Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dancing girls

I went down to Yorkshire for a silver wedding. My cousins were renewing their marriage vows, and afterwards, a party in a church hall with cold beef and a hot band. They played Irish folk while the diaspora danced. I love to dance. When I was a girl, I would play my one Irish folk record, vinyl and black, in my gran's bedroom. The room at the front, the only room large enough to hold a small and dancing girl. My mother would climb the stairs and say: "Don't play it so loud - the neighbours will hear." Hear rebel laments, she meant, which would never do. Hear too of unicorns that missed the ark, and of a beautiful girl with diamond eyes and a black velvet band holding back her hair. The fiddler struck up the tale of the boy bound for Van Diemen's Land because of her. I said to my own child: "Shall we dance?". She nodded. I scooped her up, all tartan and lilac tulle, and we walzed together. She watched the swirl around, my elderly aunt holding her sister in her own arms close by. She wanted down, and held up her hands for me to hold and move her still, turning her under, around and away, reeling her back. My dancing girl looked up at me - a beat - and smiled.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Faintheart never fucked a fat pig

Occasionally, I stumble across stuff written about me in the blogosphere. Sometimes, it makes me giggle and sometimes, I think "Cor blimey - you should get out more." When news broke of the book deal and cyber heroes "had a go", I thought "Fair do's". Every now and then, the anonymous bully-bore lopes on to the blog, loathes it, sniffles, snipes, carps and witters, and you think: "Everybody's entitled to their opinion." That, and: "If you waste your time reading something you hate, more fool you, mate." Today, I ambled onto someone's blog, followed a link, allowed my curiosity to get the better of me - and, if you didn't know, already, let's say the blogosphere is no wonderland. Boy, people can be mean.

You know what - here's a message to the meanies. I don't care what you say. (Kills you, doesn't it?)

I am a journalist. I spent 20 years writing for national newspapers and working in TV. I got to write a book. It is officially a bestseller. I may well write another. I earned a lot of money. (Shedloads - makes it worse, doesn't it?) I did not get the book deal because I know shorthand and the number for the Buckingham palace switchboard - I got the book deal because my blog is better than your blog. Yes it is. A fuck of a lot better. A fuck of a fuck of a lot better. (Everybody is entitled to their opinion, remember.) Blogging gave me an outlet, readers who "get" what I am doing (sometimes, it might even make them laugh, sometimes, it might make them cry and sometimes, it might make them think: "This woman needs to get over herself." ) It also gave me friends who travelled oceans to meet me and friends who are never going to meet me. And you know what - my blog is my blog. That means I do not have to follow your poxy, witless, fucking rules, you sad schmucks. I do not care if everybody you know in your circle of blogging penpals thinks you write better than I do. I do not care if you think I am shaggable or not shaggable, if you think I am a witless girly pop-tart or a pompous middle-class loser. Know me - I am all of these. Suck it up mate. I got the book deal. Get over yourselves and move on. You sit down and write a book. Stop fannying on commenting on each other's blogs about quite how bad I am. Walk the walk. Blog the blog. Write your own fucking book.

Just thought I might clear that up before I start the next one.
(By the way, Northumberland Tourism has a nice competition you might want to enter. The air up here is marvellous.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

After the rain

Have not felt like blogging much lately, frankly have not felt like doing much at all. I have been ticking the boxes, just enough to get by. I do go through these blue spells. I wish I was a dimpled, sunny-faced, cheery sort of gal - someone life-affirming who makes you feel better just to be with. Not the sort that thinks: "I could hang myself in the coal shed if only I could find the key." It is overdue but I have decided to get a grip. I need a plan. I do not function at all well without a plan. I shall invade Russia( - though that has been done before and never proves to be a good idea.) I shall lose weight (- though that would mean less cake.) I shall find the key to the coal cellar (- perhaps not.) I will sit down and see if I can do it all again - by which I mean write another book, and who knows?. Maybe I cannot write another book? Maybe "That's all folks!"? If so, I resolve not to complain. I have little excuse (other than my naturally maudlin disposition) for feeling lost. UK sales have gone well and the book is now out in the US. I got to write a few pieces for The Times and even more importantly for the Farmers Weekly. Who knew I would get to write a piece for the Farmers Weekly? The book also prompted an old friend to get in touch. I last saw him 20 years ago. It turns out he is trying to find a cure for stomach cancer and was over from Canada to speak at a conference. Over coffee in a London cake shop the conversation went: "So what have you been doing with yourself for the last 20 years?" "Trying to find a cure for cancer. And you?" Pause. "Umm, I set up a blog and winge a lot on it." And he was happy and married and had children, and there infront of me was the man when all I had known was the boy.

What else happened? Well, it rained. A farmer told me of 1,000 sheep and 250 cows drowned. Land too is waterlogged with crops sprouting again in the fields, and combine harvesters idle in their barns. For some, the rains have been a domestic and financial disaster. The other evening driving back from the city with the three kids in the car, we could not make it home. The country roads around here dip and rise and swerve. The sodden fields were bordered with lakes, spilling through the hawthorn hedges to fill neighbour roads. We drove round as dusk took the day, trying first one lane, then another; each time, the road plunged into bleak stretches of wrinkled water. At one point, I pulled on my boots and waxed jacket to push through the flood to judge how far the water came up, and whether we could make it across. Too high. Defeated, I turned back towards the car. I stood and in that moment, it seemed too far away, the headlights on, the wipers smashing the rain haze away, rising up and away again. Still a mile or so away from home, we knocked on a friend's door and her husband got us back in his 4X4. That night, I dreamed I drowned.