Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Goodbye 2009

It seemed fitting to end 2009 on the last post, however, it wouldn't do because I have to thank you all for coming to Tea Stains over the last year.

I've been feeling ten feet tall over the last couple of days... It's been wonderful to feel such support. Thank you so much for your comments and congratulations.

We opened our presents today because in half an hour we leave for the airport. (We're spending two days in Geneva and then transferring on Boxing Day to a ski resort for seven days.) My lovely husband has had 'my three little words' immortalised on a ring for me as my main present (see below) and I've spent the morning spontaneously bursting into tears... It's a mixture of finishing the book and remembering how those words got me through my wibbly wobbly times. I can't wait to get going on editing.

My rush to finish the first draft has saved you all from the prospect of 'the Christmas series' which is all the shiny decorations I can find in Bangkok. There were a lot. We should all be grateful they didn't get posted here.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas can now go ahead...


After some twenty years of wanting to do it, several first chapters, a major false start two years ago (25k of words) I have just finished the first draft of my first novel.

With a writing stint of 2,803 words today I have come in at a total of 107,257 words. What a lot of lovely words to work with...

Christmas can now go ahead.


Monday, December 14, 2009


I'm still writing the never ending book. I can't bring myself to blog until it's done.

I might be some time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I think I've gone too far...

There’s something really wrong about googling ‘man bleeding to death YouTube.’

These are the lengths that writers will go to in order to get things accurate. How people die in my book seems to be strangely important to me; like playing God. Even those occurring off-stage are significant.

My brother, a doctor, has been consulted over all of the deaths in my book. You been a bad person? You’re gonna get a nasty death… I love it.

Is that wrong?

Anyway… my googling ‘man bleeding to death YouTube’ also included the words ‘Holby City’ because my internet research threw up (Ha! pun intended) a character on the BBC medical drama with oesophageal varices (Link WARNING) bleeding to death and I wanted to have a watch of it! I couldn't find it on YouTube....

Oh blimey, hark at me. It IS wrong…

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three Little Words

I’m feeling good today. I’m sitting here with my green tea and feeling definitely Better About Things. Life hadn’t seemed quite right recently: our being here has always been year by contractual year and I thought I’d accepted that but this year feels different. And I didn’t like it.

So although I’ve woken up today with a definite sore throat (which I suspected was coming last night while I was out at a library dinner) I’m still feeling positive.

I have three words which I become mindful of in times of anxiety. I have employed these words so much in the last year when I have doubted. My personal little words are faith (in a non religious context) trust and courage. I took them out and polished them up and I just remembered them; In fact, yesterday I employed them in a wider context and maybe that’s helped too. They are magic little words that release my worries. See, how great are words?

Am I sounding a bit new agey crazy today? Oh good; I can live with that. There’s always been a bit of the hippy hidden away in me.

Many of the frenetic Christmas commitments are behind me; there are only a few upcoming obligations (all pleasurable) and so I am freer to concentrate again on the never ending book.

The never ending book still hasn’t ended but I’m getting on with it.

So what words do you need to be mindful of?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Yoga plug - is that a pose?

Today I’m plugging for a friend.

Lovely (and most gorgeous) David Moreno is a yoga supremo and I met him two years ago when I went on a Skyros holiday on Koh Chang. I took his yoga class *ahem* most mornings and opted for his course on Ayurveda, which is a fascinating subject I knew nothing about. (I can't see someone's leg bouncing up and down on the spot without thinking 'Hmm, Vata...')

David is coming to Thailand this week as he’s teaching at Skyros in Koh Chang again. But, on his way back through Bangkok, he’s teaching a couple of sessions HERE in Bangkok at Yoga Elements Studio.

He’s taught yoga all over the world and when he’s not travelling, he’s based in San Francisco, teaching teachers, celebrities, athletes and, well, everyone else – even couch potatoes like me. I haven’t always had a particularly positive experience with yoga but David’s classes exemplify his sense of fun and playfulness; I really loved them. I wish he was based in Bangkok.

So for anyone in Bangkok who does yoga this is a really special chance to take a class with a brilliant teacher. You can find out details of the classes David's taking here.

Monday, December 07, 2009


I wasn’t going to blog today.

But something remarkable has happened.

There’s a fifteen year old in my kitchen, cooking us supper. He’s decided what to cook, made lists, been shopping – where he bumped into Ms K, his head of year (how many brownie scout points?) and now he’s cooking beef fajitas and veggie fajitas.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Roll on those holidays

Has there been a lot of whining here at Tea Stains lately? Or is it just me? Perhaps I have managed to keep most of the bleating posts in my head.

I’m no longer thinking in terms of missing my November deadline – which isn’t doing me any good – rather, I’m thinking about an end of December deadline. I was prevented from working for nearly three weeks by being in the UK in October and I need to tack that time onto the end of my new deadline so that I can stop beating myself up. Yes, I’m nearly there. I’ll let you know when I finish.

The exams have been done (the results? Not at all shoddy … well done Son) the school production of the Scarlet Pimpernel (absolutely bloody marvellous) finished last night and I’ve done all the artwork owing. But, everyone’s looking a bit spotty and blah; we’ve got definite cases of endoftermitus here at the Towers. Yeah, I know, we’re all tired… but we did start term in the middle of August.

Anyway, here’s a gratuitous picture of the school production. It’s a bit fuzzy… but I did that on purpose to create the period atmosphere. Yeah, right.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Father Christmas in his grotto

Cute choir from a local school

Christmas pudding and brandy sauce

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Someone? Or a No-one?

I’m sitting in Starbucks (again, I'm considering shares... or maybe they'll sponsor me.) This time I’m up the road in the Grammy building. I hardly ever come here even though it’s the closest one to my apartment. In my first year in Bangkok I came here all the time with K (*Waves to K.*)

So far as I’m aware Grammy is The Place for pop music. It’s an entertainment company; a record label for big, big Thai pop stars. It’s always full of funky Thai youngsters and older, producery looking types. Or maybe I’m just letting my imagination run away with me.

Today though, it's not in my imagination; there’s a film crew here. There right here, feet away from me in Starbucks, not just in the Grammy building. I hope they don’t swing the camera around to catch me eating my muffin…

This is turning out to be the ultimate in procrastination. Watching; no idea what’s going on or who she is. I still can’t stop watching.

Yes, I have no shame.

I can blog this, I think. I'll get my camera...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Two reasons

Here are two reasons why it's the 1 December and I haven't finished that draft...

Monday, November 30, 2009

What to read?

Is this the longest ‘I’m nearly there…’ in history?

I am nearly there though. (And you’re all being wonderful, tolerant and cheering me on – even though I can imagine the gritted teeth…)

I finished Zoe Heller’s The Believers on Saturday. It had an utterly unlikeable main character and I wondered what I was doing continuing to read (well, it was wonderful despite that.) She was so cruel to her children and I didn’t feel enough understanding of her past to have much compassion for her. We knew a bit… but not enough to empathise. Of course it reminded me of the mother in my own story… and do we know enough, early enough, to identify with her?

I couldn’t decide what to read next… it’s too soon to start the next book club choice. Then I saw this BBC National Short Story Award article and that was it: decision made. The short story volume, Women fly when men aren’t watching by Sara Maitland.(Sara was involved in devising The Literary Consultancy's mentoring scheme.)
I think the universe is trying to tell me something because I’ve just received my prize from Salt Publishing of a copy of Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of a Short Story, edited by Vanessa Gebbie.

So what’s the universe trying to tell me?

To write some short stories?

To bloody well get this draft finished so that I can try my hand at some short stories.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

word count confession

Sunday means only one thing to me. It’s word count confession day; this week's words: 3107.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Writing suddenly got hard again.

There’s a lots of other work to do as well:

• Christmas hats to be finished
• year end books to be bought (up to budget) for the library and paperwork to complete
• events I’m committed to attending
• grotto signs to remake (This job feels like groundhog day: the first year I forgot to bring it home; the second year I remembered but it’s not looking so hot with bits of lettering peeling off – so yes, time to make it again.)
• several appointments which I put off until the start of Dec hoping that would be post finished draft…

Even Starbucks’ magic is waning. Still, I’ve found a rather lovely new place to work. Isn’t this beautiful?

This is Thailand Cultural and Design Centre. It’s a gallery space and design library at the top of Emporium Mall which is very close to home. It cost me £22 to join for a year.

I'm so close to finishing this draft and there are no excuses with this lovely space to do it in.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Photo

It's a bit bleurgh around here at the moment - or is that just me? So I'm posting this festive wish to all who visit Tea Stains. Please write your wishes here: (really or virtually)

Part of the Christmas display at Amarin Mall, Nov and Dec 2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Odds and Ends

Until yesterday afternoon I was busy suspending my disbelief. Against all expectations I really enjoyed The Time Traveller’s Wife. For the first half I had to keep pushing the niggling voice away that was taunting me for reading something that wasn’t realistic… but I thought it was a great idea, very believably executed. (As long as you didn’t try to work it out.)

I had some little elf helpers come over on Monday afternoon to help with the Christmas fascinators. So the hard work has been done and all I have to do now is assemble them. What a relief. I have a horrible control freak trait - that I want to do it all by myself. Thank goodness my friends didn’t stop asking ‘do you want help?’

On Monday evening I went out to the Night Market where we did a bit of shopping and then had a few beers so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning I’ve been migrainous (is that a word? This morning’s drugs are due to wear out anytime now: I really hope I’ve kicked it into touch.) Ever since we’ve been here (2005) the Suan Lum Night Market has been ‘closing soon’ to make way for a mall (because Bangkok really needs another mall – from where I’m sitting now, in Starbucks, there are eight malls within ten minutes walk.) The night market is lovely and different and not as exhausting as Chatuchak weekend market which I guess is the alternative. The last time I went shopping in the Night Market, it was sad and the vendors were desperate which meant great bargains if you could find what you wanted. This time, it felt livelier and full of funky young designers. So I’m putting that back on my ‘tourist list of things to do in Bangkok.’

Writing? There are only four days until the end of November when this draft is meant to be declared done. Hmmm. Maybe I won’t make that after all. I’m not entirely sure what’s happened… apart from migraines… I am trying to talk to myself sternly to kick myself up the backside.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It seems I must blog...

This ‘not blogging’ thing isn’t really working. Ever since I said I hadn’t got time for blogging, I’ve done considerably fewer words. Maybe blogging is my warm up…

So, I missed word count confession yesterday because I was out gallivanting. This week’s words then are 3,584 which is a fine and dandy word count but if I want to finish the draft by the end of the month, I’ve got to do better than that.

I finally finished Love in the time of Cholera which had been November’s book club’s choice and I hadn’t managed to finish for the meeting. Each time I picked up the book to read it I enjoyed it but I was never desperate to get back to it. It felt a bit like wading through treacle – quite pleasant but hard work. I think if I’d studied it I would have enjoyed it so much more. Is that okay? It’s not the immediate gratification that I want with a book I’m reading for pleasure but the depth of love can be so much greater if it’s been studied. Does anyone write with the hope that their book will be studied rather than just read?

Why is Florentino Ariza so entirely revolting? With his comb over and his constipation? Is it simply that love conquers all or have I missed something?

I don’t know what’s possessed me but my next choice is The Time Traveller’s Wife. No, *sigh* I haven’t read it already: my heart sinks at the notion of time travel – it’s the suspension of disbelief that I struggle with. Still, it was held up somewhere recently as a fine example of moving its readers (making them weep for all the right reasons) and I found myself thinking ‘oh, okay, perhaps I’d better read that.’ And... it has been on my TBR shelf for years and I'm getting SOOO much grief for the overflowingness of the TBR book shelves at at the moment that I thought I'd better read it… one down, 352 books to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No time for blogging

I’ve just hit 90,000 words.

Thursday is my day off writing because it’s usually Neilson Hays Library or BWG day but I couldn’t bear not to write because I AM SO NEAR THE END. I’ve got a website meeting this afternoon but it hasn’t stopped me writing. (Actually it should have done: I had a banner to make for the website and although I’ve started it, I won’t get it finished.)

Things have gone a bit wrong on the word meter over there on the left… And I can’t be bothered to stop and sort it out. Anyway I don’t know how many words are left… round about 5 or 6k I think.

So there’s no more blogging now either. No time to blog. Must. finish. this. draft.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Email from Husband

I received the following email from Husband a few days ago.  I think, maybe, he's trying to tell me something. I'm just not quite sure... what.

Some Maths Homework

41 = Books read so far this year (from your blog book list)
2/12 = Fraction of the year remaining (November and December)
41*2/12 = 7 More books to read this year.
41+7 = 48 Books read in 1 year (forecast)

43 = Current age of reader.
16 = approx age reading reached current pace and books were not just Enid Blyton
43-16 = 27 reading years
27*48 = 1296 Books read so far.

500g = Average weight of quality paperback (use 200g for chick lit and 800g for Stephen King)
4cm = average thickness of quality paperback (use 2cm for chick lit and 6cm for Stephen King)
500g * 1296 = 648kg.
4cm * 1296 = 52m

500cm average width of bookcase shelves
5 average shelves per bookcase
500*5 = 2.5m per bookcase
52m/2.5m = 21 bookcases required to house your books; with a total weight of a small family car.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A new low...

A while back (although it might have been yesterday given the regularity I am reminded of this sad episode) I told you how I’d gone to sleep in Starbucks. I hadn’t accidentally fallen asleep; I’d realised I was tired, it was nice and warm in my armchair and I’d clasped my handbag to my front, and settled down for forty winks.

Honestly, you’d think I’d done something really dreadful like vomit down my front in public. I am reminded about this low episode, almost weekly. Thais sleep everywhere; on the pavement, in coffee shops, at traffic lights (I kid you not.) I was just showing how culturally immersed I’ve become, honest.

Anyway, today I sunk to a new low (no, not sleeping on the pavement; that is going too far.) Today, I had a little weep in Starbucks. It wasn’t quite a fully fledged sobbing episode but definitely a moist eyed, wobbly chin, in need of a tissue to mop up my runny nose, kind of weep.

I was writing you see. I’d got to a scene where I thought my MC was having some thinking alone time in the kitchen garden, when quite suddenly, Jean was out there, confessing stuff. Before you tell me how great this is – that if I’ve moved ME, I’ll move my readers – I don’t think the scene is ready yet, but it will hopefully get there.

When I got home I found
this article. The website looks as though it will have other useful resources too.

On a cheerier note: Yesterday I discovered that I have won a copy of Short Circuit from
Salt Publishing: HURRAH. I cannot wait to read it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This is the plan

I’m hoping to finish the first draft by the end of November. You can see over on my wordmeter I’m in spitting distance from the end. I’m not 3k away… but more like 6-8k. I think.

But even when I’ve typed ‘The End’ I won’t actually have finished the first draft because I’ve got an extra character, a subplot and a bit of business that needs to happen earlier, that need to be written into the first half of the book.

I also have my mentor notes to act upon.

When I wrote the first 60,000 words, I was receiving feedback from my mentor at TLC. When each report came back from her, I was frantically writing the next 10,000 words to send her. I would read her report but not go back into the text to change anything; partly because my head was now in the next section and partly because I needed to absorb and decide what to do about the feedback.

But. I have had an offer of a read through from someone (it would be stupid to decline) and they need to do this in January.

So. When I get to 'The End' my plans are to go straight back in to write in the new character, the new subplot and a structural change between a minor and the main character.

When that’s done I will let it rest. I will put it in a drawer, let my reader see it in Jan and then start on it again. This is the plan.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Word count day


That’s the sound of my relief after four days of being offline at home and trying to negotiate with a Thai internet provider. It was quickly followed up by a surge in serotonin and a ‘wheeeeee’ sound. It really is a bit pathetic and I think I may need help.


Okay, so Sunday is:
• Word count confession day.
• The day Daughter goes off on school residential.
• The eve of Son’s GCSE mock exams.

I can’t DO any more about any of those things. Words are written; bags and brains are packed with clothes and facts respectively. (I do hope Daughter's gone up north with the clothes and not the facts... What would Son do tomorrow in the exam hall to find his brain containing nothing but frivolous outfits?) Still, apart from checking who has packed what, I’ve done what I can.

This week's word count confession: 3814 words. Now I’m off to catch up with some blogs…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Photo: London October 09

I love this picture.

At dusk in October the simple 'black and white' of the decorations and roofs made me think of Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep.

When the Christmas lights are turned on by a minor celebrity, I expect it'll morph into a garish and bland image.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two faced

I went to art college two years after my daughter (my second and last child) was born. I did it because I wanted to bring my children up but being at home seven days a week was starting to make me a bit mad.

I was writing up until the time I went to art college. Mostly I was writing angst ridden stuff that will never see the light of day in any form other than an emotion for my fictional characters. But I was also trying (unsuccessfully) to write ‘how to’ articles for craft magazines. I hadn’t heard of perseverance in those days and my (non digital) photography skills were pitiful. However, it was pre-art college that through a friend, I wrote and recorded six or so talks for BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought.

Then I forgot the writing and went off to art college. It took two days a week, for two years, to do a part time foundation course in Art and Design. How I loved Mondays. When everyone else I knew was bemoaning the end of the weekend, I was cheering: Monday and Tuesday were my days in college. Towards the end of my foundation course, I knew I had to do another course and so when Daughter was one term away from starting school, I enrolled for a full time degree in Fine Art at the same university.

I knew, by the time this course started, that I was a maker (not a painter and I don’t like the term sculptor) and the more I made the less I felt the need to write. Except that I was writing essays – there’s always an element of theory – but I didn’t think about that as writing. So I thought that I needed one or the other: writing or making.

I’m not sure that’s true any more. Making takes you to that place where your subconscious does magic stuff all on its own for the benefit of your writing. And see, I’m still desperate to make…

Meet my two new friends; they’re helping with the hat making.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul

It is said that we should never judge a book by its cover but I’ve discovered many a wonderful read by just that method. (Pigtopia and Mothernight are two volumes whose visuals made me swoon with delight before even setting eyes on the blurb.)

And so it was with Thin Blue Smoke, Doug Worgul's debut novel, published with Macmillan New Writing. It’s true that the book’s editor, Will Atkins, was there talking about how evangelical he feels about this book but there were five other gorgeous books present, and Thin Blue Smoke was the one I noticed and admired. ‘How’ Will Atkins said, ‘do you illustrate a book about BBQ without offending people?’ Just like this: I love the visual shorthand of the (poor) cow and the smoky font of the title.

LaVerne Williams is the owner of Kansas City’s best BBQ joint: LaVerne Williams’ Genuine BBQ and City Grocery. It’s known to the locals as ‘Smoke Meat’, because that’s what’s painted two feet high on the front wall. LaVerne has firm ideas about barbecue (for heaven’s sake, don’t call it ‘barbeque’ ‘because that’s a sissy-ass way to spell’ it) and he isn’t afraid to expound his philosophies. Smoke Meat doesn’t serve fries, onion rings, coleslaw, potato salad or any kind of chicken; but it does serve beans. Not Kansas City beans because they’re too sweet and rich. Smoke Meat serves Texas beans ‘just the way LaVerne’s grandmother made them.’ He snarls and he snaps at folk, but he’s a good man – don’t go on about it though, LaVerne can’t be doing with people going on about things.

Thin Blue Smoke is as an epic redemption tale of LaVerne and his friend and customer, Ferguson Glen. LaVerne, a tall, skinny black man, is an ex baseball player (he was invalided out) and a reformed felon. He’s married to Angela and their only son, Raymond, died at nineteen. Ferguson Glen is tall, white man; an alcoholic, Episcopal priest who has never pastored a parish. At 24 he wrote a Pulitzer Prize nominated novel. His one and only marriage failed the day before their honeymoon finished.

The diner, Smoke Meat is the pivot of the novel; the narrative revolves around the tendrils of lives and relationships of the employees and customers. It’s a novel about community; about friendships that transcend, race, religion and gender. It considers blood ties and how they can mean everything or nothing. It’s about chances in life and overcoming the lack of them and about making mistakes again and again but still being given another chance. It’s about faith – in the widest possible sense. It looks like the randomness of friendships but what most of the characters share, and interwoven throughout, are a desire to do the right thing, and a passion for music and food.

More important to the story than what happens is how it happens.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this novel because I don’t think I’ve come close to doing it justice. I want to tell you about more of the characters, about AB Clayton, and why I loved him. I want to tell you about Delbert Douglass Merisier III and his friend Harholz, both of whom lost their wives in tragic circumstances; and Bob Dunleavy and his son Warren, who has a delusional disorder and speaks in Lapine, the language of rabbits. I want to say that despite the foreignness of the book, summed up by Smoke Meat’s unfamiliar menu: Vinegar Pie (a dessert!), Pulled Pork, Pulled Chuck and Burnt Ends, I was among friends and I felt absolutely bereft when I had to leave them behind.

Thin Blue Smoke is tragic, funny and real. My only negative comment is that if debut novels are always this good, is it worth persevering with my own?

Doug Worgul’s website is here: There are interviews here and here.

UPDATE: You can hear Will Atkins, Doug Worgul's editor at Macmillan New Writing, talking to Sue Cook and guests on Write Lines on BBC Radio Oxford until Sat/Sun.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Twitter Titter

I’ve given Twitter a go. I like being able to ‘talk’ with my writing friends but I had a bit of a meltdown when a stranger began to ‘follow’ me. Agggh, I thought, I have to say something intelligent.

I did what I do at parties: I stood in the corner and watched.

Then I began to follow someone who looked interesting and I saw she posted a snarky comment about ‘if you want me to follow you, you’ll have to tweet more than once.’

When I realised I really didn’t want (her) or anyone I didn’t know to follow me, I accepted hmmm, yeah; I think that’s a no to Twitter then.

But I haven't deleted my account; I’ve locked it and thrown out the three followers I had that I didn’t know and now I can check up on my friends and keep them up to date on the important stuff: like whether I settled for egg mayonnaise for lunch or tuna.


I have written my review of Doug Worgul’s debut novel, Thin Blue Smoke (Macmillan New Writing.) I need to let it brew before I post it. Please do come back tomorrow and read it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

On being uncool

So it’s Sunday…

But I can’t concentrate because I’m swinging and bobbing up and down a bit in my chair, listening to Johnny Horton’s The Battle of New Orleans. I love that song.

I watched Midnight Cowboy last night and have been tormenting myself all day, trying to work out how I knew the ‘Everybody Talks’ theme tune… not from the original: I’d have been two to three when that movie came out and I’ve not seen it before. (Apparently it was featured in Forrest Gump but I haven't seen either!) It's no doubt something terribly uncool ... like the Julio Iglesias cover and I'll wish I never mentioned it.

Anyway, Sunday means a word count confession.

I haven’t done any illicit Sunday writing today which is a bit disappointing… but I’ve started my second book review and I’m hoping with a fresh brain first thing in the morning it will come together in that magic way that it (sometimes) does.

Right so here goes, words this week: 3,101

So Sheepish, what have you done this week?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Here we go again

I started writing a blog post this morning; about how I’m writing again which feels great. I’ve got book reviews to write too. (One on The Little Stranger for Contact, the BWG magazine and one on Thin Blue Smoke for my blog after Will Atkins very kindly gave it to me at my industry day) but I am still managing to fit in writing. It’s such a relief.

Then today I went to the BWG committee meeting and during our conversation about the Christmas lunch, someone asked what headdresses we were going to wear this year. Normally someone goes to Chinatown and buys something classy like, Rudolph antlers that sing ‘Jingle Bells.’ Oh we know how to celebrate here you know. They get worn during the Christmas lunch at the British Club too, and the carol singers that go to BNH Hospital wear them as well. Any opportunity to don our chic and sophisticated headwear is grabbed with both hands.

Anyway, whoever mentioned the headdresses precipitated a collective groan around the table until someone said ‘I think this year we should wear Christmas fascinators.’

There was lots of laughing, and pointing at me until I realised that I’d said it.

So now I’m making not fourteen this time, but twenty five Christmas fascinators, and truly, I can’t wait to get going on them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Melbourne Cup (for the last time)

This is us strutting our stuff down the catwalk, shortlisted for the 'best table' costume prize.

It makes me realise that you can the women out of Britain ...

May we always be able to laugh at ourselves and not have to wear something 'pretty' with a label to explain what we've come as.

My photographs are dreadful; here's hoping that friends will have pictures to send me.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Costume clue

Tomorrow the costumes will be worn and then I can forget all about them.

The traumas of the printers doing them wrong, not once but twice, are still fresh in my head. As is the person who came to collect their costume who wasn’t on my list. (We’d had an extra one printed ‘just in case’ and I’d made an extra hat because ‘thirteen is unlucky’ but I still get the hot and cold shivers when I think of how close we came to not having enough costumes.) I’m vowing never to do it again - until the pain wears off - and I find myself volunteering for it all over again this time next year…

I can’t unveil yet, but I’m going to give you a clue.

I did have my toenails painted as part of the theme and I took a picture to show you, but honestly, when I saw the photo… uncooked pork sausages came to mind and I decided not to put you through it.

So you’ll have to do with this. Note: I haven’t been at Photoshop again.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday word count & excuses, excuses…

Since I started my mini race with Sheepish I’d been writing pretty consistently. This was good because it meant I was carrying all the threads of the plot in my head and was shuffling between them as and when it was needed. Then I had the emotional traumas of the UK and even when I had a tiny opportunity to write, I couldn’t.

The day that I left Bangkok, you may remember that Paul Theroux came to visit the Neilson Hays Library. He said during his talk that he was grateful to his family for providing him with a stable and happy environment in which to write. I noticed this comment but didn’t think much of it until several weeks later, a good while into my UK trip and then I realised that this is essential to me too. My family here give me that (mostly) and I am very grateful to them for it. (It also appears that I can’t write in my pyjamas…I have to get showered and dressed and honestly, I feel a bit resentful about this. What is the point of working from home unless it’s so you can stay in your pyjamas all day?)

So the writing should have exploded in this last seven days but in addition to losing the thread of what happens next, I’ve also been making hats fighting jetlag. I really am rubbish at changing time zones – what am I doing living here? Or going back there?

Anyway, the words this week have been a rather pitiful 458 but any words are welcome: some are most definitely better than none. And this has pushed me to a word count of over 80,000 which is rather fab.

I was still holding onto a bit of anxiety though; these weren’t new words. They were inserted while rereading the last 10,000 words which I had to do in order to remember what was going on in my story. Even after re-reading I still couldn’t see my way forward so I was quite despondent yesterday but I went back to it fresh this morning and I’ve disentangled the different threads and now I have mapped out a rough way forward.

Fingers crossed please.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Photo: Spa treatment

No, those are not my hairy legs... but Husband's.

The fish come and eat away all the dead skin... Apparently, the stinkier the feet, the more the fish like them.


I can't wait to try it though.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I had an assignation today.

With someone I’ve never met. We had been put in touch by a mutual contact. I'd offered to take a package from the UK to Bangkok, arrange a rendezvous and to deliver it. It was carefully wrapped in an innocuous WHSmiths bag. This product, I was told, wasn't available in Thailand...

I nearly left home in dark glasses and the collar on my mac turned up; then I remembered I didn’t have a mac, and even if I had got one it would be hot and sweaty in the Bangkok heat.

We arranged to meet at Starbucks on Thonglor. I pushed the parcel over the table to her.

Inside was ‘Heaven Can Wait’ by Cally Taylor.

Then we had coffee and a good old natter.

When I left her I had to go to Emporium and I can’t go to Empo without also going to Kinokuniya the big beautiful bookshop. I walked in through the door and this is what I saw:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Today was marked in the diary some four weeks ago as ‘the great hat making day.’ In truth, I don’t think any of us actually wrote that in our diaries because that would have been a bit, well, silly, wouldn’t it? I wrote something more like ‘S & C coming over to help make hats’ but the fact is that it’s taken on epic proportions in my head as one of the problems that I might, possibly, conceivably, hopefully, be able to solve.

(Aging parents who refuse to accept they could do with a spot of help: no, I can’t crack that one.)

But I can make the hats for the Melbourne Cup. Hmmm, I haven’t yet been able to work out how to hide the bits that we don’t want to see… so actually I haven’t resolved this problem either but three heads, when S & C turn up, are likely to be better than my jetlagged and under par one.

But it’s another day not writing, and the woolly one is banging out those words… I have, over the last few weeks of fretting about the folks who refuse help, also been worrying about the dénouement of the novel. Mostly I’ve been agonizing over the location and whether removing the characters from the setting – which is pretty important to the novel - will weaken the story or not.

In the end, I’ve decided to remove them… for the truth of their characters; inside the house they will not tell the truth. Therefore they must be removed. In order to have them elsewhere, I need to research something and a couple of days ago I heard back from a friend I was at art college with. She’s willing to answer some questions and so now, after the hat making, I can crack on with the last 10-15k of words.

Better watch out woolly one; I can still put you in the hot wash…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Presence and Presents

My homecoming was lovely.

There were hugs (lots of them); a Welcome Home banner and, as I’d been in the UK for my birthday, a pile of presents and cards to open. (And then it was right back into Mummy work - sorting out some homework that was due the next day! It was almost as though I’d never been away…)

The presents were thoughtful and lovely and I shouldn’t single out any… but… during half term Son had been to Borneo to climb Mount Kinabalu as part of his Silver International Award (I’m sure you remember the dramas I made of his first trip: it’s odd, but Son and Husband didn’t make nearly such a big fuss about organising this leg!) Any way, look what Son brought me back:

Camellia Sinensis Black Tea from the foothills of Mount Kinabalu! Yum. Very lovely tea it is too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Letter to Brain

The Towers

Dear Brain

When I said to Susan ‘I don’t need to worry about the Melbourne Cup hats until I get back to Bangkok’ I didn’t mean the very first night I got back. I had just done a long haul flight and could really have done with the sleep. You, Brain, would have benefitted from said sleep. And, there were after all, only a few hours left on the Sunday; worrying could have waited until Monday. You know, daylight hours? Then I could have done something practical about the worrying.

I didn’t mean you to think that waking me at 1.30am after two hours sleep on the very first day I got home, and keeping me conscious and worrying about design and technical putting together of hat until 5.30am was necessary: particularly not when the alarm goes off at 5.45am.

See, Brain, it's now 9.20am on Monday and I need a night's sleep already.

They are just hats; how hard can they be? Don’t answer that. I know that you think assembling and subsequently hiding the feathers’ join seems a similar challenge to splitting the atom… but you know, I don’t think it will be. We have a glue gun, UHU, staplers and a needle and thread. I've even purchased some of those eyelet things. You do, after all, in your dim and distant past have a degree in sculpture: I reckon we can do this, you and I. We can put together a fascinator/hat thingummyjig - alright, thirteen fascinator/hat thingummyjigs to make everyone happy.

Anyway, Brain, I just wanted to send you this message to let you know that if I spend some of today working on the design (that’s if I can stay awake) I would really appreciate some sleep tonight. Okay?

Love JJx

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Synopsis of Industry Day:

• Meet the technical requirements of the publisher.
• Spend time on your covering letter and synopsis. Do lots of research on what to write, but in the end it might be something personal that heightens an agent’s interest.
• Pause for Thought: Raymond Chandler called it ‘brewing.’ Put your novel away in a drawer and return to it fresh.
• Make the novel as good as it can be.
• Research the right people to approach.
• In your covering letter, make comparisons to published authors without saying you’re going to be the next JKR (or whoever.)
• If you sub to several agents at once and someone is interested, let the others know. They’re people; be courteous.
• Spend time in bookshops: browsing what is selling, what titles are around, how your book fits in, and understanding your market.
• Charm doesn’t go amiss, but don’t suck up.
• Put thought into which agents to approach. Sending a mass mail out to fifty agents wastes everyone’s time.
• Consider how to hook an agent’s interest: make your sub compelling and dazzling.
• Avoid clichés in your sub just as you did with your novel.
Ellah advised us to check out our personal bookshelves; look at the agents representing the authors we like to read.
Euan said that he wouldn’t offer to represent someone without first meeting them. It’s essential that you get on; like and trust each other. Editor/author and agent/author relationships are very intimate.
• It’s a job – you have to be professional.
• You need staying power and to recognise that there’s grafting to be done. You need a hunger to succeed as well as talent.

I suspect that nothing in that list has surprised anyone. Those of us reading ‘writing’ blogs, articles, books and blogs by agents and editors are already mostly aware of these ‘rules.’ I still find it desperately hard to believe that someone might go to the effort of writing a 100,000 word manuscript and not bother to find out how to format it, how to present it, who to send it to and so on. Apparently they do, so that’s why I’ve repeated everything above.

I think there is a feeling of desperation sometimes in the Blog World of Want To Be Writers. We’re told we have to be all singing, all dancing; a multifaceted expert in many fields even to get noticed. (I’m not negating the fact that we need to take responsibility for spreading the word and I do believe that we have to produce the best book we can) but I did come away, feeling that there are agents and editors out there looking for good writers. Yes, it’s competitive but it should be hard. These same editors and agents aren’t looking for perfect subs; all the examples I saw were different (hell, there was even a spelling error in one of them) but if your book is good enough and your writing engages… there is hope.

I hope.

In the meantime it’s back to my novel - well maybe when I get back to Bangkok next week - because that is the thing: I want to make it the best I can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Industry Day

The Saturday before last was my Industry Day with The Literary Consultancy. This is part of the Chapter & Verse mentoring scheme which I began about a year ago.

The industry day gives mentees a chance to gain further insight into the publishing industry and getting published. It was the first one to be held at TLC’s new premises, the Free Word Centre; a gorgeous wordy, booky space – that’s the technical description. The day started with Becky and Caroline from TLC, talking about the scheme and the mentees introducing themselves and their writing.

The first outside visitor was Will Atkins from Macmillan New Writing. MNW was started to keep new fiction alive in a time when it was being strangled because of the heightened risk that new writers present to publishers. MNW take submissions direct from writers and Will talked about how to make an approach. He brought five or six books with him that they had published and the covering letter that each of those writers had sent with their original enquiry. I loved this. There’s information available about the theory of your covering letter but rarely do you have the chance to see the letter that scored the deal! (Coincidentally, if you’re searching for an example, Novel Racers, Fia and Cally, enable you to see just that as part of Cally’s blog tour for her new novel, Heaven Can Wait.)

One of Will Atkins’ authors said that he had spent about fifty hours on the putting together his covering letter. He said he had considered his novel for thousands of hours so it made sense to spend plenty of time on the letter that would go with the manuscript.

After lunch Becky chaired a conversation with Euan Thorneycroft, an agent from AM Heath Literary Agency; Ellah Allfrey, Deputy Editor of Granta Magazine, though recently a senior editor at Jonathan Cape; Will Atkins, see above and Caroline McCarthy, TLC Mentoring Co-ordinator and Literary Scout. After their discussion, it was opened up for questions. Imagine, all that expertise and we could ask anything.

Tomorrow I will condense roughly what was said.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Laughing out loud

I’m not big on laughing out loud at books. It makes me a bit nervous when I see ‘I laughed out loud’ proclaimed across a review or on the book itself. I have got a sense of humour, honest, but I think sometimes it’s buried a bit deep. I can’t always quite locate it.

Bill Bryson, James Herriot and Lynne Truss do it for me but other writers, that make other people laugh, well, not so much for me.

Anyway, I went into Maidstone yesterday to pick up some books for my Dad who’s horribly bored (and in hospital still…) and I was very good and only purchased one more book for myself. I took this to Marks and Spencer’s café for a cup of tea before setting off to see my Dad. I got my new book out.

By page eight I’d laughed right out loud and then again almost immediately at the follow up to the punch line. Before I left (at page fifteen) I’d laughed aloud again. I finished my tea and got up. A woman with a small child opposite me, said “Excuse me, I heard you laughing; is that book good then?” I got it out and showed her the book. “I just bought it,” I said, “in WHSmiths. It’s really funny.” I showed her the book again, “You should go and buy it,” I said, “books never make me laugh out loud.” I resisted writing down the title and author, or telling her that it was number 45 on the shelf but I shoved it under her nose again - just to be sure she’d seen it.

Anyway, if any of you are interested, this is where to find the book in WHSmiths in Maidstone…

Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor.

It made me laugh out loud: that's no mean feat!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Books, books and more books

I've done my usual trick and bought too many books while I've been in the UK.

From the top, 'Writing a Children's Book' by Pamela Cleaver was a prize from Tam's blog. Hoo Rah. Very pleased to win that and thanks for sending it to me Tam.

'Rosemary's Baby' by Ira Levin: a first edition appears in my story. I want to quote a line from it (I think obtaining permission can cause all kinds of problems, but that's not a problem to worry about now.)

Three more Daphne Du Maurier books because I loved 'Rebecca.' I can't buy them in Bangkok so I had to buy them here! Honest.

'Incendiary' by Chris Cleave: because I so loved 'The Other Hand' and I saw the film of Incendiary without connecting them and that too was totally brilliant.

'The Reinvention of Ivy Brown' by Roberta Taylor. I picked this up 'blind.' I read the blurb and thought I'd like it.

'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' by Suzanne Collins is for Son. Haven't been able to buy it in Bangkok.

'The Beacon' by Susan Hill. Because I like her.

'Thin Blue Smoke' by Doug Worgul: I admired the cover at my Industry Day. Will Atkins of Macmillan New Writing said I could take it. He told me he's 'evangelical' about the book. I thanked him and told him in exchange I would review it on my blog.

'Small Wars' by Sadie Jones: I loved 'The Outcast' so I bought this without reading the blurb.

And I'm off to Waterstones again today to get some reading material for my Dad, so who knows what I'll come home with!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hero worship and a blog tour to Bangkok

Cally, thanks for coming all the way to Bangkok as part of your new book’s blog tour. Come and have a seat out on the balcony... It's almost cool enough at this time of year.

When I heard you’d got a publishing deal, it was a defining moment for me. It was one of those moments in my writing life that I’ll always remember. It wasn’t bitter envy as some might expect; it wasn’t even gentle jealousy. My reaction was pure joy for you at having your efforts rewarded. You’d worked hard, persevered, studied books, blogs, rewritten and rewritten and then rewritten some more. I recognised that I hadn’t come close to the effort you’d put in and it completely changed my attitude to my own work. If I wanted a chance at what you'd achieved, I realised then that I had to do the same kind of hard work that you’d done.

Right now, on with the questions:

How did you start writing? Or taking your writing more seriously? Was there ever a defining moment for you?

I started writing 'books' when I was eight. I know that sounds really cliched but I loved reading as a child and Enid Blyton really inspired me - particularly "The Magic Faraway Tree" stories (I still love them).

As I grew older I continued to write on and off (mostly off), until 2003 when I joined a year-long creative writing evening class and found myself writing every week. The moment I decided to take writing more seriously was when my tutor handed my final assignment back to me and said, "You're a great writer, Cally." No one had ever said that to me before and it gave me the confidence to start sending my short stories out to magazines and competitions.

My second defining moment (I am allowed two aren't I?) was when I was awarded the Runner-up prize in the Woman's Own short story competition in 2006. I didn't think people like me (without a journalism/creative writing degree or contacts in the publishing industry) stood a chance in national competitions so it was a huge surprise. When my story was printed in the magazine a couple of months later I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could get a novel published one day.

At the risk of sounded like some sort of demented hero worshipper… you’ve got a full time job too. How do you manage it all?

With difficulty! I stay up very late (something my
Facebook friends will be aware of!) and I put a lot of hours in on the weekend too. I set myself a rough schedule - a certain number of words a week for example - and try and balance that with having a social life. When I sit down to work I try and do as many words as possible. That way, if I write double the amount I'd planned, I free up a day! Sometimes it works, sometimes life gets in the way.

You cut your teeth on the short story, but a novel’s not like a shortie. When times got tough during the writing of ‘Heaven Can Wait,’ what did you do? How did you find the impetus to carry on?

Not a lot of people know this but I've got two unfinished novels under my bed. When I started writing 'Heaven Can Wait' I was determined to actually finish a novel this time. It's bloody hard to write a novel and not many people manage it. I was determined to be one of the people that did.

Whenever I got stuck or blocked or hated every word I was writing I'd force myself to continue - telling myself that no one other than me was ever going to read it so it didn't matter if it was rubbish. That attitude really helped! Whenever I got stuck or blocked or hated every word I was writing I'd force myself to continue - telling myself that no one other than me was ever going to read it so it didn't matter if it was rubbish. That attitude really helped!

Once you’d done all that rewriting and rewriting, did you get feedback from anywhere or anyone once you’d finished?

did! The lovely Sally Quilford and the artist formerly known as A.Writer read my synopsis! I also posted the first five chapters in the Women's Fiction group on The feedback was terrifically helpful, particularly Sally's ruthless chopping of my lengthy synopsis!

Finally, how different is the experience of writing your second book?

Nggghhnnh! That's the sound of an author struggling with her second novel! The motivation to write my second novel isn't the same as the first. I've also structured it very differently. Neither of which make the process any easier! I'm also feeling a lot more pressure - mostly internal. It's fantastic when people say wonderful things about your first novel but it does make you worry that you'll never write anything as good. I've definitely written a very different novel this time but I'll have to wait until after 1st December - when I deliver it to my editor - to find out if it's worked. THAT'S scary!

Well, I've heard that Heaven Can Wait is flying off the shelves, so I have no doubts that your second book will be just as good.

Thanks so much for coming all the way to Tea Stains for your interview. While you're here, stay on the balcony and enjoy the warmth for a bit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Get on with it...

I think it’s time to pull myself together and return to cyber life again so I’m taking a swipe at the white noise, and getting on with stuff.

Firstly I’ve got to say thank you to everyone who texted, facebooked, emailed, telephoned or even plain wished me happy birthday in their heads. It was lovely to have so many good wishes for my birthday yesterday. I had a wicked chocolate cake; so thick was the top layer of chocolate that it refused to be cut. It just broke in big, unruly chunks of its own.

Secondly, thank you to all who left thoughtful messages on here after my last post!

Next, Liz awarded me 'The Lovely Blog' award last week, for the way I “enjoy expat life and struggle with writing.” I really appreciated it since I have struggled all over again with writing, life, you name it, I reckon I've probably struggled with it during the last week.

The rules are simple:
1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

I’m going to pass it on to Crystal Jigsaw for keeping up a regular stream of quality posting – always thoughtful and often funny (see the one about the rams!)

I shared my birthday yesterday with Lane, fellow novel racer, but yesterday was a triple celebration, being with the publication day for Cally Taylor’s debut novel, Heaven Can Wait. Cally’s also a novel racer and she's going to be here at Tea Stains on Sunday as part of her blog tour so please make sure you check back to read the interview.

I will update you on my industry day too, as soon as I’ve time to write it up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

White Noise

Tea Stains is experiencing some problems with service. Postings are subject to interference from life and may be intermittent for some time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday catch up

Today is Sunday. I expect you know that… and instead of staying in London until Thursday, I am leaving to go home to Kent because my mother has also (in addition to my Dad who broke his pelvis a few weeks ago) had a funny turn and a fall. She is fine; her confidence is shaken but she’s not broken physically.

What else?

Oh yes. I had my industry day yesterday with the Literary Consultancy. I think this deserves a full post so I will do that tomorrow.

It only remains to say that words this week were only 1498. I am rather pleased with any words at all. But once settled at my parents, I think I shall be able to get on again. I look forward to hearing Sheepish's words... there'll be no threats about putting her in the hot wash from me today... just a feeble arm raised to toast her wordcount win and thank her for keeping my nose to the grindstone.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Did I mention to you that I was going to see Othello?


He was wonderful and I think I am a bit in love.

The whole cast was excellent but Iago deserves a special mention because he was bloody marvellous; what a part. He was played by an actor called Conrad Nelson, who, according to his biography is all round talented.

But then so is Mr LH. I don’t think I would have known it was Lenny Henry if … you know, I hadn’t known. There wasn’t a shred of ‘Lenny Henry-ness’ at all until the end of the curtain call when he asked us to sing happy birthday to one of the cast members. Then you saw twinkly Lenny…

Anyway, pulling myself together, it was a tiny bit overshadowed for me by some personal news I received just before it started, which I am not ready to blog about. It could be amusing if it weren’t so bloody awful. It may help things in the long run but it doesn’t much feel like that yet.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Just been released

I was nodding off in the departure lounge on Tuesday night. Anyone who knows me – actually anyone who’s read my profile – will know that sleeping tops the list as one of my favourite pastimes. A midnight flight, when it’s on time, is a challenge to me. But one that’s delayed causes me consternation: will I make the flight? Will I be curled up in a corner of the airport, sleeping?

So it was delayed and I really was nodding off in the departure lounge but when at last I did get on the ‘plane, I wrapped myself in my blanket, I buckled up, put my eye patches and ear plugs in and I went to sleep. I was unconscious before take off.

Not so nice was waking with a migraine the following morning, which beggared me all day yesterday. During landing I got my ear thing. (One out of ten flights, I can’t equalise my ears and I’m in rocking pain until they ‘pop’ themselves.)

My room is tiny but in an achingly trendy part of London and I am entertaining fantasies of a pied-à-terre here. That is what fantasies are all about.

Landing in my own (home) country is so odd. It never fails to surprise me how strange it feels to be in a place where I am likely to be understood. Still there is the feeling that I don’t understand the place, as though I’ve just been let out of prison and am not familiar with how things work. I had to buy a coat yesterday because it’s cold and I didn’t have one. My wrap wasn’t sufficient. I forgot to put my card into the machine – I tried to hand it to the cashier and he motioned to the machine as though I’m a bit retarded. “Do you want to wear it now?” he asks, and I think he thinks I’ve just been released too.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Paul Theroux

It's jolly difficult to believe that last night the Board at the Neilson Hays Library were welcoming Paul Theroux and this morning I'm sitting in a little hotel room in overcast London.

We had a wonderful night. It was a great coup to get him to come and talk and members and non members alike turned out in their droves to come and listen.
He was wonderful, funny, charming, and generous. I'm a bit fuzzy headed to give you a report so I'm just going to leave you with some pictures. (Yes, that's me meeting Paul Theroux!)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I fly tonight and I haven’t packed yet.
I had book club today to discuss The Little Stranger. It was an excellent meeting.
I wasn’t going to stay for lunch because I hadn’t packed yet, but I changed my mind, saying ‘well, I’ve got to eat…’
I’ve come home to pack now.
And here I am blogging.
I have to go out in one hour because Paul Theroux is coming to talk at Neilson Hays Library. He is in Bangkok for the Sea Write Awards.
And now I must go and pack.

See you in the UK.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bits and pieces

So here's a bitty post.

I fly tomorrow night. I have stuff in London to do first but it's a blessing that I'm going to the UK, because I can stay longer (thanks to half term and a lovely Husband) and go down to see my folks once I'm done with stuff in London. (My Dad's been moved to a cottage hospital but is moving a bit more now, though still in lots of pain.)

'Stuff' includes, among other things, the gorgeous and talented Lenny Henry in Othello (oh be still my beating heart) as well as my industry day with The Literary Consultancy.

And this is the final picture in the Pratunam series: the ladies who make the costumes.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Oh buggerty bottoms

I wasn’t trying to lull Sheepish into a false sense of security… I had a dire week. Really, horribly busy and more shopping for those damn costumes! I even picked up some extra tasks on the way.

In order not to hand in a pitiful word count, I’ve been indulging in some illicit Sunday writing. It’s only illicit according to the Woolly One, but Saturday and Sunday writing has always been part of my routine. The rest of the family are out during the week at work and school and so come the weekend, they want to stay home and play with their toys.

This week’s word count is 3265 words. (Oh bugger, I’ve just seen Sheepish’s word count…and she’s beaten me again. I am trying to remember that getting my words written makes me a winner too, but bah, pah, and other annoyed noises.)

*Sigh* And I’ve another bad week coming up with my flying to London, corresponding jetlag and my TLC Industry Day – for which I haven’t yet got an elevator speech prepared.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Photo(s)

And Pratunam market sells all the accessories any self respecting ladyboy or exotic dancer might need:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pratunam Pussy Cats

Pratunam Market is where the ladyboys get their costumes made. I was looking for feathers... for the Melbourne Cup.

I was meant to be shopping but I got distracted.

The bottom cat is my favourite; he's finished his bowl of soup and he was so full, he just couldn't move too far... Oh, here looks like a good place to sleep.

Which one is your favourite?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Only five obsessions...Easy Peasy

I was very excited to be given this award by DJ.

The "Your Blog is Fabulous!" Award stands for: Integrity. Commitment to Excellence. Stubbornly Optimistic.

The Rules:

List five current obsessions:

1. Oh my blog; blogging. Completely and utterly can’t get over it. Even though I’m told blogging is so yesterday. Do you know what? I don’t care; I just do not care. Anyway, I always was behind the times. Twitter schmitter: not interested. Facebook, nah been there, done that. (Okay sometimes I do go and look and comment a teenie weenie bit…)
2. My mini race with Sheepish. The woolly one and I are both Novel Racers but we’ve got a private race on too. We compare word counts each Sunday and so far it’s two weeks to Sheepish; one week to me. (I MUST win this week.)
3. Family: from Son’s GCSE’s coursework and climbing mountains…to my poor elderly Dad who’s just broken his pelvis. I could worry for a living (Coo, if only someone would pay me for it)
4. Costumes for the Melbourne Cup. I’m only slightly obsessed.
5. Starbucks writing-my-novel sessions. I am thinking of asking them to sponsor me. At the moment it’s the only place I can write. It’s costing a fortune in tea and the muffins… ah, terrible temptation.

Pass the award on to five other bloggers: Queenie, Carol, Redders, Leigh and Sue.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A beetle bit sidetracked...

Today’s post is meant to be a meme, but I just had to come and tell you about Son coming home from his trial run expedition to Khao Yai…

He arrived back home yesterday,

• smelling vile,
• limping,
• bitten to bits by mosquitos despite Deet,
• sunburned despite 50 spf,
• ‘more blisters than skin’
• covered in scratches,
• wearing his teacher’s trousers!

After four portions of shepherds’ pie, he felt strong enough to empty his rucksack out all over the kitchen floor.

Finally, he pulled out the sleeping bag from its bag to add to the washing pile, shook it open and THIS is what came out with it:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Take a deep breath: following on from Saturday

I’ve heard it said that Sampeng Lane is half a mile and I’ve also heard one and a quarter mile. It doesn’t really matter how long it is because it feels like five miles and you’ll be good for nothing by the end of it.

I do absolutely love Sampeng Lane – it’s a must-go to for anyone who enjoys shopping but it’s nicest when you’re there for a browse rather than something you must find. I could have scoured other parts of Bangkok for the items for our Melbourne Cup costume and not find them. I’d waste two days looking so I figured I might as well go straight to Sampeng Lane. If Chinatown doesn’t have it, it’s probably not available.

It’s a bit of a nightmare to get to. There are various routes; the one I take (not the river) is to go by underground to Hua Lampong and take a taxi to the far end of Sampeng – the Pahurat Indian Cloth market end. Hua Lampong is a train station from which naïve backpackers and tourists emerge regularly and the taxi rank here seems to attract the less honest taxi drivers. This is not the same for most of Bangkok.

Sampeng is a long lane of shops facing each other that in some ways puts me in mind of medieval England, where people on a top floor could lean out and shake the hands of people in the opposite building. The pathway is maybe a meter or so wide because goods spill out on the walk way to entice us in. Mobile food hawkers sell their wares; motorbikes, mopeds and hand carts laden with goods weave in and out of the people.

Sadly for me, there isn’t a Starbucks half way along.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday word count

How I’ve got any words written this week is a minor bloomin’ miracle. First there was the expedition of getting Son ready for the expedition; then Sampeng Lane in Chinatown (which I will post about tomorrow) and finally the purchasing of a dress for Daughter for a ‘do’ on Friday.

I told Daughter I would come to the shopping centre on condition that I would write while she shopped … Starbucks would do its magic, turning me into a writing dervish while she shopped and her feet got worn out and then I would approve the dress and pay.

We went to MBK: I settled myself at Starbucks.

After about thirty minutes she returned because the zip on her shorts was stuck (won’t go up; won’t go down.) She went off to find something cheap to buy to change into; she came because she’d found some shorts and needed the money, and then she returned with the change, she returned again to show me what the shorts look like on. Then she went off shopping again. Fifteen minutes later, she came back because she was hungry so we went off for lunch. And finally, after lunch she disappeared shopping again; fifteen minutes later she came back to say ‘MBK hasn’t got anything.’

So we went to another mall and I settled myself down at the second choice of Starbucks because my normal one was full. She found a frock but I wondered if the whole thing had been a tactic as I was a bit unsure about the dress’ suitability but I was so ground down I couldn’t argue.

I’d written 93 words in four hours.

So Sheepish, I won’t have beaten you this Sunday unless you’ve also been madly busy. It’s a bit pitiful but I have managed my minimum (500 words five times a week.) This week my word count is 2642.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Uh Oh: what have I let myself in for?

To say ‘Melbourne Cup is a horse race’ is probably a bit like saying ‘Shakespeare was a writer.’ I don’t mean to enrage any Australian readers (*waves*) I just happen to think horses are for riding and not watching… However, that doesn’t stop me from booking a place at the Anzwg (Australian and New Zealand Women’s Group) organised Melbourne Cup each November.

I used to go to point-to-points when I lived in Kent. It’s a form of amateur horse racing over fences for hunters but I’m only a teensy bit ashamed to say that for me it was a social event: beer tents and flirting with boys (it was a long time ago.) I rarely saw a horse.

I’m sorry; I know I’m a disgrace. As I say I like horses enormously, I just prefer riding them to watching them run.

Melbourne Cup is a bit like Ascot – that’s how seriously it’s taken – except I don’t think bizarre costumes are ever worn at Ascot (unless you count some of those outfits!) For Melbourne Cup, everyone dresses up either in formal race attire or in fantastic costumes. I think this year is my fourth time. I’ve always gone with the BWG and most years a costume theme is organised but I don’t take part in costumes. I make them; I don’t wear them. (Shhh: This is because I don’t like anyone looking at me!)

However, last week I found myself sitting next to costume queen, CD, and we cooked up an idea for a team costume. And now it’s happening and because I’m helping to organize it…I’m going to have to wear it. I hadn't even had a drink when I agreed to it!

Take a deep breath: yesterday I went to Sampeng Lane in Chinatown to source materials…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gargantuan food; gargantuan feet.

Oh good grief; you wouldn’t believe the amount of work that goes into sending Son off for an International Award expedition…( the same thing as the Duke of Edinburgh Award in the UK.) This year it’s silver and he’s off on a rehearsal this weekend for three days. I tell you, the amount of work involved means I feel somewhat deserving of a silver award myself.

When I moved to Thailand I was warned that you couldn’t buy western sized shoes here, but I was okay Jack. I’ve got size five feet, I fitted Thai sized shoes. NEVER did I imagine I was going to need to worry about the children’s feet. But here we are: gigantic feet, both of them. I’ve been in email negotiations with someone in London to see if they could get hold of great big trekking shoes. (Thank you Simon: I know you were too busy, really) and he was going to have to get them to whichever colleague was the next visitor to Thailand. I finally found enormous trekking shoes yesterday morning. The man at Central Chit Lom had size 45 and 46 and said he’d keep them for me until Son and I returned around 4.30pm.

This whole thing is assessed. The students have got to plan their diet to suit the tasks they are undertaking. It needs to be varied and sufficient. This amounts to about 5,000 calories (*sits at the keyboard for a second, wondering if hiking up a mountain is worth doing so I can consume more calories. No, maybe not*) So then we had to go to the foodhall for two hours to consider what can be taken; carried; enjoyed; prepared; fulfil leaders' ideas of balanced diet…

Truly I began to lose the will.

Eventually, we finished. We went to the taxi rank: BIG long queues. Bangkok was under attack from a tropical downpour. We’ll have to take the sky train. “But,” I say to Son, “I’m not walking home in this. We’ll go to the next sky train stop [from home] and get a taxi just the local bit.”

So there we are, not at our local sky train station but one further away to justify a taxi journey. It's still pouring sheets of rain. The roads are car parks and so the first three taxis refuse to take us. We are soaking wet already. If we’d got off and walked from the correct stop, we’d be home by now. Eventually a taxi agrees to take us. He doesn’t know his way; we miss our left turn, we do a u-turn, he misses the next right. He reassesses; instead of a u-turn we turn right. From this direction cars are forbidden to turn right into our soi. He drives up the wrong side of the road, hits another car (no damage, just the wing mirror flipping in) and turns right to a symphony of honking horns, flashing lights and tropical rain.

But you know what? It could be worse: I could be going camping at the weekend!

Finally, just because it's fun, long time readers might remember this picture of Son from our trip to see grandparents in France.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book news

After my 4,000 words last week, I lay awake on Sunday night worrying that the big scene I’d so enjoyed writing wasn’t where it ought to be or perhaps it’s just that too much is revealed. So yesterday I didn’t do any writing at all: I finished Rebecca instead.

Oh I am so sad I finished Rebecca. I really enjoyed it. I must have read it longer ago than I thought because there was only one time when I pre-empted what was about to happen. Every other plot twist came as a total surprise. It makes me so sad that for all the years I’ve been reading I haven’t kept a log book of what I’ve read. That list – over there on the side bar – is the first time I’ve recorded what I’ve been reading.

Other book related news:

I’ve just started The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters for Book Club. I don’t normally suggest titles for book club because the whole point of it for me is being told what to read by someone else. The Little Stranger was my choice though because of an administrative cock-up (mine) I had to insert something at the last minute.

For commenting over at Novel Spaces I won a book by Farrah Rochon which I received a couple of days ago. Thank you for that, Farrah. It’s quite ridiculous how snail mail still excites me!

This morning I must write (HA, Sheepish, not so easily sidetrack my woolly friend!) and this afternoon I must continue the Bangkok wide search for some suitable, gargantuan trekking shoes for Son.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To blog or not to blog...

It was a real toss up whether to blog about this or not. Is this something I should or shouldn’t post about? What is my blog about? Writing, living in Bangkok, stuff about me. Anyway, this is the part of expat life that scares the bejeebers out of me, so maybe I should say it.

Last Thursday night my Dad (who’s 80th birthday I blogged about here) had a fall in the garden while he took Leo out for his last of the evening pee (the dog’s, not my Dad’s.)

It was a 999 job. He was hurt so my mum and sister weren’t too keen to move him without help. The paramedics thought he’d broken his hip; my Dad, a retired doctor didn’t think so. It strikes me as very odd that as he lay on the gravel, very clearly a patient, my Dad was diagnosing himself.

An x-ray failed to be sure. So they scanned him. It turned out that he has broken his ischium, which is part of the pelvis. This is better news than breaking his hip which would have meant an operation with a general anaesthetic which would not be safe because of his range of medical issues. They don’t do anything for a broken ischium except pain relief and physio.

Sometimes I really hate being away from home.