Friday, March 29, 2013

A Philosophical Easter Question

Back in 2009 I asked these philosophical Easter questions. Now I have to ask myself another:

Why did I think starting a diet five days before Easter Sunday was a good idea?

Answers on the back on a cardboard egg box, please. Preferably an empty one.

And before anyone mentions it - yes, it is another diet: I have a university reunion to go to in October. By then I have to be thin and have a book deal or e book published  - otherwise I will not be able to deal with the slow hand-clapping and I might have to throw myself of the Menai Bridge.

A picturesque view of the Menai Bridge. It may not look so picturesque in October if there is small rotund body floating downstream or suspended from the railings

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Woe, woe, woe is me!

I am in my study, writing. The door flies open.

Master Ben (aged 12): I am taller than you!

Mrs T: No, you are not!

Master Ben: Yes, I am: Daddy measured me!

Mrs T: No, you are not! When I look at you I look down into your eyes.

Master Ben: I am taller than you!

Mrs T: Right, I'm going to check this myself!

Mrs T and Master Ben troop downstairs and after arduous amount of checking, double checking and checking again, Mr T and Master Jacob conclude Master Ben and I are exactly the same height which is 4 feet 4.5 inches.

Mrs T: I still don't believe it! Master Jacob get that file over there. Now, Ben and I will stand back-to-back, you will put the file on our heads and if it slopes downwards from my head to his that means I'm taller!

Master Jacob places the file on our heads.

Master Jacob: The file is even: you are both EXACTLY the same height.

Mrs T: But that can't be right! When I look at Master Ben his eyes are below mine. Pass me that ruler: we're going to measure the distance between the centre of our eyes and the top of our heads.

Master Jacob measures my head. I measure Master Ben's head. Mr T looks on in bewilderment.

Mrs T: Your eyes are set lower than mine, Master Ben, which means... you have a massive head! I have a SMALL head and you have a BIG head!

Master Jacob: You see, you are the same height!

Master Ben: I'm going to be bigger than you, Mummy.

Mrs T. Hmm.

Master Jacob: You didn't get enough sleep when you were young, Mummy. I expect you stayed up too late reading and didn't go to bed.

Mrs T: Hmmmmmm.....

Have you ever felt your own words come back to haunt you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Question: Are Spammers Stupid?

Over the six years I've been blogging I've experienced my fair share of spam. Most of which has had me laughing manically at it the appalling grammar and ludicrous scenarios. Personally, I can't imagine anything more boring than spending all day going around the web spamming people, even if it earns money. However, I can't deny that the spammers have given me some great entertainment. I've had more giggles reading their gibberish than I've had watching some BBC sitcoms.

I wrote about one spamming episode here which wanted me to send the spammer all my personal details.This had a certain irony to it as I don't even know all my personal details. In fact, every time I want buy something on the net I have to create a new password because I've forgotten what I used on the previous occasion.

Moreover, I am old and cynical enough not to believe I have won the pools or that I have deceased relative in Taiwan. Nor am I going to fall for someone telling me I am a brilliant writer and I have a wonderful website and that they (the spammer) are going to bookmark my site and come back repeatedly so I click onto their website which sells either Viagra or dodgy second hand cars or, if I subscribe to their website, will make me obscenely rich without the need to marry a ninety year old multi millionaire called Hu Chin Su who's made a fortunate in the soft porn and popcorn business.

By the way if your name's Hu Chin Su and you've made a fortune in popcorn please get in touch. (No need to mention the porn but I could turn a blind eye if necessary.)

So this morning I had another spam message which, just for a moment, I thought was actually someone with a sense of humour as they'd written "I have bookmarked this link as it is very educational, my kids will be following this post too" on my blog post You are kidding me some women wear onesies? Then I realised it was a spammer as it had a link to another dodgy site - which is a pity as I always appreciate a sense of humour -sometimes even when it's not my own.

Oh well. To answer my question: Are spammers stupid?


I am stupid?

Yes. Only I give a far better impression of not being stupid. Well most of the time anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yet Another Crazy Dream: Welcome to the Prop Shop

A while ago I recounted a dream in which I auditioned for the part of Santa Claus in a Ricky Gervais movie. That was a slightly troubling dream - but perhaps not quite as troubling as the previous one where I was a secret agent parachuted into France (with a horse) as part of a plot to assassinate The Fuhrer.

However, my latest dream probably beats both those for weirdness. It was about a Prop Shop.

So what is a Prop Shop? Well in my dream the Prop Shop was a shop that actors visited to purchase all the things they needed to get into character for a role.( I suppose Prop Shops do actually exist in some form or another although the closest I've been to one is a fancy dress/joke shop.)  In my dream The Prop Shop was the type of place Dustin Hoffman, who is a method actor, would go to get exactly the right shoes and wigs and accessories to get into character. This is opposed to a classical actor just kind of... acts... without so much fuss and bother.

I am explaining things well enough No? Okay - I'll have another bash.

So there's two actors auditioning for the role of a tree on the set of A Midsummer Night Dream, the method actor paints himself green and sticks leaves all over himself and the classical actor sticks his hands out and sways himself a round and imagines he's a tree. Likewise, if there are two actors auditioning for the role of a mad axeman, the method actor buys himself an axe, pours a vial of blood down his shirt and wobbles his bottom lip in a menacing manner. The classical actor wears his normal clothes, looks straight into the camera and remembers the time his brother butchered his hamster.

Got it? Okay. Good.

By the way if you're an actor don't bother complaining if I've got it wrong. It's about thirty years since I read Stanislavsky and this is not a discourse on acting, it's the rantings of a woman on the edge of menopause. Don't expect anything to make sense. I don't.

However, do get in touch if you're Nicholas Cage and need some acting advice. I can help. I really can.

So back to my dream. So, for some reason or other, I'm invited to The Prop Shop to see how it functions from behind the counter (must be something to do with my retail background.) The shop has limited opening hours so when the doors open in pour all the social miscreants (ie actors) looking for false noses, comedy breasts, stomach padding and wigs etc etc. They are busy tossing over the wigs and discussing the merits of foam padding as opposed to silicon padding whilst I look around in wonderment at the sight of these Shakespearian actors talking pompously about the size of their noses and codpieces. Then one actor comes up to the counter with seven pairs of large incontinence pants in different colours for different days of the week which he wishes to buy. I ask what role he's playing (Well who wouldn't? I'd want to see any role which has an actor wearing multiple incontinence pants) and he replies:

"Oh they're not for me. They were just so comfortable when I wore then in my last role I decided to get some for my mother."

Actors. *uckin nuts. Well most of them anyway.

So I sell the actor the seven pairs of pants and while the rest are still busy trying on their comedy breasts and codpieces I make my way out to the back garden where a host of other actors and director-types have gathered to watch a demonstration.  They are milling around oohing and ahhing and making big Shakespearian gestures. (Feet wide apart, arms raised, that type of stuff.) I push my way through the crowd and see a sales assistant standing in a mock grave with a body at his feet.

Yes, I did say mock grave.

(As I said this is really weird dream.)

Okay so there are fake graves, containing (fake) partially decomposed bodies in the grounds of The Prop Shop. They are accessories for episodes of  crime shows like CSI and such like. I listen to the sales assistant giving his sales patter...

"Now this corpse is about two months old. (Lifts up a rotten arm which falls off). "It's perfect for a recently unearthed burial scene in obscure woodland and this one (the assistant jumps out of the grave and into next grave) has rigor mortis (Lifts up a arm and the whole body follows) which is ideal for the recently deceased in an episode of The Following....."

The Shakespearian actors and numerous directors in the ilk of dear late Michael Winner are watching closely, admiring the corpses and discussing their virtues.

"First class. Love the stiffness. Has a sort of rigidness about it...."

"I see a recently deceased Hamlet here.. tragic, tragic..."

"Can it come in black?"

Now I know you'd love to hear how my dream ended so here goes.

"I'm turning the light on."

"Huh?" Mrs T pulls bedclothes over her head.

"Mrs T, I'm turning the light on. Can you make me some sandwiches, please?"

"What? (moans semi-incoherently) I was just dreaming about a Prop Shop where they sell incontinence pants and fake corpses....."

So there you have it. I'll never get to know what happened at the end of my dream as Mr T woke me up in pursuit of sandwiches  Mind you, I'm thinking it was probably a good thing as I'm not sure I like the way that dream was heading - I might have ended up selling incontinence pants to Kenneth Branagh or a fake limb to Nicholas Cage. Ugh. The very idea gives me the creeps. I might make a story out of  my dream one day though. Some writers do that. I'd call it The Prop Shop obviously.

 If you have any ideas for a decent ending though please feel free to drop me a line!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Princess and the Thief (Take Two)

A while ago, I wrote a 500 word flash fiction story for a competition and published what I wrote here . I wasn't really satisfied with the ending and by adding in another 130 words I now feel much happier with the result. So here we go: The Princess and the Thief (Take Two)

Mummy ran out the back door, Daddy ran out the front door. I think they forgot about me.
Daddy’s a banker. He travels a lot. Mummy said this time he’d gone too far. She threw the earrings he’d bought her in the bin. Then Daddy threw his briefcase across the kitchen. It hit Mummy’s china.
I took my parcel into the lounge and cried.
The string on my parcel is too tight. I need scissors from the kitchen. It’s messy in there. Perhaps Mummy and Daddy will be pleased if I tidy up. So I pick Mummy’s earrings out of the bin and put them in her special cookie jar and I put Daddy’s briefcase back on the table.
Daddy calls me his Princess and Mummy calls me her Angel.
I collect the big pieces of the broken plates and drop them in the bin. There’s a shadow on the floor, I look up and see a man staring through the window. I know him but I can’t remember his name. I saw him outside the school gates last week. He waves at me. I wave back.
He opens the porch door and smiles.
“Can I help? You don’t want to cut yourself.”
“If you like,” I say.
“I saw your parents leave, so I thought I’d better check on you. I was right to be concerned; I see there’s been an accident.”
“I don’t think Daddy meant to break Mummy’s china. He was cross because Mummy said he loves money more than he loves us.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t.”
He finds the broom and starts to sweep the pieces into little piles.
“I think your daddy knows how important money is to live. But your mummy knows other things are even more important. Like children.” He smiles again and pushes the little piles into one big mound and I brush it into the dustpan. “It’s a question of finding the right balance.”
He smiles again and I smile back.
“Daddy brought me a present. It’s in the lounge.”
“Well, we’re just about done here. Shall we go and take a look?”
I shake the pieces out of the dustpan into the bin and take the scissors from the drawer.
“Lead on my Merry Mistress!” he says. “Let’s find the hidden treasure!”
He smiles and laughs all the time. He reminds me of Santa Claus, only he doesn’t have a beard.
I cut the string, rip off the paper and open the box.
“Wow, look at that!” he says. “It’s the biggest book I’ve ever seen! The Princess and the Thief.  It sounds exciting.”
I trace my fingers over the large, gold letters.
“Daddy always buys beautiful presents.”
“Shall I read or do you want to?” he says.
“I’ll read.”
He closes his eyes. He looks peaceful and content like Daddy does after Sunday lunch. Sometimes I don’t know a word, so I spell it out loud and he tells me what it is. He would be a good teacher as he is very patient. I read on until the story ends.
He opens his eyes and smiles again.
“You have a lovely, soothing voice and read so well.”
“Will I meet a prince?”
“Every girl meets her prince.”
He holds out his hand and leads me to the window. The sky is blue and sunny but he tells me how clouds form and why rain falls.
“Shall we go for a walk?” he says. “While the weather’s good?”
“What about Mummy and Daddy?”
“We could leave a note.”
“Can I bring my storybook?”
“That’s a wonderful idea.”
I begin to write a message on my pink notepad.
            “What’s your name?” I say.
He leans over and looks at my writing.
            “Just put you’re going for a walk with your prince,” he winks.
I like my prince. He is charming. He is kind.
I finish my note and put it in the centre of the table. My prince picks up my storybook and takes me by the hand. We walk through the house and out onto the pavement.
            “There are clouds on the horizon,” he says. “Let’s take my car to the park.”
I climb in and we drive down the avenue. I look back through the rear window and see Mummy running down the street waving at me as a big drop of water falls on the glass.
It begins to rain.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I am inadequate

Do you ever feel inadequate?

Well I do. I've just spent several days trawling through The Writers and Artists Yearbook and checking out the websites of literary agents with a view to making a list of who might be a suitable agent for my book. Sadly, the words "comedy" and "humour" didn't appear that often. In fact, it transpired there was more chance of me emptying my laundry basket (which hasn't been empty since the 1987) than coming across than the words "humour" and "comedy" in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence.

Anyway, as a result of my search I feel hopelessly inadequate. Like those times you go to the swimming pool wearing one of those costumes with the tummy control panel and just as you're entering the water in a dignified manner some bright young thing dives in wearing a white bikini and splashes water in your face.

So why do I feel inadequate? It's the fact that most of the literary agents had degrees in English from posh places like Cambridge or MAs in creative writing or even a wacky literature course from a top American university. Some agents even had two or three of these suitably impressive qualifications. So by the time I'd worked my way through all their biographies I felt suitably demeaned, like I'd been called before the headteacher to explain why I've only got a BA in History from Bangor University and not a first class degree from some ancient seat of learning.

So I should explain that Bangor University is in Wales. Remote Wales. It's in the middle of a small town surrounded by sheep, hills and some very lonely farmers.( I've no evidence, it's just hearsay of course.) When I tell people I went to Bangor University they usually respond by saying:

"Oh Bangor! I love Ireland, it's such a lovely place. The Irish are such wonderful people."

To which I reply:

"Not Bangor in Ireland, Bangor in Wales. The Bangor where people spray spit over you when they tell you it's only fifty miles to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch."

To which they reply:

"Oh. Well, never mind, that song Day Trip to Bangor was great!"

To which I reply:

"Yes, wasn't it." (Internal sigh.)

And then there's the fact my degree is in History, not English and that makes me feel inadequate too. My degree (specialising in the Tudor Navy) qualifies me to write a book about... precisely nothing. Except perhaps some rotten planks of wood lying off the coast of Portsmouth harbour.

In fact, the truth is I can remember sod all about History. It was twenty seven years ago. I can vaguely recall there was some talk of some kings and queens, a few battles (one lasted for hundred years which must have been the medieval equivalent to listening to a Justin Bieber song) and a lot of public hangings. Unfortunately, I now can't remember what I cooked for dinner yesterday, so the chance of remembering enough facts to write a historical masterpiece is absolute zero. I have every admiration for Hilary Mantel. God knows how she does it but I'm sure it involves a lot of Valium.

So getting back to my lack of English knowledge, my last experience of English Literature in the formal sense was at A Level which was so hideously boring and analytical I chose history instead at degree level. You see, in the 1980s schools were big in analysing to death certain books - which is why whenever I see a copy of The Grapes of Wrath I get a panic attack.

However, giving up English Literature has now proved a big mistake. Because I can't cozy up to those learned literary agents over tea and biscuits and chat about important stuff like Marlow's metaphors or Voltaire's verbs. The best I could say about Voltaire is that he probably wore big pants.

So you see, Readers, I feel slightly pathetic that I haven't written some great academic or literary masterpiece that I can lure all these highly educated agents into giving me a contract. What chance have I peddling my raucous proletarian comedy? I fear the only hope I'd have in conversation with an agent is if I steer them onto some of my other more glorious achievements, establish a rapport and talk myself into a book deal.

So if I am to succeed in talking my way into a contract I need a topic of conversation that I'm knowledgeable about and at least partially qualified to talk about and which an agent is also likely to have some knowledge. At the moment I'm thinking swimming is a safe option as I have a bronze medal from school in it and most children learn to swim, even bookish ones. I reckon I could easily impress any agent with my knowledge of breast stroke and the fact I can pick up a brick from the bottom of a pool in my PJs. What's more, I'm fairly certain I could talk at length about the moral dilemmas of Michael Phelps peeing in his trunks.

So how does one actually hook an agent? I've no idea. If you've any ideas please do let me know!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I am a Writer

You may have guessed from yesterday's post that I am back in the blogging world. This is because at long last I have finished the first draft of my novel The Changing Room, a rip roaring comedy which completely ignores all publishing conventions, has some outrageous scenarios in it and will never be nominated for any literature prize except a booby one. It may make you laugh though and, possibly, even make you cry. (Maybe not for the right reasons - but at least it will be a reaction - what more can an author ask for!)

So what's next? Well, I am putting it away for a while so that when I edit it I will see it with fresh "readers" eyes - and if I still laugh and cry as I did when I wrote it then it won't require too much editing. If I read it and don't laugh and cry then I might wade out to sea with a ball and chain strapped to my ankle. Alternatively, if I'm feeling in a robust mood I'll just eat a large bar of chocolate and watch a George Clooney movie. In the meantime, I'm going to work on short stories, articles, catch up on my reading and do my research for potential agents who might under the influence of drugs/alcohol/blackmail be receptive to something a little different. If I'm unsuccessful in finding an agent I will look to self publish before the end of the year. To this extent I am already looking into artwork for a domain which has the original title of The Changing Room

So I think it's been roughly six years since I first started dabbling with writing. I started out writing a literary thriller and now I've ended up with a comedy drama which has has strong elements of farce and slapstick.  It's been an odd journey and it's certainly been a challenging one. At times, I would say it's even been a journey of self discovery - maybe that's reflected in what I've finally written - a book about a woman's changing role in life. Keeping up the momentum to get to the end of The Changing Room when I have an active family and numerous distractions has been difficult at times but I've finally got there. I can finally say I've done it. I wish my Mum and Dad were still alive so I could share this personal achievement but sadly they aren't but I think they'd pretty pleased if they were alive. I think Mum would love The Changing Room although my Dad would probably say to himself "Where did I go wrong?" and then strap a ball and chain to his ankle and wade out to sea.

You know, I wonder if this is point when I can truly say I am a writer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thoughts on Paris Fashion Week

It's Paris fashion week. How jolly exciting. You may remember I reported on London fashion week a couple of years ago when the gentlemen's fashions made me slightly queasy. Well today, like any woman vaguely interested in fashion, I clicked on an article about Paris fashion week at The Daily Mail because, as it happened, I had nothing better to do in between scrubbing the bathroom and taking out the rubbish. I duly perused the photographs with due care and wondered how next season's fashions might influence my wardrobe.

Unfortunately, I decided that no part of The Paris Fashion show would influence me. In fact, I decided I would rather gouge out my eyes.

 (I read too much Shakespeare when I was young.)

 I also decided that the models all looked one of the following:

a) Unhappy. And, to be frank, anyone would look unhappy (sorry to be blunt) wearing the monstrous carbuncles ( I had to edit my first choice of words) that turn up on the Paris catwalks. The fashion industry hasn't got it yet has it? Unhappy people and faces are not inspiring. The only people who are likely to be inspired by the fashion industry are morticians.

b) Almost dead. The models are too skinny, too pale, too unhealthy. I've seen healthier slugs in my back garden. I don't think unhealthy people are that attractive or inspiring - not to look at anyway. And if the expressions of these models are anything to go by I'd rather have a conversation with a landmine.

c) Dead. Yes, I'm afraid the fashion industry's penchant for making young women look like they're laid out on marble is not an attractive one. Personally, I find the dead look pretty dull. I just don't know why these designers just don't go the full hog and design a range of mortuary gowns which, let's face it, could do with a bit of glamour. When I go to the pearly gates I fancy wearing something sensational not a converted sheet or a flannelette nightie.

d) The Living Dead. The Paris Fashion Show is proof that zombies do exist. I thought they only existed in films and literature but I've been proved wrong - they work in the fashion industry. Oh well, I suppose someone's got to do it. Rather them than me. I can't imagine living on bread and water or decaying flesh all year round. Cos you know what? I find wholesome food rather attractive.

You may have thought this was typical representation of a fashion model - but you're wrong. I have it good authority (mine) that this woman was recently excavated from from an Egyptian tomb. So, in all fairness, she looks pretty good after being mummified for 4, 000 years.

Okay, so now I've covered the modelling side of the fashion industry, let's get down to gritty details and discuss the fashion aspect of the latest Paris fashion show. Here's my succinct thoughts on the designs. They were:

a) Hideous.

b) Hideous and dull.

c) Hideous, dull and stupid.

d) Hideous, dull, stupid and overpriced.

However, I would like to say something about the hairstyles and the elongated fringes and the "I've just been caught in a hurricane with my pants down look" - it's great to know that the designers have taken influence from other areas of the arts - I immediately recognised the influence of Dougal of The Magic Roundabout Fame.

A model of Dougal. He normally wears a fringe or a comb-over but this time he's gone for the windswept look. Hairdressing and fashion experts take note: Dougal is hot news. Expect a range of dog collars, jackets and diamond studded leads to hit the market soon. 

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...