Last Week I Met an Author.

Last week I met the author Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE. She has written 35 novels, sold over 30 million copies and is apparently worth in excess of 300 million dollars. That’s a lot of books and an awful lot of money.

When I think of us all tap, tapping away on our iPads and laptops with our spellcheckers and predictive text working overtime, I wonder if when she began in the 1970’s she wrote on a manual typewriter with a dictionary and thesaurus to hand.

She was charming and very beautiful. I was star struck and developed a rather strange lisping stutter. I did however manage to ask her how disciplined she was about her writing. Ridiculous question of course, but surprising that I managed to utter any words given the sudden vocal constraints. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I told you she starts at five o’clock every morning and with only a short break at lunch, continues writing all day. Ahh! So yes, really rather disciplined.

So with this in mind, I have adjusted my daily schedule to, if not exactly rising at five, certainly by nine o’clock I am wrestling once again with my final editing. I’ve begun researching appropriate agents and pondering over query letters and all the while, thinking about beautiful Barbara and how hard she works, day in, day out despite being over 80. Quite an inspiration. I just wish I hadn’t have offered to find her a cab … of course she had her driver waiting for her downstairs … what a durr I am.

Katie xx

Is there anyone who really inspires you to write or work?

Rugby and Baking Bread …

When I was in England, I owned a bread maker. Cumbersome, bulky and noisy, it did however produce, with very little input from Yours Truly, a magnificent loaf.

Imagine for a moment if you will, the smooth, mellow smell of freshly baked bread drifting from room to room; Can you hear the blade of the knife cracking through the crust? Can you see the sharp crumbs exploding outwards before the knife finally reaches the air-filled soft pillow of bread lying within? And the silky butter glistening, sliding and melting into the billowing warmth until finally one’s salivating mouth can savour and devour the taste, the texture, the pure heaven of a simple slice of bread and butter?

From this, I trust you have deduced that I love bread.

With delights and joy such as this, is hardly surprising 12 million loaves are sold every day and that entire books have been written about baking a loaf of bread. And yet, since living here in New York, I have tasted only one good loaf and it cost just shy of 7 dollars. “7 dollars?!” I hear you screech … yes. It used to make me screech too, now I just whimper and close my eyes as I painfully hand over a ten dollar bill. Don’t even bother work out how much that it in pounds. It’s simply, a lot. There is cheaper bread, but it is grim, partly due to the excessive sugar content. So, because I am essentially tight, I bought an american bread maker, flour and yeast, and for the next consecutive ten days I made a loaf of bread. Surely in the long run, this would be more cost effective? Apparently not. Ten days, ten disasters.

Dropping a loaf of bread with the consistency and weight of a London brick makes quite a noise as it travels at speed down 49 floors in a refuse chute. The crashes, rattles and hollow echoes boom way their way down to the basement. Another disappointment. Another bread-making disaster.

The Colonel raises an eyebrow at the latest effort, a twitch of a smile faintly teasing at his lips. “No toast for breakfast then?” He tentatively asks, looking at the gnarled solid body of inedible, semi-cooked flour in my hands. I harrumph and turn to go to the refuse chute at the end of the corridor once more.

“I could use this thing to sodding knock you out,” I mutter, clutching my loaf.

“And half of Manhattan,” he snorts with laughter.

On his return from a trip to London, he brings me presents. Amongst the other more romantic trinkets, there is a kilogram bag of strong bread flour and some yeast. He is nothing if not eternally hopeful and practical. The flour is Canadian, the yeast British. I try again.

Loaf number eleven I could smell as I woke. I don’t do jumping out of bed for fear of dislocating something, but this morning was the exception. A little jump and consequently having to limp to the kitchen, I peered through the viewing window of the bread maker. Dear God it worked! Hallelujah!

It is not perfection, but with a little help from Britain and Canada, I have made my first half decent loaf of bread. The Colonel and my son are still asleep having been up all hours watching some rugby which apparently was quite important. They have since gone back to their respective beds looking dour.

I wonder if the prospect of bacon sarnies for breakfast will raise the mood. One minor issue if I’m having to import flour and yeast, I suspect my loaf of bread is probably going to cost significantly more than 7 dollars …. hmmm. Might need to have a re-think.

Katie x

Food Shopping – Oh The Joy!

We live in an apartment. It’s an apartment in Manhattan with one of those downstairs reception hall places with people in uniforms who sit behind a big modern desk with lots of telephones and say, “Have a nice day” each and every time you pass them. That’s a lot of “Have a nice days”. They also give me a spare key every time I forget mine and call me to ask if I need the fire department when I set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Its a bit posh for me, but they’re lovely and we understand each other.

Yesterday I made the unfortunate decision to go to Costco to do some food shopping. Now, just to be clear, I obviously have aspirations to be a Waitrose or Wholefoods kind of ‘gal but I believe that I must have some Scottish ancestry which makes me … shall we say, ‘careful with money’. Therefore Costco is my weekly shop.

I had forgotten that at weekends however the trains often have delays because this is when maintenance work is done. I had also forgotten that if it looks like it’s merely drizzling from the apartment windows, it is actually gale force one zillion with horizontal rain once you step outside.

Being Autumn, I had worn my ‘Glasgow’ coat which the Colonel bought me on a posting to Scotland a couple of years ago. My lovely coat with its fleecy lining reaches mid-thigh, and has a hood with soft fluffy bits that frame one’s face. It is supposed to be completely waterproof. I now know that it is not.

I sat in a puddle on the train squeezing ineffectively the drenched sleeves whilst listening to my Audible book “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody and muttered in French every few seconds the response to his questions. I can now say, “I am afraid of flying, so am planning to take the Eurostar”. I know for a fact this sentence will never be useful to me, but perhaps the next chapter will be more relevant.

By the time I had walked from the subway station and arrived at Costco I was wet from my forehead to my knickers and from my knickers to my squelching sodden shoes. My neatly written shopping list had turned to papier-mâché in my pocket and the quirky turquoise ink that I like to use had transferred, not only onto my right hand, but clearly I had been touching or wiping my face rather a lot too. In fact, the only part of me which was dry was the back of my head, and as for the soft fluffy hood delicately framing my face? I looked like I was draped in a collection of small drowned rats’ tails.

Having squelched and shuffled my way round Costco, it took an hour and a half to get from the checkout queue back to my apartment. And, as I walked into the reception hallway, three wide pairs of eyes looked at me from behind the desk.

“Don’t say it!” I said through gritted teeth. “It’s not a good day.”

They looked sympathetically up and down at me, tutting and shaking their heads. Then they nodded, looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Ma’am, have a better day!” and roared with laughter. Bollocks to the lot of them.

As for the “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody, by the time I had gotten home and onto the next chapter, I could say, “I was about to book a taxi when you called me”.

As I’m too tight to get a taxi, I don’t see that this is ever going to be relevant either … although perhaps it would have saved me the delayed trains, the soaking knickers and the turquoise face … as for my Glasgow coat … I don’t believe the fluffy bits will ever look the same.

Katie x

Ps. Before you ask what the relevance of the picture is, there isn’t any, it just made me feel wonderful simply looking at it!

Are You A Howler?

I saw a picture of Kate Middleton in the news yesterday. She was crying. Well, in truth it was more of a dainty weep (and about what, I know not, but that is not the point …. what a lot of what-nots. Forgive me – I digress).

She had a delicate trickle from one eye which required nothing more than a gentle dab with a lacy handkerchief. I wanted to stroke her hand and sing soothing words, but given that she is on the other side of the world and I am a complete stranger to her, I suspect I would probably be arrested even if I could travel across continents in seconds and climb into her bullet/mad-woman-proofed Range Rover.

My point is this: Yes, her weeping brought out the mother in my soul and I wanted to comfort her, but most importantly, it was all so darn feminine and pretty.

I think I could learn something from her.

When I cry, I am a howler. I dribble unattractively, I snort, snuffle and cough. I wail loudly with much flailing of arms. Salty hoses open with full force from my pink puffy eyes and even pinker nose. I look like a small pig with serious issues and an allergy.

I am under no illusions that it is not a pretty look. People will cross roads to avoid me. The Colonel has a tendency to look baffled, bewildered and faintly scared. With good reason I suppose. Thankfully, it tends to be fairly short lived, the end result being a blotchy face with mascara smeared like a panda around my eyes and black streaks down my cheeks; the occasional sniff, an apologetic grin and it’s all over. The relief on the Colonel’s face is rather endearing.

Thankfully this is a rare event. Indeed I’d say it’s only happened twice this year. But boy does it feel good! A hearty old blub and the world is a better place. A release of pent-up frustration and whoosh it’s all over. I could start on making comparisons to orgasms, but I think that might open a can of worms and I like to keep my posts tasteful and decorous … mostly.

Suffice to say, I am curious …

When did you last cry?

Are you a howler or a weeper?

Did you feel better afterwards?

Katie xx

Ps If there are any men reading this, I’d really, really like to know.

Mental Health and Selfies …

I don’t follow the Kardashians, or their voluptuous bottoms.

I think I might quite like a derrière like theirs, but I wouldn’t want surgery, and if I had to do those squat exercises … Well, nope. I’d squat down once and my knackered old knees wouldn’t allow me to stand back up again. Indeed, I think I’m beyond a pert bottom. Besides, if my arse was that curvaceous, without a cut-out hole in my mattress, I wouldn’t be able to sleep on my back at night.

But enough of the Kardashian’s, let me ask you about selfies: the pouting, the posing, the need for attention and adoration culminating in the form of a love-heart-shaped ‘like’ … Is this slightly odd behaviour? In the old days it would have been called vanity, now it’s just, well, normal. What do you think?

Of course, looks fade. One day we will all be old; what was once plump and taut will soften and droop; our paper-thin skin will crease and wrinkle and ’tis a brave soul who will want to flaunt it then. So perhaps the young should embrace their beauty and youth and put it on display to all and sundry because all too soon those days are over. Perhaps.

But shouldn’t we instead of following those simply with outward beauty, start positively celebrating those who have worked hard and achieved big? Those who have struggled and conquered? Those who have their beauty within?

Or perhaps we should stop looking over the garden fence altogether at the apparently greener grass, and start watering our own instead. Or maybe, I should just start trying those squats …

Food for thought? …

Katie x

Joining a Book Club

It has finally happened. I have conceded. I have joined the ladies-who-lunch brigade and have been accepted into what is, by all accounts, a rather smart book club on 5th Avenue.

What was I thinking? I have yielded to my vanity!

This is not an opportunity for a bit of Joanna Trollope and a girly natter over chocolate biscuits squeezed into someone’s cosy flat. No. This book club is for grown ups. Smart women with multiple degrees, serious careers and a penchant for reading Virginia Woolf. Shall I be caught out on day one as an imposter and fraud who loves the merry romp of a Jilly Cooper rather than anything marginally, even fractionally heavier? Quite possibly.

Well, I shall just have to stop ruminating and clutching madly at my hair with tremulous hands and go to the bookshop. I have to purchase not just one, but two books which need to be read within 3 weeks. I’ve made my bed and now I shall lie in it, with the books no doubt.

Just a teensy thought, I wonder what one wears to a book club meeting on Fifth Avenue? Hmm … my book shopping might need to include some clothes shopping …

Think I’m going to nail this!

Katie x

Any experiences of book clubs?? Help me please!

Finishing The Book …

Writing.

Editing.

Rewriting.

And repeat …

If we were to travel back thirty years, I would have been daily banging my fingers on the typewriter keys making a click, clickety click as the type bars struck the inky ribbon and left their imprint of blackened letters onto a white sheet of paper. And when the words in my mind refused to flow, I could rip the sheet of paper out with a forceful and resounding whoosh of the roller, scrunch it up between my hands with fury and hurl it into the waste paper basket across the room.

In today’s modern computer-abundant world, just holding down the delete key doesn’t give that same painfully exquisite release of frustration. It’s a shame really. Of course I could simply throw the iPad at the window or indeed the nearest person, but somehow the repercussions of that would most likely not be proportional to my momentary frustration.

So, I continue to write, edit, rewrite and drive myself mad with trying to create something that is, in my mind, not perfection, but the very best I can do. After all, isn’t that what we should do … our very best?

Katie x

Any tips or suggesstions for getting through over the last hurdle?