Thursday, 28 January 2010

Why I Love Wonderful Wednesdays

Back when we were ankle-deep in toddlers and babies, my husband and I shared the work/childcare duties between us. He would work three days a week and I would work two, and whoever was not officially working would actually work even harder by looking after our three little babes. It was a pretty frazzling time, looking back. Nobody had enough sleep and the days were filled with non-stop domestic dramas of scraped knees, tantrums, tussles and bottom-wiping. I had barely five minutes to myself, constantly looked like death warmed up and felt as if my brain had melted to a useless sludge.
Obviously it wasn't all bad. There were loads of really good bits too that I wouldn't have missed for the world. The triumphs of first steps, first words, first teeth. All those cuddly bedtime stories. Making dens or cakes or castles... Some days when we went down to the beach or the park or even just a friend's house, and everyone was happy and healthy and being cute and lovely... well, they were awesome. Brilliant. I felt happy to be alive and so lucky to be a mum. Just... knackered.

It won't always be like this, Lovely Husband and I would console ourselves, in the evening when the darlings were finally all asleep. Imagine, when they're all out of nappies! Imagine, when they all sleep through the night! Imagine, when they're all at school. Life will go back to normal! Except what if... what if we both carried on working part-time and HAD A DAY OFF TOGETHER EVERY WEEK?

Well. Do you know what? That's just what has happened. The children are all at school between Monday and Friday, but do Lovely Husband and I both work between Monday and Friday? No, we do not. He works four days a week and I do too. So that means since Youngest Daughter started school back in September, every Wednesday has been fun day. It is sooooooo brilliant! Even if we do boring things like stripping wallpaper or cleaning the house, it's just us two! How fantastic is that?
Yesterday was the jewel in the Wednesday crown so far. We went to the Thermae Spa here in Bath and oh my goodness, it is so lovely. I'd never been there before but I will definitely go back. And as we lay there in the roof-top pool, the water steaming around us as we gazed over the Georgian chimneys and roof-tops, we said, We've earned this. And that was a good, good feeling.
Bring on the next Wednesday!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

..Talking of jet planes...

Went to see Up in the Air last Friday night, the new George Clooney film. Have you seen it? It's fab - great, sparky dialogue, unexpected plot twists, and of course GEORGE in all his soulful-eyed glory. Mm-mmm. I thought it was going to be a schmaltzy feelgood romcom but was proved wrong - it's actually quite melancholic and edgy. Great. Also saw Revolutionary Road on DVD over the weekend - phew, it's brilliant but very intense. So well acted and shot, the sort of film that makes you feel wrung-out afterwards.
My guilty-pleasure-viewing lately has been slightly less cerebral... American Idol! It's the first series I've ever watched and I had mistakenly thought it might be a bit humourless and po-faced. Wrong! It's hilarious and for all the right reasons. Loving it!

What else have I got to report? Must think of something, otherwise you'll assume that all I do is sit around watching the big and small screen. As if! Oh yes, I went up to Bingley last week to visit my prize-winner in his school which was great - a long trek (more sitting around albeit on a moving train) - but well worth it.

Writing-wise, I've just about finished a new children's book which means I've got some time to get back to my next novel. I can't wait to get stuck into it again - I've had loads of other deadlines to work my way through this month so I haven't even looked at it for weeks and have had loads of new ideas as to how to develop it and bung in a few minor storylines (I have a notebook full of scribbles to show for it!). I'm up to about 15,000 words so far, so I think I will print that lot out, edit and change stuff around, and then carry on with some new chapters. That's the plan, anyway...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Ha! Can you tell I've been practising my guitar? I can play 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' AND 'Streets of London' now you know. Simon Cowell is going to be knocking on my door any day, you wait. (And telling me to stick to the day job, no doubt...)

Anyway, the 'all my bags are packed' line is relevant today as I'm off on my travels. Not leaving on a jet plane, though, more like leaving on First Great Western, heading north, north and a bit further north. In fact, over the next few weeks I'm going to be going north, south, east and west which is all rather exciting. Today, I'm off up to Yorkshire. A while ago, my children's publisher ran a kids' writing competition where one of the prizes was an author visit from me. (Call that a prize?!) And the winning writer's school is up in Yorkshire, so that's where I'm off to today. The only thing is, it takes 5 hours to get there on the train... eek! My ipod is fully charged and ready to take a serious hammering, plus I have 97 books to keep me going. Or something like that.

Then next week I'm heading...er... east to London for a glam publishing party. VERY excited about that although have the usual worries about disgracing myself in front of famous people etc. (Will give you a full blow-by-blow report, obviously.)
After that, I'm off eastwards again, this time to Norwich with the lovely Veronica Henry, as we're doing a New Romantics gig there on the 10th Feb in the central library. Come along, ye folk of Norwich! Everybody welcome. I will post the time etc once I know what the hell we're doing.

Finally, during half-term, I'm going south AND west (bit of a cheat but humour me) down to Cornwall for a holiday - I mean, intensive writing retreat. My new novel is set down there and obviously I need to do some serious research into the beaches, the restaurants, the hotel spa - ahem. Well, I can't write ALL the time, can I?

Now to pack my things for this school event. Werewolf mask - check. Plastic giant squid, fairy wand, spooky plastic skull, rubber snake - check. You think I'm kidding, don't you? All I can say is, if anyone tries to nick my luggage, they're in for a big surprise...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hibernating

It's always a bit tempting to imagine hibernating at this time of year - especially if you feel as Monday-morning-ish as I do today. Right now, I'd like nothing more than to go back to bed and stay there for the rest of the day. A duvet, a thermos of tea and a pile of books - that's all I'd need. Oooh... it's so tempting... especially as I've got some great reads waiting for me up there.

I'm currently reading Virginia Woolf's Selected Diaries . Before Christmas, I read Susan Hill's brilliant new book Howard's End is on the Landing which I can't recommend enough - the perfect book-lover's book, about the year Susan Hill spends re-reading her old novels rather than buying new ones. Every other page I found myself scribbling down a title that I wanted to read, so brilliantly does she describe them, and Virigina Woolf's diaries is one such book.

So far it's wonderful. VW is very candid and deliciously spiky - ie there's a fab line about Katharine Mansfield, something like 'It is a great shame that one's first impression of Katharine Mansfield is that she stinks like a civet cat which has been walking the streets' ! Ooh Virginia - don't mince your words. It's a great big fat book anyway, and absolutely fascinating. I've only ever read Mrs Dalloway by VW before, and that was years ago, but now I'm reading her diaries (and having watched The Hours again on TV the other night) I want to have a bit of a Woolf-fest and immerse myself in her books.

In complete contrast, I've been sent a juicy-sounding new novel called 'Players' by Karen Swan which sounds very Jilly Cooper-esque, lots of frothy fun. Perfect, in fact, for hibernating with under my duvet....

Not today, though. Must be self-disciplined and sensible. I have work to be getting on with: namely a new Kitten Club book to be writing. And the house is a mess, and I've got all my accounts paperwork spread out on the floor that I need to go through and.... Well, there's always something, isn't there? Maybe if I work really really hard and get lots of writing done now, I will treat myself with a little pre-school-pick-up hibernation later...

Friday, 15 January 2010

New arrivals... and departures

Did I mention that our family has expanded? No?! I can't believe I forgot to pass on the big news. Our family of five is now a family of... well, twenty-something. Ish. I can't actually count them all off the top of my head.

No, don't worry, I haven't suddenly produced twenty-tuplets or whatever the multiple birth moniker is. We have pets!

The first new addition to the family arrived in October, coinciding neatly with eldest daughter's ninth birthday. It's a little brown and white hamster called Biscuits. (She does look rather like a custard cream, truth be told, although much cuter.) She is very sweet but unfortunately for us, brilliant at escaping. Any chance she gets, she's sneaking out of the cage and is off on an adventure. The kids all adore her and are already planning treats for her birthday (AUGUST!). I like her too so we're all happy. Although I'm not sure I really am going to make her a hamster food birthday cake, as I've been asked.

The next collection of pets arrived just before Christmas. Some friends had been given a fish tank and some tropical fish a year or so earlier and decided they didn't actually have room for it any more, so did we want it? YES! was the answer. So we inherited a tank with about ten neon tetras and some rummynose thingymabobs (not their actual name), and then we took the kids off to Bath Aquatics and they each chose a new fish to join the merry gang. Eldest daughter chose a Siamese Fighting Fish (named Scarlet), son chose a stripy fish (called Stripy) and Youngest daughter chose a strange brown eel-like thing that goes around eating all the algae off the rocks (named, rather incongruously, Violet). Lovely husband chose a silver angel fish (Angel) and two orange and black striped things (William and Blake). I chose four male guppies that are forever scrapping. (Tuh. Men, eh?) They don't have names because we keep getting them muddled up.

So that's all been rather exciting... until last night when unfortunately we found Scarlet lying lifeless at the bottom of the tank. Oh God! I felt so awful! What did we do wrong? We didn't dare break the news to Eldest this morning as I didn't want to send her off to school in tears (and I know there will be tears), so I will have to tell her this afternoon. Meanwhile, it's farewell to poor Scarlett. Rest in peace, little fishy.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Hello! And how are we all doing?
Can you believe that it's been so long since I was on Blogger that I couldn't remember my own password and was locked out? (Yes, actually, you slacker, the nation replies.)
Sorry for being so crap. The problem was, after months of resisting temptation because I knew it would mean endless distractions, I gave in and joined Facebook. And Facebook is much easier to update than a blog, isn't it? You only need one perky little sentence here and there. And you get to play Farmville too! And waste hours of time sending stupid messages to your mates - genius!

But anyway. Being serious. New Year's Resolution number 29: resurrect the blog. Give it the kiss of life. Prod it a bit. Write something on it, dammit!

Tick! Well, that was easier than I thought. I've got more resolutions though. 1: get fit again. Yes, that old chestnut. As well as resurrecting the blog today, I've also resurrected my fitness coach. Or rather, My Fitness Coach, the Wii game that bullies you into leaping around your own living room until you are completely out of breath. I did a workout this morning and embarrassingly, it had been so long since I put on my tracky bottoms that the elastic round the top had perished and I had to keep hoicking them up. (Resolution 1a: get some new tracky bottoms.)

Other resolutions... practise the guitar. Lovely Husband bought me a guitar for Christmas! Yay! And despite the trauma of having to cut my left fingernails down in order to play it, I am really enjoying it. My repertoire consists of 'He's Got The Whole World in his Hands' (a mighty two chords to learn) and... Well, that's about it, so far. Still, if the writing all goes pear-shaped, it could be my next career move, busking on the streets of Britain.

Talking of writing... I've got a new book out this year. Hurrah! It's called Sweet Temptation, and is all about the best things in life: love, friendship and cake. I was just about to post an image of the cover but don't seem to have one saved to my computer. Tell you what, here's the Amazon link so you can have a look. What do you think?

I'm writing the next one now - my FIFTH novel, wow, it feels amazing to say that. It's set down by a beach so I'm finding it a bit tricky, with all this snow on the ground, to write lovely sunny beach scenes. Luckily I have booked a holiday - ahem, I mean research trip - in order to help me with that!

Right, I'd better go. School is closed today and there's an ominous silence in the house which is never a good thing. More soon. x