Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WF Deedes 1913-2007

So farewell then (in the great Private Eye tradition) Dear Bill...

I'm not given to feeling sad when people I only know through the column of a newspaper die, but I have to confess to feeling terribly sad about the demise of the late great columnist, WF Deedes.

Long before I started reading WF Deedes in the Telegraph I knew all about him - or I thought I did. This is mainly because I like most of my contemporaries read Private Eye in the 80s and roared with laughter over the Dear Bill letters. It was only many years later when I started to read the Daily Telegraph that I discovered what a good egg he was.
(There I've admitted it, I read the Torygraph. I shall now have to go to therapy - to most of my more left wing pals admitting that is tantamount to saying you are somewhat to the right of Ghengist Khan. My natural inclination is actually to read both sides of the political spectrum, but Spouse reads the DT, and I never get round to buying the paper. Thanks to the internet and the very brilliant bloggers around and about like Dave Hill at Temperama and Political Umpire on Fora, I do get more then my required daily fix of both sides of the fence, which allows me to sit just where I belong, firmly in the middle, but that, as they say, is another story.)

Anyway, I am grateful to Spouse for introducing me to the Torygraph, because among other things for the past ten years or so I have regularly read and enjoyed WF Deedes column. He was amazingly a journalist for over 70 years. Until two years ago he regularly travelled the world covering stories in all sorts of war torn places most of us wouldn't dare to go to. He was a humane, just and compassionate man, who wrote with searing honesty of the evils he saw in the world, yet retained the most incredble optimism in the face of man's inhumanity to man. At times of great crisis, as for instance after 9/11, he was capable of raising the spirits by pointing to the simple things in life, frequently finding comfort in nature. I for one will mourn the coming of Spring without his wonderful descriptions of the flowers in the hedgerows et al.

His was a remarkable life. Not only did he start his journalistic life in Ethiopia in 1931, but he was also a war hero, an MP and minister and the editor of the Daily Telegraph to boot. It is a cliche, but, they really don't make em like that anymore. Though a decade older then my father and fil, he represents all that was truly great and noble about their generation.

And he was the inspiration not only for Dear Bill, but William Boot in Scoop (which I read long before I even knew who Bill Deedes was). That I think is a really neat trick. To be immortalised not just once, but twice in print.

He apparently carried on working till pretty much the end, filing his last copy two weeks before he died. It was a typically forthright piece on the evils of the conflict in Darfur, which he likened to Nazi Germany. Given that he saw the effects of both, I think he is better placed then most to make that judgement, and it is one I totally agree with. Darfur is indeed a stain on humanity's conscience. I wonder if we'd hear more about it if it was a war being waged by white supremacist religious bigots against almost anyone else?

If you want to read it in full you can here:

Remarkable last words, from a remarkable man, who led a remarkable life.
He will be much missed. Not least by me.

Holiday Snaps

Well as requested by lovely Bec (and who am I to refuse lovely Bec?), here are some holiday snaps.

There is a reason why I don't post pics on this blog very much. Apart from the fact that I don't really want photos of my sprogs on the internet, I am also so technologically inept it takes me forever and a day to get pics up. It doesn't help that currently my main computer is not linked to the internet, and I have had to download the pics onto it and transfer them across. Somewhere in the process several photos stubbornly refused to copy so it has taken me over an hour, and I haven't got all the pics up that I wanted to. Still for what it's worth here they are...

We were staying in the resort of Cala en Porter on Menorca, and our beach looked like this...

We went to visit some caves where by day you can have a nice drink staring at the views, and by night it is a nightclub. Hmmm. Having looked over the edge at the scary drops I'm not sure I'd fancy being pissed as a newt there...

Down the road from where we were staying, there was a bar with some fantastically tacky tribute bands. The Horde were very taken with this lot. (Having been brought up to the dulcet tones of Dancing Queen, this is perhaps not surprising...)

We went to visit these horses...

Who did this....

Am I alone in worrying about the state of their joints?

Every night we had a visit from this little fella - who we named Gordon the Gekko. Although we thought we'd killed him on our last night, as he leapt on the blind to escape us and fell off. He did a very good impression of a lizard playing dead, and then to our relief scooted away into the corner. Gordon no doubt was even more relieved the next day that we'd gone home.

And these last two photos are here in honour of a friend, who started Spouse and the kids off on this little pastime. Thanks to an obsession with dragon making that started on a beach in Bournemouth, everywhere we go they all have to build dragons. I could have joined in, but I used the opportunity to go for a swim instead.
So meet Horrormouse... He's rather fine isn't he?

He created a lot of interest on the beach, and Dumdad, you will be amused to know that hordes of Menorcans came to take photos of the kids standing by their creation, and nary a one asked me if I minded. Back home they'd have to be police checked and filling forms in triplicates

As we left four little Menorcan boys were hopping around Horromouse taking no notice of this plaintive plea left by no 1 (it reads, Horrormouse, Do Not Tread On Him, if you were wondering). I have a feeling his demise came fairly soon after our departure....
A final word to my friend (also one of my longest standing readers).... Let Horrormouse be the gauntlet, and battle commence.
Do let us know what you can conjure up!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stop Press!

I have some important news about this....

Rather then being published on 3 September as I thought, the pub date has been put back to the end of November.

Pub dates are funny things as they attain a not unnaturally huge significance in the minds of an author and their family and friends, and yet they are often chosen rather arbitarily/shunted about because of factors beyond the author's control.

Apparently the crap summer has meant that summer reads haven't been read, and everyone's anticipating a late September rush (How Climate Change Affects The Publishing Industry - you heard it here first!), soooo my poor little newbie debut title risks being swamped (scuse the pun) and washed away.

The plan now is to bring it out just before Christmas, a less crowded time in the publishing schedule where it has more chance of making an impact.

It is at times like this I really really appreciate having worked in publishing and understand the vagaries of this often strange world.

I might be feeling more anxious if I hadn't had the experience of publishing a fantasy list (also ironically in September), which was welcomed with open arms by booksellers who overbought the stock, only for them to send most of it back when it didn't sell through. The list never recovered, and to my frustration despite having some wonderful books in it, sales thereafter were never as good as they could be.

I am more therefore more then content to hang fire for a couple of months to avoid that happening to my book.

Besides, it gives me more time to work on my website, progress on which has rather stalled over the summer.

And luckily my book is pretty seasonal so it doesn't matter too much when it comes out. In fact... as my premise at the start is that the heroine is in a wintry state emotionally, and the first two songs I used for inspiration are Forever Autumn (for her) and California Dreamin' (for him), I think it works out better probably. Of course, this does mean the poor beleagured designer who's already gone through lots of hoops to get this fetching cover has to do some more tinkering to make it fit the wintry theme - if ever I owe someone a drink, I think it is probably him/her - but I think all in all it will probably work out for the best.

Although I will admit, I have the feeling at the moment that I am standing on a precipice, and I don't think I quite dare look down....

PS - googling as myself, as once you become a nearly published author one is egotistically inclined to do, I realised that I am now officially up on the Avon site. So if perchance you are interested in me and my little literary effort, click here to find out more.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gods Behaving Badly

I am pleased to say I have finally got around to reading this:

This tiny little cover doesn't do it justice in the slightest.
Although from a practical point of view I prefer reading paperback books, I have a weakness for hardbacks that dates back to my early days in publishing when I worked in the production department. I love hardbacks; the beauty of a clean hardback case, the wonderful feel when you crack open the spine. I always feel I've got a real book in my hands in a way I don't with a paperback.
And on that front Gods Behaving Badly doesn't disappoint. The jacket looks and feels gorgeous. It's got matt lamination, spot varnishing, embossing - all the tricks of the design trade which done badly can go horribly awry, but which have been used here for a simple and glorious harmony. Not only that the hardback case is a stylish black with (my favourite) gold blocking on the spine. (In my production days when we were bored we'd eschew black for the wildest most garish colours we could think of, but really, nothing beats black and gold I don't think). And best of all it's got endpapers - my favourite bit of a hardback - and they too are utterly gorgeous.
Before you've even opened a page you feel this is going to be a wonderful experience.
And it is.
It's always a bit of a worry when something is hyped as much as GBB has been, that it might be a disappointment. I didn't think it would be. I've read the opening chapters, I've read Marie's blog. Like I said before I went on holidayI am sure this is going to be huge. But still... There's always that smidgeon of worry, and I so wanted to like it.
Happily I can report, that I didn't just like it, I absolutely loved it. Marie's squabbling gods are hilarious. The plot is rollocking. Her hero and heroine are fab - I couldn't help but fall for a hero who secretly reads the sorts of books where a man presses his lips against a woman before ravaging her - and the whole conceit of the book is so clever and funny. I'm happily not given to jealousy about other writers, but if I had a book I'd like to have written, this would definitely be it.
I'm not going to do any spoilers, but I particularly enjoyed the idea that Angel Tube station (a place I used to use regularly when I was younger) is in fact the entrance to the Underworld. Neil, the hero reminded me of both Martin Freeman in The Office and Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead - he is utterly unlikely but turns up trumps. I am in love with him completely. And Alice, the self effacing heroine, also quietly turns out to have hidden depths.
Gods Behaving Badly is a wonderful wonderful book, thoroughly deserving of its hype. I can't wait for her next one...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mattel Recall

Oh shit.

My house is full of Polly Pocket.

No 3 is really going to love when I tell her it's all gotta go...

Talking of holidays...

No 1 couldn't sleep tonight and came downstairs, just as I was off to bed (Spouse had long since gone). We were having a bit of a chat about stuff, and then she mentioned that she and no 2 make up stories about one of our photo albums from a holiday we had in Crete in 1992. God knows why...

Anyway, she went to get the album and I said, let me tell you what really happened. Suddenly. There I was. Much younger. Much slimmer. On a great (and from memory wildly drunken) holiday in Elounda, in Crete. It had all the elements that a good holiday should have. Sun, sea, alcohol and most importantly it was spent with good friends.

Looking at those pictures again. I'm bloody sorry I'm not as thin as I was. Bloody sorry that I'm not as young as I was.

But on the upside.

The people that matter haven't gone away.

And sitting with no 1 beside me, it's nice to know I've gained a few extras along the way...

Even so. I know it's shallow, but it would be nice to be that skinny again...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Holidays

Twelve years ago, Spouse and I took a backpacking trip around Turkey. We had more or less decided by then that we were going to finally do the Baby Thing, but wanted one last joyous freedom fling before we did. And having done several backpacking trips without much funding, were revelling in the notion that this time around at least we had enough money to bail out of emergencies like sleeping on the beach as we'd done in the past.

I remember being very fed up before we set off as I was late, which meant the thought of coping with tedious women's things while travelling, plus I had a rather romantic notion that it might be nice to concieve while on holiday. I was actually six weeks late. Which should have told me something except a) I was irregular as clockwork and b) I had taken a pregnancy test which had proved negative (experience later taught me that my body doesn't operate the way of the textbooks, but I didn't know that then).

So we set off from Gatwick, flew to Antalaya, staying overnight in a rather grim Turkish b&b before heading off down the coast to Alanya, a beautiful and then quite unspoilt resort, from where we took a day trip to Northern Cyprus, climbed mountains, took boat trips (though thankfully in retrospect we didn't take part in a wander through a cave that ended up with you jumping fifty foot into the sea), before heading down to Side, an amazing town built entirely around the ruins of a Roman town.

It was only when we got to Side that I began to question why I was a) feeling sick all the time (I had been assuming it was Turkey tummy) b) felt knackered (Spouse kept saying I had become so boring he was going to go on holiday without me and c) was going off fags (I'd been blaming the funny taste of Turkish smokes). The penny finally dropped when we were sitting in a restaurant, I took a sip of beer and it tasted like poison. Suddenly I couldn't drink anymore. "Are you pregnant?" Spouse said in a rare moment of clarity, "I have no bloody idea," was my response, as my body was responding in the way it normally does prior to usual occurences. Besides, I'd never been pregnant before, so I really hadn't a clue. By number four I had worked out that a) my cycle being so erratic means that pregnancy tests don't work for me until I am at least a week overdue and b) About week 7 was the time when I stopped wanting to smoke/drink.

But I didn't know that then...

Of course, I came back, took a pregnancy test and voila, there was that very definite and scary blue line. I can remember sitting on the edge of the bath in a state of shock. I had only just decided to have a baby, and pretty much fell pregnant at the first attempt. I appreciate this an enormous piece of luck, but it was also pretty shocking and took some coming to terms with I can tell you.

So that was that. I was pregnant. We'd had our last swansong holiday, and we bid farewell to our freedom.

I only mention all this because we've just come back from Menorca, and for the first time since then Spouse and I have managed to relax on holiday.

Milestones include:

Actually reading all the books I'd taken with me.
Not being too stressed when the kids were in the pool (apart from no 3 who has just learnt to swim but does this rather alarming impression of the Man from Atlantis, popping her head up every so often to splutter for another breath).
Swimming nearly every day in the sea and not feeling guilty that Spouse was having to deal with mayhem on the beach.
Taking no 1 out swimming with me and being amazed at how far she could come.
Taking a pedalo out and not worrying (too much) that we were all going to drown.
Going out in the evening, and thanks to cheesy entertainment at the bar, leaving kids enjoying it while we sat and had a grown up drink.

That last one was well worth it. It's been years since we've been able to all go out and have a relaxing evening without tears and tantrums.

Menorca isn't the most exciting of locations, but it was pretty, the views across the bay stunning and the beach really safe, which is great for kids.

After enduring years and years of stressful holidays, it was wonderful to just be able to chill out for once.

And remember, for the first time in twelve years, that holidays, actually can be fun...

PS anyone who wasn't hanging about this blog this time last year might be amused to go into the archives for last August and see what a contrast THAT was...