Sunday, February 27, 2011

Screwed Rotten

A couple of days ago I got a letter from Parcel Force, the UK postal service, advising me that a package I'd ordered from the United States had arrived. However, before it could be delivered I would have to pay import duty.

Import duty?

Well, it never even crossed my mind that I'd have to pay import duty as I'm not savvy about such things, I rarely travel and the only other things I've ever ordered from the US are two secondhand books which cost me £0.01p and £1.49 each on Amazon with £2.75 postage respectively. The first book was Franky Furbo by William Wharton and the other A Sinless Season by Damon Galgut, neither of which I could purchase in the UK for a reasonable sum.

( By the way I have written an article about Damon which also includes a review of his Man Booker nominated novel In A Strange Room over at The View From Here. There's also an interview with Damon, and if you've never read any of his work I heartily recommend all his novels and suggest you start with either The Good Doctor or The Imposter. )

The Impostor: A Novel

To drift off on a tangent for a moment...Why don't publishers put authors' back catalogues into digital format? I can't believe it is that difficult or expensive to do so when all the manuscripts are already stored digitally. It seems utter madness to me that authors should lose out on sales because people can't find or afford older publications. For example, at the time I wanted to read A Sinless Season   it was only available in the UK for some ridiculous sum so I ordered it from the US for a total of £2.76 of which Damon would have received nothing. I would have happily have bought an electronic copy for a few pounds which I could have downloaded immediately and not been forced to wait several weeks for it to arrive from the US. Doesn't that make sense? Now okay, so maybe it's impractical to get all authors' work into digital format but both Galgut and Wharton are, in my opinion, big names in literature. Why hasn't it been done yet?

Anyway, I opened my letter and my import duty and the £8.00 "clearance" charge (whatever that is but it sounds like just an excuse to con me out of some more cash) amounted to £38. 24. Yes that's right £38.24 or $61.62.

Wait for it...

Are you wondering what expensive item I'd bought? Had Mrs T splashed out on a tiara on a box of chocs the size of the Statue of Liberty? Nope, I'd merely bought some tennis equipment which had cost $209. 91 which included a $34.95 postage charge from the US. Now to covert that to pounds and deduct postage the actual cost of the equipment was £108.58. So my import duty and clearance charge is over A THIRD of the value of the goods.

You know what Readers, and I rarely say such things,

BUT I HAVE BEEN SCREWED!

I mean it's one thing to protect your own economy but when you don't make the same product in your own country and it's for personal use I call that ONE BIG RIP OFF.

I hope the government uses my £38.24 for something sensible.

But I'm not counting on it.

Strange Goings On in the Bathroom

Where do you go when you need thinking time?

I always take myself off to the bathroom. I like to lie in hot, fragrant water. I find it a soothing experience and even though sometimes I may have something to cry about the very process is a cathartic, healing experience. I often put a flannel over my face and muse about whatever is troubling me, hoping to find that elusive solution.

When you have a family the bathroom is the only place where there's some real privacy and solitude although it may still frequently be disrupted by the needs of small children. In the past I've had the boys banging on the door with demands ranging from an urgent call of nature to settling a dispute over the Xbox. It can be quite frustrating at times to get out off the bath, dripping wet and cold, in order to resolve arguments or to find a missing football boot.

Fortunately, as the boys grow older, I can now usually reslove most issues verbally ( ie shouting) but, even more luckily, they've moved into that phase where the idea of kissing or even looking at a woman's body in the bath is a totally hideous concept. Whereas most blokes would pay to see Jennifer Aniston kissing or bathing on film they have their eyes covered, omitting cries of UGhhhhhhh! That's disssssssssssgusting! I am never going to get married! It's bit like that with me in the bathroom - only there's more of me. If you know what I mean.

So, I 'm safe in the bathroom once more. Hurrah! And now that my three elderly cats have also passed on I also don't have the habitual clawing at the door and untimely deposits of a odious nature in the cat litter. Again, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! Of course, I do have my new pussy, Mr Bond, who would probably pay good money to see me starkers but luckily he has a door phobia and is still content to dump on the neighbours' gardens.

( Um...He also has a phobia about tin foil.... Why? Your guess is as good as mine. But I may have to put him forward for pet counselling if I discover any more problems.)

Anyway, so yesterday, I needed to reflect on my writing and took myself off to the bath for a good wallow...

I'm lying back, relaxing. Musing over the events of recent days, I decide to put a flannel on my face with a squirt of my favourite grapefruit soap. So I duly squirt a drop on my flannel...I notice the soap looks a little more watery than normal. Nothing usual there... the boys are often topping up bottles with water and playing battleships or whatever. So I put on another squirt so I can still smell the fragrance and...

Just as I'm about to put the flannel on my face I notice a strange smell.

Rather like ammonia.

Could it be? Surely not? Have they really?

I pick up the bottle and raise it to my nose....

Oh dear God! Why those no good little rotters...

Yep. One of the boys had tipped out the soap and filled it up with a nice little surprise gift for me.

How very thoughtful!

You know, things don't get that much easier as your kids get older - the challenges are just different ones.

Hmm...I've had a thought. I think that ruining my therapy session requires some sort of payback. Now let me think...

I wonder where I put that cake decoration???

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Supermarket woes

So after yesterday's traumatic post about the reception my novel got in a professional critique I'm still weighing up my options. Do I carry on writing or do I get that job at Tescos which has been beckoning me for the last 5 years? And should I go for the meat counter or the fish counter? I'm not sure about either actually - I think I could work well amongst the vegetables.

Alternatively, there's the bakery section - I could play with buns all day, pick raisins out of my hair and I'd get to wear one of those amusing white hats. That would be a real treat. I reckon if I let a few obligatory stray hairs come loose and put on an thermal vest so I get all sweaty I'd actually look like I'd been working when, of course, I'd actually be out the back consuming all the chocolate chip cookies. Obviously, consuming the cookies would be a necessity as I'm the sort of person who always takes pride in her work - so I'd need to put on about 5 stone to look the part of the authentic baker. Now I know that weight gain sounds quite a task but rest assured Readers whilst I may have failed with my novel I am confident I can succeed with the weight gain.

The sweet counter would obviously be the ideal choice. Imagine being able to advise people on the pros and cons of all the different chocolates? One would have to sample them obviously which would be a bit of a chore but well I suppose I could suffer it because people really do need advice on these important matters. You see the type of chocolate you buy, particularly as a gift for a woman, says a lot about the type of man you are.  For example, if you buy a box of Milk Tray you are finished, I mean finished, as a potential partner - Milk Tray are only for your Aunt Flo when she's coming out of rehab or for the teacher who really gets up your nose at school. Unfortunately though, your average supermarket sweet counter is unmanned so that just leaves the cheese counter to which I'd probably be ideally suited. I think my cheesy jokes should fit in rather well alongside the Gorgonzola and the Stilton. And if the cheese counter was situated next to the vegetable counter it would be one huge comedy feast.

Of course I could be a cashier. I've always wanted to ring that little bell they've got or turn on the flashing light. It would be like being a police officer only without the threat of personal injury.

Wait a minute, there's also the dry cleaning section. I could definitely do that bit. I do "dry" cleaning all the time at home. In fact, I can proudly claim our floors and laundry remain as dry as long as humanly possible.

The one place I wouldn't want to work is customer service. I'm not tactful enough. All those people who bring their turkey carcasses back after Christmas saying it was dry and tasteless but they ate it anyway would get short shrift from me...

So it was dry and tasteless but you still managed to eat all 35lbs over two days? Right...... if you'd just like to step over here to our lie detector machine I can give you a refund no problem.....

You know what? I think I am definitely management material. I want one of those little badges. It could read Mrs J Turley, Manager, Vegetables and Cheeses.

Though knowing my luck I'd probably get stuck on newspapers and books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

So I sent 4 revised chapters of my books for a critique.

Here's some words I've pulled out from the response;

fatuous

unfunny

childish

irritating

The good news is that I am apparently a good enough writer to write successfully in any genre I please. Just not humour obviously.

You know I wouldn't be so upset if it wasn't for the fact being humorous is essentially who I am. Sure, my humour isn't everyone's humour and I probably do overstep the mark at times but I'm finding this pretty difficult to deal with. It's knocked my confidence a lot.

So time to go back to the drawing board or to Tescos. You know the girls would like me in Tescos I think I'm pretty easy to get along with.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Un(literary) Quotes and a Little Bit of Silliness.

The other day I was over at the publisher Scott Pack's website catching up with a few of his posts. There was one I particularly enjoyed about tattoos in which Scott asked folks to drop him a line telling him which literary quote they'd like tattooed on their body.

Well, I was just about to put down my own favourite but then I thought... What the hell, I can make a whole post out of this. You see, I'm one of those people who love quotes in general. I even, and this may come as shock to those of you know me as a lazy, good for nothing slob, (which is pretty accurate) memorized one hundred  (Yes, one hundred!) quotes for my O level English Literature.

But do you know? Not one of the topics I learnt quotes for came up and I ended up with only a grade C.

How unfair is that? Huh.

Anyway, I can still remember a few - mostly from The Merchant of Venice. So don't get me started on old Shylock unless your some secret Shakespeare freak. Then we can compare notes.

Right, well, I read these other quotes folks had put down on Scott's blog. There were some good ones... but all so, so serious.

Question:  Why are people are so serious all the time?

This is a problem I have - especially with my novel. I want to be serious and funny. But that doesn't seem to be what publishers want. They want clear cut, typical genre fiction. They believe that's what the buying market wants. So...there are relatively few cross genre novels and, in my opinion, nothing really laugh out loud unless it some sort of factual book like How to Kill your Granny at Christmas or 100 ways to avoid a Parking Ticket.

But what I want to know is:

How the hell do authors such as Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell write hundreds and hundreds of pages and sustain all that sincerity without cracking a joke?

I mean, life's funny at times isn't it? Why can't we have some of it in fiction?

Hmm...Do you think Tom Clancy actually gets off on describing supersonic jets? (Apologies for the language Ladies and Gents.) But do you think that after six pages of;

The supersonic jet-propelled missile flew through the air, the titanium outer casing red hot and the internal wiring ready to blow to a fuse...............blah, blah, blah...blah, blah, blah.....

Do you think he legs it to the bathroom ?

What about Patricia Cornwell?

Scarpetta looked at the maggots protruding from the body. There were worms too, wriggling and feasting. One was so big it looked like... a small snake. A small, pulsating, vibrating, writhing snake.Scarpetta crossed her legs, she needed to go the loo but the post mortem took priority...she would have to deal with the maggots first before taking care of the snake....

Anyway, long term readers may remember I used to put literary quotes in my sidebars. So I thought - why not stick a few of them down that you might have forgotten. I will, of course, be putting my own reworked quotes underneath. Cos, your own quotes are much more interesting aren't they? I mean, quotes, unless they're really, really good, are like looking at someone else's holiday snaps. Okay for a while - and then you want to slash your wrists.

So here we go;

Dennis Potter wrote:

The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they've been in.

Mrs T says;

The trouble with chocolate is that you know its always been in my mouth.

T S Eliot wrote:

To become a great writer, whatever you do - avoid piles.

Mrs T says:

To become a great writer, whatever you do - don't get a big arse. It doesn't fit comfortably on a small chair.

George Bernard Shaw said:

I often quote myself - it adds spice to my conversation.

Mrs T says:

I often quote myself - it adds stupidity to the conversation.

Rudyard Kipling said:

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

Mrs T says;

Chocolate, is of course, the most powerful drug used by women.

Moliere wrote:

Good heavens! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing it.

Mrs T says:

Good heavens! For more than forty years I have been eating chocolate and now it bloody well shows.

Ursula Le Guin wrote in Prospects for Women in Writing:


If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don't marry and have kids, and above all don't die. But if you do have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that."
 
Mrs T says:
 
If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don't marry and have kids, and above all don't die. But if you do have to die, commit suicide by stuffing your face with chocolate; it's a lot more pleasurable than being hit by a train at 100 miles an hour. I approve of that.
 
And finally one of my favorite Churchillian quotes taken from my post The Rise and Fall of British Pants:
 
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the field and in the streets, we shall fight in our pants and our vests, we shall fight in our socks and long johns; we shall never surrender.
 
Quality quotes there from Mrs T. There must be a literary novel in me somewhere. Maybe in my butt.
 
Got a good quote? Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More (Un)Romantic Tales

So with it being Valentine Day yesterday and the the fact that I keep hearing the marvellous song Grenade by Bruno Mars I've been thinking about past Valentine Days.



The Valentine Day that springs to mind was in 1986 when I was in my third year at university and had been with the same boyfriend since the first term in the first year. I'll call him.... Twerp... just to make it easier you understand. Well Twerp and I had a lot in common. We both studied history, had older parents, were "entertainers", loved the arts and acting. He had a brilliant mind too - and was probably the best raconteur that I've ever come across. No one delivered a punch line like he did. I've always thought it was tragic he never went into the theatre and chose the safety of the classroom.

He was also nuts. Yep, nuts. It was a relationship full of emotional highs and lows... the stuff I put up with is unbelievable. I would never put up with that now but he was my first love and sometimes us girls don't see sense, particularly the first time round. Hmm... I particularly remember the time he stood me up when we were supposed to be having dinner with my parents. Yeah, I remember that one alright, why the no-good stinking, selfish, inconsiderate.....

Oh excuse me, just got a little distracted there....

Right back to the story. So anyway this particular Valentine Day my girlfriends and I had picked up our post and were seated at a big table in the dining room (we were in halls) and opening our cards. So Mrs T (or Miss D as I was then) opens her card and finds...

A COW

Yes, that's right. On the front of the card was a picture of big, fat cow. Now granted it was accompanied by some witty phrase and everyone thought it was hysterical but inside Miss D was not impressed at all. Now it's true I was already known for my sharp wit but a COW?! No, no, no, no. Mrs T has always been a warm hearted soul and would never say anything spurious about anyone...except a few minor celebrities...maybe the odd politician...the occasional film star... in truth Readers Mrs T is almost an angel....

Anyway, I thinks it fair to say that jokes aside, underneath Mrs T was a tad bit hurt. Yeah, alright Valentine Day is a commercial rip off but if you do decide to participate you gotta do it right eh? Flowers, beautiful cards, chocolates, jewellery....

So anyway about 18 months later the relationship was coming to a close. He'd gone off to do further study and I'd gone off into the big wide world and I came to my senses. It took me a while... but eventually I realised that the best kind of love is an equal love and so I went to see him and call it a day at which point he asked me to marry him and I said "no." A decision I've never regretted.

So the moral of this tale is;

Never, ever, send your girlfriend a picture of a cow. You may live to regret it!

Ps... I am really nice really. Honest.

PPs... It was a Jersey Cow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Some lovely gifts and an(unromantic) tale

So anyway, there I was last week banging my head on the dining room table trying to figure out what to do with my novel when there's a knock at the door. It's the postman and he has a parcel for me, all way from the USA!

Fortunately, it wasn't a writ. It was a lovely parcel from my friend Marie over at Nourish!

Being the dignified woman I am, I delicately removed the packaging, folded the wrapping paper and stored it away.

Okay, I didn't. I ripped it open whilst screaming "Yippee, yippee a prezzie for Mrs T! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!"

Yeah - I am that sad. I don't get presents that often. Well not unless you count car parking tickets.

So I ripped open the paper and found this beautiful scarf pictured below which is hand knitted by Marie herself! What can I say but a very big THANK YOU to Marie. It's gorgeous and I shall be wearing it for years!



Now here's where my little story starts. So I've been writing in the dining room because my study is... a little messy. Or what we might colloquially describe in the UK as a "shit tip." When I've got my courage back I'll tidy it up but at the moment I'm taking the easy way out. So later that day, I'm writing away with Marie's other gift, a lovely decorative wall hanging which couldn't have come at a more appropriate time with all my novel dilemmas, and Mr T comes into the dining room and looks over my shoulder and sees the wall hanging.

"She belives she could so...she did."
Very, very slowly and without words Mr T places his forefinger over the first "S" so that the message now reads;

"He believes she could so...she did."     

Now Mrs T has been married to the good Mr T for nearly 20 years and has known him for 25 years. And let me tell you it wasn't the washing up he wanted me to do. Yep, Mrs T knows EXACTLY the way his mind works. (Fortunately, he doesn't have a clue how mine works) and let me tell you readers...

I kept my mouth well and truly shut.

.................................................................

More (un) romantic tales coming soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Fatally Flawed Mrs T

Question: Am I trying to kill myself?

It's just after 4 am. I have insomnia again and I've been awake for the last hour mulling over the direction my writing is heading. I finally worked it out this week; I'm not going to be the next John Le Carre - I can't write seriously for more than a couple of paragraphs. So I might as well just get on and write the bonkers stuff.

So no Nobel prizes for literature for me. Maybe a turkey?

So anyway, eventually, I decide I might as well get up and write. What's the point in thinking about plots and scenarios? I know where I'm going now, so I might as well write it down since there's no chance of drifting back to sleep.

I grope for my fleecy jacket and make my way onto the landing. Immediately, I notice there's a strange smell in the house...

I raise my hooter to the air...the odour is a cross between waffles and...

burning.

But there's no smoke! And I haven't made any cakes( for about 20 years) what is this strange smell? Has my pussy, Mr Bond, dumped in the sugar bowl?

I wander downstairs and put the kettle on, looking for the source of this peculiar smell...

I have left a giant pan of chilli con carne cooking for at least 10 hours. I...um...forgot about it.

Fortunately, it had a lot of fluid in it. So...I guess it's only burnt to a depth of... an inch?

So, in answer to my question Am I trying to kill myself ? No, not deliberately, but I may yet succeed!