Wednesday, 30 April 2008
I also have a new title: Half a Rainbow. It sprang from something Nat, my heroine's elderly neighbour, said. I like it. What do you think? Please don't tell me it's been used already. If it has, I don't care. Half a Rainbow it's going to be!
Monday, 28 April 2008
I arrived for my appointment five minutes early. As it was an 11am appointment, I assumed they would be on time, that not enough time had elapsed since the surgery opened at 9 for things to have fallen behind. How wrong I was.
There is nothing worse than having worked oneself up to having to endure something nasty, and then, having mentally primed oneself, being made to sit... and sit.... for over half an hour, getting more and more nervous, in a room full of the less fortunate of the human species. A smelly man with a nauseating catarrh problem; an elderly lady with a beard, Alzheimers and two carers, to whom she turned her bemused face at intervals and asked, "Where am I? Am I at the doctors?" "No, you're at the dentist's." "Oh. What am I at the doctor's for?" "No, the doctor is next week. This is the dentist's." "Oh. Where am I?" Another enormous snotty snort from the care in the community character, who then mopped his glutinous coat with a rasta-striped handkerchief.
Three people who had arrived after me got called before me. Then at last it was my turn. "Which teeth was it?" asked the dentist, who had last seen me a fortnight ago. (Where am I? Am I at the doctor's?)
The massive needle went in. Any second now, it would appear out of the back of my skull like an acupuncture needle in reverse. "Try to relax," said the dentist. Relax? Would you tell the man having the last puff of his cigarette before the firing squad do their stuff, to relax? Or the miscreant strapped to the eletric chair? No, he'd have been given a sedative first. I had had no sedative. I hadn't even dared drink a cup of tea for fear of feeling a desperate need to go to the loo in mid-drilling session.
At last, the ten foot long needle was slowly withdrawn. But my trials weren't over yet. With glee sparkling in his brown eyes, the dentist announced, "And now I will give you an injection in your bottom jaw, for the other filling." At this stage, I would happily have had a large jab of Novocaine in my bottom.
I bore the drilling and filling stoically and even thanked the dentist for having dealt me the mininum of pain. It was ten minutes later, one floor up, sitting in the hygienist's chair that I cracked. She used a high-speed water jet between each tortured tooth. That really hurt. I had had more than human nerves could bear, so I staggered out in daze, found myself in a glossy department store and paid £129 for a leopard print mac. Well, it was a Windsmoor and had been reduced from double that price. Don't tell Mr Grumpy. He thinks it was £29. And told me it was cheap at half the price.
Now that the injections have at last worn off and I have had two coffees, some mashed banana and yogurt, a square of chocolate melted slowly beneath my tongue, two arnica tablets which I later discovered had expired in 2001, and a paracetamol, I have finally rediscovered my dress sense and remembered that I think animal print clothes are terminally naff. Oh well. Another garment that will have to be taken back. I am amassing a little series of bags all the way down Mr G's hallway. Soon, I fear that I, too, shall be in a bag in his hallway, like the time an old boyfriend threw me, my cat (in a bag) and my telly (on a stand) out into the rain on a wet night in November. But that's another story...
PS The photo is of the very mac. I found it on the Windsmoor sale site. Now, is it too dreadful? Is it really...?
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Now, this surely is a job only for people of a certain mentality. Rubbish police officers are like traffic wardens, sadistic folk with a grudge against society who luxuriate in being able to punish others. They must also be nit-pickers, nerds, anoraks, indexers; people who, if they had the opportunity and the brains, would have compiled dictionaries or worked for the National Bureau of Statistics. They are people who, although carrying out orders from above, become governors of their own small empire - your street or mine. They are the Binbag Barons, the little Hitlers employed (and, who knows, rewarded) by the councils for bringing in as much money as possible in fines, so that the council can afford to splash out on the wages of another score or more snoopers.
For that is what they are: snoopers. They will go through all the things you chuck out, be it birthday cards, condoms, used tissues or old knickers. They may even pocket a few of the latter Who knows their perverted desires? They will shop you for putting a crisp packet in with your recycling, even if was your child who did it in a misguided attempt to help and you knew nothing of it. It is redolent of the intoning Dylan Thomas from Under Milkwood, when Mrs Mythanwy Pryce tells her dead husbands' ghosts to 'put your pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas'. They are as sneaky as Cold War spies, as slimy as an old cabbage leaf.
What has gone wrong with British Society when the government would rather put garbage under a microscope than scrub their hospitals clean of superbugs, tackle real street crime such as muggings and make better provision for the care of the elderly? Instead, in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, they slap a fine on anyone, old, young, sick or disabled, for putting their rubbish out one second before 7am on collection day. Priorities have been turned on their heads. The government themselves should be fined for making us all aid and abet their game of 'trivial pursuits' designed to line their pockets with easy cash, and all those Binbag Barons and their bosses should be sent on a spiritual retreat to make them realise that there are greater, deeper values and more important things in life than persecuting someone for putting their binbag out at 6.55am because they must leave for work at 7.
Saturday, 26 April 2008
This is a household of multiples. Things breed in it. There are at least two of everything, for which I am partly to blame, through trying to cram so many of my possessions alongside Mr Grumpy's, in his already packed cupboards. Open one and out spill packs of Drum tobacco (yes, he smokes roll-ups), builders' tape-measures, boxes containing puzzles made of bits of wood and plastic (Mr G taught his brain to build new connections with them, following his brain haemorrhage when he couldn't read or write), broken things for which there is no name (except broken things), dead spiders, manky tennis balls... need I go on? It's a man cupboard in a man house. Hoarding is a man thing, unless you're talking shoes.
The proliferation of juicers was my fault. Having spent £30 on a Kenwood one, I was fed up with the fact that it couldn't cope with beetroot and dripped juice all over the worktop. My last experiment ended up looking like a Hammer Horror set with gore everywhere (beetroot and carrot juice, actually). At Tesco I had spotted a vast heap of juicers for only £7 so I begged Mr G for a lift there.
"Oh no, you can't use those, they're blenders. They won't do the job," announced Mr G, disappearing round the aisles at a rapid shuffle, using his trolley as a zimmer. (He's had two strokes, remember? His balance is a bit wonky and I didn't want him tumbling face-down into the vast vat of boxes of chocs, much though I'm sure he'd have liked to.)
"Over here!" I heard his hoarse yell from way over yonder and found him standing by a shelf of... yes... juicers. "This one will do everything you want and it's only £20. Good value for money," announced Mr G. He wasn't offering to buy it for me. It was MY money he was talking about. Mr G and fruit are plagues apart. He treats every berry as if it hosted beri-beri.
Hauled it home, washed all washable parts as the booklet instructed, Mr G assembled it, I tried to do it myself but there was a metal locking bar that my arthritic fingers couldn't shift. Things weren't looking good and I cast a wistful glance at my tiny Kenwood, which could only produce one very small glassful of juice per go. This new machine was massive and promised juice by the bin-load if only I could get it working.
I put it to bed all ready to go. Now, the other purpose of this juicer, apart from making more juice, is that it said on the packaging that it took 'whole fruit' therefore, according to thoughtful Mr G, saving my hands from all that peeling and chopping Not so. I RTFM'd (Read The F-ing Manual) and discovered that peel, rind and pips had to be removed. Grrrr! This morning I got up and chopped lemons, mandarins, pears, apples, and threw in grapes and blueberries for good measure, and an extra good kick of Vit C. I pressed the button, it whirred, then... nothing. Not one drip of juice has come out.
Methinks Mr G has slipped up somewhere while assembling it, but he's not here to take his whipping like a good dog, he's at the butcher's, helping his mate, the owner, prepare sarnies for a buffet in return for something red and raw to cook for Sunday dinner. Here is a photograph of the sight that will greet him on his return. As you will see, there's not one tiny droplet of juice in the jug. That juicer is going straight back to Tesco, along with the 'Standard length' trousers I bought yesterday that are made for a seven foot Masai warrior. (Hmm, now there's an entertaining thought... !)
Thursday, 24 April 2008
I have had a universal thumbs-down for the title, The London Friend. Too like the title of the old-fashioned magazine, The People's Friend. As the village pageant is central to the plot, and celebrates The Jofra Worm, would that make a good title? Or are too many people squeamish about worms? And does it sound a bit too science-fictiony, like wormholes in space, or nasty, slimy things from Quatermass's pit?
Monday, 21 April 2008
The title is The London Friend. I thought of the title first and wrote the book on the back of it, but the agent said this was a very boring title. However, it conveys exactly what the book is about - contrast between city and country living and the threat the friend from London poses to our heroine's peace of mind. What do YOU think of the title? Be honest. I can take it (I think...)
Just bought Duffy's Rockferry CD and love it. I saw Adele on the Jools Holland show and thought she was great and have bought her album, too. Adele has one of the most beautiful profiles I have ever seen, straight from a classical painting or sculpture. I hope she never decides to slim as she looks wonderful as she is. I am pushing at the boundary between sizes 14 and 16 so I think I shall have to cut down on the toast and home-made marmalade. Only five more jars to go.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Today I went for a walk with Mr Grumpy for the first time since he had his two strokes at the end of July last year. We walked just over a mile round Ruislip Lido in Middlesex and I was overjoyed that he could do it. I'd been shopping with him and it had literally been a shuffle around Tesco, but today he was one step beyond a shuffle: an amble. I don't know if he will ever be able to stride out again, but it was so lovely to be out with him. In fact, I think it's our first proper trip out in nine months.
In the past, he used to work in the woods, felling and coppicing and giving demonstrations in woodcrafts, such as making a chair. He made all the bird boxes there, and many of the signs, which he cut from logs and carved. He has done many things for his local area, even setting up a scented garden for the blind and carving all the name tags of the plants in braille. He did the Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii. In fact, he has achieved so much, including two degrees and a PhD (quite an achievement considering he left school at 15 and joined a circus) that he should really write his autobiography but is far too modest. He won't let his face be shown here, but I've sneaked in pic of him hiding in his fleece.
Friday, 18 April 2008
I have loved writing this book but I don't see any point in finishing it now as all my enthusiasm has gone. The wind has been taken out of my writing sails. I expect the next thing I shall hear is that my agent is dropping me. It's sad, because writing is what I have done ever since I was in my twenties - but back then, there were few opportunities for young writers and all the popular and respected ones were the age I am now. It feels like I was born at just the wrong time. All that's left is for me to become an Angry Old Woman. Perhaps I should start the AOP Party - AngryOld People - and lobby Parliament for increased pensions and a vastly reduced Council Tax (or none at all if you're earning £10K or less, which I shall certainly be doing in a couple of years' time. Then someone would want to publish my outpourings, once I'd featured in enough demos and biffed a few MPs with my zimmer frame. Maybe...
Thursday, 17 April 2008
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
I had two hours' sleep in the afternoon to make up for none the night before, then went to bed around 10.30 and didn't wake up till 9.17 am.
My conclusion is that Nytol works - too well, as I still feel half asleep at 2.30 in the afternoon. I shall try taking just half a tablet next time.
Monday, 14 April 2008
Today I didn’t write a word.
I hadn’t slept, ‘twas quite absurd.
Tonight a Nytol I shall swallow.
I hope I sleep before tomorrow.
If to the office I could creep
And do some writing in my sleep,
A plot of lost cats I’d pursue –
A La Recherche de Tom Perdu.
Or p’rhaps I’d try to raise a laugh
And write an epic ‘bout a caff.
Chef stabs his rival in the knees.
I think I’ll call it War And Peas.
Still in a trance, I’d boldly try
To write about a youthful spy
And as to bed I tiredly totter,
I pen the title, Harry Plotter.
What is the answer? None of my usual remedies seem to work any more. My ears have grown accustomed to my white noise machine and instead of it acting as a sound screen, they listen for sounds beyond it, the 3 am motorbike, Mr Boom-box swaggering down the road in his souped up Escort, someone coming back from a late shift and banging doors.
How I long for a dark, silent, relaxing room. There is only one in this house, but that is the nightly residence of Mr Grumpy, who watches TV till he starts to drift off, then sleeps with the radio blaring, so no sanctuary there. In fact, that is why I moved downstairs. I really think I shall have to move before I go crazy and ill through lack of sleep. I don't think I'll get much book written today. Instead, in the wee small uncomfortable creased-sheeted hours, I began to find flaws in it, things I shall have to take out or change. I need to redirect the course of an entire relationship. Maybe two, only one of which is fictional...
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Then last April he took another tumble off a horse and broke 3 ribs on the last day of his holiday. (Imagine carrying your luggage, and getting onto a plane... ouch!). Mind you, my sis has been kicked in the face by a horse and had her jaw broken in 3 places and had to eat Xmas Dinner liquidised and sucked up through a straw. She once rang me and asked me to meet her at the bus station as she thought she had broken her collarbone. She had, falling off a bike the previous day. She broke her leg on Snowdon and had to hobble down as there were no mountain rescue teams spare - they were all out rescuing other people. She fell over drunk at a Scripture Soc cheese and wine party at Uni and broke her ribs on the loo!
Accident-prone isn't in it for these two. Yet they remain forever undaunted. My sis has a lovely and enormous gray mare. Bro-in-law still hasn't given up riding. As for me, the last time I was on a horse, it took off at a canter through a wood, I beaned myself on a tree branch and have never been riding since. Shame on me? Or sensible! Sometimes I think I haven't lived.
TODAY'S WORD COUNT: 66,406. Heroine has been snogged by a mystery man in disguise and her ex-best friend who she is now hiding from is In Town and, what is more, has got a date with our heroine's boyfriend. And anything else would be giving away far too much.
Friday, 11 April 2008
Mind you, I need to keep awake. My brother-in-law from Cumbria is staying the night but he rang from Bermondsey at 11.30 pm, so it's going to be at least 1 am before he stumbles, or tumbles, through the door. Poor old Mr Grumpy usually goes to bed at ten, and is currently propping his eyelids open with matchsticks, or the cat's claws, or something, as I don't drive and he is the one who will have to pick him up at the station, as we live 3 miles away from it, which is too far for even an experienced mountaineer and trekker like my bro-in-law to walk at 1 am after a 5 am start from Cumbria and all day spent in meetings, followed by a blowout dinner.
Had a bit of an synchronistic moment this morning. A man has called round a couple of times, asking to buy the rotting van in Mr G's front garden. Now, this van happens to belong to me because, way back somewhere in my last house move, Mr G thought it would work out cheaper to buy a van, move my stuff into storage in several goes, then sell it afterwards, rather than fork out hundreds of £s on removal men. £1300 later, I was the proud owner of a white transit.
Now, transits used to mean travelling to gigs and lying in the back on a mattress with the bass player, or the drummer, or, if I was really lucky, the lead guitarist (this is the 1960s I'm talking about!). And it was my band, too, most of the time.
But shortly after the purchase of the van it stopped working. Then Mr G had his strokes and since then, it has collected moss and rust. But this man really wants to buy it and today, while Mr G was out, he called again and we had a chat on the doorstep and it turns out that he has had a stroke too, same side as Mr G (right side) and all the same symptoms. It was an eyeopener. It gave me an insight, I can tell you, as he explained it in ways Mr G never could, about how bad-tempered and frustrated he gets, about how he can only concentrate on one thing at a time and goes crazy if he is interrupted, and gets words mixed up, and can't write, and gets cramps in his hand and sciatica-like pains, just like Mr G. But he is two years past his stroke, as opposed to 9 months for Mr G, and he is working again, having started a courier business which is why he needs a van.
Mr G says the van is his project for this summer. I can see the other guy helping him restore it. He says he'll call again in the hope of having a stroke chat with Mr G. I think it would be great for the two of them to compare symptoms like a couple of old women. And it would set my mind at rest, too, as I wouldn't have to worry that some common post-stroke symptom was a sign of something new and ghastly. So... let's hear it for a stroke recovery buddy system in the front garden. Sic Transit... Or sickTransit... ?
For 20 years I had a wonderful Polish dentist. He retired and I was taken on by the head of the practice, an irascible Dr House type of man who turned out to be brilliant and have a heart of gold to match his fillings. It was a terrible shock to everybody when he died suddenly, only in his fifties. The next senior dentist took over. He is Greek and spends most of his time telling me off for grinding my teeth. I don't. Previous dentists ground them down for me, trying to fix rough fillings. He tells me I'm not cleaning my teeth properly when I use an electric toothbrush, floss and dental brushes. What more can a person do? I am thinking about changing dentists, but that is easier said than done. Should I stick to the cantankerous tooth merchant I know? I have to go back for a huge filling on the 28th. A 45 minute appointment. What IS that word for fear of the dentist?
LATEST BOOK WORD COUNT: 64,967 after a two-day absence for work and dentistry. I'm now worried I shan't fit in all the plot before I bump up against the 90,000 words which my agent decrees is the maximum length. How does he know? What about those big, thick sagas that I love to take on holiday in the hope that they'll last a fortnight? (They never do, especially if it rains.)
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
I have now reached 62,044 words but, having had three blissful weeks with hardly any work to do, it has now come pouring in and as my work requires typing lengthy appraisals of other people's books, I shan't have any time to spend on mine. Just as I had reached an interesting point in the plot, too! Perhaps I can do the odd 500 words here and there... The agent tells me to write 90,000 words but really, I could use more. I thought I was running out of plot, but there is still so much to squeeze in and I don't want the end to feel rushed - something which I often have to criticise other writers for. Perhaps it's good to have doubts while you are writing. Maybe it helps to keep you on your toes, aware of common writing sins so you can avoid them. Maybe I am putting too much in, enough for two or even three novels! But, like life, I shan't know if it's been a success or not till I reach the end
Monday, 7 April 2008
Sunday, 6 April 2008
... but it was so pretty while it lasted. The snow, I mean. When I was a child, I thought weathermen made the weather. If they told us it was going to snow, it meant they were engineering the direction of the wind and making the clouds puff up with big white flakes. I used to wonder why they made it rain at weekends when they knew everyone wanted to go out and enjoy themselves.
Today, there were loads of people out having fun, having snowball fights, making snowmen. Then the spoilsport sun came out and melted all the lovely white stuff, but it was gorgeous while it lasted, a taste of what proper British winters used to be like.
Today's Word Total: 56,849.
Tomorrow and Tuesday I shall be out and giving my typing fingers a well-deserved rest.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Worked especially hard on the book this afternoon. I have just begun Chapter Fifteen and realise I must quicken the pace as I have an awful lot to cram in before I reach the end.
Today's Word Total: 54,102.
PS. The horse I favoured, Mr Pointment, failed to win the Grand National so it's just as well I didn't get round to placing a bet!
Friday, 4 April 2008
With aching muscles, I sat down to try and write but the phone kept going. In the end I did a measly 1600 words.
So TODAY'S TOTAL = 51,555. (Is there any significance in all those 5s? I shall have to buy a lottery ticket tomorrow and put down every number with a five in it.)
Thursday, 3 April 2008
On the downside, I have developed a hideous itchy rash on my forehead. Could it be my overheated brain cells trying to fight their way to the surface? On Daphne the masseuse's advice, I smeared it with Aloe Vera gel, but the itching didn't stop, so I wiped that off and tried a dab of Eurax antihistamine cream from the chemist. That has brought the spots out and they look like nasty, raised warty things. My fringe hides them, but also makes them itch. Perhaps it's an allergy to my shampoo. At least I don't notice it when I'm absorbed in my writing. But at night, it's hell and I wake up to find myself rubbing it - I'm sure I've rubbed a patch of hair off, too - and raking at a similar patch on my back. It's not pretty and I'm glad it's not summer yet. Though maybe a dose of sunshine might clear it up. Sunshine? What sunshine?
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
Today's word count: 47,639. Plot strands include hospitalisation, belligerent teenager and the threat of death by chips.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Today's word count: 45, 170 and now I can smell the curry Mr Grumpy is cooking downstairs so the computer is going OFF!