Oof, after the last slightly bleak Overly Honest entry, I think I owe this site some sort of more cheerful update. Relevant to that entry: I’m on antidepressants now and I’m in a far better headspace than I was. Thank you to everyone IRL who is both giving me room to get back on an even keel, but also checking up on me subtly and sweetly. I do notice and I do appreciate it. Unexpected meds side-effect: I have discovered that I’m of an age where, when I say I’m not drinking at the moment, people give my belly a knowing look and I find myself explaining that I’m not pregnant, actually, that’s just my shape. So that’s fun.
As I start writing this, it’s 12.15am. In about six and a half hours I will be crawling out of bed to make a Pokémon cake for my nephew’s 10th birthday, before he arrives for a day of being spoiled. (‘What flavour?’ ‘Pokémon flavour!’ Vanilla will have to do.)
Anyway, he and his mum and her boyfriend came over earlier this afternoon. He fed the dogs lettuce until they were near ready to mug him for his pasta. He became best friends with Dog 1, who pinned him down with a paw and attempted to clean his head. After that they were inseparable. Dog 2 – less boisterous, likes her space – wagged her tail from a safe distance.
At some point in the evening he looked up at our mantelpiece, where everything gets stacked in a way that could be considered ‘decorative’ over the fake fire that we never plug in, and spotted my A Monster Calls print.
That print was my first (possibly last) ‘big’ art buy, after I met Jim Kay’s agent at a launch Q&A (I think) for the book, with Kay and Patrick Ness. 2011. It was clear, then, how completely this story – this publication – would be a classic.
‘Look!’ says Nephew. ‘That’s the monster from A Monster Calls! It’s a good book.’
‘Yes, it is’ I say, meaning both yes, it is the monster, and yes, it is a good book. ‘That picture’s signed by Jim Kay, the illustrator.’
Nephew looks at me with great satisfaction. ‘I’ve got the book, and it’s signed to me, by both of them.’
‘I know,’ I say. ‘I got it for you for your second birthday. I think they thought I was a bit nuts, asking to have a book signed for a two year old.’
‘I wasn’t two!’
I’m not sure he believes he was ever really two, but he smiles happily and leans back into his seat, goes back to his game. And I think – it doesn’t matter who got the book. It’s his – his story, signed for him, and always has been in his life as much as he remembers it.
And tomorrow he’s ten, and he’ll be rereading that book when he’s 20, and I hope it’s battered and loved and the ink has faded slightly, and that whenever he comes across it or any reference to it, he has a little jolt of special-ness – I have that book, and it was signed for me, and I have always owned it.
I am kicking myself – we peaked at birthday presents when he was two years old.
Books are brilliant, though.
Yesterday I signed up for the Edinburgh half-marathon. I often tell people that I do well with deadlines, and I really do. I need the pressure to get me going in all areas of life, from writing to exercise to… well, spending time with people even. Otherwise I just lie around stagnant, like water in a pipe waiting for the tap to be turned on, probably growing mould and smelling a bit funny.
The pressure works really well. I get motivated and creative and I DO stuff. And then I get carried away and sometimes I accidentally put a bit too much pressure on myself and water-me sort of blurts out everywhere in panic, and lands up as a useless puddle on the sideboard, waiting to be wiped up.
Note: this really is not a review. My about-a-book entries are never reviews, just me gushing about books I’ve absolutely loved and have time to write about. Take it for granted that if this was a review it would be a five-star thing, though, because I’m coming out of the tail-end of a migraine right now and shouldn’t be looking at a screen, but am compelled to write this. Continue reading
At the beginning of the year I signed up to the Goodreads reading challenge – basically aiming to read a certain number of books throughout 2015. I signed up less for the challenge and more to get an idea of how many books I actually do get through each year now. I figured ‘at least one a week, easy’, and I was sort of right, but only when the freelancing isn’t kicked into high gear, and when I’m between writings. At the moment the freelancing is in high gear and I’m not between writings and I’m actually feeling guilty for writing this instead of working on something else. When I do settle down to relax of an evening, I gawp at the TV. Goodreads tells me that I’m behind on my challenge and I really don’t like it.
On the upside, though, this sort of not-really-enforced reading break means that I’ve had plenty of time to let the last book I finished percolate for a while, instead of me rushing headlong into the next tale. And that’s been nice, because Mickey – the young protagonist in Paul McVeigh’s fantastic first novel The Good Son – is the kind of character you want to keep around for a while.
There’s this quote that I see repeated, often, on Twitter and Pinterest, which is taken from Amy Poehler’s excellent book Yes Please.
“I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
And this one:
“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
I could actually happily post most of the text here. Yes Please is that sort of book that makes you want to try harder and do more. It also sort of makes you want to throw yourself at Amy Poehler’s feet and do the full Wayne’s World ‘We’re not worthy’ thing.
Last week, browsing the bookstands at Southbank (yes, again. I have an addiction), I picked up two books by Lillian Beckwith. There are a few names that leap out at me when I’m running my eye over a shelf, and hers is one of them.
Growing up, Lillian Beckwith was our next-door neighbour. We didn’t know her as Lillian Beckwith. We knew her as Mrs Comber. When we first moved in, my dad mentioned that she was an author, and as a kid who liked to write, that caught my imagination. I honestly can’t remember, looking back, if I wanted to be a writer before we met the Combers, or if knowing them is what made me want to work with words. Continue reading
I’ve been endlessly playing catch-up with my home and work life, never quite catching the will-o-the-wisp that is a completed To Do list and a clear mind. There have been brief respites (swimming at Brockwell Lido, no wetsuit, determined to develop into one of those double-hard winter swimmers (even as the sun continues to shine). Meeting up with friends. Meeting Sophie the sheep in Herne Hill – a woolly cutie who’s in training to be a movie star and wears a tiara) – but mostly it’s all been do do do, not sleeping, not writing, just about getting through the day. There’s been the odd purple day (that’s a day when the blues and the mean reds get together and throw a party just outside the blanket that I hide under when they come visiting). It’s been wearing. Continue reading
Friday night and I’m at home alone watching Frankie and Johnny – a film, appropriately, mostly about a couple of lonely people who have no one to spend the evenings with. It might be my new favourite film. Also I’m being unnecessarily dramatic about being at home alone – I was invited for cocktails, but didn’t notice the message until I was already home and settled, and the Coffee Monster is out watching Black Sabbath. We would have been seeing Neil Gaiman at the Barbican this evening, but did some ticket juggling and are going tomorrow instead. Continue reading
Sometimes I can’t think of anything to write for this. Normally I come up with something, eventually. Other times too much has happened and I can’t seem to pick any one thing to focus on. Normally, I get past that as well. But for the past week I’ve been fuzzy-headed and somewhat easily overwhelmed by things, so when faced with an overwhelming choice of things to write about, I shut down and didn’t write anything at all. Continue reading