Friday, 16 March 2012

Folks as tired as me should be kept in sheds

Away again in Wales for a 'break,' though I come to this tireder than a sixteenth century inter-town cartless vegetable trader. My six month old has been playing wake up tag with his two year old sister since three am. The game went on until it was time to 'get up.' This trip, my mum is with us. I suggested she might like a break and now she may be going home today in a breakable state, though I am relying on her fortitude to carry her sanely back to Warwick. During the times when they have not been half mast, being in the same house as my mother for the first time in ages, has been an eye opener. I thought I was scatty and generally bonkers because of lack of sleep; but I fear it's genetic. Apart from our marbles, Mother and I lose the same things every day (brushes, coats, hats, children): we don't know if we have not made the tea or just drunk it (we are taking it intravenously). Mum put couscous on Grace's cereal, mistaking it for sugar. I dropped my smart phone in a deep hot bath. Happily the phone is so darn smart that it is still with me, though its red eye blinks manically and accusingly at me all night, probably like my own livid red eyes do when taken out in the world by my sleep-hollowed head or possibly all night long.

I was in the Welsh Boots, which is more lilting and friendly than the barky one back in London. This little seaside place is awash with friendly retired people. I have no idea how else to put that. 'Old folk' sounds patronising in a jolly way, or jolly patronising; senior citizens sounds 'trying too hard to be deferential.' I could go on but I daren't. Folks as tired as me should be kept in sheds. During my last visit I was having a scary allergic reaction to drugs - not those kind, penicillin, no not that kind, anyway, this visit I left my regular medication in London. All important things are 'left' when you are crazed with tiredness. I probably wouldn't be surprised to wake up, or not wake up, as the case may be, without my left arm or leg. Severe tiredness is a kind of leglessness, but armless it is not. In fact it can be down right dangerous. Many times I have had to pull myself back from stepping off the kerb into afters. On more than one occasion I have offered the baby my own food instead of his. Don't worry, I pull back at the last minute! I have told stories about other people that were about other people. Who knows what dreadful dramas I have begun? I don't. I don't remember.

Back to Boots. There, I've landed. As I queued, old ladies (old-er ladies?) took it in turns to pacify my yelling baby as I tried to make myself understood to the pharmacist without yelling above the noise. One lady performed the most animated peek-a-boo routine that I have ever seen. Me and the baby were both mesmerised. Afterwards, when she was paying for her prescription, the Boots lady asked her if she was 'alright for a bag.' She then launched into a further comic routine about being 'alright for a bag,' which involved her face and her tatty handbag. It was hilarious and not something that is likely in London. Ladies like this do not seem to occur in London at all. Where are they? There is a call for more entertainment in queues. In London people are generally swearing under their breath or stamping their feet in a huff. Situations like that are priceless. As priceless as sleep.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Emily's Writing Life for World Book Day

Emily realized she could write until the cows were slaughtered and turned into biltong from an early age (goodbye vegetarian readers – no please don’t flee that was a joke on carnivorous Zimbabweans). There was no television to speak of in 70’s Zimbabwe, so she read all the Enid Blyton’s (well nothing was politically correct in Africa back then) and then gobbled through her parents bookshelves. She particularly enjoyed Wilbur Smith and Reader’s Digest compilations. At school she discovered that making up stories was impressive to teachers and she won some national poetry competitions. At secondary school she doctored essays for her friends and wrote scathing commentary on the government.

Then she left school and took a dark path punctuated here and there by bright flashes of writing. There followed angst ridden journal writing for a number of years, which, when found and read as they occasionally were, caused widespread chaos. There were songs written in the middle of the night aided and abetted by substances best left untampered with, given the writing that emerged, that was often as fuddled as the writer. Then Luca arrived and life had to become serious and so did the writing. One day, Emily realized that she needed to go to university, it was quite literally, life or death, but the less said about that the better. She rung up the faculty who refused to take her because her South African university entrance exams were not the same as ‘A’ levels. So, drawing on her long lost ability (she was now no spring chicken, but more jaded hen) to impress the teachers with lyrical waxing, she wrote a passionate essay on literature and writing and they accepted her on the BA (Hons) in Literature course.

Her creative writing tutor at the university advised her to do an MA in Creative Writing, and afterwards she was nominated the university’s writer of the future (picture her in a silver spacesuit riding on a giant rocket-pen) in order for her to be put up for the Jerwood/Arvon young writer’s apprenticeships, a national award, one of which she won. Following on from this she read from her work at a literary cafĂ© attended by agents, several of which approached her offering to represent her. She went with the one who seemed most keen, and began the arduous task of writing After the Rains, which seemed to take until the cows were…

After the Rains is available for £5.00 until Sunday 4 March in honour of World Book Day. Emily realises WBD was 1 March. Please contact for details