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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

I may be gone some time…………

I’ve been told to warn you so here it is.  My blog may be somewhat neglected during the month of November.  Those of you who stuck with me during the distinctly dry months of August and September will be rolling your eyes and cursing my fecklessness.  Wait though!  This time it’s not what you think.  This time I am will be abandoning my blog for a worthy cause.  Yes it’s true – once more into the breach dear friends.  I am to throw myself upon my sword, do battle with my nemesis, pee into the wind.  I’m going to write a book!

I have this friend who has a really irritating habit of finishing what she starts.  It drives me insane.  I am much more of an initial enthusiasm kind of girl, you know the sort of person who throws themself into something 110% (sorry too much x-factor) and then…………………..oh look a butterfly……  A couple of years ago this friend told me about something called National Novel Writing Month or as those in the know call it NaNoWriMo.  The idea is that you sign up with this site and commit yourself along with thousands of other crazed lunatics to write 50,000 words during the month of November.  You have a rolling word count tool and somewhere you can post excerpts from your work so all of your fans can read them.  She was very enthusiastic and I remember feeling quite smug as a veteran writer of first chapters and thinking to myself “ha, no way will you finish this”.  Of course she did – like I said she’s annoying that way.

I’ve finally reached the stage where I don’t think I can survive much longer without actually writing a book.  obviously I’m proud of my achievements so far – 372 abandoned Mill and Boon’s (one formal rejection), several embryonic fantasy novels and 20,000 words on the life of Pontius Pilate but I think I need more.  I think for once in my life I really need to finish what I’ve started.

Support from my family has been pretty minimal.  Sally threw herself off the toy ambulance several times in protest yesterday afternoon then staged a no sleep campaign last night.  Helen is disinterested but did tell me  that my book wasn’t as good as her website.  Oh yes, Helen has her own website.  Often she’ll start singing little songs or quoting poetry which apparently are from her website.  Believe me if I ever work out the URL you guys will be the first to know! Allan’s lack of enthusiasm has been the hardest to bear though.  He told me last night that he thought I did have a book in me but he didn’t think that this was the right time or the right book.  Harsh.  You must remember that he is a deeply damaged man.  Last time I was really serious about writing a book we ended up spending a week in Israel looking at Roman remains and driving a lot closer to the Gazza strip than either of us was completely comfortable with.  Anyway, I’ll show him, that’s why I’m on here blogging.

NaNo whatsity thing doesn’t start until November (no shit Sherlock) but I’m so excited I’ve started already.  Once I know exactly how to link to excerpts I will try to link them to my blog.  Those of you who enjoy my whimsical tales of ducks and hens will be sorely disappointed  – I’ve gone back to my darkest time and made my main character a female pathologist living in Edinburgh.  I imagine I will probably become the next Ian Rankin – except I’ll be a girl who writes about ducks and  hens mainly with the odd murder thrown in.

Anyway here is the line that caught my eye when I started up my laptop at work this morning.

 

“You can’t slam the doors; they’re soft close so he kicks the filing cabinet in our office on his way out.  I sigh and calmly
go about removing the brain.”

 

Oh yeah and for those of you who think I was joking about the trip to Israel…………………..

 

Here I am in the ruined city of Caeserea pretending to drive a chariot – he’s lucky this book is set in Edinburgh.

 

 

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Our daily bread

I entered the shop this morning to find that Shopmeister had been left holding the baby.  No, I don’t mean he was running the shop by himself, although he was also doing that, he was literally holding an infant.

Saturday mornings are a good day to attend the shop all year round.  There is always a boat on Friday so on Saturdays you can stock up on milk, bread and vegetables.  Although in the winter the boat arrives at lunchtime on the Friday so it’s not advisable to leave your shopping until late on the Saturday morning as you are likely to find that the shelves have been picked clean and there is no milk and no bread and you will be reduced to eating UHT and oatcakes…………..again.

A few weeks ago we had dinner with the couple who live next door (well, in the neighbouring field) and the new school teacher.  We have all moved to Colonsay from cities fairly recently and talk turned quickly to what we missed about the mainland.  Cafes was definitely a common theme.  The Pantry is great but having lived in Edinburgh I was used to there being a cafe on ever corner many with play areas for children.  In fact there was a lovely pub at the end of our street where you could let the little darlings loose in the massive play area whilst drinking yourself into oblivion if you so desired.  They would even help you carry your pram up the steps.

One of the things I am most surprised to miss is the Scotmid at the other end of the road.  For those of you not familiar with Scottish culture Scotmid is a chain of small supermarkets (I think they are owned by the Co-op) they are quite cheap and distinctly un-middle class.  It won’t surprise you to learn that the Scotmid was at the other end of the street from the yummy mummy pub.  Our street acted as a kind of bridge between posh Edinburgh and scummy Edinburgh.  At one end was the baby friendly pub, Valvona and Corolla, John Lewis and the New Town; at the other Scotmid, a betting shop, several (very good) charity shops and a football stadium.  You could say we lived in purgatory.  Anyway, although Scotmid stood next to a very nice little bakery we rarely went in there.  Instead, on a Saturday morning after I had taken Helen to an even more middle class part of Edinburgh to her Tumble-tots class (sort of like SAS training for toddlers) I would pop into Scotmid.  By 11am they would have received a delivery of freshly baked bread, croissants and rolls.  Helen and I would buy a few and stroll home avoiding the dog poop and puddles of vomit on the street to a pleasant family brunch. The bread was always delicious, fresh and soft – one of my favourite things about weekend mornings.

Since moving to Colonsay we’ve had to give up on this kind of thing.  Although there are still plenty of SAS style activities for the children to engage in the only fresh bread that is readily available is my own.  I’m actually quite a good baker – in fact I won first prize for a loaf of non-breadmaker white bread in the recent root and grain show (sorry to blow my own trumpet there) – but getting up on a Saturday morning and making the bread yourself doesn’t create the same leisurely brunch mood.

So you are probably wondering why I’m still wittering on about bread, cafes, Edinburgh and my past life whilst leaving poor Shopmeister stranded in the shop holding Shopbaby.  Let’s just take a minute to discuss Shopbaby.  Shopbaby looks how I would like my children to look.  In fact they often look like she does on leaving the house but by the time we go anywhere they are generally plastered  with food, hair stuck to their faces with snot with questionable stains on at least one item of their apparel. Shopbaby always looks like she has just stepped out of a salon.  She is always well coordinated, I have never seen her with sick in her hair and her hair is always fluffy and shiny not matted with food or non-existent as in the case of my two terrors.  Shop baby was a little grumpy this morning though.  Shopmesiter was holding her in that slightly tentative manner that indicated to all present (me) that she may detonate at any moment.

Fortunately Shopmeistress was not gone long.  She had spent the morning slaving over a hot oven to produce the very same bread that our local shop used to sell!  Evidently the islanders had fallen upon it like starving animals and she had to rush home to bake more.  Word spread like wildfire across the island – people were phoning in their orders and rushing to collect them.  No sooner had she arrived with the second batch it was gone and we were lucky not to have been trampled in the rush! High on refined carbohydrates the islanders had become insatiable.  We managed to emerge victorious from the melee carrying a bloomer, two rolls and a croissant (for Allan).  Helen carried the bread out to the car in a reverent fashion ‘it’s warm mummy, it’s still warm’.  She insisted on holding it all the way home.  Sadly when we reached this house there wasn’t much of it left – next week we’ll have to order double!

A pound of flesh

My parents are going to Oban for the day. Judging from the frenzied activity going on outside my office one might think they were going for a month.  In fact they are going to Oban for an hour.  The summer ferry service which allows day trippers to spend an afternoon on Colonsay doesn’t work quite so well in reverse.

My Dad has ascended and descended the stairs at least six times.  With each ascension the severity and decibel level of his expletives has grown louder and louder.  My mother and I remain silent.  We have extensive experience in dealing with his grumps and much like Helen’s tantrums they are best ignored.

I am cocooned in the spare room (my office).  I have taken to this room as our own house is simply too small for me to get any work done in.  Helen and Sally have no respect whatsoever for the rules of gainful employment and my need to earn an honest living.  On the odd occasion I have tried to work at the kitchen table Helen climbs onto my knee and tries to press the buttons on the laptop whilst Sally stands under the table repeatedly bumping her head, pulling at my trousers leg and irritating Helen.

I am now in the last week of working my notice for the NHS.  Our original plan had been that I would return to Edinburgh and hospital medicine for five weeks.  Allan and the girls would come with me and enjoy a few weeks of mainland fun whilst I fulfilled my obligations.  Instead my boss came up with a project I could do online.  At first I felt very grateful to him for coming up with a rescue package that would prevent the upheaval of my family.  Of course I was bowled over with gratitude, stressed how hard I would work and enthusiastically agreed to an ambitious project.

He’s a smart man my boss.  Had I returned to the mainland I would have been physically present at work between the hours of 9 and 5 each day.  As I am giving up my medical career I would not have felt under any particular obligation to work hard. Now I don’t’ want you to think that I am some sort of evil, work avoiding, embezzler of tax payer’s money.  I would have carried out my allocated tasks well and with good grace and enthusiasm.  However, I am capable of a lot more than this.  Pre-child (and before I decided that I really did not want to spend the rest of my life looking down a microscope at bits of flesh I had hacked to pieces the day before) I was hardcore.  My boss knew this.  How? Because on more than one occasion he had come into the office at 10pm on a Sunday evening to find me hard at work over my microscope – Rock and roll.  We’ve also had the occasional e-mail conversation at 2am (no no no we’re not talking 50 shades of Grey here).  He knows that if I feel obliged to do something then I will forsake all others and get on with it.  He offered me what seemed like a lifeline and has instead extracted a far greater amount of work from me than I would ever have imagined.  No wonder he’s emperor of pathology or whatever his actual title is – he knows how to extract his pound of flesh.

Meanwhile life on the rock still goes on.  We’ve acquired a duck and 8 ducklings.  We haven’t named them yet though as they are still gender unspecified – I fear at least a few of them will be named Christmas Dinner.  We have also acquired two more hens – Kathleen and Karine in honour of the great musicians.  Allan is engaged in a battle royale with whoever it is who does or doesn’t issue building warrants and we hope to have permission to build our house very soon.  Great all we need now is the money!  Sadly that is all spent.  Allan has been led astray by my father and is now the co-owner of an ancient tractor which my Dad is picking up in Oban today.

Helen is pretty much potty trained now although this doesn’t affect me much as I rarely see my children……apart from Sally who I see several times a night, each night…………she too knows how to extract her pound of flesh.

Oh well, my Dad has found his man-bag and he and my mother have roared round to the pier in their dysfunctional car which sorely needs servicing.  It’s being left in Oban to be mended.  I offered to pick my parents up from the pier this evening but they declined – they will drive back round in the tractor.  It’s only three miles I’m sure they will be home by midnight.  Now the house is quiet I’d better get back to work.

p.s. I’m now on the third of the 50 shades trilogy.  I still don’t want to criticise these books as I’m giving up valuable sleeping time to read them but I must say I do understand now why the average Mills and Boon stops after 180 pages.

Laters…………..

50 shades of fuss

I have always known deep down inside that there was no way I wouldn’t like 50 shades of grey.

You see I am a woman who is deeply in touch with the side of her that likes bad fiction. The happiest year of my life was the one where I had a subscription to Mills and Boon. Once a month I would come home to a little parcel of joy. I would read insatiably, briefly transported to a world where it didn’t matter that my husband didn’t know how to work the washing machine and my job didn’t involve washing poo out of other people’s colons. Sadly the romantic fiction clearly worked a little too well. I got pregnant and during the ensuing austerity measures my Mills and Boon subscription was cancelled.

What has made me cross about 50 shades (as we fans like to call it) is the amount of abuse it seems to attract. I have had a lot of time to observe this as I am working on an important project which involves me being sat in front of my computer for eight hours a day. The internet calls…………. It (50 shades) is classed as ‘mummy porn’, ‘the worst book I have ever read’ ‘a waste of time’.

The fact that I liked this book so much has caused rather an existentialist crisis.

I don’t think I am stupid. My academic performance would suggest that I am of above average intelligence although most of my academic achievements were garnered before I became a mummy so perhaps my IQ has dropped a few points. I have read lots of books that are considered good literature. But if I am being completely honest the only classic that has ever captivated me the way 50 shades did was Jane Eyre and, while we’re on the whole honesty drive here, Jane Eyre is just 50 shades of grey without the spanking.

Feeling that I somehow need to justify my enjoyment of this book has really made me think about what we consider ‘good literature’. I have read so many criticisms that this book is badly written. What exactly does that mean? There aren’t any spelling mistakes, the male protagonist doesn’t appear to develop a third hand during a sex scene (this actually happened in a book I read once, it was most disconcerting). Yes the dialogue is peppered with clichés but the thing about clichés is that they have become clichés because people are constantly using them. People learn their sexual dialogue from the media, the media is full of clichés and so it perpetuates. I remember criticising the heroine in the original King Kong film because all she did was scream and kick her legs. A friend then pointed out that if a giant ape caught hold of me and started climbing the empire state building I would be unlikely to remember my best vocabulary and would probably scream and kick my legs. Would those who criticise the book have preferred it if there had been more intellectual chit chat between the lovers?

‘Oh gosh I believe I may be about to ejaculate I do hope that is acceptable to you and will not offend your feminist principles’

‘Please desist at once my good man, I am not using any form of hormonal contraception and I do fear an unwanted pregnancy.’

Is this how other people talk when they are having sex?

Another criticism of the book is the author’s constant reference to her subconscious and her inner goddess. I don’t have an inner goddess but I’m delighted for anyone who does. I do however have an extremely active inner monologue and it enjoyed the book too.  At least I think it did.  It certainly stayed quiet when I was reading it.  Part of the reason I liked this book was because I felt that I identified with the female lead. I found her believable, she often didn’t know what to do – I often don’t know what to do. She feels unattractive – I often feel unattractive (although actually I believe she is very beautiful really, sadly I am not), she has negative voices in her head………………..ok enough along those lines.

Maybe the book is badly written but what does that mean in this day and age? People aren’t reading anymore. We spend most of our time watching movies or box sets on our electronic devices. Or we communicate via Twitter and Facebook. I know people who proudly state they don’t read books, only magazines. Suddenly a book comes along that these people want to read. A whole new (old) media has been opened up to the masses but a certain subgroup of the population are standing in the corner tut-tutting and muttering to each other ‘she doesn’t use nearly enough metaphors.’ I have read the whole of David Copperfield (and that is three weeks of my life I would dearly like back). Is it well written? Apparently so. Did I enjoy reading about every little piece of scenery along the way in the minutest detail? No I did not.

There is nothing new in 50 shades of grey.  It is a love story. There is a little bit of spanking. It’s not erotic fiction, it’s not porn, and it’s certainly not mummy porn (although I am a mummy so maybe I am blinded by this). It is the age old tale of two people trying to reconcile their differences in order that they can build a life together.

I like populist fiction. I liked Twilight, I liked The Hunger Games. I like reading compelling, fast paced stories about characters who remind me a little bit of myself. I like being transported to another world where I don’t have to worry about the mould along the side of our bath. So there it is, I’ve outed myself. I will probably lose half of my followers and most of my friends on Facebook. I will be ousted from the book festival committee least I contaminate Ian Rankin with my prole like tendencies. But………..before you all judge me………just try reading it. Take your snidey, I don’t want to like this so I shan’t hat off. Don’t read it out loud to your friends in a supercilious ‘aren’t we clever’ kind of way. Sneak off to your bedroom like a teenager, suspend disbelief and just give it a try. It will only take you four hours which is a lot less time than I invested in David Copperfield…………..

What you still don’t like it?

Is it wrong that I feel a little bit sorry for you?

That's not me by the way

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