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The view from my desk


I thought this might provide a fascinating insight into my creative process.  Mostly it involves being in the world’s yellowest room, trying to read my own handwriting to find out what’s supposed to happen next. The yellow is even more horrid in person, but this is my kitchen and thus the kettle is but a jump to the left (along with the drawer containing the wherewithal to write myself motivatingly silly post-it notes).

book_mini The Brontes WentTo Woolworths, Rachel Ferguson. “Three years ago I was proposed to. I couldn’t accept the man, much as I liked him, because I was in love with Sherlock Holmes.” Where have you been all my life, book? Why were you not on the family bookshelves, filed under ‘Noel Streatfeild for grown-ups’, in between Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture The Castle? (I know why: because it’s been out of print for ages, and is newly reissued as part of a group from Bloomsbury – guess what they’ve called it – of neglected but beloved early C20th fiction. I want them all.) The Carne sisters Katrine, Deidre and Sheil spend their days accompanied by numerous colourful ‘friends’, many of whom they’ve never met – so when they encounter the ‘real’ Lord and Lady Toddington, will real life live up to the fiction, or destroy it? The moment where it begins to dawn exactly how the Brontes come in put a mile-wide smile on my face. A clever and very funny 1930s novel about families and fiction, which makes the reader entirely lose track of who is real and who is not (and not mind at all).

pencil_mini  UNICORNS!!  Only not really (before my editor expires).  It ought to read MERMAIDS!! too.  😛  (Not really them either.)  I’m having proper fun with Project Poppy this week, even if I seem to have hit my intended halfway-point in terms of word count but not in terms of plot.  I don’t care: any day when I get to type ‘SIMEON’S GOLDEN SNOTRAG OF LOVE’ into my manuscript counts as a good ‘un.

rocrastination_mini  Icing Sinterklaas biscuits for St Nick’s Day (thank you Kirsten!); making parsnip, chilli & ginger soup (mmm); wishing I was home to see Small Person being an angel (awwww).


16 thoughts on “The view from my desk”

  1. Have you considered Griffins? Like Unicorns, they’re magnificent and mythic, but they have the added bonus of being part lion, part eagle, all awesome.

  2. I do like a gryphon. I think I won something in a quiz when I was about 8 for knowing what they were: that makes one warm to a mythical beast. Sadly the mermaids and unicorns are already taking up more room than they should because they amuse me so – but who knows what the second draft may bring…

  3. More mermaids please. When I told Small Person she was funny this morning she told me she didn’t want to be funny. She wanted to be a mermaid. But then yesterday she said she wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. “So I can go to mars and come out of a rocket.” A few weeks ago she wanted to be Father Christmas, so I’m glad to see she has high aspirations. I’m still supporting this though:

    Woolworths book sounds excellent – will add to wishlist!

  4. *waves at ESP in your nice picture*

    Can’t she be a funny mermaid? With a rocket? Who is also Father Christmas once a year? She could totally do all of those. And I LOVE the pinkstinks business (though feel a bit as if I can’t flail about it too excitedly since Girl Meets Cake is a bit pink, I fear). That is sort of where the mermaids come in with the new one, though. It’s about being derailed by insidious prescriptive teenage girliness when you were perfectly fine just doing your own slightly unhip thing after all. Hurrah!

  5. I don’t mind mermaids, I don’t really mind fairies too much, and I can just about (grimacing) cope with the princesses, as long as they don’t do too much hanging around waiting for a prince. It’s the fashion/parties/makeup/shopping bullsh** I REALLY object to: all making sure that our daughters are nice, passive consumers, waiting to spend their time, energy and money on hair straighteners and hair removal products and glittery lip gloss and to be treated like crap by the first bloke willing to pay them some attention. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

    The original ‘when I grow up’ conversation came up when one of SP’s friends was asked by a woman (she didn’t know) at playgroup, (sugary tone) “So, what do you want to be when you grow up? A princess?”

    Response from SP’s friend (also aged 3): “No, princesses are just for pretending.”

    Smart girl. She is however, unwilling to believe that her friend’s dad is a nurse. Because men are doctors and women are nurses. Where can she have got that idea from? Stand up the Early ‘Learning’ Centre. You just have to wonder what, precisely, they want them to learn from sparkly high-heeled dress-up shoes.

    So, please do strike a blow against insidious girly crap. The girls need all the help they can get.

  6. I violently loathed soppy pastel girly pink throughout my childhood, and still hate it with a passion. Vile colour with viler connotations.

    Gender discrimination doesn’t just restrict girls though. When my eldest son was 3 he wanted a toy pushchair for his teddies & we had a nightmare time trying to find one which wasn’t pink with flowers & princesses all over it. We also got treated to rather a lot of raised eyebrows from male friends at the idea that we were happy for him to have a toy pushchair – as though this was an inappropriate toy for a boy.

    He did also ask for a Barbie doll (and duly received one!) but she was quickly supplanted by Action Man as he had a more exciting wardrobe…

  7. Yes to all that: the endless parade of childhood pink is ultimately there to make women buy things we don’t need (with the charming side effect of convincing us we’re lesser people if we don’t have them, but presumed mere airheaded fluff if we do), while the boys get tanks and tractors (and self-esteem).

    The challenge for me (writing contemporary girly books that are mostly fun/ny but hopefully not pure sugar) is how to write about all those pernicious influences without reinforcing them: how to be representative of the tween/teen reality of must-haves and waist sizes and boyfriends without perpetuating the idea that those things are the pinnacle of any girl’s potential, or remotely worth the mental space the society they live in grants them – within the self-perpetuating framework of pinklit publishing which is, erm, risk-averse. I’m trying, anyway, which is more than can be said for the Early Learning Centre.

    What happened to tomboys?

  8. On the upside, yesterday my sister-in-law dumped a whole load of Rargling-sized baby clothes on us because she didn’t want her own daughter to be wearing clothes with any pink in them.

    While Mrs Rarg and myself are firmly against teaching our tiny one any form of gender stereotyping, we don’t turn down free clothes =D


  9. Eee at ‘Rargling’. Though having been in kiddie clothes’ shops lately, I wish the sister-in-law good luck. 😦

  10. Respec’ to the sister in law. I had similar ideas until I discovered that I, too, am unable to turn down free clothes. And for some reason, the only places which sell non-pink girls clothes are very expensive. Clearly not wanting to colour code your children is only for the rich. And once they can express an opinion you’ve had it…

  11. if girls knew where the pink obsession came from then maybe they wouldn’t be so willing to display it, or maybe they would but the parents wouldn’t! that and hearts. oh god.

    Tomboys still there but strangely a lot of them wear pink too. and um the biggest ever tomboy is Pink. oh for the simple seventies when face in the dirt meant I was alive.

    apologies for the comments blast but for some reason I haven’t been able to get on your blog for the last few months. will you ban me again now??

  12. As if I would ban you, you ninny! There was some weird code snafu a while back which reset my privacy settings (nothing personal, I promise!).

    Pink = good reason not to name yourself after the colour of your hair dye on the day you happen to sign your record deal. Same principle applies to internet usernames with your age in…

  13. you didn’t know? you didn’t know!! omg something geeky that I know and Susie doesn’t. okay will stop being smug now and tell you.

    Originally she was Mr Pink because she was in a group and they were all named the Mr colours from Resevoir Dogs and she wanted to be Mr Pink but then when she started getting famous the record company didn’t get it or they thought that the great American public wouldn’t get it so they renamed her Pink and then she dyed her hair to go with the name. And if you saw her early photos when she was dressed as Mr Pink in the suit then you might be on the floor like I was.

    It is rather annoying though that I hate pink but I love Pink.

  14. Ooh, aren’t you knowledgeable. And wow, US record companies are hilarously conservative: surprise!

    I confess to finding her sentiments usually more appealing than the music: ‘Stupid Girls’ isn’t going on my ipod but YES TO ALL OF THAT, for example. (Also one of my gym classes made me do sit-ups to ‘Funhouse’ and thus whenever I hear it I feel the need to lie on the floor and cry, per Pavlov’s dogs.)

  15. Er, going back to your post. That ‘Brontes go to Woolworths’ book is NUTS. Proper, proper Nuts. I did enjoy it, though I did spend about the first third with furrowed brow going, ‘Er, um, I have NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON!!!’. Plus, you can see why it went out of fashion. It’s rather like Dorothy L. Sayers: you can cope with the outrageous snobbery etc now that it’s at a safe time distance. By the time the war broke out it must have seemed utterly ludicrous. But when it’s good it’s really very, very good.

  16. I possibly spend too much time in the fictional 1930s, because I tend to take the rampant snobbery as read (with the possible exception of anything too Mitfordy which makes me feel like I should take my shoes off the furniture). Cultural grammar of the time, etc: like Shakespeare’s jokes being relentlessly unfunny, but still jokes. But yep, it is wilfully incomprehensible until quite a long way in, and even when it gets a bit more fathomable it’s still nuts. Glad you survived the experience. 😛

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