Monday, 16 April 2012


That's a very positive title for what was going to be one of my characteristically moany posts about sitting down at my desk and opening my wip document after almost 2 weeks away from it (on screen, anyway). However, the wonderful and eternally positive Kate Hardy has tagged me with a Sunshine Award which has shamed me into being more upbeat. The idea is to say what makes you happy, so with a wonderful Easter fresh in my mind, here's a not-quite exhaustive list.

Chocolate, of course. And Prosecco at lunchtime. And family, obvs - both close and extended, and the glow you get when you know you have a stretch of long days and late nights together ahead. Changing seasons. Old china. Red gingham ribbon. Clean white bedlinen. Places where you can see the layers of history and sense the presence of people long gone. Junk shops. Book shops. Cake shops. Proper tea, properly made. Writing (when it's going well). Hearing the daughters laugh together. Old-fashioned perfume (so, nothing that smells of melon). The bittersweet feeling of reading a brilliant book and you can't stop but don't want it to end, either. Clinique Chubby Sticks. Woodland walks. Pina Coladas. Getting caught in the rain (hahaha - not really, I hate both of those.) Wellies. Pyjamas (not necessarily together, although sometimes, when camping.) New season English asparagus. Late-night impulse online shopping. Scarves, especially of a pashmina-y persuasion. The place where I live. Elemis frangipani body oil. Baths. The apple tree in the garden. Toast and honey. Notebooks. Long lie-ins. Evenings at home on the sofa. Evenings out with friends. And singing loudly in the car, but that's my guilty secret, OK?

Thanks for that, Kate - just what I needed to kick-start the back-to-work week. Once I've got some momentum going on the book again I'll be back to fill you in on what we got up to over Easter, which - stop press! - involved actually leaving the house! Here's a taster of what for... (one of the things, anyway...)

Before I go, I think I have to tag someone else to give their Happy list. I'm going to ask Sharon Kendrick, but I'd also love to hear what makes you happy. Bet there are loads of things I haven't thought of that I'll want to add to mine...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

This Joyful Eastertide*

It's been so long since I posted that we're now in a different season and a whole new time zone (or something), the snowdrops have given way to massive swathes of daffodils everywhere and Britain has gone from a surprise summer to the depths of winter again. Bizarre. I did intend to reappear before now, and in fact got as far as writing about the blackbird that insists on waking me up by imitating a car alarm outside my window at 5.30 every morning, but the clocks went forward before I got around to posting it and being woken up at 6.30 didn't seem nearly so worthy of sympathy.

Anyway, apart from the season and the time and the flowers and the weather not much has changed here. I'm still buried deep in the book and my reclusedom reached new heights (depths?) when I decided to cut my own hair using a youtube video for instruction, rather than waste a whole morning sitting in the hairdresser's. It's not a bad effort, even if I do say so myself  (although there's a good chance I wouldn't be saying it if someone showed me the back in a little mirror, like the hairdresser does). Less successful was my attempt at home colouring, however I believe that the two-tone, dip-dye look is pretty hot this season so I'm reassured that the few people I do see (the online grocery delivery man, the lady in the petrol station kiosk and one or two parents at the school gate who are as late picking up as I am) will be massively impressed by my up-to-the-minute look.

Nothing much else to report. Have been watching Lord Julian Fellowes of Downton's most recent Sunday night offering, Drownton  Titanic, but have to say I'm not blown away (or swept overboard) by it. The structure feels a bit too Groundhog Day-inspired, and the characters so flimsy that you quite expect them to be scattered in the icy waters at any moment, but can't work up much angst about it from the comfort of the sofa. If only he could have found a way of putting Maggie Smith on the ship, as well as Bates's scheming wife, and upping the quota of amusing one-liners.  (Perhaps he felt the doomed liner was no place for an amusing one-liner? Shame.) I've also devoted a frustrating amount of time to planning a research trip to Northamptonshire/Cambridge in June, so would love to have draft 1 of the book pretty much nailed by then. It seems a little back to front to be writing first and researching later, but I think I need to get down what's in my head without being too troubled by trifling little details like reality. I've never written this way before and it feels frustratingly slow - I want the book to be finished NOW.

Happily, my brother and his lovely family are arriving for the weekend tomorrow, which has forced me to raise my head from the keyboard, buy flowers and clean places that haven't felt a drop of Flash since they came at Christmas, and has provided the daughters with a great excuse to give Marian Keyes's Saved By Cake a thorough road test. I love Easter, and not only because it means you can have hot cross buns for breakfast instead of boring cereal. Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope it involves a happy amount of chocolate and cake, and not so much in the way of snow or hours spent in traffic. Happy Easter everyone!

* This Joyful Eastertide always makes me smirk because it's what Grace, the O'Hara's feckless cleaner in Jilly Cooper's Rivals, sings at all sorts of inappropriate moments. *sigh* Sometimes I forget just how much I love Jilly, and then I remember all over again...(Virtuous cleaning intentions crumble to make more dust...)