Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Triumphs of My Twenties

In honour of my final hours as a twenty something I have compiled some of the best bits from the last decade of my life, attempting some sort of chronology but you know the old mind's not what it used to be.  (2003-2013)

  • Moving to Salford. (July 2004) My first home after the parental home and wonderful it was, despite the storage heaters and lack of central heating. But the bright yellow kitchen, purple bathroom and huge storage cupboard (nicknamed the Naughty Cupboard) more than made up for it.
  • Graduating with a BA (hons) 1st Class in Popular Music and Recording from Salford University. (July 2004) And what is even cooler is that my dissertation was on the use of narrative within Kate Bush's Hounds of Love album. And I'll always remember my dissertation teacher saying, "You're a born writer." Let's hope she's right. 
  • Accidentally bagging myself a hot Italian. Ooops. I'm not letting him go, he cooks. (November 2004) He he. Thus why I ballooned to whale status after a few months of his amazing Italian cooking and happiness.
  • Holding down two part time jobs whilst studying for an MA in Music Performance, also at Salford. (Playmates Children's Playcentre and Costa Coffee)
  • Getting a passport (February 2005) and taking my first plane journey to Italy.
  •  Landing my first full time job and realising that despite all the attempts not to, I was slowly turning into my mother. (Kids Allowed Didsbury April 2006 - Nursery Assistant.) My mum has been childminding since I was about 2 and then I continued the child looking after tendencies which obviously run in the genes.
  • Completing and passing an MA in music performance and not going to my graduation as a form of quiet protest. I also stood up for my right to perform in a decent and more appropriate venue for my final performance. And boy did they hate me for it. (July 2006)
  • Stubbornly proving that a long distance relationship works, after A moved to London. I stayed up in Manchester for another 18 months. I'm an independent woman, click, click, click. 
  • Loosing about two stone in weight and finally getting rid of that bastard fringe. Woo hoo. I do miss being that thin, though I'm sure I actually exercise more now and eat healthier too. Ah well. I'll put it down to youthfulness. 
  • Making the decision, on my own terms, in my own time (I will not be rushed) to move to London. (June 2008) And starting a new job at a nursery in central London.
  • Realising I could bake. (Again just more evidence to prove I'm becoming my mum.)
  • Buying a flat, getting a mortgage, you know, grown up things. Though I pretty much turned up and signed stuff. A sorted everything out. (January 2009)
  •  Deciding to pursue my novel writing dream. March 2009 Started novel. November 2009 finished 1st draft of novel. (And still currently working on about edit 7 of this novel. I'm in for the long haul.)
  • Starting to run. Taking part in 5km and 10km events in London. And buying stretchy pants in which to run. Scary stuff. 
  •  1st Intercontinental flight to the states. San Fransisco, New York and Washington. (September 2009) And we've never looked back since. 
  • Getting in the London Marathon through the ballot. Almost an impossible feat. 
  •  Running the Silverstone Half Marathon as part of the Marathon training. My first 13.1 mile run. (March 2010) 1 hour 17 minutes 13 seconds. 
  • Running and living through the London Marathon (April 2010) raising almost £650 for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Charity. This was something I'd wanted to do since I was about 14. Completed in 5 hours 6 minutes 17 seconds. Slow and steady....
  • Being promoted to Room Leader position in charge of three staff and around 40 kids. 
  • 1st rejections from book agents. Now you might think this is not a particular triumph but I guess the triumph was sending it off in the first place and rejections whilst upsetting you for a moment or two actually just make me want to power on and edit and submit again. 
  • Starting my own music classes with a self made syllabus. (January 2011) Actually using my degree and combining it with the teaching of early years. 
  • Starting a little blog known as Rants of a Bitter Northerner. (May 2011)
  • Being a bridesmaid for J and T and singing at the wedding. 1st time singing in public for a long time. (July 2011)
  • 1st trip to Asia. Evil time stealing fairies and bullet trains and all things Japanese. 
  •  Actually getting tickets for the Olympics. (In the second chance tickets.) Seeing the Olympics in the City I live in and soaking up the amazing few weeks of sport in the Capital. Amazeballs. (July-August 2012)
  • Royal Parks Half Marathon raising £450 for Nordorff Robbins Music Therapy Charity and beating my personal best: 1 hour 15 minutes 55 seconds. (October 2012)
  • Having Halloween in the states, attending a Halloween ball in Salem MA. My dream for many years. (October 2012)
  •  Working on and seeing completed my first published work, an art addition with the fabulous Luca Leonelli entitled The Horizon. There were tears when I saw my name. Only 25 in existence.
  •  Quitting my job to concentrate on my writing. One of the best decisions I've ever made, ever! (December 2012)
  • Self Employed. (2013)
  • Kotrijk Blog logging over 1700 views prompting me to create a second blog for travel: The Sarky Traveller. 
  •  Twice more bridesmaid for NH and LA. 
  • Working on my first picture book.  
  • Still getting asked for I.D at 29.
Wow, there were more than I thought. Some of them smaller than others but all of them having contributed to the last decade of my life and I wouldn't change a thing. Maybe these 30's won't be too bad. But I guess I'll soon find out.

Happy Saturday. Happy last day of my twenties and thanks for reading.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things I Wouldn't Do For A Million Quid; The Quote Book; Novel Hatred And Cold Toes.

Today I hate my novel. I hate the millions of edits I've made in the last few weeks, the tweaks, the changes, the amendments. Call them what you will, I hate them all. And I hate myself for hating them and for whinging about it but sometimes all we can do is whinge and whine and throw a virtual hissy fit.

So when I say novel hatred, I don't mean some new exciting way of hating I simply mean hatred of my novel and its many forms. It's like this beast that I keep hacking away at but no matter how much I hack, or thwack or slice, it still comes back to attack and torment me. It's relentless, immortal and pissing me right off.
It's like those lizards that can regrow a tail. Bizarre. Incredible. And frickin' terrifying.

Maybe if I find the right hacking implement I can get rid of it once and for all. Wait a minute......Would that mean I had thrown the computer out of the window? Deleted the whole thing? Burned the hard copy? Or actually completed an edit that I liked? Hmmmmm.

I thought I was doing well. I edited three chapters before lunch but then made the mistake of reading back through them from the beginning. I really liked chapter 1 but then after that it started to kick and spit, then bite and snarl. And with my cold toes and rumbling tummy it was time for lunch and socks. I closed down the beast before he could do any more mental damage.

It's so freakin' exhausting when you have already poured so much of yourself into a project and you know there is no foreseeable end to this. It constantly takes from you and currently gives nothing back. No ounce of support or a heads up as to which of the 27 edits are actually useful. 

I may have got rid of the donkey of doubt but the beast of burden has happily taken his place. He scratches and claws at the seams of each chapter picking them loose, letting the stuffing leak out. Any attempt to stuff it back in results in a topsy turvy remake of what was probably a great chapter but you convinced yourself needed an extra tweak or two. And when this happens to all forty of's time for a melt down!

I know it's pathetic. I chose this. I decided this was what I wanted. Annoyingly the characters I created are so much stronger than I am. Saying that though, they wouldn't exist without me. So ha! In your face. I created you so....please help me! Get off your imaginary asses and help steer me to the light. I think this beast of burden is a water dweller. He's trying to drown me, dragging me down into depths of a blackened pool. He knows my phobias because he lives inside me, waiting for the optimum moment to strike, waiting for an opportunity to take me down, somewhere I may never resurface from.

And speaking of phobias leads me beautifully into Things I wouldn't Do for A million Quid.

Last week I woke up in terror - and also needing the toilet - from the fact that in my dream my mum had just made me touch a tarantula. This is how my bladder decides to wake me up. Surely I could just dream about needing the toilet, or hear a rushing waterfall and realise I needed the toilet. I fail to see how scaring the bejeezers out of me is a valid tool in this, other then the fact that it obviously worked, but then I couldn't sleep for around 3 hours afterwards due to tarantula thoughts.

Apologies. I realise girl scared of spider is such a huge stereotype but I am actually terrified. They have way too many legs, they move and they can be really big and hairy and they can bite and kill you and urgh! We were at the cinema the other day, saw the trailer for the new Jennifer Anniston film and there's a massive tarantula that bites a kid and then falls out of his trousers. I scream and jump out of my seat whilst everyone else laughs. Immediate terror. I couldn't look and then I thought about it for the rest of the night. Then my bladder obviously cottoned on to this and ......the rest is....the previous paragraph.

Then as I lay awake for the wee small hours of the morning, exhausted and unable to sleep, I thought about all the things I wouldn't do, even for a million quid, because money can do a lot of things but it can't erase fear!

I would not:
  • Touch a tarantula
  • Hold a tarantula
  • Let a tarantula crawl on me
  • Be in a room full of spiders
You get it. No spider things! And no, not even for a million pounds.

I also would not:
  •  Swim with sharks, whether in a cage or not. They're big bastards and they might eat me. (Come on, that one's not even irrational. That's just common sense.)
  • Be dropped in the middle of the ocean. I would actually have a panic attack and drown. I had a panic attack in the swimming pool at Kentish Town once I knew my feet could no longer touch the bottom. (Pathetic I know. I used to be a great swimmer too. But it's fine. There would probably be sharks in there anyway so I covered that above.)
  • Go in a submarine. Again these are all linked. Deep water. Terrifying. Never getting out. Drowning. It all makes sense if you think about it. 
Now when I brought this up at the hen do I was at, at the weekend I got some very interesting comments. 

"What? Not even for a million pounds? I'd let one bite me for a million pounds." A classic quote from the mouth of the bride, on all things spidery.

We also had the classic: "I'm not sure I could touch a snake." From the mother of the bride, which sounded like steak. I said, "Steak?" Then the rest of the weekend consisted of pointing out steak houses and asking if she would touch one.

Auntie of the Bride said she wouldn't do 'anything' for a million quid, it would depend what they asked her to do. Sensible.

But all this nonsense led to a quote book of the weekend, which will be out of context for some of you but hopefully still rather funny:

  • "I'd rather be sociable than alive." NH on non-use of seat belt on the coach. (tut tut)
  • "Even when I'm fat my feet are nice." Observations on the bride, by the bride.
  • "I love lettuce me!" Mother of the bride enjoying her mostly cos lettuce chicken salad.
  • "When the riot shields come up I can't handle it." Mother of the bride on Billy Elliot musical.
  • "My legs are so skinny I'm like a spider." Bride enjoying a photo of herself.
  • Bride "Can I write in your book?" Me. "No. Absolutely not!"
  • "Head Shoulders Hips and Knees." NH sporting the new song for Wrightington Hospital, Hip and Knee specialists. 
  • "I had a perm once and it was horrific." Bride reliving past glories.
  • "I'm not being funny but what is the vegetarian option?" Stressing the bride out with four weeks to go.
  • "I don't even know how to use a pen." Bride after a few large glasses of wine. 
  • "I love a tomato." Bride during her hang over breakfast. 
  • "Do you know what I think is really underrated? Kit Kats. A four finger is underrated." Bride on her love of Kit Kats
And just a couple from the after hours party in my hotel room:
  •  Bridesmaid's mum. "He's your brother." Bridesmaid. "Yeah but he's an arrogant little turd." 
  • "It's okay. ? doesn't know he's a dickhead." Slightly censored quote from the bride. She probably won't remember this one.
  • "You tramp." Bride to bridesmaid.
There was also my classic, "I'm not drinking before 12." Then they are all drinking at the service station and I cave like a cardboard tunnel soaked through with rain. 9.20 and a small bottle of rose. Dear lord I'm easily led.

Well that was fun anyway and it at least distracted me from the sorry state of my - loosely termed - novel. Now it's back to the grind stone or back to wallowing in self pity or possibly some ritualistic burning....though we do have quite sensitive smoke alarms. Hmmmmm. Maybe not then. But I probably shouldn't look at it again today, at least not until later when my rage has dissipated.

I want chocolate. That will help. Surely. Though I don't want to be fat and thirty and I only have till Sunday to fend off the fat. Hmmmmm.

It's lovely and sunny outside so why are my feet so cold that I had to put socks on?

Anyone with tips on defeating the beast of burden please enlighten me. He's a big bugger and he's dragging me to a place I don't want to go, despite my protestations. HELP!

Have a great Tuesday


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Observations During Therapy

Yesterday I took a trip into town for some last minute Birthday things for A and a general wander and peruse. Here are some observations I made along the way. (By the way, the 'Therapy' of the title is retail. I'm not quite up to real therapy yet. Give it a couple of years.)

And so here are some observations during therapy:

  • A few people actually have lighter skin than me. Does that mean I actually have colour?! Whoop!
  • When you need pink accessories for your friends Hen Do where the theme is Pink and Posh (hmmmm two things that really apply to me. Thanks CT ;-) you cannot find any, not even in Primark. London you failed me. 
  •  There are no decent cards for Boyfriend Birthdays. You are either married or your other half gets a 'humour' or 'generic man' card. A ain't generic, it's one of the many reasons I love him. Come on card shops, sort it out!
  • Women in stretchy pencil skirts with horizontal stripes, looking good, is down right unfair. Though I guess they are made for someone to wear.
  • The kid with the whitest blonde hair who threw a strop outside Primark and stomped off from his mum. Don't worry love, shopping and Primark make me grumpy too. 
  •  There are lots of lovely petite people out there. Thanks for that.
  • Some people are really tall. I felt dwarfish when stood next to the uber tall guy. I mean, I only came up to his waist. 
  •  Swarms of tourists scare me. So many people, so little sense of direction, so little space. Argh!
  • Greetings cards are ridiculously expensive. But I love to give them for all occasions and seem to have fallen out of the practise of making my own. Though time does play a factor there. But as there are no discount/cheap card shops in central London then you bear the brunt. But really £2.75 a card. Jeeez. 
  • 24 degrees Celsius is much more pleasant to be out shopping/taking a bus/generally existing. 
  • Not wearing a watch makes time go faster. I swear I hadn't been there long but when all is said and done, I didn't get home till after 7pm.
  • If I venture into Yumi Covent Garden, I will buy a dress. Oooops. But they are so quirky and different and half price in the sale, so that's okay. 
  • I am actually a dress person, it just has to be the right dress. And yesterday there were two. Yay!
  • The 134 bus is as infrequent as the 46 bus. Is there some issue with going to Kentish Town? Really, it's very nice!
  •  Scrap that. The 134 is fine, it's just the electronic screens that lie.  Lies, all lies!
  • The woman crossing on a red light with 2 children, shouting at them to hurry up when they almost get run over by a bike. You dick! You're the freakin' parent. Teach them the green cross code you moron. 
  •  Realising I must have burnt off quite a few calories as I walked up and down Oxford Street, down to Covent Garden and back up to Tottenham Court Road. I'll bet there's an app for working that out but guess what? I still don't have a smart phone. Ha ha. So instead I'll guess. (300 calories burnt?)
  • Some people have really weird shaped calves. Not being horrible but I saw this woman who had really skinny ankles and then her calves just ballooned out and then back in again. I was genuinely intrigued as to how they got that shape.  
  • Finding a bargain is still an awesome feeling! Half price dresses. Two of them. Makes all the babysitting worthwhile. 
  • But not quite as good a feeling as getting everything on your list and more. Yes! (Although I only managed one pink thing for the Hen Do. Ah well.)
  • And finally. Shopping is fine if you make a plan first, know which shops you're going to, have your own music to listen to and take a drink and snack with you. Otherwise it's horrible and stressful and full of people and disappointment.
And my bus journey back comprised of jotting all these things down. Working as I'm travelling. I have to say public transport can be such a ball ache but I do tend to get lots done. I don't know if it's the motion or the fact that you can just sit/stand and reflect, unless of course you're pressed against the door/window and can't move. I've had plenty of those journeys too.

Anyhoo, when you're next out and about by yourself, immerse yourself in some observation. It's surprising what you notice when you give your mind the chance.

Happy Wednesday every one.
I'm off to bake a cake for a special person whose birthday just happens to be tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Word Play: Inside My Writing Mind

You know when you've written the same word several times and then you just look at it and think, is that the right way to spell it? It looks wrong. It makes you question yourself.

That's been happening to me all morning and I realised that principal of seeing something repeatedly and the meaning suddenly changing or the way you see it suddenly changing, can be applied to the a whole host of things: Writing novels for instance.

How many times do we edit, change, tinker and tweak? Especially those opening chapters. Now I look at them and the difference from where I started and where I am now is so astronomically vast that I often wonder if I tried to jump back there if I'd disappear down a black hole or chasm with no floor.

Change is inevitable and the way you hone and shape a craft like writing, it is essential. But along the way I often wonder if this constant tinkering isn't some how losing the original essence of what I was trying to create. Am I editing for the sake of editing? Are these changes necessary or is it that age old quest for perfection (akin to chasing rainbows) that keeps the tweaks coming?It's like a disease. You are happy with it one moment and the next you can't believe how you could have written such tosh.

As much as you'd like your characters to be separate entities that are unaffected by your mood swings and outside stimulus, this is impossible. (Or at least it is for me.) They are a part of you and I don't just mean they take particular traits from you, which they may not. But you created them and so they live in and through you, until the blessed day when they can live in the published pages of the book and jump off into the hearts and minds of others. That blessed day when the tinkering is over and you can set them free to concentrate on another idea.

But I often find that if I'm in a particularly emotional mood then that can be reflected in my writing. If I go back in a more forceful, girls-should-be-strong-and-not-sappy mood, (my self inflicted rule, not forced upon me by parents or family or anything) then what I've written previously will probably make me want to throw up or at least throw something.

Distancing myself from the characters that have lived in me and with me for so long is like shunning part of my brain. They take up such a huge portion, or so it feels like, that without them it would be kind of quiet and lonely.

So I guess what I'm trying to say in a very obtuse and waffly way is to not doubt yourself. Yes you've re-written that twenty times and now it says something different but there's a reason you did that. Maybe on reflection it says more about your mental state at the time but it is still a valid idea and maybe it will illuminate another aspect that needs work or make a link to something three chapters in the future, or give you the stimulus for a second book. Who knows? Presumably the mind isn't out there to sabotage, although that voice of doubt can often leave you wanting to burn the entire manuscript or at least chuck the computer out the window.

Crack on. Keep going. And eventually (or so I'm told) things will fall into place. With your continued hard work and mental sacrifice, of course. It's not a short term solution, it's a long term investment of the mind. It's like being on a roller coaster for five years (and counting). Surely one day those swoops and drops will plateau and you will disembark with as complete a novel as you can make it.

That's when the Agents, Editors and Publishers get to work and it starts all over again. Something to look forward to!

Happy Writing to anyone in the same boat and thanks for reading. If this made any sense I'll be surprised. Still the mind is a jumble and words help it make sense.

Enjoy your Tuesday. May it be full and productive, whatever you have in mind.


Friday, August 2, 2013

A Fat Night At The Ballet: Bad Move

You know when you're having a fat day/week/month/year and you go to the Ballet and you think......I'm a whale!?! No. Just me?
They are so delicate and spindly and there's just muscle and no fat. I mean, what's that like? (Years and years of contortion and training and probably eating a rabbit's diet.) But still. When experiencing a fat moment, ballet is bad.

We went to see Swan Lake. Now I knew the music having played it in various Orchestras and the Marching Band I was in, (Our Swan Lake medley thing was amazing! Best bell section ever!) but I'd never actually seen the ballet. As usual we were in the top seats and by top I mean at the top of the World looking down, with 'restricted' view which actually means you can only see half the stage, so you miss half the dancing. Whoop! But on the upside we could see around 70% of the Orchestra pit and I love the freakin' Orchestra, so that was great! Yeah, fuck you in the £500 seats, you couldn't see the Orchestra could you? Ha!

Now speaking of the Orchestra...oh my word....BEST THING EVER! I was so distracted by some of the soloists that I almost forgot about the dancing. The Violinist especially blew my mind. She made that violin sing, scream, wail, whisper, dance, walk, run, stumble....I could go on! I had never heard anything like it. Most of the time when I was clapping, I was clapping for her, or them as the harpist, clarinetist and other soloists were just as mesmerising! But the fluidity of the Orchestra and the way all the different sections weaved together was perfect. The flautists were impeccable and made the green eyed monster peer out from his dark cave. If only I'd practised like a mad woman, I could have been doing that. Really? No. Let's face it I was never good enough and I knew that. Still, when you hear a flute played just right it makes you remember why you took up flute in the first place.

So, why are most male leads wet lettuces? Its true. Tony from West Side Story (my favourite musical) - Wet lettuce! The Prince from Swan Lake - Wet lettuce. There are always such better male principals like in Swan Lake the Jester is amazing! I guess this is partly down to his part which is so fast and bounding and energetic, whereas the Prince is all grace and nobility. Who gets the biggest cheer though? Jester every time. In fact the Prince kept stealing everyone' s thunder arriving at the end of scene just in time to take the applause. (Although as we could only see half of the stage, he could have been dacing the whole scene. Who knows.) But the Jester and the Sorcerer still got the biggest cheers.

As a male ballet dancer I realised there is no room for any sort of body complex. Every thing is on show. But then I guess part of being so good at something like this probably makes you unaware of such issues. And the men had some excellent lunge movements, though in crazy extended ways where you thought, how the hell did your leg do that? Bizarre.

Now I know a secret. In ballet if you want to get the biggest claps, you have to the most spinny things. In the first act that was the Jester and he by far got the most claps. In the second half a few of the others cottoned on and at times it seemed they were having a spin off. I can spin faster and for longer than you. No I can. No I can, just watch! So basically the rule is: No spinny spinny, no clappy clappy. But if you are willing to spin countless times in a row then claps will be in abundance!

Some of the dances with just the swans were fantastic. That many arms and legs all in unison, moving as one. Beautiful. And those tutus are the epitome of the ballet dancer costume in everyone's mind. Though when the four dance together across the stage I couldn't help think back to the Dawn French and Darcy Bussell sketch from years ago. It might have been Comic Relief or something. I know, I can't take anything seriously. But why should I? I still enjoyed it. I still respect and am in awe of all the performers. But I just see the lighter side of pretty much everything and that keeps life interesting. If there's no humour.....why bother?

I love going to the Ballet or Opera because there's always this huge combination of people there, from your Wedding dress wearing £500 ticket holders, to your shorts and T-shirt wearing £8 ticket holders. It's the 21st Century version of Royalty and peasants and I know where I fit in. I also like that they have the cheaper tickets available because it does allow more people to access these fine performances but I hate that some people are still so snobby about it. "Oh you're going to the Ballet?" Yes. Why not? I might not be a dancer but I am a musician and I love to watch people dance and play to the highest quality. Yes I might not know the dance moves or be able to salute the choreographer but who gives a shit, I was there clapping and cheering and watching just like the snobby ones. And I got blog material from it, so I was working at the same time. In your face!

Another huge shout out to the Orchestra some of which we walked past at the stage door. I drop to my knees and bow: "We're not worthy. We're not worthy." There were plenty of goose bump moments and I was definitely distracted by watching the soloists. Truly mesmerising stuff!

And finally, I went for a run yesterday, first time in a few months and it was great. Only 2.5 miles but it'll take me a while to build up again. Still, the old thighs are feeling it this morning and so I'm glad it was shitting it down as it gave me an excuse not to go. Ha ha. I'll go tomorrow. Only 3 weeks and 2 days to lose weight. I don't want to be fat and that number that I don't like......Eek, fast approaching Birthday. 

Apologies if there are a load of typos, the spell check on Blogger is down. I've re-read it about five times but you never know with morning eyes. Well, Happy Friday every one. I am looking forward to date night tonight which is taking place on my couch with A and involves a nice meal and lots of series watching. Yes yes yes!