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Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Writer’s Dilemma

What would YOU do if….

You met a man.  He was young! Handsome! (well, interesting looking). Slim (not to say skinny).  You shared bucket lists – and THEY WERE THE SAME (substantially).

He likes to ask WHY.

YOU like to ask why.

He’s interested in life after death.

YOU’RE interested in death after life.

He has an enormous TV screen to which he has hooked up his hi-tech computer to produce amazing instant footage of You Tube and TED talks (don’t tell Ms M, but he uses a Mac – the Anti-Christ).

He loves animals.

You have the hots for him.

And not only that, but…he’s a WRITER.  A published writer!

Sounds good, doesn’t it.  You read his first novel and it’s great. A few tweaks here and there and it’d be almost as good as YOUR first novel.  You think wow! But do you stop? No, you don’t. You read his second novel.  And it is AWFUL!  He uses too many adverbs and adjectives.  There are redundant phrases and sentences.  There are plot holes and unlikelihoods.  There are stereotypes – lots of them. Large elements of the plot have been lifted from the Hunger Games.

NOW what do you do?  You still like him, a lot, but this writing…just no!  Worse, he’s intimated that with a few tweaks, YOUR stories could perhaps reach similar standards of excellence.  Hmmm.

I think we have a sequel to A Clash of Kings. It’s going to be called ‘A Clash of Egos’ and it’s going to be even MORE bloodthirsty than Game of Thrones.  I mean, it’s got to be – there are WRITERS in it.

I mean really.  What’s more important – intellectual respect – or that certain feeling in the seat of the pants?

Announcing the unsexiest invitation to snog in the entire universe….

bikies moll

Ok perhaps that’s overstating it.

I met Mr Motorbike yesterday. It was a spur of the moment thing. I was in the area. I thought, why not.  One coffee never hurt anyone.

We meet. He’s ok. He’s into motorbikes.  He says, ‘Want to go for a spin?”

I think, it’s been 20 years since I’ve sat on the back of a motorbike.  And that was when my best friend was a bad girl with pink hair and an unbelievably huge bottom, who derived major street-cred from arriving at rough bars astride a large black two wheeled thing that went vroom.  I can’t be more specific – I’m not into motorbikes.  Except to say that my own two wheeled thing, which had wonky handlebars and went ‘squeak’, was kind of laughable in comparison.

So I’m in a YES kind of mood.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?  I could be splattered all over the road like a can of tomato ravioli only sexier.  Or I could spend the next six months in hospital.  Or in a home-made dungeon….

So the next day he picked me up and we got on the vroom vroom and I suddenly remembered that I don’t like things that go fast, and the feeling of 100km/hr (actually 60 but it felt like it) wind in my face, and watching the road leer menacingly at my knees as we lean round a curve…I don’t like it much at all!

Anyway finally we reach our destination, a kinda pleasant picnic spot next to a river (with some families doing security patrol).

Me. So we’ll sit down here, shall we? What a nice morning!

Him. Mmm.

Me: So…what do you do when you’re not on your motorbike?

Him: (looks blank) I, um, garden, that kind of thing. And work, of course. Though not really.  They pay me a lot but I don’t actually do any work.

Me: Great. But in the evenings? I mean, after you’ve finished gardening..do you read?

Him: Nope.

Me: Watch tv, movies?

Him: Not much.

Me: What then?

Him: (after a pause) Don’t know really.

We contemplate the scenery.  I think about how quickly it would be polite to ask to get back on the bike and go home.

Suddenly there’s movement at the station.  A quick glance downwards.  A nervous leg movement.  And then it comes.

“Would you like contact?”

He’s already leaning in for the kill, lips pursed, arms invitingly curved.

“NO.”

“Oh, ok then.”

Well, that’s that then.  Fun time had by all.  But at least I got to have that bikies moll fantasy over again!

What’s the unsexiest come-on you’ve ever had?

Why the Great Wall of China is made of rice

It’s made of rice.  Not many people know that.  It’s very useful, says Hilda, because if the Chinese ever run out of food, they can eat the Wall.  There’s a lot to be said for edible buildings.

Hilda is eighty five years old, though her estimate of when she was born varies, and frankly, it’s irrelevant.  She has the playful, slightly macabre and mischievous imagination of an eight year old.

When I suggest that, given how many Chinese there are, the Great Wall might not last long in a famine, Hilda says they can eat the herbiage growing on top of it.  Because, she says, all the bodies buried in the Wall have composted into excellent nutrients.  She’s philosophical about human tragedy, real or imagined.  She says with some relish that in China, girl babies are thrown in the river and ‘drown along with all the other rubbish’.  Then the fish eat them.  But ‘fish have to eat, don’t they.”

She reminds me of another old lady I met in a ward once, who asked my brother where she could get blackbirds.  When he asked her what for, she said she wanted them to put in a pie, of course.  Hilda prefers strawberries, which she puts under the mattress to avoid sharing with the carers and fellow-inmates.  Better squashed than gone, she says.

And yet, the book hardly exists that Hilda hasn’t read, from Dostoevsky to Robert Fisk to Germaine Greer.  She doesn’t like to socialise in the nursing home – the other women talk only about their health and the staff make her play silly games, involving balls and bingo.  Other people’s grandchildren bore her.

Her memories have become a story read long ago and half forgotten.  Did she spend twenty years in a Russian gulag? Was she a British prisoner of war?  A slave in Byzantium?  A spy?  She says she was.  Who knows.  She talks of many admirers, doing the hokey pokey when it was fashionable, flirting with the handsome victims of motorcycle crashes as a nurses’ aide in some hospital, somewhere, singing anti-Russian songs in Finnish, and her mother, a Polish aristocrat’s concubine.  It would make a better novel than most, if she could be bothered with the details.  “Of course,” she says impatiently when I ask when and where, “of course! Don’t you know that!”.  I’m trying to put down anchors in this plot, Hilda is floating free as plankton.

When I get home from visiting the nursing home, I google rice and the Great Wall of China, and guess what, she’s not wrong.  Well, not entirely, the bricks were stuck together with rice and sand, a kind of mortar.  Hilda’s little joke, not so confused after all.  Never underestimate old ladies.