I'm covered in flour - it would take too long to explain...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ask, and it it shall be given -

Yesterday I blogged about my desire to write something 'nice', something that didn't rely on huge events to power a story. Not sure that I could manage a whole 70,000 words in such delightful territory, but I remembered I'd written some notes on my phone (how 'now' of me!) for such a tale, and after reading them through, I came up with a short story of 1600 words.

Here's how it starts, and if you'd like to read more, let me know!

The Extra day.

The kitchen was refreshingly peaceful and smelled of absence. Cathy knew it was only clean and ordered because they’d been away for two weeks and had got back late last night, too late to do any damage. She felt she should apologise; its holiday was over now as well. Nine o’clock, the horde would be awake at any moment.

There was no bread but there was a packet of pancake mix and two eggs lurking guiltily in the fridge. If they were ok, then they’d be condemned to breakfast.

Nine-seventeen, gosh, they were late, must be the jet lag. It had been a nice break, but relaxation with three kids and Mike stressing about possible redundancy would have challenged the Orient Express, and was positively unfair on a self catering cottage in the south of France. It had rained, which Mike had taken as both a portent of doom and a personal insult. She pictured him standing on the balcony, morosely watching the sky as if he expected locusts next.

What was it her mother used to say? 'You need a holiday to get over a holiday.' A truism Cathy shuddered to hear her self utter.

Nine twenty-three, they really were sleepy. The eggs proved respectable and Cathy began whisking. Mum would not have approved of packet mix pancakes, whatever Betty Crocker blithely promised. Her lips would have narrowed to their vanishing point on seeing the holiday laundry not immediately set to wash, especially as it had been dumped next to the pile dating from the week before they’d gone away.

'I always used to wish for a day in the week only I knew about,’ Cathy remembered her Mum saying as she stood in her immaculate kitchen and baked for the week ahead. For the week! Cathy’s lot were lucky if they all got packed lunches these days, each stuffed with e-numbers and crisps. She looked guilty at the bread maker, smoothie maker and kitchen aid, all filmed with dust.

‘You never had to work full time just to help pay the mortgage.' Cathy muttered. ‘I needed an extra day just to make sure the bins get emptied.’ Let alone find time to write the novel she'd been working on for two years. Or indeed, start it.

Nine thirty-seven, now she was getting worried.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Hold up at the bottle bank.

I want to write about nice things.

I want to write stories with the gentle touch of Beryl Bainbridge or Elizabeth Jane Howard – even my best beloved E.F Benson; who pin people with the accuracy and brilliance of their words with hardly any discernable effort.

I keep writing stories that stray into darker, more dramatic waters – and part of me resents this. Why can I not make a drama out of the arrival of the festive season, or the prospect of the works dinner dance that has all the power and tension of a bank robbery? Don’t tell me that these things lack potential narrative – our lives are made up of these moments, which can loom as large and threatening as the man with gun, and the emotional process of the characters is largely the same. One might even argue that dealing with bit issues, is sometimes easier than the day to day frustrations and grind of life – is that why writing a ‘small issue’ book people will read avidly, is much, much harder than writing a book with ‘big’ issues?

For now, I shall have to content myself with huge narratives peppered with action, until I am strong enough to tackle the really big subjects, like the local flower and produce show, or the politics of the recycling bin collection day.

‘Have you put the glass out yet?’

‘Just doing it now,’ Richard said, though he was bending into the cupboard in the utility room at the time, so his words were tangled in the mess of brooms and the old ironing board.

‘Have you?’ Vanessa said again, her voice anxious behind him.

‘Just doing it now!’

‘Well don’t!’

‘What?’ Richard turned to look at her. ‘I thought you wanted me to-’

‘Not yet you idiot,’ she said curtly, ‘I haven’t put these out.’ She brandished two ever-lasting carrier bags. The necks of several dark, green bottles clustered inside.

‘Where’s that lot come from?’ Richard asked, ‘there won’t be room for them in the box, what have you been up to?’

‘Well, take the others out, and put some of these in.’

‘What on earth for?’

‘Oh don’t be dense Richard.’ Vanessa pursed her lips. ‘I got these from the boxes on Fore Street the other week, we can’t afford to drink this stuff.’

‘Vanessa, have you gone mad?’

‘You don’t understand, Margaret was making such a show with those Veuve Cliquot bottles last week, I’ll be blown if she’s going to lord it over me again.’ Vanessa selected one of the fat, green necks and brandished it at him with the air of a victorious poacher. ‘Look, even she wouldn’t run to that for a weekday tipple, the Telegraph gave it four stars.’

‘What the hell column was that in, best bin dives of 2011? Oz Clarke recommends his top picks of rubbish to make your bin the best presented on the block?’

‘Don’t be silly Richard.’ Vanessa dumped the bags and turned on her heel. ‘And make sure you use those Waitrose bags for Gods sake, not those Asda ones.’