Saturday, 21 October 2017

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

Nigel Slater writes in his Christmas Chronicles (2017) 'You either 'get' the cheer of winter or you don't.' I could not agree more. We have finally moved away from the time of year I found most oppressive. No more sneezing, sweating or slathering on sun cream because someone's invited you to sit in their garden, rather than utilise the far comfier seating of their lounge. I cannot stand the Summer. The happy news is, of course, that Summer is over. Hurrah and huzzah. 

The absolute dream.
I am now FULL of the cheer of winter. I know we're not strictly there yet. But since all the kids went back to school and the evenings got darker earlier, I find myself behaving in a winterly way. Little changes seep into my day, that when I stop to think about them, show me we've hit a new season and are counting down to Christmas. The Danish concept of hygge seems to be everywhere these days. I've always managed to prioritise cosy wellbeing whatever my age. (Yeah, I'm such a self-indulgent cow.) I just didn't know there was a name for it. 

Fifty Shades of Hair

The reality. With
added split ends.
The aim. 
I despair of my hair colour. Boring brown. You won't find that on a box of Garner Nutrisse. Historically I've tended to play about with my colour as the seasons change. Blonde bits for Summer, dark brown/black for Winter. In recent years though, the game has changed. I have to - as Davina's fake Mum on the advert says - 'cover my bit of grey.' So it's boring brown on a regular basis. And yet, still I can play. This winter, I'm aiming for Very Dark Brown with Copper Tips. Oh yes. It's Halloween orange juxtaposed with the black of night. Sorta. Check out my seasonal hair.

For the Love of mash

Yes, I've talked about mash potato before but it can't be repeated often enough. Mash and gravy, no need for anything else. Nothing says cosying up for the winter like a bowl of fluffy potatoes. My recent obsession with all things Scandinavian means I now add Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce. I know, get me. I'm so international these days. But still, as the Beatles should have sung, all you need is mash. Not love. Mash. Mash is all you need.

Twinkly Flickery Loveliness

Ikea tea lights and a
Kerastase candle I got for free.
Apparently, Danes burn more candles per head than anywhere in Europe. They haven't been to my house! (Boom, boom.) OK, I don't go that mad, but I do like a few tea lights dotted about when the evening gets dark. And even though I have a fireplace that flames real flames (albeit via a handy gas flue), I usually ditch that and just bung a few candles in there. The visual effect is the same but I don't have a overly-heated room to deal with. Either way, it's LOVELY. And that's all that matters.

Welcome back, excellent TV

Game Face. It's brill.
I cannot tell you what a relief it feels when the summer is finally over and the one-size-fits-all telly programming is pushed to the side. Once September hits, the quality programme makers get their chance again. In the last month or so I've watched Quacks and Back, started GameFace, returned to new series of Have I Got News For You, The Graham Norton Show and Dr Foster, and have several films on my 'To Watch' list that are out now or soon. (The Party, The Death of Stalin and Murder on the Orient Express.) The Autumn/Winter seems to kick start a whole new set of quality standards. This can only be a good thing.

Wonderful Words

Nigel Slater's Figs 
with Maple Syrup 
and Anise
An utter joy.
I am trying to read more at the moment. That's why I started the Reading List page on here - it'll encourage me to keep something on the go all the time. (I'm currently in the middle of Ben Elton's Time and Time Again. Not bad so far.) But yesterday something truly special arrived. I opened this post with a quote from it. Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater came out last Thursday. I have a lot of time for Nigel Slater. His book, Real Food taught me how to the cook basics well, when I began to fend for myself. (Although his method of opening a jacket potato by punching it, caused a long-term scar to my hand when burning potato was smashed into my skin. Ah, happy memories.) Still, the thing about Nigel Slater is that not only are his food suggestions decent, but his writing is off the scale brilliant too. Christmas Chronicles seems to be an absolute love letter to the Winter. I say 'seems' because I'm savouring every page and don't want to rush. Not just about the festive season itself, more like the Winter months in general, but what I have read so far has been utterly compelling. When I got to p30 there was a recipe for a hot boozy fig drink. Upon reading it, I drove straight to Tesco, got the ingredients, and now have a bottle put aside. As it simmered, the kitchen smelt of figs, cinnamon and maple syrup, as well as the heady fumes of wine and vodka. Even if I never drink it (oh, but I will) the Christmassy aroma of yesterday evening made everything feel better. 

Look, I know some of you hate the winter. The scraping of windscreens, the chapped lips and the constant rain. I understand. But please, let me wallow in all the darkness and cold. Let me find the wrapping of a wooly scarf around my neck as thrilling as you may find the feel of the sun's heat on your skin. Let me enjoy the lovely bleakness of it all. Your time will come. For now, let's layer up, drink hot toddies and twinkle under the fairy lights. 

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Who Do I Think I Am? Part 1...

If Ron had only ever known
 bananas, he'd be fine.
You don't miss what you've never had. It's an impossibility. It's why I can't understand why parents take their children to Disneyland. A child will never grow up regretting the lack of Disneyland in their life. That just doesn't happen. But once you take a five year old on a once-in-a-life-time trip, they'll be gutted when it can't happen again. The bar has been set high. A caravan in Wales would be a crushing disappointment after that. Likewise, if you never give a kid chocolate, they won't miss it. They can't. But if you replace Twixes with bananas on some mad family health kick, there would be uproar. Why would you take away something so nice and replace it with something so hideous? I hate you Mum! Dad, you're a shit! You get the gist.

It's exactly the same with Grandads. You can't miss them if you've never had them. I remember quite matter-of-factly telling a friend that I'd never had a Grandad and she was gutted for me. It was ridiculous of course. I couldn't have been less arsed. She was, understandably perhaps, thinking how much she missed her Grandads - the ones she'd known well. If she'd been like me, Grandad-less from birth, it would have bothered her not a jot. She was viewing the facts of my life through her own frame of reference. She didn't get my indifference.

Obviously, there were Grandads somewhere in my ancestry. My parents are not Christ-like products of immaculate conception style shenanigans. Both my biological Grandfathers died at youngish ages of heart attacks - although perhaps not so young for their time. They were older fathers as far as my individual parents were concerned - both my Mum and Dad are the youngest in their families. As a result, the anecdotes and stories I have heard about these men are either framed through a childish perception, or simply non-existent. 

A young Eric. Around
 1916 at a guess. I first saw

it a couple of years ago. 
The childlike framing comes from my Mum. She has older siblings and a mother who was happy to remember her late-husband in conversations for the rest of her life. As a result, my Mum's child-based memories have got weight. They are cemented through decades of corroboration and discussion from her family. Rose-tinted? Very possibly. But they exist and have been there since I can remember. The Grandad on my Mum's side is fleshed out and almost real. This is helped by a photo I have seen my entire life. A black and white A6 snap in a frame that has always been in my parent's bedroom, wherever they have lived. It's of Eric, my maternal Grandfather - possibly in his fifties. I have seen one or two other photos of this man throughout my life but this is the main one. The man in a suit, who looks sort of serious but sort of kind, and whose image is inserted in any family story told about him. In my head at least. 

Alf on his hols in
1951. Always a suit!
The other Grandad is Alf. I have less to go on with him. My Dad was younger when he died, so the memories are scant. Plus, Dad's older sister lived abroad most of her married life, and his Mum didn't chat about such things. There wasn't a lot of cementing and corroborating going on. Not many photos either, at least not while I was growing up. I know his name - Alf - because it was on a certificate on the hall wall of my Gran's house when I was a kid. There was also one photo I can remember in the house to inform my initial image of him. A family picture before my Dad was born. Alf is sitting side-on to the camera, wearing a suit (obvs) and reading the paper. My Auntie is playing the piano and my Gran is sitting watching. As family photos go it looks about as relaxed as a dentist's waiting room. But I suppose formality was the fashion in the black and white days.

Brrrr, it'll be nippy out
Now here's the thing. Because I am fully accepting and happily content with my Grandfatherless existence, it's quite the surprise about what is happening seven weeks from today. Oh yes, brace yourself. For I will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean to sub-zero Halifax, Nova Scotia! (I am told freezing temperatures are more than likely in December). Once there - Are you ready? -  I will be retracing the steps of Alf Bond from 100 years ago. Yeah, Alf Bond! The least known of my unknown Grandads. That guy. Do I sound mad? Hell yeah. What are you even on? I hear you shout. Is this a joke, you crazy cat? Well, no. No it is not. It's an unfilmed and ultimately less entertaining version of BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are?, where myself and some family members do a bit of an historic journey to Canada, to find out some stuff that happened to Alf in 1917. Intrigued? Want to know more? Wanna click my bait?

So far it has handled
Widnes' temperatures
with no worries.
I do hope so because I'm going to be padding this out until December. Not every week, don't worry. But in a few Monday's time I'll let you know exactly what is going on and what this trip is about. I promise you, it is a cracking story. In the meantime, I am spending much of my spare time ignoring the fact Christmas presents need to be bought, and instead sourcing clothes to battle the freezing conditions. Check out Toasty Bond in the pic. 

Have a lovely week, folks. 


Monday, 9 October 2017

To Research Or Not To Research, That Is The Question...

I once saw an interview with a famous crime author whose main character was a Chief Inspector. The interviewer asked if she’d had to do much research into police procedures in order to write her stories. The author – now an elderly woman – smiled with a glint and said, ‘No, not at all. I made it all up. It’s fiction.’

Well how marvellous is that? How creatively freeing for the writer is that? The author – who I can’t name because I can’t find the quote online, I’ve probably paraphrased it a bit, and I don’t want to get sued – reminds us that fiction is fiction. If it isn’t exactly right, it doesn’t really matter. Does it?

Last week I wrote about the ethical questions surrounding writing about a culture of which you don’t belong. And it seems that this is when it does matter, when it absolutely has to be right. Fiction is fiction, but misrepresenting the shared experiences of others, feels wrong. Whenever cultural appropriation comes up in conversation (like all the time, round my gaff) the only way it ever gets accepted is when the research is rigorous and the writing excellent. Rigorous research – that is what I have realised I need.

This is the place I
picture for my rural setting
Shap, in Cumbria.
For those who do not rote-learn these posts every week, let me remind you. I am currently in the middle of the first draft of my next book. It is a novel aimed at pre-teens, about a year in the life of an eleven year old girl. All nice and relatable so far. I’ve been eleven. I’ve been a girl too, so I can write those experiences with insight and wisdom. However, this is not autobiographical. When it comes to starting high school, this character attends a school very different from the one I did. After a house move, she is thrust into a rural community and attends a tiny school in the middle of nowhere. The culture shock of this informs her struggle to make friends and see the positives in her new situation.

OK, so what? Well here’s the thing. I'm well into this story. I have happily typed away, committing all kinds of fictional descriptions of her school to paper. It's got ten pupils, it takes place in one room in the village and the Year 7s are mixed in with the GCSE students. I've waffled on, all the while keeping my famous crime author's words in my head – It’s fiction! I’m making it up! – and proceeding with little thought for the reality. But then. Then... 

I was at a friend’s 40th recently when I got chatting to one of his mates. I’ve met him before, and knew he grew up in a rural community. I also vaguely remembered, from the last drunken convo I’d had with him years ago, that he’d been in a class of about four children when he was at school. I told him all about my book and the high school I’d made up.

My notes. They don't
depict the conversation
in any way. Or
any conversation
for that matter.
Yeah. So that’s when he told me. Apparently it’s the primary schools that are tiny. Secondary schools are mostly secondary school sized. I listened to him chat as the ‘No matter! It’s fiction!’ mentality gradually drained away. He was a real person who had lived in the same sort of place I was trying to depict. A place I’d never lived. Despite us both being bladdered, he spent the next half hour talking about life in rural Cumbria. I made some notes on my phone (mostly indecipherable the next day - see what you think) but something clicked. I needed to find out this stuff for real and to do it justice. Rigorous research and excellent writing. My new mantra.

Today I spent a chunk of time googling secondary schools. I needed to find out facts to inform my fictional setting. I will still make stuff up, (obvs) but knowing the truth will make the fiction that much better. I found a school – pretty small for a secondary – in the same sort of location as my book is set - so I’ve emailed them with a few questions. Knowing school office managers as I do, this will be met with a loud ‘WTAF?’ and a vigorous eye roll. (They really are busy people!) Hopefully someone will take pity on me and give me the insight I need. For now, I’ll keep my new mantra of 'rigorous research' in my head, and leave the ‘don’t worry, it’s fiction, any old shite will do!’ one alone for a bit.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Guilty Pleasure of Cultural Piggy-Backing...

I've been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation this week. I know, who do I think I am, right? Last week it was a cobbled together list about blogging, this week I'm bringing out the big guns. I'm throwing in the hot potato. I'm having the conversation.

Cultural Appropriation is the concept of writing about a culture of which you don't belong. Lots of writers have done this over the years - indeed the very notion of fiction requires an author to create a story that is not simply a recount of their own experience. But in recent years a debate has emerged. Is it right - for example -  for a white author such as myself, to write about the experiences of a person of colour, when a) I couldn't possibly understand that experience for real, and b) there are plenty of people who live that experience and should be heard before the likes of me pipe up? Any subsequent debate means privilege raises its head. And then intersectionality. It all gets thrown into the mix. Can I authentically write the character of a gay man when I'm not a gay man myself but a straight woman? I haven't lived with homophobia but I have experienced sexism? Can I transfer understanding of one area of oppression to another to inform a character, or does that mean I'm a) being rubbish, b) silencing the stories of actual gay male writers who might want to concentrate on this area, or c) all of the above? B is an academic debate in reality - I'm silencing no one from my titchy corner of the book market, but the wider questions persist. The topic is full of shades of grey with no black and white answers. (Apologies for the heavy-handed metaphor but you really should recognise my clunky style by now.) A bunch of brilliant writers have their say here, and it's a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. Cultural appropriation is a bit of a minefield. Something to avoid? Something to recognise? Something to go ahead with, regardless? I think about it a lot when I'm creating new characters - it seems important to have in mind even if they all end up having the same ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic status as myself.

So why this week? What has brought it all to a head? Well, brace yourself for Nigella . There is always time for Nigella. This week I chanced upon a video clip where she said she didn't agree with the idea of having guilty pleasures. Pleasure shouldn't be guilty, it should be embraced. I've paraphrased slightly so check out her actual words here. But it made me think. I'm definitely with her on the chocolate biscuit thing. If you want to eat something, you should eat it and enjoy it. Absolutely don't feel bad about it. Feeling bad about biscuits (or *cough* roast potatoes) is pointless. I heard her words and thought, Yes, Nigella, once again you and I are in sync. But then I thought again. There are some pleasures for which I do think I should feel guilt. Not food-related but culture-related. One of those pleasures is drag. 

Please don't judge me.
Misty Chance
Hope Mill Theatre,
Manchester, 2016
Yep, drag. Men dressed as women, men being funny and fierce, men subverting reality. (FYI...I know drag kings exist, trans women and non-binary drag queens too. I'm not trying to rewrite reality. I'm just referring to my favourite performers, so far.) I've always had an appreciation for drag queens because Dame Edna Everage was the funniest person on the television growing up. Lily Savage made me laugh despite the fact she was hosting Blankety Blank, and RuPaul's Drag Race rocks my world. But once again, cultural appropriation rears its head. I just listed really mainstream drag artists. Ones that have made the leap from the clubs and bars to the TV. I can appropriate them without knowing a great deal about the culture from which they came. And when I do that, I'm not understanding the full weight of history behind the artists I enjoy. Drag was not made for people like me. I'm straight. I am catered for by many other entertainment genres. Drag was made for the gay community by the gay community. Going mainstream was never what it was about. But here I am, binge-watching Drag Race on Netflix, going to clubs to see RuPaul's alumni strut their stuff, and carrying a tote bag that says 'Sashay Away' when I head into town. I am so appropriating another culture it's untrue. At times I feel bad about it. I feel guilty. It's a guilty pleasure!

Smörgåsbord - or a
buffet on one big plate!
Aquavit with special
glasses from eBay
Recently there has been another culture I've piggy-backed onto like it's my own. Scandanavia. (Disclaimer: I know that's not the name of a country.) A couple of weeks ago I read Nørth: How to Live Scandanavian. See my thoughts on that here. But it confirmed what five days in Oslo, five days in Copenhagen and an afternoon in Malmo had already told me. Deep down I feel Scandanavian. The fact remains that I am not. I'm a Cheshire/Scouse hybrid without so much as a sniff of a cinnamon bun in my ancestry. And yet for the past week I have cooked and eaten nothing but Scandanavian food. This has mostly been meatballs and mash or hotdogs. (I lived the dream on Saturday night when I bashed out a smörgåsbord with aquavit accompaniment, for Strictly.) But the fact remains that I've gegged in on someone else's culture and cherry-picked the bits I like. It feels wrong. It's a guilty pleasure!

Worrying too much about these pleasures stops them from being pleasurable, so I won't. But I am aware of them. I'm aware they belong to other people, and hopefully those other people are on board with me loving their culture. I am aware I am an appreciative outsider. I support from the edges not from within. And when it comes to creating made up characters whose stories I want to explore, I am aware of the tentative mine field across which I tread.

In Carry the Beautiful, I explicitly included two of people of colour and two gay characters. These were almost incidental to the plot. (Almost. The existence of a couple of them highlighted the prejudices of another character.) Was I being representative or tokenistic? Was I being aware or naive? Not sure. But I think about it a lot. Especially when I'm warming glögg, cooking cinnamon buns and lip-syncing for my life. Especially then. The minefield continues but we must always remember it's there.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes...

Folks. Come closer, and pull up a chair. Let me share with you something wondrous. Ready? Of course you are, you're gagging to hear the news. Well, here we go. Last Friday, this teeny-tiny blog written by little old me, had it's first birthday. I KNOW. In the bastardised words of a politician I didn't much care for, WE ARE A ONE YEAR OLD. 

Honestly, I've never committed so hard to anything in my life. Weekly ramblings uploaded every Monday and shared around the world. (Yeah, yeah, I had three weeks off at Christmas, it won't happen again.)

It genuinely thrills me to look at the stats on this thing. Mostly, I get a couple of hundred people (well, a couple of hundred clicks) reading this over the course of the week. The bulk of those are on the day it comes out - Monday. Some posts are more popular, but that seems to be an average figure. But now and then, there are anomalies. I went on an all-dayer a few weeks ago (Deanesfest17) and when I got in, despite the week's post having been online for five days, I saw it had been clicked 142 times while I'd been out. And... wait for South Korea. WTAF?

I know it was probably a bot. But still, the fact that happens makes me smile. The other week, Canada seemed to like something I wrote about gender. It had more views there than anywhere else. The randomness of the Internet is boss. 

I realise I am ridiculously behind the times. Blogs were cutting edge in the last millennium when only clever people knew how to do them. Once something IT-based and technical has been dumbed down so much that even I can get on board, you just know the cool kids are elsewhere. In vlogs? On Snapchat? Orbiting space? Even so, I'm proud of myself and my corner of the Internet. And I've learnt shit loads. (That's a technical term.) The musical RENT asks us, 'How do you measure, measure a year?' and I answer, 'In all the bloggy things I have learnt that are listed below.' RENT replies, 'So not in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?' And I say, 'No. In the list below. Keep up.'

Whadda I Know? 
  • Blogging is free! Blogger is anyway, and that's the one I use.
  • Typing a blog online is not like typing a word document. Code decides where things go on the page, not text boxes. (Sorry to all who know and accept this readily but it still blows my tiny mind.)
  • Pictures and GIFs make everything feel better.
  • The most popular posts have been the ones where I rant about something I think strongly about. This is usually gender stereotypes, sexism and Eurovision. (I'm a broad church.)
  • Putting ads on your blog can earn you money every time someone clicks on one from your page. It can earn you whole PENNIES!
  • If you get your family and friends to click the ads repeatedly to up your cash, Google catch on and close your account.
  • Adding additional pages can give the blog more of a website feel.
  • I've got tabs and everything!              
  • The longer I've done this, the easier it has been to think of something to write each week. At the start I'd be planning that week's post for days. Now I roll out of bed on the day I write it, and it usually comes.
  • The most popular browser used to read it is Chrome.
  • The most popular operating system used to read it is iPhone.
  • The top three countries that read it are UK, USA and Ireland.
  • I've made a conscious decision not to say anything negative about anyone online. Very hard at times! Mainly to avoid being sued but also to make it a friendly place to be. (That's the aim, anyway.)
  • I often spend more time looking for the right GIF than I do writing the text of the post.
    I feel ya, Tom.
  • Whenever I want to add a link to a post to enlarge on a point, I know for sure that The Guardian or The Pool will have something suitable. 
  • I find it really hard to categorise what this blog is about to people who haven't read it.
  • I usually say, 'It's like I have a weekly column in a liberal broadsheet and I'm famous enough to be able to write about anything I fancy without being mithered.' (I think that would be my dream job actually.)
  • Writing a post on a Friday to upload first thing on a Monday is fine until it is a Bank Holiday weekend and you go away until Monday afternoon without your laptop and have to borrow someone else's and then reset your password to get into Blogger because you don't have it saved and then you have to publish a day early because you forgot this wasn't a normal Monday. (This has happened twice now.)
  • My stats go much higher when I use a twitter hashtag with a big audience. So far, these have included #eurovision, #strictly and #womensEURO2017.
  • Writing a novel takes forever so having a weekly outlet for short bursts of word-play feels essential.
  • Every picture I upload on the blog gets added to a Pinterest page with the same name, to drive more readers this way.
  • Getting messages and comments from people who have agreed with me about something important (to me) is the best feeling.
  • Seeing people like and share something I've written online is also cockle-warming.
  • I'm well up for another year of this. And with a bit of forward planning and a couple of pre-written posts, I'll even keep it up over Christmas. 

Happy birthday to all readers everywhere, whether they are in South Korea, Canada, or wherever. Let's eat cake, drink wine and party like it's 1999 - a time I would have been a pioneering early-adopter of the blogging field.

Have a lovely week, folks. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Stress of a Book Signing...

Preach it, Blanche.
There are many brilliant things about not marking books and planning lessons anymore. For sure. Knowing you have four sets of thirty books to mark before the following day as you take your tea-plates to the sink, is the worst feeling. But what to do with all the extra time? Without a job that seeps into all your gaps, there's time for some Interesting and Exciting activities. This could be anything from taking up paragliding to watching five-year old Netflix releases that everyone else has stopped talking about. It could be anything. For me, something that falls squarely into both the Interesting and Exciting category is a book signing and this is exactly where I went last Wednesday. 

Marian Keyes was at Waterstones in Manchester. She chatted away about all sorts for things and then signed copes of her new book, The Break. It was great but more of that in a minute. First, let me explain the stresses that fill my head when I think of a book signing.

I have no experience of book signings as an author. The nearest I've got was a Weight Watchers' meeting in April. At their request, I sold copies of Carry the Beautiful to six of my friends. They all insisted I sign them, and with a mixture of mortification and extreme pride, I did. I suppose it made a change from talking about how much I love mashed potato. But sitting at a desk, signing your name repeatedly and chatting to thousands of fans over the course of a promotional period, has got to be knackering. It must be amazing to see so many people buy and intend to read your book, but I'm guessing hugely overwhelming and scary as hell too. I felt all those emotions with my six fellow WW women so God knows how bigger the extrapolated feelings get.

Enough of the authors' experiences though. Spare a thought for the queuing fan. Marian Keyes' signing was the fourth such event I've been to since I had time for a life. Before last week I've met Caitlin Moran (twice) and Armistead Maupin and the problem is always the same. When face to face with a person whose writing has given me comfort, whose characters have inspired, taught and entertained me, whose words have settled into the most private places in my brain, nothing that comes out of my mouth sounds any good. I'll be clearer. Anything I have ever said to an author at a signing makes me sound like a tit.

Think about it. This is the big moment. The moment I've queued for up to an hour to experience. I've had all that time to work something out. Something pithy and intelligent. Something witty. And then the moment comes and I blow it. The first thing that pops into my head spews out of my mouth and it is gibberish. Utter shite. It's then that I know the dream is over and I won't be going for post-signing drinks with my new best mate that day. I won't have wowed my author-hero standing in front of my with the power of my sparkling personality. Let's examine the evidence for the prosecution...

8th October 2011
Cheltenham Literary Festival - Caitlin Moran

What I Wanted to Say: You write like you have reached into my head and found all my deepest thoughts. Your books are hugely reassuring and make me feel like I'm not the only person who thinks like I do. Thank you.
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hi
*Hangs head in shame as Caitlin gamely talks about her recent Newsnight appearance*

12th February 2014
Liverpool Museum - Armistead Maupin

What I Wanted to Say: Long before I visited, I felt like I'd been to San Francisco because of the vivid and colourful way you describe your town. The reason I chose to spend my 30th birthday there was because of the beauty of the characters you created and the depth of their stories, hooking me in since I was a teenager.
What Actually Happened...
Armistead: Hello
*Goes bright red as Armistead signs his name and smiles despite my randomness*

14th July 2014
Nottingham Playhouse - Caitlin Moran

What I Wanted to Say: Last time I met you I ballsed it up. I wanted to tell you that your opinions and the confidence with which you share them, show me how to be stronger and braver and to share my own opinions in the face of adversity. 
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hello.
(This sort of makes sense because she is the eldest of eight. She high-fived me immediately, making me unsure as to whether I had made a total tit of myself this time, or not. Let's just say not.)

And so to Marian. She was utterly, utterly lovely. Exactly the same as she comes across on her weekly Short Fillums and her newsletter. Warm, engaging, sincere and funny. Her new book was the focus of the interview - it's about a couple that have a six months break in their marriage along with the inevitable fall out it causes - but wider topics covered included feminism and activism, reproductive rights in Ireland, the horror of the current global political environment, and social media. There was a Q and A session at the end, and then the signing took place.

This time I was determined. I really wanted to use my two minutes at the front of the queue to convey to Marian Keyes how much I love her writing, how accessible it is whilst simultaneously tackling huge issues accurately, how much I am drawn to her unabashed feminism twinned with embracing all of femininity, how funny I find her tweets, how her way with words is poetic and lyrical, how I admire her positivity and cheeriness whilst dealing with all that life throws... I could go on and on but I had to be succinct. The moment was approaching. So...

13th September 2017 
Waterstones Manchester Deansgate - Marian Keyes

What I Wanted to Say: All of the above and more.

What Actually Happened...
Marian: Hello there.

OK, so it might have just been my imagination, but I am pretty sure Marian Keyes spoke to me in capital letters. Proper mofo massive ones. Usually it is only me that does that, but I really think she did it back. And even though I didn't say a word of what I was planning, it didn't matter. It felt good. She didn't smile politely and busy herself with the signing. She replied in capital letters! Maybe I've broken the 'Curse of the Book Signing' once and for all. Maybe I was witty and eloquent. Or maybe I was just lucky to be talking to someone that was kind enough to be enthusiastic about the nonsense I gushed.

However it went down, I walked away feeling happy and inspired, and made up that I got to meet an author whose novels I have loved for years. And the best bit is, now I get to read her book.

Have a lovely week, folks.