Showing posts from February, 2009

Why I should never be let loose in the soft toy department

Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, Fran realised it was her grandparents' Golden Wedding Anniversary. 'Darling, I must away to the shops at once to purchase something for my grandparents' Golden Wedding Anniversary,' she said to Husband. Husband shifted uneasily. He was asking himself several questions. 1. Why has she called me darling? This must be to do with spending money. 2. Why is she talking like a character from an 18th century poem; since when did we 'away' anywhere? It's definitely to do with money if she's trying to use archaic language ironically. 3. Why is she using the word 'purchase' instead of buy? Yes, it's money all right. Seeing her chance while Husband was still busy uneasily shifting, Fran legged it to the town. At the shops, Fran looked for something golden. She looked at matching sets of jewellery. Ugh. She looked at golden-coloured boxes for trinkets. Ugh. She looked at anniversary plates with gold trimming

Why I wear lots of make-up when I'm shopping

It's depressing. When I walk through the shopping centre these days, people giving out certain kinds of leaflets ignore me. They are people publicising the following: beauty treatments the local club scene the gym baby equipment sports cars jeans shoes with high-heels singles holidays However, people advertising the following thrust their leaflets into my hands, coming up really close to do so just in case I can't manage the two yards to where they are: Saga holidays for the over 50s stairlifts incontinence aids plastic surgery exercise classes (gentle) clothes made of nylon wider-fit shoes anti-wrinkle creams Today, in town, I rebelled. A girl was giving out leaflets for a local dance centre which is holding free classes. She walked straight past me and was giving out a leaflet to someone younger, fitter and leaner, when I tapped on the shoulder and said, 'Excuse me, but could I have one of those?' She did give me a leaflet, but the look she gave

Why Wordsworth and I would probably have had Words

Have spent the evening with Wordsworth, stuck inside a little box room, surrounded by books about education, books about English, books about books, studying a poet whose message is basically 'forget books: go and sit under a tree and learn something decent'. I would, William, I would. Only, sitting under a tree, solitarilily (new adverb there, chaps at the OED), saying nothing, doing nothing, just cogitating on leaves and branches and hazelnuts, does absolutely zilch for me. Sorry and all that, because you being venerated as Big Chief Romantic Poet Man probably means I should have more respect. But give me a street market any day with a bookstall, loads of noise and traffic racing past and I'm much more in the zone. I have to have things happening , see? We went on holiday to the Wye Valley with some friends once - older folks, William, who would have had a proper regard for chaps like you who think fresh air is essential for the soul. They asked me what I'd like t

reasons not to browse 'Profiles'

I browsed 'Profiles' - you know, where you click on your listed interests to see if there's anyone else who likes the same things as you. I am the only person in the whole wide world who has "an interest in dancing in living room to R & B divas CDs". I don't know if this makes me feel unique and special, or just ... or just ...

Why I should shop more carefully

Here's what's on my bedside table as I write: A lamp. It has a dodgy switch and I suspect that one day I am going to electrocute myself trying to put the lamp on. This will be ironic, having your own light put out by trying to put one on. It's also a very short lamp, which means that if I actually want it to shed light on a book I'm reading, I have to balance it on at least three other books for it to be high enough. Sometimes I find that I've balanced it on top of one of the books I want to read. Then I have to get out of bed, find another book in my bookcase and replace the book I want to read with the new one. Sometimes I just can't face any of this, turn the damn light off, thank God I'm still alive and electrocution has been put off for one more day at least, then go to sleep. A watch. It's a watch I bought about twenty years ago. I am waiting for it to die, for two reasons. 1. The glass is cracked right across the middle and has been for five y

Why I am good, free entertainment for CCTV operatives

So, sister rings while I'm dithering around after the bell's gone, and says, 'Meet for a drink after you leave school?' Great idea, I say, because it's Friday night, it's half term next week, and even if it wasn't, what the heck? Within thirteen point three seconds I've packed my rucksack with loads of work I mean to do but won't over the half-term, and I'm out the door. I wander up towards the pub, then realise I need some cash. 'Let's meet for a drink,' in the dictionary my sister uses, means, 'Let's meet for three drinks and make you late home so that the dinner your husband has cooked you is burned.' I know the evening will cost me more than the 89p I have in my purse, especially if I'm going to have to book an appointment for marriage guidance later. I approach a 'hole in the wall' and tap in my numbers. Strange. No response from the machine. I tap them in again. Nothing. I tap on all the buttons, star

you thought those rejections were harsh?

No, forget everything I said yesterday about hurtful rejections. I got one today from a magazine publisher to whom I had politely and sensibly sent a query about an article. Here is the reply. You will need some time to read it, so go and make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, switch the radio on, relax. Brace yourselves. Here it is, in its entirety. "No thanks." This came by email. There was no 'dear'. There was no 'sorry, but ...'. There was no 'Yours sincerely/faithfully/rejectingly'. There was no nuffink. There wasn't even a comma as there should have been, so obviously the editor wasn't going to spare any effort on me; that would have meant an extra KEYSTROKE. No, I'm not bitter. Hey! You know, the more I look at that, with its non-comma-ised construction, the more I'm thinking: what does it really mean? Maybe it isn't the rejection I think it is. Maybe it's ... Yes, I'll take your article, but whate

rejection letters I have known and hated

Trying to sell a novel (NO, IT'S NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL) opens you up to levels of hurt not experienced before. Try some of these extracts from my rejection letters. Wannabe novelists, leave me some of your own as comments. It helps to know others suffer, too. "We can only take the novels that we instantly fall in love with. With yours, unfortunately, this was not the case." (Implied: We HATED this.) "We wish you luck in finding a home for this." (Implied: You'll need it. Lots. And, garage room? You must be joking.) "Unfortunately, there is lots of this kind of stuff about, and yours has nothing different from any of the rest." (No implication there, then ...) "We wish you the best in finding someone more receptive than we have been." (Implied: We feel we have been very kind, but are pretending otherwise.) Bring on the Prozac.

Reasons why you shouldn't trust anyone at all with your secrets, especially wannabe novelists ...

Don't worry, family and friends of Fran Hill. This is only an imaginary scenario and of course you are all safe ... Dear family and friends You may or may not be aware that I have been writing a novel. This is a fictional book, but contains autobiographical elements. There is absolutely no reason at all why you should worry about this, but I thought I would write to reassure you, nevertheless. I have planned my characters so carefully that, even though I may loosely base them on real people, no one would guess who. For instance, I realise that you, my sister Theresa, would be humiliated if I wrote about someone obsessed with her tiny breasts and who is saving up every penny from her job as a personnel advisor to pay for silicon implantation by Mr Heath-Jones at 14 Harley Street. You would be justified in accusing me of exploiting your personal problems for my own ends. So my main character, a personnel assistant, is, instead, having her gigantic breasts reduced by Mr Heath-