Sunday, November 29, 2009

Confessions Of A Semi-Successful Author

I, like Foucault, have always thought knowledge to be power therefore I don't want to hear whinings about this one. Take a look at what this semi-successful author has to say about publishing and keep on writing nonetheless. We, like The Watchmen, do it because we are compelled. There is just no other rational explanation out there. There cannot be.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Envy

Thanksgiving is that one occasion in the calendar that makes me wish for somebody else's traditions to be my own. It is such a huge thing in the USA that, by default, I want to participate too. I, too, want the long weekend, the family around the table, the special food, the celebration of all that is valuable in my life. But I live in England, not in the USA, and so I have to make do with watching from the sidelines, wishing a happy day to my many Yank-friends and checking out news and blogs from the other side of the pond while they showcase their food, their decorations and their good times. So many are writing about what they are grateful for, which prompted me to think about my life and my immediate surroundings without, for once, wishing for something other than what I've got. But today, above all days, I am just really grateful I am not a turkey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Starbucks Guy

I do not recall when I first noticed him, except I do remember why. He was sitting opposite me, hunched on a book and a notepad, drinking an espresso and toying with a tall latte to-go. What struck me, of course, was neither the espresso, nor the latte, but the intent look with which he was reading and taking notes. In fact, was he taking notes? I couldn’t tell. Perhaps he was getting inspiration from that book or perhaps he was doing what I do, writing quotations so that he could get back to them later. Maybe he was reading the book but writing about something else entirely. Perhaps it was just a to-do list or, worse, a supermarket one and I am just romanticising it all.

But then I resolved it couldn’t be just a list because this guy is coming to Starbee almost daily to write lists while reading a different book each time. I know it’s none of my business but you must understand that when I see someone who gives me an inkling that he could be even vaguely just like me, my antennas start twitching. Who is he? What does he do? What does he like to read? What has he got to write all the time? I am interested. No, I am not interested, I am dying to know.

Notably, I caught his eye too. It could be all down to my staring, of course. As surreptitious as I may think my gaze to be, in truth it poses itself on him and tends to stay there and then moves from book to notepad to espresso to him back to book back to him and so on and so forth. It is thus that our eyes have met on more than a couple of occasions. There I am, thinking that he may be a stifled creative and there he is, probably wondering why the fuck is that woman staring and why is she in here every day, hasn’t she got a job?

Last week I resolved to talk to him. In fact, I even asked for advice from Rick who, as any other straight male out there, just isn’t very good at advice. ‘Talk to him’ was the suggestion, as he obviously doesn’t understand the ins-and-outs of male/female dynamics. I have often stricken passing conversations with women at Starbucks.

Only last week I gushed over somebody’s ‘fab teal coat’ which I squealed in her direction and sure enough I was informed that it was a great buy, and three years old to boot and a pure cashmere one at that and doesn’t it still look great? Doesn’t it just, it was lovely. But now imagine that there is this man sitting next to me, someone I see often for he comes to Starbee for his lunch, often accompanied by an older colleague. Yes, imagine this guy sitting next to me, reading the news on his phone like he was doing today and me edging over to quip: ‘I love your pinstriped suit’. Pwhoooar. Are you smiling at this point? Maybe even laughing? Well, MY POINT EXACTLY. You just don’t strike a convo with members of the opposite sex if you’re a woman. Period.

What am I supposed to do with my guy? Sidle over and whisper: ‘I was just wondering what you’ve been writing for the past four months?’. Now that’s a possibility, even though I concede that I may scare him off and he may never return to Starbee at lunchtime which would then suit everyone involved. But I just don’t think this would be the case because something of note happened last week, when I left Starbee and him in it, went to Waterstone’s for a mindless browse and crossed paths with him as I was leaving. At that point he smiled at me, in that I-am-not-sure-whether-you-noticed-but-I-also-always-see-you-in-Starbucks-and-I-am-not-sure-whether-I-should-have-smiled-at-all-because-I-don’t-really-know-you way.

I left Waterstone’s grinning to myself. This guy also wants to talk to me. So it was that on Monday I plonked myself there early in the morning to work. By the time he arrived, some bastards were sat in the table next to mine and he couldn’t sit anywhere. Waving at him with a grin and pointing at the free chair at my table seemed a little forward considering that we don’t even know each other’s names. Heck, I’ve never even heard his voice. So he left with his to-go and that was that. Yesterday I skipped and today he skipped. And that’s that about The Starbucks Guy for now.

I am still kicking myself over that one occasion weeks ago when we were sitting next to each other and he was reading and writing... but I was so immersed in the crap I was editing that by the time I realised it was him, he was packing his stuff and going. Well, whatever it takes, I am gonna have to do as Rick says and just talk to him. Watch this space.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


You know how numerology associates subliminal meanings to numbers? The number 3, 7 and 23 spring to my mind, but I am sure that those experts can come up with earth-shattering revelations about every single number out there. As far as I am concerned, my magic number is 1348. It all started months back, when I was trying to build a PhD-writing routine. How do I snort even now! To think that, not so very long ago, I still thought that PhD and routine could seamlessly come together beggars the proverbial belief.

This is the work of hindsight though; then, I really did think it was possible and so it happened that for a week or so, I ended up sorting out my life in the mornings in order to sit down at the desk, free as a bird, in the afternoon. The time was always 13:48 according to the Mac. Even today, which I have spent holed up with a dog and a brush, then with a mop and a bucket, then with an iron and a board, and then with a cheese toastie and a cup of tea, I sat down at 13:48 exactly, fingers poised on the keyboard as my eyes darted to the top right corner where they were met by the magic number.

I must have developed a biological writing clock that goes off at 13:48 every day, as I can quite safely report that writing rarely crosses my mind in the mornings. I am one of those people who hankers after an early spell at the keyboard and a daily finish at midday sharp while, in reality, I am saddled with an ability to come up with something coherent only between 2 pm and 5 pm. This span is always interspersed with the need for a coffee, a tea, a biscuit, a cheese-and-Marmite toastie, an online browse, a pat to a dog, a phone call, a row of knitting, a trip to the toilet, an urge to do some yoga, one to re-arrange the kitchen cupboards, one to clean the bathroom, one to arrange my knickers by type, and another one to sort all the VOGUEs in month-year order every single time. In fact, it’s a bit of a miracle that I get any writing done at all.

But then I have found that the magic number gets me into gear, if only for a minute spell, and we all know that some writing is better than no writing at all. Late yesterday afternoon the urge to make some chocolate rice crispies descended upon me like a pack of ravenous wolves and I had to give in. As I always do. I am very, very well-practised to giving in.

200g dark chocolate
50g rice crispies
50g butter
2 tsps Golden Syrup

Melt the butter, the chocolate and the Golden Syrup together in a double-boiler if, like me, you’ve yet to enter modern times and still haven’t got a microwave.

Remove from heat and fold in the rice crispies. Drop a tablespoon of this mix in paper cups and place in the fridge to chill.

The upshot of these is that they are terribly, terribly tasty and can be whipped up in fifteen minutes flat. In fact, I made mine right in the middle of writing. Works every time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dark and Stormy Weekend

It's been a dark and stormy weekend and now it's Monday afternoon and it's cold and miserable and nothing has really changed. On Saturday, I busied myself with an advent calendar I have been making and so busy and so curved was I at the table that I ended up with another semi-acute phase of back-ache that landed me in bed for the whole of Sunday. Now I am just glad I've been well enough to crawl outside, buy myself an extra pack of painkillers and take a walk around the local the bookshop. Not the best way to start the week but, hey, at least I am moving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spot The Problem

Notice anything that should not be on the bed?

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Friday

I think that, no matter your work status, no matter the relationship you may have with the office/the school/the shop/your own home, there exists a built-in programme intrinsic to most humans not unlike a sacred fire that goes off like a firework at some point on Friday afternoon. I am off the rat race as I knew it, and yet I am not immune to an explosive desire to fist-pump the air come 3 pm on Fridays, even if my 3 pm on Fridays are no different than the 3 pm on Mondays or on Wednesdays or on any other day.

The daily treat.

This is a curious development for me. When I used to leave the office at 3 pm on Fridays on the way to Euston station or Heathrow, I was too tired for words, too tired even to be happy that another week was in the sack. The weekend itself was a blur of narkiness and recriminations, mostly aimed inward. You just haven't got a clue as to what the dreaded grind can do to you until you are hung out to dry, no matter the weather. No wonder so many colleagues got ill and were off for ages, even in their early twenties. Nothing they can teach you anywhere can prepare you for a working environment that couldn't be further from your wildest nightmares.

The other day news reached me that one of the big dogs at my ex firm has been made redundant. I re-read the email wide-eyed; partners don't get made redundant, especially not when they have spent every day of their working lives ass-kissing the partners two steps above them in the hierarchy, do they? How could this guy have been made redundant when he embodied so well all that was prescriptive about his role? He didn't really speak to people: he always seemed to be reading off a well-rehearsed script, always referring colleagues to policy 1234 or whatever. He was a living Arnold J. Rimmer, quoting Space Core Directive 34124 (34124: No officer with false teeth should attempt oral sex in zero gravity) at any given opportunity, except John wasn't funny. In fact, he didn't even seem self-aware.

Gosh, I cannot imagine what life must be like for him right now, getting the boot just before Christmas. I am shuddering. Bloody hell, by the time he gets his head out of his bottom he may even realise that blackberries are also eaten and not just used in the real world. How will he cope without the company-provided wheelie bag for the laptop, without the bodyguard-like headset, without the revolving flashing sign above his head advertising to all and sundry that he was a corporate git whose days were spent blue-sky thinking and leveraging the key enablers that would talk-track the up-sell of the value-tracked restructuring? It doesn't bear thinking about really.

As I was pondering on his sad state of affairs, I resolved never to be an employee again. Yes, yes, I know that I have been talking about work an awful lot on here and about the necessity to have a job, at least for some of us. Yet, I think that I was misplacing my efforts, misconstructing my needs, misunderstanding my mission and an awful lot of other mis-. And it's all crystal clear now: I shall never be an employee again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How To Make A Journal Of Your Life

At some point last year I came across Danny Gregory, the author of one of my favourite books, The Creative License. Via Danny, I then found another great guy, Dan Price, author of the modern classic, How To Make A Journal of Your Life, a little book first published in 1999 and still riding high among stifled creative types.

Go to Amazon and click to look inside.

Here Dan talks of walking the path, finding the way, wondering about things and finding one's bliss. I cannot quite tell you what it is that makes me feel so strongly about this book in the way I can with Danny Gregory's. The Creative License is all about allowing yourself to be creative. How To Make A Journal is a bit about that, but is also very much about how to proceed and how to have fun, if indeed you have forgotten what fun is. And, let me tell you, if you are reading this book or even considering buying it, it is because, deep down, you know that you've lost your way.

The back cover reads:

Has your intuition been telling you to get an empty journal and begin filling it with all those interesting events in your life? Well time is racing by. All those neat things that happened just last week have quickly become the past...

I read these few lines the other day, as I was rummaging through my bag (also known as the Bottomless Pit) and the scattered pages of the book came out in pieces, as they often do when I am searching for something else entirely. They rang true to me then as I had been thinking about updating my diary for some time (this diary, this one you're reading, yes, this is my diary). I was working flat-out on the editing of a book, the formatting of some plays and then some and no matter the good intentions, I always ended up shattered and brain-fried at night, unable to sit down for an extra ten minutes just to record: 'And today I did this'.

And do you know why I am telling you about this now? Because Dan is right as right can be: time is racing by, all those nice things that happened to me since last Saturday have already become the past. And I have forgotten about them already. What did I do on Monday? Yes, sure, I worked on the plays but... did I work at home or at Starbee? What was the weather like? What did I eat? Well, exactly, I don't remember and the older I get, the more urgent the need to record everything I do makes itself felt. You may think that only interesting people keep journals (define 'interesting person' please) and that you are not an interesting person (to you maybe, not to me) and that you haven't got the time (oh you so bloody have) and that what is the point anyway (why are you reading then?). Just try removing the set of blinkers from your eyes and try and see the world again as you used to when you were little. Everyone could use and enjoy pencils and crayons and stickers then. You still can.

I shall leave you with a little extract from Dan's book and Dan, if you are reading this from Hawaii... thank you. To the rest of you: time is racing by... go start a journal!

You see, your mind will be saying obnoxious things like this:

1- What makes you think you have anything worthwhile to say?
2- There's nothing special about your old humdrum life that warrants documentation.
3- Who said you were a writer anyway? Don't embarrass yourself.

Well, well, that's all really interesting, Mr Brain. Fortunately we have decided to send you off on sabbatical for a while and will instead be using our hearts to fill these pages. Heh. Heh.

In hearing this news your heart may begin to beat wildly. It will greatly appreciate you considering it worthy. Goose bumps may appear up and down your spine. And given this new task, the heart says things like this:

1- My thoughts, deeds, and doings are who I am trying to be, and each one is a gift that does warrant recording.
2- If I grow tired of self-examination, all I need do is lift my eyes and behold the beauty of our glorious world.
3- Writing down my thoughts will be the easiest thing in the world to do because I'll be expressing my own innermost feelings, and only I know what those are.

So go ahead and scribble. At first you may dislike your seemingly pretentious babbling. But, hey, great novels were not written overnight. Try to do some writing and remember to listen only to your hear, not your head. Then have a cookie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things They Don't Tell You About Dalmatians

If you are the owner of a Dalmatian, you will be well-used to hearing passing comments aimed at undermining your dog and, indirectly for having chosen such a vain canine specimen, yourself. For a start the Dal is supposed to be stupid, although nobody will ever say to your face that your dog is a retard. That only happens behind your back. Euphemisms are used, so that your Dal will be ‘not very bright’, perhaps ‘daft’, also ‘not blessed with intelligence’, or maybe ‘a little bit slow’, very often ‘particularly goofy’, sometimes ‘not really there’, naturally ‘difficult to train’ and finally ‘with a bit of a small brain’. I am sure you can add your own variations to the stupid theme; over 10+ years of Dal ownership, I’ve heard them all.

Dals in their natural habitat

Despite their supposed intellectual deficiencies, my Dals understand the following commands: sit, stand, lie down, come, go, paw. Pretty standard non-deficient dog fare there. They also understand: find!, find Richie!, let’s go for a gravy bone, where is Richie?, inside, outside, dinner, breakfast, stop, off, back, leave, what do you think you are doing!, to your bed, let's go, come ooooooon, pee, pooh, pizza, fucking hell William!. Can your dog also stand on two legs and understand the difference between inside and outside when given as a command? No? Oh.

My Dals (William especially) are so in tune with us people that they will come to the bed in the morning as soon as they hear an ‘awaken’ sound, such as a stretch, a yawn or a deep sigh. William is an absolute master champion at this. He does it at night too; if anyone is awake, chances are that William will come over and have a sniff, especially if he is considering a trip to the toilet. Catching you when you are awake makes it infinitely easier.

But that’s not all, because my Dals are also mind readers. Whenever I consider moving off the bed and surreptitiously reach the kitchen, they will be right on my back. They don’t do this if I go anywhere else, I must be thinking KITCHEN. A subtle change in my heartbeat at the thought of food followed by slight over-salivation sets them off. Your dog can’t read your mind as well? That’s odd, maybe your next one.

Alien Dal

Of course other things they don’t tell you about Dals is that they could be right in the middle of a bark-off and then sound asleep, complete with dreaming and yapping to themselves, within fifteen minutes. Victoria is a big dreamer, William is a big snorer.

The Dal rarely sulks and never holds grudges. It will always want to be right in the middle of the action, even when it looks like it’s gone away to its bed. Don’t trust a sleeping Dal; unless it is snoring, it is wide awake while keeping his eyes closed, ready to leap out of bed and rush across the house taking ornaments, tables and chairs with it whenever your thoughts of food, fridge, drink, lead or garden waft in the direction of the invisible canine satellite dish pulsating on its head.

Dals activating satellite food tracking system

Dal activating stronger satellite food tracking system

On paper, the Dal needs many miles worth of walks per week; in reality, you could end up with a Dal (or two) that barely acknowledges your departure at the front door, especially if it is wet and miserable, or warm and humid, or nippy and frosty, or anything in between. The Dal likes to rest, even when all it does is resting.

Busy Dal, only seemingly decapitated

The Dal likes to eat. A lot. Pizza and bread are favourite things, although radiator caps, stones, golf balls, hats, gloves, books and bedding are known to satisfy the appetite under the right circumstances. If you want a slim Dal, feed it very little and ensure that fridge and cupboards are shut at all times. If you want a miniature cow, feed the Dal often and lots.

Blinded Dal

The Dal is fitted with an internal biological clock that goes off every day of the year at breakfast, dinner and pee time. The Dal can be left alone around these times, but be prepared to deal with extreme situations upon your return, most notably full-venom requests spitted at you while jumping on the spot until you snap to the job. You won’t be able to talk nor think when this is happening, but that’s the price you have to pay for having left the house at the wrong sort of time.

Finally I should suggest that, if you want a companion that is reliable, constant and does what is told each and every time no exceptions, get yourself a BMW.

If you want your breakfast in bed, the slippers brought to you at the door and the paper fresh from the printers in the mornings like they show you in the movies, get yourself a butler. The added bonus to that is intact news and no dribble.

Laughing Dals

Thursday, November 12, 2009


This week has gone swoosh, like weeks do sometimes. I began work on something that had to be put aside on Monday as another book needed a good purging in no time at all. I delivered it earlier today, a full day ahead of my schedule, which means I should be able to rest my back now. I find it so annoying to have to regulate what I do and how much I do it for, lest my discs will make every other single activity, no matter how insignificant, impossible. In fact, I believe not to have recovered completely from the last bout of acute pain that crushed me sometimes at the end of September. Gosh, that feels like such a long time ago.

My physical ineptitude stroke again only a month ago as I sprained a toe for no particular reason. Yes, you read that right. I was changing my trousers and hit a dog’s bed. I wouldn’t call that a cause for A&E concern but it bloody was. I soldiered on instead and this stupid toe is still sore, still swollen and still high-heel unsuitable, even though I persist, oh, how much do I persist! I limp from car to Starbee to shops back to car because I haven’t got flat shows anyway, not unless I want to go out in a pair of wooden clogs. And I don’t. I’ll tell you what, there are ridiculous people around in plastic flip-flops in November but I am not one of those. On we shall limp.

The best thing about this week so far has been this pic I took the other day:

Note how gigantic and lean I look, my shadow stretching ahead forever. That’s another fab thing about autumn and winter around these parts: the light hangs so low that you can find Dahl-esque proportions at every corner. You just have to keep your eyes peeled to the possibilities and it is easier to find stuff when you limp along instead of rushing, which often makes me wonder... why is everyone always rushing? Where are they all rushing to? The same place maybe? I don’t have anywhere to rush to and it’s the best time of my life (after the uni, of course).

Monday, November 9, 2009


The smell of winter hadn't been in the air until this morning, when I run out with my phone for a couple of frozen garden shots. Man, how great is it to get up and find a pink sky and the light slicing low, kissing aged grass and late roses? The leaves are very nearly all on the ground and in no time at all, the whole of nature will be asleep for months. Well, I like it, as I told you many times. I like it because winter to me means regeneration and a flurry of activity, even when it all looks dark and still. In fact, I am one of those people whose bio clock ticks along with difficulty between April and August. But I needn’t worry about it now. We’re in the depths of autumn and it's just fab.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

End Of Weekend

I spent the weekend doing middle-aged things. I swear, sometimes I think that I am getting prematurely middle-aged by a good twenty years. Spending a raining Saturday under the duvet, gushing over a calendar and then doing some of my crochet blanket with lots of tea by the side seems like a very decent way to while away the day.

Actually, I did have a bit of a zip around on Saturday morning as I needed a few more things for that advent calendar I want to make, but other than that, it was just down to doing nothing. Same on Sunday. I highly recommend doing nothing and if you can do nothing more often than just once, or twice a week, well then, good for you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ignoring Everybody

Today I found another piece of inspirational writing, although this one is hilarious too. I am reading Hugh MacLeod's very excellent Ignore Everybody, a little book about the creative process. Part of it is on Hugh's own website, and I urge you to go and take a gander, but I would like to reproduce a snippet right here, so that you don't have to scroll all the way when you're there. This is one of the truest oblique descriptions of corporate life I've ever had the pleasure to come across. Thank you Hugh; you're, once again, spot-on.

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with com­panies that champion creativity. Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.

Since the modern, scientifically-conceived corporation was invented in the early half of the Twentieth Century, creativity has been sacrificed in favor of forwarding the interests of the “Team Player”.

Fair enough. There was more money in doing it that way; that’s why they did it.

There’s only one problem. Team Players are not very good at creating value on their own. They are not autonomous; they need a team in order to exist.

So now corporations are awash with non-autonomous thinkers.

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

And so on.

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewar­ded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creati­vity of others.

What happens to an ecology, when the parasite level reaches critical mass?

The ecology dies.

If you’re creative, if you can think independently, if you can articulate passion, if you can override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did. And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isn’t the case.

So dust off your horn and start tooting it. Exactly.

However if you’re not paricularly creative, then you’re in real trouble. And there’s no buzz word or “new paradigm” that can help you. They may not have mentioned this in business school, but… people like watching dinosaurs die.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Pursuit Of Being Well-Rounded

I don't often use my diary as a publicity vehicle for others' writings. Yet, when I do, I know it is because these writings are going straight into my scrapbook under the Things Worth Re-Reading heading. I have done it in the past with Twyla Tharp, Danny Gregory and others and today I am doing it with Danielle LaPorte, whom I have been following since her Style Statement days and whom I think is one of the most inspirational female entrepreneurs around. So go and read Danielle's excellent piece on being well-rounded. I nodded in appreciation and chuckled in recognition. I mean... who wouldn't?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ticking Off

I have a love-hate relationship with lists. Part of me thinks that lists look so pretty, especially if you write them down in a spanking new notebook with a spanking new pink pen. Equally, I think that they can soon become monuments to your own ineptitude and inability to stick to a set of tasks. All in all, I think it is vastly better to get on with your stuff, rather than listing it all out (a bit like that plan thing you know...).

As per usual, there isn’t very much on my list, if not a few, very vague entries which read a bit like new year’s resolutions. Talking of which, only the other day I was reviewing my resolutions for the year 2006. At that point I wrote ‘to swear less’. Whatever possessed me to write down such a thing, I really do not know. Quite frankly, swearwords are to me what dreadlocks are to Bob Marley; a fucking-free life is too grim even to contemplate. I shan’t write that one down again.

So yeah, I was saying that there is nothing on the list, or pretty much nothing, but I should also add that today I ticked something off it, even though it wasn’t written down to begin with (are you following? This is sounding like an absurdist piece of experimental writing. If you don’t get Beckett, stop reading right now). This something is book number two, which I finished late in the afternoon and whose demise to the land of the fully edited I toasted with a bastardised Irish coffee which was really a latte with Bailey’s and Tia Maria. But that’s fine anyway.

Now I am sitting in the bedroom with my mouth watering at the smell wafting from the kitchen: parsnips, potato and carrot crispies crackling away under the grill. It’s time to be over and out.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It’s a fact of life that pets are a bit like little people; their quirkiness, behaviours and peculiarities mean that each single owner can associate specific qualities to family members long after their departure for Rainbow Bridge. I remember visiting someone in San Francisco years ago; her eyes filled with tears as she pointed at the faded picture of one of her dogs still stuck to the fridge door. I am telling you, that dog had departed before I was born, but his specific memory, and the melancholy associated with it, was pungent still.

My dog William is one of those particular characters, and I mean this with a capital PARTICULAR. I have never known an animal as chilled out as William. William lives in his own world, a world of which I only see glimpses sometimes, for he mostly keeps himself to himself. What I say and how I say it doesn’t matter to William one iota. When he goes out in the garden while it rains, he does his stuff as quickly as possible so that he can rush back inside to towel-dry himself against the soft sides of my duvet.

And, mind you, this happens regardless the towel-drying I give him on the back step and regardless the blast of hair-drying that I go through the trouble to administer once he is inside. Crucially, whether I say anything to him or not, and more often than not I do, and at full vocal blast to boot, William doesn’t care. He shuffles along to his bed until he thinks I am not looking and then returns with a vengeance, damp sides pressed hard against the fabric, swishing back and forth like a snake slithering someplace.

Sometimes he seems to take notice; that’s when he walks away, stops wagging his tail and looks up at me with a frown corrugating his one black eyebrow. On a few occasions I have seen a thought bubble condensing above his head, the words: ‘What was that?’ spelt out in glossy gravy bones.

Treating my bed as a bathrobe isn’t his only peculiarity, as he also likes to mess about as a general rule. Most mornings I go to the office (Starbucks) where I work for three hours straight, at which stage I up sticks and come home for lunch. Upon my return, I am greeted by sleepy eyes and wagging tails, as I reward well-behaved dogs with a treat or two. There’s nothing like returning to an immaculate home that makes you appreciate dogs that don’t like to exercise when it’s cold and/or wet and/or autumn and/or winter and/or humid and/or warm and/or hot. When I am not in they sleep. Victoria gets up to check the post; I can tell by a light scattering of spiky white hairs on the dark wooden floor in a straight line, bed-to-front door. William doesn’t move at all.

After that treat or two, I take them to the toilet. Victoria does all she needs in one go, including having a drink on the way back, while William starts off with a wee. I close the back door and return inside. By the time I’ve sat down at the computer to resume work, he is by my side, emitting low-volume sounds not unlike those of a creaking door. This continues until I say: ‘Drink?’. Ok, so he didn’t dare disturbing Victoria while she was at the bowl and I understand that he may feel safer on his own. After all, he almost lost an ear once. I go back and let him out again.

Back in the study I can hear him lapping away. By the time I’ve blocked all noise I see him passing by, oscillating right and left like a watermelon on legs. He has, once again, drank the bowl dry. At this point he places a paw on my leg, with another squeaking request. He has realised he now needs to poo. So I go back, re-open the door and take him to the garden where, on lead, else he will eat all the pears, he performs.

Back in the study I say: ‘Enough now, go and play with Victoria!’. My word is now gospel. I hear him trotting away and soon after the bark-off begins, as Victoria has taken over his bed and he doesn’t want to lay down next to her. This goes on and on and on until I can bear it; eventually I make it to the bedroom, shuffle Victoria to the opposite side of his bed (William won’t take the right side, he only takes the left) and eventually he throws himself in growling, I am not sure at who. Could be her, as she is always in the way, but it could be me too because why the fuck did it take so long to come and assist?

William is the reason why certain people, especially those who have never had dogs, make me smile when they dismiss their behaviours this way and that. You just don’t realise how much of a character animals can have (and how much of a character they can be), until you meet one with a personality bigger than your own. That’s when you become forever enslaved to your heart and that’s why your eyes go liquid even thirty years after they have departed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In The Middle

In the middle of many things today. For a start, in the middle of Autumn, which has truly crash-landed in the back-yard, taken all the leaves off the pear tree (I swear, they were all there only yesterday) and tinged every corner in mellow light. Fabulous.

In the middle of lots of work as you can see. I must have about a ream of paper worth of editing and corrections and more reading. But this too is fabulous, beats any other work I've ever had to do ever.

In the middle of day-dreaming too, like I haven't done in ages.

In the middle of preparing a tasty soup. Parsnips, carrots, potatoes, leeks, red lentils, onions... super-thick and very easy, I really ought to give you the recipe.

In the middle of thinking about Christmas. I am going to do everything silver and white this year, with the tree in the hall instead of the lounge.

In the middle of the crochet blanket. I swear my hook was frigging smoking the other day...

In the middle of writing something completely new. A bit weird after the whole PhD thing, but exciting all the same.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shouldn't Have Been It

Back in June I was really sad. Now I am so pissed off you cannot even imagine. And being pissed off is not a sentiment usually associated with death, is it? November went off with a watery bang (oxymoron there) which is just as well as both September and October were extraordinarily dry and bright in my neck of the woods. The September-to-February stretch is my favourite half of the year as I’ve said many times but in truth... I cannot wait for this disgusting year to go away for ever, taking disappointment, emotional upheaval and sadness with it. If only it could also take the memories... if only!
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