Monday, 27 June 2011

Perspective is everything:

I am blessed because I have five nieces which is great for me because I don’t have a daughter. They all have their own quirks and personal idiosyncrasies yet they are all quite like me. What fascinates me is that they are very individual girls and no two are close to being the same, despite having similar family backgrounds and upbringings. And the other reason I know I’m lucky is that I get to play with them part time and then send them home, it’s bliss.

One of the younger ones: very sweet, clever and manipulative from an early age, tumbling brunette locks and a brilliant smile with a quick witted mind. I was impressed and terrified all in the same breath because at the tender age of three and a half she knew exactly how to manipulate situations to achieve her aims. She was adept!

I was looking after her one day (school was closed) when she stood quite still in my kitchen and covered her eyes with her hands and in a high pitched sing-song voice announced: ‘you can’t see me Auntie Kay, I’m invisible!’

It was tough trying not to burst out and collapse into a heap of giggles… the innocence of her remark caught me completely off guard. But I shall not forget it… because it was a wonderful lesson in perspective. As far as she was concerned I could not see her because she could not see me. If only it was that simple in real life… or when I’m writing, perhaps I need to keep my perspective.

How do you keep your perspective when your writing as your main character? Any suggestions?

Monday, 20 June 2011

My Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold

I loved this story because of the seamless transition this novel implements between scenes, whether moving forward or travelling back through the history of events covering a period of around eight years, without the need to keep track of time. However, events anchor and tie the reader to the timeline.

A rich text prevents this poignant novel from becoming macabre, despite handling the brutal and horrific rape and murder of a young teenager, a death that should never have occurred. Susie is captivating despite existing between the worlds of the living and the dead as she watches from intermediate heaven as each family member of her family takes a diffident course in how they handle the loss of Susie, and each response is significantly different depending on their individual burden. Susie provides us with snapshots of her life when she was alive and she tells us what she sees as she watches her family from heaven.

Her father struggles with his grief because he could not protect his darling daughter / her mother experiences a greater loss as she watches her family life unravel / her baby brother can see his dead sister but no is listening to him / and her sister suffers in silence and isolation and worse than this she looks like her dead sister.

Alice Seebold handles and portrays each character with love and compassion even if they are veering off course in their personal grief. Events are cleverly drawn out and wrapped into a tight intertwined plot that shows each characters flaws and themes are handled gently as we watch the family deal with and attempt to come to terms with events. We see how much they need each other despite travelling in different directions.

The binding thread running throughout this story is the wonderfulness versus the awfulness of family life, showing us how much we need each other especially when terrible events, over which we have no control, occur. For me the most haunting memory of this story is the porch light being left on…

And finally the evil baddie is well portrayed, his confidence is graphic, his unerring nerve to remain within this community committing heinous deeds against young women is harrowing.

I adored reading this book because it grabbed all my attention and for this reason I would recommend that you read this novel if you’ve not already found it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Grand Prix and Me

The Canadian grand prix last Sunday was full of thrills and spills, a weather delayed event with spectacular crashes and the dismissal of several experienced drivers. Heart stopping moments of sheer disbelief as a marshal fell on the track in front of a rapidly approaching racing car, it avoided him and as he went to stand… he slipped and fell again in front of another oncoming speeding racing car. To say that my heart was in my mouth would have been an understatement.

I’m passionate about F1 and if money was no object I’d fly around the world and attend each grand prix venue, in person, but alas my dream will have to stay on hold a while longer. Currently my favourite driver is Lewis Hamilton, I mean what’s not to like? He is young, handsome and driven.

I ignored the phone, made myself comfortable, settled down to view.

So what makes the F1 BRILLIANT? It’s a combination of things for me, the men are handsome and a rare breed because their minds work faster than most peoples; processing more information in a shorter space of time as they are not wired up the same way as mere mortals. And these men can multi-task like no other men.

The race got underway. It was amazing, a difficult and testing track, wild and appalling weather conditions and when visibility became too low the race was stopped and after a considerable delay, restarted under the guidance of a safety car, it was deployed no less than five times and as always the commentary was inane in places but most of the viewing was thrilling.

Weather dominated the proceedings, cars span and slammed into the wall, screwing up any schedule or planned team strategy. Rain is hazardous for the drivers, it’s like driving in swirling fog at break neck speed but then the safety car got to travel around the track a little longer than most of us spectators wanted to see it.

I was on the edge on my seat, the crashes were violent and that appeals to the gladiator within me, of course I don’t want the drivers to be hurt that would be heartless yet I’m often stunned when they get up and walk away, more angry that their race is over and any potential points lost, and in spite of that are probably less concerned about possible injury.

Strategies play a huge part in the current aspirations of any F1 driver and at times I wonder if the team strategy gets a bit too complex and ambitious, instead of letting the driver’s do their job, use their instincts and drive.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse (or is that better…) Jensen Button found himself shoved out at the back of the field in 21st place.

My heart sank I thought that any chance he had of closing the gap and winning was lost.

But I was wrong, it didn’t get him down. Jensen did his job… the one he loves and diligently worked his way back up through the field. Each time the commentator reported that Jenson had gained a place or two my heart skipped a beat until almost… in complete disbelief Jensen was back in 2nd place.

I promise you it doesn’t get much more thrilling than this and then he went up a gear he hounded the race leader (a younger dynamic driver) like a persistent terrier, he snapped at the leader’s heels. It was possible to taste the tension.

I was screaming at the telly. I had a ring side seat that allowed me to see how superb his driving was as I nearly held my breath when Jensen finally secured his winning place in dramatic fashion by driving out of his skin, in the final lap, just seven corners from the end. It was a stunning victory.

So what can I conclude?

If you really want something, I mean really, really want something you have to clear the obstacles, understand what you want to achieve and then just keep pushing, Jensen did, against what seemed to me, impossible odds.

Now here’s the rub: if I want to succeed as a published novelist I’m going to have to keep pushing, get over or around and passed the obstacles whatever they might be, however insurmountable and drive my ambition to win that coverted place.

Can I do this? I want it badly enough so it follows that I will keep pushing myself to the end. Will my dark clouds that had been hovering, suddenly disappear leaving nothing but endless blue skies. Will I win thorough? I do hope so….

Friday, 10 June 2011

Chasing a Pig

I don’t usually associate work with happy memories but there have been a few occasions when events have conspired to provide a fertile ground for things that should just not happen in any workplace:

Imagine a big board room meeting, all the top brass have flown in from around the globe and half way through the meeting there is a need for us to vacate the room and chase a pig.

Yes you read that right.

A major industrial chemical plant is no place for a baby pig. So there we were, business professionals, booted and suited (some very senior) chasing this pink creature around the fishpond and courtyard.

I was wearing a particularly fetching mauve suit, (power dressing from the Dynasty days for those too young to remember Alexis Carrington) with padded shoulders and fabulous heels, suede trimmed with bows at the ankle. It sounds vaguely weird writing this now but honestly I looked good for the power dressing early 90’s…

Out comes the Chef to join the fray, wielding a meat cleaver, I kid you not… and I wouldn’t have put it passed Andy to butch the little creature and serve it for lunch. And then how would the guy from Sales explain to his girlfriend that their pet pig had escaped from his car while he was working?

Naturally it did beg the question why he had bought the pig to work in the first place but as I recall his actions and a small cute pig did rather liven up a bored board meeting. But it still makes me smile…a classic magic moment.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

I am blessed because I have five nieces which is great for me because I don’t have a daughter. What fascinates me is that they are individual girls and no two are close to being the same, despite having similar family backgrounds. They all have their own quirks and personal idiosyncrasies yet they are all like me. And the other reason I know I’m lucky is that I get to play with part time them and then send them home, it’s bliss.

One to the younger ones: very sweet, clever and manipulative from an early age.
Tumbling brunette locks and a brilliant smile with a very quick witted mind. At the tender age of three she knew exactly how to achieve her aims. I was impressed and terrified all in the same breath.

One day she stood quite still in the kitchen and wrapped her hands over her eyes and said: ‘you can’t see me Auntie Kay, I’m invisible!’

It was tough I could barely resist not bursting out and collapsing into a heap of giggles… the innocence of a remark like this can catch one completely off guard. But I shall not forget it… because it was a wonderful lesson in perspective.

As far as she was concerned I should not be able to see her because she could not see me. If only it was that simple in real life.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Magic Moments: What do you remember that brings back the Magic?

Part of the joy of travelling is to see new places and then come home to a place I love because I’m the type of girl who adores her own bed. After an extensive tour of New Zealand, a drop in at Sydney (go now - don’t wait until you retire!) I ended my tour in the southern hemisphere at Cooks Island, a Polynesian paradise.

The relaxed welcome at the airport as garlands of orchids were hung around my neck, ukuleles played, as dancer’s hips swayed… it was the warmest arrival I’ve experienced. There’s no security!

I stepped into the sunshine, I accepted this was my seventh heaven, the turquoise lagoon, the white sand and a slack tide that licked the shore with a soft gentle rhythm was hypnotic. A couple walked along the beach, she was barefoot and they’d just been married. So what could spoil this idyllic spot?

Weather: A dramatic and violent change in the weather! Monsoon season arrived and in this humid environment mosquito’s banqueted on my blood. I was covered from head to foot in bites. Truly unattractive! Hotel staff were genuinely concerned and enquired if I was well, then offered advice on what to do. But I ate well the entire time we stayed, a tranquil restaurant above the stream that fed the lagoon (and more mosquitoes!)

I spent the whole first and second day reading, in a tent on the beach, drinking cocktails, listening to the rain hammer hard against the plastic canvass awning, as sitting in the apartment was less than appealing. It’s strange but in a moist sticky climate being stuck indoors in the room is no fun.

I walked everywhere barefoot and took photographs in the rain of a beautiful drenched island.

Then I decided to pamper myself so I booked a massage with the therapist. What an oasis of calm in a sodden, water logged atmosphere. She could see I was blue. I wish I could remember the combination of oils she massaged into my frustrated body as her fingers kneaded my skin, she revived my flagging spirit.

So where was the magic?

On day three, as the monsoon rains continued unabated, I went snorkelling. I’d never done this activity and wrongly thought I’d be snorkelling in the calm rock pools close to the shore as I’d seen the other do the day before.

An old glass bottom tub took us out 3kms, made its way to the barrier reef at the furthest edge of the lagoon. I got a bit twitchy. The guys showed me how to use my snorkel and then asked if I could swim? ‘Of course I can swim,’ I was indignant. But I wasn’t remotely sure how I was going to get off the boat, into the water that rose and then fell on a significant swell. In my mind jumping wasn’t an option, I’m not that brave and I couldn’t see how to achieve an elegant departure.

Eventually I clambered like a beached porpoise into the sea. Warm water relaxed my mind and body. I swum like a fish. Boy did I swim. Boy did I float! My impression of a star fish had the guys checking up on me as my inactivity scared them as much as my disappearing, swimming off into the distance. With no sense of direction their instruction to stick close to the boat was not observed by me.

The world that opened beneath my snorkel of brightly coloured inquisitive fish was amazing. I was in awe of mother nature. The strength of colour, the variety of shapes and sizes of fish. I didn’t want to get out of the water. Like a small kid at the pool I could have stayed until my skin shrivelled. When it was time to leave I was distraught but vowed I would return the next day and what about securing a full diving certificate?

That night the rain increased, the next morning it fell straight impacting the earth like heavy stair rod poles. I’ve never seen such weighty rain. The water flooded the path, overflowed the threshold of our apartment. I rang reception, ‘Sandbags please?’ The gardeners came and placed sandbags against the door-frame to stem the tide. I rang reception the water was pouring in through my floor to ceiling bedroom windows, ‘please staunch this flow? I’ve put my belongings on the bed.’ A gardener came and dug away the earth, created a trough and then quite dramatically water punched a hole, at hip height through the bedroom wall and poured in like a massive bath forcet!

I walked to reception: ‘Please move me to a dry room?’ They didn’t fully comprehend my request until the manager went to view the room that resembled a paddling pool filling with liquid brown muddy water. I moved to a dry villa.

The palm trees bent as the wind howled, the long leaves whipped into a fine brush. The rain fell. I walked to the beach. Snorkelling was cancelled. The lagoon had turned from turquoise to sludge cement grey, trees, plants and various bit of debris washed down the mountainside had flooded this idyllic spot. The guys that had taken me snorkelling were out in the boats removing the detritus from their lagoon, boats piled high with vegetation.

It nearly broke my heart. It rained the entire holiday. I never saw the sun again. But one day I’ll go back, go snorkelling again!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Magic Moments:

For me a magic moment can be something infinitesimally small, a fairly average to medium or a gargantuan event because size is irrelevant, I feel it is the sense of wonder and awe that should create the magic.

Earlier this week I padded down for breakfast and caught a glimpse of a scarecrow as I passed the mirror! Undeterred, I went to flick the switch to boil the kettle for the required tea to revive my flagging self and then I stopped.

On the patio a thrush was smashing a snail on the hard stone surface, fracturing and splintering the shell to retrieve the juicy morsel hidden inside. Her two thrushlings stood close by watching mums extraordinary skill, learning at her feet literally, but they stayed close, quiet and sat hidden in the undergrowth that is my flower bed and waited to be fed, beak to beak.

I held my breath, did not move a muscle as I watched the early morning floor shop that ended abruptly when a squirrel entered the proceeding. I’ve not seen a squirrel on the patio before, racing along the top of the fence and leaping into a tree yes, but why did it want to join the thrushes? I’ve no idea. Curiosity perhaps?

So what was Magic about your day – today?

Mine was a simple pleasure. Going to the hairdressers can be fraught with an age old dilemma: what will my hair look like once its been cut as I struggle to achieve what I would like and what the hairdresser can glean from my garbled instructions.

Smooth straight hair is impossible as I happen to frequently look like Shirley Temple, however sadly I am not six and ringlets never strike me as a grown up hair do! (In my opinion.)

But I digress because my moment of magic was this: Having my scalp massaged during washing it… Oh I turn into putty, I would consider almost anything if asked whilst having my head massaged. All thoughts and common sense vacate my mind as I succumb and revel in that moment of pure hedonistic bliss.

And in wildest dreams if someone was to massage my feet simultaneously, who knows what would be possible?