It’s been a memorable few days to say the least and yellow has been the joyful colour woven throughout.
Firstly, Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, the first Brit ever to do this. Obviously yellow is always the colour associated with this race.
Then on Thursday I went to London with my family to attend my book launch. On the way there, struggling in a very tight yellow dress to match the bright yellow of my new book cover, we were caught up with the Olympic flame at Hyde Park and came within feet of it. We took cabs, walked, and got propelled along by the crowds and eventually made it to Great Windmill Street to the launch venue, kindly hosted by Red (yes, I know) Consultancy.
I was worried no one would turn up as they would be put off by the Olympic crush but gradually the room filled and I was so grateful to everyone who made the epic journey to come out, including one lovely friend who I hadn’t seen in over twenty years since our PGCE.
Red are based right opposite the Windmill Theatre which was the place where Sir Bruce Forsyth started his long career as a teenager. He was the inspiration for my first novel ‘The Generation Game’ which was launched from the same place almost exactly a year ago. And on the day of the launch of ‘This Holey Life’, Brucie carried the Olympic torch, representing the BBC.
Back in Devon yesterday, we watched the amazing opening ceremony, kicked off by Bradley Wiggins in his yellow jersey and watched on by Michelle Obama in a yellow dress. All these splashes of colour will stay with me for a very long time.
And finally: if you have an unpublished novel lurking about, do think about entering it for this year’s Luke Bitmead Bursary award. But don’t think about it for too long as the closing date is August 3rd. I wouldn’t have got to wear that yellow dress had I not entered two years ago.
It’s that time of year, when exams are over and many British teenagers go on their first holiday, with their friends, unchaperoned.
Our middle child, aged 15 (he’s an August born), has gone to France with four boys from his year. Knowing his capacity for being a dare devil, we came to a compromise, when he first mooted the idea a few months back. A plan was born: they would stay in our next door neighbour’s static home, on a family-friendly site in Brittany (our neighbour’s son is part of the five). My husband would take them there, via Plymouth to Roscoff, go shopping with them to the hypermarket, set the ground rules which have already been established at parent-child meetings. He will leave them tomorrow and they will have to try not to set fire to anything until next Friday when our neighbours arrive for their holiday. They will then be driven the two hour trip to Roscoff and put on the ferry as foot passengers.
What can go wrong?
Am I worried? A little, yes. But I also recognise this is a learning experience. Honestly.
The boys have all saved for this holiday over the last few months. During their week away they will have to learn how to budget and cook etc. It helps that one of them is training to be a chef and that some of them speak passable French – not that it’s really needed in this little Britain campsite. They will hopefully pool their knowledge and skills and not wind each other up too much. It’s a rite of passage that I hope they will journey through safely. (I’m just thankful it’s not Newquay or Magaluf.)
I never had an all girls holiday after O levels. I stayed with my eccentric great aunt in Sussex and did a tour of castles. Nor did I go after A levels. I worked as a waitress all summer in preparation for going to university. Nor did I go after my degree. I got married (we did have five days in Cornwall).
When did this all start?
Any stories out there?
And do I really want to know?
So this time in July there is a clutch of days that are memorable for one reason or another. The Twelfth in Northern Ireland, Bastille Day on the 14th in France and, today in England, July 15th is St Swithin’s day.
Legend has it that if it rains today, it will rain day and night for the next forty days.
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare
I was mentally doing a sun dance last night as we have had quite enough rain this ‘summer’, thank you very much. And it has stayed dry. Hurrah!
And I couldn’t finish this post without a reference to one of my all time favourite novels, David Nicholl’s One Day. St Swithin’s Day plays a vital structural role in it. If you have read it, you will know why. If you haven’t read it, then do. It’s worth it. (And don’t forget the film.)
As for the rain, let’s see what happens over the next forty days and nights…
I was listening to Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. The subject was housework and the gender divide and how this causes much friction between partners. Even now, in families where both men and women work full-time, the woman tends to do the bulk of the housekeeping, particularly the laundry. There are of course men who do their fair share. I will admit I am rather slapdash with a duster but my husband is a phenomenal ironer. We have distributed the work between us over the last 25 years. I do the loos. He does the oven. We both do the washing and take out the bins. He changes the sheets, I hoover (occasionally).
When we lived in London and I was teaching full-time we got a cleaner called Marcia who was a Brazilian marvel. As I gave up teaching to look after our three small kids, we didn’t have the money anymore and our house was always a tip. It still has its moments with three teenagers who leave cups and glasses everywhere and a trail of discarded clothes. They do help sometimes. If directed. And nagged. Or paid. And it helps greatly that my mother loves cleaning and will zoom around our house with a mop and a dustpan and brush.
But I do hanker after my own space sometimes. It would be clean and uncluttered with no piles of papers strewn across the table. There would be no slag heaps of shoes heaped by the back door. Or in the hall. Or at the top of the stairs lying in wait to break someone’s neck. There would be no odd socks, no brim-full bins, no sticky Coke cans lurking on dusty windowsills. It would be a place where I could write without feeling guilty about neglecting the washing machine or unpacking the dishwasher.
I know this is a dream. Life is messy. We all have to pull our weight and share our gifts. Vicky, the heroine of my new novel This Holey Life, is a cleaning fanatic. She does it in order to get some control over her life but it makes her bossy and irritated and unsatisfied as she can never achieve the perfection she hankers after.
Before you get married you should be sent on a course that teaches both men and women how to unblock a sink and how to polish a shoe. There should be a contract that stipulates who does what. And then of course you would have to trust each other to stick to this.
It’s been said before: publishing a book is like giving birth. Well, I’ve given birth to three babies and they might be teenagers now, but I still remember the pregnancies, the overdue dates, the labours, the births, the pain … and the end results.
So… I spent a long time writing the books, waking in the night, unable to sleep, plodding along, struggling uphill, and then the persistence of finding a publisher, someone to take care of you when the time came, knowing it would be worth the waiting and the pain to finally have that book in my hand. In my arms. Etcetera.
This time last year I was a first time novelist and the overwhelming emotion when I held The Generation Game for the first time was relief: I’d finally done it, helped along the way by professionals and friends and family. And there was much celebration.
A year on and I have just held my second novel, This Holey Life, in my hand – born a little early, a few weeks before the due date of August 1st.
(OK, so how much longer can I keep this analogy going?)
Having a book published is not as eye-poppingly, skin-splittingly painful as actually pushing out a seven pound something baby but, yes, there is pain. But there is also joy.
And now the long hard slog of nurturing this book has to begin, along with working on that next baby…