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Friday, 23 May 2008

Coping with a teenager part one

How to get your child to stop listening to annoying music

DON'T: Saunter into his room and say "Emo? Emo? Morrissey did that angsty stuff years ago, and without the girly makeup."

DO: Saunter into his room and start a thoughtful boogie, while saying: "Hey this isn't bad. Is it Young Person's Rock and/or Roll music?". Boy will probably cringe and/or vomit and the CD will be found in his wastepaper basket the following day.

Using Reason

Last night I heard the usual sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Boy's room. Followed by what sounded like two energetic rats dashing about. Ah. The kittens were having their 10pm punch up. Only tonight it was in his room. It happens every night. They suddenly decide to start jumping on and biting each other in a way that Husband describes as 'Kitten 69'. Only they usually start downstairs.

I sauntered upstairs to help. When I say 'help' I mean stand at the door sniggering. The Boy was kneeling down looking under the bed and talking to the kittens. "Come on Charlie, I'm tired. I want to go to bed. Oh Lola please . . "

These are kittens remember. And do they give a shit? No they do not. And bless him, the Boy was trying to reason with them. Oh sweet revenge. I just shook the cat crunchies box and when they stuck their noses out, whisked the kittens up and swept off downstairs with a small smile at Boy. He had the grace to look slightly sheepish.

Food Technology: Cooking but not as we know it

Two minutes before he's due to leave for school, Boy announces "OhmygodI'mmakingcornishpasties!!!!!" As I am engaged in the delightful morning task of scooping out kitten shite from the litter tray, I pay zero attention. But it's true and it's a DRAMA. Boy is indeed making Cornish pasties for Food Technology (where the children learn all the accoutrements of an egg, except how to actually cook it) and I have to provide a raft of ingredients. "But it's ok because today we're just making the pastry". There is a pause. "What's in pastry?"
Apparently the business of making Cornish pasties is so complicated, they have to do it in two parts.

I clearly remember what I first made in Domestic Science. Scrambled eggs on toast. It was a horrible experience because my mother made her own wholemeal bread which needed an hour in a nuclear reactor to toast. Yes my mother's cooking is at least partly responsible for my lifelong good health, but who gives a shit when you're the only one in class who hasn't bought plastic white bread?

The next thing I made was sausage rolls, and again, mum didn't just give me a lump of pink sausagemeat. She mashed loads of garlic and herbs into it. Alas, I was cooking next to a fat frizzy girl with a speech impediment whose mother would give her a sweet allowance every day and who MY mother routinely described with some accuracy as "A Big Fat Heap". Frizzy girl stood next to me in cooking and started shrieking, "Eurghhh! Garlic! I hate garlic!" etc. Had I been more confident I might have asked if her antipathy meant she was a vampire, but then again, vampires were usually thin and sexy, and not lumpen and frizzy with BO. But then again I was only nine.

My point being that I've always gone out of my way to provide the right ingredients for Boy's food technology. And been extravagant in my praise. So about five minutes ago he arrived home with his pasty all wrapped up. I had a nibble and it was really good!

In fact I've just finished it.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Still 24 Weeks

Very pleased to hear that the oft used phrase in right-wing land - common sense - a phrase which far too often means narrow minded bullying - for once! - has prevailed and the 24 week limit on abortion stays. Along with no discrimination for gay and lesbian couples who want IVF. And despite the rhetoric of Iain Duncan Smith, nobody is saying that fathers aren't important; just that there are other equally valid types of family. Cue the Daily Mail stamping its apoplectic foot in rage. Expect to hear lots of phrases like 'moral decline' and 'end to decency'.

I was thinking about this and I'd have had a tad more sympathy if Ann Widdecombe and Nadine Dorries were vigorously fighting for better sex education and the kind of contraceptive access and information that moral cesspits like Sweden have (along with the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy and STD's in the world).

Which reminds me - I've got to get those kittens neutered. The way Lola licks her brother's ginger bollocks is really rather disturbing.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Offering stuff to the BBC

When I say 'stuff' I mean work, although I'm sure they'd be receptive to a nice cake.

Yes - the kids are downstairs smoking and watching porn so I thought I'd put my writer hat on for a minute. The BBC R4 offers round is over until mid autumn when it all starts up again. I've offered some stuff; not cakes, although the more I think about it, the more it seems that tucking a nice ginger cake among my ideas might be more likely to result in a commission.

This is how it works. Twice a year, as a writer, you're supposed to be bursting with ideas, which you send to your producer. He or she sends them to the top brass at R4 who either say no, or you get to do more work on them. It's worth knowing that about 80% of R4's output is produced by the in-house producers, so sleep with one of them first. If none of them fancy you, you'll have to send your ideas to out house producer, (which sounds like an out house toilet - sort of cold, abandoned, rickety and at the bottom of the garden). These outhouse producers (or Independents as they prefer to be called) produce the remaining 20%. Yeah - really bad odds. Although so far I've had all my luck with Independents and bugger all with the in house ones.

Then you expand your idea to about two pages, send it to your producer again who sticks it on the R4 computer and you wait for about two months. They used to send out letters to producers which must have been like receiving exam results twice a year. Now they just post the results online. It's hilarious when everybody gets online at the same time and the system crashes. Not. Your precious offer will either be rejected, shortlisted, or offered a conditional commission.

So far for R4 I've written a play, Beryl du Jour TX in 2004, and two Woman's Hour Dramas, the first called Cooking for Michael Collins, about the real life cook, spy and gunrunner to Collins in 2006 and the second, 43 Years in the Third Form, about girls comics, in 2007. I've also had shedloads of stuff rejected, and it never gets any easier.

Sometimes I have this fantasy that every single Independent goes on strike and refuses to offer R4 diddlysquat. That's the trouble with being in a position where there's always more product than you need. Occasionally furious writers send stinky letters to high up members of the BBC, accusing them of arrogance, short-sightedness, arrogance, high-handed behaviour. And in many cases they may be right. The trouble is, their letters just boil down to: How dare you reject my idea you bastards, albeit written with longer words and considerably more literary illusion.

So in few months time, having offered three ideas, I'll either be smiling smugly, or ranting and accusing R4 of being arrogant, high handed bastards who wouldn't know a good idea etc etc.

Ah! I hear scratching at my study door. Either the kids or the kittens need feeding. Boo.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Charlie and Lola. Both looking a bit:

a) pissed

b) cross

Kittens Ahoy!

We've recently acquired two small kittens. One ginger and white, the other, the colour of an Indian restaurant carpet. Tri-colour I think it's called. If a kitten's marking is due to the amount of moving around he does in the womb, this one must have been a perpetual wriggler. Or had womb-fleas. The Girl named them Charlie and Lola after the Lauren Child books. Of course there was disagreement on an almighty scale.

I originally wanted to call the ginger one, Paddington. Everyone else hated this. Husband wanted Charles, not Charlie. I ask you. Charles Kitten? "No" he said. "Charles Paddington Kitten is his full name". Why not design a crest as well? The other one I wanted to call Betty. 'BETTY?!!!" was the outraged response. You'd think I decided to call her Myra Hindley. Or Mrs Hitler. (Although -while on the subject of cats named after dictators, I do know of an enormous cat whose owners have named him Chairman Miaow).

Anyway, after much sulking, fighting and more sulking, the kittens are called Charlie Paddington and Betty Lola. Or Charlie and Lola.

And as they're too small to go out, I've discovered the joys of emptying a cat litter tray. And the sound of scuffling and scratching and squitting just as we're sitting down to dinner.

Squirrel won't be my friend

The Boy seems to have given up using consonants, either through apathy or Emo. Occasionally he grunts. Sometimes he starts with "Er mum?" At which point I know he's about to get a letter from the school or he wants something. The Girl on the other hand talks all the time, and now that she's four, she expects a response other than "Mmmm lovely". Bummer. On the way home from nursery, she suddenly stopped, put her hands on her non-existent hips and said: "Mummy, I'm talking to you!"

Then she saw a squirrel belting across the path and squeaked: “Squirrel! Squirrel!” It ignored her. “Squirrel won’t be my friend” she said sadly.

My Son Smells like a Zoo

Can't wait for The Boy to discover girls. He might also discover the restorative powers of soap and water too. I don't know what the hell he does in the shower but it certainly isn't washing. Last night, after he'd spent at least twenty minutes in the bathroom, I crept upstairs to hear if there was any scrubbing soapy type action going on. Listened at the door. He seemed to be acting out Die Hard, with loads of 'kapow' and gun noises and a pretty good American accent. It was quite impressive really. I wanted to congratulate him. I've been reading this good book on bringing up teenagers called 'Whatever' by Gil Hynes and Alison Baverstock. It emphasises the importance of being positive and PRAISE. Fair enough - I do realise I spend a lot of time behaving like Vinegar Tits in Prisoner Cell Block H, with the Boy. 'Pick that up! Now please, not tomorrow . . Have you done this/that/homework/emptied the dishwasher' blah blah.

As it was I could have told him how good his impersonation of Bruce Willis but then he'd have known I was listening at the door. And when he emerged from the shower, towels and water slopping everywhere, and I had a discreet sniff - he still smelled. Maybe his boy hormones are soap proof.

But then again I've read there's a study going on in Newcastle. They argue that teenagers smell for a good biological reason. That teenage boys are repulsed by their mother's smell, and teenage girls are turned off their dad's smell. This is to prevent sex within the family. Apparently. Try telling that to Josef Fritzl.

Anyway, Husband says Boy hasn't discovered girls yet. The other day when they were out, a pretty girl walked by and the Boy didn't do that bloke head twirl thing where they have a quick peek at said girl's arse.