Sunday, 29 June 2008

The last day of being 37

I am 38 tomorrow. Somehow that seems a lot nearer to 40 than 37, doesn't it? At 37 you can kid yourself that you are still mid-thirties but somehow, with just one extra year in the mix, it's the start of the slow slide to 40. Aggghh.

Am not feeling too chipper about that, especially as I've got a monstrous hangover today. LP and I celebrated 11 years of Being Togevver yesterday and went out last night to celebrate. Went to Demuths, a veggie restaurant in town which was tasty but a bit healthy and worthy for my liking. When I go out to eat, I want to feel as if I'm having a treat. I want potato. I want cake. I had neither of those last night, but quite a lot of lettuce. Not much good for soaking up the alcohol, lettuce. Still, we had a lovely night, reminiscing about all the ace times we've had, all the places we've been together, and of course my excellent chat-up line which started the whole thing off: "I've always fancied you" - short and to the point, I'd say (if rather slurred). And I was about to fly off to Bangkok two days later, so I thought, what the hell, might as well. Anyway, it did it for me - any singletons out there, I'd recommend giving it a try.

Right, off to lie on the sofa now with a cup of tea...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Back-handed compliments from my seven-year-old daughter

Part 9718, in an everlasting series:

Daughter [having watched me blow-drying hair, her head tilted on one side, her eyes pitying]: Your hair is definitely growing longer, Mum. By the time you get married, it might even look nice again!

Me [crushed]: Thanks, love... [weeps into mirror]

Moving swiftly on... here's another meme, this one from the lovely Leigh:

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Living in Brixton with the LP, working at the BBC, going out every night and having lots of disposable income (sob)

Five things on your to-do list for today:
Write next chapter of Novel 3
School pick-up
Cook tea
Sit and have a beer in garden with LP once kids are in bed
Heroes

What are three of your bad habits?
Losing my temper
Losing my marbles
Losing the car keys

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Oh, don't get me STARTED...

What are some snacks you enjoy?
Cadbury's Fruit and Nut
Kettle Chips
Grapes
Cheese and Marmite sandwiches

What were the last five books you read?
The Secret Shopper's Revenge - Kate Harrison
The Accidental Wife - Rowan Coleman
Seizure - Erica Wagner
Mothernight - Sarah Stovell
Daughters of Jerusalem - Charlotte Mendelson

What are five jobs you have had?
Shop assistant
Barmaid
Seed-planter
Editor
Subtitler

Five places that you have lived?
Nottingham
Leeds
Oxford
London
Sydney

Okay, I'm going to tag Clare, Girl With A Mask, Pacha, Calistro and L-Plate. Over to you, ladies...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Meme - authors

It's all me me me me meme meme these days. I've been tagged by Michelle and Leigh for memes so here goes. Michelle's first, which is all about authors.

1. Who is your all-time favourite author, and why?
Oh, impossible to answer. I would happily read anything by: Jonathan Coe, Kate Atkinson, Julie Myerson, John Fowles, Margaret Atwood, Esther Freud, Dickens, George Orwell... too many to list. I am generous with my favouritism!

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?
Enid Blyton, without a doubt - great characters and plots, lots of humour and adventures, and of course, happy endings all round (apart from the baddies who ALWAYS got their come-uppance). And now that my seven-year-old is ploughing through everything Enid she can get from the library, I'm quite enjoying dipping into them again myself...

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?
I really enjoyed When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson. Fabulous.

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
I guess the list I gave to the first answer, if that isn't too lazy of me!

Feel free to tag yourself if you want to... Leigh, I'll get to yours tomorrow!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Not a real horse

It's my birthday next Monday, and the first thing my three-year-old said when she got back from playgroup with LP at 12 was, "I got your present, Mum, but I'm not going to tell you what it is!"
"Oooh, how exciting," I said, knowing full well how tricky she finds secrets, especially secrets about birthday presents or cakes. "I bet it'll be a lovely surprise."
Her eyes lit up. "It IS a surprise. It's a secret!"

Over the table at lunch time just now:
Daughter: Can I give you your present, Mum?
Me: Well, let's wait until it's my birthday next week. That would be best, wouldn't it?
LP: And remember, we're not going to tell her what it is, are we? Because it's going to be a surprise!
Daughter (a bit gutted - clearly DESPERATE to reveal all): Mmmmmm. (Moments later, cryptically): It's not a REAL horse, is it, Dad? Mum's present. It's not a REAL one.

Either she's a fantastic bluffer or there's some hideous china horse from the charity shop coming my way on Monday. The mind boggles...

Ooer

I have been asked to appear at Cheltenham Literary Festival.*
I have said yes.
I am not sure which of those two statements is scarier....


* for my children's books, not the Lucy Diamond stuff. Eeek.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Hen night

Just to say...it's my hen night this weekend, so excuse me while I go a bit quiet on the blog (and loud on the town) for a few days...

The Sound of Music

I'm feeling a lot more chipper today after a laugh last night with LP trying to decide which music to play at our wedding. We're tying the knot in a big old barn in the countryside, so anything goes.

"Right, we need something that everyone can listen to while they're waiting for the actual marrying bit to start," I said.
"How about The Clash?" LP suggested, sticking on Safe European Home.
"Well, you know, good choice and everything, but I'm not sure our aunts and the more senior guests will enjoy it that much..."
"Oh, they'll love it! All right, how about some reggae? Who could not love Toots and the Maytals?"

Indeed. Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of something brilliant that I can make my entrance to - tottering up the stairs with my dad, trying not to fall over in front of everyone. I'm quite tempted to pick 'Fat-Bottomed Girls' by Queen or something tongue in cheek to make everyone laugh but then remember how the vows go on about what a solemn occasion this is blah blah. So maybe not. I'd really love to walk in to 'Walking Barefoot' by Ash - ahh, I just love that song, it always makes me so happy, but I don't think I'd be able to stop myself singing along at full volume, like I always do. Hmmm. Karaoke queen is perhaps not the right look for a bride.
So maybe 'She Bangs The Drums' by the Stone Roses, another of my all-time faves...but then I would be tempted to do a stupid dancing walk to it... oh, decisions, decisions!

I really think it would be a laugh to have 'Fiesta' by The Pogues as our 'first dance' - you know, it starts off all slow and moody, then turns into a danceable riot and we could go mad to it, but LP is adamant that he doesn't want to do a first dance, so better not....

Ahh, so there you go, planning a wedding is fun after all! Sod the table confetti, let's get some good tunes going, and it'll be great.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Jitters (and moaning)

I've had a case of Wedding Jitters recently. Bad dreams where it all goes wrong, the works. I blame the dressmaker I went to see the other week (she's taking up the hem of my dress). She started asking all these questions like, Who is doing your make-up? (Um... me?), What are your shoes like? (Um...dunno) and How will you be wearing your hair? (I don't bloody know!)

I ended up feeling really crap for not being the type of person that maps out every single minute detail months in advance. I am more of your make-it-up-as-I-go-along types. In novel writing and life.
Too many decisions to make! Too much organising, when I barely have the time to brush my hair in the morning, let alone think about how I might want to do it in TWO MONTHS time!! I mean... seriously...
I don't know. It all seems a lot of money and FAFF and I'm not sure it'll actually change anything whatsoever about my relationship with LP. I'm kind of wishing we'd gone for a registry office job now with two witnesses dragged off the street, then a pint in the pub. We're not doing a Wayne n' Colleen style extravaganza by any means (although if OK magazine offered to cough up £2.5m I might be tempted to shift the whole thing to Italy), but even so... having to make decisions about how we want the napkins folded and what sort of glitter we want sprinkled on the tables at the reception...arrrgghh! I don't know! I don't really care either!

I poured my heart out to Nice Neighbour yesterday. "If I'd known it was all going to be such a palaver, I think I'd rather have stayed happily unmarried," I moaned.
"But you've got all those things to look forward to!" she replied, shocked. "Like... changing your surname and..."
"I'm not going to change my surname," I interrupted.
"Oh," she said.

Sorry. Moaning. Trying hard not to. It's just doing my head in a bit...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

A book splurge

I dragged the kids into town today for some Father's Day purchases and accidentally found myself stumbling into a book shop while I was there. Well...you know how it is. I've been VERY good lately, haven't bought a book for ages so I had a little splurge.

First up was the lovely Kate Harrison's new book, The Secret Shopper's Revenge - with the most gorgeous slip cover I've ever seen on a hardback. It's a bag - how cool is that! I am lucky enough to have had a sneak preview of the first few chapters which are fab, but have been left dangling with anticipation ever since. This one is definitely going straight to the top of the TBR pile!

Next... The Gathering by Anne Enright. It's the next one for our book group. I've heard tell from another book group that everyone struggled with it but had the best conversation about it EVER. In fact, apparently they came to the conclusion that they hadn't just read the book, "the book had read them". Spooky! So that was enough to make me want to read it on its own.

I also bought the new Rose Tremain one, The Road Home. I really like her books - always very stylishly written and about such a wealth of different subjects. I didn't even read the blurb to find out what this one's about, just bought it. (Well, you can't hang around when you've got kids in tow, after all, the days of slow bookshop browsing are gone for me, I'm more of a heat-seeking missile in there these days, zooming straight to the ones I have to buy...)

I also wanted Garden Spells after its rave review on Trashionista the other week but it seemed to have sold out. So my son suggested making up the 3 for 2 with the new Captain Underpants book for him. And then, of course, I found myself suckered into buying all the kids a new book each. So rather a lot of spending, all in all. But what price on a good read? I have just read Rowan Coleman's new one, The Accidental Wife, and would have paid double for it, it was so brilliant.

So I'm looking forward to many happy hours reading that lot. In between cheering on Holland, of course. The lads in orange have only gone and done it again, last night, haven't they?! Why didn't I put my money where my mouth is at the start of the tournamet and put down a whopping great bet??

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Backstory wrestling

It's the final of The Apprentice tonight...hooray!!
But I'm going to miss it, as I've got book group tonight...boo! Not boo to book group although I must confess I didn't like this month's book very much (ended up skimming the last third, never a good sign) but boo to missing out on a Britons-united-on-their-sofas event. It's not the same watching it on tape, is it? You need to be there, oohing and ahhing with the nation as Surallan points the finger for one last time. I'm just going to have to watch it as soon as I stumble drunkenly into the house tonight, I don't care how late it'll be, and I don't care that I'll have a school run in the morning, I need to watch it before some big-gob spills the beans tomorrow and tells me who got hired. I want Claire to win although I quite like winking Lee too. And Alex is very sweet, I find myself wanting to ruffle his hair. Even Helene's all right. Ooh, it could go to any of em. Excellent!

What a saddo I am. Enough of my telly witterings. I'm working on the novel today, have just passed the 75,000 word mark which is good, and feel like I've finally pinned down the backstory for one of my main characters. It has been troubling me, especially as it is CRUCIAL to the plot. I have tied myself in knots, inventing all sorts of complicated traumatic experiences for the poor women, but have decided to red-pen them all in favour of a more simplified version that will hopefully justify some of the weird things she goes on to do. Cryptic, eh. I have been getting bogged down in it though, so am hoping that I've got it straight at last. Right - better get back to it before I change my mind again...

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Rambling stream of consciousness

Brrrr. Had a nightmare last night that I was at a fancy dinner with hundreds of people, and suddenly it was announced that I would be giving a talk on the similiarities between Mary Poppins and Elizabeth Barrett Browning starting...NOW! I had a sheaf of papers in front of me and was shuffling through them, trying to find the things I wanted to say but it was torture, my mind was blank, my notes were gobbledegook and I was waffling all kinds of nonsense about Mary Poppins to fill the silence (nothing at all about Elizabeth BB, obviously). It was a relief to wake up - except it wasn't, really, as my youngest daughter and son were having a loud argument about ten centimetres from my head about whose turn it was to sit on a particular chair in the kitchen for breakfast....arrrrggghhh... I think the Mary Poppins debacle was slightly preferable on reflection.

Onto cheerier things - hey, what about Holland last night then? Hup, Holland, Hup, as I now know to say. Oooh I bet there are some sore Dutch heads this morning. See? A bit of Lucy Diamond magic goes a long way. I am doing all right with my predictions so far, I have to say, thrashing LP in our competition by a mighty three points. Not the same, though, is it, when the England players are all lagering it up on Wayne Rooney's stag do rather than... well, all right, rather than going out on penalties to Germany....

Onto even cheerier things... We're off to a Wedding Meeting this morning. How exciting! We haven't been back to the place we're getting married since we booked it so I hope it's the rural gorgeousness I remember and that it hasn't actually transformed into a small back yard with barbed wire fences and broken glass underfoot complete with snarling Staffordshire bull terriers straining on ropes, baring their teeth. Last night, I was going through the documents we need to send back to the registrar for the service and got really annoyed to be honest. All that 'Who gives this women away?' rubbish - I mean! So bloody medieval. If they dare ask that in my service, I will be forced to shout, "No bugger, thank you very much!" in response. Gawd. I can see it now, me with my hands on my hips, finger wagging, tearing a strip off the registrar. Excellent. Am looking forward to it already...

Friday, 6 June 2008

Who ate all the pies?

I can't believe Euro 2008 starts tomorrow! I haven't even got a colour wall chart or anything with the fixtures yet. I've had to print one off from a website, but it isn't the same.
So, who are we all supporting then? It's got to be Holland for me. In a parallel life, I would have lived in Amsterdam for a while. (Actually, I said the same thing about Barcelona too the other day. Maybe I need a few parallel lives.) And almost every Dutch person I've ever met has been fab (apart from the prat who.... Ahh. Never mind. Ancient history.) And also I like their kit. Lekker ding! as I believe they say. *ahem* LP is supporting Sweden. How about you?

Right then.... matches tomorrow. I'm going to say the Czech Republic will beat Switzerland 1-0 and Portugal will beat Turkey 2-1. But what do I know? Feel free to disagree, shout "WHO ARE YER?" and point at me if you want. LP and I are going to have a little competition between us so I shall keep you updated (unless I start losing really badly in which case I will pretend to have forgotten all about it).

Onto more cerebral things...have you seen the Picador blog lately? They're offering us, mere blog-readers, a chance to put questions to the marvellous Tim Winton. As you know, I'm a fan, so immediately felt a bit excited at the opportunity. Trouble is, I go all pathetic when amongst famous people. I can't speak properly, I just sort of mumble at them, and all I can think about is OMG You Are Really Famous! etc. Even when offered the chance to post a question on a blog to someone famous, I am blushing and turning to fluff, and just want to say, "You're great, you are, ooh, I really like your books". Pathetic. In a parallel life, clearly I would be asking something really in-depth and clever from my Amsterdam townhouse, something that would really impress him. But in this life... Sigh. Maybe I should ask him who he's going to support in Euro 2008, and be done with it?!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Achey-breaky arse

Ooooh!!! I am still aching all over from yesterday. Bloody exercise. I couldn't get to sleep last night because every time I moved, a new bit of me started to hurt. Just as well then that I've been sat at my desk all day today, in my nice comfortable padded chair...

For the first time in weeks, I've returned to Novel 3. Hoorah! I've been feeling guilty for not having the time to tend to it lately but that's all going to change and I'm definitely DEFINITELY going to finish it this month. Quite good to have such a break from in it in some ways though, as I have just read through the whole ms as it currently stands, all 72,000 words of it, and have been able to work on it much more objectively. And - phew - I have thought out how to solve a big plot problem in the process, too, something that was nagging at me as not working very well previously. So I am chuffed about that. Now I just have to do the repair work, drip in some juicy clues to make the whole thing more mysterious and... oh yeah, finish it. Well, I'll start tomorrow. Prepare to see that word count soaring, oh yes.

Have got to go and cook tea now (all action round here, you know) so will sign off by letting you know that my latest Bridalwave column is here...

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Is this what you call a mid-life crisis?

Ouch.

Seriously, ouch. My arse feels as if it's been whacked by a bag of spanners. Owwww!

I've just got back from my first go at Gymnastics, if you're wondering. It was quite surreal. I did handstands! Headstands! Trampolining! Cartwheels! Running and jumping off a trampet thing! It was like being a kid again, really exciting and quite scary. Must confess, I nearly bottled going there this morning. And if I'd known just how bloody good the other women there were going to be, I probably wouldn't have gone. I was expecting the standard to be pretty low, to be honest. A few forward rolls, a bit of mucking about on the trampolining etc. But no! All quite serious. And some women there were doing backflips! Handsprings! Round-offs, whatever the hell they are. !!!!! Now that's what I call bloody impressive, especially as everyone was a thirty-something mum.

But there's something about doing a handstand as a thirty-something mum that feels very daring. And exciting. And very out of the ordinary - it's not all that often I find myself upside down these days. And yes, you bet I'm going to use this as material in a book somewhere or other....

Right, just off to practise some cartwheels down the garden, anyway... *


* a complete lie

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The worst start to a day ever?

Oh dear. Life feels very difficult this morning. Was woken by a scream of outrage from eldest daughter because the tooth fairy had forgotten to collect her tooth and leave a nice shiny pound coin in its place. D'oh!!! Tooth Fairy alias was too busy drinking wine and reading last night to remember. I am a failure at motherhood. Rubbish.

Then the screams came from me as I realised we had another nit nightmare upon us so had to wash and comb offspring's hair with gallons of conditioner and nit comb before school, meaning lateness on school run. Gross. I am a bit itchy too to be honest... Sometimes it's disgusting, living with children. Where's Malory Towers when you need it??

I am quite scared about what's going to happen next, you know. If I don't blog again, you'll know I've been eaten by a pack of gigantic headlice...

Monday, 2 June 2008

I Did It!

It was the Race for Life here in Bath yesterday and...I did it! I ran with one of my sisters and we finished the 5km in 33 minutes according to her watch - which is not too shabby a time, is it?

It was an extraordinary experience - so moving, reading all the poignant, often heart-breaking messages on people's backs. People were running for their mums, dads, sisters, grandparents, aunts... It really brought it home to me how many lives are affected by cancer. The atmosphere beforehand was very highly charged, very emotional, but there was also a real buzz of excitement and adrenalin, and it felt as if everyone was revved up for the event. The Nivea boys were there to entertain 'the ladies' with their dance routine (hilarious, especially the two dancers at the back who looked hungover as hell and kept fumbling their moves), and the warm-up from the Rosemary Conley women was ace, and then we were off, along with 2,498 other women, pounding across the start line.

It was quite something, being with so many other runners, so many other women, all emotional, all motivated to run with so many different people in mind. That whole sisterhood feeling really got me - it was exhilarating and inspiring all at once. We were running in the university grounds, a great stream of women wearing pink, different ages, different fitness levels, all in it together, a sea of positive feeling.

By the time we were near the 4km mark, I was feeling really buoyant with excitement - I wasn't out of breath, I felt totally brilliant about running, knowing that we were going to finish it. Lovely Partner and the kids were cheering us on near the end and it gave me a real lift to see them on the sidelines - "Look, there's Mum!". Then we were straight on to the Finish line, me and my sister holding hands as we sprinted over.

I felt so so so proud of myself. Still do. I know it's not the London marathon, I know thousands of women all over the country are running the same event, it's not a unique experience, but it was the first time I've ever done anything like it, and I just felt euphoric. Big pub lunch afterwards and glasses of bubbly last night. Yayyyy!