Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Past

Funny thing about Christmas. When it's just gone you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you bothered, yet come next October you're planning the next one. At least, that's what it's like for me.

I've realised, over the past few days, that I rely too heavily on my grown-up children at Christmas. The thought that they might NOT come home for The Day turns my stomach to water and makes my blood run cold. Yet what happens when they've all got families and want to spend the time at home? Even my elder daughter brings her lot to my house on Boxing Day and we end up crammed into my small, cluttered house having to eat a buffet lunch because there's no room round the table.

My late husband and I hosted Christmas for my parents and his aunt and uncle (surrogate grandparents for the children) from very early on. There were the odd ones where we spent them with my parents or aunt and uncle, like the Christmas immediately after my father died, or when aunt and uncle were in Australia, but mostly it was everybody to ours! And they stayed overnight, too. It was easier that way, everybody could have a drink and the children loved it.

Later when we moved to Whitstable, we used to go and fetch Aunt on Christmas Eve (3 hour round trip) and take her back the day after Boxing Day. My mum was either living with us or up the road by then.

So, for around 35 years, I've had Christmas. The traditions grow up and change, inevitably, because I no longer have four children clambering into bed with me on Christmas morning. Instead, it's after we've had our first glass of fizz that we open our presents. And, for the last 23 years, we've had what started life as the Leftovers Party on the 27th, but is just Mum's Party now. The guest list has changed but there are always guitars involved. At least, I assumed so. But, again, I realised things have changed and there will probably be no more parties on the 27th.

And my children have changed. I now find the old role reversal in play, and I really didn't expect that until I was at least 75! But change happens, and we have to expect it and accept it. I suppose if I still had a husband it would be different, but I don't think there's any danger of a new one on the horizon at my age - would I want one? Er - no.

So I'll go back to being mad old cat lady who writes books. And try and ignore next Christmas until it thrusts itself upon me and I come out with the inevitable "Um, will you be here for Christmas Day this year?"

Funny thing about Christmas. Makes you think.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Government's Wasting Money - What?

Well, there we are. We didn't get the World Cup. Oh, never mind, we're spending millions on the Olympics. Debt? What debt?

Oh yes, the Olympics are REALLY good for us. They're encouraging children to do better at sport. Local authoritites and schools are improving their sports facilities beyond imagining, not, it has to be said, just for the benefit of the children or the local athletes, but, certainly in my area of wealthy (ha!) south eastern Britain, because they want other countries to train in them. So, they are spending thousands, nay, millions, just at the time the Government, bless its cotton socks, has cut every budget possible.

No-one has yet explained to me why, when apparently we can lend Ireland millions, spend billions (non-recoverable) on the Olympics and spend a fortune on sending Cameron, Beckham and William to an expensive and failing jolly, the ordinary man or woman in the street, which is most of us, are going to suffer from the "cuts", in some cases to the danger of our health, homes and families.

And education? Fees? Don't talk to me about fees. I have one child who is still in debt - and will be for years unless she wins the lottery - and they want to charge more. And what is it Osborne keeps saying? It isn't a debt? It's just a future tax. Well, that's exactly what student debt is now, and we still call it debt.

Yes, cuts are necessary. But not wholesale. You prune a tree, you don't cut off all the branches at once. It certainly won't leaf, flower or fruit if you do that, not for years, and meanwhile you have disposessed hundreds of creatures, birds, insects and small mammals which will now die. Or just nip off to the next tree, of course, except that we don't have a "next tree".

Nick Clegg and his party have lost any credibility they may have once had, and might just as well fold their tents in the night and be gone. The Conservatives appear to be trying to return us to a class system moribund since World War Two. Labour - well, ants without an anthill.

I'm not a political commentator, but I have never felt this angry before. I'm a traditional English woman who loves her country, by which I mean I love our towns, our countryside, our seaside, our people and, in the main, the way we do things. When we're allowed to.

There was a lot of talk at the last election about "Using it or Losing it" referring to our votes. Well, if using my vote has resulted in this mess, I don't think I'll bother next time.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Green Carnation Prize Winner 2010

The Green Carnation Prize Winner 2010
After many hours of discussion and lively debate (and not a tantrum in sight) the judges have managed to whittle down the five shortlisted books for ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2010’ and have come up with their winner…
Paperboy by Christopher Fowler
‘Superman, Dracula, The Avengers, Treasure Island...when you’re ten years old, you can fall in love with any story so long as it’s a good one. But what if you’re growing up in a house without books?
Christopher Fowler's memoir captures life in suburban London as it has rarely been seen: through the eyes of a lonely boy who spends his days between the library and the cinema, devouring novels, comics, cereal packets - anything that might reveal a story. But it’s 1960, and after fifteen years of post-war belt-tightening, his family is not ready to indulge a child cursed with too much imagination...
Caught between an ever-sensible but exhausted mother and a DIY-obsessed father fighting his own demons, Christopher takes refuge in words. His parents try to understand their son’s peculiar obsessions, but fast lose patience with him - and each other. The war of nerves escalates to include every member of the Fowler family, and something has to give, but does it mean that a boy must always give up his dreams for the tough lessons of real life? Beautifully written, this rich and astute evocation of a time and a place recalls a childhood at once eccentric and endearingly ordinary.’

The judges Paul Magrs, Nick Campbell, Lesley Cookman, Katy Manning and Simon Savidge have had a tough time: they thought any of the five books could have won, so it was no easy mission. Simon Savidge who will be taking over as Chair in 2011 said “it was such a difficult decision, each book had its own strengths. ‘God Says No for putting you into the mind set of someone I never thought I could understand and enraging you and making you laugh out loud, London Triptych for its characters (one of which might just be my favourite character of the year) and historical feel over the generations, Children of the Sun for being an importantly disturbing and shocking tale and Man’s World for its humour, emotion and more.’
Yet in the end they were all agreed that Paperboy, which is a memoir with a delightful fictional feel in parts as he writes in the voices of those he remembers. Paul Magrs Chair of the judges for 2010 said 'Paperboy is about the forming of a gay sensibility - but more than that, it's about the growth of a reader and a wonderfully generous and inventive writer. It's a great wodge of social history - of back-to-back houses, plasticine models and exercise books, and how Lois Lane's adventures were always more interesting than Superman's. It's modest, funny and brilliant.'

About The Prize
This year a new literary prize for works of fiction and memoirs by gay men was introduced… Judged by a glittering panel of writers, bloggers and readers ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ is probably the first of its kind in the UK and one we hope will go from strength to strength in future years to come…
The Green Carnation Prize was born when suddenly it was literary award season again and longlists were getting bandied about like crazy. And we thought – wouldn’t it be fun and great to do something a bit different?
And then we thought – there’s no prize yet for gay men’s books in the UK. That’s a scandalous thought. There ought to be something that celebrates and publicizes the breadth and variety of their work. Writing by gay men can be funny, exciting, harrowing, uplifting and challenging – and it can range right across the genres. It can also be created by men from all classes and races.
So here we are – this small panel of co-founders and judges – setting ourselves the somewhat daunting task of looking at what the queer fellas have brought out this year.
There’s no prize money in this… Maybe a bit of kudos for the winner! There’s simply our love and devotion as well, of course – and a bit of shouting about the writing we love. Maybe one day we’ll get sponsorship or something. We also hope we can draw attention to some great male authors that definitely need to be read no matter what your sexuality.
The Green Carnation Prize 2011
Yes, the winner of The Green Carnation Prize 2010 has only just been announced but already plans are in progress for the second year. Publishers will be being contacted with the new submission dates and deadlines after New Year and a new judging panel, with some familiar faces will be announced within the next fortnight.
You can find further information on the website http://greencarnationprize.wordpress.com including more on our delightful judging panel and further updates on events and additional announcements.
Contact Information
For further information, images or any other enquiries please email greencarnationprize@gmail.com