There are some friends you will have for the rest of your life. You’re welded together by love, trust, respect and honesty.

Ahh, there you are…welcome back Reader!. I’ve missed you, have you missed me?! It’s been far too long and we must catch up, but where to start?. Its been five months since I last posted so how about I take a deep breath and give a fast run through of my top three events to bring us both up to speed…ready?…

1. Went to London Expo where I nerded out freely and without fear of prejudice. Surrounded by the community of geeks and my best friends – amazing day.
2. Final, final, final draft of my novel series is completely finished. Huzzahs all round and excuse me whilst I collapse in a heap on the floor. Don’t move me, just bring me a drink every couple of hours and a pillow please, thanks.
3. Become re-obsessed with Murder, She Wrote….one day it will be me solving murders in between writing novels….come on Jen, keep hold of that dream!

Now back to present day, blimey that was quick wasn’t it?. So, what’s happened recently, I hear you ask. Well THE best thing happened actually, for me anyway. I got my inspiration back! Do you remember my last blog where I was in a poetry drought? Well, that is now well and truly over and it is down to one person. This individual has single handedly got my brain whirring back into action and they don’t even know it. They don’t even realise that they have done anything, all they have done is be themselves and it got me thinking. I was sitting and chatting with this person, (minding my own business I might add), when pow! it hit me. Words. Precious, emotional, simple, beautiful words and I was back in the game. I wrote a poem. It’s about that very person who got me back into it and it made me happy. Just talking to them for a short while brought to the forefront of my mind two iambic pentameters (ohh yes, get me!) which started it all off again. They continued talking, blissfully unaware that whilst I was listening I was also somewhere else. So now, five stanzas on, its finished and so has my drought. Also, it’s added a seventh poem to my personal collection. The collection where the narrator is speaking about my connection with someone specific rather then the confessional style that I usually write. This person has unwittingly joined my Inspiration Club, which is no mean feat.

Also, it was only today that I listened to some Christmas songs…the first of the season albeit a little late this year. I’ve decided that I now have to count four as my ultimate favourites. It takes years to get in my ultimate lists so, these have been waiting patiently for a while. Suffice to say Greg Lake, you’re safe don’t worry! You’re still my number 3! …And Shakin’ Stevens? Stay frosty big guy, you’ve maintained the top spot in my list.

I always find this time of year very special because it’s the celebration of a year full of triumphs and hurdles whilst setting up the goals and aspirations for the following year. A chance to look back and look forward. A realisation of all what’s gone right and all what makes you happy whilst learning from all that didn’t go quite as well and made you adapt. Next month starts the new year and the new phase whereby I shall be sharing a poem in each blog, just to hopefully whet your appetite for the publication of the collection in the Spring. Blimey, very grown up and with my 30th fast approaching I should at least consider acting my age but as my good friends Kenny and Stephen said “I don’t think anybody really matures, adults are just children who owe money”.

Have a great Christmas and new year, I shall now hand over to Shakin’ for the final sign off….

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Two snowmen in a field; one turns to the other and says “can you smell carrot?…”

I haven’t written a poem in a little over a month and a half. Well, 57 days to be exact (yes I counted-what’s your point?). This time last year I was on such a poetry roll. From June 2013 everything I saw, every conversation I had, every emotion was inspiration to me. This continued well past Christmas and I started to become nervous. I started to wonder when all these words in my head would run out. I didn’t want to miss anything because I knew that the longer this continued for; the sooner the end would come. I’m not a poet who can write as and when; my poetry comes in peaks and troughs. An occasion, incident, emotion will trigger the poetry in me and that’ll be it. For an unspecified period of days/months (in one case, years) I shall have nothing but words spilling out of my head and filling my notebooks. And then; just as quickly as it started, I am empty. The well of inspiration has dried and I’m alone again. This transition is never easy and even now I struggle from having a “full head” one day and then bereft of inspiration in another. I always have something else to help get through this. Recently it’s been my novel and the editing stages. However, I have recently found myself lost from that too. So here I am; the editing for my novel is done, and my poetry has run away….and then it happened. That erratic, spontaneous moment when my brain has absolutely NOTHING to think about or work on. It was left alone with itself. Now, I work damn hard to ensure that situations like this never occur-my brain lives for these moments and I spend everyday scuppering it’s plans to be left alone. The reason is; my brain enjoys it’s own company too much. It needs this time in order to come up with it’s completely “ingenious” schemes which it will than attempt to convince me are brilliant. Because I know that my brain would be successful in convincing me that it’s ideas are fantastic, I work on ensuring it never gets to that stage; but sadly it hasn’t always been so successful.
One day I went out to get some shopping for my mother and drove back in a different car then the one I left in.
I passed a dealership and my brain went “ooooh Jen; there’s a shiny blue car over there….you could afford it with your job….plus it’s shiny” So I did (and my brain was right; it was and still is an incredibly shiny blue car).
Another occasion; I switched my degree speciality mid way through my year because I had an epiphany about teaching junior school children. I had shown NO interest in teaching up to that point (and none afterwards) but my brain was left alone. It told me that it’ll be great, “you love books and poetry…what would be better then instilling that passion into children in order to encourage them from their earliest years?…plus; everyday you get to have some carpet story time and play with toys in the afternoon…what more do you want from a profession?😃 it’s a win-win Jen” I’ll do it! I remember exclaiming to myself….in a car park, and immediately went to change. Four months later I’m writing to the Dean of Literature on tear-soaked note paper begging to come back home. What was I thinking?
And now you see; these are just two examples of how dangerous my brain can be when left to it’s own devices.
So here I am; re-reading every book I have in order to see if some lost chapter from Charlotte Bronte’s Villette or a missed Emily Dickinson stanza will propel me forward into a world of inspiration. Their genius will unlock something in me that I can then work on, surely? It’s worked before-I mean you aren’t looking at an amateur; I once read Jane Eyre 25 times during a six week school summer holiday! I have the patience and commitment of a saint when it comes to understanding the written word. I didn’t memorise Shakespeare and Marlowe plays for fun you know! Well, I did actually…but that’s besides the point and for another time. So, hopefully I can sort this out – before my finger presses on any teleshopping channels and I find myself convinced that I need a flexible garden hose (I have no garden) and a quick set-up tent which sleeps twelve. Wish me luck!

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Stand back birds, it’s the Hammersmith hard men….

This week one of my favourite comedians passed away. Rik Mayall was someone who had the ability to light up any situation and was a pioneer of the alternative comedy movement.

I started watching Bottom earlier than I should have, but having older siblings gave me access to programmes that I wouldn’t have usually seen. The mix of silly comedy and slapstick violence had me laughing loudly and quoting back the lines to my siblings for days. Even now, some fifteen years later I know all the episodes inside out. Each little comedy nugget is stuck in my mind and it only takes a few words to my brother and sister before we are usually finishing the scenes. One of the best things about the series was even though it involved two “loser” men bumbling through life using violence and depravity-I found it endearing. Watching the episodes as an adult; I couldn’t help myself rooting for Eddie Hitler and sympathising with Richard Richard.

After getting my fix, I was on the hunt for more work of Rik’s to consume. It was then that I stumbled into The Young Ones. This wasn’t Bottom, by any means. This was original, “off the wall” surreal comedy. I could clearly see that this was the precursor to Bottom, but it has it’s own place. It was right for the time, ahead of its time even. The comedy, the laughter and the slapstick were transferable though. I can stick the blu ray in now and still laugh my head off-that’s what makes comedy writing and the characters successful. In both these series the characters are timeless and the energy, the jokes, are funny, just as they were then (how many other comedians can say that about their work?)

During my university years I seemed to go mad on finding things with The Mayall in it. This led me to all sorts of work, FlashHeart in Blackadder (in my humble opinion he stole the series), the feel good film Drop Dead Fred and every episode of The Comic Strip presents. There are far too many to go into individually-but each one brought out another unique part of his repertoire which left me hungry for more. He was more than a comedian. He was a writer (if you haven’t read it please, please, please pick up his “memoir” Bigger than Hitler, Better than Christ) an actor and a bottomless pit of energy and mania!

I was lucky enough to have met Rik when I want to see a Bottom Live show in 2001. Having been entertained I met him backstage with a handful of others and he spent time with every one of us. He signed the programmes, he had conversations about whatever the fans wanted to speak about and he sometimes was still “in character”. I shall never forget that night, and as long as I keep playing the vast number of DVDs of his work (and showing them to any eventual children that I have-when they reach the age of course!) he will never be forgotten either.

So, I shall raise a pint of Bombardier in his honour and may I also say… “That’s a smashing blouse you have on…”

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You’re an idiot!

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I would say that I hear those words on average about twice a day. I have done so for about ten or more years – definitely as long as I can remember! It was started and been predominantly continued through the years by the same person. However, since others around me have heard her say it, other family members, friends and even work colleagues have jumped on this phrase.
Don’t think that these words have dented my confidence over the years. On the contrary, it has worked to improve it. You see, those words are said by my sister. And she is my Chief Cheerleader (I gave her that title, good innit?) She says them with such love and warmth that there is no way I am ever offended.
Just to put things into perspective, below are some examples (from the abundant catalogue of examples I had) of what has happened which has caused her to proclaim this.

1. When I am bored – and it is more often than you think – I sing current pop songs but in the style and accent of a Cockney pub singer. Honestly, you haven’t heard Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ until you’ve heard my version.

2. Whilst working in a call centre, I got pulled up by management because I was mimicking the accents of the callers. I genuinely love people’s accents, the different linguistics of people has always fascinated me and I am in no way mocking them. I was talking back to them in their own accent because I wanted to be able to copy how they speak. Also, on a side note I did find that I got a lot less rude callers when they thought that the person on the end was from their own home towns!

3. I struggle to read and acknowledge the various “PUSH” and “PULL” signs that are emblazoned on doors. I see them, but they don’t sink in, to the point that I will be pushing on a door for a few seconds whilst staring at the PULL sign clearly marked on the door. I struggled with a door so much during my University days that the Library assistant used to get up and open the door for me when she saw me coming so that I didn’t struggle….the shame – but funny nonetheless.

4. I will gladly tell friends and colleagues stories of my past which she knows are complete lies. I’m sure that they all do too; but I say the tales from my life with such conviction and passion that it almost becomes believable. Some examples of this would be that I toured with comedy duo Hale and Pace, I was once married to the rap singer Coolio; (but creative differences in the end pushed us apart) and I helped Bob Dylan compose some of his lyrics during an impromptu jamming session we had in 1971. Please bear in mind that the fact that I was born in 1985 does not make it difficult for me to retell these stories.

5. I tell her that we are not sisters and in fact I am her mother. I even pull rank on her and tell her to go to her room when we disagree about something. I believe that by invoking my “parental rights” I win the disagreement but it never works…. She just looks at me.

I don’t know why I do all of the above (and considerably more!) I just always have. I dream these things up and they make me laugh. So, I share it with others in the hope that it’ll make them laugh too. And actually, that sums it all up for me. That is what life should be about. There are not so many things that we can all share so readily than humour and laughter. If it makes someone’s day a bit better, if it helps someone forget (just for a little while anyway) than I shall continue my stories.

My sister encourages me to be silly. I make her laugh, I make her feel embarrassed, I let her into my head every single day whether she likes it or not. But you know what? I wouldn’t be what I am without her. I wouldn’t be able to laugh as much, or be as silly as I am allowed (damn my age!) without her getting me through the serious bits.

In my novel, one of the characters, Hana is going through an emotional crisis which has knocked her sideways and will change her entire life forever. Everything in her life was going at a very steady pace until she got pushed off her “train” and found herself lost and abandoned in an unknown place. Nothing but fear and anxiety was rushing to her aid. Then a hand reached down and attempts to pull her out…it’s the hand of her best friend and he works tirelessly to get to the bottom of this crisis and help her through it.

My sister is my hand, when I can’t figure out how to get out of the hole I have found myself in – she leans down and pulls me out. But also, she is my comedy partner. So you see, whenever she says to me “You’re an idiot!” I only hear what she’s really saying which is “I love you….you bloody idiot!”

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…

masks

I am in awe of David Bowie. There, I said it. His music is complete poetry to me and there isn’t anything about his albums that I dislike (even his dabble in dance music during the Nineties). This is because each song, each album means something. Each one evokes different emotions and memories, every style has its place in my world.

Another particular favourite of mine is his work on the film Labyrinth. I can’t possibly be the only one perhaps who contemplated the fact that should I have been Sarah, I would have actually stayed. On the proviso that Toby was safely returned home that is. Maybe that’s just me being blinded by the fact that I don’t always see Jareth. I see Bowie; and so naturally I assume that living with him would entail nothing but love and daily mini concerts from Ziggy himself. Either way, Jareth has proven he can sing so whether it is Jean Genie or Dance, Magic, Dance…I do honestly think that I would have a happy life. Plus, as a bonus, my friends would be a fox riding a dog called Ambrosia, a goblin called Hoggle and the cuddliest giant called Ludo…what would I possibly be unhappy about?!?!?

I feel the same way about other films actually. This honesty malarkey means that I can safely admit to a few other home truths. Take Beauty and the Beast for instance – I am in complete love with the library (and rather impressed at the stock levels too). I am very sure that I am alone in this opinion, but hey, we’ve passed the point of embarrassment so I am just going to go with it. I am very disappointed at the end. When the Beast returns to his human form I am left feeling…well, meh actually. Beforehand he was this brooding, dark shaggy haired creature with the deep voice of Worf from Star Trek. The petals fall – and then…Oh. He’s now this snobbish looking, blond-haired pale man who looks like he has no personality whatsoever. I definitely know who I could have lived happily ever after with.

Maybe this says more about me than anything else I could say or do. Nevertheless its me being honest and I can’t change that. I mean, what’s wrong with being truthful anyway? In my novel, I am working with characters who throughout go on a journey whereby the truth is constantly smacked in their faces. To the point that by the end, they either have to embrace it, or attempt to bury it deeper than they ever had before. This got me thinking about some of the things that happen in my life. I like to think that I am fully aware of all that I am, my personality, my humour, everything. I’d like to think that no-one could hurt me with words – because I have the confidence to live within myself and know exactly what my strengths and weaknesses are. One character called Demetrius, is fully aware of his “self” but he has worked all his life to try to hide them. Blissfully living in self-imposed ignorance. To the point that when someone grabs a metaphorical mirror to his face he works to smash it to smithereens and destroy everyone around him with it. Another character Georgina, on the other hand – is faced with her truth and it gives her comfort. Solace. Because finally she doesn’t have to pretend anymore – someone else, it could be anybody, has finally taken the time to recognise her for what she is…beyond the mask. They didn’t shy away from it. Georgina, has found her peace and that’s probably something that we all strive for.

Writing these chapters has given me comfort in fact because it has highlighted something in me that I am grateful for. My family is the most supportive that I could ever want – considering everything that has ever been. They are my mirrors, they hold up everything to me; there are no masks when I am with them and I am the most happy that I have ever been. I am extremely lucky to have my family, these mirror holders, who I look up to. In addition to this, four years ago I met someone who has become my best friend. I have met someone who has become family, she throws in to our little friendship pot equal amounts to what I do. We laugh with and at each other, support and criticise (there’s nothing like a bit of banter, she called me a knob once), we have cried together and then slapped each other out of it. She has been one of the best gifts that I have received in life and I have changed because of her. And this is something that makes me different to Demetrius and Georgina and that is something that I am grateful for. Four years ago I allowed myself to open the window and in flew my Honeybee.

Day One – The Pipe

pipeI have never smoked in my life but my parents, as a gift, have bought me a pipe. A really nice, smooth dark wood pipe. I’ll never use it for its purpose but that’s not the point. It shall be used, for my purpose. A very dear friend of mine bought me a pipe last year. A plastic toy one to fill a need that I had somehow created. Whilst joking around one day I felt that in order to emphasize my point, I needed some kind of hand held device. This item would not only push my point home, but also would ensure that my listeners would listen. Therefore, I decided that the only item I could think of which would give me this authoritative, distinguished air would be a pipe. Not really taking it seriously, and also due to a distinct lack of funds, I mimed the actions of holding a pipe for the following six months (did I tell you I was a competent method actor?), this then progressed onto fashioning a makeshift one out of a biro and a bulldog clip until one day. One glorious day my best friend came to see me with a present in her hand. Now that I had had this one for some time, my parents decided to mark the occasion of me completing my novel by presenting me with my very own bona fide pipe.

I’ve been working on my novel now for I’d say about four years on and off. In that time, its completely changed in terms of narrative and storyline but today marks Day One of that process. Do you know why? Well, because simply put until you start actually editing the draft you have in your hand (or on your computer) you haven’t finished anything. You haven’t made one single decision that will ultimately at least resemble the final product. Don’t get me wrong, its doubtful that any pre-edited work will take any final forms either; but this isn’t my first draft…..this is my fifth. I can safely say, hell I’ll brag about it gladly, that the cuts or additions I make now are more likely to actually stay cut, or stay in the final manuscript. So, as this is the first time I can say that – today is Day One….today is the day that I (metaphorically speaking, of course) smoke the pipe.