Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy and Stormy Weather

We Brits are always moaning about our weather. We can make a moan about the weather last an entire afternoon. Sometimes we can make it last all winter, especially if there's more than one inch of snow. Yes, if there's more than one inch of snow the entire country grinds to a halt, especially the transport system which can't even cope if a leaf blows on the track. Believe me, Readers, if you're ever suffering from depression in the UK you do not want to go and visit your relatives using public transport because it will finish you off and you'll be underneath the wheels of  a high speed train before you know it. Have you ever stood around at a British train station and noticed that everyone looks like their mother's died, they lost out on a pay rise and they just discovered they've got alopecia? Well if you have - it's because the network is running two hours behind schedule due to a solitary leaf blowing on the track in an obscure station in North West Scotland. So take my sound advice - if you come to the UK to visit London take a Black Cab or failing that - walk. It'll be a hell of a lot quicker.

A Black Cab. It won't be long before the EU says we must call them  Personal Carriages. 

I suppose here in the UK we have quite unpredictable weather on a daily basis. This means you never know, without checking the forecasts, whether to wear wellies and waterproofs or sandals and sun hats. Rain stops play not just at Wimbledon but at pretty much every sporting event throughout the whole year. It can be a complete drag not seeing feeling the warmth of the sun for months on end. I have bottles of sunscreen in my bathroom cabinet that are nearly ten tears old. Which is almost as old as some of the spices in my pantry. Anyway, I'm not sure if I've even seen sunshine this year. I have seen a lot of rain though and I mean a lot. Oh yes. Feeding my chickens in the rain is very memorable. There's something quite odious about chicken shit isn't there?

Anyway enough whining. (Notice how I've already managed two paragraph about the weather - I said we Brits can jabber on about it for yonks didn't I?) Unlike many other regions across the world although we have erratic weather we rarely suffer from serious extremes of weather in the UK.  We are very fortunate. I know that very soon Hurricane Sandy is going to hit the East Coast of the United States and it's been on my mind for for two reasons. Firstly, by bizarre coincidence, the chief protagonist of my novel is called Sandy and I've been at my desk almost constantly the last few days writing her story. She's a lot nicer than Hurricane Sandy though which is why I've called her Sandy Lovett. She's a bit of a whirlwind but only in a good way. I've also been thinking about Hurricane Sandy as my good friend, Marie over at Nourish lives in New Jersey which will probably take a battering in the storm. Marie, who suffers from MS, is unable to leave town which is not an ideal situation.

Besides my friend, Marie, there's also quite a few folks from the US who pop into my blog from time to time. So if you live on the East Coast of the US or indeed anywhere else suffering from extremes of weather I hope you and your families stay safe and sound and that Sandy blows herself out sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.

And to end, here's a silly song by the irrepressible Noel Coward which struck a chord with me. It's got a World Weary title but somehow it's really quite relaxing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

When the Scent of Fame is Rotten

I was aghast to read last week that Lady Gaga's perfume, Fame, sold six million bottles in its first week.

Six million. That's more bottles than the entire population of Denmark!

100 ml bottle of Fame Eau de Parfum is approx £55.00
I must be getting very old and cynical (and possibly a skinflint) because I cannot imagine why on earth anyone would want to buy a perfume by Lady Gaga who, in all likelihood, knows absolutely nothing about the art of perfumery. Now I might be doing her an injustice and perhaps she has played a part in the development of this product to a greater or lesser degree (Notice that diplomacy, Readers, I am really trying really hard to write balanced, politically correct articles these days) but she's a singer, not a professional perfumier. It wouldn't be unfair to assume that her sole input was assigning her name to a product that the manufacturers, Coty, believe will be profitable for both her and them.

Or to surmise in my normal language:

What a complete utter con.

Of course, celebrities are always putting them names to products and cashing in on their fame. Now in principle, I don't have anything against that; most celebrities have a limited shelf life and they need to capitalize on their success whilst they can. ( Basically, it's called greed. But, hey ho, we all like a bit of spending money- count me in if I rocket to international stardom.) However, what I find hard to accept is the increasing magnitude of celebrity marketing power. Of course, Lady Gaga is internationally famous and considered an icon for her generation but is she on an equal footing to Elizabeth Taylor whose perfume brand, White Diamonds, amassed her a fortune greater than that of her acting career? I think it is unlikely. ( That's a "no" then, folks.)

God, this politically correct style of writing wears me down. Who invented it? Some idiot at The Guardian who had a career in the civil service first?

So anyway, in 1991 when White Diamonds came on the market Elizabeth Taylor would have been fifty nine years old and an international star for forty seven years. She commanded the respect and admiration of generations of women. In contrast,  Lady Gaga is twenty-six years old and her popularity most probably lies with the younger generation. As a middle aged (now depressed at admitting my age again) woman but also a contemporary music lover  (hip, funky, sassy, that kind of stuff) I am very familiar with Lady Gaga's music but do I hold her up as an icon? Would I ever be influenced by her personal choices?


And I suspect most women of my age feel exactly the same. (For example the ladies of my book club are more likely to be influenced by Nana Mouskouri... or Emily Pankhurst or very possibly by...Richard Armitage.)

Now if I am correct then maybe we could deduce that the majority of purchasers of Fame are young women.  Thus, I have to ask the question: how do they all afford £55.00 for a luxury purchase? 

Of course, there are many young, successful women out in the world with credit cards disposable incomes and they are entitled to spend their credit income in any way they so wish.

Or maybe they just all had their birthday in the same week?

Or maybe they' d all been saving up their allowances and students grants for a whole year so they could rush out and by Fame.

I don't know, Readers. I'm perplexed by the enormity of celebrity marketing power and very possibly the gullibility of the masses. However, one thing I know is that if do become an international star I am going to market that boiled cabbage water I'm so good at producing and market it as Fume.

You'll all buy it won't you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Blogging History

Tomorrow I am giving a second blogging workshop at Luton Central Library on behalf of The View From Here. As I am actually being employed to do this I feel I should not be making jokes at my own expense or about my competency hence this will be a semi-serious post. After nearly five years blogging I hope I've leant a thing or two to impart to beginners. I now know, for example, that "spam" isn't just processed pork, "tags" aren't just the labels which I leave sticking out of the back of my cardigan and "cyber sex" isn't just something robots get up to.

So, I've been blogging since December 2007 which is, frankly, amazing. I only wish I could apply the same stamina to the two hundred and sixty three diets I've been on in the same time. Unfortunately though, I'm still rivalling Jennifer Lopez for the biggest backside in the Western Hemisphere.

Since I began The Witty Ways of a Wayward Wife the blogging world has changed enormously both technically and socially. I can do so much more with the blogging tools now at my disposal whereas from the social viewpoint many of the bloggers I once visited have ceased blogging altogether or post infrequently. Some people have transferred their interest to Twitter or Facebook and some have simply moved onto pastures new: life changes. In the meantime, I have learnt how to blog by religiously shunning my housework during the day, writing in the middle of the night and abusing British Telecom whenever the internet connection goes down.

In my early days of blogging I enjoyed a large amount of social interaction. However, as the interaction in the blogging world has declined and I no longer have the time, or perhaps even the desire, to network in search of more blogs or readers I continue to write to please myself and hope that if anyone drops in they will enjoy themselves and stay for a while. ( And if you've been dropping silently by my blog for a while then I thank you and hope you find something to enjoy in amongst all the random gibberish.)

So when I first started blogging, outside of just having fun and needing a creative outlet, my ambition was to get published. I didn't really correlate having a blog with that ambition but, as it happens, writing on my blog and elsewhere on the net has helped to develop my skills as a writer. I would recommend it to any aspiring author as a valuable tool for personal development. I could kick myself in the shins for not making the most of some of the opportunities I've been given but, then again, bearing in mind some of the family crises (most of which I consider non public material) I've had over the last few years survival seemed more important than writing success.

In respect of my overall ambition of publication, I hope it is getting closer. A first ramshackle novel lies in the bottom drawer and I am currently writing a second which, I feel, is far more mature in every way. I've abandoned the pretence of writing a literary novel  for the time-being and I'm indulging my humorous/sentimental side. My humour may still go down like a lead balloon but at least I won't have a total clash of genres as I did before. It will be the kind of book that either you will love or hate. I'm hoping for the lurv stuff obviously but I'll settle for the hate mail because at least then I'll be able to write some cracking good off-my-head ranting blog posts which always give me a sense of deep personal satisfaction. (As do my letters of complaint to school.)

So back to my blogging journey which has been a fairly colourful one. In between all the humour and general silliness on my blog it has been one interspersed with numerous traumas; the deaths of four family members, my three cats and two of Master Ben's chickens. I've had four car crashes, one of my posts copied onto a soft porn site and some total fruitcake devoting a website to me. I've ranted and raved about a good number of subjects and very probably I've offended a good deal more people (including all of France and Germany) with some very bad jokes.

All in all, it's been an interesting journey and I haven't even posted about half the stuff that happens to me! (Because, believe or not, I do actually have boundaries I don't cross.) However, I think I've still got enough stuff to carry on for a good deal longer - and after that?

Well I can always make stuff up. Yeah... I quite like making stuff up. So long as it doesn't involve dough or pastry.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Sad Day

Today has been a sad day. It's the fourth anniversary of my mother's sudden death and instead of my usual planned distractions I found myself nursing one of Master Ben's chickens who had got herself into trouble in the garden. Unfortunately, the shock and exhaustion must have been too great and despite my ministrations as the day turned to night Bette Davis slipped away.

It kind of felt like history repeating itself. Only with a chicken.

They say time is a great healer but maybe not just yet.

Bette Davis on the left, Miss Muffet on the right. She was a beauty.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who is the hottest man on the planet?

I have just spilt my luke-warm blackcurrant juice down my top and in between my boobs. Yuck. It was a bit of a shock to the system.  You see, I was thinking so hard I completely missed my mouth - which is quite difficult being as it's so big.

Anyway, I did this as I was just editing a paragraph of my novel where my main protagonist is fantisizing. (No surprises there then.) Naturally, this included fantasizing about men and I was wondering about who is actually the hottest man on the planet. Obviously, the name that springs to mind is George Clooney because ladies of a certain age ( 47 to be precise) consider the overall package ( humour, intelligence, wallet, looks) whereas younger ladies might consider just biceps, wallet and whether or not the gentleman concerned plays for Manchester United.

Gorgeous George. (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia) Is he still the hottest? Or has Sylvester Stallone's steroid implants saved the day? 

But is George Clooney still the hottest guy on the planet? He's 51 now - maybe looking a bit saggy? Is his brain more attractive than his body? Is there a rival? What do you readers think? Has George been usurped and if so, by whom?

Now obviously I'm interested in your personal opinions but if you can also put yourself in the shoes of a 45 mother of three who works in a furniture store and is married to an husband with Aspergers then all the better. (As I said not at all like me. I'm 47, I haven't worked in a furniture store for about 16 years and my husband does not have diagnosed Aspergers. Not yet anyway.)

All comments gratefully received.

Disclaimer. All characters in my book are fictional and bear no resemblance whatsoever to me or any other person I know living or dead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Up Yours, Brussels (or Keep Your Hands off My Jars, Please)

Keep your hands off our jars, Mr Brussels,
We will do with them whatever we please
We will fill them with strawberries
Or lush green peas
But we will do with them whatever we darn well please

Keep your hands of our jam, Mr EU
We will do with it whatever we want
We will sell it from wheelchairs
Or village school fairs
But we will do with it whatever we darn well please

Keep your hand off our traditions, Mr Bossy
We will do with them whatever we please
We don't need your guidance
Or your ridiculous licence
And we will do whatever we darn well please

Keep out of our affairs, Mr Despot
We will act however we want
We will make jam for our teas
And our sweet pastries

Keep away from our isles, Mr Dictator
We will rule as we darn well please
We will make Cheddar Cheese
And tasty Cornish Pasties

So there is nothing left to say, Mr Idiot
But please, please, please go away
Our preference is for farce
But we might yet kick you up the arse

Written by Jane in a moment of outrage at the EU directive that we should not reuse jars for home-made jam which might be consumed by the public.

The first and only time I've made jam. However, I have my principles and if I want to inflict future batches on the school fair, the church  fete or indeed the canteen in the houses of parliament I will would like to do so without the threat of litigation. On behalf  all  ladies in the UK who have made jam in recycled glass jars for generations I say this to Brussels : Up Yours! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Review - In the style of a Daily Mail Femail Feature Writer

When my husband and I first married we used to read a lot. Rory liked hardbacks and I liked trilogies. We both adored hardback trilogies though, especially the fantasy stories with gold, embossed covers. Sometimes we would luxuriously trace our fingers over them, losing ourselves in the scent of the pages and imaginative descriptions. Often I would be transported to another dimension and enjoyed myself so much I would weep, even beg Rory not to stop and turn the lights out so I could read another chapter. I should have known back then, when he began to turn the lights off progressively earlier, that he was losing interest in out hardback trilogies and was secretly reading other books under the covers.

It was after our first child, when I discovered a passion for Thomas the Tank Engine, that I knew for certain; Rory was hiding books. And magazines. Sometimes I found them on top of the wardrobe or underneath the mattress. I’d had my suspicions when Rory had begun to read short stories but I tried hard to keep him interested as deep down I knew I was more beautiful and knowledgeable than other woman. In fact, I knew other woman were jealous of me and especially my rare editions of Pride and Prejudice.

The situation worsened when Rory began working late and, one day, to quell my frustrations at the library being closed for a refit I decided to give the bathroom a thorough clean. It was there that I found it, The Book, wrapped in plastic and hidden in the cistern. I knew for certain then that Rory had betrayed me. He hadn't been working late: he’d been attending late night book signings at Waterstones. Only now it wasn't just short stories, magazines and dog eared copies of Private Eye to destroy my sense of self-worth there was another book, a “special” book. A book that I was now going to tear apart chapter by chapter, page by page, for its casual abuse of our reading material, for its ruthless assault on my senses and for destroying everything Rory and I had once held dear.

I pulled the gaudy red book out of the plastic in abject horror. I opened the cover and read the inscription.

To Rory, Love Joanna.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Getting down in the Groove

I am at a crucial stage on my book writing a chapter which involves a bit of a sing-a-long with a choir and some very strange behaviour. (It's a comedy remember.) In order to put myself into the mood for this I went onto You Tube to refresh myself with the tune I wanted my choir to sing. I found what I was looking for but I also found the video below...which had me laughing my socks off. Stick with it as it gets worse (or better!) as it goes along. I thank the senior citizens in this video for their enthusiasm  and giving me some added inspiration!

My Nominees for the US and UK Elections and Other Waffle

It's the early hours of the morning, and I have had a large gin... Late-night alcohol is always a good recipe for writing gibberish. And...