Friday, 28 December 2007
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Friday, 21 December 2007
1. Never leave your only winter coat in your partner's car on a Sunday night
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Some people might say I am one to hold a grudge. Hold it, stroke it and give it little treats, even. But at least I am fair in my grudge-holding - two thirds of my grudges are against myself.
Monday, 17 December 2007
Saturday, 15 December 2007
Best Writing Moment:
Being invited to write a picture book with no brief other than ‘farmyard’. Freedom! (See sneak preview above.)
Best Reason To Give It All Up:
Best One-Liner, Guaranteed To Cheer Self When Writing Career Goes Tits-Up:
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 5: “Those big vagina ladies get away with murder.”
Best One-Liner By A Blood Relative:
(To a young boy in Homebase, who was wearing a kipa)
“Oh dear, little boy, your hat is too small!”
(The Girl, aged 3 - we have now explained the whole deal with head coverings in various cultures)
Best Awww Moment, Guaranteed To Get Things Into Perspective:
Watching The Boy pucker up and crawl over to give The Girl a sloppy kiss.
The Road To Hell
Best 5 Novel(s):
The Kite Runner* / Khaled Hosseini
Prince Rupert’s Teardrop / Lisa Glass
Mothernight / Sarah Stovell
A Gentle Axe / R.N. Morris
Queen Mum / Kate Long
Thursday, 13 December 2007
If I ever decide to do away with The Australian, I can guarantee that the murder weapon will be a tea towel, if only because it is very likely that there will be one to hand when I finally flip.
The humble tea towel has become a powerful symbol in this household.
When I was growing up, my parents were keen to explain the importance of eating 'appropriately', as in 'using the correct tools'. So from an early age I was taught how to use chopsticks, how to twirl spaghetti with a fork and spoon, which hand to eat curry with (though we were only allowed to do this when our friends from Karachi came to visit), and that you do not eat a hamburger with a knife and fork. Ever. Even if it's a gigantic stack and all the extra bits are squeezing out the sides. Even if you recently had your jaw wired and can only fit tiny morsels in your mouth. Even if you have a knife and a fork welded to your hands after some freak accident. But The Australian, well, he doesn't like to get his hands dirty, with, y'know, hamburger dirt. Five years of my derisive comments haven't swayed him. I've tried pointing it out to his mates in the hope that their ribbing would have an effect. Nothing. 'This is how I eat,' he says.
So, okay, I can live with the knife and fork on the burger. Just about. I've an open mind, I can compromise. But who the hell can't eat sandwiches and toast without a TEA TOWEL BY THEIR SIDE?
A chicken sandwich, say.
He takes a bite.
Picks the sandwich up, takes a bite . . .
Is that another bite you're taking there?
Oh well it must be another wipe you're after!
Does that seem like a normal way to eat a chicken - or any - sandwich? Does that not suggest the mind of a man with something to hide? WHAT THE HELL IS HE WIPING? Huh?
Monday, 10 December 2007
I thought I had Christmas under control (and by that I mean that I've strung up the fairy lights and put the wondrously tacky Singing Christmas Mice on the mantelpiece). But a jolt this morning has sent my mind a-festive-boggle.
There was a ring on the doorbell. Great, I thought, it'll be one of the books I accidentally-on-purpose ordered by pressing 1-click on Amazon. But when I opened the door there was a bin man standing on the pavement a few yards away, fag-in-mouth, sack-in-hand: "I just wanted to say Merry Christmas," he said, and gave me a cheeky wave before throwing the sack in the van.
I said 'Thanks!' and shut the door, and got that awful feeling you get when someone says 'I love you' and you can't say it back. (When I say 'awful', obviously it's slightly worse for the person who's feeling the love.) They had caught me unawares - I haven't even done my cards or bought the tree yet, and here suddenly was a new Christmas dilemma: do I tip the bin men?
Feeling alone in my fretting, I asked Google. Lo and behold, it's actually a proper problem to have, it's not just me! There are online forums filled with comments like "yeah, I'll give them a tip - stop going through my rubbish or I'll brain yer!" and "if you don't tip them, they'll tip your rubbish - all over your front garden!" and "bin men are really well paid so I see no reason why I should", and also "It's a tradition in this country, and one which I intend to uphold - come on, we haven't got many traditions left, and this is a good one."
I suppose it is a good one, as traditions go, but then I started thinking about the service they provide: on the one hand, I am really glad that someone else does that for me, because phew do those things stink; but on the other hand, every Monday they leave this enormous, usually wet, wheelie bin right outside my front door instead of in the place they found it, leading to a very awkward pushchair v. wheelie-bin face-off. So I am not really feeling the Christmas love for them. Should I lie and tip them anyway, hoping they'll give me a better service next year if I'm generous?
And where does it end? Do I tip the postman? (There's a different one nearly every week.) What about the poor sods who put pizza leaflets and cab cards through my door? And say I did decide to tip the bin men, is hard cash the only option? What about a bottle of wine, or some chocolates? That seems more gifty and festive. Slippers? Russell Brand's new book? A novelty bottle-opener?
The final aspect of this dilemma will keep me awake at night - how do I actually give them the tip? Do I run out into the street, babe-in-arms, waving a fiver at them? Or do I leave it in a (waterproof) envelope, sticky-taped to the wheelie-bin?
Perhaps the local council could spend some of our taxes putting together a helpful leaflet about this.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Two conversations with The Girl this week reminded me of how Time is a concept with completely different meanings for writers, on the one hand, and agents/editors on the other.
1. Time According to Agents and Editors
The Girl: Mum, when can I have my ears pierced?
Me: When you're 14.
The Girl: But Mia has her ears pierced and she's only four and I'm three and three-quarters.
Me: That's up to Mia's mummy. But you can have them done at 14.
The Girl: But I want to have earrings when I'm still at school.
Me: You'll still be at school when you're 14.
The Girl: (wide-eyed) Really??
Me: Of course.
The Girl: Hooray! OK, Mum, I'll wait till I'm 14! (Skips off happily as if she thinks a decade will pass in the blink of her big blue eyes...)
2. Time According to Writers
The Girl: Can you read me this book, Mum?
Me: Sure, just as soon as I've finished this sentence.
The Girl: How long?
Me: Five minutes.
The Girl: Is it five minutes yet?
Me: No, that was about five seconds. Go and play for five minutes, I'll call you when I'm ready.
The Girl: I'll wait here. (Leans on my arm as I type; puts face very close to mine and stares intently.) Is it five minutes yet?
Me: No, it's not even one minute. Go in the wendy house until I call you.
The Girl: No.
Me: Well wait then. You've got four more minutes.
The Girl: Is it four minutes yet?
Me: NO! Oh please just let me finish. I will read you that book and any other books you like if you just give me a few minutes peace.
The Girl: What's a few?
The Girl: But it's already been four.
Me: AAARGGGHHHH. OK, give me the book.
The Girl: Thanks, Mum!
This post is dedicated to any writers out there who are waiting, and respectfully to any agents or editors who are currently in the process of putting us (and hundreds like us) out of our misery.
Friday, 7 December 2007
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
(There’s nothing like a whole month of putting your novel before your ablutions to make you look like a geriatric bushpig . . .)
1. Going out to buy a pair of sensible winter boots and coming home with your first pair of heels in nearly four years (heels and buggy-pushing are incompatible to my mind). Blue leather, wedge-heeled, adorable – still in the box, of course, because where the hell am I going to wear them? Totter up the high street to nursery? Stumble all round the supermarket, gripping the handlebar of the buggy for dear life? That’s why I popped into Primark this week and bought the £8 Sensible Pair. They are currently upside down on the heater - £8 doesn’t buy you waterproof, apparently.
2. Feeling too stiff to bend down and scrape off the fossilised Cheerios from the kitchen floor. Smirking at the sight of The Boy attempting to pick them up; sitting back with a lovely cup of tea as he continues to do this for ten minutes.
3. Buying some Olay night-cream (with age-defying pentapeptides!) – but still calling it Oil of Ulay. Running to the bathroom mirror every morning, like a hopeful child towards a Christmas tree, to monitor the improvement of fine lines, etcetera
4. Turning round to check the width of your bum in the mirror but instead having a sharp intake of breath at the state of your elbows. Vaguely remembering your mother telling you to moisturise them from an early age. Cursing her. Cursing yourself for ignoring her sound advice. Covering your elbows with a cardigan.
5. Doing a complete about-turn on plastic surgery as you catch sight of yourself braless in pyjamas. Cursing Mother Nature, gravity and your children.
6. Forgetting what number six is, but knowing it’s something fairly depressing.
7. Having this conversation in the first place.
Feel free to add some of your own.
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Monday, 3 December 2007
NaNoWriMo is over. For some, like my dedicated and amazing friend Luisa Plaja, it was another successful year - she romped home with 51k words at 3am a day ahead of the deadline. But for others it ended a week early in a pool of self-hatred and mucus from a bad head cold, at only 30k. None of the 30 came easily, I must confess, for although I have been evangelical about the beauty of Nano and its ability to vanquish your Inner Editor, I overlooked one crucial factor in this year's effort: