Monday, 12 December 2016

Sucking the Season Dry...

Three years ago my parents downsized and decamped from the family home.  So this is the 3rd year I have hosted the annual Bond Christmas dinner (conversely on Boxing day) and the 3rd year I have been far too stressed about serving raw turkey and seating fifteen comfortably, to enjoy the experience. 

This is OK though.  I have learnt that it is all over by Christmas dinner anyway.  All the festive glow and warm, cosy, seasonal cheer has well-evaporated by the time the main event comes.   I now make sure that I have sucked dry the glad tidings from every early opportunity I can, long before we hit Christmas week.
  •   November is when my Christmas playlist gets its first airing.  Every car journey, no matter how short, is accompanied by the instrumental music to Home Alone.  Every.  Single.  One.
  •   Around this time is when I start scouring the Good Food Channel for repeats of Nigella's and Jamie’s festive offerings from years gone by.  Nothing is as christmassy as watching five different recipes for roast potatoes in one evening.   Promise.
  •   Christmas shopping is a nightmare.  Yeah, really.  Yet there is something lovely about being around the bustle when you smugly know you’re all done, and don’t need to search for that elusive present for the random in-law.   I will train it into town at some point next week, just so I can wander about with a cup of tea, get cold, and be excited at the feeling of it all. 
  •   Now that we are well into December, I get to watch proper Christmas films.  Prior to December, I make do with Christmas specials of TV programmes.  So far I’ve seen off Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Gavin and Stacey.  Now that we’ve reached the twelfth month, it’s time for the real deal.  Classics such as It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and more recently Elf, are all essential viewing.   (At the time of writing, Elf has yet to appear on the schedules.  There aren’t many films I will regress to watching on DVD, but this is one).   Obvs it is the law, but no Christmas film can be watched without fairy lights on, main lights off.  Standard.
  •    Finally, a recent tradition (blame Nigella) is ham.  The Domestic Goddess has convinced me it is of the UTMOST importance that a ham should be cooking, pretty much 24/7 all through December.  I am restricting myself to participating in this tradition for 23rd and 24th December only, when I will be recreating her twenty-four hour, black treacle ham recipe for the second year running. 

With all that seasonally cheery build up, I really won’t care a jot come Boxing Day, about who has to sit on an upturned laundry basket to eat, or who has become a vegetarian since the previous year.   I will be prosecco-ed up to my eye balls, and long past worrying. 

Season's Greetings one and all.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Greetings from my bed...

Morning Campers,

Today I have the sniffles.  (Thank you in advance for your prayers.)  But rather than having to drag myself out of bed after a 6.30am alarm, and slaver myself in layers of Vicks before leaving for work, I get to stay in bed.  I get to do that because…. I am a writer!

Yeah, I know, I hate myself too.   I have come to realise over time, that there are some marvellous perks to working from home on a laptop.   The most notable being that I get to do this unwashed and in PJs whenever I feel like it.  Today is one of those days.  PJs, a wooly jumper and fluffy socks, no less.  Anyone turned on yet?  No?  Oh.

Colds, hangovers and period pain are all far easier to deal with, now I don’t need to leave the house to be productive.   Even when I am feeling tip top, there is something rather lovely about sitting at the desk in the clothes I slept in, and bashing out a couple of thousand words, before stretching my back and going to have a shower.  Usually sometime around 3pm.  Yeah, I know, you all still hate me.  Soz.

So to redress the balance, I’ll share a few of the negative aspects of a writer’s existence.  It isn’t all leisure-wear and coffee shops, honest.

Being Asked What You Do For A Living
Unless you have sold millions of books and your name or face are instantly recognisable, there is no way that answering ‘I’m a writer’ can make you sound anything other than a dick head.  And yet I still do, because if I don’t take myself seriously, no one else will.  But still…. a proper dick head.

Having To Explain What You Are Writing
This week alone, three relative strangers have asked me about the plot of my book.  This is kind of them, and I am genuinely grateful for the interest.  It becomes clear each time however, that I haven’t worked out a pithy, succinct way to explain the basic story on the spot.  I can write blurbs and synopses, but when I try and answer in my own words, it sounds dull and vague.  Pitching is not my strength, clearly.

Writers’ Block
Yes, this is definitely a thing.  On the one hand there are days when the words pour out without you having to think.  On the other, there are days (lots of them) where everything freezes and it’s as if your brain has shut down.   And that’s when the ‘I’m crap at this, I can’t do this’ stuff can seep in.  Inner saboteurs must be ignored!

Flexible Hours Are Still Hours
Obviously it is brilliant to type in bed, and leave showering to the afternoon but a routine is still essential.   I have become even more reliant on ‘To Do’ lists (I was pretty dependent before) to ensure I actually DO a bunch of stuff each day.  Today’s list is…

Get up
Drink tea
Do crossword
Write blog
Answer emails
Pluck eyebrows
Cook noodles

To be fair, it is a light day.  But then I do have the sniffles.  

Stay well, folks.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Ping-Delete Friday

I’m struggling not to be controversial again this week.  I’ve toyed with this all morning, but it’s no use.  I must speak.  I cannot hold it in any longer. 

Black Friday is not a thing.  There, I’ve said it.

At the time of writing, it is Friday morning - Black Friday morning no less.  Today is a day of work in the UK.  As was yesterday.  I have been trying to do said work for the last few hours, and yet on a minute by minute basis I am getting email alerts for any retail website of which I have ever been within sniffing distance, tempting me with their Black Friday-too-good-to-be-true-not-to-be-missed-offers.  I am getting very speedy at deleting them without looking up.

Of course it would be such a different story if I were American.  Then it would make sense.  I might still have issues around unnecessary spending purely because I am off work (I hold no truck with the Boxing Day sales either) but it would feel a little more relevant than it is now.  

It seems to me that if the UK is going to piggy-back onto a tradition that holds no meaning for us as a nation, why not pick the one that includes the lovely family meal and encouragements of gratitude, rather than the one that involves buying unwanted electrical gadgets and getting het up about Asda’s last toaster.  I could be wrong, but the turkey dinner sounds way more fun.

I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one that I am reminded of each year is from my first year at University.  As an elective student of American Studies, I was invited to the department’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner.  It cost £26.  I’m not sure what price I would have considered appropriate for a three course meal including wine in 1996, but I felt that £26 was a step too far.

For me, that was my moment and I let is pass me by.  I could have legitimately enjoyed an authentic Thanksgiving meal (there were actual real Americans there and everything!) and I would have had the context of my academic studies to understand all the significance brought with it.  I don’t know what I did with my saved £26, but I would bet another £26 it wasn’t anything as interesting as that would have been.

So, I will continue to delete the pointless emails coming my way this morning, but genuinely hope all Americans/people in America/friends of Americans/everyone in the world had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday.

Thanks for reading.  I’m properly grateful.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Carry the Verb

With no conscious thought, this blog has developed a bit of a pattern.  One week I give a book update, the next I talk rubbish about a random topic that has come into my head at the time of writing.

So whether it's good news for the world or not, this week is Book Update Week!  Yay!

Last time I wrote about this, I mentioned the main characters, Tilda and Grady.  So it’s time for a little bit more information to whet everyone’s appetite.  Can you contain your excitement?  I know I can’t.
With that in mind, I can now reveal the title of the book is….. *drum roll* …..  Carry the Beautiful.

All printed off and covered in corrections

When I have said this verbally, some people have assumed Carry is the girl’s name, Carrie.  But it is not.  It is definitely the verb, and is paraphrased from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that is referenced at the start…

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I have come to love his writing but more importantly, bung a beard on him and he is the spit of my Dad circa 1975.

So there we have it.  Enough sneaky peeks for now - back to the update.  I now have the proof-read copy of my manuscript (apparently I’m a bugger for a split infinitive) and have inserted it into my chosen book layout.  I have seen suggested sketches of the front cover and have selected one to develop into the real thing.  I have also started my Christmas shopping.  Woohoo for me! 

Come back this time next week for a meandering stream of consciousness, or wait for the week later for more book news.  Happy Monday, y'all.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Let's All Just Get Along/Get Drunk...

I try not to be political on here.  I save all my feminist outrage, party political allegiance and liberal bias for my Twitter feed*.  I’m not sure why, but at some point I made the distinction to save my Important Opinions for Twitter and keep everything else joky and light.
And yet in these politically horrific times it is so very hard to stick to that plan.   I’m still shocked about Brexit, so the US election result hasn’t got a hope in hell of registering.  But still, let’s avoid that convo - let’s keep it ‘nice’.  Let’s all just get along! 
In an attempt to cheer myself up, I’ve compiled a selection of ‘lovely things’ that can provide as a distraction from the real world, before dusting myself off and fighting for my tiny bit of equality-filled space once again.

I binge watched The Crown in two days, last week.  (Could easily be done in one.)  When everything is feeling crappy outside, there is nothing better than a cup of tea, a blanket, and a glossy new series to devour. 

Eurovision isn’t just for May - it’s for life.  When your insides hit peak despair, whacking on your Eurovision playlist as you go about your business is as uplifting as it gets.   Try Chanee and N'Evergreen, Conchita, or for 90s retro-enthusiasm, Carola  to raise you to a functioning level once more.

  My playlist, for the more Eurovision-obsessed amongst you.

Nephews and Nieces
I have a small niece and a smaller nephew, and yesterday I spent a few hours with them.  Trump is easily forgotten when you are instructed to look at new stripy tights and do a French plait on a Girl’s World.

As always, I'm happy to provide recipe inspiration, and this moussaka  was fit.  If pushed for time, it’s a bit faffy, but when you have a couple of hours to chill in the kitchen, this is a great way to pass the minutes.  Red wine is a good accompaniment, and also helps with everything else.

Booze in general
Apologies to non-drinkers, but I do love a good alcohol-fuelled evening.  My tastes change with the seasons, but I will always love icy cold champagne, and a warming glass of red.  On top of that, strong Hendricks gin with the obligatory cucumber garnish is good for the inner-central heating, and I’m never against a frothy pint of lager straight from the pump.  This Winter however, I am most excited to try Baileys Pumpkin Spice.  It sounds DELISH!  I can think of no better way to end 2016 than to see off a bottle or two of that, and wait for the New Year to kick in. 

Chin chin, folks.  Down the hatch, and all that jazz.

*If you want to see copious retweeted Guardian articles, you can find me at @BondieLa on Twitter.