Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There's been other stuff too but some of it is quite embarrassing...

There's been other stuff too but some of it is quite embarrassing. And that's just the bit where I whooped for Harry McFly.

"We'd noticed that you hadn't blogged and had started to wonder if you were still alive".

The answer would be, for those of you who might in an odd second of boredom wondered, yes. Though, "just about" would probably be the required addition. What started as something of an annoyingly persistent cold in the middle of November managed to mutate itself into something that had me passing out, vomiting on my driveway and for a few hours one Sunday not really being sure who or where I was. Certainly I'm almost a stone lighter than I was three weeks ago and I'm much perturbed about managing to miss a myriad of drinking and dancing opportunities. I have resolved to hold Corinne's Post Christmas Christmas Party once I can officially drink alcohol again. But the perturbed-ness is a good sign; even though I'm still sleeping for twelve hour stretches that I have the energy to be perturbed I see as a positive.

So now it is Boxing Day (I woke up this morning and for the first time in a while didn't feel nauseous, this did not, however, stop Dean and Director Boy asserting that I have morning sickness. Obviously I do not. I hope.) and I am where it is traditional for me to be at such a time of year: at the WYP, using my time between closing the show and the interval exploding to search online for a new dress for when I (all things crossed) finally get to see John Barrowman next week.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part Two)

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part Two)

For Part One visit here.

Day Four:

The plan for today had been to write approximately double my daily word count in order to compensate for the inevitable non-writing disaster of Day Five. Obviously having such a plan was tantamount to asking for my balloon to be popped. Instead of my novel I end up - to the strains of Dermot O'Leary on the X Factor repeat because I heart him - doing lots of typing that has nothing to do with NaNo and more to do with a Listed Building being accidentally knocked down.

At 5.00pm I settle down to write. I write a few words. My phone rings. I speak to Dean for an hour. Some of that time is spent discussing his cleaner. I write for two hours. More importantly I watch Top Gear and almost cry when Richard Hammond's car, gloriously named Oliver, almost dies. As is possibly all too clear I enjoy this slightly too much, though appease myself with the knowledge that one of the leading characters in Ilyria is named Oliver and therefore Richard Hammond and I are on the same wavelength. Less enjoyably I watch half of Long Way Down, and give up when I discover that I am moaning about how badly - and uninterestingly - it has been edited together.

I write a few hundred words before bed, noting however that I am now 500 words behind and Black Monday hasn't even happened yet.

Word Count at Start of Day: 4,873

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016


Day Five:

At 9.25am I am sat on a train in Leeds station. At 10.00am Dean rings me to find out what time I will be arriving in London. I am still sat at Leeds station and say I do not know. Eventually it turns out that a train has broken down at Wakefield and no trains are leaving Leeds station in that direction until it has been moved. I continue sitting on the train at Leeds station until 10.50am. When the ticket inspector comes round he hands out compensation forms. The couple in front of me do not understand why they are being given out. I think that this means their compensation should come to me. Just after we have passed through Doncaster a hat box falls off of the storage rack and hits the woman next to me on the head. I end up administering first aid on the train. Afterwards I consider whether I should have just stayed in bed.

Arrive in London and Dean and I whizz down to the V&A where we are keen to use our recently purchased membership to re-visit the Couture Exhibition (number of dresses I would like to have stolen: too many). We then attempt to find the mythical members only room, my pointing out the flaw in Dean's plan being that he is holding the map upside down. After climbing the stairs to the top of the building and making our way through a couple of exhibitions we are becoming slightly puzzled as to the whereabouts of the room. Only when we are in the final section of the glass exhibition do we notice that there is something special about the mirrored wall at the end of the room. There is a door! To the Members Only Room! We go through the mirror and I feel the expenditure was entirely worth it in order to feel like Alice. Predictably the members' room is rather beautiful, all comfy purple seating, squashy sofas, with a mezzanine level with tables and bookshelves. Automatically I decide that I want to come and write here. There is also a lady on hand to sell you cake and proper coffee, and because there are only four other members in the space, there is no queue! I feel very decadent, but also good because my membership is saving the world (or contributing to the V&A at least).

Afterwards we walk to Oxford Street (only briefly being distracted by the window in Ralph Lauren's Children's Store) where, after a quick poke around Borders Dean heads off to work and I meet Nik who is just finishing. We go to Hammersmith and find a very nice pub and a sofa. After dinner we go to the Hammersmith Apollo to discover that their cloakroom has a policy of allowing you to fill a black plastic bag and charging it as one item. Being from Yorkshire I predictably adore this idea, though resolve not to suggest it for the WYP cloakroom. On entering the auditorium discover that the Apollo is raked. Raise the possibility that this might be my favourite venue ever (even if they miss a trick by not selling ice cream during the intermission).

Unexpectedly end up enjoying The Fray's support act (The Days) rather a lot. Come to the conclusion during The Fray's set that they have two corkers of songs, a couple of good ones, and the remaining are much of a muchness. Nevertheless adore their 'Wonderwall' singalong, get tingles during the the unaccompanied audience choir of the final chorus of 'How to Save A Life' and feel that I might burst during 'Cable Car [Over My Head]', not only because I adore the song and they place it perfectly, but because all the memories it evokes of this summer, playing in the upstairs kitchen, rush down on me. Wish, for a second, I could bottle the moment.

Almost have an argument with one of the security men who will not let both Nik and I go to the cloakroom. I refuse to go outside without my coat and, in a combination of annoyance and desperation, he lets me through. Subsequently have a mini tube adventure getting from Hammersmith to Tooting Bec due to line closures. Resolve that I should not travel at all in future.

Do not write a single word.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016

Day Six:

Have a bewilderingly easy train journey back to Leeds and wonder what the Gods of Travel retribution have in store as payback for this.

Discuss new hours and rota at the WYP, in place because Vintage Queen is leaving us. Realise that I will be working Friday and Saturday nights until the end of time.

Feel slightly grumpy about being in work - not to mention tired at all the travelling and travel related disasters experienced in the last 24 hours - and resolve to give myself a NaNo break to let myself recover.

Manage to find myself in a situation where, at 11.00pm, I am ordering ice creams.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016

Day Seven:

Am lazy and sleep in. Subsequently greet the Postman with a towel on my head for the second time in less than a week.

Play about with word count and calculator to establish just how far behind I now am and how many words a day I would need to write in order to catch up with this. Stop when I realise that this is just anal and, also, a little bit scary.

Write a little bit like a maniac.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 8,504

Day Eight:

Set myself a target of 3,000 words for the day. Also decide to combine NaNo and my Facebook obsession by adding my tally to my status update, if only to shame myself. Instead of doing anything which will help either I blog about YouTube videos of people I know. And - then! - rather than just watching Neighbours I get sucked into what is possibly the best written episode of Doctors I have ever seen (not, of course, that I watch Doctors). Though I do get very, very irate when the Doctor fails to treat someone suffering from anaphylactic shock correctly because the last thing you should do for someone who is conscious but struggling to breathe is keep them lying on their back. Shoddy.

Start writing and realise that, now I've discovered something of a rhythm with my novel, I can, in a good hour, write 600 words. Consequently manage to finish my word quota for the day before I break for dinner. Finally start to make a dent in my word deficit and discover, in the process, a wonderful inner monologue from a background character that I really hadn't expected.

I physically have to stop typing because I have acute right arm ache.

Word Count at Start of Day: 8,504

Word Count at End of Day: 11,520

Day Nine:

Get up knowing that I need to finish my word quota for the day by 5.00pm or else I am buggered. Manage 400 words before lunch and mark this as something of a success.

Have an issue with the ballcock in the toilet which requires me i)to get wet and ii)to almost be a plumber. When the water has finally stopped pouring a proper plumber can be called. He resolves to come tomorrow. I realise that my ingenius plumbing solution means that the only way to flush the toilet now is with the aid of a bucket. It is possible that I may not make it as a plumber. NaNo is now surely more important than ever.

Post Neighbours do some more frantic writing. At 3.30pm I get an error message. Word must shut down, would I like to send an error report? I realise with a quick flash of what I can only describe as utter terror that I have not saved my writing all day. I am to lose 900 words. I almost cry as word shuts itself down.

I contemplate turning George off and leaving today as a no-word day. After a few minutes recognise this as being petulant and mildly diva-ish so decide to see how much of the writing I can construct from memory.

It turns out that this is much easier than just having to make everything up on the spot.

Hit my word quota by 5.00pm (though I am now hitting save even more frequently than I'm hitting 'word count') and am resolutely smug.

Put on a dress and go and see Noel Coward's Brief Encounter with Cat and Val, which not only features a trampoline and some comedy balloons but also rather breaks my heart and I end up sobbing, aware that my shoulders are about to start shaking if I continue in such a manner.

Word Count at Start of Day: 11,520

Word Count at End of day: 13,219

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How (not to) write a novel in a month

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part One)

For anyone who missed my earlier post in a moment of insanity I signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo. In short I have 30 days to write a novel. 50,000 words. The first few weeks of October 2007 may not go down in my history as a time when I demonstrated brilliant common sense but some times common sense is overated. Whether I will say that in a few weeks remains to be seen.

But for now, welcome to NaNo, where I'm aiming to keep some sort of Writer's Diary both for my own interest and, maybe, to see where it all goes wrong...

So how should I begin? Should I stand up in the circle? Well, my name is Corinne, my novel is (currently) called Ilyria and it's about a touring theatre company who are putting on a production of - as its title might suggest - Twelfth Night. The novel - like Mrs Dalloway! And Saturday! And Ulysses! - is set on a single day; in this case the day of the final performance. Obviously since the age of 18 I have spent possibly too much time in theatres in a variety of guises and I have worked for a touring Shakespeare company so obviously it has no connection to reality whatsoever.

To set the scene I had allowed myself one day of research prior to NaNo starting. This research had consisted of:

1) Re-reading Twelfth Night.

2) Reading some criticism on Twelfth Night because though I will inevitably end up writing something approaching Chick-Lit I might as well get my literary pretensions out of the way and have a look at themes and whatnot that I might want to pretend I'm touching on.

3) Deciding the names (and roles) of all of the characters who are part of the theatre company.

4) Deciding where my opening chapter was going to be set.

Oh, and since I should probably be honest:

5) Pulling out my copy of On Beauty to see how Zadie Smith opens her chapters because the thought of a third person narrator scares me.

And that was pretty much it. No chapter plans, no character biographies, not even any idea of where I might ultimately be going with this novel. It struck me even then that November was going to be a long month.


Day One:

Get in just before Midnight after having seen and adored the RSC's production of The Comedy of Errors so am still up when NaNoWriMo begins. Briefly consider starting a new document on George in honour of this. However, I have had vodka and theatre so I am lazy and the idea is as far as it gets. Eventually go to bed.

Plod around, get rid of a couple of jobs that need doing, visit Facebook, check my email, have lunch, watch Neighbours, speak to Dean about his Cleaner for an hour. Start writing at 4.00pm after deciding that McFly are not perfect writing companions at this stage. Settle instead for an old Rufus Wainwright album.

Open word document. Write my name, the date and 'Draft One'. Put what I think might be the title. Click 'Page Break'.

Stare at blank screen. Type four words. Delete four words. Type another word. Delete it. Wonder if I am to fail NaNo without managing to write a single word. To calm myself go back to opening page and add dedication and epigraph.

After ten minutes finally get my opening image. Write sentence. Check word count. Thirteen words. Only 49,987 to go.

Keep writing. Keep checking word count approximately every 60 seconds. Discover that this does not magically increase the number of words on the page. Make a mental note to do a bit of reading on Art history when it becomes apparent in the first paragraph that one of my main characters has decided that she is cultured and therefore makes allusions to art. Want to poke her in the eye a bit for making me research when I'm already reading lots of War Poetry on account of another character's predilictions.

Realise at 5.30pm that I can quite comfortably, even with a margin of inner-Editor pernickityness, write 400 words an hour. Calculate that I therefore need to write for - on average - 4 hours 15 minutes a day. Every day for the next 30 days. Decide that it is both too early and slightly wrong for me to be drinking vodka on my own as a result of this.

Have a 45 minute break for dinner. Ponder the local Newsreader's increasingly orange skin.

Return to laptop. At 1,100 words - with the second Dawson's Creek album playing on iTunes - have thirty minutes where I struggle to string two words together. Remain unsure whether this is Dawson's Creek's fault or not.

Have, hopefully the first of many, minor breakthroughs. Power on and finish word quota by 8.30pm. Change title of novel to Ilyria. Eat a M&S chocolate as a reward.

Word Count at Start of Day: 0

Word Count at End of Day: 1852


Day Two:

First day of the process with the added challenge of actually completing a ten hour plus shift. Hmmm. No problem.

Indulge in general faffing (including being a nice neighbour and taking in parcels for those who are not home at such strange morning hours) and somehow manage not to write a single word before I go to work. Am not sure how well this bodes.

Decide on a plan of action of keeping my NaNo file open on my work computer at all times for the possibility of adding even a single word (for they all count) at any odd moment. Even amongst the gamut of jobs such as photocopying and franking mail (it doesn't cease to amuse me that I spend a chunk of my non-show working time doing the kind of admin that I took this job to avoid) I manage some wordage. Still checking word count in a vaguely obsessive compulsive manner though.

Deal with two shows, an actor in a kilt, three trays of ice creams, 150 programmes, 700 audience members, 15 latecomers, a show that runs 25 minutes later than advertised and some big red buckets (not, admittedly, all on my own because that would be silly). Some of Kneehigh's actor/musicians request that they be allowed to play in the bar after the show. I am Nice Duty Manager (even though a floppy haired actor has claimed that I am a Mean DM because I regularly chuck actors out of the bar) and say that would be wonderful. All my work done, and to the strains of an accordian, I get a chunk of writing done and get to go home smug

Word Count at Start of Day: 1,852

Word Count at End of Day: 3,255


Day Three:

After the somewhat unexpected success of yesterday I decide to try another experiment in the knowledge that there is no such thing as a spare moment during a Saturday evening shift. I have always considered myself to be a late afternoon/ evening writer. It was one of the reasons that I bonded a bit with Libby Purves for she said that she is jealous of writers who get up at 5.00am and have all their writing for the day done by 9.00am, whereas she gets up about 9.00 am and spends the next hour trying to find something clean to wear. I may always have clean clothes (I have a lot of clothes and could probably get away with not washing for rather a long time before it became a problem) but I do tend to spend my mornings faffing. I suspect this is something that has been honed by spending the last two years working evenings, though it was always there before - I vividly remember the August/ September where I'd watch reality television streaming in the morning [It was allowed! I was ill!] and wrote Some Sort of Beautiful in the afternoon.

So today I put this theory to the test and start writing at 11.00am. I know this is not exactly 5.00am but this is something of a leap for me, especially since I didn't get in from work until 12.30am [and then faffed about for an hour trying to work out if I should eat or not]. It is with something approaching extreme joy that I discover that I actually can write, managing a thousand words before I have to go to work.

By the time I am covering reception's break at 5.30pm I have almost written today's word quota. This shocks me somewhat. So much so that when some of the attendants who are doing a double shift come to talk to me I share what I am doing. Am pleased (and resolve not to make them empty the bins) as they all seem to think it is a good idea and wish to read the novel when it is finished (I um and er a bit about this, because, let me be honest, quality control is not exactly at its highest on my lovely Ilyria.)

This is, predictably, the peak of my smugness. I don't manage a single other word for the rest of the night as the shift turns into one of those that I file away with those I would quite like to be able to forget. Predictably everything takes longer than it should, I have to do two cash ups because the first one goes wrong and, just as the bar is calling last orders, I realise that I still have an hour's work to do. There aren't even any accordian players tonight.

Word Count at Start of Day: 3,255

Word Count at End of Day: 4,873

To Be Continued...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Banging and Bugles

Banging and Bugles

Without putting too fine a point on it I'm a week into NaNo and the terror has just about set in. So proper blogging will have to wait. But in the absence of such, and so you know that I am using my procrastination time well, I thought I'd share a couple of YouTube videos with you.

First up, you may remember that back in the days when I was an attendant I worked on the production of Bad Girls - The Musical. It is probably safe to say that I wasn't its greatest fan. Though I did end up knowing all of the words. A year and a bit later it hit the West End, I went to see it during its Previews and, erm, I still wasn't its greatest fan (though as they didn't charge me for my ticket I probably should say something nicer). Now it's closing on the 17th so I'm probably a bit late in flagging it up - but this is me, I work on Corinne Time which is not necessarily related to any other timezone.

There are a few reasons I'm putting this video up now: 1)This is actually one of the songs that I loved from the show in both of its productions [though my absolute favourite would be 'Life of Grime'] 2) Bad Girls seem to be embracing YouTube and t'internet and, y'know what, I rather like that. Good on them. 3) [Possibly most importantly] One of DA's reoccurring characters appears in the video and, quite proudly, sings in tune and everything.



The second YouTube moment features the Outdoor Shakespeare Company I worked for in the Summer. Filmed in Windsor [so before I joined the fun] by Former Soap Star it's worth watching even if you have no interest in theatre whatsoever just for the bugle playing at the start. This maybe points to a little bit of the chaos [and some of the lovely people and, erm, the bugler] that I seemed to live with for five weeks this Summer.



If you're wondering about the reference to the horse - originally there was to be a real- life horse in Henry V. Which, given that I was almost savaged by the real-life dog last year, didn't exactly strike me as a good idea. Predictably the horse caused utter chaos in Windsor and was never seen again. Phew.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Postcard From The Coal Face

A Postcard From The Coal Face

Dear Reader,

This is just a quick couple of lines, due to things like my having actual paid work to do (for there is a Press Night in three hours). But I promise this is a significant couple of lines. Probably.

The reason for my writing this postcard? I have a first draft! Of a new play! Something that can clearly only be noted through the over use of exclamation marks! It would be called The Invention of Love if Stoppard hadn't gotten there back in the nineties and swiped that title before I even knew I wanted it. So now I have to think of a title that hasn't already been ruthlessly taken. But it is still exciting. Because I do love it muchly. Even though I haven't read it all back (yet).

Because of the work thing I am celebrating with a chocolate penguin and some strawberry flavoured water. For I am rock and roll.

Corinne.x

Friday, October 19, 2007

You Know How I Love A Good Spotted...

You Know How I Love A Good Spotted...

Dean and I are strolling towards Covent Garden, wasting time before Dean goes off to work and I go have adventures near Earls Court in an attempt to visit the Finborough Theatre. A man, head down, walks past us.

"There!" Dean hisses "Brian Dowling!"

I turn round in the least subtle manner I can muster. It is indeed the Big Brother winner.

"Oooh".

This is possibly our best spotted of the week, given that otherwise we are limited to various actors who have appeared at the WYP whom we spotted in Joe Allen (for, sadly, Sienna Boho Princess hadn't chosen this night to visit).

"There he goes, head down, trying not to be recognised" Dean says with the right amount of glee.

"I voted for him!" I exclaim. It is true, for BB2 was the days when I loved Big Brother enough to actually watch it, and marked such love by voting in the final. For I may have the reality tv gene, but I am also from Yorkshire. Any more voting would have required a much bigger commitment.

And now I am warming to my subject. "He owes me 25p!".

"Plus interest!" Dean notes.

"Exactly! That 25p is now worth sixteen pounds fifty!". I am not so sure that this is accurate inflation, but had I invested that 25p in a house or something then my guess is on the low side. Brian Dowling should be happy for this. "I should run after him and tell him that!"

"That's a good facebook status" Dean responds, for it is true, we do sometimes talk to each other in facebook statuses.

"Corinne is running after Brian Dowling in Covent Garden demanding the money he owes her".

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Everyone's got these crazy secrets that will one day become an offhand line in a song, I think"

"Everyone's got these crazy secrets that will one day become an offhand line in a song, I think".

My gaydar ringing, Blonde Boy from the next table leans across -

"Are you two not going to play any more games?"

I have just spent the last ten minutes playing a moderately drunken version of 'Connect Four'. After we had worked out how to put the bloody thing together and we'd both made some elementary mistakes it had settled into a pleasing routine - namely, my winning. I am, if I do say so, a good winner.

"I think that's it now; I was winning".

I smile, suggesting that my competitiveness is not as terminal as it might appear, something only made possible by the fact that my tablemate is currently at the bar.

"Are you two going on when Sela closes?"

This is not as odd a conversation as it might appear, Sela is infamous for its drunken conversations between strangers, a by-product of the board games and the tables being so close together.

"I'm not sure - we're a bit impeded".

I gesture to the large case which, though not mine, is - as its owner has already joked - pinning me in. I have accepted the inelegance which this causes when I need the loo in exchange for all the money it has saved me as I am unable to get to the bar.

And because I feel the need to point out that we don't normally drag our lives around with us -

"He's just got back from London".

Blonde Boy looks at me. "He's keen".

I form my face into something which resembles a smile but do not say anything, realising just for a moment what the other people in this tiny bar are seeing. The same thing that, later, much later, my Taxi Driver will see when he asks if my boyfriend is coming with me. And knowing that it bears little resemblance to anything approaching reality.

The evening moves on, Blonde Boy says his goodbyes, we continue drinking, his pint glasses collecting, my veins filling with vodka, the momentary blur of aniseed flavoured shots. And we talk; of inconsequential things and jokes before we tell the truth and I take a deep breath and tell him about the things that scare me and, somehow, he finds exactly the right words to respond.

"I like it here" he says eventually.

"Even though it's spelt incorrectly" I jest.

"It should be pronounced Sailor not Cellar!"

"Remember - you're in Leeds".

We smile, he leans over and removes a piece of fluff from my hair and I make the decision that, just for tonight, I have permission to think that he is utterly wonderful.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

DNA

DNA

"You do have these strange habits - playing with wax, eating paper -"

"Yes". There is a pause as he considers this. Feigned gravity is one of his specialist subjects. "I can get away with it because I'm pretty".

Though we are several drinks into the evening I recognise even now that this is not merely ironic. There is a knowingness here, a knowingness that makes me exhale sharply.

He decides to elaborate.

"If that guy over there did it, it would be weird. If I do it, it's quirky".

I look at the unknowing guy, dragged into our conversation and ruthlessly forced to stand in comparison to the man across from me.

I nod. It is true. I wonder how many times he has been told this. I briefly consider telling him that I saw his double at work the other day, or at least how he would look if he were taller, and a bit thinner, with slightly neater hair and with less of a penchant for everything that goes with his lifestyle.

But, of course, I do not. For he is not incorrect. He is undeniably pretty. At times beautiful. And I suspect that it is written across my face that I think so.

He smiles.

"It's all about genetics".

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Fine Line Between Genius and Insanity

The Fine Line Between Genius and Insanity


"Are you attempting it again?" History Boy asks looking over my shoulder.

I nod.

"Only this time there's a crucial difference; this is an official international thing".

History Boy looks at me with just the right amount of scepticism. I continue.

"Their definition of a novel is 50,000 words, when I had the idea of writing a novel in a month I was working at something around 100,000*. 50,000 should be no problem".

I smile as I say this, endowing the 'no problem' with more confidence than I really feel.

History Boy doesn't buy it. He, maybe more than most, senses the depths of my procrastination.


"And what have you written in the last two weeks?"

Ah-ha!

"A play!" I say with a confident flourish. In my excitement of winning this particularl bout I do not acknowledge that I have in fact written just over half a play, mired as I am in the second act. But half a play is impressive too.

I can see History Boy wasn't expecting this, the tilt of his head marks a concession. "How many words is a play?"

"20,000". I look smug, concealing the fact that my word count currently stands at 8,200.

"I've managed about 50" he says and I take this as victory for me and my incorrect statistics.

But it does also mean that, in a moment of supreme genius stupidity, I have pledged my November to NaNoWriMo. At the rate I'm pounding through my as yet unnamed play I should have a first draft completed (with a few additions I'm inclined to make) in a couple of weeks. And then it's only healthy for me to sit on it for a little bit to get some perspective before I embark on The Eating Lots of Expensive Chocolate Stage (also known as Second Draft Hell). So in that sitting period what could be better than to complete a novel marathon? With absolutely no pressure as to the quality of the thing. My inner Editor will undoubtedly make up for it by being utterly anal about everyone else's apostrophes.

Part of the deal of NaNo is that you go public on what you're trying to do, just because it is one thing to face your own shame at not having done something, and something entirely different to have everyone you have ever known point and laugh at you. Obviously I am not going to tell you what my novel is about (yet) because this is me and I still have difficulty telling people what SSoB was about, even though it was on stage and you could see the bloody thing. But, just to heap the pressure on which I will know I will need when I hit about 10,000 words and it seems like throwing it in the bin would be the best course, I'm going to attempt the novel I pitched to Dean as his Christmas present last year. So you all know just how much grief I will get if I don't hit 50,000 words...

*I made about 20,000 before, erm, I had other things to do like hang around coffee shops with Dean.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Make Me A Willow Cabin At Your Gate"

"Make Me A Willow Cabin At Your Gate"

There were a few observations that sprung up as I stepped into the hotel:

1. I was reasonably glad that I had already eaten, suspecting that the prices of afternoon tea here might have stretched beyond 'I work in theatre' prices.

2. I was equally pleased to realise that I knew one of the Front of House staff. We are like the Mafia. But without the weapons.

3. Possibly most pressingly, that there was a good four decades between me and everyone else who had purchased tickets. And I realised in that moment, that me, in my black denier tights, silky grey dress and ballet pumps was to be the voice of youth. It is not a mantel which I take lightly. I wondered if I should have prepared more.

To maybe explain how I ended up here I shall continue the list format. I'd booked to see Libby Purves at the Ilkley Literature Festival for twofold reasons:

1. She too is a Stanner. They inject you with such notions of loyalty the moment you step over the gravel in the lodge. Plus she is on the list* as one of the female writers who came out of the college I affectionately say resembles a car park.

2. I had just finished reading Love Songs and Lies in a frenzied burst of excitement, terror and knowing realisation. I'd taken the book to my heart and I, in that geeky not so secret part of me who makes imaginary friends with authors on the basis of their writing, wanted to hear what this woman had to say.

I should probably talk a little more about Love Songs and Lies since I am here. The title is not great and the blurb on the back is worse. I don't quite think it manages the leap of covering 35 years of the main characters lives, its weak point being without a doubt the final section of the novel which rattles through twenty years in the blink of an eye. There are continuity mistakes that even I, blinded by my connection to the story, noticed. The Spectator said the narrator was the most annoying woman in literature since Miss Havisham, and - at times - they may well have a point. I could have hit her around the head on more than one occasion. And the ending (or at least how they get to the ending) is all too self-helpy, caring and sharing for my liking.

But - and it is a huge but - two thirds of the novel are so well placed that you can smell them. There are a couple of characters who fly off the page and into your head. One of these characters, so flawed, so wonderful, made me sob, rattling gigantic sobs as if the world would never quite be the same. There is a darkness to the novel that even the preppy cover and blurb cannot deny, a darkness which is never quite put right. And though it is followed through to an extreme extent, at the heart of this novel which is ultimately about unrequited love, is something so truthful that I would challenge any girl not to shudder slightly. If you are a girl who sees the world through the eyes of Shakespeare and Shelley and Epic Romance and favours well spoken boys with floppy hair then it might be wise to look away altogether.

Which is probably the rather long prelude to why I found myself in this room. There is an irony now, one that I did not foresee when I was gulping down Love Songs and hastily booked my ticket, for I did not know then what would happen in the weeks in between. But it serves only to make my sense of the novel even more acute.

Libby - for I feel I may call her my her Christian name as we are almost friends - has, as anyone who has heard her on the radio will know, a lovely calming voice. It is a voice you wish to listen to. And because she is used to this speaking malarkey she's actually good at being interviewed, she has anecdotes, seems wonderfully indiscreet and knows how to use a well placed expletive (which, surprisingly, seemed to go down well with the 60+ Ilkley brigade). She lost me slightly when she insulted Nick Hornby (for there is a lot of love in the Nick Hornby room as far as I am concerned) but pulled it back when she talked about climbing over the back wall at St Anne's. You've got to love a girl who can do that.

As for the novel itself, she said she had pondered whether the type of love at its heart still happened to the younger generation - did everyone move on too quickly now, had attitudes both to sex and how women view themselves mean that this has been consigned to the past. Would Sally still fall hopelessly in love with her Max Bellinger? And the thing that suggested to her that she might? The whole train of literature from Chaucer through Shakespeare and the Romantics and on to Yeats and Auden and the pop songs that Sally pens the lyrics for (ah, the love songs of the title). How much do people change really, Libby asked.

Afterwards because I am a Geek but not so in awe of Libby that I couldn't queue myself (cf. Alan Bennett) I joined those waiting to get their books signed. And because this is me and I have stepped up to the role of 'Voice of the Youth' (possibly for my first and only time) I talk.

"You're right" I say. "It does still happen"

I pause briefly and realise that I can't stop there. Compulsive author-reader sharing. It is probably a good thing that Byron and I shall never meet.

"I read English at Oxford" [as, it is probably important to point out, Sally does because I have not had enough alcohol yet for this to be an ego thing] "and I very much had a Max in my life".

I do not say that when Libby's Max stepped on to the page it was as if she had taken a photo of mine. I also step over the slight un-truth of the sentence, the tense and timing which is not quite accurate.

Libby stops signing my book and looks up at me.

"I hope he's not there any more".

I do not say anything. There is nothing I can say.

"Get rid of the bastard!" And then, jokingly as the woman behind me in the queue starts to laugh "He'll ruin your life!"

I laugh too as I thank her and take my book. For I may have a Max, but I am not Sally.

I am still giggling as I step outside into the rain and make my way down the hill, the awaiting warmth of the pub pulling me onwards.

And when I am caught smirking I deny all knowledge of a secret joke. For there are, I suspect, some things which should remain unspoken.

*Obviously that list is not just of the writers, but it should give you an idea. You might also want to note the amount of Conservatives on that list, though I suppose Polly Toynbee is doing her best to outweigh them.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Suddenly Everyone's A Critic

Suddenly Everyone's A Critic

It is the end of the interval and almost everyone has trooped back in for the second half of the play.

Brunette Lady with Guide Dog moves to go back into the auditorium. Guide Dog sits down in front of the doors, refusing to budge.

Brunette Lady bends down to Guide Dog:

"I know you don't like it, but we've got to go back in".

Guide Dog continues to long non-plussed for sixty seconds before re-taking his seat. And then probably writing a letter to the Guardian.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Autumn

Autumn

If, after my early September blogging rush, I am a little quiet on here then be consoled that my neglect of you is for good reason.

There has been the first aid course (which I passed without killing anyone and now will react to any emergency situation by telling the person involved to lie on their back with their legs in the air). I enjoyed the week more than I expected to (though the rush hour commute was as hellish as I remembered from that post Oxford summer), I learnt stuff that might actually save someone's life and I laughed quite a lot. But it was intense. And dealing on a minute by minute basis with everything that could go wrong, the nagging feeling that one day this plastic dummy might be an actual person, might even be someone you know - it drains your reserves. Each night I came home and wanted to do nothing more than curl up and not think.

There has been the voracious reading that, with the blissful moments to myself which the last few weeks have afforded, seems to characterise my Autumns. I have launched myself from one book to the next, whole other worlds opening up before me, these words - these wonderful, joyous, heartbreaking words - wrapping themselves around me. In two cases I have sobbed, hard, harder maybe than I have for a while. One for a book and a person and an event that is so far removed from me that I should not be able to touch it (though the theme of Mister Pip, would always suggest otherwise), the other because it felt - almost - as if the writer had peered into my soul and served it up for my reading pleasure.

There has been coloured tights. This might not sound important but I have made the decision - I am waving the flag - as I sit here in my plum tights - for interesting legwear. It is how I shall remember this season I suspect.

There has been pounding the floors of the theatre, learning the quirks of my shiny new attendants and having a show in the upstairs auditorium which led the Guardian to question whether we were all "delusional" (and no, I am not linking, the theatre in question keeps me in coloured tights).

There has been endless male voices on my iTunes, James Blunt's album on repeat winding its way into my soul, Mika making me want to jump about in my room, Rufus Wainwright soothing and giving range to my own diva moments.

There has, of course, been a little too much vodka, a little too much wine, a little too much inappropriate flirting. I rather loved the fact that a mere mention of our names was enough to have me asked whether we were spending the next week "walking around Roundhay Park with him quoting poetry at [me]". We are not, of course, but I love the fact that our reputations are such that people think we might.

There has been a decision or two, things that have hung in the air, a late night conversation that has rattled around my brain until I found the answer. Choices that have been made and then re-made.

Tomorrow I am spending the day in Ilkley, in the afternoon seeing one of those female writers whom St Anne's so regularly churns out and whose ranks I so desperately wish to join. Afterwards I suspect there will be food, and more wine, and, not inspite of everything but maybe because of everything, stomach lurching excitement.

But above all of this, and the real reason that I have been pushed away from the blog, stands the fact that I am writing with a zeal and enjoyment that I cannot remember having for a while. A half formed new play at my fingertips. It is exciting and terrifying and finds me waking up in the middle of the night with the actions of these newly created beings.

It is safe to say, I have missed this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Whole World's A Stage

The Whole World's A Stage

It is day one of a four day First Aid Course.

I am here because it has been decreed that my propensity to be there when people decide to faint or throw up makes it beneficial for all concerned that I get some formal qualification. How far this will help the vomiting children thing I do not know; they will still eat too many sweets, they will still throw up and it will still have to be cleaned up (though, because it is a perk of now having an office, probably not by me any more). But I cannot deny the use it will be to me next time I get drunk and fall over. And they're providing a free lunch. As a rule I only go on courses when there is going to be food.

Our table has been charged with producing a poster and talk on the treatment of minor burns. For the talk we have been told to use our imaginations. This is probably not something I have to be asked twice about.

"I'm thinking performance art". I say this with a smile to indicate that I am, at least partially, joking.

"Like pouring water?"

"Yes, we should use props - water, gloves, bandages". I am warming to my theme. "Do we have anything fluffy so we can show what not to bandage burns in?"

We collect our props, which come to include a fluffy hat, plastic sandwich wrap and some toilet paper. My joy is obvious, especially when I run to the toilet to get the loo roll.

"You love this sort of thing, don't you?" says Vintage Queen.

There is no denial that can be made.

"Our prop and sound people need to be behind the flip chart - the audience only needs to see your hands. And everyone else - arranged in a triangular formation so it's aesthetically pleasing".

I catch my words for a second as I martial the troops.

There's a pause before one of my tablemates speaks.

"You can tell you work in a theatre".

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pot. Kettle. Oddball.

Pot. Kettle. Oddball.

I settle into my seat, blissfully five rows from the front (for I am theatre geek and a theatre snob rolled into one. I appreciate good seats at discounted prices).

"Oooh" I hear from behind me. It is a Northern Oooh. All the more Northern for the fact we are in the middle of London. It makes me smile.

My Northern Oooh-er continues: "I wish I'd been this close for Take That!".

Now, had she said McFly I'd have been with her in an instant. I chuckle to myself at the slightly odd lady behind me as the house lights go down.

"What do you do with a BA in English?" comes the opening line.

In my seat I have what possibly amounts to an aneurysm. Because this is possibly the best opening line of a musical I have ever heard. I laugh loudly even though no one around me seems to find it quite as amusing as I do.

There's a pause and then I hear laughter from behind me. I realise that my Northern Oooh-er is now laughing at me.

But I am laughing out loud again. For Avenue Q is witty, and sweet, and cheeky and has puppets that I want to steal. Maybe more worryingly, I find myself crying just before the interval. C'mon I'm emotional. I cry at The Muppets.

When the show is finished and I am waiting to get out of the auditorium I hear my Northern Oooh-er again: "That was possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen".

The first words that comes out of my mouth? "You were right! I am Kate Monster!"

I resolve immediately to stop throwing stones.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

At Least This Time I Didn't Injure My Foot By Kicking Anything

At Least This Time I Didn't Injure My Foot By Kicking Anything

"We want to be through this door".

Dean leads me through one of Selfridges's many doors so we end up next to the TopShop concession.

"Oooo". I say looking at a particularly attractive blouse. I find that I am ooo-ing at clothes a lot at the moment, undoubtedly a by-product of the fact that I am purchasing my autumn wardrobe and, on account of working stupidly over the summer, I am in the surprising position of actually having money to spend.

But I am not to be distracted by TopShop. Oh no. Dean and I are here for much higher purposes. Moschino winter coat purposes. Moschino-would-be-the-most-expensive-single-purchase-since-my-computer purposes.

I'd stumbled across The Coat the day after I'd left Oxford. It had drawn me to it, calling out across the department floor. I'd made the mistake of trying The Coat on and then looking in the mirror. And it was perfect. Striking but wonderfully simple. Fitted to the waist and then flaring out, just enough. And, to cap it all, a perfect fit in a size 8. Moschino, you really are spoiling me.

Only, even in all The Coat's perfectness, I could acknowledge that The Coat was a lot of money, and I wasn't quite sure how much my desire to buy it was built into what is scientifically known as The Umbrella Effect. And this would be one huge umbrella. Director Boy was more blunt: "the only way to justify The Coat is if you had [insert something that C and I definitely did not do, because I am a lady]".

So I left The Coat. Predictably I have dreamt of it ever since.

I have attempted to distract myself with other coats. A significantly cheaper Ralph Lauren mac. An Oasis almost-copy. But it remains - they are not The Coat. I suspect I have been spoilt for all future coat purchases.

So, two weeks later, Dean and I are back. Only I have set down the ground rules:

I will only buy the coat if it is there and in my size. There will be no ordering. No phoning of other outlets. No pleading with Moschino. If The Coat is there then our relationship is meant to be. If not, then so be it. I will find another coat. I will grow to love this other coat.

We go up the escalators, past the bikes, up into the women's designer section.

"We want to go past the shoes" Dean asserts, for this is a mission for him as much as for me I suspect.

"Yes, if we hit Chloe we've gone too far". For I remember the route.

We continue along the familiar collections until -

"We're not in the right place".

It is true, I do not recognise anything. The rails of clothing hang from the ceiling. And I would remember that.

"Maybe we want to be more to our right". And then, because I am not letting this slip away, "Yes, we want to be this way".

I lead Dean across the pathway, until we have left the suspended rails behind for the sturdier, legs on floor versions. And there in front of us stands the Moschino Cheap and Chic section.

Only - it is not right. It is not in the right place. It is not the right bit of Moschino. There is nothing remotely red about it. Most noticeably of all, The Coat is not there.

"This isn't right either".

Dean and I stand and look around. And it dawns on me what has happened.

"It was where that box is now".

We both look to the giant box that is covering a large section of the floor, hiding from view the work that is being done to Selfridges's second floor. There is building work. Where my coat was.

"I'm being defeated by Selfridges!"

We have been walking the floor for ten minutes now. I know what this means.

"It's not meant to be, is it?".

Dean looks at me. It is clear that after already having had a morning where he fell up the escalators at Victoria and broke his Oyster card he is taking the disappearance of The Coat as a personal slight.

"Now I'm annoyed!". I make a mental note never to stand in the way of Dean and an expensive item of clothing.

But we both sense the reality and make our way out of Selfridges, chuntering slightly.

There is only one thing for it - I go to the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square and console myself with the aid of seat five rows from the front at Avenue Q.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Coda

A Coda

Maybe I should let the preceding weeks' blogs go without adding my comment, leaving them to stand alone for everyone who has read them - and anyone who might subsequently - to make up their own minds. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

But then this is me, I could analyse the back of a tin of beans. And I know - from experience - how much I will forget. Those details that would be lost without the record. Not just of the events they describe, but also of the process that those blogs came to be here. Because it has been something of a blogging experiment. I shall want to remember that, whether it be for the giant book on blogging that I will one day write, or the memoirs, or just to amuse myself when I am old and grey(-er than I am now).

I arrived in Oxford muddy, possibly slightly smelly with a rucksack that meant I couldn't bend down properly without endangering the lives of everyone in a five metre radius. Once I'd jumped into a shower, put on clean-ish clothes and stopped carrying my life around with me as if I were a snail it hit me that I was computer-less for the next week. This initially led to something of a minor panic attack as I would not be able to obsessive-compulsively check my emails 25 times a day or change my Facebook status. After I'd calmed myself down with the aid of some chocolate the more worrying thing hit me - I would not be able to blog. During my time as a blogger I have - on more than one occasion - gone a period longer than a week without committing anything to linger forever in the realms of the internet. So it was not the actual time period that worried me. No, it was the fact that I knew - as I surveyed the room list and reality pressed down on me - that I needed to blog. That I would need to write this out of my system.

So I had a choice, I could write with total abandonment and then stick the results into the pages of my diary when I returned to Leeds. Or I could write with total abandonment and then blog them.

At the first opportunity I went and bought a (purple) notebook. I left it on the desk next to my bed, a pen within reach. I wrote in it every day. Early in the morning, those days when I just couldn't sleep and I was too alert to lie back and read. When I was alone as the last thing I would do before I went to bed, eyes barely open as my pen dashed across the page. I'd take whatever snatched moments I could - five minutes before I had to catch my bus, whilst eating breakfast and, on that final day, sitting on the top deck of the Oxford tube, unsure as to what exactly I was feeling.

There is no real structure to the contents of that notebook, only that I wrote and constructed as if they were to be read. There are the set pieces, with additions and changed words I have made when re-reading, lines from songs I have heard, words people have spoken and, on more than one occasion, the poetry of the boy who wafted through its pages. I puzzled how they would hold together as a story, what would go where. Somehow putting them together, constructing their narrative arc, kept me sane. It gave me some distance from everything that was going on, even on the day where I sat in a room barely bigger than a cupboard and cried harder than I can remember crying in a long time.

When I arrived back in Leeds almost immediately I begin to type up the contents of the notebook, mental notes made for what I was and was not happy to publish. But as I typed it became obvious that to publish in part would be only to tell half of the story. To hide those bits not just because of implications they might have for other people, but the implications they might have for me. I have always maintained that the one rule I have on DA is its honesty. But the honesty of what I was saying in these blogs? I felt, and still kind of feel, that I'm drowning in it in some of them. And to open myself up, to have all those recesses revealed, of things I am not entirely proud of, put up. It takes a leap.

I suspect that I would not have made this leap had it not been for the emails that flew during this period. For these blogs, and their existence on here, owe rather a lot to Billygean and Dean. Without their encouragement, kind (often ego inducing) words and, maybe most of all, their understanding, it is most likely that a number of the blogs I have published would have been moved discretely to the folder on George named 'Unblogged'. Equally, they rescued a couple of blogs whose fate I thought already decided. So I - and indeed DA - owe them a rather large debt of gratitude.

I did not know when I published 'And though I can accept that we're going nowhere' (the first entry in that purple notebook of mine) where, or how long, I would run with this. All the blogs were written at least one week before they were put up (and in one case, almost three months before) but I didn't know I was going to go through with some of them until the moment I hit 'publish'. On more than one occasion I sat starring at the screen, hesitation looming large.

It has been a new kind of blogging experience. More deliberate, more deliberated. Having a store of pre-written blogs has given me a prolific-ness not seen since I was revising for 12 hours a day and (consequently) going slightly insane. It has also made me more aware of their literary-ness (if, indeed that is a word). I have felt, on more than one occasion, that the experience has been similar to collating a poetry collection. For they are not chronologically arranged, weaving in and out of the narrative as they do, making room in one for a - much needed - Steam Cleaner. It is nice to know that my dramatic pretentious tendencies have not been reduced during all of this.

I would like to record the origins of all those titles, the music and words that soothed, and - in many cases - said it better than I ever could. So I have a debt to The Killers's 'All These Things That I've Done', PYFB's 'Last Request', Al Griffin's 'Naked', Ghosts's 'Stay The Night' [maybe, more than any other song, the one which conjures in my head the erstwhile blog creation of C], Green Day's 'Good Riddance', Sheryl Crow's 'My Favourite Mistake' and, as so often, [The Mighty] Snow Patrol, this time with 'Run'. If this were a low-budget Brit Flick (I would mostly like to be played by Sienna Boho-Princess - given that she dyes her hair and puts on the necessary weight - you are free to assign suitable actors/ actresses to the other characters) these songs would be the soundtrack, though I would push for the inclusion of Oasis's 'She's Electric', Kate Nash's 'Foundations' and James's 'Laid' because if I could have squeezed them in then they would be here too. There is also a significant debt to Sylvia Plath, though I feel that to explain would be to kill the piece, so I will refrain.

Finally - finally - there is a quote I found that, until about ten seconds before I published, was at the top of one of the blogs. I loved it, thought it explained everything brilliantly, and then realised, once it was sat proudly on top, that it made the whole thing i)too academic and ii)almost tipped the writing into arrogance. Neither of the things that I wanted. But I kept the quote in my handbag, it soothed me and it should be here, somewhere:

"What happens in the heart simply happens".

The words of Ted Hughes someone who, I suspect, knew everything and nothing about these things. And that is exactly how I would have it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bus

Bus

"On paper it is so right".

Dean and I are seated on the 159 with only vague notions of where we are going and what we will do when we get there.

"If we were writing it down - personality, sense of humour...".

"Yes". It is undeniable. It has been said to me endlessly.

"But?"

Of course Dean knows there's a but. Dean invariably knows these things before I do.

"I don't know, it's not something I can categorise". I should know I have tried. This blog is testament to that.

"But it is something".

"Yes". On his part as much as mine, if I am honest. But I hate things I cannot express, that I can't transfer into words and polish into shape and shade.

I try again. "In some ways they're opposites of the same type. And I know that he would never, ever knowingly hurt me".

"Whereas..."

"Oh, he would". I do not need to say he has. We both know this.

"And yet -" I let it hang.

The bus continues, more people spilling into its open doors.

"There's just something there, something incredibly reckless that I can't fight".

I watch as the people near the doors jostle for position. I let my words float away, feeling their truth in the recesses of my stomach.

"Which is why you can't settle for something less, because then you'd turn into [C]"

The revelation is disturbing to say the least.

"I don't want that".

"No, but that's what would happen".

I roll it around my brain; a group of teenage girls disembark, all rows of bangles and hair pulled up.

"It's Darcy versus Cleaver isn't it?"

How my 17 year old self, engrossed in the book, would love this moment. I almost wish I could giggle with her about it.

"And you made your choice".

It is stark. But the truth. The choice made so easily, almost carelessly.

"Yes. Yes I did". And I cannot help but laugh at myself. "Cleaver all the way wasn't it?"

We both smile, that knowing shared smile.

The bus continues to wind its way around South London and, sunglasses on, I recline in the seat. In some ways this is the holding ground, a bridge between the Summer and everything which the Autumn will bring. Here I am protected. It will not be like this for much longer, I know that. Reality will have to be let in.

And yet - if I were to be asked if I am happy then the answer would be yes. And if I could go back and change anything of these past few months? No, I would not. I am not willing to wait indefinitely on the strength of a tantalising maybe any more than, in reality, I would be happy to settle for eloquent carelessness.

Oblivious the bus continues, the people and voices blurring and I know, instinctively, it is time for a new adventure.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

"How is [History Boy]?" Bar Boy asks, swivelling round on the chair opposite from me.

"I don't know" I say. I feel a pang of something I can't quite place, at the realisation that in some quarters it has become the norm to ask me about History Boy as it is in general to ask me about Dean.

"I thought..." Bar Boy trails off. "Haven't you seen him?"

"No". And then because I know that this is all too stark "He's busy".

It is the truth. And I could go on - I am busier still. I am so busy that I am using Tesco online and contemplating having them deliver to work.

When Bar Boy has gone, though, I cannot help but wonder for a second as the implications of all of this unravel in my mind. And, not for the first time where History Boy is concerned, I have no answers.

******


"Go after him" J urges.

I shake my head, not quite sure what exactly is happening. But aware of one thing.

He has left.

And I'm acutely aware of the significance this has taken for the group, they having watched us talking over ashtrays and the people in between us this evening. The group thinking that they were going to get some resolution to the soap storyline. Me thinking that I was going to get some resolution.

"Go after him" J says again.

But I cannot. What would I do if he kept on walking? And if he stopped what would I do then, strangely drunk and emotional as I am? Because I want to swear at him, I would not put it past me to hurl one of my shoes at him just to provoke a reaction. Which, even now, I can see is not fair. I cannot decipher whether his negligence is unintentional or not. And whilst there is that doubt it is unfair to subject him to shoe throwing women in the middle of Leeds.

Dean comes back from having followed him to the door.

"I bottled it" he says.

He is, I suspect, not the only one.

Dean hugs me. The bar starts to wobble ominously.

Dean takes my hand and moves me away from the group. We stand in the entrance to The Wardrobe and Dean brushes the hair away from my face.

"You know what you need to do?"

"What?" I ask.

"You need to kill him off".

"Killing him off in my writing is one thing..." it fades so I do not finish the sentence and I do not have to articulate the reality of what I know, even angry and upset as I am here, I cannot quite do.

Not yet.

*****


I walked to work through the first clutch of fallen leaves this morning.

As I sit at my desk History Boy pops his head round the door, the familiar hesitation.

We talk; teasingly, effortlessly.

It is all so easy. Different. But easy.

After he has gone and I have returned to my computer I cannot help but wonder how I got here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And it can defrost your food...

And it can defrost your food...

"Dean! Corinne!" comes the shout.

I understand immediately from the tone of voice that we are to come and see what is exciting Director Boy. I take the computer off of my lap and make my way to the bedroom.

With some trepidation I peer round the door.

"Look!" exclaims Director Boy gesticulating towards the floor.

I look where I am instructed. There is a a small flurry of steam rising from the carpet.

"Can you tell the difference?"

I look again. He is right. There is a small difference in the colour of the section of the carpet he is pointing to. It is beige -er. That and the rising steam.

"Yes".

Director Boy beams. I take this as my cue that I may return to my serious internet related things. Like changing my Facebook status.

Five minutes later I hear it again: "Corinne!"

Again, I put the computer down and walk into the bedroom. This time both Director Boy and Dean are standing by the window.

"Look!"

Now my attention is directed towards the windowsill, which is rapidly becoming a pristine white.
"115 degrees" Director Boy proclaims knowledgeably. "Which isn't that unexpected given that water boils at 100 degrees".

"Indeed".

Dean starts to attack the windowsill again.

"We have to remember though that it doesn't actually suck up the dirt. It only blasts it".

Director Boy returns to surveying the job in hand. I watch the two of them for a second and cannot help but marvel at how much joy, at 12.30am, a steam cleaner has brought.

I think this is what is meant by being gay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I'll sing it one last time for you"

"I'll sing it one last time for you"


It is 6.30am.

Light streams through the room and I feel a chill from the windows which have been left open, a fire alarm precaution against all of the smoke.

I look over to C who is fast asleep, entirely peaceful and, at least this once, not snoring. For maybe the first time he actually looks his age.

I do not need to look round more to know that the party is over. Already my brain has clocked that I have to be up in three hours in order to catch my coach to London. Mentally I am leaving this room and the baggage which goes with it.

I know, just as I knew last time, that I need to leave on my terms.

I sit up and then realise that my right leg is trapped under C. I try to pull it free. It doesn't work.

It strikes me that I may have a problem here.

"[C]" I hiss, not wanting to startle him too much.

Nothing.

"[C]" a little louder, using his actual name this time.

Still nothing.

Maybe a different course of action is required. I lean over and try to lift C's leg in order to free my own. This should be easy enough.

Easy that is if I wasn't contending with how much a fully grown, unconscious man's leg weighs.

"Shit".

Unless I want to give myself a hernia I do not intend to try that again.

I shuffle off of the seat and on to the coffee table, hoping that the changed vantage point might help me.

The notion of kicking C awake seems suddenly tempting. I settle instead for a slight dig in the thigh.

Nothing.

I should not like to have to rely on a sleeping C in case of emergency.

I prod him in the stomach. And again, slightly harder this time, with relish, a belated payback for my Saturday morning elbow-in-eye wakeup call.

Ok, so C has to be dead.

I check that he is still breathing - yes. That is good. I would not be able to practice any of my first aid skills from this position.

But I am still stuck. I wonder how long it will take for him to wake up naturally. I contemplate ringing Dean to say that I will not be in London until the following day.

"[C]" normal voice now, less concern for startling him and more for the possible effects of having the blood supply to my foot cut off for a prolonged period.

"[C]" louder, shaking him now.

"[C]" on the verge of shouting.

There's a flicker, the eyes open.

"[C], you've fallen asleep on my leg". I say it as gently as I can given that I have just woken him through a combination of shaking, prodding and shouting.

He has the startled look of not quite knowing where he is. But something has registered. He lifts his leg and I, with some relief, pull mine free.

Then it hits me that I have a very small window to say goodbye before he sinks back into unconsciousness. Already I can see sleep is claiming him again. This is my last opportunity -

- As I walk down the corridor I play with the notion of knocking on his door before I hand my keys back in and saying goodbye then, when he will at least remember it as more than a half experienced, hazy, gently affectionate dream. But I know I am using this as a comfort, prolonging the experience, reaching for something that means that this is not over.

Of course I will not do this. I will go and sleep. Get up and pack. Leave Oxford. It is all as it should be. All as it ever was intended to be.

This time my leaving is different. I understand more. The catch in the voice. The poetry. I have listened and watched and heard, building up scraps so I will know him more than he will ever know me.

My friends, even the ones who know C, do not quite understand the attraction. I suppress a giggle as I think of the nickname bestowed on him. And then there are those whose antipathy is stronger, the only half joking assertion that he wants punching in the face, that if he were met then words would be exchanged.

There are the things I have seen this time too. A night in Leeds when, just for a second, the coldness which can radiate from those eyes was turned on me. A day in Oxford when there was something that can only be described as double denim going on. That he knows he is better at this game than I am and yet he still plays. And the things he evokes in me which I do not like: recklessness, selfishness, I could go on.

But I know this is not how I will remember him, it is not how I want to remember C. No, that will be in French phrases, lingering glances, stolen chips and returned newspapers. In secret subtexts, laughter, On Beauty and his Agincourt tie. In talking in the dark, holding hands and those incredible eyes. In whatever it is that compels me so completely and makes my stomach lurch. In him understanding me enough to say things that I needed to hear.

In the knowledge that I could oh-so-easily fall in love with this boy, but that I will not let myself.

I have reached my flat, I pull my key from my pocket and realise that I am crying.

I open the door and wait for a second, breathe deeply, count to five. And then, firmly, close the door behind me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"All I Know Is You're My Favourite Mistake"

"All I Know Is You're My Favourite Mistake"


It is 4.00am.

The wine bottles are lined up - discarded, open, waiting.

Maybe because of this we are playing "Person most likely to..." with the added bonus of the fact that when you are voted "most likely" you have to "gulp" your drink. Already it is not pretty.

We have traversed such subject matters as "most likely to be invited to a Royal Garden Party" (Rosalind), "most likely to start their own outdoor theatre company" (C) and "most likely to fly to the moon" (Former Soap Star). For me there has been the worryingly accurate - "most likely to want a baby" and "most likely to have voted in a reality television contest" (oh, how little they know) - to the potentially more worryingly inaccurate - "most likely to own a pair of fluffy slippers" and "most likely to have become a vet if they weren't doing the job they do now" ("But I hate animals!").

Now there is a tie between me and Oxonian as to "most likely to write a letter of complaint to a television company". It is decided, after some debate, that on balance I win.

I take a gulp of red wine knowing - even now - that I shall regret this later.

"Ok" my brain races with wine as, unseen, my right foot continues to trace its path against the leg next to mine.

"Most likely to spend 50% of their monthly income on an item of clothing".

There's the count. One. Two. Three. We all point.

I plump for Former Soap Star. So do the majority of the people in the circle. Only Oxonian has noticed an anomaly.

"I don't know why you're pointing to [C]" he says to Actress Girlfriend. "[C] gets all of his clothes from Scope".

Everyone laughs, the fact that C is undoubtedly by some clear distance the richest person in the room is betrayed in his clothing in the way I have long since come to recognise with public school boys.

"You know what's most worrying about that?" Oxonian asks "The fact that I ran through a list of Charity shops in my head before I got to one that fitted. Oxfam? No. Cancer Research? No. Scope? Yes!".

I start to giggle uncontrollably. C is laughing too, his face scrunched and slightly flushed.

"And more worrying that that?" C says. I suspect I know what is coming. "This jumper" - giggling furiously he points to the dark blue woolen effort which seems to have appeared post-pub - "came from Scope".

I am laughing so much that I have to put my drink down. I look over, knowing that - just this once - there are no secrets. He is utterly readable, even as he moves his hair away from his face in the gesture which all of us can mimic, laughter creasing his features.

In a rush I realise: I shall miss him.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good Riddance

Good Riddance.

It is 2.00am.

"Right, this one's for the tour!" Former Soap Star proclaims.

I hear the opening chords and, involuntarily, inhale sharply.

Chords that take me to a blog, to a pub in York and me shouting out mid-song, and then back further, deeper, to a room in the bowels of St Anne's, my head slumped slightly, with someone who is now blurred playing the guitar and my knowing I would always remember.

"I heart this song!" It comes out spontaneously, wrapped with my own memories and tonight's wine.

Rosalind looks at me.

"I heart this too!" she exclaims.

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road"

We lapse into silence, everyone in the kitchen listening to the song.

I mouth the words, not wanting to miss a second.

Former Soap Star perched on the windowsill, laptop on knee, leaning out of the open window, singing.

Actually Welsh Actor cooking, working his way through ingredients that are almost at our sell by date.

Oxonian, slightly out of focus, opening another bottle of wine.

"It's something unpredictable but in the end is right"

Irish Actor, still battling this morning's hangover, but with a glass of red wine nonetheless.

C, laid across what passes for a sofa, eyes closed, playing air guitar.

I let my eyes linger, checking to see if he knows the words.

"Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial"

He is word perfect, as I always knew he would be. It strikes me that, without the knowing vanity, this is him at his most beautiful.

Curled slightly in the chair, sleepy, is Rosalind, quietly singing.

And me, a tell-tale red-wine stain on the right of my top.

I start to count the wall of empty wine bottles, the badges of this week's adventures, but stop because there are too many and there is not enough time.

It is still dark outside but I know that will not last for much longer.

There are not even enough chords left in the song.

"I hope you had the time of your life"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"I tell you, my heart beats a little louder"

"I tell you, my heart beats a little louder"

"But I'd already told you that" says the voice in the dark.

"When?" I ask peering over the edge of the bed to the indistinct figure on the floor.

"Once upon a time".

Even though I know he can twist a phrase I let the sentence melt, delicious and inviting as it is.

There is something else though - the fact that I have forgotten. The catch in the voice, the inflection that even he cannot conceal.

"I apologise then - for not remembering". I mean it. More than he will probably realise.

"I forgive you" there's a pause. He knows how to use a pause. "Just this once".

The sentence catches in my ears, an echo that I would not have expected him to remember. The words I had said to him in another room, another town, another world away. Turned on me as part of that secret history.

I know what he is going to say next before the words leave his mouth.

Later, when the voice comes not from the depths of the floor but reverberates instead against my neck, we argue over who avoided whom at the start of the summer, each of our mock indignation rising to meet the other's.

"I was looking to see if we were ok, wanting to catch your eye, and you wouldn't look".

I do not list all the reasons why I didn't want to look, of everything that I know I should run from but which I remain curiously enthralled by. And those eyes, which fascinate and trouble me in equal measure.

"I thought you were avoiding me!"

For I was not the one who made a hasty retreat that first day, taking solace outside the cloisters.

"Lame excuse. I maintain my right to be offended".

But as he utters the words he pulls me closer still; that curious mixture of unknown scent, alcohol and cigarettes envelops me and, utterly content, I twist my fingers around his.

"See, you losing your keys worked out well, didn't it?"

There is the flash of my own deceit; the keys that some time ago I realised were sitting happily in my coat pocket, the coat which now lays discarded, nestled next to the clothes which litter his bedroom floor.

"Yes". It is time for my own pause. "Yes it did".

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Man in Black

The Man in Black

Your existence is pointed out to me with undisguised relish. I look up and see you, morbid fascination compelling me.

You are both nothing and everything like I expected you to be.

There are the things that I would always notice. You are thinner than I am. Taller. Suddenly the surprise that I should have to stand on tip toe makes sense. There are the other things I notice, things in my favour, that my breasts are bigger, that - thankfully - I am better dressed.

But it is not the differences that fascinate - and horrify - me. You are pale, a shade on the Dulex transparent sheet. As you sit, cross legged, reading your dark hair falls around your face. It is painful to see you sitting almost in the same spot as I had done merely 24 hours earlier.

If there is any remaining doubt over your identity it is confirmed when I pass and his eyes do not meet mine. For a brief moment, we are all in the same space, trapped, the Abbey as our backdrop. I avert my gaze, refuse to listen.

I do not want to hear your voice. It will make you too real.

Later, when you have gone, it is almost as if you had never been. I do not intend to speak to him but as I walk his voice compels. I have the aching feeling that this is some test that I have passed, as much for me as for him.

I do not feel guilt. It surprises me. But I do feel sorry for you. I wonder how much you know. I am not arrogant enough to suspect that there has only ever been me.

There is something else, mingled around the bottom of my stomach, the feelings that end up around my knees the moment I alight on those eyes.

I dislike you for one simple, unforgivable, fact.

You met him first.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The View

The View

I wander through to the living area, bare feet padding on the carpets, ears alert to any sound which might rouse the other inhabitants.

It is just after 7.00am and despite talking into the early hours, fuelled by vodka and kebab van chips, I am awake. The reason for my disturbed sleep has been replaced with something altogether different; my preoccupations, of the rights and wrongs and otherwises of the game I am playing, evaporating in the time it took to pick up my phone and scroll. Curiously unsubstantial - a different place.

I run my hand across the ridges of the as-standard sofa and look through the balcony windows attempting to work out what the weather is to be.

This view is both mine and not mine, recognisable from Summer wanderings in first year and then from endless Oxford tube trips as a finalist, but it was never one I inhabited. I recognise the smell, the sofa whose twin sat in my room, the college crests on the plates. It is of course not my college crest, just another one of those indications that something here is skewed. An alternate universe.

I play with the possibilities in my mind, unable to quite keep those memories that swirl in this place under lock and key. And in turn not quite managing to blank out the nagging disbelief that rattles through my body. I close my eyes and, for a second, hope. Hard and fast.

I return to the view and - without the voices and faces of those I know understand - I feel entirely, bleakly, alone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"I'll take you anywhere you like, if you will, I will"

"I'll take you anywhere you like, if you will, I will"

There's a small group of us sitting around a table in the Kings Arms, the remnants of the post show crowd who had not finished their drinks when the taxis arrived. Somehow we are talking about the marketing that Rower and I have to do the following day.

"They won't be able to find costumes to fit us" I say. It is true. Rower is considerably taller than any of the actresses whilst I have a long running battle finding any kind of clothing that fits, let alone borrowed costumes.

"Oh, I'll try" smirks C from the seat next to me.

"I'll only wear one if it involves a big dress". I underline this point by gesticulating in his direction with my drink because this is, obviously, the international signal for slightly drunken girl wanting a big dress.

"No - you should go as a boy" Techie Chris counters, undoubtedly knowing that it is the last thing that I want.

"I don't think I'd make a very convincing boy". I pause. I have drunk too much to have any notions of what may be appropriate to say so I continue. "You'd have to bind me first". I make a little sweeping gesture with my hands in the directions of my breasts.

There's a pause before I hear the voice, deep and smooth -

"Let's form an orderly queue".

I blush hard and dare not make eye contact.

Rower catches my eye and I know I can't hide. Deftly she pushes her glass towards me -

"More wine, Corinne?"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Scenes From A Touring Theatre Company

Scenes From A Touring Theatre Company

Actor searching through mountains of cables, swords and abandoned rubbish:

"This is ridiculous" Pause. "In this play I've got more fucking props than I have lines".

****
[with undisguised joy]
"This screwdriver set only cost fifty pounds - that means I've still got two hundred and fifty pounds to spend on the rest of my tool kit!"

****

"Nottingham's the gun capital of England"

"What? Even worse than Manchester?"

"Yes" Pause. "I was walking down the street one evening and I overheard these two guys - "[puts on a noticeably less posh accent] " 'I thought you were bringing the gun'. 'No - you were supposed to bring it!' "

"What did you do?"

"I kept on walking!"

****

"Ok, who stole my gaffer tape?"



****

"You wait, one day we'll be able to hire someone just to sit in the office and take the blame for everything".

"Yes, we'll hire them and they'll say 'what do I do?' and I'll say 'Just sit there and wait. It will come' ".

****

"When I first met you I thought you were gay".

"No, I'm posh. It's a fine line".
****


"I'm still pissed off about that armour. I spent an entire day filing it and then they don't bloody use it".

"Which armour was that?"

"The one with the huge feet that [-] came in wearing and shouting '[C]'s a cunt, I told him not to order this' "

****


"This is how it works - I ring up and ask how the bailiffs were today".

"Just the one - quite friendly".

****


"I waited until he was about to go on stage and then told him that I'd got the cast to piss in the bucket he had to stick his head in".
****


[as several members of the cast compete in a sing off]

"This is why you should never come to a pub with actors".

****


[putting arm around me]

"So, Corinne, how big was it exactly?"

****


"So you know when you said that [C] and Director had been to get hay?"

"Yes"

"Have you seen the van?"

"Noooo"

[opens the door to reveal the chaos within]

"We won't be letting them do that again, then".

****


"What is a poster board for The Passion doing here?"

"We seem to be stealing the opposition's marketing"

"Why are we doing that?"

"Because this is a marketing campaign run by boys".

****


"C'mon Corinne, you've got a degree from Oxford you must be able to help us".

[looking at the broken leg plate] "Yes, because my degree from Oxford was in fusing metal with my eyes".

"That's handy isn't it?"

****


"When all the students come back they're going to be cursing; all those fucking actors got there first and bought all the four pound bottles of wine".

****


"Did you go to the Bridge last night?"

"No"

"Then why've you got the stamp on your hand? Do you not wash?"

"It's not - "

"You don't wash do you?"

****


"I fell asleep in the French tent yesterday during the first act".

"Yes, we knew. We could hear the snoring".

****


"I don't know why you're all laughing, in Leeds [-] did put talc down his pants".

"It's a good deodorant!"

****


"Does anyone know where I'm going to get a sausage?"

****


"I'm not normally one to do this - but you know it's time - I'm going to make a speech!"

Monday, September 03, 2007

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"Afterwards I think you and [C] should play [Rower] and I" says Oberon.

I look at him and then back at the pool table, horror mounting. Currently Oberon and C are taking on the heterosexual male roles of indulging in competitive sport whilst Rower and I are being girls and cheering them on. Despite over 100 years of feminism this is something I'm entirely happy with, seeing as it does excuse me from actually playing. For it is probably fair to say that I cannot play pool any more than I can play any of the other games which various boys at various points in my life have tried to teach me. And as has long been established - I do not play games I cannot win.

But - and this is a big hovering but - I like Oberon. And as gestures of acceptance go -

"Ok". I resign myself to my fate of everyone discovering how crap I am.

Such is my preoccupation with the impending doom that Oberon and C finish their game and I do not realise which of them has won. This is not good, especially when it emerges that C has been the victor. Shit, he'll want to win again.

"You're going to have to help me" I say to C.

"Surely you can play" he returns, a look of surprise passing his face.

It is at this point that I almost feel the need to point out to him that I am not just a walking cliche and I actually did things with my time at Oxford other than sit in the college bar. I am a girl. And, anyway, I preferred table football.

"No". And then in hushed but unmistakeably panicked tones "I don't even know how to hold the cue".

There's a pause as the eyes focus on me. I take a deep breath and await the mocking.

"Ok". It's said deliberately and I sense he realises that we are to lose. Then, with probably more patience than I deserve, "You need to put your fingers like this"

C places his hand on the table, fingers spread, thumb slightly bent. Again I notice those incongruous bitten nails.

I attempt to mimic his actions but as I have no bodily co-ordination this does not work. C resorts to physically moving my fingers into place. It seems churlish to point out that if he is to do this every time I have to take a shot we will be here all night, he shall miss his next show and I shall miss my coach to V.

"And bend your knees".

I stick out my bottom slightly before realising that this is not what he has requested me to do. I blush.

When it seems that I have managed to muster enough enough co-ordination to be able to repeat the action unaided C passes me the cue.

"Have a go" he says pointing to the white ball and then - as an emergency after thought - "just try hitting it, not anything else".

I do not like to say so but I suspect that my chances of hitting the white ball are fairly slim. There is of course the possibility that I will make contact and it will ricochet off of the table taking someone's eye out in the process.

I hold my breath for a second - then -

I make contact. The ball glides gently to the side of the table. I smile as C retrieves it for me and am enough in shock to try again. The same thing happens.

Filled with the joy of hitting a ball into nothing in particular, in a practice session that counts for nothing, in preparation for a game I do not quite understand, I beam. This is easy. Naturally C and I will win.

Where C tries to teach Coza Pool

Preoccupied as I am with my newly discovered pool prowess it is only now that I note Rower standing at the other side of C. By the look on her face she is as impressed with the proposition as I am.

"Corinne - you know I love you".

I recognise the effort and I love her for it.

"I love you too" I respond.

C looks vaguely bewildered to be stuck between the two of us. I suspect he does not understand girls.

He is saved any more such displays as Oberon breaks, passing the cue to C who in turn passes it on to me.

"What do I do?" I hiss, all earlier thoughts of confidence evaporating in the knowledge that I do not even know which balls I am aiming for.

"It doesn't matter" C says gently but with a firmness that I know means I cannot get out of this.

Silently I count to five. I bend my knees. Ball and cue make contact, there is the dizzying slap of balls hitting each other. When I look at the table, however, I am unable to tell any discernible difference other than that the white ball is now in a different position.

"Brilliant" C says eyes shining.

I look directly at him. I do not believe him. He is an actor after all.

I pass the cue over. Rower - who is probably an equally matched opponent for me - misses. C becomes the first person to actually pot a ball before he misses and the cue passes to Oberon. As C and I talk neither of us realise that it, somehow, is now my turn again.

We both know that it is coming. "Help!"

"Try this one" C points.

"How on earth am I meant to pot that one?" I ask demonstrating my inability to reach it in a manner which is only socially acceptable after half a bottle of wine - by clamouring on the table.

C half suppresses a laugh, undoubtedly at the fact that he is on a pool team with a midget. "Try this one".

He holds his finger above a particular ball. "Aim for me".

With frightening predictability I miss the ball completely.

C retrieves the white ball and replaces it.

"Try again".

If this were the other way around then I would be full of righteous indignation at such behaviour.

"That's cheating!" Oberon laughs.

But Oberon is clearly much better natured than I am and this as far as it goes as I move to re-take my shot. And, in reality, we all know that full blown competition is not the point of this game.

"Aim for me" C re-iterates holding his finger over the ball.

I screw up as much concentration as I can muster after all the wine.

I shock even myself when I pot the ball.

"Ohhh..." I am gad my normal eloquence has not deserted me at such a moment.

C smiles back, the eyes alight, and the potted ball becomes the single most important thing about the evening.

Ever fair, I pass the cue over.

Not to be outdone - and with considerably less coaching from Oberon than I had from C - Rower pots a ball. It is a mark of my affection for her that I cheer.

My clapping is interrupted however -

"You're going to have to leave now" says a man in a black shirt who I have not seen before. I clock that I am about to add 'a Pool Hall' to the list of places I have been requested to leave from.

Oberon and C deal with the news in the only way they can - by taking Rower and myself out of the equation and attempting to settle the game between the two of them.

Even they, however, are soon stopped, game unfinished.

"It's incredibly rude of them to stop us mid-game" I chunter standing on the precipice of a wine fuelled rant.

I catch the eyes, startlingly blue and resolutely unreadable.

"Don't worry" - there's a pause - "we had the moral victory".