Friday, June 17, 2011

An open letter to Victoria Beckham

Dear Victoria,

How are you? Can we have a little chat? Girl to girl? Mammy to mammy? Career woman to... erm, career woman?

First I’ll start with the nice bits. You’re looking well these days with a little bit of meat on your bones. Pregnancy agrees with you. I’ll admit I’m jealous that you seem to manage to look so glamorous with it. I never managed that - not at all. For most of my pregnancies - especially the last one I stuck with the “just getting by” look. I lived in the same three maternity outfits, swapped my heels for flats as soon as I could and used make up not to accentuate a healthy glow but more to hide a deathly palour.

You looked well at the royal wedding. I wasn’t sure about the hat, and those heels would have killed me stone dead but overall you had a nice glow about a you. A smile wouldn’t have hurt. For some reason you don’t seem to like smiling much, which is a shame. You do actually have a nice smile. And if I had David Beckham waiting for me at home I’d smile a bit more, it has to be said.

Now that we’ve covered that ground, Victoria - or can I call you Posh? - can we get down to the nitty gritty? Now much as I hate to say anything which may annoy or upset a pregnant and highly hormonal woman, Victoria last week you said something which gave me the rage. You may not know me but believe me when I have the rage, it is not a pretty sight. Not. At. All.

So there was I reading an article about you thinking “Jeezo, she looks well when she’s not all gaunt and pointy” when you made some remark about maternity leave. “Maternity leave? What’s that?” you said in a jaunty fashion adding; “Being a working mum is hard - I think women can relate to me when I say it’s like juggling glass balls.”

Being a working mum is hard work. It is really, really hard work. And yes, it is like juggling glass balls - trying to keep everything moving fluidly because if one of the balls drops there is potential for disaster.

And by disaster, Victoria, I don’t mean a run in your designer tights or a broken acrylic nail. These days, the balls most of us working parents in general have in the air include mortgage payments, guilt about ‘quality time’ with the brood, finding affordable childcare, putting petrol in the car and food on the table. It’s about trying to keep hold of a job in recessionary times while trying not to neglect your children to such an extent that they grow up to be social miscreants.

It’s about trying to find time to cram in the housework before Kim and Aggie come battering on your door and putting yourself at the bottom of the queue.

I imagine your life is different Victoria. I imagine work for you does not come with dropping the children off at school/ creche while battling through rush hour traffic and praying no one notices that you are five minutes late (again). I imagine that you can set your own hours and you have a team of nannies to help out with those essentials like feeding, clothing and entertaining your children.

I can’t imagine, pet, that any time recently you have found yourself in the unenviable position of having too much month left at the end of your money or have had sleepless nights about the crashing property market and the value of your little piece of England.

As for maternity leave - can you imagine the average working mother-to-be? She may be working in excess of 40 hours a week. She may spend a lot her time on her feet, scanning shopping through the tills at Tesco, or nursing on an NHS wage in a busy hospital. Chances are she will work as close to her due date as possible to maximise her maternity pay and the time she can spend with her baby after it is born.

Chances are she has little choice about whether or not she returns to work. Chances are she will return a little earlier than she would really like because the bills need paid and statutory maternity pay of £128.73 doesn’t go very far these days.

Chances are by the time her baby comes along she is exhausted and needing some time to rest. Chances are she won’t have a team of night nurses to help her through the early months and wouldn’t be fit to try and combine caring for an infant with a full time job.

When you say that the modern working mother can relate to you, I have to ask - how exactly? Last time I looked I didn’t have fancy homes in foreign countries. I didn’t get an invite to the royal wedding. Justine Beiber does not send my children gifts of signed guitars (for this alone, I am entirely grateful). I don’t have a wardrobe of designer clothes or a host of A list friends.

I know you were coming from a “let’s all be friends” and “aren’t we all in this together” perspective but Victoria, pet, please accept that we so never going to be all in this together. Please stop trying to make out you are a mere pleb like the rest of us and give us working mammies, who really do have all those glass balls in the air, a bit of credit.

Much love,


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Note from the Bunker

Dear Writer
Never lose the fire in your belly. Dampen it down a wee bit for a while, if you need to, so you can get some sleep. But never lose it.

Write every book as if it were your first. Ignore whether or not you have an agent, a publisher or an established readership. Write as if you trying to make people sit up and take notice for the first time.

Forget your past books, the published ones, the unpublished ones. You, right now, in this moment are only as good as the book are you are currently writing.

Enjoy it. Please. If you are not enjoying it, the reader won't either. If you are not enjoying it, then really, what's the point? Writing should always be about the passion for creating a whole new world (yes... I'm singing the song from Aladdin now) and not just about getting words on a page.

Of course you do have to get the words on a page. So just do it. Don't procrastinate. Don't allow the negative voice on your shoulder to drown out the lovely voices of your characters.

FORGET SALES. They do not matter. Do you want a book which sells millions or do you want a book which you can put your hand on your heart and say you LOVE and are proud of? Yes... I know what your gut reaction is but think about that. Really. (Of course, never shun a blissful combination of the two, or believe it will never happen to you).

Don't diss your genre. Even to your self, on a bad day when you have written a line about a heroine drinking of a glass of wine and admiring shoes. The shoes and the wine are not what your books are about. Look deeper. You are not writing "only chick lit". You are touching lives.

If you have them, read the letters/ emails you have readers/ agents/ publishers/ your mammy which say nice things about your work. Especially remember that conversation you had with the woman in WeightWatchers who told you that your books got her through a particularly bleak period in her life (that one may be solely directed at me).

Limit your use of the bad F word. Feck is, of course, entirely acceptable. But don't go overboard with that either. Unless you are writing an episode of Father Ted.

Give yourself the time to write. Accept that books can not be written in five minute snippets while trying to entertain the children/ do the washing/ clean the house. Lock yourself away for a bit each evening - even half an hour - and write without distraction. Your writing is GOOD. It deserves your attention. YOU deserve the time to explore your own talent.

DON'T let outside forces drag you down. Don't think about the bigger picture. The bigger picture, like your addiction to chocolate, is beyond your control. Feck it. Focus on the picture in front of you - the one you are drawing right now.

Believe in yourself. Allow yourself to feel your words. Cry when your characters cry. Laugh when they laugh. Bonk when they bonk. (Then accept that bonk is a very silly word and vow never to use it again).

Accept that writing is a gift - a talent, an escape. Allow it be just that. Don't let it bog you down. There is enough in this world to bog you down as it is.

Smile. Read those emails again. Switch your laptop off when your toddler looks for a cuddle. Remember that creating lives for other people is great fun altogether but living your own life is more important.

Be proud of all you do - on the page and off.

Still in the bunker

Still writing... it's like NANO times 2. Forget 50,000 in a month, I've a target of 110,00 in two months.
The more I write, the more the book is morphing into something different. The large swathes of text I hoped I would be able to use from the first draft are staring at me, redundant and fed up.
I am starting to see words swimming in front of each other - and I can think of little else. My mind is constantly in France. It is constantly plotting and worrying about pacing and twists and turns and hoping for the best.
This is a LONG, HARD ROAD.

Monday, June 06, 2011

So last week I wrote...

And I decorated - kind of in an avoidance of the writing kind of a way.
We redid the baby's room (I say baby, I know she is two and three months. I know I am in denial of that fact. The dummy/ nappy police will be battering at my door soon enough over the head of it) - which especially now that it is freshly painted is my favourite room in the house.
How I love the vintage Cath Kidston-esque inspired patterns on the curtains and the wall hangings and the bunting. I could go into raptures about the bunting because, yes, I am that sad.
Her room is small, but perfectly formed and I have indulged every girly fantasy I've ever had with pink throws and spotty lamps and a wee doll's cot to match her own cot.
A white table lamp which I bought for about £15 years ago is one of my favourite pieces and I re-glossed it to give it a bit of a shimmer and now I could happily sit in the room for hours.
The girl took umbrage at her room being out of bounds for two days while we painted and tidied. "My bedroom is all broken," she would tell anyone who would listen in her lisping tones. "But my daddy is fixing it all up".
Mammy helped too. Honest.  Even though she should have been writing.

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