Monday, 28 November 2011

Focus, focus, focus

Managed an hour and a half of 'writing' today.  Feel slightly overwhelmed when I recall that I started this rewrite in December or January and it isn't done yet. I'd been thinking I was on the home straight (and in a sense,  I am; I'm definitely on the part where the plot begins to wrap up) but then I see how much is left to do....

I suppose I also allow myself to look at the mountain beyond; the post-it notes of questions for my friendly neighbouring detective; the polishing and cutting and nit-picking.  I'm going to have to stop, and take a breath, and focus on just finishing the job in hand...preferably before Christmas rolls by.

Meanwhile the latest copies of Writing Magazine and Writer's Forum lie temptingly on my coffee table, still wrapped in plastic.  I've got to get more work done before I sit down and read!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Chipping away

I've done so little this week, I'm ashamed to document it.  I've been working in snatched, fifteen minute chunks, which isn't the best way for me to work.  But I'm finding that the paid work I do is eating into my evenings. It's amazing how time-consuming it is, cutting out laminated pictures, updating assessments and even writing handover emails to my job-share partner in crime.

However, I've had a couple of ideas for articles I could pitch to a pregnancy/baby magazine - if I'm brave enough, and find time. Brave enough? What's the worst that could happen....after all,  I could do with some more practise at being rejected and handling it with dignity! I wonder.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Summoning energy

A new week is breathing down my neck, and last week I didn't complete even one writing session. In fact, I've finished the week exhausted and wearied rather than ready to leap, refreshed, into the next one.  The baby is sapping my energy and it's a frenetic time of year - even when Grandmothers don't manage to squeeze in a 90th.

 I wondered whether to lower my expectations and only plan for two, rather than three, writing sessions next week.  But I decided in the end that it's better to aim high and miss than aim lower...and probably still miss. I suppose, with that in mind, I ought to go to bed ready for Monday.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


  This week isn't very productive for writing, though I've been busy in other areas.

   It's my Grandma's 90th birthday on Wednesday, which is an achievement by any standards. As we were told she was dying imminently in 1995, it's even more surprising.

  Grandma has always been one of life's enigmas and eccentrics, and there is no time to do her justice here.  But we are all anxious about Wednesday, as she  has a few mental health difficulties.  She has bipolar disorder. For her, this means that she has a good day, followed by a bad day, then a good day.  On bad days, she can be vicious, rude and always petulant.  On good days, she is much the same at first, then 'warms up' as the hours pass, eating almost non-stop.  She will stay up until after midnight, giddy and high-spirited. Wednesday should be a good day, but every so often, she misses a step, and confuses us all.  To compound matters, she suffers with senile dementia too. It's advancing slowly, but it's there.

  Her birthday is meant to be a good day, so we are all going out for a meal at lunch time.  A few of her Irish relatives (all nieces now her sisters and brother are gone) are flying over to join us, and I am taking the children out of school to be with us.  Later in the day, we will have an open afternoon at her house for friends and neighbours to drop in for cake, tea and chat.  She is well-liked locally; a colourful character who shows her charm and sparkle as often as her under-slip. 

  I foolishly offered to make the cake for the drop in afternoon.  My Mum then foolishly offered to help me out.  (Clearly age and wisdom aren't always related). We chose a three tier beast of a cake that looked simple, and I baked it. I was proud of it, until the icing stage, when it became clear that, rather like a Victorian home, there was not one straight line involved. Each cake leaned, and was lumpy, and bulged.

  We deviated from the decorations in the book, at first just a little, but each decision then changed the next one, until it looked nothing like the plan.  We used pink icing for the top two tiers - it's Grandma's favourite colour; the more grotesque and Barbie-ish the better.  My six-year old thought it looked pretty, too.  She and Grandma get on well. 

  Apart from the fact the cake was wonky and bumpy and amateurish, we had such a time icing it.  Anything that could go wrong, did, from a toddler with a Poo Incident that required a shower (and yes, I had to get in with him) to a packet of icing sugar exploding on the floor.  Luckily, my sense of humour was healthy that day, and I spent the whole day laughing.  Perhaps it was hysteria, but I prefer to think it was the resilient laughter of a mature woman. Mum says we are never doing such a big job again;  I think it's the most fun I've had in ages.

  Best of all, when we came back to the cake on Tuesday, and added ribbon to disguise its spare tyre, and edible glitter to make it look pretty, and a few curling streamers and a 90 on top, it didn't look half bad.  It wouldn't win any prizes, and I'd rather be writing, but I think Grandma will approve.  Now we just need to get it to her house in one piece, and for her to get up on her birthday to see it.  I think I'll leave that part of the process  to Mum and Dad, and get back to making myself a concrete deadline for the second draft of my book. I might as well spend my time on the thing I love.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The end is nigh 2

I'm getting quite excited, seeing the end of the second draft nearing.  I hope I'm not miscalculating, as I feel like getting my teeth into a couple of other projects for a while.  This last section needs far less major re-writing (I think), and more polishing and tightening, so it ought to be a quicker job than the start and middle. 
The tension in the story is definitely building; I can feel the pace change and my pulse is quickening, but I don't know if that's just me! I am looking forward, nervously, to exposing it to some criticism and seeing it through other people's eyes, though I think I will struggle with fear of failure AND with comments, however helpful.  But it will all help me to thicken my skin the way I need to.
Can hardly believe the end is in sight...for the second time. Although I have a few pages of my notebook full of policing questions to ask my next door neighbour next time I can collar him...

Nappy days

I suspect most family homes have certain obsessions in common.  Parenthood seems to trigger the eco-warrior within for lots of people - my husband's cardboard recycling pile is nearing its terminal height, at which point it will collapse, burying a small child or two.  Some parents become fixated on their child's educational success, and spend all their time berating schools and teachers for trying to give their child a rounded education in all sorts, when little Oliver can't yet spell 'independent'.

The weirdest thing, though, is how obsessed parents become with all things toilet related.  (Actually, judging by the shared giggles between my four-year old, and my thirty-three year old other half, perhaps this is something that the males of the species always enjoy obsessing over..?)  I've just hung up from a lovely phone conversation with my sister-in-law, filling me on how her gorgeous little three-month old is growing, and there was a part of the conversation relating to nappies that made the tears roll down my cheeks.  Ten years ago, she and I would have been revolted, and now it's a story for sharing.  How times change.

We've been trying to (unsuccessfully) potty train our youngest for a while now.  He often wears training pants, which he wets, then I change them, and he wets them again. It's an enjoyable game for all. Occasionally I have a fit of enthusiasm, and dig out the washable nappies, outraged by how many pull-ups he is still going through, and hoping that the sensation of wet cloth will upset him so much that he turns to me and says, Mummy, I'm really too grown up for these things now. How about a quick go on the toilet?

But none of this is working...yet.

Yesterday, my husband was trying to clean his boots, and pulled out of the cupboard something that looked like that plastic bag in which he keeps his brushes and tins. (He was in the army. He has a real shoe-cleaning kit. I use one of those cheat's sponges.  If I can be bothered).  Judging by the shout of horror when he opened it, he was none too pleased to find inside a pair of wet trousers, pants and socks. I don't think it helped matters that I couldn't even estimate how long they'd been in there, nor how they had got there.  Having sympathised with him about his terrible ordeal, I suggested he sling them straight into the washing machine, and get them clean.

"Nah," he said, "I'm doing my boots. I've tied them up again and put them in the utility sink for you."

Oh, joy.  Pleasing me is always top of his agenda.

I put them in the wash today, with the morning's collection of urine soaked pants and trousers, and found they weren't as bad as he had made out.  In fact, I vaguely remember the last time I put the socks on the little one, and it was only a few days ago.  As I hummed and pulled out wash powder, my gaze fell on the nappy bucket, and with a jolt of unease, I wondered if there were a wet or - worse - soiled pair of pants in there, too.  It seemed to me, through the fog of my memory, that I had once put something in there to await a suitable load, and that I didn't remember ever dealing with it.  I approached the bucket with caution, and lifted the lid.  Inside was one lonely cloth nappy, harbouring all sorts of unmentionables. It was hard to tell what colour it was meant to be, even.  (The answer is usually, unbleached white).   I didn't want to be in the same room as it.  By my best guess, it's been there more than three weeks.  It was the sort of situation no-one should have to deal with on her own.  So I phoned my Mum, veteran of washable nappies on three children.

"Don't be so squeamish.  Put some boiling water and powder on it now and let it soak a while, then put it on your hottest wash."
"I don't want to get that close!"
"For goodness' sake. It'll be fine. You've got gloves, haven't you?"

So that was that.  But I have a plan.  The evil nappy has  now been marinading in washing powder and water for most of the day, and I'm thinking what a lovely treat it will be if I leave it for my husband to deal with.