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.  

Monday, 7 November 2016

What's in a Name?

There are two reasons that help me to understand why people procreate. Only two. Two reasons that positively offset all the sleepless nights, incessant, irrational crying and projectile bodily fluids. These are…

  •      You can make the baby wear a hat with ears.
  •      You get to name another person, and help create their initial identity.

The ‘hats with ears’ thing is a no brainer. Literally every baby that was ever born looks a million times better in a hat with ears. There is no exception. Take a look at this website.  Their section of ‘hats with ears’ is called ‘Ear Hats’. This is most pleasing. We should all have a cupboard or drawer where our Ear Hats are stored. On the downside, however, it seems they have been categorised by gender. I’m not sure how gendered an Ear Hat for a new-born needs to be, but hey ho.

 Source: Beanie Designs

Anyway, on to point two, which is the excitingly giddy responsibility of naming a child. And now I must clarify the reference regarding identity. As much as I feel that names and identity are deeply entwined, I also know this isn’t set in stone. Identity can be played with at any point. Whether it is a toddler deciding they are going to be a dog for the rest of the day, or whether it is - as I did - ditching Nicola as my first name the second I started High School. Identity and the power of a name are fluid concepts, and usually under the control of the individual concerned. Yet, and yet…. how absolutely brilliant to have the chance to push-start someone on their way by giving them their name.

Because of my refusal to put up with the other aspects of child-rearing as stated above, I have to satisfy this desire for attempted personality creation, with the naming of my characters. And let’s face it, here I have complete control over the shape of their lives, and how they choose to behave. It’s the perfect way to flex my naming muscles without having to wipe up escaping excrement from the sofa cushions. So far, anyway.

Naming my main character - the female protagonist - felt as important as naming a child. I ended up calling her Tilda. Not only is this a name I like, but it hinted at a slightly interesting backstory which may or may not tally with what we learn about her. I wonder how many Tildas would have been born in Stockport, forty years ago. (Age and birthplace teaser there for you.) I also like the idea of her originally being called Matilda, because I had a doll with that name in 1979. Perhaps rather tellingly, my doll was not named by me, but my mother. As were my other dolls, Gilbert, Cilla, and the less imaginatively titled, Dolly. But I digress.

My male lead character’s name was harder to pinpoint. At the time, I was watching series one of Homeland, and felt drawn to the name of Damien Lewis’ character, Brodie. I liked how it was his last name, but also used as his first. It felt too easy just to nick that, so I scratched my head a bit longer until I came upon the name, Grady. Jessica Fletcher’s nephew on Murder She Wrote deserves to be immortalised in print, and this was the perfect opportunity.
So, my unnamed main characters became Tilda and Grady and I got on with writing their story, whilst sleeping soundly, and not requiring a packet of baby wipes to be glued to my side.

If only I’d been able to find the perfect Ear Hats for them, then I’d have been truly content.