A Quick Flash

 

Why is it that as soon as I get a decent idea for a story, I can no longer write?

I had a thought for my story, a flash of inspiration as it were. I made a note of it. Scribbled it down quick before it flashed away again. It had me enthused. It’s a new idea, and I haven’t had any of those in a while.

But now I have no inclination to actually write it in.

 

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The March of Time

I set myself a challenge. I keep setting this challenge, and failing, so I move the goalposts.

My aim is to finish my second draft by the time Mark and I get married. I have five weeks left of this, and most of the book left to write. I’m trying to write 3000 words a day, spurred on by the success of writing 50K in 30 days.

But given that I still have a day-job, and we’re into the last weeks of preparation for the wedding (and for which I feel sorely ill-prepared – I so wish we’d eloped!), my time is precious. It would be nice if I could bill myself for my time…Would make a fortune!

This means that there’s no recipe this week, and maybe next week too, but perhaps instead, I’ll be able to manage snippets of story.

Or what I write to combat writer’s block. I got myself one of those little books which are filled with ideas or trigger-words or pictures or scenarios to use to get back into the creative zone.

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As far as wedding plans go, I’ve finally got around to having my dress altered, so it fits! And isn’t about three miles too long, even in 5″ heels. And I found shoes. In a charity shop, no less. I feel quite the green bride, with a vintage dress and second-hand shoes (I don’t think they’re old enough to be “vintage”), and vintage rings. I’m trying to persuade Mark to find a vintage suit – there were some nice ones in Exeter’s The Real McCoys, but I can see that they probably would be a bit heavy if the weather’s anything like it has been recently. Oh but there were some nice tail-coats! But we’ll see. Bournemouth is supposed to have some good vintage shops. We’ll investigate them.

The Merchant of Venice

All I knew about The Merchant of Venice before I read it was that Shylock was a Jew and that he made that speech about being the same as all the Christians of Venice regarding bleeding if cut etc. And demanding his pound of flesh for the unpaid debt.

Apparently, it falls under the category of “Comedy”. While it had some moments of amusement, I’m not sure that’s how I’d categorise it. But then, since the other two categories in the Folio are Histories and Tragedies, I can understand it being a comedy.

I was quite taken by poor Shylock. Granted he was being unreasonable about the (late) repayment of the loan, without interest, paid to Antonio, but Antonio did sign on the dotted line to pay with a pound of flesh if he couldn’t find the cash. I’m just surprised at Shylock refusing to settle when the money (plus some) turns up.

If I’ve learned one thing from all the murder-dramas I watch, it’s that moneylenders don’t kill debtors. Dead men can’t pay up. And moneylenders like their money back. What on earth was he going to do with a pound of flesh?

I get that he had cause to hate the Christians: Antonio particularly hadn’t been overly friendly, and his daughter Jessica had just eloped with a Christian Lorenzo (taking lots of jewels with her). But he was offered double the loan as repayment. He wasn’t due any interest. Antonio was only supposed to repay the capital.

In the end, Shylock is left broken and destitute. And forced to convert to Christianity, so he probably had to leave Venice as well. They might not have killed him, but the Christians weren’t quite as merciful as they thought they were. He lost everything. He didn’t even get the money he was owed. He just wanted the contract to be upheld.

A gentleman’s word is, after all, his bond, is it not?

In Defence of Samantha

It was reported last week (DM, Guardian) that Samantha, a stalwart of Radio 4’s I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue for almost thirty years, has attracted some complaints.

Apparently the BBC has received, wait for it, a whole four complaints about Samantha in the last eighteen months and asked the writers and panelists to “tone down” the smuttiness of the jokes. To put this in context, Clue has, on average, two and a half million listeners.

I’ve listened to Clue since I was little. Well, I probably didn’t actually listen to it properly until I was a teenager, but you know. We didn’t have a TV, we had a radio. And books. But anyway.

If you don’t know about Clue, the jokes are largely innuendo and double entendres. I didn’t find it funny until I could understand them – about when I started listening properly.

Samantha is the scorer – her job made easier by the fact that no points are awarded – and she is aided by two assistants: the lovely Monica and the Swede Sven.

I’ll give you that the comments about Samantha probably do sound somewhat dirtier now that the chairman is no longer the twinkly-eyed, genial grandfather-like jazz legend that was Humphrey Lyttleton (RIP; and that’s just my impression from his voice). Jack Dee is a good successor, when one bears in mind that, really, no one can replace Humph, but he doesn’t quite have that innocence of voice that Humph had, and which probably makes the difference.

But, Samantha’s fictional, and most of the “smutty” comments are when she is making her excuses to leave before the end of the show. Usually, she has a gentleman caller of some description and the comment requires dirty-minded listeners for them to be funny. For example, when she has a date with a Russian gentleman, who has suggested dinner in his hotel room, and then liquor out on the balcony. See? Perfectly innocent.

Is it the script-writer’s or chairman’s fault that you’ve misheard the comment and thus become offended?

The delightful Samantha is not offensive to women and those few who are offended ought not to be the ones dictating her job and early-leaving apologies. Are we not in an age when women have the independence to make their own decisions about their social lives? And can, as in the above example, dine with a man in a hotel room and then drink alcohol without people calling her offensive? That’s an insult to Samantha. I think the complainers should apologise to her, rather than the BBC kowtow to the complaints.

Samantha has done a fantastic job as the show’s scorer since 1985 – long may she continue in it!

Flapjack Cream Tea Cheesecake

Apparently, I’m pretty rubbish at reading, and writing about, a Shakespearean play a week. I think it’s best if I make it an every other week thing. I shall have to find other things to read and write about in the alternate weeks.

Mostly, though, I think I just need to find discipline. I’m a sedate person by nature (sounds so much better than lazy!). I am content to let the world go by. Although, I suppose another word could be hedonist, but not necessarily in the stereotypical sense. I’m hedonistic in the sense that I like to have fun and I see no reason at all why life must needs be an unpleasant experience. It’s too short.

However, I feel like I need to have a go at this discipline malarkey, or I’ll never finish a novel. Just keep starting new ones. Besides which, I was pretty much up with the sun yesterday, and I managed to remain relatively energised until it went down again. Neither was I overly hungry, being sated by quantities of water and ice. And despite spending most of the day at work. Most odd.

But the discipline malarkey. I’ve heard a lot about the magical early dawn hours for writers. I want to find out if it’s true. If I can write well when I follow my circadian clock better. My clock is quite good. Especially as regards the being sleepy when it’s dark. Which means that I won’t be writing much in the winter, if this system works…

I’ll let you know how this experiment goes.

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This week’s recipe is Flapjack Cream Tea Cheesecake. I was being too lazy to make a scone base, you see. I know there’ll be purists out there saying that it can’t be a Cream Tea without scone, and I’d agree. But I’ve heard some “purists” say that the only cream to use is whipped/extra thick double. I try to live and let live, but with Cream Tea, actually, clotted cream is best. Double cream, whipped or not, just isn’t a good substitute for butter. If you can, get Westcountry Clotted Cream.

It’s very simple. Pick your favourite flapjack recipe for the base and use to line a normal cake-tin. Allow to cool. Top with a mix made from: 1 tub Clotted Cream, 1 tub Cream Cheese, diced strawberries and icing sugar to taste. Make sure it’s all well mixed before dolloping on top of the flapjack. Decorate with strawberry halves. Pop in the fridge to set a bit, if you can resist.

Serve with tea in proper china with a saucer. And any remaining strawberries. I’m going to try this with a scone base at some point too.

Actually, this would be good for breakfast too.

Because Life needs Glamour

Well, my world does.

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I’m not a huge champagne-drinker – my preference is for cocktails or spirits on the rocks – but I’m a bit of a magpie in that I hoard things, and collect things. They don’t have to be shiny or necessary, I just have to like them.

And I like anything that speaks of the glamour of yesteryear. Well, the leisured classes of yesteryear. I blame a childhood of Mitford and teen years of Heyer. (Also, I don’t care what anyone says, Heyer is/was the Queen of Regency/Historical Romance, and I have yet to find her “heir”. Anyone whose characters are more explicit than an embrace or a locking of lips – and only once declarations of love/betrothal/unending love and commitment have been expressed – is no better than Mills & Boon. And nowhere near Heyer’s league.)

But anyway. Vintage champagne glasses! Although, I’m more likely to be quaffing, er, chocolate mousse…

Macbeth

Hecate: And thou shalt be King hereafter.

Macbeth: King?!

Hecate: Aye. And you, Banquo, you will not be King. Yet, you will be royal.

Banquo: Oh, oh, I’m going to be Queen!

I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, June 1968

Macbeth has never been a favourite. Probably something to do with having studied it in Drama in Yr 7, Music in Yr 8 and then for SATs in Yr 9. Now that I’ve got some distance from all of that (it doesn’t quite feel like ten years since I last read it), I dislike it less. The ISIRTA version is my favourite though.

Now I know that without Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s actions there isn’t much of a play, but seriously, what good did they really think would come of murdering Duncan in his bed? Killing a King in battle is one thing, but while he sleeps? Really? Such a bright idea!

I’m still trying to decide if it makes for a better story than what actually happened to Macbeth. He was King of the Scots in the mid-11th Century, for about 17 years. He’d defeated King Duncan in battle, whose widow and sons then fled. Then, in 1054, Earl Siward of Northumbria – who may or may not have been related to both Duncan and his wife – launched an invasion in which lots of people died, including his own son. And in 1057, Macbeth made his last stand, being defeated by Duncan’s son Malcolm. Macbeth died the following April, and his stepson is crowned King. But, you know, life is tricky, and he met an untimely end, after which Malcolm becomes the Third Malcolm of Scotland and manages a long reign. Sadly none of the Three Weird Sisters stuff is recorded as having happened…

Anyway, Macbeth. In which a man is goaded into killing the King and it all ends messily. Supposedly it’s a tragedy, but I think they had it coming.