This is my 100th blog post. Can you believe it? (No, ed) I find the fact that I’ve kept on writing, reasonably regularly since last September, utterly amazing. Me. Who would rather do the ironing than face the prospect of sitting down at a blank screen and thinking up something to write about.
One hundred posts. That’s (quick pause while I consult calculator) about 40,000 words. Wtf! That’s nearly a novel! And that’s not counting the (sometimes lengthy) conversations I’ve struck up with all the interesting people I’ve met here in the blogosphere.
It’s been interesting, and exciting and, at times, it has to be said, rather discouraging. Nobody read my first two posts. Which was not surprising because they were rather dull and worthy efforts on how to write an essay. I had just finished my OU degree, and they were really instructions to myself in case I forgot how to treat an academic subject (dunno why; can’t see anybody suddenly wanting me to knock out 3,000 words on Shakespeare).
In September I posted every day, and when I got 12 likes for Wtf? Guys, listen to yourselves. I thought I was really motoring. In October I missed a couple of days, but my readers slowly climbed. And then I wrote a piece about my mother playing Scrabble, Out of the mouths of Babes and Grandmas and was astonished when one of my students told me she’d read it out loud to her daughter. In a café. In London. Call me naïve, but I hadn’t really pictured anyone reading my stuff. Certainly not anybody I knew. I mean, like buttons and real people aren’t the same at all, are they? (You are naïve, ed).
Things dropped off a bit after that, and my posting became rather haphazard, and I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere (not that I knew where I wanted to get to). I had started blogging with the intention, as a professional writer, of handing out advice to aspiring writers (whether they wanted it or not). And I couldn’t understand why nobody was coming by. And then I read a piece by Opinionated Man on blogging, who said that bloggers are all, if you like, a field of dandelions.
Nobody wants advice from people who think they are roses. They want to know how other dandelions are doing. And he was dead right. In any case, my stuff couldn’t really be compared to a rose. More like the stuff you mulch them with.
So I stopped and I wouldn’t have come back, if it hadn’t been for Bruce Goodman sending me a lovely email asking when I was going to post again (thanks Bruce!). And, when I did sign in, I found a really nice message from another fellow blogger, MikeW. So, that was how I discovered this place is a community. An odd one, since the chances are we’ll never meet in person; but, looking at it another way, it has the advantage of allowing you to talk to people you never would otherwise meet.
Then my daughter took me in hand. She showed me how to take advantage of Twitter; how to tag my tweets and told me also to tag my posts on Facebook. She also told me off about the dullness of my stock pictures, and that I should take my own at all times. I signed up for the WordPress 201 tuition, and everything kind of clicked. I realised I couldn’t bang on about writing all the time. I wanted to write about family life and everyday stuff that was on my mind. And more people began to drop in.
And I don’t feel discouraged any more. I don’t have thousands of followers on WordPress, or more than 30 likes for any of my posts, but I do have a few close posting buddies who always drop by; there are others who pop in occasionally, and there are always new people popping into my reader, with new ideas and fascinating lives.
The most important thing is that, without a blog I wouldn’t write at all. And while I don’t like the thought of writing, I do like doing it.
So, thanks, WordPress, and here’s to the next 100 posts.
Edward King was 92 when he moved into a care home. He hadn’t wanted to leave his house. ‘I’m perfectly all right,’ he told his daughter.
Edward, a retired builder, had lived alone, ever since his wife Doris had run off 20 years before with an encyclopaedia salesman.
Shortly after Edward’s daughter sold the house, the new owners found the body of a man behind a false wall. Detectives naturally thought it was the encyclopaedia salesman and went to see Edward, but he kept telling them, ‘Stop harassing me. You’ve got the wrong man.’
Detectives soon found out, indeed, that the dead body had never been an encyclopaedia salesman. ‘Told you you had the wrong man,’ said Edward. ‘I put Doris’s lover under the patio.’
pictures courtesy of http://www.dailyfinance.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/ via Creative Commons
We went to a wedding on Saturday, in France. It was funny and joyful but poignant too. Rebecca, the bride, is the daughter of our oldest friends, and three years ago Becca’s brother Josh was killed in a motorbike accident.
I never thought I would see Trudi and Robin, their parents, ever look properly happy again. But, on Saturday, Robin came beaming down the aisle with his arm through Becca’s, while family friends and flautists Atarah Ben Tovim and Julien Grossias played Here Comes The Sun. Almost as amazing was the fact that Robin, whose idea of formal wear is wearing a T shirt with his shorts, was sporting a jacket, shirt and trousers.
The wedding was held at the Salle de Mariage in La Force, in the Dordogne. The adjoint, who conducted the service, wore a sash of red white and blue, and on the table in front of him was a vase of flowers and the bust of Marianne, spirit of France. He held his papers and cleared his throat as Becca and the bridegroom, Sylvain, took their seats in front of him, but at that point someone in the congregation shouted out, ‘You can’t start, Julien and Caroline aren’t here!’
The adjoint opened his mouth, but it was too late, Becca and Sylvain had already turned round, looked at their assembled friends and relations and then got up and approached each of us in turn, kissing us and shaking hands. By the time this was done (and believe me, everybody was kissed and shaken) Julien and Caroline, and their children, had arrived, plus a few more latecomers, and after they too had been welcomed and shown to their seats, the couple turned back to the adjoint who, having neither been kissed nor hugged, was now standing by a window staring resignedly at the rather stunning view of mediaeval rooftops.
Called back into service, the adjoint grasped his papers once more, cleared his throat again and then proceeded to read out the the French Civil Code, Articles 212, (Spouses owe each other respect, fidelity, support and assistance) 213 (Spouses are responsible together for the material and moral guidance of the family. They shall provide for the education of the children and shall prepare their future), plus articles 214, 315 and 371-1 (we get the picture, ed). After this, he read out the names and occupations of the couple and their witnesses, asked the pair if they wanted to marry each other, and when they both answered, ‘yes’, declared them man and wife.
And that was it. Job done. Nothing about just impediments, or forsaking all others, or any of the other questions that you get in Britain. Apparently, according to one fellow guest I spoke to later, in big cities they can turn round a wedding in 10 minutes flat; so fast, in fact, that no guests, other than the witnesses, are allowed to attend because it would take them too long to get in and out. In these cases, the reception takes place several days after the wedding.
But this was not a big city; this was the French countryside and, at every point, formality is subverted. As everybody posed outside for photographs, (more kissing and hugging) the adjoint took off his sash, and with the help of one of the witnesses, began to sweep up the confetti.
There was only one more thing to do. And this was where Josh came in. Becca had insisted on using his old BMW to get to the reception. ‘If he can’t be there,’ she said. ‘At least his car can.’ Robin had spent hours restoring it to gleaming perfection. The only thing left to do was for them to get in it and lead a convoy of hooting cars to a very happy party.
Well. That went kind of ok. Shortly after I posted yesterday about deciding I should be a responsible parent by taking my daughter to an awards ceremony in London, we went off to catch the train. And that was about the last thing that went to plan. In short, Rose wandered into a drugs deal by the gasworks in Bethnal Green, and me and my mate Cheryl got slightly tipsy in a gay bar.
The trouble started when we got to Euston and decided to get a No 10 bus to Oxford Circus, for no other reason than I like double decker buses, and that OC is on the central line, which you need if you want to take the Tube to Bethnal Green (get on with it, ed).
Of course, once on Oxford Street we had to do a bit of shopping, and soon, instead of being impossibly early, Rose was now going to have to get a move on if she was going to get to the ceremony on time. She was so self-possessed and confident that, in the end, I agreed that instead of taking her all the way, we’d take her to Bond Street, and she could do the last bit of the journey on her own.
I showed her the Tube map. ‘Look, here’s the line you’ll be travelling on…’ I said rather diffidently, because I was having trouble making it out myself.
‘For God’s sake,’ she interrupted. ‘I can read a map. Central Line, right? Going East?’
‘Right,’ and with a kiss and a wave she was disappearing down the escalator.
Cheryl and I wandered off, deciding to head for Soho and get a Chinese meal. Via the shops, of course. It was only after we had finished chatting up some impossibly good looking bloke who was selling handbags, that I realised my phone was going off. I couldn’t find it in my bag. Then Cheryl’s started going off. It was Rose. They had closed the station and told everybody to get out because two trains had broken down. She was lost and panicking that she wouldn’t get to the do.
So off we schlepped, miles back down Oxford Street in the sweaty gritty heat; scooped up Rose, took her to Oxford Circus, pushed through the impossible crowds at the Tube station, and got on to the train with her, amid dire warning of delays and breakdowns.
She was quite happy then, so we got off after one stop, at Tottenham Court Road, leaving Rose to do the rest on her own. Whereupon we promptly got lost. The place is in chaos at the moment. Everywhere round Centre Point is being knocked down or boarded up, and we seemed to wander for miles without finding anywhere to eat (and, as time went by, eat quickly) so we went to a pub off Soho Square. And very nice it was too; full of gorgeous, beautifully dressed men, with TV screens showing cute Youtube videos of playful cats. More importantly the pub served excellent ice-cold Czech lager, which was just what we needed.
A very smart guy in a suit leant across the table next to ours, looked longingly into the eyes of the young man opposite and said, ‘I’m very sensitive, you know.’ Which is the kind of line that immediately makes you think exactly the opposite, but hey, they left together. The beer was so nice we had another….thought about having another and then realised that we ought to apply some self-discipline if we were going to get Rose, and left, with just enough time to get some food from a hot dog stand, which was surprisingly good.
Rose then rang to say she was leaving the do by taxi, and would meet us shortly. So much for us acting like hawk-eyed chaperones every inch of the way. But she met up with us no problem at Tottenham Court Road, hauling an enormous goody bag. She had missed out on the award for best teen blogger but was in really high spirits. She had networked like mad, including buttonholing the editor of Company magazine (‘She has the same shoes as me, mum!’) and other important media types about an internship for the summer.
It was only much later, when we were on the train home, that she confessed she had got lost outside Bethnal Green Tube, and that some nice American girl had pointed her in the right direction (God Bless America!) and that when she was nearing the venue, she practically walked into two guys doing a little business involving a plastic bag and ready cash, who both looked up and saw her watching. At which point she did the sensible thing and scuttled off, luckily finding the entrance round the next corner.
So, although I’m still calming down from that piece of information, everything did work out OK. Rose got a little more street-wise, I was on hand when she really needed me, I had a drink with an old friend, and we saw some nice videos with cats.
Plus, we didn’t miss the train home.
I’m all of a doo dah. And I don’t know why; it’s got nothing to do with me, really. My daughter Rose is going to a big swanky do tonight, because she’s been nominated by Company Magazine as Britain’s best teen fashion blogger. (Drinks all round, ed).
Trouble is, she has absolutely insisted on going on her own and the do is in London’s East End. (It’s mostly gentrified now, but still very dodgy in places. Especially if you are a lone teenage girl.)
‘Take a friend with you,’ I said. ‘You’ll have more fun. It’ll be a real laugh.’ (And you’ll be much, much safer).
No. She wanted to be the cat that walks by herself. Ever tried arguing with a 17-year-old girl? Well, then, you see my point.
While I’m not that fussed about her going to London for a spot of shopping, during the day, or to stay with her big brother, I did start hyperventilating at the thought of her catching the last train home from Euston (or worse, missing it) in a sequinned mini dress and platform shoes.
Eventually, we came to a compromise. I would accompany her to the do and then disappear, amuse myself for three or four hours, and then reappear at the venue to take her home, and fight off any muggers/pickpockets/sex maniac psychopaths with one flick of my capacious handbag.
So, natch, I’ve asked a mate to come along as well, because it’s not often she and I get a night out in London. We’ll go for a good meal, drink, and then pick up (hopefully trophy-bearing daughter) well on time for the vomit express home.
Daughter is now hoping I’m not going to turn up and be embarrassing. (This term covers everything from how I talk to people, whether I hum, sing or whistle, tell a joke, or fart unexpectedly).
Little does she know that I am planning to scale a drainpipe, climb through a window and crouch at the back of the room, so that I can see her (hopefully) pick up the award.
But you won’t tell, will you?
The picture is of Rose appearing on the Alan Titchmarsh show two years ago after being named B&Q’s Young DIY enthusiast of the year.
Feeling a bit stressed at the moment, and this always makes me laugh:
posted on Youtube by Thorn2200
Did I tell you I was writing a book? It must be 20 years or so since I lay back on the old chaise longue, put my hand to my furrowed brow and began scratching away. Have you tried it? (Have you been at the gin? Ed). Anatomically impossible, unless the dog holds your notebook. Plus the pink feather boa gets in the way.
So here I am clattering at the keyboard and I have to admit that all my best laid plans have gone totally agley. Like, totally. All that stuff I said about planning? Out the window. Plotting? Likewise. I mean, I made a plan. I made a jolly good one, with everything that was going to happen in each chapter all down for me to follow. But now that I’ve actually started scribbling, nothing has gone to plan at all.
My characters have stayed pretty much the same. The hero is still the drop dead gorgeous man I envisaged, although rather more ruthless than I had bargained for, if yesterday’s draft is anything to go by, but he keeps I keep changing his identity (Poor background or rich background? Texas oilman, or war hero? Or both? I spect I’ll find out eventually). Heroine has remained pretty much the same too, just not quite such a drip. So that’s all right.
The thing is, that as I write, new and exciting vistas open up, that hadn’t occurred to me when I was just thinking. So I take a sharp left or right off my highway, without a map. I have no idea what is going to happen, but it’s exciting and, really, to me, that’s the whole joy of writing fiction.
Remember that foolproof plotting sheet that I dug out of somewhere? The one showed you how your plot should progress? Strangely enough my new direction (so far) fits in with all those rules, just in a different way.
Anyway, I’m off. Got writing to do.
Steve came home from the car boot with a vacuum cleaner. An enormous blue and chrome 50s monster that needs 2,000 Egyptian slaves to push it round the living room and when it’s switched on is so loud you can’t hear the dogs bark.
He was fantastically pleased with it. ‘Look at this,’ he said, as he wrestled it out of the boot. ‘Isn’t it great?’
‘But we’ve got a vacuum cleaner,’ I said. ‘In fact, we’ve got three, if we count the last two broken ones you got from the car boot. What are we going to do with this one?’
‘That’s just the point,’ he said proudly. ‘It can do anything.’
‘What, like take the kids to school?’
‘It’s an extraordinary machine. American, you know. They use it to power all sorts of stuff. You can spray paint with it.’
‘You can get all these amazing parts for it. There’s even a sort of stick attachment thingy that drills holes.’
I should have been firm. I should have said, ‘You already have five drills. And two paint guns, come to that.’
But he looked so pleased and eager that, against my better judgment, I gave in. I let the monster into our house. Of course it was far too heavy to carry up the stairs, unless you had a team of Sherpas handy, so I used it in the living room. It was very quickly apparent that it was completely useless. I found myself getting to the point where I would pick up any stray bits of stuff and put them directly in front of it. It was like showing a dog a biscuit. But after pushing the machine over the stuff and then heaving it away, stuff was still always there. If at any point you let go of the monster, the handle would fall on your foot. Cleaning sessions (not that there were many) would generally end with me kicking it, and spending the rest of the day with a faint ringing in my ears.
The cleaner went, very quickly, to its new home in the Outhouse of Doom. And as the years went by it was covered in other remnants of useless tat, as is the way of fossils and ridiculous machines.
That is, until last week when husband couldn’t fit anything more in the outhouse, and it was time To Get Rid Of Stuff.
‘It’s such a good thing,’ he said sadly. ‘Really well made.’ He looked at me hopefully. ‘It’s very versatile, you know. It can spray paint.’
This time, I stood firm.
Disclaimer: My husband would like it to be made clear that he didn’t actually want to spray paint with the vacuum cleaner, he just thought its ability to do this was the mark of a well made machine. He also claims the loss of suction was due to me hoovering up a sock (see previous post on socks), but that, yes, it does weigh the same as a small car.
I’ve done some pretty scary things in my life. Ok, so maybe that doesn’t include wrestling with Margaret Thatcher (although I bumped into her in a corridor once, and that was enough), or being tied to train tracks just before the 3.33 from Paddington is due, but you’ll just have to trust me on this.
Point being, that nothing has scared the bejesus out of me quite so much as teaching my daughter to drive. Although my husband did all the hard bits. After her first lesson, he came back and said with a perfectly serious face, ‘She can drive mostly in a straight line, but hasn’t quite got corners, yet.’
After a week or so, when she had ‘got corners’ I went out with her. And really, she was very good. Her main problem was judging the flow of traffic, and that comes with experience. My main problem was that she might be 17, but on a quite fundamental level, she is still my baby.
Rationally, I’d quite like her to pass her test, so I no longer have to be her personal chauffeur. Instinctively, the last thing I want is for her to pass her test and be on her own at the wheel in a thundering lump of metal, with all those maniacs/continental lorry drivers out there cutting her up and undertaking her and probably texting while they’re doing it.
I can’t help it. Every time she meets a new situation and gets slightly nervous, I twitch like a sea anemone on benzedrine, while all the time forcing myself To Speak Calmly. It doesn’t always work.
‘Which lane do I go in, mum?’
‘The one you’re in!’
‘But you said -‘
‘Never mind what I said. Watch out for that car! No, no you’re doing fine. That’s right. Indicate…..And…..(deep breath)…relax.’
It’s not that I want to roll her in bubblewrap, far from it. It’s just that I realise, more and more, that bringing up children is a series of steps in showing them them how act and think for themselves. Teaching her to drive is one of the final bits of letting go before, in a year or two, she leaves home altogether.
And that is really scary
British comedian Rik Mayall died yesterday. Here he is in top form as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder:
youtube video courtesy of BBC Comedy Greats