Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inspiration... or lack of.

I am in a state of limbo with writing at the moment. I am still waiting for rewrites on the Christmas book, which is hovering round the edges of my consciousness, and preventing me from going full speed ahead and getting properly started on my next book. Uggh. I wish I could do this another way. It would be lovely to sit down for three hours every morning after Spouse has gone to work and the kids are at school and just WRITE in a focussed and meaningful kind of way. But. I. Just. Can't....

Instead I witter about, putting off the housework. Now doing THAT would be at least productive. Visiting blogs I like, joining in chats on my online groups, surfing the net ostensibly for research, getting on with editing stuff I also need to do, and ... looking up songs I want for the soundtrack for the next book.

Starting a new book is incredibly daunting. In fact, it seems to be getting more daunting every time I do it. Is this the time the muse will fail to strike? Will someone find me out for the fraud I am? Will everyone hate it? Will I hate it?

Oh stop buggering about and just DO it...

I know once I take the plunge it will probably be fine, and this frittering/wittering time is I am convinced part of the process for me, because although I still haven't completely worked out my plot, or my structure, or even all of the characters' names, my subconscious is working over time at the moment, and every day throws up another good idea, which goes conscientiously down on the huge list I seem to be writing for all things relating to this masterpiece, and which I am hoping I still remember when I come to write it.

This book, as I've mentioned before is going to focus on female friendship. So the story is about four girlfriends - I've called them the Fab Four in honour of a quartet I was part of with my twin in our teens, and I've tried to give them significant names according to important female friendships I've had at various points in my life.

So I have: Sarah, who represents my Fab Four era, Beth for my university days (named after Beth Jordache from Brookie, which was a formative influence at the time) Doris for the time I got married, as a friend jokingly named me that, and I'm a bit stuck on number four who is representative of my friends now. I'm toying with Fran or Frankie as a nod to Dirty Dancing which is the favourite film of a good friend of mine, but I don't really like that name, so I may just ask my mate her second name instead, or possibly use a character from Desperate Housewives. Having not named number four is one of the reasons I'm a bit stuck, as until her name's right I can't get properly going on her story. I am comforting myself with the fact that Emily wasn't going to be the main thrust of Strictly Love, but came good in the end. So I'm sure my unnamed heroine will be fine... in the end.

In the meantime I am getting lots of ideas about music....

White Wedding by Billy Idol is a must, as is Here Come the Girls, by the Sugababes. But I'm also lining up: Ever Fallen in Love by the Buzzcocks, Shadow of Love by the Damned, Don't You Forget About Me Simple Minds, Always on my Mind Pet Shop Boys (all of which were part of the soundtrack to my own love life, and I need to tap into that emotion). I'm also considering Man with the Child in his Eyes by Kate Bush, Before I Fall to Pieces by Razorlight and Let me Entertain you by Robbie (good old Robbie, what would I do without him?)

Part of the process of this for me also is that I need to be working towards a major pivotal emotional scene which occurs at the end of the book, and always before I start writing I have that scene in my head. In Pastures New I soundtracked it to Sing by Travis, in Strictly Love it was Feel by Robbie Williams, and in Last Christmas it's Pretty Amazing Grace by Neil Diamond.
This time around, I had worked out what the scene was, and also worked out how I was going to utilise some spare untapped emotion I needed to get rid of without upsetting people I know in my real life, but I hadn't got a song. If I wasn't stupid, I'd have picked up Mad Twin's reference to it month's ago, but somehow I didn't, and I only got it from Medium Rob's blog last week, and then heard it again used to fabulous effect in Being Human. It's Johnny Cash's version of Hurt. Apparently recorded just before he and his wife died. Listen and weep...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being Human

Last year I stumbled by accident on a pilot episode for a series called Being Human. Only being a dickhead, I didn't realise it was a pilot and wasted a week scouring the airwaves to try and find an elusive and non existent part 2. Given that Spouse and I are both big horror/fantasy fans, we couldn't have stumbled across a programme we were going to like more. The plot (if you haven't seen it) features a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost flatsharing in Bristol. It was properly dark, properly funny, and featured three engaging characters. I haven't been so entranced by a new series of anything, ooh, forever...

I was therefore delighted to discover it was going to be made into a series, but slightly disconcerted to find out that two of the orginal trio (Guy Flanagan who played the vampire, Mitchell and Andrea Riseborough who played the ghost Annie) had been replaced. Also gone was the malevolent head of the vampires, Adrian Lester, which was a shame I thought as he was shaping up well as a character.

However, having watched episode one last night, I was really pleased that if anything I enjoyed it more. Russell Tovey as George really carries off the horror of turning into something you don't want ot be. Mitchell as played by Aidan Turner, feels a lot more dangerous and you get the sense he is grappling hard not to succumb to his bloodlust. The moment when George the werewolf discovers that the colleague whose memorial service he's just attended is in fact a vampire created by Mitchell was spinechilling, particularly when he also realises that Mitchell may have designs on the girl they both fancy. I liked the tension of George not being sure he can trust Mitchell, and yet Mitchell is the one who protects and helps George overcome the difficulties inherent in his condition.

There were also some really touching moments in this. Annie's shock at seeing what happens to George when he transforms; George's irritation towards Annie's obsessive tea making transforming to tenderness when she realises the loss of her fiance once again; George's realisation at the end that by allowing the girlfriend to die Mitchell has actually saved her.

The ending was heartrending as you really felt Mitchell's pain. Thanks to Medium Rob I was introduced to a great song last week, Hurt by Johnny Cash, and it was used here to fabulous effect. (In fact I like it so much I think I may have to steal it for the soundtrack for the new book).

By the end of this episode I felt all three characters had really grown and understood one another more. It was great.

I also liked Jason Fleming's Herrick - the head vampire, who somehow seems more menacing played as a policeman. Not quite so sure yet about Lenora Crichlow's Annie, but Andrea Riseborough is a tough act to follow, so maybe she'll get better.

But still, it looks like I've got something to keep me occupied for the next few Sundays. After the disappointment of Demons which is much sillier (and not in a good, silly Primeval/Dr Who kind of way) then I thought after episode one, that is a relief. My only problem now is persuading the two big ones that they really aren't quite old enough to watch this...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

While I am intensely interested in politics, it may not have escaped the notice of readers of this blog that I am also incredibly cynical about them.

My first memory of politicians were fuzzy black and white pictures of Harold Wilson, Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan in the grim years of the 1970s (oh how well Life on Mars recaptured that era), but my first political awakening came one sunny day in 1979 when I woke up to discover that Margaret Thatcher was our new Prime Minister. I was fourteen years old, my parents were so fed up with Callaghan they were thrilled, and it was to be nearly twenty years before I experienced a Labour government as an adult. Such is the general foaming at the mouth hatred engendered by the liberal middle classes in this country, when they think about Thatcher, it is easy to forget that actually that last Labour government was shit. I remember my childhood as being a time of strikes and bread shortages, and the Winter of Discontent was certainly not the best advert for Labour. So I do recall that mood of optimism sweeping the country (or well parts of it anyway) at the thought that now there would be change.

By the time of the next election, my political mindset was more set, and less focussed on what I'd overheard my parents say. I just missed voting that year and was quite glad I did, as I hadn't a clue who I'd have voted for. Although I did know one thing, I wouldn't have been voting for Thatcher by then. The next two elections I could vote in, it felt like I was wasting my vote. The Tories were going to be back by a foregone conclusion (even when Neil Kinnock made that dangerous speech in 1992), my natural inclination to vote Liberal was a waste in Labour Liverpool where I first voted in '87 and even more of one in sunny Tory Surrey where I've voted ever since. By the time John Major came into office I despaired of ever seeing a Labour government. Now of course, I despair of ever getting rid of one.

But in all that time, I have never ever felt (even when Tony Blair came in and the winds of change did seem for a moment to blow across the land) that there was someone in government to inspire, to lead, to somehow make us better then we are. And being the old cynic I am, I always thought it would stay that way. Politics is a rough and dirty business, you probably can't retain much integrity and survive, at some point your morals will have to be compromised. It is I think, the nature of the beast.

Or that's how I've always looked at it.

Until today.

Now I'm not going to go over all gushy and write some tosh about how Barack Obama is the new messiah or anything, but hearing him speak tonight, I thought finally we have a leader of the free world who can speak with compassion and feeling, who has a sense of his nation's past, and the humility to realise the problems of its future. He makes no bones about the difficulties that lie ahead or the problems of the task that faces him. Crucially (I think, having witnessed far too many new bosses sweeping in making huge changes without figuring out what actually works) he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to change things too fast, which I hope means that he's going to give himself time to work out how the hell he's going to do this job.

Now it may be that in a year's time some skeleton will come out of the closet, or Barack will have fucked up in a major way. Or god forbid, someone will have taken a pot shot at him. But...

JFK died two years before I was born. No one who's ruled his country or mine since has made me feel in the slightest bit inspired.

And today, Barack did inspire me. He did make me think, even if only for a moment, that things could and will be different.

So for once I'm going with the flow and put my cynicism aside. It may be in four years time I'll be saying I was wrong, but for this one tiny moment in history I'm going to allow myself the audacity of hoping that change really is on its way...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Barack O'Bama

Given that tomorrow is going to be a day that for once really deserve the title "historic", I couldn't resist reposting the Barack Obama is Irish song, as it made me laugh so much. (Sorry Lisa, you've probably only just got the tune out of your head.)

I really hope that Barack doesn't turn out to be all blarney and hot air. At least he is sensibly not rushing into change things too quickly, and recognising he has one hell of a job on his hands. Maybe, just maybe America and the world have got the president we need for the times we live in. Wouldn't it be just wonderful for once to have a world leader we could all say in ten years time was truly great? I'm not sure that that's ever happened in my lifetime, and I'm such a cynic I'm not sure it's going to happen now.

But... for once. I'd like to be idealistic, and am crossing my fingers and hoping that he truly can effect change. (And sort out the credit crunch to boot...)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Find the nude dude...

Today started with a phone call from social services to say they were coming to assess mil's needs (this is a Good Thing I hasten to add). Unfortunately said assessment was taking place at 8.45 when I'm on the school run, and I had the phone call two minutes after I'd arranged a GP appointment for no 4 at 9.50.

So I had to drive like a maniac to school, drop the older two off, run into the office to let them know no 4 was going to be late, and get back to mil's in time to meet the carer. I just about had enough time to go through all the necessary paperwork, but en route to the doctor's remembered I was supposed to be answering an urgent request about a book title on a project I'm working on.

No time before the docs (I still ended up late), and by the time I'd dropped no 4 back at school I was running late for my very expensive pilates class which is paid for up front, and I hadn't had breakfast... Stuffed a banana down, did my email and got to pilates ten minutes late (which wasn't bad going actually). Felt like death warmed up afterwards, and not cheered to discover that my pilates teacher recommends more physio for my back and mentioned the dread words swollen disc and operation (ouch, ouch, ouch!!)

So by lunchtime you could say that I wasn't feeling a happy bunny. Then I went onto one of my online groups and someone had posted this. Well. It made me smile. But little things etc...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My mama said...

Two of the most important people in my life, my mother and Spouse still fail to understand why I blog, and what I love about it. Well dear people, it's this. Picking up on my slightly frantic post from yesterday, lovely Persephone all the way from Canada posted two links on my blog to cheer me up. You don't get that sitting at home on your own NOT hooked up to the internet. Before I had an online life, when my children were small, and the walls of my home were closing in on me, I was going slightly demented. I may still be slightly demented, but at least I have found lots of friendly people to share my dementia with. The blogosphere gives me so much more then mere procrastination (though it offers that too, and I accept gratefully. If I didn't procrastinate I'd never get ANYTHING done.)

On the subject of my mother, about whom I write rarely to protect her privacy (though as she a) doesn't own a computer b) would never go online and read this even if she did, I maybe being over zealous about that), I will tell you that she is an ex nurse (her set at the London was the first to be trained in Bevan's new NHS. I keep telling her she needs to write a nurses version of that book about the East end midwife), and is a fantastic source of old fashioned remedies.

So among many other things my mama has said to me over the years, I have learnt you can use magnesium sulphate to draw out pus from horrible boils (Spouse wouldn't believe that one), a gin and tonic really does work wonders for period pain, and once when no 1 had a horrible gash we felt sure needed stitches, she pulled the skin together really tight, bound it up with steri strips and plaster and lo and behold the gash healed up in days.

Of late she has been giving me helpful advice about the ongoing back problem. One of her suggestions was to take Syndol as a muscle relaxant. I was a bit wary about it because it can also make you sleepy (and contains codeine, which is a cureall my mother used for years before it was banned from the shelves because of it's addictive properties). However. I was in so much agony on Monday night, and swimming which normally helps didn't, I took one before bed. It didn't do a lot and yesterday morning I had another one. Still no effect. The packet has dire warnings about only using Syndol for three days at a time. So I had one last night, thinking I'd give up on it after today, and lo and behold. I woke up this morning relatively pain free. So thanks mama. I'm glad I listened to what you said.

And thanks to Persephone and Jaywalker for sharing this. May those of you who are enjoying a rubbish start to 2009 (and I profoundly hope you aren't) sit back, relax and enjoy...

And if that hasn't done the trick. Have a butchers at this. I laughed out loud watching it this morning. Thank you soooo much, Persephone. I can only dream about my traffic bastards having been that good looking. Or romantic...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's official

I want 2009 to STOP. Right. Now...

So far this year:

I've spent time trying to sort out social services to help with mil, and since we discovered she's not eating well am providing an impromptu meals on wheels service

Been unable to get any work done because I STILL have two children off school (back tomorrow, everything crossed)

My back trouble has resurfaced (not helped by long overdue hoovering of the house yesterday)

Spouse and I were back and forth to mil's three times yesterday to help sort out a leak from the upstairs flat (actually that could have been worse, when she first phoned me I assumed it was a veritable flood, rather then the massive amounts of damp it turned out to be, but it still involved a lot of toing and froing), plus running to the doctor for antibiotics for her.

And if that wasn't enough, Saturday proved the icing on the cake.

When I was taking the children to their various activities on Saturday morning, I foolishly parked in a bay marked private, which is part of an office car park which acts as an overspill at the weekends. Everyone does it, and like a twit I assumed that the council notice advising you you can park in the office car park out of office hours applied to those spaces too. But apparently not.

I was sitting at the leisure centre having a cup of coffee with a friend while no 4 was having a gym class. Spouse was coming to meet me, and en route in noticed I'd been clamped. I went out to find a number to ring, and discovered a happy little notice on the car telling me that I was going to be charged £75 for parking illegally and a further £125 for the bloody clamp to be removed.

There was no one around. The office was shut. It started to snow. I couldn't get through on the number I tried to ring (mind you I was using Spouse's ancient mobile which is increasingly dodgy), so I went back to the leisure centre, where they said I could use their phone, but for some reason everytime I rang the number it kept coming back to reception. By now convinced I was part of some Real Hustle scam (you've seen the one, the wheel clampers park round the corner, come back take your money and clone your card. Cynic.Qui moi?)

Spouse meanwhile returned home to pick up the other car, while I headed out into the cold . And boy was it cold. Persephone if you're reading, I realise by your standards it was probably like a spring day in the park, but I hadn't wrapped up that warmly, not thinking I'd be standing outside for an hour when it was -3. Earlier in the morning I'd also taken the kids to their swimming lessons and walked through the damp floor to the changing rooms in my socks. They were so wet I took them off, not anticipating that I would be spending over an hour in the freezing cold.

Eventually some little oiks turned up in a van with a pleasing dent in the side (unhappy punter anyone?) and aggressively told me that it was my fault for parking in the wrong place. I didn't know I couldn't, was my not unreasonable response, but reason doesn't mean anything to these people, and I have to admit in these situations my tolerance levels are precisely zero. Before long we were trading insults, and I was demanding proof of identity. He flashed a badge which meant precisely nothing, and then I spoke to his oiky manager who was somewhat less then helpful and cut me off. At that point I decided to ring the police to check the company out. By now I'd been joined by a friend who helpfully lent me her phone, and a stranger who usefully had the numbers of Surrey Police and the local council on hers. She also told me she had a WRITTEN letter from the council saying it was possible to park in the offending bays. Not that that cut any ice with my oiky friends of course...

The council offices were of course shut. The police response was to suggest I ring the Office of Fair Trading, from where I got no answer. At that point my kind friends had to disappear home, Spouse arrived back with my phone, and I spotted two other poor sods in the same situation. So we teamed up to confront the oiks, who grew quickly more aggressive once they realised there were several of us, and threatened us with a tow truck and the possibility of the fine growing larger. One of the clampees who rather usefully had an offduty copper mate with her, paid the fine, but then we spotted the council notice telling us we could park at the weekends. We tried to point it out to clamping vanmen, but they weren't interested. Our copper friend suggested we ring the police to clarify the matter, at which point they promptly fucked off, confirming all my suspicions. The other couple were so irate they were talking about getting bolt cutters by this time, and our copper friend told us that it would be criminal damage, but probably nothing would come of it. We were all pondering the possibility of becoming criminals when the police arrived.

After much discussion (and a lot of verbal on behalf of the other couple) it transpired that the police can do precisely diddly squat in these matters. The council also have no jurisdiction. So therefore a bleeding private firm can screw the pants off you and you have no recourse to any kind of justice. After a standoff lasting a further half hour (during which Spouse rounded up all the offspring and took them home), we all had to capitulate and pay the sodding fine - you can't appeal it unless you pay, you see...

By now my feet were like blocks of ice, and I couldn't feel anything from my shins down. When I walked I felt like a little old woman. I hobbled my way back to the car followed by Oik no 1 who had been so aggressive at the start. He undid the offending chain and mumbled, Sorry for the inconvenience in a not very convincing manner. I am not at all a violent person, but Ihave never ever felt more like committing an act of physical violence on another human being. I am amazed I manage to resist thumping him, although the thought of doing it in front of a copper was quite a good incentive not to...

So there you have it. We're only thirteen days in and already 2009 is a pile of crap. I think I may spend the rest of the year in hibernation.

Roll on 2010....

Friday, January 09, 2009

Turns out...

I have maligned the local County Council, as the school DID have a frost resistant system in place which has to kick in when it gets cold. However, I still think it seems daft not having the heating on AT ALL in the coldest winter we've had in over a decade. From the pics I've seen the culprit appears to be a pipe that may not have been tightened properly, so I forsee a nasty legal battle ahead.

Good news is the school are reporting today that they nearly have upstairs sorted, a temporary office is on its way, and with luck and a following wind we might get the kids back on Monday. I have a feeling though that they'll phase them in gradually with Year 6 (No2) going in first because the school will be so worried about the blasted SATs (about which I give not an iota as I think their educational value is about zero), so that means I'll probably have no 3 off on her own for a few days...

Still at least I got them to clean out the animals yesterday....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

In the attic and down the stairs...

So it turns out that the damage at the Junior School is catastrophic. The wiring is soaking wet so no one is allowed in the building for Elf and Safety reasons, the new girls' toilets are completely trashed as the ceiling has come down, the school office is ruined, as apparently are all the school records, two staffrooms are a mess, plus two classrooms, the school hall (ceiling and floor allegedly in dodgy state) and the saddest thing the school library is completely destroyed. The books can of course be replaced under the insurance, but the school have a policy of the children being able to donate a book to the library on their birthdays, and all those memories are now gone. Not that I've ever been efficient enough to do that mind you, but I know plenty of people who have, and it does seem rather sad.

The story at the moment is that school will reopen on Monday, but barring miracles I can't see it myself. Which does rather beg the question as to how my children are going to catch up on the week they've already missed and however many subsequent days they are going to miss. I appreciate it isn't the schools' fault, but the situation regarding the kids' education is a huge concern if the situation is ongoing. And I would question the wisdom of the local education authority's alleged policy of keeping the heating OFF over the winter holiday. I know we've had mild winters of late, but that strikes me as beyond stupid. If they were thinking of saving money, that's come back to bite them in the butt - on the first day of term there were apparently lots of other schools also off with "boiler" problems, one hopes not quite as drastic as ours...

So in the meantime I have two very bored children, I am going demented as I have work stacking up and can't attend to it, the which dementia being exacerbated by lack of ability to get any exercise in thanks to said children's prolonged stay at home, and it's been so cold they STILL haven't cleaned the animals out.

I can feel January is going to be a long long month....

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Dr Who

So we have a new Doctor Who. And he seems to have been a surprise (I missed the last minute rumours at the weekend.) After months of speculation, I have to fess up to being quite pleased they managed to keep it quiet for so long, particularly after it looked 99.999% certain it was going to be Paterson Joseph.

As to who Matt Smith is, and whether he's too young etc, well let's wait and see. I glimpsed him briefly in Party Animals and Ruby in the Smoke and liked him in both. He has a rather alien looking face which works. And given that I knew very little of David Tennant when he started I'm open to the possibility that he might just blow my mind (or not). I quite like the fact that he is an unknown, because in a recent Dr Who Confidential I saw, DT made the rather valid point that Dr Who is a blank canvas for each new actor. An unknown one can therefore bring something new and different, in a way that some of the more famous names being thrown into the ring might have had difficulty with. I've also just caught up with his interview on Dr Who Confidential and I rather like what I see. (The only thing is he is sooo young I'm going to start feeling pervy if I lech after him, so it might be time to turn my Dr Who lovin' into a more maternal kind).

As far as the children are concerned they're delighted it isn't David Morrissey who they thought was far too pompous. While I enjoyed DM's stint in the Christmas edition, and was rather hoping that we'd been double bluffed and it WAS him, I think I prefer this solution. And I'm really pleased to have been surprised. So fingers crossed that the new era of Nu Who is as much fun as the previous one...

Snow on snow...

So just to make our Christmas Cup of Happiness complete the snow waits till the first day of term to fall. No1 wasn't going in anyway (to the envy of her sisters), but I got inundated with text messages this morning to let me know that nos 2&3 would also be spending the day at home as a pipe has burst flooding the school. So poor no 4 went sorrowfully off to school, bribed with chocolate in her lunch box, and the not unreasonable feeling that life is a little harsh (she, you may recall had to go to school for three extra days in the summer when her sisters' school was closed for building work). To make matters even worse the juniors aren't apparently going back till at least Thursday. Bang goes my work patterns this week then.

On the upside, I was planning to tackle the after Christmas clearup today, and as another bribe to get no 4 in, I made the others promise to help. And to clean out the animals as well.

There's no point having children if you aren't going to exploit them ruthlessly is there???