Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Is Myleene a Hero for her baby name?

Huge congrats to the ever-grinning Ms Klass for the safe arrival of her second daughter, Hero. Not only on a healthy baby, but on an excellent choice of name inspired by a character in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

I expect people will queue up to have a go at a starry name, shoving her in the same bracket as Honey Kinney Ross, Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, Buddy Bear Oliver and the, apocryphal, Pocahontas McKenzie. But I think it's fantastic.

Let's face it, little Hero isn't going to have a normal life with a mother hell-bent on media world domination. There isn't any chance of her being picked on in a faceless comprehensive by a pack of Amys, Chantelles, Hannahs and Emilys. No, however much ordinariness Mama Klass is striving for, her girls will find themselves in an expensive classroom swapping head lice with Penelope, Arabella, Araminata and Cordelia.

Surely if we all believe ourselves and, therefore, our offspring to be special and unique then why would we want a dull name? There's nothing interesting in having a name so common it needs qualified by an initial to avoid cloakroom confusion - Sophie T, Katie J and Chloe McD.

When Charles and Margaret decided I should be Ellen back in 1967 no one had heard of the Internet. I imagine they just managed to find a name that was both interesting, slightly unusual and, yet, easy to spell. I'm very glad they did.

But is that all we need to consider now? Should we think about Google when we're considering baby names? You see, I've never found anyone else with my name and it's saved me a fortune in business cards. In order to find me, all anyone needs to do is type my name in and press search. And if they weren't already discussed at length in the media, Hero Quinn, Brooklyn Beckham and Apple Martin would be easily found by their LinkedIn profiles or Bebo pages.

So, for now, Myleene is a hero for Hero, and we should take a leaf out of the celebs' book, but I reserve the right to change my mind when we find out what the Beckhams are calling number four.

Pic: Bob and Mary or Brando and Macbeth?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The one in which the news someone wants me to write a book causes me to panic somewhat

For as long as anyone can remember I've been banging on about the great books I was going to write.

Although, as more and more people I knew became authors, I got quieter and quieter about it. I suppose I knew that I was running out of excuses and I certainly wasn't short of experiences to draw on.

I've even got a few chapters and a synopsis ready to go. Thing is though, publishers want to see the whole thing. They don't share your confidence in a sparkling story that gallops along all the way through. For all they know it might just fizzle out after a promising start.

But my problem is deadlines. I am unable to do things without one. OK I can do some things like eat chocolate and spend ages indulging in mild google stalking. Or looking at shoes or making soup. But stuff like this, that really requires stamina, won't get done without one. Particularly when there are shoes to be bought, navels to gaze at and money to be earned.

Then I had a flash of inspiration. It was probably in the shower, that's where most of my inspiration arrives, with the shower gel. I could perhaps, possibly, maybe get a non-fiction book commissioned without writing it first. Bingo.

A few days later, somewhere between shampoo and condition (By the way, I don't rinse and repeat, do you?) another flash. I'll write about blogging and how I think it has really helped me get out of my funk.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Blogging For Happiness would be about the benefits of wittering to the world on the Internet. Brilliant.

Then something really strange happened, the second publisher I tried said she liked it. As young people might say O M G. There was some to-ing and fro-ing about which chapters go where and what should be covered. Then we fixed a deadline for the end of June and she sent me a contract to sign.

The contract is still sitting here on my desk. Obviously she didn't give me a deadline for returning it, did she?

But now what? You may well ask. The fabulous ladies of the British Mummy Bloggers forum have generously and kindly offered to be interviewed or otherwise helpful. I've got a couple of experts lined up to offer opinion. I've even worked out that broken down into chapters, none of the sections are that much bigger than other things I've written.

What I also have is a rising sense of panic. What if I can't do it? What if there isn't enough time? This book-writing business was all very well as a very small thing miles away, but it isn't any more.

So in the spirit of practicing what I'm going to be preaching when I get on with it I thought I'd put fingers to keyboard and blog it out the scary stuff... I feel better already.

Friday, 18 March 2011

A walk at the Whangie

Is it through the Whangie, to the Whangie, round the Whangie?

If you don't know what I'm on about, or you think that, perhaps, I've come over all post-watershed, I will explain.

The Whangie is an odd rock formation in a corner of the Kilpatrick hills.

We walked there this week and the sun shone. Snow crunched under our feet while wet stuff loomed on the horizon. A curlew keened. A grouse disturbed clattered away.

Scotland showed herself, once more, to be beautiful, surprising and uplifting.

But what were we doing wandering about the Whangie on a school day? Clearly we were having a good time and certainly we were doing a good thing.

You see it was the day my brother should have been 40. By rights, we should have been getting ready to go his party, but we weren't. Instead, we got together and walked in his name, talked a lot and toasted him in the snow.

I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow.

The Handbag Index: what's it worth?

Some might say the currency of a happy marriage is love, patience and kindness. Some might even suggest it's about passion and romance. Others even say it's a form of domestic slavery where you swap supper and ironing for money.

But here at the Palace of Bundance it's handbags, shoes and, sometimes, shiny things in small boxes.

Here's the what the Index looks like at the moment:
Press trip to Nice: proper nice bag made of buttery soft yet thick leather and lined with something silky and prettily patterned. It might even have one of those cotton bags you're supposed to store it in, but never actually do.

Weekend in Ireland reviewing potency of Guinness and whiskey: a new pair of boots in the end-of-winter sale so they're almost an investment.

I know that in houses up and down the nation similar Indexes are being established. Newly decorated kitchens and holidays in hot places are put into the negotiations and pushed around like toy soldiers. Shoe collections are assessed and found wanting, catalogues are snatched up from doormats and studied for evidence.

What's on the Index in your house? Is it new undies for a night out with the boys? Or fancy-schmancy mascara in exchange for attendance at a sporting event? An upgrade from Tesco to Waitrose for tolerating a fly-fishing fixation?

PS A press trip is when a travel company's PR people take a load of hacks (from a range of areas entirely unrelated to travel) to the destination they are trying to plug. The PR people patiently try to interest them in the good bits and the new things while the hacks try to have as much fun, drink as much booze and eat as much fancy food as they possibly can. Think toddlers rampaging on e-numbers only noisier and greedier.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Where does Kylie keep her reading glasses?

Varifocals. Var-i-focals. That's what it's come to, dear reader.

I was at the optician this week and, um, my eyes are starting to show the deterioration typical of someone of my age.

All along I was blaming the dim lighting (you know, bulbs that magic themselves from 60 to 40 watts), the dirty windows and the intimidatingly small small print. I can't remember when it started, but I've noticed the focus pause. You know? Where you go to read titchy words and, increasingly, it takes a moment longer than it used to to force the little buggers into sharp contrast.

So what I need is new specs. Actually I need additional specs to put on when I want to see something properly. But the idea of taking off my looking at the computer and telly glasses, putting them aside, finding my reading glasses, putting them on, and then remembering what I was hoping to read in the first place is not a good one. Just how many woman hours would I lose in looking for them at the bottom of my handbag?

So, the solution is varifocals. Apparently they are the glasses for all kinds of looking. Cold comfort for the fact my eyes are showing my age.

Soothingly my optician told me that it happens to nearly everyone of this age with depressing inevitability.

That so? Then why don't we see Kylie - who is only a year younger than me - with reading glasses on then? Or Sarah Jessica Parker? Yeah. Let's make whipping the specs out of the handbag to read the menu the new black.

And by the same token, I'd like to see a bit more honesty on aging from other stars.
What about Madonna talking about how she scrutinises her chin for stray whiskers when no one's looking? Yeah.

How about Michelle Pfeiffer revealing how she has to do the pelvic floor thing when she feels a sneeze brewing?

Perhaps, Liz Hurley will share the secrets of her broken veins and Lulu will talk about how she's noticed her bingo wings wobble when she cleans the window.

Do you think

Meanwhile, did anyone see where I put my glasses?

Pic: Seq via Flickr

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Katie Price: make your Jordan mind up...

Katie Price and I go back a long way. That's not to say I've actually met the woman but I've read, written and edited enough words about her to stretch, well, a very long time.

I always had sneaking admiration for someone who took nothing but brass neck and a pretty face and turned it into enough brass to buy all the silk purses you'll ever need, to mix a metaphor.

You see, Kate and I first met when I worked at the Daily Star. She was the darling of that particular tabloid. Back then she was mostly sporting the comedy breasts but her face did look a little more like the naturally attractive girl she once was.

She was a single mum at the same time I was, both of us having shown ourselves to be bad man pickers. She doesn't appear to have improved much, while current evidence suggests I'm excellent at it.

She had a son whose disability was identified at about the same time my son's was.

Starting with her trip to the jungle where she came home with Peter Andre as a souvenir, she did a cunning job of reinventing herself as a likable working mum who only wanted a happy family life. She even suffered a miscarriage and, God knows, you wouldn't wish that on anyone.

No one believed the stories of drunken binges, nannies left holding babies, screaming rows and other diva-ish doings. Not Katie Price, surely not. And even when she 'fessed up to popping Gareth Gate's cherry while up the duff, I chose not to listen.

Then things shifted. I didn't mind all the products she flogged.. a girl's got to earn a coin after all. And there must be a market for scratchy knickers, tacky clothes, perfume and so on. However, when she started publishing books that she then admitted she didn't even read, I started to lose heart.

She got herself a Twitter account and an enthusiastic team of lawyers and started to use both in equal measure.

There are stories galore in the magazines about who she loves and doesn't love, who she's feuding with, who she fancies and all manner of other sordid revelation. And the busy lawyers, with heavily embossed writing paper, have had a field day firing off letters of sternly worded warning. OK, you'd kind of see their point if people were just making things up for the sake of it.

The problem is that Ms Price is perfectly happy to set a spark to some dry tinder with a well-placed tweet or even a twitpic. A quick perusal of her recent twitter stream has her on Comic Relief, entering a running race, emoting about the earthquake and having her hair done. So far, so tedious.

But look again. There's a picture, the one up there, that she's put out to go with the message about Comic Relief rehearsals. She's in the stars put on leotards and dance bit and doesn't stand a chance against the strangely attractive Noel Fielding impersonating Kate Bush... Yes, really. Would you look at that, she's doing her porn star smooch and smoulder into the camera and that young chap doesn't quite know what hit him.

Yet, I'll bet it won't belong before someone has published a story about her and that boy, ahem, stepping out together. Then there will be expensive lawyers letters saying she isn't and you shouldn't say so. The lad's girlfriend or boyfriend will leave him because of the fuss and KP will appear to stroll away to her next victim.

So, Katie, I feel I've known you long enough to say this. Stop it. Messing with the message will turn round and bit you on the bum and probably fairly soon.

If you're going to tweet suggestive ambiguous stuff, don't go all outraged when all possible interpretations get picked up and run with. This will annoy people.

It's working against you already. In one place I work the Katie Price quotient has gone down from a fat daily handful of stories to hardly anything. If that's what you want great, but, in case you haven't realised it, if you want the press to go quiet, stop saying and doing outrageous and attention-seeking things or, at least, do them in private.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Let's get off the crap-go-round

The school bring-and-buy sale was one of the casualties of last year's heavy snow. Its disappearance was mourned by the kids for a minute or two before they went off sledging and celebrated by me and probably all the other parents.

I thought it had gone away. I relaxed and started to believe it wasn't going to happen. Oh dear.

Just when I'd finished handing over cash for fair trade week, (I give the kids money the tasty stuff they buy gets eaten by them and the rest of it gets moved around until I tidy it up, what's fair about that?) the bring-and-buy shows up with the inevitabilty of a letter from the tax people.

"It's the bring and buy next week," announced Boy One. Oh no.
"Yeah, we're going to bring in loads of stuff," says his brother. Oh yes - in my mind's eye I see bags and bags of what can only be described as crap leaving the house. The people who inhabit my mind's eye are dancing a jig.
"Fantastic, I'll get you some bags," I'm tearing giant sized garden sacks off a roll.

And so they did, they left the house yesterday rustling with heavy carriers. I didn't even check what they were taking, just happy there was lots of it. Heck, I even sewed up the rent in Beary's belly so he was fit for market. Bye Beary.

But then today they came bang clatter off the bus. "Look what I got," they clamoured and upended bags and bags of what can only be described as even shabbier crap than they left with. There were weird toys that make annoying noises, books, weird toys with wobbly legs, weird toys from TV shows, dog eared books, a Lego Christmas tree (obviously we need more Lego!) and the piece de resistance a large china dog biscuit barrel. I was informed that the ugly dog thing was going to live in the kitchen next. Hmmm, I don't think so.

It's not as if any of the stuff will be played with or loved. They've been home for five hours now and most of it is already forgotten.

And with the notable exception of Shaba the bear - bought by Boy One for Boy Two and subject to some masterful rebranding by the Panther of News (Let's face it when you're five, Pooh's a pussy and only suitable for girls) - none of the now seven years of bring and buy booty has become a treasure.

But what's really galling about this tsunami of tat, this cavalcade of crap, that is the bring and buy sale, I paid good money for this rubbish. Next year if I pay double, will the school keep it all. Please.

Pic: beautiful Boy Two with the ugly bring and buy biscuit barrel dog

Monday, 7 March 2011

Books – how do you like yours and do you want mine?

As part of Saturday’s World Book Night events thousands of books were given away with the idea that they would be read, loved and passed on... again and again.

I spent the evening at Glasgow’s sumptuous Mitchell Library where as part of the Aye Write festival Sarah Waters was talking about her book Fingersmith, which was one of the titles included in the giveaway.

What’s not to love about sharing books?

On the face of it you’re passing on a treasure to a friend, allowing someone to discover something new, preserving the environment and fighting against the rise and rise of the e-reader.

But last week’s book group discussion made me realise that it’s not always the case. (We were chatting about Nigel Farndale’s Blasphemer – which got a resounding “OK” and is a case of far too many ideas and too few sympathetic characters cluttering up some excellent writing)
One of the girls mentioned that one of the others always read in the bath so her books had that those puffy, wavy edges.

Another shuddered and said she was getting better, but she really didn’t like books that had a ‘handled’ look.

Someone told of a friend who doesn’t even break the spine of a book. I imagined reading from a half-open book must be like not standing up straight or wearing shoes that are too small.

Then there was the fold or not fold to keep your place debate. I do – is it bad form? And while I don’t read in the bath often enough, I have been known to leave greasy fingermarks and crumbs between the pages. I think it shows evidence of a book well relished.

So how do you like yours? And, furthermore, would you like mine when I’m done with it?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Me and Bridget Jones: BFF until I became a Smug Married

I am horrified to learn movie types are planning a third Bridget Jones movie and that Renee Zellweger has agreed to reprise the lead, but only if they let her do it skinny.

On the face of it the idea of a bony Bridget is bad enough. We loved her because she looked, well, normal yet could still pull Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. It gave us all hope.

But then I realised there was more to it.

Back in 1996 when Helen Fielding's novel was published I'd only be half joking if said it was more self-help book than piece of fiction. Had we met, Bridget Jones and I would have been inseparable.

We'd have smoked.. then felt guilty about it. We'd have drunk too much together.. then endured the squirmy shame and hangover.

We'd have grappled with the quintessential toss up between red-hot but rubbish bad boy and dull but thoughtful, helpful, solvent and stable good boy. You see, from where I am now it's easy - there's no toss up, just a tosser who should have been tossed out.

My PJs and ice-cream soundtrack was Nina Simone - Ain't Got No... I Got Life, to her All By Myself.

Just like her I had a couple of best mates through sick and sin, even a gay one (I also had a gay soon-to-be ex-husband, but that's a whole other story). And neither of us realised just how rich our lives were with possibility.

The only major difference was that back then I didn't need big pants.

But that was, gulp, 15 years ago. If Bridget's life has gone anything like mine, a book of the day-to-day details would be duller even than reading the instructions on an Airfix kit for fun.

Here's my BJ style diary to prove it (apologies to Helen Fielding):

March 4, 2011
Weight 76.8kg (Kg don't count, like Euros when you're on holiday), alcohol units 0 (couldn't open the alcoholic ginger beer until the last child was picked up from an activity by which time the notion had left me) vital statistics (don't make me laugh), calories 1500 (including a fish-finger sandwich between the football training run and scouts), places moved in Tots100 index (up 3, yay although, obviously, I don't take this stuff seriously) unread items in RSS feed 1032, unread items in inbox 321, lists written 3 (main to-do, to-to tomorrow, to get at supermarket), promises to self for early night broken 1.

Early shift at work which is fab (apart from 5.50am alarm) I have the feeling I might get Stuff done until 9am when it wears off.

Still no further in deciding where we're going on holiday, at this rate it'll be another staycation (are they still trendy?).

And much lack of progress to report - none on choosing new car seat for Boy Three, none on getting Airfix paint for Boy One, none on getting football kit that fits for Boy Two and none on getting walking trainers for self. Ho hum.

See, I told you it was dull.

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