2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Cracker of a Christmas

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks and now someone has told me that it’s Christmas in only 10 days time. I really think I should have been given more warning of this so that I could get Panic Mode cranked up to its full splendour. Or maybe Panic Mode is more spectacular when there’s less time to feed it. Perhaps next Christmas no one should tell me until the very last minute then see what happens: Christmas lunch would be chocolate on toast and everyone would get money with a bow on it. This could work fabulously as a system.

I learned a new fact today. Apparently the millihelen is used to measure beauty. If Helen of Troy’s face launched 1000 ships, 1 millihelen is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship. A whole new vocabulary opens up. Before I party tonight, I’ll spend time Helening myself up. I can imagine the children will launch into the scoring system. ‘32.4 millihelens tonight, Mum, but some of that’s the new dress.’ Or ‘Slept badly did you, mother? -16 today.’

I was interviewed on Friday by the lovely Katie (999; one hair was out of place) from Liz Lean PR Agency. PR Agency to a doctor doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as to the rest of the world, but luckily she had come to examine my mind, not nether regions. One of the things she wanted to chat about was how I managed to keep all the plates spinning: business, kids, writing. Easy answer: synergy; kids help with the writing and work in the business. (No, not sin energy; that’s an entirely different subject.) Although sometimes I feel a bit like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland; running flat out to stand still.

What I failed to tell her was that my mind operates like soup, a morass of all sorts of bits of stuff swirling around. Thankfully for the inside of my skull, it’s not boiling, despite bubbling; body temperature to be precise. Stuff floats to the surface, then I skim it off and deal with it or think yeah right, like I need to do that. Flotsum off.

When I’m writing, it seems as if there’s one of those electric whizzy things in the gloop, stirrings up more quickly, so some very interesting results rise to the surface. Although I have control of my mind most the time, the soup-swirl-ideas effect is pretty much out of my control. Caffeine whizzes it faster, cooking or laundry slows it. A game of Monopoly seizes it for a month.

This week saw the sending out of Christmas cards. It’s something I love doing as it brings to mind all friends that you hardly ever see. We always write a Christmas letter although we stick to having fun with it rather than shoving in much news; more of a Christmas Non-Newsletter (CNN).

My youngest son has been helping me wrap presents. I should have the wisdom to leave him wrapping only square things but foolishly, I didn’t. We now have a pile of bizarrely shaped secret things which look like wrapped hedgehogs, mini-Christmas trees, shovels, representations of the solar system; usual stuff. Thought I’d left t-shirts and mugs. My error.

This year I seem to be relatively well-organised owing to digs in the ribs from various people, including best friend, husband and children. I’m now black and blue from the waist up, but successful. I just need to put the mince pie for Santa and saucer of milk for the reindeer by the chimney. Though if somebody could explain to me why a reindeer needs to accompany Santa down the chimney, I’d love to know. Drawn by the scent of milk is my guess.

By the time I post again, the great Christmas hoopla will be over and we’ll all be looking forward to the New Year rara. Since I completely love all of this, one could assume that the aftermath would be almost mentally post-apocalyptic, but January looks rather good fun from this distance, so I decline being sad. I shall remain my current state of being like a room without a roof. Also smiling adds at least 50 millihelens. That makes me 34 today after my bad night.

Enjoy the festive season, everyone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Serpent has Landed

In my head that’s a great concept. The serpent in question is an enormous beast; I imagine it dropping from the sky, slithery and shiny, landing in a neat coil like an Indian snake charmer’s lunch ticket. The answer to where it came from is either fresh air or the inside of my head, although the two could be the same thing according to my children, who believe that gas fills the space between my ears.

The landing in question is printed copies of my book The Serpent of Eridor. The book production process is thus a little like Zeus producing Minerva but luckily with keyboard applied to skull, rather than an axe.

SP

The books have only  just arrived, so I’m running around like a cat with two tails and springs for paws. Having them in my hand is a bit of sensuous experience; I’m loving the smell and feel of them and regularly hug one up to me. I’ve not got quite as far as bathing in them yet, but watch this space. You’ll be the first to know.

Having an incomplete grasp of physics (or is it mechanics, or architecture, or engineering?) I wasn’t entirely sure what a stack of 250 books would look like: half a room or a small neat stack? It turns out that 250 takes up most of a pallet: one metre square and some upness, but with wood to spare at the edges. Presumably the reason they sent them flat on a pallet is to avoid side-tip induced squishing or crumpledness; but the average doorway is not a metre and a half wide…

Serendipitous then that I’d had them sent to work which has vast doorways, perfect for getting moribund bodies, wheelchairs or large flat pieces of wood through. Normally as things come through the hospital doors they undergo radical positive transformation: from got problems to safe now. The energy flow reversed with my delivery; it went from long awaited treasure into fire hazard in seconds.

The urgent, delicate operation of scissors and rippage commenced, scything into the bowels of the parcel, thrusting aside yards of voluminous plastic, revealing stacklettes of 18 books each; almost as cute as delivering kittens (clearly in this case by caesarean)(so maybe not quite as  terrifically cute). This made me overwhelmingly happy, mainly that the health and safety mavens would no longer come and arrest me or poke a hole in my fun (which they would do carefully, leaving no bruises nor sharp edges.)

Earlier in my quest to get my books published, I had decided to set up my own publishing company, but have not done it yet. I’d love to claim credit for setting up my publisher Matador, but that could be considered to be marginally untruthful because it is… well… untrue. Completely, entirely, totally, utterly, wholly untrue (there is a reason that list is alphabetical; I just love thesauruses) (thesauri). Although if you check the thesaurus for the word thesaurus you get a list of stuff that is not at all the same, like phrase book. Certain poetic irony.

The tricky bit about setting up a company turns out to be choosing a name. We rejected dull stuff like Hawthorne Books or Westminster Print, preferring something fun like Flying Folios, Purple Aardvark or Tomestone. Thinking that we’d need to create an accompanying logo, we avoided names like Big End Publishing or an ironic Bottom of the Market. Ali’s Pub would be easy enough to logo up, using the picture of a hostelry or a glass of wine… which has got me thinking…if only I had something to drink to. A recently terrestrialised serpent? Perfect!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking the Plunge: Literally…or Scooby Dwiving

I’ve just been to the SCBWI annual conference in Winchester. For some reason this is pronounced Scooby not Scbwy (no, not the town, which is pronounced Winchester for all you newly confused Americans, although I do grant that a lot of English pronunciation is a bit random. Have a go at Featherstonehaw or Cholmondeley. Sorry, you’re wrong. Fanshaw and Chummly. No, I agree there’s no logic). At the beginning, since I occasionally get letters muddled up, I felt it was Scweeby, but that sounds like the annoying noise that’s made when you clean windows. Sally Gardner, one of our key speakers, objected to the use of the word like but now I’ve gone and put it in my first paragraph… sigh…sorry, Sally, but be keen on the annoying noise somehow doesn’t have the same ring. Also, getting a lot of having a weakness fors on Facebook might be a little odd. May I keep this one like? No? Then war.

Like the format was a series of like talks and workshops sprinkled with like enormous amounts of coffee, cake and lunch, which was like great for the blood sugar, but like not so much for the avoirdupois (which surely translates as to have some peas…) sorry- can’t keep this up; don’t like it. You win, Sally.

The Saturday night party was very jolly. So much so, I woke up on Sunday morning regretting that I’d been quite as sociable the night before. It would have been more efficient to have regretted it in advance, thus getting my remorse out of the way when I was feeling stronger. On the Sunday morning I was robust-challenged. However, anti-grade regret doesn’t work, as if you’re really efficient about it, it stops you drinking anything at all which then negates the need for having felt sorry in the first place. It would be a shame to have indulged needlessly in all of that negative emotion, so I’m stuck with post-party remorse; in mourning the next morning.

Nick Butterworth was our keynote illustrator speaker although that does seem counterintuitive. You’d think he would have drawn what he wanted to express, perhaps as a montage. Although slower, it would have been brilliant to watch him pour the contents of his brain onto a series of whiteboards. He did resort to drawing a couple of times and, in about 12 strokes of a pen, produced a wonderfully cute crocodile with a mournful expression. This should be technically impossible; even real crocodiles don’t have facial expressions unless you count shades of malice. In 1200 strokes of a pencil, swiftly followed by 1188 strokes of an eraser, I would possibly be able to bang out a passable stick man without expression, or an amoeba, equally expression free. It astonishes me that people have things going in through their eyes or rattling around their brain which then emerge, complete and comprehensible, via the hand. I seem to have been born without this neuronal pathway, which is presumably a form of picture blindness, not unlike dyslexia. Dyspixia might suggest I had difficulties relating to fairies but dysgraphia suggest I’m hopeless at maths. Dysdrawia might have to do.

Cathy Cassidy told a truly inspiring story, which means we all took a deep breath as she started to talk. A very modest person, she tried to pass off her stratospheric success as being a stroke of fate disguised as pushy neighbour. So convincing was she in this argument that after her talk there was a queue of people waiting, not only to have a copy of her book signed but also to ask for this neighbour’s address so they could move in next door. She spoke about not having a parallel week timewise, but was clearly lying about this as she answers all e-mails and letters, also posts on Twitter and Facebook herself, meanwhile judging her very well supported writing competitions… and writing. The talk gave me an idea for a story which concerns a struggling writer who has to live with PTSD after attending a conference and finding that superstar writers are human, but gifted with an extra 10 hours per day. The story has a happy ending, as the author builds a raft of her unsold books, sails to Switzerland and creates stories so short they count as tweets. I’m suspicious that there is a slight plot problem here. Answers on a postcard please…

Sally Gardner told her own amazing story about her early struggles with dyslexia. She pointed out that anybody who can spell dyslexia doesn’t have it. She illustrated her talk with photographs of a cat in a hat and a representation of the way a dyslexic would see the words cat in a hat. I can sympathise 100% with her predicament, although am only able to empathise about 5%. I also occasionally get stuck with words, such as on one occasion sitting in front of blank screen unable to spell any. Eny didn’t quite seem to cut it and neither did eni. Starting with the wrong letter, I couldn’t even look it up in the dictionary. I should have stopped wrestling with the concept at that point, stuck with whichever (or witchever) and chosen Eni as the name of a character in one of my books.

The volunteers had clearly been trained by Santa’s elves, running the conference smoothly, competently and cheerfully. This only deepened my depression, as by now I’d seen my inadequacies in drawing, social media, writing success and now all these happy, worthy people were adding to it. My gloom was swiftly broken by the fantastic atmosphere of positivity, which is more efficient in effect than Prozac although rather more difficult to bottle. If they could have, as a perfume it would be Eau’d to Joy.

So I will start next week raring to go, tweeting hourly, plotting intensely, reading voraciously and volunteering for anything I can think of. So, was the time spent away worth it? Definitely. New plot idea: writer has life changing event; only in my current mood it will be file changing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Next Blog: The Sequel

My brain currently seems to be following Archimedes’ principle, or at least the water in said mathematician’s barrel. Disappointing. It means that if I pour in a fact or three, other things seem to drop out of my head. I wouldn’t mind so much if I could choose what dropped out, but it seems to be fairly random. I know that brainpower should potentially be limitless, but tell that to my little grey cells (preferably repeatedly, otherwise they may not get the hang of it.)

The other day I was trying to fish around in the grey soup for a half-forgotten film title and came up with something spectacularly random. This sparked a discussion on film sequels that potentially may not have ever made it. My eldest son pointed out that Found Nemo could be a very short film:

‘Oh look, there you are.’

The end.

Or for French readers, Fin.

Those of a cooking bent might have felt that prior to Ice Age 6: Global Warming, we could have had Ice Age 5: Semi-Freddo. I liked the concept of having a film about frozen herbs called Ice Sage. Some other sequels might be not quite as tasteful, such as Babe: The Casserole. The sequel to Up would clearly be Down, if only to please Isaac Newtonphiles.

Some might never have made it or not been quite as exciting if the title had been just a little different, like With a Paddle or 12 Rather Docile Characters. Off-Peak Hour might not have had the same impact, although I do quite fancy Captain Corelli’s Drum Set or The French Lieutenant’s Wombat. The English Outpatient might certainly have been a cheaper version. Following Little Women, the obvious sequel perhaps would lead people to think it was a porn movie, being Big Women. But for a single letter, a space epic could have simply been an astrological guide: Star Was.

Jane Austen could have written Humble and Open-minded; it’s probably just as well that she didn’t.

Some of the best films concern people connected to the famous of this world. I’d love to see one about a head teacher in ancient Syracuse: Archimedes’ Principal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Looking Forward to Looking Back

Suffering from slight dis-cogitation, my daughter, who has a degree in English, was struggling to find the word for rear-view mirror and came out with hindsight mirror. This is a completely perfect concept and I want one. Now. Or do I mean back then?

It would be brilliant to be able to flick a glance up to it and think, ‘Perhaps I should have taken the second left,’ or ‘leaving the cat and the roast chicken in separate rooms might have been a good plan,’ or ‘perhaps I should have got petrol.’

As a modification for the future, I’m hoping that the clever computer types will invent a foresight mirror which would be fabulously helpful; if Apple took it on, it would probably be called the iSee (not to be confused with iCy which is the app that monitors Greenland’s weather). It would be much easier to glance up and see the future in a mirror while I’m driving, than try and read my crystal ball on the move (iBall), although if I jam it between my broom and the cat, it tends not to roll away so much.

In full mechanical confession mode, Natasha commented that she always thinks of her wing mirrors as being ears. As she has particularly large ones (wing mirrors, not ears) we decided that they should be called Dumbos. Disappointingly, they do not yet have the capacity to get the rest of the machine into flight. No, I’m not stupid; I know that this is physically and aerodynamically impossible … well, at least until I find a magic feather. Nothing on eBay yet; still looking.

In terms of predicting the future, I’d very much like to know if my event this evening will go well. I’ve been asked to host a charity dinner party for which people give a certain amount to charity and I serve them a large and yummy meal with wine not so much flowing as spurting like the Trevi fountain. I was worried that £50 per head was a lot to pay, even though it’s for a good cause. However, with 11 other people there, it comes out about £9 per friend or about £0.12 per kilo of friend which, on reflection, seems quite a bargain.

My great friend Bobby has sportingly decided to pick up half of the cooking duties which means I am dealing with some of the main courses and pudding. When I started to plan I was torn between sticking with what I know, which at its simplest could be Haricots sur Toast or trying out new and fabulous recipes. The problem with plan B is that by the time the dinner party arrived, with all that sampling coupled to my current exercise regime, I’ll be looking fit but distinctly porcine; they’ll doubtless nickname me Sty Stallone. Not worth it for sampling food, but for creating cocktails…

Deciding we needed all possible props, the kids will in full evening dress to serve us. Meanwhile, they have decided that for authenticity, they will be expecting a tip. Normally I pay them in chocolate cake or muffins, but I can’t risk a mid-party walkout; so it’s either real money or a share in the Trevi.

Natasha has a stunning black dress to wear as a waitress at the dinner, which she wore on the evening she made her comment about the mirror, leading to her brain slippage being blogged to the world.

In hindsight, I think she regrets it now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spinning a Yarn

Deciding that I needed to get fitter, I’ve taken up spinning, not so much as a duck to water but more of wool to the spindle; prickly (me) and painful meet. It’s only the agony which keeps me awake in classes; a static bike is terminally dull. The scenery is limited to a red rubbery floor, the grey wall beyond, the instructor shouting, or the side of a sweaty body next to me; none of which feature in the Recommended Sights of Dorset Guide.

In terms of excitement, I can either stand up or sit down to cycle. I can pretend to accelerate or slow down, but can’t aim to steer right or left without causing major internal haemorrhage. Recently they made it even more thrilling by getting us to pedal eight rotations standing up and eight sitting. We were thoroughly entertained.

Being yelled at that we’re travelling uphill, or to go faster as it’s now down, we crank the gears to tougher and lighter like cliff-deprived, yet obedient, lemmings. It would terrific to get an instructor without acute delusional states featuring mystic hill climbs or one who wasn’t into verbal flagellation.

I go there dressed in whatever first comes to hand. Some people clearly take the cycling fashion runway more seriously, turning up with proper cycle shoes and shorts, with stuff that actually matches. One guy even turns up in a professional looking shirt with reflective strips on it, but this is fair, as he cycles to his cycling class. Double terrific, all that extra added fun.

If they play something jolly the music helps, but often they play seriously dull tunes and yell at us to keep going for six minutes. I could do that in the gym by myself without having somebody shouting at me to keep speed up, slow down, stand up, sit down, lean forward, lean back, body rigid, bounce on my feet, use my right leg only, left leg only, yawn.

A very large television screen with the Tour de France on it would help, so we could pretend to be there, whizzing along, or filant le long de according to Google translate. A little filant would suit me fine, unless I ended up in the second row with a view only of sky, floor and a set of sweat-soaked gluteal muscles. Tiny televisions on the bikes would be better, creating  genuine self-motivation but the instructors would doubtless refuse to work with them as it would take away all their fun in shouting.

The problem with cycling alone in the gym is the tendency to cheat. This is not intentional. I start out wanting to use up masses of calories; my burning desire. However, in the gym there are four televisions, so, rejecting football and MTV, I get completely drawn in by whether Harold will answer the question and win a fluffy octopus or the best way to de-seed a vanilla pod (You thought there was only one way? Duh! Watch more television, my friend) (but only straddling a bike: the healthy kind of TV. Someone tell my kids). So gripped am I by these programs, despite the lack of a plot, I cycle along for ages at what should have been a warm-up level. Also, in a spinning class I can hum quietly during some of the more robust tracks, but it’s difficult to sing along to cooking programs.

I’ll have to think of something else soon before my brain explodes or leaves home. Yet with a rotten right shoulder my options are limited. I can’t do Zumba classes, as dancing with my arms by my side would create a bizarre sort of Riverdance. Racket sports are out unless I play left-handed which is coming along slowly, but hardly counts as sporty yet, other than for my son being sporting to bother playing against me. Swimming without arms would be even duller.

My consolation should have been an enormous amount to weight falling off in response to my self-induced dynamic boredom, but my scales don’t appear to have got this message yet. I presume that if I keep this up, I’ll land up at the same weight but with a tiny waist and frogs’ legs. I’d rather be tiny all over and let the frog stay in one piece.

Currently I don’t spin on Sundays, but do so daily from Monday on. It’s the ultimate form of recycling.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Frozen Ferrets and Pentagonal Elephants

 

Hanging out with teenagers or young adults can be a surreal experience, moving seamlessly from reality to the dreamlike or bizarre, via their persistently empty stomachs. They claim that hypoglycaemia causes brain fuzzing; I know it leads to wallet depletion. However, as soon as I say ‘you what?’ or ‘uh?’ in response to my losing the thread (you mean there was one?), one of my children will point out that this surrealistic tendency is probably genetic. Mea culpa. 

We (me, husband, kids and credit card) recently went to a fabulous stage performance of the Lion King. In the opening number, The Circle of Life, there was an enormous elephant. In the closing song they only had a baby elephant, so presumably Pachyderm Minor was only the semicircle of life. My son, who clearly has more graphic dreams than me, said that elephants could be any shape, not only circles, possibly even being squares or pentagons. A rousing chorus of The Dodecahedron of Life rapidly taught us why they’d used circle in the first place. 

While there, chatting to the kids in the bars about cadavers, I recounted seeing a body some months previously to confirm that death had been of natural causes. This particular tour de morgue was fairly simple, as there was neither a knife sticking out of the chest, nor a club mark on her forehead and she didn’t smell of bitter almonds. The funeral director then told me of a woman who had put her husband’s dead ferret with him in the coffin for cremation. Apparently, she had been keeping the ferret on ice for some time, which I felt was a remarkable piece of forward thinking. 

In the theatre bar, the reality of the situation kicked in. Group discussion, guys. What if the husband had died first? Clearly she would have had to freeze him instead. We decided that she’d probably have tried to get him into a chest freezer, as long as she folded him twice. Heels to bum, then in. The ferret dying first was serendipitous, saving her cost of chest freezer. 

The kids then launched into their like and dislike lists:

‘I dislike the letter a in the lphbet.’

‘I dislike aerobatics, bungee jumping, condors, dungarees, sarcasm and anything alphabetical. Yeah, right.’ 

‘I dislike pompositysproutspaintingpianosarmadillos and lists.’ 

Via wondering if the Apple version of I Frankenstein would be ifrankenstein, they moved onto how to describe oneself in four words. Sophie went for cat crossed with elephant. Attempting to bring a little reality into this slightly surreal picture, I had to agree she does have the same number of limbs, the pachyderm memory and feline independence, but on the other hand I’ve never seen her pick up a bun with her nose. One point to the Motherparent. Alex asked where adequate things are made. Apparently, a satisfactory.

I begin to despair of their futures. Alex is clearly cut out only to write jokes for Christmas crackers or greeting cards and Sophie is either wildly deluded or deeply immersed in Surrealism. I don’t think you can make a living out of Surrealism. Or did I dream that you could? Does that make it reality? Is this circular reasoning all balls or the full circle of Philosophy, or the Circle of Life? If so, I prefer the version with elephants. Cue another round. Waiter!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home: The Last Resort

My son’s washing has just arrived home after two months travelling in Thailand and Japan. Accompanying it was my son himself; thinner, beard thicker, hair shaggy, skin much browner, although that washed off after the first shower. His shoes were less lucky than his laundry and didn’t even make it through the front door, having an immediate and terminal encounter with the bin.

He had attempted to deal with an amount of his washing (one T-shirt) at Beijing airport. Deciding to clean the shirt he was wearing, he misjudged the amount of water that cotton holds. Eventually giving up on trying to get it dry using the hand dryer in his cubicle, he emerged, wet T-shirt slick against his body, to find that he was in the Ladies. His Mandarin unfortunately did not include, ‘No, madam I’m not a Chippendale, so kindly take that hundred yen note back out of my pants and step out of my way.’

While in Japan, he was ceremonially dressed as a samurai. The photographs show the process starting with a little white cotton shirt held closed with a pink ribbon, making the outfit much less credible as frightening or fierce. Presumably samurai mothers sent their sons off to war with, ’Have you got your ribbon tied nicely dear?’ along with questions like ‘Did you sharpen your sword today?’ ‘Have you polished the horns on your helmet?  Money? Water bottle? Breakfast?’ They probably didn’t ask about suncream though; that would be stupid. The samurai probably just used leftover yak fat from their lunchboxes.

Alex samurai 1Alex samurai 2

Alex arrived having had essentially no sleep in 30 hours,  so I expected that at any point he’d slide to the floor in a fragrant, unconscious heap, midsentence, failing to be disturbed by shouting  or kicking, only rousing when the word ‘pizza’ was whispered nearby. However, he stayed awake, his conversation almost making sense as he talked us through his photos. The scenery, beaches and temples I loved; the moon party and fire walking scored negative figures on the appeal-to-your-mother scale.

Ages ago I started the system of giving the kids 24 hours amnesty from being told off whenever they arrive home from travelling, as I’m so delighted that they’re back in one piece. This is deeply frustrating, as I finally worked out that my gratitude for them being safely home only extends to about an hour and a half, so I am stuck for 22 1/2 hours with gritted teeth and a grimace stuck to my face which is supposed to look like a smile, my throat clogged with pearls of wisdom. Psychological muzzling. Aaaaarrrrgh!

The best way to welcome Alex back was to get him to paint one of the bedrooms, thus giving him a feeling of being invaluable to the family, deeply missed and allowing him to show his love for us in a tangible fashion. His immediate response sounded a bit like blehh, but I think I must have misheard, for he set off upstairs exactly 24 hours after arriving home. How bad his timing is; he missed out on listening to 2 months and 1 day’s worth of advice and miscellaneous expressions of worry.

Now that he’s obtained his degree, he’s moved from the dizzy lows of being a student to join the great mass of the unemployed. I tried to point out that this is a Bad Thing, and perhaps the Good Household Fairy wouldn’t continue to cook him meals or allow him to stay rent-free. He replied, ‘I’ll give it some thought, Mother, while you iron this shirt for me.’

We are about to go away to France for two weeks, so currently his perception of having a degree is that it’s all holidays and beer with the occasional bit of painting thrown in. The party goes on.  Intending to disabuse him of this idea soon, I have written 4 pages of my speech already, so am nearly halfway there.

After finishing writing, I intend to learn the Mandarin for Ladies and Gents in case I ever happened to be passing through Beijing airport. If feeling poor, I’ll head straight to the Gents in my dirty T-shirt: #handovertheyen.

alisongardiner1

August 2014

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Carpet Night

Oscars was the theme of the party. Even my tired brain managed to work out that it must be fancy dress, but then I got a bit stuck in working out who to go as. Perhaps a famous jazz pianist; Peterson being the obvious choice, but you’d need a piano as a prop which could be a bit unwieldy. Somebody rather more in the media currently, maybe? Yet I wasn’t keen to learn to walk on blades or go along with somebody dressed as a judge. Fishing into classical literature for a wit and a poet, Wilde sprang to mind and could have been fairly easy; a frockcoat, walking cane and a haughty expression would be all that was required. Then I wondered if perhaps you weren’t restricted to going as somebody called Oscar.
I spread my mental net wider and decided that the obvious person for me to go as would be Marilyn Monroe. We have an extraordinary amount in common: we’re both female, speak English as a first language and have been married (at least at some point) and have made it past our 30th birthday. Men would only notice that we’re both blonde and have a big bust. The resemblance ends here as anyone who’s heard me sing will testify, with their hands over their ears. Also, I was never christened either Norma or even Jeane.
Costume was the next challenge. Assuming 8-10 retakes, Marilyn must have spent only about an hour of her life standing over a grating in a white dress. Yet if you turned up in skinny white three-quarter trousers and a little top, you’d need to add a badge saying I am Marilyn Monroe; possibly less than shi-shi, scoring negative points on the icon scale. I was attracted by the concept of turning up in something she wore more often, like a white fluffy dressing gown and curlers. It was only the fear of having to explain myself all evening that shoehorned me into the white halterneck dress.
My hairdresser managed to style my hair into a mass of little blonde curls at the back and dramatic sweeps at the front. As I left her salon, I realised that the last time people had looked at me like that was when I stopped for petrol on the way to a punk party dressed in a black garbage bag, bristling with safety pins. Suffer for Art, I told myself as I drove home on a stiflingly hot day with all the windows up. Yet if I stopped my coiffure blowing away, it would probably just wilt.
Everyone had dressed up and looked terrific. One of my friends had decided to go as Cruella De Ville and turned up entirely in black and white, including her hair being sprayed white on one side, black on the other. Her children had apparently decided that the division between the black and white was not pronounced enough and had put mascara along the parting. A fun little job for her to reverse the next day. Doubtless she’ll find lumps of mascara on her pillow for weeks. Life lesson number one: be careful what help you accept from your children. Needing a prop, she’d ordered a Dalmatian puppy from the Internet. Disappointingly, they sent her a stuffed one.
Most people had dressed with what they had at home. It doesn’t quite explain why the gentleman from 12 Years a Slave had chains around his feet while our host, the chimney sweep, had brushes. Odd what you find lying around the bottom of your wardrobe. Even odder why you find it there.
It seems strange that it’s called fancy dress as most the time you are not fanciable, ending up somewhere on the scale from ridiculous to completely bizarre. However, a See What You Can Drag Out Of Your Closet Party or Let’s Look Ridiculous So Our Mates Can Laugh at Us Party doesn’t have quite the same ring. In other languages the phrase is much more colourful. In Spanish it’s disfraz, in German, Verkleidung, in Swahili, mavazi dhana. If the Philippines, I’d be very happy to go to a magarbong damit party.
The real piece of acting was trying to appear normal the next day after several glasses of wine, dancing till dawn and a very short night. Now that does deserve an Oscar. I’ll take de la Renta – and his wardrobe.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments