|I've finally finished printing out my novel Alias Jeannie Delaney in its entirety! Whoo hoo! At last I can make some sense of it. 😄|
Friday, 30 June 2017
Thursday, 29 June 2017
I'm not alone in my curious fascination for the humble loo. Or toilette, as the French say (so much more elegant). I've Googled book titles containing the words 'loo' or 'toilet' and several popped up: 'Ladies and Gents:Public Toilets and Gender.' 'Toilets:Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing.' 'Toilets of the World'. Just three examples.
My fascination for the lowly privy began during the fifties and sixties, possibly with my daylight visits to the small outhouse (complete with tiny peep hole in the door – probably heart shaped) in the woods behind the gorgeous Suffolk Tudor cottage often rented from family friends during the holidays. The cottage did boast a modern loo inside (as sophisticated as a 1960s loo could be in a Tudor cottage), but whenever the call of nature visited me during the day, I would choose to use the privy. Possibly because it was quirky, and I love a bit of quirk. Much more fun than the boring sophisticated loo in the house. The parents were bemused – they were used to me. Older brother thought me stupid. He was probably right.
Also during the sixties the family often camped in France. I was fascinated again – this time by the wraparound pissoirs of decorated metal. I remember standing in the footprints moulded into the concrete floor, then hopping backwards, as instructed, to prevent the flush swamping my feet (ahh... memories). I've encountered loos of various design and function since then, and have remained pottily curious about them all.
One of the more recent ones was in Surrey, UK, where I encountered the type straight out of Space Odyssey – a space capsule. It looks like a mini rocket with a button on the outside and a green or red light informing you whether or not it's occupied. You press that button and the door silently slides open. Inside, everything's hidden under overhanding bits of wall. Soap under here, water under here, dryer under here. The thing is, although there is a door button on the interior after the biz, the door will equally silently slide open after a certain length of time on the off-chance that the occupant might have fainted or had a heart attack, so there is the slight concern that the door might slide open while you're still occupied! No fears, though – I escaped!
My fascination for loos evolved, as did my historical knowledge of the smallest – or largest in some cases - room.
Thomas Crapper. Now there's an appropriate name if ever there was one (his name came first, incidentally). He didn't invent the flush system, as many thought, but he did popularise the use of the loo and introduced some related inventions, such as the ballcock. (Ballcock. Lovely name. Miranda (Hart) would love it). Mr.Crapper was known for the quality of his work and received several royal warrants for fitting the plumbing and fine cedarwood loo seats in Sandringham, one of Queen Victoria's pads, during the 1880s.
Another name associated with le toilette (la toilette?) is Lady Lucinda Lambton, a British aristocratic broadcaster and author of books on the architectural history of 'the throne.' Supremely eccentric, she's a woman after my own heart. Apart from showing us beautiful and unusual throne rooms, she might also have taught me about the Roman habit of communing in loos and uttering: 'Pass the sponge, please.'
In 1860 the first water closet, imported from England, was installed in Queen Victoria's rooms in castle Ehrenburg, in Germany, and she was the only one allowed to use it. Oh, I do love the idea of historical hupper classes doing what comes naturally. When visiting porsh National Trust 'arses Husband and I find it more fun and interesting to poke noses inside the bathrooms and water closets than the ornate, gilt and velvet draped dining rooms and parlours. A year or two ago we visited Chawton house, Jane Austen's pad just up the road, and we were more fascinated by her water closet secreted behind a small door in her bedroom than we were in her needleworks and writings.
'Just think – ' I observed to Husband, '– Jane Austen's DNA's on that!' (I failed English Lit O'level after forcing myself to read Pride and Prejudice three times and hating it more each time. Just thought you'd like to know...).
A toilet anecdote appertaining to a more modern writer is the fact that Agatha Christie took a personal toilet seat on her travels because she hated using public loos. Maybe I should do the same when I encounter loos with low granny points.
History is flushed with toilet japes.
During the war, regimental lads placed small exploding devices inside latrines (there's another name) and set them off when their mates did their biz, resulting in soldiers hopping painfully about with flaming red cheeks, accompanied by the hollering laughter of their comrades. Itching powder was often shaken onto their loo paper, too. Not to forget the japes of first-year senior schoolboys whose heads were held down the loo by the older ones while the thing was flushed.
The various names for the loo are many. Thunderbox (thunderbox?! Never heard that one before...). Little girl/boys' room. Smallest room. Bog. Throne room. Lav. WC. Comfort station. John. Bogger and brasco (Aussie). Doubtless there are many more, but what about the naming of this most delicate of matters? Powdering one's nose. Spending a penny. Pointing percy at the porcelain. There are many more, but they're mostly far too indelicate terms for the shell-like sensibilities of many of us.
The last time I wrote about loos under a similar title was some years ago. Loos have moved on since then.
What prompted this particular reflection was a visit to the loos at Winchester Guildhall, UK. The loo was covered with a transparent lid with a latch on the front. 'Huh?' All the loos were thus presented. The word 'Airflushed' was printed on the latch. I unclicked the lid, raised it, performed the necessary, then read the instructions on the wall above the cistern (one rarely reads instructions, but in this case I felt the matter warranted it). 'Replace the lid.' it stated. 'Ensure it is clicked into place, then press the button as usual.' Okey-dokey. I pressed the button and watched. A brief, sharp half a nano second's loud suck and the bowl was empty. Impressive. I rushed back to Husband and informed him of my discovery. The question was whether the water saved was worth the energy required to do the thing. Nevertheless, this latest loo performance had to be written down. I've never seen a loo like this since.
And now, granny points. Whenever we took Husband's mum out and about, she'd tell us how many granny points a public loo had earned. We've got into that habit. 'How many granny points?' We demand of each other, after a visit, plus asking what ad was on the back of your loo door in service stations, known as in-toilet advertising (just looked it up. Apparently this form of advertising works). A medical question, or an ad about online adult education. The gents' are invariably pretty naff, whereas we ladies can often expect, occasionally in restaurants or pubs, spotlessly clean and the gentle aroma of a bowl of pot pourri on a shelf and a lovely squirter bottle of soap for the hands. Nice and quiet, even when the hand blower roars. Great granny points – at least eleven out of ten.
Granny would be pleased.
Monday, 26 June 2017
Welcome to my newly updated gallery page! I've decided to make it just that little bit more interesting by adding works in progress as well as how-I-did-its occasionally. Please feel free to post comments, whether they be 'Rubbish!' or 'Fabulous!'. (Preferably the latter). If you fancy buying any of them - yippee! - contact me and we'll discuss the boring bits. Incidentally, they're mostly normal wall sizes, nothing jinormous or teeny, and those on paper are unframed, leaving you to make that decision. Enjoy - I hope...
Ps: This gallery is also a work in progress so I'm working on its imperfections! 😃
|Mucking about with |
kid's bottled water colours
and tissue paper on boxed canvas!
|A bit of acrylics doodling!|
Acrylics on board
Glazed clay plaque -
(work in progress)
|Acrylic on canvas. |
Paint squeezed straight
from tubes, allowed to dry,
then painted on! Worked rather well!
Ink 'Abstract' on paper.
Again, just mucking about
| 'Vase Flowers'.|
Dry brush acrylics
on oil colour paper.
Pastel on paper.
Pastel on paper.
Dry brush acrylic
inspired by magazine photo of
Dutch interior painting.
Annoyingly I can't find the
Tissue paper and glitter glue
on paper. Such fun!
'Abstract Still Life'
Pastel and charcoal.
One of my favourite
Pastel on paper
Charcoal and ink on paper.
water soluble coloured
pencil. Another mucking around
CHARCOAL & PENCIL
'IN THE GARDEN'
PEN & INK
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
THAT DARN NOVEL!
I might have largely recovered from depression and anxiety but my brain still suffers. You don't go through thirty years of it without some repercussions. And it invariably, without fail, centres on my novel and, in the past, what my parents and siblings would have thought of it (not my children, Husband, Husband's family...). They knew I was working on one, but never gave details.
It's been a humungous undertaking and it's definitely a beginning, a muddle and an end! I've said umpteen million times in my intro letter that I'm blogging about the writing of it, and here I am again.
It's over a hundred chapters, but many of those chapters are only a quarter of an A4 page long, so it's going to be less, ultimately. I'm printing out each chapter for Husband, my chief critic, to read. He's very honest and very good for me. As I say, he's honest, but it's taken a long time for me to finally say: 'Read and critique these chapters for me, please.' because I was so sensitive and nervous about the rather delicate and mature nature of the subject matter, I didn't have the courage for someone so close to me to read it.
Then I got better. Then I decided it's high time The Novel got out there! By hook or by crook. I've had such good responses to it, particularly on Facebook groups, writing and otherwise, that I would have thought that that would make it all worthwhile and my brain would be happy. And it is, largely. Except sometimes it ain't. Especially when I see a film advertised on the box, or hear a piece of evocative music and it reminds me of The Novel. I want to finish it! I want to get it out there!
After a particularly emotional moment this evening over it (Husband had picked out a section that didn't ring true so I rewrote it last night and it was his job to reread it. Eek.) I was feeling quite frustrated by the whole biz, and Husband asked me when would I feel satisfied and happy with the thing. When I'd finished it? When ten people had read it? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred? It turned out I would be pretty satisfied when several hundred have read it and enjoyed it! That's not asking much, is it?
Fact is, one of my mental issues is the lack of a definite goal post for it. No deadlines. I have one now. According to Husband, it's likely to take two years for us to go through it together, at the current rate. Not good enough. Could do better. And I will. Whether or not I get it published traditionally, or e-publish, is a matter for the future. And whether or not I write further stories for my heroine is also another matter.
But a big factor in this biz concerns my family - parents, siblings etcetera. My parents largely knew I was writing a humungous novel, but I always told them it was set in the west (they did always encourage my western hobby with enormous bemusement, I'll give them that!) but it was a subject they wouldn't like or be interested in so we always left it at that. My elder brother has been writing a novel himself for years, but I'm just as loathe to talk to him about it for similar reasons.
So, every time I get down about the novel and Husband and I CBT - cognitive behavioural therapy - it, and when my family are touched upon I invariably burst into tears. Fact is, I'm sorry that I could never discuss it with any of them. That they had no idea of this enormous undertaking. But, as usual, I must prick that blasted balloon of past pains and send it zoop! through the window. My little family - Husband, kids, Husband's family - are the important ones. They know what I'm doing and there's tons of encouragement and inspiration there, even if it ain't their 'thaing'.
I will get there. I must! Must must must. Or I will burst!
A very successful weekend on our narrow boat at its mooring in Warwickshire, with our twin granddaughters for company.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
'Jeannie Delaney is a devastating cowgirl/outlaw/jailbird/deputy/
rancher/mayor who is the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. The narrator tells the story of her life and struggles for acceptance.'
rancher/mayor who is the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. The narrator tells the story of her life and struggles for acceptance.'
Wolf Creek, Wyoming, Spring 1893
Fine laughter lines crinkled that cobra lidded, luxuriously lashed, iconic gaze as it delivered its seduction. I returned the gaze with difficulty. Brown hands smoothed my shivering body. My fingers combed through thick, corn hair. Those curved lips grinned, coveting mine. My palms curved that gorgeous jaw and neck. The expectant dizzying kiss smothered my gasp. My thighs juddered. I jolted awake, my body arched, my pleasure assured/delivered.
Startled, I squeezed my thighs together and the elation eased. I sat up in bed and bandied my woolly-eyed inspection around my hotel bedroom. Gloomy light edged the green curtains at the large sash window. The wallpaper was green, fussily patterned. A dark wood wash stand carried a china jug and bowl. Beside that a dresser and mirror squatted. A thread bare rug covered creaky floorboards beside my brass bedstead. A brass oil lamp sat on a dark wood cabinet beside the bed and glass lights hung from the ceiling. The smell of fresh coffee from downstairs melded with that of stale tobacco. In the street men exchanged greetings, accompanied by the clip-clop of horses.
Wolf Creek huddled in the foothills of the Rockies, where snow crusted the greenery and brown stone reached coldly onto the plain. I had settled into this hotel - the hosts kindly warming towards this unescorted young woman – have had a decent slumber, a strange awakening, and now faced a task I had extraordinarily mixed feelings about. My bandaged shoulder thudded with my heartbeat, aching. I glanced over at the bandanna I'd left lying on the cabinet, red with dried blood. The doctor had been fascinated by my story.
I sighed, relaxed back against the pillows, closed my eyes and returned to yesterday.
Yesterday I had looked every inch the cow-girl. My new ankle-length split riding skirt had given me undreamed of liberties. Add to this an open-necked blouse, red cotton scarf tucked under the collar and knotted at the front, a riding jacket, short boots and a broad-brimmed felt hat, and my image was complete. I was proud of my independent, adventurous self and sat straight backed and chin high in my saddle, riding astride, nudging my horse towards the edge of the fir forested foothills. Fine dust drifted within shafts of sunlight, and pine scent filled the cool afternoon air. I broke through the trees. Below, Wolf Creek spread onto the plain beneath a blue-grey sky, and two deer nibbled on fresh grass on the fringes of town. I closed my eyes and inhaled the clean air.
I'm Kate Howard, a New York feminist bohemian and journalist. A bit of a rare breed. I'm in my mid-twenties, by now expected to be married. My refusal to wear corset and bustle distressed my respectable, middle-class mother and sister, but the freedom this has brought is breath taking.
A gunshot fractured the peace. I jerked and my arm seemed to explode. Birds clattered through branches and my horse reared. I don't remember hitting the ground. my horse had bolted, swallowed by the pines. I was near to fainting, lying on my front, prickled by pine needles, one cheek nestled in soft earth. Crunching footsteps approached me, then stopped. My heart pounded, hurting.
'Mornin', lady.' Growled a voice.
'Easy pickin's.' Another responded.
I managed to raise my head a little. Two men leered down at me. Their arms hung at their sides, each holding a pistol in their right hand. My head flopped back down and the raging pain in my left arm registered. Oh, God. Their shadows shrouded me and my breathing was laboured. Oh, God... Two more gunshots and both men howled. I peered up. One man had folded to the ground, his hand smacked to his thigh. The other stood stooped, gripping his shoulder.
A figure emerged from the trees, cloaked by deep gloom, and moved forward. Sunlight glazed wide set cowboy boots, slowly climbed slim, long legs clad in pale blue jeans, then revealed a holster embracing slim hips, black shirt sleeves rolled below the elbows and an open shirt neck plunged into a narrow ‘v’. A star glinted on the left breast. A tall, athletic individual. Around my age, perhaps. My curiosity had almost overwhelmed my pain. Then the sunlight completely melted the deep shadow veiling the face. I inwardly gasped and my heart braked. Oh God...it's her.
Jeannie Morgan’s straightened gun arm shifted from one man to the other. They both gawped at her, clutching shoulder and thigh. She flicked her head and the barrel of her gun.
'God damn sick, the pair o' ya. An' cowardly, pickin' on an unarmed gal.’ Her husky, androgynous tones broke the hush.'Git outta here. Move!'
They stumbled into the forest and disappeared. She holstered her gun, approached me and sunlight drenched her. I inwardly gasped again, my pain distracted, my mouth open. She crouched in front of me and her close proximity washed over me. The pain dragged into the background. She held the look of a gorgeous youth who could leave young women dangerously breathless. My lengthy, mesmerised scrutiny revealed the truth of her gender. Her features were fine, effeminate. An Indian style bandanna bound fairly short, tousled, fringed fair hair. Our gazes clashed. Hers, an unblinking, iridescent, milky pale blue, won. I was anchored to the spot, frozen solid, and my heart thundered. She reached out a hand and, trembling with emotion, I took it. A warm, pleasant hand. Gentle. She pulled me to my feet and I clutched my burning arm. It was only then that I registered my blood soaked jacket sleeve. She glanced at it, and tenderness surged into those eyes and narrowed in concern.
‘Okay, Honey? They won't be back. Couple of cowards...Gee – yer bleedin' badly, darlin'.’
Honey. Her voice was like honey. I nodded, alarmed at the fancy that had gripped me, shocked at this longed-for encounter. I dragged free of that discomforting, seductive gaze. She grinned crookedly, toothily at me. Gentle dimples in her cheeks deepened. My heart groaned again. My own face burned ...with jealousy. I wanted to be her. An absurd desire had taken root. Her whole being drowned me. She studied my blood soaked sleeve and nodded towards a flat boulder.
‘Sit there an’ let’s take a look, Honey.’
Her sensuality radiated as I settled on the boulder, distracting me from the pain. She crouched again and helped me remove my jacket. Her warm breath bathed my face and she smelled not unpleasant – of cowboy, I imagine. A kind of smoky smell. She unbuttoned my sleeve and gently folded the blood soaked cotton back to expose my arm below my shoulder. Luckily the bullet had only skimmed the skin, leaving an ugly ragged line. She cradled my arm in that strong, bronzed hand. Her veins were prominent, the skin a silken sheen. Her mere presence and her voice bolted shivers through me.
‘We gotta bandage it, darlin', huh?’She grinned at my mesmeric gaze. Her slim fingers – her nails pale against her golden skin – unknotted her bandanna and used it to carefully bind my arm.
‘You’re gonna have a scar, honey.’ I glanced at the white trail across the inside of her right wrist, the fine golden down on her forearm, touched by sunlight. She regarded me and I coloured. She smiled gently. ‘D’you carry a gun, honey?’
‘No. Perhaps I should..’ Pale laughter lines crinkled around her eyes.
‘Try a small Derringer, mebbe. Huh?’
‘I will. It was stupid to come out unarmed.’
‘You’re alright. Just remember fer next time, huh? Particular in these parts. You a stranger? Never seen ya before.’
'I’m on vacation. It’s beautiful here.’
‘Good t’have yer, darlin’, but ya gotta see the doc ‘bout that arm. Where ya from? Interestin' accent you got there.'
'New York. Manhattan.'
'Uh-huh.' She nodded.
My gaze meandered the curve of her long, womanly neck, the smoothness of her chest and hint of cleavage while she crouched. She peered intently at me. Her eyes slightly narrowed.
‘You’re trembling fit t’bust, darlin’. Sure you’re alright?’ I nodded as we stood up. She was tall, approaching six foot. 'Alright t’get back? I’d give ya a lift only I ain’t headin’ that way.’
‘My horse bolted. It’s not far. I can walk.’
‘Sure. Alright. ''Spect yer hoss went home. You too. Take care now.’
She flashed her grin and winked – she wore that charismatic magnetism like a garment. I managed a jocular salute and she chuckled and threw her head back, her jaw and neck revealing all their sexuality. She touched fingertip to thumb between her lips and whistled. A soft rustling preceded the entry of a beautiful brown horse with a white muzzle into the clearing. She leaped into the saddle and returned my salute.
She circled her horse, nudged him into the forest and was gone. I gaped at the spot where she'd been and touched the scarf at my arm.
I felt emotionally, physically, shattered.