Final Chapter …!

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Forgive me for sharing, but I’ve been faintly hysterical. To clarify, I am most certainly not looking for sympathy. That was very kindly given, free of charge by the staff in the coffee shop. I think it’s the only thing I’ve had free of charge there, the place costs me a small fortune.

My lovely coffee shop has endured months of me sitting in my usual spot, tapping away at the iPad whilst buying a few desperately expensive lattes and a chocolate brownie or two. We chat and laugh and they ask about my writing, and are the most kind and friendly bunch of people. Suffice to say, should I ever get this wretched book published, I’ll have to sell quite a substantial amount just to break-even, in order to compensate for the amount of coffees I’ve bought.

Each day they hear me come through the rickety door as the little bell above gives a jingle and a jangle. They call out with a cheerful, “Morning! Your regular decaf latte, in a mug not a cup and saucer? We’ll bring it right over!” and I smile coyly, blatantly ignoring the snarls and filthy looks of the other customers in the queue in front of me as I take my place in the corner with the cushions and the squishy seat. As the morning progresses, I change my order a little and try not to be quite so predictable. Sometimes I ask for extra cream or try an Americano in anticipation of moving across the pond, but I don’t really think that’s going to help me.

But today was different. Today I began the final chapter of the book, which is now less of a book and more of a friend. I friend I have created and although at times I have loathed it when I have come to a tricky section, I also love it with a passion that makes me want to weep. And sadly today, that is exactly what happened.

I was writing about the final few kilometres of my trip on a squeaky bicycle called Claude, when suddenly it dawned on me that it was nearly over. Through writing, I had been re-living this ‘journey’ of mine, and now, for the last time it truly was coming to an end. To the horror of everyone, this realisation suddenly found me wailing, howling and dribbling into my flat white with extra cream. Bless them, the girls came straight over, the men more slowly and somewhat nervously. (They wisely understood that women-of-a-certain-age in a state are to be treated with caution …)

As I wiped my mascara’d cheeks with a unlimited pile of Farrow and Ball coloured napkins, I explained how I would miss coming to their lovely coffee shop and writing and as I snivelled and dribbled, I thanked them profusely for all their kindness.

“Err won’t you still have a bit of editing or something to do?” one of the girls tentatively asked.

“Oh! Oh yes!” I exclaimed, brightening somewhat. “In fact, lots of editing and umm re-editing and things like that,” I carried on. “Err, yes of course … you know, spell-checking and things!” I trailed off at this point, quite unsure what on earth I was talking about. But this seemed to appease us all and the world seemed like an infinitely better place, with all-round smiles and lots of slaps on the back and reassuring, ” Well, you’ll be here for weeks then!”

“Thank goodness for that!

The men disappeared with sighs of relief that all was now well, and the girls gave me my first ever free coffee as a get better soon gesture and offered more Farrow and Ball napkins to wipe away the eye makeup which was apparently now on-my-chin-makeup. And we sat and chatted happily together about the benefits of waterproof mascara vs falsies. I thought falsies were fake bosoms, but they’re all a lot younger and infinitely wiser so I’ll heed their advice. So, when it really is all finished, spell-checked and edited, I’ll simply go to America as planned, have an Americano and get myself some falsies. Sounds like a fabulous plan – odd how the Colonel looks ever so over-excited …

Katie xx

Any tips, advice, suggestions for finishing a book? (Including editing and finding an agent or publisher or …. anything). Thank you x

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A Diva … Moi?

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My wretched book!

No, of course it’s not really wretched, I’m simply being a drama queen because I am frustrated. Supremely frustrated.

I’m frustrated because with no published books under my belt, how on earth can I really justify the time I need to write?

I feel as though because I’m not (yet) an author, it’s rather self-indulgent, pompous and pretentious to announce that “I need to be alone!” and mop my fevered brow. Whether it was Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich who said it, I don’t recall, and frankly it doesn’t matter, my point is that I do need to be alone but I feel a bit of a drama queen saying it. Admittedly I don’t need to do the mopping of brow with a delicate white handkerchief, but in case Renee Zelwegger isn’t available for the film version of the book, I’m happy to practise my craft and step into the role …

So, I keep sloping off from the packing up of the house (we’re moving), the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and general ‘life’. (Nb This is also said in a woe-is-me type of voice, despite the rather odd fact that I rather enjoy it) So, in order to give myself a little bit of writing time, I am shirking my responsibilities by hiding behind the door of the kitchen, tap, tapping away. Did I mention that I was moving house?

Once I have got book number one done and dusted and it’s flying off the shelves in every bookstore from London to New York (optimism and a total lack of reality are currently my default setting), then I feel that I am justified in disappearing off for several hours to write. I can then type madly, hitting the iPad with such ferocity simply to get out the words, sentences and paragraphs that are endlessly trying to burst out of my head and are longing to get onto paper before they are forgotten and lost in the dusty crevices of the grey matter.

Oooooh I’m exhausted! Forgive my rant, my frustrations and my inner melodramatic diva who has momentarily escaped the confines of my middle class British background. I shall resolve this. A little self control is required. A little earlier rising in the morning, allocating specific writing time and then using that time correctly instead of drinking tea and looking at Facebook. Oh yes, I can do this! Discipline is all it takes!

In the meantime, I think I need a little lie-down in a darkened room with some whale music, except the sounds of running water .. well, I needn’t go into that …

Perhaps I’ll just hide behind the kitchen door again; there’s a socket for charging my iPad, a very friendly spider whom in hushed tones I like to chat to about the benefits of waxing vs shaving (oh yes, that hairy arachnid needs to know!) … and at least the ginger biscuits are close to hand …

Katie x

How and where do you write and do you feel guilt?

If Music be the Food of Love …

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Disappearing into the bowels of the earth, otherwise known as the underground system of London, the sound of a violin rose up to meet me. A young man was playing the tune from A Fiddler on the Roof, “If I were a Rich Man”.

Oh, if only I could have joined him with some fabulous Russia dancing!

oh how I wanted to don my dancing shoes and join this marvellous man with his enthusiastic fiddling on his fiddle!

Oh how I wanted to leap beside him with gay abandon!

(Nb. Slight yawn, but for those wanting to be politically or otherwise correct, please note that I am using gay in the old fashioned sense … I have no desire to make comparisons of dancing abilities between people of varying sexual orientations – I’m exhausted, should have used a different word in the first place).

As he played faster and faster I was swept up in the excitement of the moment and the exhilarating music, so promptly tipped the meagre contents of my purse into his violin case. He grinned widely at me and added a slight dip of his chin to acknowledge my paltry collection of two and five pence pieces. He also got two safety pins and a book of Royal Mail stamps, but I managed to retrieve those.

With my heart singing, I continued on my journey with his music becoming fainter, but with my walk infinitely lighter and bouncier. I write this despite the unhappy truth that even if I wanted to risk the disapproving looks of fellow travellers who would assume that I was most probably a complete loon, I strongly suspect that once crouched down in my Russian dancing stance ready to fling my legs from under me, I would never have been able to stand up again without the help of some small hydraulic apparatus.

So, if you’re needing a little boost today, turn on the radio, do a little jig, sing, or even join a fiddler and try a Russian dance.

Katie x

Does jolly music make you want to dance with gay abandon?

Darling, You’re Beautiful!

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Towards the end of my cycling trip last summer, I came to the conclusion that both Claude (the bicycle) and I needed a little attention. So I hosed Claude down with water, gave him some oil for his squeaky bits, and found a lovely lady in a beauty salon for myself. I did however go in the hope that any cleansing and moisturising treatments for me, would be marginally more gentle.

She took one look at me and started tutting with a slow shake of her beautifully coiffed head. This was perhaps not the best of starts, but always one for believing that the truth can hurt, I ignored this and persevered.

An hour and a half later and I reappeared a new woman. She had been given a fairly tough job, but managed in a short period of time to perform nothing short of a miracle.

During this time however, we spoke in a mixture of my bad French and her decidedly better English about beauty. I asked her how it was that French woman always seemed to be so well put together and just naturally beautiful.

Her response was as follows:

She said the English were like sparkling man-made Christmas trees; adorned with flashing coloured lights, baubles, tinsel and weighed down and covered from top to bottom in some form of the latest trend in decoration.

The French on the other hand, were simply healthy trees with just a few plain candles to enhance their natural and pure beauty and nothing more.

This was of course her own opinion, but one thing did resonate. That being, there is beauty in simplicity. Life doesn’t have to be covered in sparkling lights to make it perfect. perhaps there is truth in the proverb, “All that glitters is not gold”.

Katie

Who do you think is the most beautiful woman in the world?

And The Sun Shineth!

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London is bathed in glorious sunshine. Both young and old are in the parks and the streets with tentative smiles revelling in the apparent beginnings of spring. The chairs are being put outside the cafes once again and the daffodils are nodding their heads. The winter wardrobes are being packed away and the flippy floppy skirts are out in force.

Some have dared to bare some pasty skin to the air; pale legs which haven’t seen the light of day for six months are now on display. Woollen hats and scarves have been tossed aside and replaced by sunglasses perched atop pink noses. It may be sunny, but by Jove it’s still chilly! We have emerged from our hibernation full of cautious optimism for the start of a new season.

Girls sit outside bars drinking white wine spritzers rather than huddling next to the fire with a warmed heavy red. Boys drink … well, boys drink beer. (Yes, my tongue is firmly wedged in my cheek.)

I used to be a winter person, but now summer is my happy place. So with anticipation (and a little hope) of further warm sunshine and the frightening prospect for both myself and the general public of having to peel off the layers, I am having words with my pasty white body and am mentally preparing it for a day when a teensy trip to the beauticians is imminent.

“A leg wax?” my scrawny limbs scream in response!

“It’ll be gentle,” I say soothingly.

“Lying bitch!” they retort.

Indeed I am, but standards must prevail and I certainly don’t want my husband mistaking me for an orangutan again.

In the meantime, I shall clutch my hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and make another chicken pie to stock up the freezer. One can never be too sure when the weather will change, and frankly I cannot be having another argument with my legs again … they’re rebelling, on strike and refusing to move from the fireplace. Shame.

Katie xx

Are you a summer or a winter person?

How do you prepare for summer?

Is Big Brother Watching You?

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I am stuck between two stations in a dark tunnel and cannot therefore leave the train.

My fellow passengers initially started expressing their irritation by merely sucking (deliberately audibly) the breath between their teeth. Then, the sighs of annoyance became louder as if to alert everyone within earshot of their displeasure. Now conversations are being started between complete strangers and it must be said, that this is most unusual behaviour for the Brits. Each person however is relating why their own potential tardiness is of greater importance than the next person’s. We all want mutual sympathy, hand-stroking and a way of expressing our frustration … which is not being helped by the dreary voice on the loudspeaker telling us he knows even less than we do. Marvellous.

The lady opposite me who brought her entire makeup bag and had given herself a makeover is now repeating the exercise. Lipstick first – most peculiar. Now she’s plucking her eyebrows which frankly are sparse enough … I hope this won’t encourage any others to trim their nasal hair or cut their toenails.

Sadly the little boy who previously occupied my seat got off at the last station with both his parents. He entertained us all by telling us, complete strangers, with a deadpan and utterly sincere face about his holiday to the swimming pool yesterday and how he’d like to go again; but this time just with daddy because Daddy is more fun. This resulted in snorts of laughter around the carriage. Daddy smirked. Mummy didn’t look best pleased.

The man beside me has rather obviously cut himself shaving three times presumably due to a blunt razor blade. He has little pieces of loo paper attached to his chin, but one is rather dangling down, hanging on by a single whisker which he clearly missed .. I’d love to pull it off. Perhaps the lady with the tweezers could oblige.

I love people watching. Others watch me but I care not. A little observation is no bad thing, too much is deemed creepy and anything beyond that is obviously stalking! So I think I’d better get out my book and amuse myself that way …

If only I could just tweak that teensy bit of dangling loo paper off his chin though …

Katie

Are you a keen people watcher? What do you think people see when they look at you? (Don’t worry, I know that others see a batty, scatty, ditzy thing with a dodgy haircut when they look at me … if that makes you feel any better.)

British vs American

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I am about as British as they come. I am currently reading Kate Fox’s book, ‘Watching the English’ and as far as I can see, am the epitome of all things good, bad and plainly odd about the English. A few examples:

. I share the same rather dry, self deprecating and ironical humour of my fellow Brits.

. I cringe at the ‘too gushing’, ‘overfamiliar’ or ‘over enthusiastic’ preferring the British understatement. (Eg when suffering bronchial pneumonia, to describe it as ‘a bit of a bother’)

. I too endure the awkwardness of replying “how do you do?” when asked the same question even though it actually isn’t a question to be answered but simply to be repeated.

. And, after twenty painful minutes of goodbyes in various forms with promises to meet up soon with someone whom we know our husband loathes, we sigh a momentous sigh of relief and swear that we’ll never do it again … but we always do, after all, wouldn’t it be rude not to?

And I haven’t even reached the chapter on queuing which I am sure is imminent.

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These are in truth, slightly strange foibles and yet having had them soaked into us by way of osmosis since birth, they are our “normal”. Nevertheless I am sure that to non-Brits they are also rather peculiar, even slightly irritating and without doubt, confusing.

And as someone who is soon to be moving to the States, I do wonder if my fellow Americans from across the pond have any interesting quirks that I should be aware of I should loathe to make a faux pas or twenty on the first day. To date I have found everyone remarkably jolly and inclusive, but perhaps they were just being polite to this strange English woman …

In order to err on the side of caution, I have therefore made some preliminary enquiries and so far have established the following:

Apparently we Brits work shorter hours, have more holiday and get up later in the mornings. However, supposedly we get more exercise and eat less pizza but drink far more tea.

Also, I understand that pants are not referring to ones underwear, but instead, to trousers.

A purse is a handbag, not a … purse.

And if you are pissed, you’re not sublimely cream-crackered or a teensy bit tipsy, you’re actually rather cross.

So with all this information to hand, I’ve told my husband to prepare himself for a long working day, to put the bowler hat into storage, and should I ever get pissed, to remind me to not try to hide my purse in my pants … it clearly wouldn’t work.

Just to clarify however …

a) I don’t get ‘pissed’ in case anyone is wanting to throw that at me (!) and

b) I don’t recall ever having tried to hide my purse down my knickers … my bra yes, but that was when I was travelling through some very dodgy areas on a particularly bad holiday many years ago … I did have to put a sock in the other side as I was a tad unbalanced and lumpy, but crikey, despite being rather broke, I found it was quite an impressively exciting sight.

Anyway, should anyone have any suggestions or tips, you could not find a more grateful recipient.

Katie x