Tuesday, June 30, 2009


If you can spare them, please send your positive and healing thoughts this way today.

Thank you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

International traveller...

I’ve gone from the incredible faceless woman to the incredibly stupid one… all in the space of a few days.

This is what I looked like on the aeroplane with my face and eye masks. We landed and had a couple of days to recover, see my folks and visit the opticians etc before it was off to the Novel Racer weekend. The meeting was in Birmingham on Saturday but Spiral Jen and I were travelling north to stay with a writing friend for the weekend.

I shall leave out the heart stopping phone call that morning from a medical centre in Canary Wharf “Mrs B? We’ve got your husband here and we’re just transferring him to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel…” Obviously I cancelled my w/end plans and rushed over to RLH at Whitechapel. It was only after the doctors diagnosed ‘Man Pain’ did I reconfirm my weekend plans.

Because of the above, Jen and I missed lunch; instead we rearranged to meet at the impressive and shiny St Pancras in time for our train to Derby. That’s “IN TIME FOR OUR TRAIN, SPIRAL JEN…” There were a series of progressively panicky phone calls and texts from me, and eventually Jen came huffing into view. By this time I had checked which platform the Derby train went from, but with only three minutes to departure Jen, who’d booked the tickets, had about 42 identical looking train tickets to sift through and of course the buggering barriers needed the right one not just any old one. Just in time, we got through the ticket machines, jumped onto the train and began walking down the train to Coach E where our reservations were.

Funny; we ran out of coaches at D. Then it went something like this:
“Can we go through that door?” I said to the ticket man.
The doors shut, in preparation for departure.
“Oh. How do we get to coach E then?”
“Let’s have a look at your tickets, love.”
I heard whistles blowing in the distance.
“Is this where you’re going?”
“Derby yes.” Why would I have a ticket for a destination I’m not going to?
“This is the train to Fife, love.”

I can’t remember much of what happened at this point… some squealing, possibly, about whether he could let us off before we began moving…He was only too delighted to lose us. Anyway a kind man on the platform sorted us out for new route with a change at Leicester.

We had the loveliest weekend with lots of laugher, gorgeous food and chatter. It was brilliant to meet up with more Novel Racers in Birmingham, and then all too soon it was Sunday and time to go. Our friend dropped us at Derby train station. “Look,” she said, “It goes from Platform Six, and there isn’t another one on there. (The air was heavy with the unsaid ‘Surely even you two can manage the right train this time…’)

Of course we could. The trained arrived; we checked the displays for coach numbers and boarded. The train slid out of the station. Our reservations were C19A and C20A so we were bit confused: should we be in coach C or A? I left Jen with the bags and went off to find out.

I found a nice man who told me “This is the train to Edinburgh, love.”

I wish I could tell you I was joking but I’m not. We had to get out at Chesterfield and catch another train; one that was actually going to London.

See, I’ve thought about this a lot. I think to catch one wrong train is probably stupidity; to do it twice … means your brain is concerned with loftier thoughts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


At last school is finished (for us) and we’re flying to the UK tonight in time for my meeting on Friday. I thought I’d done all my chores yesterday but I still spent the day running around finishing off.

Actually, that’s a complete lie. I delivered a CD to a friend’s condo, bought face masks for the aeroplane (am I overreacting?) And then I got a text message from my friend, Andrew Computer, asking if I was coming by to pick up a DVD … he signed the text ‘From Andrew with Chocolate.’ I mean, who can resist?

So I spent two hours over at his office, gossiping and planning what to do with my blog… or making a website. Then I still had to go home and pack. But I think I’m there now. If I’ve forgotten anything now, it’s got to stay forgotten.

I shall see some of you in the UK. YAY.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Isn’t it funny the things that we struggle with in our writing?

I’d read so much about how many writers find dialogue difficult that I was completely and utterly prepared to be stumped by it but I LOVE writing dialogue. I love writing those loaded sentences and the non sequiturs.

I remember Cally telling us at one of the Novel Racer meets about how often her character woke up in the morning. I chuckled … and made a mental note to make sure my character hardly ever woke up in the morning (you know what I mean…)

I got my knickers in a twist recently about what day it was in my novel; something happens on a Sunday and it was crucial that I knew where I was so I went right back to the beginning to work it out. So that I could find the change of days again – I’d do a find search on the document - I made a note of the opening lines of each new day and made up a timetable. This is what it looked like:

MONDAY: Marina arrives and it’s the funeral.
TUESDAY: “The following morning, Marina’s body clock woke her at 5am.”
WEDNESDAY: “The following morning, as soon as Marina was conscious…
THURSDAY“The following days, Marina stayed mostly in her room curled up….”
SATURDAY: “On the Saturday lunchtime, Marina’s sixth day home…”
SUNDAY: “It was only when she was fully conscious that Marina realised…”
MONDAY: “The following morning Marina began to search for the book again.”
TUESDAY: “Marina woke just after midnight…” This is the early hours of Tuesday. And Page 165: “The following morning, Marina sat alone in the kitchen…”

Whoops. Boring boring boring. I’ve got work to do. (I'm not stopping the first draft to do the work... I shall fix it later but it doesn't do any harm in seeing the horrors now!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Let's Knit for the Needy

Right, so, I was telling you about the knitting in my life. I’ve been thinking of knitting over the last few months. I’d love to do some more but when I take on a project it can take me WEEKS, MONTHS and sometimes NEVER to finish it and really I should be concentrating on my novel. As I said, I am a rubbish knitter. I can knit straight lines but if I drop a stitch, I’ve got no idea how to pick it up again, and I have to holler for someone to come and rescue me. Usually there is no one around to don their SuperKnitter cape (made by someone else in the finest gossamer silk yarn and slender needles) to salvage my creation, so I have to pull it all off and start again. Yes, I really do; I did tell you I was dim.

So imagine my delight when lovely Angela, who works at BNH Hospital, told us the other day at a committee meeting, that they were organising a Knitting for the Needy project. The winter in 2008 was unseasonably cold and many people in the north of Thailand didn’t have warm enough clothes to deal with such extreme weather. The idea is that we knit 6 inch squares and donate them to BNH Hospital who will sew them together and distribute to those in need before the winter comes. They want simple garter stitch (knit rows only no clever clogs purling to be done) and they want straight lines… YAY ME. There’s even a team at the hospital who will teach you to knit if you don’t know how. (No I don't need to go!)

It’s a bit like 100 words a day: infinitely doable.

If you click on the poster you can check out the details for yourself.

It’s so perfect I’ve started already, and so has Daughter. Admittedly, we’re having a few technical difficulties working out how many stitches we need, using the wool and the needles available in my knitting bag to get the size right. I think, on reflection, that we’d better go out and buy the correct size needles.

I think six inch squares are the only size missing at the moment... but watch this space. We'll get the size right soon and then we'll be away....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

So Rock and Roll

I love knitting. I’ve learned to knit many times over the years. I was probably six or seven the first time and every time I want to do it again, I have to relearn. I’m clearly a bit dim when it comes to knitting.

I can’t remember if my Granny or Vera was my first knitting tutor. I think Granny’s speciality was crocheting so it was probably Vera. Vera lived in the village; she and her husband had lots of feral cats and no children. They had a cat called Winky, which was the euphemism our Mum used for front bottoms; I was a bit shocked by this.

There was no pattern Vera couldn’t knit. I remember her knitting tiny intricate Fair Isle patterns – and I was already in love with Tristan Farnon of All Creatures Great and Small who wore Fair Isle jumpers - I so hoped one day to have a husband who wore Fair Isle jumpers. (I grew out of that.) And she did that magic thing that several of my knitting teachers have done… she didn’t look at her knitting while she did it: she watched TV. To this day, I can’t take my eyes of my growing knots knits.

Vera used to hand knit jumpers for shops in London. She’d get about £2.50 per jumper and the shop would sell them for £80. I can remember being outraged on her behalf.

Although I was okay at knitting straight lines: the first successful project I remember was a Tom Baker Dr Who-like scarf for my brother, and actually the lines weren’t that straight but it was really long. Thinking about it, it might have been my only successful project until recent years. Success has to be measured by completion and not by the recipient wearing/using it. In my gap year, I tried to knit a jumper but it was abandoned half way down the second side. Thank god; frankly, it was hideous.

Having not knitted for years, I had to learn to knit all over again for a project I did at art school. I had to learn to increase and decrease stitches for a project on personal identity. This time my knitting teacher was my lovely mother in law.

I shall leave you with two knitted Jennies from my foundation course. Tomorrow, I’ll try to come to the point on why I started knitting stories.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Got to get rid...

I can't go home because if I go home, I'll turn my laptop on, and inevitably I'll go and look at my blog. That woman - the pink one - will be ... well she won't exactly be looking at me, will she? But she'll be there... Kind of pointing at me. And I just can't bear her. I can't imagine what made me think it was a good idea to post her up there.

So I've decided I've got to blog to move her down the page even if I've nothing much to say.

I could tell you about the acupuncture I had on Thursday for migraines... How he stuck multiple needles into me; how, though there is ample flesh to stick needles into my stomach and thighs even my arms, the tops of my feet are rather less well padded. Or I could tell you about the last pair of needles which were inserted into my temples and if I looked sideways I could see them...

But some of you might not like to hear about that. Needles might give you the willies...

I could tell you about my bestest friends in Manchester who lost their old cat Jake recently. How his brother Elwood is roaming the house looking devastated and lonely. So now they've decided to get two new kittens and they've sent pictures of them at two weeks old. Elwood is to be given a grandfatherly role of cuffing the new boys into shape. I could confess to feeling almost nauseous with jealousy because I so very badly want cats and I can't because I live in Thailand and it's a year by year existance.

I could tell you that I'm not sure if it's an existence or an existance but I think it's probably the first one although it's one of my spelling blind spots.

There are so many things I think of saying and then don't because they might be boring or I might one day run out of things to say.

Perhaps she's moved far enough down the blog now and it's safe to stop and get on with some work...
Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Photo

Can you see her friend behind? Or should that be her friend’s behind?

So this is the silly picture that had me scuttling off out of embarrassment … the pink, pneumatic lady woman. It was her friend that had me come over all self concious: pink woman was standing over by her friend at the bar when I saw them, and she looked as though she had plans for her. I just couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. I felt like a peeper.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another day; another Starbucks

Last week I had nearly reached home in a taxi when I spotted a stonking subject - or possibly object - for the next Friday Photo. Although I often grab snapshots fom a moving cab, I didn't manage it this time and anyway this object was only a ten minute walk from our apartment.

So on Monday after a disappointing writing session in Starbucks, I decided not to take a taxi home. Instead, I decided I'd achieve something for the day by taking the shot for Friday's Friday Photo.

Now, you all know I'll steal about anywhere to take a picture... Undercover in the mall? That'll be me, wearing my 'I am a stupid foreigner' expression to match my trench coat with the collar turned up. Ten days ago I even braved inside the department store... With my mobile phone. I pretended to be making and receiving phone calls and text messages, when what I was actually doing was trying to capture pictures of the men's clothing concession, Toss Men - yes really. (I haven't posted because I am no secret shopper and my telephone camera is crap.)

So there I was, on my way home, to capture a picture for your pleasure when... But talking of pleasure, what I should tell you is that I live very close to one of Bangkok's red light areas and this bar was, well, in that region. I couldn't remember exactly where the bar was so I had to walk along the road to find it... And then there it was: the object which I had thought was funny but she was 'standing' next to another horrible object, which so embarrassed me I couldn't take the picture; instead I marched straight past.

On to today - I'm sitting in yet another Starbucks (today's is U Chu Liang's branch opposite Lumphini Park), where I'm meant to be writing... And instead I'm talking to you all and wondering if I'm brave enough to go back to the bar and actually take the picture this time.

What do you think?

Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

That time of year

It’s a bit more than two weeks until the end of our term which means that here at The Towers we’re in full flurry of the end of year exams. (We’re back to school for the start of autumn term on Aug 19, so don’t feel too jealous!)

At first, our encouragement to ‘get started on some revision’ was met with mystified expressions and shrugs of the shoulders; mutterings were made to the tune of ‘no-one’s told me to start yet.’ We were forced to raise the notion of initiative.

Now, revision has been negotiated on, timetables drawn up and although it’s taken several weeks to establish, there is at last some semblance of discipline to the evenings.

Both children – on separate occasions - have appeared in front of me wearing wild, panicked expressions, and stuttering that an exam ‘no-one had told them about’ had appeared in their immediate future. Sometimes, they weren’t even quite certain which paper they didn’t know about. Even that hasn’t been a bad thing. I think learning how to cope with a dreaded question or hideous paper or, exam out of nowhere when you’re panicked, is an important lesson.

It’s not only about what they’re learning; I’ve learned over the years to have extra protractors, set squares, a spare compass, erasers, rulers… hidden away in a drawer for emergencies and we always get them.

Monday, June 08, 2009

♪♪ I can see clearly now ♪♪

I’m not a planner. I can’t. My intention to get a bit more cerebral about managing the plot has evaporated because I can’t map out what, where and how. I still have no idea how to manage what’s coming; I’m just doing it a scene at a time. Nothing makes any sense to me until I'm writing ... and then things become clearer and I realise what's going on.

But I have been writing. It just turns out that, at the moment, I write better when I’m out. I think this is because I’m back in Husband’s office at home, our wifi internet having gone wrong again, been fixed and now not working as well as it did.

I’ve been increasing the profits of Bangkok’s various branches of Starbucks. On Saturday I wrote a massive (for me) 1300 words and on Sunday I wrote another huge 1030 words. (500 words are normal ish and 700 is a lot for me.)

But although I know roughly what is coming in each scene I sit down to write, I don’t know the how and the exactly what until I start writing.

So today, I’m celebrating not being a strategist but being 'a flier by the seat of my pants-er.'

And now, I’m off to find a branch of Starbucks, and there’s a big choice.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why? WHY?

There a great mystery at the Towers – that’s where I live. And no, it’s not who’s finished the milk: that was bloomin’ Son. Any chance of a second cup of tea just disappeared into a gargantuan bowl of Cheerios with the deep but no less whiney tones of ‘There was hardly any left! Anyway, you’ve had a cup of tea.’ Yes, I had just had a cup of tea and there was over half a pint remaining. And, it’s 6 *lots of filthy language inside my head* AM in the morning. I NEED several cups of tea.

So no, there’s no mystery there: just a horrible, physical dependency worthy of the Priory and a ‘thinks only of himself’ teenage person.

The mystery then… What’s the whodunit?

Where have all the scissors gone?

I’ve always been crafty – that’s not to say that I would have finished the milk and lied about it… not as in deceitful or guileful – but that I made things. Remember I was a sculptor in a former life? Now, decent tools (as well as a second cup of tea) are essential to the sanity of someone who ‘makes.’ I do have to confess to a certain obsessiveness when it comes to scissors. I blame my Mum for that. Scissors are a little bit like lip salve - I have to have them everywhere. You have no idea when you might need ­them. It’s most important that there’s a decent pair, a pair that actually cuts rather than abuses, to hand.

Ikea used to sell a pack of three scissors: one large two smaller. I think I kept the Wembley store afloat by the number of these three packs I bought. They were dirt cheap and they cut and continued to cut until a child or stupid person (sometimes I was that person) got them gunked up with nasty stuff and after that they’d creak open and not cut cleanly. They’ve always gone walkabout but without the ability to buy another packet or three, they just seem to disappear into thin air.

It’s true that I do have two large pairs on my desk (I am toying with attaching a chain to them so that they can’t wander) but I have just unearthed this small yellow handled pair in Daughter’s room. Hmmm.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pinch and a punch...

After about four weeks of not writing my novel – you can find out why here and here - it’s time to get back to it. I know I’m ready to start writing again because I’ve been really bad tempered! (I think I owe it to my family to get back on it.)

On Friday I talked to someone about my book and got excited again and on my way home I talked to two friends in the taxi about moving forward. I heard myself diagnosing the solution at the same moment as I told them about the problem: it’s time to engage brain and stop relying (so much) on my subconscious and instinct. So far, I’ve been making it up as I go along and now that it’s got complicated, it’s time to plan…

Yesterday it was just Son and I for Sunday lunch at the pub. Afterwards we decided to go off to MBK where I would write or plan (in Starbucks) and he would go and look for the DVD of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for me and then potter around doing his own thing (Guitar Hero in the arcade!)

Result: I wrote, scribbled and planned.

On our way home we popped into Villa for some shopping, where we spotted packets of rarely seen in Thailand, Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps. Even as I write, I am salivating.

They should have been on yesterday's list of things I love!