Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So anyway...

I ARRIVED at Poolbeg yesterday morning and, after freaking at the sight of the red lighthouse, it was actually very lovely.
The team were lovely. They were nice to me. They offered me tea and took me to lunch at a very down to earth and friendly wee cafe and we had a good old gossip.

My one moment of shame came when the publishing assistant (Hi Niamh, if you are reading this!) said "I read your blog this morning. So you're crapping yourself, are you?"

It was quite tricky to explain I meant crapping myself in a nice way.

Anyway, 'Rainy Days and Tuesdays' will hit the shops in Ireland in August of this year. That really isn't very long to wait at all now, is it?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tackfest Tuesday- the return

In 20 minutes I'm getting in a taxi and going to the Poolbeg offices to meet with my publishers for the first time.
I'm crapping myself, to put it as mildly as I can. But I'm telling myself even big Mazza has done this- walked into those offices as a first time novelist and it worked for them.
So my song for today is Whitney Houston, before she got all haggard, singing step by step. One day (or taxi journey as a time)
Well, theres a bridge and theres a river
That I still must cross
As Im going on my journey
Oh, I might be lost
And theres a road I have to follow
A place I have to go
But no one told me just how to get there
But when I get there Ill know
cause Im taking it...Step by step
Bit by bit
Stone by stone
Brick by brick
Step by step
Day by day
Mile by mile
Go your own way
And this old road is rough and ruin
So many dangers along the way
So many burdens might fall upon me
So many troubles I have to face
But I wont let my spirit fail me
But I wont let my spirit go
Until I get to my destination
Im gonna take it slow

Friday, January 26, 2007

Rainy days and great friends...

Following my 'Five Things You Didn't Know About Me' post this week, I got a parcel in the post from my gorgeous friend Amanda.

Here it is modelled by my very glam assistant...

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Sinead Collins eat your heart out!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Five things you didn't know about me

Thanks to the lovely Keris, here are five things you didn't know about me...

1) I used to work in a Pound Shop. It marked my decline in social status as a Saturday shop girl. I started in Dunnes Stores (evil experience it was and all), then moved to What Everyone Wants (which was actually good craic, but jeez it was busy) and finally to a Pound Shop. Except the owner refused to acknowledge it was a pound shop, because some things cost as much as £2 and "we don't have tacky shops like that in Derry".
The shop has now been renamed to 'Pound Choice'- so I guess he fell off his moral high ground eventually.
When I worked in the shop, the biggest laugh of the week was the two wee women who would come into buy holy candles who we nicknamed Beardy and Smelly. One had a beard, the other smelled but much like Ant and Dec or Zig and Zag they were pretty interchangeable.

2) I have a size 12 jacket in my wardrobe which is hideously out of fashion but which I refuse to throw out because it fitted me once and made me feel like a skinny malinky. It is the only size 12 garment I have ever worn.

3)When I was a child my sisters and brother and I would ride to school on pretend horses- which we would tether up at the mucky field at the back of the school and 'collect' again on the way home, where by we would skip and neigh up Broadway in Creggan. I used to believe it made me go faster.

4) I have always, always wanted one of the big umbrellas that covers your whole face and is see through, so you don't bump into things as you walk. Sinead Collins had one when we were in primary school and I was vay jealous at how the hailstones didn't batter off her face as she walked home. (Then again, if I had an umbrella- would I have been able to ride my horse with the same skill? No, I don't think I would. I guess things happen for a reason after all).

5) I secretly fancy David Walliams from Little Britain. I have no idea why, but I wouldn't mind an hour alone with him.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Slow and easy wins the race

I've maintained my weightloss this week- which is motivation speak for "not lost an ounce"- but given the sheer quantity of chocolate that has been shovelled down my neck due to hormonal surges, I'm actually quite happy with this.
I'm used to putting on 3 or 4 lbs this particular week of the month, so yay me!

But the pressure is on. First of all I'm meeting with my PR guru next week and I'm half expecting her to look at me, shake her head and declare that nothing can be done for the likes of me.

Second of all, deadline looms for the measurement date for the bridesmaid dress (or best woman dress as it shall be known). I do not want to look like Annie Apple wobbling up the aisle.

I went to my docs and had a pep talk on Friday. Apparantly I'm fabulous- just have to keep going.
If I can get another stone off by June, I'll be happy. And if I can get two stone off by the book launch in the Autumn, I'll be ecstatic- but boy am I going to miss my best friend, Chocolate.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The most depressing time of the year?

APPARANTLY THIS coming Wednesday, January 24, is offically the most depressing day of the year. Some boffin,somewhere has calculated a due to it’s distance from Christmas, and until payday- combined with the cold weather, dark nights and general bleurgh feeling that seeps into your very pores in January this Wednesday is going to be pretty damn miserable.
Suicides will increase, as will marriage breakdowns. Diets will be broken like never before as we reach for king size chocolate bars to release some endorphins and ease the bleakness- only to have the bleakness come back like a good ‘un once we step on the scales and see the Christmas damage. (Only 3lbs here- something I shall be proud of until the day I die, as it beats my usual 5-7lbs hands down.)
On Wednesday we can expect roadrage to be on the increase and for people to walk around with their brows more furrowed than ever before. Don’t expect any kind greetings or for anyone to hold the door open for you when you are laden down with bags from the January sales.
Don’t expect anyone to let you nip in before them at the check out- even if you only have a carton of milk and they have their week’s groceries to put through. Kindness won’t exist on Wednesday. The world, according to this (probably hugely overpaid) boffin is going to be a cold and lonely place this week. It’s tempting, therefore, to go into hibernation for the day.
Surely the powers that be- those responsible for the business world- could give us all the day off so we could slide under our duvets with a good book, daytime telly and a hot chocolate (one of the low fat ones) for company. Surely they must realise that a happy workforce is a productive workforce? And at the end of the day, who wants to be staring out a sea of depressed faces anyway?
I love that in America duvet days are allowed- and in fact encouraged- by some forward thinking companies. This gives employees permission to take a certain amount of days off each year just because the thought of work that morning is a little too much to take. You know what I mean- days when you’ve been kept awake for three hours the previous night listening to an almost-three-year-old rhyme off the names of all the trains from ‘Thomas and Friends’, or days when your eyes refuse to open no matter how loud the alarm clock beeps. Days when you don’t exactly feel sick as such, but you don’t feel full of the joys of life either. Days when only your bed and a cup of tea will do the trick. Days exactly like January 24.
Much has been written about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it seems almost everyone you chat to these days has a wee touch of it to be going on with. While i’m not convinced I’m a complete SAD-o, I have to say I do generally find the winter months- and January and February in particular- damn hard work. It’s a common complaint but I hate leaving for work in the dark and returning once again under cover of darkness with my only glimpse at daylight being the dash to the shop through the pouring rain at one o’clock.
Because of this I start to obsess quite dramatically about the length of the days. When I left work shortly after five on Tuesday there was a wee glint of light in the evening sky and my heart lifted just that little. It’s a long time coming until the nights are shorter than the days, but I’ll take my jollies where I can them especially with Wednesday’s doomsday prophecy looming. Then again, the upside of this all is that come Thursday we’ll all know the worst of the winter blues are gone for another year and we can start to think that little bit more positively.
Already I’m thinking of the summer months which lie ahead. I’ve started talking to the wee man about all the days we will spend down at Benone or Lisfannon and I’ve even ordered him one of those UVA protective all in one swimsuit efforts so he doesn’t get burned to a crisp when the good weather hits.
I’m considering planning a break in the sun, something which won’t cost the earth but which will top up my natural seratonin levels all the same. In fact I’ll probably spend at least half an hour on Wednesday browsing the holiday brochure which has arrived on my desk even though there isn’t a chance in heaven or hell I could afford the plush resorts featured. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thirty and bricking it

IT WAS payday today so I treated myself to a couple of new books- among them the short story collection published by Poolbeg to celebrate ther 30th anniversary.
I figured that since I am now an official member of the Poolbeg stable it was worth my while to get a complete overview of the competition in terms of my stable mates. (Not that any of us look like horses, mind.)
Anyway, the whole buying the book process has set me into a bit of a flurry of panic. These women are great- they are at the top of their game and then there is me, with my wee book trying to look and sound like a confident woman of the noughties.
I have to say though I've already started to get a taste of the support network that exists among the Irish authors contigent. I have received lovely supportive emails from Sarah Webb and a couple of lovely kind words from Himself. Along with my Write Words chicks, they are offering buckets of support which is lovely and I'm also spending loads of time at Write On- a site for Irish writers.
Hopefully this is stagefright and it will all ease in time and I can go back to being 30 and fabulous.

Every woman

I’M GLAD to say that even after almost nine years as a journalist there are still stories which have the power to humble me, inspire me and teach me a thing or two about life. This week has been exceptional in that three such stories have landed on my desk.
Each of them feature inspirational women and each of them has helped, in some way, to help me put my life that wee bit more into perspective and encourage make to some changes- big and small- in how I think about life.
And what makes their stories all the more remarkable is that I know that those three women are only a tiny representation of the women in Derry, and throughout the country, who get on with making quiet, unassuming changes to people’s lives but who don’t seek recognition or reward for their efforts.
They made me realise there is a strength and courage in womanhood that we don’t always take the time or effort to recognise because we are so busy chasing our tails trying to keep ahead of the game So it is worth taking some time out, every now and again to sit back and think about our lives, our achievements, our goals and our dreams.
The first story which found its way to my desk was that of 30-years-old Nicky Ward from Cornshell Fields who was killed when she was struck by a car at Ballykelly last week. Nicky was my age. That one thought stuck in my head as I visited her home, and spoke to the people who so clearly loved and adored her.
For all intents and purposes she could have been me. We were born in the same year, would no doubt have shared the same memories of childhood TV, infatuations with music and TV stars. I wondered had she been as nervous about turning 30 as I was.
Nicky, it is fair to say, has put me to shame. She spent a life caring for others, be it the people in the care home she worked in, or the animals she reared from kittens and puppies and rescued from animal shelters. In the end it was her act of ultimate selflessness- her decision to sign the organ donor register- which made her truly remarkable. Even though she tragically isn’t with us anymore, people- perhaps as many as five- will have had a second chance at a healthy life. It made me ashamed because while I’ve ticked the wee box on the back of my drivers’ licence I’ve not taken the time to register.
Or at least, I hadn’t until I left Nicky’s home and came back to the office just in time to hear of the sad passing of Michaela McKinney. Michaela died on Sunday, after tirelessly campaigning to have people sign the NHS donor register. She herself needed a heart and lung transplant, but was too unwell to survive the operation.
In the end, she never got the chance but her dignity- her bravery at speaking out about the reality of her condition will hopefully mean more people will do just what Nicky did- without any prompting- and ensure that should the worst happen to them they will at least help someone else.
I left work on Monday deeply moved and touched by both these stories- so much so that I made the effort (and trust me it was no effort at all) to register for the donor list online. In addition when I walked through the door of my house that night, I held my son that little bit tighter and even told himself (the grown up one) that I loved him. (Even though he was clearly doing my head in by leaving his washing all over the floor). I realised in that instance how lucky I was and yet how much I take things for granted.
But just as I was about to start beating myself up for my inadequacies, I met with Helen McDonnell on Wednesday- a lifecoach setting up sessions for women right here in Derry. Helen and I sat and had a wee natter about her new venture, and a bit of gossip about life in general and one of the key messages I took away from meeting her was that the past is gone and it’s the here and now that really matters.
Yes, our pasts shape us but we shouldn’t let them hold us back. To put it in the simplest terms I can think of, there is no use crying over spilled milk. I may not have signed the donor register before I wrote about Nicky or Michaela- but I have done now and I’m determined as much as possible to be that little bit more positive throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not planning to become some maniacal Pollyanna because let’s face it, the only thing more annoying that a misery guts is someone who grins like a buck eejit from morning to night with no good reason. I’m going to find my happy medium and try to remind myself as often as possible just what I have to be thankful for and just how much of a difference I can make just by quietly doing what I’m doing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Two pounds down...

Well 2lbs down- not bad for a week when the chocolates are still hanging about from Christmas and the cold winter weather has had me reaching for comfort food.
It's only five and a half months now til bridezilla's wedding and a mere six weeks til my first fitting for my best woman's dress. I've made peace with the fact I'm not going to be the eeny size 12/14 babe I'd hoped for but I could do worse than look like yer wan here- plus size model Charlotte Coyle who also hails from Derry.
Charlotte is a 16- 18 and in my opinion looks amazing- healthy, happy, curvy and sexy. (And I say that in a totally non lesbian way.)
Anyway onwards and downwards hopefully. See you next Sunday.

Rainy Days and Mondays...

I've had the song by the Carpenters stuck in my head all week now. (Can't think why? ;) )

There is something about the line "What I've got, they used to call the blues..." which blows me away a little. It just seems to hit at the taboos surrounding depression and while the song itself is kind of sad, there is that hope at the end of a brighter day.

It's not really suitable for a Tacky Tuesday...but let me share the words anyway.

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin' around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothin' is really wrong
Feelin' like I don't belong
Walkin' around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

Funny but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny but it seems that it's the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me.

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
We know what it's all about
Hangin' around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Baby got back...

FIFTY YEARS ago women were women. We had curves. We wore bras that actually contained boobs (real ones) and our arses were more than just bone and skinny jeans.
As I return to my diet- Xmas having dented by 13lb loss by 3lbs- I wonder about the goals I've been setting myself.
I don't crave to be a size 10, or even a 12. I want curves. I want to feel like a woman and damn it, look at Marilyn on the right here- she looks amazing.
Why have we set unattainable goals for ourselves these days? How is it that a size 12 or 14 are considered fat? Marilyn was a 16 and she doesn't look sick, fat or unhealthy.
So I'm rethinking my goals...and this weight is going to come off a pound at a time.
I promise to update you all next week....shall we call it Slimdown Sunday?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ready Steady Book

WELCOME TO 2007, the year when all sorts of lovely things are going to happen.

This time last year I wrote a column declaring that 2006 would be the year of killing dead things. I promised to lose weight (again), learn to drive (again), get my house in order (again) and write a book.
While I was steadfastly against the notion of New Year’s Resolutions- believing that you are only setting yourself up for failure and recrimination when you tuck into the first illicit chocolate bar/ glass of wine/ cigarette of the year- I did decide to make some changes to my life all the same.
And for the most part, I achieved my goals. I lost weight (admittedly at rate of pound on, pound off, pound on, pound off), passed my driving test, decorated a couple of rooms in the family home and wrote not one, but one-and-a-half books.
The only problem with actually achieving those goals, is that 2007 is going to have be pretty spectacular to meet my now overly high expectations.
I am fairly lucky though in that already my social diary is filling up and every now and again I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not all just a dream.
You may have read in this very paper late last year that as of this Autumn I’m going to be a proper bona-fide author who’s book will be available in the likes of Eason and Shipquay Books and News.
While I promise not to spend the next nine months rabbiting on about the book in the way I spent nine months rabbiting on about my pregnancy in 2003, it does feel a little like I’m expecting a new baby. After all this will be a new beginning- and one which thankfully involves neither an episiotomy or stretch marks.
But just as with pregnancy there is a degree of trepidation about the whole thing. What if no one likes it? What if no one buys it? What if people take offence at my overuse of the word ‘feck’ throughout it? What if the book bombs and people laugh at me in the street? What if people think I’m getting too big for my boots? All these questions now keep me awake at 2 in the morning as I also try to plot out book two and three in my head, while I try to plan the next night’s dinner and my day in the office.
Sleep is for wimps- which is a good thing because I don’t get any any more.
I’ve had to start thinking like an author- but not only that like an author who also has a full time day job and an almost three year old son to look after. Every question, be that what to write in an email or what to wear when meeting with important publishing type people is now prefaced with the internal question “What would Marian do?”. I am too scared to trust my own judgement on anything.
I wondered did the wonderful Ms. Keyes have the same self doubt and worries? Does she worry that people will want to take her picture and talk to her on the radio and review her work? A quick glance at her website, and her monthly newsletters reveals that she does. She hates being interviewed and she dreads the release of each new book in case people say horrible things about it- which, it would seem they almost never do.
So, I guess if big Mazza can ger her knickers in a knot about putting her work out there then I’m in pretty good company.
But is there a reason why we women can’t accept our good news and success instead of crippling ourselves with self doubt and worry? Why can’t we sit back, pat ourselves on the back and feel delightfully smug- if only for a few wee moments?
I know I’m not alone in rarely being happy with my lot. This year proves it. Not content with achieving my last year’s non-resolutions I’m setting myself a new pile of them.
So I’m resolving (in a non-resolution way) to be more positive and upbeat this year and to push my worries to the back of my head. Sure haven’t I done well to get as far as this? I refuse to let my crippling self doubt wreck it all at this stage?
I’m also resolving (in a non-resolution way) to lose more weight so that if I end up on the telly, or in a magazine, I won’t look like Maeve Binchy’s older, fatter cousin.
I’m also resolving to push myself beyond my comfort zones- be that accepting an invitation for public speaking or stepping on the scales at slimming club. I know that this year will be what I make of it and sometimes that is going to involve doing things that make me nervous.
And I promise, lastly, not to complain or whinge because I know that this is a dream come true. I just guess the teacher in Fame was right when she said that to achieve your dreams you have to pay in sweat. It’s time for me to get sweating.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007- I may just love you

Well, welcome to 2007.
Are you excited? Because I sure as heck am.
Not only do I have the new series of Desperate Housewives to look forward too, I’m also planning to buy the Lilia Kopylova latin dance DVD to get my ass back into shape.
Yes, I am already have ‘Strictly’ withdrawals!

2007 is going to be a fabulous year, albeit there might be a lot of hard work involved along the way. Later this month I get to go to Dublin to meet the team at Poolbeg and discuss the publication of ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’. I cannot tell you how excited and nervous I am at that prospect.
Then in February my wee man turns three. Seems like five minutes ago I was listening to a midwife screaming “Puuuuuussshh” at me while I prayed for an early death.
Later that month, I’m taking the Dabster to see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at the ‘Minnellinum Forum’ as she calls it. It will no doubt be magical.

In April I’m going to see Westlife in Belfast and then I’m off to London for Bridezilla’s hen weekend. We are going to see ‘Dirty Dancing- The Musical’- something I’m really looking forward to.

And then in June, my best friend Vicki turns 30, then Yaya/ Bridezilla gets married, rolling into July when my younger sister will graduate after 369 years at university.

And once all that is done, well I’m going to be published.

Someone pinch’s hard to believe what lies ahead.
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