New Year Cheer (or something)

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Eve.  I remember, on the chime of midnight once, removing one calendar from the wall and replacing it with the new.  Culture Club, I think it was that year.  I might have kissed the old one goodbye, I was a bit tragic melodramatic in those days.  I’d never stayed up ’til midnight before.  Across the fields, I heard fireworks and drunken whoops from the rugby club party people.  Downstairs, my mother sobbed.  Another awful year gone by.  Gawd.

I haven’t really liked 2012.  It has been too hard in too many ways: close friends have died, others have merely drifted away on the tide of life.  Washed up in a new county since Autumn, I find myself missing too much: friends, laughter, music. All the things that make me what I am.

But y’know.  There’s always someone worse off and all that.  So I’m being mature.  I’m sticking two fingers up to this past year, shouting eff off at all the things I haven’t enjoyed.  I refuse to let them infiltrate another year.  Life is just too short.

Regrets?  Yeah.  But hey, I’ve tried.  And that’s what counts, right?  2013 will be better.  I will get back to being who I’m supposed to be, rather than trying to please others.  ‘Others’ are gits, anyway.

I definitely don’t regret allowing Teen 2 to hold a New Year’s Party tonight.  He has invited 100 of his closest friends.  He is, apparently, “buzzin’ for it”.  I, however, am dreadin’ it.  I hope I don’t have to do any bouncing.  I am far too short, rubbish at fighting and can’t even run away from trouble properly if I’m not wearing a sensible bra.

There will be words, oh yes – I have accepted the challenge of Super-Sally‘s 100,000 words in 100 days.  There are Facebook details here.

That will do me I think.  Words and happiness.  And just a drop of the red stuff.  Well, I wouldn’t be ‘me’ without that either, would I?

Happy New Year, dear world.  May 2013 make you smile bigly.


Posted in Journal | 25 Comments

Be Careful What You Wish For…

So, anyway.  What I’ve been thinking is that writing is best done in a box.  Not an *actual* box.  Cardboard can be awfully unforgiving if one is not 6 feet tall and supermodel thin.  I mean, you know, writing around other commitments. Writing is like needing a wee – you can hold it in for quite a long time and that makes it all the more enjoyable.  Trickles here and there are, well, like literary incontinence.  Or something. I did not mention this to prospective employers who might regard a strong bladder an unnecessary job requirement. Oh no.  I am most sensible and professional.

Job-hunting, then.   I drew up a job wishlist.  Nothing fanciful, you understand.  I now present the evidence, m’lud:

  • Not too many hours cos I am a writer, really.  And besides, it’s best not to overdo it, innit?  And, also, I’m a writer.  Did I mention that?
  • The New Job must be interesting.  Something that would waggle my writing bits even while I am not *actually* writing things.  Something like, I don’t know, cavorting with criminals.  Yes, that would be spiffing.
  • An understanding boss who is both incredibly clever and inspiring, like Stephen Fry, but also all theatrical and a little bit fabulous.

So yeah, not much to ask then.  But I have found this very job.  I have been offered this job, despite sending an initial email that explained (whilst conveying my sensible and professional nature) I needed a job because, if left to my own devices, I just sit about all day in my pyjamas, looking out of the window and pretending to have writerly thoughts.

And I am teaching real human beings about writing too, in the darkened hours.  My students have probably reported me to the sanity police.  Or perhaps they took pity on me last week after I induced a ginormous hot flush, rearranging the tables and chairs into a “writerly clump”.  The teaching is featuring highly on my fun-o-meter.  Some of the students are brill.  ‘I don’t know where that came from!’ they say as they read what they’ve written.  I smile at them.  They’ve got it.  The ‘it’ that can’t be cured even with modern medicine.  How fab is that?

So.  Six weeks in Suffolk and I have what almost resembles a life.  Maybe not a normal one.  But it’s mine. All mine.  And I really rather like it so far.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the above may not be entirely true.  But like I told my lovely students, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. (It’s all true.  Honest.  Maybe.)

Posted in Writing | 13 Comments

Of New September Starts

So, September. We meet again.

I love September.  All that new pencils and new starts and whatnot.  For me, September this year means a new study.  In ye olde Sussex, my words were tapped out from a wardrobe.  A week after becoming a full-time Suffolk dweller, I have been upgraded: my study is now a corner under the stairs.  Oh joy, I hear you cry.  It is surely all your dreams come true.  Yes.  Yes it is.

So the novel will be written.  Under the stairs.  And when I’m not under the stairs, I’ll be under the desk for look what lurks beside me!  Oh dear.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

But anyway.  The novel.  I’m trying to plan this one better than the last.  60,000 words into that, I realised I’d named characters ‘Kitty’ and ‘Kat.’  But now I’m thinking, if Fay Weldon was wooed by Bulgari, perhaps I could be sponsored by Whiskers?

But I need to get cracking. This month also sees me starting to teach two Creative Writing courses for West Suffolk College.  And I am proper excited.  But also a little bit scared.  When people ask me what I write, I need and want to be honest.  I can’t be looking all shifty and changing the subject.  I’ve done that far too often lately, mainly when Captain Tractor mentions my earning some money.

So anyway.  New September starts.  If anyone spots a shifty-looking chick lurking with a laptop in Suffolk coffee shops, stroking a tin of cat food, that’ll be me.  Writing my novel. And feline fine.  See what I did there?  Sorry about that.

Posted in Journal | 8 Comments

Black Dogs and Green-Eyed Monsters

Oh, man.  I am absolutely knacked bloody-well out.  I have been chased around by the black dog for so sodding long now, my legs ache.  In fact, everything aches: my limbs, my eyes, my thoughts.  I do wish I could just chase him back, growl a bit, perhaps even bite him on his great big hairy arse.  But black dogs don’t seem to work like that.  They just chase you unto you collapse into a corner, where you gibber incoherently, grab a glass bottle (ha! just typo-ed ‘blottle’ which is a little bit ace: ‘OMG, I was absolutely blottled’) and let the bastard eat you up.

I suppose I’m lucky that I do, and always, know he’ll spit me out again.  I wish the whole rigmarole would make me a bit thinner though.  All that being chased.  It’s just not fair.

In between bitings on my increasing arse, I have been writing.  No, really!  I have!  Like driftwood on the tide, I’m intermittently drawn forward to where I should be before being sucked under, unable to breathe.  Go with the flow, that’s what they say, isn’t it?  But what if the flow drags you under for too long and spits you out somewhere strange, bloated and disgorged, beyond hope?  Beyond recognition?

On those wild seas, escaping Black Dog, there has been another beast: the green-eyed monster.

So many people I’ve admired for an age are doing brilliant stuff.  I don’t mean celebs or TOWIEs or whatnot.  I mean real people.

The super-fab Carol, for example, has had an amazing year.  She just keeps surpassing herself in all manner of things.  I love the work she produces though, admittedly, even with a billion years’ training, I could never even begin to emulate her.  You should check out her work on Art is Autobiographical here.

And, differently, someone I met years ago through the fabulous Novel Racers has a new endeavour too.  Lovely Lane has been painting some really tantalising beauty.  You can have a little look here.  I am a little bit excited to have bought one of her paintings to hang in my new writing room, but a lot excited that she will practically be my neighbour when I move to that there Suffolk.

And to boot: I recently spent a heavenly weekend devouring the first novel – The Cornish House – by another of the Novel Racers alumni: the scrummy Liz Fenwick.  I’d been looking forward to her novel forever.  I’ve met Liz in Real Life at writerly things and had hoped with all my heart that I’d love her novel when it was born.  As a Novel Racer baby, I didn’t want it to look like Winston Churchill or have funny ears.  But it was a beautiful baby.  You can buy it here.  And you must.  It’s terrific; a good story, great characters and well told.  Liz deserves her success, not least because I know how very hard she’s worked for it.

Though I am dying of envy at all this amazingness, it really is most oomphy.  Inspiring.  Ace.

My fave thing is the painting I’ve bought from Lane, though.  It’s magical.  When she posted a pic of it on Facebook, I joked that it would become my novel cover.  She doesn’t know it but I meant that.  I shall hang it in the writing room that’s still a figment of my imagination, but gaze at it in the meantime as I scrawl my words in cobwebby corners filled with cardboard boxes and dreams. I seriously plan to write words that deserve something so beautiful to envelop them.  And that’s not a bad goal at all.

Luckily, to offset such extravagance, I’ve won a couple of comps on the super-scary flash-writing site, WriteInvite. It seems the perfect way to fund further inspiration – it also whispers, like white horses on a wave, that maybe I can do this writing thing.  Just maybe.

Posted in Lovely Things you Need To Buy, Writing | 10 Comments

En Route to The Good Life

It’s funny how life turns out.  Ten years ago, almost to the week, I left Jersey and set sail for Blighty, my two kids and most treasured possessions squeezed in the back of the car.  Obviously, the gruesome twosome ARE my most prized possessions and all that but, er, you know what I mean.  Ahem.  Away we went, across the big blue sea.  When I got here, I didn’t know anyone, anyone at all, in the whole country. It was horrible.  I swore I’d never move again. Ever. Nope.  Never ever. It takes a long time to get a life, it transpires.

So I’m moving.  Yay.  To another county where I don’t know anyone.  Again.

Teen 2 has been to his new school’s 6th form induction.  After much concerned grilling of the Mummy variety, he articulately summed up his experience of the day.  ‘Meh.  The girls weren’t up to much.’

Although I still have six weeks, I’ve been efficient and given some thought to the packing.  The thought is mainly that I do not like packing so I’ve hired a big skip and will chuck everything but books, clothes and wine. Said skip will be bursting with bicycles, beds and Buddhas.  I like to think passers-by will pinch stuff, have odd bits of my world scattered about their own, like seeds blown in on the breeze.  They probably won’t though.  They’ll fill up my skip with all their crap while I’m sleeping and I’ll have to stand in the road, shouting swear words about their midnight antics.

House viewings here mean I’ve spent more time than is legal scrubbing grouting, hiding empties in the washing machine and shouting at The Teens to decontaminate their rooms. It’s really all such fun.

I’m scared to be moving and starting again. And stressed.   A little bit sad, too, as I think of all that has passed these last ten years.  But it’ll be fine.  And if it’s not, well, it’ll be something to write about won’t it?  Living the countrified good life will be spiffing; I’ve always wanted to grow my own eggs.    I just need to figure out whether I’d be better at being Barbara or Margot…

Posted in Being a Country Gal, Journal | 19 Comments

End of an Era

I didn’t cry when I left school.  I wanted to.  I held it in though.  No one else was crying and I couldn’t be the only one, could I?  Blubbing and snuffling and red in the face.  I’d been like that for weeks: this is my last English lesson, I’d snotted into my sleeve; the last time I’ll hear the scrape of so many chairs being pushed under desks; the last time I’ll touch up my Twilight Teaser lipstick in the school bogs.

The thing is, no one else was leaving.  I’d just done my O Levels.  Everyone else was staying on for As.  Not me, though.  Oh no.  I didn’t come from that sort of family.  I had to get out there and earn my keep.  But I didn’t want to.  I didn’t.  I wanted to be a social worker or a teacher or a journalist.  I didn’t want to take the first job I applied for, on the insistence of my mother.  I didn’t want to be a dental nurse.  I ended up being a dental nurse for five years.  God.

So I cried today.  I drove along the village high street to collect Teen 2.  Other than exams, today was his last day.  Other teens were gathered in technicolour clumps en route.  Laughing, pushing, shouting with joy.  Full of life and oomph and moving on-ness.  GCSEs merely a hurdle to be leapt over in their dash to a wondrous life.  Every one of them I passed was daubed in good wishes for the future.  So I cried.

Teen 1 finished on Wednesday.  I cried then too.  Mainly because he’d been in the pub all afternoon with his friends.

‘Where’s my car?’ he asked, grasping for the banister as he struggled to get up from the floor.  ‘Oh, wait, I don’t own a car…’

I didn’t cry while I was cleaning up the sick from the bathroom though.  I said some swear words instead.  And I worried a bit that he was VERY drunk.  I was an adoring and caring mummy during his first ever drunkenness, however.  Yes, I videoed him.  The ensuing mortification worked far better than a thousand lectures on crazed drinking.

But still.  I’ve cried for them both.  Not because of the milestone thingy.  Or because it means I must be ancient.  I’ve cried because they have so much ‘wahooo’ about life.  All of them.  All around school is an air of possibility and potential.  Expectation that their lives will be brilliant.

I’m crying because I wish I’d had that feeling. Last days of anything should be positive.  Always.  Even if you have to pretend.  But mainly, I wish someone had scribbled on me.

Posted in Journal, Terrible Teens | 9 Comments

Heavy Petting

In the spirit of general jollification, I decided against blogging about the recent death of my dog.  He had a good life, the poor rickety old thing.  But now, just as we’re recovering from the woe, the Ginger Ninja has gone missing.  Disappeared overnight on Saturday and hasn’t been seen since.  And yes, I know that cats frequently go gallivanting for days, sometimes weeks, at a time.  Especially at this time of year.

Admittedly, I did tell the cat to bugger off on the day he, well, buggered off.  And I did refer to him as a murdering bastard when he dragged in, on Easter Sunday, what we believe to be the Easter bunny, leaving him for dead under the dining table.  The week before, he’d savaged a pigeon, the house resembling a pillow factory with the billion or so feathers floating phantom-like as I opened the front door.  We were dreading Christmas, expecting him to leave Santa dismembered under the table.  But he’s gone.  Vanished.  And what with the dead dog and my accidental running-over of a chicken yesterday – it actually was crossing the road – The Teens have started giving me funny looks.  Looks that suggest they now see me as some sort of fiendish Fred West of the animal world.

We’ve considered putting a poster up…


Fat ginger cat with mean face.  Horrid yowl.  Likes to bite people. 

Answers to ‘Mr Podgy-Whiskers’.

And then we understood why the hardcore farmcat we’d come to loathe love has left home.  But we’d like him back now. Please?


MISERY UPDATE : Poor old Mr Podgy-Whiskers has now been found.  Burial performed by Teen 1, heaving with sobs as he dug.  Bloody, sodding hell.  Will do our best to remember the short time he was cute… ‘At least he’ll be with the dog again now…’ Teen 2 has optimistically ventured.  (If you’re wondering about his turquoise nose, he used to like sniffing up my words as I scrawled early words in bed with a fountain pen…)

Posted in Journal | 10 Comments

When one’s future’s a blast from the past…

I cannot lie:  *looks around shiftily to ensure no one’s listening*  I have become a kept woman.  Oh, my days.  I do feel quite the fifties housewife.  Except that I can’t enjoy the whole not-going-work thing because, actually, I want to go to work.  I want to earn money.  My own money.  Besides, while being a fifties housewife, I have to keep cooking things and smiling at the bastard Aga. This is not good.

The Man, being a modern kind of chap at heart, is most encouraging about me breaking into the work-place, so long as I don’t get any newfangled ideas about wearing trousers or suchlike.

He suggests we set up a business together.  I swoon, contemplating the idea for a niche shop I’ve had forever, embracing all things French and dinner party.  The Man, alas, has other ideas.

‘There’s a lot of money to be made in recycling, darling…’

I look at his eager face, realising he has cunningly called me ‘darling’ to bamboozle my homemaking brain.

‘I am not becoming a bin man,’ I tell him.  ‘I want to do something glamorous.  I want to have fun.’

‘But fun doesn’t make money,’ he tells me.  I notice he is using his Extra-Reasonable Voice.  ‘We could think about anaerobic digestion.  Things like that?’

I am a sensible sort of gal at heart. I know the difference between ‘ludicrous’ and ‘lucrative’. And I do want to make money.  ‘Not bloody likely,’ I reply.

The Man sighs.  Hours later, after much wine (although just a drop for the little lady, lest she become giggly) it transpires that he has hit upon a brilliant idea.  He plans to put me, along with all my other “hormonal cronies” in a huge pot of water, hooked up to some sort of barbaric gadgetry.  Our crossness and hormonal hot flushes will then heat up said water and generate enough electricity to sustain the whole of Suffolk with enough left over to feed the National Grid.

‘Well,’ I sniff, clearly overwhelmed by a drop too much wine and a rather stubborn stain on my pinny, ‘when you die, I shall have you composted.’

We decide not to mention the whole work thing again.

Posted in Being a Country Gal | 16 Comments

A Valentine’s Day Post

I wake The Man up in the middle of the night.

‘In my dream, it’s so windy that the weather men have just blown away,’ I tell him.

‘Oh,’ he replies, forlornly.  ‘In mine, my computer’s got a virus.’

We both go back to sleep.

Who said romance was dead?

Posted in Journal | 12 Comments

Tally ho (ho ho)

So that was Christmas.  All done and back in its box, ready to be shoved back into the attic for another year.

Christmas Eve started with the handing out of foodstuffs at a hunt meet – after getting up at the crack of dawn to make hoisin & sesame sausages and sausage rolls for 100, I tried to cut corners by giving the toffs half a cocktail sausage each and explaining that there’s a recession on but did they listen? No.  I think you will find they did not.  Instead, they simply requested more sausages and top-ups of Port as they galloped about on their diamond-studded horses.  Teen 1 also squeezed in his 18th birthday halfway between Crimbly & New Year – hurrah!  More eating!  More booze!  I’m enjoying admiring the European lard mountain currently spilling out of my waistband.

But anyway.  It’s 2012.  And years with even numbers are much better for making your dreams come true.  That’s a fact, that is.  Sort of.

I haven’t bothered with resolutions – instead, I have goals.  This year, it’s back to the writing.  Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree now has words on the page, with many more to be conjured up before the May deadline of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition.   I have an interview on Friday for a promising job where they will pay me money and EVERYTHING.  And next week finds me starting a month’s voluntary work in a local primary school.  Ooh ‘eck.

I passed my degree with a 2:1 and am now the proud owner of a BA (Hons) in Humanities with Literature.  Thank goodness all that studying is over.  I certainly haven’t done anything daft like signing up for another 9 months of Advanced French to complete the French Diploma.  Oh, ok, I have then.  Yes, I know.  I am a spaz.  But it’ll be fine.  Oh, man…

I wonder what mad plans other people have made for the year?  Each one whizzes by so fast yet so much changes in that time.  How will our lives have changed before we haul that knackered old box of tinsel out again?  Tell me, what’s the daftest thing you hope to achieve during these next 12 months?

Posted in Journal, OU, Writing | 18 Comments