18 Jul 2007

The Wine, the Chocolate and the Warm Runny Cheese

Most mornings I stop off at a local newsagents on my way to work to pick up the paper. The person behind the counter is a lovely lady; friendly, chatty and very practiced at dropping in the occasional compliment.

I love compliments. Who doesn't? When somebody tells the bleary-eyed, mascara-smudged, frizzy-haired person I last saw half an hour ago in the mirror that they like the shade of purple she's wearing then I'm quite prepared to go the extra mile and buy a couple of Cadbury's Flakes along with the paper.

Which neatly brings me to the subject of chocolate. I am, obviously, partial to a Cadbury's Flake and even a Galaxy Ripple. But the absolute top of my chocolate heaven list is Green & Black's. I especially love their milk chocolate (whoops - drooled on keyboard) although I know (because I read it in the paper!) that a truly dark chocolate is not only better for me but actually GOOD FOR ME. Along with RED WINE. Now there's a migraine waiting to happen. Just chuck in a good sized wedge of nicely matured (no - not in the fridge - warm & runny is the only way) Camembert and you have the hat trick.

Aah - happy days...

12 Jul 2007

The Puppy, the Gate and the Paper Round

I have two Irish Wolfhounds, one of which is a seven month old puppy called Alfie (because he doesn't know what it's all about). I also have an 80 year old paper lady called Doris who delivers the local paper down my road once a week. She loves my Irish Wolfhounds and always brings them some biscuits which she feeds to them over the side gate. My Irish Wolfhounds love Doris.

Yesterday I'm just settling down in front of the computer to try and finish chapter one of my novel when an uproar of epic proportions starts up outside. I rush out of the kitchen and there's Alfie, his foot caught in between a couple of bars of the gate, yelling blue murder, with Doris looking on (worriedly).

I get Alfie disconnected from the gate but not without getting bitten (this is an 'I'm panicking' bite, not an 'I'm cross' bite).

Doris looks at the blood running down my arm and says 'I think he bit me too when I tried to get him off'. She rolls up her coat sleeve to reveal a cut on her forearm. So I take her into the kitchen, sit her down and got out the Dettol and the plasters to dress it for her. When I get back to her she's slumped in her seat, completely out of it.

'Speak to me, Doris,' I beg. I squeeze her hand looking for a reaction and get none. I refrain from slapping her around the face because it isn't polite. Her eyes are open but there's nobody in.

I'm frantic. I'm sure she's having a heart attack so I ring 999 for an ambulance.

There are road works a little way from us - this is a permanent fixture on my road. The water board come and dig it up to lay new pipes and then close it all up. Then the gas people come and dig it up again. When they've finished the BT people come along and lay communication cables, and so on... So the traffic's backed up as usual!

By the time I hear the ambulance siren Doris is beginning to come round. Her eyes come into focus and she speaks. Oh, joy!

Ambulance, lights and siren go streaking past my house eastbound. Two seconds later ambulance, lights and siren go streaking past my house westbound. I prop Doris up against the counter with strict instructions not to move and go and stood in the middle of the traffic jam in my best novel writing gear (furry slippers, torn T-shirt, tracksuit bottoms - you know the look) frantically waving as the ambulance rushes towards me again. At great personal risk I get them safely into the driveway, past the dogs and into the kitchen.

Alfie's really good at opening the kitchen door from the outside so I throw the bolt, pretending not to notice the worried looks of the ambulance men. Of course, that doesn't stop him bashing away at the door trying to get in (he's over 6 foot standing on his hind legs) but we all politely pretend not to notice.

By this time Doris is fully recovered and regaling the ambulance men with her stories of Mr So-and-So at number 147, how she's been delivering papers for fifteen years etc., etc. The paramedics get her wound dressed (not too bad after all that), take her blood pressure - low, hence the fainting fit - and tell her to go visit her doctor the next morning. During all of this they studiously avoid looking at the blood running down my arm. I look as if I can take care of myself.

Eventually they all stand behind me while I unbolt the door (cowards!) and we negotiate dogs and gates (yes, that gate!) and I get them out of there.

By the time I've driven Doris home and finish off the paper round for her I am, understandably, completely unable to write even a sentence.

Oh well - tomorrow...

11 Jul 2007

No more Alistair Campbell - PLEASE

I am SO sick of hearing AC's voice every time I turn on the radio or television. We all know how wonderful it is that he should share his secrets with us and, honest Alistair, we know you wouldn't have published these if it wasn't for our own good.

I'm sure you accepted a modest fee for part one and I'm absolutely sure there will be more sequels than there are Harry Potter movies but, hey, we really are grateful.

But purleeese stop trying to sound as if you give a damn!

19 Jun 2007


Slow arc of silver
laced with knots of grey and green.
Leaves like drops of rain.

21 May 2007

What now?

I've changed the picture at the top of my blog again today. Paul Nash is a favourite of mine - I love the sparseness of line in this painting - sort of minimalist.

Well, I got the story off for the competition in plenty of time. Frankly I got fed up with reading and re-reading it so thought 'what the hell' and posted it. Unfortunately they had to have a recent picture of me to go with it so I had to send the photo I used to renew my passport last year! White background, grumpy face, you know the sort. God help me if I get the story published!

Problem is I haven't a clue what to do next writing-wise. Don't have the incentive of the course any more and ideas seem to be drying up fast. Time to just start freewriting for a bit I guess which is what this is really. I'm off for a long weekend in Florence next week so maybe there'll be some inspiration there. How could there not be!

Just in time too - the skies are grey again today and it feels almost like winter again. Summer in April and winter in late May! Must stop putting exclamation marks everywhere - I seem to remember my tutor saying it's a no no.

3 May 2007

Writing Competition

I'm scribbling away, fast as I can, to meet a 27 May deadline for a writing competition. 3,000 words long with the theme 'feel good'. Concentration keeps drifting - dogs barking at one another and racing round the house, veggies that need to be planted out, watering to be done, prevaricate, prevaricate... Sounds a bit like a Dalek - exterminate, exterminate!!

Well, I've got about another 1,000 words to go to get the bones down then it's edit, edit, edit. Having read all about how to plan the plot and the scenes and write bios of the characters (!) before starting to write I've ignored all of that and am just writing straight from my head onto the page. I think that's OK for a really short story like this but I'm not sure it would work for a full-length novel (like the one I'm writing!). As it is, I keep forgetting my characters' names.

Think I'll have a coffee...

28 Apr 2007

Chapter One?

It was a late March day when Fiona Harland made the decision that would change her life forever.

She was sitting on a bench by the Serpentine, wondering why she was still wracked with grief after nine months. She was strong, had always been so. She got over things. So why was there still this feeling of emptiness, this feeling of things being not quite right?

She tried to divert her thoughts by watching the activity around her. It was six o'clock in the evening and still light thanks to the recent change to British Summer Time. The silhouettes of the trees were beginning to blur with their nascent summer greenery and the park was busy with people, rushing through on their way home, strolling along watching the wildlife on the lake or skimming along the walkways on roller blades. Two businessmen in dark suits walked past, one of them glancing at her as he drew level.

Her thoughts drifted backwards as they always did when she wasn't immersing herself in work. Back to that June day when her mobile belted out its electronic rendering of Beethoven's Fifth, a piece of music she hadn't been able to listen to since. And the voice on the other end said could she come down to Barnes Hospital urgently as her parents had been in a car accident. By the time her cab had fought its way through the traffic out to Barnes it was too late. Her father had died at the scene of the accident they said, and despite their attempts to save her mother she died an hour after getting to the hospital.

How quickly and brutally life can change.

Someone had sat down at the other end of her bench, drawing her back to the present. She glanced idly sideways and recognized the dark-suited man she'd seen earlier. He'd opened a copy of the Evening Standard and seemed to be having some difficulty keeping it straight in the slight breeze that had blown up. Without really thinking about it she looked around to see if his companion was nearby. He was leaning against the railings bordering the car park looking rather out of place in his smart suit; as if he should really be going somewhere rather than just hanging around.

27 Apr 2007

What course next?

The Start Writing Fiction course that I've been studying with the Open University finishes today and my final assignment is in. While I'm waiting for the verdict I need to plan what to do next.

Creative Writing, a Level 2 course, starts in October and would be the next natural progression but I'm slightly worried about the fact that it includes poetry and play writing as well as prose fiction. You only have to look at my Haiku attempts back in January to see why!

But, despite being a complete amateur and probably totally untalented, I'm really enjoying this writing lark. The course I just finished was such fun and the group I was in were so supportive and enthusiastic that I'm very tempted to go forward with the OU. It gives me the summer to see if I can keep my enthusiasm up and to practice daily writing which I'm not too good at yet. Probably because there's always something else to do (prevarication!).

Now there's a thing - prevarication. I have more journals and pens than you can possibly imagine - all designed to make me write better! Oh dear, how sad is that? But it's such fun buying them. My recommendations are CIAK journals which are absolutely beautiful leather journals in several sizes and the Pilot Capless fountain pen with a medium nib.

So I really must write something with them.

23 Apr 2007

Grass, grass - PLEASE grow!

Our back garden's always been short of grass. What with two Irish Wolfhounds peeing all over it and a total of 18 pine trees drinking all the moisture it didn't stand a chance really.

So a few months ago we had nine of the pine trees cut down. We found a tree surgeon called Woody (novel, huh?) who undertook to do it. He decided he'd bring along a crane to take the tops off which would take a day and then he'd finish off during the course of a week. Oh, by the way - this was the week we had gale force winds in the south-east! I remember he got the crane caught on a tree he was cutting the top off and when the top fell it released the tension and the crane swung back through 90 degrees with Woody hanging on for dear life with a power saw in his hand!

So once the trees were down and the stumps ground out we tried to make some sort of a flat surface. Then, just before the dry season started again (unplanned!) we bought some grass seed from an advert in one of the Sundays. You know the sort of thing - "GROWS ANYWHERE, SUN OR SHADE, DRY OR WET". Oh yeah? We're watering like mad before the next hosepipe ban starts (inevitable, despite more rain this past winter than for the past ten years together) and regularly visit the site with a magnifying glass to search for signs of green.

No - no sign yet!

17 Apr 2007

New car!

Well, he got it at last - his new car. Well, not strictly new, but almost. What is it? I'm not saying, but it's silver, sporty and very, very quick and I don't think I've ever been round a corner quite so fast in all my life. Small problem is the inside's a rather yucky shade of blue and a couple of things have had to be superglued back on but, hell - at the next corner they'll probably all fall off again anyway.

I'm sure if I really try hard enough I'll be able to shoehorn my two Irish Wolfhounds in the back of it. That suggestion didn't go down too well though, so it looks like I'm stuck with my old bus and no swapping.

Good news came the other day. Looks like the planned by-pass road that was going to dump a roundabout right in our garden has been shelved. This means I can stop planning my burger brunch bar service area which had been giving me problems as I'm a veggie and my trial burger recipes weren't something I was particularly proud of. I was considering the pros and cons of growing some bio fuel in my neighbour's garden so I could put in a forecourt and pump, but it was all getting rather out of control. Just as well it's nobbled.

13 Feb 2007


My name’s Turquoise Malibu.

If I hadn’t got up that day, like I’d intended, it would never have happened, but some time during the early hours the effects of the booze and cigarettes must have worn off and I was wide awake. No amount of sheep were going to get me back to sleep again so I hit the refrigerator by way of a cold shower to find the usual empty space. My stomach was rolling around and desperately in need of stabilization so I threw on my pink fox fur and staggered down to the corner deli.

Well I’m sure not dim and I can certainly tell the time, but me and my watch must have parted company either accidentally or feloniously during the big bourbon haze that was most of yesterday. So I’m standing outside Banje’s Bagels at five in the morning wondering where the hell I’m gonna get a New York Skyscraper to shovel in on top of the booze when all hell lets loose around me.

Believe me, squealing tyres, police sirens and a load of high decibel yelling are absolutely not a cure for an abused liver. The need to hang on to something that wasn’t spinning became extremely pressing which is why, I guess, they invented parking meters. Having attached myself to one reasonably securely, I managed to get my head into a position where I could at least winch it round a few inches either way, although the next problem, focussing, took a while longer.

Why in God’s name were all these people suddenly in the street? At least five front doors were being remodelled by police enforcers while what seemed like a whole army looked on. Number eight gave first, followed swiftly by number twelve and then the rest of them, bang, bang, bang, and in the blink of an eye (although it probably took me longer to blink than you might imagine) every single person had disappeared off the street and into the houses.

A thick silence descended on the street, creeping around looking for the action. I have to say I’ve had some hangovers in my time, and I know I may have hallucinated more than once or twice, but I’m sure I didn’t just dream all of that.

A weird hissing noise from somewhere nearby began to ripple the soup that was my brain and I looked round to see Banje standing just inside the door of his shop frantically psssting at me.

‘WHAT?’ Oh oh – bad mistake. Yelling is no cure for the sort of state that I was in, believe me. The parking meter came in handy again.

When things had steadied down a bit I turned back to Banje, who was still making strange signs and noises at me, and said again, a little less stridently, ‘What in God’s name’s up with you?’ It was only then that I noticed the dark shapes moving behind him.

15 Jan 2007


Bare branches and twigs
Stained glass windows in the sky;
Silhouette on blue


Low sun stroking fur
Irish Wolfhound breathing slow;
Let sleeping dog lie