Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Last Post

We're off to Brighton shortly to house and cat-sit out the holidays.

The next time I come in here it will be 2008.

Whether we know each other in Real Life ...
or through the blog ...
or whether you're one of the many people who regularly come in here but never make yourself known ...
... I wish you happiness and good health for the new year.

Stay safe, all of you, and take care of yourselves and each other.
Spread some light if you can.

Debi xxx

Saturday, December 22, 2007

MARK REID 1964-2007.

It must be about ten years since I first met you, Mark.
You had the bash on the ramp leading up to London Bridge Station.
I used to see you twice a day, three times a week on my way into work.

At first we'd just exchange greetings as I gave you my change.
But gradually we got talking.

You told me some of your story.

For a while you lived in a community squatting in a Cornish rhododendron forest.
But when you were thrown off the land, the commune broke up and you ended up on the streets of London again.

By the time I met you, you had been homeless for nearly twenty years and addicted to heroin and super strength lager for most of them.

Though not tall, you were bulky and not just because of the layers of clothes you wore.
A shambling beggar with filthy skin and ageless eyes and the creaking joints of a geriatric.
But you were so much more than that.

You talked to me about heroin.
About how good it made you feel.
It kept you warm, you told me, and protected you from viruses and reality.

You talked about your attempts to get clean.
About your efforts to come off the streets.

You shared your letters with me and together we tried to work out the best way to deal with the constant obstacles placed before you.

I gave you a blanket once.
A thick woolen blanket I'd had as a child.
The next time I saw you, it was gone.
Either stolen from you or more likely traded up towards filling the next syringe.
I didn't mind.
I hoped that wherever it had moved onto, someone was glad for its warmth.

And once you gave me some candles you'd made yourself from layers of tightly packed paper on a cardboard base.
They worked too.
I kept them on the balcony.

You knew that survival was a series of bargains and that you had to give in order to receive.
So you decorated your bash and the surrounding area with flowers, wind chimes and ornaments.
You engaged people in conversation.
Sometimes you'd sing or dance.
But sometimes you'd be completely out of it, barely conscious.

A few times you fell asleep with the money you'd collected in full view.
I'd move it under your blanket or into a pocket.

I introduced G and the boys to you a couple of times when they came to meet me at work.
They'd heard me speak of you often and I'd told you all about them.

Then the day came when you showed me a letter saying you were going to be housed at last.
I thought I might not see you after that but of course it was far from the answer to all your problems.
There are no easy solutions, are there, Mark?
With no furniture, fridge, cooker etc and contending with addiction and minimal support, you still had a habit to feed.
So each day you'd return to your old patch.

But I have a confession to make, Mark.
Although I'd still stop to talk, I rarely gave you money after that, did I?
You see, by that time I'd met Richard, the Irish guy who had the patch further up on the bridge.
I know you saw him as a competitor, but the way I saw it, you were the walking wounded whereas Richard could barely crawl.
We never spoke about me directing my limited resources away from you and to him.
But I know you knew about it.
Sorry, Mark.

After I stopped working, I only saw you once or twice more.
The last time was a couple of years ago when I bumped into you in Peckham Rye Station.
You were with a couple of other guys, clearly on the hustle.
You had a bike.
You looked pretty good.

Then yesterday, I opened the local paper.
Addict's Death: 3 Hunted was the headline.
They might just as well have said Just Another Dead Junkie.

And so it was that I found out the sketchy details of what happened to you in the last few weeks.
Apparently, some time between 11th and 28th November, you were beaten up in Peckham by a man and two women.
You were picked up by the cops in Horsham on 1st December and taken to East Surrey Hospital with head and face injuries.
But you discharged yourself the following day.
On 2nd December you called an ambulance to South Kensington.
Your nose had been continually bleeding.
They took you to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where they diagnosed a fractured skull.
You died there four days later.
A post-mortem carried out on 10th December proved inconclusive.
They're doing further tests.

What happened to you, Mark?
Presumably the fuzzy details of the attack came from you yourself.
Were you involved in something that made you a particular target?
That took you from Peckham to Horsham to Kensington?
Or was the attack simply random and unconnected to that unlikely-seeming itinerary?
The story will never now be told, will it?

And what happens next?
If they're still doing tests, your body must now be lying in some hospital mortuary somewhere.
What will happen afterwards when they've finished with you?
No funeral I suppose.
Just some anonymous burial in an unmarked plot.
Who would come anyway?
Who would care?

There's a photo of you with the article.
A tightly-cropped portrait.
Semi-profile, you're looking towards the camera and laughing.
You look really happy in that photo.
I wish I could put it in here but I don't have a scanner and there's nothing I could find online.

No life should pass unnoticed or uncared about.

This may be the only memorial to you.

Rest in peace, Mark Reid.

I've never amended a post before as it seems somehow deceitful, but I've made an exception here.
Since this post was published, I've been contacted by Mark's sisters. (See here.)
I've searched my memory and my conscience and have had to admit my recollection of Mark's exact words re his childhood may have been inaccurate.
Since this post was always intended as a memorial to Mark, it feels wrong that it may have contained inaccuracies, causing further hurt to those who knew and loved him.
I'm delighted to know that Mark was indeed very much cared for, though in some ways it makes it even sadder that he was unable - for whatever reason - to access that love in the last years of his life.
Mark had his own journey and his own tragic trajectory.
I send my heartfelt wishes for strength and healing to his sisters and mother.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I think I might be on a mini roll ...

You know how it sometimes feels like things have been sort of STUCK and then they somehow shift?

I think (she says not wanting to tempt fate) that this might be what's happening for me:
Let's not forget what brought about this shift:
But maybe ... before all of that ... there was this and then this.

Sometimes you just need to let a little time to pass in order to see the significance of something.

So it seems I could be ending this year on a mini roll ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are they mad?

According to a recent YouGov poll, more people want to be an author than any other profession.

Don't they know how hard it is?
Don't they know they'd be letting themselves in for a lifetime of anxious waiting for someone to pass judgment on them?

(If they're unpublished, this will be an agent.
If they've got that far, this will be a commissioning editor at a publishing house.
If the editor likes their work, this will be the marketing and sales depts.
If they achieve the elusive deal and their book is published, this will be reviewers.
And so it goes on ...)

And don't they know that if they do get the deal, they themselves will be expected to be part of the package? (See here for Danuta Keane's take on branding.)

And don't they know that authors who make a living from their writing are nearly as rare as honest politicians?

Don't get me wrong.
I love being a writer.
I love the euphoric high when the words spill out in an unstoppable torrent.
And even more do I love the mixture of triumph, relief and delight you get when you finish a book.

But I don't think I could say I ever chose this way of life.
I didn't wake up one day and say, 'I know. I'll be an author ...'

Writing is as much a part of me as the blood, sweat and tears it so frequently produces.
It's not a choice.
It's a compulsion.

Would anyone really choose that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If you can judge a society by the way it treats children ...

I know you're probably busy.

Running round buying presents, planning menus, hanging decorations and all that stuff ...

But please please please take the time to read this article in The New Statesman.

NB: Approx 2,000 children pass through UK holding centres each year.
Their imprisonment breaches a key UN Convention.

Puts not being able to buy the latest fad into some perspective, eh?

Thanks to Fiction Bitch for bringing the article to our attention.

There's a leg in my stocking ...

The wonderful Crimeficreader, uncrowned but undisputed queen of the crime blogs, has published a series of posts where authors choose their favourite book of the year as their must-have read for those seasonal stockings.

You can see my choice here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Done it!

I've just written the last words of the first draft of The Gene Pool!

I can't quite believe it.
This book has taken double the length of time of any of its 4 predecessors and has caused me more angst than all the others put together.

Is it any good?
To be honest, I don't know yet.
But at least I now have something to print out and work on in order to trim any excess fat and add garnish and flavour as necessary and come up with a finished manuscript.

I'm excited.
And triumphant.
Excuse me while I go off and dance around my laptop ...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More munches than trenches

FB's account of his trip to Ypres:

I couldn't eat for at least a couple of hours. Then I had my first roll - the egg mayo one - on the Shuttle. We had lunch in the trenches. It was vegetable stew and sausages. Obviously I didn't eat the sausages. But the stew was delicious. Luckily for me, everyone else hated it so they gave me theirs. Later on we had hot chocolate. Then we went chocolate shopping - look, I've brought back a bag. Oh - before the chocolate I had a mango ice cream and bought some chewing gum. I ate the cheese salad roll on the way home. I'm starving. What's for supper?

Just to prove the trip consisted of more than the above foodfest account might suggest, here are some of his photos.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My baby's in the trenches

First Born has gone on a school trip today to Ypres with this lot.

He had to be at school by 5am (gasp!) and won't be home 'til late tonight.
I suspect the organisers might be attempting to recreate the exhaustion of battle ...

In between arriving in Belgium and the inevitable chocolate shopping, he's going to be going through the emotional wringer according to the packed itinerary which includes re-enactments, visits to a cemetery, a journey through the trenches and talks from ex-servicemen.

'I'm going to embarrass myself,' he told me last night.
'Why?' I asked.
'Because I'm sure to cry,' he replied.

I told him that was fine and that tears are the absolute appropriate response under the circumstances.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quick! Before it's too late ....

A message from Avaaz via Merc.

Climate negotiations in Bali are in crisis.
Things were looking good till now: near-consensus on a delicate deal, including 2020 targets for rich countries, in return for which China and the developing world would do their part over time. IPCC scientists say such targets are needed to prevent catastrophe. But Japan, the US and Canada are banding together to wreck the deal, and the rest of the world is starting to waver...

We can’t let three stubborn governments throw away the planet's future. We have until the end of Friday to do everything we can. Please sign our emergency global petition below -- we'll deliver it through stunts at the summit, a full-page ad in the Jakarta Post read by all the delegates (see below, right), and directly to negotiators to stiffen their nerve against any bad compromise. Add your name to the campaign below now!

Please go here to sign the petition.

Gutted by my WIP

Just had to come in here and say I'm on a rollercoaster with the The Gene Pool.

Nearly finished the first draft and I've just written a couple of chapters that make me feel like I've lived through several traumatic lifetimes simultaneously.

Some people think that writing means you sit on your arse all day, so what can possibly be difficult about it?

I'm too drained to even begin to explain ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shock horror - people are interested in sex!

Who'd've thought it?

As a result of my teeny linky post here, I've had over 100 visits to my blog today from people searching for 'Sex in the Noughties', 'Girl with a One Track Mind' or 'sex blogs'.

Not for one moment did I expect that since ... er ... my post didn't actually say anything at all!
Boy, are they going to be disappointed when they get here!

There are sexy bits of my blog, I suppose, just because I blog about life and sex is a part of life. (Well, derrr ...)
But it's certainly not a sex blog as such.

The programme last night provided an opportunity for Zoe to state her case - which is mainly, what's all the fuss about?
People have always had sex.
People have always enjoyed sex.
People have always talked about enjoying sex.

Zoe happens to talk about it in an intelligent and entertaining way that has obviously had resonances for many other people.
She also did it anonymously and went to great lengths to protect that anonymity.
But when she was 'outed' by the tabloids, all hell broke loose.

So I was glad that the programme gave her the chance to give her version in her own words.

The programme had its faults - see here for Zoe's own list.
And personally I couldn't see the point of the constant images of women blogging in the nude ...

I mean, if I was sitting here starkers, I'd have goose pimples larger than my breasts!
How sexy an image is that???

Hey - who turned the lights out?

Our festival of light is over for another year.

And it's still cold and dark ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sex in the Noughties

Tonight at 10pm on Channel 4, this series ends with a look at Sex Blogs, focusing in particular on our very own Girl with a One Track Mind.

Art Imitating Life?

Or is it the other way round?

And can you always be sure which is which?

Take me, for example.
I'm real.
And this blog is real.
I don't write fiction on my blog, so everything you read here is real.

Or is it?

Maybe you've constructed me.
Maybe I've constructed myself.
Maybe I'm a figment of my own imagination and I've drawn you in to join me in the fantasy.

In which case, who am I???
(The fish say if I don't get a grip, I'm going to end up disappearing up my own arse any minute now.)

Bear with me here.
I haven't lost it.
In fact, I think I might have found it.
Except I'm not too sure yet what 'it' is ...

The thing is, when you write fiction you create characters and place them in a world that is also of your creation.
Except mostly it's not.
If you write contemporary fiction, you place your characters in the real world.
You put them in a situation and then you let them loose and see where they go.
Once you've done that, you've made them real, haven't you?

One of the reasons I chose to write a series is that I felt my characters were 'out there' after my first book, leading their lives whether I chose to write about them or not.
So I chose.

The situations I place my characters in may be more extreme than most of us would hope to encounter, but they're not totally unrealistic.
There are plenty of people who spend their lives lurching from one crisis to the next.
My own life has rarely run on a smooth plane for long.
I've survived a lot and I've learned a lot.

Not everyone's life is like that.
There are those who seem to sail on calm waters.
They fulfill parental expectations.
After a happy childhood, they go on to have secure jobs.
Healthy children.
A decent standard of living.

They are the stalwarts ... the bastions ... the pillars ...

And - here's the thing I'm getting at if you're still here - what their lives have is ...
... a different narrative arc to mine.

Unless you're very young, you should be able to look back and see the narrative arc of your own life.

It might be shallow and steady.
You'll probably be contented.
This is what you want from life.
An easy ride.
Safe and controlled.
You feel secure.
You won't look back in 20 - 30 - 40 years time with regret because you've made a definite choice.

On the other hand, you might look back and see a series of alternating peaks and troughs.
You will have plumbed the depths of pain and bear the scars.
You will also have scaled the heights of euphoria felling that this is what life is for -
- to be lived to the fullest.

So what's the narrative arc of your life?
And would you really, if you're 100% honest with yourself, be able to live it any other way?

We're all the authors of our own lives.
And we're all real.
Aren't we???

Monday, December 10, 2007

Curioser and curioser

Remember when I got buzzed by the Enchantress?

Well, I just went into the boys' room ...
... and there, lying in the middle of the floor was ...

No - not the Enchantress again - she was still lying next to my laptop ...

This time it was the whole bloody Tarot pack!
(You may remember I didn't even know where the pack was, though I suspected it was on top of our wardrobe.)

I asked the boys if they knew how it had got there and they both said they'd never seen it before I came out of their room holding it.

Weird, eh?

UPDATE: It was the Empress, wasn't it, not the Enchantress ...
Doh! Is there such a thing as the Enchantress?

Looks at Books

Some fab new content on Bookarazzi.

Click here for a chilling article re the realities of being published.

And here for the virtual bookstore, where you can see (and buy!) books written by Bookarazzi members. (Coo - what a lot we got ...)

There's lots more too, so whether you're a writer or a reader, there should be plenty to chew over.

There have been a few changes to the appearance of the site too, thanks to techy genius, Lucy Pepper.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Spend your money wisely ...

A friend of mine runs a charity called ALD Life.
Both her sons have Adrenoleukodystrophy, which if you've ever seen the film, Lorenzo's Oil, will be familiar to you.

You can read their story here - I challenge you not to:
1) cry
2) be amazed at her single minded determination to do the very best for her children.

Anyway, I just received an email from her.

She's always coming up with new and imaginative ways to fundraise and with the splurging season coming up, this is timely.

We have just joined a service called Simple Fundraising. This is a fundraising website that earns commission from retail outlets and utility services for ALD Life or your chosen charity every time you shop online from the site. The link for our fundraising page is here. Simply register and then start shopping – you can even do online grocery shopping at Tescos or ASDAs and earn money for us! This really is a fantastically easy way to help us raise money so please pass this on to all your friends and encourage them to do their Xmas etc. shopping online through the link above.

Thank you all for your support and happy retail therapying!!

So, if you're planning on spending some of your hard-earned, here's a way to do so and help others at the same time.

Happy Chanukah - or Eid, Divali, Yule, Xmas - or whichever festival of light you celebrate.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

That was the weekend that was ...

Right. The details of the weekend as promised.

In case you haven't worked it out:
  • The Cornish witch was of course our very own Kate of Inner Minx, who arrived on Friday from Cornwall
  • The Irish poet was Cailleach of Barbara's Bleeuugh. She arrived Saturday morning from Ireland.
  • The pipe and slippers belonged to Tom of this posse. Minxy and I met him on Friday to chat about 'things'.
  • The eco fair took place on Goose Green on Saturday lunchtime.
  • The gathering of blogging authors was where we went next to meet up with the following Bookarazzi buddies who had come from far and wide to chat and stroke each other's books:

Greg Stekelman from north London of The Man Who Fell Asleep
Granny P from Lanzarote of Rockpool in the Kitchen
Elizabeth Baines from Manchester of Fiction Bitch
Cailleach from Ireland of Barbara's Bleeuugh!
Shauna Reid from Scotland of The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl
Gaz from Coventry of Bowen T Hunter
Clare Dudman from Chester of Keeper of the Snails
Emma Darwin from south London (turns out she lives 9 doors away from me!) of This Itch of Writing
Ash from Scotland of Random Burblings
Rachel from North London
Kate from Cornwall of Inner Minx
... and yours truly.
  • The birthday (not mine) was Babs's. Her 40th, which we celebrated with a small party at home - including cake (chocolate, naturally).

The gin and chocolate need no further explanation, I presume.

PS: Spent ages faffing round trying to upload pix but have stopped before I lose the will to live.
Minx has some on her post.
Update: Risen to the challenge and in spite of triple brain bypass have managed to upload the pix.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Debi and her Dad. Part 10

So there was I, planning a post about my fabarooni weekend, but you never know what's around the corner.

I went to dad's yesterday and took him for a dental appointment.
While he was being seen, I ran off to get some shopping ...
... and came back to see him being loaded into an ambulance, the dentist standing on the pavement wringing his hands.

3.5 hours later I was able to take dad home in a cab.
Arrived back in south London just in time for a 6 o'clock meeting at FB's school, having eaten nothing since breakfast.

I have to go back to see dad again today as I didn't get the chance to sort his pills and do his shopping yesterday, so will report back on the weekend when I get the chance.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this:
Nurse: You're 93? Wow. So what's the secret of longevity?
Dad: Don't die!