too, are apparently writing (or have just written) 2nd or 3rd drafts of their novels. Some have said they really enjoy the process. I, however, was not looking forward to it.
But now that I've started, I'm beginning to see the attraction. I have the structure; the beginning, the end and most of the plot have my agent's approval; so I can just work on improving the bits in between. I don't have to worry about what happens next - I know what happens next - I can just go on re-writing and re-writing until I get it right. I haven't got to think up a new plot. Not yet, anyway. And I'm still being creative.
I could get used to this!
Thursday, 30 September 2010
He knows that he knows me, and enjoys a big hug (perhaps the only language he can now fully understand), but not always who I am. Thus, sometimes I'm my mother (his sister), older than he but long-dead, and he reminisces about how I used to take him on outings from his boarding school. At other times, I'm myself, or someone completly different. His hearing is all but gone, making his world even lonelier than it would otherwise be.
This is a common situation. There are thousands of elderly confused people, living out their last days in institutions. I have nursed some of them. But I find it quite heartbreaking, watching this vital, energetic, highly successful man reduced to confusion and incontinenece and (often) sheer bewilderment. Twice,he has nearly died, only to be rescued by antibiotics. Pneumonia used to be called "the old man's friend", and with good reason, but not any more. We may have defeated pneumonia (often), but not the wretched half-life that so many of its survivors lead towards the end of their lives.
So I shall continue to visit David; to write him messages in thick marker pen in the hope of getting some kind of message through to him, and to give him hugs. And to hope that his ordeal will come to a peaceful end sooner rather than later.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Does this mean that more books of his are bought, or does it mean that people don't finish them, or that once read, they're considered to be disposable? A kind of literary fast food? I keep books for diferent reasons. I'm not good at getting rid of any of them - even those I haven't enjoyed - because I love just possessing them. But I'm just about to get rid of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, because I couldn't finish it. So maybe keeping books I haven't finished reminds me of my own failngs (after all, one should finish a book in order to form a proper opinion, shouldn't one)? Whereas keeping books I've read but hated (eg A Line of Beauty) reminds me that I have at least some staying power. And keeping books I've never read at all, and probably never will, (the entire Pepys Diaries, for one) reminds me that all things are possible...
Friday, 24 September 2010
But it wasn't fun at all. It was extremely uncomfortable, and had it been raining, a lot of people would have got very wet. The performance was (we thought) mediocre, and many of the words gabbled. The benches were hard (that's what benches are. We should have known), and most of them had no backs to lean against. I'm afraid we left during the interval. John (glass always half-full) was perfectly happy to leave; I (glass half-empty) thought of all the money we'd wasted and all the expectations dashed.
What I don't get - really don't get - is the attraction of having things 'just the way they used to be'. Hard seats and open air and all that. (I feel the same about original pianos; they sound tinkly, and it's for good reason that the piano has been improved over the years, and yet many musicians love them.) If we really wanted authenticity, presumably we would all have been peeing in the gutter during the interval, and no-one hankers after that.
I'm sure lots of people enjoy this back-to-the-past thing, but I like my creature comforts. There are many things about the 21st. century that I don't like, but modern seating and roofs and warmth are not among them.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Danny, on the other hand, is banged up, probably for many years, pending appeals (his first isn't due until he's been in prison for 8 years), and quite possibly for a crime he didn't commit (I've read the reports of the court case, and it sounds extremely dodgy). He is fed on reclaimed turkey meat, because (presumably) it's cheap (he says it's disgusting, and I can well believe that). He is in his cell virtually all the time, and is regularly placed under 'lock down', when he doesn't get out at all. This is usually because prisoners in another part of the prison have rioted or misbehaved in some way. It's never the fault of the death row prisoners as they have no opportunities to riot, even if they want to. He rarely has visitors, for although he comes from a very large family, only one sister vistis him. He has a daughter whom he never sees. His life is, in short, pretty hopeless.
So - what do I write in my letters? It's hard to find interesting things to say which don't also emphasise that my life is so much better (understatement!) than his. I reply to the things he says in his letters, but, sadly, he rarely writes now as he can't afford the stamps. And when I sent him a money order for his recent birthday, it was returned, as money orders are no longer permitted.
So, while my letters aren't especially long, I find them very hard to write, and I find myself scratching around for any little disaster or misadventure which might make him feel that my life isn't all sunshine and roses. Maybe this is the wrong thing to do. Perhaps he really would ilke me to rave about new babies and lovely visits from my family, and, like today, a trip to London to the theatre. But I think not.
I'm about to write to him now, and I've no idea what I'll say. But I do hope that whatever it is, it's the right thing.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Having spent nearly all my adult life looking after people - nursing, bringing up children, counselling - I feel I should be doing something less self-centred than writing. Writing used to be a luxury; something I fitted in around all the other things I had to do. Nowadays, I can spend much more time on it (that I often don't is due to sheer laziness), and when I am writing, I often feel I ought to be doing something more "worthwhile". My husband says I suffer from "oughtism", and he's probably right. But even now - especailly now - as I spend (waste?) time posting this, I know that there are less self-indulgent activities in which I could (and probably should) be indulging.
If I were terribly successful, and made shedloads of money from my writing, I'd feel much more justified in doing it. After all, I could spend it on magnificent treats for people. That would be worthwhile, wouldn't it? As it is, I often feel quite uncomfortable about being writer.
Am I alone in this? Or am I just in the wrong job?
Saturday, 18 September 2010
My grandchildren seem to get a huge amount of homework, much of which seems to be done with the aid of the internet (I think this is cheating, but apparently everyone does it). Triplet-sitting last weekend, I had a distraught Phoebe, who couldn't download a Welsh dragon for her homework on Wales, because the printer wouldn't work.
No problem, I told her (we'd had enough tears for one day). I would draw one (I'm a hopeless artist, but needs must etc). So I copied this dragon off the internet, and Phoebe painstakingly filled it in with bits of red sequin, and bingo - a sparkly red dragon. We were rather impressed with ourselves.
Yesterday evening, Phoebe phoned to say that we had been awarded not one but TWO housepoints for our dragon. I feel quite chuffed. Who needs to publish a new novel when they can get housepoints for Welsh dragons? (I do, actually, so back to work...)
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Brothers (Bernice Rubens)
A Fine Balance (Rohanton Mistry)
Doctor Thorne (Trollope)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee))
The Black Prince (Iris murdoch)
The Tin Can Tree (Anne Tyler)
How Many Miles to Babylon? (Jennifer Johnston)
Strange Meeting (SUsan Hill)
Small Island (Andrea Levey)
The Road Home (Rose Tremain)
Monday, 13 September 2010
Then there were the meltdowns over the homework itself, and everyone - including me - managed at least one tantrum. By bathtime, I was reminding myself that no-one had died, on the whole it had been a lovley week-end, and nothing lasts for ever, but I never ever want to see SBP again.
And burlgars. On the way home, I heard the startling statistic that 84% of burglars are deterred by a house alarm. What I want to know is, how did anyone find this out? Presumably if you're a successful burglar, no-one knows you're a burglar at all, never mind gets to interview you.
Also on the way home, I heard someone using the word "premiumistic". What is the world coming to?
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Apparently it needs "moving up a gear", and I know exactly what she means. And all those little things I thought she'd overlook? Well, she noticed every last one of them. Damn. But that's what an agent is for, isn't it? Therfore I can't really complain. So it seems that the WIP is a WIP once more. Didn't I say I'd miss it? Well, I shall be seeing a whole lot more of it before I'm done (Alis, I guess you were right to be shocked at my lack of rewriting. Next time I'll listen to you!).
The biggest problem is that I am lazy. I'm bad at getting down to writing at the best of times, and this is going to be hard. But at least she didn't tell me to bin it.
I'm writing this while waiting for her to phone for a chat. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
1. Write every day - no (unless I include this kind of thing).
2. Write to death row prisoner every fortnight - yes (almost).
3. Do one horrible job a week (clear out drawers; that kind of thing) - no. I just couldn't face any of them. Though I did wash all my jumpers today Ready For The Winter. I've never done that before. Must be an end of WIP thing.
4. Stop wasting time on the internet - no.
5. Cut down on alcohol. Hmmm
6. Keep a notebook to jot down ideas - no. Never even bought the notebook.
I'm rather disappointed, actually.
Monday, 6 September 2010
"...a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."
Now, what I want to know is (a) how did that get past an(y) editor (Will most certainy wouldn't have put up with it)? and (b) if that kind of writing is publishable, how come some of our own worthy literary works have fallen by the wayside? I feel quite insulted. I will never be a great writer, but I hope I would be hard put to it to write such tosh (ok, I may sound a tad bitter, but the argument still stands).
Saturday, 28 August 2010
The doctor returns, John apologises very nicely (as I have instructed him to), and we proceed. We are told again that we need to come back for tests on Monday (our holiday is brushed aside, once again, as is the fact the Monday is a bank holiday). We are shown horrific pictures of the worst case scenario (a man with what looks like a large, supurating black balloon on his chest; I'm still not sure what that was supposed to be). Our holiday? we ask. Again. That's ok, says he. We can go on our hoilday. What, flying? Certainly. But what about the tests on Monday? Ah. That's ok, because we can find a doctor and a hospital and get them all done when we're there (he hasn't asked where we are going; it could be Brighton, or Australia). We will be in Corsica, we explain. Miles from any hospital.
At last he hears us. No We can't go on our holiday (I thought not), but we must still come back on Monday for tests because otherwise John will be dead in seven weeks blah blah blah....
I cannot fault the doctor's patience, and I'm sure his knowledge is second to none But by the end of an hour I feel like going out and beating my brains to a pulp against the concrete in the car park (whose machines we have been steadily feeding with coins during the course of our ordeal). It is bad enough having to cancel our holiday, but this quite unnecessary lecture is the final straw. (As is the pile of lovely new books sitting waiting to go on holiday with us.)
Well, at least we can sit at home and read...
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
And I realised too late that not only have I done animal funerals again (as mentioned in a previous post), but human ones, too. What is it with me and funerals? Certainly I seem to have been to quite a few, including my first husband's (that was such a nightmarish day I don't know why I'm even mentioning it), and in another life I quite fancy the idea of being an undertaker (sorry. Funeral Director). But otherwise I wouldn't say I was over-preoccupied with death.
So. Very soon, The Wait will begin. Aaaaaaaagh!
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
I have reached the end. Nearly. And I am terrified that the ending (and the whole book, come to that)isn't going to come up to scratch. The more I think about it, the more worried I become, so I sign in and blog, and that is writing and feels like work (although of course it's not), and it takes my mind off the novel. I've written nearly 92,000 words (I was aiming for 90,000-95,000), which is a considerable investment of work and thought and, yes, love. Because like most (all?) of us, I love writing. But supposing it's no good? Supposing it joins the Failed Novel in obsurity? Will I be able to face this with fortitude, or will I just crumple and give up?
The other worry is, once it's finished, what shall I DO? Of course, there's plenty to do, but as all writing addicts know, if you haven't got something on the go, life loses much of its pleasure (and I, for one, become very difficult to live with). I'm not one of those writers who can start a new book straight away, although I'd love to be able to, so it's going to leave a big gap in my life.
Of course, there's still a lot of editing to do, but the fact remains; most of the writing is done. And I'm really, really not looking forward to it all being over.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
I've always been interested in the names paint companies such as Dulux give to their colours. Pretty, whimsical names; names that often have little to do with the colour in question ("dawn"? "nightshade"?). But I wonder how important the names actually are? For instance, would someone be more likely to buy a green named "leaf", even though it wasn't nearly as nice a colour as (for example)the one labelled "dung"? Would "primrose" always out-sell "scrambled egg", even though scrambled egg might go better in the bedroom? A colour chart featuring names such as "blood" and "gloom" and "puddle" could catch on. It would make a change, anyway...
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Freddy: Granny, what's the furthes away you've ever been?
Freddy: where in Africa?
Freddy: why didn't you go to Chad?
Why indeed. I have no idea why I found this so entertaining. It could be that I've barely heard of Chad, or simply the inconsequential nature of the question. Or the fact that it's almost impossible to answer. Why didn't I go to Chad? Perhaps I should put that right while I've still got the energy.
Meanwhile the lavatory jokes rumbled on ("I've just done a poo in the shape of a woman!"). Why are these so endlessly entertaining for the under-somethings (not to mention one or two over-somethings)?
Friday, 6 August 2010
One of my sons and his wife have had an appalling two years. A miscarriage at 12 weeks was followed by stillborn twins at 21 weeks. But at last there is good news. Lucas was born yesterday - all 9lbs 9ozs of him - and we're all celebrating. We've just got back from seeing him, and he's absolutely gorgeous!
Sunday, 25 July 2010
This has suddenly appeared on Amazon. I'm not at all sure why, since I've already received copies of the French version, which was quite different. But I suppose it's rather sweet, in a Dr. Spock-ish sort of way. But it costs over £16 so I certainly won't be buying it.
However, I do wonder where it came from...?
Friday, 23 July 2010
But some novels - reassuringly - elicit the same response from me as they ever did. I re-read Emma recently (for the umpteenth time, it has to be said), and still love it, and Sense and Sensibility was just as silly as I'd thought it was when I read it in my teens. And favourite children's books still hold their magic: The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Little Women. It seems that it's the books I read in my teens and early adulthood that seem different. Or maybe it's just that I am...
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Are we all jealous? Of course we're not (well, we're not, are we?). But how has he done it? Well, without reading the book, but having heard about it and seen extracts, it seems that the recipe for success goes thus: firstly, you get a job in high political office, then you get sacked, then you return, get sacked again, return and are made a lord. Then (and here's the really clever bit) you publish your memoirs just when your old colleagues have lost power, slagging them off and reporting their private conversations, and hey presto! You have a best seller.
Now, why didn't I think of that?
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
One of the nice things about the MNW blog is that it lacks either schadenfreude or gluckschmerz. What a lovely bunch we are!
Saturday, 10 July 2010
All this put me in mind of Barney, one of my sons, when young. His favoured reading at the time was 'The SAS Survival Handbook'. It had all kinds of useful tips on things like what to do when your car starts careering towards a cliiff edge (roll into a ball and hurl yourself out), and things you can find to eat when out in the wild. We came home one evening to find him, handbook in hand, feeding toadstools to our eighty-something baby-sitter to see if they really were edible. The baby-sitter is now fit and in her ninetieis, but I reckon we had a lucky escape.
Then there was Toby, eldest son, who when aged about 7, carried around with him a 'survival kit' in a tiny tin. It contained a bent pin and cotton (for fishing) a match and various other indispensable items. He would never have known how to use them. This is the (now) man who tried to fit a cat flap. The cat gained entry right enough, but came into the house wearing the cat flap.
What was it with my children and this preoccupation with survival? Was it something we did?
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
I took this yesterday from the back of the horse (who was having a quick snack - we have a grass shortage thanks to the drought).
Monday, 5 July 2010
I was reminded of this this afternon in Sainsburys, overhearing two men in conversation. One said to the other: "she was probably pretty when he first started seeing her, but now she's on the turn". A particularly revolting expression, I thought, and not one that anyone would think of applying to a man...
Saturday, 3 July 2010
That first anniversary was sheer hell; it was like being dragged through the whole experience all over again, but this time, knowing what was going to happen. But why? It was just another day. The children had to be got ready for school (it was in fact the birthday of one of them); things had to go on as normal. And yet there was a this-time-last-year thing running like a thick black thread through the whle day. It got easier as the years went by, and in fact the birthday helped, becuase my son needed his birthday to be celebrated, and we needed to celebrate it. But it was - and is - always there.
Tomorrow would have been our fortieth wedding anniversary, so I'm doing the this-time-forty-year-ago thing. I ought to be used to it; forty years is a long time ago. And yet it's going to be difficult. I suggested a party anyway, but the reactions were mixed, and my daughter promptly burst into tears. Not such a good idea, then. But I shall think of that day, and the flower arrangement that fell down at the last moment, and wearing the wrong shoes to the registry office (our real wedding - the nice one - took place later on, with the right shoes, in a Cambridge college chapel, which wasn't registered for weddings), and the fish and chips we had on the boat on our way over to France.
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
So - if you were to take part, what item would you use to preserve your modesty? And which line (or two) from one of your novels would you choose as the quote of the month?
Saturday, 26 June 2010
How could I not have noticed that in all three of my books (the two puboished, and the WIP) there is an animal funeral? But there it is. As I buried my third animal yesterday, I realised that I had done it again. and this is probably not a good thing.
I've no idea where these anmal funerals come from. I'm not a great animal lover; I'm not especially preoccupied with funerals of any sort. I suppose it could come from years of pet funerals, courtesy of the tendency of my children's small furry friends to meet premature deaths (as often as not, courtesy of the cat). I suppose these were quite moving occasions. I remember the funeral of Wilfred, a hamster who unwisely went walkabout (and met the cat), and was buried with this touching little note (miss-spellings the owner's own): "dear Wilfred. I love you and I miss you very much. I hop you have a nis time in heven". And there was another funeral, where my eldest son goose-stepped down the garden, carrying the tiny corpes in a shoe box on his shoulder. I'm not sure he was taking this entirely seriously, but the bereaved owner didn't notice.
And then there was the time I buried the cat.
It was February, the ground was rock hard, and I could only dig a shallow grave. To add to my difficulties, rigor mortis had set in. Of course, I should have waited for it to pass off, but I was in a hurry. So there I was, with this very stiiff cat, its limbs sticking out in all directions. trying to fit her into her grave. Every time I had three limbs buried, the fourth would still be sticking out. Poor Marigold. She had led a relatively blameless (and very long) life, if you forget about all those murders, but her funeral was not a dignified one.
So maybe that' s where this all comes from. But now what do I do? do I get rid of the third funeral? Does it matter?
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Take, for instance, this practice of giving to charity instead of giving a present. I'm all for giving to charity - I give to charity, of course I do - but when a friend gave me a water buffalo for an African village as a birthday present, I was seriously annoyed. I never got to meet the water buffalo; I don't even know what a water buffalo is (a buffalo that swims, presumably). I might, if consulted, have chosen a goat, or a pig, or a camel. But no. It was the water buffalo. I've no idea how this animal is, whether its recipients were more pleased with it than I was, even whether it has a name. Add to that the fact that my friend* presumably felt all warm and fuzzy, because she considered that she had given me a present, and she'd also given the Africans a water buffalo. This is cheating. If you want to give a present, give a present. If you want to give to charity, then do that. But don't try to combine the two, because it just doesn't work.
I was reminded of this because at my one of my grandchildren's schools there is a growing custom for the invitation to have this little addendum: "Michael (Josh/Paul/whoever) doesn't want you to bring him a present this year. Instead he would like you to give a donation to a leper colony (or whatever)". Like hell, he would. Poor little kid. The parents are trading their son's happiness for the warm fuzzy feeling.
* She's not a friend any more, but not because of the water buffalo.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Thursday, 10 June 2010
I always assumed that this was for football fans; that the rest of us simply put up with it, or turn to another channel. Not so, apparently. My eldest son, who hasn't kicked (or looked at) a football since he was made to at school, who is totally unathletic, and whose interests are so esoteric as to leave me permanently baffled, is furious because he's missing the first World Cup match. I was amazed, and said so. "But everyone watches the world cup," he said. "Not me," I told him. "Don't tell me you won't be watching!" said he, shocked. But I won't. I don't want to, I'm not interested, I DON'T CARE.
In a vaguely patriotic way, I'd quite like England to win (although I'm told they/we haven't a chance), but otherwise I shall find other things to do. I'm always mildy entertained when we're knocked out, and all the little flags and silly shirts suddenly disappear, but otherwise I shall ignore it.
Does everyone really enjoy the World Cup? Please tell me I'm not alone (and where I can buy a Not the World Cup tee shirt).
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
If people confuse truth with fiction to this extent, how on earth do they conduct their lives without being in a continuous state of unbearable stress? For anyone watching Coronation Street this week (I know, I know. My son has just ticked me off. It's all utter rubbish, but I love it), and taking it seriously, the only solution must surely be to throw him/herself off the nearest bridge.
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Monday, 31 May 2010
But what really irritates me is the 'baby vegetables'. Since when have very small vegetables been babies? My dictionary definition of a baby is 'newborn or very young child or animal'. Not a vegetable. So what's this all about? Is it anthropomorphism gone mad? Is calling them babies supposed to make tiny little vegetables more attractive? Our local supermarket sells 'babyleaf salad.' No. It's not baby leaf. It's just immature, small or whatever. A lettuce is NOT A BABY!
I had 'baby vegetables' at a posh lunch last week; carrots thinner than matchsticks, tiny little leeks like blades of grass, and a minute green thing which looked like a weed that used to grow on our lawn. It tasted nice, but what a lot of work. What a lot of FUSS.
Give me grown-up vegetables any time.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Monday, 10 May 2010
Obviously Father Christmas is a myth that we (or some of us) feed to our children; it comes from adults. But the imaginary world of children is far more complex. Most children seem to be born with fertile imaginations ("you be Robin. I'll be Batman"), just as they are born with the ability to pick up languages, and these gifts seem to be lost as time goes by. The small child often lives and plays within his imagination; but how real to him are the cars and dolls he plays with? How much does he really believe in them? One of my sons, in common with many children, had imginary friends; lots of them. They peopled his life, and woe betide anyone who ignored them. If you closed the door before they had time to get in behind him, he was distressed. If you sat on them, he was outraged. Yet how real were they to him? How much genuine substance did they have in his mind, and how far were they from (my) perceived reality? Occasionally he actually was the imaginary friend. I remember the following exchange when he was about three:
Me: 'Come on, Joe. It's time for your rest.'
Joe: I'm not Joe. I'm Bob.' (Bob was one of his favourites).
Me: 'Bob, it's time for your rest.'
Joe (indignant): 'I'm not sleeping Joe's bed!'
(I might add that the grown-up Joe appears to have little imagination, and probably couldn't write a story to save his life).
Which brings me to my point. I really believe that we all are born with imaginations and the ability to tell stories. Good, realistic stories. Some of us continue, while others fall by the wayside. It seems such a terrible shame. At what point is the childish imagination stamped out, and how does it happen? And why?
Friday, 7 May 2010
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Never write in any tense other than the one you're going to be happy with. I've just had to change thousands of words from the present tense into the past tense(s) . I'd forgotten how many irregular verbs there are in English, and in any case, it's an extremely tedious task.
2. For a sprained ankle or swollen foot, nothing beats one of those cold wine cuffs. Not even frozen peas. I won't bore anyone with the horrible accident which necessitated the use of said cuff, but I thought I'd pass on the tip.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
And I suppose much of life is about taking sides, from gangs in the school playground - even friendly ones - to belonging to clubs, supporting football teams or whatever. Wars are about taking sides. The bloody election is about taking sides.
The election... And I'm still floating. Because I don't like any of the party leaders, so I'm not really on their side (but I shall vote when the time comes, because voting gives me licence to grumble).
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
"A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book." (The Ghost, by Robert Harris.)
This rang so many bells with me, and more or less sums up the huge dificulty I at least have in getting going. Because once the book has been started, it can never really come up to that perfect dream in the writer's head.
Or can it?
Saturday, 10 April 2010
"Everything comes to he who waits," said the speaker, a supposedly educated character in the film The Young Victoria.
Now, that might be forgiven in everyday speech. Just. But this film was (presumably) scripted and edited; the lines were learnt and rehearsed; and then the actor was filmed speaking them. How on earth did such a blunder manage to slip through the net?
Monday, 5 April 2010
Why do so many people think they can write? And if they really believe they can, why don't they just sit down and do it? It's because that's the really hard part; that's why. The sitting down and doing it. That's what so many people don't seem to get. Ideas are easy. Everyone has ideas. Nearly everyone can string words together. Telling stories is relatively easy. But sitting in front of that blank sheet of paper (or worse, that blank screen) is the really hard part. How many potentially brilliant writers have never written a book because they never sat on that chair and got stuck in?
And yet...another part of me thinks, what makes you think this is so easy? What makes you think that anyone can write a book? A friend of mine, a successful actress, is infuriated because the cast of her present production includes a "celebrity" who has never acted in her life before. 'I think I'll go and spend a day as a brain surgeon' fumes my friend. 'If X thinks she can act, why shouldn't I have a go at digging away at somenone's grey cells? Do years of training and experience count for so little?'
To get back to writing, a great many people think they can write. But can they? Those of us who have been published are fortunate; I know this, and I'm very grateful. I could well have spent all my writing life keeping the slush piles of agents and/or publishers in business. But like most writers, I have served my apprenticeship. I have worked hard. Writing may be compulsive, but it's not easy. It's lonely, frustrating, and often heartbreaking, and unless you are very successful, it doesn't pay particularly well. As an occupation, it is not to be taken lightly.
There seem to be two reactions to people who write. One is: "Gosh! You write books! How wonderful!" The other is: "I could do that. I think one day I'll have a go."
Well, make up your minds, all you would-be writers. Either those of us who write are all geniuses, or writing is something you can do, too. So for goodness' sake, get on and just do it.
Friday, 26 March 2010
To take this at face value, it looks as though the assistant, in using the past tense, is assuming that you came into the shop wanting a particular item, but now no longer want it. Why do we do this? 'What do you want?' would perhaps sound too peremptory, but 'what did you want?' is plain ridiculous. Does anyone have any asnwers?
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
When their imminent arrival was announced, this seemed to arouse horror and fascination in equal measure. "Oh my God!" was the most common response; not "congratulations" or anything encouraging like that. Just shock/ horror. When they arrived, and throughout their babyhood, wherever they went, they were treated like some kind of freak show. People stared, pointed, and asked questions. The most frequently-asked (and the most intrusive) question was"did you have fertility treatment?"; this from perfect strangers, who would probably have been appalled if anyone had asked them about their own sex lives ( after all, however you make triplets, sex has to be involved somewhere along the line). "How do you tell them apart?" was another one, but as they looked completely different from day one, this was just a silly question.
They've got past that stage now, and the questions have pretty well dried up, but I still remember with mixed feelings heaving an industrial-sized pushchair through the streets of Kingston and being treated like a cross between a two-headed monster and a celebrity.
And why am I posting this? Because the WIP is proving a bit recalcitrant, that's why. And because I wanted to brighten up my blog with another photo .