Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Totally baffled, twice

My mobile phone is up the creek - it won't receive or make calls, but will receive and make text messages.  Stupid technology.

Also, I have just been trying to make head or tail of the "Statistics" section on Blogger.  Good grief, talk about gobbledegook!  I know I'm no statistician, but I cannot make head or tail of it  What a good thing I'm not trying to market anything...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Why do I do this?

Why do I write?  That’s not what I trained for.  I spent five years at art school; five years of thrills and spills, being abused and then praised and then abused again, having my best work rubbished comprehensively and then being urged to carry out stupid ideas I had dreamed up during a drunken pizza lunch with my mother...  (FYI, it’s useful sometimes having a mum one can get plastered with!).  I painted and drew for the life of me.  I learned an enormous amount about myself.  And I tried (& tried, and tried) to connect what I could do with the Fine Art Newspeak Bullsh*t that most of the tutors spoke, most of the time. 

In the end, though, it didn’t work.  I’ll never regret those five years: they were fascinating and fun, I made some great friends, I learned to salsa and speak Spanish, and I did make some good paintings.  And drawings.  Good, big drawings.  If I ever know someone whose house is large enough to hang the really big stuff (which isn’t that big – I think the largest pieces were about six feet by eight – come on, some people make artworks hundreds of feet long) then he or she will be welcome to any of it that they like.  I’m unlikely ever to be able to hang it myself, after all, since I’ll never own a mansion.  I still paint and sketch with great happiness, on holiday, or down at the London Wetland Centre.  But I have come to see I’ll never be an artist.

It’s partly that I haven’t the patience to sit and listen and try to engage with the aforementioned Fine Art Bullsh*t.  I managed to, at college; but five years of it was more than enough.  Way more...  Life is too short to waste time bending one’s brain into that distorted worldview, just in order to please someone who will then turn around and say “But I don’t like the shade of blue you’re using, either”.  Excuse my French, but f*ck them.

I am someone who got a tremendous amount out of spending five years making what I consider to be art; but “an artist” is someone who wants to make a career in the Art World and embrace the Fine Art BS; qv my earlier rude comments, above.  I got into art because after ten years with no creative outlet except my job cooking (which I was good at, and also don’t regret), my rediscovery of creative activity when I was in my late twenties blew my mind.  I could have gone full-tilt into anything creative that I had happened upon, but it was an adult ed art evening class that I hit on, and that hit me. Like anyone who's been hit, I was a little punch-drunk afterwards, though in this case it was punch-drunk with joy.

Ultimately, all I was doing at college, though, was having fun and playing.  I think I had a whole second childhood in those five years at KIAD, and all the fun and all the frustrations of adolescence, too; but at an age when I was mature enough to experience them fully – and, crucially, gain from them - instead of simply drowning in them.  So no, no regrets whatsoever, but still I have come to feel it was a dead-end for me.

When I sat down, in autumn 2005, and did that “what are your creative goals” exercise from The Artist's Way, what came out wasn’t art works.  It was stories.  And they have been coming out ever since.  Not as steadily as I would like, but pretty steady even so. 

I wanted to write when I was a kid.  I had a head full of stories I wanted to tell, and all these years later they are still there.  The “back burner” exercise I did last year uncovered the fact that some of them, even some of the really old ones, were actually worth doing.  New ones pop up in my brain all the time.  Urban fantasies, pseudo-historical fantasies, romantic fantasies; slight things like the fairy tales, and epics that could run to four volumes.  Storytelling; that’s what I was made for, it seems.  I ignored it for all those years, and the moment I let it see daylight, it sprouted anew.  Stories, stories, stories.

That’s why I do it.  It’s what makes me, me, and it’s the greatest delight I have in my life.  I have no idea if I will ever be published (though I intend to keep trying) but I cannot stop the storytelling, because that would be like stopping growing.  I could stop doing the art in any serious way, because it was, ultimately, a blind alley.  But the stories are not blind.  The stories have intense eyes that see me, and see the world, and through which I can see; and nothing looks the same when I see through their eyes. 

I describe Anna and Thorn talking about sensory interference, I send the protagonists of “Café Tana” into the maze in the heart of someone's mind, I trap Simon Cenarth on a battlefield and walk across a desert with Maramne Myas to try and save her husband and reach her lover; I meet aliens, heal gunslingers, discover creatures that feed on fear, and learn to overcome them by overcoming fear, and I find love and lose it and find it again; and then wake up and want breakfast.  In stories.  Which are my truest world.

What more to tell?  A busy weekend: The Olympics Opening Ceremony was great fun, beautiful, exciting and relatively cheese-free, and also managed to be very smoothly drilled while looking completely anarchic and organic; Saturday I got sunburned again helping TCI to gloss paint doors on trestles in her garden; Sunday I did my grocery shopping and cleaning and all the other domestic duty stuff, and got rained on, and wrote, and watched “The Town”, which was excellent.  A classic-tropes heist movie, extremely well done and totally gripping; I’d put it on a par with “Heat” and “Ronin” and “Ne le dis à personne” in terms of good old-fashioned thriller quality.  And surprise surprise, Mr Renner is terrific – playing a terrifying, and ultimately tragic, murderous nut-job. 

And someone came home at 4.00am last night and slammed doors and played music in the flat.  At 4.00am.  Gods, I wish I had my own place! 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Another week gone and by gum! -

By gum, the Olympics are upon us at last.  After all the years of planning and money worries and bad press (and the odd touch of chaos and old night), we're there.  The Opening Ceremony is tonight; and I don't care what anyone says, I am looking forward to it.

On Tuesday the Olympic Torch came through Kew Gardens; a very jolly occasion, festal and crazy, with boiling sun beating down on everyone.  This morning it came by again, but in conditions that could not have been a greater contrast; classic English summer rain, misty skies and startled cormorants on the Thames.  The royal barge Gloriana slipped by, oars swinging, white-and-gold banners flying, with the flame burning in a sort of giant teakettle in the bows; accompanied by assorted rowing club teams, a lot of police divers in rubber dinghies, the Port of London pilot boat and the RNLI.  They glided past me on the river bank and on towards Kew Bridge, sirens echoing, to vanish under the central arch in the quiet drizzle.

What more?  I managed to write the love scene I had been brooding about, and am pleased to report that it came off fairly well, so far as I can tell at the moment, anyway.   I also watched another of my sale dvds; "Inception".  I do love a good bit of Science Fiction, and this is more than good, it's corking.  I won't try to describe it though, as on top of having a good cast and some stonking special effects, it also has a plot that is deliciously complex and requires a proper degree of mental engagement.  Go on, treat yourself, engage with this one; it's worth it.  So far the three films I bought for a total of £12 a couple of weeks ago have been one rollicking good fun (MI4) and one terrific (Inception); let's hope "The Town" scores as high (no prizes for guessing one of the reasons why I bought that - but I had been on the lookout for it turning up in a sale anyway, as I do love a good policier, and this one got really excellent reviews.  If as I suspect the Man of the Moment turns in the sort of bottled-up raging intensity he seems to specialise in, playing a murderous nut-job,  I'll probably end up trying to hide behind the bed).

The bad news is, tonight I have a stomach ache, and am promised to help TCI with more decorating this weekend; I'm hoping the stomach ache goes away, so that I will be useful to her rather than gripey and ill, and consequently slow with a paintbrush.  But for now I am thinking, hmm, a plain supper, watch the Olympics opening, write a bit, and bed at a civilised hour. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sunshine, sanding and demon fiddlers

Yes, you did read that right.  Sunshine.  We actually had a sunny weekend.  Bang on time for the start of the school holidays, the summer has arrived.

Friday evening was passed grouting and sanding and gloss-painting (& eating curry) with TCI and her lovely (albeit knackered) fella G.  They’re both getting seriously frazzled after living in a house under renovation for well over two months.  The place is still filthy and cluttered; but it is completely transformed from the last time I saw it.  It is going to be lovely, eventually.  In fact “eventually” is almost upon them (though a good cleaning session would make this more obvious).  I am terribly envious; I would love to be renovating my own place >sigh< for me to live in >sighs again< and love and make my own >sniff< and do my best Candide thing in the garden...  Anyway, I enjoy grouting and sanding, and I hope I was some small help, for a few hours.  The curry was good, too.

Saturday was a normal Saturday.  Grocery shopping, washing-machine-running, vacuum-ing, etc.  Plus the inevitable writing, afternoon and early evening, assisted by a wee drop of rather pleasant Islay single malt; and to finish the day off, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V on the tele, looking beautiful and tormented and very muddy, speaking those great speeches of patriotism and honour as if he’d never heard a word of them before and had absolutely no idea that they are, well, kind-of well-known...   It's a lovely magic act; give a good actor a cliché and watch it disappear.

Sunday was the Ealing Global Music Festival.  Festivalette, perhaps, as it’s only one afternoon and evening.  The sun shone all day, and I wore a gypsy top and got sunburnt shoulders (& a surprisingly large number of men looked down my cleavage – hurrah, the old bazzoom still has its mojo!)...  Drank too much cider, danced a lot, ate festival-type food, and listened to good music: Romany pop, Peruvian rock, latin funk, straightforward reggae, lovely country & western (the mellow rocky end of C&W, not the weepy-waily end) from Roosevelt Bandwagon, and total bananas they-made-my-feet-dance-boss-honest mayhem from The Destroyers (think klezmer-inflected lovechild of Bellowhead and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds). 

Best act of the day, though, was the first one up; The Long Notes.  It was rough on them; a group this good shouldn’t be having to play the warm-up to anyone, and there they were, giving their considerable all to a half-empty marquee where no-one had yet had enough to drink to get up and dance (not even me, and I dance easy).  Cracking good stuff; Scottish/Irish folk fusion played with passion and stunning musicianship – squeezebox, rhythm guitar, fiery-fingered banjo and one of the best fiddlers I’ve heard in years...    The three blokes were even cute!  Bloody lovely, and a band I will watch out for in future...  If they play anywhere near you, go along and revel in sheer tradtastic genius. 

And in between acts, sitting on the damp grass, drinking cider in the sun, I wrote.  And on the bus home at 11.00pm, I wrote; and sitting up in bed at midnight, trying to finish the scene before I keeled over with tiredness.  To my great delight, the story seems to have gotten enough headway now that the Muse can go off and play fantasy games about actors with nice behinds, and leave me to get on with the work.  This is a Very Satisfying Feeling.  When the story is only going because the Muse is driving its car, I know that the engine may fail at any time.  This engine seems to have its own firepower by now. 

So all in all it was a good weekend, but as happens sometimes I am more tired after my R&R than before it.

Friday, 20 July 2012

A small, sad goodbye

I’ve tinkered with it; I’ve changed the batteries (twice) and shaken it hard, and left it alone for a while in case that would help.  But it’s dead.  My dear old Sony Walkman has passed beyond the veil and is no more.  I’d had it since January 1986, so it has given good service over many years, and what piece of hi-fi can do more?

The problem is, this means I can’t play any of my cassettes any more.  I am anally careful with stuff, probably because I had a lot of experience of having not much stuff at all (and no likelihood of replacing it) as a child of a singularly broke family.  So a lot of my music collection is still on cassettes.  

I have bootlegs, godammit.  I know they’re illegal; well, now they’re useless as well.  I have things recorded off the radio; my “Winterreise”, for example, is a radio bootleg.  I have lovely compilations my brother Steve put together for me – rocky stuff to paint with or dance to, mellow late-night stuff to chill out to with a cold beer and my feet up.

Then I have things that were perfectly legit recordings in their day, but that simply aren’t available any more.  

Research online in my lunch break shows that a surprisingly large amount of my beloved early eighties prog rock etc can be bought on cd, often as re-releases with bonus tracks, even - but not all of it.  I have some pretty obscure recordings of Irish fiddle music.  Kevin Volans’ work isn’t terribly easy to get hold of, either; and one of my favourite albums of my teenage years, “Paradise Moves” by Airbridge, is only available as an LP from vintage vinyl specialists, at extortionate cost – and I don’t have a record turntable or any of that hoohah, anyway.  This is great music I'm losing, and it will leave a hole in my life.

Horsesh*t and a pile of it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Getting hotter...

 The story runs on; and runs, and runs.  I realise I’m going to have to do a love scene in the next couple of weeks, and start brooding about this.  I find love scenes pretty tricky going.  How is one to find that perfect line, between embarrassing low-grade porn and dripping Tyrian purple? – how is one to avoid every tinge of sugariness, yet still show that there is more than mere bathetic lust involved?  There’s no point in worrying about it, since I’ll have to write it whether I worry about it or not; but thinking it through in advance may help.  I hope. 

I am helped a bit by a growing additional head of steam.  Having proclaimed myself to have a new hero, largely on the grounds of some electrifying acting, I’ve subsequently been registering the fact that the man in question is also undeniably hot in, ahem, the other sense of the word, too.  Dear, dear, I must be getting slow on the uptake.  Well, the Muse seems to like hanging around with me when I get steamed up, so a bit more heat can’t hurt, I guess.   

This dawning of the light has occurred largely through the purchase and enjoyment of the Dvd of “Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol” (for £4, in a sale – I’m a cheap date, me).   As well as revealing said hotness to my poor flabbergasted eyes, it’s very enjoyable in its own right; probably the best of the “Mission Impossible” movies, with just the right balance of daffiness and excitement, great gadgets, some corking set pieces, even a good tough heroine who isn’t really a pool of mush waiting for Ethan Hunt to fall for her (which he doesn’t, being, rather pleasingly, still thoroughly attached to his wife).  And, oh dear oh dear; let’s just say I’ll never hear the word “lunge” with quite the same mental picture again...

After writing a very kinky email to someone about exactly how this realisation dawned on me I have pledged myself to a penance of helping some friends decorate tomorrow evening.  Nothing like the smell of gloss paint and the noise of hammering to clear the head.  The only thing is, isn’t a penance supposed to be difficult and uncomfortable?  I like decorating.  I must be not only kinky and slow to realise I’m in lust, but weird as well. 

Cape Town Opera’s “Porgy and Bess” last night knocked my socks off.  Okay, some of the acting is of the “sincere” rather than the subtle variety; but with a strong production and a cast who can sing like this, one can forgive the odd mild shortcoming.  Otto Maidi’s Porgy was simply breathtaking; what a voice!  This bloke ought to be at the Royal Opera...   While Victor Ryan Robertson, the guy singing Sportin’ Life, should be on Broadway; and Arline Japhtha’s Serena had me in tears.  It runs (at the Coliseum) for a couple more nights - go if you possibly can; you won’t regret it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Last night I went to the extraordinary "Metamorphosis Titian 2012" at the Royal Ballet.  Three new pieces, all with amazing design, wonderful new music, and great dancing.  Fab-u-lous! Several of my favourite dancers going flat out with utter genius.  A farewell role almost worthy of her for Tamara Rojo (unless she makes a come-back or does guest spots - you won't hear complaints from me if she does either or both!) as an imperiously beautiful, invulnerable-yet-fragile goddess, battling Ed Watson even as she reached out to him...  A well-deserved chance for the marvelous Melissa Hamilton to be a goddess, too; a glacial, sphinx-like one, curling and uncurling her feet like a lioness's claws.  Wonderful conjunctions and twistings-together of different choreographers' styles; Brandstrup + MacGregor making a particularly juicy combination.  A giant dancing machine like Epstein's Rock Drill come to life, whirring and stabbing at Carlos Acosta as he leaped and stretched himself out before it.  I could go on (and on...) but you get the idea.

Cracking good stuff, and a fine end to the RB season.  Since it was broadcast to the Big Screens as well, I can even hope they might release it as a dvd some day...

Wrote on the tube there and back, and in the intervals, and at Patisserie Valerie while I ate my salad. Would have written more when I got home, but was too tired - so went to bed and then couldn't sleep, wired with images of Acosta and the Machine, Ed and the Goddess, and all the colours and reflections and shapes and sensualities and dangers of three really terrific new ballets in one evening..

Monday, 16 July 2012

Erratic progress...

I'm exactly halfway through the second notebook.  If they hold approximately 16,000 words each, then that means I'm roughly at the 24,000-word mark.  It's taken me precisely one month.  I guess that means my NaNoWriMo month isn't November but June-into-July (& hopefully onwards into August).  No matter.  It's making up for the collapse of my "something creative every day" project, earlier in the year, to have something like this just burning to get out.

It's maddening, really, to have to come in and do an honest day's work!  Rah, I just want to write...  The plot is unfolding itself steadily, I still like my protagonists, and I am going to have to do a lot of revising at some point because it is all coming out so fast I can't keep up.  Thorn and Carlton are about to be thrown into having to collaborate (they don't like one another very much) after the heroine gets herself into some very deep sh*t indeed.  Oh, I'm so happy when I'm in the flow like this...  Just let it come (don't bang the drum...).

I read something on facebook that recommended "listening to music you haven't heard before" as a good trigger to creativity.  It sounded a good plan.  So I played the "bonus discs" that came with some albums I've had for ages.  I know that sounds silly, but when I bought "This is the Sea" it was because I wanted to listen to "This is the Sea", not for some other stuff.  And, at least where that was concerned, I now know it was the right decision.  The bonus disc has actually diminished my respect for Mike Scott, as it makes it painfully clear he thinks everything he does is genius, including odd bits of guitar-strumming in what sounds, from the accoustic, like the bathroom.

The bonus discs of The Icicle Works re-releases, on the other hand, are revelatory.  How come tracks as brilliant as "Devil on Horseback" never made it onto regular albums?  My god, they were so f*cking good...  Chris Sharrock's drumming is awe-inspiring.  One looks at him in the band photos, and he looks like an elf-child (well, an elf with drummer's arms); but by damn, the power he could stir up when he got going.  Sheer mightiness.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Lush life

Sometimes I think I work in Paradise - or an offcut of it, anyway.  At the moment, the Gardens are a sheer sensory feast; everywhere I turn, everything I touch...  I am on overload already, Muse-driven and buzzing as I am, and the intensity of a simple walk to the café and back is almost too much.

Textures, patterns, colours, smells; tactile and visual, the pleasing and the startling.  All that is richest is here.

The elegance of a Metasequoia, its form all repeat patterns moving from the macro to the micro level -and then the shock of its silken touch.  One imagines all conifer needles must be equally as sharp and prickling, yet these are like velvet.  The lovely random strewings of new mown grass across the lawns; and the cut-grass scent rising in the damp air.   Black veins on the blazing magenta of Geranium sanguineum, and gold-dust pollen on the rust-red flowers of day lilies.  Perfumes of  lavender and cedar, of roses and pine resin, of escallonia in the sun and wet leaves in the shade.  The spiral-crinkled top of my Chelsea bun, veiled in powder sugar.  The unfolding waves of different tastes and different sugarinesses, and different textures crisp and soft, in my mouth, as I unroll it and eat. 

The big wisteria on the back of the building next to the office is having a second flush of blossom, and as you pass it the scent comes down and envelops you; sweet and smoky at once, like acacia honey and Laphroaig mixed.  Everywhere you go, it is delicious and sensual being at Kew at this time of year.  Bring your heart, your eyes, and all of your senses, flung wide open in expectation of pleasures; and of course, bring your camera...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


I sorted out my Dvd collection a couple of evenings ago.

When I moved, I simply unpacked them straight onto the shelf and left them anyhows.  Now they are tidy, and I can find what I want.  I still have to face the cds, and of course the contents of the bookcase.  Neither of them is in any sort of order either, though to a certain degree the cds are arranging themselves over time, as the things I am listening to a lot at the moment are working their way to the top.  Six months down the line I'll probably be spitting because all my Schubert has got shoved to the back and all I can find is west African steel-string guitar and kora groups and mid-eighties rock...

Sorting out the dvds was rather fun, to my surprise.  I had wondered about categorising them, but wasn't sure where some of the boundaries should go (for example, what do you label "Rashomon"? Art House?  Classic? Foreign?).  In the end I gave up on the urge to adapt the Plessy system, and went for a completely straightforward alphabetical order by title.  This puts opera, ballet, obscure art house stuff and delicious popcorn all on one level.   The shelf begins with "Aeon Flux" and ends with "Die Zauberflöte", and you could say that's what I'm all about - the full spectrum, from Charlize Theron with a ray gun to Mozart. 

Seriously, if I had set out to buy dvds with no greater aim than demonstrating my much-boasted eclectic taste, I don't think I could have chosen better.  Picking one letter of the alphabet, the Ms are: "The Mahabharata", "The Marriage of Figaro", "A Matter of Life and Death", "Mayerling", and "Mission Impossible". 

I also discovered that at some point I have lent someone "The Princess Bride" and not got it back; and  didn't record who had it.  I am a numpty. 

The bookcase is similarly jumbled at the moment; "Olive Oil - the Key to Long Life and Health", "Lieutenant Hornblower", "Strolling through Istanbul", the libretto of "Pelléas et Mélisande", "Let the Right One in"...  But emptying and re-arranging a whole bookcase is rather a mammoth job.  I may continue to be a chicken for a while longer where that is concerned.

Meanwhile back to the writing.  Thorn has just received an alarming telepathic message from a former student and is rather worried.  I left him worried last night and now I want to restore his peace of mind, but I don't think the plot is going that way. He's going to get a lot more worried before this day is out...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Notebooks, rock and ballet, "Jesse James" and scones...

This has been a busy week.  I went to work, and to a meeting at Hampton Court Palace.  I gave out leaflets in the rain at Kew The Music (and am due to do the same on Sunday).  I went to the latest Royal Ballet triple bill.  I watched a beautifully-made and acted, but terribly depressing, movie.  I featured in a photo shoot as one of a pair of "ladies enjoying afternoon tea at Kew".  And, of course, I wrote.

I've finished the first notebook and started a second.  I've discovered that hard-boarded A5 spiral bound notebooks are the perfect thing for me to write in at the moment.  They are portable, and somehow less intimidating, than A4 foolscap notepaper, which is what the whole of "Gabriel Yeats" and "Ramundi's Sisters" were both written on.  A4 paper is good if you have space, and are very relaxed; e.g. flopping on a lawn with a large cold drink to hand.  But writing in snatches on the tube or on a bench at work, as I am doing this time, somehow a smaller notebook feels more comfortable.  This size takes about 16,000 words to fill, so I even know roughly how much I've written. 

It's going so fast that I know it's going to be a bit rough-and ready, and probably full of inconsistencies.  There will be time enough to revise, later.  A few pages back, one of the characters surprised me by announcing very firmly "We don't use that word", of a term I had myself been using blithely up till then.  It is a very odd sensation, when the characters in a fiction begin to have minds of their own.  But it's a strong sign.  Anna and Thorn and Carlton are coming clearer all the time; one of the cruxes of the story, which was fuzzy until last night, has clicked; and I have a title at last.

I am writing with rock, interestingly.  "GY" was written with Brahms and Mozart.  This story is coming with the sounds of The Icicle Works, Bill Nelson, The Waterboys, Vieux Farka Touré and U2.  It has drive, and they drive me.

The ballet was a mixed bag.  The bill opened with "Birthday offering", which is a sparkling piece of solid frou-frou, in costumes that look like off-cuts from the Quangle-Wangle's Hat.  It's a steady stream of show-off turns, for seven ballerinas and their cavaliers, and it was very nice, but to be frank a bit empty.  Tamara Rojo was stunning as usual, though I hope she has something more worthy of her dramatic powers to do in the programme of new work that ends the season.  I should be sorry if this lovely, frilly bit of bling were the last time I ever saw her dance. 

The last piece in the bill was "Les Noces", which I know I ought to admire; modernist masterpiece, unique historical artifact, etc etc.  But, I'm sorry, I don't really like it that much.  Call me weak-minded, but I wasn't grabbed.

The middle piece on the bill, though, was another of Ashton's mini-masterpieces; "A Month in the Country".  Worth everything for this.  WOW.  Zenaida Yanowsky, Favourite Baritone's Ballerina Missus, was stunningly good as Natalia Petrovna.  She is a luxurious dancer whose height makes her grace yet more gorgeous; there is a sense of effortless scale to her every movement; and she is a powerful actress.  At the very end, as she loses her lover, and faces the realisation of what her future will be, the simplicity and truth of her gradually shrinking movements, her stillness after that brief, brief hour of rapture, were simply heartbreaking.  Needless to say I cried.

What more?  The movie: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".  Looks fabulous, is very well-acted, desperately sad and very, VERY slow.

On the plus side, it's the first time I have ever begun to understand why Brad Pitt became a star; in a role seemingly meant to be semi-sleepwalked through, he is actually rather good.  Casey Affleck, who I knew of only by name, does extraordinarily well at the difficult task of playing someone who is stupid and pathetically lacking in self-awareness, without turning the role into a caricature.

The rest of the cast are also excellent.  My current hero does what I guess may be his regular thing of quietly burning a hole on the edge of the screen while others are busy delivering their dialogue, centre stage.  It's a pity that his character gets killed halfway through, though; especially as he plays the only person with something like a shred of a moral compass left (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor).  I like to be able to sympathise with someone in a film..  Pretty hard when the only sympathetic character is lying butt-naked and dead in a snow-filled ditch.  I do hope it wasn't real snow, incidentally.  There are some sacrifices no-one should have to make for their art.

This afternoon I found myself modelling again, for the first time in over seven years.  Not for a life class, but for a photo shoot.  If all goes well I am now going to appear enjoying my afternoon tea in a piece of Kew literature.  It took ages and I discovered just how unappetising cold, milky Earl Grey smells, having to wave a cup of it in front of my nose for over an hour.  I prefer my tea hot and without milk, and I loathe Earl Grey.  But I did get to eat two very fresh scones with raspberry jam and Cornish clotted cream.  Any Friday that ends with a belly full of fresh scones can't be all bad!  And the pictures have come out well.

Weekend time, now.  Writing time.  And washing machine time, and grocery-shopping time, and all the rest.  But writing time, I think, first and foremost.  It has me by the ears and will not let go.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Busy bee with 14,000 words (& counting)

I’m not complaining, honest I’m not. 

I know I sometimes write these rather coy-sounding messages about the Muse having visited me, and maybe the metaphor reads as pretty damned pretentious (or, as someone in an interview I read recently put it “this is going to make me sound like a dick”).  

I can only apologise.  That is how it feels to me; and I’m about to not just extend that metaphor but take it out for a long stroll as well.  The Muse came to visit in mid-June, and she has stuck around ever since, running me ragged.  I’m ecstatic, having her around all the time like this, but I am also getting really tired.

I’ve written about 14,000 words so far, and it’s still coming.  On my ten minute walk into work in the morning, I think about the story.  I run through dialogue, mouthing the characters’ words, to the amusement of passing bus drivers.  In my lunch break I think about the story, and on my way home, and while I cook supper.  I eat in the persona of one or the other of the protagonists, feeling the ghost of their muscles overlaying my own.  The story is inhabiting me; I am possessed by it.  And yet at the same time it is also constantly running ahead of me, teasing, springing out of reach when I hold out my hands to embrace it.  I want to thump it.  I want to grab it and pin it down.  I want to yell at it; “Get yourself under control, godammit!” 

Sometimes I want to tell this elusive mayfly of a Muse that I am getting too old for this kind of shenanigans.  But I don’t; I never will.  I’ll work all night, I’ll turn to drink, I’ll put down anything she gives me and I’ll be grateful. 

When she goes away, sometimes it is for just long enough to give me a real notion of what life without her would be.  Never again to know her blessed, blinding, mercurial presence; the thought is intolerable.  So I toil on in her wake, following as fast as my weak human flesh will let me. 

This latest visit, most nights sometime between midnight and one a.m. we have a conversation that goes something like this:
Me >yawn<
The Muse: (sharpish) You tired?
Me: >mumble< sorry >mumble< really sleepy.
The Muse: Holy sh*te, am I going to have to keep stopping for you like this?  But we were right in the swing of things!  C’mon, just a few pages more.
Me: >mumb...le...<
The Muse.  Well buggeration.  Okay, okay, go to sleep then...

I swear, it’s like being tormented by someone you love past all reason.  And the gods only know what all this gives away about me, psychologically! 

Whenever the Muse comes back after an absence, it is always with a new face.  The sense of energy I feel when she arrives is exhilarating.  It’s like being in love.  All I want is to make something that is worthy of her and worthy of the face she has chosen.  I’m not complaining; honest I’m not.  I love this better than anything I’ve ever known.  It is what I was made to do.  But I wish I had more energy, and I wish there were more hours in the day.