Saturday, 27 April 2013


There are so many different times when we say goodbye in day to day life:  when we're dropping  mate off home after a night out, when someone close to you passes away, when England throw away a Grand Slam title in the Six Nations...  All valid and perfectly sound.

I hate saying goodbye.  It's as if you're letting a part of you - however small - die.  And sometimes, when you see someone walk away from you, even if you know you'll see them soon, it makes you want to cry.

But that's good.

Because absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that shit.

Book Review: How to Survive When One Twin Dies

When people ask me why I started blogging, I always feel that there are two separate, an yet inextricably intertwined answers.  The first is that I love to write, and following quitting my job I had decided that I needed a creative outlet.  The other is because of Vicky.

My friend Vicky Burley is fab.  She's a strong independent woman, fantastic mother and such a supportive friend, so I was delighted when she told me about her new enterprise The Loving Parent.  Inspired by her wish to talk about parenting from the heart, and engage with the small issues and celebrations of parenthood, it's gone from strength to strength with over a thousand followers on Twitter in a startlingly short amount of time.  (Follow her on @TheLovingParent)

And then shw announced the publication of a book.

Anyone who knows Vicky well, knows of how she lost one of two twins during her pregnancy a number of years ago, and How to Survive When One Twin Dies recounts the journey that she went through.

I read it in one sitting on the way to work the other day - this would have been a disaster, only I'm pretty lucky that commuters don't notice anyone else around them.  So there I was, sitting on the train, the occasional tear making it's lonely way down my cheek as I read one of the most heartbreaking, yet uplifting stories I've ever come across.

I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must have been to have to be told that one of your two twins would die, but Vicky writes about it with wistful tenderness and in a way that celebrates the brief existence of tiny Coran.

In some ways, I find it hard to explain how I felt when reading it, but as a woman and as a someday-mother I'd like to thank her for sharing her story.  You should go read it.

Going Cold Turkey

For the last week, I've had no internet at home.  As I mentioned in my last post, lightening struck our telephone pole and fried the modem.

This has almost killed me.

When you think about it, we've come to rely so much on technology - for communication, for networking and for general entertainment.  No internet for me meant no blogging (ARGH - I've got such a backlog it's insane), no Made in Chelsea (my parents won't watch it, and without catch-up I was left drifting in an uncertain world where I knew that Spencer and Louise were going to break up, but I was left guessing as to the details), no Masterchef (DISASTER!!!) and a distinct lack of my new favourite show, Girls.

How have I compensated for this?  How did I cope?

To be perfectly honest, part o me was fine - I was down at the bf's last weekend, so I was able to check all my emails and stuff then - but the other, slightly geekier side of me almost went into meltdown.  I read so many good things last week, wanted to blog about and research so may of them, but had to put it on hold.  Not impressed with that.

Nonetheless, I am relieved to have returned to your midst and will - I pledge - blog ferocously over the next week to make up for my absence.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Dear Rowan

Dear Rowan,
I can't get you out of my mind today. I couldn't pinpoint exactly why - it's not as if U2's playing or anything - but there it is.
I miss you sweetheart. I miss being told to listen to this or that song; I miss the way you never mocked me for liking the Jonas Brothers, but merely told me that their music tasted like strawberries and cream; I miss your belief in me.
Well, you were right - I can do sumat other than what is expected of me. I quit my job, got one I enjoy and now spend most of my spare time working on my novel or this blog. I only wish you were here to read it.
You still inspire me - even now - and as long as I write, I'll remember you.

Gin is the dream

Gin is the dream.

Gin, a pretty summer’s dress and a live band playing reggae on a beach.

It feels, for the first time this year, like summer is truly on its way. The sun is not completely obliterated by clouds, it hasn’t yet (fingers crossed) rained and that lethargic feeling that accompanies a hot summer’s day is making its sinuous way into our day-to-day patterns.

And despite all that, it still seems like the dream.

The dream is, for those who don’t know, a way of saying that something is ideal or perfect. It’s a verbal tick that I’ve picked up from a friend of mine – that and ‘mare’ (short for nightmare) – and it seems to be the perfect way of expressing the whole experience of longing for something so incredibly much.

For example, jumping on the train to Littlehampton after work and heading down to see my boyfriend, whom I haven’t seen in a fortnight, is the dream. Buying some chilled bottles of cider and going in sitting in St James’s Park, watching the world go by, is the dream. And walking back past the remains of Winchester Palace in the crisp night’s air, after an evening at the Globe, is the dream.

So as summer rears its head, and before it ducks back down out of sight as it so often does, go enjoy the sunshine.
NB:  This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but the bad weather that followed the writing of the post and fried my home's internet modem prevented it.  That's what you get for thinking positive things about British weather...

Saturday, 13 April 2013


I always feel slightly surreal when I go clubbing - I'm either off my face (and if you knew me you'd know how little it takes) or the cynical sober being in the corner, feeling incredibly old and watching everyone else around me go crazy.
It's like being in the middle of a Baz Luhrmann movie without actually being an actor.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy it; there's nothing better than celebrating someone'sbirthday or achievement whilst all together.
So yeah, sometimes I feel too old for clubbing, but I'm not willing to give ipod on my youth just yet...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Lost Art of Love Letter Writing

'You say that you are feeling my absence very much, and your only comfort when I am not there is to hold my writings in your hand and often put them in my place by your side. I like to think that you miss me and find relief in this sort of consolation. I, too, am always reading your letters, and returning to them again and again as if they were new to me -- but this only fans the fire of my longing for you. If your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company; do write as often as you can, although you give me pleasure mingled with pain.' - Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, 100 AD
Occasionally, when I go to visit my Nonno, he talks about Nanna.  They were married for over 50 years, and he misses her incredibly.  Up on his bedroom wall, he has put hundreds of photos - a collage of their life together - and above it, on the first shelf, is the first love letter she ever wrote him.

My grandparents met at an Italian dance club in London, where the two of them only ever went twice.  The first time, they ended up dancing all night (Nonno had asked her to dance when she was trying to avoid some fairly amorous youth) and she wrote her address down for him, so he could write.

The next day he discovered that her handwriting was illegible - she'd written it down in the dark of the club - and unfortunately had to leave for Leicester where he was working for the next three months.

On returning to London, a friend of his managed to persuade him to go out to the same club as before, and there was my grandmother.  Feisty as ever, she walked over and demanded an explanation, and laughed when he showed her the illegible address - still in his wallet.

When she gave him her address again - this time incredibly clear - he wrote three letters to her in quick succession, each one arriving two days after the previous before she replied.

Sitting there, listening to Nonno translate her first letter for me (they wrote in Italian and my Italian is dodgy at best), it made me consider why we don't write anymore.  I used to write letters to one of my best friends when we were 14 - we must have exchanged a couple of hundred over the years - but these days it's so much easier to Facebook or text. disputes this.  They explain:

We’re going to tell you that we write and mail love letters, handwritten love letters, to strangers in need all over the world. We’re going to invite you to request a love letter for someone in your life who needs one. And we’re going to insist that you step out of your own shoes of Comfort & join us. You are going to think we are a bit crazy. A tad loopy. But you’ve been looking for a website that leaks love all this time… so we aren’t worried you’ll leave us.

I personally love it.  The idea that there are people out there who will write to those who need it, to those who are sad, to those whom we love ourselves but don't have the words to express it.

So write a love letter of your own.  Or go look at others', because they'll make you smile and realise that you really aren't alone.


I was having a conversation with a friend of mine at a party of the other day, chatting about life and boyfriends, and ended up talking about stockings and suspenders.  At one point, she turned to her boyfriend and asked whether he liked them.  The look on his face was absolutely priceless.

They're interesting, are stockings.  For one, they're almost always a pain to put on.  Unless you manage to get yourself a pair where they're sewn onto the suspender belt (yes, they do occur - much to my annoyance when buying some the other day), there's any amount of fiddling and mucking about with hooks to try an make the darn things stay up.

Plus, then there's the whole comfort thing.  They're not uncomfortable, per se, but if you're wearing them under ordinary clothes, then you have to make sure that the belt doesn't slip out of place and make sure that the stockings themselves don't start sliding down.

But they do look lush.

'Shadow had done three years in prison'

Last summer, at the beginning of Boom(k) Club (the nickname given to the book club I'm a part of, after a problem with autocorrect and Facebook), Cat suggested that we read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  The book was agreed and we all went away and read it.

The following week Cat lent me Neverwhere.

And the following week I downloaded American Gods onto my brand new Kindle.

Now, I've read a lot a fantasy in my time.  And I mean a lot.  For example, I'd read The Lord of the Rings about five times before I left primary school, and to this day I can point out continuity errors in the Harry Potter series.  One of my Masters essays even included an analysis of Gaiman's portrayal of Shakespeare within his The Sandman comic series ('The dramatic unities in fantastical appropriations of The Tempest', also looking at Diana Wynne Jones' Hexwood and the 196 film Forbidden Planet). Nonetheless for some reason I'd never really read any of his novels.

Now, I enjoyed Anansi Boys.  I loved Neverwhere.  But I was blown away by American Gods.  Not only is it epic in both material and size, but it's simply brilliant.

The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow. (Wikipedia)

Every now and then, a snippet of information about the sequel or the HBO adaptation, is leaked online and for approximately 72 hours I am transformed into a squealing, hyperventilating fangirl.  And then the BBC adapted Neverwhere for radio.

It is cool to love Neil Gaiman because his writing is compelling, with sentences and phrases that I long to be able to shape myself.  His characters are deep and complex and he adopts and adapts so many different styles of writing (Stardust, for example, reads like a bastardised fairytale) that it's like experiencing a college of literature all at once.

And he's got a new book out at the moment: The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  The spiel on Amazon reads:

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

I know I'm going to Kindle it as soon as I get paid.

But still, if you read only one book this year, let it be American Gods.

Calamity L

My sister, better known to many as 'Calamity', is the source of much amusement in my house.  I adore her, but no matter where she goes she manages to end up in some calamitous situation.

For example, on Pancake Day this year she managed to get her foot stuck in the oven handle - no we don't know how she did this either - and her friends had to grease her foot with butter in order to free her.

Or whilst out in the depths of Croydon last Saturday, she tripped whilst coming down some stairs, grabbed at the nearest thing, and ripped the shirt off some poor, unsuspecting male.

What I truly love about her, however, is the fact that she is not ashamed or embarrassed about her ability to cause chaos wherever she goes; rather she embraces it.  She'll go flying in a Buston Keaton fall, and kill herself laughing after; she'll cheerfully tell us about the time she almost unwittingly burnt down our local library when she walked, trouser leg aflame; or go to the bathroom, not lock the door, have some poor woman walk in with L full on naked due to the fact that she's wearing a backless jumpsuit, and just come back and tell us all about it after.

I know that there's some point in the future when she'll regret saying I can write this post - possibly when I point her future spouse in this direction - but all I can really say is:  L, you're a legend.

Friday, 5 April 2013

To the networking gods

I am aware that I have been a little lax in posting recently. I would, however, like to highlight the fact that I have some very interesting ones coming up:
- a post exploring the pros and cons of hosiery, with a section or where best to purchase affordable but good quality stockings;
- a post about my sister L, and her uncanny ability to cause calamity (aka the oven and the foot story);
- a post bewailing the fact that it took me nearly 25 years to read a Neil Gaiman book;
- and some poetry.
In other news I have become unstuck on my own novel (incredibly tentatively entitled 'Unbridled Passion in Tucson Hills - and no that most definitely is a working title) and have embarked upon writing a scene of such unbridled passion that I am sure that the Catholic in me will carry me off to confession as soon as it's done.
I have also once more delved wholeheartedly into the world of Regency romances - check out the delightful Sophie Barnes - and have every intention of failing to write a historical romance in short story form after UPiTH.