Sunday, December 30, 2007

in liltin' wifey territory

‘Mummy’ began Tilly. 'Yes dear?' I replied, quietly so as not to disturb the couple in the front row of the cinema whose snogging I had been writing down in my notebook of astute observations of everyday life. ‘Is Eva Green from Newcastle?’ ‘Why do you ask that dear?’ I asked. ‘Because it's snowing and she's not wearing a coat', explained Tilly. ‘I thinks she just kept that dress from Casino Royale dear’, I replied, ‘along with her make-up, character and leading man. ‘Mummy?’ continued Tilly. ‘Yes darling?’ I smiled. ‘If everyone’s soul follows them around in animal form what do they do when they want to go somewhere that has a sign saying guide dogs only?’ I was just thinking about that one when I heard ‘and mummy...’ I sighed. ‘You know this film is all about a fierce animal that’s really a king in a mysterious snowy land?’ ‘Yes dear?’ ‘So I take it CS Lewis’s Narnia copyright has expired then?’ she speculated. 'No darling, you don't und...' I began, but suddenly my thoughts were awakened. Perhaps if I went North I could come back with a good story to tell of wild animals, strange locals, and comedy trousers. ‘I’m going to The North children!’ I announced. I would take the train, I thought but remembering the new year engineering works I added ‘I may be gone some time’. ‘Will there be ice bears?’ asked Milly. ‘Don’t be silly Milly’ I smiled. ‘ I think wife in the north shot them all at the weekend’

I arrived at the station just as the train pulled in. It was a sad sight. The GNER colours had been covered over with the horrible new National Express stickers which were also stuck on the roof so they could still be read when the train was lying on it's side like one of their buses and on the side of the locomotive the Highland Chieftain name plate had been replaced with The Alex Salmond Express. I took my seat and as the train rolled away from the platform and into the unknown I began to write. ‘Excuse me’, said another passenger, pointing to a sign on the window, ‘this is the quiet coach, no electronic equipment allowed’. ‘Don’t worry’, I reassured him, gesturing towards my typewriter, ‘even valves weren’t invented when they made this thing!’ and began to tap away as the coach slowly and rather mysteriously grew ever more empty of passengers the further north we travelled.

I knew we had really reached the North when we passed a group of workman erecting the new Welcome to Wife in The North Country sign by the tracks. The train rumbled on and I wondered what other influence my inspiration could have had on Northumberland. Suddenly the intercom burst into life. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, began the announcement, ‘as the North Sea lies as cold, still , grey and unforgiving as the steel of a reiver’s sword and the river flows muddy brown past the silent stone walls guarding the mysterious secrets of the mist shrouded history of the ancient border we shall shortly be arriving in Berwick on Tweed’. I closed my eyes to steal myself for the arrival and breathed deeply as page after page of lilting possibilities scrolled past my eyes. ‘Please mind the gap’, concluded the announcement. I opened my eyes again and as the train coasted across the Royal Borders Bridge high above the dark Waterstones of the River Tweed I knew what I must do. I alighted from the carriage as soon as the train pulled in and called to the guard. ‘I say, what time is the next train?' I asked. ‘Where are you going to pet?’ he queried. ‘To my destiny', I answered confidently, 'as author of the great northern downshifting novel’. ‘That’ll be the 15.40 from Platform 2 pet’, he said. ‘Don’t be late though’, he added. ‘It’ll be standing room only on that service’.

Monday, December 24, 2007

fairy tale of old york

Dear everyone, here's wishing Strife in the North's very patient and understanding readers a super christmas and superer new year. How grim can it get up north? Am awful lot grimmer if you folks didn't visit and share my sorrow and pain, so thank you, sob. I'm too upset to write anything now so here's a song by Kirsty MacColl's dad. I just hope it doesn't get me into trouble, as he was from Lancashire, sigh...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

coming or going

My sleepy eyes opened reluctantly to be greeted by the early morning sun glimmering dim crimson above the bare frosty treetops rising through the billowing mist that rolled down the cold lazy river. ‘Oh for crying out loud will you shut those fucking curtains Tilly!’ I shouted lovingly at my daughter. ‘But Mummy, you said we could go Christmas shopping today’, sighed my darling girl. ‘We can’t go out’, I told her, ‘Daddy isn’t here to scrape the ice off the windscreen.’ ‘Oooh Mummy!’ sighed Tilly, and stormed off. I sighed too. I knew that the time to decide whether we were going to stay up north or go back to London was approaching as fast as I was losing the feeling in my toes that Tilly has left poking out from the duvet.

I remembered my children’s little faces when I told them we were leaving London. I should remember, it had taken long enough to get them to show an expression that would sound suitably poignantly innocent yet charmingly humorous when I descibed it in my book. My father had been more encouraging. I think he thought that by taking civilisation to The North I was finally following in the footsteps of his career in the Colonial Service. I remembered telling my best friend. ‘There is no life outside the M25!’ she had sobbed. I remembered telling the other reporters at the Sunday Times I was going to the north. ‘Where?' they had asked, perplexed. I took them into the next office where there was a national map of Britain on the wall but it only went as far north as the village where princess Diana was buried. Well, I suppose it is called Northamptonshire, sigh. There had been some good memories of course. I fondly remembered the Aga dressing ceremony held to celebrate the last local moving out of my street, winning the injunction against the silver band practising during Location Location, and then there were the locals of course.

I had grown rather attached to the local northern people I had studied for my book, almost as attached as I had become to the Umba Lumbas of Upper Borneo with whom I stayed in my authentic barn conversion at the very heart of their community while I wrote my first travel book Strife in the Wilderness: three months without Radio 4. I had found that these quaint charming northerners with their curious ways had rather grown on me. They have told me how much they love Strife in the North too, well, at least I think that's what they were saying, it's hard to tell sometimes, sigh. I felt I had really lived alongside these people in their daily lives, shared their struggles, understood their worries, borne their burden, and so had my nanny, cleaner, personal trainer, feng shui consultant and life coach. I knew that Strife in the North could be an even bigger money spinner, I mean genuinely heartfelt account of northern life, than the Umba Lumbas book so although I am comforted that my sister blogger whose heartfelt sincerity so inspires me will soon have to make the same choice I know it won't make it any easier when the time comes to have to ask my husband, are we going back home, darling, please, you gotta let me know...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

voyage of the fairly depressed

Well, I'm pleased to report Natalia's safe return from her rendez vous with the local party treasurer. She said when she first arrived she did receive some rather morally disapproving glances from the doggers at the other end of the lay-by but fortunately others turned up quite soon, in fact the darling girl told me so many Labour supporters sent their nannies and au pairs in disguise to give donations the whole event began to resemble the stoning scene in The Life of Brian. I asked her where she saw that awfully disrespectful movie and she said it was shown to the students in her citizenship class so I feel a stern letter to The Times coming up.

I was talking to my neighbour this morning about the most interesting case of the chap in the canoe. My neighbour says this is the most notorious case of someone disappearing from Hartlepool to start a new life on his ill gotten gains since Peter Mandelson left to join the European Commision. Actually, between you and me I'm beginning to suspect my neighbour might be a bit of a tory you know. Our Peter was somewhat cleverer than this Darwin chap of course because he shaved off his moustache and so it was years before anyone in Brussels recognised him. The poor missing kayaking chap nearly got away with it as well apparently because when the police asked for the canoe as evidence they found out Able UK had already dismantled it while they were waiting for permission for the ghost ships but sadly it seems as if although he'd been told Panama was just like The North; lots of canals and everybody still wears a a hat it just somehow wasn't home. I know how he feels, and if I wasn't thirty miles from the sea and completely out of sea sickness tablets, well, who knows what I might do, sigh...

On the subject of ghost ships, I know this blog has had something of the Mary Celeste about it lately, well, the fairly depressed more like, so thanks awfully for being so very understanding. It's just that it's so grim up north, sometimes I can hardly bear to talk about it, sob...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

from here to identity

I’m most awfully sorry for being so terribly terribly tardy in keeping this blog up to date. I must confess that I’ve been really rather concerned about identity theft lately and now that these child benefit discs have gone missing the whole business has caused me some great deal of worry. Can you imagine if those discs fell into the wrong hands and all the intimate details of my family life and all that terribly personal information about my children suddenly appeared on the internet and I didn’t even get any blog traffic or book royalties out it?! My neighbour is even more worried. He claims child benefit for his six children so I can see why he might be a little concerned although as the youngest is twenty five I really don’t know what consequences could occur that alarm him quite so much. I just hope that it’s so grim up north that nobody would even pretend to be me. I struggle to write the truth about my life and not have people think it’s all made up so I’m sure that nobody who was really only pretending could bring in the aga, the au pair, the big house and rich husband but yet manage to convey how awfully grim it is up north at all convincingly. Anyway, must dash as I have to send Natalia with a suitcase full of used notes and a false moustache to a secluded layby off the A19 to meet the chap from the Labour Party who collects my husband's donations. It's just good to see those chaps from the party are taking some measures to avoid computers and therefore anything underhand occurring, sigh. Back soon I hope, and thanks for bearing with me. Tootleoo chaps..