Back to Basics

Ah, January. This year I’ll finish writing the novel.

Honestly, how many times have I said this? Lockdown produced quite a lot of writing which I didn’t actually hate. Then Life happened. Law and conveyancing and the Stamp Duty holiday. Cheers, Rishi Sunak. Clients yelling and swearing, endlessly hassling despite us working seven days a week. Not because their lives were about to change, but because they’d save a few quid, the greedy shouty bastards. Remember all that blathering about how we’d learn about ourselves and come out of Covid better people, appreciating the simple things? Nah. People just got angrier.

Then it transpired that the 25,000 words of The Novel had disappeared. Nowhere to be found. Not in Scrivener or the cloud or an emergency Word copy emailed to myself in pessimistic haste. Wow. So bad, I thought, it had self-deleted. Impressive, in a way.

But it’s back. I don’t know where it went but it’s shrugging its shoulders and smoking a fag. Weird. It doesn’t give a toss whether it gets written or not; it’s all down to me, apparently. Who knew?

If I were going to run a marathon, I wouldn’t do one every day as some sort of training activity. I’d do, um, little jogs perhaps. Stretches or something. A couple of star jumps for sure. Don’t worry, I’m not going to run a marathon. I just googled and it takes about 8 hours for a ‘normal’ person. I don’t even want to do things I like for 8 hours straight. Also, the internet said marathon runners reach their peak mid-30s so that’s me buggered, much like my knees. I probably won’t even do any star jumps because I’m rarely wearing the right bra for that sort of carry-on.

Anyway. I’m writing the novel, slowly but surely, whilst actually enjoying the writerly form of lunges: writing exercises, pen portraits, general sighing over other people’s prose. I’ve signed up for a writers workshop at my local theatre; am eyeing up Jay Rayner’s column-writing workshop on 29th Jan (details here, if you fancy it). Actually. Writing.

Anyway, it’s cold and dark outside and I’ve grown out of my sports bra so that’s that then eh? Writing not running. Thank goodness.

Chantry Park, Ipswich. January 2022. Never leaving the house again.

Lockdown Lunacy

Blimey. Is everyone still sane out there? Here, I’m lurching between cooking and baking, reading and writing, trying to keep my creative mojo going whilst wondering just how much longer I can tolerate the new lockdown chic: I seriously look like the ageing lovechild of Simon Cowell & Prue Leith. It’s not even funny. In a bid to improve my look, I rashly dug out the dreaded Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred DVD and can highly recommend it if you want to instantly slip a disc and subsequently let yourself go completely.

I guess I’m lucky. Until last week, I was still working full time. Now though, I’m in my second week of furlough. Like I say, I’m lucky. I’ve managed to hang on to some positivity. Words are being written – 10,000 so far, go me! They might not be the right words but I shall pop them in a tupperware to keep them fresh and rearrange them later. This is more than can be said of the sourdough starter I, er, started. Why didn’t I know I’d need some fancy gubbins for the proving malarkey? Oh well. French banneton, Dutch oven. How terribly continental. I hope the Brexiteers don’t find out what I’ve been up to.

The whole sourdough starter thing has always terrified me, to be honest. I have this fear that the stuff will all bubble up, burst the lid off its cage and escape. Out of the kitchen, along the hall and out, OUT into the world through the letterbox. Forget Covid-19, the new peril on the streets would be this creeping yeasty beast, inching along while nobody looks before taking over other people’s worlds. It could happen.

Anyway, I had better go google my latest must-buy. To accommodate the unexpected purchase, we will mainly be eating hoover fluff and hedge clippings for the foreseeable. Oh, and just in case you doubted my skinflintery, here’s the cake I baked for my birthday yesterday: keeping it retro with a poor man’s Black Forest Gateau. It’s amazing what you can do with some out-of-date cocoa and a tin of cherry pie filling, eh?

March Madness

Good grief… the award for most muttered sentence in Waitrose this morning (insert a tut and a sigh to precede) goes to: ‘Oh, what the..? All the tea’s gone’. Yep. Gone. Not a decent teabag to be had, unless you like tea that tastes like a bunch of flowers.

Don’t even get me started on the bog rolls. The supplies were wiped out, if you’ll forgive the pun. I didn’t even need any but went to have a look anyway, just so I could feel indignant. I know, I need to get out more. If I were the cynical type, I’d put forward my conspiracy theory that coronavirus has been unleashed on the world by the evil genius that is Andrex. Cute puppies, my arse. In our new apocalyptic age, instead of peddling drugs on street corners, there’ll be seedy types with their secret stash of loo roll. ‘Awright, darlin’… you want a bit o’ the good stuff? A pound a patch to you…’

Oddly, there wasn’t any flour to be had either. I imagine all the Waitrose types are waiting for the slightest hint of a sniffle, just so they can self-isolate and free up some time to finally sort that sourdough starter they’ve been meaning to try for ages. Come to think of it, I feel a bit of a tickle coming on…

(In other news, the first chapter of the novel has been written; 3,500 words done, 86,500 to go. Perhaps I’d better stop taking photos of toilet rolls and get on with it, eh?)

Shock Horror (not a new genre)

Yes, I’ve been talking about writing a novel for yonks. I’ve plotted, procrastinated and petered out so many times, I was beginning to think I was actually allergic to writing.

It’s a common thing, I think. Worrying, endlessly, that what we write will be too terrible and that, I don’t know, the house will fall down or we’ll be sent to the gallows for putting out into the world words that aren’t utterly perfect.

I’ve written things before. Even had bits published but still that voice says ‘no, get a grip, who’s interested your turgid tragic tales?’ Ok, maybe no one does but it’s better than doing housework.

So. I’m a thousand words in. I know what structure I’m going to use and there’s a sniff of plot. God, I hope it’s plot I can smell and that the dog hasn’t disgraced himself again. Actually, I wonder what my plot would smell like if it had an odour? These are the sort of things writerly types need to ponder, I’m sure.

Words. Characters. A sort-of plot. I’m devouring other people’s writing and making use of the seven hundred and twenty million books about writing I have on my heaving shelves. If you need inspiration, I highly recommend A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves; it’s an oldie but a goodie.

I’m filling the creative well, and not with wine before you ask! Theatre and music and podcasts; my brain is bursting! This week I saw The Ballad of Maria Marten – it’s on tour, see it if you can. And then see it again, it’s that good.

I’m not convinced writing a novel that’s as yet untitled is a good thing. It seems a little half-baked. Hmmm. The last novel I started writing was actually titled Half Baked. But that’s another story. Literally.

The Writer’s Book of Days says I must go out, look at things, sniff them and lick them. Or something. The dog’s enjoying this part. He did tell me today that he could easily write a much better novel than me if only he could type. Bloody sod. I’ll show him… he does look handsome having his writerly thoughts though, doesn’t he?

Epiphanies and Exasperation

Crumbs. A new decade. It’s the law that we look back and reflect, right?

I’ve started 2020 in my 50s. Well, just 50 to be precise. No need to overegg the whole age thing. It occurred to me that the next ten years will be gone in a flash. They do as you get older, why is that? Anyway. I’ve never thought anything much before about the starting of a new decade. But by the time the next one comes and bites us on the bum, I’ll be 60. 60!

This has to be the decade, surely, when I get my act together. Become a world famous writer and all that. These past six months, I’ve made a lot of changes. To me, they were pretty major: I gave up covering my greys then had all my hair chopped off. From shoulder-length brunette to grey pixie overnight. What will people think, I wondered? Funnily enough, no one even noticed.

I signed up to Lookiero and bought a load of new clothes to go with my new image. Clothes that hadn’t even had other people in them. Come on, I’m a skinflint. I’m happy to buy an amazing coat on eBay for £15 if it’s no good to the current owner. I haven’t worn any of the new clothes yet. Um…

I spent approx. eleventy billion quid on new make-up and life-changing skincare from Glossier. Are people stopping me in the street to comment on how bloody fab I’m looking? Nah, of course they’re not. I mean, it could be said that I was already pretty fabulous before I started all this nonsense. I’ve reached peak awesomeness. Or maybe not.

My epiphany as I start the new decade? I’ll do as I am. My life won’t change a jot if I lose weight, shave my head or start wearing rock chick clothes. It might if I actually crack on with the thing I’ve stopped and started (or vice versa, more accurately) and actually do something about my dream. Is 50 too old to start being fabulous? Obviously when I’m a famous writer, I’ll have to stop being so spiffing or else Richard Curtis and all those other super Suffolk types will be too intimidated to be my friend. Maybe I’ll just stick to hiding under the kitchen table every time someone knocks on the door. Best not to change too many things at once, eh? I’ll be writing under there, though, oh yes.