Archive | June 2008

The Book Cover Diet (Week Two)

I have just got back from WeightWatchers. My weight loss this week is 2 and a half lb.

Tip of the week: If you are hungry in the evening, either find something to do with your hands, other than reading or watching TV (that always makes me want to eat), or have an early night.

One of the most beautiful places on this earth

I’m talking about Ibiza. Yes Ibiza!

Now – this is not the Ibiza that throbs with young people and nightlife, but the Ibiza where James Blunt has a very grand villa to carry out his songwriting; where artists, writers and film stars seem to pop up on street corners and where time stands still. It’s one of the best kept secrets of the Mediterranean – and one which is shared by a relatively few people (I know, because we meet them every year in the same place!).

We always go for the same two weeks in August each year. Two years ago the entire extended family all went together and we had a fantastic time. (The kids hired out a car and went clubbing every night, totally missing the point of the beautiful location.) My mum came with us: it was only three months before she died. I’ll never forget our mornings drinking coffee and trying to complete the cryptic crossword in this heavenly place. The memories are very precious and I’m so glad that she spent her last holiday on this earth in such a lovely place, and that she didn’t know she had cancer then.

There is an exquisite fragrance in the air in Ibiza, which I wish I could bottle. It’s the smell of fresh pine trees, mixed with lemon, and just breathing in the warm fragrance, whilst soft, warm, white sand slips between your toes is absolute heaven on earth.

My favourite place is sitting on the edge of the waterwith a good book, gentle waves lapping around my legs. I can sit there for hours, just listening to the rustle of the breeze in the pine trees behind me, and breathing in that lovely smell. Rob likes snorkelling and is also a qualified scuba diver, so I just sit on the edge of the water, drinking Sangria and reading my book with one eye and watching him with the other.

(We won’t talk about the sand – but suffice it to say that each session sitting on the edge of the waves necessitates a brisk swim in deeper water!)

Last year, Rob and I went alone for the first time and had a very lazy holiday indeed. Lazier than any holiday we had ever been on before. Looking back – that holiday was a watershed in my life. It represents the transition from my old life to my new one, which is very different. It was the Saturday before we departed for our holiday that I bought Jane’s ‘Wannabe a Writer?’ from Waterstones, and it was when I got back that I decided to come out of the writing closet after nearly thirty years of secret writing.

This year my holiday will be subtly different. I can’t wait. This year I will be a writer in Ibiza and I somehow think some of my summer reading on the edge of the waves will be replaced by summer writing.

If I were to win the lottery, I’d buy a villa in Ibiza and invite all my lovely blogging friends to join me for a writerly holiday.

It really is a fantastic place and I can recommend it for a lazy holiday.

Update on ‘Sunlight’

  • My agent liked the re-write. I’m so relieved. I’ve had to send the manuscript off as an e-mail attachment ready for it to tiptoe in next to the big boys next Tuesday.
  • It feels a bit like packing a four-year old off to school for the first time. I feel physically sick with nerves.
  • Anyway, less about the novel. I’m on a diet. It’s called the ‘book cover diet’ and it’s the most effective diet I have ever embarked upon. Every time I even think of eating something I shouldn’t the thought that maybe, just maybe, in a few months’ time my picture may be taken for a book cover spurs me on. I joined Weight Watchers a week last Monday. Each week I promise (flippin’ ‘eck, now that’s done it) to post my weight loss for the previous week on my blog. I also promise to publish a little bit of wisdom on dieting, or a tip each week to help you lose weight.
  • I lost 3lb the first week
  • Here’s the tip for the week. Drink loads of water. Use the loos on the top floor of the building at work thus necessitating climbing two flights of stairs about twenty times a day whilst at work. This means that your employer will be paying for your daily workout. This type of activity with henceforth be known as functional inconvenience.

Rainbows

I had a lovely day yesterday.

My three-year-old grandson goes to a playgroup called ‘Rainbows’. All three of my own children went there (although the staff have changed). So you can understand why I wanted to slip back in time and accompany him on his annual day out to the West Lodge Rural Centre. It wasn’t quite the same, though, as my last experience of a playgroup trip seventeen years ago.

These are the differences:

1. Tyler was as excited about going on a bus as he was about going on the trip itself. I realised he has hardly ever been on a bus.

2. I had to sign a form to say that he had suncream on.

3. There is a small playground at the Centre. All the equipment is set in sand. None of the equipment is above five feet high. The playground is fully enclosed. I got some very odd looks indeed when I fished ‘World Without End’ out of my voluminous bag and fetched myself a cup of coffee. Shock horror at the thought I was about to take one of my eyes off my grandchild.

4. We had a picnic lunch. When my kids were little, picnics were special and you could eat your chocolate treats first if you wanted to, although they did have to sit still to eat it. I’d taken a clean tea towel and Tyler spread it out on the picnic table and then placed all the items out of his packed lunch on it exactly how he wanted them. He then proceeded to eat it in this order. Four yellow Smarties (we then placed a two rows of Smarties in ‘rainbow’ order using the headed paper of the playgroup to go by, and had a race to see who could eat their row first). A grape. A Mr Men Fromage Frais. The rest of the yellow Smarties. One bite of a ham roll. A packet of Quavers. Two more grapes. All the red Smarties. A mini scotch egg. (We then counted the remaining grapes and ‘shared’ them – one for Tyler, one for Granny – and then counted how many we each had.) About five more grapes. Ribena. A couple more bites out of the ham roll. Then he said he’d had enough and put all the blue Smarties back in the tube to eat on the bus on the way back.

I vaguely became aware of the din around us. Kids were running around with food in their hands, shouting at each other with their mouths full, showering the picnic area with litter. I noticed that all the grannies and grandads there, and some of the parents too, had done more or less the same as I had, and made their grandchildren sit at a picnic table.

The last time I went on a Rainbows outing, everyone had to sit at a picnic table to eat their packed lunches and weren’t allowed to run around whilst eating. So this has changed (and I’m not sure it’s for the better).

5. There seems to be an obsession about cleanliness. OK, I know it’s a working farm. I’d taken wet wipes and made sure he had clean hands. There was an abundance of germ-busting new-fangled alcohol gel, though, in mums’ handbags. Wet wipes don’t seem to be enough nowadays.

We got home – to my house – at about 3.30. Grandad finished work for the day and we all had a cup of tea and talked about ‘the farm’. I needed to keep him awake until tea-time so we got the crayons out and he drew a picture for his mum and dad at the kitchen table while I cooked tea.

Lee was picking him up on his way home from work at 6.00. I’d sneaked his jim-jams out of the house in the morning, so I made sure he’d had his tea and a bath before Lee arrived.

Emily rang at 7.00. He was tucked up in bed – absolutely shattered. She said he’d never been to bed so early.

I got the feeling yesterday that children nowadays are constrained in ways that the last generation weren’t. They are watched like hawks, and no wonder given the horror stories that are in the news. I noticed that parents couldn’t relax from keeping their eyes on their children – not even for a second – and panicked whenever they were out of view.

There weren’t many children who were made to sit still and eat their lunches. Tyler was quite happy sitting at the picnic table with me, and so were the handful of other children who were made to do the same.

The suncream and hygiene obsessions seem a bit over the top too, compared with a few years ago. Apparently the signing of the form is now a health and safety requirement – lots of people said it was going a step too far, considering each child had to be accompanied by an adult, who, presumably should be responsible enough to make a judgement on suncream.

Lastly, bed at 7.00 pm after a hectic day out seems pretty normal to me. Today’s three-year olds, though, because their parents have to work and don’t get home till about 6.00, tend to stay up later.

So what do you all think? Is it just me getting older and looking at the world through granny specs, or have things really changed over the last twenty years or so.

Writing Squidge

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about why people find it so hard to write sex scenes. I’ve had to pep up one of the scenes in ‘Sunlight’ and I’ve found it incredibly difficult.

I think I know why I find it so hard. It’s because all fiction inevitably has an element of experience in it – you just can’t avoid it. How can you write otherwise? I don’t want to upset my husband. You just can’t help a bit of yourself coming out in whatever you write – whether it’s squidge or not.

And I don’t know whether I want to share that bit of myself with the whole world.

So I don’t think writing squidge is going to be my scene. I’ll do it if I have to, but to me, it’s a bit like taking medicine.

Anyway, the real thing is so much better …..

Sunlight Fifth Edit

Well. It’s done.

I’ve given it all I’ve got, and it’s packaged up and ready to go – and it’s now 3.30 am. I’ve finished ahead of deadline, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. I had a little blip on Friday when I was under the weather, but crashed on with it over the weekend.

Thank for all your support and good wishes.

I discovered a very strange phenomenon, though, whilst editing. Although I was enjoying reacquainting myself with the characters after a couple of months away, I found them nagging at me quite a bit. Nagging me to leave them alone and just clear off and start reading ‘World Without End’. I ordered it from Amazon a few weeks ago (I was fed up with waiting for the paperback version to come out and am the zillionth person on the library waiting list for it).

I started reading, and then couldn’t put it down. I knew this would happen. It always does with a Ken Follett. And this one is special – it’s the sequel to ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and if any of you haven’t read that, then I can highly recommend it. It’s long – very long – but fantastic.

My wise guru of a friend said it was because I was scared of my novel actually being published, so I just wanted to hide behind someone else’s book and bury my head in the sand.

I think he might be right. I’m sitting looking at the packaged-up manuscript on the coffee table in front of me and think I might just have to go to bed and get some sleep before I rip it open and just do another little check ……

Wanna Meet-Up

What a lovely day we had, didn’t we?

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and can’t wait to meet up again.

I’ll not be blogging very much while I race to complete my edit. I have to make sure my m/s is with my agent by Wed. 25th June.