Monday, April 30, 2007

And the winners are...

So woke up, checked excitedly and … nope I didn’t win The Clarity of Night short Fiction Contest, but click on the link in the side bar and find out who did. I also visited quite a few other blogs this morning who also didn’t win, but hey ho.

But what is it that makes a winner?

If it was up to me it would be something that was completely different, original. It would be something that spoke to the bottom of my heart, a voice in my head. It would be outstanding writing; sentences that flowed and sang through careful crafting rather than being crippled by punctuation.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? When I started writing again seriously (goddamn is it already almost two years!) a friend of mine kept telling me to check the judges out when I entered competitions; find out what the the judges were looking for. In the end it’s all perspective. It’s what makes me pick that book up from the shelf and you turn around and say: ‘No, not my cup of tea really.’

So do you know what I think? I think we’re all winners really because at least we are putting ourselves out there and having a go.

Tomorrow the GBA(s)FC#2 over at Moon Topples starts. Skint Writer is also running a competition that closes on the 30th June. And here is a link for a bunch more competitions if competition be your thing.

Right I’m going to go and have breakfast. The only problem with sustained writing periods is that I forget to eat and ended up swaying all over the place last night and having to watch TV instead of write and take one of those awful turbofart tablets.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


9998 written chronologically.

13,636 that I just had to write because it was in my head, but I won’t count it properly because I’ll probably change it, cut it, whatever.

10,098 already cut.

And that all adds up to 33,732.

Words, words, words...

I’ve done this before and lived to regret it. I know I shouldn’t be getting excited. I’ll hit 30,000 somewhere in the middle of the summer and go ‘Fuck this is shite!’

My plans for the summer are this:

  1. Discover quiet contemplative places in paris.
  2. Write
  3. Blog
  4. Go quietly insane
  5. Go to London and visit family and friends
  6. Write
  7. Go quietly insane
  8. Get a damned picture of those rook/ crows/whatever big black bird sitting on a cross in the cemetery
  9. buy a new notebook because the blue one will be finished.

This morning I was really rather terrified by this plan. I’m trying to get excited about it, but I remember last summer where Alex Glossop was all pally and forthcoming and then went and fucked off somewhere where God only know’s who’ll find him. OK I admit I abandoned him by buggering off on holiday and getting all wrapped up in finding a new flat, but man I wasn’t going to be telling his story from under one of Paris’s bridges was I? Anyway, I’m all there for the boys this summer. Not Alex he still hasn’t come back from wherever, but there are some new boys and a rather feisty little she-cat who has yet to show her full colours, but she’ll come out I’m sure, I hope...

If I stick up one of those word count bars will that be the kiss of death?

Does it matter that I know that the first draft is like a roller coaster ride through my brain in an effort to get this down?

Will I get the first draft down during the summer? Am I being over optimistic? Would December be more realistic?

See points 4 and 7 are really going to happen.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Scenes at the Garden Party

Froth spills over the razor thin crystal edges
as adhesive smiles are pasted over
barely disguised dripping disdain.
Rays of heat illuminate the
staggeringly joyous resignation while
on the other side of the cool horizon
of sombre iron bars
lies freedom;
stretching into the last hours of the day

Copyright, 2007. Verilion

Monday, April 23, 2007


Today I bought some new sandals. I tend to go straight from boots to sandals with a short interlude via a well worn much loved pair of trainers. Anyway, I knew I really wanted a pair of Birkenstocks because I bought a fake pair last year and they are dying a death and they are so very comfortable. So after a false start, I found a suitably varied selection and bought a pair. I was kind of excited and wanted to show you all, so I searched for a picture on the internet. Instead I found an online store: millions of them, and all more gorgeous than the last, and all so much cheaper than in the shops.

You see the moral of this story is that if I hadn’t been so impatient to get it done, I would have done so much better. Grrr.

My entry is up for the Endless hour competition here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I should have kept on walking

Yesterday was a beautiful day, so instead of staying on the metro I decided to walk some of the way home. I passed Castorama and thought to myself: hey you know what? I’ll buy some frames for those lithographs I bought in Lyon and put up the Bali picture that has been sitting in front of the DVD player since August because it’s about 20 x 15 cm’s and the only wall left to put it on is metres long up and I’ll put up that saddle bag carpety type thing that I bought in Turkey specially for that big wall. I was so confident that this wee task of putting some pictures up would be quick that I didn’t even unpack my food shopping. Two and a half hours later I was screaming – out loud! And clasping my head and pulling my hair.

First off, I bought three frames when in actual fact I only needed two. No matter I thought I’ll stick up that picture I took by the Beauborg last year, I always kind of liked it. So I contorted myself under the bed to get my huge art folder out and pull out the last piece of backing card I have and mounted the photo and stuck it in the frame and then realised that the remaining two frames were slightly different colours but the one with the photo matched one of the others. OK I reframed the photo no problem. Then the lithographs were slightly too big for the frame. Again no problem, got the ruler out, measured, cut, framed and put them up in the bedroom. Then I unrolled the saddle bag carpety thing. Something instantly jarred in my head but I ignored it. I put up the photo and started to get the heavy duty picture hooks out and hammered them into the wall. Originally when I bought the carpet I thought I would want to hang the carpet thing horizontally. After hammering in three hooks I thought: mmm just move it back to the right that doesn’t look right. So of course the hooks no longer lined up. Never mind I thought, I’ll just hammer in one more hook, ignore the one that doesn’t line up and three should be enough. It was at that point that I actually decided that what if it was vertical instead of horizontal. Aah actually that looked much better. But that meant pulling the hooks out the wall, cutting off and re-sewing one of the rings, sewing the bottom pocket shut and OH MY LORD look at the huge chunks of plaster falling out as I pull out the hooks! So now I had to shove polyfilla in those holes. As I was sewing the ring on, it began to dawn on me that no matter what way I hung the bloody thing it just wasn’t going to look right in here. It didn’t go with the Moroccan carpet; it didn’t go with the lamp. It just didn’t go. It was about then I began to moan slightly. So, I hauled the thing into the bedroom and hung it, eventually, it was too high at first but by now I was expert at handling the pliers so that I didn’t bring half the wall down with me. But now I still had a blank wall and one incey wincey tiny Bali picture to go up on it. That may have been the first time I screamed. I moved Bali into the bedroom and put the lithographs up on the wall in the front room. I know I should have measured, but I was just so fed up. The second picture was too high, too low, finally. It’s a couple of millimetres off but do you know what? I NO LONGER CARE. I flung the pliers, hammer, picture hooks, ladder, polyfilla, ruler and scissors back into the cupboard and headed into the sanctuary of the bathroom hating EVERYTHING.

I wandered around the flat this morning getting my breakfast ready and well, it’s OK, I kind of like everything now, but I’m not putting those bloody shelves up above the table for a good long time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Recollections of the Sea

Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.

Verdi Cries, 10,000 Maniacs

Let us worship at the altar of the sea.
the sound of the waves rolling in
the wind whispering in my ears,
the sun beating down on my bones.
The sun setting behind the sea’s edges,
when the vermilions merge
and there’s no telling where the sky ends
and the sea begins.
The evenings spent in Mazatlan,
my head resting on my hands
hoping to see that elusive
green flash.
The moon rippling on the waves,
pulling them here and there
and me sitting hugging my knees
captivated by the splendour of it.
The sound of stones
plopping into the water.
The feel of salty spray
washing my face
as my fingers dangle in the wake.
My feet plunged in the water
being tugged by the current.
Come in, come further, let me cleanse you.

Copyright, 2007. Verilion

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bad Taste

So I’m back with a carpet burn on my left elbow and a head full of questions. I’m knackered now, and maybe that’s why I have a returned with a certain sense of distaste. And then again I think the thoughts that found their form in my head while I stared into the turquoise of the Mediterranean have been brewing for a while. I guess sitting on a bus for hours on end with a bunch of ignorant wrist banded tourists brought it to a head. I don’t have the eloquence of our guide Osman who silenced a bus load of the righteous wrist bands, I just get angry and want to shake people and make them see what I see, but I will try to explain

Part of the wrist band deal is that you can venture out of the safety of the four walls in a nice coach and get a small flavour of Turkey. Our guide certainly tried to do that and more, he talked non-stop for two days and whenever we stopped the bus driver gave me and Lise Turkish lessons. As we passed through a village the guide told us to look out for bottles on the roofs. It meant that the family had a daughter of marriageable age and whichever man shot the bottle down could ask for the daughter’s hand in marriage. The wrist bands were in uproar, how backward they thought. And the women weaving the beautiful silk carpets, oh how that made them sad, these women were being exploited they said. Are they? I asked myself. They are keeping a tradition alive and being paid a comparable Turkish salary for doing so. Who’s more exploited; them or the illegal Chinese women working in the sweatshops in Paris, or the Mexican farm workers in the States? Isn’t it easy to say what’s wrong in another country yet be blind to what is going on in your own? In the two days we spent on that bus I never once heard our guide try to cover up the way his country was. The wealth is in the main cities and the East is agricultural and reaped in tradition; tradition that is sometimes unpalatable to us westerners.

Inevitably the conversation on the bus turned to Turkey’s attempts to enter the EU. Human Rights issues the wrist bands twittered, Algeria I thought, Northern Ireland. The Turkish feel the EU keep moving the goalposts for them, meanwhile letting other countries into their select club. But it’s not really in Europe they riposted. Well it’s either the EU or Turkey turns to the Islamic states, it shares a border with Iran and Iraq. But there haven’t been many bombings in Turkey, the wrist bands gasped. I banged my head against the window. Well the EU need to make a choice, Osman said or Turkey will make its own choice and the benefit of trying to get in the EU is that economically it has developed and is continuing to develop quickly. The wrist bands turned to the question of Islamic fundamentalism. Well, Osman shrugged, the Saddams, the Bin Ladens of this world, they didn’t just drop out of the sky from nowhere. He cut the mike and not another word was said.

Now I’m not saying that I agree with the lack of Women’s Rights in Turkey. There may well be female Prime Minster and head of the Judiciary, but there are a bunch of women up in the mountain villages who still have their marriages arranged, who are not educated or murdered because they dishonour their families. But let’s face it Capitalism is not akin to Human Rights is it?

As BBC World reported 157 killed in suicide bombings in Baghdad I wondered why the US couldn’t see that Iraq and Afghanistan was a complete fuck up, Nicaragua and all the rest and then I realised something. Actually they are not, the countries are broken and in ruins and dependent on the West. Our lives go on, we carry on buying our soya burgers and Ecover washing powder while driving our bigger and better cars and tapping away on our smaller and faster computers and a bit of human loss now and again is neither here nor there because that’s the way Capitalism works. Our bio, green, vegetarian existence is steeped in Capitalism and perpetuates it and I’m left with a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

I’m sorry but 3 hours snatched here and there in the last eighteen and a half hours does not make for a very optimistic Miss V.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Where's Verilion in Travel Land?

Well folks I'm off again. I'm going somewhere in Turkey where I hope to spend most of the week in a horizontal position and to come back with nothing more than some extra kilos. To keep you amused while I'm gone I have prepared a wee slide show, dating from 1998 to now! Actually there's only one photo from 1998, but never mind. The idea is match the photos with the place and to come first place find ME in all the photos. I will be providing a wee prize to whoever gets all the answers right. It will either be your very own note book from the sexy range I've discovered up the road or a book voucher of roughly the same value (in case you have discovered your own sexy range of notebooks and are as anal as me at choosing notebooks). I may offer a second prize if you match all the places. Oh all right, I will, but it might just be a mouldy old bit of cheese!
I'm back next Thursday so the competition ends then. And Minx if you're going to party then clear up after yourself!

Ok the places in alphabetical order are:
  • Near Bourges - France
  • Dublin - Ireland
  • Greenwich, London - England
  • Fountainbleu - France
  • Lyon - France
  • Nicaragua
  • Nearish to Osmington Bay - England
  • Plaza Mayor - Spain
  • Port Louis - Mauritius
  • Sahara Desert - Tunisia
  • Sanur - Bali
  • Tate Modern - London

Oh and by the way I assure you that YES my bum does look enormous in some of these but thankfully it seems to have reached it's peak and gone down somewhat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

In eleven days time it’s the French Presidential Elections. I suppose it’s in my head because before turning off my TV last night I did that procrastination thing. You know there is nothing on, you really want to do something else, but you zap anyway. So, the last images were a quick flash about the number of undecided voters there were in France. I can’t remember what the percentage of undecided voters was but it was enough to send a chill down my spine and bring back memories of April 2002.

Now I don’t really understand how voting works in France, so anything I tell you hereafter might be completely wrong. About a million and five people put themselves forward as potential presidential candidates, honestly. In 2002 I thought that Olivier Bescancenot was representing Post Men. Having once done a temporary job as a post woman I had a little soft spot for the young presidential candidate who was actually representing the Communist Revolutionary League. Still, he didn’t have a hope in hell and most people were expecting Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin to romp through to the second round quite easily. The problem was that Chirac was a crook (having been accused of stealing a fair amount of money out of the French coffers when he was mayor of Paris) and Jospin was a kook; the left in France was a mess. I remember watching those percentage bars that reminded me of the points bar in Going for Gold and realising that something was seriously wrong; Jospin was behind Jean-Marie Le Pen.

And so the rest as they say is history. On the 1st May I and tens of thousands of others marched ... somewhere. This is terrible but I can’t remember where. All I can remember was that there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people and we were so far at the back of the march that it took us something like three hours to amble past the starting point. It wasn’t a happy march, it was grim and determined. I for one was questioning what the fuck I was doing living in this country.

I still do. France is a seriously screwed up country; it’s racist, elitist and has an entrenched class system that no amount of revolutions has got rid of. I think I’ve finally decided that I don’t agree with ‘laicite’ law that was reintroduced meaning that as a secular country no religious symbols should be worn in schools. I don’t believe that we change opinions by making everybody the same. You may not be wearing a veil, but if you have an Arabic name it doesn’t matter if you were born in Saint Denis, Ile de France, France, because that still means that the job or the apartment will go to sweet little Amelie. If you went to a Grand Ecole your future is made. And don’t tell me that the competitions to get into university make everyone equal, in the words of Billy Bragg the French are ‘victims of geography’, everything in this country is centred around Paris.

But... I think if we sit down and examine any country long enough we can draw up a list of faults as long as our arms. France needs a big shake up, tension here is riding high, and only a few weeks ago there was a riot at the Gard du Nord because a man was stopped for not paying his fare. I’m not sure that voting is the answer, but it’s the voice we’ve been given for the moment, so I hope all those undecided people make their mind up soon.

I did a quiz on the Le Monde website this morning and it turns out that if I could vote here my politics are closest to José Bové the McDonald smashing GM crop destroying politician! And the Greens and the Communist Party, it was all level pegging really but I figured Bové was the best known figure!

The pictures are of Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy the two main candidates in the Elections. Francois Bayrou is also a contender and a whole smattering of Left wing candidates that will make sure that the vote is well and truly split.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tout Noté

On Saturday after an exceptionally long gym class I got the metro up to Blanche so that I could buy a new notebook from my favourite stationery shop. In the past I would go out of my way to go there to buy cards; it was the only place in the north of Paris (in my opinion) that sold decent cards. They also sell photo albums, things, handbags I’ve noticed, wallets, pens and notebooks.

I bought my first notebook up there in August 2005. It was a conscious decision, the one and only thing I had to do that day was buy a notebook. I remember that what I liked about it was the feel of the cover; it felt soft and sexy under my fingers. Inside the pages were cream coloured and stiff, you can flick them and they don’t bend. It was spiral bound so you can turn the pages a full 360°; two little silver rings hold it together at each end. It was burgundy, the colour of wine. It was A6 size, compact enough to fit into a bag or pocket, but large enough for my thoughts. The first line in it is: This is today’s method of saying yet again: ‘Today is the start of the rest of my life.’

I started the second one on the 1st April 2006: So it’s the first of April ha ha! And here’s what I have discovered: I am seriously allergic to something. Yeah, it turns out it was strawberries; hysterical huh? Anyway this notebook is olive green and by then I seemed to have developed the habit of using only my parker fountain pen to write in it. In fact I distinctly remember making a note about it one day when I was without it. Ah yes there it is: Left my pen in Gluepot’s office yesterday, will that make my thoughts different? Apparently the answer is yes; because that was the day I experimented with trying to deal with everything as a man! Four months later I had completed this notebook and this one ends on a beach in Bali. It was my last day in Bali and I think I was feeling a little melodramatic. I think I should add beneath this entry (there’s a little bit of space): please shoot me if I ever write a line as bad as this again.

There was a bit of a break between ending the 2nd one and starting the 3rd one; moving got in the way I think. Anyway eventually I bought it and I started it with the line: I knew this one had to be blue, which of course it is, and it’s not finished. In it are scribbled lines of poetry, beginnings of stories, ponderings about my life, thoughts about books I’ve read, ideas for posts, lists of things to do while on holiday, analysis of my dreams, how I will stage the Crane Wife (well a millisecond of it and it’s the costumes that are clear in my head more than anything) and then this poemy thing:

I watched him play with time
between his fingers:
stretching it,
snapping it,
stopping it
as if it was a pliable material,
like plasticine,
instead of the steady march of
days and
that I knew it to be.

Copyright, 2007. Verilion

Since then about 18,000 more words have poured out. In 2004 I wrote 36 chapters, the furthest I ever got. There are nine different versions, each one ranging between 6,000 and 30,000 words. Out of all those words, one idea and the name of one character have stayed the same and I think I know where I went wrong before. So I bought a new notebook. It’s red, it’s just a bit smaller than A4, the paper is still blank but thinner because I may rip pages out. I’ve divided it into sections: possible titles, characters, drawings, time line of events, glossary of terms and the rest for actually writing the damn thing. I think I’ve got it all. I’ve planned out all the events; in more detail for the bits I’ve actually written and very sketchy for the middle and end, but I know where I’m going, it just seems right. In the past chapters 12 – 14 have been where I’ve got super stuck, so I’m avoiding chapters for the moment, it’s just one long stream titled things like: the bit after the beginning, the next bit after the beginning. I don’t feel like I’ve got to sit down at my computer and spew for hours on end in case I forget it. It’s growing, it’s taking on a form of its own and eh... well that’s it really. Suppose I better go and write some of it now.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Play Days

I have very clear memories of me as a three year old sitting cross-legged in the front row. I can’t remember what was said to me or if I even understood - at that stage I was still this weird little French speaking kid – but I knew that something special was happening, that everyone was excited, that we were being given a treat. It was a Punch and Judy show. Apparently in 1947 Middlesex County Council had this to say about the shows: "No more Punch and Judy shows at school treats! The Punch show is brutal and totally unfit for the innocent eyes and ears of children". I have very little recollection of what happened after that. I was sprayed with water, it was incredibly loud, it was violent, I hated it and I’ve hated Punch and Judy shows ever since. So I was none too pleased when the Queeb I was travelling with felt that as we were experiencing all things ‘Lyonnais’ that we should go to a Guignol show.

Ok I knew that Guignol was not Punch, but he did have a stick in his hand. And ‘Gnafron’, Guignol’s best friend, had a bit of a hooked nose. Although there is a hazy link between Punch and Guignol via a shady Italian character called Pulcinella who dates back to the 16th Century, Laurent Mourguet based his cloth hand puppet on his pal who cried out: “C’est guignolant,” whenever he liked the puppets, hence the name Guignol.

I tried to distract the Queeb by getting our magic horoscope from the machine outside the shop where Guignol tickets were advertised, but there was nothing I could do to put her off; we had to go. So, we had some lunch, we took the Funicular up to Fourvière. I wondered: is it a particularly French thing to stick a hideous building on top of a hill? The Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière is an amazing variety of architectural styles that just ends up looking ridiculous. And then if the outside wasn’t bad enough you then push open those great big heavy doors and OH MY GOD; someone went a little wild with the gold in there. We had to wander around very slowly and see it from every possible angle just to see if it had any redeeming features. Nope, there weren’t even any gargoyles, just pastiche.

Then we had to go and see the Gallo-Romano Amphitheatre. That was pretty cool. We had one arrow pointing left another pointing right so went straight ahead and there it was. We bumbled around; me exploring all the different nooks and crannies (I like doing that sort of thing) and then the Queeb pointed out the time, almost time for the Puppet show.

Now I’m beginning to realise that I have a fair few phobias. Where most people seem to make do with one or two I seem to be collecting them as time goes on, so really it’s time to face some of them down. No? We paid for our tickets, were shown to our seats and I settled down; kind of. I never took my coat off, you know just in case I had to get up and run out. And eventually the play started…

M. Poivert came out and introduced us to the beautiful streets of Lyon. “It’s much nicer than those horrid polluted streets of Paris. N’est pas Queeb and Miss V?” Hey! I sat up. Then he started going on about Marseille probably being more polluted, but Lyon had the nicest boys and maybe Queeb and Miss V would find nice men here in Lyon! The story turned out quite sweet, Guignol’s childhood sweetheart Madelon was back in town as was a thief who liked bright shiny gold. I learnt that in Lyon kids are called ‘gones’ and at the end when we were invited to do a backstage tour, the puppeteer waxed lyrical about Lyon while on his left hand Guignol was as animated as ever.

So I guess in the end it wasn’t so bad, it might even be considered a highlight, what with my name being dropped right at the beginning of the play and all. The puppets were kind of cute, the theatre was nice in a kitschy puppet kind of way, and I loved the café across the street.

I have added the label photos and I will post photos when I get home, but meanwhile I'm just kind of floating about thinking I should be working, but I'd kind of like to post about Lyon some more!

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Unedited Highlights: A Verilion in Lyon

So here’s the deal. I had a great weekend in Lyon. I faced childhood fears head on, I hunted for lions, I traipsed through many a hidden secret passage. I loved things, I liked things and some things just made me perturbed. I would recommend that you all go visit and there’s no excuse because it’s only two hours away from Paris (if you live in Paris). But... as usual ... faced with the prospect of writing reports or just writing last week I ... eh ... somehow did both. And then my head exploded in those two hours there and those two hours back from Lyon, so I have to scribble it down NOW, tonight, before the week takes over. So here are some completely unedited highlights. More to come soon...

Mmm those six days of emptiness are rapidly filling up, what with catching up with posts, emptying cupboards, cleaning flat, clearing stuff out, waxing, packing...


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