Oh, I remember those

 

How exciting cassette recorders were back in the 70s. I recall receiving one for, I think, my ninth birthday. It was oblong and black with chrome (plastic) bush-button keys at one end: stop, start, fast forward, etc, and I loved it, mainly for inventing and recording, with a group of friends, The Muck-spreaders, a  piss-takes of The Archers. The days before Youtube . . .

My current book is set in 1985, the main character being somewhat techno-phobic, like me. After being told by his ex-wife who can never get hold of him that he must purchase an answer machine, he ventures into an alien environment to do so . . .

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An hour later, I’m walking up the Tottenham Court Road in a post-beer dreamy state, mind still buzzing from Mr Narche’s extraordinary words. In passing I glance in the window of one of the many electrical shops and notice amongst the avalanche of sleek and grey, a display of answer machines. Time to join 1985, Hamish – within reason.

    I step into the burrow of technology and stand gawping uncomprehendingly at the mass of bleeping, flashing . . . stuff.

    “What you after today, sir?”

    I jump at the voice coming from behind the counter. A youth clad in a satin purple and turquoise outfit is grinning at me. He pushes a hinged lid down on a small rectangle of orange plastic in front of him. I can just make out the upside-down words: Donkey Kong.

    “What is Donkey Kong,” I hear myself ask.

    He looks at me as if I have travelled in time from 1837.

    “Game and watch – hand-held games. There’s tons ‘appening – the future innit . . .” He gives up realising his adolescent enthusiasm is wasted on me. “VCR? SLR? Pack of VHS?”

    “Actually . . . I just want an answer machine – a simple one.”

    He nods: “Right-o,” lifts various chunks of plastic off a shelf, places them reverently before me and instructs me in their various attributes. I glaze over after forty seconds and point at one with a rather fetching band of real wood veneer.

    “That’s nice.”

    He says something that sounds like: ‘sgdtfsj’, ‘tvjjjdsds,’ and ‘sdchduhd’, plus it can, ‘dcsdumaadd’.”

    I smile and say I’ll take it. A boxed version is found, slid into a slippery, yellow logoed bag after which I hand over the required sum, walk out into real air and wonder what just happened.

Cats Like Plain Crisps

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somebody’s cat – sorry not sure whose, or whose image but we don’t at present have a cat to photo, with or without crisps

At present I’m re-editing my short stories with a view to making them into a ‘collection’.

What to call the book? one of the titles perhaps? or something random; something to encapsulate the wandering, miscellaneous subjects . . .

As sometimes happens, my brain (and I assume with most other peoples’) suddenly decided to present me with a curious phrase I haven’t recollected for about forty years. Cats Like Plain Crisps.

The whole figment came back to me – complete in every detail:  1974 or so, Mum driving round a roundabout in West London in the aged Hillman Minx; me in the back staring out on a grey, sleazy day after a school holiday spent in the Hovis-ad-like countryside of Dorset.

Mum, negotiating the rush-hour traffic and probably saying ‘bugger off’ to other motorists, failed to acknowledge this wonderment of graffiti – hand sprayed in large black letters on the blank end of a house, but I obviously logged it away for use forty years later.

Except . . . that it’s actually quite well documented. I checked on Google and there are images of the writing, not of the wall I had seen, but other walls, and on bridges, and padlocks, even. Apparently the first ever ‘Cats like plain crisps’ was scrawled on a kitchen wall in a Grosvenor Rd squat, Twickenham, and then reproduced possibly by the same wonderfully-deranged person in other areas of West London.

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Oh well, just another 40 million words/phrases to choose from . . .

Weasels Dislike Chamber Music?

 

 

The signpost

East, West, love, intrigue, crime: what does the cover need to say. Mmm, very difficult. I tried something that would put across in a fairly literal way, what the story is about. So . . . four characters in front of a view of London. Some kindly folks said ‘that’s nice’ some more frank characters including Mark, my husband, said ‘berk — very nasty, boring’ and other gut reaction words. End result, a painting of mine that I made a few years back, called ‘Lifemap’ which is fact about being in and leaving London. It possibly could lose out on the visual impact in some ways, especially when reduced to the size of a large-ish peanut on the internet, but it feels right.

What books have I picked up and got as far as the till with, on account of a cover. Not many.The only one I can think of off hand was ‘Keep the aspidistra flying’, it was just such a lovely painting of the said plant in a suitably shadowy front room. A cover might intrigue for a moment: turn the book over, scan the blurb then open the book and read the first few lines: is there an impulse to continue, or not. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949) — that’s a good one: read on . . .why were they?

Looking on the internet is a different process. The cover intrigues. You click and are invited to LOOK INSIDE, but for me anyway, there are things missing. The smell of ink, the feel of the pages, the type style used. I don’t actually buy books very often, (Mark compensating for that) but when I do, I wait for the bookshop. Preferably a small one without a chain coffee shop lurking in the corner.

Oh, I’ve just thought of another favourite cover. Will Self’s ‘Book of Dave’ Cleverly printed as if it has faded scumbled edges, in an aged pinky-red colour as if left on the back shelf of a car in the sun.                                                                                                  images

Looks rather more orange here

IMG_0052 Here’s mine, without the text yet.

Beginnings

ImageNearly two years ago while swimming, an idea appeared in my mind. This often happens, swimming being a languid spacy sort of activity where ideas do tend to present themselves. Most ideas re-submerg along with millions of others in the grey stuff, but this one stuck. I got out and started writing and haven’t stopped. It follows a now familiar pattern: 6.00 am — Me — ‘er . . .what.’ Mark — ‘tea? Me —’mm, yes, thanks,’. Light on, glasses on, screen on, tap, tap, tap for as long as possible before the daytime realities click in.

So . . . the idea. Four characters in London and their coincidental meetings: some that last, some that are momentary but reoccur in the second book. I am fascinated by such incidents, and how seemingly minute happenings can change the course of life, especially in the vastness of somewhere like London: a phone call taken before leaving the house, two minutes chat, a missed train — resulting in a conversation on the platform with someone who you would never otherwise have encountered.

When I was a child London was my world, and was again when I returned in the late 80s and 90s to be a photographic stylist. A world I loved and hated, and was eventually glad to escape from, first to the Midlands, then to France. I now return from time to time to revel in nostalgia, tramp my old haunts and weep as treasures are lost — no great monuments, mainly formica tabled, bench seated cafes . . .

My main four Characters, Holly, Jasper, Peter and Sandra are Londoners each seeking their ‘way out.’