Wednesday, February 27, 2008



But I can't say I can't say I can't SAY anthing.


Hope you understand.

Meanwhile must not believe anything till it happens. If it does, I'll be right back here.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 25, 2008



On latest saunt yesterday, stumbled across the 20/21 Art Fair. Having been to the supermarket, I wandered in bag-lady style with my Bag for Life containing cheese, wine, onion soup and Badoit, quite arty hnn? Good thing about art is it doesn't matter. Shabby and over-dressed all mix happily together. It was great. Overheard some funny conversations and it was amazing to be able to leaf through those Athena-like poster racks, where you expect the bargains, to see original Matisse sketches, I took one out to look at it. Signed a few visiting books to get on the mailing lists so that the post in future should become more fun and colourful. Saw some lovely things, Modigliani sketches (at £200,000 a piece) rubbing up against Bansky & was taken with Annie Ovenden. It wasn't crowded out like the now famous Frieze fair & there was a fantastic book sale, 100s of art books, everything £2. I bought a Rob Ryan cutout for peanuts and staggered out with an enormous Christie's catalogue of contemporary art, to show daughter (slobbing at home after late, late sleepover) what she'd been missing.

My favourite new discovery is Walkit , a Mappy-type route planner, except it's for walkers and it gives customised pollution-free routes through the backstreets of London. Went the other day to look at the new caff at the V&A, friend J had told me about except don't think it's that new any more. After wiggling through some beautiful streets, took a wrong turning and got lost, but got there in the end. It's very old, the caff, rooms are old I mean, William Morris & co., but buffet style snacks & food, good place to meet for lunch.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008



Every day since the phone call have been hard at it, summarising each chapter into 2 lines. I finished last night. The best I managed was 3 lines (chapter 1) the worst, 29 lines (chapter 33). They are very short lines, I haven't done the fiddling with the margins trick yet (like, when you're asked to write a 2 page synopsis and you get it down by having the sentences start and finish right at the very edge of the page, and you squash paragraphs together and all in all make it look horrible, dense and unreadable). But I don't think 29 lines are going to magically shrink into 2 somehow. I've tried to keep it to what happens, without embellishment, with as much conflict and emotion as possible. In 2 lines? It's like writing one of those 50 word short stories over and over.

Reaching the squashy middle bit wasn't a good moment, I ended up rewriting the main text at the same time as summarising, but reaching the end was a very good moment and I announced to the family that I'd finished the novel. It's now all on one document, there are a few chapters still that need some serious seeing-to, but it's all there. Sometimes as I was reading it I was thinking this is OK, this will be all right, but as soon as I finished I thought, no, it's not good enough etc etc. Now to spend a few hours trying to edit down the summary.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



The agent phoned this morning, thinks it's looking really good. Likes the new chapter, still likes the title, is sending it back with a few small notes and then it's on to the next stage.

Strange feeling after so many months working alone to find, once more, it's being taken seriously. But hey - wey hey.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, February 09, 2008



Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those ocasions when I talk about writing. It's a simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write. the point is that you have to maintain trustworthy relations. If you wake up in the morning with a hangover and cannot get to literary work, your unconscious, after a few such failures to appear, will withdraw.

... The unconscious presence within may have as many interests, aspects, principalities, chasms, terrors, underworlds, other-worlds, and ambitions as yourself. Your unconscious may even have ambitions that are not your own. For practical purposes, it may be worth thinking of it as a separate creature. If you are ready to look upon your unconscious as a curious and semi-alienated presence in yourself with whom you have to maintain decent relations - if you are able to see yourself as some sort of careless general (of the old aristocratic school) and picture the unconscious as your often unruly cohort of troops - then, obviously, you wouldn't dare to keep those troops out in the rain too lon; certainly not at the commencement of any serious campaign. On the contrary, you make a pact: "Work for me, fight for me, and I will honor and respect you." To repeat: The rule is that if you say to yourself you are going to write tomorrow, then it doesn't matter how badly you're hungover or how promising is a sudden invitation in the morning to do something more enjoyable. No, you go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work. This injunction is wholly anti-romantic in spirit. But if you subject yourself to this impost upon yourself, this diktat to be dependable, then after a period of time - it can take weeks, or more - the unconscious, nursing its disappointments, may begin to trust you again.

Norman Mailer The Spooky Art.

Hmm, better get on with it then, so much for my morning walk.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008



Last week was spent rewriting just one chapter, over and over, every day facing up to the same words again, not allowing myself to move on. Pretty miserable. I can't say I got there in the end, it's just less bad. I find it amazing that, after all this time, I'm still finding scenes where I'm getting people to and from places, greeting each other as they arrive. Why haven't I learnt the jump into the action, start late, get out early rule?

Confidence raised a bit by reading some of it out to writing workshop on Monday. The first one I've been to since we've moved. There were just 3 of us and I appreciated the intimacy for my relaunch into reading out aloud. A bit of positive feedback, discovering I was brave enough to read, was a much needed boost after an intense week of lonely struggle. We talked about it a bit. How when you don't have the business-side working in your favour any more it can be very hard going getting through the walls when they hit (in the 'no wonder I'm not published any more' etc etc glums). So I was very grateful for my little bit of attention. The feeling that the novel is nothing more than stone round my neck has lifted and I'm keen to get on again.

A good haul from the library last Saturday. Ed Glinert's Literary London
had me strapping on my moneybelt and setting off northwards. I crossed Holland Park, looking sideways afresh at Holland House (now a youth hostel, you can stay there too! And ooh see from this unaccompanied children from 14 are accepted). Lots of literary connections here, not least it's where Lord Byron met Lady Caroline Lamb. Made my way down to Portobello fruit and veg market, past the flat I used to own (some jobsworth has tarted up the entrance with potted trees and bossy notices telling people not to park, glad I'm out of there) and all my old haunts. Returned homewards with my purple sprouting broccoli, tulips and pears via George Orwell's house. The guide is great in that it doesn't just say where these places are but gives you little stories.

After resigning his commission in the Burmese police force.... in need of a place to stay... the poet Ruth Pitter came up with a sparsely furnished, freezing room in this unassuming little house at the southern end of Portobello Road, next to the pottery studio where she worked. The landlady, a Mrs Craig, has once been a maid to a titled lady and was an insufferable snob. One day Orwell came back to find the occupants of the house locked out and staring hopefully at a window that was open on an upper floor. He suggested they borrow a ladder, visible in the front garden next door, no. 20, but Mrs Craig objected on the grounds that in fourteen years of living in the street she had never spoken to her working class neighbour and could not bring herself to do so now. Orwell relented and had to walk a mile or so to one of Mrs Craig's relatives and borrow their ladder, which he then struggled to carry back. This vignette of the complications caused by middle-class respectability gave him much ammunition in later novels. Pitter, meanwhile, was shocked at the idea that Blair/Orwell wanted to be a writer. She felt he was starting too late and had no income to fall back on, and her scepticism was reinforced when he let her look at his verse. She thought it naive and amateurish, and later remembered how 'we used to laugh till we cried at some of the bits he showed us.' Nevertheless, Orwell pressed on with his ambitions and chose to experience life as a tramp in the slum areas of east London, with some vague idea of collecting research for a book on the subject (what became Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933). Orwell used Pitter's pottery workshop (rather than Mrs Craig's rooms) to change into his tramping clothes, bought from charity shops in Lambeth, and then walked the seven miles east to Limehouse to begin his travails. He left the house for Paris in spring 1928. A Literary Guide to London Ed Glinert

I stopped and looked at the house, and the next door houses, thinking about the ladder problem and wondering which was the kindly neighbour, no. 24 obviously but I didn't take the book with me. The front door looked like him, I thought, sort of olivey green and narrow.

Back home via Kensington Church Street and Ezra Pound's in Kensington Church Walk. I wasn't aiming for this one, know nothing about Pound, so had to look up the story later, 'He rented a first floor room. The flat had no toilet or running water but there was a cast iron fireplace with a hob either side of the bars, as Pound described in his poem 'The Bathtub'. Funny, until now, whenever I've looked at blue plaques on houses, I've always imagined the celebrated artist or poet living there elegantly on their achievements or in some idyllic childhood.

Discoveries, Saunt 2:

Holland Park youth hostel possible solution for daughter's 14th birthday sleepover party.
Market veg not as good as Waitrose (sad, very sad about that).
I don't like the sound of Ezra Pound, or his silly bath poem.
I am glad I don't own my flat any more.
Blue plaques are only grand in retrospect (?) (or something like that).

Am looking forward to Campden Grove (James Joyce), Young Street (William Makepeace Thackeray), Kensington Square (T S Eliot) and Holland Park Avenue (Ford Maddox Ford edited The English Review here & Conrad used to sleep on the floor!).

Talking of famous writers, the security guard is on the terrace doorstep outside our front window talking to a woman next door. Cwoo. Wonder if it's our own celebrated Author, actually In Residence? Or the cleaner. What's the matter with me. What's wrong with cleaners? Why can't I be ooh, it's a cleaner, a wonderful woman. Everybody's wonderful. Anyway, if it is Her, I Will Not Stare.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.