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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Good Will to All Men (Even The Boy)

Like the soft, hopeless fool I am, I gave The Boy a bit of extra pocket money this month, partly for getting through his mocks without exploding, and partly because I Enjoy Making A Rod For My Own Back. Anyway, two days ago he sidled up to me, and asked if he could have a bit more money to buy me a Christmas present. Right I thundered as uselessly as an elephant with laryngitis, you're getting a job after Christmas. Definitely, he said. Now could I have some money please? I was in the middle of writing something reasonably coherent so gave him a tenner.

Two days later I was off up the shops when The Boy stuck his head over the banisters. As you're going to the shops anyway, if I give you the money could you . . .?

No! Get the presents yourself! Bloody cheek. So he huffed and groaned and set off to the shops to buy two bloody presents for Husband and I which I had given him money for. Did he have no shame?

Clearly not. Because ten minutes later he rang me, sounding very disgruntled.

Mum I'm in MSN.

Don't you mean M&S?

Yeah - whatever. What am I supposed to get dad?


I'd told him three times and written it down.

Hankies, I snapped.

What are they?

You know - things you blow your nose on. Like your sleeve but smaller. And square. And unlike you - not snotty.

But where am I supposed to get them?
I swear to God he can open a fridge but unless what he wants to eat is Right In Front Of Him, it may as well be invisible.

Look at the sign in front of you which says Men's Clothes Third Floor. Go up the escalator. Then ask someone.

What sign?


I hung up.

And a wonderful Christmas to all my lovely mates in Blogland. Let's all reconvene with tales of drunken aunties and simmering family rows very soon!
xxx

Friday, 4 December 2009

Crap shoes



A few weeks ago The Boy stomped home from school and barked that the soles of his school shoes were flapping in the wind. And it was raining. My fault on both counts. Especially the rain as it was making his hair stick up like a twat. Yes my flap shoed twatty haired son was Not Happy. And all because I’d bought him cheap school shoes.

The thing was he refused to come shopping with me to buy another pair so I had to guess the sort of shoes he might like. Alas the only pair available in his size were plain black with the words Boys World emblazoned on the inside sole. Not outside for the world to see but on the inside sole where his feet would be unless fashions have changed so much that he is supposed to wear shoes inside out.

As I unpacked the groceries he picked up the new shoes and regarded them as though I had presented him with a pair of freshly deposited dog turds with laces. Muuuuum. I mean are you kidding or what? No No No. He backed off and ran up the stairs as though I’d just suggested he wore ballet tights to school. I honestly couldn’t see what was wrong with them. How wrong can you go with plain black shoes?


Very wrong apparently. The next day I received a phone call from school. He is not allowed to wear trainers. I could hear The Boy in the background moaning But the shoes she got me are crap! Everyone’s been asking me why I’m wearing black cereal boxes on my feet! Then the teacher saying: I’m sorry but you can’t wear trainers. It’s a school rule. Even if your shoes are a bit . . did I hear the word crap?

Later that day he returned from school with a face like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I had to whip them off in games and quickly stuff them with socks in case anyone saw Boys World inside them he said mournfully. By this time I was so fed up that I promised to buy him another pair as long as he actually came with me and stopped bloody complaining. He was using the shoe trauma excuse to stop doing any of his chores. Post Traumatic Shoe Syndrome. Finally Husband snapped that if The Boy didn’t empty the damned bins he’d get a white marker pen and write Boys World on the outside of the shoes as well.

I thought this meant Husband was on my side. But later on as I was examining the hated objects and puzzling over what was quite so terrible about them, I caught Husband looking at me with a expression he usually wears when forced by me to watch Extreme Skinny Z list Celebrities. I’m sorry he said but they really are crap shoes.

Are they really that bad (she whines).

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Just keep your gob shut Jane

I really appreciate being freelance when I have to travel a lot on the tube. During the rush hour. While I listen, ear half cocked and an expression of grump as the loudspeaker mumbles something about the circle line . . . limited service . . . under train . . sorry for incon-bleugh, all the poor people who have to listen to this shite every day adopt an expression of blank stoicism. Or maybe it’s just despair. Move down the platform shouts someone official with a loudspeaker as all the passengers squash together four deep like commuter lemmings. So I finally stuff myself onto the tube, listen to another announcement telling us in the ancient language of Incomprehensible Mumble that the train will not be going to Leicester Square after all but will terminate at Earls Court. But no matter. Buses will be laid on which might take us somewhere. Scotland? Or possibly back to Earls Court. And London Transport apologises for the inconvenience. Oh that makes it all better!

Squashing down the kind of helpless rage that eventually turns into cancer, I watch idly as a commuter reads the paper. On the back is a big picture of Liam Gallagher looking sulky (does he have any other expression?) and a headline about how the rift would never be healed. My first thought - I wonder what he’s flogging? And my second - twat. Probably because I bet he never travels by tube. Unfortunately I think I said the second thought out loud, because the owner of the paper looks at me sharply and says: Who me? And jerked out of my tube coma, I say: Oh no no – not you. I meant Liam Gallagher.

He looks at me. Where?

So as well as feeling fed up, and full of repressed rage I'm also feeling foolish. Other normal commuters will look at me pityingly - the mad woman who rants about Mancunian rock stars who aren't actually there. Luckily, a young woman nearby saves the day by saying calmly: I met him once. He is a twat.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Accidental Boxing Class

I've got a short term deal on a local gym so I'm making the most of it. Yesterday I stumbled into what was definitely referred to as a Fast Class. Which meant it would be over with fast. Hopefully. It was 8am and I staggered onto the gym floor. 'Ok where's the fast class?' I muttered to a sick makingly wide awake young man with bright eyes and a goatee, hoping for a classload of equally tired, grumpy people I could hide behind. 'Put these on,' he said, smiling, so before I realised what the hell was going on, I had shrugged into a pair of minging sweaty boxing gloves. Hang on! This wasn't a fast class! This was . . er . . .boxing? On my own? 'Yeah it's you and me,' said Elijah with the goatee. 'Where's everyone else?' I whimpered. He ignored me. 'Punch ten times both sides then we go down by two'. Eh? What? Counting and exercise? I feebly punched the wrong number. 'No - put your whole body into it!' shouted Elijah. It's very very hard to punch sulkily but I managed it. When I'd punched the wrong number and dislocated my spine ten times it was time for a 'rest'. 'Round the track!' snapped Elijah. I ran round the track, grumbling. Then I had to punch again. I tried pleading inability to breathe or stand up but Elijah wasn't having any of it. 'You punch like a girl!' he said. Finally I socked him a punch he was grudgingly pleased with. 'Come back tomorrow,' he said in a kind but butch voice. I kept thinking of that bit in Ben Hur when Charlton Heston is chained to the ship. 'Hate keeps a man alive Number Six'. Doesn't quite work as 'Sulking helps a girl to punch.' I've never been so glad when forty five minutes was up. All I can remember after that is slowly collapsing to the ground and whimpering. I'll never laugh at Rocky again.

Monday, 23 November 2009

A Nasty Lady Told off My Girl

Recently, I took The Girl to a magical production of James and the Giant Peach at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon. At one point, James thrust a giant, squashy peach coloured half blown up rubberised beach ball into the audience and we, the audience had to pass it back through the auditorium. Doesn't sound magical but it was. The atmosphere was as it should be, noisy and slightly chaotic. We sat at the back, so The Girl’s view was slightly inhibited by a family in front of us. The Girl asked the odd question and I whispered the answer in her ear. A few seats down, a boy shouted and shrieked with pleasure. And then just as Act Two was about to begin, The Girl asked what the safety curtain was and the lady in front of us turned round and said Shhh very loudly to her. I was so surprised I had a ‘no that didn’t actually happen’ moment. Then as we sat in silence the lady spun round again and snapped Be quiet! really angrily to my five year old child. For speaking before the curtain had gone up.

I was so shocked my throat stung. Don’t talk to my child like that, I snarled back. The show hasn’t even started yet. She spun round again, face a purple mask of anger-about-something-else-entirely. She TALKED in the first half so perhaps you might restrain her in the second!

So did half the theatre I said loudly. We're in a children's theatre remember? Rage was tearing through me. I would have happily punched her overly made up face with runway burgundy blusher streaks. She in turn looked at me with such hatred, I recoiled. The Girl took my hand, the lights went down and I sat in silence. The Girl was too nervous to ask any questions. I would have happily given five years of my life if the woman's head had exploded in front of me. I sat back in the darkening theatre trying not to cry. The Girl seemed fine. James and the Giant Bitch.

On the way home, I talked to The Girl about what had happened. That the Nasty Lady had no right to speak to my girl like that. She looked at me thoughtfully. And she was fat she said cheerfully.

Where the bloody hell had that come from? Among my many parental crimes and misdemeanors, sizeism is not one of them. I absolutely don't want The Girl to become infected with the horrible body fascism that defines our culture. Probably naive but you can make a start by not whining about your own weight or referring to it in other people. So I launched into my Guardian Lecture about how we were all different shapes and sizes and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the lady had been rude and nasty.

She was fat repeated The Girl. I didn't laugh. But I did smirk. Then I changed the subject. What is it that money can't buy? Erm, love? Friends? Happiness?

The Girl thought for a minute. Leaves she said. I do love her.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Catchup

First off I’m really sorry about the heinous length of my disappearance. Oh you haven’t noticed. Ok. That’s me humbled. I knew tumbleweed was blowing through my blog when I started getting anonymous emails telling me that I could bulk buy Viagra and a very strange ‘comment’ which I quote in full:

But placid, there are well known companies which deserve benefit words and created an distinguished get Cialis now reputation.

Er right. What?

So, quick catch-up. I’ve been ploughing through work and feeling grateful to have any since at least three of my friends have been made redundant recently. This alas is not much comfort when you get the ninth draft of a script back from your producer with the note ‘I preferred the eighth draft’.

Took The Boy round to a series of sixth form colleges last week. I tried to stay in the background, only to reappear whenever he needed to fling a witty comment in my direction, or to place an umbrella over his head. When did I morph into a butler? At one point as we were wandering round a school, lost, he hissed in my ear: ‘Why don’t you go and talk to the other mums?’ So I sidled up to another mum who was looking really fed up and asked her a few banal questions about her boy going to sixth form. Her boy doesn’t seem to be interested in anything, especially not his GCSEs. She looked at the prospectus. ‘Apparently if they get into this school they have to do a course called Critical Thinking’. I watched her boy and mine hunched, gloomy and wandering round the Art department. ‘Well, The Boy is pretty good at being critical’ I mumbled. ‘I’d be glad for any vestige of thinking’ she added. ‘Perhaps we could enter them as a duo’.

We found our way to the psychology department, where bright eyed students were on hand to answer questions. I mentioned that I’d have loved to have studied psychology at school. ‘Look Boy, they do criminal psychology!’ I chirped over eagerly then saw his face shut down and realised I’d committed the parental Cardinal Sin of Being Eager. ‘Muuuuuuum’ he snarled and moved away as though I had bad breath, BO and swine flu.

Later on as we sat in the taxi I said that I’d been hurt by his obvious contempt. And reminded him that when I was fourteen and deeply into the Grease soundtrack, complete with hairbrushes for microphones, and fights over who would be Sandy (God knows why – Rizzo is a far more interesting character) my dad would wander past my bedroom door and start whooping: ‘Wella wella wella ooh! Tell me more tell me more – now what’s that supposed to mean – doesn’t mean anything . . . ‘ and on and on in a Touretty rant until mum shouted from downstairs that Hawaii Five-O was on. Now that’s an embarrassing parent. The Boy’s mouth turned up slightly at the corner and he touched my hand very lightly. I’d forgive him anything. He’s my boy.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Five Obsessions

Lovely Helen at Commission Me - has presented me with an award which stands for not Tragic Obsession with Big Hats and Small Dogs, but integrity, commitment to excellence and stubborn optimism. I'm very touched. And a bit guilty because I've been a bit lax on the blog front recently. And as a codicil I have to give you my five obsessions. Which are in no particular order:

1. Extremely mature cheddar. You can forget that namby pamby mild crap. Give me the sort of cheese that gives your gums an electric shock. Particularly good when a lump of it is eaten with a splodge of generic pickle.

2. The Boy's Height. It's really hard to tell someone off when you have to look up at them to do it. And their response is Chill mum in a really deep voice.

3. The Girl's developing confidence. I remember a mother once telling me: Once they go to school, they're gone and now I know what she means. She has a set of friends, influences, opinions and tastes of her own. Yesterday she insisted on wearing a tunic with clashing tee, odd socks and a beret. Fashion wise I think she's channelling Vivienne Westwood. Drunk.

4. Writing something good. And I've been telling my students at the OU to allow themselves to write rubbish, to break through that awful inertia that comes when you sit down and tell yourself you have to write something good. I've been teaching them a bit about freewriting - composting - where you give yourself the freedom to write whatever you like. It's like turning your psyche over and over until a little nugget emerges that you can do something with. It's all true. But the bottom line is while it's good to allow yourself to write rubbish, nobody wants to end up submitting rubbish.

5. Aveda Hair Products. I know - I know. Especially as when I went into the 'lifestyle salon' I picked up a few products - one a 'glosser' and the other a 'finishing paste' and asked what the difference was. One glosses zee hair and the other feeeneeshes eeet, said the very glossy assistant. Insulted and patronised like that the only thing I could do was buy some overpriced shampoo. And to my intense annoyance it worked fantastically well.

And now I pass on the nominations to:

Jane Smith at How Publishing Really Works

Kit at Kit Courteney Writes

The Daily Quail

Elle at Product Placement

Nicola Morgan at Help! I Need a Publisher

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Hollywood is a funny old place

Kanye West interrupts the acceptance speech of Taylor Swift (no, me neither) and gets slammed by stern moral arbiters like Donald Trump. "He couldn't care less about Beyonce - it was grandstanding to get attention," thunders Trump, a noted champion of young pretty women. (For those of you with lives, Mr West bounded on stage to point out that while he thought Taylor deserved her award, Beyonce's video was much better.) And as a result of this display of bad manners, petitions are being scribbled and we are being advised to boycott Kanye West's music. On the other hand, when a fugitive child rapist is brought to book for his crime decades later, Hollywood gets up a petition to protect him. According to Whoopi Goldberg it's not even "rape rape". I'm speechless.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Boy Trouble

All you parents out there with Year 11 offspring – you have my sympathy. The Boy is doing his GCSEs this year and bitterly regrets choosing at least one. He doesn't like the teacher - he chose badly yadda yadda. I pointed out (sounding horribly like David Brent) that he can't go through life blaming other people for his poor performance. He promised to try harder. And then, a few nights ago he hovered outside my door a few nights ago, an anxious expression on his face that as parents of teenage boys know, means one of three things:

I’m in trouble at school
I’ve got a girl pregnant (yeah this little doozy of a thought pops up too)
I want something

So I was relieved when it turned out to be Number Three. Mum mum all my class are going to the Reading Festival tickets booked year in advance please please please pay you back work very hard pass my GCSEs . . . .
I hadn’t been proposed to with as much fervor. And it would be an incentive! No - not a bribe - an incentive! So I got him a ticket for the 2010 Reading Festival. I pointed out that the line up wasn't going to be announced for a while and if he was very unlucky he might end up listening to Chris de Burgh supported by The Krankies. But nothing could dim his ardour. He actually made me a cup of tea over the next two days and hugged me twice. Yes! A TEENAGER MADE ME A CUP OF TEA! I congratulated myself for understanding. I was providing a good incentive. Quite probably I was down with the kids as well. Why any day a publisher was likely to ring me up and suggest I write a book on Bringing Up Children with my light touch and ability to really get into a teenager's head.

Yeah yeah. I know. It's coming.

The next day I had a call from one of his teachers. He had an official detention for not doing an important piece of homework. I was on my way to the school for one of those Show Your Support For You Child In His/Her GCSE Year Meetings - I hadn't had my dinner and I was grumpy. I clicked off my phone and texted The Boy to tell him about the detention and he texted back saying that he didn't understand the question. But this was a total lie because teacher had already told me it was more a question of couldn't be arsed to do the work and he understood exactly what needed to be done. I was furious and felt ridiculously let down. I mean - the next day?! Husband and I grounded The Boy for a week which means he has to miss about 500 000 parties. Today The Boy sloped in from school and begged me to let him go to a particular friend's party. There's A Girl involved. I know he thinks I'm a soft touch and I said No. Not shouting or angry but if you say you're going to carry out a punishment you have to do it. Now he's next door kicking the shit out of his punchbag. I heard him thumping and crashing and thought I can't make him do anything and a tiny tiny whisper of . . . my son could hurt me if he hit me. Not that I think he ever would. But I found his rage and frustration shocking. And I feel angry and sad myself. But I can't give in. He was grounded for behaving badly and lying. I keep thinking . . boundries . . boundries . . over and over and . . I'm his mother not his mate . .

I don't know how single mothers cope. I take my hat off to all of you.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Final Draft

There was once a sketch on Smack the Pony where a hapless temp sits in front of a computer screen, her finger tremblingly poised over the keyboard. Gathering up her courage she presses one key and the whole computer explodes.

Well that's how I feel confronted with the behemoth that is Final Draft. I know that once I'm up and running, it will make the script writing process so much easier. I know it does amazing formatting tricks. And that when you finally type The End, you can look over a polished, pristine script that reeks of professional. But for now, as a total beginner, it makes me feel as though I'm taking an exam on the inner workings of the Inland Revenue. It's so big! So confusing! It keeps asking me things! And I'm convinced that the tone of the questions FD asks me are becoming more and more exasperated. Do you really want to do this? Are you sure? Do you actually want to save this? So this is what I've done so far.

1. Read the tutorial. Skipped bits. Got confused. Sulked. Shut the tutorial and had a biscuit.
2. Taken myself in hand in a stern manner and gone back to read the tutorial Properly this time. Had another biscuit.
3. Tried typing bits to see if anything bad happens.
4. Gone back over my actual script littered with supportive notes like too expensive and be funnier and think of a way of doing The Great Fire of London on the cheap from my producer. Noticed sadly that a bad line typed in a professional format is still very much a bad line. Sulked more.
5. Typed the title page.
6. Sat back and looked at it admiringly. For a long time. Ate two more biscuits.

I know what's going to happen. By the time I've mastered FD, I'll have a decent script but will have to be cut out of my house by firemen using specialist equipment.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Pre-Holiday Blah

I’m off on me holidays tomorrow so today has been taken up with those glamorous last minute jobs like:

Dropping off the cats to their eye-wateringly expensive cattery where each cat is housed in a two story chalet with litter tray and comfy cushions. Only we’re sticking the two in together because we’re cheap. There was a whole row of these chalets full of sullen cats, like those elderly people you see on British beaches, with blankets on their knees as the wind whistles by. We left Charlie having a poo and Lola glaring at us, nose pressed against the mesh. ‘It’s like the Paw-shank redemption’ said Husband wittily.

Clearing out the fridge – the liquefied vegetables, the brown lettuce, the limp carrots. Wiping stuff. Sniffing stuff. Quietly retching.

Asking The Boy to clean up his room before we go. A truly pointless exercise, even though his room smells like very old curry and sick. With a hint of death.

Deep breathing because I hate flying. I begged my doctor for a few sedatives, but his only concern was that I might be too out of it to ‘care for the children’. I decided not to say, ‘Yeah? So?’ but politely reassured him that Husband would be there too, while thinking ‘Wanker’. Surely being mildly out of it is better than getting bladdered? But even so, I keep thinking of the safety card in the back of the airline seat – the one that shows the plane floating on the sea. As Jack Dee said: ‘I don’t care if it floats. It’s supposed to fucking fly!’ I did find this useful set of hints though, by a Professor Robert Bor who is a psychologist and a qualified pilot which is oddly comforting. I'm still swallowing those sedatives though.

Ooh and sorting out my holiday reading. I’m bringing Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because it’s so lovely to have a Booker nominee you actually want to read! And Lisa Jewell’s new book, The Truth About Melody Browne because I love her.

See you in a couple of weeks and happy holidays!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Abridging a book

Over the last month, I’ve been slicing and dicing a book for Radio 4, from its original 70 thousand words down to 22 thousand which works out as ten episodes each with 2,200 words. At the same time I’ve been thinking about plotting a book, and during my arsing about trying to avoid work research I found this totally marvellous blog which gives very useful advice on how to write a tight synopsis. The writer’s name is Beth Anderson and she writes thrillers which I’m sure you know are driven by a watertight plot and fast pacing. Anyway, I’ve abridged several books now and it basically means taking out anything that doesn’t drive the narrative forward. Firstly you have to read the book a couple of times to get a feel for it. Then you go through cutting any sub plots or anything that doesn’t move the narrative forward, while retaining the basic story. Then you go through again, and this time you might have to make decisions about cutting bits of the main narrative. This will often lead to chopping scenes and then stitching it back together in a sort of Franken-book where you hope the bolt in the neck doesn’t show too much. My producer once told me that the better written a book, the harder it is to abridge because there is so little fat on it.

It takes a bit of confidence to abridge a book because you're like a really nasty editor with a red pen, slashing and cutting through whole chapters. But it really does make you think about what is essential in a book. Because having stripped back that much, with some books, the whole plot falls apart. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, but the one I’ve just abridged only succeeds because the main character is so compelling. But the actual plot has holes the size of a swiss cheese. I had to break the Abridging Rule which is you never add words of your own to stitch bits together unless it's absolutely utterly necessary. (If you add your words the work becomes an adaptation as opposed to an abridgment.)

So if abridging a book reveals the plot holes, Beth Anderson’s blogs shows you how to write a perfect tight synopsis – a selling tool - one you can build a whole watertight book from. Very basically she forces you to write one sentence summing up the whole book, with no fluff or curly bits. One sentence that determines exactly what your book is all about. Then another sentence describing the beginning. Finally one sentence describing the ending.

Then you go back and fill in the major roadblocks. It’s very hard work, so much so that I haven’t done it. But I have printed it off and written How To Write A Synopsis in big black letters on it. And having finished my abridgement, the writer of the book would have written a much tighter plot if he had read that blog too.

Monday, 27 July 2009

It's nearly four o'clock and I've done f*** all!

This week I've booked The Girl into some nice kiddy kennels down the road where she can do all the stuff I'm too lazy/nasty/useless to do like potato prints and sloppy painting. 'Are you a bit nervous?' I said this morning as I hared around wiping, mopping and faffing. 'No' said The Girl. 'I just wish you'd hurry up.' (She's five). After I'd dropped her off with the kind of nice, sunny, cheerful carer I wish I could be occasionally, I had to go and get a set of keys cut, phone someone to redo our will (I'm leaving some money to Moorfields Eye Hospital after they saved my sight. Husband didn't look too pleased. 'How much?!' he asked. 'They saved my sight!' I snarled. 'And if I left it to you - you'd give them a cheque for £5.99.' A frosty silence ensued. Then I asked if he wanted to leave anything particular if he dies first. 'No' he replied sanctimoniously, 'I'm leaving everything to you.') Then after picking up the key, I rushed back home because Husband had gone on one of his Laundry Sprees where he checks that it's pissing with rain outside, then puts everything into the washing machine, before realising there is NOWHERE to hang it, except over every chair and radiator in the house, so the place looks like a doss house, knickers festooning every surface. Then I booked a train ticket. Then I poked around the fridge looking for lunch to jump out and shout: 'Here I am!' while feeling vaguely guilty about not doing something else.

The something else is that a producer has offered to option a script I wrote a while ago. I have to do some more work on it while he will try to flog it to a television company. As well as that I'm adapting a children's book for radio 4 at some point. So in the space of a few weeks there's suddenly shedloads of work, and yes, I'm very pleased but also a bit . . .I don't know. Is this what Lily Allen called The Fear? So - of course I'll get on with it. But while I'm running back and forth to meetings and taking notes, domestic life piles up and up and up. And that's with a very domesticated Husband. So that when I find myself at home with The Girl painting away in kennels and The Boy (well to be honest, I've no idea where he is) and I'm on my own and there's work to be done . . somehow I find myself doing domestic stuff instead. Right. Cup of tea then I'll really get down to it.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ip Dip Doo

Ok. There is no delicate way of putting this. Last night after dinner – my stomach started gurgling unpleasantly, like a distant drain, in the way that makes you know absolutely that farting would not be a good idea. Having just recovered from weeks of a nasty eye infection, I felt more irritated than anything. Went to bed feeling faintly nauseous but okayish. Poor Husband had been secretly worrying about having a grumpy one eyed wife so I didn’t want to bother him too much. Woke this morning, creaked out of bed lumpily, stood up, and felt a deep growling warning in the pit of my stomach. You know how people say there is nothing more undignified than giving birth? Probably true but knowing with utter clarity you are 1.3 seconds away from pooing yourself runs a very close second.

Anyway, I was sitting on the loo feeling like I’d swallowed a Semtex laxative. And in trotted The Girl. All parents of small children will understand that feeling of wanting just a few seconds to yourself in the morning before being assaulted by a stream of chirping consciousness. Many has been the morning I’ve crept to the bathroom, begging silently for The Girl to stay asleep. (The Boy being nearly fifteen could sleep through a nuclear explosion). It never happens. She’s at her most perky at 7am. Hello mummy I had a dream and my friend Molly said that I couldn’t play with her and I want a banana for breakfast and my teacher said I have to remember . . . . I sometimes feel mild irritation that she won’t even let me go to the loo in the morning without insisting on accompanying me. She normally sits on the side of the bath with her increasingly smelly soft toy Tigger, chirping away.

This morning was no different, despite my affliction. She sat there on the side of the bath holding Tigger. Only this time there was a more rancid aroma in the air than her favourite soft toy. I’m going to hold my nose mummy she announced in a matter of fact tone because it smells of poo. And she did. But she carried on chattering away while I sorted myself out. It occurred to me that even though I must have looked a right sight, and didn’t smell too clever either – she still wanted to sit with me, chatter to me, be with me. It was slightly humbling. And gave me a little glow. Which rapidly disappeared when feeling much better I took her to school and she tugged her teacher on the sleeve and announced piercingly loudly, Mummy just pooed herself.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Pain is good . . .yeah yeah

Like about 2 billion other women I sat fuming at Denis Walsh’s notion that pain in childbirth is a good thing and helps (oh God here we go again) the ‘bonding experience.’ More guilt mongering cock. I have every respect for natural childbirth – having had an epidural that didn’t fucking work and thus having it forced on me. Did I feel more bonded? Nope. Just stunned relief she was out. I remember the Nigerian midwife yanking out the Girl in a flood of lubricating jelly and gunge while I sat, sweat dripping onto the bed. She asked me if I wanted to hold the baby and I shook my head vigorously. Because I wanted just a few seconds to catch my breath and get my body back. Husband held her while I sat crumpled, head spinning.

Here’s the thing. I knew I wasn’t in danger. I’d already had a baby so I also sort of knew what to expect. I did my breathing. Husband reminded me to breathe in fact (and was rewarded by a spurt of language a Docker would have blushed at). And I tried to think of the word ‘sensation’ instead of ‘pain’. And you know what? If someone had offered me a bullet at one point I would have taken it. Good on you if you want to have a drug free birth. But if you’re a man do not make moral pronouncements on a pain you will never experience. Not unless you’ve inserted a golfing umbrella up your arse, opened it and pushed it out again.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Eye Eye

Haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. Not because I’ve been on holiday although it felt like stepping out of the world (which to my annoyance carried on perfectly well without my participation – a lesson to us all). I developed a corneal ulcer and came within a whisker of losing the sight in one eye. Cue going back in time music and wobbly seventies screen effects . . . .

Monday night Husband and I had some friends over for dinner and I was rejoicing too much in the fact that my cherry cheesecake a) tasted nice and b) didn’t collapse into a mangled heap when removed from the tin, to notice that my right eye felt mildly uncomfortable. I took out my contacts, put on my specs and thought no more of it. Next day the eye felt more scratchy and sore. Now all of you lens wearers will know that it’s possible to scratch the cornea, and develop an infection in the scratch, although if you wear disposables, this is less likely. So I thought I’d scratched it and imagined it would just get better by itself. Alas, just like my mother I have an element of ‘don’t make a fuss’ when it comes to my health which I accept is deeply stupid. (If her leg was severed, my mum would hop to hospital with the other leg under her arm). I'm not quite so bad but there's a half way house between imagining every cough is lung cancer and the other extreme where you're scraping gangrene off your leg and soldiering on.

Wednesday I couldn’t sleep – a fork was jabbing my eye. Thursday, Husband took me to A&E who dripped a wonderful liquid I thought of as ‘eye heroin’ into my eye which removed the pain temporarily and packed me off to Moorfields Eye Hospital. It was a hot day and travelling on the tube, even with a companion was terrifying. I kept thinking I’d missed the step. I stumbled up the suddenly blurred escalators. People brushed past sweatily. Husband held my hand but I still felt jostled. My world was getting narrower and darker.

Moorfields diagnosed a Staphylococcus aureus, with fluffy edges which made it sound like some sort of Cbeebies infection. Specialists pried my eye open, and various experts kept nipping in to marvel at the fluffiness of the infection that was eating into my cornea. Most of the time they snapped from medical curiosity to genuine sympathy. Once a doctor mentioned prognosis and blindness in the same sentence. I burst into tears, picked up a tissue to wipe my eyes, and she literally knocked it out of my hand. 'You were going to wipe the good eye' she said. 'You don't want the infection to spread.' I managed to feel shock, horror and gratefulness in about three seconds. My eye seemed to be permanently rammed open. I began to feel like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. They gave me antibiotics and told me to come back the next day. I felt they weren’t telling me something. Husband and I went home. He took over everything. I couldn’t read, couldn’t watch tv and had a pounding headache. There was no worrying about deadlines – they were an impossibility. I cancelled everything and lay down in a darkened room with damp cotton wool over my eye. I wasn’t allowed to take any eye heroin with me (it reduced the effectiveness of the antibiotics) but one kind corneal specialist looked the other way while I slipped some into my bag. It was impossible to sleep without it.

Over the next week, I went back to Moorfields every day while they monitored my eye. I got to know the stifling heat of the waiting rooms and the rabbit warren corridors. I heard people complaining about being kept waiting for more than an hour. ‘I don’t mind but I’ve got things to do’ huffed one woman. ‘Like what?’ said her husband. ‘I was going up Sidcup for the bingo’ she whinged. I sat and listened to the hum of the few working fans and felt thankful that Moorfields and the NHS existed and all I had to pay for were the drugs that would (probably) make my eye better.

On the fourth day the corneal specialist told me that they were worried the infection might perforate the cornea and lead to permanent blindness. Being myopic anyway, I’d always made feeble jokes about ‘being blind’ but this was the real deal. If the drugs didn’t work . . .If I’d come in to the hospital one day later I would have lost the sight of my right eye. But they had caught it in time. My eye was responding.

Now after a week and a half, my right eye is still blurred but the infection is shrinking and I’m feeling much better. I’m not out of the woods yet but almost. And I’m more grateful to the skill and kindness of the staff at Moorfields than I can express.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Flesh eating bikini bugs!

Never mind the crumbling economy, the Iranian elections, the fear of unemployment or the ever encroaching rampage of swine flu, it's summer and ladies - that means Are You Bikini Ready? That sentence is everywhere on Laydee News. You'd think that over the summer, British women forgo wearing clothes altogether and just mince about in string bikinis. Why here I am right now sitting in front of my computer wearing only a string bikini, feeling vaguely foolish and just hating the way my stomach sticks out. And even if you do cut out entire food groups or exist on cardboard cereal to lose weight, the Mail warns you could contract the dreaded flesh eating bikini bug!

Of course you could buy that new slimming pill that costs about £50 a month and causes your lower intestines to run out of your arse? Oooh sexy. Or you could pay a beauty therapist to rub micro anti-cellular gel with added liposomes onto your legs while you lie there wincing and tearing up fivers. I happened to switch on Lorraine Kelly this morning who was talking to a nice lady about whether the £400 cellulite treatment she had road tested had actually worked. And here's the before and after said Lorraine showing the pictures of the lady's before and after thighs. It's more important how you feel added Lorraine after the two seconds it took to realise that there was absolutely no difference whatsoever. I do feel more toned though said the lady obediently. Her eyes told a different story though. They said I am standing in a pink swimsuit on national television talking bollocks. . Here's my solution.

1. Go to Elizabeth Hurley Beachware. Look at the prices she charges. Pay particular attention to the strapless towelling beach 'dress' ie a towel with buttons which costs £105. Laugh very loudly. Feel better instantly.

2. Go and buy a cheap cotton kaftan.

3. Put it on over your swimming cozzie.

4. Have an ice cream.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bang! There Go Your Eggs

I've had two babies, one in my late twenties and the other in my late thirties. The second time I sat in a grubby antenatal clinic in a London hospital and stared at the chromosome chart on the opposite wall. After the age of 38 the line indicating the possibility of a chromosome disorder shoots up vertically, as though poked with an electrical stick. Whoooooo - up it goes - a salutary warning to anyone selfish enough to get pregnant after the allotted window of time (in between finding a father, your job, enough money) which seems to be between 20 and 25 ish. I was 39.

Later I spoke to a Man in a Suit. 'She's looking very well isn't she?' he said to the midwife. I was in the same room. And even later when he ascertained my advanced age and the fact I'd just had two miscarriages he added, 'I know it's not what you want to hear but the optimum time to have a baby is late teens or early twenties.' Transfixed by that chart I'd decided to have amniocentesis where a needle is injected into the womb to find out if your baby has Downs. 'But in my early twenties I was dating cold, critical arseholes' I bleated, deciding not to add, ' . . . just like you.'

They're at it again - the fertility timebomb. There is an epidemic of middle age pregnancy shrieks The Royal College of Obstetricians making it sound like a Pregnancy Plague. Yes I know you can't mess with biology. And yes some women (and men) are too cavalier about pregnancy and forget that it does get harder to get pregnant as you get older. BUT I also know how bad I was at parenting when I was in my twenties.

I had an easy pregnancy followed by a traumatic and terrible birth, two major operations and a period of post natal depression. In all the books I read, nobody told me that it really helps to have a secure sense of who you are before you start messing with another small, helpless life. My marriage crumbled under the stress of depression, and lack of money. Yes you can have a baby young but to be any kind of a parent you need stability, security, confidence.

I had my second baby after a couple of miscarriages. This time I was determined. I took my temperature, I knew when I would ovulate. Poor Husband was treated like a Porn Fluffer. 'Right - I'm ovulating! Get it up!' was the only foreplay he had. But I knew that I was running out of time. I also asked for and got Clomid a fertility drug that basically kicks your eggs up the arse. (Please don't ever order it on the Internet by the way and they won't give it to anyone with a history of ovarian cancer - it can overstimulate cells.)

Got pregnant ten years after the last one. Yes I was ten years older. But I was in a completely different place (uggh sorry about the LA jargon but it's true). I felt good, I was writing - we had more money - I had stopped smoking - did loads more exercise and most of all I felt CONFIDENT. And confidence is what makes for good parenting. I just ignored the advice and endless blah and got on with it.

To anyone who is over forty and wants to get pregnant, no it's not easy and my suggestion is - get your fertility checked out if you're thinking seriously about having a baby. You might have to get on with it on your own, but hey - if you want a baby that much, it's not the end of the world. There is help out there. And the women I know who want a baby a bit later - well they really really want one. It goes beyond a feeling that a baby is a right - it becomes a serious need. They really want to be a mother. And that can't be bad for a baby.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

More Daft Band Names

The Boy came waltzing home last night while Husband and I were eating dinner on our laps like the old farts we are. 'Oh man - I had such a great time. I was thrown about in the pit and had my head kicked in at least twice!' I tried not to wince. 'Did they play some nice tunes?' I asked sounding about 125.

The Boy floated up to his bedroom. 'Is he on drugs?' I hissed, now sounding 125 and a possible reader of the Daily Mail. Husband, having had a bit of a past drugs wise pointed out that The Boy didn't have dilated pupils, didn't smell of drink, and wasn't acting like he was off his head. 'He's just high on life'. Remember what that felt like?

Anyway today I'm sitting by my computer having sent off my script to nice producer, and thinking about weird band names. I though Enter Shikari and We Are the Ocean were bad enough but a friend of mine pointed out there was a band called Also the Trees. So we came up with a list of the top ten stupid band names. All are real:

1. One Day as a Lion
2. Half Man Half Biscuit
3. Butthole Surfers
4. Anal Sushi
5. Dogs Die in Hot Cars
6. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
7. Broken Social Scene
8. My Dad is Dead
9. This Bike is a Pipe Bomb
10.The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I used to like Half Man Half Biscuit but at least they had a sense of humour! It reminded me of that silly boy who married Peaches Geldof for money. Who? you may ask. He's the long haired twit who thought that marrying another long haired twit would garner his band some much needed publicity. If you're at all interested his adolescent shenanigans can be read about here. The thing is, now he's known not for his music or whatever but as That Dickhead who paid Peaches Geldof to Marry Him. Maybe that's what he should rename his band . . . . .

Monday, 15 June 2009

Boy Bands

The Boy is off to see a band tonight called Enter Shikari. They sound like some kind of Thai starter to me. 'Oooh I feel like a nice portion of Enter Shikari. With a side of crispy noodles.' Enter Shikari? Did bands always have such wankily pretentious names? The other one was We Are The Ocean. And what - you are a puddle presumably?

'So what songs do they write?' I asked over eagerly. The Boy looked at me in disgust and left the room. Two minutes later he was back. 'Can I borrow your hair straighteners?'

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Inconsequentials

No - not my granny's term for underwear but the sheer amount of brain clogging stuff I seem to wade through on the domestic front before during and after any proper work can be achieved. Last week I sat through the numbing spectacle of a classful of five year olds muttering something inaudible about Farmer Duck. Despite my utterly brilliant Girl saving the show by muttering inadibly with her usual star quality, I sat, mind racing with all the crap that had to be done that day. Inconsequential crap. That nobody would notice. Unless it wasn't done.

1. Buy a green t-shirt for The Girl's Sports Day.
2. Run very fast past the School Office in case the long clawed arm of the PTA suddenly shot out. Remember those bits in the Hammer films when Christopher Lee shouts: Don't look into the eyes! PTA is just like that. You stop for a five minute chat and two seconds later you've been seconded into baking 200 cakes, directing the school panto for the next five years and supervising the school trip to Beijing. Any feeble protests about a full time job don't get you off the hook either.
3. Pick up half eaten worms off the kitchen floor. The cats have given up on offering live frogs and now feel my tastes extend to decomposing worms instead.
5. Pick up Husband's dry cleaning. I go to the dry cleaner's so often he actually smiles at me. Maybe he likes me! Husband perks up. Maybe he'll give you a discount.
6. Water the tomatoes. Wonder why they're not growing faster. Go back upstairs to office and wonder what that terrible smell is emanating from The Boy's bedroom.
7. Discover that the pillowcase I deliberately stuffed with The Boy's half-eaten apples and sandwiches that he left by the side of the bed (deciding to Show Him The Consequences of His Actions) - he has been peacefully sleeping on for the past week and the contents of said pillow are now green and pulpy. He hasn't even noticed! Resist squealing like a girl.
8. Look out of window and see next door's cat trying to have a poo on my tomatoes. Shout in rage and shake fist ineffectively. Cat looks at me then strolls off tail in the air in that fuck you manner that cats have down pat.
9. Sit down at computer. Get writer's block.
10. Get biscuit to help with writer's block. Decide to water the plants again with hose. See next door's cat on the shed roof. Deliberately turn the hose on the little shitter. Feel better.
11. Writer's block gone. Hurrah! Do some work.
12. Hear loud knock at door. Peep out of window and recognise old bag from No 42 and owner of probably very wet cat. Think about confronting her with her cat's tomato crapping habit and my just revenge.
13. Hide under the desk instead till she goes away.
14. Lunchtime!

It's all my fault. And it will be better tomorrow. But it feels so foolish when Producer rings and asks when the draft of script will be ready. Life keeps getting in the way. It sounds so feeble. It is. But it does.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It's Kit Courteney!

And not Kit Courtney. But the link did work. Sorry. And she has two dogs. Not one. I usually pride myself on good spelling and a modicum of accuracy so am now deeply pissed off at myself.
*starts writing Kit Courteney out a hundred times*

Monday, 1 June 2009

Ten Random Things

Lovely Wife of Bold has given me an award so I'm going to go all Gwyneth Paltrow for a minute. So much love . . . sniff . . .blub . .goop . . . thank you . . .

What a delicious way to start the week now that The Boy and The Girl have finally gone back to school after a week of driving me mad I'm missing spending quality time with my lovely children. The deal is that a) I link to seven other blogs and b) talk about myself endlessly. No problem. After some thought here are my blog choices.


Kit Courtney (My first follower so y'know - a bit special. And she writes with fluidity and ease. And her dog is lovely!)

How Publishing Really Works (Just essential for every writer. Reminds you of where you are aiming as well as how to aim)

Product Placement (Lovely, friendly and loads of useful information about makeup and girl stuff. Could grow to be the UK version of Makeupalley.

Atheist Revolution (Not everyone's cuppa but a thoughtful passionate and necessary counterpoint to the frightening kind of Christian extremism that grips much of the US by the throat)

The Daily Quail (wonderful slap in the face to the Daily Mail)

Caution - Woman at Work! (Only just discovered this one but it's energetic, funny and honest)

Help! I Need a Publisher (I particularly like this site because Nicola Morgan deals mainly with children's books. She is passionate about writing and it really really shows. Her advice is invaluable)


Ten Random Things About Me

1. I once did a parachute jump from 12,000 feet. I've never felt fear like it, but once done it gave me a touchstone by which to measure other fears. As in Come on you lazy bint. You've jumped out of a plane - now get that script finished you hopeless twat and other exercises in self-love.

2. I think that people accept you the way you present yourself. So walk in with your head held high and nobody will guess you're a quivering insecure wreck.

3. I bitterly regret sleeping with two particular people. Not at the same time I hasten to add, but both times I slept with them for *cringe* validation. I was very young at the time but it's something I want to drum into my daughter. Never do this and never assume that if someone wants to go to bed with you, you are somehow obliged to reciprocate.

4. I don't understand why so many young women are embarrassed to be thought of as feminists. They do believe they should have equal pay, equal rights, support from the fathers of their children, not be subject to gropes and catcalls at work, and reproductive rights though. All things hard won by feminists! Be grateful you selfish minxes!

5. A week before 9/11 I took The Boy up to the top of the World Trade Centre. I remember thinking how cheerful and chatty the lift guy was, considering he took people up and down it all day long. 'I love my job ma'am' he said.

6. I can eat my own weight in cheese.

7. I've recently taken up running. This may be linked to point 6.

8. When I was a teenager my parents trusted me to attend a Catholic Sunday School. I snuck out and went to see The Clash at Brixton Academy instead. Because I looked so guilty when I returned home (default Catholic behaviour) my parents never questioned me.

9. I don't get Bo Selecta. I think he's spectacularly unfunny.

10. When I was small my uncle had this fabulous black labrador dog called Jake who was so well trained, he could be trusted to babysit me. No really. Jake knew he was not to let me out of the house. Then Jake was accused of sheep chasing and my uncle had to shoot him. A week later they found it was another dog. It broke my heart.

Friday, 22 May 2009

My body is a temple

In other words there are bits falling off it, damp patches, strange lumps, and hairs sprouting in dark corners. Today, as the sun was shining for about three minutes I got to grips with my St Tropez and slapped it all over my legs. Then I put on a slutty short skirt and spent about ten minutes checking to see if any extra cellulite had grown during the night. The Girl watched me. 'Mummy I've got a hundred friends' she said. Just like a celebrity. Then realising we were late for school I dashed downstairs to find that The Boy's armpit stench had somehow permeated the living room where it hung like a plague miasma, even though he had left half an hour previously.

The Girl and I nipped off to school. They close the gates at 9am like The Shawshank Redemption, so any late parents suffer the shame of having to go in the Back Entrance, proclaiming their tardiness and ineptitude to the school. Only now they don't call it lateness anymore - it's A Lateness Outcome and we have to think of Punctuality Solutions. (Like not spending half the morning checking our arses for cellulite.) I dropped The Girl off at her class and she announced in a clear, keen voice: 'Mummy was late because she spent a lot of time looking at her bottom.'

I was going to buy her some sweets but she can think again. Happy Half Term!

Thursday, 21 May 2009


My Irish grandfather, (pictured left) was orphaned at the age of four. While his sisters were packed off to varying relatives, he and his elder brother were sent to the Christian Brothers. Granda left the Christian Brothers abruptly when he was in his late teens. Nobody could understand why; he was all set for a career as a teacher and everybody knew a boy was very lucky to get such a rounded education with the Christian Brothers. The ungrateful little heathen! And of course granda never spoke of why he left. Who would he talk to? So we never knew whether he witnessed abuse or suffered it himself.

Well it’s all come out now – the whole rotten story. Decades of systematic abuse carried out by nuns and priests, collusion by the State who stood by and let it happen and right at the top of the festering pile of rank hypocrisy, a Pope who lectures us on morality, while his own past demonstrates his own knowledge and deliberate collusion in this ongoing crime.

Back in 1962 - 47 years before this report was dragged kicking and screaming into the light, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was writing a document called Crimen Solicitationis written in Latin (deliberately so fewer people could understand it). It was an explicit policy to cover up cases of abuse and gave advice how to control the problem. The rape of children was seen as a sin against chastity. Not a gross abuse of power, nor a crime. A sin against chastity. Most importantly, this document stated that anybody who spoke out about abuse was to be threatened with excommunication. Silence and secrecy - the perfect climate in which to hide abusers. Incidentally, for all his care in protecting abusive clery, Ratzinger had no suggestions on how to help the victims. There was nothing about that. Nothing. Even in 2001 when the abuse enquiry was underway, Ratzinger carried on obstructing progress quite deliberately - sending letters to Bishops ordering them to keep allegations secret.

This is the man who is now Pope and supposedly Christ’s representative on Earth.

I honestly don’t know how anyone can continue to be Catholic. And don’t give me the ‘few rotten apples’ malarkey. This was systematic, deliberate abuse carried out by many many ordinary priests and nuns. I blame the officials who for decades ignored the broken bones and malnourished children, the holy catholic mothers who sent their pregnant daughters to these hellholes, the relatives who hustled away the girls who complained of being molested by the parish priest, the nuns who took the babies of these girls and sent them abroad to good catholic families, the boys who were taken from their homes because they were being brought up by a single mother and were therefore in moral danger, and the little girls who worked as slaves in the Magdalene Laundries. And the apologists on all the catholic forums I’ve been visiting who bleat about how probably a lot of the victims made it up. You're all to blame. Shame on you. And shame on the Pope most of all. He is a wicked wicked man.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

CBeebies Opportunity

Thanks to Kim for the heads up on this. CBeebies are looking for half hour television scripts. You have to get them in by July 1st. The shortlisted scripts get mentored and £300 development fee. Try not to spend it all at once. And there doesn't seem to be anything concrete about an actual television commission. But if you do get one, for goodness sake, check the contract, and hang onto the copyright. Sorry - I've suddenly gone all sarcastic. It's just that the BBC are always saying how brilliant children's telly and radio is, and how it really should be nurtured while slashing their budgets at the same time.

No - ignore me. Write a brilliant script and send it to CBeebies. Just hang onto the copyright.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Burn the Working Mothers!

I am really really fucked off. There's yet another article hot on the heels of a BBC programme on working mothers which has once more sparked off a debate on working mothers. Notably the BBC programme is entitled The Trouble With Working Women. Not The Trouble with a 17%and Growing to 20% Pay Gap or The Trouble With a Culture that Seeks to Punish Working Mothers. As usual it's us selfish bints wanting to Have it All.

What is wanting to Have it All exactly? It's bandied around so much but all it seems to mean is a woman who simply wants some sort of existence outside the domestic sphere. And for most of us that means paid work. Most women work not to buy luxuries but to pay bills. One of the most infuriating nonsense that gets spouted about working mothers is that if only we were prepared to give up 'luxury holidays' and 'designer trainers' (anti working mothers are obsessed with this idea that women's salaries pay for expensive footwear) and if we just stayed at home, our children would be happier and so secretly would our partners. Which reminds me. Where the fuck are our boyfriends and husbands? Because whenever this subject comes up, it's a given that the Husbands don't do much round the house. Why should that be? Is it true? Sigh sigh - I have to do everything at home. Is it true that most working women do the vast majority of the domestic work as what - punishment for working outside the home? If this is true - the problem isn't work - it's having a lazy arsed husband.

The woman cited in this programme is is Rosanna Omitowoju, a Cambridge fellow. She has four children, a happy marriage, (maybe for him) a fulfilling full-time job and no outside help. She wakes her children at 7am, gives them breakfast and delivers them to three different schools by bike. “The problem with having it all,” says Raworth in the voiceover, “is you have to do it all every day.”

So where's her bloody husband? Why is it all her problem? If they both work full time why can't they afford a bit of help? And why is the media image of the working mother presented as so relentlessly negative?

This is the problem with working women.
1. The pay gap between women and men is 17% rising to 20%
2. The pay gap between part time women and men is 28%
3. Being a father is about doing your share - not 'helping out' when you feel like it. Why is it accepted with a martyred shrug that a working mother is somehow expected to shoulder the entire domestic burden too?

The trouble is not with working women. The trouble is with a culture which seeks to punish and shame working mothers and distract them from the gross inequality of not paying them the same as a working man.

And one other thing. I'm a working mother and I don't feel guilty about it. And if The Boy wants designer trainers he can save up and buy them himself.

This is why I work (when I'm not ranting)

1. I like to earn my own money so I don't have to go to my husband like a little girl asking for pocket money.
2. Very few people have a job for life now. Having one person bear the full financial burden is a very heavy one. Especially now.
3. What happens if Husband gets ill? Or leaves me? Or dies? How does financial penury make for better parenting?
4. I like working. It makes me feel like me.

Please can someone do a programme on working mothers where mum comes home at the end of the day, and Husband has just put the kids to bed. Mum says: 'Oh I'm so glad you've got the babies to bed babe.' Dad says: 'Well they're my kids too. Oh and I put the washing on.' Mum says: 'Great. Let's get a takeaway and have hot sex on the sofa.' They both have a takeaway and then fall asleep snoring. Now that's what I call positive parenting. And not a jot of guilt in sight.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Waxing as Work Avoidance

I've just rewritten a sitcom for the seventh time and it's sort of getting there, in the way that you stuff a duvet into a duvet case and after much pulling, tugging, shaking and swearing realise that it's sort of ending up with the corners matching but you're getting in a sweat about it and you won't know until you give it all a good shake and let it settle.

I've let it settle because I'm a believer in letting writing marinate a little and then going back to it when you've gained a little perspective. Sadly the perspective is often likely to be a crushing realisation that what you've written needs to be rewritten. So to avoid this pain, I decided to get a good waxing done. It was my birthday yesterday and Husband was in Hong Kong on business (huh - the things he does to avoid getting me a present) - and the children were at school so I nipped off to the local beauty salon.

"I don't know why people make such a fuss about this," I squeaked at the Australian girl who was slapping boiling wax over my tender parts. "Just one quick rip and I'll have all the hair off" she said cheerfully. Then she yanked and waited till I peeled myself off the ceiling. "Do you know you have a hair sticking out your belly button?" No I didn't. "We'll get that little beauty out then!" And she hauled that maverick bit of hair out too while I tried to catch up on all the orange celebrities explaining how the recently deceased Jade was their best friend and brought so much joy into everyone's life. It was difficult as my eyes kept filling up with tears (of pain). "Men don't have to go through this" I moaned. My waxer disagreed. "Oh they do. Some guys come in and they want it all off." What including the back bits? "No - I don't do arseholes" she said. I decided to leave the conversation there. Then I went home feeling very smooth and groomed if a year older, and had a few hours to myself before the children came home. After that a dear friend cooked me steak and chips with proper Bearnaise sauce, and poured the sort of red wine that has an old, slightly grubby aftertaste but in a good way. Just like me really.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Pets for Tea!

Nobody does fake moral outrage like The Sun. Well maybe The Mail but they're infinitely more spiteful about it. The Sun is like a fat, drunken uncle rambling on in a xenophobic yet vaguely amusing manner while The Mail is a lemon lipped mean spirited auntie who hates everyone and writes poison pen letters on her day off.

ANYWAY - the Sun ran a story spluttering in outrage over Pets for Tea. Apparently a primary school which won an award for healthy eating is breeding animals and letting the children help run an organic farm to show children where their meat comes from. Sounds laudable to me. Then one day, the pet piggies disappeared, only to reappear as (gasp!) sausages at 3.25 a pack. One mother has suggested this might be insensitive. Meanwhile the Headmaster cheerfully admits that he ate the back leg of a pig named Ginger for Sunday lunch. And The Sun has turned it into Piggygate.

Personally I think children are far less squeamish than we give them credit for and it's brilliant that more schools are taking children to farms and trying to reconnect between animals and the shrink wrapped meat we pick up in supermarkets. And without being too hippy dippy about it, I wonder why we're so bothered teaching or even exposing children to the idea of death. I remember clearly being in floods of tears while we had out old cat put down, but The Girl stood by quite calmly. No we didn't eat the cat. The Husband is still complaining about back twinges after digging a hole big enough to bury his enormous furry body. And we left a little memorial reading:

Here lies Sydney, the favorite cat. He was old and very very fat.

(The Girl insisted on the second line) And then a few weeks later I overheard her saying to a neighbour: 'We have a cat called Sydney. But he's dead.' One day she'll say that about me, I thought. Or maybe by then I'll be turned into sausages too.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Those Precious Family Moments

I am so lazy that I can't be bothered to go for a wee. Now that's lazy. Told you I was lazy. I will in a minute but first I have to tell you how we're spending our precious Bank Holiday Monday. Woke up and it was raining. Of course it was raining. It's Bank Holiday. Fretted about some work I have to do. Got up and found Husband cooking sausages. Checked to see that neither of our cats Charlie, nor Lola had brought in any more amphibians, like they did again last night. They've got a thing about offering us dead frogs as gifts. Charlie, the ginger one is a bit clumsy and awkward, scrambling up walls, while his would-be prey are always long gone (I swear I've seen squirrels giving him the finger) but Lola, his sister is an absolute stalking, silent killer. She's the feline version of the girl who has ariel fights, whisking through trees in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know it's an act of cat love but I've made sure her neck bell is extra loud, to try and give the poor little creatures she stalks, a chance to get away.

Lola was getting all frisky and excited, and after a quick check we discovered another frog playing dead behind The Girl's toy box. Carrying out Frog Rescue was particularly annoying because Husband and I were watching Lust/Caution and we were waaaaay past the caution part and onto some majorly fierce sex scenes. 'He'd have to have a nine inch penis to get into that position' said Husband. I digress. We rescued the frog, put it outside and watched the rest of the film. It's brilliant by the way and makes you realise how oddly vanilla and blandy bland most mainstream Hollywood films are. They don't seem to use grown up people and any sex scenes always look like they've been directed for MTV by someone called Chuck who is 35 and wears a backwards baseball cap.

So today we promised The Girl we'd help her ride her bike. Took off the stabilisers and after some shrieking and comedy wobbling, she set off round the park, yelling and cycling. It was one of those seminal moments. Watching your child learn to ride a bike. Something we can look back on as a little glowing moment amidst the rows and boredom and washing up. Possibly excepting the part she ran over Husband's sandalled feet and he shouted "FUCK!" very loudly.

Back home and now The Girl is downstairs watching Husband play Grand Theft Sweary Auto. Yes, not good, but it's quite funny hearing The Girl piping 'You've just crashed that stolen car again daddy' and 'Why did you shooted that man when he didn't do nothing?' rapidly followed by 'You're dead daddy.' Like having a little Jiminy Cricket type conscience rattling away when all you want to do is play a nihilistic computer game set in a morally dead universe. Husband, fed up with her running commentary and wanting to get on with killing people has sent her upstairs to bother me now. She trotted in announcing that 'Daddy has been shot by a big ass pimp.' Followed by the question, 'What's a pimp?' I sent her back to Husband. He plays the game he can explain it.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Creme de bullshite

It must be big news because The Husband mentioned it last night. 'Apparently there's this face cream by Boots that actually works' he said, stuffing chicken into his own face. It's called Protect and Perfect and not Le Creme de Beaute or Perfectione de Bollocks because as we all know, anti-ageing creams with french names work better, especially when modelled by fifteen year olds. But an english name is just the first surprise. The second is, the stuff seems to work. Dermatologists have given this stuff a grudging thumbs up because in a clinical study of 60 people (whoop-dee-do) 43% said it made their skin look better. As a result there has been a veritable bison like stampede to Boots. Zoe Williams makes the point that it's a bit pathetic really. We've been fed this line for years and years and the fact that out of 60 people, less than half thought it made their skin look a bit better is seen as some sort of dermatological breakthrough is pretty daft. After all, the dermatologists as opposed to the skin care companies have been saying, WEAR SUNBLOCK for years. That's what works. But here's the reason why such a fuss is being made of a fairly simple cream. Because most of the time, the information about very expensive anti-ageing creams is as I'm sure you know, a smoke and mirrors combination of PR, and utter shite. Take Creme de Mer, the most expensive face cream in the world, at £135 a 2oz pot. You may well spit out your coffee in horrified shock. Yes £135. And what do you get for your money? Why, the genius behind it, one Max Huber, who said he developed it from Pacific seaweed, as a NASA scientist to treat burns.

Ok. Except that as several dermatologists pointed out, if Creme de Mer treated burns so effectively, why wasn't it being used in hospitals? The manufacturers had no answer for this. Furthermore, when Time magazine conducted an investigation into Max Huber they found there was no record of him ever being employed by NASA. Time also conducted a scientific analysis of the ingredients in Creme de Mer. And found that the levels of the active ingredient of seaweed derivative or whatever was negligible, barely detectable. The concluded that 'creme de mer is a nice moisturiser' but that was it. A nice moisturiser? Selling at £135 a pot?

No wonder a cream tested on 60 people which makes you look marginally better is being hyped as a miracle. Personally, I'm just going to keep slapping on the sunblock.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

My Productive Morning

Today is Tuesday. It started well with me going for a run round the park as Husband was dropping The Girl off at school. So he had the joy of listening to her surreal monologues about umbrellas and what are clouds made of daddy and can I have a muffin and do we have raspberry jam because I don't like strawberry jam but my best friend Shaniyah likes it and it's amazing she never draws breath but she doesn't . . .

Ran round the park. Came back to quiet house. Cleared up sticky, jammy kitchen feeling slightly huffy. Took shower. Ate breakfast. At some point, got dressed and watched a few minutes of The Wright Stuff where they were arguing about whether or not same sex relationships should be taught in school. Taught? The Daily Mail are full of righteous fury about this of course. One of the panellists, Jodi Picoult said that every single US teenage shooter had been called 'gay' at school, so perhaps teaching tolerance might be a good thing? Found myself nodding like an old car accessory.

Still good. Went to computer, logged on, faffed about answering emails. Posted something about swine flu. Draft five of script hovering over me like a badly written fart. Looked at notes given to me by kind producer. Sighed. Checked my online account instead. A cheque has not been paid in. The curse of the freelancer - forever chasing money and trying not to feel annoyed by it. Chased cheque. Why is it that BILLS never seem to suffer from postal problems? Spent tedious twenty minutes checking that BACS details are correct. They are. It turns out that cheque payer who swore blind that he paid into my account on a certain date made a mistake. Now he has definitely paid it today. So I can expect it in my account sometime in 2021. Sat and huffed about this.

Coffee!

Opened script. Read it. Thought of joke. Added it in. Realised this takes script over the designated 26 minutes. Took joke out. Re-read script thinking about how to incorporate a helicopter. Unbelievably, it's cheaper to film a helicopter on telly than film someone travelling by underground. Script now about as funny as a heart bypass. Phone rings. Thank God! Crackle crackle. Sounds far away. Aha. A person from South East Asia wishes to speak to me. 'Hello . . Ms Par . . cel. How are you today?' I actually say 'fine thank you' because the alternative ie putting the phone down and getting on with the script is too painful.

Look at the cats washing each other. Lola is seductively licking Charlie behind the ears. He wriggles and purrs like a male cat with both bollocks, instead of the ginger spay he is. Then he pats Lola's paw. She takes exception to this and wallops him round the head hissing. It's like watching Den and Angie on Eastenders.

It's now 12.28 and I haven't rewritten the script. Guilt and self-disgust are swirling in my stomach. Oh and hunger. Must go and put on a potato to bake.

Peppa Pig Flu!



No it's not funny at all. (Peppa Pig is great though - for anyone with small children. Daddy Pig is actually quite sexy. Yes I should get out more.) And here's a very good link from the esteemed Guardian with absolutely no rubbish puns about being 'pig sick' or 'oinkment' or a 'hamdemic' Right - I'm going to stop now. Husband and I sat and listened to some grave voiced Radio 4 presenter telling us what we could do to protect ourselves. 'It's like Protect and Survive' said Husband. You remember Protect and Survive, narrated by Patrick (Danish Bacon and now Big Brother - Allen?) If you think you haven't - if you've ever heard 'Two Tribes' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, you'll have heard Patrick Allen's sonorous tones telling us what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. It was absolutely terrifying:


It was also a complete waste of time. Particular scorn was pouted on the part about the fallout being announced by 'three gongs, or three whistles'. Rung or blown by whom? And who did we ring to complain if nobody was around to bang the gongs? There was also a bit about if you were caught outside just before a nuclear attack. You were advised to 'lie down and put your coat over your head'. If only they'd thought of that in Hiroshima.

But with the mounting fears of swine flu, echoes of Protect and Survive ran round my head. We need to feel there is something we can do to protect ourselves, and our children. But apart from washing our hands, wearing masks, glaring at anyone who sneezes on the tube, and handling knobs carefully (see I didn't rise to the bait), there is nothing more we can do. 'We'd better keep an eye on The Girl' said Husband. Again - yeees I see what he means - sort of. But what do we actually do? Keep her clean? Feed her properly? Make sure she washes her hands? Yes - all that. And get on with our lives. In my case, getting back to the book. Wrote a page yesterday. Crossed it all out today. One step forward three steps back.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Starting a book

Oh it's such a beautiful day. So why am I sitting on the bed, laptop in front of me, fingers poised and frozen above the keyboard? Not literally of course - I'm typing this, which is much more fun than Starting A Book. How do real writers do this? I've had this idea fermenting for months now, made notes, wrote a few scripts in between, shouted at the children, examined my split ends and now I can't put it off any more. I have to get started. The words have to come out of my head *she says pretentiously* It's like editorial laxatives.

*Long Pause while I stare at the screen and it mocks me back*

Husband has just walked in and starts ironing his shirt. "Do you know this ironing board is older than either of our children?" I consider this. "Yes and it's a bloody sight more useful too." Knowing our luck, The Boy will still be sitting in his room among an ever growing pile of crusty pants and sticky crockery when he's 50.

Ok. I've got the title.

Coffee Break!

Don't like the title.

Anyone got any tips?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

There's a Frog in the Kitchen

What am I gonna do
There's a frog in the kitchen what am I gonna do?
I'm gonna teach that frog . .

Actually what I did was scream like a girl and hide. For God sake. The poor frog crouched froggily in the hall, eyes flickering from side to side, while through the glass of the kitchen door, two furry faces pressed up against the glass. 'Pick him up mummy' said The Girl, helpfully, from her vantage point of half way up the stairs. I did the next best thing. I ran up the stairs and woke The Boy who was extremely grumpy. 'There's a FROG in the hall!' I whimpered. 'Yeah I know' he mumbled, crawling stinkily out of his pit. 'It was in the kitchen last night so I put it in the food bin.' In the food bin?! Meanwhile the cats were scratching at the kitchen door like the floating vampire children in Salem's Lot.

Eventually after a lot of bad language, I persuaded Frog to jump into a large bag and took him outside to the front garden. I think I convinced him that the alternative was being tortured by two nasty cats with bad breath. 'Frogs are meant to go near water and grass!' shouted The Boy. 'You put him in the food bin' said The Girl smugly. So I put Frog out the front and gave him a bowl of water. I can only hope he doesn't get toad away.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Ways of making mothers look ridiculous Part 255


A friend passed this hideousity on to me today. Apparently available in NY - it's a mum, or should I say, mom and baby snugglie. Ker-ist! It's like Alien remade by Disney. All I can say is Thank God all that baby crap is behind me now - all the saintly condescension about not breastfeeding enough or too much, or not buying baby warmer wipes (I kid you not) or working, or having a life and being a mother. Or pain in the arse people telling me not to eat this or feed the kid that because they read in the Daily Mail that this survey said . . actually I can't be bothered to finish that sentence. Thank God I don't have to say to someone in a shop: 'No thanks I don't want to buy that mum and baby snugglie because I'm afraid it will make me look like an utter twat. And despite being a mother I care (occasionally) about looking like a human being and not a sci-fi twat.' Somehow, only having teenage pregnancy, drugs and insane rudeness to contend with is a walk in the park in comparison . . . .

Friday, 3 April 2009

Aaagh!

Gird your loins parents. It's that awful sinking moment when you realise the Easter Holidays are now upon us and you're stuck with your little darlings for two whole weeks! Oh and The Girl woke up today with chicken pox. Either that or virulent acne. It's probably punishment for me being snide about that P.E. teacher who demanded The Boy wore socks.

Am trying to work while The Girl lies on the sofa saying things like: 'The spots are up my bottom. Can you rub it better?' and 'The inside of my foot hurts.' Soon The Boy will arrive home full of grumbles and upsets. Yes - it's Easter Bunny time!

I want to run away to a tropical island full of interesting men who want me to talk about myself all day and pour me ludicrous drinks.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Grumpy

Am feeling very tired and grumpy at the moment for three reasons:

1. I've received a letter from The Boy's school. From his PE teacher who writes that he is 'extremely concerned by the lack of progress being made by your son in physical eduction this term' Why? Because he is wearing 'incorrect socks'. This particular PE teacher roared at The Boy,'And what would your mother think of you not wearing the right socks for PE?' and The Boy responded, 'Actually sir, I don't think she'd give a shit.' And got a big detention.

Poor Boy. He's right about me not giving shit about his socks. But it's also because some PE teachers can be strange people. I had one who was obsessed with sport - carrying a long pole with a hook on it to prevent any errant (drowning) students in the pool from clambering out. She also had a fun game of screaming that the last person out of the changing room lost a House Point, so we all had to rush like mad, struggling into our wet clothes, so as not to be the one who let down their House by losing a House Point.

I'd be worried if The Boy was being bullied or a bully himself. I'd be worried if he was depressed. And I'd be worried if he was a lazy arse. But am I worried that his socks are incorrect? No I am not.

2. I've been doing a lot of marking at the moment. And it's exhausting trying to be honest but constructive and kind at the same time. I opened a short story where the author announced they were writing 'in the style of Sylvia Plath'. And succeeded. In the sense that after I'd read it I wanted to stick my head in the oven. Why can't writers develop their own voice?

3. The Girl has started reading her Key Stage One book, and I'm supposed to make comments in the notebook. I read one note from her teacher saying: 'The Girl has difficulty in recognising some words. She should try harder'. For some reason that comment really hacked me off. What words does she have difficulty with? Existential? Erroneous? Patronising Twat? Now I know how hard it is for teachers having to push children towards targets all the time but she's five years old. I'm going to read to her and let her listen to audio stories so she grows to love words and books, at her own pace. I restrained myself (just) from writing, 'Piss Off Teecher' in the comments box.

Told you I was grumpy. Off to eat steak and watch some bad telly. Less grumpy tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Princess Party Hell

Actually I’m being dramatic (she says dramatically) as The Girl’s party wasn’t hellish, although it was tooth rottingly, bone achingly Princessy. And although I’ve read that the real hell can be other parents, who ignore the bit on the invitation that reads: Parents Fuck Off, and sidle their way in, so you have to get them drunk too, they all seemed happy to drop their children on us and run.

So it kicked off with The Girl already being hopelessly excited by 5am (the party began at 2pm) and The Husband enquiring if it were possible to get Valium to put in her milk. Anything to stop her rushing round the living room bursting balloons and giving heart attacks to the cats. I finally got up and took her out for a walk, while he made piles of sandwiches. I discovered we might need extra bowls for the pudding. We had to get plastic bowls for the multicoloured fruit jelly I’d made. You actually worry about these things when you plan children’s parties. The Girl and I then trotted off to the party shop. Do you know that those poxy branded throwaway bowls that probably cost 0.2p to make cost 3.50 EACH when you have a Disney Princess on the front? Luckily The Girl was too busy having a tantrum trying to get me to buy Disney Princess napkins at £5 a bunch to notice.

Home again to find Husband had cut up lots of carrots and cucumbers in the hope of providing one thing on the tea table that wouldn’t immediately cause Type 2 Diabetes. I worried about whether I'd put decent presents in between the layers of the parcel, in Pass the Parcel. It's not Done to just let the children fight and sulk while they unwrap; you have to provide in-between presents now! A phone call to a veteran parent on emergency games only resulted in the advice: "Send them out to the park and give £10 to the child who comes back last." Great. Almost as good as his adult party game. "Two people each drink a whole bottle of whisky, then one of them goes outside and knocks on the door. The other person has to guess who it is." Anyway 1.30 arrived and our Professional Princess showed up, with a music system. The poor woman was barely in the door before The Girl, pink with hysteria started bombarding her with questions. But Tara (her real name) was brilliant, keeping 14 little girls wrapped up in the Princess fantasy -complete with jug eared Prince, numerous affairs, and high speed death in a Parisian tunnel - yes yes I'm kidding. It was all Disney Princess Lore, far healthier as role models. All The Husband had to do was take pictures. There was one bad moment when a little girl arrived and started to cry. “I want to go home!” And the mother just managed to get her foot over the door before I picked up the girl and said in my best bossy PE teacher voice: “She’ll be fine!” and lugged the wailing child into the living room where I plied her with sweets and cuddles.

There was a fair bit of nose picking and knicker showing but no vomiting or pooing and thanks to Tara, they all had a fantastic time. At one point, remembering primary school and weeing myself because I was too shy to ask to go to the loo, I shouted the location of our bathroom above the din, which prompted a Mass Girly Toilet Visit. Fourteen little girls thundered up the stairs at once. The Husband started worrying about taking pictures of little girls. I told him to get rid of the one of the sweet little blonde girl showing her knickers and grinning broadly. It’s a shame the things we have to worry about these days. She obviously had a great time. As did The Girl. Which was the main thing. As Frances Hodgson Burnett says in 'A Little Princess' - "All little girls are Princesses!" They are. Happy birthday my little Princess.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Princess Party

A panic last night as The Girl suddenly announced she had to 'dress up for school'. I was struggling to get her out of the bath at the time, and said 'mmm' in that awful way you do when you're not really paying attention and are not thinking that one day your child will grow up to be one of those insufferable people who Never Stop Talking, because they weren't listened to as a child. But as I was drying her, she repeated that she had to 'dress up'. So I rang a proper mother, one who actually reads the school newsletter and turns up with homemade chutney to the School Fayre instead of a bought jar with the label steamed off. "Oh yes, the children have to go dressed as a book character" she told me." Fuck.

I ran through The Girl's wardrobe. There was a Chinese costume her dad had brought back from Hong Kong. "How about you going as Chairman Mao?" "NO!" Come to think of it, was there a book called Chairman Mao? Probably. But The Girl seemed curiously unwilling to dress up as a communist dictator. Tch! After a long series of rejections, she finally settled on Lola from the Charlie and Lola books. All I had to do was part her hair in the middle and stick in two clips and put her in a dress. Phew!

And now I'm up to my eyes in making jellies and cakes for her party tomorrow. A Princess Party. Our house will be swarming with sixteen sugar crazed little girls. Wish me luck . . . . .

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Elisabeth Fritzl

Among the unbearable horrors perpetrated by Josef Fritzl, for some reason, the image that sticks with me is of Elisabeth, aged 18, giving birth alone in a dark cellar, in pain, with nothing but a pair of rusty scissors and an old book on childbirth to help her. Fritzl didn't even bother to visit her for ten days after she gave birth. She must have been absolutely terrified. Under these nightmarish circumstances, it would have been understandable if she had ignored the baby or been unable to care for it. Instead, in the confines of her prison she taught that child and the others she was 'allowed' to keep, to read. She told them about life outside. She somehow managed to love them and be a mother to them. Instead of wallowing in the repellent details of Fritzl's behaviour, maybe we should also consider what an extraordinary woman Elisabeth is. He may have enslaved her for twenty four years, but he did not destroy her humanity.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Radio 4 Offers Round

Right. As anyone who reads my blog is naturally deeply intelligent and creative, I thought I'd give y'all a heads up. The Radio 4 Offers Round is now open - it runs twice a year, so you get the opportunity to get your feelings stamped on, not once but twice! Here's a link to a more detailed blah I gave on it:

Anyway, you have till 24th March to come up with An Idea. What happens is you think of a book you'd like to adapt or a fantastic comedy idea or an Afternoon Play idea, and in the first instance what they want is this:

A maximum 100 word paragraph summarising the plot.
("Brilliant 17th century Danish Prince seeks to revenge the mysterious death of
his father and in so doing loses his mind, destroys his family and overturns the
state of Denmark. Renaissance tragedy. Period verse drama." would do for
Hamlet. 35 words.)

A maximum 200 word paragraph telling us why you want to do it, how you want to
do it and why it would work for Radio 4. Do not use the second paragraph to
continue summarising the plot. Some information about the author would be
useful, especially if he or she is a first time writer for radio.

I'll pass the ideas on to my lovely producer. Radio 4 then sifts through the ideas and decides which ones they want to develop further. You then get to go through the whole thing again, only in more detailed form. I should warn you the odds are horrible, and my producer is an independent so he only gets to bid for about 15% of the total radio 4 output. If you really want to write for radio, you'd be better off getting an in-house producer. Having said that, I've had two series, some sketches and a play through indie producers. But having said THAT, even with a slight track record I'm no better off than a newbie - they rejected everything I suggested last year. Bastards. So it's all about the idea.

Oh and on the very very small off chance of you getting a commission, the pay is shit too. A couple of grand for an Afternoon Play, and about £5000 for a Woman's Hour Series.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

My so called life

It being Saturday means that The Girl has to be escorted to yet another of her f***king parties (that child has a better social life than Paris Hilton) and The Boy is planning to go to Kingston to "buy some doughnuts". And speaking of better social lives, I had a phone call from a neighbour telling me that "Charlie and Lola visit quite a lot and Lola left her collar behind". Lola is my recently spayed and sulky cat. I went round to see my neighbour. "Oh yes" he said - "Charlie and Lola pop in quite a lot. Lola grabs some biscuits, hisses at Charlie and rushes out, and Charlie just sits in a patch of sunlight. They're quite friendly with our two." These are cats we're talking about. I also learned that Lola has been "waggling her arse at the male cats". The little slapper. We clearly got her spayed just in time. I also discovered that the black and white one who I named Mrs Robinson on account of her advanced years and the fact that our male cat Charlie seems to quite fancy her, is in fact a male cat called Freddie. Shows you how much I know about cats. Come to think of it, does this mean that Charlie is a metrosexual cat? Gay? Or just deeply dim? I fear it is the latter. Whenever I put him out of the kitchen to stop him eating Lola's food as well as his own, he just sits, staring in the wrong direction, for a minute before realising he is no longer in the kitchen.

The Husband and I have no social life at the moment but our children and pets obviously do so that's all right. Oh and five minutes ago I asked The Boy to help me with some housework. "I just flushed the toilet!" he shouted with the wounded air of one who had just vacuumed the house from top to bottom.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Yes but no but yes but no!

I promise this will be my last post on the subject. But being a writer and having a teenage son, I've been a bit consumed with the Myerson affair.

Remember Vicky Pollard? Of course you do!



Yesterday someone advised Julie Myerson to hit back and appear on Newsnight to answer accusations of exploiting her son for literary (read financial) gain. This is what happened when she was hauled up in front of Paxman.

It's exactly like watching an upmarket Vicky Pollard! Everything from the impenetrable rant to the wavering off subject and self-justification to the flapping hands. I haven't been so embarrassed for someone since I saw Sarah Brightman in a negligee wafting round a piano playing Andrew Lloyd Webber.