Monday, 16 September 2019

The Inner Turmoil of a Screaming Fan...

During those quiet moments when the clocks ticks, the birds chirp, and the hum of distant traffic provides a contemplative hint of bass, I find myself asking the big question: Why am I so ridiculous around celebrities? 

No really, what is my problem? They're only human. Before they were famous, they weren't famous. I shouldn't be so inwardly giddy just because I've seen their face on a screen.

Seconds earlier, I talked gibberish.
I've talked about this before. When I queued at a book signing to see Marian Keyes, I got stupidly tongue-tied, and ended up wasting my minute with her by blurting out something about Strictly. I have similarly morto anecdotes from my experiences with Caitlin Moran and Armistead Maupin. And those are the times I should be composed. I bought a ticket for a signing. I knew I was going to see my writer hero. I had loads of time to gather my thoughts and provide the witty intro to what could have been the start of a marvellous friendship. Instead I bottled it. Torn between a desire to play it cool, giving them their space, and the urge to chivvy them into posing for multiple selfies as I tell them exactly which of their books changed my life the most. It's a constant struggle. 

When I randomly bump into famous faces in the wild, as it were, I have even less time to prepare. Over the years - and in Euston Station alone - I've walked past Gary Lineker (tiny), Ann Widdecombe (tinier) and Peter Crouch (not tiny at all.) By the time I realise it's them, it's too late. I would have to turn around and run back, catching them up. And then what? Cooo-eee, Gary! I really liked you in Italia '90. I don't think soI'd struggle to say anything to Peter Crouch as I don't know much about him beyond footballer, and as for Ann Widdecombe? Well. I'm not so giddy about that one. Even with all my courage summoned, I'd probably be happy to leave her be, and give the selfies a swerve.

Full of properly good food. Honest.
But why am I bringing this up now, I hear literally no one ask. Well, I'll explain. Last week I saw another celebrity in the wild. Sort of wild, anyway. I went to see the play Toast at the Playhouse in Liverpool. You know the one? Based on Nigel Slater's memoir of the same name. It was a last minute ticket, bought on a whim a couple of weeks ago, and a lovely way to spend an otherwise dull Tuesday. Nigel Slater is one of my favourite food writers. His book, Real Food, was what provided the transition between my baked beans and cheese toastie meals of university*, and my gradual understanding of ingredients, flavours and intuitive cooking. He was the person to introduce me to the mouth-watering combination of chilli, garlic, lemon, and ginger. Not a week goes by when I don't have those flavours as the base of one of my meals. That was twenty years ago. More recently he bought out his book, The Christmas Chronicles, which is the most perfectly atmospheric, cosy as all get out, winter-lovers guide to the best season of the year. (Don't @me. It is the best.) Anyway, let's cut to the chase. Tuesday night, in the theatre, people are taking their seats. Just before the action starts, Nigel Slater walks in. Yeah! For realsies. I gasped. He smiled at people as he made his way to his row. There was a frisson of excitement. It was immense. In a rare moment of spontaneous small talk, I turned to the woman next to me and said, 'Oh.' Yeah, I know. When did I get so chatty? It seems she was more used to interaction with a stranger than I was. She told me she had seen him in the bar beforehand and got a selfie. She told me he said he always makes it to the opening nights of his play. She told me he was lovely. Then the woman to my right got involved. She said she had been too shy to approach him when she had seen him earlier. The woman to my left explained she had no qualms at all. She was sixty and she had stopped caring what people think. I smiled and said, 'Good for you,' in what I hoped came across as supportive, not sarky. Obvs the real emotion was jealousy. 

Lovely Nigel and his lovely writing.
This book demands fairy lights.
I care far too much about what people think. When I see someone I think is brilliant - usually a writer tbh - I assume they won't want to be troubled by little old me. I assume they'll want to be left alone to get on with their day, even when they're attending the opening night of their play, or are sitting at a book signing waiting to talk to their readers. This week, four people who have read my book talked to me about it. It was a joy. I could chat about it all day. And whilst they didn't stop me in the street, or interrupt my food shopping, it wouldn't bother me if they had. I need to remember that, especially when I'm walking away from a theatre, annoyed I didn't tell Nigel Slater I love his work.

Top tip: Have a mini moment of objectification
 but then celebrate male achievements
to counteract the reductive thought. 
So what next? Well, brace yourselves. It's a cracker. In a couple of days I'll be watching another play. But literally, this one is beyond exciting. I've only managed to get myself a ticket for Fleabag. (Thanks to a very lovely friend of a friend, who was ahead of me in the online queue.) Now, here's the thing. There have been videos online of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott giving out M&S gin and tonics to the people queueing to get in. I know it probably won't happen when I'm there but Lordy, it also might. I need to be prepared. I need to work out what to say to both of them, should they happen to walk past and offer me a drink. To be honest, it's still a work in progress. All I've planned so far is to shout at Andrew Scott (AKA Sexy Priest) to go away and not come back until he's in a black shirt and dog collar. Then I'll apologise for objectifying him, and almost as an afterthought, I might remember to say I thought his Hamlet was very good. When it comes to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I'm worried I won't be able stop myself from leaping into her arms, burying my head in her neck and sobbing on her for being the cleverest, most perceptive, dynamite writer of her generation, that has rewritten everything I understand about character and taking an audience on an emotional journey. Like I said, it's a work in progress. 

What is more likely is that a) they won't be there, or if they are then b) I will feel giddy inside, smile politely, and silently objectify Andrew Scott a teensy bit, before resigning myself to the fact that PWB will probably never be my best mate or writing mentor. I am not quite in the same place as the woman next to me in the theatre. Just twentyish years to go until I can say that I am sixty and I have stopped caring what people think. And then, brace yourselves, celebs. I'll be all over you.

Have a lovely week, folks.

*It wasn't a varied diet. Beans, cheese, bread, and crisps seemed to cover most of first year.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Politicians! Be Nice and I'll Wee All Over You...

Blimey, I'm knackered. In the past week I've mainlined the BBC Parliament channel like it's heroin. At the time of writing, all sorts of mad political shizzle has gone on. Sibling bust ups, outright lies, sackings and defections. By the time this gets uploaded, a shedload more shenanigans will have occurred. Even the issue of a potential prison sentence has been raised. The urge to rub my hands gleefully and buzz off the drama of it all, is intense. But then real anger kicks in. People's jobs, health, and ability to live in peace are all at stake. Whether you fall on the Leave, Remain, or What's Brexit? side, the current events in Westminster are of huge significance to us all.

I tweeted last week that I had a list of MPs that I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. That might seem a bit harsh in hindsight. I certainly wasn't advocating withholding of emergency aid in an arson/fire scenario. But to watch entitled, lazy, and unmoved (mostly) men, stand up and bumble their way through a load of nonsense, seemingly in response to an opposing comment but never actually straying from debunked myths and disputed statements, was too much at times. The 'posh white bloke' demographic of a stereotypical MP, was well represented. It was easy to see why many people are turned off from politics when it comes across as an extension of the golf club, or the gentleman's club, or whatever other 'exclusive, elitist, closed to people that are different' club you want to name. I get that, completely. But then there were absolute heroes. Jess Phillips stood up and spoke from the heart. Her anger was fuelled by the fact her Domestic Violence Bill will be snookered by the shutting down of Parliament. Two years of work down the drain so that this out-of-hand chess game can be played. She was fuming and told the new PM so. As well as her, there were excellent contributions from Caroline Lucas, Anna Soubry, Lady Hermon - because FTLOG the people of Northern Ireland must be at their wits end - and Jo Swinson. Then there was Tan Dhesi. He asked Boris Johnson to apologise for the many times his words have been racist. He pointed out the link between his offensive language and the spike in hate crimes. His remarks got a lot of audible support from his colleagues because, let's face it, if the whole House can't get behind the rejection of racism, we're in real trouble. Of course the Prime Minister blustered and blagged, ultimately defending his comments and then throwing in a deflection of Whataboutery in terms of Labour's handling of anti-semitism. (A valid point, but not the point here.) Of course he did. He doesn't care. Other MPs do care about the country. I disagree with the Tory party on much of what they stand for, yet seeing senior members choose the bigger picture rather than their own careers was gratifying. Especially as several were not of retirement age. Twenty-one MPs chose to vote against a bill they knew to be flawed, despite knowing it would be career suicide. Their sacrifice was in stark contrast to the current front bench.

Alongside the anger and frustration at how messed up politics seems to be, there was also the lighter side. I watched incredulously as Jacob Rees-Mogg reclined horizontally across seats, as MPs debated whether to take control of the House. At first I considered he might have a bad back. When I had sciatica a few years ago, I could only sit comfortably if I had my leg elevated. Perhaps that was it? It seems not. Happily, within hours, the first memes came through. We've all seen them now. The one with him in stockings and suspenders, the one where he has a graph of the declining Tory majority superimposed across his sloping body, or the one where an utter beef cake lies next to him, stroking his side, until taking his top off and cuddling him some more. Light relief, and much needed. Not so fun to see, but equally deflating, was the clip of Iain Duncan Smith picking his nose and eating it. Yep. That happened. I'd add the link to it here, but I don't want to repulse anyone beyond what they can bear. A quick Google on your search engine of choice* will see you right. 

Moving quickly on, there have been excellent pundits and commentators who have helped to ease the head-frig as political events spiral beyond belief. Firstly, anything Marina Hyde writes about anything is brilliant, but her column on Friday was particularly eviscerating. (It's worth a click. Do it now, then come back. Off you pop. I'll wait.) On Twitter, I've found @RemaniacsCast, @IanDunt, @davidallengreen, @EmmaKennedy, and @sturdyAlex to be informative and knowledgeable, but also able to lampoon where necessary. To satirise and skewer, to deflate and debunk. Back in the day it was Spitting Image. Now it's sarcastic political comment in 280 character soundbites, threaded together over the course of an evening. Or, as we saw with its return on Thursday, The Mash Report. Perfect timing for the start of the new series. I can only imagine how frenzied the satirical news show's production meetings must have been in the run up to recording on Wednesday night. 

Seems I'm not the
only one tuning in.
So now we have another week of drama. At the time of writing (which has been at several points over the past four days because stuff keeps changing) there's another vote tonight about having an election. I know what I want the outcome to be. I know what I think is best. Whether that happens or not is anyone's guess. But let's wrap things up with some positivity. Despite feeling politically engaged before 2016, I now know I never knew the meaning of the phrase. I can't remember a time in my life that everyone (OK, some people) watched live Parliament all evening rather than Netflix or whatever they were in the middle of bingeing. I now have a much better understanding of parliamentary process (CLOSE THE DOOOOOORRRRSSSSS) and even though I have no intention of being an MP myself, watching the visible pride pour from Jane Dodds as she was sworn in as the new MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, was lovely. The boorish bullies that currently dominate front bench politics, are the minority. I think. I hope. They sit in front of real people with real lives, real constituents, and real concerns. Those MPs might need to shout louder to be heard over the entitlement and bullying of others, but they are still there. There are still adults in position, alongside the overgrown children. If they were on fire, I would piss on them. It's good to remember that.

Have a lovely week, folks.

*My search engine of choice is now Ecosia. Hugely similar to Google but with all profits going towards tree planting. Win.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Calling all Year Sixes, and Those That Know Them...

Oooh Bank Holidays. They are pesky little things, aren't they. It's marvellous to have a three-day weekend but when Monday is the day you get loads of writing done, taking that day off for weekend-style fun, plays real havoc with the rest of the week's routine.

Weekend garden drinking times.
I can't argue it wasn't fun. 
Ever since last Monday - a day that included a 70th birthday lunch for my Uncle, as well as an evening of sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew banter - I've been playing catch up. I managed to write Monday's chapter on Tuesday, Tuesday's chapter on Wednesday, then editing and blog writing (hello You!) on Thursday. Then Friday I was all over the place again as I packed to go to a writing conference in Warwick. It's been quite the week.

And because it's been a bit mad, I've been remiss in making connections and marketing my book. I usually spend some time every week, signposting libraries, writerly people, and readers to my books - whether they want me to or not. But last week, that's the stuff I didn't have time for. Except, I did without even realising it.

First of all, my cousin's daughter passed a card to me, via my aunt. Keeping up? Brilliant. Well the card was from my second cousin who is about to start High School this week. She wrote to say how much she had enjoyed Leeza McAuliffe Has Something To Say, and referenced the ways in which she identified with Leeza. The thing is, because the character is a Year Six child, dealing with all the trials and tribulations that involves, then there's a whole year group of people out there that may or may not get something from reading the story. I read the card and felt chuffed that my cousin's daughter had got something from what I'd written. And in a way I hadn't particularly envisaged.

An almost Year Sixer!
The ideal time to read.
A day later, my hairdresser was telling me how his child was about to start Year Six. He said the only thing she was worried about were the SATs tests. Quick as a flash - an organic one, not a marketing one - I said she might enjoy my book. I explained that the main protagonist dealt with the SATs tests with a small amount of worry, but a lot of common sense. I said that it might provide some comfort, or at least some acknowledgement that they are a universal hassle for everyone in the same year. And I meant it too. I wasn't trying to sell a book. (OF COURSE I WAS TRYING TO SELL A BOOK, BUT IN KIND AND SUPPORTIVE WAY.) It just felt an appropriate time to read it.

If you find yourself in the middle
of the Indian Ocean, and you've
already read Vanki by Adler
Olsen, give Leeza McAuliffe a go
So this week, I'm making a bold claim. I reckon if you know someone about to begin Year Six, then Leeza McAuliffe Has Something To Say would be an ideal present for them. You could give it as a Back to School sweetener. Or, if you quite rightly recognise that kids don't need coddling with bribes to take part in basic educational conventions, then get a head's start on your Christmas shopping and put it away for them until December. If the Year Six child in your life starts reading it next January, they will be the exact same educational point in time as Leeza's story starts. You KNOW it makes sense.

I should add, just before I shut up for the week, that this also makes a great read for anyone beyond the age of...hmmm, probably eight? In fact, my thirty year old brother finally read it a few weeks ago... on his honeymoon. That's about as off-brand as the book can possibly be. But I still got a text to say it had been a good read. In fact, he's left it in a Mauritian hotel's reading area. If you're passing, look it up.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 26 August 2019

How Do I Love Thee, Television? Let Me Count the Ways...

Consider this a dramatic and dizzy-making
recreation of how my life will be in September.
Folks, we've nearly made it. September is more or less nigh. As the world has been told repeatedly, whether it has wanted to hear it or not, the summer is a time I find problematic. It's a downright challenge. I shuffle between the air con in Costa and the air con in Cineworld. I keep as busy as my overheated and befuddled brain will allow. I sweat everywhere I go, and fully accept that I won't enjoy much about my existence until the clouds come back and it glooms overhead. Apologies for those that feel the reverse. I hope you've had a lovely few months. For me, I've caught sight of what's coming and I feel energised. September is almost here and I cannot wait.

There are several signifiers that herald the turn of this particular season, but the one I'm rambling on about today is the telly. Yep, the marvellous, brilliant invention that is the television. So much has changed in the way we watch our programmes in recent years. Between streaming accounts or online catch up services, the TV licence and four terrestrial channels seem positively prehistoric. Yet, we still watch television programmes. More than ever. (There's a whole bunch of up to date stats here, if you're so inclined.) Reading Caitlin Moran's love letter to television reminded me how much of an essential it is for me. I choose to go to the cinema or read a book, but the television is subconscious. It's on for large parts of any evening I am in the house. The exciting thing about this time of year is that there are loads of new series that I am giddy about watching. I've been keeping an eye out for trainers and adverts, and I've got an ongoing list on my phone. What's that? You want me to share the list? Why, OF COURSE I WILL. I thought you'd never ask.

Screenshot from YouTube
of a Netflix production - The Politician.
The Politician - Netflix
I've heard no buzz about his whatsoever, but the trailer HOOKED ME IN. I do love me a high school drama. Whether it's The Breakfast Club or Booksmart, I'm always open to new ways of highlighting the obstacle course that is navigating the waters of teenage angst. (Have a metaphor! Have two!) This series appears to do all that, within the context of a school election. Classic Netflix, it's glossy, has had money thrown at it, and is full of famous stars doing small turns. It's out on the 27th September and I am in.

Screenshot from Youtube
of a Netflix production - The Crown.
The Crown - Netflix
If you've watched the first two series of this, then you will be hanging on for 17th November. The third series drops on Netflix and it promises to be marvellous. Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter are the new Elizabeth and Margaret respectively, and I cannot wait. As usual, I am sure the realistically told events of recent history will cause a surge at Google as people check out what really happened in the seventies, and whether international incidents were narrowly averted the way the writers say they were. But mostly, it will make me feel empathy for a family of people for whom I have never felt anything other than indifference before. Quite a feat. 

Screenshot from You Tube
 of a BBC3 production - Drag Race UK.
Drag Race UK - BBC3 on iPlayer
I am desperate for this. After eleven seasons of Drag Race, RuPaul and Michelle Visage have moved their format to the UK and are having a British version. I reckon this is the ideal time to get involved if you're intrigued but feel like you've missed the boat so far. It's a reality show, it's drag queens looking spectacular, it's funny and irreverent, it's moving and sentimental. What's not to love? Starting on the 3rd October, each weekly episode will be available on BBC3 via iPlayer. FWIW, my favourite UK drag queen is featured in the lineup. Go on, Divina de Campo! Give 'em hell.

Screenshot from YouTube, of an
AppleTV+ production - The Morning Show
The Morning Show - Apple TV+
This is another trailer I've seen that made me drop everything. I don't even know if I can access this series when it comes out - I need an Apple TV subscription - but I will do my best. Based on some sort of real life scandal, it's got Aniston, Witherspoon, a boardroom, a crying Steve Carell, some other people, and it looks fabulous. I can't offer much more than that at this stage. Except I want in.

No sneak previews of WWTBA M yet, so
here's Claire from Fleabag.You're welcome.
Who Wants to be a Millionaire drama - ITV
There's no specific title, or release date for this (other than early 2020) but it's on my list regardless. Fleabag's Claire? Aisling Bea? Michael Sheen doing Tarrant? Yes please, sign me up. So often it's the creatives that are attached to a project that are the hook. The story itself is only as compelling as the people that bring it to life. I think I'd have given this a swerve under other circumstances, but the Clifford/Bea/Sheen trifecta is alluring. The scandal of the WWTBAM coughing Major might be enough on its own for you so with the talent involved, it's got to be good, hasn't it? We'll find out in a few months.

Last Christmas - Netflix
My God, it's like a commissioning editor got trapped in my brain. What sort of things does Nicky like? Erm...Christmas? George Michael? Funny women? Boom. Here is my personalised film. Anything with Emma Thompson will always get my attention, but they've really gone to town to make it fit my particular criteria. As I mused on Twitter, if they'd thrown in a cheeseboard, it would be all my favourite things in the world at once. You might find it is schmaltzy and too much. That would be your problem not mine. You do you, but I predict I will be watching this on a loop from 8th November onwards. 

So that's my plan. The following months are filled with anticipation and quality-looking television programmes. As the nights start earlier and jumpers and socks make a return to my life, I will type furiously in the day, then unwind each evening with something marvellous. In the meantime, before all this excellent telly kicks off, may I draw your attention to this wonderful speech, about - would you believe it? - television. Dorothy Byrne delivered this year's MacTaggart Lecture, and it's quite the read. Managing to effortlessly lampoon sexism, glory in her achievements, and express her views about where television's role sits within the current political climate, she is magnificent. Telly: More than a box in the corner of a room since the 1940s*

Have a lovely week, folks.

*Literally no idea when TV was invented but let's just pretend it was then. Although having thought about it for ten seconds, in Back to the Future, the family are getting their first TV in 1955. And that was in America! We were probably years later. You should probably Google it. Then, once you've done that, please mentally amend the sentence about when television was invented with the correct date. Kthanksbye.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Happiness? Nah. Try Something Easier...

Five things that made you do this yesterday. GO.
Long ago, I did part of the training to become a counsellor. (See future blog post: Fractions of qualifications I possess). During the course, a tutor suggested that happiness was too big an ideal to achieve. Instead of trying to be happy, it was far more realistic to aim for contentment or peace. Happiness was all too fleeting and transitory. It was a sentiment I found myself echoing when I was a Learning Mentor. Working with children going through tough times, I found that focusing on the small, contentment-making experiences was a useful tool as they navigated the harder situations they were in. I would ask them to make a list of five things from the previous day that had made them smile. It was usually hard and they often needed prompting. Did they enjoy a packet of crisps, did they hear a joke on the playground, did they feel relief when they'd done their homework? Over-riding happiness was a big ask, but sparks of positive feeling that made their day a little brighter could be banked for resilience later on.

This was all brought to mind last Wednesday. For no particular reason, I had a really lovely day. My routine was exactly the same as normal - it is my non-writing day in the week - but there was nothing that stood out as being brilliantly exciting or marvellous. On paper, it was run of the mill. Weight Watchers, then Costa, then food shopping, then home, then lunch, then prep something to read at writing group, then writing group, then train home and bed. It's the same every week, with writing group being a fortnightly event. Yet last Wednesday, I was buzzing. 

I do know why, really. I'm not ignorant of what went on. But putting it into words makes it seem inconsequential. Some really small stuff happened that made me feel perky. When I explain it, it won't seem that big a deal. But by noticing it at the time, it was as though I was choosing to have a good day. I was choosing contentment. Let me fill you in.

On my drive to Weight Watchers, I was listening to Radio 2. I usually end up hitting the motorway just as Pause for Thought is kicking off. Fair play to fans of the segment, but it doesn't really float my boat. Last Wednesday, however, I must have left a little later. As I drove down the slip road, Jane Wiedlin's Rush Hour came on. I haven't heard it for ages. I shouted 'YES' to myself and cranked up the volume. I arrived at WW twenty minutes later, buoyed up and feeling positive. It didn't matter how much weight I hadn't lost when I'd had the best singalong on the way. (And I mean the BEST singalong. I have no doubt that other drivers will have assumed I was a professional performer. There could have been no other conclusion to draw when they saw me belt it out.)

Later on I was in Costa, to have my first cup of tea of the day and make my shopping list. I usually eat one of their Veggie Pots. A not un-tasty pot of scrambled egg, mushroom, beans and cheese. It's filling and low in calories - a good choice after having my head filled with healthy food messages during the previous hour. But last week, there were no Veggie Pots. I wasn't starving, so it was fine. I could have managed but then I thought, sod it. The sausage bap looked good. Turns out, it tasted good too. I had the nicest brekkie and relished every mouthful. My day was going from strength to strength.

A heart shaped pizza feels like
the right way to celebrate 29
years of periods. Or any shaped pizza
That evening my writing group was a blast. This isn't always the case. It is always useful, no matter what, but alongside the value it provides, it can be nerve wracking and stomach churning. Sharing new work and hearing honest opinions from a variety of people can be tough. Last Wednesday, there were a lot of apologies from regular members and only three of us made it to the group. I guess the reduction in potential critics could be the root of why it was fun, but also the fact that alongside the writing, there was more room for chat. I spent over two hours with a couple of women who had been complete strangers this time last year. The topic of books and writing opened up into chat about relationships, sexual politics, and periods. (That one was all me. It was the 29th anniversary of the start of my periods that night. It would have been remiss not to mark the occasion!) We nattered away, putting the world to rights, and overran by twenty minutes. I walked back to the station with a spring in my step. 

Sitting on the train, I recognised that I'd had a really good evening. More than that, I'd had a really good day. No seismic events had taken place, I'd not achieved some marvellous milestone that I'd been working towards. When it boils down to it, I'd heard an old song, eaten a sausage bap, and had a natter with some likeminded people. That's the essence if it. No biggie. But recognising the things that bring joy or contentment, can turn a run of the mill day into an utter delight. Since Wednesday I've been trying to make more of an effort to stop and notice the small stuff. I don't think I need to follow my Learning Mentor advice and literally make a note of five things that have made me smile. But pausing for a second to two and acknowledging that those positive things have happened, cannot be a bad thing. And the more mini-contentment-makers that get spotted - whether it be baps, songs, or natter - the more within reach over-riding happiness might be. Who knows? Maybe not me, but it's worth a thought. 

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 12 August 2019

If It's Not Too Much To Ask...

Last week I proffered a hypothesis. One that sounds too new-age and spiritual for my comfort levels. I suggested that by consciously forming a coherent thought about something desirable - no matter how far fetched it may seem - that fantasy thought might create some sort of roadmap for the subconscious, and lead to the desirable outcome happening at a later date. It would come as a complete surprise to the conscious, but would have been secretly on the cards since the fantasy thought occurred. You see, when I write it out like that, I almost make it sound scientific!

Exactly like me if I were blonde.
Last week I used the example of something that happened last year. I thought I should look for a Writer's Festival to attend, but then did nothing about it. Last week the opportunity for me to attend one, fell into my lap without me having done a thing. Was my subconscious plotting away all that time, subtly forcing me into life choices that took me to the place I needed to be? Who knows? Not me. I'm just spouting pseudoscience and trying to sound clever.

This week I've been thinking some more. If my hypothesis is true, then it really does pay to think through some desirable outcomes I would like in the future. I can work this grift to my advantage. It's not about shortcutting through the hard graft that it takes to achieve things. It's about recognising unlikely, or impossible occurrences that would be wonderful to have come true, with zero conscious effort involved. If my theory is correct, this could work out brilliantly for my future. The question is, what experiences do I want to conjure up, if I could wave a magic wand and make them be? Well then, dear Reader, read on and read hard. See what I came up with.

A. Frigging. Natural.
I am a big fan of a podcast. The type I enjoy are where funny and/or interesting people chat. Just that. I've talked about the Remaniacs one before. And the Adam Buxton Podcast is another staple. Recently I found Off Menu with James Acaster and Ed Gamble, where their guest talks about their dream meal, course by course. It's great, and spawned an entire evening of food-convo on a recent night out with my brother and his girlfriend. But I digress. Here is my coherent fantasy thought. I would nail a podcast. I would love to be able to spend forty-five minutes to an hour a week, chatting with a funny and/or interesting person, about all sorts. Books. Or writing. Or films, or food, or Eurovision, or life. Just let me chew the fat with people that are interesting. Obviously I'd go the Graham Norton route and involve wine so the convo flowed easily - obvs - but it would be marvellous. The downside is that no one I know has anything to do with podcasts. And, even more problematic, is the fact I might be terrible at it. It might be the worst idea ever. Hey ho, let's say it aloud and put it out there. Bondie's Podcast for the win!

What it would look like if PWB read my next
groundbreaking, genre-busting work of genius,
in the bath. And I'd written the bible.
Or something.
Right then, stand by for the next coherent thought. I want to write like Phoebe Waller Bridge. There, that cut to the chase, didn't it. Ok, let's clarify. Not exactly like her. I don't want to plagiarise anyone, and I want to keep my own style. It's not about nicking her ideas about plot or character. (There will only ever be one sexy priest). It's more about wanting to emulate the cultural impact she had with Fleabag. I want to create something that inspires conversation, spawns a raft of fan fiction and homages, and is generally accepted as groundbreaking work that rewrote a genre. (See also Hannah Gadsby and Nanette.) It's not a big ask, is it? LOLZ. Of course it is! These things can't be planned. Not that it matters. I've had the coherent thought, so I'm sending it out on its way. Let's watch this space.

I don't usually make it to the bedroom.
Much more sexily, I shovel in the
Pom Bears standing up in the kitchen.
I don't have any willpower. Simple as that. Instead of trying to limit myself to sensible amounts of things, I accept that I can only manage to abstain, or binge. There are no cakes or biscuits in the house because I'd eat them all in one go. I don't open a bottle of wine unless it's the weekend, because no matter what my initial intentions are, that wine will not be left for another day. So my coherent thought is this. I like crisps. I would like to be able to buy multipacks of crisps. Having bags in the house would useful if I need a snack, or if I'm craving a crisp butty and I CBA to go to the shops. Having bags of crisps plural would be good. I want to be able to buy them and save them. Not eat all six before I've put the rest of the shopping away. It is a challenge to do with ridged McCoys, but surprisingly easy with Pom Bears. They put up no resistance at all. Willpower please, Universe. If it's not too much trouble. 

No trees were harmed in the making
of this loo roll. Saving the world
and being aesthetically pleasing too.
Who Gives a Crap? Me!
You won't be surprised to hear, I am NOT Greta Thunburg. But I do think she is amazing. The realisation that my generation is not only old, but also lacking in all sorts of understanding about the urgency of the climate change disaster, has been gradual for me. For a long time it felt like my peers were out in the world building up to the time they were in charge of things. Now, I reckon that's in the past. I am no longer the youth of today. The youth of today are immeasurably more impressive. So, my wish is that climate change is sorted out. Not necessarily for me and my lifetime, but for the brilliant school-striking generation that are following me and have more skin in the game. Not a big ask is it? The reality is that I'm too far gone in some of my habits to even realise there is an issue. (I'm letting Moon Cups pass me by.) I don't want to be ignorant but I also know I am hugely ignorant in plenty of ways. So, please stop climate change, Universe. if it's not too much to ask. Or, if that's a problem, please make more obvious the ways in which I can help. So far I'm a convert to recycled loo rollperiod knickers, and a reusable water bottle. I'm guessing there's more.

So between me not eating all the crisps, and a dramatic reduction of landfill because of my actions, I'm sure there are some surprises the Universe can throw my way. I still don't know if my hypothesis is true. This might all be for nothing. I guess if we regroup in a few years to discuss my game-changing new book, or listen to my top-notch weekly podcast where I chatter about nothing, then we'll know there's something in it. Keep the faith, it might even happen.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 5 August 2019

I Don't Believe in Fate, Except...

Destiny, fate, astrology? Nah. Not for me. I like science and realistic stuff. And yet! Weird stuff keeps happening and I don't know why. Because it definitely isn't because of destiny, fate, or astrology. Defo. Last year, I wrote about how being open minded towards more things, seems to open up opportunities. I riffed about Noel Edmonds for a bit, and seem to remember explaining how to obtain a helicopter all of one's own. Fans of such concepts, can read more here. 

This week, the latest event in a recurring pattern, happened. Let me give you a bit of background.

Lovely Donald Tusk would
say there's a special place
 in hell for those without a sketch
of a plan. But here I am, with no
 meaningful clue about the future.
(I've not been tasked with sorting
Brexit though, so it's fine.)
I don't plan big picture stuff more than about a year ahead. I've moved from school, to University, to job after job, without knowing where it was leading until it led here. Conversely, I plan my day to day stuff to the nth degree (I currently know what I ingredients I need to buy on Wednesday for the meals I will be eating until Saturday) but the larger, life-long planning has never really been a thing for me. Yet, I do seem to have had opportunities fall into my lap without much hassle.

Living the (teaching) dream. Once upon a time.
Back in the day, I didn't want to be a teacher. I worked in part-time play schemes, in a variety of schools, taking the pay cheque and wondering what I really wanted to do. One day, when I arrived at a new placement school, the vibe was different. It was vibrant and exciting. I walked through the corridors to the community room, thinking, 'I don't want to be a teacher but if I did, I'd want to teach here.' End of thought. Several jobs and a year's PGCE later and I was appointed a Y1 teacher at that same school. I had not planned it. It wasn't something for which I'd strived. Circumstances just fell into place one by one. I had the thought, and then a few years later, to my surprise, it happened.

2016. The best of times.
Or how about this? In 2011 I read an article by Caitlin Moran about how her and her family loved holidaying in Aberystwyth. It was a childhood holiday destination of my own, and it made me happy that it was getting a bit of recognition. I idly pondered, as I read the Sunday Times, that it would be cool to swan off on my own, and rent a seaside apartment, without needing a caravan full of family members to accompany me. I even did an online search of the apartment company she referenced. Then I forgot about it. As IF I were ever going to do that in real life. LOLZ. Then, in 2016, after a mad-busy, knackering summer, I decided a couple of days by the sea would be good before the beginning of autumn. I looked at AirBnBs in Cornwall, Whitby and Scotland, but then decided to stick with somewhere I knew. I booked an apartment in Aber. At this point, I'd forgotten all about Caitlin's article. It was just a practical decision to spend downtime in a place I knew my way around. The memory only resurfaced when I recognised the place she'd stayed at - a few doors away from my own rental. Last week was the fourth year in a row I've done my Aber escape. Somewhere since that article, I found the confidence to holiday alone, swan around, and enjoy every seaside second. Maybe, without realising it, I'd subconsciously planned it back in 2011 and as such, it was always going to happen at some point.

Fast forward to last September. I skirted around these themes after I'd attended a networking skills course as part of the London Screenwriters' Festival. A friend dragged me along, so I was only making up numbers. Despite that, it was scary stuff. It was also, however, undeniably useful. When I got home, I thought that even though it would be stressful doing that with 'my own people', maybe I should look for a novel writer's festival somewhere. I casually searched online for something, then forgot about it. Last week, a friend from my writing group (something else I'd thought about for a bit before it fell into my lap) messaged me to suggest I go to the National Association of Writing Groups' conference in Warwick. So, at the time of typing, that's what I'm going to do. Obviously I feel uber-panicky about having to chat to strangers and pull off being witty, clever and likeable all at once, but still. If the universe gives you an opportunity, it probably pays to grab it.

I still don't believe in destiny and astrology and stuff. It's not for me and my spiritually bankrupt soul. However, I wonder whether by forming a thought in its entirety, by creating a vision of a plan - no matter how far fetched it appears at the time - it gives the subconscious a clearer path to follow in the future. Lordy. I sound like someone that I'd avoid if they said that to me out loud. I apologise. It's just that, if you can picture it and see it, then you can be it and do it. It becomes a possibility. That works with little kids seeing female footballers excel, as well as middle-aged women picturing a networking scenario that might be useful to them in the second career into which they've wandered. So now all I'm left to do is imagine myself as an energetic beauty, selling gazillions of books, as I look out on my Aberystwyth clifftop beach house. Who knows? It might come true.

Have a lovely week, folks.