Thursday, 16 November 2017

Country Lizzie goes to town

I congratulate myself that I am now a city girl, having lived with cars, pollution and nearby theatres, restaurants and university for fifteen years but having gone down to London this week - I know people call it up to London but there you go - I realise what a naive little soul I am.
 You'll love this because it sounds terribly impressive. I went to London to see my agent, meet my new editor, have dinner with writing friends at a club which was built in Georgian times, and generally be seen.  I was looking forward to the dinner, then having afternoon tea with my editor and agent the day after and winding up at a writers' party in a library. How very apt.
I got new clothes to go. What a good excuse to spend money. I traveled first class otherwise I would never persuade myself to the station and when I got to London I walked around the corner to the Premier Inn at Kings Cross.
 Could anything be  handier?  Yes, I almost choked at the price but hell, London is all like that and it has to be the best Premier Inn in the world and that's saying something. There are few places better than a Premier Inn. The staff knock themselves sideways for you, their beds are so good I always wish I could smuggle one out in my suitcase and the food is well, at least edible and this one was particularly good. The wine is excellent and not terribly expensive. If you like red go for  the beefsteak Malbec. Seven quid for a huge glass. Also Premier Inns are ideal for single women. You don't have to go outside in the darkness, there is always at least one restaurant on hand and there was also a Costa coffeeshop and a big foyer or entrance hall or whatever you call it where you could sit and read, talk, work and in my case read George Gissing and enjoy  my wine.  The staff were lovely and asked me if they could help without being a pain about it. Wonderful people. I hope that next time I have the flu I can stay in the Premier Inn at Kings Cross, everything is at hand and I don't suppose they would turn a hair if I went downstairs in my pyjamas, my pyjamas being black and by Calvin Klein.
I always forget what hell London is to get around in and since I've hardly been in five years it has gotten so much worse. You really would be better off walking and I hadn't seriously considered it or buses or tubes and I had taken no shoes which would be suitable so my agent despaired because she has lived there almost forever and knows what a gridlock London is.
The dinner was lovely though being partially deaf I hate wooden floors and the kind of tables where you sit in rows facing one another. I can't hear anything past the person I'm sitting next to and if she has a soft voice I'm lost and end up like one of those daft nodding dogs in the back of cars. Nobody knows how limiting deafness is unless they have experienced it. I did try not to embarrass myself and to make reasonable conversation but I fear they just thought I was losing it mindwise.
The following day I had nothing to do until three o'clock. Now an intrepid traveller would have gone to an exhibition, gone shopping ( though to be fair the shops here are just as good) but when my agent asked me how I had spent my morning I had to admit that I sat in the foyer and read. Nothing would induce me to walk about in London. For God's sake, all that pollution!!  My view also these days is if it's a decent exhibition you can't get close and if it isn't then what the hell are you doing there?
So we set off at three, were meeting my editor at four. My agent had already implied I was a complete clot for having no suitable footwear and since there was a student demonstration in London it took is an hour and a half and even then we didn't get to the right place.
We ended up in a little pub near the house of commons eating ham sandwiches and being incredibly cheerful. Luckily my  new editor is absolutely lovely and didn't seem at all fazed and then we went to the party.
I can't remember the last time I went to a party and didn't wish I was at home.  There were hundreds of people shouting at the tops of their voices, it was so hot it could have been a sauna and there again yes, I couldn't hear!!  I baled out and spent the next hour getting back to the joys of my Premier Inn. God bless the people who thought up such wonderful hotels. I could have wept with relief as I staggered into the bar. The staff remembered me from the night before and brought me my lovely wine so George Gissing and I spent two hours in the foyer where it was light and comfortable, nobody bothered us and I read my kindle with glee.  New Grub Street.  Brilliant book!!
This morning I almost cried when the bloke on the train back had a Newcastle accent. I know it is very tiny of me to be so prejudiced but I can't help it. When I got off the next lovely bloke was the man who looked after the local stations and he carried my bag for me. He said they hadn't finished revamping Durham station and he said it was his favourite station and I said it was my favourite station too and neither of us was lying. I always want to weep when I come home. The views from the train of my lovely little city are all there below me, the houses all different colours, the cathedral and the castle and the river. I feel about Durham like Londoners feel about London. How could anybody live anywhere else?
I will go back. I need to make London mine again. It's where my work is, where the books are produced, where the agents and the editors have to live, God love them and I don't think they would want it any other way, at least if they hadn't lived in Durham so I will take London by the scruff of its neck and next time I pass the great big church all lit up near the bridge I won't have to say,
'What a pretty church,' and my agent with admirable aplomb said,
'Yes, that's Westminster Abbey.'
And I was generous enough not to say - and it costs sixteen quid to get in -
'It isn't a patch on Durham cathedral. And the cathedral is free.'

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Retirement, scariest word ever

I was going to entitle this 'Find me a man so that I can retire' but on hearing horror stories from my married friends - very comforting when you are sitting on your own with nothing more attractive than the sight of a good dinner - it has put me off.

Not on the list

Old men. Dear God. Just fancy if he was ill, I mean really ill. Even my daughter complains that I am bloody useless at such things and either order her to the doctor or tell her she will be okay. All I have in my medicine drawer is fresh air and sticking plasters.
So nobody who will get ill.
Also nobody who has no money. I am used to good things. I have made it so.
Don't need private medicine.I'm happy with the NHS, so those who might apply take note. I do live near the hospital and am on very good terms with the staff and with my doctor and also the lovely guy who looks after my hearing.  And my teeth. Very good people there. Brilliant.
I did go on a couple of dating sites years ago and carefully filled in all the things i was and wasn't, all the things I liked and disliked and they laughed in my face and said, 'You'd be lucky, Missis,' so I haven't gone back or thought seriously about marriage.
Besides, having done it once and been rather good at it I would hate to damage my record.
Also nobody who shouts at the telly and nobody who doesn't like Eggheads and nobody who doesn't like Coast and nobody who doesn't like Frasier and nobody who plays golf.
Nobody who likes football and nobody who doesn't like tennis and snooker.
I have to have my own newspapers, untouched every day. This includes the I, the Guardian and the Times.
Then he has to like going to nightclubs and dancing and he has to move well on a dance floor.
He also has to like drinking cocktails and lots of wine and going out to restaurants.  No vegetarians.
He must love Shakespeare, live performance, classical concerts, good restaurants and a house in the country so that I can be called Lady Liz and entertain various exciting interesting people to dinner.
But he mustn't hunt. I'm not into killing small animals. It implies lack of brain and that I cannot stand.
He can shoot. I have nothing against dead pheasants as long as it's not one of those ghastly driven pheasant shoots when buggers who can barely hold a gun shoot spaniels and game keepers by accident and wouldn't know a woodcock from on ordinary one. Or something like that.
He can't be short. I don't do less than six feet tall and I don't do stomach over the top of trousers.
I'm sorry. I know I am caught in a time warp here but there you go.
I do like fishermen. I have a real thing about them and dream of living on the Northumberland coast and getting the pan ready on the fire for when he comes home with trout. I did used to have that, the pan ready on the fire and the husband walking across the way about fifty yards to catch the fish. I thought everybody lived like that until he died and then realised that it wasn't so. God love him, he'll have been dead thirty years next summer. No wonder I haven't married again.
He was tall and slender and funny and had exquisite blue eyes like his father. He laughed so much in cinemas that I was always digging him in the ribs. He took sandwiches because he got too hungry to get through without. We went to see a film when a woman was raped and he jumped up out of his seat to murder the bastards. I had to calm him down and tell him it wasn't really happening.
He never came home from a day's hunting without a pheasant. He used to take the dogs up on the fell all day and come back with one pheasant, like a really decent hunter. The local blokes used to call him 'pot man' because he knew that if he caught it I would cook it and we would have a decent bottle of wine between us and talk as happy couples do.
He adored his child.
He loved dancing and he loved wine and he loved good food. We had a beautiful house in the country. No wonder I live in the town. Even now I hear his laughter and when my daughter looks up I can see him in her face and also in her bravery, her determination and her ambition. She is so like him that it warms me.
Now I am snivelling. Stop it you stupid pillock. Things could be worse. So I will go on working and I really like working. I'm lucky that way. Even on a bad day I can get up, watch Frasier, go to the spa and float in warm water, go out to lunch or dinner with friends, have chocolate and wine and cheese for lunch, read until my eyes ache and indulge my current passion for Suits. Suits, you know. The American guys who don't go to court. I have whole afternoons of Suits.
Just got to keep on working.  In my little town house with my lovely garden and my stained glass windows and my gorgeous fireplaces I have a good life. I have to keep reminding myself how very good it is.
And I have a three book contract. So there.