Monday, October 26, 2009

The sensitive, the considerate and the plucky

There's a famous quote, an excerpt from a longer piece by E M Forster, that goes:

I believe in an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding when they meet.

I thought about this when I was watching Nick Griffin on Question Time, because I know I'd sooner have a member of that over-arching aristocracy - someone sensitive, considerate and plucky - living next door to me, whether their skin's black or white, whether they're old, young, gay, straight, disabled or non-disabled, than I would a home-grown thug.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is there a newspaper that just tells it as it is?

I've always been willing to admit (with a sizeable dollop of embarrassment) to being a Daily Mail reader. Daily Mail during the week: Guardian on Saturdays - we like to be even-handed. And while the Mail irks me with its over-the-top, right wing paranoia, the Guardian irks me with - well, it just irks me. Everything about it shrieks going-to-hell-in-a-handcart champagne socialism. It's a pity that both papers have readable bits that I quite enjoy. And they're familiar, y'know? I can easily find the bits I like.

But now, maybe the Mail has crossed the line. I coped with them printing a story on 'Down syndrome' rather than Down's because, apparently, 'the writer's Australian and insisted' (writers don't insist on things - they say: 'Gosh, do you mean it? You'll really publish it? Thanks!'); I've coped with very many articles on how women's bodies have changed over the last three decades; with articles on this or that woman who gave up her high-flying job to look after her children and how much happier she is as a result; on sisters who are different from each other in some way(without ever working out why I should care); on Kerry Katona, who the Mail thinks should stay out of the limelight but whom they photograph every time she changes her cardigan; and I've coped over and over with features on people who have rejected their disabled child at birth only to discover an upswell of devotion to said child three, six or twelve months later...I've coped with all that, and even with the pieces recently on a new kind of iron and the Lakeland catalogue, for pity's sake. I've read enough serialisation announcements with the words 'searingly honest', 'coruscating', 'hilarious' and 'brilliant' in them to last me a lifetime. But, in and amongst all this drivel, I quite like some bits, even some that I suspect are near-fiction. And I like Liz Jones, mainly because she's such a weirdo and, I feel, a kindred spirit.

But, y'know, while I can deal with all that other DM rubbish, there really wasn't any need for that nasty piece on Stephen Gateley. I wasn't a Boyzone fan and I don't feel all holier than thou about it, but what sort of paper publishes something that nasty about someone just after they've died? It wasn't necessary. It wasn't kind.

So, I'm looking for a new read. But what is there? The Independent? - looks a bit big. It'd be like navigating the streets of Bristol when I'm used to finding my way round Dewsbury. The Times? - I don't think so. Is there anything out there that just offers a non-biased, non-sallacious, non-judgmental view of what's happening?

No, I didn't think so.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Exit, pursued by a ...

This was going to be a jolly post (yes, it was, really!). I was going to describe our pathetic attempts at jiving (probaby best I don't tho') and how we arrived home on Tuesday to find Sweetie Pie had all but broken her foot when a scary spider chased her out of the living room. In her terror, she ran straight into the open door. Ouch. After a mere two hours in A & E, she was told it was 'just' a sprain and strapped up, and she hobbled off to school as usual in the morning. Well actually, I don't suppose that is that jolly, is it? Sweetie didn't think it a laughing matter - well, not until after she'd had a couple of painkillers anyway.

I was going to tell you about that, but then I spotted the info on the Brit Writing Awards in Writers' News and wanted to check if I'm the only person in the UK who can't understand the need for a 'Diverse unpublished writer of the year award' or, if we must have something which is so badly worded, why it should only be diverse enough to include black and ethnic minority writers but not white ones. That's right: the 'diverse' category is strictly limited in its diversity - if you're diversely white, forget it.
Seems like they don't understand the meaning of diverse. You can't have a diverse writer. It's like having a diverse bus or a diverse cooker. You need more than one thing to be diverse. Or, that's my understanding. I could be wrong.

But even apart from that, why do we have to separate ourselves into categories all the time? Why should a person's sexuality, race, religion, etc, matter in writing? I'm dead impressed by those people who can paint with their feet, and I can see that it's significant in their case that they're a separate category from other painters. I can also see that the writings of children or people with learning disabilities might be judged differently from those of non-disabled adults.

But are we really suggesting that the only way for black writers to get a break or a fair chance is by creating a separate category for them? What does that indicate about the underlying prejudices of the people who think that's necessary? To my mind, it says that they think white writers are superior and would run off with all the prizes. How patronising and plain wrong is that?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Students 65: Management 0

For the first time in ages we have a great group of students. They're fairly well-motivated and usually pleasant. Well, that is, they complain endlessly about the cold and other stuff, drink all our coffee without washing up, and one of them disappears periodically for a nap on the settee, another just disappears altogether...but apart from all that and lots more, they are actually quite nice, funny, and we're enjoying teaching them.

So it's a pity that my manager has turned into, well, I'd like to say psycho-bitch but that would make her easier to deal with. If someone's acting like a complete nutter you can do stuff about it but when they start just trying to chip away at your self-confidence and tell you openly that they can't support you in certain situations because other, more influential, people 'have to be kept happy', well, what can you do? Just slink off home and have a few sleepless nights, I suppose.

So, should I just give up on the main teaching job and stay home and write, maybe do a few adult classes for my second string employer? Or is that what she wants me to do?

What's afoot? Definitely more, as John Lennon said, than twelve inches.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whoops a daisy

Another report in the paper yesterday about a man following his satnav's instructions to the letter and ending up perched over a drop at a curve in the bridleway he'd driven down. The fact that he was a BMW driver engendered much hilarity and caustic comments, but in fact this happens regularly round here - it's either drivers driving along footpaths or waggon drivers trying to steer their HGVs round tiny corners in hillside lanes that we struggle with in the Jazz. What is it with this people? Are they so seduced by a sexy satnav voice that they disengage their brains when they turn the thing on?

Well, that's the basis of many people's criticisms, but me, I'm saying nothing. Some years ago, after a lovely Elizabethan banquet at a nearby stately home (during which I'd drunk nothing, honest) I was the last one out of the car park. For reasons I've forgotten, but possibly by dint of gormlessness, I turned right where everyone else had turned left. It was very dark and it caused me some concern that the road seemed to be getting narrower and narrower until it was no more than, oh, just a grass footpath really. I did stop and gingerly manouevre the car back round the other way - I didn't like that bit as there were drops on both sides - and go on my way but obviously, it's easily done...

I'm just glad I wasn't driving a BMW to add to my embarrassment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I've said it before...

...and I'll say it again: those people at The People's Friend are so lovely! Really, they'd make ideal favourite aunts or next door neighbours or...well, I'd like to see them running the country - a bit of politeness and integrity wouldn't go amiss there, would it?

From a writer's point of view, they may be a little tardy these days making decisions - altho' no tardier than any other mag -but they certainly make up for it in encouraging words and just general loveliness. I'm a big fan.


Barney went for a drink yesterday lunchtime, meaning he was unable to pick me up in the car as he normally does from the station. He decided to make up for this lapse by meeting me on foot at the bus stop, with a welcoming glass of red wine in his hand. Aw, bless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A bit of a moan, kind of

So what's new, eh?

I had an interview yesterday for a job at the college which is near my home - still the same kind of job but slightly more money and of course I'd save the train fare. I didn't get it and, to be honest, I wouldn't have given me it either. They asked about how I use IT in teaching - I use it loads: we watch Youtube clips, do interactive exercises, we update the blog, loads of stuff. But at the time the only thing that came into my head was Skillswise, which is like the most basic website literacy teachers use - couldn't think of anything else!

And then today the course that I was going to take at the nearby university next year has been shifted elsewhere, so I can't do that either. Despite the fact that I need the course to continue to be fully qualified, I was already in two minds as my employers reneged on a promise to pay for half of it, but even so I'd have like the chance to make a choice...

Anyway, it frees up a year to study something I'd like to. What shall I do? Italian? Spanish? Maths GCSE? Something crafty? The world's my lobster, as Hilda would say. Can't be Tuesday evenings tho' as that's the day we're taking up jiving lessons. Can't wait!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Benefit Busters

Have you been watching this?? I'm hooked!

What are they like at A4E?? That poor guy last week who got the job and then was 'let go' after a couple of weeks! The way that old guy spoke to him when he walked out to save himself from death by boredom! The tutor sitting in front of a room full of desperate people without jobs, completing his paperwork!

Where were the basic skills classes? Where was the ICT training? Where was anything except humiliation?

It all makes me so mad. And sad. And outraged. There are people out there milking the system, there's no doubt. There are also lots of people who want jobs, and who are made to sit in a boring room all day looking through the few same job adverts over and over, demotivated and patronised. How does that help them?

Is all publicity good publicity for A4E or will the govt look at the programme and think: hmmm, not such a good system after all. Let's actually give them something to do...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Passive aggression anyone?

Being passive and being aggressive...hmmm, aren't they mutually exclusive?

Don't you hate it when someone makes up a technical name for something when they could just say sulking or obstructive or obnoxious or just bone idle? For that very reason I've made great use of passive aggressive recently as a term of light-hearted abuse for Barney. Neither of us knows what it means, but it sounds impressively 21st century.

Try this fun quiz to determine whether or not you're affected by any of several personality disorders. Well, I thought it was fun anyway...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Diggin' an 'ole

We have a hole - well, holes - in the road outside the house, courtesy of the electricity board, or whatever they're called these days. There are many orange barriers which many men come and lean on at various times, gazing into the depths of the holes, looking for...what might they be looking for? There are also road cutters which are revved into action outside Sweetie's bedroom window about 9am and which do not please her one little bit...don't they know it's the school holidays? is the gist of her complaint.

Meanwhile the Guardian reported that in Scotland, 'Louise Brown' (you'd think at 91, she'd merit a 'Miss' or a 'Mrs' before her name) is on the brink of borrowing her 25,000th book from Stranraer library and is running out of large print items to borrow. I'm sure some would direct her to the talking books collection but, while I'm a big fan of talking books, it's not the same, is it? There are times you want reading matter piped directly into your head and times you want to curl up with an actual book. Go on, Stranraer, buy her some more.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Being a woman of few words...

I sold a story!!

And I was shortlisted in a comp!!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Ole House

Short story writers make use of every little thing that happens in their lives, don't they? That's why we walk round with notebooks in our pockets and pencils behind our ears. So, when Sweetie Pie and her friend started banging about and giggling loudly in the middle of the night I tried to see it as the basis of a story. Honest, I did. And then I fell asleep.

Next morning, without a hint of sheepishness, they asked if I'd heard the noise. Turns out when one of them needed the loo in the night, the door fell off its hinges. It's obviously finally taken its bat home at the regular kickings it took to persuade it to shut. Bottom hinge now hanging by a thread; top one dangling in mid air. Health & Safety R'nt Us.

I went and looked and touched the door, positioned carefully upright like a corpse, and the thing wobbled and fell over. And it was pretty funny.

So...story tie-ins...faulty door representing last straw? relationship spoiled by wife nagging about house faults, door finally falls on idle hubby? noisy kids misjudged? house renovations gone wrong? door represents something else that's wrong?...

And talking of being unhinged: can anyone expain why I requested, on Barney's supermarket list, 2 x chimney breasts?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rise of zombie-girl

A MILD sedative, that was what the doctor said he was prescribing for the sleeplessness which was taking away my ability to think. Not sure how mild mild's meant to be, but anything which knocks you out for not only the night but also most of the next day surely doesn't qualify? I sleepwalked through the end of term party, went back to bed in the afternoon and mumbled replies to anyone daft enough to ask me a question, till about teatime.

Barney and Sweetie say they didn't notice any difference.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Don't send this man to the US

OK, it's embarrassing to be lining up beside the Daily Mail, but if you'd like to keep Gary McKinnon in this country, please visit here.

And there's a touching article, explaining why Mr McKinnon shouldn't be extradited, by Jane Asher, President of the National Autistic Society, here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Do you Twitter?

I'm struggling to understand the usefulness of a system that allows you to say 'I've had a bad day', but without being able to cover why or how or what you might do differently tomorrow. How much satisfaction would you get from that?

If I've had a bad day I want to tell the world in full, with exactly who's done what wrong to whom and what I'd like to do to them. And in return I want sympathy, lots of it. Do you get that on Twitter? Nope.

And if I'm simply 'wishing it was Sunday' (the basis of one Twitter I spotted over Barney's shoulder) - well, I think even I could have had that thought without announcing it to anyone at all. I could just think it, inside my own little head.

Go on, tell me I've missed something and there's more to Twitter than I realise.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Want your story published in the Guardian?

Okay, well, have a look here to be in with a chance.

But wait...make sure you read the rules first!

I can cope with the only prize being that you get your story published in a major newspaper. It's a free comp and if you're wanting to raise your profile as a writer, or hoping to have a novel ready for sending out soon, that might be a very good thing indeed.

On the other hand, it says in the rules that the winner may be needed for promotional activity and will be responsible for all other costs associated with winning the prize. So, if you live in Aberdeen and suspect the promotional activity might involve a costly trip down to London, I'd give it a miss.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My name is Honeysuckle and I'm a Youtubeaholic

I really didn't mean to spend two whole hours on Youtube. I meant to plant some baskets up, plan some lessons, mark some work, write a story, strip some walls, maybe make a cake and clear my wardrobe out.

Instead I found myself re-visiting my childhood: Andy Stewart singing A Scottish Soldier, and some guy in a car singing Seven Little Girls. Then I moved on to the Monkees - re-living the many hours I spent in the summer of '67 watching their TV show on a Saturday teatime - and from there to Michael Nesmith, who's as unashamedly Country and Western as my tastes get. Then it was back to Twinkle and Boy of My Dreams - I remembered the long blonde hair but not the way she stood on stage in a frumpy dress, hardly moving. I once sold a story based on Twinkle singing that song, so I suppose it could've been research (albeit after the event). But how do I justify North Sea Gas, Francoise Hardy and Eric Bogle? Not to mention Harry Worth muttering: 'My name is Harry Worth..I don't know why, but there it is...'

Well, I've wasted all that time now. It hardly seems worth starting work at this late hour. I wonder if there's a good version on there of Love Minus Zero? I'll just drop by for a quick look. Just the one, you understand.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Romantics

Buster has a girlfriend. Sort of.

What happens is, we take him to the pub or a neighbouring town or somewhere else. And if on one of these jaunts he's spied by his lovely pal Lola, she stomps across to him, plants a hand on each side of his face and kisses him enthusiastically for quite some time. Then she smiles at him and walks away. No words are exchanged. Buster usually emerges from the encounter looking fairly bemused. Occasionally there's a shy, little smile on his face. Once he asked afterwards: Is Lola my girlfriend now?

It probably won't be a lasting relationship, but for now an occasional, sloppy kiss in public seems to be sufficient for both of them. Aw.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No help from the A Team

After many years of trying to persuade the relevant people to please consider the evidence we were putting before them in terms of his behaviours and obvious anxieties, we've finally got a diagnosis of autism/Asperger's for Buster. He's nearly twenty!

What does this mean for him? Well, very little now. He's living in a small home which is probably as good as any institution's going to be. Probably nothing will change there because the behaviours which have now been given a name were already there and are for the most part (I think/hope!) responded to appropriately.

But how much help might've been available in his early years? The local authority has a dedicated ASD team - maybe they all do.

How lovely to have been able to ask for advice on different issues.

How great to have been able to join a support group.

How wonderful to have been able to use a name for Buster's condition rather than people around thinking he was just miscellaneously strange.

How great it would've been to be able to explain better to Sweetie the reasons for his rages, the fact that he couldn't control his responses, the way his mind might be working. How different might their relationship have been?

Sounds like I think life would've been hunkydory if we'd only known! Not really tho' - life's not easy with any child with disabilities, and many with autism are farther along the spectrum than Buster. But with a bit more knowledge and support we could've done a better job so this morning I just felt like indulging in a few 'if only's.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Give that girl a scrunchie

My mother was a master of over-statement. It's probably a trait many mothers share, little realising that their tales of chewing gum sticking to ribs and eventually causing some kind of catastrophic blockage, or people getting untold terrible diseases due to walking about with bare midriffs, or some disaster befalling anyone who was foolish enough to sit with their back to the fire - what is it with fires and backs? - are too fantastically over-egged to really register. You knew someone who got double pneumonia from unaired sheets? Yeah, right!

Anyway, this all came to mind this week when I read about the little girl who nearly killed herself through chewing on her hair. Like a cat licking her fur, she'd managed to create the hugest hair ball which was in danger of strangulating her vital organs. Six hours of surgery later and she's out of danger, but this is definitely one for the grandchildren: 'Stop chewing your hair! Don't you know you can kill yourself like that?' Nah, they'd never believe it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dog washing machines. Wrong on so many levels.

I'm probably more of a cat person than a dog person, altho' I like dogs and was as captivated as anyone by the pair of labrador puppies sharing our evening in the pub recently.

So, this caught my attention this week - you may have seen it. Reactions seem to vary from: 'a great idea' through: 'can I put my kid in one?' to: 'get the RSPCA onto him'. Personally I don''t think I'd like being shut in a metal tub and having soapy water thrown over me, even if it was followed by a balmy breeze electronically wafting me dry.

Actually, you could just stop that sentence at not liking to be shut in a metal tub. Who would?

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I am such a goody goody when it comes to copyright. It's not just the fines if you're found out, it's the embarrassment and the fact it's just plain wrong to steal someone's work. No wonder so few writers can make a living from writing. Anyway, like I say, I'm a goody goody.

But...I'll come clean. My Weekly - possibly last week's now, I'm not sure - has an article about writer Lorraine Jenkin setting off for South America, which would be brilliant for my literacy students. Interesting, nice photos, etc. Except, of course, it's much too hard for them to read, so I need to abridge it. Savagely. And, being the polite person I am, I'd like to know that's okay. But can I find a contact for this lady? No, I can't. Can I find a dept at My Weekly that seems remotely interested in copyright? No I can't.

Not sure why I'm worrying seeing as my writing has no single sentence in common with the original and there's no copyright in ideas, but I'd like to take the mag in and say: this is about this lady, shall we read our version? without even a smidgeon of doubt about the legality of it. Why does that have to be so hard to organise?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sometimes you reach a fork in the road...

Well, that was an unintentionally prophetic statement about 'going it alone' a couple of posts back. Yesterday there were big changes on the writing group front resulting in me leaving the email group I've been a member of for several years. 'This wasn't just any email writing group, this was...' etc - you get the picture. Sometimes things just come to the end of the road tho' and a quick break is less painful than a resentment-filled, more protracted one.

Loads of nice things and warm support to look back on - I'd never have been published at all, I'm sure, without this group of women behind me. And some of us remain firm friends with intentions to keep on supporting and keep on writing. A win-win, I hope, for everybody.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

If you sometimes feel ever so slightly sorry for yourself

- and obviously it's a bit of a speciality of mine - you might like to check out Rosie's blog.

To be or not to be PC

It seems like everyone's falling over themselves these days to take offence at some minor infrigement of the PC rules, so when I realised that one of the assessments I was planning to give my Pakistani students had a pet dog in it I wondered what I should do. Would they really, as Muslims, be offended by just a picture of a dog? Certainly the staff who observed my last year's training classes would regard it as 'culturally insensitive' but they tend to be over the top and I'm not sure we should kowtow to nutters.
In the end, I did the only sensible thing and copped out. I didn't change the questions but I haven't used them either. Not till there's some definitive answer, or preferably precedent, that doesn't involve people being given warnings or losing newly acquired jobs.

Entered this competition this week. Don't know anything about it, but sometimes that random element makes it all the more fun.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing mags

It was when I realised that the Writing Magazine I'd just picked off my 'unread' pile dated back to 2007 that I decided it was probably time to unsubscribe. But what's frustrating is that this means also giving up Writers' News - which I do read - because, of course, the two of them come as a package. Why??
This seems so perverse to me. Sainsbury's don't make me buy bread before they'll sell me butter. The local chippie's happy for me to have just a fishcake or a small carton of curry sauce - I'm not obliged to take unrequired mushy peas as well.
Weird. Anyway, I've taken the plunge. I'm going it alone. Which should leave me a bit more time for actually writing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Singing trees and sadness

Well, the week off did the trick, thanks, and we've had a couple of days out locally this weekend. Yesterday we went to see a panopticon - its more descriptive name is the Singing Ringing Tree - very Enid Blyton. It only sings in the wind, so was very subdued yesterday. Silent even.

Time to get back to work...

I decided I'd change my play idea into a story, and to offer it to WW as a serial. Seeing as I've only ever sold them one story that's probably - almost certainly - pushing my luck. But still, it's good to have an aim. Further to Pat's recent post - I think it was Pat - about getting to know characters, I dutifully wrote a half page on each of the characters and - as if by magic! - more plotline elements presented themselves. Brilliant! I must do more of this getting to know the characters. Sadly, now a story which was going to be light-hearted with odd touches of pathos is in danger of becoming 98% heartbreak. Must rein that in. I'm not sure how other people manage this because it seems to me that the further you find out about anyone, real or imaginery, the more sadness you unveil. Most people have regrets or tragedies or events that make them feel at best winsome and at worst suicidal, in their history. And that's what seems to attract me. Wow, miserable or what? and this is me when I've got a grip!

So, can you write light-hearted stuff and still have fully-formed characters? I'm not sure that the characters in all the TV sitcoms are fully-rounded, are they?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The embarrassment...

A week ago I had a day off. A day's sick leave. And nowadays when you return to work you have to have a Return To Work Interview. This is dressed up as a benign, can-we-help-you-in-any-way thing but really it's designed to stop you from having the day off in the first place. Or to think twice next time. Obviously it'll be most effective with those people who feel gulty ringing in sick even when they've got raging appendicitis, while the ones who take a day off to go shopping with their bezzy mate will carry off their fibs with aplomb as usual. That's life, I suppose. But I digress...

Anyway, I had this day off sick, and on Thursday I had my return to work interview. Well, things have been pretty stressful for...well, ever since I started work there, and what happened, I got into the interview, and cried. I actually cried in the bloody return to work interview!

So, now my line manager thinks I'm an over-emotional nutcase. I could see her shrinking backwards from the table and gazing at me with wide eyes full of horror. I think she was very glad indeed that I have a week's holiday scheduled for next week. Me too. I need time to live it down.

Hope you all have a lovely, chocolatey Easter.

Monday, March 30, 2009

All quiet on the teaching front. Or not, as the case may be.

Well, 2009 has been rubbish for me so far writing-wise! Probably Mars and Pluto up to their old tricks but honestly, how long does a Cancerian have to wait for a favourable heavenly wotsit?

And on the teaching front - just as bad! - a series of misadventures among the students involving suicide threats, drug dealers hanging round, self harm, petty theft, and final warnings, has made life interesting to say the least. Bring back the calm old days. I'm assured that the Asian ladies I'm soon going to be teaching for 4 hours a week will be a doddle to someone used to dealing with disaffected youth. Let's hope so...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Everything's ticketyboo

Aren't some words just lovely? And isn't 'ticketyboo' chief among them? A Flanders and Swan kind of word, if ever I heard one. Doesn't saying it instantly lighten your mood?

What about licketysplickly? How fantastic a word is that? And which singer-songwriter managed to get licketysplickly into his song lyrics? (I'm assuming there's just the one, but who knows? Maybe it's a lyrical regular...)

There must be dozens - peripatetic's nice; frilly - I quite like the simplicity of that; perspicacity... Oh, I can feel a visit to the freerice site coming on...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I'm writing! Or am I?

Why do fictional characters taken on a life of their own? How do they do it? They're make-believe, right? They shouldn't be able to do that. When writers say stuff about characters deciding on their own lines and adding levels to their own personalities, I tend to huff and puff about affectation and literary arty-fartiness.
But I've just had a germ of an idea - this in itself is a rarity. Well, more than a germ; I knew exactly what I was going to write. And it's taken on a life of its own. The minor supporting strand has become the main feature. The main plot's been shelved for another day and, even at that point, maybe some other idea will barge it out of the way? (Given that the main idea heavily featured grumpy dustbinmen, maybe that's not too bad a thing?)
It's a bit like automatic writing, aided by some long-gone spirit of a writing antecedent. Well, bring it on!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not everyone's truth is the same

If there's one thing guaranteed to raise my blood pressure it's the tale of yet another mother who's selflessly decided to keep and look after her disabled child and - give them a medal, someone - now thinks that child is the best thing since sliced bread and writes their disability-enhanced life story in the Mail or The Guardian. I'm pretty sure that usually these stories have their hearts in the right place - showing the population at large that children and people with disabilities are actually all individuals just like the rest of us is good. But still they make my blood boil...

All too often there's a tendency to over-egg the 'Hey, it's a great life' pudding, and I find myself wanting to write in and say, actually, it's not always fun bringing up a disabled child. I love my learning-disabled son to bits, not just because I'm his mum but because there are lots of very lovable things about him - he's enthusiastic, affectionate, polite, funny and often kind. He offers insults and compliments with the same disarming honesty because he doesn't know how else to be but straight with you. Now that I'm not faced with always having to be at his command I see how truly lovely he is and I'm happy when we meet with him at the weekends.

But bringing up a disabled child isn't always fun so why give people the impression that it is? It's not fun if yours is the one who never stops moving, who wants entertaining all day after a sleepless night, when you're dead on your feet and just want to nap. When you have the one who can't walk but is becoming too heavy to carry up to bed at night. When you're a dad needing to take out your un-toilet-trained twelve year old girl. When their temper's uncertain and you're passing a group of young lads who might be okay but equally might rise to the bait of your youngster's anxiety-fueled aggro. When school's cancelled at the last minute and you're suddenly panic-stricken, wondering how to fill another day. Or worse, when he hates the respite place and you just can't bring yourself to send him for that overnight stay even tho' you know that another night without peace and quiet is going to put a load more stress on you and the rest of the family.

How is any of that fun? Is it me? Am I missing something? In our case, my daughter had depression and IBS for the two years before her big brother moved out. How do you put positive spin on that? Despite his overall loveliness, Buster was, as a child, iron-willed and constantly demanding and, as a young person, capable of some pretty bad/physical/dangerous behaviour.

But quite apart from all that, what sort of effect do these writers have on people who are struggling with their lives? The ones who don't always see the sunny side because life's so flippin' hard? Just like talking about someone battling cancer and defeating it can make others who 'battled ' it without success feel worse about themselves (obviously didn't battle hard enough!), those articles can make good, caring people feel like bad parents. 'Hey, you just have to love enough and have a sunny enough disposition and you'll be fine. I managed it, why can't you?' - that's what they seem to be saying.

Makes me cross. Can you tell??

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheeky boy...

One of my students reminds me of Cliff Michelmore. Reputedly 17, he looks and dresses at least 65, has Cliff's hairstyle and general demeanour, the only obvious difference being a very dry sense of humour. All things considered, therefore, I took it pretty well when he looked me up and down recently and advised me kindly: 'Honeysuckle, don't wear those clothes tomorrow; they're not very 21st century.'

And then he shuffled off to watch some more trains.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snow days and bouquets

Last week I worked everyday, despite ice and snow and a two mile walk to the train station. On two days I was the only member of staff in the place because no one else could get in. I'm not one to complain but it would've been more comfortable without the power cut which turned off the central heating, but hey ho...

Anyway, Tesco have caused a furore by expecting their snowbound staff to pay back the time. Another place is expecting staff to pay back time even tho' the place itself had closed. (Huh?) I can kind of see the thinking but - Moses! - who'd be a parent of school-age children when the snowflakes start flying?

So, for the future, this is my proposal:

All teachers, by law, have to live within walkable distance of the school they teach at.

All schools which close for a day due to snow, have to open for a different day some other time during the year, because it's hard enough already finding and paying for childcare for thirteen school holiday weeks, when mum and dad only have four weeks holiday apiece, without having extra days tagged on.

All school approach roads will be gritted first. (Second will be the pavements around old people's homes.)

All people who genuinely can't get into work because of either bad weather or school closures get paid as usual.

All those who actually manage to turn up day in, day out without even a word of thanks (and what I find is that those snowed in at home get sympathy for their plight. Sympathy. How does that work? You can't come to work today? You're having to snuggle up with a pint of hot chocolate in front of Pingu? - you poor thing...). Where was I? Yes, those of us who make it in should, in addition, get a bunch of flowers from The Management. Just a gesture, that's all. Just a little 'hey, you did a great job'.

So, is that agreed then?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What do story ideas and hamsters have in common?

They're both nocturnal.

Plots, characters and settings slumber their way through daylight hours. Then at 3 am they wake me up partying hard - 'hey, look at us, we've got streamers, balloons, exotic locations, unbelievably clever twists and a few cliff-hangers! Come and play!'

Well, y'know, at 3am I can't even be persuaded to reach for the obligatory notebook at the side of the bed. And the last smidgeon of a story idea that now remains with me is something about a wronged wife being told by her ne'er-do-well husband that she looked like a white rhino.

I think it needs work before I send it off to TAB.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

If you could be...

...a different writer, who would you be?

I think I'd be Lucy Mangan, who writes a column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine on Saturdays. I don't want to live with Toryboy. Well, it's not like he's offered. Or like I know who he is. And, come to that, I'm not keen on the idea of a dad who doesn't know my name. But I'd love to be able to effortlessly put together long, clever sentences and display all my weirdnesses in a funny way instead of a way that just makes people think I'm...well, weird.

Who'd you choose?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Being writerly, in a disparate kind of way

That's what I'm doing tonight - probably as a result of crummy Saturday night TV and trawling through, for the first time, the new Writers' News. First trawl: I mark stuff and fold corners down. Second trawl: I deal with whatever it was I was intending to look into further. Second trawl takes forever and sometimes never gets done or at least not till the comps are out of date etc. But that's not going to happen this time. Oh no, sirree.

Where was I? Oh, yes, writerly stuff. Okay...

1. Does anyone know what happened to Shortalk? I uploaded some stories for consideration, never heard a sausage and now, while the website's still up, the latest blog entry dates from about a year ago, I think. I'm sure some people said they'd had official acceptances...anyone in the know??


2. Does everyone subscribe to Marian Keyes' mad newsletter updates? You probably do already, I'm sure. She's wonderfully bonkers but so entertaining and lovely. If perchance you haven't subscribed so far...well, get along to and just do it. It's like having your mad sister write you a lovely, long, chatty letter. If you haven't got a chatty, letter-writing sister, it's doubly great.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A small, sad yippee...

...goes to the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman who, according to the Daily Mail (I know, the Daily Mail! I'm sorry...) is going to deliver a 'withering verdict' in her report, supporting Mencap in their concerns about the treatment of learning disabled people in hopsital.

The 'yippee' is, sadly, inappropriate because, in the lead-up to the ombudsman's input, so many learning disabled people have died unsupported and ignored in NHS hospitals. Mencap's own report, Death by Indifference, had me in tears when I originally read it.

See here for more info.

Best not hold our breath waiting for things to change tho'.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

And it's back to the daily grind of trying to come across as a normal person...Ever feel like that? No? Oh, it's just me then...

Over Christmas I was introduced to a gentleman whose name denoted a kind of fabric - not Serge; think Velvet, Tweed, Hessian, something that was a bit unusual. My brain, like the robot in Lost in Space, was totally unable to process this: Does Not Compute. I stared at him in confusion for what seemed like several minutes, till he said kindly: You can call me Peter, if it's easier.

So, what has the new year in store for you? Personally I'm considering happy pills and/or HRT. I need my bloom back. And my memory. And my decision-making processes. Where have they all gone? Same place as all the flowers? Who knows?