Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back to Basics

For those of you who have been over here in the last week or so you may have noticed that I have stripped my blog back to basics. I've never really found a background that I felt suited this blog or my personality so I'm hoping to have a customized one designed for me or failing that I will have to sharpen up my crayons and do it myself.

Now I do have an an A level in Art and consider myself somewhat arty-farty but the truth is I've seen enough people with genuine artistic talent to know that when it comes to art I am still at this stage:

Woman on Grass (take that anyway you want) by J A Turley.

I know some of you kind hearted folks out there will be saying it's a work of magnitude and should be exhibited at The Tate Modern with all the other works of  shite  genius but the truth is, Dear Readers, I know my artistic capabilities are not that great. In fact, I once drew a cow that look liked this:

Cow in Air by J A Turley

Unfortunately it wasn't that great. Neither is this version -although at least I manage to remember to draw clouds this time so maybe my skills are improving.

Anyway, back to the basics talk. Now the observant amongst you will also notice that I have changed my web address from to There are three reasons for this:

1) The original is too long and looks totally unprofessional for such a sophisticated and intellectually challenging website. 

2) After five years I still write "dairy" instead of diary which just goes to show that either I'm dyslexic or as the saying goes "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." 

(For those of you unfamiliar with this saying it means anyone over the age of forty is stuck in a fashion time warp, hasn't got a chance in hell of winning University Challenge and probably can't remember their surname without prompting.)

3) At the age of forty seven and after five years blogging I feel I am mature enough to have a proper domain.

Oh look what I've just drawn!

Pig in Curlers by J A Turley

Now for any of you thinking of buying you're own domain from Blogger is costs about $12.50 or roughly £7.90 with taxes etc. It's easy enough to buy but logging into the account to manage your domain is not a clear process and I had to go and beat my head against a brick wall several times. Other than that the only disadvantage is that your page rankings on Goggle maybe affected for a while and you lose all record of your statistic if people have shared your posts on Google + etc. Everything else appears to remain the same.

So there you have it. I am aiming to have a more professional blog. A fourth reason being that if I finally have a book to market to agents in the spring I'll have to like know look I know what I'm doing - n'est ce pas?

Oh and if you enjoy my posts please share on Google+ et al. Obviously, I'm happy to send you one of my drawings in exchange or complete any drawing requests here on my blog. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How long did you take to plan your wedding?

Oh cripes.

Oh cripes.

Oh cripes.

Oh cripes.

I just read about a woman who planned her wedding day for TEN WHOLE years - even though she hadn't  even met her husband to be.

Is that normal??? Answers on a postcard please  - but if you want to write a thesis go ahead. You could get a doctorate out of it. I know I could.

I reckon I could turn that idea into a novel. Yeah, imagine that. It would probably be a psycho-thriller of course.

Although it could also be erotica - only instead of the heroine making out with a Christian Grey type of character she self-flagellates with copies of Brides Weekly or Good Housekeeping.

 What d'you reckon?

You know, I was feeling kind of low today. A bit bored, a bit depressed. Perhaps even on the edge of tucking into a forbidden chocolate bar. Now I know what to do to keep myself occupied - I'm going to start planning my funeral. Now that should be a real laugh.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest

As readers come and go and I have five years of writing to wade though I thought today I would post links to three of my most consistently popular blogs. Funny posts come and go in their popularity but the three I'm posting today have been three of the most consistently read since they were first published. Ironically, they are not in the slightest funny and I think that's no bad thing. I do believe looking at the lighter side of life is good for one's morale but there's also a time and a place for serious reflection.

So here are my top three serious posts.

In 2009 I conducted an interview with author and journalist, Paul Brown, about climate change and his book Global Warning Last Chance for Change. Since then a steady stream of people have to come to read Paul's interview from all across the globe. However, in the last year that traffic has increased quite significantly with people arriving from Europe, in particular from France, on an almost daily basis. Indeed, some of those people return two or three times to read the same post. So if you're a new reader and are interested in climate change I urge you to read this enlightening interview and in the interests of spreading the news please feel free to share, link or spread the word by some other means.

The second post is an eulogy I wrote for my mother after her sudden death in October 2008. Again, a steady stream of people come to my blog to read this eulogy. Many of these come back two or three times within the same week. Out of all my blogs this one gives me the greatest satisfaction in the belief that, in some small way, my words have helped others to write their own eulogies when they are at their most vulnerable and grief stricken.

The last is a poem I wrote about poverty in October 2008 shortly before mother died. It hasn't had the same consistency of readership as the previous two posts but over the last few months that has changed as it has been picked up by a large forum. I wrote this poem in a very short space of time but looking back I still like it and feel it has something worthwhile to say.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I had a curious dream

I had a really weird dream last night.

I dreamt I met Ricky Gervais who asked me to audition for a role in his new movie as... Santa Claus.

(This could be quite a disturbing post. Be warned.)

So in preparation for my audition I asked  the good Mr T to listen to me rehearse my speech in the deep bellowing voice like all Santa's should have. Sadly, Mr T was uber critical of my abilities so I stormed off in a huff to practise my song and dance routine.

Yes, I was going to star in a Ricky Gervais film as an all-singing, all-dancing Santa Claus.

You know, I'd always dreamt of starring in a Lara Croft type movie but what do I end up with? A singing bloody Santa. Life (and  dreams) are so unfair aren't they?

Anyway, no matter how hard I tried, I could not remember the lyrics to the tune I was supposed to be singing. I was like an extremely bad X factor contender only twice as old and twice as stupid. At this point I woke up traumatised by the fact I was going to miss out on a glamorous Hollywood role because I couldn't remember the lyrics to a simple song.

This morning I still can't remember the lyrics - just the tune. Although it did possibly have the words "Everyone is crazy" in it and was probably sung by a 1980s American rock band.

Any ideas anyone?

In the meantime, whilst my brain is trying to work out which song it was I've also been trying to analysis my dream for any subliminal messages. So far I've come up with:

1) I have a crush on Ricky Gervais (This is actually news to me as I had no idea I fancied him at all. I mean when I dreamt about Hugh Grant I could sort of understand it....)


2) Ricky Gervais is trying to tell me I'm not funny or I'm telling him he's not funny. Or we're both not funny or Ricky Gervais is looking for a woman who likes dressing up as a bearded man who has a penchant for elves.

3) Mr T is not happy with my housekeeping skills. (I sort of knew that one - but I've been choosing to ignore it for twenty years. Maybe guilt is catching up on me.)

4) I'm fat.

5)I can't act.

6) I can't sing.

7) My memory is kaput.

So basically, it was one of those dreams you can't take any positives from. Now unless anyone out their can come up with anything even remotely encouraging for me I'm going to lie down for a long time. I don't think this getting old business is doing me any good at all.

Ps - whilst I'm lying down please vote for my friend Tony to go into space - see previous post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who would you like to send into space?

So a question for you, Dear Readers.

Who would you like to send into space?

And please don't say me. Because I care about you deeply and would be wounded beyond reason. And I also have a very, very long memory.

So long as it doesn't involve car keys, shopping lists or my glasses.

Anyway, I've come up with my top twelve people I'd like to send into space. Here we go:

1) Jocelyn Wildestein aka The Bride of Wildenstein. From a scientific standpoint, I think it would be interesting to know how a lack of gravity affects plastic surgery. Also, I'd like to know what happens to breast implants when a spaceships falls back to earth and bursts through our atmosphere.

2) Paul McCartney. I'm intrigued to see if space could make him sing any higher. I'm not convinced it's possible but I'll go with the experiment just so Stella McCartney can design some hideous spacesuit.

3) Gary Barlow. Just to see if he can write a song about it. God, I hope not.

4) Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. It has certain irony about it when you remember Lebensraum.

5) Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian. In the hope she never comes back.

Oh sod it, let's squeeze them both in.

6) Hugh Fearnley-Whititingstall, celebrity chef. I simply cannot wait to see if Hugh can cook some home grown, organic feast in space. The very idea of him watering cress seeds and crushing up vitamins tablets with a pestle and mortar in the outer reaches of the universe already has me quietly celebrating his ultimate downfall.

7.) A Teletubbie. I don't care which one. I just want to know if those aerials work.

I think I'll send Stinky Winky because he/she/it  has the most impressive aerial. Come to think of it they all look remarkably like The Bride of Wildenstein. Hmm... that's kind of worrying. (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

8.) Cherie Blair. Question: Can space improve your looks?

9.) Sting. Just because he gets on my nerves. I'm also interested to know how tantric sex works in a gravity free environment.  The trouble is I don't plan on sending Sting's wife - so he'd have to do it with one of the others which, if I'm being honest here, is a tad unfair of me even if it is Sting. Still he can duet with Sir Paul for some light relief. That should be fun. Sort of. In a sado/masochistic "fun" sort of way.

10.) Beyonce: I want to know if lip syncing works in space. Are there any significant time delays?

11) Sigourney Weaver. You've just got to have her, right? No way are the others gonna get back to earth without Sigourney kicking ass and shooting the f*** out of those aliens. And as I'm a fair woman I'd like to give the others a reasonable chance. (Ha.)
Ellen ripley.jpg
No one messes with Sigourney. Not even Sir  Paul, who despite all his achievements, hasn't kicked any aliens butts. I'll reckon he'll be the first to go. Unless he can sing his way out of it.  Although somehow if his performance at the Diamond Jubilee is anything to go by I don't think the Alien Bitch will be impressed.  Still, I guess he could take some pre-recordings with him and ask Beyonce for some advice.

12) My mate Tony. Cos he's dumb enough to want to. Please can you vote for him here. Honestly, this really is a genuine appeal. It really is. It'll only take a minute of your time and Tony will be really, really grateful. I thought Tony was winding me up when he asked me to put something on my blog - because a man who posts a profile picture of himself wearing cycle shorts on  Facebook has got to be suspect hasn't he? Anyway, it turns out Tony was actually telling the truth. He really does want to go into space. Gulp.

Ps - thanks:)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Book Recommendation: Me Before You

I want to recommend a book to you. It's this one:

Me Before You
Women's mass market fiction with something to say. At last.

Out of necessity, this review contains some spoilers but I'm not going to reveal the ending so if you decide to read Me Before You there will still be something to discover.

Lou Clark is young woman who works in cafe and has never stretched her horizons. When she loses her job she soon meets handsome and witty Will Traynor, a wealthy businessman with a sharp tongue and arrogant attitude. Love blossoms.

Doesn't sound much different from any other mass market romance fiction does it? But it is.

The difference is that the hero, Will, doesn't have all the characteristics of a normal male protagonist. Unlike the usual impressive able bodied heroes of romance fiction Will has been severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Lou Clark is the carer who comes to love him. And what really lies at the heart of this book is not romance but a discussion about the right for an individual to chose whether to live or die. It's a story about euthanisa. 

As Lou's feelings towards Will begin to develop she discovers he wants to travel to Switzerland to end his life with the help of Dignitas. However, Will has promised his parents that he will give it one more year to see if he changes his mind. The question is -will the underlying love between Lou and Will be enough to save him? Will love bring enough respite to presuade Will to live out his days confined to a wheelchair? 

That's enough of the story. Now I want to tell you why this book is a winner.

Firstly, from a writer's perspective Jojo Moyes has been very clever. She uses a very conventional  formula which publishers know sells. I know from my own experience that trying to write anything that breaks the rules is frowned upon unless your a literary genius. Certainly, when it come to women's fiction publishers are pretty rigid in their ideas. However, Jojo Moyes was already a best selling author with a list of titles to her name who, with a hardcore of fans behind her to spread the good news, was better placed than most authors to push the boundaries of women's fiction.

Secondly, as a reader, this book is incredibly refreshing. It has the engaging relationship story line which is so popular amongst women readers but it also has a very serious message to convey. This is an ingredient which has been missing from a lot of mass market women's fiction. The success of  Me Before You proves what I've thought for a long time - that women are far more open to variable subject matter than publishers think. We want to read about serious subjects too - not just light, fluffy stories that as soon as you've finished it you've forgotten it. Of course there's a time and a place for frothy entertainment and many women enjoy it but there are also many women who actively want to read books that are not just entertaining but emotionally satisfying and intellectually challenging. Modern life as it is busy women don't have the time or the energy to to sit down with a heavy weight literary novel: there is a place on the book shelves for easy-to-read but intelligent writing.  Me before You is a good example of how an author can successfully meet the demands of mass market fiction and produce a thought provoking novel.

I highly recommend Me Before You.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Let's make that eleven words and phrases

I'm having a sleepless night. So I decided to whizz around the net and look at the headlines. Firstly, I went to The Mail because it's a light read and at 3 am as super intelligent as I am (that's irony by the way) my brain is not up to reading Dostoevsky. Big mistake - Demi Moore is back in the headlines. What is it with The Mail and their obsession with Demi Moore? Anyway, apparently Demi has an age-defying body and wears a bikini. Big deal. I have age-defying sense of humour (it's still childish) and wear thermals. I think I'll make whole article out of it for my blog and stick in twenty pictures of me in my PJs taken from every conceivable angle. I mean you all want to see my arse in flannelette PJs taken with a long distance lens from the top of a coconut tree don't you?

Yeah, so I lowered myself to reading the article about Demi. Although this was mainly just to see if the The Mail writers can actually keep writing this stuff without going completely bonkers. One day I hope to click on an article about Demi and see a blank page with a just a singular line from the writer which reads:

"I can't take anymore, I'm taking an overdose."

Now that would be news.

So after closing the article on Demi I scanned for something else to read and further down I spotted there was a header saying Amanda Holden had changed her hair colour from blonde to brunette. I couldn't be bothered to click on the article because the truth is whilst it may be the early hours of the morning and I am not at my best - I am not yet brain dead.

Don't argue with me. It's not polite. It's my blog.

Anyway, I decided enough was enough and I went over to The Telegraph for some mental stimulation where I read this article about school children who now can't catch balls. I have to say this fact came as no surprise to me. In fact, my only surprise was that kids even know what the word "ball" is.... However, in the article I did come across a new phrase that I am going to add to my list of words and phrases that annoy me. It's obviously the latest political correct mumbo jumbo in our schools. The phrase is "physical literacy".

Yes, apparently children need to be physically literate by ten or eleven years of age.

I wonder how long it took coin that phrase? I am beginning to fear that good old PE lessons (Physical Education) will now become Physical Literacy lessons. Yes, just to add to the confusion of how to catch a ball (reach out, open palms, watch flying object, don't duck, cup hand around ball ) kids will now be confused about which lesson they are actually attending. I can see kids turning up for PE having brought their copy of Romeo and Juliet and turning up to Literacy (which used to be English) in their shorts and tee shirts.

Really, is it any wonder kids can't catch a ball?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Me and My Moustache: Another Embarrassing Story

Yes, this is another of my true-life embarrassing stories. I know there have already been plenty of other humiliating incidents like the lost car, the tights falling down and being caught short and dropping my knickers on the railway track... but these moments still keep on happening. It's probably a curse.

Perhaps someone, somewhere, has cursed me. In fact I'm now so worried about the possibility of a curse I'm beginning to think Tom Cruise is getting me back for all those tasteless jokes I've made about him. They were only small, almost unnoticeable, jokes - that's why I thought he wouldn't really mind. But now I'm not so sure. What if Tom really is some bad-ass tough guy like Jack Reacher?

Okay..maybe not.  It's probably just bad luck: I've just remembered the laws of probability.

So anyway...before Christmas Master Ben was in dire need of a haircut. I wasn't going to put up with anymore feeble excuses and decided to take a firm hand and frogmarched him into the barbers which in the run up to Christmas was pretty busy. Now this is a barbers which is principally a male barber's shop but will occasionally cut women's hair if they're not busy or if you look kinda...masculine but aren't masculine. If you know what I mean.

By the by, I am actually almost too scared now to say words like "lesbian" and "homosexual" these days in case someone takes them out of context and decides to nail me to a lamp post by my nipples.This is one of the reasons why I'm not on Twitter where I might spontaneously say something politically incorrect and be lambasted for all eternity. I'm told Twitter is the place to be for aspiring writers but as my mouth is sometimes bigger than my brain it's probably not in my best long term interests.

So back to my story...

Master Ben and I are awaiting his turn in the barber's chair. It's been a long wait and there are now two barbers, two clients in the chairs and two other clients in the waiting area alongside us.

Master Ben: The women's haircuts are more expensive.

Mrs T (Looking up at the price board) I know - but it's still cheaper than my hairdressers down the road where it costs a lot more.

Master Ben: But why do they charge more for women's haircuts?

Mrs T: Well....ladies' hairdressing saloons are usually a bit more luxurious... and it can take much longer to cut ladies' hair.... and (keeping voice low so the barbers don't overhear) women on the whole are more vain so they tend to get more easily ripped off.

( I know - it was a tad cruel to be mean about my own sex but I figured I might as well break it to Master Ben now - that way he can have the pre-nup in place first time around.  And if he earns a tonne of cash when he's older hopefully he'll still have some spare to support his old mum rather than than several high maintenance ex-wives.)

Master Ben: But your hair is short. Why should you pay more? (pauseWhy don't you pretend you're a man?

Mrs T (Momentarily flabbergasted) Umm... because I look like a woman?

Master Ben: But you have a moustache.

(Slight pause as Mrs T contemplates a) suicide b) putting Master Ben up for adoption and c) pretending to be deaf.

Mrs T: Well I do have very dark hair....

 (Mrs T is now as bright as a pickled beetroot but trying desperately to look totally nonchalant )

Master Ben: And you have a beard.

(Mrs T's hand immediately flies to chin to check for giant facial hairs whilst turning a deep puce and feeling the stirrings of a panic attack.)

Mrs T: ********* ****** *********!!!*******!!!!!!

 ( It's not expletives - I just can't actually remember what as I said - I was too distressed.)

Master Ben: But in the sun I can see blonde hairs beneath your lip!

Mrs T: *************Ummmm.......********  Ahhhhhh.....******

 (I said something but again I can't remember what - probably some unintelligible dribble as by this time I was practically an incoherent red mass of blubber on the floor.)

Master Ben: You could wear a baggy jumper and no one could see your....(giggles) one could see that you're a woman.

Mrs T: (Still trying to be nonchalant) I still think people could tell I'm a woman.

Master Ben: But no one's going to check.

Mrs T: I suppose so. (Anything to shut the kid up.)

Master Ben: Well they're not going to look down your pants.

Mrs T: Oh look it's the football highlights......

It's a sad fact of life that as women get old they get hairier and as men get old they go bald.  Currently, I'm offering my facial hair for sale on Ebay. It's the  ideal birthday gift for any man considering a hair transplant as it will replicate and get thicker on a daily basis. And - just in case anyone asks - my pubic hair is not for sale. A woman has to have some self respect.

Finally, I just want to confirm that conversation really did happen. Now I know some of  you will now be thinking one of the following:

a) I need a shave


b) Master Ben sounds so sweet and innocent he probably didn't really mean to embarrass me in front of six men and push me to the edge of a violent and bloody suicide.

To which I answer:

a) My life would be a lot easier as a man. However, I swear to God I am not as gross as I sound. In fact about 25 years ago I once got my arse pinched twice on the same day. The fact they were both school kids is totally irrelevant.

b) Master Ben is about as sweet and innocent as Dita Von Teese. I saw his face. That boy will go far, believe me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ten words and phrases that really annoy me

1. "Transparent"

Transparent has become increasingly popular over the last few years as one of a range of politically correct words. People who use transparent are usually politicians, business execs who have just been on management courses, members of the Human Resources Dept and civil servants specialising in policy and population control. A typical line from one of these people will read "We need to move forward with clarity, vision and transparency."  You can pretty much guarantee that anyone who uses the word transparent is a total bullshitter.

2. "Human Resources"

Formerly known as the Personnel Department. This is the department which used to deal with people but now deals with the mammal species known as homosapien. Human Resources sounds a lot more efficient but as anyone who has ever worked closely with a HR department will know - it doesn't reduce the length of their tea breaks.

2. "We will have a referendum after the next election"

This is a stock line of all the political parties. They are usually very transparent. In the normal sense of the word.

3. "Fifty Shades of... "

Grey, black, blue, sheds, pink, red, white  and so on and so on......

Yep, I am bored stiff of reading about Fifty Shades of Grey and all the spin-offs - although I fancy cashing in on E L James success like everyone else. However, I'm not sure my title of One Coat of Varnish will have much appeal.

4. "Awesome" and "Totally awesome"

Awesome is awesome in its awfulness. Especially if it is totally awesome. People who use the word awesome are usually under 30 and people who use the phrase totally awesome usually under 21. Neither know the word "Thesaurus."

 ( See my post Stop Feckin' Swearing for ironic use of the word awesome.)

5. Headteacher and Houseperson

If you're a woman why deny it? If you're a man why deny it? Does non gender specific terminology really promote equality? One for debate. In the meantime, I've ordered a particularly bland apron.

6. Diversity.

Another word that is grossly overused. Many of those who use the word diversity actually mean the opposite. In fact, they would probably like is us all to turn into amorphous sexual beings preferably with light brown skins, wearing one trouser leg and a half a skirt. And if you could wear some sort of ethnic hat even better. It must only be worn on Tuesdays though. After half past six.

7. Russell Brand. 

Sorry, I think I may have mentioned this before. However, the words Russell Brand are conclusive proof that humour is subjective. The only time Russell Brand made me laugh is when he resigned from the BBC - and that was unintentional.

8. Fart

A particularly uncouth and unpleasant word used by the male of the homosapien species. As a point of interest Fart was never a word used in my family when I was growing up. A polite and proper young lady  is taught three things regarding expletives of the bowels:

a) A fart should be ignored at all times

b) A fart should be ignored at all times unless the circumstances are exceptional and the owner of the fart is unidentifiable - whereupon it is acceptable to blame the dog.

c) A fart should be ignored at all times unless the circumstances are expectational and the owner is identifiable - whereupon he who has committed the crime should say a polite "excuse me" before leaving the room so the occupants can open the windows without further embarrassment for either party.

9. Mankini 

No further explanation is required. If you want to see a mankini in action watch Borat.

This picture of a mankini (courtesy of Wikipedia) is actually the least offensive I could find. If you add a head (on the neck) and some body hair the stomach soon begins to churn. I am worried that the mankini will soon become regulated non-gender specific beachwear. 

10. Whatever

When used in the slang sense (I don't care what you say) it is probably the most annoying word that has ever existed. Silence would be a better alternative.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ten succint reviews of DVDs I watched over Christmas

1. The Expendables 2 (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Van Damm, Norris et al.)

Not as good as No 1 but worth watching just so you can spend an hour afterwards plastering eye-liner on your own features trying to figure out what the hell Sly has done to his face. Some acceptable gratuitous violence suitable for Friday night viewing after a bottle of cheap plonk when you no longer care care if there's a hole in the plot so big you land a jumbo jet in it. Not enough of Bruce Willis who despite the hair loss is the only older action hero in the film who remotely resembles himself.

2. Sherlock Holmes, Game of Shadows (Robert Downey Junior, Jude Law)

Unacceptably dull. However this was primarily because the disc wouldn't load.

3. Tower Heist (Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller.)

 Two great comedy talents but one dull script equates to a very average film. Disappointing.

4. Rampart (Woody Harrelson)

Very slow start creating little empathy or excitement. Switched off when the camera moved to the foot of the bed and zoomed in on two pairs of feet in a compromising position - there's only so much I'm prepared to explain about the birds and the bees over Christmas. My boys can find out about the rest when their older - it'll be more fun that way as opposed to remembering mum's ten minute lecture on condoms whilst eating a turkey sandwich. This film is for the dedicated movie buff/Harrleson fan.

5. Prometheus (Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron)

Ridley Scott presequel to Alien. The special effects were diminished by watching on the small screen and with not much else to add to the Alien story this is one which in hindsight I'd rather spent the time revisiting Alien or Aliens again - both of which are far superior.

6. Sherlock Holmes, Game of Shadows (Robert Downey Junior, Jude Law)

Unsurprisingly, much better on a second viewing although I still managed a light snooze during the early half of the film. When I woke up it was getting more interesting. Loved the camera shots towards the end of the film. Bearing in mind how well Sherlock has been portrayed in the past I thought Downey did well to bring the character to life. Can't say that for Jude Law though.

7. Ted. (Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and large teddy bear.)

I'm a big Family Guy fan so I knew this Seth MacFarlane film would tickle my fancy. It did - although I have to say it wasn't quite as funny as I expected. Full marks for the Teddy bear fight though.

8.Up in the Air  (George Clooney)

Sharp, sassy contemporary story about a man who fires people for a living. A winner. I might even read the book as proof you can write comedy drama and still be taken seriously - will have to see if the book worked as well as the film.

9. Ice Age 4.

The Ice Age series is proving one of the best animated cartoon film series ever. Another winner.

10. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People  (Simon Pegg, Kisten Dunst)

Silly stuff about a British journalist who goes to the US to work on a celeb magazine. I liked it.

As I said: succinct!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Justin Bieber beat up his bodyguard? Seriously?

Apparently, Justin Bieber beat up his bodyguard and the bodyguard is now suing Justin for compensation.

I haven't laughed so much since that episode of The Family Guy when Stewie and Brian get locked in a bank vault and Stewie persuades Brian to eat the contents of his nappy. Absolute genius.

So Justin beat up his bodyguard. Yeah, right. I can just see Justin, his hair flopping up and down and flapping his wrists like an overwrought primadonna and yet somehow managing to beat up a muscular bodyguard who probably trains at the gym and eats cockroaches for breakfast. I mean that's totally feasible isn't it?

Now if someone had said Justin had persecuted the bodyguard with hours of high pitch singing I could have quite understood a claim for tinnitus and mental distress. But a claim of being beaten up? No man in his right mind would admit to being beaten up by Justin Bieber.

Hmm... I strongly suspect there's a mental health issue going on somewhere - and this time it's not the celeb in question. Well not yet anyway. Give it a few years and a few movie theme tunes and that could all change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Do odd things ever happen to you?

Do odd things happen to you? They seem to happen to me a lot. Take for example the following incident...

If you remember I bought the good Mr T a special carpet cleaner for Christmas as his penchant for cleaning is one I am eager to encourage (so long as it doesn't involve my participation). It was a special carpet cleaner that could get into all the nooks and crannies and being a sucker diligent husband the good Mr T duly cleaned the stair carpet and landing over the vacations. The result was I had a lovely clean carpet without so much as lifting a finger except for having to press the Add to Basket on Amazon.

What could be better for a woman as dedicated to housework as I am?

So on Monday morning I made a nice hot cup of  steaming coffee and I went upstairs to see Master Benedict who had a friend staying over on a sleepover.

( Incidentally, the concept of sleepovers is not one I am keen to encourage but sometimes one has to do the friendship thing - Unfortunately, this particular sleepover was worst than most as I was cruelly exposed to the misguided wearing of onesies.)

Anyway, I was standing on the landing talking to the Young Masters with my lovely full cup of frothy coffee in my hand and, lo and behold, the cup falls off the handle and splatters liquid all over Mr T's nice clean carpet. I was, quite literally, left standing in amazement with my finger and thumb curled around the handle of the cup.

Now some might say that's sweet vengeance for Mr T that subsequently I had to clean the mess up - but I just stay that's ROTTEN, STINKING LUCK and TOTALLY, TOTALLY, UNFAIR.

Anyway, Master Ben's friend piped up:

"I've never seen that happen before!"

But Master Ben just gave that damning look of his which I knew as soon as he shut his bedroom door would translate into some equally damning words such as:

"You think that's odd. Humph. You should hear what Mum got up to in the multi storey car park before Christmas."

Yeah, so it took me a whole hour to find my car in the multi-storey.  So what? How was I to know that some aliens had come and moved it a totally different floor? It wasn't my fault. Those aliens are really, really, cunning. I just consider myself lucky the security guard was able to shoo them away and find my car before they launched it into space.

Yeah, so odd things are always happening to me. I wonder why?

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year Reflections on a Fictional Journey (Part One)

New Year is often a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the possibilities of what lies ahead. Normally, I write about what barking mad diet I intend to follow but this year I've decided to reflect on my writing journey and if you read my last post The Journalist you will discover how it came to be written.

Many moons ago, at the outset of this blog, I posted the opening chapter to my first attempt at a novel. I wrote it sometime before I started this blog and long before I had gained any other writing experience. In fact, it was the first piece of fiction I'd written since I was at school. The novel was called Capital Crusader and my initial intention was to write a literary-style thriller which had been my preferred choice of reading material since a teenager.

In the course of time, I duly sent three opening chapters and a synopsis to a critique agency. The agency pointedly said my opening chapters were three different genres which is, apparently, an unmarketable strategy.  Readers, I was informed, like to know exactly what genre they're reading from the outset - whereas I'd merely seen those as chapters as three different moods/persona reflecting opposing viewpoints and settings; I didn't appreciate at all the need to conform to convention if one aspires to be published. I deduced that whilst the publishing industry proclaims that it seeks new and original fiction, ironically, it actually closes the door on much of it. Ultimately, the publishing industry is like any other business - it is driven by the need to secure profit and that profit is made by producing best-selling authors. These authors are as much a "brand" as any other product and it is only through their continued success that publishers are able to take a chance on a handful of new authors. It is a  Catch 22 industry where the very creativity which is at the core of any form of  artistic expression is actually suppressed by the need to conform to market forces.

The conclusions of the critique on Capital Crusader was the advice not to write a "cross genre" novel and the expressed preference for my third dialogue-based "lighter" chapter as opposed to my first "literary" chapter and the second chapter written in the style of a contemporary mainstream women's novel:  it was suggested that I should be aiming to reach readers of the Harlequin Mills and Boon market. However, there was also another piece of advice - that I should not attempt to write any humour. In fact the reader was pretty damning of my sense of humour altogether. Needless to say it was a tough and rather depressing critique.

This advice had rather a negative impact on me and really stifled my creativity for quite for some time. I think I was most upset by the remarks about my humour which I felt were phrased poorly and felt more personal rather than the constructive criticism of the other commentary. However, the suggestion that I should write formula romance was also quite disconcerting as I'm not and have never been a fan of formula romance. I have read very little of it and what I have read generally makes my toes curl.

Fast forward to autumn 2011 and having pretty much abandoned Capital Crusader by distracting myself with a number of other projects I decided to start experimenting with it again. I changed the title, deleted the opening literary style chapter and started to rewrite the second contemporary chapter into a more obviously Harlequin Mills and Boon style. ( In other words, a cheesy romance!) However, I chose to ignore the advice about humour and keep to much of my original plot. This was because I felt there was no way I could compromise all my artistic integrity by

 a) Not having some sort of exciting plot that didn't entirely revolve solely around a romance involving a woman who can't chose between a black skirt and a white blouse or a brown skirt and a white blouse without consulting a soothsayer


 b) writing something in which essentially I had no interest - so therefore I would have to entertain myself with my own silly scenarios and gags. As I write primarily for my own entertainment it is hugely important to me that what I write must be either fun or/and emotionally satisfying. Preferably both.

The conclusion of the experiment was that I did actually enjoy writing the extract in my last post, even though it's not what I originally planned; it's harmless entertainment which hopefully raises a giggle or two. Keeping the humour, retaining a thriller sub-plot and a having a heroine who isn't a doormat made the project slightly more interesting for me than if I had stuck in entirety to a conventional formula. It also meant that I was relatively happy to indulge in a more traditional romantic aspect to the story  - the handsome but arrogant hero who instead of falling for an Anastasia Steele type character falls for a slightly feisty-than-average heroine who actually has a stressful job ( ie - doesn't work in a bookshop, florists or knits jumpers for the homeless in her spare time.)

However, at about the same time as I began rewriting Capital Crusader I wanted to try my hand again at the more contemporary/ literary style I'd been advised against. I decided to write a contemporary short story containing the themes of homosexuality and marriage - which would also contain an attempt to write a serious sex scene. (Luckily, this was long before I'd read Fifty Shades of Grey otherwise I hate to think what might have happened.) After several edits I was fairly happy with what I'd written and sent it off a much larger established critique agency to see if my writing had improved. The reception was much better than I anticipated; in fact it came back with the comment "Don't change a single word." This was obviously very pleasing if somewhat confusing that on one hand I'd been told to write fluffy romances in the manner of M&B and, on the other, that I should be writing serious contemporary drama. Anyway, that particular story which I called A Modern Life is currently entered into some competitions but I expect it will end up here on my blog in due course as I don't think it is perhaps "arty" enough to be placed ( there's no surreal forces, angst ridden children or metaphors Salman Rushdie would be proud of ) and there's no other market for short stories other than the usual sentimental stuff of women's magazines - unless you're already an established writer.

In the meantime, as I waited for the review of A Modern Life to come through I started work on a new short story which I called The Changing Room. This was a story with a magical/surreal element where The Changing Room has the  power to change women's lives. Some of the inspiration for it came from the children's cartoon Mr Benn but being as shallow as I am most if it came from the fact that I simply wanted to write a story with a line in it which had become stuck in my head. Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly great line - it just happened to resonate with me for some bizarre reason. It was..wait for it...

 "And I don't wear f***** Boden!"

Yeah, I know. Nuts. Unfortunately that line just came into my mind one day and wouldn't go away until eventually I knew I had to do something with it or I was going to start sending fictional letters of complaint to Boden. I did eventually write that line into the story but substituted the f-word for "bloody" instead.

I was fairly happy with my little contemporary fairy tale and sent it to a friend who suggested I turn it into a novel. It dawned on me that was actually a very good idea. I decided to cut out the surreal element and concentrate on the concept that a small change in the way we dress, style our hair or walk in a new pair of shoes can sometimes initiate big changes - a snowball effect if you like.

 And so began my latest work in progress...

Part two to follow.

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...