Monday 25 July 2011

You're the Ones that I want! (ooh ooh ooh dammit)

After watching another piece of depressing news last week, I decided to embark on a change of lifestyle.
No longer did I want to be part of our greedy, all consuming society.
From now on I wanted to live simply.
I pictured recycled trainers, homemade jeans and potatoes growing steadily in saucers under my bed.
There is a saying: when you make a decision the whole world conspires to make it happen.
This is not so if you live in London and you’re decision is not to spend any money.
My intentions were good.
I genuinely felt I didn’t need anything and that, at least, made me happy.
And then I received a reminder e-mail for a hen party
The theme was ‘Grease meets Moulin Rouge’.
I opened my wardrobe and found nothing inspiring.
“I’ll buy something from a charity shop,” I said, confidently.
I bought a top from a charity shop once.
I never wore it. A month later I gave it back to them in a bag of old clothes.
Some people love digging around in second hand shops.
Personally, I don’t like the musty smell.
Still, I thought I could change.
I headed to Camden on a mission to be resourceful and creative.
After an hour of digging through bargain baskets and rails of hideous corduroys, I’d had enough.
I’m not a patient shopper.
When I saw a whole stall dedicated to shiny leggings my heart soared.
I would look like Sandy after all!
I picked up an awful pair of leatherette leggings.
“Fifteen pounds,” the stall holder said.
It was more than I had in my account.
But I did have cash... and it was going to solve all my problems.
It wasn’t the best bartering I’d ever done.
I handed over the money.
It hit me as I walked away that I had seriously failed in my mission.
Not only had I not managed to buy something cheap, recycled or second hand, but I’d bought something that I’d probably only ever wear once.
I felt miserable as I ruminated on how my fifteen pounds could have fed half the planet.
Then I tried the leggings on.
They were deliciously dreadful.
I started to feel better.
There is a saying: You can’t do everything at once, but you can do something at once.
I decided that for today, that something would be to lighten up!

Monday 18 July 2011

An Extract from my Novel

‘The “Discovery” of America’ by Beny Quintero

Columbus’ spirits soared as they neared land.
He’d spent a good part of the voyage worrying whether they’d find it again.
It would’ve been terribly embarrassing to return to Spain having failed to disembark for the third time.
But God Almighty had smiled upon his knackered compass.
Below fish nibbled at the ship; fish which Columbus had also discovered.
“What shall we call this new land?” called Jose Maria de la Vega, self-proclaimed champion toreador (in the children’s category) and now sailor.
“We shall call it Colombia after me!” Colombus cried.
They anchored the ship and approached the inviting beach in small boats.
It’d been an appalling journey and their bodies were broken.
They were hungry, thirsty, stinking, lice-ridden and their teeth were falling out. They threw themselves onto the sand crying with relief.
The voice had been projected through a curled up palm leaf which belonged to a short, dark-skinned man with a very round face. The sailors scrabbled to their feet, their hands instinctively reaching for their rusty knives.
The little man was suddenly joined by a large gathering of men with spears.
To the shocked Spaniards, they all looked identical.
The leader of the group marched towards the new arrivals with a brooding face.
“Right, what are you doing here?” he said. (He’d learnt the Spanish tongue from a small boy who’d miraculously appeared on the island a few years before and had become one of them.)
Colombus stepped forward, outraged at being greeted as such.
“What do you mean? I’ve just discovered this land!”
“Well that’s just being silly isn’t it? My ancestors lived here before your mother was an egg.”
“Now hang on a minute!
“Papers please.”
“What do you mean papers?”
The leader stared at Colombus frostily.
“You must have some sort of permission to be on this land. A written letter from one of the locals inviting you to a wedding perhaps?”
“No but...”
“A visa allowing you to work here because there’s absolutely no one else in the country who can do your particular job?”
Columbus sunburn grew redder as he stood there paralysed with rage.
The leader looked passed him and squinted out to sea.
“I hope you don’t mean to park that ship there forever.”
“Where else am I going to park it? We need to bring our belongings ashore.”
“What belongings? They’ll have to be inspected by customs. You can’t just bring anything in here... this is assuming you have permission to be here at all. If not, we might confiscate everything. ”
“Look here!” Columbus yelled. “This is how it works. I’ve discovered these lands and now you’re going to help me find all the gold, jewels and tobacco, which I'm then going to take back to the Queen and maybe I’ll take you with me too as my personal slave!”
“That temper isn’t going to get you any favours.”
“Give me my gold!”
“You need a license to import and export.”
“It’s my God-given right!”
“It’s not about right, it’s about licenses.”
The heat was making Columbus dizzy. He needed to kill this irritating little man but his sword was currently in the pile of flea-infested clothes which he’d ripped off in a frenzy as soon as they’d reached land.
“You must repent!” he cried, feeling faint. “You are heathens! You owe the pope gold and tobacco and strange fruit for your crimes against God!”
The leader wiped his nose then looked at his hand and frowned.
“We will have to detain you all, for illegal entry to the country, failure to supply any trading licenses, religious extremism...”
His nose was starting to run furiously. He wiped away the dribble on his upper lip.
“You will be fined and sent back home....aaargh...why is my nose doing this!”
The leader sneezed. Columbus looked at him grumpily.
“You’ve just caught a common cold, that’s all” he said.
The leader looked at him in horror then down at his hands.
Then he keeled over and died.

Thursday 7 July 2011

I'm Sorry But...

I have a terrible confession.
I’m telling you this now because I’ve just read an article on 'poetry phobia' in a writers’ magazine.
It’s a relief to know there are other writers out there who have the same ‘problem’.
I’m not frightened.
I know the words aren’t going to jump off the page and push my head in an oven. That only happens to the people who write them.
To me, poetry is like one of those math’s problems.
If George left his house at four o’clock walking five miles an hour....
It’s giving me a headache already. For god’s sake just tell me when George will get there!
Should I blame it on English A level?
The emphasis was always on wrenching five different possible meanings from each verse.
It was even worse if the poem didn’t have any verses.
Sometimes it looks like the poet has just thrown a bunch of magnetic letters at the fridge.
‘Work that one out,’ he smirks at me, like an evil magician.
Seamus Heaney wrote a poem about his Dad doing some digging.
I argued with my teacher because I didn’t see why there had to be so many levels of meaning in it.
Why did the mud have to symbolise the turmoil of his inner life?
Why couldn’t the mud just mean mud?
There's no need to ruin it with analysis.
Now I really didn’t intend to quote poetry in my blog. But what a bunch of satisfying sounds from Heaney.
Perhaps if we hadn’t had to look so hard for the hidden meanings I might have enjoyed poetry at school.
There's a section in the article on possible treatments for poetry phobia.
I start to read it but I'm instantly agitated.
No, I don’t want to be flooded with poetry! That's a curse not a cure!
And, anyway, I’m not scared.
There is a difference, isn't there?