Del Boy’s dreams (in ‘Only Fools and Horses’) always used to end with him saying confidently, ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires.’ Well I can’t look at my blog post for this time next year but I can look back to last year and see where I was at. And lo! I was here: https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/can-i-be-novel/
Just goes to show what a difference a year makes.
Still no baby – but then again it’s not due for five days.
About a year ago OH went to the opticians and returned with no fewer than THREE pairs of glasses in various lurid shades, each of which performs a particular function. This means that no matter the occasion OH will always be wearing the wrong glasses. ‘I’m wearing the wrong glasses’ was such a frequent complaint that in the end I said, ‘You should get that on a t-shirt.’
Today is OH’s birthday. Can you see where this is going? If not, maybe you’re wearing the wrong glasses… well, I went online and found a site where you can put your own slogans on t-shirts and the upshot was two t-shirts in lurid shades saying in large blurry letters… ‘I’m wearing the wrong glasses.’
As I write there are just eleven days to go before my first grandchild is due. I’m convinced that it’s going to be a girl, for no reason at all except gut instinct, and I also think she’ll be a few days late. The other day I woke about 4 a m convinced that Daughter was in labour; turns out she thought something was about to happen too. But it didn’t.
Statistically I seem to think first-time mothers are more likely to be late than early, though I hope it’s not too late as you can get very uncomfortable. If she’s born on August 2nd that’ll be interesting because that was my Mum’s birthday.
I’m obviously not the most important person in this scenario but a baby changes everything and everyone. All the relationships in the family change; brothers become uncles, parents become grandparents and two bewildered individuals find themselves in charge of a tiny scrap of humanity entirely dependent on them for everything. It’s quite overwhelming. Still, I think Daughter and Fiance are as well-prepared for this as anyone can be and I have every confidence in them.
As I write in the UK it is scheduled to hit a 31-degree high and a 53-year political low (since Suez) with the doom that awaits in the shape of Boris Johnson. I don’t think they have exit polls with this type of thing as it’s done by postal vote but all pundits agree that this is the probably outcome. As if Brexit itself weren’t enough, Johnson looks like being our Trump, a self-serving narcissist hell-bent on power for its own sake (even Max Hastings doesn’t trust him, for god’s sake!) all set to dissolve Parliament and drive us off a cliff in the interests of – well, I’m not sure what exactly but no-one will benefit from a no-deal Brexit. The best we can hope for is that so many of his MPs would desert him (two have already resigned and more have refused to serve under him) that he’d lose a vote of no confidence and be forced to call a general election. Labour seem finally to be lurching towards a coherent policy on the two things that have held us back over the last couple of years: anti-semitism and the dreaded B-word. We have launched a website and educational documents about anti-semitism and seem now finally to be backing a ‘people’s vote’ on the final deal, if not a second referendum. Yes, these things should have been done two years ago but hey, better late than never.
Brexit really is a Gordian knot; whichever way you look there’s no clear solution. Thankfully we Brits are dab hands at the good old-fashioned fudge, which is probably what it’ll turn out to be in the end.
It’s enough to make you go and live in Scotland. It’s bloody cold but at least they have sensible policies.
Additional: after his vote was almost double that of Hunt, I have now decided that BoJo stands for ‘beyond a joke’
Anyone in Britain will know that postcode as well as they know their own, for it is that of the Beeb, our beloved Auntie, allowing nation to speak peace unto nationand still producing some of the best TV around and all of it sans adverts. W1A dates from a few years back, though series 3 is more recent, and stars Hugh Bonneville as Ian Fletcher, former head of Olympic Deliverance (in ‘2012’) along with Jason Watkins, Nina Sosanya and Sarah Parrish.
It took me a while to get the full flavour of what is really going on here. Not being well-schooled in office politics it didn’t immediately strike me that Ian is being set up to fail by his colleague Simon (‘Head of Strategic Governance’) who has – or claims to have – the ear of the BBC chairman and who constantly passes off the crap jobs (‘I don’t know how these things work and you’ll know how you want to deal with this…’) whilst swooping in to claim responsibility for all the good ideas emanating from Ian’s environs. But Ian’s soon onto Simon and does some pre-empting of his own, getting hold of strategic plans and coming in early to beard Tony in his den and pass them off as his own which in this case they actually are. The frozen smile on Simon’s face when this comes out is exquisite.
W1A is full of such moments, too full to list them all but it rapidly becomes clear that Ian is no fool and always seems to pull something out of the hat at the last minute. Hurrah. The dynamic in his teamis paralleled by the sub-plots of Izzie Gould and Lucy Freeman (the only other competent workers in the BBC) who in turn are plagued by slimy opportunist Jack Patterson, office idiot Will Humphries and the utterly unbearable and totally Machiavellian David Wilkes, while Siobhan Sharp (Jessica Hynes) makes everyone’s life a misery without even trying. The voice-over (David Tennant) is a joy in itself. So go watch the BBC having fun on itself with itself. Yes no, very good, very strong.
I’m taking a leaf out of Beetleypete’s book and reblogging a few golden oldies as it’s holiday time and I’m basically Not At My Desk Very Much. Here’s one from a while back.
*Sigh*. Another day, another rejection – this time in the form of a competition shortlist which unaccountably did not have my name on it. It’s very hard to keep going during these times: you feel a blow to the stomach like a sucker-punch which takes all the air out of your lungs. You start to feel a bit sick: then the inevitable thoughts come in. Why did I think that story was any good? Of course they didn’t choose it! What makes you think you’ll make a writer? And so on. But along with that there’s a stony stubbornness which won’t let me stop: and that’s a good thing – but right now it doesn’t feel good. Right now that stubbornness feels like your doom. It seems there’s no escape from your own nature – or fate, or whatever it is – and you start to feel like Sisyphus, condemned to push a rock up a mountain only to see it roll to the bottom. Every time.
Maybe I should write a story about that….
Because yes, in the end that is the only response; to turn your experiences into art. And thankfully nowadays the sucker-punch doesn’t last too long: I bounce back from it relatively quickly. But it’s very hard to find a place in a world which doesn’t seem to have any time for your work. My problem with stories is, I think, that they don’t have a strong plot. I’m not good with strong plots: my strengths lie in ideas and characters; moments in a life. Although I have had some success with surreal plots, such as Mem Mat, the one about the memory mattress which stores your actual memories. I have also – as is only fair – had some success with writing about trans issues: first with the Mslexia blog and before that, a story called DIVORK where a woman thinks her husband is having an affair because of a lip-print on a glass, only to discover that the lipstick is his.
As far as poetry goes I think my problem is that I write a lot of rhyming verse and there seems to be a mindset that serious poets write free verse. Hence I’ve had more success with comic verse. Interestingly this mirrors the process when I began to write: unable at first to take myself seriously as a poet, I started with parodies and comic rhymes, assuming like everyone else that the serious poet did not rhyme (or only sporadically) and that therefore I was not a Serious Poet. It took a long while for me to be persuaded otherwise – and now it seems to be taking a long while for publishers to be persuaded, too.
So here’s the rub: do you carry on doing what you do even though no-one seems to like it, or do you try to alter what you do to fit in?
You know how computer programmers say the first 95% takes 95% of the time? And the last 5% also takes 95% of the time? I can so relate to that because that’s exactly how a novel is; the first draft takes 95% of the time – then the rewrites also take 95% of the time. Even so, I have a huge sense of achievement in being able to say that I have finished!!! the first draft of my novel Tapestry (working title) whose chapters are based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.
The idea came from hearing that the Bayeux Tapestry (see above) was about to come to Britain. Around the same time someone lent me a book from a Grayson Perry exhibition, also of tapestries – and the two came together. I don’t know where the Fibonacci idea came in but it just seemed to work on so many levels. So there we are, and 84,000 words later (gulp!) the first draft is done.
The first chapters came easily, being only a thousand words each. After that it got more complicated and when I reached Chapter 21 (21,000 words) I began to set myself a daily word challenge. I would write 700 words a day and then stop. If I was still in the flow after 700 words, that was all to the good, I could pick it up again the next day – if not, it didn’t matter. It was amazing how the sense of slow and steady progress built, week after week; finishing Chapter 21 and starting on the dauntingly lengthy Chapter 34 (34,000 words) but I got there. You’ll be pleased to know that Chapter 55 is deliberately unfinished as the narrator dies (I think a 55,000-word chapter is asking too much of any reader – I’m not Proust.)
So there we have it. This week I shall be mostly… getting stuff ready to send to publishers and winding down ready for August, a month of No Work.