Sunday, November 19, 2006

Breezeblock Park, Five Things and books

Well, that's Breezeblock Park over. A little known Willy Russell play first performed, as they all were, at The Everyman in Liverpool in 1975, starring Julie Walters, Sheila Hancock (my character) and Norman Rossington. Three couples within a family live on the same council estate, and the action takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. An extremely funny play, it also has Willy Russell's trademark bittersweet edge, culminating in my character's breakdown. It is also the play that gave Caroline Ahern the idea for the Royle Family, and we were given permission to reprint her letter to Russell in the programme. It went very well, full houses almost every night, and all the women in the cast were given a vibrator as a memento. Don't ask.

I've been tagged by my friend Bernardine Kennedy to reveal Five Little Known Facts about myself. I can't think of any! However, I'll try. I was a stewardess on the last commercial flight out of Israel as the six day war began. (That dates me.) I did hand modelling for Freeman's catalogue. I was asked to be a Playboy Bunny. (And said no.) I was married for a year to a photographer. I can't eat cheese.

Most of those came from my children, because I couldn't remember anything most people didn't already know about me. Well, I say most people - I mean most people I know. And I expect they all know the above facts, too. I'm not proud.

I was delighted with the response to my previous blog about children's books. I've been given lots more to look out for, and reminded of some I'd forgotten. Jenny Haddon mentioned Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series, and of course, Diana Wynne-Jones' Chrestomancy series, all of which I've bought for myself during the last few years. My eldest daughter, she of the recent motherhood, who posted first, has, of course, exactly the same taste as I have, except that she also loved Mallory Towers.

Now looking forward to staying in every night and concentrating on finishing and delivering manuscript to publishers by the end of the week. (Oh, yeah?) Bye for now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happiness is a book discovery

I have many favourite books - naturally, I'm a writer. But there are a few I re-read every year, and some of them I've even shoe-horned into my current book. These are: The Little White Horse, I Capture the Castle, The Swish of the Curtain, Golden Pavements and Three Men in a Boat. Notice anything? Four of them are loosely defined as children's books. I also re-read Monica Edwards, Malcolm Saville, Ngaio Marsh and Georgette Heyer every year - not their entire oeuvre, but the odd few books.

Thanks to t'internet, I've also begun to collect and replace gaps in my collection, something I would have thought impossible a few years ago. I even found a book which used to make my mother and father - and me - laugh out loud when I was a teenager, of which I only remembered the title. I found it - exorbitantly priced, and two other books by the same author. Unfortunately, they didn't stand up to my memories.

This is not the case with the children's books. I've obtained Monica Edwards books I hadn't read since I was about 14, and they are as brilliant as ever. Malcolm Saville, too, although they seem to me now to be slightly condescending. Edwards isn't. Neither is my other favourite, Pamela Brown. Perhaps that's because she started her first book, the above mentioned "Swish" when she was only 14 herself.

To my delight, I have found an internet retailer who not only shares my anorakey love of old pony books - she has a whole section of her site devoted to them - but has a copy of a Pamela Brown book I lost years ago. She is at Between us, we've come up with an idea that might appear here on this blog one day - when I've got the current mss - now late - to the publisher. Watch this space. Or not. Up to you. But would love to hear about people's favourite children's books. And whether there are many out there who still buy and read children's books.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dating, drinking and women's magazines

No, there isn't a connection between any of the above, just three separate topics I want to sound off about. First - geriatric dating.

I'm a widow. I have been on my own for some years now, during which time I have joined and rejoined every internet dating site there is. Always saying - I shan't bother again - then reading somewhere about someone's success (this time it was novelist Lesley Pearce, with whom I share not only a first name, but a taste for white wine in wine bars in Bath) and giving it a go once more.

Originally, I thought anyone who used this sort of service was bound to be a saddo. Hang on a minute - I'm using it. Oh, yes. There must be people like me out there, then. Well, I can safely say now - no, there aren't. I have seen photographs (won't even consider anyone without) of pleasant looking gents of around my age and written them jokey little notes. Most haven't replied, those that have, in the main, have fobbed me off. Oh, I've met a few, obeying all the rules - public places, not giving out my address, all that sort of thing - but without exception they have all been disasters. Nice men in their way, I'm sure, but not for me.

The only people who have written to me first have been, well, let's just say not suitable. Or the right age. Or anything. So why am I still registered on these sites? Not as a paying customer any more, admittedly, but my details are still there. Well, firstly because I have this sneaky feeling that if I remove my details, the very person I've been looking for will register and I'll miss him. Secondly, I still want to meet a nice bloke with whom to share some aspects of my life. Thirdly, how else does a female rapidly hurtling towards decrepitude meet someone? When you've lived in the same area for a long time and socialised a fair bit, you tend to know most people, and single men of my age don't tend to move about.

One of the problems, of course, is the unrealistic expectations of subscribers to these sites, and, I've heard, gents in general. A 60 year old, boasting that he looks years younger, mixes with younger people, windsurfs, snowboards and likes Flaming Lips, asks to be contacted by slim women under 40. Oh, yeah?

Standard advice from agony aunts and uncles is to join something. OK, I already belong to the supposed hot bed of sex and lies, the world of amateur theatre. And no, mostly, it isn't like that. There have been the occasional affairs and marriage breakups, but not regularly. One permanent relationship has been formed in my twenty-odd years with the same company, and what does that tell you?

Before anyone else says it, I shall admit to a certain amount of unrealistic expectations myself and I shall also admit to being not everybody's cup of tea. Fat, mad old bat are descriptions that come to mind. And no, I'm not saying that in the expectation (that word again) of being contradicted. Of course, I could go to a proper dating agency, but have you seen how much they cost? And I just know it would be wasted, even if I could afford it in the first place.

I once tried to start a fairly local group to meet socially. Fashionably Late, it was called. I had very little money, but managed to pay for a few ads in the paper and got a little bit of editorial in a couple of suitable magazines. The only responses I had were from women in my own position. Had I been able to afford advertising in more magazines, maybe it would have worked, but having recently joined a dining club locally, also mainly women, have to admit it probably wouldn't.

Drinking - they, the ubiquitous "they", have stopped us smoking in pubs, now they're going to stop us drinking, too. I will end up making bath-tub gin and drinking it alone in the garage soon. Or perhaps with my children and a few selected friends. Except that then I'd be prosecuted for running an illegal drinking den. I am sick, sick, sick of the nanny state. I do not want to be told what to do, think, eat or drink. I buy and eat responsibly and ethically as far as I can without breaking the bank. I don't frighten the horses. Let me be!

Women's magazines - very nice people. Two of them have interviewed me because of my connection with amateur theatre on which they are doing features. This comes from my recent book having an amateur theatrical background, and is terrific publicity. When the features come out, I'll post details.

Oh, and thank you to my three readers!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Phalanx of Family

Well, it sounded like a good title...

Spent the week trying to catch up on book 2, although it kept taking me to places where I needed even more research. Bit of a nuisance, sometimes, this writing lark. Monday night had a very long red wine session with a friend who's recently been freed from a long sentence as a carer. Tuesday, felt extremely - er - tired.

Have also been trying to learn words, which isn't working very well, either. Must make an effort today, while son Leo is out making a short film for entry into the Canterbury Festival.

On Friday, eldest daughter Louise, mother of infant grandson Gus, returned to work as a singer by doing a half hour warm up set at our local theatre for the main event, her partner Jarrod's band, Hullabaloo. As this was something of an event, Louise's normal appearances with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra being all over the country and Europe, several members of my family decided to come to Whitstable to watch. Also best man Roger, currently living in South Africa, happened to be in the country, so arrived to stay as well. Very good concert at The Playhouse, and yesterday everybody met up at our local for lunch. Noise level was incredible. By the time they'd all gone and I returned to the pub for the regular fortnightly quiz, I was completely kn-----ed. I'm too old for all this.

However, it was a great couple of days, and I loved seeing the family. My cousins are very special to me, as I am an only child, but we have all always kept in touch and are the best of friends.

Must now go and catch up with some of the things I haven't done over the last few days. Feels very silly writing all this knowing that nobody will read it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Love Potions

Delighted to say I have now received my copy of "Love Potions" by my friend Christina Jones (, and naturally started reading straight away - standing up with my early morning cup of tea. Christina's most recent books are what she calls bucolic frolics with a somewhat magical theme: Hubble Bubble, Seeing Stars and now, Love Potions.

Ever since her first mainstream novel, Going The Distance, I have loved Christina's books, as have both my daughters, Louise and Phillipa. In fact, Going The Distance was the book that started Phillipa reading fiction, since when she has become Christina's most devoted fan. For years she wouldn't read anything else but kept re-reading Christina, but eventually I persuaded her to try Jill Mansell, to whom she became almost as devoted. She wants to live in one of the villages created by these writers and measures everybody else by their standards. What you've got to live up to, girls!

Managed to get to my drama committee meeting and contributed very little, other than hearing myself, as from very, very far away volunteering to direct next season's pantomime. 2008, you understand, not January 2007. That really would be foolish...

Now, all I have to do this week is get at least 20,000 words of book written, learn words, find an electrician and someone who can dig the garden. Any suggestions?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Groping for Words

Not me, although I frequently grope for words, but the title of the play my son Leo was appearing in last week. By Sue Townsend and set in the 1970s, it is about a literacy teacher, her two pupils and the young caretaker of the school in which she holds her classes. There are some funny moments, but concentrates mainly on the hidden sadnesses in all their lives. Very moving in places. Son Leo, playing Kevin the caretaker, was excellent (naturally!) and provided most of the humour. V. proud Mum.

Had two rather nice experiences yesterday, too. One was an email from the man who sold me my dishwasher, who had woken me up at silly o'clock to check something, causing me to appear at the door in my (luckily opaque) nightdress, after which I dashed upstairs to put on a dressing gown. Email told me later in the day that I was still gorgeous. Wasn't that nice? Then received a kiss from someone I've known for a long time. Shocked me into the middle of next week, but hugely bolstering to my middle aged ego.

Today, however, suffering from a migraine and have a drama committee meeting this evening at the theatre. Is a migraine a good enough excuse...? While lying on the sofa recovering, I had an idea for the current book, so every cloud etc etc. Will report later in the week whether it worked.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hurrah! and links

Two posts in one day!!! Have just got the excellent news that I am STILL in The Bookseller's Small Publishers' Top Ten - holding at number 7. That's four weeks running. Isn't that fabulous? OK, it's not The Times, or even mass market fiction Top Tens, but I'm in there with The Life of Pi and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Until I get slightly more proficient and add the links to my side bar, some of the blogs and/or websites I would like to be associated with are as follows: Bernardine Kennedy, Jenny Haddon, The Romantic Novelists Association,, Accent Press, of course (see previous post) and the Maniacmum blog.

Blogging, working and Cavus Bay

I've now discovered how time wasting this is! Been posting on other people's blogs and fiddling with my own instead of working.

However, I'm over half way on the new book, and trying to prevent characters from running off in all directions. Forwards would be good, and fairly fast, if I'm do the other half in the next four weeks. Publishers Accent Press ( are currently in Frankfurt, so I'm hoping they'll be too busy to chase me up when they get back...

I have been asked about Cavus Bay, see previous post, so here are two shots of it. As you can see, it is very beautiful and extremely quiet. Us regulars are torn between sharing it and losing the essential feel of the place, and losing it altogether because there are so few visitors now that no tour operators go there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dolphins and libraries

Day two - a quick report on a talk yesterday evening at Lyminge Library, where, apart from the librarians, I was easily the youngest - and I'm not young! The ten ladies and one gentleman were part of a reading group, and had held their meeting in the morning in order to save my blushes while they pulled my book to pieces. They were very sweet and quite complimentary, and very impressed when I reported my three weeks in the Small Publishers' Top Ten. They were also thrilled to learn how many of their favourite authors I knew - particularly Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Anna Jacobs and Benita Brown.

Courtesy of my friend, Jonathan Goss, here is a photograph of the dolphins that came to play on one of our boat trips in Turkey last week, along with a picture of me on the boat. Don't think anyone's reading this, yet - except Jules, of course. And Mandy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Welcome to my blog

Well, this is it. Thanks to Mandy, blogger-guru extraordinaire, I now have a blog. I have a sneaking feeling it will be just another excuse to procrastinate and not get on with work, which is Not A Good Thing. Having just returned from a fortnight in my favourite place in Turkey, Cavus, I now have four weeks (give or take a month!) to hand in my second novel to my publisher and learn the words for the play I'm in next month. This evening I'm going to Lyminge Library to give a talk to their reading group, the rest of the week I'm rehearsing and going to see my youngest son Leo as Kevin in Sue Townsend's 'Groping for Words'.

When I'm a bit more confident, I'll put up pictures of dolphins, kids and other distractions. Meanwhile, although I'm not the most natural grandparent, here's picture of my grandson, Gus.

Once again, thanks, Mandy. I'll do the links asap!