Monday, December 31, 2007

On Reflection

Hmmm; time to reflect, eh? I’m starting 2008 at the beginning of the same story that I was starting at the beginning of 2007. I could be unkind to myself and say it feels a bit like Groundhog Day or I could acknowledge that my achievements are subtle, but accomplishments nonetheless.

This time last year I was skulking around Kate H’s blog, harbouring a desire to write. I’d nursed this want for years, having started and aborted several secret manuscripts. At the inception of the Novel Racers, I still lurked, until one day in a small voice, I emailed Kate and asked her if I could join in.

Blogging with the Novel Racers (and other writers who’ve blogged alongside) has been a wonderful experience on so many levels. You’ve plugged a hole I had in writing friends. You’ve supported me through my many wobbles. You’ve given me friendship, advice, encouragement, made me laugh and cry, and shared your achievements and disappointments.

I’ve seen a determination in myself to do this that I don’t think I’ve had for other things. Despite not getting it right over this last year I am not giving up. I have had moments where I’ve thought I may, but eventually emerging from those wobbles has been a determination to keep trying. That must mean something.

Somewhere in my brain has always been a firm belief that I am not creative; that I have no imagination. It’s true I was brought up to believe I was the academic one, and my sister was the creative one, but since doing my fine art degree I know that that’s not the truth. A combination of growing confidence with writing articles and the fine art degree experience have made me realise that it’s simply a question of overwriting those messages. I understand how to make decisions about a piece of art; I don’t yet know how to do that with fiction but I do believe that the more I do it the more likely it is I will get there. I have faith that practice, practice, desire and more practice, I will begin to understand how to do this. My experience with creative writing is totally in its infancy.

I’ve always said I was only racing with myself and I still believe that. I’m also firmer than ever that my goal right now is not publishing (I know some people will doubt that) but having recognised how heinously difficult the whole process of writing a book is, I just want to be able write a novel of which I am proud. IF I ever manage that, I am sure that I will want to think about an agent, publishing blah blah blah, but that’s way off still and definitely not my primary goal.

2007 Achievements:

I’ve learned to say out loud ‘I want to write’
I posted my first ever short story into the public domain.
I showed people some of my writing.
I showed JULIA BELL my first crappy attempt at fiction. I survived the feedback.
I’ve started, stalled; started again and stalled again, and I’m still going to try again.
I’ve developed faith in the process of practise.

My 2008 writing goals are to:

Keep practising.
Do my morning pages while the children are getting ready for school.
Restart WIP in 3rd person.
Learn to make decisions about WIP plot and characters.
Be brave and send Julia my first re-written chapter one.
Aim to do a dedicated writing course in the summer 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

200th Post

I'm back in Bangkok and feeling terrible. Not because I've left Koh Chang or Skyros, although we did toy with me staying one more week...

But because I'm sick; I've got tonsils the sized of tennis balls in my throat, and I can't swallow without serious face-pulling wincing going on. I'm unable to make a full dose of paracetamol last so I have to take nurofen in between doses. I'm so sick I don't want to go out ... that's very sick for me.

I've watched three videos though. Music and Lyrics: total cheese. I know it's terrible, but hello? it's not meant to be serious. I thought it was utterly hilarious - I lived through the New Romantics as a teenager so I was right there with those dodgy haircuts and I don't even want to think about what I wore to non uniform day! Also, it's a dirty confession I know, but I do like Hugh Grant. I do. There I said it on my blog: I LIKE HUGH GRANT - I think he's cute.

Then I pushed the standards up a bit and watched Iris: absolutely brilliant, but I must have a heart of stone because I didn't cry. (This is very weird because I watched 'Cutting It' on the TV in between and I cried at Allie's funeral! I barely know who Allie is and I certainly don't know any of the other characters, but still I wept!)

Finally we watched The Truman Show. I've started this movie at least three times, and always fallen asleep before the half way mark. HURRAH, I finally watched the end. The film is a tad scary though: so possible.

I'm off for another dose of paracetamol, Saturday (Ian McEwan) and my bed now.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hello! Ok! Just for Pacha

She was a long way away, so it's a tad blurry.

Then she and her entourage came and sat near me on the sofa. I tried to look cool while I took surreptitious pictures of their shoes. I developed a theory while looking that the more important the girl, the higher the heels. I am certain that I'm right...

Friday, December 28, 2007

'Allo allo allo

There were 7 or 8 uniformed policemen in reception when I came in to breakfast on Boxing Day but because it was the day that most of the Skyros group were leaving, I instantly forgot to ask why they were there.

Saying goodbye to everyone was sad and horrible, but I’m meeting some again in Bangkok when I get back, (Husband came down on Christmas Eve so we’re staying for a few more days) and I’m fairly sure I will stay in touch with some.

Since the boat sped them away I’ve been sitting in reception checking out the blogs I’ve missed recently and catching up on emails (several important ones had disappeared into my junk folder – bummer.)

Previously intent on my laptop, I was suddenly aware that the lobby was immensely busy and when I looked up all the policemen were pacing around looking important, hands hovering over their guns. Beyond the tier of policemen were bystanders, and further away again were a group of girls, one of whom was wearing a silver crown and vertiginous heels.

I watched fascinated by this OK/Hello Magazine scene in front of me. Eventually, unable to resist it, I took some photos. All the hotel staff had their photos taken with her and many of the other resort guests (no way was I standing next to this gorgeous 6ft 8” slender beauty). She was lovely and smiled patiently through all the requests for photos. Eventually she and her entourage disappeared, and I was able to ask someone who she was: Miss Thailand! Oooh, am I mixing with the stars?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Julia says ... Part II

I’d like to say Happy Holidays to everyone: not because I’m being politically correct but because I didn’t manage to get online to make it a timely Christmas wish to you all. I appear to have missed Christmas. I phoned home, blinked and it was gone.

I’ve now caught up with all my favourite blogs, but left very few messages – normal service will be resumed in the New Year.

Julia read the last of my manuscript (gulp). It was horrible to hand over something that I know was so rough and flawed (I’d stalled so often) but it was essential as she has pinpointed exactly why I keep stalling.

A couple of points:
  • I’ve made Bangkok my main character … when it has to be in the background and the characters in the foreground.
  • I still haven’t made decisions about plot … this is so pathetic because I’ve known this all along, but hoped the subconscious writing fairy would come and put it right. She won’t. The bitch hasn’t shown up, so now I’ve got to do it.
  • It was too episodic – I wrote it in episodes because I had no idea where or how to decide where the plot was going.
  • I need to think about containing it in time. Again, I knew I was confused about this. Months and months ago I’d printed out a grid to fill in a time plot, but guess what? With no decisions about plot, I couldn’t do it!

I felt a bit wobbly after all this, despite the fact that I knew lots of it. After our meeting, I went somewhat shakily on a trip to a mangrove forest. Lovely M kept asking me if I was okay. Yes I told him, yes, fine. I was wearing my sunglasses and staring out of the minibus window.

Of course, I didn’t think of any of the good things she said (there weren’t any in my mind at that time). I wondered about giving up – no wonder I found it so hard – I was crap and didn’t know what I was doing. I’d spent a year trying to write a book, and I still needed to start back at the beginning. I don’t know what I’m doing still …

I went off in a boat along the mangrove waterways. I’d wangled my way into the last boat with co-Skyros folk, but not those I’d become friends with, so I didn’t need to chat. I had a little think, and fought off some tears. I didn’t have any moment of clarity or anything but after the trip, I bought a diet coke and the group pottered about before getting back on our minibus. I sat back down in my seat in the rear by the window, and I suddenly felt okay again. I felt fairly cheerful; reasonably optimistic and ready to give it another go.

So the good things were: good, very naturalistic dialogue; lots of interesting BACKgrounds; fascinating subject matter because I’ve done something interesting; I can write; she likes my style; I write clearly without trying to be over clever.

And, bless the lovely Julia… she says I can email her my rewritten chapter one!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Julia says

Julia Bell's got my manuscript. *holds breath*

I met with her tonight and she'd read section one.

She didn't say 'Don't give up your day job.'

She said I could write; she liked my style.

She said I was right: I've started in the wrong place.

She said when I re-start I should change to the third person.

She's going to read some more tomorrow morning and we'll talk again.

*Holding breath*

Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Friday, December 21, 2007

*sigh* and *gulp*

Hmmm; s'difficult decision I've made.

I'm here in the resort, all on my lonesome. Half the group have gone out snorkelling and half have gone to another beach on the island. Of course, I could've gone to either, but I didn't want to after four/five days of courses:
  • 0715 Yoga (Okay, I only made two of those!)
  • 0900 Breakfast and Demos meeting for whole group
  • 0930 Oekos Group (five of us meet to ... talk)
  • 1045 Free the Creative Spirit class
  • 1315 Lunch
  • Free until ...
  • 1700 Ayurveda Class (I'm tridoshic, for anyone in the know, according to the results, but towards the Kapha according to the 'Master'.)
  • 1930 Dinner and more talking.

Anyway, to the point ... today while alone, I've done some thinking about my book. I know that there are lots of people out there who are going to tell me not to do this, but I've made the decision that I am putting aside the words I've written so far ... to yes, start again.

There's not going to be a sacrificial burning or deletion of any kind going on so it's quite possible that a couple of thousand may reappear at some later date as a flashback. But while I have finally decided that the incident which drops my characters in the quagmire is the start of the book, there has to be a cut in time of three months. The 24,000 words I've already written is those three months *sigh*. It's not part of the story and that's maybe why it bores me. It's drivel; it's not relevant and it's gotta go.

So I guess that means I'm starting my ms from scratch for the Novel Race 2007... *gulp*

Sunday, December 16, 2007


On Friday I raced around Bangkok like a mad person.

I went out to collect and stroke Blackberry; dear Blackberry is beautiful and looking none the worse for his dunking in tea. BUT, he was empty of battery so I tore home, riding SIDESADDLE up my soi on a taxi motorbike (God I’m brave).

Next I climbed back on a soi bike and sped to meet some friends for the journey to BNH Hospital in Silom to carol sing. We sung, ate mince pies and drank sherry (so civilised). I LOVE IT. I love singing carols – yes, I love them.

I rushed home to finish off some artwork, shower and change and then I was going back to Silom to meet the Skyros group…

It’s a bit scary meeting people you’re going to spend the next two weeks with; what if you don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? It’s particularly scary because this kind of holiday is about self development; holistic stuff (can you tell, I’ve got all the buzz words?) so hugging trees baring your soul might also be involved.

However, for all my fears they all looked normal and they all seemed very lovely. We had a talk at the hotel and then those that weren’t too jetlagged went out for supper.

Saturday morning I went back to Silom to meet at the hotel to transfer to Koh Chang. This is the first moment I’ve had time off since I got here, and things haven’t really started – first course tonight, but we’re all getting to know each other, and still, they are all lovely!

Rather … annoyingly … the writing tutor Julia Bell doesn’t get here ‘til Thursday because she was a late booking, but apparently she’s willing to do some make up sessions. Also, the whole ethos of the course IS hugging trees I mean, freeing your creative spirit and stuff (that jargon again) and David Moreno is doing an early morning course in morning pages/yoga/meditation so there will be lots of creative stuff to do.

I think I was meant to come though. I’ve met a woman who’s been a freelance journalist for twenty years who’s happy to talk to me about it. (For any ‘Eve’ readers, she wrote the piece a couple of months ago on Borneo orang-utans). In turn at lunch she met someone who knows someone who may be able to help her sell another article on them. She has fantastic pictures of twenty of so baby orang-utans sleeping side by side, but can’t get a bite out of a mag!

So I’m very excited, planning the next holiday already…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Too many parentheses

Well, they’ve gone.

I had a little look at the map on my blog this morning to see whereabouts they might be. I reckon they’ll be flying over Europe – hope they wave.

They land at 6am ish UK time. For the next nearly three weeks I think I will be doing a lot of translating clock times in my head, imagining what they’re doing.

For one weak and self indulgent second I thought about them all alone up there (oh how the imagination works… do go and look at this post!) And then, I realised that for all the ferocity of a mother protecting her young, I am not superwoman, and I’d be pretty much buggered myself in an aeroplane doing something unpredictable.

So now, I’ve pulled myself together and started thinking about showering, packing, PICKING UP MY BLACKBERRY (HURRAH … Who? My children are …where?)

Then, then, the excitement of today (apart from being footloose and fancy free with my Blackberry to play with, and getting ready for Skyros (HURRAH)) I’m going with a group from the British Women’s Group to sing Christmas carols at a Bangkok Hospital (this is something I did last year, and I’m sorry but drinking sherry, eating mince pies and singing carols in the sweltering heat of Bangkok doesn’t do anything to persuade me it’s December the something. BUT, it’s lots of fun – I love to sing (the same stanza over and over, and probably badly, mostly, but tough. It’s MY singing and it’s good for my mental health!)).

If you’re very (un)lucky I may see if I can make the technology work to upload some of our ‘singing.’

(When I’m over-excited I use too many brackets – it’s the digressions.)

Woo hoo: carols, BLACKBERRY, Skyros …Children are safe, happy and being looked after … I am a good mum.

PS. I LOVE blogging. I am so glad to be back (I never really went away: I lurked. I just didn’t post!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm back

I’m back.

And, I’ve had this rather uncomfortable feeling all day, that I couldn’t quite identify … what is it? Why do I feel like I’ve misplaced both my ‘phone and my handbag? Why? I’ve got my bag, and I’ve got my non-blackberry stand in … so… what is it? And then, I’ve remembered:

My children, my babies are flying to England tonight to have a three week Christmas holiday without me! Aaaaagggh.

They’re all packed up now: suitcases full, but not bursting. Daughter has written instructions for wrapping presents – a couple of birthdays in there as well as Christmas – just to keep us on our tippy toes. I think I shall feel better when they’ve actually gone – right now, I keep wondering if I can get any other presents. No. No, I can’t.

It’s all done but I’ve still got me to pack, and I’ve got some website stuff to do, three pieces of artwork to prepare and email. I think Husband will be quite glad to see the back of me on Saturday: I’ve spent the last four weeks in a blind panic.

The lovely Cathy at My New Notebook has awarded me a lion, which I’m really flattered about – thank you very much, Cathy. I have to award it to five others, but I’m going to come back and post about it tomorrow cos I'm so tired I need a lie down…

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Party Update

I had a lovely party on Friday, but I went to bed at 11pm because Daughter and I were up at 5am and off to school at 5.30am for another swimming competition. It went a bit pear shaped some time after that.

Some of Husband’s colleagues had come early on Friday to help a little bit; there weren’t many jobs to do apart from shuffle some furniture around and then the ‘helpers,’ Husband, Son and Daughter got embroiled in Playstation Dance Mat (I want to say that name in an American advertising accent: PLAYstation Daance Maat, cos it sounds good cheesy). I’m told Thais like to have something to do at parties. They love their food but they also want some kind of entertainment, so we’d got the aforementioned PLAYstation Daance Maat in one room and a karaoke machine in the main room. In a third room we’d got a bar. The free flow bar was our downfall – Thais don’t appear to hold their drink so well – I think my sofa may dry out at some point.

Please, trust me on this, the less said the better.

On an altogether cheerier note, I finally managed to get a cool picture of daughter swimming, and not a series of splashes ... OK, I got lots of those too, but here she is doing butterfly:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Party party party

Yesterday we had the BWG Christmas party. Despite promising myself to get off early after the lunch, and leave the revellers to it, I became a reveller. Somehow I misplaced my self control and found myself dancing on the stage; I’ve no idea how it happened.

I’ll confess to having had a few drinks, but I have no alcoholic amnesia and didn’t show anyone my knickers! I’m not posting the pictures that were so shamefully circulated this morning because I’m fairly sure it will result in injunctions or suings, but I was in bed before Son last night. I went back to bed after I got them off to school this morning.

Tonight is Husband’s Christmas party in our apartment and all the arrangements have been done by husband and a few members of his staff. He has left me to write my articles, and gave me only one job: to tidy all my crap away.

The piles of papers, that ‘might one day be needed for research’. The forty-eight books next to my side of the bed, mixed with essential bits of paper on which are written golden nuggets of inspiration or instructions for finding secret shops in Bangkok.

Anyway, I’ve now finished hiding it all sorting through and clearing it into numerically ordered files and it’s time to get ready to party.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"All aboard for Panic Stations"

On Monday night, too late and too tired, I filled in all the BA Skyflyer Solo unaccompanied minors’ paperwork for the children’s upcoming trip to the UK.

Have I admitted here on my blog that I will not be with my children this Christmas? Have I declared it or just hinted at it? At book group yesterday, one of the women gasped when I said it. She gasped and clapped her hand to her chest, and said: ‘Oh. Christmas? I couldn’t do that.’ Will I earn a ‘Bad Mother’ award?

My children want, with all their hearts, to be in England this Christmas. They are desperate to see their grandparents, their aunties and uncles, their cousins and their chosen family – the godless parents and ‘godsisters’, although strictly speaking, I think that should also be godlesssisters. I am desperate to do the writing course in Koh Chang. My article writing is going fine but my novel writing … is not. My doing - my actually doing as opposed to talking about doing – the article writing has made me a much happier human. This has to be good for my children, right? (Thank you kind K for your words after book club! Interestingly, I have noticed that it’s only other people for which this seems to be a problem and it’s not them doing it – it’s us.)

Anyway, so there I was filling in the forms and it was complicated because there was another flight thrown in – I won’t bore you with the details except to say the people taking and picking up from airports have to be named and addressed so BA only handover to the correct people. And then I copied it to the four marvellous women who are going to be surrogate Mummies to my children, and asked them to check their bit and come back and confirm everything is okay. Because I had done the form filling at the last minute, I had to send the forms back to Husband’s secretary before I had all the feedback.

This morning I got an email saying that nowhere on the form did it say that Godlessparents were ‘meeting’ the extra flight. My sister puts them on a flight and Mr Nobody meets them. Will BA notice? I wondered. Can I play Russian roulette with my children? No. This is a small thing: Husband and secretary can sort this out tomorrow in the office (today is a bank holiday).


What it has demonstrated to me is that I am trying to do too much. It can’t all be done. So I am streamlining: I am ferociously knocking things off my list …


What I have noticed is that I am intending to stick to the things I’ve agreed to do for other people, and knock off most of the things I wanted to do. I can easily let myself down but not other people.

I know someone that would challenge me on this: I know he would say that I should be thinking about me. Explain to other people and they will understand. And, this is what my Skyros course is about: I AM thinking about me because my being happy benefits everyone. But this goes against everything in my nature: ‘Don’t let other people down’ was somehow a mantra of my upbringing and I can see it in my Mum and my sister. They think about others before they think about themselves to (I think) the detriment of their wellbeing. I know I do.

Hmmmm, is this a ‘mummy disease’?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Trip to Chinatown

After I got the children up this morning I wrote an article. I’d been preparing it in my head for some days. I was doing the research and my subconscious, bless it, sorted most of it out in my head while I got on with other things.

Then, I went to Sampeng Lane, Chinatown. I LOVE Sampeng Lane even though it’s migraine inducing. On the way, walking through Chinatown, are the weirdest shops: shops full of engines, shops full of metal rods; shops full of basketware; shops full of string and rope.

Sampeng Lane is a narrow ‘walking street’. No-one appears to have told the locals who insist on riding motorbikes down it and pulling carts full of bales of material and the like.

There are certain rulesI have invented to cope with Chinatown:

1. Really, really want what you’re going for.
2. If possible, go on your own. If you must go with other people, try NOT to care what you buy.
3. Start at one end. DO NOT start in the middle – which way will you go?
4. Start at the end you can walk to from Hua Lampong otherwise a taxi driver will think you’ve just got off the train from the beach and are stupid. Then he will drive you on a tour of Bangkok before taking you to Chinatown.
5. When I see a shop I want to go into I have to remember if I turn left or right going into it, otherwise I won’t remember which way to turn coming out of the shop. Sampeng Lane is designed so that shoppers are perpetually confused so they stay there all day because they can’t find a way out.
6. Buy a drink every time you see a vendor: juice, water and coke. 7. Buy dim sum in Sampeng – it tastes better there than anywhere else in the world.

I had to buy stuff for a grotto and lots of decorations for Husband’s work Christmas party which we are hosting on Friday.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sexy silk

I went off at the crack of dawn yesterday morning to the Dusit Thani Hotel in Silom to meet with a group of unknowns going to join the The Thai Textiles Society/National Museum of Volunteers joint excursion to Khorat which is a hub of silk production.

We went to a Royal Project for natural silk dyeing; a commercial silk yarn factory; a batik and tye-dye group and then shopping for silk at the Silk Culture Centre.

It took us into Central Thailand (drive 3-4 hours) and was wonderful apart from a crippling migraine on the way home. (Straight to bed: 12 hours sleep and I STILL woke with a headache.)
Here are some almost edible pictures of silk in various states of production:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas is coming and I'm in a panic

Oh lordy, it's December and while mostly I love the start of a new month on my blog (getting to start a new folder called 'December' really seems to 'do it for me' - note to self: really must get out more) I'm not quite ready for this.

My arrangements - presents to be purchased; kids' trip to UK and all preparations that that entails; articles I've promised, to be written; Grotto to be made (please don't ask); website to be updated and surely some more I can't remember right now - have all got to be done by 13 December, before kids fly and I go off to my Skyros course.

So instead of panicking I'm going to pretend to be all serene and show you some lovely pictures of Christmas I've spotted in Bangkok over the last two weeks. Aren't they gorgeous? Don't they work hard to sell us Christians stuff, I mean, to make a lovely Christmas atmosphere?