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Monday, May 29, 2006

Its only made up!

I have just been reviewing all the harm done to me by books and films.

The trouble started very young when I read way too much. This is because I was crap at doing cartwheels and (being tall & passive) always had to be Daddy in games of Mummies and Daddies, a really rubbish role that involved coming in at the end and saying "I'm back from work, what's for tea?". Come to think of it, it was even worse when we played with the boys, because ALL of us girls had to be Indian Squaws, in which we did nothing at all except make moccasins in our teepees while the boys rode around on their horses and shot each other. The Sixties, eh? People talk about them like they were fun.

So it was more rewarding to sit on the kerb and read every single book in the junior section of the village library.

Whenever I read a book with a spunky hero/heroine, I would be on the lookout for a key piece of information: how old is this person? I would hope very hard that they were older than me, but I was gutted if they were younger. "Awww NO" I would inwardly wail "They are younger than me, and still they read all the clues correctly (The Famous Five)/managed to swim across a river in spate (forget the name)/told Tweedledee exactly what they thought (Alice in Wonderland)/owned up even though they knew they would get into trouble (Just William)/ won the heart of the grumpy old bastard (Heidi)/looked on the bright side even though they had been seriously injured (PollyAnna)/ outwitted a stupid fox (Polly)/died their hair and told off the neighbours (Anne of Green Gables)"

Every classic brought fresh evidence of my inadequacy. I knew that if I was faced with any one of these difficulties I would either a) cry b)wet myself c)fail to comprehend or d)wimp out. Those courageous smart book children didn't inspire me, they oppressed me. I knew of course that these stories were made up, but I did believe that they were based on what real people were like. I worried that the other real children in my life, at school and in the street, had the potential to behave like the Book Children, while I just couldn't cut it.

They still haunt me, Alice and Heidi and Anne and PollyAnna .. particularly PollyAnna, the chirpy bitch. I am still cowering under Julian's fierce gaze "Oh for Goodness sake! You silly girl!"

Of course, it still goes on today. Look at that Harry Potter. Now, as parents, we can look at our children and know that, darling and precious as they are, there is not a single one amongst them who could stand tall and look Voldemort in the eye. Do your kids a favour and let them know not to worry. Its all made up. Run from trouble and snuggle up with the cowards, the idiots and the whingers. Come and join us, the human race.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Me & Boyfriend Turn Out To Be Drunken A-Holes

If only it stopped at poor oral hygiene.

Me and bf went to a party last weekend and what a great night! In the fading light I sat round a garden table with women all ages. The tinkle of our laughter and our wine glasses snaked through the gazebos and the bubble machine, lending a magical quality to the May evening. We talked at length on the topics that have bound women together for generations: breast-feeding and how difficult step-aerobics classes are. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, bf was (presumably) doing the bloke equivalent, thrashing out the age-old question of whether the A303 was better than M4/M5 to Devon.

Around midnight, people drifted away, some carrying their sleeping children, some the empty containers in which they had brought offerings to the buffet. Before too long, I saw that it was time to go and found bf, now stupidly drunk.

"Come on D, we gotta go"
"Naaaaaah, sfine"

From here the night gets less picturesque, but (I HAD thought) kind of hilariously farcical in a charming and quirky way.

Far too nice to outstay my welcome (though it turns out I already had) I did what I always do when blootered and huffed off alone into the night. As I turned into the dark lane I heard a male voice urging D to go after me. "Awwwsfckit" he replied.

Awkward cuss that I am, I walked fast so he couldn't catch me if he tried, not on his drunk leggies. I went to buy a packet of fags from the garage and called Mystery Dude, demanding in a posh fashion that he drive 80 miles and rescue me from my wicked bf. To my horror, he refused and then the battery went dead on my phone. I sat down on the pavement without a plan. I looked over to the lane from where I had just emerged and saw D, swaying, looking up and down the road, obviously unable to understand the first thing about the situation. "I'll teach him" I thought, "I'll walk the four miles home and he will worry I am dead and HAHAHA". So I did. And it was a long long walk. When I made it back to the mobile home (that's trailer to my US friends), imagine how peeved I was to find that there was no-one home but the dogs. Furious, I ate three Scotch eggs and was just thinking about the fourth when D arrives.

"Babes!" he says delighted, "Let's go to bed!"
"You go, I'll come when you pass out" I said in a voice laced with disgust.
"You don't love me any more, do you? Do you? Do you?"
"I'm not listening to this sh*te" I said, possibly with great dignity, and taking my clever border collie in one hand and my weekend luggage in the other I huffed out the door and began the 4 mile walk back to my car.

What was I thinking of? Not sure, but if the first 4 mile walk was long, the second, with dog and big bag was epic. The Wokingham Road was littered with lost souls trying to recoup something from their Saturday Night. Guys saying "You're not getting away with it this time" into their mobile phones. Guys sitting on the pavement doing nothing. Pairs of teenage girls shouting "Good evening" at me in a sarcastic way. Eventually I arrived back at my car and realised I had failed to develop the next part of my plan. I sat in my car and convinced myself that I had sobered up enough to drive back to the mobile. By now it was 4am.

That drive back was hell, because I knew I shouldn't have done it. Though I've driven that way a hundred times, I forgot what all the speed limits were and visualised the arrest, the court case and the prison sentence. As I approached the roundabout I tried desperately to remember the relevant page from The Highway Code. But I made it.

D was asleep diagonally across the bed with his shoes and jacket still on. His little dog was asleep at his feet and when I climbed into a strip down the edge of the bed, little dog moved over and snuffled into my hair. Perhaps it wasn't how it should be, but it was just a Saturday night, just an ordinary tale of beer and foolishness.

The next morning we got up late and worked out what had happened.

So that was cool, till I met Lou, the hostess a few days later. She started by saying thank goodness I was alive and not raped and dead. Then she told me her fiance was offended because I had accused him of stealing my handbag. I had no recollection of this at all but I know I was only being funny. The guy has no sense of humour, huh? She suggested I sent him an email to apologise, I just gaped at her, wounded. Then it got worse. She said D had been an a-hole, lying on their chenille sofa, smoking in a non-smoking house and saying that he was kipping there. When asked wasn't he worried I was being raped, he replied "Nah". They couldn't shift him till a policeman friend got all firm with him.

Then it got much much worse. Lou said she wasn't being funny, but is D good enough for me? A gypsy in a caravan who doesn't know how to conduct himself, when I am worth so much more? I had to go outside then, and she followed me. I tried to get a grip and she looked at me all concerned and asked if I had been smoking cannabis because my eyes were all bloodshot. No, Lou, that's not it, I hate cannabis, what is happening here is that I am crying.

I suppose she couldn't know, but she missed a few facts. Like, if there were Scotch eggs in the fridge, it was because D had gone to Sainsburys and put them there just for me. Like, if he arrived back late at the mobile, it was because he had gone into town in a misguided attempt to look for me. Like if he arrived late at the party it was because he was walking the dogs, buying a card and champagne and making kebabs for people to eat, even though the people at the party were my friends, not his. Like, if he didn't chase after me, it was because he knew that he has to let me do what I have to do.

So me and my bf are drunken a-holes. But you know what? So was Dylan Thomas.

Oral Hygiene Very Poor

I've been emailed by a friend who can't operate comments on blogger (let us call him Mystery Dude), who says that I should stop messing about with dejunking and get on with writing one of my books.

Well, I take the point, but I still have 395 other plots to share before I can settle to anything. And I can't even get on with telling you them at the moment, not till I've had a good old wallow in the mire of self-pity.

For apparently, I suck as a human being. Its true, everyone is saying it.

First - I ming. That is to say, I am bowfin, clatty, and boggin (Non-scots click here for assistance) . I went to the dentist this morning for a thing called "crown prep". On entering the surgery I had a peek at the state-of-the-art patient record software on the computer screen. I was given a jolt by the information that I was 43 years old, yes I know I should have realised this by now. The diagram of my teeth was as expected, each tooth with a cross, a little jewelled crown or some other dentist's mark on it. But the worst was the patient notes bit, where there was a line that read:


At first I thought this meant that my teeth were in such a state that the dentist was forced to expostulate, as in "Oh! Very poor!". But quick as a flash I figured out OH = Oral Hygiene.

Imagine my humiliation on discovering that I rated very poor amongst a general population of teeth-users which must surely include slack kids who eat sweeties all day, old people who are still using sticks to clean their teeth, junkies and artists. And I DO clean my teeth! I DO! Not if I come home drunk obviously. Or if I'm depressed and don't have to meet anyone in a professional capacity.

I don't floss every day, but WHO DOES? I definitely have a poke about with a paper clip if anything big gets stuck in there. Frankly I think flossing with the intensity suggested by dental health professionals would be a sign of an obssessive compulsive disorder. It would be showing the world that you have nothing better to do.

Nevertheless I was ashamed so I guess it was a blessing that the crown prep was so unpleasant and painful that it took my mind off it. Fellow tooth-abusers will know the score. Your mouth is jacked open and half a pint of anaesthetic injected. Then follows 10 minutes of "Gone numb yet?" "No" "Gone numb yet?" "No" till the dentist gets bored and gets his kit out anyway. First that sucky thing that looks like an overly-elaborate shepherd's crook is hooked painfully over your bottom lip where it makes slurpy noises and just feels really uncomfortable. Then comes the drill which hurts like hell. The dentist offers the observation that it hurts even though your entire head has now gone numb, including your ears and nose because the EXTENT of the DECAY is MUCH WORSE than EXPECTED. The drilling goes on for what seems like ever and then... and then... I tell you what, the stuff he starts to pile into that cavity, it was incredible. I swear, several lengths of red string went in there. Some brown fluid that smelled like creosote. I think some candle-wax went in too. Finally, he got one of those glue guns and squirted in some Copydex. Then I had to bite on a lump of purple plasticine for ages, and when he took it out, he just tutted and threw it in the bin. So I had to do it again! But this time I had to promise to not move.

Finally he jammed an ill-fitting and sharp temporary crown on top of the whole confection and made me promise not to eat anything sticky ever again. He added that it might not work in which case I get to have root canal treatment. Yay!

Finally I got to sit up so that I could pay £325.

Now I have to go and pick the kids up and I have only scraped the surface of how I have had my nose rubbed in the festering pile of my own failings this week. More later...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Clever Dog

This plot idea is for a children's book.

The book is narrated by a preternaturally intelligent border collie, a dog so clever that he knows he must act daft in front of humans or he will piss them off. Beneath his tail-wagging, eager, licky, loyal exterior lies a lazy, self-serving and sarcastic genius.

He speaks in English, but there is a canine cast to his slang expressions. For example:

"I felt three-legged" {a bit rough}
"You a cat?" {to another dog: expression of contempt}
"It didn't have a smell" {It was impossible to figure out}
"You prefer Whiskas" {You are stupid}
"Sheep think you're fun" {You're a wimp}
"It was a cat-flap to nowhere"{It turned out not to be a good idea}

The book starts when the young Clever Dog is dumped in a dog rescue by his first owner, whom he has annoyed by getting pork chops out the freezer and defrosting them in the microwave. He attempts to lead an escape but is frustrated when his cell-mates are too dim to follow instructions properly, preferring to sniff each others bottoms when they are supposed to be forming a canine pyramid.

A family turns up to view Clever Dog, who immediately recognises the potential in their loving silly faces. Clever Dog sneaks off as the family argue with the dog rescue staff about what would be a suitable "donation" and, with some fancy paw work. ties himself to the towbar of the family car. The family emerge from the office and argue about who has done this thing to the poor dog. Clever Dog thumps his tail and looks afraid.
"You are frightening the puppy" everyone claims against everyone else.

The chapter ends with the dog travelling to his new home in the front passenger seat with numerous children squashed into the back. He "sniffs" the radio and selects Jazz FM, then settles down to enjoy the music as his new family laughingly suggest that the puppy must like jazz.

A book? This could be a series of books! With movie tie-ins! And merchandising!

But wait! A neuron just fired in my over-stuffed brain and I see that this dog could work with the pure collector. Perhaps in this version, he came down from up north with an impoverished shepherd who had come to London to find work as a tanner. Unable to support his sheepdog, the shepherd abandons him, and Clever Dog must make his own living. A chance encounter with the pure collector leads to a mutually beneficial deal: Clever Dog will persuade all the stupid London dogs that crapping on the street is old-fashioned and uncool. The smart modern dog, he tells them, does his number twos in a specially constructed pull-along truck, situated in the heart of the tanning district.

And so on...

What do you think? Which plot would be best? I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks for listening to me gibber. Woof!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brain Scan

Technology sure has moved on lately. In the first place, look at this scan of my brain! Obviously I had to lie still for ages.

Secondly, imagine how thrilled I was to find you can now upload pictures to Blogger without poncing about for literally weeks on end. Easy!

Actually the photo is of part of my basement. There's a lot of truth in the saying: "If you would truly know a man, then check out her basement"

The Pure Collector

I'm descended on my dad's side from a long line of tanners from Bermondsey in London. The last tanner was my Grandad, who was born in 1906 and died in 1993, though he quit tanning quite a few decades before his death. He died, incidentally, of the dangerous family trait of Not Wanting to Trouble the Doctor.

He was in full possession of his marbles till nearly the very end, when, in his hospital bed, he started to make big sweeping movements with his arms. My cousins found out from him that this was his body remembering lifting the animal hides from the foul solutions they were soaked in. One of these solutions was called "bate" and was made from water and dog-shit, kept nice'n'warm. It was therefore a vilely smelly job and tanners tended to live together on what is politely called the fringes of society.

(Incidentally, this branch of the family always seemed to me stupidly obsessed with avoiding germs. They wouldn't let anyone take out library books because of the health risks. And my dad would never have a chinese takeaway in case the food deliveries had been left on the step and a dog had pissed on them)

My grandad told my cousins about a character who had a worse job than the skilled but bored and stinky tanners, and that was The Pure Collector. His job was to collect the dog shit from the streets of London and take it to the tannery for use in the bate. Anyone with an urban dog can maybe begin to appreciate the horror of this task, but this was before carrier bags, pooper-scoopers, or rubber gloves. It was crawling around, picking up dog shit bare-handed and putting it in your knapsack, and as an urban dog owner myself I can promise that not all dog turds keep their shape when lifted.

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing this was a freelance position with tanneries paying by the pound.

So I thought the pure collector would be a good lead for a romantic novel, because I bet not many girls wanted to go out with him. I feel sorry for him and want him to find love. His partner would also need some grave disadvantage, I thought maybe being 6 foot tall? Or having a shockingly bad temper? They could each have some sweet saving grace: he could sing in a heart-rending tenor and she could tell really good jokes.

Haven't worked out all the details, obviously, that is MY grave disadvantage, I leave ideas half-thought. But I think it is a germ of a brilliant idea, as it would give hope and inspiration to people today with unappealing jobs: estate agents and computer programmers. (Only kidding guys)

Don't tell my Nan there's a germ about though.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Brilliant Idea

You might have thought I've just been twiddling my thumbs this first 43 years of my life, but actually I've been collecting material for my novel, so nyah. I've been collecting material so long that now its stuffed into carrier bags, preventing my mental cupboards from closing neatly and tripping me up when I attempt a simple mental journey from A to B.
"So what's your name?" they ask me.
"Ah! Now! That's in here somewhere!" I reply. "Let me just move this pile of calorie information from the 1970's! (Only 235 in a Double Decker incidentally). Maybe under this factoid that a baby squirrel will bite you if you poke it.....did you realise incidentally that I know TWO people who are phobic about buttons? And this puzzles me"

God knows what's in there really. It's full up in my brain and I'm still no closer to writing the novel I've been trailing for the last 30 years.

As any would-be writer who never wrote a word will tell you, there is always one key task you must complete before committing pen to paper. The task might be to bring up the children, to read a book on awakening the creativity within, to gain insight, or in my case, declutter my brain. Then when my mind is as neat and empty as an Ikea interior, I will breathe in a deep healing breath, and breathe out some pure, beautiful and intelligible prose.

Dejunking my brain is a big job, because on average I have 4 brilliant ideas that should go in a book every week. Now then, (stick with the metaphor, its nearly over), this blog is my skip, right? Its where I'm going to chuck all my superfluous stuff. If I can chuck the brilliant ideas in as soon as I have them, how efficient that would be. I wouldn't have to use my existing storage trying to remember them.

No-one is saying that this will be fun for anyone trying to read the blog. Sorry. Still love ya tho. Stick with me through this difficult time.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Testing new blog

I can't remember choosing a template? Let's see what I've got