Posts Tagged ‘Downton Abbey’

An Unusual Sunday

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I woke up this morning and wondered what I would write about today. I’ve had a nice, but not fantastically interesting weekend. Nothing much has happened on the writing front, I’m working hard on a book proposal for Manuscript Number 2 which is consuming much of my thoughts but I have yet to see any productive output as a result. It’s all being corralled in my mind though, so it’s fine. I just need to extract it careful piece by careful piece. It may surprise some of you to know that even with one published book under your belt you still need to pitch your next manuscript to the publisher. They need to be convinced that it’s a saleable work; clearly I know this, it’s just a case of imparting the information in the strongest form possible. But this didn’t leave me with much scope for today’s blog.

So luckily for me, it was a beautiful day here in Hampshire. Equally luckily, we had nothing planned. We got up staggeringly late, ate a staggeringly unhealthy lunch and the sum of all these things combined to make it a good idea to go for a lengthy walk this afternoon. We decided to walk through our local village to the ruins of an old Abbey (where my author photo was taken) and perhaps stop for a quiet drink on the way back. It all went to plan until we reached the outskirts of the village, where there were police cars lined up and cones to prevent people parking. We live in a nice area by the way; you don’t normally find it frequented by police, so I was slightly surprised. As we walked further down into the village we saw flags hung outside every house along the road. Nice, but again, unusual. Then we saw something not only unusual but distinctly alarming. A person had made a papier-mâché – um – thing – and placed it outside their house. It looked like a dragon but the sheet hung above it declared it to be something from “NARNIA”. This dragon was accompanied by creepy music and bizarrely, printed out photos of Narnia characters with guinea-pig faces superimposed over the top.

“Is that….?” said my husband, in tones of someone who has drunk too much the night before and has fears in case they are hallucinating.

“Yes.” I replied. “I truly think it is. A person has put their pet guinea pigs faces onto those of Narnia characters.”

We don’t live in the sort of place where this is normal behaviour.

The next house we came to had a papier-mâché cake outside it, next to which was a sign saying “EAT ME” amongst other decorations.

“Ah. Alice in Wonderland,” said my husband knowledgeably. He was very quick to get into the swing of this, you see. He was being very casual and laid back about the whole thing, as if it were completely normal to try and guess which fairy-tale the house was pretending to be.

I looked at him, “Well, yes,” I said. “Clearly.  But why?” My question was swiftly answered when we came to the main thoroughfare which was populated by various stalls, a hog-roast, people selling enormous amounts of balloons, bubble mixtures and pieces of wool on sticks (yes, really). All became clear, it was the village carnival. Madness reigned. Literally.  Amongst which was a group of people from whom a huge noise emanated. Sort of aeroplane-like.

“I can’t see,” I said to my husband. “What is it?”

“Er, well,” he said peering over the crowd. “It appears to be a woman on a mobility scooter turned into an aeroplane.” One of the least safe things I’ve ever heard, if you ask me. Eventually it emerged that it was a Battle of Britain display. Of course it was. They couldn’t have depicted it better.

Enjoyable though this lunacy was, we decided nonetheless to still head for the Abbey and then spent a good twenty minutes trying to find our way out of the village. I was specific about the road I wanted to use (most direct route to the pub) but less specific about where it actually was. Which didn’t make me very popular. But no matter, because it did give us the opportunity to pass a river where a kind gentleman with a 4 litre bottle of cider and long-unwashed hair invited me to “…come and sit ‘ere wiv me darlin’,” – an invitation which social etiquette dictated I declined because I was with my husband and daughter. Obviously in any other situation it would have been lovely. Suffice to say, once we’d made it to the pub we didn’t go any further. We sat by a lovely open fire, drank some lovely wine and laughed a little about our eventful walk. Oh little did we know what was coming up……

What was coming up was the parade. We happened upon this on our way back (for which I got the blame for insisting we walk back through the village rather than along the fume-filled A27. Can’t think why I insisted that.) Anyway, precisely as we arrived at the road we needed to cross, the parade of floats along it began. Of course it did. But at least it provided us with some of the best spectacles of the day. If not my life. I’m not clear how you qualify to have a float; there were all sorts being towed by all manner of odd vehicles. Including unsuitably-attired women, and unbelievably men, singing and pretending to be Cheryl Cole. The fact that their ages meant each one of them could easily have been her grandparent didn’t seem to have put them off, which is a lovely enthusiastic attitude. There was also a float of girls dressed in tight sailor outfits and dancing to a Vengaboys track for some obscure reason. It was a cold day but it didn’t matter because they were well-insulated. And shortly after that was a group of sweet little children dressed as elves on a Christmas float, accompanied by Father Christmas himself and some adult elves, which I thought was genuinely nice. Until I spotted the cans of lager the adult elves were drinking as they marched in a parade with small children. Father Christmas was abstaining at least. The best bit however was the band of men marching in uniform. Not sure which uniform (it was navy blue with white hats) but it was very smart and EXTREMELY sexy. I nudged my husband, “Can you dress up in a uniform like that please?” I asked. “No,” he said flatly. “I am not dressing up in a uniform and marching through the village.” It wasn’t quite what I had in mind but I let it go.

And that was about it. The excitement tailed off after that. The rest of my evening will be about ironing and watching Downton Abbey, of which my husband is suspiciously fond. I thought he was enjoying the plotline but it turns out that he has fallen mildly in love with Lady Mary. You know the one, she of the tightly-corseted waist in hunting outfits with an oft-veiled face and long, dark hair. Either that or in a plunging evening dress with heaving bosoms. I can’t think what the appeal is. I may offer a deal though – I’ll be Lady Mary if he wears a uniform.

And perhaps next year we can have our own float.

Orange and lemonade lifestyle

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I love weekends. I love the fact that they’re so promising, full of potential and that if you approach them in the proper manner then anything goes; Saturday and Sunday are very hedonistic in our house. It’s rare that anyone is dressed before midday (unless my eldest daughter has Saturday school because I’ve learned that the school don’t like you turning up in pyjamas. I did actually do that once on a very rushed morning but I don’t think anyone noticed because I had a sort of flashers mac on over the top). As far as I’m concerned the weekend is a chance to eat anything, drink anything and generally indulge yourself. Saturday has to be my favourite day of the week, I always feel a bit excited on Saturday mornings for no discernible reason. I quite like Fridays because I treat them as a dress rehearsal for Saturdays. I also like Thursday nights because I know it will be Friday when I wake up. I always feel like I can be a little bit frivolous; wear a slightly shorter skirt, slightly higher heels, maybe have a glass of wine at lunchtime if I’m in the right company on Fridays. And by ‘right company’ I mean those that drink alcohol when in a pub. I know, instinct to most of us, but I promise you there are those people who order wine for me and then something boring like orange juice and lemonade for themselves. That to me always has the air of “Well I can control myself but she can’t, better indulge her.” Usually thoroughly compounded by answering “Large, obviously” to the inevitable “Large glass or small?” question. It makes me feel like saying “Oh sorry, did I say large glass of wine? I meant large glass of water. Silly me.” There is nothing more off-putting when you’re drinking wine and feeling that slight alcohol-induced glow come over you than to be with someone who remains steadfastly and determinedly sober. Just no fun. And Fridays and Saturdays and their nights are designed for fun.

This of course is unless you’re me next weekend. There will not be much wine drunk next Saturday or Sunday (by me at any rate, I can’t speak for the rest of Hampshire) because on those days I am getting as close to work as I get. And I understand that one does not drink at work. Next Saturday I will be signing books in Waterstones in Fareham between 10am and 4pm which I’m very excited about. It will be lovely to actually talk to people as they buy my book, I think it’s fantastic to be able to see the person whose mind this creation has come from and hold that thought as you read the book. I know I’ve said this before but whenever I read a really good book, and I’ve just finished a tremendous one by Rosie Alison called The Very Thought Of You, I always want to know as much as I can about the author. How old are they, what do they look like, where do they live, are they married, did they go to University, how did they get into writing, how have they been successful – ad infinitum. I’ve been frustrated by Rosie Alison because I really cannot find out much about her. Lots, if not most, authors have their own website or blog or both, they’re on twitter and if you look you can generally find a lot of information which helps you build a picture of them as a person which helps in understanding their story. That’s why I’m as open as I am in this blog and generally on facebook and twitter – if people are going to bother to follow you as a writer then I believe the least you can do is share a little of yourself and your life with them. This is no comment against those who choose not to, I do understand that some writers prefer to stay quiet and private, it’s just that I prefer to share every single thought with as many people as possible. Anyway, I digress. So to come back to it – Fareham, next Saturday, I shall be delighted to be there signing books for as long as I am required. It is my first-ever book signing so I shall be learning on the job as it were, but I expect it to be a fun and rewarding experience.

And then we move onto Sunday. Obviously. But this Sunday will see me doing something that has never happened before – being up at 6am to scan the newspapers in preparation for being on the Nick Girdler Show on BBC Radio Solent at 9:30am. I have very kindly been invited on as a guest to talk about myself and Things He Never Knew and review the Sunday papers. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds, I’ve been told by the producer that all I have to do is choose three stories from any paper on which to comment. So I thought I’d go for something from the Sunday Sport.

Joke. Big joke. HUGE joke.

The red-top papers do not generally feature in my life. But joking aside, the stories can be as high-brow or superficial as I like. So I could talk about the previous night’s X-Factor if I want, except I don’t watch X-Factor so that would be a little silly. My husband has advised me to stick to my strengths which means that I won’t venture into political comment as I have a history of disasters in this area, and probably to focus on lifestyle stories. It was sod’s law this morning that I found at least seven separate stories that I could comment on in The Sunday Times; I only hope for such luck next Sunday. That said, I do always comment if I find an article that I’m interested in, I just don’t ever have hundreds of people listening to me. I’ll have one, if I’m lucky.

Well I’ve written 1,024 words so far and my Sunday night awaits. This means ironing school uniform and watching Downton Abbey, to which I am unashamedly addicted. Already.  With the slight disappointment that Rob-James Collier is playing a gay character, about which my husband crows weekly because I think he’s absolutely gorgeous. Rob-James Collier, not my husband I should clarify. Although the latter is pretty gorgeous too. But – we should not forget that it is Sunday which means the wheels of hedonism are still turning. I shall rush to drink orange juice and lemonade. This girl knows how to live.