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Monday, 1 February 2016

Picture- perfect history...duvet covers and horse drawn wagons.

Yesterday I found myself taking a photograph of a duvet cover.  It was perfectly reasonable and all that, but it made me stop and think...

In the 'olden days', (ie when I was young and technology was younger), taking a photograph was something that nobody did without forethought.  For a start, a camera was the size of a breeze block, and taking one around with you in its case was like carrying a small shed.  So we only took cameras to 'destinations'.  Like on holiday, or days out, things like that.  Plus, when you'd taken a picture you had to wind on the film until it clicked (something I was rubbish at, I'd never wind on far enough, I was responsible for some hideous 'double exposures', where my family looked like they were haunting themselves).  Then you had to make sure the film was finished (again, something I wasn't good at, thus often exposing the entire film by accident), get it out of the camera and take it to Boots (other chemsts were also available) to spend a week being developed.

Believe me, in the olden days, you only took pictures of things you really really wanted to remember.

Now most of us have phones on which you can take pictures (my 'olden days' self still boggles at that.  What, phones?  In your pocket?  That you can take pictures on??  What strange, science fiction world is this?).  My children take about a million pictures of everything.  Dogs jumping around?  Take a hundred shots. Night out?  Another hundred pictures of people they don't even know and won't remember come morning. 

I am still old school and take one (maybe two, if I'm feeling daring). I can't get over the feeling that this is all costing me money (see olden days, taking films to Boots).

Remember photo albums?  I've got one that belonged to my Uncle, who was born in 1914.  Look...
In the days when horse and carts were transport, and aeroplanes (that's one, in the bottom picture) were strange war machines.  These pictures are from the late twenties.  Moments so long gone as to be almost historical.  And now, my daughters send me messages with pictures attached of them trying on clothes in changing rooms - what do I think of this dress?  It's just all!

I've got pictures of my uncle's grandmother, which were shot in those studios where you had to sit very, very still for ages to get a decent shot.  And now I've got pictures of a duvet cover.  And cats.  And cake.  What would we have thought of our forebears if we'd opened one of these leather-bound albums of heavy pages carefully screened with tissue paper, to find pictures like this?
 I think we would conclude that they, and their shed-sized cameras, ought to get out more...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What it REALLY feels like to write a book...

Ooh, got an idea...well, more of an outline.  Need characters.  Got characters, now need actual story... Okay, first line will have to do.

Spend hours wondering what the cover will look like, reading Facebook and posting 'STARTED NEW NOVEL!!!' on Twitter.

Write first chapter.  Realise characters don't work. Delete all of first chapter except two lines which I really like, sit on Facebook, go back and delete those two lines as well.
writing a novel largely looks like this. With added sweat (not pictured)

Talk to anyone who will listen about idea for new book.  Whilst aimlessly telling perfect stranger the outline, hit accidentally upon perfect character and new storyline. Dash off in middle of conversation to the relief of stranger.  Sit and write like a lunatic for three weeks.  Get three quarters of the book done.

Suffer crippling performance anxiety and sit around the house in grubby pyjamas eating Nutella out of the jar and complaining that my art is being stifled by the need to work/wash/think of actual storyline. Moan about this to anyone who will listen, including perfect stranger who, I now begin to suspect, might have been original perfect stranger because of the way they back off at my approach.  Sit on Facebook.  Moan on Facebook.  Decide to give up writing and become a car park attendant.
Honestly preferable

Wake up in middle of night seized with inspiration.  Forget to write down inspiration.  Wake up in morning seized with desperation. Fill in job application for car park attendant - in middle of form decide car park attendant will make perfect antagonist in DIFFERENT novel.  Write that down (lesson learned last night).  Lose piece of paper on which it is written.

Pick up unfinished novel and re read.  Decide all is not lost.  Write two more pages, then go back to Facebook for more despair.  Drink much tea and go for long walks, trying to look moody and artistic but actually looking muddy and odd because have two different wellingtons on.  Friends give pep talks and gin.

Eventually, writing at the rate of one page per day, limp to the end of book.  Decide on title. Hate title but have run out of brain to think of anything else.  Send dodgy book plus terrible title to beta reader.  Beta reader loves book and title.  Fill in application for car park attendant again.  Drink more gin, eat more Nutella, decide to write completely different book, possibly the one with car park attendant main character.  Spend ages imagining cover for this book.

Eventually pull first book out of file.  Read first line. Laugh at first line. Go back and read whole book.  Decide is not as terrible as first thought, and begin editing process.

Finish editing, submit book, start writing about car park attendant.  Be mildly surprised when book comes out, having forgotten entire content.

Rinse, as they say, and repeat...

Sunday, 17 January 2016

All fun and games until someone loses an i...

I used to play Scrabble a lot.  Serious, competitive Scrabble, with words like Ky and Hackamore, which always seemed to get on triple word scores and drive everyone mad.  As I've been producing more novels though, playing Scrabble seemed a bit like a busman's holiday.  I bet builders don't spend their downtime making Lego villages either.

Our Scrabble set, while I was growing up, used to belong to my parents.  I mean, technically it still did, they were still there and they played, or rather, my father played with my brother and I and my mother hovered in the background (not literally, she is as bound by the laws of physics as the rest of the family) and 'advised'.  We also inherited their 'Game of Life' which is nothing like the new Game of Life; in this one you had to collect diamonds or hearts or...other things which I can't remember. And you had to fill in bits of paper with how many of each thing you wanted...look, anyway, we liked it and it would keep us busy for hours on a boring Sunday afternoon.  Remember those?  When the shops were all closed and there was no television?  And you'd read all your library books and had to spend the morning cleaning your bedroom?

Forget endless repeats of Big Bang Theory, in the old days, it was this on a Sunday afternoon, or pumice the bath.

Secretly I wanted 'Mousetrap'.  A friend had the game and I used to spend hours round at her house trying to persuade her to set up the board so we could knock the little man into the trap.  But there were, apparently, 'too many pieces' and I was never allowed a set.  I repeat, Too. Many Pieces...whilst we were encouraged to play Scrabble and do jigsaws, to the extent that I could finally complete one of our puzzles (I think it may have been the Queen Mary in 500 pieces. Or maybe it was just Queen Mary, I am so old that she was practically current) in about five minutes, with one eye closed.

So my vocabulary was trained up on Scrabble games, played round the dining room table, with my father and my two-years-younger brother (whose star turn came during a game of I-Spy..'something beginning with C' was seagull.  So you can imagine him playing Scrabble), where I learned the art of spelling, increased my range of words, and also learned the value of a well-placed two letter word. Plus, having a horsey turn of mind, I had a whole range of words at my fingertips..crupper, surcingle, pelham...
In case you were wondering. Or were mid-way through a particularly competitive Scrabble game
So, if you want a writing tip... play more Scrabble! It's great for picking up new words, and for filling in the time until you have to go upstairs for a bath and to do your homework...