Sunday, 30 March 2008

Out of Order

I've got bloggers-block.

Ignoring it doesn't seem to make it go away, so I've decided to take practical action and Google "How to clear a blockage". Here's the advice:

1. Pour a bucket of warm water into the pan - from a height would be best. This often clears minor blockages.

Right, here goes with a warm gush . . . The "first date" was wonderful, despite the fact that The Zit had babies overnight and I looked like a half-and-half pizza. She told me my book was great, and that she also liked my bag. I blushed. We've decided to go steady. 

Damn, still blocked.

2. Place a large plunger over the outlet and pump vigorously.

There is less than a month to go before we emi- . . . emi- . . . go on a particularly long holiday to Australia taking with us all our worldly goods. As a good friend commented today when she popped in to see us: "Oh, I thought you'd be a bit more packed than this." We have done ten boxes, seven of which contain books. The Australian is very tickled by the fact that I've insisted on logging every single title, as apparently I'm very slapdash in all other areas of my life. He might also be amused to discover than since we decided to have a big clear-out of my books pre-packing, to lighten our shipping load, I have somehow acquired fifteen new books . . . It's like they seek me out; they need me. Surely this is acceptable, as in other respects I am very thrifty. For example I buy shoes for £6. God, I can't wait to live not-next-to a Primark.

Meanwhile, the final piece of our visa puzzle arrived last week - my police check. I'd managed to work myself into a small but fairly violent frenzy, worrying that I had committed some crimes of which I was not aware, which would show up on this report. But I haven't. I'm clean. The pigs ain't got nothing on me.

Still not shifting. Hmm . . . 
3. Use a toilet auger.

I had to look that up (see photo). Unfortunately I don't think I have one. Or maybe I've already packed it. Just give me a minute and I'll open up all these boxes . . . 

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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

First Date Nerves

I have changed my mind, Doctor Olay, I do not want younger-looking skin.

You remember how it used to be: you're fifteen (32) and the boy (literary agent) you've fancied for ages (done a redraft for and exchanged some promising emails with) has finally asked you out (invited you into the office). You'd started to think it would never happen - boys (literary agents) usually pass you over in favour of your prettier (more talented . . . possibly also prettier) friends (fellow writers). But here you are, the morning before the date, lying in bed wondering what to wear, how to act, which way to tilt your head for that first kiss (we'll probably just shake hands first off) . . . But hang on, something's different - you can feel something lightly throbbing on your cheek and as you rush out of bed and stumble to the mirror you see the full horror of what has erupted on your face overnight:



You rush around in a blind panic - you've got to do something! He (she!) can't see you like this! Can you hide it with your hair? Can you casually leave your hand on your face for the entire date (meeting)? Use brown eyeliner to make it into a beauty spot? Some sort of head scarf, wrapped tightly around one cheek? A balaclava? HELP!!! You run downstairs and ask your mum (children) if it's really noticeable. "Not at all," says your mum. "Now hurry up, you'll be late for school." ("Eurgh," says your child, "what's THAT on your face? Hurry up, I want some Cheerios.")


You rush into the kitchen to find instant spot remedies: a lemon? Hmm, might work. You cut it open and slam it onto your face. Ow! OK, how about some alcohol: brandy, vodka or damson gin - which one, which one?? You wet a piece of kitchen towel with the vodka and dab it on. Ow! What else? Cumin seeds, porridge oats, fish sauce, plum jam . . . curry paste? dab, dab, dab. Ow! Ow! Ow! You run upstairs to the bathroom and grab the toothpaste - YES, TOOTHPASTE! You're sure you've read somewhere that toothpaste is an excellent remedy. You squeeze it onto your cheek and try to calm down as you contemplate yourself in the mirror, wild of hair, flushed of face and white-blobbed of cheek. You breathe deeply, clutching the basin for support as you think to yourself: Sod it. If he (she!) doesn't like me zits n' all, he (she!) isn't the right boy (agent) for me.

You see, this is why I'm so suited to teen fiction, because I feel like a 15-year-old on the inside, and I look like one on the outside.

Umm, except for all those laughter lines.

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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Testing, Testing . . .

Emigrating is very testing.

Take the medical, for example. I arrived at the Terribly Posh hospital (you can tell it's posh when you don't pass out on entry at the smell of sick, bleach and indeterminable stew) and sat waiting for over an hour before I was seen by the Terribly Cold doctor. 

First, she was cold of heart, firing questions at me about my medical and sexual history and then giving me a very perplexed look when I told her I was breastfeeding my son. "But, isn't he over a year old?" she said. I said he was. She gave me a kind of 'have you farted?' look and said: "I assume he also eats PROPER food?" At this point I had to make a quick decision: 1. Give the woman who is responsible for either passing me or failing me on the medical a long and passionate lecture on the benefits of extended breastfeeding; 2. say YES and move on.

I went with option 2 but gave her evils when she wasn't looking. After the questions, there was the strange "you go and strip off behind a curtain and I'll wait here" thing, which always strikes me as odd - I mean, she's about to see me in the buff, what different does it make if she sees me take off my jeans? I had a panic about whether or not I should fold my clothes neatly, and where exactly I should put them, and went for 'mildly folded on the floor just next to the bed', which turned out to be exactly the wrong place because it was where she wanted to stand, so there was an awkward moment of me reclining in my underwear while Doctor Freeze shifted my belongings out of the way as if they were covered in dog shit.

Then I discovered that she was also cold of hand.

Moving on... I was quite pleased to hear a fortnight later that I'd passed the medical, and it turned out that The Australian was thrilled because he'd been secretly harbouring dark fears about them discovering some rare and incurable illness in me while poking around. He's a little ray of sunshine usually so I don't know why he got so worked up. Maybe I'm looking a bit peaky these days. I suggested he send me to a spa for a week if he's so worried about my health. 

So, one test over with, but plenty to come. We continue to compile the evidence we need to prove that our relationship is 'genuine and continuing' so I can get my proper spouse visa. ('Spouse' - there's an attractive word.) I have gathered some photos together to show various moments of our time together, including a shot of a giant heart-shaped cookie I made him for Valentine's Day, covered in chocolate drops that spell out 'I Love You'. I will refrain from telling the visa people that he left it on the shelf to go hard and mouldy, and that I have still not forgiven him. Although that probably makes our relationship sound a bit more realistic, doesn't it?

On Monday, a test I wasn't prepared for. The Australian took me along to meet his personal banker - a Very Nice Man with almost no teeth - who was going to set me up an Aussie bank account. But first, some questions... What is your home phone number? Umm, no idea. (The Australian stepped in with the answer.) How long have you been a freelance writer? Umm, not really sure. (The Australian gave the month and year.) What is your annual income? Err, let me see . . . *panic look at The Australian, who provides the answer*. The Australian and I were secretly laughing at my hopelessness, but I was quite horrified at what a dreadful stereotype I am. I might as well wear a frilly pinny and spend the evenings darning his socks. Except that I only touch his socks with tongs.

But this morning I felt a lot better when The Australian, when presented with a tangerine to peel for The Girl, held it out and said: "Is there some sort of trick with these? Do I just, what, take the skin off somehow?"

Umm, sorry-what??

"Well, I've never peeled an orange before."

Thank goodness I'm here.

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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Question Time

Here's something refreshing: me not talking about Australia, my children, or my rewrite! Hurry over to Vulpes Libris for "Talking to Sarah Stovell". Sarah's debut novel, Mothernight, is out now.

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Monday, 3 March 2008

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String...

With only eight weeks to go until we, y'know, do that getting on the plane thing, I decided it was high-time I gave a little mention to what I truly love about Australia. For all my moaning (and let's face it, it's what I do most, if not best) there's a part of me that longs for the adventure of emigration. Actually, I wanted to move to Melbourne in my mid-20s, after my first trip there, but for one reason or another it never got off the ground (one reason was Love, another reason was my deeply ingrained inability to organise), which means that my love affair with the country is almost a *ahem* decade old.

So here are, for the benefit of all those who are bored of my moaning, which includes me, 
A Few Of My Favourite (Australian) Things*

A genius mockumentary based in an Australian high school, in which the three main parts - a stuck-up girl doing an exchange from a private school, a delinquent 13-year-old from Tonga, and a flamboyant drama teacher - are played by the same man.

I love this band. Even went to see them on my own. A gig, on my own! What a geek. Best album is Eternal Nightcap.

Easily in my top 5 Favourite Authors Ever list, were I ever to write one.

Three is enough for now: I don't want to run out too soon.

On another note, but still on the Brown Paper Packages theme, my rewrite is just about wrapped up and ready for the final verdict. Happily, this means I can get on with reading the wonderful Split By A Kiss by Luisa Plaja, which is out this week. I s'pose I could also do some packing.

*Normal service will no doubt resume shortly

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