Sunday, 30 November 2014


All over the country, on hearing that P.D.James has died, people have been talking about her and I'll bet that not one of them had anything negative to say about her.
I can't claim to have known her but I did meet her. I think it was 1980. She was sixty and I was almost thirty. I don't even remember the conference. I used to go to a lot of conferences those days. I had had nothing published but a couple of short stories and I was so excited about the idea of being a writer.
She was standing behind me in the lunch queue and I had no idea who she was. I'm hopeless, I never know who anybody is and we started chatting. I think it was that afternoon that she gave her talk about her new book, Innocent Blood. (I was so impressed that I went home and put a murder into the romance I was writing.)
I think it was the following morning. I was up early. I was always an early morning person and I went into the dining room and there she was, waving at me as though we were good friends, sitting me down beside her to have breakfast. At first I was so over awed I didn't know what to say but she could handle all that. I think her daughters were probably about my age at the time and I love talking to people about my own daughter's age so perhaps she was the same. I had the loveliest breakfast. We were joined by some bloke who was running the Society of Authors. I don't remember much about him either, other than he was very nice and wearing a lovely suit!
After that I saw her occasionally on television. I remember a year or so back she'd been asked to one of these review programmes where people tear apart theatre and books and such. It was a circle and she was the last to speak. It was about a musical and they had really gone for it. I hate musicals and probably would have done the same, but not P.D.James. She said that she thought it had been absolutely delightful and she beamed around at them.
We were to have lots in common. I'm not rich and famous and never was half the writer that she was but we both had tragedy in our lives. Her husband, a doctor, went to war and came back broken and when he died after a dreadful time, the authorities would not give her a pension and she was obliged to work very hard in order to bring up her two young daughters.
My husband died when my daughter was seven.
Tragedy puts steel into you. Yes, she was a great writer and a lovely woman but by God she knew how to get what she wanted, she was a fighter She never married again. Neither have I.
The last time I saw her in person was when she came to Durham Cathedral to speak about her work.  The place was packed and she came in on the arm of the great Ian Rankin, a tiny frail figure at his side and they wowed the audience together. Two of the greats in my favourite genre. They have both made it their own in different ways. There she was, giving it rock all, as she alway did.
She had great faith. Rest in Peace, wonderful inspiring person and thank you for the memories.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Hermit Crab Goes on Holiday

When I go away from home I usually have my daughter to light the way so when I decided to spend a week at a holiday cottage to write I was not prepared to be this strange person who takes her own tea towels.
Tired and with an upset stomach ( stress takes me that way ) I arrived in pouring rain to find my cottage cold and confusing. I had to work out the heating, the hot water, Sky television, the Kindle internet, phone internet, where I had put my toothbrush and whether to throw out the prepared beef stew which for some reason was four days old by then.  NASA rockets have been launched with less kerfuffle.
It's fifteen years since I stayed in a cottage and I had Timmy my spaniel with me then. I walked him on the glorious Northumbrian beaches at least twice a day. At the moment I have pain from arthritis in both knees so walking is more of a nice idea than an actual event.
When I was a small child my family had a static caravan at Hauxley Bay. As I began to grow up I found the place boring and longed for excitement.
Northumberland is full of memories for me, best of all being the year when I took my daughter to Lindisfarne. The bedroom was where the boats kept their sails and I can remember the night when I opened the window and held her so that she didn't fall so that she could see the moon across the grounds of the monastery.
The best part of my week this time was spent sitting on the balcony gazing out at a blood red moon on Remembrance Sunday but I need new places and to make new memories. The past is all very well but the future holds the fun.And I don't need to go anywhere to write, I do it here in the evenings with dinner and wine in my little back room which overlooks the garden. Goodbye, Hermit Crab, I'm off to Miami next year, to try to see dolphins in the bay beyond my boutique hotel. I have bought lovely full length dresses to wear in the evenings. Luxury is my way forward, making my own casseroles is over.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Face That Launched a Thousand Headlines

Dear God, here we go again. Renee Zellwegger or however you spell it,managed to get herself on to the main six o'clock news yesterday all because she has altered her face Apparently people care whether she did it with the help of a surgeon and others are concerned that she felt pressured to do so.

More to the point I can remember one actress saying that she had spent the whole day under Mel Gibson while they kept on shooting and shooting one particular scene and all the shots were of him. Oh yes, a glamorous life. Being an actress, like most other jobs, is tedious. The bottom line being that one hopefully occasionally gets paid for it. Rather like writing really. Gritted teeth and unpaid bills. Lonely. At least as writers we spent most of our lives not being looked at.

Why do top actors have to look beautiful?  Why can't they just look like people? I blame Hollywood. I watched the original version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and guess what?  No beautiful people. It was so much more honest than the American version which I thought was dreadful. All blue eyed gazes and love scenes which were more Enid Blyton than Masters of Sex. Why is Hollywood so coy and yet needs beauty all over the damned place? I'm tired of it.

Luckily I was brought up to believe that you are what you are and whatever you are in every respect is damned well good enough. I would never have made an actress. Sometimes I hate being at home and working but I can waffle around the garden in my pyjamas, water the plants in my dressing gown and watch afternoon tv. At the moment I'm researching shepherds so I watch - fittingly enough - Escape to the country. Very funny. All these women who don't know how to use an Aga. Come out the way, woman, I can cook a dinner on twigs.

In the meanwhile for God's sake leave poor old Renee and the other actresses alone. They have enough to worry about.
Now I have my pyjamas on and the fire and it is just time for a nice glass of fizzy. Oh the joys of being a writer.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A Man ( or woman ) by any other name

Fiction is a strange thing. Whoever can look at a Jane and not thing of that wonderful grey figure in Jane Eyre? I cannot think of the name Barbara without thinking of the person as fat even though the two Barbaras I know are very slender. Names evoke character. I cannot envisage Bob as anything more than a dog with silky ears whereas several of the men in my books have managed the name Rob with no trouble.

My men are not heroes. I hate the very word. There is no such thing. Some of them have evil qualities but I try to keep them human or I feel as though I have failed the reader. Most of them are decent, and to me that's the most important quality of all.

There are fashions in names. In my latest book, the Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton, which is set just after the Great War, the two main female characters are called  Gemma and Lucy and as somebody pointed out these are not the sort of names which women used at that time. Well, tough. They suit the sisters and I like them. Sometimes you have to get past the obvious even in history. You expect your reader to overcome disbelief and slide willingly into your story. Otherwise she should be reading something else.

My favourite man in a book is not the psychotic Heathcliff, the arrogant Mr Darcy or the bully Rochester but a slight unassuming figure, Freddie, the main man in Cotillion by Georgette Heyer.

Freddie is not clever and not handsome, he is not tall. He is rich, I have to say and I did wonder rather whether Miss Heyer took her character partly from the bumbling Bertie Wooster, my favourite man apart from Freddie in fiction.  I have this dream that one day I will be twenty and beautiful and will marry Bertie Wooster and spend the rest of my life dancing late at smoky dark clubs, drinking champagne and being looked after by the inimitable Jeeves.

I will wear gossamer dresses and drive sports cars, write stories for Aunt Dahlia's My Lady's Boudoir and be unfailingly polite to the horrifying Aunt Agatha. I will of course be kind to Bertie's uncle who looks after the Wooster millions. We can sit by his study fire and talk of books My background would be perfect and so high in society that my family can talk of nothing but matters that don't matter.

I sometimes think that mothers burden their sons with special names so that no clutching female will come along and skin of them of their cash, as Bertie would say.  Cecil is not the kind of name where he would nick off from wife Ann for a floozie named Posy.

My mother obviously didn't think when she named me Elizabeth Rosemary. Many is the time I have signed my name Elizabeth R and heard titters.

Quentin only in Enid Blyton, same for Julian and Dick and even George.

My favourite name of all time is Harry. There's something sweet and yet wild about Harry, I can see him now sitting in the dark corner in a pub. He's just come back from war, the woman he adored has married another man and he is brooding, drinking a lot. He will never forgive her but he desperately wants her back.

And if you doubt me this is part of the story of one of my books, Swan Island. There is no hero in this book, just two decent men doing their best after the hell of a war where everybody lost someone. It's also my mother's story. The man who loved her went away, I think to Burma during World War Two, to fight. Her first husband had died, ( that's in my story, though differently ) and thinking she had lost her second love to the war, she married my father and then Harry came back. The other man in the story is called David Black and like my father is a decent upright hard working rather clever man and Ella loves him so what is she to do?

My mother used to tell the story so well, of how my father had taken her to a dinner dance at some lovely hall in Darlington and she saw the man she had loved and promised to marry walking across the dance floor toward her. There she is beautiful, black haired and blue eyed and pale skinned in the Irish way that she had, wearing a silver and peacock coloured dress, wondering why fate is doing such a thing to her.

My mother was called Bertha Ann but she was always known as Pat because her father saw her in the cradle and said 'What a little Pat. '  Irish to the core and a borders lass too. There you go, you see. A  rose by any other name, my lovely lovely mother.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Oh bugger, it's a stick!

In the past year I have had to have reading glasses and hearing aids but doing my knee in last week was the final straw!  The doctor suggested a stick since he wasn't sure whether it was arthritis or a torn muscle. Possibly both, he said cheerfully.
I therefore - I was going to say 'dashed off'.  Unfortunately not. I hobbled to the indoor market with a friend who knew how to use a stick. Isn't that what friends are for?  To experience things before you?  The man in the market was very helpful and now I am the proud owner of one of those sticks which you can fold up and put into your handbag.
Stick walking is an art form and requires remembering which foot to put in front. Pain helps of course.
But there are a lot of limits. I can no longer go to my favourite lunch restaurant because the loos are upstairs and I hope to God this doesn't last over the spring because my favourite dinner restaurant is by the river, The Cellar Door and by hell, it requires people who can get down at least fifty steps before they get to the river. I have sat there in rain, in sunset and in shine and I'm damned if I'm going to give it up.
I can't walk into town and especially not back, Durham, like Rome, being built on seven hills.
You melt into the background when you have a stick. Some people don't see you and trying walking over you. This is why older people are grumpy. I made other folk get out of the way. Tall young men are the worst, I think they just can't see me. I've lost an inch in height lately as well and believe me I didn't have it to lose. I will turn into a square me shortly.
In the meanwhile my daughter tells me I don't remember anything she says and have taken to putting things into the fridge which don't go in there. Now I know why people have bungalows, at least they don't have to back upstairs for everything that they have forgotten.
I shall take comfort in the fact that I do my work sitting down with my leg up though not above my heart at the doctor suggested. Even laptops have limits.
I am going to Prague next week. I cried down the phone at my daughter who is going with me but she said,
'I'll get you around Prague if we have to have a wheel chair.'  So if you happen to be in Prague next week I'm the woman in black waving a stick. I tell my friends I'm turning into John Steed from the Avengers who had an umbrella which became a weapon. Watch out, here I come!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

When I'm 64

I'm sixty four next month.  Yesterday for the first time ever a young man offered me his seat on the bus.Mind you there was a student on crutches on the bus last week and I offered him my seat. He was mortified.

Okay, so what have I learned?
God help us.

1 There are very few problems which money cannot sort out.

2. Nobody loves you more for being thin.

3. I hate cheap food and wine. I'd rather starve.

4. My chances of marrying Brad Pitt have gone down to nil. There's no point in asking for him for Christmas. I'll only be disappointed again.

5.Good champagne smells like sick and tastes like heaven.

6.Living alone is better than putting up with a moaner, a poor man or anybody who comes anywhere near my newspapers, my computer or my car. Or the remote control for the television.

7. You get what you pay for, like my Dad always said which is why Matfen Hall and Apple computers are the best.

8.Living in a small city like Durham is wonderful. Concerts, restaurants, a champagne bar, the Gala theatre. The student productions, the library, the cathedral, a lovely house with all the original fireplaces and stained glass windows and best of all friends.

9.I'm thankful for the countryside around me is wonderful. I love the Durham dales better than anywhere on earth and spend my summers there, watching the pheasants and the bunnies waffling around the fields.

10.God, I feel lucky to be here. I've survived widowhood, breast cancer, the loss of my job several times, being orphaned and hardest of all so many of my friends have died of accidents, cancer, heart disease and old age. I love my friends, here and in the past and think about them all the time.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Five Go to Tow Law

Driving back over the moors from Stanhope is a sea of bright purple bell heather which it always is in August. We are almost into September and only three weeks from the vote on Scottish independence. I can understand why the Scots might want to go. The thought of a permanent Tory government - which we would have if they left - makes me want to beg to them not to but it's  nothing to do with me because I'm not Scottish, officially that is.
I'm a borders lass. My family has lived here for hundreds of years on both sides, my mother's family have been lead miners and farmers, my father's family was in business of different kinds for as far back as I can see.
Borders people are really neither Scottish nor English. With a name like Gill I feel so much more Scottish than English. For me England begins where Yorkshire ends south of me and although I have slight affection for all of it my loyalties lie here where there is a deep connection.  I call Cumbria, the Lakes, the whole of Scotland, Northumberland and Durham as mine.
My friend, Joan, who was born in Edinburgh says that when she was 'a wee one' she read Enid Blyton books about middle class English children and felt left out. So did I.  Five have never gone to the pit village where I was brought up, not even in my imaginings.
So while I do see that many Scottish people want to leave the United Kingdom if they go I will feel deserted. I love Scotland so very much.  If it wasn't for the fact that I have several very good friends in Durham the moment that independence was declared I think I would want to run to Scotland. For choice I would go and live in Morar where the silver sands are. Some of the most wonderful times of my life were spent there, sitting in a little blue boat with my young husband and a tiny champagne coloured kitten called Thomas, fishing by moonlight, the flash of silver under the boat as the shoal moved. I left my heart there.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Robin Williams

Manic, that's what the BBC news said about him. That he had suffered from depression all his life and had fought with drugs and alcohol. It isn't a fight with drugs and alcohol, it's the fight about depression and already this morning in the Guardian a report about how people with depression are very often not helped.
Have you ever heard that expression that talks about how we all hear a different drum? Many people go at a different pace, some of them a lot faster than others. I saw a video clip of an interview with Robin Williams yesterday about golf. It was very funny, he was talking at ninety miles an hour and everybody who listened to it recognised the truth.
People who race cars and motorcycles, for them each second is split and split again until a second is a long long time. For somebody like Williams you just go and go and go. There you are out in the limelight and you love being there because that's where you feel best, you feel effective, you're brilliant and it's where you feel right but the trouble is that you have to go back to the speed where other people are. You're way past the winning post while they are still coming up the straight so you have to try and slow down and then you come down and down and down.  And you're exhausted, you're worn out mentally and physically and you can't  bear the coming down and that's why you need the drugs to keep you from spinning up and down endlessly.
Boredom is the result, boredom is at the top of depression. Despair is at the bottom. Boredom is terrifying and the beginning of the downward spiral where you can't bear company, or you get as far as Tesco and then you can't go in, not because you don't want anything but because you can't make a decision.
I didn't used to be depressed. I can remember when all I needed was to have my husband come home from work and my child from school and I could stop writing and come down just as far as I needed to because love was enough then. Depression can teach you that nothing is enough and then you panic. I don't go out in the evenings very often unless it's to something formalised because I can feel myself thinking 'what the hell am I doing here?'
 It's not other people, it's me, I'm bored. I can't sit there because I feel like screaming. I can do it with wine, I can do it with concert music and with a decent play but even in the middle of all that if it's a live performance and I don't sit on the end of the row with the exit in sight I have horrible panic attacks where I can't breathe. I choke and cough and sweat.
My evenings have to be all absorbing otherwise people suffer because I complain and I become cynical and I witter on about stuff they aren't interested in. My close friends call it 'Liz ranting'. At that point I will do anything for a decent argument, for a decent discussion about something which is important to me while other people talk about normal everyday things. I just want to get out and go home.
I can remember hearing about Mozart and how his wife read to him when he composed and I feel that he needed the gap filling so that he would not give up. It amazed me that even he could have his concentration shot because there wasn't enough going on.
We all do it. We say 'if you work you can have wine, tea, coffee, whatever the hell'. I read, watch television, do crosswords all together, I can't just sit there. Very irritating for other people. What a complete pain depression is for all of us.
I understand what Robin Willliams felt. In a very small way I'm the same when I'm giving talks. I get myself on to a tremendous high, I love making people laugh, I adore being the centre of attention and then I come home and I drink wine because I can't stand the coming down, the aftermath.When the audience has gone home, when the book is finished, when the race is over what do you do?  You fill that bloody great big hole inside you with chocolate, with wine, with cigarettes or whatever makes you feel better.
Robin Williams brought a tremendous amount of pleasure and laughter to a great many people and God knows they are grateful to him but the price of such lives is huge. And it's the loneliness and despair of depression that kills you.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Why Can't The English ( or anybody else for that matter ) teach their children how to speak?

If I have to listen to another sports person say 'you know' I may throw up! When their parents and teachers are going to such trouble to make them accomplished tennis players or - I was going to say football players but maybe we shouldn't go there - or any other accomplishment which may involve speaking to other people, either millions or one, can they not teach them communication, other than by bloody phones? I would give the poor little buggers elocution lessons. Oh God, that sounds posh.
We must teach our children how to talk to one another, how to get up and speak in front of others, how to breathe.
I had a teacher once who made us stand up one by one and speak on a given subject, a bit like that Programme on Radio 4 and every time we said 'like' or 'you know' the rest of the class would raise their hands.
And please, mostly women, do stop talking down to your lap and try to project without shrieking.
I blame the BBC.  Even somebody as articulate as Roger Federer must be fed up by now of those dreadful interviews after every match he wins. What can you say other than 'I won because I played better than the other guy' or 'I lost because the other guy played better than me.'
And God help us, the interviews on television after they have been given trophies. Please, don't do it to them or to me. It's cringe making!!
If you can't be John McEnroe, who seems to communicate at the same level as his tennis when he was at his best, please folks just shut up and get on with it.
And since we are on the subject, no matter how intelligent people are they keep saying 'you and I.' God Almighty. It's 'you and me.' I has no business at the end like that!!!!  Grrr.
Now I shall take my pedantic self off because I am in danger of turning into the woman who wrote Eats, Shoots and Leaves or however it is. I hate a pedant most of all so I shall go and have lunch and try to remember that I'm not so good myself.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Cafes for Deaf People in Durham Marks out of Ten

Cellar Door   11   Mostly because we sit outside. Fantastic staff, food and wine.

Ask  8  Because there is a great deal of space between the tables but make sure you sit facing the wall, I think it helps.

Palace Green cafe.  7  I think the height of the ceiling detracts from the experience but they do brilliant cake.

Oldfields  6  I find it very noisy.

Chiquitos   Lovely and 8  the banquettes help

The Fat Buddha  I love this place dearly but on a Saturday night it's very busy of course because the food is wonderful but the floors make the noise bang up at you.  7

The Undercroft at the Cathedral.   5     Very difficult.

The Cloisters at the Cathedral   11   I've only ever had pink fizzy there and it was bliss!

The Garden House   10 Lots of room and on a cold day you get open fires!!

Vennels 5  Because they're so busy!!  Great food though.  If you sit outside surrounded by other people you  might as well stay at home if you're deaf.

Starbucks   The County   9  Because you can go into the lounges in the hotel and be quiet and private

Starbucks at  Framwellgate Bridge   4    Hell on earth if you can't hear.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What's this Ear?

I had hearing aids fitted for the first time yesterday. They itch like mad!  Now I can't help looking into other people's ears to see if they have this in common with me. I'm still not sure whether I am deaf, I imagine I am deaf or both. Very difficult. I do tend to imagine I'm ill, all part of having been depressed, so very often I think I'm dying. I do injure up the most amazing symptoms. One of the first as I began to go into depression was flashing lights. Oh my God, first it was to be a brain tumour, then it was my eyes, then it was migraine. I wore dark glasses and looked most ungorgeous in them but the personal firework display was incredible. Sometimes even five years later I can have the odd flashing light but since I know it isn't real it has rather lost its sparkle.
The itching of the ears stops when I can think of anything else but distraction is difficult when you live by yourself and are supposed to write. Are things louder?  Well, I'm rather hoping that when I do go somewhere crowded I will be able to overhear fascinating conversations. So far all I've got to prove anything is that I had to turn down the volume on Alexander and Richard during Pointless. Pointless is my favourite programme, I don't know why, I can never answer any questions, I think it's the time of day, tea time literally and put your feet up Liz and now that I can turn down the volume I feel quite proud of myself though when I go to bed life is quite complicated.
First I have to take off my glasses and clean them, then I have to unstick my breast prosthesis and scrub it for the next day and now I have to clean my hearing aids and box them safely. Apparently when you get used to them you forget to take them out and end up with crunching noises in the shower and that sinking feeling that goes with having to let them dry out.
Which piece of my body is going to give up next?  It could be my puffy ankles.I had such good ankles too, I do regret them. My waist is gone and since I tend to have fish and chips regularly it's not going to get any better so I can safely give away all the gorgeous frocks which are too small.
I have a bought a lovely full length silver skirt from M&S.  Also I have bought ( and put together, aren't you proud of me?) a shoe rack which dominates the hall. All my sparkly silver, gold and white shoes sit there as if I was off to a party or to Majorca at any moment. They catch the sunlight which comes in from either side of the door.
Last year I bought a full length black velvet gown in case I decide to afford the opera in Milan. You never know.
I have size 2 ears, I always thought they were rather big but perhaps I'm related to a rabbit or some kind of hound. One of the reasons I have hair which comes over them! The hearing aids cannot be seen.Perhaps people will be grateful when I stop saying  'What?' but will I still have an excuse not to go to some things for which I keep saying ,'it's no use, I can't hear'. What if I can hear?  I shall have to buy a dog or a cat or a frail husband who can't be left alone for more than an hour. Mind you with puffy ankles I can't stand around for long. I need seats at bars and in good restaurants and at the opera and the ballet and the theatre. Sitting down is me and I have always had a large bottom so at least that hasn't changed, at least I think not.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

I Practised When Everybody else had gone Home.

I was sad today to read of the criticism of the body shape of a leading opera star, Irish Mezza soprano, Tara Erraught, at Glyndebourne festival opera, Der Rosenkavalier. She is principal soloist in the Bavarian State Opera and made her UK stage debut at the festival on Saturday. She is highly regarded but has been talked about in leading newspapers disparagingly because of her appearance. It makes me want to weep.
In a way this is a direct follow up to the post I did a few days ago. It doesn't matter how talented you are or how hard you work, to the world you are what you look like when you are a woman and there is no way round it.
I read about this matter in the Guardian. It didn't say whether the critics were men or women and I suppose really it doesn't matter. Yes, it does. Women putting down women?  I thought we got past that when we stopped competing for men's incomes, when we had more options, when we grasped education and choice and independence and we want it for daughters, by God we do. And men putting down women?  I'm bored with it and with them and with anyone who behaves in such an ungenerous manner and I'm sorry for them, for being stupid and small minded and for voicing their opinions in supposedly decent newspapers. What the hell were they thinking about?  Don't we have editors any more or decent sub editors?
I love opera. I wish I had been there. I wish I could have heard her sublime voice. Apparently the role was very difficult and she did it very well. I just hope to God she doesn't give a shit what people think, that she goes forward with her exceptional talent and delights audiences all over the world and I hope that some time I get to hear her sing because there is nothing more sublime than opera well done.
I suppose there is another way to look at it. When people put me down because of who I am I always think it's because they aren't happy themselves and when you are in the arts, it doesn't matter how, there are a lot of people out there who have given up their dreams, sometimes because they didn't have the talent, but more often because they didn't want it enough. As Shirley Temple used to say, 'I practised when everyone else had gone home.'
They didn't try as hard as you. By God I tried.
I remember after my husband died some people complained that I could afford a decent house but we had built our dream house. I had to leave it, it was one of the hardest  things I've ever done and after that a lot of men seemed to think that I wasn't entitled to a nice house because I was young and a widow but we worked for that house, we grafted, we lived in a caravan for two years, we put up with all kinds of problems and discomforts. I had to give it up after he died, as I had to give up a lot of other things but do you know what?
I live in a lovely house with stained glass windows and tiny original fireplaces in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. We worked and I still work and I graft and I am entitled to my place in the world and so is every woman and so is every man and every child.
So I just hope that  this wonderful opera singer knows these people are jealous of her and that she goes on singing and singing because that is what you do with talent, you get off your arse and you work. And then you win. By God, do you win! There is no feeling on earth like the euphoria of doing your best and knowing how good you are and this woman, she is among the best ever. I don't know her but I'm damned proud of her.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Abortion - not in Texas and not in Northern Ireland

I read the recent ruling that women from Northern Ireland will not be allowed to come to England to have abortions. And I know from friends who live there that abortions are not legal any more in Texas and that there are very few women doctors.
Then we have the two hundred abducted schoolgirls and on and on and on. Germaine Greer famously said that women have no idea how much men hate them.
I read something yesterday that women now have a saying  'You can't live with men … oh, well, there it ends.'
No wonder really. The married women's property act is not so very old. It makes me tired to think how badly women have been treated by men always.
Yesterday on Radio 4 - I can't remember the woman's name, forgive me, I was hurtling up the M6 at the time - anyway, she decided to get married and only then saw that her father's name and profession would be on the marriage certificate and not her mother's. So if she can change this she will marry her boyfriend.
And it occurred to me that I still don't understand why women marry now. If I was young now or asked to marry I would refuse. There is no benefit in marriage for women. Why bother?  You give up your freedom, you end up looking for your husband's socks, he has stupid hobbies like watching football or cleaning out his pigeon cree - no, actually I like pigeons so I would probably be up there with him, waiting for my favourite pigeon to come back from wherever he'd gone to. Dear God.
My mother put three hot meals on the table every single day. She washed floors at ten o'clock at night and this was a woman who 'married well'. Dear God, meals and bloody floors. She had to marry well, she had no option, she lived in a backwater, she had no qualifications. She was very good looking.
Would she marry now?  I don't think she would. I think she would have the poultry farm she always longed for, no honestly she did and not spend her life bringing up her feckless children and putting plain food on the table because her husband did not like anything else.
She had no money to call her own for thirty years. At best we are loved, at worst we are taken for granted and that's here, not in some dreadful place where we can't show our faces.
I think that the only way for women to live now is to have their financial independence, to decide what they will and will not do. And please, let's be honest, all those gorgeous little people, they grow up into obnoxious adults and make you wonder why you bothered.
So I haven't put the argument well or if at all here. The only thing I know is that nothing would induce me to live in Northern Ireland - where one politician said 'we look after our women here' - excuse me while I throw up, or Texas where apparently the state does not allow women say over their own bodies.Women are adults, they are as intelligent as men and there is very little they cannot do but for some reason even though you can now kill other people in the armed forces there are lots of places where you are not allowed the freedom of your own mind and that is always inexcusable.
So remember girls you need education and a job first and always because if you have your own bank account the world is yours.

Monday, 5 May 2014


I was up at my caravan last week so by Thursday - it poured with rain, every time I pack the caravan up it rains - so I came home. I didn't realise that it was a bank holiday weekend until it was upon me. This is one of the reasons I so hate this time of year. All those damned bank holidays. Holidays of all kinds, when you live alone, are hell and those long weekends defeat me. As it was the weather was lovely most of the time but I couldn't bring myself to sort things out again and go to Weardale.
I know that for a lot of people bank holidays are wonderful but to me it's just grit my teeth and wait until things get back to normal. Thank God it's Tuesday tomorrow.
The one bright spark was that I went to see Tarzan. Not that I enjoyed it. It was full of those dreadful cliches. Tarzan and big and had a gorgeous body and dark eyes and black hair and  Jane was tiny and blonde and he kept having to rescue her. Thank God nobody really expects to be rescued.
Also there was a fat kid who was dumb and a bespectacled man who was pathetic so in this movie you had to be slender and gorgeous to be intelligent. Dear Lord, whatever next. All those ghastly stereotypes. Give me children's movies any day, they are mostly fearless, brave, sending brilliant messages to our children.
Never mind, we did go to Zizzi's afterwards and I had a pizza and lots of red wine and lots of chat with friends and that was lovely.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A boy or a girl?

Gender is a very strange thing. I didn't think of it until I went to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake last week when it visited the Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne.  I love the Theatre Royal even though its seats are only big enough for medium sized children. What were they thinking?  I know numbers matter but when you have to take in your breath as you pass the people who managed to avoid the bar and took their seats earlier it makes me wonder how any man ever gets there. Now that's an important gender matter.
People have called it  'the gay Swan Lake'. Dear God, how absolutely bloody stupid. Yes, men play swans but last time I looked there were as many male swans as female swans and besides, it's just plain daft.
The whole thing is enough to turn Tchaikovsky in his grave. For God's sake. It's about a poor young bloke, like a whole load of other unfortunate royals who have to do the right thing, is suffocating, he longs for a different life and when the swan tries to rescue him they die because they can't help one another. It doesn't matter who is a man and who is a woman, all the best stories are about people trying to live decently and to help people, struggling for survival as best they can. People love people and they die and they lose one another.
One of my daughter's dearest friends is soon to have a child and we went looking for baby clothes. They don't want to know whether it's a boy or a girl but we were besieged in every shop we went to by blue for boys and pink for girls. Is it just me or is this completely asinine?  It's like going into toy shops and having boys' toys and girls' toys. The whole thing makes me want to spit. Why?
Must we go on and on like this endlessly? Must we tear ourselves apart being a woman or a man first rather than just being people?  Who says it has to be that way?  Well, I say, it doesn't.
My daughter was very embarrassed because I have a loud voice and said all these things in the shops but really I am very tired of the whole thing.
So if you do want me to buy baby clothes - all those shops who stick to pink and blue -  they will have to be red and white and black and orange and whole rainbows of colours because it doesn't matter whether you are a boy or a girl, with luck your parents will adore you and you will have the whole world in all its glory to grow up in and go and see Swan Lake in all its different interpretations. I hope so.
And thank you, Matthew Bourne, for the sheer brilliance of your beautiful version of a work of genius.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Game of Thrones

I always bring up the rear when it comes to reading. If George R R Martin had been waiting for me to make his fortune the poor bloke would have had a long wait. I know now why I didn't venture in. These books are so addictive that I'm ashamed to say I gulped down the first one in two days. I didn't do anything else, I sat there in my conservatory with my feet up and let him  open for me the bliss of another world. I promptly downloaded the following two books and am trying not to read them because they are such fun, all those breasts and long hair, all that hacking off of heads and best of all he does STRONG WOMEN. Oh my God, they don't get any stronger than Mr Martin's books.
And wow when you look at his profile, yes, he looks as though he had stepped right out of one, there he could be screaming over the moors on a horse. He has a merry face and a big white beard.  He has a Santa Claus look about him  and boy has he turned out to be Father Christmas for thousands of people and a good many actors too. Can there be any feeling in the world better than knowing you have books you are desperate to read?  It's such a warm fuzzy glow and reminds me of Jo out of Little Women going up the attic with an apple and curling up there to leave the difficulties of the real world and immerse herself in a good book.  Oh joy.  Thanks, George R R Martin and all the other writers who make my life so much more enjoyable.  Where would I be without you all?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Eat, drink and er …not so merry

Trying to cut down on the amount of wine I drink, which has had to be several oceans during the past ten years, I thought to myself,

'You know, Liz, if you could cut down it would help a lot. You don't smoke, you eat properly, on a good day you go for a walk, seven lots a day of fruit and veg is nowt to you so give it a go.
I do try to eat sensibly. I'm not very keen on fish. Like Bertie Wooster, to me fish is the course before meat and a course or two before cheese. I eat chicken because although I love red meat I am aware that too much of it is not meant to be good for you so I try.

The first day I had a sensible breakkie - fruit, nuts, seeds, yoghurt - I have that six days out of seven. I know I'm starting to sound smug now but hang on. On a bad day I do have a small glass of dry white wine for lunch but I didn't. I thought no, different food. I was very hungry by one o'clock, much more so than usual and in the space of the following hour I am ashamed to say that I dashed to Tesco, spent half an hour trying to decide which cake to buy as it had become something of a pilgrimage, picked up a big white loaf and a cake, dashed back with these, got home, grilled and ate an enormous bacon sandwich, demolished three cups of tea and two huge slices of lemon drizzle cake. Oh dear.

On the second day I tried even harder. I thought I'll make food. I used to be quite good at this. So if I make bread and a wonderful Elizabeth David soup that'll keep me busy for a couple of hours. I duly assembled the ingredients for making the bread, only to find that my flour was three years past its sell by date so no bread. I did make the soup but it all took a terrible amount of time and Come dine with Me - perhaps not the best programme to watch in the circumstances, all those people swigging wine and laughing - was on the television so I thought I've got some low what sit bubbly in the fridge and the fizz is going from it because it's been there almost three days, I'll just have half a glass before it goes off completely.

The soup took quite a while, it had to be  messed on with, lots of chopping and organising and only with the white part of the leek and then I had a job to find a decent onion - I tend to keep them too long and had to bin two of them. So washing leeks and peeling potatoes, finding the only clean pan, the rest were either in the dishwasher or in the sink, then realizing I needed the big frying pan, I had to wash that. I duly waited and prodded vegetables and 'melted' my sliced onion in butter and I watched Come dine with Me and I thought just a little more fizzy and eventually the soup had to be blended. Couldn't find the blender, so big search of the kitchen and there it was at the back of the last cupboard. I found its bowl you pour the soup into for blending. So I poured and then I blended. Some of the soup went over me and some of it went over my newly cleaned cooker top and some of it over my newly washed kitchen floor.

Then I put in the butter soaked onion because it had to cook for another ten minutes ( I obviously had a lot more time when I was young!!) and then I remembered it was meant to have boiling cream so yet another saucepan. I was by now on to my second glass of bubbly and I swigged it and laughed over the people in the kitchens on telly making a mess.I boiled the cream and poured it into the soup and then I found bread in the freezer and that took fine minutes to defrost and butter and then I sat down and then I thought well, there isn't much bubbly left I might as well have the rest so I did.
The soup was lovely. I imagine my cholesterol level shot through its own roof, the kitchen was a disaster area and I had to go to bed after two and a half glasses of bubbly.

Conclusion - a small glass of dry white wine, plus a few prawns, carrot sticks with low fat hummus, a small piece of cheese and a chocolate or two - often my mid day meal - is probably less harmful than two disastrous lunchtimes, a mucked up kitchen and me losing my afternoon to snoring.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Mothering Sunday

That's what it used to be called. It was the day when the servant girls got time off to go home to see their mothers. Now it has turned into a Retail Fest where the shops take money from our hot little hands from guilt. Move over, Valentine's Day, Easter Chocolate Bunnies and even wretched expensive Christmas. Why did such lovely festivals turn into such a travesty?
The trouble is that I can remember my mother being cross with us when we fussed and I didn't get it. Now that I am a mother I am angry at the shops and those who sell us this day as being the one day in the year when we regard our mothers as special.
My mother and I'm sure yours was always dear to me and I see now why she thought it was such a bad idea. None of my friends likes it. We want our children to know that we are aware they love us without flowers and chocolates. I adore my daughter and I know how much she loves me but even so, even though she is stressed in her life and at work and only gets one day off she was ready to belt up the M1 for the sake of a few hours with me. Perhaps these things are unexplainable. We have Guy Fawkes and Treat or Treat and even Baby Showers, and Stag and Hen does which last four days and cost a fortune and the Prom at school. Dear God. Let's blame America, they get blamed for most other things.
Here I must confess an interest. My book is promoted in Asda this week as a Mother's Day special priced at £2. Perhaps it's a case of if you can't beat them join them but I am going to drive my Fiat Panda, Pumphrey, down the M6 so that my daughter doesn't have to come to me and the money I spend on my journey will hopefully be paid for the books that sell on Mother's Day. Money makes the world go round or was that love?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Dad's Army

When I was a small child we had what we called The White Cupboard just outside our bathroom. It had in more snobby days been the linen cupboard but my family had stuffed this place with all the things they didn't want. It was to me at seven a treasure trove. It had shelves and I could stand on them and reach up to the top, I think at one time I even climbed into the top of the cupboard and there I discovered riches. My aunt's Queen Alexandra nursing uniform from when she was in Greece during the second world war. My dad's sergeant's uniform for what became the home guard.

On tv tonight was a fast talking Victoria Wood introducing a programme all about the making of Dad's Army. My dad was in the home guard because he was in a reserved occupation, making steel for the ships. When I was a little kid people were that damned glad to be alive they didn't talk about the war.

By the time Dad's Army was made thirty years ago war was a memory but I didn't realise that so many of the cast had been in the second world war and some of them had bitter memories of it. How lovely to be able to make comedy about such a hard thing, how intelligent, how superb. The writers of course had been through the war and it was their inspiration. War makes good copy. Victoria Wood didn't actually say that but a people in crisis is a good place for art and she also said very pertinently that writing about the past meant that it didn't date, so even now, thirty years on from the making and even though many of the cast has died there it is fresh and lovely. Isn't that what writers do best for us?  They make us laugh and cry about the hardest times of our lives?

Ian Lavender who played Pike said that people would shout across the road to him the week after the writers had coined their best phrases, 'Stupid boy!' and my own favourite which we still quote to one another 'Don't panic, Mr Mannering'.

I also like how when they went on location people knew the weather would be good and booked their holidays. There were shots of the cast and their wives. Wives were wives those days, sitting about, bringing cups of tea and what the cast really cared for was 'the cheque at the end of the week'. Isn't that what we all want, to do something which we think is fine and good and be paid for it?

Lately I have been watching Sherlock. I know, I know, everybody else saw it when it was on and knew it was brilliant but I write in the evenings and missed it. It has all the same characteristics as Dad's Army. It's witty and innovative and the best thing I have seen in years. The writers are fearless, obviously having such a good time and revelling in their talent. And it too is about war, good versus evil.  I liked best the episode of the Wedding. Wow, minds at large. The construction was so good I shall watch it again and again, just like I always watch Inspector Morse. Some things never die. And unlike old soldiers and thankfully for modern technology, they don't fade away.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A book is a book is a book.

Philip Pullman was on Radio 4 this morning being asked whether children were being encouraged to read 'serious' books. God, I hate that. Philip Pullman replied that it would have been a great help if we still had school library services and if other libraries were not closing and it makes me boil. Why does the government think children are getting fat and not reading? It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that the leisure centres and libraries are closed. Hello!
Philip Pullman is too nice to be rude, especially on Radio 4 so I'll be rude for him. Stop talking about 'serious' books. Children know what they want they want to read, what is right for them. Reading is supposed to be a pleasure.
The hardest thing about being a child is how powerless you feel. People spend your whole life telling you what to do. It's awful being a child, being shoved about while adults crap all over your life. For God's sake leave the the children alone, let them read what they want.
I can remember being eight and my teacher Miss Bainbridge reading us a Famous Five book. Wow. I thought this was the best story in the whole world and promptly read all of them and then the Secret Seven. There are no adults in these books. Enid Blyton knew her stuff. She got rid of them all at the beginning and best was that George had her own island. I wanted one.
I remember the little library in Tow Law which I joined when I was seven, tiny, so exciting, choosing for myself.
I remember discovering Winnie the Pooh. Has there ever been better dialogue?  And I had aunties and friends and they would buy me hard backed books. Nobody ever told me what I should read, they didn't check on me, I devoured book after book. On Saturdays, Min, who looked after me would take me on the bus to Bishop Auckland and we would buy books from the market and pens and  notebooks from Woolworth's. Reading was and is always for me escape from the awful things that life throws at me. Books are for  whatever you want. That's you, the reader, whatever age you are.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz

Well, not quite but I do have a mat of crocuses - you can't call it a carpet because apparently I have mice in my garden and according to Howard, they were hungry and ate my crocuses. Did they have shovels, since the crocuses had been nicely covered with soil and turf ?  So here and there a nice little batch of yellow, white and purple and in other places nothing. Crocus bulbs. I wonder if it's anything like onions? So now I probably have mice with bad breath in the back.
Better than rats. We did have a rat at one point when the new school buildings were in construction across the way. I don't know whether the builders or the children left food around but one took to sitting on my patio like it had stopped at the drive in at Mcdonald's.
And one night there I was eating dinner and drinking Shiraz and writing on my lap top in my little garden room and eager eyes gazed at me from the double glass doors. It was a fox. I think it was badly hurt, perhaps it had been run over. When I opened the door it retreated to the back of the garden so there was obviously no way I could catch it, take it to the vet. So I went to the fridge and took out two cooked M&S chicken breasts and put them on the patio and it came and ate them and limped away. I still keep dog food in, hoping it may come back.
Am I the only person in the world who never sits in the garden? It's very pretty out there, lots of grass, the flowers I chose and Howard makes it all so pretty. I sit inside and look at it from there. I did buy garden chairs and a table and a parasol but somehow when you're on your own it seems so bloody daft to sit in the garden. When I'm in it it has the same appeal as a morgue.
When I go to my caravan I sit on my balcony but only when the people in the caravans in front and to the side are there.  Mostly they are and it's a lot more sociable at the caravan. In Durham I have to go out for companionship. At the caravan I can see my neighbours around.
Living on your own is hard work but I would kill before I lived with anybody else. And let's be honest nobody has offered!
My caravan site is opening this month and I am very excited about going up there and cleaning and setting up for the summer. I get pheasants outside and sheep and cattle when the grass is thick and long. There are blackbirds and blue tits and wrens and Jake, the little Jack Russell who lives next door.
Every year I plan to do lots of things and then all I do is sit on my balcony and read and drink tea or cold white wine. I don't read half as much at home. There my caravan waits for me. We call her Ruby. I have a library, most of them books from the charity shop in Stanhope. People in the dale are amazing readers. You can get everything.
I'm hoping for a good summer, so that I can sit and dream while the pheasants plod through the fields and the summer evenings are pink and purple when the sun sets and I think about my mam and dad and their families, the places where they worked and the pub where my parents met and the days when my dad's motorbike used to roar up the dale before they were married. I feel closer to them when I'm up there, almost like time is endless.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Billy and Emma go to the vet's

I haven't been in a vet's surgery since my last cat died which must be four years ago at least and but I was asked to take my two feline friends, Billy and Emma, there yesterday. I much prefer it to the doctor of course, even though you have to pay and it is much more entertaining. People tend not to talk to you at the doctor's but at the vet's everybody is a friend and a small square cavalier spaniel howled his disdain to me for several minutes. Apparently he doesn't usually do that. He is not chubby, he is actually square with a little head at one and  - well, you get the idea. He is, like so many of us, a food addict and wakes up at six every morning demanding tea and toast, banging his bowl off the floor and, if ignored further, his bowl off the cupboards, all of which must be very unentertaining for the woman who is owned by him. She never gets a lie in.
If she puts bread out for the birds he eats that and he will even stoop to bird seed which must at least be useful for his insides. I once had a gorgeous ginger moggie who used to climb up on next door's big square bird table and demolish everything in sight. The blackbirds were not amused.
Billy and Emma were not amused either by the vet's and, having the luxury of a cat box each, having not wanted to go in they now did not want to get out and even when the vet turned the cat box and tried to politely shake them, they wouldn't have it. She had to dismantle both their refuges. Billy ignored her after that. Emma politely put up with having blood taken though it was a difficult procedure, Emma being seventeen and very skinny.
Alas poor Billy had to stay to be sedated and have his very long coat sorted out since he is now too old for self grooming. Emma went home alone and probably missed him very much since he is her brother and they have rarely been apart. Billy comes home at lunchtime today and the fire will be on for him in his favourite sitting room. Emma, poor soul, has to go back some time this week to have her coat done and her teeth sorted. Oh dear, the dentist, now that really is a place nobody wants to go.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Love me, Love my Dog

I spent yesterday evening with my favourite small friend and a two year old Jack Russell.
Unfortunately I was wearing my pretend fur coat. It's purple and no, as somebody once asked me, it was never anything that walked about. Purple rats, I don't think so. Jack Russell, bright as he is, decided that I was a large purple labrador or something heading in that direction and did everything to attract my attention. He gnawed my knuckles, scurried sixteen times around the living room to prove what a big catch he really is and kept leaping up to glimpse this wonderful creature who had invaded his space.
I had, unthinking that I was going to attract all this attention, worn a lovely green wool dress, Asda, £15 and expensive black tights, M&S, £12. They are meant to show that I have no tummy and no bottom. Alas, at both back and front I have expanded and had to keep pulling them back up to my waist. I think medium sized would have done. So even when the fur coat disappeared into the wilds of the hall, Jack Russell thought my toes were for nibbling and my black knees enticed him. I told him how expensive the ensemble was but nothing would prevent him.
To the school gates, therefore and there, oh, heaven,  a very beautiful cavalier spaniel. Fortunately she was not in the delicate state that might attract him but did that make any difference? He kept trying to lunge to reach her. Luckily I am adept with expanding leads and it did him no good. She was black and tan, knew how gorgeous she was, and her fan club, children and mothers alike, kept coming over and telling her how lovely she was and cuddling her small squashed face. Jack, ignored, and unaware of how small and bristly haired he really is, was jealous and howled.
All the way home he stopped at every leaf, every muddy patch and I had to explain that we really couldn't go any faster because Jack knew that ten minutes earlier a french poodle had stopped in exactly that place.
We had a lovely evening, helped forward by Domino's, don't you just love it when you ring up and they deliver? Thank God I wasn't born sooner!  Also a couple of large glasses of Prosecco. Me, not Jack. We played Gruffalo dominoes, cleverly and unwittingly bought by me a while back, made up a large dinosaur jigsaw, most of which we needed help with as I am dinosaur stupid and can't tell a tyrannosaurus from a box of playing cards. We played a mysterious fairy game where you give up your wobbly teeth for golden coins. Very complicated. Some idiot obviously thought that one up when he was drunk. Good thing I never took to gambling and such, I am useless at it.
Jack never quite gave up on my attraction and ended up chewing to pieces of the see through case in which I keep my green reading glasses. Believe me, it was a small price to pay. When Mummy came home my fascination for everybody was lost and I went home in Paddy's Cab.
We did have a wobbly moment over snakes and ladders when we noticed that there were more snakes than ladders, and decided  that yes, life is rather like that.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Did I mention?

Okay, so the paperback of my new book will be out on the 13th of the month. Just in time for those of you who want something lovely to give a friend or a loved one for Valentine's Day. If you would like to see the flip book and I find these things magical the link is http:/
I have to remind myself what the book's about. I'm almost finished the next one and knee deep in what my present characters are doing. It's strange how soon you forget. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and I do hope people will like it.
In the meanwhile, against all the odds, Miss Appleby's Academy is still selling well. So chuffed about it.
Lucy Charlton has come into the kindle saga top hundred at 98 and Far From My Father's House which I wrote many moons ago is in contemporary fiction top hundred list. Life never ceases to amaze me. The first six books are all modestly priced as downloads on kindle at 58p each and considering that each one took a year to write that can't help but be a bargain.
Also, can I just mention the short story which comes before The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton and is Lucy Charlton's Christmas  - and it's free!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton ( And the Nineteen Rewrites )

Yes, my new book is coming out on February 13th so get your kindles ready to download, dash down to your supermarkets!

I've been thinking lately about how to explain how hard writing is. Sorry to all those of you who are groaning, thinking we have real jobs, she sits at home all day in her pyjamas - I have to say this is true -and thinks up stories and writes them on a lovely Apple Mac. This also is true, I adore my computer.
Many of my writing friends say something like this -

Beginning a book is a bit like looking at the top of Everest and thinking, well, I might as well have a go. The gas bill needs paying and if I don't cover the mortgage I'll be living in a cardboard on the nearest roundabout, so you start off and you get so far and sit down and think, it'll be okay and then you cover about a fifth of it and you start to sweat and think gosh, this is difficult but I have to get there, so you toil endlessly and finally with a burst of energy you get to the top.

Now this where amateurs think it finishes. Kids, this is just the start. Then you look proudly down and you trundle off, thinking you might have a glass of wine when you get to the bottom and then you get there, take the wine out the fridge and then you think I don't think I've quite got it right so you look at Everest again and you think damn it, I'll have to do it again so that's what you do and you trundle all the way to the top and this time it seems easier, you think you're getting somewhere and you reach the top and then you think, well, this is it ,so you trundle back down and open the fridge and this time you don't even get as far as pouring the wine because you realise what a load of unmitigated crap you've just written.
So, well, you know what happens now.You do the ascent again and you're swearing and wishing you had done something easier and by the time you get to the top you know that you're going to have to do this again and again until it begins to feel right.
So, not wanting to bore you, you go up and down maybe ten times and then you think well, this is it so this time you get the bottle out of the fridge and you have a glass of wine in celebration.

And then you send the book to your agent and you wait and wait and every second is like an hour and every time the phone rings you can hardly bear it and only when you go out does she ring so that you have to gird up your loins and ring back and guess what?  Yes you have to make the ascent again. She wants a rewrite.

So, then you send it back to her and she is happy about it and she sends it to your publisher where your lovely editor thinks, my God this is dreadful and she very politely tells you that you have do the ascent again. You do by this time, it's like walking the dog, it's become so ordinary so that although you are permanently exhausted you really don't care.

With a bit of luck your editor might like this version but the chances are that she will want more work doing and then she'll send it off to the other editor who sorts all the problems out and points out that your historical detail is inaccurate, your heroine has been pregnant for two years and your minor characters are completely left out of some chapters.

On top of which every time you alter a detail the whole 130,000 words falls apart and you go through the book again and again to try to tie the threads together and this time when the book goes off you open the fridge and drink every bloody bottle of wine in it because you know that sooner or later the call will come and yes, you'll have do the proofs and by then there will be a whole load of new mistakes which somebody didn't find.

One of my books got to audio before somebody realised that one of the characters had died twice. Get me to the fridge quickly, I need a glass of wine.