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Monday, 27 October 2008

It's Half Term

Which means I can spend quality time with my children, while my husband hares out the door at 7.30am pretending that he doesn't know the clocks have gone back. Later he rings me from a child free cafe to tell me he's eating beans on toast with bacon AND reading the paper at the same time. Bastard! "So how's the diet?" I enquire. Mean yes, but I am irritably scrubbing out a porridge pot having tried and failed the two kittens to eat the rest of it. The Boy slithers out of his room like a grumpy vampire. He is developing posture like a question mark.

To celebrate the first day of half-term I am taking the children to the dentist. The sun is glittering, so walking along in the fresh air, one drooping teenager keeping up a low level grumble on one side and a small girl twittering away about bees stinging with their bums on the other, is less soul destroying than usual. Then we get to the dentist and I realise I've gotten the day wrong. The Boy forgives me when I offer to go to the video store while he attempts to claw back some money for Zombie Crusading Throat Slashers V. These games are insanely expensive but I try not to say anything as it will make me sound very old and sad.

The Boy gets some money back and immediately 'invests' it in Zombie War Hell Disemboweling or something similar. In the middle of this, I get a call from my supervisor at the Open University. I'm trying to get one of my students off the course without her losing any money as she's going through a personal crisis. As we talk about this, The Girl starts shouting that The Boy has told her to "bog off". The Boy vigorously disputes this while managing to wangle a tenner out of me at the same time.

The Girl and I wander home and have lunch. All is calm until I see the kittens prodding something in the garden. When they corner something, they work together, the furry equivalent of the veloceraptors in Jurassic Park. It's a little mouse. It's alive. I can't bear it, shriek and hare out the door, grabbing the ginger kitten by the tail and with a swift shake he drops the tiny creature. (And yes I know the mouse will probably die of a coronary and yes I do know it's in their nature. It's just I can't watch while the two of them stalk and swipe at their terrified prey). The other kitten now dives at the inert mouse but I'm too quick for her. I yank both of them out of the way and hustle them into the kitchen, pulling the bin in front of the cat flap. Both kittens sit under the table and glare at me like that devil dog in The Omen. I half expect to hear evil choral music.

It's nearly 2pm and I haven't done any work. What have I done? I've taken my children to the dentist (on the wrong day) bought socks and cheese, gave money for a horrible computer game, and saved a rodent. Marvellous.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Creative Timings

According to a report in The Guardian, we are at our most creative at 10.04pm. It's something to do with a mathematical equation. Maybe done by the same person who invented the fame equation. Remember that? E + appealing to grannies x cute and nonthreatening = bland to the power of 100.

I can remember exactly what I was doing at 10.04pm last night. I was sighing and thinking: "God this is boring. Although it's nice to see Pam Ferris with dreadlocks." (I was watching Children of Men on DVD).

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The secret is to be a long term asset

Pat Kavanagh, esteemed literary agent, died yesterday and her friend and client Clive James has written a warm tribute. She seemed to belong to a different world of publishing where the mark of success wasn't so much screwing a massive advance out of a publisher, but ensuring her clients had long term success. "The secret", she told James, "is to be a long term asset."

I thought of that when my husband and son were watching the X-Factor and playing armchair executioners. "Nah, nothing special" they yelled as one trembling kid after another wearing a tight shiny dress, or poofy sequins, and about three hundred tons of makeup, warbled their way through a Very Famous Song. They seem to have turned that lovely boy Austin (the one who cries a lot) into a spiky haired Marc Almond ladyboy. Then last year's winner, a nice Scottish lad, came onstage to rapturous applause and sang something very ordinary to more pant wetting screams. By this time next year, nobody will remember who he is.

The secret is to be a long term asset. I think it's true.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Celebrity Children's Authors

What is it with celebs and writing children's books? Well it's quite simple really. Children's books are short, you can always 'co-write' them (co-written will be in teeny tiny letters and means 'written by someone else') hire a good illustrator and whay hay! Instant cred. Possibly. I can't see legions of small children rushing to Waterstones to pick up a copy of The English Roses where Madonna, one of the richest women in the world, exhorts how money doesn't make you happy by dreaming up a character called Lotsa de Casha. If the parents are fans maybe. But apart from a few exceptions, which I actually can't think of - are there any? - children's books written by celebs don't sell that well. Because children don't give a shit that the author looks great in a leotard at 50, or is married to a famous chef. They just want a good story.

No - this is what annoys me: If Geri, Madonna and now Jools Oliver were to simply say: "Children's books are a bit shorter and easier to write and by writing one myself I may just scrape up a bit of literary kudos and as I'm famous it's bound to get published by some fame dazzled publishing house," then I would give nary a toss. But it's the 'we're actually doing YOU a favour' routine that fucks me off. Big time.

Madonna wrote her execrable series of preachy-screechy books because she wanted to share her spiritual wisdom. And show that "we are all connected to each other on a soul level." And now Jools Oliver is going to write a children's book because she "couldn't find enough good simple stories for children." Has she been walking into greengrocers or butchers shops by mistake? "Could I have a great, simple story for children?" "Er I'm sorry madam. We only serve fruit and veg here." That's the only way I can imagine she missed the literary ramblings of Roald Dahl, Babette Cole, Melvyn Burgess, Phillip Pullman, and J.K Rowling. Thank God you've come along to save our little ones from this stream of literary dross.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


I was hopscotching on the interweb (as my mother calls it) before starting work and my eye was caught by the headline: 15-minute short breaks the silence on key mental health issue and garners worldwide praise. Curious, I clicked on an extract, watched, and felt tears streaming down my face. A few minutes captures the hopelessness, the guilt, the anguish, the sense that nobody knows how bad things are except you. I do hope this film does as well as it deserves. Depression is still such a stigma, and so misunderstood. And once you have it, it's like a coiled serpent, lurking in the depths, curled up, waiting. A nudge, a whisper of memory or just a bad day and you feel it beginning to writhe again. "Remember me?" Sometimes when you've had it, and recovered, you recognise the signs early and consign it to the depths again. But sometimes you're not so lucky. Depression is slippery and silent and occasionally it uncoils while you are barely aware and by the time you are, it is there again, choking you.

After I had recovered from PND, a friend mentioned that she was so glad I was happier as I'd spent a long time "feeling a bit sorry for myself." I was stunned and ashamed. Stunned that she interpreted a deep clinical depression as me feeling sorry for myself and ashamed that in trivialising my feelings, she had trivialised me.

I wouldn't wish the malignant sadness of depression on my worst enemy and I'm cheered that this film has been received so positively. And anyone who feels the cold waves of depression lapping at their edges, I urge you to get help.