Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Day 12 - Hard hard hard....

Oof. It is very hard to just sit down and find the time to write. I find I need at least an hour to myself, even if I don't write all that time.

But it is creeping along. Over 5000 words now - could do better the stats say, but hopefully I will get a good kernel together by the end of the month. And maybe, just maybe I'll have a go at keeping on writing after the end of the month. We'll see.

Anyway. Another snippet for you to be going along with.


8 for 8.30 Anna said. It's 7.55 and I am parked up just down the road, Anna lives in a splendid pile in Cockfosters. Gated, carriage drive, big detached house. Not new, built in the first part of the 1900s i suppose, it has a very Arts & Crafts look to it, asymmetrical nooks and crannies. The outside is covered in wisteria and Virginia creeper, so its beautiful all year round. The wisteria is in bloom at the moment and it looks stunning.

I crunch up the gravel path. I am as nervous as a kitten. Ring ring. it's my mobile. It's Anna.

“where are you?”

“Just coming to the door… I’m a bit early. Why? Is there a problem?”

“You’re not early… you’re late! I moved it forward an hour… didn’t you get the message? I sent you an email”

“No, I haven’t been home yet. Some of us work on Saturdays as well you know? Well, I’m here now.”

And I ring off and ring the doorbell.

Anna opens the door. She is trilling..

“Hahaha! Here she is! The little Tardy One!”

What is wrong with her? She has that desperate fixed grin on her face that makes her look like Cherie Blair. She is beckoning me in. “Quick, quick..” she hisses and shushes me in front of her.

“Coat!” she hisses again. Shush, shush, almost a shove…I feel like a huskie. She will yell “Mush” in a moment.

“What is the matter…!” I hiss back.

“They've all been here for an hour... I was getting frantic. I called you at home but no reply. “ She is starting to sound bit calmer now. “I'm sorry, I don't know why I didn't try your mobile. It IS normally switched off”

She sounds sort of sheepish yet defiant. Whatever. Now is not the time to prove a point. I decide to make soothing noises instead. I give her a hug.

“Well, I'm here now. Come on then, let's see what you have lined up for my deeelectation”

Crisis averted. Anna is now looking me up and down.

She seems back to her acid best.

“ Well, I must say you've scrubbed up well tonight. Ok, off we go. Eyes and teeth, dahling, eyes and teeth..”

That's more like it, I give my best theatrical smile, and enter the fray.

It is only a dinner party, so why do I feel like saluting and shouting “We who are about to die salute Caesar!”?


The dining room is a picture. the lights are all turned down low, and the sideboard and table covered with creamy church candles of different sizes. The smell is like warm honey. It is a lovely mild night, and the French doors are open, I can see everyone gathered on the terrace outside.

Martin glances up and sees me.

“Asti! We were quite worried! What would you like to drink? Champers?”

“Just water for now please, Martin, I'm driving and I want to have a drink with dinner,”

“Righty-ho. Ice and a slice?”


He squeezes my shoulder. “Won't be a tick then. You look scrummy tonight by the way”

I love Martin by the way. I know I take the mickey out of him, and tease Anna about his old fashioned ways, but he is a diamond really. He had worked his way up in the traditional way at the stockbrokers he worked for, from office boy to one of the partners, collecting Anna on his way up. They were now disgustingly, jealous makingly rich, but Martin seemed to have avoided being either Wide Boy flash or New Money pretentious. He was still just himself, which was a relief. It kept my envy at bay, to be honest.

Anna is tinkling a spoon on a glass.

“Hello everyone! This is what you have all been waiting for! She's here! This is ...” I wait for the drum roll


Good god. I'm amazed she didn't introduce me with “Roll up, roll up...”

Please ground. Open up. Swallow me whole. You'll find I'm very tasty.

My smile is freezing on my face, and I can feel my teeth sticking to the underside of my lip. I need to move nd get shot of the adrenaline I can feel flooding me before i break out into a cold sweat.

I look around. So many people! How many has she invited? And there aren't many women either... oh God.

I'm going to have real trouble brazening this out. I wish I had never come. I really don't like a lot of people at one time, I prefer small cozy groups, maybe 6 or 7 max. This is like the opening of an exhibition.

Of course, I realise. it is an exhibition. And the star – in fact the only – exhibit, is me.

I turn round to fine an elegant tall waiter standing beside me, bearing a tray with a tall glass.

“Your water, madam”

“Thank you “

Good, something to sip and detach my teeth before I have to speak to anyone.

Good God, Good God. I have just realised. They've catered it! How can I live up to this? I want to run and hide somewhere. I can feel a panic attack on the way.

I need to calm down about this. OK, it is over the top, but what a lot of effort Anna has gone to just for me. I glance sideways at her. She is looking anxious and nervous.

I link arms with her. She is my bestest friend in the whole world, We have loved each other since we were 11, and there is no way she has anything but my best interests at heart. And it is the intention that is important, isn't it? Can I just go with the flow? I can but try.

Deep breath then. It feels like i have been panicking for ages, but it is only seconds really.

“Come on, you can't just announce me like the first course at dinner... introduce me properly!”

A tall blond man is walking up to us.

“Hi. I'm Adam. I work with Martin, I'm so glad to meet you. Isn't the news wonderful?”

“Hi Adam, lovely to meet you too. Umm, which news is that? “ I laugh lightly. Anna is making “I'll tell you later” faces. “There is always something happening with these two, I can't keep up...” She looks a bit happier.

“Martin's promotion to Partner? I think we're celebrating that?” He looks quizzically at Anna. She smiles and mutely nods encouragement to me.

“Ah, yes. I thought you were going to say Anna was pregnant for a moment there...”

Oh the daggers! My thick hide deflects them... ha! gotcha there then. babies are NOT on Anna's to Do list.


p.s. Please forgive the grotty typing.. I typed this on my little Eeee at about 6 this morning, and my fat fingers don't always hit the write buttons... sigh. And one of the rules of Nanowrimo is NO EDITING!! NO REVISING!!! JUST WRITE!! So I do.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Day 4 - Bizzy Daze!

Didn't get to write yesterday evening, Didn't get to write yet today (out since earrrrlllly this morning at auction buying up stuff for eBay).  But I hope to Get To It later today after my slimming club meeting.. (yes, it is working this time it would seem for those who have backtracked and read of my weight angst.  :(  )

So I promised you a smidgeon of last year's novel-in-writing.  So here is Chapter one of The Minx, which was a Young Adult Fantasy, rather different to this year's offering.

See what you think...

The children were lying on the grass in front of a stand of bamboo.  The sun was warm and tickly, and Izzy was making spots on the insides of her eyes. 

She opened and shut her eyes to make the spots change colour.  Open.  She looked at the reflection of the sun on the flickering bamboo leaves.  If she moved her eyes slightly to the left, she could see dark spots… closed eyes, orange spots.  Open dark blue spots… closed… a good sleepy game. 

She glanced sideways at her little brother, asleep at the moment.  He was a stocky strong little boy almost as big as she was even though he was 8 years younger. His black eyelashes made little shadows on his downy cheeks.  His fists were tightly clenched in his sleep, and his dark winged eyebrows drawn down in a frown.  Izzy thought he looked like he was about to burst.  Her job today was to look after him, and it wasn’t often he was nice and quiet like this.  Usually she had to manhandle him into some sort of submission. He was a little ball of energy. She smiled to herself. She had probably been the same at his age.  But smaller.

Izzy would be 14 next birthday, she knew that things would soon change.  She sat up and hugged her knees, thinking about what the future might bring her.

She wondered if she would grow any bigger.  It would be good to be stronger, and not to be the tiniest person in any group. Small and delicate, she stood a smidgeon over 4 feet tall, and she got fed up with looking up at people, it gave her a crick in her neck.   Her pretty cat-like face was topped by a mass of dark russet hair which grew strong and thick from a peak on her forehead and waved down to her shoulders. It continued in a narrow ridge along the length of her spine, showing through the split in the back of her tunic.  She wore her hair loose (and tangled at the moment) with fine plaits and tinkling bells woven into the sides and along her spine.  She fiddled with the plaits around her ear. There was a catch on one of her long nails and she absentmindedly tugged one plait free.  She came back from miles away, and looked at her nails.  They were slender like her hands and feet, long and sharp, she could retract them like claws to keep them from breaking or snagging on things.  She had been looking after them, her mother had promised that she could have them decorated as a birthday present this year.

“You are growing up nicely now, darling” Amma  had said to her earlier in the year.  “There are lots of lovely things you can look forward to now you are becoming a woman.  We can have your nails gilded, and perhaps your first toothstone?  Would you like that? “ Amma  smiled widely so that Izzy could see the pretty gems that encrusted her two eye-teeth.  “I had my first stones when I was about your age, the blue ones in the middle.  Come and have a close look, I don’t suppose you have ever really seen my teeth up close, have you?”

Izzy was very curious.  Her mother was right, she hadn’t seen her teeth close up.  They were so beautiful.  A line of tiny blue stones snaked down the centre of each long eye-tooth.  Each side was intricately chased and inlaid in gold and platinum with rubies and diamonds catching the light.  As she looked, Izzy could see that this wasn’t a random design, it was a little dragon on each side, each one facing the central S.

“Are they real rubies and diamonds?” she asked.

“Yes” Amma replied.  “and the blue ones are lapis lazuli.  I wanted sapphires but they were too expensive then.  I suppose I could have them replaced now with more expensive stones, but really I like the fact that Grandma bought them for me.  Your father gave me the dragons for our wedding, for luck.”  She closed her mouth and wriggled her jaw

“Oof – keeping my mouth open makes my jaw ache!  Just like when I had them done – it took hours you know, I had to take four breaks when they were doing the dragons.”

“Can I see your nails too?” asked Izzy.

Amma reached out and took Izzy’s hands.  She stretched out her fingers , extended her nails and smiled. 

“I love my nails” she said.  “If I had to lose my tooth-stones I would be very unhappy, but if I lost my nails I would be heartbroken.”

She is right to love them, thought Izzy.  I would give my eye-teeth (especially once they are jewelled) to have hands like my mother’s. 

Amma’s hands were very long and narrow.  The sides of the fingers were covered in tiny golden freckles, each one quite separate and distinct. Izzy’s spots clumped together in places so they were more like squiggles than freckles near the knuckles.  I wish I were this elegant, she thought, with a little sigh.  She gave herself a little shake, and ran her fingers down the length of her mother’s nails.  So hard, so sharp, so beautiful.   

Extended fully now for Izzy to look at, they were nearly half the length again of each finger.  Each long nail tapered to a curved point, viciously sharp.  Normally, they would be kept sheathed for safety.  Izzy knew only too well how easy it was to puncture yourself with those needle sharp tips.  If she forgot and fiddled with her plaits with her nails out a little bit, she ended up with a crisscross of little red lines under her ears.  Inlaid into each nail was a curling design of gold.  Red, white and pink gold, all seemingly tangled up into such an intricate pattern it was hard to see where it started and ended.  It was highly polished and burnished so that it was just below the surface of the nail itself. 

“How many nail sheddings will these last for?” she asked her mother.

“I have had them for 10 years now, the gold was very thick to start with.  I have it reburnished whenever I shed a nail skin, but I don’t know if they will last much longer.  They’ll need to be redone soon, I would think.  Maybe we can have them done together?”

Izzy smiled at the memory.  It was lovely being that close to her mother from time to time.  But being treated as an equal and a growing woman , although it was delicious, was also very worrying.  Her smile faded.  Because it meant that she could expect to start changing any time soon…and nobody had really told her what that would mean.  Her mother had told her just a little bit, but then she just said it was her own mystery and she would “know when the time came”.  Most unsatisfactory. How could she possibly know when the “time” had come, if nobody would tell her what would happen when the “time came”!


Mickal had woken up and was feeling wicked. He curled his nose and made waving gestures with one hand, his bright blue eyes twinkling with glee as he pointed at his sister.

“Gahh …You stink!” He said. 

He rolled up into a ball and started to giggle wildly, hugging his arms and rocking from side to side. He stamped his feet on the soft fine grass and crowed again. “Stinky stinky stinky… eeewwww ….   aaaaggghhhhh”   His gloating cries tailed off as Izzy got a firm grip on his jacket, flipped him over onto his stomach, sat on top of him and bounced up and down until he stopped shouting. 

She settled herself comfortably and sat fiddling with her plaits.  She felt mortified.  Mickal was only 6 and her baby brother and she shouldn’t take what he said seriously, but even so. 

“Aaaaaghhhh .  Izzy!!!  Get off! You’re squashing me!”

She bounced up and down again. 

“Shut up.  You’re a horrible child and you deserve to be squashed.”

She didn’t stink.  She was sure of it. Wasn’t she?   She ticked off the possibilities in her head.  She had showered that morning, her hair was clean.  Clean clothes yesterday.  Had she eaten anything, like garlicky or cheesy?  No.  It was warm, not too hot, so it wouldn’t be sweat stink…

A terrible thought came flying into her mind. Oh no.  Not that.  Please. Not yet.

She picked Mickal up under one arm and carted him back into the house.  He was screeching in protest, but she tightened her grip and ignored him.  Wretched imp.   Plopping his squirming body down inside the door, she went in search of her mother.

P.S. I was reading a bit more of last year's writing, and found this bit,which I really enjoyed writing. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Izzy hopped down from the bed and grabbed the kettle. She decided to make a cup of tea while thinking about what all this was about. The bathroom was over in the corner, and she walked in to get some water for her tea.

Oh! She had never ever in her entire life seen anything like this.

She had always thought that her bathroom at home was really nice. Her family was very educated and high class, and they had lots of nice things. In fact, her friends liked to stay over just so they could use the shower, as they always said it was much more powerful than any of them had.

But… this bathroom was amazing. The walls were covered in lustrous ceramic tiles, patterned with ferns and tropical flowers so that she seemed to be in a jungle. The bath was deep and sunken, more like a small swimming pool, the shower was even bigger than the one at home, and there was a separate drying cabinet. A drying cabinet! She had always wanted to try one of those.

She filled the kettle and padded back into the bedroom. Once she had made her tea, she decided to explore the wardrobe. If the room was anything to go by, the contents of that would be extra nice too.

She pulled open the double doors, and was startled to find that it only contained a simple blue tunic, made of quilted cotton, simply buttoned down the front, with no decoration at all, not even down the backslash. A matching pair of pull on trousers, and plain blue leather boots. A small empty rucksack was on the floor of the wardrobe. That was it.

Cantrain had mentioned something in the chest of drawers. Perhaps that was where the good stuff was. The chest was beautifully made to match the wardrobe, pale shining satinwood with twisted glass handles. She pulled open the top drawer. There was a small vanity bag, containing a toothbrush, some plain white soap and shampoo and some emery sticks for her nails. She opened the other drawers, but they were all empty.

How very odd, she thought. All this luxury in the furnishings, but the things I get to actually use are very plain. Well, never mind. Might as well take advantage of the luxurious bathroom at any rate.

Cup of tea in one hand and a shortbread biscuit in the other (she had found a little box of biscuits in the tea caddy – even more like a hotel!), she padded into the bathroom. She really wanted to try out that drying cabinet. But should she have a bath or a shower? Oh. Decisions, decisions. She laughed out loud. Why not have both?

The water running into the bath was a glorious emerald green, and scented with jasmine flowers. She wondered if this was full of essential oils and minerals, like you would expect to find in the most expensive spa. The bath was simply huge, and would take ages to fill, so she walked over to the shower whilst it was filling. She would have her shower whilst it was filling. Izzy wondered just how powerful it would be, it would be good to be massaged and pounded, and then to relax in the bath with her cup of tea.

She put her cup down on a little table next to the bath, and finished off the last crumbs of her biscuit. Maybe another one to go with her tea? Why not.. let’s make the most of this.

She had already kicked off her shoes, so now she stopped for a moment as she walked back into the bedroom to appreciate the softness of the carpet. Silk, she thought, as she wiggled her toes in sheer joy.

Back in the bathroom, biscuit (well, three actually) carefully perched next to her tea cup, she turned her attention to getting the shower to work. Two levers seemed to control the heat and one in the middle must be the amount of water? So what were the other controls?

She dropped her clothes in one corner, and stepped into the large marble floored cubicle, pulling the glass door shut behind her. She raised the central lever slightly to let a trickle of water through, adjusted the temperature, then raised it all the way. Whoooossh! The water hit her like a tropical storm, hot and steamy, streaming down her slender body. She luxuriated in the strength of the waterfall for a few minutes, and then turned the flow down a little bit, so that she could open her eyes. Now for the other two controls.

Unlike a normal lever, the control turned all the way around like a joystick. There was a big silver button in the middle of the joystick. She tentatively poked the button. The roof and walls of the shower cabinet slid back to reveal a network of tiny nozzles. She moved the joystick upwards, and shrieked as jets of water fountained up between her toes. Downwards and the water moved from the floor to the roof. She swivelled the joystick to one side and the water moved that way. Screaming with laughter, she swung the joystick from side to side, up and down, round and round, as the water swirled and thundered over her.

She turned the water off and leaned on the side wall. How exhilarating! How exhausting!

Time for her bath now. She opened the door and the scent of the jasmine immediately hit her. She loved jasmine. The bath had filled up nicely, so she stepped down into the soft green water and relaxed against the satin covered cushion that was attached to the edge of the bath. Her tea and biscuits were within easy reach, and the tea was still hot. How good did bliss get.

After playing with the Jacuzzi jets in the bath for a while, and discovering that there was underwater music (although getting water in her ears whilst she listened to tinkly piano music was perhaps less than exciting), Izzy decided she had had enough of water for one day. She stood up and reached for one of the towels on the rack overhead. Light as thistledown, she shook it loose and found it was a huge sheet that wrapped round her several times. Another smaller one around her head, and she decided to investigate the drying cabinet.

Her parents had been talking about these a while back, when they were renovating the bathroom, but it had turned out to be far too expensive so they hadn’t got one. But Izzy remembered the excitement in her mother’s face when she thought that they just might get one. So it must be something extra special.

She opened the glass door to the cabinet. Rather like the shower cabinet, it had lots of small round openings on the walls, roof and floor. A touch pad was inset into one wall, so this was obviously how it worked. Izzy dropped her towels in a soggy heap outside the door and stepped in. She peered at the touch pad, and clicked her tongue in irritation. Why were there just silly squiggles on the controls and not nice plain words that explained what everything did? She sighed. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound – she pressed a button at random.

With a faint sigh, the cabinet vibrated slightly, and she felt herself enveloped in a fine mist – it smelt of fresh fruit and tropical flowers, and settled in a silky veil on her damp skin and hair. She felt the vibrations increase, and found the water was shaking off her skin in tiny droplets. Oh, how odd, she could feel her body quivering, the tremors reaching right into her stomach. She could actually see the water flying away from her like drops of fine drizzly rain. She extended her nails and combed through her hair, twisting around to groom the thick ridge along her spine. She always had tangles at the back, and usually needed to be careful in teasing out the knots without breaking her bells or undoing the plaits, but the mist seemed to have softened all the tangles and in minutes she had everything under control. Her hair smoothed back from her brow, and tumbled down her back in even ripples.

In a matter of minutes, her hair and skin were warm and dry, smooth and soft from the fine oils in the spray mist. She felt so pampered.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Day 3

As I said, I have decided to try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)again this year. To write a novel, of any kind, no editing, just get the words down. 50,000 of them. By the end of November, no later.

Tough call for November, one of the busy months of the year. Birthdays, run up to Christmas, lots of eBay packing. Still it is ok to add to my pressure, and the fun of writing should carry me through.

So a week ago I started trying to think of a plot. Nothing would come. Like, nothing at all. You can't start to outline a book without any semblance of a plot.

Then suddenly, it was Sunday, it was November 1st and Nano was on me like a pile of wet snow. What to do? All Sunday I angst about it. I cooked a special birthday dinner, still angsting. In the end I decided to just sit down at the computer and let it run. Get some words down and see where it would lead.

I wrote:

"Most people seem to like to start at the beginning of a story. Me? I turn to the end, see what happens there, and then work my way through the book to find out what made it happen. "

So far so good. And then I thought... what about writing a book about me... not my life, not what is happening to me, but about me as a person, my thoughts and attitudes to life? And so to concoct a fairystory about me. So that is what my book is about. It is My Other Life.

Day three today, and I have realised that the first bit is rather sparse. Never mind, week three and four are for padding it out I reckon. This week is to write from the seat of my pants and get the semblance of a plot down. Three peaks, three troughs. A beginning, a middle, and an end. That is my aim for this week.

Fancy a bit more of My Other Life?

Here you are:

Most people seem to like to start at the beginning of a story. Me? I turn to the end, see what happens there, and then work my way through the book to find out what made it happen. I feel really twitchy if I don’t know how things are going to finish up.

I like to know what makes things tick.

I was the kind of kid who took clocks apart to see what made them tick. You know the type? The geeky one, who sat in the library reading books while everyone else was out in the sun playing kiss chase.

So I like my life to be nice and ordered. Neat and contained. All the edges defined.

Be good if it stayed that way for longer than six minutes.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like my life really. I have a great job, a pretty flat in a nice part of town, a tight bunch of friends I can call on for rest and relaxation. I have a cat. But..

What’s it all about? Oh, I know, Alfie didn’t know either. But I want to know… god damn it, I need to know. What am I going to end up being in this life? Can I rely on a career to take me interesting places and fill in the spaces of my life that way? Will I be a spinster with my cat by my side? Will I be an unruly madwoman when I get to my 80s?

I ask these questions because I am missing that one little segment in my happy orange.. I am unattached with no one in sight.

I was sitting in a bar the other night with my friend Anna.

“where are all the good men…” I droned

“what do you want a good man for? Get yourself a bad one! “

“where are all the bad men then…” I droned again

“over there where the grass is greener. Get a grip girl!”

I love Anna. But don’t go there for tea and sympathy.

“you’re all right.. you’ve got your man”

“yes. Havent I just..”

Smug little bitch. Anna is happily ensconced in a large garden flat in Islington with a suavely goodlooking capstan of industry. Needless to say the cheaps counter at Sainsbury’s is not on her daily check list.

“don’t be such a smart arse. Nobody loves a smart arse”

“Martin does.” She said in her smart arse voice.

“Martin can pay for the next round then…”

Two margaritas later, we decided that Martin could pay for a little snack too. Garlicky prawns. Mmm. Well I had no plans for kissing any one, so a bit of indulgence wasn’t going to go amiss.

“you know, there are plenty of good men around, Asti – you just aren’t looking very hard. Where are you looking?”

I sighed. I really didn’t feel that I should have to look very hard. Love was supposed to happen. Just like that. If you had to go looking it made for a desperation that was less than attractive in a person.

“work… around…oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to go out searching for lurve… you know what I mean?”

Anna gave me a waspish look.

“ well your knight in shining armour is not likely to come searching for you on the tube to Oxford Circus, is he?”

Now that wasn’t fair. She had after all met Martin the Wonder Dog at the fireworks counter at Sainsbury’s last Guy Fawkes night. She really had no right to tick me off about not joining every internet dating site on Google.

“How’s Martin’s Roman Candle these days then?” I said, haughtily.

Anna snickered.

“Damn fine, let me tell you….”

Monday, November 02, 2009

Blimey! Doesn't time fly!

I can't believe it is about a year since I last posted on here...

It has been a pig of a year, but I think the worst is coming to a close now, so I can get back on a steady track again. Maybe I'll tell you all about it one day, but it is still a bit too painful for me yet. Save to say I now have certain things back in place:

I am now seeing a lovely psychotherapist who is helping enormously.

I am back with Slimming World (I say back, the last time was about 10 years ago, but it worked then and its working now) and losing steadily - one stone in just on 2 months. Not Speedy Gonzales, but hey! every little helps as the Tesco ads say.

I have just started National Novel Writing Month for the second year running.

So life doesn't have to be difficult any more, does it?