Monday, December 12, 2011
And while it is a wrench to go from feeling cutting edge to ordinary in a matter of design moments (despite the real leather stripe that the Dell has on its lid - I'm guessing to give it an authentic look?), it's been a good exercise in reviewing my writing through the years.
Interesting and little depressing because it's obvious as I look through all these desperate attempts to get something down that what I lack is the ability to find a story worth telling. I have noticed writers being described recently as 'he just loves to tell a good story' or 'she's a natural story-teller'. And isn't that what novel writing is about? So what's WRONG with me???
When I was little, stories were literally pouring out of me. I was ALWAYS on my mum's beautiful big black Underwood banging something out (is that a legal sentence?). I taught myself to touch-type on that thing whilst watching M.A.S.H.
Then came doubt. I guess.
I know I HAVE a story. I know what a story IS. But I either overthink it, not think it enough or, and let's be honest this is the main culprit, it's just plain ... stupid.
This really is a stumbling block for someone who wants to write novels. Especially when I have five under my belt. Finding the story I want to tell is my Holy Grail. I know I can do it, but it's like there's a firewall midway down my head and behind that is where all the good shit is. But I just. Can't. Get. Past. The muthafucking. FIREWALL. So I drift around in 'what about?'. And 'Oh yes, and then the sister is EVIL' and 'how can I get a dog in here?' until what I'm left with is some flaccid attempt at something interesting told in a lively way.
I'm always asking writers, surreptitiously, how they get their stories and am always really disappointed when they say 'oh, from the UNIVERSE' or other such obvious solution. I'm hoping they're going to slip me an address in Soho where they REALLY find them.
And so the pressure of This Is The One-ness about novelwriting gets to me in the end and I end up spiralling into plot-hell.
For example: I once wrote a thriller/love-story set in a monkey sanctuary. The aim was to write about something I liked: well, I like a thriller and love is good and, well, I can't get me enough Monkey Sanctuaries.
The surprising amount of times the word 'fleece' came up in the first chapter kind of said it all.
And it also kind of explains why my most recent book was flat-out Chick-lit when I don't read or even LIKE Chick-Lit.
The thing is, though, is that I do get ideas all the time. I guess I just get overwhelmed by them. I get overwhelmed by the complexities of making them brilliant or, of course, failing to tell the story how it should be told. It rolls through my head in its formative phase in delicious multi-colour - fabulous tableaus of drama and passion - and then, after two chapters on my darling old Mac, it resembles a pie dropped four storeys.
So how DO you come up with a story you can write? This is now my mission.
Any tips gratefully received. Apart from it all comes from the Universe. That one I already know.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Why Size Zero Is Nothing New
We used to know Lollipop Ladies as the kindly, apple-cheeked OAPs who’d help us across the road in their white coats, thrusting their large lollipop shaped stop sign at approaching cars to ensure our safe passage to the other side.
These days, the Lollipop Ladies are something else entirely.
No apple cheeks here, simply shrunken, pre-teen bodies dangling from disproportionately large adult heads. Usually accompanied by a spray on tan, titanium white teeth, alien-eye sunglasses, and jewellery that hangs from wrists and clavicles like she’s playing dress up with Mum’s stuff.
But they’re not playing dress up – these women are in their twenties and thirties and some are mothers themselves (although surely in more robust times, when their bodies could support a reproductive cycle). They are Hollywood’s coolest kids on the blocks and they are dying to be thinner than a teenage crack whore.
These are the newly christened Size Zeros. Because that’s their dress size.
Zero. Like: nothing. Like Zip. Nadda. Zero.
In scientific reasoning, these women simply don't exist.
And yet... And yet, there they are: packing out the pages of our celebrity magazines with their sinew snaked arms and famine-glazed eyes, dresses gloopy on featherweight frames. Caught mid-burger chomp through a window, the Whooper Jnr looking supersized in teeny tiny paws, or dwarfed by the SUV's steering wheel as mid-dash from an AA meeting, or tottering down Rodeo Drive with giant bags full of frippery and small dogs.
It's unavoidable and so, inevitably, we're all talking about them. Or more specifically, we're talking about Size Zero. All of us. From broadsheet to the tattiest gossip rag, we’ve all got something to say about the concerning trend amongst young actresses and … what are Paris and Nicole? … to become the thinnest person on the earth who can still down three apple martinis and dance the macarenna on the bar without keeling over.
BUT WHO CARES?
I mean, really?
At what point do we say: you know what? It’s their lives. If they want to starve themselves to nothing, let their family sort them out. It’s not like Now magazine or Heat are organising an intervention for Kate Bosworth – they’re too busy highlighting her clearly delineated vertebrae with comments on how gross she is.
And of course, this disgust is voiced right after they've name Nicole Ritchie as super-stylish and run a double page spread on how to copy her style – style which relies heavily on the fact that she has carved a formerly beautiful, petitely curvaceous body into the shell of a ten year old girl so think hot-pants masquerading as Bermuda shorts and vests, plus the obligatory oversized bag and bangles that rattle around toothpick forearms like an easy game of hooplah.
Which makes it clear that Size Zero is clearly of great national and international importance.
Oh, it’s that age old thing again of objectification with a bit of the classic male manipulation thrown in of course.
It’s been going on for years: from oxygen starving corsets to sozzled flappers; Twiggy to heroin chic; the branding of feminists in such a way by the (male dominated) media that very few teenage girls and women in their twenties and thirties would actually admit to being a feminist.
How does Size Zero connect in this? See: men in Hollywood are notoriously scared of women coming in and taking over. But if they can keep them obsessed with something OTHER than empowerment, hell, the boys have got another twenty years without worrying about their bony asses coming in and ruining the show.
By creating, encouraging and heralding women who are incapable of accepting their womanly form, these same women become nothing more than vain and silly and in no way threatening or powerful. Vain and silly. Aren’t those the typical female constructs of the nineteenth century? Aren’t we simply talking about a whole generation of Lydia Bennetts? In 2007?
Reciting Hollywood’s terrible treatment of women over the past century is moot. Even now, excepting the excellent work being done in the independent and ‘foreign’ film industry, the general purpose of the female lead in Hollywood is to bring something light and distracting to a scene, rather like a pot-plant who’s been cleverly trained to speak on cue.
We have many amazing, inspiring women out there who can bring something to a film that’s more than translucent beauty; more than full lips and smouldering eyes; more than the perfect foil. These women are the elite of Hollywood and the Entertainment Business (this isn’t just about film). I’m talking about Streep and Sarandon, Blanchett, Oprah’s in there, as is producer Kathleen Kennedy and Gail Berman over at Paramount and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. These women are Big Cheeses.
But what about the rest? The girls who should be preparing to come in and take their jobs and their roles when these women are off buying the ranch?
The only ones we can see are wafting around in the sunny breeze of LA, tumbling from hot-spots and checking in and out of rehab. They are pot-plants on an already rather crowded table of aspidistras and geraniums, doing nothing with any integrity or goal apart from being desperately thin.
And yet we talk about them endlessly. We pull apart their bodies and their eating habits. We try out their amazing new diets which promises to lose us pounds in hours. We mock them and we want to be them.
We’re back at that point again where women aren’t discussed because of what they’ve achieved for the greater good. We’re back to women being discussed because they’re stupid. Silly and Vain. Look at the way we slag off these Size Zero girls: we slate them for being too thin, we call them shallow and dumb, we scoff at their attempts at AA and NA, we are joyously disgusted as they stumble out of another nightclub, flashing gussets or (cross yourself) secret gardens. And we love it.
The next time you read a celebrity magazine (and don’t pretend you don’t know what they are), count how many pages are dedicated to pointing out the hideousness of some unfortunate male celeb’s body?
How many pages each week are dedicated to highlighting the obesity of the loveable Johnny Vegas, or the bloat-shrink-bloat-shrink of Russell Crow? Or the terrifying decent into middle-age of most of our childhood crushes? Brad Pitt crinkling into his 40s a’la David Dickinson. Pages, not the odd photo. Pages. Because that’s what these poor girls get. Ulrika Johnsson’s rope-neck got three pages in one and a personal discussion in her trashy column.
However, the fact that these girls are Size Zero really isn’t the point. These girls are victims of a very cruel money train.
I met a twice Oscar nominated actress a few years ago who told me that she was finding it difficult to get work in Hollywood because her upper arms were too fat. She was a size 10.
Who’s telling these women their upper arms are too fat? Personal Trainers who get paid vast retainers to keep everything firm and pointing up? Dieticians, nutritionists, Food Doctors who go everywhere with their employer and manage their food intake? Armies of Plastic Surgeons. None of them are going to give up the cash-cow easily.
And then there’s the casting agents. Plenty of those are women but who’s commissioning the agents? The Directors? The Producers. Who are they? In Martha Lauzen, a professor at San Diego State University,’s study “The Celluloid Ceiling, 2003”:
“Men directed more than 90% of the 250 top-grossing films released in 2003, and 20% of the films employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers or editors.”
The sad thing remains: so long as women are obsessed with Size Zero they will never be in a position to dictate anything different.
And so long as we continue to talk about it, berate it, laugh at it, secretly wish we could do it, and ultimately, raise it to an aspirational status, nothing will ever change. We will never fully embrace a gaggle of girls with regular women-shaped bodies in roles that challenge, defy and warm, if we continue to support the view that ultra-thin is ultra-cool, which we are each time we talk about how awful Size Zero is.
Discussing it and campaigning against it simply makes it visible. It means nothing.
Let’s ignore the Size Zero issue. Stop giving credence to repressed femininity and these girls will realise that the best way to get noticed is by doing something greater than cutting out everything but nicotine and Haribo.
And that will be the biggest two fingers up the industry can get.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
January 1990, when I was 14 and 4 months, was quite the fickle month. I think I fancied six boys - PASSIONATELY - during these 4.2 weeks. And Emilio Estevez, although I wasn't 100% sure about that.
The last bit on here is a section I had to fill in in my Judy Blume diary. While I'm not sure who half these boys are on here, I definitely know who that boy is: my first love who had told me I had a moustache and then went and dumped me for another girl. My mum and I always called him Brown Leather Jacket (BLJ). For obvious reasons. He's XXX'ed to protect his innocence...
Favourite Boy – Sam!!!!!!!!!!!
Sam is quite tall, and has black hair cut trendily! He has quite big ears, but not amazingly. He has nice eyes and is really cute ‘n’ cuddly, plus he’s not got a girlfriend! Yum! I like him a lot!
Favourite boy – Peter
Worst boy – Sam = the bastard
I really fancy Peter like mad!
Favourite boy – Martin
I’m in love! I fancy him so much!
Favourite boy – Martin – I love him so much
Favourite musician – Prince – swoon!
Favourite boy – Martin despite the fact that he is going out with someone. God I fancy him. I’m sending him a rose on Valentines day. [he in actual fact sent me a rose and a teddy bear. And a letter promising that we would get married when we were 18 with an actual count-down start of the days.]
The boy I would most like to kiss is XXX because I AM MADLY IN LOVE WITH HIM. My idea of dream date would be to go to TO BARBADOS AND SUNBATHE AND MESS AROUND with XXX.
One boy I do not want to kiss is XXXX because HE IS ABOUT 2 INCHES BIG AND YUCKY.
The most romantic thing that ever happened to me was WHEN NEIL ACTUALLY ASKED ME OUT!
The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me when I was with a boy I liked was: SWEAT PATCHES APPEARED!
This is what I dream about when I imagine being in love: FRIENDSHIP, THE FEELING OF BEING WANTED, BEING TOGETHER NOT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT WHETHER HE FANCIES ME OR NOT. SECURITY
Monday, August 22, 2011
I wouldn't necessarily call this a Bad Love Experience because it doesn't really have anything to do with love. And it's not especially bad either. I mean, he didn't boil any of my pets or send emails to my parents telling them what a rocket/disappointment I was in the sack.
That's because the only really genuinely, heartbreakingly bad love experience I have makes me so incensed when I think of it that I want to track the bastard down and lay waste to him with a spoon and I don't want any implication should the scooped out body of a man be found by the canal. In a leotard.
So instead this is what I offer as a Bad (not really that bad) Love (not really love) Experience:
I'd been single a while and went to the Titanic Bar on a particularly tragic hen night - believe me, if your hen-night consists solely of two random people from work who weren't clever enough to invent other plans (one of which was me) and three of your fiancé’s female ex- work colleagues you're in trouble. Titanic has since closed but you'll still occasionally see a sad little cluster of women with condom-strewn net-curtains on their heads and L-plates on their chests throwing themselves against its boarded up doors of a Saturday night desperate for one last Las Ketchup round its dance floor. You get the picture.
Anyway - we'd been for dinner which had been one of those meals where you suddenly wish you were either really, really old or really, really male - anything to set you apart from a group of women who weep with hysterics over a jelly penis and think touching the waiter’s arse is flirting. Oh, the things they had to tell their other halves ... I'd found the only way to get through it was to drink myself stupid so by the time we got to Titanic I was barely able to control my own bladder let alone my decision making.
Which is how I excuse myself for even entertaining this man's attentions. Jumper tucked in, slightly over-styled hair and a management consultant who was really into his job. Really into it. To the point that he started doing his training on me: stand with me, come on, stand up with me. Now, put your arms out and just trust me. That kind of thing. I should've known but, as I say, I was drunk and surrounded by women who thought that knowing the moves to a dance was more important than how you looked doing it. So I hungout with him and happily/moronically gave him my mobile number.
That night I got home around three – alone – only to be pummeled by text messages informing me of where this guy was. Firstly he was still in the club. Then he was leaving the club. Then he was safely home (phew!). Then he was in bed. All unprovoked and ignored but seemingly endless.
Dear GOD, I thought. That's the last time I speak to him.
But it was a long, empty week of nothing to do but watch soaps and envy people with exciting love lives.
So when he caught me off guard mid-deluge of texts by asking me out, of course I said yes.
We met by Embankment Tube station. Me, on foot, full of half a bottle of wine (does anyone notice a drinking theme here?) him driving a rather flash black Range Rover. Which was nice. Hey, I thought, perhaps, in the right light and sat behind the smooth, leather steering wheel, proffering a paper bag containing a chocolate chip cookie, perhaps he wasn't going to be so bad.
He took me on a Ghost Walk of London. A two-mile guided Ghost Walk of London. I was wearing heels. And a top that showed my boobs and didn't offer anything in the way of support. (Like I say, I'd been single for a while). And when we were allowed to stop off at a pub for a quick drink, he told me he was practically t-total. And when he walked in front of me I realised that clearly the only reason he was so good at rugby was because his arse was so bloody big.
And then we had to stop off in another pub after the Ghost Walk for him to go to the loo which, if the length of time was anything to go by, was just about the biggest pooh any man had ever expelled. And I didn't know he was going to be THAT long so I didn't get to order a drink either.
But then he hailed a taxi and we went for dinner in China Town and I got to thinking: ah, now we can be all romantic and everything. Yes, I know - after all that I was still hoping to be swept off my feet. But, hell, I didn't say I was a realist. I said I was desperate.
So we pulled up in China Town outside Wong Keis, which, if you know your Chinese restaurants in London, is one of the busiest and cheapest in the area. It has fluorescent strip lighting.
We sat down and he greeted the waiters like old friends and ordered the set meal for us and tutted all the way through my cigarette - he hated smoking - and commented on how quickly I was drinking the house red wine and then sat back and opened his mouth and the most fascinating/disturbing story came out.
I was on a date with a man who used to be a Jehovah’s Witness. And not just any old Jehovah’s Witness – a Preacher for the Jehovah’s. He'd been married at eighteen to a girl he'd never been alone with until the wedding night and built his way up through the church until at 30 he decided he was unhappy in his marriage, suggested divorce and was ostracised. He then slept in the factory he worked in for a couple of weeks, before moving in with the caretaker and his wife.
That's the fascinating bit.
After I'd listened to that and asked relevant questions and been, suitably, impressed/surprised/strangely attracted he went and completely blew it by announcing he'd been 34 before he had his first blow-job. That I can deal with because, hey, we're not all as lucky as we'd like to be. It was the detail that was so disturbing. I mean, he was like a forensic scientist. I heard it all from the sex in his marriage to the sex he’d experienced since the divorce. Would you understand if I told you that I was actually, by now, repelled.
I mean, really! That jabbering mouth coupled with the obvious pooh and that massive arse - this man wasn't just being inappropriate, he was committing date suicide.
"Yes," he was saying over the Peking duck, carefully sealing the pancake before taking a big, sweaty bite. "I’m still finding it difficult to come to terms with where the clitoris is."
“So," I said, making no attempt to hide my desire to please move off the subject. "Where did you go to school?"
"Hmm? Brighton. Anyway. You know, is it near the front of the back door?"
Yes, he did use the term ‘door’ and no, I didn't tell him. I was too appalled. Apparently he only had one friend who wasn’t a Jehova and he was too shy to ask him. Obviously, I, on the other hand, was offering the optimum level of confidence which isn’t bad seeing as he didn’t really know me and this was a date. And I was looking at him like this …
So. We finished the meal - him drinking water, me drunk on red wine and finding focusing really quite hard. We got a cab back to his car where he slipped an arm around me and I shouted out: mind my clitoris, which he didn't find funny at all. Then he drove me home playing Beethoven's Fifth at full volume and dropped me off with a closed mouth kiss, wagging his finger at me and saying reproachfully "ashtray mouth."
Needless to say I didn't see him again.
But you know what, I can remember all that down to the freckles on his cheeks and just how wide that arse was, but I can't for the life of me remember his name. Doesn’t that make you feel just a tiny bit sorry for him?
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Favourite song – Wet Wet Wet – Broke Away
Favourite Film – Labyrinth
Favourite Book – Betsy Byers – Computer Nut
Favourite Boy – None!!!!!!!!!!! (Emilio Estevez?)
Favourite boy – Callum !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Favourite boy – Callum !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Favourite film – Grease II
Favourite boy – Eddie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Eddie’s got long black hair, dark eyes and calls everyone darling. He wears a black hat and gorgeous earings. He also has a nice smile. He wears all black and smells a bit like pubs. He is really nice!
Favourite Boy – Sam!!!!!!!!!!! Fucking Horny!
Sam is quite tall, and has black hair cut trendily! He has quite big ears, but not amazingly. He has nice eyes and is really cute ‘n’ cuddly, plus he’s not got a girlfriend! Yum! I like him a lot!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Why there’s a man in a box hanging over the River Thames
It wasn’t so long ago that nutters were carted off to the local lunatic asylum, pumped full of drugs and encouraged to become expert basket weavers. Obviously the Tories Care in the Community released some back into society resulting in a rise in certain types of offences and an increased number of odd people on buses, but as far as I was concerned I still believed that anyone who was a serious danger to themselves would find themselves a nice bed with their name above it behind a door with a rather secure lock.
But obviously I’m wrong, because, as I write, perhaps the biggest nutter of them all is dangling himself over the River Thames killing himself in the slowest yet most effective way possible.
David Blaine. The Magic Man.
You’ll all know by now that he’s shut himself up in a clear box without food or a good book and aims to stay there for 44 days. He’s got a tube to receive water and a tube to take away his poo and wee (aka Body Waste). And that’s it. He did take some lipbalm in with him, to which all us girls breathed a sigh of relief – imagine going through all that with chapped lips!
These are some of the risks Blaine will face: hypothermia (the box is unheated and he won’t be able to retain as much heat as usual when his body slips into starvation mode), organ damage when his body starts to digest them around the latter stages of malnutrition, brain damage through lack of glucose and kidney failure. Not to mention the sanity issues that 44 days of no food or distraction could cause – you know how shitty you can be if you miss lunch for a start.
No doctors will examine him unless he’s not seen to move for 2 days, by which time the damage incurred could be irreversible.
Ultimately, David Blaine faces death. But he’s not too bothered as he sees death as a ‘beautiful experience’. In fact he thinks that even if he does cark it, it’s worth it ‘for my art’.
‘I don’t want to be understood’, he says leaving me to wonder if that’s the case why in God’s name doesn’t he do it in his own bloody garden. If he really is just doing it for himself then what the hell does it matter who sees him? Hanging alongside one of England’s most famous landmarks isn’t exactly private.
Still, in an attempt to explain why (the master of contradiction), one of Blaine’s claims is that he believes no food or human contact for the duration of this ‘test to human endurance’ will result in the ‘purest state you can be in’. I’m sure that the ten men who died during the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikes would’ve completely agreed with you, David. They’d also’ve agree that it’s definitely a search for personal ‘truths’.
And you know what: those starving communities all over the world, if they could actually read about you, or even see you on a telly, they’d probably be clapping their hands with joy that someone at last understands what a marvellous idea it is not to eat; how truly superfluous nutrition is to attaining your true self.
I also think that branding yourself with a tattoo matching that of a Holocaust survivor is in impeccable taste. How touched the remaining Auschwitz survivors must be by your selfless actions, especially those who lost family not to the Nazis but to the pesky inability to endure starvation.
And don’t be surprised if you generate a little fan club made up of sufferers of anorexia nervosa. At last someone’s recognised that not eating actually is a vocation. Especially since you’ve eschewed the glucose supplement in your water (really? Honestly?). Well done, David.
Unwanted by the Guinness Book of Records – both this little drama and his buried alive trick (which I personally believe was just a unique way of getting to look up New York girls skirts) have been beaten by miles: Dennis Goodwin in 1973 starved himself for 385 days in Wakefield Prison while Bill White spent 141 buried in a box – and demonstrating against nothing but the weakness of the body, and all for what?
All of us are capable of more than we can imagine. Blaine says that and it’s probably one of the only things that’s dribbled from that egocentric, arrogant mouth I do agree with. We will all go through periods of time when we’re stretched beyond comprehension, be it physically or emotionally. And people will say to us: ‘you’re being so strong’ and you’ll say ‘you just get on with it’ and you do. Even though when you look back, your own personal resources will far surpass those you imagined you had.
You’re not that special, David. We just choose to do our testing behind closed doors (Trisha and Kilroy guests excluded).
When this all finishes and if he survives, he’ll be carted off to hospital where he won’t be sectioned into a psychiatric unit to make sure he doesn’t do this to his body ever again while trying to figure out why the hell he’d want to in the first place like they would if any of us displayed such worrying behaviour. Attempt suicide in the UK and, quite rightly, you’ll be placed in twenty-four hour observation and given intensive psychiatric therapy. Not David. He’ll be treated by a posse of highly qualified doctors who’ll try and fix everything he’s broken as best they can before unleashing him back into society. Back off into the sunset, he’ll go, ego bolstered by the success of another insane mission, ready to test his shocked body by yet another ridiculous task. Perhaps he’ll go through gender reassignment. Just for the sake of it. Become Davinia and wear big fake boobs.
As a magician I find it hard to think of anyone better than David Blaine. He is simply amazing.
As a person his self-belief is unnerving. As is his conviction that he’s doing this because he’s ‘above’ human. Which he’s not (and I hope he doesn’t find that out the hard way). No, what we’re clearly dealing with is someone who didn’t get enough attention as a child. Look at him up there: he’s got no privacy, he’s got a rumbling belly and absolutely nothing to do but sit around with a mildly smug look on his face. He’s not changing the world, he’s not making a difference to anyone or anything but he’s getting a whole heap of attention. As I’m writing this I bet a hundred or more people are doing the same. There are gawpers crowded beneath him at this very second if only to demonstrate or perhaps catch him using his poo-tube. For 44 days commuters will be walking to work by him, tourists will be photographing him, reporters will be filming him, women will be falling in love with him, men will be talking about him in the pub, old ladies will ask who he is and remark on his beard.
In the first few days one man took a four iron onto Tower Bridge and fired off golfballs at David’s box (none of the dozen actually hit, his aim was remarkably ‘tragic’ says one of the site technicians) and eggs were luzzed by ‘yobs’. But it doesn’t matter. Because it’s all about David. Look at me! Look at me! I Am David Blaine!
Ah David. I think someone needs a hug.
Some of them are really out of date, some are bits from old diaries I typed up during the quieter dating periods of my life. Others are character bios. They're just bits and bobs.