Monday, December 28, 2009

Ex-Pat Christmas

Monday 21st - Granny arrives from Ireland with decent teabags
Tuesday 22nd - Carols at the British Embassy; Ambassador's bull dog has tinsel round neck
Wednesday 23rd - Christmas Dinner at Brit Club where the waiters wear white gloves
Thursday 24th - Carol Service at St. Christopher's Cathedral; collection for orphanage in Belize
Friday 25th - Champagne and a Ulster Fry, National Velvet on television, Trivial Pursuit causes fist fights, Butterball turkey and Brussel sprouts, Rex spends 8 hours building Lego
Saturday 26th - Two drinks parties overlapping; one is a Texan oil man, his house is the size of Southfork.
Sunday 27th - It's Ashoora so the shops are shut
Monday 28th - Granny goes home with a pink plastic alarm clock that plays the call to prayer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Present

Im very proud to announce that The Revenge of Lady Muck is on the front page of popular fiction website Chick-lit Club and has been mentioned in dispatches on Trashionista. You can't pay for this sort of publicity.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa Boden

Johnny Boden is better than Santa Claus! His sale started last weekend, I shopped on-line, it's 12 pound sterling flat rate fee to post the Middle East and the clothes arrived this morning.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Truth or Fiction

Jennifer Johnston
Truth or Fiction reads like a play from the 1930s, like a Noel Coward comedy of manners. I should like to see it performed, but who shall I cast as Desmond?
Desmond Fitzmaurice, our anti hero, was a playwright, a literary giant and a correspondent during World War 2, but he’s been out of circulation for so long most people think he has died. Until Caroline, a London based journalist, is sent by her newspaper’s editor to Dublin to interview him and write a feature about his life and his work.
The editor’s brief: “Nothing too serious, darling, a spot of gossip won’t come amiss. I will not run the red pencil through a spot of gossip...”
Desmond is thrilled by the interest - he promises Caroline a life story brimming over with ‘lots of sex and some violence’. Cynical Caroline finds this hard to believe. Desmond is, after all, a very old man; ‘she could hear his teeth clicking as he chewed’.
Age has not wearied Desmond; he gads about town in a taxi driven by ‘Phaeton’ whom he insists was his driver during the War. He claims Phaeton was with him when he shot dead a Nazi. But wouldn’t that make Phaeton at least ninety years old, yet still in possession of a driver’s licence?
Already Caroline is not convinced Desmond’s reminiscences are entirely truthful.
The rest of the supporting cast in the drama of Desmond’s life are females who adore him. There is dazzling sharp witted Pamela, his first wife, who gushes about his genius but asks: “You said you wanted me to tell her the truth. What I want to know is, your truth or my truth?”
And sour Anna, his second wife, she is territorial and possessive, she waits on Desmond hand and foot – ‘he was her be-all and end-all, like he had been Mother’s be- all and end-all’. Desmond treats her like dirt; when she falls and must go to hospital, he sends her alone in an ambulance. Callously he says, “If you want to know the truth... I don’t care if she lives or dies.”
While they wait for news from the hospital he tells Caroline about “the woman I really should have married” and how his inattention caused her to pine away and to die of a broken heart. He boasts: “Of course I know I didn’t kill her intentionally. Just my inattention.”
By now Caroline has ceased to believe anything Desmond tells her. She’s convinced he is a fantasist. She thinks he cannot distinguish between the truth and a fairytale. She is exhausted by his unreliable narrative and longs to return to London, back to her normality. She exits, stage left, with a mouthful of exasperated expletives, damning all ‘eccentric Irish people’...
Jennifer Johnston was born in Dublin but has lived in Derry for years. Her father was the writer Denis Johnston who was famous in the 1930s. Her mother was an actress. She started to write at the age of thirty five after waking up one morning and thinking: ‘I must do something with my life.’ Very much a wise decision since her first novel The Captains and the Kings won the Authors Club First Novel Award and subsequent novels have won The Whitbread Book Award and been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
VERDICT: They always say ‘write about something you know. It will make your story convincing’. Well, I am utterly convinced by Truth or Fiction, and charmed by dreadful old Desmond. I hope to be just as shameless a rascal when I am ninety years old.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fly Etihad!

For the first time in fifteen years, since I moved to live overseas, my mum is coming to visit at Christmas. Or she was until the big strike.
We always fly Etihad in and out of Dublin because it's very professional; the crew and ground staff are lovely; Customer Services are brilliant and Abu Dhabi airport has an excellent duty free.
Mummy, however, decided to fly the world's favourite airline.
So we still don't know if she's coming or not. Or if she gets here, will she get home? I feel really cross with BA for inflicting this ridiculous stress on my mother who hardly ever flies anywhere, and who planned and paid for her trip months ago, and who was looking forward to spending her first Christmas ever with her four little grandchildren who hardly ever see her.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Darren Shan

HELL’S HEROES - Darren Shan
This Christmas, what are you going to buy the young men in your life? Another astonishing computer game? Another expensive electrical gadget?
And what about the young ladies? Let me guess… Sparkly make-up, a pink cellphone?
I’m thinking ‘a book’ is not the first thing that leaps to mind. And certainly not a horror story with a scary picture on the front cover. When I picked up Hell’s Heroes in the book shop my first thought was – “Was sort of sick person reads this sort of novel?”
“But Darren Shan is a genius!” insisted my friend the teacher. “Boys and girls who are not readers, read Darren Shan. And once they read Darren Shan, they read Anthony Horowitz and then they’re hooked on reading for life…”
I was not easily persuaded. After twenty pages I said, “But Hell’s Heroes reads like a computer game. It’s one action sequence after another. Our narrator isn’t even human: he’s a ‘slime-covered, hairy, mutated, wolfen beast’. Nor is he humane: he has torn out the eyes of his closest ally and he isn’t sorry for doing it. And Planet Earth is being invaded by grotesque demons that can only be killed by magic. And the only person who can help the wolfen beast and the blind boy to save the world has gone over to the dark side and joined forces with the demon master. This is a story about the apocalypse! It even says ‘Game Over’ on the back cover!”
My friend the teacher said “You’re starting at the wrong end of Darren Shan. Hell’s Heroes is the very last book in a series of ten books called the Demonata. You need to start at the beginning…”
So I went to the library and got a copy of Cirque du Freak, Darren Shan’s first children’s horror novel, first published ten years ago. I sat down with Rex who is 9
“Read,” I said.
“But Mum, I’d rather kick a football.”
“Read,” I insisted.
He started to read. By the end of the first sentence – “I was in the toilet at school, sitting down, humming a song” – he was hooked. It was the most painless fifteen minutes of reading together we’ve ever done. He even said, “Let’s read on. I want to find out what happens next…”
(This is music to the ears of any mother of a child who is not a reader!)
What happens is that two normal boys Darren and Steve get tickets to go to a ‘freak show’ to watch a performing spider owned and controlled by a vampire. Darren steals the spider; the spider bites Steve, who stiffens into a coma; it seems Steve will die. Only the vampire can save him; he has an antidote to the poison. But the only way the vampire will save Steve is if Darren agrees to fake his own death, and become a half- vampire, and work as his assistant. I did not enjoy reading about the faking of Darren’s death, it made me feel queasy inside but Rex is made of sterner stuff. He said, “Chin up Mum, it’s only a story.”
Darren Shan is the pen name of Irishman Darren O'Shaughnessy. When he wrote Cirque du Freak in 1999 he had trouble getting it published. Now his books are for sale on every continent, in 39 countries, in 31 languages, and have been children’s bestsellers in America, Britain and Ireland. His books have sold somewhere close to 15 million copies worldwide!
VERDICT: Do you want to be the most admired kid on the block this Christmas? Ask Santa for a Darren Shan novel.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Road Rage

I was sitting at traffic lights this morning, waiting to turn left down a slip road onto the highway. The light went green, and the driver at the front of the queue inched his Big Car forward, he wasn't in a hurry, he had all the time in the world, he may have been chatting into his cell phone.
Small Car behind him was in a hurry, the driver toot tooted with impatience. Big Car ignored him. Small car tried to pass - there was just enough room on the slip road, but Big Car was a joker, he kept swerving so Small Car couldn't pass. Driver of Small Car lost his temper, sank his foot and with a surprising burst of acceleration almost passed Big Car. Who then speeded up and got faster and faster, till the two cars were almost flat out, neck and neck, Small Car and Big Car. They swung off the slip road onto the motorway and Big Car went out of control, crashed into the central reservation, and flipped over a couple of times. The driver wasn't wearing a seatbelt, he was thrown around like a rag doll.
Small Car roared off into the horizon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Road Not Taken

A letter has come home from school inviting Florence to swim at the 2010 Muscat International Invitational Age Group Swim Meet. What a momentous event. For me, not for Florence. For today, after years of avoiding it, I have reached the path that forks in the life of every mother.
To be or not to be - an alpha mum.
We all want our daughters to do well in life. To be confident, kind, socially competent, well mannered, happy. If they can be pretty and clever and sporty as well, that's even better for them.
But I've always made an point of not weighing down my children with parental expectations.
"But I want to swim in Muscat!" says Florence.
I've always believed if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it, without the help or interference of 'mother'
"Can you help me with my racing dive, Mum? You're really good at racing dives."
I mean, I'm really pleased Florence is a good swimmer - one day it might save her life, should she trip and fall into a swimming pool, or get washed out to sea....
"I'll have to swim every day until the competition. Will you take me swimming every day, Mum?"
God help me, I don't even like to swim, yet if I become an alpha mum I am the one who is going to be racing her up and down the pool. My hair is going to be ruined.
"I'll lend you my swim hat, Mum."