Thursday, August 31, 2006

Conf 232 Last Day In The Sun

The problem with staying somewhere so beautiful is it's hard to leave it. Yesterday was lots of lavendery pressies then off to Cassis for my birthday lunch. Grilled fish and rosé at beachfront restaurant, children rushing in and out of the sea, D and I gazing wistfully at the skinny French beach beauties and sniggering at the topless trouts, the men overdosing on newspapers. Text from J P and A back in London with greetings half way through meal the cherry on the cassis sorbet. Then it was g and ts and champagne on the terrace as the sun went down, we spotted a red squirrel in the trees - tiny! - then we all snuggled under duvet to watch Breakfast At Tiffanys. Then a final gawp at the stars before turning in.

Bye bye thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Conf 231 Crap Crepes

All set to make crepes, MADE crepes, only to discover the pans provided by the householders have little air holes in them which make them come out like, as Debbie
put it so well, the souls of shoes with cow shit on them. They are now conferring downstairs as to whether we go out to restaurant or bring in some pizzas. But we had pizza last night but we're going out tomorrow because it's my birthday. Ah. Never been away before on my birthday like this, am used to VERY quiet intimate celebrates. But tomorrow we're going to Cassis for the day. Beaches, lagoons and boats, just hope the weather holds.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Post crepe PS D achieved the unachievable with the frying pan. Stuffed with cheese and ham and baked back to warmth in the oven, yummmm.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Conf 230 Influence

Finished Katherine Mansfield and dumped Zadie. Succumbed to Sunday Times, started Joyce's Portrait of an Artist and continued with the Hollywood memoirs.

In Mansfield intro, William Boyd writes about Chekhov's influence on Mansfield and Joyce.

'Literary influences are often hard to analyse precisely, but Chekhov's stories were revolutionary in their effect, and not only in Russia, nothing quite like them had been seen before. What Mansfield took from Chekhov was more of a stylistic borrowing rather than philosophical. Chekhov's mature stories function on various levels. First of all there is an indifference to or rejection of narrative tension = what Gerhardie called the ~event plot~. Chekhov believed in loose ends, he knew that life did not function neatly, that it was instead all about ambiguities, contradictions, half guessed inferences and sheer mystery and opacity. As Chekhov said to a friend 'It was time writers, especially those who were artists, recognised that there is no making out anything in this world.'

A few months ago read in daughter's homework a paragraph about shoulder blades being the place where angels' wings were fixed on. Oooh! love that! I said. It wasn't her, she told me, but from Skellig, a children's book she was reading, and part of her appraisal of that book. But then I read it again in Mansfield last night.

'When Mansfield died in 1923, Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal 'One feels = what? A shock of relief? A rival the less? Katharine's my rival no longer... I was jealous of her writing - the only writing I have ever been jealous of.'

Incidentally, Chekhov's final masterclass in death - in his last moments he called for a glass of champagne, drank it and died.

My notes from Mansfield:

rather fattish

False - false as ever

What had that creature in the glass to do with her, and why was she staring

I know that I am silly and spiteful and vain, I'm always acting a part. I'm never my real self for a moment.

What tiny moments she was really she

Her heart leapt, it seemed to turn right over

We had the courgette flowers last night, stuffed with ricotta and ham.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Conf 229 What to Read

This holiday home has broadband ^ the computer happens to be in our room! I could do some proper writing. Don't know how the printer works and am not going underneath the desk to investigate. I am writing on paper, though, notes for the synopsis, and continuing to think about the son character. There was a guy ahead of us in the passport queue in Dusseldorf, mouthy, arrogant thing with floppy blonde hair ^ he's gone into him a bit. Sorry about the typos, this keyboard is different, you press y and you get z and various other things.

This house is fab. Stuffed with books, & I brought about 10 anyway. Am reading 4 at once at moment, Katherine Mansfield short stories, Carol Shields Unless, On Beauty Zadie Smith and William Goldman#s Adventures in the Screen Trade. Debbie is reading 3 books at once. M ^ Steve are reading the papers ^ watching the grand prix on TV. We have bought courgette flowers ^ don't know what to do with them.

Must dash, a cool blue pool overlooking the Luberon hills and a glass of rosé awaits.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Conf 229


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Conf 229


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Conf 229


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Conf 228: Bye Bye Radio 4

All folded and packed, some surprising spare time today. After all that I said about getting started, thought I'd go back to the rewrite.

Main character talks about her son for first time.

Whilst I was away he had developed a bit in my mind. He's a radio DJ, he was a normal radio DJ before, but now he's a classical punk radio DJ, a bit of a Nigel Kennedy type. I decide I'm going to have a character-a-week policy. For this next week I shall be thinking solely about this man, and so on and so on for the other 3 or 4 main people.

So I googled classical punk, which I discover exists, and they lead me on to a San Francisco pirate station called Pirate Cat Radio. They play Billy Bragg & Wilco doing Woody Guthrie followed by The Monkees followed by Godspeed You Black Emperor and Low followed by Je T'Aime followed by Teenage Wasteland followed by Kraftwerk doing some samba type rhythms. I've already made a note to buy Mermaid Avenue. Quite possibly this afternoon on last minute hols shop.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, hope you enjoy listening.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Conf 227: Away Again

Thanks to Minx and Slocum for their comments about screen brightness and headaches, I have been fiddling with the obscure buttons underneath my (ancient) monitor and have also changed the screen refresh rate. All dim and good, so much thanks for the advice. Daughter will be mystified when she sees her Sims have suddenly been thrown into semi-darkness, but tough.

Have been doing fairly well at staying away from the computer. The Not Writing bit is easy, it's going to be hard to start up but am not going to worry about it now. We go away again on Friday, back to France.

This is the second holiday this summer.

This has never happened before.

This is unprecedented.

But a late invitation from friends Deb and Steve, to stay with them in this scrummiest house, not unlike the scrummiest house we've just returned from, didn't have us hanging around deciding what to do for long.

Airmiles! We said. We've got plenty.

But they don't work as last minute August options. By then we were all excited and the bikinis and yellow trunks were tumbling around in the wash.

And so the cheap flight internet madness began (headache anyone?). As we live, if the wind's in the right direction, literally within roaring distance of the runway, any airport other than Heathrow ruled out the Ryanair -like cheapies. I did check them out. But when you go into examining all those 99p flights there's all these extra costs and taxes and if it's the school holidays, forget it. After endless internet trawling, I did a strange thing. I picked up the phone. And rang our old travel agent. Trailfinders used to be a backpacker's one-room operation in West Kensington. Now it's grown huge and sells more business class tickets than economy as all the hippies have settled down to regular life. But happily we've got a scheduled Lufthansa flight from Heathrow for £50 each return. There are taxes, big taxes on top, credit card coughing and choking taxes, but not any more than the cheapies charge. Oh, and we have to go via Germany, too, and swap planes, but all part of the fun for us, well, for daughter and I.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Conf 226: Start Stop

I have got to stop using the computer so much: official.

Headache for 4th morning in a row so bad, with one eye drooped shut, fears of nasty things took over & I found myself in A&E. Thankfully it was only migraine, brought on by leaping at the keyboard first thing to get writing before daughter gets up.

This is no bad thing. I shall have to manage my time better, and not faff around so much in between. I've had a few days away from the novel now, and, as we're going away again on Friday, am not going through all the traumas of starting up and am obeying nags from family to make a life for myself away from screen-central. Rose-tinted glasses, the doctor said, and turn the screen to dim, though haven't worked out how to do that yet.

Sitting in A&E (and not for long, was called in ahead of the queue, which of course made me even more scared) worst worries were

OH NO going to miss friends coming for lunch tomorrow

OH NO going to miss the Stones

OH NO going to miss our trip to S of France.

So feeling all a bit new-lease-of-lifey now.

The Stones were great, Mick Jagger energy and Keith Richards lighting a fag that looked like a joint and saying 'it's good to be here' and being part of a Mexican wave and Midnight Rambler and this catwalk going out into the middle of the stadium, which I thought Jagger would leap down at some stage (berr) and wave at us lot at the back. But the whole band moved along it, on a kind of hidden rail track, till they were so close we could see the depths of their wrinkles. Surreal, dream-like and wonderful.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Conf 225: Catching Up With The Blogs

Got my new NHS specs today. My fears of pink tortoiseshell frames were totally unfounded. They are ultra groove. I had a wide choice of designer specs by Ted Baker and the like & am now the proud all-seeing owner of 2 pairs of Fiouruccis.

The rewrite is slow-going, but at least now, after 3 days of not much happening, I'm on the way. Getting started and restarted after each draft; and restarted again after mini-breaks, for whatever reason, is definintely one of the trickiest stages of the whole process in my book (sic, sorry).

I've enjoyed revisiting all my favourite blogs and discovering some new ones, thanks to all the comments made whilst I was away. Poor Debi Alper's virus nightmare has at least resulted in an excellent virus-avoiding tutorial. Julia Buckley got down in the dumps about her rejection Letter of Poop but I agree with the others who've commented, she's a natural and her novel sounds intriguing. Skint Writer found a radio interview with Virginia Woolf I'm longing to listen to, if only I could get the speakers working on my (increasingly dodgy) computer. And I've discovered a fellow D-Lister, Dave Roberts whose musings on the joys of publication rang many bells. Going one stage further than most of us in the stalking the bookshops stakes, he's canvassing for phone pics of nationwide sightings of his novel. I haven't got the technology, but I spotted a nice pile in Waterstones, Richmond today, Dave, if you're there, as I was busy moving my in print friends to prominent positions. Not too high (i.e. nobody's buying it) but not too low either (i.e. they're only stocking a minescule number and they're still not selling). The Tart of Fiction pointed me to a great piece by Lionel Shriver about ageing, in a brilliant twist to the usual grumps she's complaining about looking too young! Jacqui Lofthouse's new website launches today, and Kate Harrison is running a competition to find a new title for her next novel. The winner will get a signed proof, a mention in the credits AND an invite to the launch party.

I can't find where the comments which need replying to were exactly, so just to say, Lorcy, the When Comedy Changed Forever Show wasn't the one I did so I'm sorry I can't enlighten you. And Carey Clark wanted to know how long it took to write my daily word quota. It varies hugely, especially now I'm at the rewrite stage. But for first drafts I favour the bash it out quickly approach so that there's something concrete on paper to work with and think around. If it's all going well 1,000 words can take as little as an hour to get down, but the usual is working non-stop from 9 through till 3 or thereabouts.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conf 224: Back from Hols

No. of e-mails in In Box: 80
No. of bills in post: 0
No. of cheques in post: 2

Result! Whenever I return after a holiday I always feel guilty. It starts at the customs shed at Dover, driving past all those customs officers trying desperately not to catch their eye. The feeling continues on the journey home, wondering if the house is still standing and trying not to think of what horrors will be in the post and on the answermachine. I even still worry about my mother, even though she's in a nursing home in Folkestone, the next town to Dover, and we've just minutes ago popped in to visit. I am beside myself with excitement about checking e-mails, though. I suppose that's because the likelihood of any horrids isn't as great as the possiblity of chatters from friends and offers of work. This time it was all good. Plans to meet up with pals underway; some more Guardian work to do; a big hurrah welcome back from the transcript agency; my tickets for Sunday's Rolling Stones show are ready for collection, and even an e mail from an agent requesting the first 3 chapters. Speaking of which. Well I did some work, enough to know there's lots to do yet. I have a notebook full of notes and plan to change the beginning yet again. I got up early this morning to start on it but the computer funked. Failed processor whatever that means. I thought it was lost forever, but thankfully thankfully did a full diagnostics or whatever it's called and it's working again. The novels are backed up on floppy and have e-mailed them to myself but even so, scary.

We had a great time in France. No TV, no mobile network link, no radio, no newspapers, and, of course, no internet. Read lots: Yann Martel's Life of Pi was my favourite. All the right ingredients, laugh out loud funny, thoughtful, clever, surprising, informative. Been around for years, I know, but I take what I find in the library plus, luxury, luxury, one new paperback. The paperback I spent my precious £7.99 on was Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal's Tourism. I thought he might be like a new Martin Amis, I like his column in the Evening Standard, but was disappointed.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.