Friday, September 28, 2007

Tagged by Lane

Total number of books... I have no idea, but hundreds. When we moved to Bangkok we boxed up most of our books and put them in the attic in our house in Buckinghamshire. I brought a lot of my art books and reference books that I knew I couldn’t live without, aswell as my ‘how to’ books. And I brought my TBR pile: some of these are long term and may never make it but if I hadn’t read it yet, it came with me. Interestingly, there were certain fiction books that though I had read – even several times – and so had made it into the attic boxes, I got to Bangkok and realised that I needed them again. Bill Bryson comes to mind and someone who I shall mention below.

Last book read... I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s Patpong Sisters by Cleo Odzer, which I read for Book Club which is next Tuesday. It’s supposed to be an anthropological study of Patpong – one of the red light areas in Bangkok. It was an eyeopener! But not well written, and I didn’t think it was a very academic piece of work.

Last book bought... Oh bugger, I have to admit, more ‘how to’ books. I’ve just ordered Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and From Where you Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler from Amazon. I think I might just go and see if there are any Pat Barker books in the secondhand bookshop! See below for why.

5 Meaningful books... I shall take this to mean meaningful in my own idiosyncratic way (which basically means cheating).

One of the series of books that I had to go out and buy again in Bangkok was the James Herriot series of All Creatures Great and Small etc. I am so ashamed, but I love them, dearly. They are among very few books that make me laugh out loud. They are comfort stories for me. (At least it’s proof positive that I’m not being a pretentious git in the meme!)

I loved and have reread Testament of Youth, Testament of Experience, and Chronicle of Youth by Vera Brittain. I originally studied Testament of Youth at school. It’s a historical period that I love – I went on to read Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and other writers that covered that period. I haven’t read any Pat Barker which is a dreadful confession! I shall go and buy some today!

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters because I have never clapped my hand over my mouth and said outloud ‘Oh my God’ while reading any book before.

Mary Wesley was influential in my habits as a reader. The Camomile Lawn is one I’ve read several times. I should probably reread her now as I think she will mean more to me now that I’m older.

It’s a struggle to single out another book or author, but I should probably mention Enid Blyton. My parents loathed her, but I loved Malory Towers, the Twins at St Clares, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. I read and reread them all over and over. I’d probably enjoy them now!

And I tag Helen, Lisa, Caroline, Cally and Jen.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Woo hoo

Well, I just couldn't wait to get over here again.

Starbucks (a different one in a different Mall - Siam Paragon this time) has sprinkled the writing fairy dust on me again. HURRAH.

My grand total is 21,389 words. I can't tell you how chuffed I am with myself. That's 3,163 words since I last did a word count.

So I'm developing a new theory: that I have to leave the apartment, and sit in a different Starbucks in order to write? Maybe? I certainly can't seem to write at home: I go and lie on my bed to read and then I fall asleep. (I do so love to sleep).

I have just arranged to sublet a little room near Andrew Computer (who teaches me website) to see if I can go and write there. I know this seems an extragavance but it is very, very cheap and only on a month's trial. I'm hoping that this means I eat fewer Starbucks chocolate brownies and write lots...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bras not Bottoms

The Smoochie Smoochie party was lovely. I purchased a bra in ‘slut’s red’ or that’s what I called it last night, but today I noticed on the label that it’s called the altogether classier ‘persian red.’ And I ordered three or four more bras too.

(Can I clear up a little … confusion here … someone mentioned ‘toys’ in relation to my underwear party. I’d like to inform you it was a very legitimate and sophisticated party with no ‘toys’ of any dubious nature. Bugger.)

I was sad to leave the party though. (I like women friends – it’s taken me years to realise how much I like my women friends. Husband’s always been my best friend, but, you know, he’s a man…and that isn’t quite the same.) But if I’d stayed I would’ve drunk too much wine and had a terrific hangover this morning. And I thought the Soi Dogs needed me! Ha, hilarious thought. I arrived during the last round and couldn’t really get my head in gear to be any help at all. I gave them one answer of ‘King Herod’, but I don’t think it was correct. We came third from bottom. *Sigh.*

I missed a meeting today – the time had changed so many times that I didn’t have it in my diary. Stupid woman.

Next I went to the Hospital to meet some of Husband’s colleagues: Husband’s secretary just had her first baby. Ahh, baby was very sweet and made me feel broody for about 3 minutes, until I remembered.

I’m afraid I haven’t done anything else with my day, except bask in the feeling of being happier, which is lovely. No writing to report. Will try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Worrying again... Sorry

I'm feeling decidedly Pantone 292 today.

Why? Why? WHY? When I've written about 3,000 words in two days, sorted out my personal issue, how can I still feel blue?

Why can't I stop worrying?

Today I am worrying for several reasons.
  • I've doubled booked myself tonight. My friend S is having a 'Smoochie Smoochie' Party, which is like a tupperware party only for underwear. Smoochie Smoochie is a new, just launched, lingerie company set up by two British women here in Bangkok. It is a totally brilliant idea because farang women (white westerners) cannot buy underwear here unless they are narrow backed with small boobs. Those of us that are born with a chocolate habit, and built with knockers that require works of structural engineering (me) rather than vests, cannot buy bras. So I want to go and I've said I am. BUT...
  • Our twice monthly quiz is on at the Londoner pub. I go with some of Husband's colleagues and any visitors we can recruit. We are the Soi Dogs team and you can see from the website that we really are spectacularly awful. It takes real skill to be that crap. I enjoy it though, I like going, I like the colleagues and I don't care about losing atrociously. They don't exactly rely on me (the two questions out of 100 I might actually get right, is really quite negligible) but I like the evening.
  • I'm worrying that even though I'm writing, I've totally lost my voice. Obviously I don't mean I'm croaky voiced, I mean I'm not writing like me. I worry so much about 'How to Write' that I've gone lost all the me-ness about the story.

Now it's all okay, though: one day soon I will wake up less blue-feeling. Tonight I will go to the tupperware/underwear party first, then flit off to the quiz. I think maybe chocolate will solve my voice/me-ness problem, and then reading, not writing. And if chocolate doesn't solve it, it'll still be yummy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where was the writing fairy?

I thought I'd better drop in to record my postive though less impressive 840 words today. I had a personal issue to sort, which was more important than the writing. I arranged to sort that instead.

Words came a bit harder today, and I confess I'm feeling a bit blagh for some reason.

I've added my 840 words to my grand total of 18,226 and that makes 19,066, which is jolly near to 20,000 words. Hurrah.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More than 2,000 reasons to be cheerful

I know it's a not unusual for many of you: Novel Racer folk regularly do this number of words. But I talk about bottoms a lot and worry about things: writing and not writing. If I manage any words, it's usually a maximum of 1,000.
Today, after Sunday lunch I went to Starbucks, where I wrote lots of words, with my grande English Breakfast tea to have here not take away.
Tomorrow I will do the same thing (perhaps not the Sunday lunch everyday or I will get even fatter) but I will go and order a magic tea and see if I can do it again.

We are a democratic family ... mostly

There are many defining moments in being a parent.

Last night I had a defining moment that gave me great joy. We decided to watch a movie as a family, and sent the children off to compile a short list.

We parents came in as the short list was being assembled, and we added a few that we thought the children might now be ready for. (They are 11 and 13).

The long shortlist was read out and everyone called out a ‘no’ to those they really didn’t want to see. We were left with four film titles:
  • Rainman (only seen once, but loved it)
  • Tootsie (seen approximately 48 times – still not enough)
  • The Truman Show (seen 3 times, never stayed awake to the end)
  • Johnny English (oh dear, once really was enough)

Daughter gave us each two pieces of paper to write our first and second choices on which she collected up and called out the results.

Tootsie and The Truman Show came in tied first place (Sorry, Husband, I confess to tactical voting by avoiding Rainman – didn’t want to split the vote!)

We voted again. (Complicated first and second placings in previous round meant that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that it would be two votes each.)

It was two votes each.

Son pulled a title out of a hat: Tootsie won.

Tootsie is my tippity top all time favourite film.

Maybe it was a bit early for Daughter at 11. She enjoyed it but didn’t get it all.

But Son, he laughed. He loved it. He loved my favourite film. It gave me great pleasure to share it with him. I can't wait to show him The Shawshank Redemption.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Getting on with it

Yes, okay, you’re all right and my starting again is off.

I’ve made some notes for the ideas I have to change the first section, but I’m not going to get bogged down in changing it now. I’ll come back to it on the first edit.

So I’m just going to get on with it. I haven’t come here to talk about it.

Be back soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Light Bulb Moment or 'Oh, it's a scythe...'

Mmm, I promised to come and talk about my writing today. I think some of this might be known to all of you already, but it’s come as a bit of an epiphany to me. I’ve always been a bit behind the times, probably because I spend my time thinking about big animal bottoms instead of what’s going on around me.

Can’t I talk more about bottoms, instead?

Oh alright then.

So I’m still reading ‘Structuring Your Novel’ by Robert C Meredith and John D Fitzgerald and I’m doing the exercises at the end of each chapter. They have two sets of exercises: one lot refers to the novel that the reader is trying to write, and the other ones are about the devices used in the example books they suggest we look at. I’m doing the ones that refer to my novel because I haven’t read the example novels that they are using to illustrate the techniques.

(They use Madame Bovary, Tom Jones, The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, From Here to Eternity, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Tom Jones has been on my classics TBR pile for years and all the others apart from the spy one will probably go on as I find them in secondhand bookshops. For someone who loves books I’ve a shocking great abyss in my knowledge of some of the classics. That could be a post for another day.)

It’s an odd book. I can’t tell if they make it more complicated than it really is, or whether it’s the way it’s written. But with my reservations come an absolute certainty that it’s what I need right now. I’ve finished loads of books and promised myself I’d go back and examine, dissect and pull apart exactly what the author did to construct it and make me feel the stuff I felt and yes, never ever gone back and done it. But they’ve done it for me. Even though I haven’t read the books, they are all so famous I know enough to get what’s going on.

They can say deeply irritating things, such as: ‘A very popular type (of novel) mainly written by women for women readers – though one suspects clever male writers may author some of them – is the romance novel.’ Page 143. Clever men? Written by not-clever women for not-clever women? Why are the men who write them clever, but not the women? Am I being a bit touchy?

And they can sound a bit patronising: when they want you to concentrate really hard on one of the theories they write the point in bold. One feels a little like they might say it really sloooowwwwly and quite loudly were they speaking aloud to you.

They talk about the different between a story with a plot and a story with a storyline. A story with a plot has an emphasis on events (event driven, as I know it) and a story with a storyline the emphasis is on character (character driven) the essential difference is that in the second one the character changes as a result of the incidents. I was under the impression that all/most stories now are character driven.

So if lots of it is irritating, why is it a book that I need?

I’ve been pottering along, knowing roughly what my story was and what I planned to happen but I’d never put down clearly what I felt about my intentions. That thing of writing down the story in one sentence… one of the Novel Racers wrote about that months ago; I thought about it then and went running for the hills. I couldn’t locate succinct words - I got rambling verbal diarrhoea without a great sense of what ... what I …

I HADN’T THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT I INTENDED. What was my attitude to what I was writing? What was the purpose to the story – what did I believe in that made me want to tell it?

So none of it is rocket science, but they've made me stop to think … I should really have thought before I began writing, but I didn’t. So I apologise if you all know all this, but I thought I could just ramble through it making it up as I went along. Maybe some people do, but it’s not worked for me.

This is getting a bit long, but lastly it's made me wonder about starting again ... again. Or maybe planning and then writing from the start (again) for NanoWriMo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A barrage of bottoms

Oh dear, I have rather a worrying number of elephant bottoms from which to choose. Here are my favourites: yes, I have favourites. Oh dear. Try not to judge too harshly.

The pair of bottoms belong to hippopotami - or perhaps they're hippobottomi - the others are self explanatory.

Note to reader: Monkey, dog and cat bottoms are NOT cute. Not even I find them cute - don't go there.

Tomorrow I promise to let you know how I'm getting on with my writing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I’m the kind of Mum who wouldn’t take her children to circuses because I don’t like the performing animals in captivity thing.

I’m a bit of a hypocrite though because have been to a lots of zoos (and I post pictures of elephants being used in the tourist industry!) I was not going to miss the opportunity to see the pandas in China the summer before last, either. But zoos upset me when I see the animals looking disturbed: that odd rocking movement and mangy looking fur are guarantees to start my tears flowing.

I want my children to see the animals too: hell, I want to see them. I LOVE big cats, I love the bottoms of animals (I know, I know I probably shouldn’t say it out loud, but have you ever just stood and looked at an elephant/hippo’s back end? They’re divine. No psychoanalysis please!)

I know zoos are wonderful places in that it’s a privilege to see animals we wouldn’t otherwise see, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable. It makes me feel it’s just about man’s power over every other species; we put them into captivity because we can. But should we?

(Rescue places are different: Monkey World in Wareham, Dorset is totally fab, and visitors are encouraged in order to raise money for the rescue work – but the animals come FIRST).

Back to Thailand, and I’ve been watching them build some kind of promotional exhibition at my local Mall, Emporium, over the last week or so. We went this weekend and both the inside and the outside were finished. It’s quite astonishing, that I hardly know how to describe it. It’s called ‘Save the Global Tropical Paradise: Flora and Fauna Exotica’ and they’ve built a jungle environment both inside and outside the Mall. Inside are parrots and a glass room full of butterflies. Among the outside creatures are real iguanas, Bengali tiger cubs, pythons and some furry critter I couldn’t identify.

So rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t resist going to look at the those wee tiger cubs
yesterday and I’m leaving you with some pictures of my visit.

And tomorrow, if you’re really lucky, I may post some of my bottom pictures: that’s the bottoms of the animals that I’ve photographed. Not my bottom, okay?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Phuket air crash

I’m abandoning my planned post for today in light of the Thai air crash yesterday in Phuket.

My mum called me at 4am because she’d just heard the news. Clearly she felt awful for waking me, and wanted to get off the phone almost immediately once she’d established we were in Bangkok this weekend. I’d prefer she did wake me though rather than lie awake worrying about us. Once I was awake, I wanted a bit of a chat before saying goodbye.

After I’d hung up I realised it didn’t really stop there for us: it wasn’t a question of reassuring anyone. Husband and I lay awake wondering if we knew anyone on the ‘plane. Husband’s work had got a volunteer green group down in Phuket this weekend cleaning the beaches and we have lots of friends who might just go down for the weekend. But the nature of our lifestyle (that Husband works and the children go to school) and those of our friends means it’s unlikely anyone we know was going Bangkok to Phuket on a Sunday: they’d be doing the reverse trip back to Bangkok in time for the start of the week.

Still, not knowing anyone on the ‘plane doesn’t make it more or less of a tragedy. So today’s post is dedicated to anyone who knows anyone hurt or killed in the crash.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

They're coming to get me

Earlier this week I had an attack of the miseries on here on my blog.

Lots of people were lovely, and gave me their support.

But JonM, while being very supportive, let slip about something ... someone... well, I just didn't know about them.

And being a worrier, I began to worry. So I did what I always do in the middle of a worry: I did some research.

Yes, it was on the internet, and I do know how easy it is to trace me... but it was so quick.

I heard a knock at my door, and there were two men there.

They really didn't like it very much because I tried to take photographs, and I think they rather like to pretend they don't exist...

Perhaps I should give up writing and learn to use Photoshop properly?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Need to be braver

This week I interviewed the first person for the article I’m planning.

I was very excited because I bought an electronic recorder for the job. It’s a bit like stationery – you know, it kind of 'did it' for me!

I know my interviewee socially and I wanted an organic discussion rather than a long list of questions. Because we know one another, that’s exactly what we did: we sat and chatted about the subject. When her answer threw another subject up, I could just ask that question next.

I know how I feel about the theme in question, but I want to find out what other women think about it, and I didn’t want to prescribe her answers with specific questions. I don’t know if that’s a good idea – my ‘how to' book on the subject (I kid you not!) said I should have a list of questions…

I’ve chosen a random-ish group of women, and until I hear what they all say I won’t know exactly what direction the article will go in.

The interview/chat went rather well.


I think that because I knew her a bit, I didn’t ask one or two of the really personal questions…

I think I may have to become braver.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Benny Update

I just couldn't resist posting this pic from my sister in law.

He's still beautiful.

How To Write A Novel

I’m fairly certain I’m not on my own when I admit to possessing shelves of ‘How To Write A Novel’ books.

I did this at university too: I thought that the more Greek and Roman history books I purchased, the more knowledgeable I would get. I failed to grasp the fundamental weakness in my plan because it never occurred to me that I had to actually read them… Perhaps I thought some kind of osmosis of information would occur, it didn’t and I got a fairly crappy degree.

Still, what I learned is that yes I do have to read the ‘How To Write A Novel’ books. And mostly I do – anything to avoid actually writing, eh? Many are excellent and some are decidedly average, but I’ve just bought one that’s actually helped concentrate my thoughts.

It’s called ‘Structuring Your Novel’ by Robert C Meredith and John D Fitzgerald and is published by Quill.

It’s not particularly easy to read, but it’s worth persevering with. Despite only being 20 odd pages in, I have written down concisely what I believe my intentions are for my novel. It has given me clarity in how to move forward with the writing.

You all know I’ve been running around in small circles sending myself mad but I don’t think I’d got a proper sense of what I want the story to do. It all felt rather aimless until now.

I’ve had a pretty social week but I’ve pencilled in some writing sessions for next week, and I’m hoping to get on with it.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tribute to Benny's tail

We had bad news yesterday.

It made daughter cry.

Sometimes being away from home is so hard.

When we moved to Bangkok the hardest thing for daughter was saying goodbye to her cats, TC and Benny. BUT, husband's sister and her lovely husband said they would give them a home. Hurrah, we see them when we go home.

Last night Sister in law rang to say Benny had had a car accident (was he drinking and driving, again?). He was okay, but he'd had his jaw wired back together (Husband asked 'Is he drinking through a straw?). And his tail has died... So it had to come off. He has only a quarter of his tail left.

Interestingly, cats in Thailand have a genetic tail thing going on: that's to say they have wonky tails only about an inch long. So Benny would fit right in here - except for that thick coat.

Rest in peace Benny's tail.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Worried from Bangkok

I don’t have much to say today.

In fact I’ve been a bit dry for a while (that’s dry of words, rather than alcohol dry, which sadly I haven’t been. Possibly, I’ve annihilated so many brain cells with my non dryness that I no longer have enough cells left to think what to blog about.)

I’ve been struggling with the concept of writing my novel: I mean I actually have to write, don’t I?

I can’t justify my place here if all I do is talk about it. It won’t write itself.

On Friday last week at the Novel Racers coffee Helen asked us who inspired us. What I thought and kind of said was that anyone who just got on and did it, inspired me. I could name names but I won’t because I’ll name the ones I visit and forget about others who are getting on and writing, and then I’ll offend people.



I’ve asked around, and no-one wants to write it for me.

Either I actually, really, positively have to do it, or I have to shut up.

And I rather like it here.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

My rich nightlife

After a tough post-school session with Son, Thursday night saw me escaping down the soi to meet Husband for a beer* after his Thai lesson.

(*Did you notice that was singular? I’m just checking, but I didn’t say a beer or seven, did I?)

In my head I skipped down the soi, visualising my cold Singha beer and husband waiting at our usual outdoor bar. In reality I trod slowly, so as not to break out into a sweat, and carefully through upended paving slabs and ill-fitting manhole covers, and past piles of sleeping motorbike taxi men. While keeping one eye on the ground, your other eye has to watch the head area for trailing electrical wires, trees and signposts placed strategically low enough to take the corner off the head of most western sized people.

Anyway, there was lightness in my heart in anticipation of my beer, watching the world go by and a natter with husband. We live three quarters of the way up a soi that has a red light district at the bottom called Soi Cowboy (the taxis call it ‘Soi k’boy’ to rhyme). The bar we go to is on the corner of our soi and the Cowboy and we can sit at the bar looking out at the rich life that is Bangkok.

And boy, it’s rich.

I don’t blog much about this side of life in Thailand. There are a million blogs about Thai night life out there, and I don’t particularly feel I can add a new angle, however, I do have to show you this photo, of what I regularly see in the Cowboy and saw three of that night:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

For some time I have been thinking about getting something made in perspex for my desk. I know it’s possible to do this because when I was at art college I had a perspex box made by some lovely men in Hertfordshire to show one of my sculptures.

But now, I live in Bangkok.

I had a go at googling it and I got a list of companies who have something to do with perspex, but I didn’t really want to go on an Odysseus type quest that could take ten years. So I asked around at all those lovely people that over time have said ‘if you need any help, just ask.’ But it didn’t get me anywhere: I think they meant ‘if you need directions to the mall’ or something.

I am like one of those terrier dogs that won’t let go of an idea once I’ve had it (that’s the only resemblance between me and the terrier dog – if I really had to say what dog I resembled it would probably be a slightly overweight chocolate Labrador: but they’re cute, yeah?) Anyway, I wasn’t prepared to put the idea down: I NEED it, okay? Maybe I can’t write ‘til I get it.

So I asked husband to ask at work. I reminded him again, and then I started nagging, until today he issued a ‘beer to the person with the first correct answer’ type mission by email. (He’s a very innovative boss, can you tell?)

And now I have this:

Ekasilp Perspex Co., Ltd.179-181 Mitraphan Road Pomprap Pomprap Bangkok 10100 Tel : 662-222-5359Fax : 662-224-6268

I rise to the challenge, at least I think I might…

Where is Mitraphan Road? That postcode is the same as my postcode, but I’ve never heard of Pomprap. I know Prompong and Prommitr… I look on my Nancy Chandler map. I can’t find it.

Anyway, once I went over the river to an uncharted-by-Nancy-Chandler area. I was looking for waxed thread (it's a long story – oh right, bookbinding, okay?) I had a hand drawn map from a Thai girl, she couldn’t tell me which shop, or even which street (soi) but she drew an area on the map for me, and said ‘it’s one of those sois…’

It made me realise how unexplored Bangkok is to me. I frequent the same areas all the time, but this area was Foreign and so was I. They didn’t understand me when I said in Thai ‘Do you speak English?’ So I pottered about going in and out of shops, being watched like a circus attraction.

I’ve decided to accept the mission, though I have to do a spot of research first. I may be gone some time.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Can't believe...

Can't believe I left pork Dim Sum off my list of Good Things. BIG Mistake. So here is some pictorial food porn ...

I managed to write 1000 words today - well this evening. I've worn myself out trying to avoid writing and in the end, it worked out fine. (Must remember that.)

And I've nearly finished my article this month.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Good Things In No Particular Order

My bed
My pillows (strange Thai latex ones)
Being married 16 years (last Friday)
Him still being my best friend
Larb Moo (spicy pork salad)
A reading son
Chosen family
Clothes shopping with a growing up daughter
MBK (for cheap clothes)
Sunday lunch
Andrew Computer
C for his belief and encouragement
Lovely Women
The Magnetic Fields
Children that cook
Branston Pickle
Chao Phraya River
Gin and tonic
Beer (but not too much, duh)
Lentils – particularly yellow dahl
My laptop (oh how I love you)
The British sea (oh how I miss you)
Autumn (ditto)
The rain in Thailand
Bejeweled 2 Deluxe
The telephone
The internet