Thursday 19 June 2014

The World Cup: Is it just about the football?

Spain is losing to Chile by two goals. If they don't win the game, they're out of the World Cup. I'm lying on the floor watching the television screen at an uncomfortable angle. I don't want to watch but part of me thinks I might influence the result if I do.

"It's just football," my rational self tells me.

But it doesn't feel like it.

My parents are watching it with me. My Dad is tense. He was expecting a draw at the worst. It's his fault I'm a Spain fanatic. Every year since the beginning of time, before a World Cup or a European cup, he has always said, "This year they have the dream team," to which I've always replied, "you say that every year and every year they get knocked out." At least that was the reality until 2008.

Ten minutes left to go. Spain still needs to score 3 goals. I feel like I should be crying. I try to muster some tears.

Is this even about football?

Supporting Spain makes me feel connected to the country that my brother and I idealised when we were little. Being a halfling (Spanish father, Welsh mother), means I'll never really be Spanish. I'll never be completely British either. In philosophical moments, I tell myself that all that matters is that I'm a human being and that nationality only serves to separate people when really we are all the same at heart.

Nostalgia then, is that what I'm clinging onto in the dying moments of this game?

Every August we used to leave London and go to heaven. 'Heaven' being a small village in the Catalan Pyrenees. 'Spain' came to mean mountains, rivers, lizards, sunshine, sea... Spain symbolised escape, freedom. When I'm on the tube at rush hour I close my eyes and imagine I'm back in those mountains beside the lake, my toes dipped in the cool water. I want that time back but it has slipped through my fingers. Or has it? Spain hasn't gone anywhere. I really must stop trying to own it.  

The whistle has blown. Spain is out of the World Cup.

A lot of people will be happy. No one likes teams who win all the time. 

Spain is out!
Time to support my husband's team - Vamos Colombia!
At least they've won before. In fact they've been winning for six years. Shouldn't I be thankful for that?

I start to perk up.

How can I be sad? It was thanks to La Roja that I met my husband. We met in a bar moments after the final whistle of the Euro Cup Final 2008 (Spain vs Germany).

If Spain hadn't won, I would have gone straight home. But I didn't. I stayed to celebrate and that's how I met him.

No need for tears after all. Chile deserved the win. Good luck to them! 


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Thursday 5 June 2014

The Dreaded Chic-Lit Label

I guess I'm going to have to get used to being called a chic lit author. It's a shame because if you say it quickly it sounds like shit-lit.

If you're a woman and there's comedy or romance in your books, and no one gets murdered, then you'll probably be labelled a chic lit writer. 'Even if you write about serious themes,' Rosie Fiore said, at the Finchley Literary Festival last weekend. Fiore has rules to avoid the chic lit stereotypes. She'll put her main characters in credible and difficult situations, she won't give them insecurities about her body 'because women get enough of that in the media' and a man won't be the solution to all her problems, she'll need to overcome them herself. But Fiore will still be called a chit lit author because her books are commercial, and she's a woman.

Lucy-Anne Holmes wrote an interesting article in the Guardian, Chic Lit: Hate the Term. Love the Genre. She suggested that chic lit should move with the times. 'What would embracing this new wave of feminism look like in fiction?'  she muses, and suggests 'we should lose the cupcakes covers.'

Only last week someone asked me, 'what do you write?'

Well, I write lots of different things. In my short stories I've written about political protests, loneliness, madness and murder. But I knew she was talking about my novels.

'Woman's commercial fiction,' I said.

'Oh...' she said, 'you mean chic lit.'

She sounded so condescending I felt an urge to justify myself. I wanted to tell her that I didn't write about shopping, or diets, or endless lunch breaks where the main character manages to get her hair cut, buy shoes and get back to work on time. Because that's the stereotype, that's what I think of when I hear the term chic lit. 

Rosie Fiore, Finchley Literary Festival
'I know a lot of chic lit authors,' Fiore said, at the festival. 'They are strong, independent and feminists.'  I glanced around the room, hoping someone else might join me in a standing ovation. It was what I needed to hear.

The chic lit term can sound so demeaning and yet there are plenty of excellent books in this genre written by talented authors who have stories worth telling. I'm certainly going to strive to be one of them.

My job is to write the best books I can whatever the label I'm given. Yes, there'll be romance in them and comedy, and it's unlikely anyone will be murdered, but I hope people don't overlook them because of the chic lit tag.