Saturday, 31 March 2012

A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self

...said Charles Dickens.

I'm wondering exactly what the Dickens he meant...

When I'm horribly driven by deadlines, I'm scared of, or I begrudge my time being 'eaten away' by things that aren't important. By this (when I'm horribly driven) I mean taking time to talk to friends, not minding being interrupted by phonecalls and girlfriends dropping round for a coffee because they know I work from home, or by one or other of my sons Skyping me from Canada for a chat in the afternoon, which is their morning.

I have to ask myself exactly WHICH of these things is more important. A while ago, I'd have thought - why, deadlines, of course. I have my status as a professional to consider. Now I think - my friends and family. It's really a no-brainer.

A day spending time with others is definitely not wasted and is absolutely definitely not wasted on me - the me who spends far too much time on her own or inside her head.

I'm wondering if animals count as others. This morning I spent two hours shampooing and drying and polishing Alfie in preparation for the dressage competition tomorrow. Then he went out into the field and rolled in the mud within 30 seconds!

Was it my time wasted?  Two hours with a horse is never time wasted. My theory is that it'll take less time to polish him tomorrow...

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. Rather like the mud is sticking to Alfie.

Friday, 30 March 2012

I'm swamped!

Back here after lunch!

After lunch now...still swamped. Make that after supper!

After supper.

Not as swamped as these little guys, though. Tim, my son, found them on a dog walk, in the mud, soaking wet, shivering, mewling. He thought they were kittens until he washed and dried them and we discovered they were fox cubs (definitely abandoned.)

We took them to Kit Wilson Animal Rescue and there they golloped down lots of milk. The people said 'Are you sure there were no more? A fox litter is usually four at least.' - so Tim went back and found two more. Three boys and one girl in total! Back to animal rescue - hence a rather fractured day for me - but I'm absolutely not complaining because this was far more important.

Thank you Kit Wilson

 Great job, Tim.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Reasons to be cheerful - part 3

"There's only one way to be cheerful and that's listening to this 1979 classic from Ian Dury and the famous Blockheads"

Reasons to be cheerful... (link here)

Hmmmm. It's ONE way to be cheerful, maybe, if you like that sort of thing, but not the ONLY way.

I thought of it because the lyrics were quoted on the radio this morning. Here's part of it:

"A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it - yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 - no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain't spotty,
Sitting on the potty - curing smallpox."

I'm thinking I'll be cheerful today for no reason at all.
I'm allowed, aren't I?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

If it's not fun, you're not doing it right.

Bob Basso, please step forward and be acknowledged.

Not ever having heard of him, I had to find out.

"If life were a three-ring circus, Dr. Bob Basso, author, speaker, teacher, would need four extra rings."

How about THAT for an endorsement? (I want it to be mine.)

It's a beautiful day today. Armed with my resolve of yesterday to live life as a game, I took Alfie into the school to practice the dressage test.

(Happy birthday, Alfie, twelve today!)

Alfie was armed with the same resolve. His game was - how long can I refuse to go at all, even with spurs, before Caroline loses her resolve to live life as a game?

Let's call it a draw...

Alfie DID go in the end but not before I'd had to enquire whether or not it was within the rules of dressage to swear vilely at one's horse.

It was fun. Exhausting but fun.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Game of Life

Here it is - first created in 1860 by someone called Milton Bradley.  "It was America's first popular parlour game which simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way, to reach "Happy Old Age."

I'm not so sure my life is as neatly laid out but I'm going to endeavour to see it as a game.

Here's the difference I've noticed between treating life as a game and...well...NOT.

The marathon looms. I am seriously undertrained - with genuine health reasons for being so (cracked rib causing breathing difficulties)  Each morning I was waking up thinking 'Oh no! (the polite version) I simply HAVE TO put some miles in. I've said I'll do the marathon and so I suppose I'll HAVE TO or I'll look so bad.' Struggle, struggle, moan, groan, exhaustion, misery.

Then - a chat with a friend doing a Landmark Education course with me called Living Passionately (not to do with THAT sort of passion, in case you were wondering - and, by the way, I'm not able to talk in detail about the course because there's a confidentiality agreement)

Anyway, Anton pointed out that it was not authentic to be thinking I HAVE TO do the marathon. I chose to do it, I could NOT do it, and why not have some fun instead? - SO, with this in mind, yesterday I set out to Brighton in the sunshine and had run/walked/sometimes hobbled 16.5 miles by the time Peter arrived in the car to collect me. I was still smiling and felt pretty good - despite a painful and now black big toenail where it was pressing against the end of my trainer. OUCH!

Part 2: NOT treating life as a game:  I determined to adopt the same cheery attitude towards the dressage competition practice this morning. I was a little tired, however, (can't THINK why!) and Poppy sensed it and took full advantage so I tensed up and began trying too hard to get her to do what I wanted her to do when I wanted her to do it and Poppy tensed up and it went appallingly badly and I ended up feeling grouchy and I'm sure Poppy did too.

 Another little life lesson NOT learned! Or rather, learned and quickly forgotten.

But now I'm ready to play again!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Of course I'm a cowboy!

D'ya think I just found these spurs? Spurs? Eeeek.

For your information, I was looking up quotations about spurs, and apart from the sage advice 'Don't squat when you're wearing them' - everything seemed to be about a well-known north London football club and - sorry, nephew Jez and sons' friend Dustin - I'm not sullying my blog with any mention of THAT team.

Yes...spurs. Caroline the Cowboy.

(Blimey - you should see some of the images that come up if you Google cowgirl! I can assure you it would be most uncomfortable riding a horse in that sort of scanty attire...)

Yes...spurs. (Again)

Alfie has been going quite beautifully in the sand school ON HIS OWN (I mean, on his own with me riding him, not ENTIRELY on his own!) There's a dressage competition next week which, foolishly, I thought I might enter on both Poppy and Alfie, though not simultaneously.

With this in mind, on Saturday, after a good gallop on Ashdown Forest, we stopped off at said sand school where there were a number of other horses and riders practising.

Did Alfie go beautifully? Nope. He didn't go AT ALL. He didn't go when I spoke to him nicely. He didn't go when I kicked him politely. He didn't go when I slapped him smartly on the rear with the riding crop. He didn't go when I kicked him, slapped him and spoke to him less nicely all at the same time.

Hence - the spurs. NOT cowboy spurs. In fact, hardly spurs at all.

Did they work, this morning? I'm not sure really...we were on our own in the sand school. They didn't work when he refused to go past a gateway on the road but then, I was a little worried about using them forcefully what with passing traffic and so on.

I'm in two minds about whether or not using spurs is admitting defeat...or just being economical with my energy, time and stress levels!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today...

They sent a letter through the post saying 'Speeding Fine.'

(With thanks to Tommy Cooper, whose joke I adapted. Although I'm sure he wouldn't notice since he died in 1984 conscience, you see.)

The incident actually took place in December - in fact, I railed about how unfair I thought it was in my blog -
Murphy's Law

In reality, it was a fair cop. I WAS speeding. (Not very much though, officer) No amount of excuses can exonerate me from the fact that I was breaking that particular law. (But not by very much, officer, honestly)

 I chose to take the fine plus Speed Awareness Course instead of the fine plus three points on my driving licence. Why? Pride. I wanted to keep my clean licence (even if only nominally)

The course took place yesterday. Yesterday was the hottest, sunniest Saturday of the year when I could have been on the beach or having a picnic. The course was four hours long. I went along feeling slightly resentful.

I came away feeling chastened, educated and, funnily enough, entertained. The facilitators were VERY good.

There were quite a few quite distressing film clips and also this one which has been seen all over the world and was made by the Sussex Safer Roads team - the very organisation responsible for my course.

 Embrace Life
Do watch it! (The link's under the picture) Thank you Sussex Safer Roads for making this and for showing me how to be a better driver.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

There'll always be an England...

I love the country of my birth. Mostly. The only time I'm really ashamed of it - well, not so much IT but its people - is when I'm abroad and I witness the disgusting behaviour of tourists - quite often stag parties and the like. There was one time in Prague, beside the most beautiful astronomical clock...

...when a group of drunken English louts and their obscene bevaiour made me want to renounce citizenship and crawl under the nearest rock...or start speaking Czech.

I apologise to the good people of Prague.

I was thinking how lovely it was that there was England the other day. I took my son, sister  and dog out to Duddleswell Tea Rooms on the Ashdown Forest. Real proper tea rooms with home-made scones and cakes and proper teapots and milk jugs - and leaf tea, not tea bags.

 We sat outside in the sunshine and had a Sussex Cream Tea - and Roly was given his very own plate of bone-shaped biscuits and the sign on the door said 'Dogs Welcome' and they provided water for him too.

I'd love it if there would always be an England when England is like this.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea

by Mae Chevrette
Today, my cure was sweat. I know it's not very lady-like but I tell you, I was DRIPPING. Feeling a little strung out; a 45 minute dressage lesson on a reasonably reluctant Poppy in the sunshine; result: A cure but it wasn't pretty.

Karen Blixen, Isak Dinesen, Osceola and Pierre Andr├ęzel created the quotation - simultaneously. Not a coincidence, not as a result of Extra Sensory Perception but because they're one and the same person.

 Yes, I knew about Out of Africa but didn't realise she also wrote Babette's Feast or that she wrote in English, Danish and French too. Clever lady. Now I'm interested to seek out her earliest work - Seven Gothic Tales .

One day, I'll probably stop being curious, stop wanting to find out MORE about everything. I'm hoping that will be the day I die, when neither tears, sweat nor the sea will be a cure for anything.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

I'll tell you something. If I were to be cast away on a desert island and had to choose a book (apart from the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible) - it would be everything W.B.Yeats ever wrote in one volume, if such a work exists.

One very fat volume...quite difficult to turn the pages...useful, also, to stand on when reaching for tropical fruit high up in the trees.

If ever I could say I had just one influence, W. B.Yeats would be it. More and more, in finding my own voice, my own style...oh dear, as I'm writing that, it sounds as though the very thing I'm NOT doing is finding my own voice, my own style, but simply stealing someone else's...someone who shares my Anglo-Irish heritage too.

"The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write," Yeats said and the pieces that I write, that are my truth, that I'm most comfortable with, of which I'm most proud are in that realm, full of myth and legend and lyricism. The Melting, Of Night And Light, When The Trees Fall Silent...

(Dear God, now she's comparing herself to Yeats.)

I shall stop it at once.

But the world IS full of magic things. Here's my discovery of the day. An artist called Anne-Julie Aubry

The End Draws Nigh
W.B.Yeats for my soul, Anne-Julie Aubry for my mind's eye.

Counting Ants
 NOW I feel inspired to write.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

It's spring! We are so excited, we wet our plants.

Love that sign! (Well, apart from the missing punctuation. Don't get me started...)

Is it spring? Maybe.

This morning, I had the most beautiful sunny ride out with Poppy, who had spring in her hooves. She was dancing! The trees are all in bud, the grass is coming through that freshest green of all greens, the hedgerows are bejewelled with primroses and wild daffodils.

It was truly sublime.

When I turned Poppy out into her field, I exchanged her winter rug for a lightweight one. This might be a fatal error. If tomorrow is blowing a gale, freezing, sleeting or snowing...


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

That man is a creature that needs order yet yearns for change is the creative contradiction at the heart of the laws which structure his conformity and define his deviancy

That's a long one, with thanks to Freda Adler, criminologist and educator.

I was going to tell you about her, but today I will not, will not, WILL NOT be distracted. Much.

I've always thought my life is like a house of cards - a fragile structure...

...that if one single card is knocked loose then everything will come tumbling down about my ears. So, I do this: I race about dealing (pardon the pun) with all the cards, struggling to keep them in place - my family, marriage, household, work, clients, animals, friends, finances, health and fitness, creative writing, self-esteem...and so on and so on until infinity.

I say to myself - oh well, THAT part of my life is working okay so I'll concentrate on another part for the moment.

It's not a great way to live my life. House of cards...spinning plates...

House of cards AND spinning plates.

I'm committed to finding a way of living my life that's different. No, I'm committed to CREATING a way of living my life that's different.

It's going to take something.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The audience is the best judge of anything.

"They cannot be lied to. Truth brings them closer. A moment that lags - they're gonna cough."

The fact that I've used the above quote is an example of how easily I'm distracted. Oh, for the record, it's by Barbra Streisand.

I was looking for quotes about  congestion, believe it or not. I'm rotten congested at the moment and I was comparing it in my mind to a sort of writer's congestion, when all my words are phlegm and they take a lot of coughing up. I came across the quote.

Yes, an audience is the best judge of anything. Not of singing, in my case, though more of that later, but of my writing. "A moment that lags - they're gonna cough." Figuratively so, if my words aren't compelling enough to make them want to bother to read on. It could be my mantra.

Back to Barbra Streisand. A confession: It has always been a secret ambition of mine to sing Barbra Streisand's part in the duet with Neil Diamond - You don't bring me flowers.

Confession Number Two. I've practised so much that I can actually sing Neil Diamond's part too - and both in the right octave. Scary, eh?

I think there might be an awful lot of coughing from the audience.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

I love this definition. So true.

This is where it's from - my discovery of the day. Sardonic, satirical, maybe. The work of the devil? Hardly.

First published in 1906 (under the name The Cynic's Word Book.) 1906? If you had asked me, I'd have said that quote could have been written yesterday.

Today's Mothering Sunday. Note that. The fourth Sunday in Lent. A Christian festival originally conceived to honour the Virgin Mary and 'mother church,' but, later, to celebrate motherhood in general.

It's NOT Mother's Day. This is how Ambrose Bierce may have defined that:

Mother's Day: An annual event created by greeting card manufacturers, Ferrero Rocher and flower-sellers, in order to hike up prices and make a huge profit.

Blearrrrrgh! (sorry)

Question to self: Would I say blearrrrgh if I received such a card from Tim, Jamie or Laurie?

The honest answer: No, I'd be delighted and melt into a pile of maternal goo.

(Any card at all would be quite nice!)

I have, in fact, received a beautiful Kilmarnock Willow from Tim, all the more special because he carried it all the way home on the train and up the hill from the station...

...and Jamie and Laurie are exonerated because Mother's Day is on quite a different day in Canada.

I love being a mother. It's the best job in the world.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Travel imparts new vigour to the mind

Thus spake Seneca. A very long time ago.

I'm not sure that Seneca spent a lot of time driving along the M25 on a Friday afternoon. (Actually, the haunted expression on his face might suggest otherwise.)

The word 'driving' is something of a euphemism which might be replaced by crawling, juddering or hardly moving at all.

I had a great set of meetings yesterday at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. For someone who spends much of her time on her own at home in front of a computer, to travel away from home, to meet new people, to talk instead of e-mailing truly DOES impart new vigour to the mind.

Except for the journey home along the M25!

'No-one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old familiar pillow,' said Lin Yutang.

To me, the best bit of going out is coming home. Not coming home, no, not the journey. The arriving.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Competition is a sin.

Is it?

John D Rockefeller said this.

If he hadn't been such a philanthropist I'd say he was a hypocrite. Perhaps he was both? "In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company and ran it aggressively until he officially retired in 1897." Tell me he didn't slaughter his competition, tell me he didn't use them as a driving force to succeed.

I've got a strange (paradoxical?) attitude to competition. (Add that to the long list of other things about which I have a strange attitude.)


1. I won't go to the gym at the moment because I have a cracked rib and I KNOW that, even so, once I get there, I'd be unable to take it easy. I'd not be able to stop myself from striving to achieve. So it's best not to go at all.

2. I enter a lot of contests - writing contests - and, yes, I WANT TO WIN THEM. Of course I do. Forget all that stuff about 'It's the taking part that's important...'

I want to win them fair and square, though. On merit. So, for example, if the contest requires people to vote for you, and the winning entry depends on who has the most, and the most favourable reviews, I will NOT ask all my mates. I won't even tell them I've entered. (So I don't win things very often!)

3. I find it very, very hard to watch competitions - particularly the bit where the winner is announced. I love a programme on TV called Masterchef. It was the final last night - the fifteenth episode, and I'd watched the other fourteen avidly.  I watched it right up until the point where the judges said that Tom's rhubarb could have been cooked a little longer. Tom's crestfallen face was enough to make me run from the room.

I simply couldn't bear to see the pain of the two who didn't win, that awful TV-manufactured suspense...

"And the Winner is..."

...followed by an eternity of waiting, of focusing on each face, on tears welling up in exhausted eyes.

I went to bed and pulled the duvet over my head so I couldn't even hear.

WHAT is all that about?

Well done, Shelina.

Though I wanted ALL of you to win.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

My first big break came when I was five years old.

It's taken me more than seventy years to realise that. You see, at five I first learnt to read. It's that simple and it's that profound.

Who said that? Here's a clue. It wasn't me. (I'm not seventy five years old.)

I just had to show you this. It's my name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yes, really.

(With thanks to Mel Hermanny, my dear writing friend, who made a stellar day even more so by sending me the card above. Okay, so it's only a card but it COULD be real.)

Before I go any further - the person that talked about his first big break was...

Sean Connery

I'm taking his words seriously because it would be easy to be swept away by everything that was said to me yesterday about my work as a screenplay writer - importantly, by someone with an impressive track record in the business, who knows the business, who knows what is favoured, what will sell, is someone who will have his own reputation at stake by endorsing me.

I was surprised and delighted. Importantly, too, I didn't leave the London Film Academy bouncing off the rooftops and screeching along Fulham Broadway in a state of manic hysteria. I've done that before (in different places) when I've had some little glimmer of excitement about my work - and inevitably, it's all come to nothing.

Yesterday felt REAL. Practical. Considered. Full of promise, but without empty hype.

It WASN'T my first big break.

My first big break was to be the daughter of a talented writer who instilled in me his love for language and literature.

Thanks, Daddy.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants won't help.

(from Calvin and Hobbes)

I don't even have any lucky rocket ship underpants. Now I feel seriously underprepared for my big meeting.

I do, however, have a lucky top. I'm going to wear it today. I'm sure it'll make a HUGE difference to my performance. I'll probably wear other clothes too. And some shoes.

“The trouble with most Englishwomen is that they will dress as if they had been a mouse in a previous incarnation. They do not want to attract attention," said Edith Sitwell.

There's attracting attention and there's attracting attention, Edith.

I'm not going to be wearing lucky rocketship underpants. I'm not going to be dressed like a mouse. Or like Edith Sitwell.

I am going to be me.