Monday, 31 March 2008

Coy-tus interruptus

I've worked all day on the book and am halfway through chapter twelve, having left one of my main characters on a terrace with a handsome date, acting coy and trying to decide how far she is going to go. He has his tongue on her breast. She is telling herself it's only their first date and she mustn't. But he is rich, handsome, successful and... single? Or not single? Tell me, what should she do?

Today's word count: 44,310. Good progress, eh?
Tomorrow I am going for a full body massage, after which I shall be too relaxed to write a single word, and my poor character will have to remain in mid-fondle.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Latest total

Beautiful day today and when I wasn't slogging over a hot keyboard I was reading a Sunday paper in the garden. Did you note what I said? IN THE GARDEN! Yes, the first time this year that it's been warm enough.
And today's word total? 41,500 words. Halfway through. Reached my total. Yipeee!!!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Sleeping with a magpie

Next time I go house-hunting (which is imminent), I shall make damn sure there isn't a tree anywhere near the bedroom window. Last year I had a thrush waking me at dawn. Now it's a magpie and robin combo.

The magpies couldn't have nested closer to my window if they'd tried. Next to crows, which have even louder voices, they are the noisiest of garden birds. They yap like the poodle from two doors away, they mew (in fact, they had me dashing out looking for the poor, lost kitten; then I glanced up and saw the bloody bird laughing at me), they squeak, creak, cackle and chat, they never shut up. And they start at 4.30 in the morning!

After reading Gerald Durrell's marvellous My Family and Other Animals as a teenager, I developed a soft spot for the Magenpies, as he called them. They have fantastic plumage, I'll grant them that, but as roommates - which they practically are, owing to the non-functioning double glazing (see early entry about the bullet hole) - they are impossible. Has anyone yet invented a sound-proofed bed? If so, tell me, please, before I go absolutely crazy and start wandering the streets in my nightie, red-eyed and wild-haired, screeching, "SHUT UP!"

BOOK WORD COUNT (had to stop early due to visitors): 38,682.

Tomorrow, with any luck (and no visitors), I should hit the halfway mark, 40,000.
No new characters have invented themselves today, apart from a large and unexpected horse and a knight in shining armour, in the rain. By tomorrow, if I don't get back to it until the afternoon, as per usual, his armour will probably have gone rusty. And as for the horse...

Friday, 28 March 2008

Nose to the grindstone

Or grind to the nose-stone, perhaps? I feel sure one's nose would get well ground down, as my fingers are doing. After the usual few hours of evasive action, playing Babble ( and answering emails and looking up property websites, I got down to writing round about 3m, while it was pouring outside, and my grand total is now... wait for it...
37,097 words.

I think I've mentioned before that you can never really plan a book because events and characters take on lives of their own. I really don't know where the goat farm came from, or the character who runs it, who may just turn into the hero, and I must look up the physical differences between a llama and an alpaca. Don't ask! That's an alpaca in the picture. Apologies to whoever I 'borrowed' the image from. I'm sure the must be a daft way of telling them apart, in the same vein as the saying about how to tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel: 'a weasel is weaselly recognised and a stoat is stoatally different.' Sorry! Anyone offering versions featuring alpacamacs and allama clocks will be shot. I *kid* you not!

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Ooch! Ouch! Woke at 1.30 after 2 1/2 hours sleep with agonising leg cramp. I yelled, tumbled out of bed and tried to stretch it, to no avail. The muscle was solid. I hobbled to the bathroom and rubbed some Mobilat cream in, to no avail. In the end, I wandered round the house for two hours, deadly tired, trying to ease the pain and in the end I popped my wheat neck pillow in the microwave and crawled back into bed with it tucked under my leg, and managed to sleep till 7.15. I think this is the price I have to pay for spending too long at the computer writing my book, and not exercising. I am dreading going to bed tonight.

I Googled cramp cures and came up with all kinds of things ranging from eating a banana at bedtime (potassium helps prevent cramp), keeping a teaspoon by the bed and rubbing it on the affected limb, pressing beneath my nose, and taking magnesium tablets. I have all these, so I shall try the lot! Saves cutting my leg off.

Later: despite cramp and tiredness, traipsed round Tesco, took library book back, went to bank etc, etc, and it was 5pm before I sat down to do any writing. Stopped at 7.10pm. Word total now 34,315. Wonder if it's any good?

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Unexpected callers

One of the problems of sharing a house with someone is unexpected visitors. People I haven't invited, but he has, and hasn't told you. People who just turn up wanting to see him (never me, my friends won't travel the 24 miles from North London to here). Few things are more calculated to spoil the literary flow than having to stop, rush down the stairs, answer the door, find out who it is, then try and find where Mr Grumpy is, which could be anywhere from down the garden to in the bath.

Tonight, Mr G was in the bath. I dashed to the door and stared blankly at the young male stranger explaining that he was Dave's stepson. "Dave?" "Dave and Lynn." "Who are Dave and... oh, never mind, come in and I'll tell him you're here."

A dripping Mr G lurches down the stairs, stridently crying, "You bastard!" The visitor just laughs. I return to my chapter. I was on the very last line, writing a touching and complicated sentence in which a proud cancer victim, who hasn't wanted my heroine to know, accidentally reveals the truth while the heroine is helping her break into her house because she has locked herself out. The health of the elderly neighbour has been a slow tease. Like the sex-life of one of the young village boys, and various other threads that I planted at the start and have been teasing out to keep people wanting to read on.

I hadn't intended the old lady to lock herself out, though. This just happened. And when her wig came off, I had intended her to take it off in the garden thinking nobody was looking, not to have it knocked off while trying to undo the bathroom window catch. It certainly is true that, no matter how well you plot a book, unexpected things happen - just like real life, just like strangers at the door.

Oh, the word count: I haven't done as well today as I had to finish a proof-reading job for somebody. It now stands at 32,383. Tomorrow, I shall start Chapter Nine, unless I decide to go out and knock at somebody's door.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

When will I learn?

I signed off yesterday with a promise to drink some wine. This involved finishing off the half bottle of Cava left over from the previous day. This might have been all right if I hadn't eaten lots of Easter egg, and Mr G hadn't decided to exhume a home-made prawn curry from the freezer. The combination did not sit well in my stomach and I awoke at 3.30 am feeling like death. The first painkiller I could find in the drawer in the dark tumbled down my throat, propelled by a slug of water. Unfortunately it was a Nurofen Extra and anyone with a stomach ulcer will know that ibuproofen is as lethal as aspirin to inflamed stomach linings.

At 5.45 I gave up, got up, fed cat, made tea, couldn't get radio to work (found out later that Mr G had plugged his rechargeable torch into the socket that is hidden round the side of the boiler). Put on TV - that wouldn't work either. Still don't know why. It appeared to have detuned itself from every station during the night. Cat has a limp. Frightened the life out of me last night by leaping from the dark garden onto the kitchen windowsill in pursuit of something invisible to the human eye. Fat, heavy cat, narrow windowsill. Result, one limp. Cat now sunbathing in pool of light on kitchen floor.

At 7.30, I took a cuppa up to Mr G in his attic bedroom, where, unlike me, he is not disturbed every dawn by the magpies that nest outside my front bedroom window. He had the duvet over his head. I thought he was dead. I stood there hovering, straining eyes and ears in the gloom for signs of life and eventually detected a faint, regular breath. Phew! He keeps telling me that he is bound to have another stroke and depart this world. I feel as if I am living in A&E.

Now, 9.40, bleary but headache-free, I am contemplated the finishing of Chapter Seven. Last night, I left my heroine at a party. I am in the mood to give her a hangover!

5.28 pm. Book word total - 30, 783. Two pages into Chapter Eight.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Snow feather

Something strange happens to my mood when it snows. I get euphoric. I sing, I babble happily, it's as if I have drunk a glass of champagne. Maybe it's something to do with the way the ions in the air are charged. It's the opposite to the way I feel in a thunderstorm, which is depressed, lethargic and headachy. Today, I was delighted to see big, fat, feathery flakes floating down. It was as if God had ripped his goose down duvet.

Every time I find a feather in the garden, I stick it in this pot, until it either becomes too tatty, or blows away. I found this one yesterday. I think feathers are a miracle of design. I can never resist stroking them and admiring the delicacy of their fronds and wondering how it would feel to be a bird, with nothing but these holding you up and keeping you in the air. Earlier, a magpie swooped off the roof, down past the window, and I was able to see the marvellous spread of its tail feathers in close-up, irridescent blue-green.

Now I must get on with the book. I shall add today's word total later.

7 pm. Word total 27,516.
Projected wine total - half a bottle!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Houseplant hell

This is the orchid I was given for my birthday. Exquisite, exotic... I wonder how long I can keep it alive? I have a dismal record when it comes to indoor plants. Outdoor, no problem. I have created gardens from piles of bricks and builders' rubble and everything I planted, honeysuckle, hebe and mallow, lavender, rosemary and roses, all thrived. But indoors, as opposed to green fingers, mine are the black fingers of houseplant doom. I have kept the instructions. I know I should water it once a week, or even less, and let it dry out completely between waterings, and should feed it every third watering.

What will be its defeat is the temperature. It is supposed to be kept out of bright sunlight (can do), in a temperature that never sinks below 18 degrees C (no can do). Mr Grumpy's kitchen is freezing at night. It's freezing in the daytime. It has no radiator, just a fan heater that is only switched on if the kitchen is occupied. The other rooms aren't much better. My bedroom was 9 degrees C when I got up this morning. He hates having the central heating on and has run out of wood for the stove. I can't type with blue fingers. I can't wait for Spring.

On a more cheerful note, I have completed Chapter Six today and my word total now is a staggering 24,818. Considering I only began the book two weeks ago, and did nothing whatsoever to it over last weekend, which was my birthday, I think I have done pretty well. In fact, I deserve a glass of wine. Cheers!

Saturday, 22 March 2008


Today we have had just about every type of weather: thunder, snow, sleet, hail, rain, gales and sunshine. Everything bar the type of heat associated with sunbathing. Even the goldfish were up at the top of the pond, leaping up as if thinking the chunks of hail were munch-worthy flies.

When I started this blog, I was intending to concentrate on ailments and cures. But first it turned into a general diary and now it looks as if it is acquiring a writerly bent. So, just for a moment, let's go back to basics: health matters. My arthritic fingers have been giving me hell, probably reacting to the cold and damp. But I massaged in the trusty arnica gel and it has done the trick and I have just written the first 500 words of Chapter Six! So far I have achieved 21,400 words. That means I have written a quarter of the book. There... the blog is getting away from me again, whizzing from health to writing once more. It is evolving of its own accord, taking on the life it really wants to have. Soon, I shall have to change its name from 'told you I was ill', to 'told you I was writing'. I tried 'writer's block' as a title but someone had already taken it. Anyway, I am not blocked any more. That challenge from my agent acted as literary castor oil.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A trip to the theatre

Last night I went to the theatre. What's new about that? Thousands of people go to the theatre, I can hear you say. But not me. There are some plays I love. There are vast amounts of classical music that I love. But what I don't love is the tense, claustrophobic experience of being trapped in the middle of a row, surrounded by strangers and forced to be unnaturally still and quiet for an hour and a half, or however long it takes. That is not how I enjoy things. I would rather listen to Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique alone, lying on the sofa, eyes closed and head full of the movies that music always creates, transporting me to new places, tops of ice-capped mountains, green depths of oceans, or being whisked, Lara-like, through the snow in a troika, not stuffed into a hard seat with my next door neighbours wheezing, sighing, or digging their elbows in me.

But last night was different. I was up in the gods at the Old Vic, watching Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum in Mamet's Speed the Plow. I could barely see a quarter of the stage, I had to stand all the way through, craning my neck and shuffling about like everyone else, but because of the fact that it was the back row and everybody else was in the same boat, shifting around for a better view and guffawing at the humorous lines, it was relaxing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I take my hat off to Mamet for his skill in raising one's consciousness and belief in humanity's ability to transcend selfishness for twenty minutes or so, then spiralling us back down to the level of good old human nature prevailing again. Brilliant.

Three or four years ago, I went to see a local version of Midsummer Night's Dream staged in the open air around an old Cornish engine house in St Agnes. It was magical. Families and kids wandered round, almost taking part in the play and it was as if the show was growing out of the audience, who were lending it energy. I'm sure this is how plays were meant to be. I think it has to be the Globe experience next, for me.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Deadline, or no deadline?

Two weekends ago, given a Monday deadline, three book chapters flew off my fingers. Now, it has taken me three days to write just half a chapter, reason being that, with no pressure, my whole pace has slowed and I am spending longer thinking than I am writing. I also have a strange feeling that what I am producing at my natural pace, the amble of a ruminating donkey in a thistle field, isn't as good as it was when I was a racehorse given my head on a flat, three-mile stretch.

Am I unusual in needing a deadline to work to? My agent is of the opinion that I am more of a journalist than a 'writer', because a natural writer feels a compulsion to write, whatever the circumstances. Hmm. Writer or journalist, I still have to eat and pay the bills.When there is no deadline involved, no sniff of a publisher around the corner, I am spending my time thinking up ways to make money rather than spilling out words that may never have a life beyond the flat screen of the computer.

Many characters live inside my head. They are clamouring to tell their stories, but I keep them firmly locked up in the gaol of my imagination. Some of them may grow old and die there. Others may find ways of escaping, parading in front of my closed eyes in a dream, or curling out of my nostrils like wisps of ectoplasm as I lie sleeping, to whisk through the atmosphere and into the mind of a novelist who is more active than I am, and can birth them onto a page.

Good luck to them, I say. And, to my long-suffering, frustrated, yearning characters, wait just a little bit longer. Once this book is finished, it may be your turn next.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Perils of working from home

It's been said before, but I shall say it again. Why is it that, when you are working from home, friends just won't believe you are actually working and not idling in front of the telly with a hunk of chocolate cake (see yesterday's photo and yes, I did realise I'd stepped out of anonymity and given my real name away - fine spook I'd make), or out treating myself to new clothes, spending some of the vast amount they think I make, or making passionate afternoon love with a bottle of champagne and strawberries on the side?

The phone rings. I ignore it but, of course, the ever-present Mr G picks it up and yells, "It's for you-hoo' and when I mouth, "Who is it?" he barks, "How do I know? They wanted to speak to you."

Grinding my teeth and fuming, being halfway through dissecting my heroine's confused thoughts about whether or not she should run off with her delectable lover, or selflessly set aside her own pleasures to look after her late husband's sick widowed mother, I tentatively grunt, "Hello?" hoping it's the bank or phone company and I can tell them it's a bad time to call. But no. I hear the unmistakable little forlorn snivel of The Friend Who Always Has A Problem.

Now, this friend does have problems. Real problems. The main one being no other friends to tell them to. She also has a job. A real job, that pays her a monthly cheque of at least twice, or even thrice, what I am making. Behind her closed office door, she sees fit to bend my ear, completely ignoring my polite at first, then increasingly angry protestations that I am working, I am in the middle of a chapter and she is completely interrupting my train of thought. My work comes out of my imagination, therefore it does not exist, as far as she can see it. My work can be done any time because I Am At Home. What she doesn't realise is that it can't be done any time, because I don't live alone. Much as I would love to write all evening, or get up at 3 am to tinker with a chapter, I know it is only fair to compromise; to emerge, computer-eyed, at 6pm, help prepare dinner (Mr G does the bulk of the cooking because he's so good at it), then sit and boggle at repeats of CSI with a cat on my lap and Mr G inches away and totally ignoring me as, since his strokes, if you speak to him in mid-programme, he loses the thread. Then go to bed and not switch on light or computer again till 7 am.

Once, I lived near Hampstead Heath and anyone who happened to be passing en route to or from a walk, would figure, "Oh, she's bound to be in, I'll just pop in for a coffee. I bet she could do with some company." This was in pre Mr Grumpy days and then, it didn't matter so much because I could make up the time later, or even work all night if I so chose.

Now, though, I have to partition my time. So, if you're reading this, my friend - and you know who you are - please, NEVER ring till after six, and even then, if I have hammered out a chapter and am mentally exhausted and am losing myself in a lovely costume drama like 'Lark Rise to Candleford' to try and unwind, recognise my surly tone and BOG OFF!!!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Chocolate galore

My friends know me so well. What was I inundated with for my birthday? Plain chocolate (milk choc brings on the sniffles) and gorgeous, sparkly notebooks just crying out to be filled with poems and ideas. I even got a chocolate birthday cake (left), made by Mr G. Considering that until a couple of months ago he could hardly use his right hand following his strokes of last July, this achievement was a miracle. The cake was divine, too. So this was why he sneaked off to Sainsbury's at the crack of dawn - not to get party fare, but cake ingredients. He did grumble that it cost him £45 to make it and a dozen muffins from the leftover cake mix, and it would have been much cheaper to go to Marks and Sparks and buy one!

I met two friends at Frederick's restaurant in Islington (where the husband of one of them met Tony Blair coming down from a private do in the upstairs room and didn't recognise him!). We had tender lamb cooked to perfection, saute potatoes in a cheesy sauce, spinach, three different blobs of ice cream with a strawberry on top, and a bottle of Cava, then went back to the house of one of my friends and ate chocolate. What else?

Got home an hour ago and Mr G asked, "Would you like some of last night's curry for dinner?" and I went a fetching shade of Eau de Nil.

Read through the first two chapters of the book and found a horrifying number of really stupid typos. I'm also changing it here and there, editing as I go. By Wednesday, I should be ready to start Chapter Four. Early days....

To cheer us all up following yesterday's sad entry, here is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago that's quite appropriate for someone who has had as many birthdays as I have.


I am an old-age delinquent. Some people might think me quite sad,
For I wake up each day and shout, "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" as I think of new ways to be bad.

I block up the aisles in buses, with my trolley and zimmer and stick.
And if there's a crowd, I'll cough ever so loud and sound like I'm going to be sick.

I'm a pest at pedestrian crossings. I like to show who is the boss.
Once I've made the cars stop, I go wandering off and don't even bother to cross.

My diet's amazingly simple. There's ten tins of beans on my shelf,
'Cos you don't have to race for a seat or a space if you fart and you talk to yourself.

People tell me I've reached second childhood as I lurk in my fusty old den.
Yes, with rancid old undies and socks changed on Sundays, I'm a perfect teenager again.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Grey Day

For many years, I had a close friend, Barbara, whose birthday was the day before mine. Today, in fact. Every year we'd have a battle to bag the nearest Saturday for our party. ("I invited my friends first, you've got to come to mine" - "No, I've already invited all my lot. I can't!" - "Well, let's combine..." - "No, mine won't travel to Putney.")

She lived in Lowestoft, but every year she would stay with friends in Putney and have a gathering at a pub near the river. The pub was on an isolated stretch miles from public transport, which meant that, as a non-driver, I could never go. Year after year, we would miss each other's birthdays yet spoil one another by post, with two, or even three, parcels full of goodies, garnered over the course of a year from jumble sales, charity shops... a magpie hoard of special things, a beaded picture frame, a silk scarf fabulous with exotic birds, a linen jacket, a book of love spells. Nobody will ever give me the like again. It took Barb's imagination to find them. Both Pisceans, we were completely tuned into one another's humour, idiosyncracies and souls.

This weekend, no Barbara gathering made a merry din in the pub. She dropped dead of a stroke last July. Today is grey and raining, both outside and in my heart. I picture the rain-lashed beach in Lowestoft, molten silver waves rolling in. I picture myself standing there, hair plastered to my face by the ice-laden wind, and I see my astral self cast a single red rose onto the heaving water. Happy 60th birthday, Barb. x

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Surprise parties

No, no, NO! He wouldn't do it to me. Would he?

Having recently lost most of my work, through Friday Project going down the pan (owing me £1000 in editing and proofreading fees), and another employer deciding to put business on ice and take a gap year, I went to bed last night and couldn't sleep for the fears and worries churning round in my brain. I was still awake when the damn blackbird started warbling outside my window. (Tatatatatatata - imaginary machine gun.) Drifted off around 5 am and was awoken two hours later by Mr Grumpy crashing out of the house and into the car.

Mr G is one of those men who people always ring when they have an emergency, so alarm bells rang in my head and I rang him, only to find him in Sainsburys. An awful thought occurred. Say, just say, he was shopping for a surprise birthday party for me? (Birthday is on Monday. Yes, I know; St Patrick's Day.) The last thing I can cope with on two hours' sleep is a party. When he came back with mixes for cakes and jellies, and a bag full of Easter Eggs, my suspicion strengthened. He was definitely up to something.

Had he been open about it, I would have taken half of one of the illicit Spanish sleeping pills and ensured myself a good night. As it is, I shall retire to bed late this afternoon and refuse to get up again. Just call it tit for tatatatatatatat.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Waiting game

Every writer knows only too well the suspense of waiting to hear whether one's brilliant epistle has been accepted or not. The waiting is tortuous. No wonder I have an ulcer. Your mind fills up with dreams: self, champagne glass in hand, accepting glittering literary prize in form of enormous cheque; self on terrace of newly acquired penthouse in Majorca overlooking the sea, relaxing in hammock, an artistic trail of cerise bougainvillea framing the view, whilst tapping out latest scorching bestseller with perfectly painted fingernails; self never having to worry or work nine to five again.

The truth is: self with stomach ache on the verge of a nervous breakdown, being owed £1000 by a company that went bust after self had done a great deal of freelance editing for them, wondering how to get in the pennies while waiting to see if those three chapters that the agent actually liked (fall on knees and kiss his well-polished shoes and cover his socks in grateful tears) are snapped up by a publisher or left to languish forever on his laptop.

I shall apply the power of positive thought. MY BOOK WILL SELL!

Right. I'll have another cup of tea now and approach Scarlet magazine to see if they need any scorching sex articles. Nothing ventured...

Cats 2

Study the pictures below. (For some reason, having uploaded the pics, Blogger wouldn't allow me to type in the same box.) Study them and think: why do cats always look their smuggest and most contented when sleeping somewhere they shouldn't?

On the left: Flad as he is right now, not just on the bed, but on Mr Grumpy's clean tracksuit bottoms. (Given the choice of bedspread or clean garment to sleep on, he will always choose the latter.)

On the right: Flad on Mr G's typing chair. When Mr G lowered his posterior next to said fat cat, out came the claws and puuuuuuuushed. Mr G grabbed cat and pulled. Cat got claws into fabric and stuck to chair. Cat 1, Human 0.

Can anyone tell me why?

Cat on a hot typing chair

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Yeast infections

Suffering from thrush and cystitis for the umpteenth time, I visited a very good chemist, Flora Pharmacy in Uxbridge High Street, to discuss the problem. I asked how could I have got it when I am already taking probiotics which are supposed to combat yeast, and he told me I probably wasn't taking enough. "Imagine your stomach is like the war in Iraq," he said. My eyebrows shot up in surprise. He looked kinda middle eastern himself. "The enemy hide in little cracks and crevices, you shoot them, but there are always more in hiding, waiting to pop out and blast you. The yeast bugs are in credibly tenacious. They hook on with their grappling irons and are very hard to shift."

I told him about how I caught dysentery at the age of 4 and was in an isolation ward being blasted with antibiotics for a month. Then getting ear infection after ear infection between the ages of 6 and 10, and being given dose after dose of penicillin. 50-odd years ago, the medics couldn't see the future of antibiotics They didn't think the day would ever come when superbugs would develop that were resistant to penicillin.

"You were born with a nice, clean, strong immune system," he told me, "but it got completely flattened by the antibiotics and all your good bacteria were knocked out. So the bad ones got a hold and it will take a good year of taking probiotics to have any effect on their numbers." He also said he thought my constant cystitis infections, which began when I was five, were the result of another bug which established a hold in the bladder after the dysentery episode.

He recommended taking a prebiotic powder every night to boost the effect of the probiotics, both to be taken together at bedtime. As soon as I stop taking the homoeopathy (lycopodium now), I shall begin and will report my progress. If only I could combat these constant stomach and bladder problems that blight my life, I would be able to book holidays with confidence, knowing I would actually make it onto the plane instead of languishing in bed with a hot water bottle, having just kissed goodbye to yet another £250.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Being dumped

A friend of mine was very painfully dumped by her boyfriend of many years. She found the website www.soyouvebeendumpedcom a great comfort as it meant she could contact others and share the experience, and swap tips for mending a broken heart.

In the public areas of the website there is a section which quotes break-up lines people have used. One really struck a chord with me. It was 'I can't see myself with you when I'm eighty.' That says it all. If you don't want to grow old with someone, how can the relationship have any future? Even if the relationship staggers on for a few more years, how do you know he or she isn't thinking, 'I can't see myself with you when I'm twenty-five/thirty/forty'?

One of the most flattering things a boyfriend ever said to me, when I was twenty and at university, was: 'With your bone structure, you'll be a beautiful old lady.' I took it the wrong way. I thought he meant, 'You're ugly now, but you might possibly be beautiful when you're eighty'. In retrospect, it was a wonderful compliment and I should have stayed with him.

But, dear readers, I dumped him. I have an awful feeling I used one of the other lines quoted on the website: 'I have a lot of growing up to do.'

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Perhaps I overreacted. Maybe it was the exhaustion factor. By this morning, I was suffering total cyber paranoia, convinced my 13,000 words had vanished into the 49th ether, or wherever lost emails go. So... I plucked up courage and emailed my agent, asking 'Did you receive it - yes or no?" and, saints be praised and glory be, I had a reply. AND HE LIKES IT!

His meeting with the publisher got postponed so he hadn't got round to reading it yet. He even corrected the odd typo for me, which is beyond the call of duty (and I'm so mortified that there were any in there).

Many agents and publishers take weeks, or even months, to reply to the poor dejected souls like me who are living on a wing, a prayer and a crust of bread whilst waiting for their literary break-through. Mine likes everything emailed to him, and he promises a very quick response. If anyone wants his email address, let me know.

Meantime, fingers crossed.........

Monday, 10 March 2008

The importance of feedback

If you are creative in any way, I'm sure that you will agree that if you don't get any feedback or recognition for your work, you'll feel as if you are withering away like the famous flower that bloomed unseen and wasted its sweetness on the desert air (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam, I think). You'll think, 'Why did I bother making the huge creative effort that was needed to write that piece of music/paint that picture/carve that statue if nobody ever says they like it? If no-one ever bothers to look at it/listen to it. Even a criticism would be better than nothing.

This is exactly how I am feeling right now. I was challenged by my literary agent, to whom I haven't spoke for at least five years (a creative vacuum caused by a total silence on his part any time I sent him an idea for a book), to write three chapters of a book by this morning, because he was meeting a publisher for lunch. This was after I had moaned about never getting any kind of encouragement from him. The challenge was issued on Thursday and I spent the afternoon wandering round the Tower of London thinking about it.

On Friday I set to, producing a good 4000 words. On Saturday, aching with exhaustion, I wrote another 4000 +. By Sunday, strung out, my face, temples and jaw tense and aching, my fingers u able to bend, my back likewise, I finished three chapters, a total of 13,000 words, and a synopsis, too. I emailed them to him, saying "I bet you never thought I'd rise to the challenge." I expected to hear back - an acknowledgement that he'd got them safely, at the very least - and, at best, a "well done", even if he decided he didn't like them.

All day today I checked my email, sometimes every ten minutes. At first, I expected a reply. Then it got to lunchtime so I held my breath. Then it was after lunch and I crossed my fingers, hoping I'd get a message saying whether or not it had turned out to be the kind of thing the publisher was looking for. Nilch. Nada. Nichevo. Not a dicky-bird. Total silence.

To say I feel deflated is an understatement. After making such a supreme effort, I feel close to tears. Angry, hurt, almost insulted. I have had quite a few books published, after all (with my previous agent, God bless her). I am bewildered. I'm wondering if my writing talent has totally deserted me and my effort was so awful that he couldn't BEAR to acknowledge it, having sent it straight to his computer's trash bin. I think not acknowledging that I wrote the chapters and sent them is just plain rude. Just three words would have sufficed: "Got it, thanks."

Tell me, all ye who have agents - and even ye who don't: am I asking too much?

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Gazing at goldfish

I feel sorry for the fish in Mr G's pond. You go out onto the deck in the morning and they come swarming to the surface, swishing their tails hopefully. Chuck in a handful of food and there is a frantic finny flurry, then the food is all eaten up and they go back to what they were doing before' mooching around the pond.

Nothing and nobody can mooch like a goldfish. They do it even more successfully than a spotty teenager in a hoody. They hang in the water, flapping fitfully, in a golden sulk. Or rather, nine golden sulks and one black one, is there is a coal black fish in there with a dash of lemon on his belly. There used to be an all-white fish too, but an insomniac heron caught him at 1.30 in the morning, probably because he was the only one that was luminous in the moonlight.

Those fish were fed at 8 am. They will now mooch for the next twenty-two and a half hours. Nothing to do but go round and round the pond. I wonder what they were in their previous incarnation? Saturday afternoon idlers in a shopping mall? Sheep? Or is it a case, incarnation-wise, of once a fish, always a fish? I'm a Pisces. Help!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Latest lurgy

I have a pain that feels as if someone is pressing a sharp object painfully into the left side of my head. I also have earache and my jaw feels stiff. It's not a migraine. Could it be sinus? All I know is, it woke me up in the night and I couldn't get back to sleep. Didn't drift off till the birdies started tweeting, damn their feathers.

I added broccoli to yesterday's list so I think I just about reached five portions.
I added 6 dried apricots to my low-fat, whole-grain breakfast cereal = 1
Lunch was a hard-boiled egg plus a glass of V8 vegetable juice = 1

Not doing well so far. I sniffed at a bag of salad. Does inhaling count?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Five a Day

Now, I am very worried that I'm not getting my five portions of fruit and veg that's necessary to keep me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - if I want to resemble a fox, that is. I'm not sure I do. Though when I was a child, I used to draw people with a variety of tails tacked on, in an attempt to decide what sort of tail I would have. I rejected a horse's; too much brushing, though it might have come in handy for swishing off the flies. A cat's? Not very useful, really. A squirrel's? Too much grooming again. I finally decided a monkey's tail could come in very handy and allow me to swing from chandeliers, though what good that might do, I couldn't possibly imagine at the age of nine.

Back to the five a day goal. Today so far I have had:

Breakfast: 12 grapes, 7 cherries, half a pear, a huge dollop of coconut probiotic yogurt.
How many cherries and grapes count as a portion? As the yogurt was coconut, does that count as another? Do you have to eat a whole pear to have had a portion? Does this make three of my five? Or only one?

Lunch: a bowl of Mr G's home-made leek, pea and potato soup.
Again, does this count as three, because it had three vegetables in it, or only one because it was just one bowlful?

Help, somebody. I'm mystified. And foundering. And my tail isn't bushy. And my eyes are red from staring too long at the computer.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Little moments of bliss

Every so often, a few things come together and I realise I am, for that moment, really happy. I call them 'little moments of bliss'.

Sometimes they happen when I see something beautiful, such as a cloud that is outlined in gold by the sun, or a perfect flower flaunting its perfume and petals (see last year's passion flower, left). It can happen when our shy cat suddenly nudges my hand and strokes himself against my fingers and I feel a sudden exchange of love between us. But little moments of bliss can be the result of much more mundane things than this.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Uxbridge when one occurred. I had taken a sip of an especially good latte, and a bite of a squidgy custard Danish. I was seated alone at a small table from where I could watch the shoppers pass by. I took a deep, relaxed breath and suddenly felt free and happy. It was one of my 'moments'. So be aware that they can happen any time, any place, for whatever reason. And you can never have enough of them.