Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Kudu thanksgiving.

I did it. I cracked it. 50,000 words from some of the most bizarre places in my warped and rather more then ghoulish brain. Thank you so much for all your support and sweet praise and encouragement through it all!

In fact I still have two or three plot holes to fill in, a bit of back story and the spell checking alone will take several weeks. I also ended up with a Pentecostal Liberian Vodun cult and need to double check all my research and ensure that it doesn't paint all West African forms of Vodun as Angel heart meets Bond's Live and Let Die. Oooeee ( I am stretching - that noise is my back unknotting.)

I am going to edit and get it ready for the Amazon break out novel competition that the wonderful Susan from Stony River Farm (see blog panel..sorry have yet to figure out the linking thing) mentioned a few days back. If no joy then I'll look into self publishing for any of you who might want a read.

In the gorgeous Times of Miranda's blog (see side panel..sorry sorry) there are pictures of a rescued baby puku antelope that she, the marvellous Miranda and her family are trying to keep alive. It reminded me of my first experience of being close to such a beautiful animal.

My uncle was a game ranger in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in the 70's and 80's. He was a tough, strict, excessively bearded , silent man married to my mother's sister . I was scared of him but at the same time I was fascinated that he was a game ranger. I thought that being with wild animals was the most romantic and fabulous profession that any person could possibly want. (I also was convinced I would one day be able to speak with all animals... at that age..I think I must have been 6..I was utterly convinced of this. And to be truthful I am still hopeful)

Our visits from Zambia to see relatives in Rhodesia were however usually tense and to us kids dull and difficult. I remember spending a great deal of time with nothing to read and nothing to play with and the adults miserable and aggressive. My mum and dad were intellectual, artistic and liberal; my father Jewish, my mother labelled a 'kaffir butee' a 'black lover', living in the freshly independent Zambia chock full of communists and hippies (hippos too actually). My aunt and uncle found them pretentious and unrealistic and didn't hide the fact. My uncle was a 'man's man' which even as a child I recognised as an excuse to be a bit of a bully but most of the time he just was 'out' of the house working in the veld.

And then on this one trip he bought back to the house a young kudu they had rescued. When he realised I was falling over myself to help he looked at me, head on one side and then did something so kind I still can feel the lift in my heart when I remember... he allowed me to feed the calf potato peelings from the kitchen.

It was so beautiful, it was sooooo beautiful.

Unfortunately I cried when the rangers grabbed it all long limbed and wide eyed in terror. They had to tag it's ear before it went back into the wild but I didn't understand and no one explained. I thought they were hurting it. My tears signalled weakness and my feeding duties ended but my dad managed to snap these two photos of me at a moment of immense joy.

Its strange to think that they were younger, my parents and my aunt and uncle, then I am today and the world was a different place especially in a volatile, emerging Africa.

I don't remember much happiness on these family trips but this hippie chick will never forget the kudu.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Flat out.....

Ah Sunday mornings…
I was lying in bed listening to the icy rain ‘plink’ and ‘ting’ (it’s my new hip hop album) on the window this morning all cosy and dreamy thanking various deities that I was not;
A: a farmer
B: a parent
C: responsible for ..well anything really
I have known many people who find that long sumptuous lie ins are not for them, that they get clammy sweats under the duvet past 7:30 am and that they go wall eyed with guilt if they feel they have wasted a morning in semi conscious slumber. Of course I understand this and indeed occasionally suffer from this inability to be louche in the mornings too but mostly this affliction hits during the summer. In winter a lie in on a Sunday for me is a little like finding £50 in a sock or being told that you made someone feel better when they were having a hard day. Bloody marvellous.

Talking about finding dosh in a sock I am still unable to vacuum my living room as I haven’t found the £50 a loving relative slipped me for good behaviour several weeks ago. It was in a tiny plastic money bag and I went and dropped it…I know it was inside and I have searched everywhere but with dodgy eyes I can't seem to find it. Given as this is an entire month’s gym membership, a week of my Vodaphone cell phone bill or half a day of my heating expenses you can see how this might be rather perturbing. I am sure it will turn up…like my blue butterfly earrings.

Might have to get out of bed and look properly. Oooofffff alright already..…give us a minute….

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winge on Wednesday

So this is how I look this morning..(apologies..haven't had enough sleep and scruffy as per usual) and this is how my eyes are actually working this morning. Copable, yes...sure but so frustrating. I have just been to the supermarket to pick up soup stuff and somehow managed to not walk into any screaming children, irate exhausted parents or confused Polish people but now I am knackered and just want to lie down. Its always a battle but no one can tell becasue i look..well sighted. Would it be easier if I wore a Somai pirate eyepatch? Thick glasses? A large sign?
Last Saturday I went to a birthday party in possibly the darkest bar in Brixton (and that is saying something my friends.) Without enough light that white stuff you see in the second picture becomes as thick as gravy. I could see f-all. There I was in my sparking off the shoulder number, hair all glossy and spritzed to potential fire hazard, enough make up to shame Dolly Parton and all I could see was a mass of blackness. I couldn't see to lip read and I couldn't even manage the bar (nuts!) I might as well have been sitting at a deserted bus stop waiting to go home..apart from the fact most deserted bus stops don't do ear slitting (or splitting..either way it was painful) karaoke.
Obviously i coudn't flirt very easily. You try making eye contact when you are not sure if the person is facing you or not! Of the four or five men who appeared out of the gloom to attempt to make shouted conversation about how loud the music was, one was so drunk he had forgotten he had actually met me several times before, two were married to dear friends and the others were looking for the loo.
I have been told that I should date other blind people. Oh grow up!
Who the hell is going to drive or pluck me out of danger when I start a bar brawl? All we would do is bang on about what we had banged into most recently and have several people a day come over and tell us 'how braaave' we were. We would end up walking into traffic together..possibly on purpose so enough with 'date a fellow disabled' please!
This taken to the extreme just becomes moronic. I once was offered a date on the basis that 'Well, he's not much to look at but he's a diabetic so you and he should have a lot in common..' Hmmm yes obviously our mutual friends are shite.
Anyway enough with my whimpering. I am on 35,000 words as of yesterday into my novella and my heroine is getting romance up the yazoo..(cough, splutter) so shall live vicariously though her till the end of the month and put off the eventual unholy slide back into Internet dating. Is romance dead? No, just really pissed and refusing to let anyone else on the karaoke machine.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Tall dark and handsome.

My back aches making sitting at this computer difficult. When I stretch my shoulders make noises like a car being put into the wrong gear. I creak like an old house but the novella is still dripping from my brain word by word by word. I am half way through and still have no idea what is coming next. As my life outside the novella is rather tepid and uninspiring I thought I would cheat today and give you a little more of the book. It’s a longer piece so be warned and it involves the tall, handsome Agent Caleb Macleesh. I wanted to make my male lead darker, conflicted and then it came to me..


When Calab Macleesh was a child he moved with his parents to Guyana to join with a group known as the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project . They arrived en mass in sweltering tropical summer heat in 1974 when he was nine years old. He remembered that stifling heat and the smell of green growing things, the constant noise of insects. His mum, Thanh, originally from Vietnam, felt comfortable in the jungle environment, twisting her long hair up from her delicate neck in shiny dark pleats to keep cool. His father Bradley was Chinese American, had grown up in San Francisco and was less enthusiastic at first. Bradley was paranoid about the insects and constantly battling the mosquitoes in the sparsely built development. With good reason it turned out. Bouts of malaria and fever were common and occasionally deadly in this new land reclaimed from the nearby dense thorny thicket.

They were originally given barracks together but after a few weeks Caleb was taken with the other children to a different part of the settlement. He was frightened and cried for his mother but children are resilient and after a while he got used to the new way of life. He saw his parents less and less, usually for a brief hug and chat in the evening. Eventually it was less then once a week. By the time he was 13 he hardly thought of them as his parents at all. He could still pick them out in a crowd but he no urge to run to them for anything. He had become closer to his friends, the other children with whom he shared his days, the older adults who were bought into teach and care for them including the 76-year stone-deaf gardener, Old Grover.

On November 18th 1978 Grover and Caleb were part of the gang digging swales and ditches into the hillside adjoining the settlement. No one was concentrating on their work. For the first time that he could remember, Caleb had seen strangers in the community. Men in suits and with cameras and microphones had arrived the day before led by a handsome man the adults referred to as The Congressman. They had been secluded in the Pavilion, talking with The Leader and had emerged angry leaving en mass in the night.

Planes had flown overhead earlier heading for the airfield at Port Kaituma and Caleb had even seen some of his fellow settlers getting into land rovers with suitcases and bags that very afternoon. Now in the field it was as if everyone was waiting for something, like waiting for a storm to break. Finally people gave up the pretence of work and just stood silently looking down on the rickety prison like town. Grover caught Calebs’s eye and signalled for him to come and help dig further down the field towards the edge of the jungle. Reluctantly Caleb did as he was told but five minutes later came the ear splitting screech and wail of the ever present loudspeaker and The Leader’s voice boomed out sending a flock of snowy egrets and wood doves white and smoke grey frantically flapping up into the air.

Jim Jones called for his people to come to the Pavilion. The day was turning now and people would have been heading home from the fields anyway but this was different. The Leader sounded odd, his words were slurred. Caleb didn’t want to go but there was no dissent in Jonestown. Once he had refused to help in the kitchen and they had hung him upside down in a well until he had fainted. And anyway what could be frightening about a town meeting? Perhaps they were just going to have to move again.

He had been about to follow the others already moving off down the hill when old Grover had grabbed him firmly by the wrist and signalled ‘Stop! Lie down!’ Caleb had looked into those old rheumy eyes and lain down in the ditch right then and there next to the old man. Caleb saw that Grover had been digging two deep ditches just for them both all this time. They stayed there with their faces pressed in the dirt listening to the terrible diatribe that came vomiting out over the loudspeaker. The leader first engaging and encouraging and then ranting and shouting.

"I don't care how many screams you hear, I don't care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you – if you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad to be stepping over tonight

The loudspeaker crackled and feedback burnt holes of sound in the sky. Grover was sobbing. Caleb could hear him crying into the earth. All night they lay there feeling the insects crawling over their skin and the trickle of sandy soil and in the morning the military arrived with the grinding of land rover gears and the shouts of command. At midday they were discovered by a Guyanese soldier who looked like he had seen the devil. ‘All dead,’ he kept saying. ‘All dead’

And indeed they were, 918 people men woman and children had been led up to drums of cyanide, potassium cyanide and potassium chloride mixed with Kool Aid and encouraged to give it to their children and then drink themselves. Their deaths must have been quick but painful but there had been little if any resistance. The Congressmen and several others had been murdered as they tried to evacuate a few of the terrified families by airlift and it was this it seemed that was the signal to prepare the drums of poison. The already drug addled and paranoid Jim Jones was catapulted into a complete megalomaniac meltdown dragging nearly a thousand people down with him into his personal hell.

The terrible strangeness and ugliness of what became known as The Jonestown massacre resonated around the world with photographs taken from the air of the hundreds of bodies lining in concentric circles around the vats of poison. Jim Jones had been found shot to death but if by suicide or by another’s hand no one would tell. The photos headlined the Times, Newsweek and the international press. People could not understand how a mother could voluntarily walk up to a vat of poison, drip it into her baby’s mouth and then drink herself. Another layer in the nightmare.

Grover and Caleb were repatriated to the states and were separated in spite of Grover’s attempts to hold onto Caleb. He was too old they said and wouldn’t be able to deal with a teenage boy. Eventually Grover went to stay with a cousin in Florida and Caleb was put into foster care and promptly forgotten.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Other Soldiers

Miriam Makeba has died this week after performing in an anti Mafia concert in Italy at the age of 76. (Just so you know it was a heart attack not a ‘hit’.)
She was an incredibly gifted singer crossing from Afro jazz and blues to folk and beyond. She is single handedly responsible for that bloody song ‘Maliaka’ but we forgive her that for all the other gorgeous stuff she did.
At my boarding schools I stockpiled tapes of her albums and compilations and still now when I hear ‘Pata Pata’ I get on my feet and dance.
There are many different ways to fight for your county and she was a soldier always. Although she was exiled from her South African home for 30 years she remained a voice in the wilderness and always fought for equality and humanity through her music.

NB: She and her then husband Hugh Masekela performed in ‘King Kong’ a superb musical (about a boxer not a gorilla) on Broadway in the late 50’s. If any of you can find a version you will not be disappointed!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Is there honey still for tea?

The writing is going swimmingly ( 13,000 and counting) and the disgraceful lifestyle of hermit thriller-smith suits me rather too well. I forget to get all the way out of my panamas. I don’t brush my hair. I am in my socks for 9/10ths of the day. Occasionally I break out of the house to breathe fresh air and practice walking. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to double check my ‘personal brand’ in the mirror on the way out.

Yesterday I went to buy some maple syrup from the famous health food store on Mill road. I thought I had built up quite a chatty rapport with the woman behind the counter and as I was waiting for my card to do its thing without crumbling into dust I just mentioned something I had heard on the news that morning.
‘The honey,’ I said. ‘British honey did you hear? Its going to be gone by Christmas.’

‘Err..,’ the woman’s smile had faltered slightly. ‘You mean prices are on the rise?’

‘No the bees are dying. I heard on the RADIO that there will be no honey left by Christmas. This is really terrifying. Without bees there is no natural pollination…crops won’t grow. It could be catastrophic!’

The woman’s smile had dripped off her face like organic egg white. Suddenly I saw her myself through her eyes. A short, over-talkative woman without make up in an grotty track suit (or was that a pajama top?) with a old lady hat and strands of hair escaping around her face…. in a health food store….talking about the end of the bees and the end, therefore, of the world.

I looked like an official loon.

‘I not bonkers,’ I hissed to myself as I sulked away down the street scaring a couple of tourists walking the other way.

Today I had work at Citizens Advice Bureau and at least remembered to clean my teeth.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

Its still quite novel: Day the Third

You may be pleased, appalled or give a tut of ‘well, durrhh’ to learn that the protagonist in my potential fluffy little thriller is a visually impaired pole dancer. Of course being MY creation she is actually doing an MA in dance practice and desperately behind on her thesis on masked dance in the Sub Saharan region (that’s for you Tam and Miranda! I have a funny feeling she might even bump into you a little down the line..) She dances because she needs the money and also enjoys it but being VI can’t get too close to the audience without falling off the stage (hence saving her a tiny smidgen of dignity)

She is smart, tall and has no trouble with her ‘social’ life shall we say for my more delicate readers (so obviously not based on her creator) and things are hotting up for her at the moment as the club’s owner just got murdered and all the addresses for the dancers have been stolen. There is the added problem of a mother whom she presumed dead suddenly popping up again and of course the lean jawed FBI agent…(well its hard not to get clich├ęd at this daily output…forgive me)

I give you my opening salvo: if you want more or need me to please stop then comment my dears. comment!

The Dying Light

The lights go down and the men hush. She steps forward, left, right and puts her hand out, grasping the pole in resin coated fingers. She waits a beat and then the music hits and the floor lights slash up between her legs, elongating her outline, sparking up the mica dust on her skin and the glitter in her hair. The crowd roar into life; the music thumps and kicks her hips forward. She steps and swings and her legs fly out behind her with her five inch spike heels slicing through the air. In the wings there is a small gasp from a technician called Barry as a man’s toupee is dislodged by the jet stream.

Four minutes later and the last screeching guitar chords crash. The men are on their feet hollering and waving money but the woman disdainfully uncurls herself from the top of the pole, swirls around and down and without even a backward glance stalks off the small overheated stage. It is Barry, resembling a benign Grizzly, who catches her shoulder before she smashes into the loudspeakers.

‘Left a bit’ he hisses handing the woman a long white cane and a torch.

‘Cheers Bazzer’, she says sweat dripping from her hairline and catching the light like jewellery. ‘Good crowd tonight!’

‘It’s the way you do your do my dear Remember the ..

‘Ouch! F**k!’

‘Overhead spot….’

Casilda taps her way out of the throbbing darkness behind the stage and makes her way into the cold, concrete floored corridor and across into the bright mania of the dressing room. Eight other women compete for three large mirrors and pancake makeup, talcum powder and false eyelashes are everywhere. Casilda has glitter in a place no glitter should be and needs to shower so squeezes between the rails of show clothes to the locker room beyond.