Friday, 29 August 2008

Post-Games Analysis

I don't think you can ever have too many wooden spoons.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Olympics here we come!

No, not those ones in Beijing. I mean the proper Olympics... the ones taking place this weekend at my stepmother's house and featuring events such as The Butler's Relay (swimming a length of the pool carrying a tray of drinks) Speed Jigsaw, and Target Skittles (I'm not sure what the target element involves, but have traumatic flashbacks to when my older brother used to practise his tennis aim by hitting unripe apples at me.) If you remember, last year I was pitiful enough to bring home the wooden spoon, but this time thanks to employing Madonna's personal trainer and spending the last six months on a high-protein, chocolate-and-cake-free diet it's all going to be SO different... *

Whatever you're doing this bank holiday, have a lovely time. Here in the UK the weather's set to be apalling, but my thinking is that what we lack in sun we can always make up for in Pimms and chocolate cake. (See? There you have the attitude of a finely-tuned Olympian...)

(*Snurk* Just in case any of my family read this. That'll scare 'em!)

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

At last...

I’ve found someone with whom I wouldn’t mind swapping jobs. Generally, as I’ve said before, I really do think I have the best job in the world, apart from chocolate tasting for Cadbury’s or being James D’Arcy’s dresser (although to be honest I think my interest lies more in undressing James D’Arcy...) but on Saturday we took the children to Manchester to play at being cool metro-kids for the day. This involved having lunch in a sushi bar, and then going to see this exhibition in the City Gallery.

Lauren Child is a goddess, and I’ve loved her work for years. However, what tipped this abstract admiration over into a raging case of full-blown career envy was a photograph of her at work at her desk. It’s all white and bright and gorgeous, of course, and on it she has a big box of coloured pencils.

Ever since I’ve been feeling a deep and primitive need to do some colouring in. I think that may be what my life is missing these days.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Life on the Home Front

So, the summer holidays slide inexorably on, although only the mouldering shell and fossil collections and as-yet unsorted piles of artwork and PE kit are firm evidence that it is, in fact summer at all. Every morning we seem to be greeted by lowering skies and impromptu rivers running down the garden, and have to think up new ideas for indoor entertainment.

I think that might be why I finally agreed to the guinea pigs.

Apparently I said yes ages ago, and since then daughters #2 and 3 have been secretly saving money, getting 'Look After Your Guinea Pig' type books out from the library and stockpiling doll's hairbrushes and blankets in preparation for the big day when they would arrive. Defenceless in the face of such skilled organisation, last week I found myself going along with the preparation of Muffin's old hutch and Monday saw us bearing home a big cardboard box containing Truffle and Biscuit (I know... the pets in this house clearly demonstrate the preoccupations of their owners. I put up a spirited argument for christening them Doris and Betty, which seemed much more in keeping with their little old-lady stoutness and busy, bustling movements, but was scornfully overruled in favour of more confectionary.)

They spent their first twenty four hours here huddled together at the back of the hutch watching beadily as the girls, suddenly possessed by some primitive nesting instinct, swept and tidied and prepared elaborate amusements for them to enjoy once the period of Settling In (advised by the girl in the pet centre) had passed. Many of these activites weren't entirely suitable, so the Barbie jeep and Sleeping Beauty Bed Set have been banished back to the toy cupboard, but the wooden fort (joint christmas present to all children years ago, and painstakingly painted by me a bit at a time on December evenings when they were all in bed) is enjoying a surprisingly successful renaissance as a guinea pig run. Truffle and Biscuit scurry along the ramparts and squeeze into the turrets, like grannies on a WI coach trip, looking for the tea room. We seem to spend hours, camped out in the conservatory where they've taken up residence, just watching them. (So does Ruby, only her expression is slightly less indulgent and more... speculative.)

Anyway, away from the domestic front, last night I ventured back to Liverpool at about the time when I'm usually sinking onto the sofa in my pyjamas with a cup of tea (ie 10pm) to take part in Linda McDermott's late night talk show on BBC radio Merseyside. It's a panel-type programme, which means lots of opportunity for gossip/discussion and driving into Liverpool I was so enjoying listening to the ladies talking about romantic films that I kept forgetting to check the road signs and ended up getting horribly lost. Luckily I found my way just in time to take my place in the studio at 11pm for a really enjoyable 40 minutes of chat on a wide range of romantic topics. Unfortunately I can't find a Listen Again link, so I'm tempted to claim airily to have been terribly articulate and incisive etc. However, far too many of you know me too well to believe that, and obviously people who heard it might be reading, so perhaps I'd better just say that it was huge fun and a lovely chance to publicise the Centenary Exhibition. If you're anywhere near Liverpool, go see it!

In the midst of all this I have to confess I'm struggling to fit in time to write, though the story and the characters are swirling insistently round my head, demanding attention. Thanks to my lovely laptop I've taken to snatching moments to frantically type a few paragraphs at the kitchen table or on the bed while supposedly sorting washing. Yesterday I was deeply involved in a lovely scene at breakfast time, and had successfully tuned out the arguments about whose turn it was to have the stickers in the cereal packet when daughter # 2 walked past and, glancing over my shoulder said in deep disgust, 'Eeeeuw. Mum's writing about pants.'

*sigh* I'm quite certain Virginia Woolf never had to put up with such restraints on her creativity.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Late again!

Sorry about that. A combination of guinea pigs, chocolate cake, ironing and a hot scene with my hero and heroine in a ruined tower at twilight conspired to keep me away from the blog yesterday. I did however manage to wake up in time to do the early morning phone interview with City Talk radio, which you can listen to here. (scroll down to Tuesday, and click on the breakfast show link. It's an hour and five minutes into the programme.) Hmm. The question ‘Is your pseudonym as important as the stories you write?’ was a particular low point for me, but then I had missed the bit at the beginning where they were sniggering over passages from Harlequin books...

Ah well. On a more positive note, I’ve finally got around to picking some winners for Orlando and Rachel’s competiton. Big congratulations to Crystal, who daughter #1 picked (out of a cereal packet, which was the most convenient thing to put the names in at the time!) as the first prize winner. Runners up prizes go to Amy, Trenda and Jane, so I’ll email everyone soon to find out addresses for sending goodies. Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Back to reality

Got Back from glorious week on Yorkshire coast last night, so to the general jumble-sale chaos of end of term items scattered throughout the house has now been added 472 loads of washing and 3 tonnes of shells/fossils/stones-that-aren’t-fossils-but-daughter#3-liked-them-anyway/and sand. (I’m sure it must be illegal to remove sand from beaches, even if not deliberately. Think that next year I’m going to tell my children that it is anyway, and unless they empty their pockets and buckets more carefully they’ll be arrested for causing coastal erosion, and malicious damage to the washing machine.)

So, we had a lovely time with some great weather—blazing hot, but with a thick haze of sea mist which was oddly romantic and atmospheric...

I do very slightly lament the passing of the days when the girls were perfectly content to potter around indefinitely on the beach with a bucket and spade while we adults lay on towels reading and drinking Pimms. Now they’re older, holidays definitely involve more in the way of physical exertion...

Like canoeing.

I can state with confident authority that it is impossible to paddle a canoe and read a book at the same time. I did try.

Anyway, no inroads have yet been made into the laundry as this morning I was up early to wash the sand and saltwater out of my hair and put on make-up for the first time in ten days before heading off to Liverpool to chat on Radio Merseyside about the Mills and Boon Centenary Exhibition, which has just opened in the Central Library there. Have to admit to a certain amount of guilty pleasure at finding myself alone on the train, wearing properly clean clothes and able to read a book without simultaneously having to referee squabbles and listen to Atomic Kitten. I was on the Sean Styles show, which was great fun because he’s one of those people who appears to be genuinely interested in what you have to say and was extremely charming. If you're very bored just now you can listen again here— fast forward to about 1 hour and 20 minutes into the show.

Afterwards I took advantage of a child-free day in the city and wandered around the shops (so many... so BIG!) In Retail Land it’s autumn already, but as I was still feeling windswept and sunburned from the beach I wasn’t remotely tempted to buy anything except some Super-Soothing Moisturiser for Ancient and Abused Skin, and new lunch bags from the John Lewis sale for daughters 2 and 3. Most uncharacteristically thrifty and organised I thought, as I headed away from the shops and towards the Walker Art Gallery to gaze at lovely Victorian paintings. (Uncharacteristically cultured too-- by that point I hardly recognised myself.) When I started to feel weepy and maternal in front of this picture I knew it was time to head home again.

Tomorrow I’m setting the alarm very early to do a phone interview on the breakfast show on City Talk radio. (It was difficult enough trying to sound professional and articulate at 11.30, so it’ll be interesting to see how I do at 7am.) Then I am NOT going to go back to bed with tea and 4 pieces of toast. Oh no, because then I am going to go through the entries for the competition (which have been piling up nicely in my absence, so huge thanks to everyone who’s taken the trouble to enter...) and pick a winner.