Friday, July 21, 2006

Gone Wandering...

Right I'm off then. See you in about a month's time if I can keep away from a computer for that length of time. I'm just wondering whether to stick another book in my bag, no, no, I've got four days in England... So far I've got The Time Traveller's Wife, Orlando and The Selfish Gene (which I have already been reading for over a month and I need to put down and ponder every few pages). I've also got my snorkel set, a very big A4 notebook for doing a bit of writing, my A6 journal, a bag full of cables for recharging my various electrical goodies and somewhere in all that junk I'm pretty sure I've got my passport.

Right got to go and get the first leg of this journey over and done with.

See you soon, will miss you all ...

Love V

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Exploding the Myth

Forgive me readers for I have cheated. I have gone for numbers instead of quality and fame instead of loyalty. Maybe I should explain in a little more detail.

As I’ve been doing the rounds of blogs I like to read I’ve also noted those little boxy things that people have on the side bars or the end of the blogs. First there was the site meter. I liked that because for a while there you don’t know who’s reading, if anyone at all. As well as that you get this little map of the world which you can make bigger or smaller and you can whiz all over the world in a few seconds on your computer. If only my flight next week could be so easy.

Then I spotted Blog Explosion on someone’s site and I wondered what all that was about so I tagged it on because it promised to ‘EXPLODE YOUR BLOG TRAFFIC’.

Then I think I added the word count meter, which has stayed static the last few days and the least said about that the better. Thank god I never left any comments on Lofthouse’s blog because I have well and truly fallen off her wagon. I’m hoping that some Balinese beaches (as long as there no more Tsunamis) and some real down time will aid me to see where I am going wrong here.

About the same time I added the Cloud thing and Technorati. No, I must have added Technorati first. I liked that because I discovered that Frank Wilson (he who solves all those author puzzles on Shameless’s site REALLY quickly) had read my blog. You see site meter gives you numbers and locations but weird things happen, you can’t really work out who it is.

Yeah, so then came the cloud, because I liked the idea that a number of key words would let people know what I was about and I hate writing those blurb things at the top, so I thought this would be an alternative. I had to spend a good five minutes banning it from tagging all the expletives I use. The biggest tag to begin with was FUCKING and I figured that would just give the wrong impression; this site isn’t really about fucking.

And then I went back to Blog Explosion and wondered how it would explode my traffic.So far no one had visited my site from there. Well, it seems that first you have to surf and earn credits. It’s quite easy really you click on ‘surf blogs’ and then you look at them for 30 seconds and then you click onto the next one. In twenty minutes I had surfed ... I don’t know how many blogs and earned about 30 credits or so. Fantastic. I assigned my credits and then tootled back to my own blog and lo and behold my site meter had jumped by twenty! Shit it works, I thought (shit was another word I had to ban from my cloud).

Next day did the same thing, twenty minutes, but NO credits this time. Well I don’t know maybe I set it to auto assign. Went back to my site, another twenty or so visits. Fabulous.

Today I started doing the same thing and suddenly it dawned on me. Nobody is reading my site; they’re just trawling through blogs in search of credits. They’re spending the mandatory 30 seconds on my blog before clicking onto the next one and unlike me they may not even be reading the sites. So I quit Blog Explosion and have come back to the fold. There’s only one way to earn blog traffic. Write my posts, surf blogs, comment and hope that someone likes what I’m writing.

Oh and whoopsy. I forgot humble old BritBlog. They were the first actually and every now and again someone stumbles along from there or I find something on it. My last find was Chris Dolley who has (uh hum) some really cute (yes I am going to say this) kitten pictures and a hilarious account of his time as an extra on Luc Besson’s film Joan of Arc.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fear of Flying (Things)

Ok, it’s time for the talk. I know I should be going to bed as I have a moving company coming round at 8am tomorrow to give me a quote, but it’s time to exercise these demons.

For some reason unbeknown even to me I decided to iron today. So I ironed one top and then I did another, except what I did was leave an iron shaped hole in the top and I had a pretty flowery pattern on my iron. So then using a trick from MOTHER and my knowledge of Batik, I put some wax on the iron and wiped it on a big brown envelope. Until I realised that there was something in the envelope and I had a waxy bill. So I lifted up the iron and the wax dripped all over the ironing board. So I now have a ruined top and a ruined ironing table.

So I gave up on the ironing and decided to blog, my computer crashed.

I gave up and decided maybe a bit of telly. No Tour de France today and I couldn’t even complete a lousy sudoku.

Frustrated I went to the loo for a bit of respite only to discover there was no loo roll. I trundled off the laundry room, yanked a roll out the bag, knocked over the washing liquid and discovered as I was covered from head to toe in Woolite that I hadn’t closed the lid.

Then there seemed to be a rest in catastrophes and I had some wine, a few fags and settled down to watch Grey’s Anatomy (a really mind expanding day as you can see). And then things decided to turn nasty again. A moth; a moth fluttering around in my lounge. The light was dimmed for God’s sake. Why are these things plaguing me? I had one come and sit on my desk last night and it took all my will power to get a glass and a postcard and send it fluttering on its merry way out the window. But tonight, tonight it was too much. I fled the lounge egged on by nature’s call and as I undid my belt thought to myself; ‘Hmm that feels funny.’ I looked down and the damn thing had landed on me. Much screaming, arm waving and door slamming ensued and I found myself on the other side of the bathroom door still needing to pee. Ok, so no more Mrs. Nice Guy tonight, these damn things have already plagued my night hours once this week, this time it was vengeance. I got the big spoon and I tried to kill it dead, except I missed and it’s now seeking refuge in my shower. The need to pee was greater than my fear, but my teeth remain unbrushed.

So why? Why do these things scare the shit out of me? I know, they are small, I am bigger. They flutter, I don’t. Why when given the chance to go to the biggest butterfly sanctuary in all of Mexico was I driven to reply: ‘That’s my idea of hell, I’d rather jump out of a plane’? Well, for a start I’d already jumped out of a plane and the only thing that happened to me was that I got a hefty whack on the chin from my altimeter; whereas moths and butterflies flutter. Yuck!

OK, so I was little. It was summer. I was in the kitchen with my Dad. Then I was in the kitchen alone. Dad had gone running down the stairs and as he came back up the stairs, he was cradling something in his hands. A bird. A little bird. It could have been a pigeon, a sparrow, I don’t know, all I know is that it was of the flying category. “The silly thing flew straight into the window.” My Dad explained. It was still alive and quivering in his tender hands. “I’ll give it some water maybe that will revive it.” He said and he opened the tap and splashed some water on the bird and by God he revived it. The damn thing started flapping around the kitchen at a crazy speed and all I can remember is the noise. And me, did I help Dad get it out? No I screamed at him to get it out and took refuge under the kitchen table with my hands over my ears.

After that even when butterflies fluttered around me in the garden I would freak and I woke my Mum up at 2am once when I realised there was a moth on my bedroom wall. She begged me to go to sleep earlier after that, but I never realised what was the cause of this ridiculous phobia until much later when a similar incident occurred.

When I worked in Mexico we were offered Spanish lessons, but being of the free variety it didn’t take long for people to start skiving. So I was on my own in the classroom discussing something really interesting probably (I kid ye not, this guy was a great language teacher – introduced me to Marquez and Fuentes and Borges). Anyway, we’re sitting there and suddenly I go rigid and completely lose track, I couldn’t answer a question for love nor money.

“Is everything alright?” He asked.

“Mm,” I tried to look at him while keeping an eye on the thing that had landed on the window sill. “There’s a bird inside the classroom.”

“Is it bothering you? We can find somewhere else?”

There were no other classrooms I knew, so I gathered up my courage and tried to get on with the class as best I could until it flew over my head to the window at the other end of the classroom. Boy, you have never seen a student pack up and get out so quick. I managed not to scream, but I did have to spend the rest of the lesson explaining in Spanish the above story of the bird in the kitchen and how I have been mortally afraid of flying things ever since. Thankfully none of his buttons fell of in surprise as I explained so I didn’t have to go into that phobia as well.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Round up of the News this Weekend

I was watching the end of the Tour de France on Saturday and it occurred to me that I hadn’t watched or read the news in a few days, so I thought I would flick through the teletext while I was watching.

So Israel and Lebanon are at war. Another case of big boys with rockets bombing the shit out of a little boys with stones.

The UN have come up with their list of sanctions for North Korea.

150 people were arrested in India in connection with the terrorist attacks earlier in the week (or maybe not).

And the G8 summit began in St. Petersburg.

Just to add to this special potion of doom and gloom I then decided to read Baghdad Burning.

Oh, but the Space Shuttle was due to land either Monday or Tuesday depending on weather.

What happened to the good news? Where is the joy in the world hiding? Why do we have to search for that glimmer of hope while the shit keeps on raining down?

A wee progress report

So after a recommendation I decided to do Jacqui Lofthouse’s 30 day writing dooberry. I’ve already managed to miss a few days and as for the gratitude diary... well least said about that the better. On the whole I am taking and leaving things as I choose while sticking to the basic premise of knocking out about 1,000 words a day and writing for an hour a day. So far so good, I reached day eight with just under 10,000 words, but I knew that there was some serious editing needed already and I wondered when that would take place. Ah, day nine. The word count for today was meant to be 500 and I was supposed to take one small passage I was unhappy with and edit. So I printed out all twenty-nine pages and by the time I could go no further on page 17 I had already scored out a whole eight pages. Aah! Without even doing the re-writes and just chopping my word count was down to 7,200.

Ok, but it’s not the end of the world and the ten reasons why (I’m supposed to do this everyday, not exactly like this, but what the hey).

  1. I got into the mother’s head, so even though I cut all her first person bits out, I now know where she is coming from.
  2. One of the characters went from about twenty-five to seventeen in the space of a few pages, and even though this story is just a little bit weird, that’s too weird.
  3. The first chapter, opening sequence whatever is now much better, maybe a little challenging for a reader, but I prefer it.
  4. Even though I will probably edit all this again, the story really started to come alive for me around page 19, so I do need to edit so that the story leads to that point and then I’ll probably have to edit all again.
  5. There are bits that are chopped out that can come in again later, so it’s not all wasted effort.
  6. Ehm this is getting difficult... I know my main character a bit better. I remember the first time I created him I wanted him to be a right little shit, but despite that I really liked him. Well, the thing is that I was probably that right little shit and I’m a bit older and wiser now and so I think that I can create a better little shit with some hindsight involved.
  7. I’ve now got a visual image of my characters, before they were just impressions, so movement and mannerisms are easy to deal with now as well.
  8. I sort of kind of already knew that I was able to chop things out of my work, but I usually like the OK of a reader, so I’ve gone ahead and done this alone.
  9. La la la lah ... blooming heck, ten is quite a lot really. Oh I’m well into the writing, I do think to myself, even though I’ve got to find movers and do this and do that, I also must do my hour even if it is 11.30 when I start.
  10. How am I going to keep this up when I’m holiday for a month? Long hand? Ye gads! Is it possible?

And some more progress. Well, I added a word count bar so that I can keep tabs on myself. Did a mammoth job yesterday until about 2 am. Then came back and rewrote that until about 3ish and I’ve had another jab today, so I’ve caught up on the word count. I’m just thinking though that 30,000 words is about the point where I usually think everything is crap and stop! Ooks I hope Lofthouse has something for getting you through the next 30,000.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


A picnic? A picnic? A picnic it is then.
Tins emptied, veggies chopped, mayonnaise squirted,
garlic pressed, chipolatas fried, mango chutney packed,
sarongs, water, keys, tickets, phone, ready.

Text messages, roads closed, under the east pillar.
The smell of fried sausages assaulting the nostrils.
This bridge might be a good spot.
That field might be a good spot.

Here under the tower is a hard spot,
but here under the tower is a good spot.
Trip, tread, careful, slow.
A wave, a smile, no grass to be seen.

We three spread and open,
a salad, some wine, bread, dips
Munch, chew, swallow, sip.
Mm, perhaps we have too much.

The sun sets behind
And glows in the windows
of the tower in front.
What time is it?

Is it time yet?
Is it time yet?
No, it’s not time yet.
It’s not dark yet.

A voice booms out,
echoing incoherently across the wide open spaces.
Is it time yet?
No! It’s not time yet.

Le Tour glows green.
A roar from the crowd,
like a Mexican wave they rise.
Sit down we shout back.

The first notes swim across the champs.
Strings of lights beam up into the sky.
A lump sticks in my throat,
and a fountain of fire rises.

Dandelion heads
descending into a shower of golden fireflies,
twinkling brightly
Then dying out.

Hoops of red white and blue,
hearts reaching out to love you,
twirlers skittering into the sky
exploding loudly into a rainbow

Finally the fountain reaching ever higher, higher.
It’s white brightness glowing on our open mouthed faces.
Explosions of colour upon colour.
A moments silence.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Sound of Breath Being Expelled in a Relieved Way

Yes, I can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with the wondrous joys of being on holiday. I found a flat, I signed a cheque for lots of money and a little capitalist loitering somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my brain shouted really loudly: “WASTED MONEY!” I’m not entirely sure whose voice that is hiding in there, but I’m ignoring it for now.

Instead I went to experience the joys of the SALES. Yay. Well I actually went to get my Massive Attack tickets and maybe pick up a bigger SD card for my camera, but instead I came home with three very cheap DVDs, a new top and a pair of shorts... oops.

I’d gone off DVD’s for a while there. Decided I couldn’t quite see the point in buying them as I only ever watch them once and then they get added to the pile that is stopping the DVD player being on the floor. Every now and again there is nothing on so I’ll pull one out and then decide I’ve seen it and I don’t want to watch it anymore. I don’t know, maybe it was that voice that’s hiding in my head again. I sauntered past the cheap stacks and High Fidelity leapt out; or rather the voice shouted again: “Ooh I’d like to see that,” if only so that I can hear Jack Black’s ear bashing of the Dad who wants to buy ‘Hello’ for his daughter. I don’t usually like films of books that I really liked, but it was sufficiently different, but sufficiently infused with Nick Hornby’s humour to please me and now I’ve bought it.

Next came Il Postino. Just before the end of term I found one of my students reading an English/Spanish version of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. I flipped through it, found a suitably short poem and began reading the Spanish version just to make sure I hadn’t lost all my Spanish. I hadn’t but I had forgotten how great Neruda’s poetry was and I had also forgotten what on earth Il Postino had to do with Pablo Neruda. So I’ll tell you when I’ve watched it and that’s another book I need to add to my list of books to buy when I’m next in England.

After that came ... well ... you see ... there are films you watch to make you laugh, there are films you watch to explore new horizons and to expand your mind and then there are films you watch to just chill out on Friday evening when you are exhausted. I know it’s Wednesday, but it feels like a Friday and ‘The Bourne Identity’ just called to me!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Vague Impression

Last night someone smudged the moon.
They got a big eraser and blurred its edges
into the black night sky.
Embarrassed by its uncertainty
the moon hid behind the trees
and the high ivy covered
stone wall.
The street lamps blinded me
and the sweeping electric gaze of the tower
led my eyes away.
But one lamp flickered out,
leaves shivered in the breeze
and if I stood on tiptoe
I could see a sliver of its translucent glow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Day Off

Today was supposed to be my day off from flat hunting, except that I had one flat to visit. Yesterday was a bit of a scorcher so I spent my time hiding in the shadows waiting for agents to turn up. As I ambled up to one building I spotted another prospective renter waiting outside. You can spot us a mile off; we’re the ones juggling at least five business cards, a diary and a pen. I had got the appointment for this flat on Monday and I was buggered if I could remember a damn thing about it, so I got chatting to my competition. Neither of us knew what floor the flat was on, how big it was or how much the rent was. We started joking about how we now had the ability to spot agents a mile off. Yep it’s the A4 diary that gives them away, except we were so busy comparing our ability to do this that neither of us saw Olivier coming: a young thing, in a blue shirt, jeans and trainers. Overdressed but too casual, I thought to myself as he led us up the stairs.

As Olivier led us up the stairs he admitted that he hadn’t visited the flat before so he couldn’t tell us too much about it. He pulled the huge wad of keys out and began unlocking Fort Knox. After a minute or two it became apparent that he was struggling. The back of his light blue shirt was turning dark blue and his hairstyle was adopting a wet look. After a few minutes his composure was completely gone, he was swearing at the door like a good ‘un.

Competition decided to have a go at the door while I had the extremely important job of flicking the light switch every time the timer reached the end of its limit. Finally both Competition and Olivier gave up. “Well you have a go, you haven’t tried yet.” Competition said to me and for the second time in two days I found myself struggling with a set of locks that agents couldn’t manage to open. I knew the other three locks were open and the one that was flummoxing us all was definitely turning, but I couldn’t manage it either.

Suddenly the neighbour’s door opened. “What’s going on?” She took us in and sighed with relief. “Well, it’s not a burglary.”

“No, this flat is safe, we can’t get in and we’ve got the keys.” Olivier explained.

Neighbour had a go but she couldn’t manage it either, but she told us as we trooped off down the stairs that the current renter also had problems with the locks occasionally. So I ended up coming back this morning. It was a quick tour because behind that elusive door was a very little space. So I traipsed back down Joseph de Maistre for the millionth time this week, back past the cemetery, remembered to stop off for some fags and then got home and packed away the laptop to take it off for a much needed check up. It’s been getting all hot and bothered and switching itself off in a huff.

While I left in the capable hands of The Server Man, I went off to get my jabs for Bali, yay. The woman at the reception told me that the jabs were recommended but that I didn’t really need them. There was a moment of temptation there, but then I thought Kimberley and Estrella are already jabbed and then knowing my luck I’ll get sick. I’d timed it, so that during my two hours wait I would get some lunch, sit around and read some and then go back get jabbed and go pick up the laptop. Well, I sat on the Esplanade des Invalides and got my book out, got my journal out, got the musak out and then didn’t know what to do. I’ve been running around like such a blue arsed fly all week that I wasn’t really mentally ready for this two hour break.

Anyway, the laptop seems to be better now; trojans and all sorts of other crap apparently. It’s been on all evening. I’ve listened to Ben Harper (over and over again, it just suits the climate), did my hours sacred writing time. I’m glad it’s only an hour, because what I’m writing is a bundle of laughs. I’m enjoying it, but it’s draining. Farted around some and then decided to see if Orange New Voices liked my mine. I had a feeling that they had announced their short list. They didn’t like me (sad face) except really deep down I knew that I just couldn’t get the ending right, so I got fed up with it and just sent it off. I kind of know what it should be, but it ain’t there right now. Another one to work on I guess.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On est en Finale

Right you see this. Now imagine its night time and the fountain is lit from behind as landmarks are nowadays. Now you see those two bottom tiers imagine that is full of people jumping up and down and getting very wet. Oh and the left hand corner, someone’s waving a huge red flare there, bathing the whole scene in its scarlet glow. The semi circular base of the statue, oh yeah there are a whole bunch of people there doing a fair impression of the cancan although it seems the aim is to kick as much water out of the fountain rather than showing us their knickers. And there’s a fair amount of French flags waving off that bit. And on the fallen angel, yep there are a bunch of people clinging on there and jumping around. And there are a bunch of boxer shorted young men riding the dragons, redirecting the jets of water flowing out of the dragon’s mouth over the milling crowd.

Now imagine the sound. Firecrackers going off, horns beeping and every now and again the crowds start chanting as one: “On est en finale, on est en finale, on est, on est, on est en finale.”

But hang on who’s that there behind the fallen angel’s wing. He’s trying to clamber up higher but keeps slipping down.

“Shit, he’s going to fall and break his head.” Colleen says.

“No, he’s going to get to the top and wave the flag off. See it’s easy, if he climbs on the fallen angels wing, then hitches up on St. Michel’s skirty thing and then...” And then I get a bit stuck, but I want him to do it.

And he wants to do it too. He kicks off his shoes and clambers up the fallen angel’s wing. Then he ducks behind and he’s up St. Michel’s back like a little monkey and then he’s on St. Michel’s left shoulder clinging to his head like a little boy on his Dad’s back and then he unfurls the flag and I hoot and scream and clap for him and a general cheer goes up.

Later when the one who scaled St. Michel is down and the flag that got nicked off the front of an official building is up we decide it’s time to leave.

“It looks like it’s raining over that metro entrance.” I point out.

“Ach.” Colleen replies.

We get down about four steps before they notice us and they kick and they kick and we scream and giggle and Colleen looks at me with her few drops on her t-shirt and says. “Ah you must have got the brunt of that.”

I turn round, I’m drenched!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Not really about the Tour de France

Spent the afternoon and evening yesterday sweating buckets; other than that there’s no football, no work and no distractions - except I am a distraction unto myself. I added a sentence or two to something that had just popped out on Sunday evening, but that wasn’t going anywhere. I re read Sirens in preparation for its eventual rejection and re-write; I had decided on quite a radical re-write a few months ago, but as I read it yesterday I figured it was OK as it is, but could definitely do with some tidying up, which I didn’t do. I read Stardust to see what Anne had so hated about it. It was pretty twee and cringe worthy, but there are probably some bits I can pilfer for something else along the line. And then ... I sat on the sofa watching the Tour de France. That is a huge distraction and something else I lay firmly at the feet of my Dad (along with a whole pile of other things). Last year he visited me while it was at the ‘Montagne’ stage. Armstrong had basically already won and I made the huge mistake of asking ‘Why?’ I’m not saying I understand the Tour any better now, but I’ve got a vague understanding of time and sprinters and how the teams work together and there’s always a pretty exciting ‘chute’ along the way. As well as that, the Tour has hours of TV time and there is only so much cycling you can watch, so it really is a Tour de France. The helicopter zooms in on places of interest and you get a little geography and history along the way and the mountain stages are just amazing. The scenery is fantastic and it’s the one thing that makes me finally want to learn to drive, so that I can get down to some of those places one day. But then I was meant to be preparing myself for today’s supposedly free writing day. I did a few sudukos and sprayed Evian everywhere and sweated some more and then I went and found that bulging green file I’ve carted from Plymouth, back to London, to Kent, back to London where it stayed while I was in Mexico, then it rejoined me in Madrid and now it’s finally here on my untidy bookshelf in Paris. I knew what I was looking for; it’s been a friend for so long.

I pulled out the untidy sheets and laughed at what I had typed on, worksheets, the back of old essays, the thin paper that covered the top and bottom of reams that Mum used to bring home for me to use. I typed on absolutely anything. It was a little green typewriter with a red and black band and sometimes the keys used to get stuck and sometimes I must have been short of paper because there were no margins or headers and footers, but boy I typed it out. And the typos, well there were many, sometimes it was a bit of guesswork that got me through what I had tried to spill out then. So I read... I remember writing it in the dining room surrounded by my plants on that huge varnished table. My typewriter was sat on a folded up tablecloth so that I didn’t scratch the table and I was surrounded by rizlas, baccy and a fair amount of Afghan black (if my memory serves me right). I must have written this stuff; what 14, 13 years ago now, but I still liked it. Ok, I’ve got to admit, I loved it. I was surprised by it sometimes. There were even some lines that I recognized as having written again recently. There’s something in there just dying to get out. But I popped it back into the folder and wondered what.

This morning I did my usual rounds of my fave blogs and stuck on Deep Thinker’s. She’s been going on about this 30 day Writing Course for a little while now and I have to admit that sometimes I take these things with a little pinch of salt. I surf from time to time when the words dry up and usually an exercise or two is enough to get me through, so do I really need a 30 day course? And then I figured what the hell. Between now and the end of the holidays I should have about 30 days, so go for it, what have I got to lose and from Deep Thinker’s rave reviews everything to gain. So I’ve done the first exercise. Now I’m kind of impatient to get to the second one, but sometimes these things are best left to mulch in your head, and besides it’s almost the end of today’s stage!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another One

I've got another three flat viewings. I need to be more systematic about this flat hunting malarky. The website got all glitchy on me, so I decided three appointments was enough for today. Then I looked at appointment no.1. I've written the address down and the phone number, but what agency is it? How much is the rent? What arrondissment is rue Constance in? Oh dear! So then I decided to whack another story up on The Pimple Continued. It was written last year on the train from St. Malo back to Paris.

The journey to St. Malo had been a bit frought. I may have mentioned I'm not one for time keeping so I arrived at Montparnasse ten minutes before the train was due to leave. I charged up the stairs spotted a guy sitting on his rucksack just about to spark up and walked with complete determination towards him. "Est ce que je peut avoir du feu?" I asked my hand already extended expecting the lighter, the cigarette in the other hand. "Wow, you know what you want." He commented as he handed me the lighter. Then I began my march across the concourse to the platform no.21. My phone was buzzing like an angry fly in my pocket as Jane panicked that I would miss the train.

As I tossed my cigarette away and climbed on board it was four minutes before the train was due to pull out. I settled down and it was then that I realised that the journey was five hours, there was no buffet car on the train, I was starving and I had no water! But I had a lighter. I had texted Jane from the metro when I had realised that I was missing one and like a complete star she had bought me one!

It was sometime during those two days as we sat staring at the kitesurfers whizzing across the water, or walking along the city walls, or when we were in hysterics about my button and bird phobia that I realised something about me; I was enormously relieved.

And yes I did say button phobia, I'll tell you about it one day, but that's another post.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More of Me

Right I have spent hours at this, but I am sharing a bit more of me with YOU.

Since the beginning of June I have been waiting impatiently for Leaf Books to announce their shortlist. Finally on Thursday it was printed. I didn't win, I didn't even make it onto the highly commended list. There was a rather nice comment about how their readers found the job very difficult and that they had enjoyed reading many of the other stories, but how did I know if they liked mine? So a little idea formed in my head (well actually nicked from Minx and Lee and bouyed on by Skint's success with his POD venture).

So if you look over at the side bar there's a new bit: The Pimple Continued. On that I will post my work in progress (or in this case works that got nowhere). Please feel free to comment, say they are crap, how they could be improved, never write again, YES it's the best thing I read in ages. You know that sort of thing and when it disappears from the blog it will mean that I've sent it off into the big wide world. There are a couple of stories up there already and if you like finding new fiction on the web, then I have also linked to other fiction blogs there.

I also had to link to the Free Templates page. Thanks Maxine for suggesting that link; found just the background I was looking for, spent hours farting around with it till it did what I want, but it's pretty good, me thinks.

Right, well that's it, I'm handing my babies over to you:

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A bit of a rant

A couple of years ago I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and didn’t eat in a fast food joint for nine months. I was probably suffering from the mother of all hangovers on the day all my ideals melted and obviously I have eaten in these establishments since; but I’ve always hated those places. Before it was just a gut feeling, whereas Schlosser framed it in a way that made me understand why I hated those places.

I grew up in a part of London that was owned by the church. I don’t know which church, or why, but what it meant was that there weren’t any pubs. The HSBC Bank on the corner was meant to be a pub until this ridiculous bylaw was discovered; so although we lived in a tiny little bit of London that didn’t really deserve its own tube stop we had four banks on the high street but not a single pub.

One summer, when I was home from university a man came and knocked on the door doing some market research about opening up a Weatherspoons on the corner. I was ecstatic; finally there would be a ‘real’ pub here instead of that dreadfully tacky Mandy’s wine bar. My Mum was not so chuffed when she got home and I relayed the news. ‘Drunk people in our street!’ Like me or my brother had never been drunk in the street? We wouldn’t have so far to reel home now, she should be pleased and front gardens all over the neighbourhood were safer (that was my brother not me). Well anyway, the Weatherspoons opened here, it opened there, it opened every bloody where and one day I sat in one of them in xville looking at the identical menu with a feeling of dismay. I sighed: ‘this is just like the McDonald’s of pubs, they are all the bloody same.’ I was missing the King’s Head where the manager used to rib me about my awful choice of boyfriends and the loose table top was glued on with chewing gum and the toilets were outside in sheds.

Soon after I left England and when I returned the rash of Starbuck’s, Costa Coffee etc. had spread over London like the plague and coffee was no longer coffee. Instinctively I hated them, I knew these coffee establishments were going to take over England and there was something hateful and insipid about them (and I don’t mean the coffee). Stupidly though I felt smug over here in mainland Europe; here we had proper coffee in little coffee cups that made your hair stand on end and your face contort into a Popeye impression. And we drank coffee for proper reasons: to finish off a good meal, while waiting for friends, to while away a Sunday afternoon, or just because it was time. When I got to France I also discovered that there were just as many different types of coffee as Starbucks: espresso, café crème, grand crème, noisette, allonge. And there are traditions too, you get a freebie glass of water with a coffee and coffee after dinner or lunch is just scrumptious.

But the Starbucks contagion continued to spread and reached Paris. Jose Bove was busy stopping GM food or was perhaps banged up in prison so he couldn’t stop it coming to Opera, and then one day I saw one in Montparnasse. Having finally discovered the wonders of Toastissimo, that was taken over by a Starbucks and now they are just everywhere.

And now this whole franchise crap is spreading into other domains. When I arrived in Paris six years ago, you found your apartments by phoning the small ads in Particulier a Particulier (owners rent directly to you) and you queued up with the other fifty million possible tenants with your dossier clutched in your clammy little hand just like everyone else and you got depressed just like everyone else. I’m on an e mail alert with PAP as it is fondly known and I’m getting NOTHING. So I decided to have a wee look with the agencies (who I also hate because what exactly do they do for their money). Anyway one kept coming up: ANCEA. Yep, I’m outing you ANCEA. They are not an agency, no they are kind of like Particulier a Particulier, but unlike PAP, instead of you phoning the owner up and making an appointment and the owner having to answer the phone countless times and make appointments, ANCEA does all that for you. Isn’t that nice of them? Yeah, and they charge you 220€ for the privilege. But they are not an agency, they won’t charge you again. But you already have you bastards, because you are flooding the market with your ads for places that I can’t see unless I pay you to see them and you are wasting my time. And come August 16th if I still haven’t found a flat I will probably be sucked into your organisation like a fly in a web because you will have killed the market, just like Weatherspoons killed pubs and Starbucks killed coffee.


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