Sunday 25 June 2023

Following on from last post of total incredulity re the state of our world

Come   on. Really


Who on earth thought these loo paper names up? . . . I sat in many tedious and surreal advertising/marketing meetings in my youth when I was a London stylist (cabbie/finder of ludicrous stuff at ultra short notice) but I don't think anyone would ever really of thought suggesting that 'Instant Zen' would be a great name for something to wipe your backside on.

Having suddenly realised that our rental lodgings was out of loo paper I had to scoot to the nearest shop to grab a packet. I hunted for something made of recycled paper, preferably encased in other recycled paper rather than plastic but there was nothing in the whole aisle (longer than an average truck) that was actually made of real, recycled paper - a nod to a small percentage; a packet claiming that its wrapping was made (mostly) of recycled plastic but nothing about the actual paper itself - lilac/mint/aqua/rose coloured; quilted, kitten-soft (ugh) better than porcupine-soft, I suppose, and scented . . . like these two varieties pictured here. What does Instant Zen smell like? Better than Delayed Zen? I've never actually thought what Zen would smell like. Sort of pale, scentless, calm, a few leaves gathered from the garden might be more appropriate.

Perfume of summer sun. Traffic jams, overflowing bins, wasps, sweat, withered flowers trying to cope with the heat . . . Spring might have been a better choice.

I will make sure I get to the organic shop next time where you can buy fair priced, loose, off-white loo rolls with no packaging - and no quilting, kittens, designs, colours or smells.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Just in case I was in any doubt of the seriously stupid direction our civilisation is headed in...

I utterly found confirmation of it while visiting our local supermarket this morning.

Positioned within the aisle, or rather, entire island given over to Coke and all its associated fizzing death beverages, there was this. A sort of DJ booth without music at which, apparently, you could have your own personalised plastic Coke cup made while you waited - and, of course, having spent the required amount on aforementioned drink.

It was only 9:00 am and as the plastic cup craftsperson was absent until 10:00 I couldn't hang around to see the action - I had a dog to walk. Rather a shame as I was curious to see if the marketing outfit had seriously researched their demographic for this particular hanger of nightmarish goods of which probably 85% are completely unneeded. Most of the clientele appeared to be over fifty, wheeling trolleys about and gently moaning about the fact that certain types of cheese were missing. It seemed unlikely they would queuing up at 10 o'clock for their red plastic cup to pack in their rucksack for the next music festival. 

What was I doing in there? you may ask being so obviously suspicious of all grande surface. Well, I do like the 'anti gaspi (no waste) section - stuff going out of date, unsold as its a bit weird etc; and there are a few luxuries to be bought from time to time - a certain type of square fat cakes that our growing colony of blue tits adore, a bar of soap for B and B guests, root ginger, etc . . .

I did feel an urge to glue myself to the plastic and cardboard Coke construction, or perhaps attack it with a rather aggressive spade I'd noticed in the garden section called a 'root slayer' but then the dog would be stuck in the car and the B and B room wouldn't get prepared and Mark needed the car. Maybe I'll go back another day. It'll be interesting to see how long the thing stays there before being replaced with Christmas crap or whatever the next consumerist money trap device that one of our planet's mega-corps have thought up.

Monday 19 June 2023

Londonia revisited - in 2073

Having managed to grab a few days away from the routine at home - rampaging garden, B and B etc, I finally got down to doing some of my own work. Writing has been scarce recently but my objective was to start a series of pen and ink artworks to use for the Londonia crowd funding project.

Inspired by rivers, old boathouses, the sea and my quiet lodgings at a delightful 50s house in Quimper I faced the blank page, defeated the urge to watch re-runs of Masterchef and came up with several sketches to start off the series. 

Two sketches by Jarvis (a main character in the book and recorder of Londonia 2073 life via pen and paper - no cameras, iPhones, etc...)

my temporary art studio

Monday 12 June 2023

Going forward with back catalogue

Or, slightly forwards and a bit sideways.

Being someone who doesn't overly trust this whole internet business, I decided a few days ago to self-publish my finished books, not to attempt to sell them online - I'm still naively confident that they will all at some point grace the shelves of lovely independent bookshops - but just to have words on paper between covers.

I haven't used Lulu publishing for a long time as Londonia was taken on and published in the traditional way. The site has changed dramatically! What used to take hours is now highly simplified and efficient, even for madame Luddite. I loaded up the last edited version of Smithi and a new copy of The 158th Book pressed, ok, do it, and forgot about the order until this morning when UPS delivered it.

Although the size of the book was not at all what I had anticipated, and I'd forgotten to put my name on the cover and spine - duh! the result was rather lovely. After flipping through it, I've realised that this was a very late edit and I should have printed the one before as a chunk had been taken out on the agent's suggestion - which I didn't overly agree with. So, I'll do it again, or maybe I'll just add a few loose pages with the suggestion that the reader can choose which version they prefer. And I'll add my name on the cover, maybe even make a hardcover which I did for early versions of Londonia - buying a suitable sized old hardback book and making a mashup of the two books . . . I'll post the result.

Next up, Lulu copy of The Panto Horse End, and The Couch. 

Friday 9 June 2023

Holding back the tide

Of plastic.

Or at least a few tiny drops in the form of household objects which I had to buy to complete the itinerary of our recently-renovated annex. People expect certain things when renting - cutlery, a bed, towels, chairs, etc, and, when it's very hot - which it is here, and about to become more so - a fan. Not doing air-con. We can't afford it, and even if we could it just always seems like you get acclimatised to then have a horrible shock being anywhere outside the room/flat/house in question. And it's an environmental nightmare, something that should be used where people need it in order to actually stay alive.

So, a fan . . . and I suppose an iron might be expected. We went off to a vide grenier - (car boot sale/garage sale) and I was most gratified to be able to re-house a lovely, seemingly unused iron and nice chunky fan dating back to perhaps the 90s, both items in super working order and five euros a piece. A boring tramp around one of the hyper-elec goods stored was evaded, and we bought a beautiful pair of ancient, super sharp secateurs and baby onion and beetroot plants, carefully wrapped in newspaper bundles from an amazing elderly couple who probably never ironed anything and if they had a fan it would have dated from around 1946 and still be in excellent service.

Saturday 3 June 2023

The occasional usefulness of annoying things which can lead to marvellous encounters

In this case - unbelievably useful and very marvellous.

I suppose most of us suffer from insomnia from time to time - or a lot, or never. There are people, like Mark (husband) who reaches a seemingly profound sleep after a few seconds, his hands announcing the waves of slumber as his fingers twitch as if still on the piano's keys from the pieces he has played throughout the day. However, he experiences his insomnia in the early hours, often waking at four or five - five has become quite a luxury . . . 

I have phases when I drop off like a tired dog to stay asleep for a good seven hours (perfect for me) but more often it takes some time to switch off my mind, or I'll wake at the fearful three in the morning when all fairly manageable problems distort into a theatre of darkness and I lie awake staring at the dim outlines of the beams above me adding the fact that some of them look distinctly bowed and surely unable to support the floor's weight upstairs . . .

If the non-sleep is very stubborn I'lll try migrating to a sofa or another bed - if there is no B and B guest in it.  :0) I used to try sounds of thunderstorms, crackling fires, and meditation - which I still use a lot, but more as a daily routine whatever state my mind is in. Then I discovered audiobooks. I've always had a stock of comfort CDs such as Lord Peter Wimsey or Dickens, but The CD format is not ideal as the disc has to be changed, and not having got as far as an audible inscription I had a meander about on Youtube to see what was on offer. 

One of the first books which presented itself in a fateful way was The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, read by a certain Steven Red Fox Garnett. Fateful as this was one of my childhood go to books, its text and visual imagery so incredibly atmospheric; a comforting story of gentle triumph played out against a backdrop of wind-wuthered moorland and beautiful gardens - the perfect antidote to my life in grimy North London. As soon as I heard the Mr Garnett's voice I was mesmerised, listening to the whole book - without dozing off - and then again on subsequent insomnia nights more as a comfort blanket, waking briefly, lulled by knowing where the story had got to and then extending a finger to stop the recording if I felt sufficiently sleepy.

I keenly checked what else Mr Garnett had recorded and was excited to find he had completed Dracula in its unabridged form - a feat! This is an extraordinary work, the voices utterly believable, just the right amount of music and snatches of sound effects to add to the tension. I found the voice of Van Helsing to be incredible coming from the reader's 30 year old vocal cords, not a wisened, elderly Swiss doctor from the C19th.

Other favourites so far:  a wonderfully creepy rendition of Lovecraft's The Colour of Outer Space, and Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlett. The voice of Sherlock is spot on with again, just the right amount of background sound effects - hooves, grandfather clocks, old typewriter, chinking plates, etc.

So . . . I got to thinking about my own books and the fact I am not writing much for than the odd blog post currently due to a face pain thing which allows me only short bursts on screen - not conducive to writing as one never knows if one is about to be stabbed in the jaw bone/teeth/scalp, etc, making concentration on a storyline somewhat fractured. 

I wondered if Mr Garnett might consider reading Londonia, or any other of my works, and thusly contacted him. It took a while - he's busy, and probably suspicious of such offers, but finally we got there after he read the copy I sent him, and he was duly hooked. He's made a great start, deciding to work on the narration first and then add in all the voices and sound effects/music later. Even just listening to the narrated chapters without dialogue is extraordinary for me. All those words I'd partially forgotten, hidden in the pages of a book that I wrote, edited, re-edited, proof read, sent out to agents, and which was finally published by the marvellous, Tartarus Press.

Mr Red Fox has an impressive catalogue of titles ranging from children's favourites such as the Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Prince through to a recent and impressive recording of Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and many more. I'm proud and very excited to think of Londonia being added to his list, and am more than looking forward to how he will tackle all the voices - of which there are many. 

His YouTube channel:

I am putting together a crowd funding for Londonia as an audiobook and will re-blog when it's up and running.