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Archive for Mehefin, 2010

                 For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to eat Marmite every day as I heard it can help repel mosquitoes (since we live hear the salt marsh we have tropical levels of the damn things so I’m ready to try anything!) Unfortunately over-dosing on marmite seems to have done nothing to solve the problem – if anything I have been bitten more…and my skin definitely smells of marmite now!

                Faith gave me a few pointers yesterday, including echoing my husband’s wisdom that garlic was an excellent repellent. I am now resolved to eating 2 cloves of raw garlic per day and giving the marmite a miss…

                Additionally, Caroline told me that ‘Mosi-bite’ is not as toxic as some of the other potions and she has found it very effective even when she has visited tropical regions…so I will pick some of this up tomorrow in MarketTown…

                I am trying at the moment to go to early-morning training here at the Sandstone Uni pool too, but this is difficult with my fatigue and all the recruitment we are doing, but I have hit upon a possible potion to help with this too: Mars refuel. I had a bottle knocking around in the boot of my car and, having experienced a bizarrely sleepless night following a Mars ice-cream during Doctor Who, I drank the refuel after swimming…and managed to go through the whole day without the debilitating fatigue. Subsequently I stopped off at the garage on the way back and stocked up with them and have had one every day for the last 3 days. My verdict so far is that, whilst I do not feel wonderful, I haven’t had the sudden crash of fatigue which renders me slur-worded and heavy limbed…so watch this space for updates on my Alwen Jones’ marvellous medicines!

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                 This week my husband was going away for a couple of days of intensive birding (bird watching for those who know what they’re talking about) so I decided to take the opportunity to revel in some less refined dining – namely new potatoes, roasted in the oven…in dripping and eaten as chips with mayo and bread and butter…with a couple of San Miguels!

                So, having already sampled my first San Miguel, I set about breaking up the dripping, in its thin plastic pot, holding it in one hand, twisting a sharp knife into the dripping with my other hand. Needless to say this is a very stupid thing to do but I was behaving a bit more gung ho than usual. Anyway, as you’ve probably already guessed, the dripping cracked suddenly, and the knife went straight through the dripping, straight through the thin plastic pot and straight into the palm of my hand!

                Immediately the hole in my hand filled with dark coloured blood, lots of it, and I had visions of it squirting upward like in the Freddie Krueger movie (the one starring Johnny Depp). I was standing next to the sink so I stuck my hand under the running water – is this a good thing to do? Or is this actually the wrong thing to do? Anyway, the pain I then felt was excruciating and I couldn’t bear it so I had to stop.

            Stood in the kitchen, applying as much pressure as I could bear to the wound, and really started to panic. I was on my own, I was bleeding, I didn’t know how bad the wound was or how to fix it, and I didn’t know where my phone was. Might this be how it would all end for me, in this ridiculous, pointless manner? A stupid accident brought about by my loutish, careless abandon? After a couple of minutes had passed and I hadn’t collapsed or lost an extraordinary amount of blood I pulled myself together and went upstairs in search of a bandage (in the absence of which, I settled for a bandana).

           My husband then returned early and thus saw me with my greasy hair, bandana-hand and slightly shocked demeanour. By this point the bleeding had ceased so my cut looked reasonably insignificant – needless to say he felt I was making a bit of a fuss about nothing!

            In addition to this mini-drama I have also, during the course of this week, managed to: put a dent in the door of the Clio, just by parking too close to the hedge on our drive and flinging the door open to hastily; lose the top to my main memory stick (I recall having it in the garden, tucking it inside some kind of pocket/ case to ‘keep it safe’ but have hunted high and low since and have been unable to find it); drop a bottle on my foot on the way to the recycling tray outside, causing yet another toenail-bruise-which-will-take-years-to-grow-out thus leaving me at the mercy of nail polish!

          I can only hope that this week is less eventful in the accident stakes!

          Meanwhile, I have fashioned a laptop sunshade, based on the proper ones on the internet, out of a cardboard box and, if I balance a brolly (umbrella) on one side, I am able to see the screen whilst sitting in the garden…sure this somewhat defeats the object of sitting in the garden (since I am also largely in the shade) but it’s a start and means I can work on my creative writing whilst idling in the sun…now maybe if I could just get my hands on one of those IPads…

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            So it turns out that keeping up with blog posts, whilst maintaining a hectic work schedule and secretly trying to carve out a career on the Welsh literature scene, is not as easy as one might have thought! I have, at various times in my life, kept paper-form diaries, and seemed to have no problem writing a few words each day; it’s often therapeutic if there’s lots of stressful, unpleasant and especially unfair things going on at the time. But I guess the main differences are that:

1.       The purpose of a paper diary is usually for the person writing them to express their thoughts, and even if they are then read back, it is usually only the person reading them that will be party to their content…with any attempt to turn the diary into published work being subject to heavy editing and creative fictionalisation (Jean Rhys wrote the fabulous Voyage in the dark based on some paper diaries she wrote having been pensioned off by her former lover…but she reworked the diaries several years after the fact, having not published them as Triple Sec, in their original form as planned).

 

2.       But the whole ethos of blogging is based on the instantaneous publication which is true to life, minute day to day; of people following the story as it unfolds, unedited, unabridged, unashamed…and this requires a greater level of on-the-spot-self-reflection than most of us mere mortals are capable of!

            One of the things I am finding difficult is to produce edited highlights relating to the focus of the blog; that is to say – Belle de jour was a call girl, so she presented anecdotes and stories from her working life (although she did brilliantly weave in stories and reflections on life generally – I especially enjoyed reading about her holiday when she stayed with J…it made me wish I could do something so spontaneous!) However I am an aspiring author and had originally hoped to present stories from a literary club I was trying to establish: The Inklingettes…however if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that, not only have I singularly failed to establish such a group with any kind of real consistency in terms of meetings and output – which would seem to suggest the blog would be better re-named ‘The Inklingette’ but I do not really do much in the way of producing actual finished short stories or other creative output! Consequently tales of rejection and publication (as uninteresting as they may prove to be?) are as sparse as tales of a happy group of literary-minded friends, meeting at a cosy ‘local’ and engaging in scholarly activity!

            One problem, of course, is that I have two cyber-identities and thus two blogs. Each month I ensure I post something on my Welsh blog. Most months I have my column as published in the local Welsh-language newsletter, and for the stretches in between I dig out poems and short stories, some of which have been published, but most of which failed to make the grade in the ‘real world’.

            I did of course mull over, at first, the idea of ‘blogging’ as I am here, on that website, thus the ‘traffic’ would be doubled….but then that ‘blog’ isn’t really a blog per say (now that I understand the real meaning of the word) it is more a depository for my creative output. It is a place where anyone interested in my work can go and check it out, see if they like it, offer me a book deal or publish my poems in collections of great Welsh poetry etc. A blog is more a stream of consciousness, a diary, making it up as you go – with not all of it brilliant or worthy of being read more than once. Would this matter? I’m not sure. I’ve agonised over what to do about it for the last few months and I think I have finally decided to keep things as they are. Whilst blogging on this site and only posting my creative output on the other site undoubtedly dilutes traffic and means that I am out of the running for Golwg 360 best blog awards, I feel that blogging on that site would risk obscuring my creative output in the ‘white noise’ of my whingeing about work, money and not being acknowledged as a creative genius.

             Having just read back this post and the last couple I think this is definitely for the best. Perhaps I should rename the site ‘navel-gazing of an aspiring author’! One thing’s for sure, this blog will not be publishable in the breath-taking unedited way of Belle de Jour’s diary…she is obviously a more skilled writer than I…these will be useful notes to draw upon though and a useful place for me to try out chapter drafts, when I get around to shepherding my ideas in that direction…

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            The life of a budding author is so hectic. I managed to get up for early morning training yesterday and felt really good keeping up with everyone. Then I hot-footed it across campus to check my emails and do a few things in the office, even though I was officially ‘off’ on time in lieu. I then raced out to the car, programmed the TomTom and headed for Llangollen.

                On arrival I was so hungry I went out to Fouzies and had a whole 10inch veggie pizza, fries and an orange juice (so much for slimming from swimming!) As I reached my parents’ flat I was hit with a wave of fatigue and went to bed for 2 hours. I got up just in time to spruce myself up – make up, fancy new black trousers and top with glittery bits on.

                Reengaged TomTom and drove over to the literature committee meeting (very exciting new development in my budding author career) then drove back to Llan and promptly fell asleep. Got up this morning, walked to the top of the mountain to burn some calories and clear my head, came home and cooked Spaghetti Bolognese with my niece Carmen, who was delighted with being given the job of washing the vine-tomatoes! Then I fired up the Clio and the TomTom and sped back through the traffic to get back to work, with just enough time to send a quick email about the meeting last night, write this blog post and I shall shortly be switching off my computer and racing down to meet Faith in the car park to go to the Frock exchange! In fact, had she not been caught in traffic I probably wouldn’t have had time to write a blog post at all!

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               Okay so no, I’m not actually on a literary pilgrimage to the homeland of Jean Rhys, I’m sat in my garden in Cheshire; but with the tree ferns, newt-laden pond complete with burgeoning yellow and purple water irises, and a generally untamed feeling to the place, it is easy to make believe that I have somehow been transported there – and oh, how exciting that would be! Dominica is on my list of top 5 countries I simply must visit during my lifetime, by hook or by crook, and preferably in the next few years.

                    Meanwhile, I am actually going to be walking in Jean’s footsteps soon, as I have booked my place at the Jean Rhys conference and have booked a room at the hotel recommended in Bloomsbury! I am so excited and have taken to carrying all 4 novels around with me at all times and spontaneously dipping into them and marvelling at her genius. I now can scarcely believe that there was ever any question in my mind as to whether or not I should go – what was I thinking?

              This is a one off chance to immerse myself in Jean-ness! This is the author who evoked in me the same kind of eerie epiphany Lori Lieberman must have felt when she went to see Don McLean for the first time. With every line I felt jean was ‘strumming my pain with her fingers, killing my life with her words, and killing me softly with them into the bargain! And as for finding my letters and reading them out for the crowd, you bet this was how I felt. I blushed with embarrassed for the heroines as I recognised similar naivety and weakness. I am simply hugging myself at having the chance to go!

                I’ve had a luxurious day so far, after all my hard work with the cleaning, washing etc over the last couple of days. First I sat up in bed with my cup of tea (made and brought to me by my husband), and I re-read all my columns over the past year. Then I set to work amending the current effort which I wasn’t quite happy with. Having successfully achieved this task and being happy with the result, I came downstairs and broke with habit and had crumpets with jam for breakfast rather than my usual, sensible, cereal. I came into the garden and used my new hula hoop to tighten up my abs and tummy. It’s a really great hoop because it comes to bits to be stored in a sensible manner and is covered with comfy foam. My husband came outside whilst I was ‘hoola-ing’ laughed and said, “I’ll come out and see you for the comedy value!” After watching for a few minutes he asked if I thought it was working – I said I thought so, I could feel my muscles tightening and certainly they had felt stiff after my last workout…but then I added that, unless I began to look like Jennifer Aniston after six weeks or so I would probably not bother with it anymore!

                Hmm, I have just swatted a mosquito on my tummy but it was too late, I can feel the stinging where it bit me – and I am covered head-to-toe with skin so soft too, damn it! It’s pretty out here but I’ll have to go in or else I’ll be covered in bites and it’ll be unbearable!

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           On Friday evening, as I prepared dinner, my husband walked through the kitchen, looking very pleased with himself, and said:

“Guess what I bought this afternoon”.

I guessed at various books and fishing-related paraphernalia until he gave me a clue:

“It’s to help clean the pond”.

“Hmm, is it a pump?” I asked.

“No” he said.

I thought some more.

           Then I remembered my aunty Pearl’s fish tank, which years ago I had been transfixed by; it had a mechanical oyster in the middle of the tank which opened and shut – and somehow this was supposed to clean the water:

 “One of those oyster things” I said.

This was greeted with some astonishment on his part and he enquired:

“How did you know that?”

           I began to explain and it transpired that the “Oysters” we had, were actually mussels – and they were real, living one’s rather than mechanical devices!

“New pets! How cute” I said

“Yes” he said (looking slightly bemused or amused, it was hard to tell)

“I didn’t even know you could get them, what made you buy them?” I asked.

“Well I thought they could help keep the pond clean and also, I thought they might be quite nice things to have!” Then: “Come and have a look at them”

(me) “What they’re out there right now?”

(he) “Yes” (laughing).

            So we went over to the pond, in our exotic garden that would have made Jean Rhys feel at home once more (it bears some resemblance to the landscape she describes in Wide Sargasso Sea) and there, in the shade, nestling together, were three, large mussels (much bigger than the ones you get in restaurants covered in a creamy, garlicky, white wine sauce).

            Now, you might think, they’re not your usual pet, and I would agree. They are also never likely to be very interactive or show much in the way of affection. But I felt that same nice warm feeling you get inside when you get a new pet, even when I got back to the kitchen – it’s just nice to know that they are there. On Sunday I went out onto the sandstone patio to eat my breakfast on the picnic table and I saw a little bubble emerge from one of the mussels – you’ll have to trust me on this, if you don’t have pet mussels of your own, but it really was cute!

            Anyway, since I am classifying them as pets I figured I may as well name them and, since there are three of them, I decided to name them after the three musketeers (must get around to reading this one day!) I had some inkling of their names since I used to watch Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds when I was a little girl, but having just googled to check, the three names are: Athos, Porthos and Aramis (this was the one I remembered!) So hopefully this will also help me to remember their names, should the need ever arise for me to recount them – hey, it happened in Slumdog Millionaire!

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