Saturday 23 October 2010

I've seen more meat on a cornflake!

I went shopping with Imogen this week. Despite being only 3 she’s got the whole idea of girl shopping. Nothing against men (they are very useful for carrying bags), but very few of them understand the concept of “shopping”. I’m not talking about the weekly shop here, but the traipsing from one shop to another looking for a certain something. A not quite sure what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it kind of shopping.

In all honesty I don’t get it either. I vividly remember the first time I had a panic attack going into a shop – I was 12, Christmas shopping. I didn’t have the screaming heebie-jeebies or anything like that; I just froze in the doorway of the shop, looked in at all the people and couldn’t move a muscle. The noise of the people did that pulsing thing and I broke out into a sweat.

It got worse before it got better and it still jumps up and bites me every now and again.

These days if I go into a shop and start to feel like that, I turn around and walk out again.

We had a break in Costa Coffee and managed to get the soft seats much to Imogen’s delight. She ate her pink cake and I drank my cappuccino.

We had fun. I only needed to buy a couple of things and I only left one shop because it was too crowded.

I also nipped into Staples and bought a box of 250 A4 envelopes. When my beloved went to put them away in my cupboard for me he asked “What is that box?” What box? Oh that big green one identical to the one I’ve just bought? Hm, I wonder.

It was right there at the front beside my dwindling supply of A4 envelopes. It was, as you may already have guessed, another box of A4 envelopes. A full box.

It gets worse. Behind said box of envelopes was another ancient box of envelopes. 250 foolscap envelopes. A couple of weeks ago I bought two new packs of foolscap envelopes. Why? I have no idea. I rarely use them.

Anyway back to the shopping. The whole reason I started this post was to tell you about the plates. Big silver and gold plates. One of those would be grand to use for my Christmas cake since I haven’t found a cake board yet.

Force of habit, turned it over to check what it said on the bottom and “Not suitable for direct contact with food.”

My beloved suggested a doily . . . but what would be the point in buying a fancy plate if you cover it up with a doily? Can you even buy doilies any more?

But a plate you can’t put food on? Yes I know it could be used for decorative purposes – but they weren’t decorative enough to be solely decorative if you see what I mean.

Reminds me of the time my beloved bought himself a pair of (very expensive) platform boots back in the 70s. He wore them once and the platforms and shoes parted company. When he returned them to the shop to ask for his money back the woman was appalled – “You didn’t actually wear them did you?” she said.

Well yes, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with boots? “Oh no, these are fashion accessories.”

I’ll leave it to you to imagine what his answer to that was. He got his money back.

Oh the cornflakes? It was a line from a dream I had, the content of which would be unsuitable for my usual market!

Monday 18 October 2010

"Sweet Friends" Blog Award

Lovely Joanne Fox over at a Zigzag Road has given me a blog award (Congratulations on winning yours Joanne).

I’m not ashamed to say I love awards – that’s why I’ve hung on to my cycling proficiency certificates and my swimming certificates! I’m an award tart and this one is very pretty – and very welcome, thank you Joanne!

As a condition of accepting the award I have to tell you six things about my writing – and this is harder than it sounds!

Okay, here goes.

1) I used to write lots of confession stories. They were usually anonymous and I used to love getting my teeth into them and wreaking revenge on all and sundry. My poor beloved used to read them and say, “You were cross with me when you wrote this weren’t you?”

2) My first ever story was published with the pen name Isabel Douglas. Before I was published I used to plan to call myself Charlotte Macey which was based on one of my many nicknames as a child “Charlie Macey” but I have never used that name. Other nicknames included Maria Martin, Tessa, Tallulah, You Bloody Little Perisher and Tilly none of which I have ever used. And no I didn’t name my dog after me; she came to us with her name Tilly.

3) I find it very difficult not to waffle – I’m sure you’ve noticed this. When writing a story I have to be very strict with myself or I’d be meandering off all over the place which is probably why I go on and on so much on here.

4) I don’t do well with technology. You may have noticed this too. I still haven’t figured out how to put links in my blog without putting in the whole address. * Thanks to Patsy I now know the secret!*

5) My children were neglected. I can still remember them standing behind me as I typed and telling me that it was 7.30 and they were hungry and it was nearly bedtime. I’d written three stories that day. I could no more write three stories in a day now than I could do long division.

6) Many years ago I wrote a 120,000 word novel for a competition which is the longest work I’ve ever done. I found it recently and it is rubbish. The same is true of all the novels I have written, except the ones that are lost forever – they were brilliant of course!

And now I am delighted to pass on the award to six more people. Well here are my six chosen ones.

Suzanne at Suzanne Jones
Lynne Hackles at I Should be Writing
Frances at Frances Garrood

Sunday 17 October 2010

A Mixed Bag

I was saddened to hear of the death of Claire Rayner last week.

I was also saddened at the way I heard the news on the radio when I woke up – “The agony aunt, Claire Rayner has died.”

She was so much more than an agony aunt. There was a great deal more to her than that. She was a campaigner and she fought so much for so many of us without us even realising it.

She was a writer, a broadcaster, a nurse, a supporter of dozens of charities and when she was dying in hospital she decided her last words should be, “Tell David Cameron if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and haunt him.”

She was also incredibly honest about her life, her childhood and her battles with depression. She had it tough and did she wallow in self pity? No, she got out there and fought to make the world a better place for others.

A courageous lady, a warm, spirited, funny, feisty, all round inspiration.

I’m going to get my copy of How Did I Get Here from There, Claire’s autobiography off the shelf and read it again.

Her son Jay writes a tribute in the Observer about her this week.

But there was cause for celebration too – the Chilean miners. Did you see the guy who had asked for his wife and his mistress to be waiting for him when he was freed? His wife stayed away. There’s a story or two there isn’t there!

What will stay with me though is the look on that little boy’s face when his dad emerged safe and sound.

Ooh and that reminds me of a dream I had last night – it gave me a fully formed story and now all I have to do is write it down before I forget it! I used to laugh at the notebook beside the bed rule – I’m not laughing now. I’m still seething about the story I wrote in my head while awake in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago, the story which promptly disappeared the minute I went to sleep and has stayed disappeared ever since.

I was going to tell you how I’d gathered up pockets full of conkers to use as spider deterrents and it reminded me of a short film shown on 8 Out of 10 Cats featuring a huntsman spider in Australia.

I’m not going to put it on my blog because for anyone with a spider phobia it is particularly horrible. But here’s a link if anyone is brave enough to take a look.

I asked my friend who lives in Australia if she’d ever seen one. Yes – she was having an acupuncture treatment and looked up and there was one on the ceiling above her head . . . In all seriousness I think I would die. I do. I really do. Those big furry tarantulas? No they don’t scare me. I wouldn’t want to touch one mind you, but big spiders that look like – well big spiders – that’s another matter.

Anyway I shan’t go on. I have a story to write . . .

Monday 11 October 2010

Guest Post - Della Galton

Hugely talented short story writer, novelist, columnist, writing tutor, very good friend, dog lover – I could go on! I’m absolutely delighted to hand over to Della to tell you about her new book and how she came to write it.

The Dog with Nine Lives

October is a bittersweet month for me. I love the smell of the mornings and the cosiness of the nights, I hate the feeling that summer is ending – not that it feels as though it is this weekend in Dorset, I have to say. As I look out of my window the skies are blue and apart from the puddles on the ground all over the forest where I ran with my dogs this morning, you’d have thought it was still summer.

I’ve also lost loved ones at this time of year. Last October I lost my beautiful Lindy dog. She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known and the time around her death was one of the saddest times for me, because I lost my beloved gran, soon afterwards, too.

On a happier note, I decided to write Lindy’s story down. It was quite a story. (Nine years earlier I’d found her living wild with 13 puppies on a Greek beach.) I never wanted to forget her – or how she came to live with us.

This was a project just for me. A tribute to Lindy. I decided I would self publish it. I began to write it soon after Lindy’s death and then I stopped in November when I lost Gran – because grief got in the way.

In January 2010 I went with my stepson, Adam, to see my publisher, Hazel Cushion, of Accent press, about an editing job she wanted us to do. While we were there I mentioned self publishing my Lindy book and she said, in that bright, casual way of hers, “We’ll publish that. How quick can you write it?”

I was delighted, mostly because it meant the book would reach a wider audience and I wrote it as quickly as I could. It was a catharsis to write. I relived previous moments of Lindy’s life. I laughed a fair bit and I also cried. Although I write lots of fiction, I have never written anything so close to my heart, so important to me, so true!

It’s also the only thing I’ve ever written that my husband, Tony, has read (apart from the odd story, which he reads under sufferance, tee hee). But I made him read this – because he is, after all, one of the main characters in it, and I didn’t want him to later disagree or be upset with anything I’d put!

When he’d finished it, he came upstairs with tears pouring down his face. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “I felt as though I was reliving it all again. I loved it.”

High praise indeed from the man who ‘does not read’.

So this October, I am proud, so very proud, to see, The Dog with Nine Lives in print. It’s a little book, but it has a big story. And I know that whatever else I have published, I will always treasure it. One day when I am old and sitting in a rest home chair, I’m going to get it out and show people and say, “I used to know this dog.”

The Dog with Nine Lives is published by Accent Press and costs £9.99

Thank you, Della, Lindy's story sounds wonderful. I am looking forward very much to reading it.

Saturday 9 October 2010

One Small Step

Today I did something that I haven’t done for eight years. I’ll tell you what it is later.

In the meantime, I’ve been learning things like the name Geraint isn’t French, but Welsh. Yes I really thought it was French and if I saw it written down I said it in my head with a fancy French accent – durr! Thank you Inspector George Gently for enlightening me.

I now know that crane flies and daddy long legses are two different things and that my poor little Tilly is terrified of them. In fact she’s scared of anything that flies and she’s scared of spiders too poor little soul. The other night when a daddy long legs was doing his noisy thing round the light, she sat first on my head, then burrowed under the duvet where she stayed until I turned the light out and the daddy long legs went to sleep.

Moving on – I now know that shanty men make a lot of noise and you can hear them a long way away and they sound very happy. I’ve seen a Thames barge up close – joy. And I’ve seen the Waverley paddle steamer close too and she was a lot smaller than I thought, but an elegant little lady all the same. I’ve been to a book signing where the queue was out of the door – it was for a book of photographs spanning about 50 years of the town’s history.

I’ve realised that I no longer own a dictionary or if I do, I don’t know where it is. My dictionary used to be my right hand man, always on my desk, used daily. It was an essential piece of kit and now thanks to Google and my laziness he’s all but forgotten.

A week or so ago round at my daughter’s house I saw a huge bowl of fruit soaking in sherry ready for her Christmas cakes. The last time I made a Christmas cake would have been eight years ago.

I used to make one for us, one for my mum and until her death, one for my mum’s friend who was the nearest thing I ever had to a grandmother.

I had no idea coming up to Christmas 2002 that it would be the last cake I ever made for my mum or that there would be some left in her larder when she died in 2003.

That year I didn’t make any cakes. I couldn’t face making just one. In all the years (I started making them when I was still at school) I’d been making Christmas cakes, I’d never made only one. It felt wrong. Besides I didn’t know where my recipe was.

So I started buying Christmas cakes. Blimey they’re expensive aren’t they? I don’t eat Christmas cake myself, but I was told every year that bought ones aren’t a patch on home made. They didn’t last as long either. And the marzipan on bought ones is never thick enough.

I bought the fruit and a bottle of sherry and left it to soak for a week – never mind quarter of a pint of sherry, that fruit damn near saw off a whole bottle. Oh and I found my recipe. Today the fruit was plump and ready and I made my cake. It’s in the oven now. I hope it tastes as nice as everyone remembers.

The making of the cake is significant. I’m not sure why, but it is.

Sorry for another ramble. One of these days I’ll post a proper writerly one and you’ll think you’ve come to the wrong place!