Wednesday, February 28, 2007

lonesome pining

Some people reading this blog must think rather poorly of my husband. How can he leave that poor girl, so educated and metropolitan, so beautiful and charming, so talented and yet so self effacing, up there in the cultural wasteland that is the north whilst he carries on working down in swinging London?' How, they ask, yes, how can I be sure of our marriage when he is living the bachelor life in a city of four million women? Well I tell them that my husband is not like other men and they should keep their personal opinions on relationships to themselves and not post them on the internet every day for the world to read. They say there is no such thing as love at first sight, but when I first laid eyes on those matinee idol looks, those tight Levis, and those cowboy boots I knew right then and there that he was the one to carry me off into the sunset on his white charger and yet also go shopping for shoes with. All he needs is a ten gallon hat and a cheroot and he could have walked right out of the screen during a showing of Blazing Saddles. He’s my lone ranger, my man with no name, my east, my north, my deep south and my wild west and I know that every fourth weekend he’ll walk in through that door with arrows in his hat, a six shooter in his pocket and bunch of Texaco flowers and sweep me off my feet with his lasso of love. But in between those weekends of steamed up windows, sitting in bed taking it in turns reading aloud from the Laura Ashley catalogue until we can no longer keep our hands off one another, when I’m all alone up here in the north with my Black Lace novels, My period home magazines and my printed out posts by Wife in the North, wistfully waiting for his call, my phone in my lap and set on maximum vibrate wondering oh when, oh when will I see my love again, he’s spending his evenings in his flat in London watching Brokeback Mountain with the red Indian from the Village People and thinking only of me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Of mozzarella and men

It’s so foggy today, I can hardly see the end of my little cottage’s garden only a quarter of a mile away. I’m so used to the weather in London, which is famous for it sunshine. On an afternoon like today I’d be strolling around the olive groves, Sun dried tomato farms and feta orchards of my native Islington in the warm early spring Mediterranean sun of those sun-blessed southerly latitudes, now becoming as distant in my memory as they had once became distant in the rear view mirror of our freelander as we passed under the M25 and into terra incognita, the AA road atlas no longer showing roads and towns but merely the warning 'here be dragons' as we passed the large motorway sign which said, simply and ominously 'THE NORTH' . Once, I would wander the streets of North London, as free as the single white cloud in an unfeasibly blue tuscan sky, perhaps stopping to pick a lemon to squeeze over my calamari, freshly caught from the Thames, perhaps exchanging a friendly smile and a ‘Ciao!’ with the famously good natured and handsome youth of inner city London. I’m so used to all that locally produced food living in London that I just can’t get used to eating such strange and foreign cuisine as beans on toast and bacon sandwiches that they eat up here in the north. I’ve tried to adapt some northern dishes to the more sophisticated southern palate, for example cuisses de grenouille, instead of toad, in the hole or steak and Nuits-Saint-Georges, instead of ale, pie, but it’s just not the same as the cucina italiana d'Islingtonia that mama used to make . Hoping to recapture those days of the good life in London I bought a mozarella tree recently from a stall in the farmers market, which I thought would do well on my sunny kitchen window. I have to say though that for a farmhouse it's jolly hard to grow anything in this place and my investment in self sufficiency has yet to produce a single morceau of cheese. 'I think that man sold you a lemon, mummy', said Tilly, finding me one day wistfully regarding my cheeseplant and it’s resolute, and frankly very northern and stubborn, failure to fruit. I could not help myself from wondering for a brief moment if I too were destined to live unblossoming on some northern window ledge, untouched by the hand of man, any man, growing old knitting, blogging and reading Wife in the North whilst struggling to drink in any weak ray of light that the watery northern sun of a social life consisting entirely of other mothers who only speak Viking and wear horns on their head could provide. I wanted to tell Tilly the truth, that lemon bushes had completely different leaves, and that I feared no harvest would be gathered this dark year, in this cold place, but instead I simply wept a single tear for the life I’d left behind, a tear of pure chardonnay, Côtes du Hampstead Heath 1993. That was a good year, sigh...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Night

My husband and I both watched the Oscars last night, although we live so far apart that if you rotated the A1 by 90 degrees he would actually be looking down Helen Mirren’s cleavage in Los Angeles. The A1 of course runs north to south and, in actual fact, there are no east-west roads in Yorkshire, which may be a legacy of the wars of the Roses but is probably because if you live in the north, why would you want to visit somewhere else that's equally north. Even though we are so many hours apart, even travelling in my publishers corporate jet, we felt very close last night and I’ll feel even closer when I read his own account on his blog Husband in the South. Unfortunately, Helen Mirren won the best actress award and I had put my money on Jan Ravens from Dead Ringers. I find gambling helps with my drink problem and with my attempts to stop smoking. 'Look Mummy!' Said young Tilly, 'It’s that woman who fixed the brakes on Diana’s car! Can I have some pocket money now I’ve given you something to write on your blog?' I remembered wistfully how I had stopped her pocket money until she said something which was childlike, charming and innocent and yet with an inadvertant hint of adult insight and sophistication that I could quote in my book, I mean on my blog about normal family life in the North, which this is, just like happens in any normal family, which we are. 'Oh, OK', I sighed, relenting. 'Sign this release and have your people call my people.' Of course last night was also the occasion of the less well reported but more widely followed up here Yorkshire Oscars, In which The Queen also did well, picking up the award for best foreign language film, but that story is for another day, and another dollar. Tootle pip, as they say up here!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friends with money

We rented a DVD last night. The girls and I often watch films while we wait for the glacier on the A1 to melt in the spring so that my husband can visit from London... oh when, oh when will I have a man in the house again, I'm ever so lone-lone-lone-lone-la-lonely... We’re the first people in the village to have a DVD player (it records as well so I often spend an entire lonely weekend watching my favourite episodes of Location Location Location) or in fact a TV, or indeed electricity so often one finds a gaggle of open mouthed local children gathered around our window in amazement at the moving pictures. I often have to tell them to jolly well get back to work in the garden. How can one be expected to write a great novel with grass that long! The DVD was called friends with money, about a woman who cleans the houses of her richer friends. I used to have friends with money you know, now I am just money with no friends. I thought if they made a film about my life in the north it would be called friends with no money because everyone in my village is poor and they all have to clean my house! Hmm, I wonder who would play me in the film, Renee Zellweger perhaps, with some jobbing provincials who can ham it up as my down at heel northern friends, well, I say friends but how can they be real friends as none of even went to university never mind Oxford and it's such a struggle to reduce my conversation down to their base rural northern level, and Michael Praed as my riding now Rilly, behave, you’re married!.. I often think during our ‘girls’ nights in’ that I’m sure to make a fortune selling the film rights to this blog some day soon, and that’ll be one in the eye for everyone who says this is a bit too patronising, a bit too London, and a bit too done already, and that I'm just Peter Mayle without the sunflowers. Rilly'll show 'em won't she, Milly and Tilly!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Briefs and Counters Chapter One

Celia sighed as she folded the last pair of boxer shorts of a long day. She held the soft cotton to her cheek and wished she only had a man to fill them while she buried her face in them. Alas, her wishes did not make the underwear any more manless and, just as the pants remained unfilled, her heart remained unfilled too. She often reflected, at the end of another day at the Brace Brothers department store briefs counter where she worked as a lowly checkout girl and assistant to the chief knicker tidier, the strict Miss Salcombe, upon how she came to be here when once she had everything. Once she had a super family, a super house, a super life, in fact everything was really super. But then her husband started acting strangely, talking endlessly about the family’s lost title of Duke of Eastminster, of the injustice of the loss of the ancestral lands, of the position in society, of not being able to get a table in the Ivy on a weekend, and about how he would reclaim their rightful place in the aristocracy. But then came the terrible news, he had mortgaged their home, their possessions, even King Mongkut their beloved Siamese, all to make a donation to the Labour party. Just as he had handed over the money to Lord Seedy in return for their promised reinstatement in Burkes, Scotland Yard had burst through the door, Lord Seedy had fled the country and Celia and her husband were left with nothing. When they lost the house, their marriage went out of the door with the TV and the cat, straight into the bailiffs van and she had been alone ever since, sniffing underwear and dreaming of what could have been. They had certainly ended up in a directory of burks, but the not the one they had planned. Would she ever find love again, Celia thought, and this time somebody she could rely on, tall, rugged handsome, clever, a conservative, and most of all somebody who would never put his pants on back to front because they fitted better that way, oh when oh when oh when she whispered to herself, and then the door opened….


Why not leaf through Strife in the North's yellowing dusty pages with this probably rather self indulgent and certainly incomplete handy index type thingy

My novel 24/2/07 24/2/08

My daughter's poems 22/3/07 24/7/07 13/1/08 20/4/08

My agent 24/4/07 21/5/07

My riding lessons 23/4/07 21/3/08 22/3/08 30/3/08

My husband 28/2/07 9/3/07

My children 13/3/07 26/3/07 29/7/07

My house 7/7/07 18/5/07 15/5/07

The North 20/12/07 12/4/08

Farming 27/3/07 12/6/07

Politics 13/5/07

Religion 8/5/07

Men 12/3/07 3/5/07 27/2/08

London 27/2/07 15/3/07

Or of course you could just listen to Elaine Paige, sigh