Friday 25 January 2013

"Since The Smoking Ban...."

The other day on breakfast television I saw an item that made me feel really annoyed.  It declared that 'since the smoking ban, reported cases of childhood asthma had fallen by blah blah percent'.

No, of course I wasn't annoyed by the fall in reported cases of childhood asthma. What annoyed me was the reporting method of this information.

To accompany the spoken report, they showed a man standing outside his house, in the snow, shivering as he drank a cup of hot beverage and smoked a cigarette.  Outside his house.  

Since when did smoking in one's own home become illegal?

The purpose of this piece of film was, clearly, to influence the impressionable public to think that nasty dirty smokers should not even be allowed to smoke in their own houses.  That they should be ostracised and made to stand out in the cold.

I smoke between one and five cigarettes a day.  Since my husband gave up, I do not smoke in the house.  I would not dream of lighting up in the house of a non-smoker, or around children under ten, or in any of the places where it is no longer allowed, including open air railway platforms (ludicrous!).  But whether or not people smoke in their homes is up to them, and should continue to be so.  I think it is far more damaging for children to watch pap on television, to have access to internet porn and the soft porn of many music videos, to have unrealistic expectations about how they should look, to play violent video games, than it is to breathe in the smoke from the occasional tab, yet all these things are legal and actively promoted.

Most notably, the cases of reported childhood asthma were a lot higher in the ten years leading up to the smoking ban than they were in the 1950s and 1960s when everyone smoked, freely, everywhere.  Could this rise have been connected more with all the chemicals in the air, in the foods we eat, and in God only knows what else that we don't know about, than cigarettes?  Most smokers with children didn't smoke in the house, anyway ~ it didn't take an official ban to stop them doing so.

The other day I got ticked off by a 'jobsworth' type for smoking just outside a bus shelter, in the open air.  He told me that 'they' would have something to say if they caught me. 

Smoking is not a crime.  There are very few places left where we can enjoy a fag without having to stand out in the cold; don't try to make people feel as if they are commiting a crime by choosing to have a cigarette in the privacy of their own home - or indeed in the open air.  If I'm having a fag in a pub garden and you don't like it, go and sit somewhere else!

Monday 7 January 2013


..... yes, it's that time of year!

Last night I looked in the mirror and was appalled by what I saw.  However skillful your make-up, nothing can disguise those chubby cheeks...  and don't get me started on the stomach that seems to the THERE, in my way, whatever I'm doing....

I decided, this morning, that a drastic kick-start was necessary.  Last year, a friend of mine went from being fairly hefty to looking pretty good, by doing one of those diets where you pay someone shedloads of money to send you a load of dried STUFF, then just eat that instead of real food.  Sounds a bit crazy, yes, but it worked, she looks great, and she's kept it off.  

I knew that she'd been on these special 'juice cleanse' things, too, obtained from the same company.  I don't usually go in for that sort of thing, but, as I said, emergency measures are called for, particularly as in two weeks' time I have to meet up with two slim and glamorous friends who I haven't seen for a while!

Aforementioned friend gave me the link to the website for this 'juice cleanse' thingy.  I looked at it.  The cost was £200 for a 5 day course.

Okay, you've picked yourself up off the floor, right?  But I expect you thought the same as I did.  Two hundred quid for five days' worth of fruit juice??? What sort of profit margin do they make on that, one wonders??  I'm in the wrong job!  

So, that one's out of the window.  I shall now go to Morrissons, and buy lots of fruit to make my own.  

On the subject of having to meet my slim and glamorous friends, though, something else occurred to me.  Men don't worry about this sort of thing, do they?  Why can't women be more like men?  

Consider these two scenarios.

Scenario I

Clare, Lucy and Emma meet up for the first time in 6 months.  Clare has put on a lot of weight.

Clare: God, I was dreading meeting up with you - I've really piled the weight on since giving up my job.  Well, you can see I have - okay, I've been sitting on the sofa with the ice cream too...  I feel horrible!

Lucy: You still look fine.  Honestly, it's not half as bad as you think, and you're wearing the right clothes to hide it.

Emma:  Don't worry.  Happens to us all.  Try the Atkins diet, it's brilliant.  But you look great, anyway! 

Clare goes to loo...

Lucy:  Crikey, hasn't she piled it on!  I mean, she's still pretty, but ...

Emma.  Yeah, but she needs to get a grip.  She told me she's a size 14, but I reckon it's more like 16.....

Both cast an eye up and down each other's forms, to assess which of them is the thinnest. 

Scenario 2

John and Bob are meeting up for the first time in 6 months.  John has put on a lot of weight.

Bob (giving John's stomach a playful slap): Christ, mate, what's all that?  Did you leave any of the pies for anyone else??!

John:  Fuck off you cheeky tosser.

They laugh and retire to the bar for a drink, the subject now done and dusted.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

I write the books I want to read - do you?

..... I don't think I could write any other way!  There are certain subjects I LOVE to read about, so I put them in my books, because I love to write about them, too - when I start a new book I always think, ooh, what can I put in this one?  Does everyone do this?  

One of the things I love reading about, in magazines and newspaper articles, too, is women who are diet obsessed - how they feel about putting on weight, how their image of themselves affects their life, the lengths they go to in order to limit their food intake - which is why I created SARAH in 'You Wish'.  

...and I also have a strange fascination with people who can't accept that someone they're crazy about is not interested in them, and who do all sorts of cringe-making things in their self-delusion - PETRA in 'You Wish' was making me squirm as I wrote her!  I suspect it's a bit of that 'there but by the grace of God go I' thing - most of us get real and know when to think, okay, he's just not that into me, but poor Petra is unable to do this...

The general theme of this book is whether our lives are controlled by destiny, coincidence, or personal choice - something else about which I ponder frequently.

I like to write from personal experience too, not as a cathartic thing but just because the writing comes more easily when I really know how something feels.  I know we can't always write about what we know, or no books about zombies or vampires or life after a worldwide nuclear catastrophe would ever be written, but it works for me.  Like many people, I've experienced periods of loneliness in my life; endless Friday nights involving nothing more than a bottle of wine to drink alone, and MySpace!  SHARON in 'Nobody's Fault' reflects much of this - lots of my readers have told me how they really identified with her; I think the lonely bit is something most of us have experienced, especially in this day and age when there are so many more divorces and single people living alone.

I love a grand passion, too - hence ADRIENNE and NICK in 'Nobody's Fault' - the love affair that can't be resisted and causes havoc for all those involved.  Speaking as one who's always followed my heart, I tend to write about people who do so, as well!  I won't say too much in case you want to read the book, but I do like to read tales about people who completely lose it when everything comes crashing down...

Oh, and now I come to that 'Sliding Doors' thing, which I think about so much!  Thus: if I hadn't taken a job at that office in 1981 I wouldn't have met my friend Angela, with whom I went to that party where I met my first husband Steve, through whom I met Jane, whose spare room I stayed in when Steve and I broke up.  If I hadn't stayed with Jane I wouldn't have done a few shifts in the pub across the road, where I met Alan, who became my second husband, and who insisted we move to Norfolk... etc etc etc!  This is the theme of 'The Other Side', which I first wrote in about 1999; I re-thought it all and re-wrote it last year.  

In 'The Other Side' I've written about lots of other things that I adore reading about, too - self obsessed women who want to 'have it all', bored housewives stuck in dreary marriages, the cut-and-thrust of 1980s Thatcher's Britain, a rock chick or two, the fear that someone is out to steal your man, and the deterioration of people for whom alcohol becomes a serious problem...

....and lastly, I come to 'Dream On'.  I've known loads of struggling musicians and pub bands in my time, and I wanted to write about them - the guys you see down the pub, the ones who go to all the rock gigs and want to be rock stars, too! Some books I'd read on this subject didn't seem to be written by the people who'd known these guys, so I thought I'd write about them myself.  'Dream On' isn't only about DAVE and the other members of Thor, though (yes, Dave thinks he's a reincarnated Viking), but about the relationship between him and the mother of his son, JANICE - I wanted to write about a real life, ordinary woman, living on her own in a council house with her son, fearing that the man she loves is never coming back.  Janice and the other main female character, ARIEL, are both strong women who don't make a song and dance about it, they just get on with stuff; and they're not at all 'girly'.  The sort of women I like!

'Dream On' is full of characters drawn from people I've known - the funny Geordie drummer, the completely bonkers 'artiste' GLYNIS who runs a 'creative workshop', the womanising guitarist SHANE, 'chav' MELODIE with her hair extensions, whose life ambition is to appear in Hello! magazine - and, never mind the TV talent show, I LOVED writing the bit where one of the characters ends up being forced to go on The Jeremy Kyle Show..!

On a more serious note, I've dealt with the issue of Alzheimer's sufferers and their carers in this novel, too - my mother has this, and I hoped that anyone else who has experience of it would want to read about it in a novel, as I did.  I like the way that the subject sometimes features in soap operas; the problems surrounding this are getting more attention these days, I am happy to say.

I'm in the process of writing the sequel to 'Dream On', as I felt the stories of Dave, Janice, Shane and Ariel were not yet finished.  (Note from Sept 2013 - Full Circle was published in April) In this one I've written about more things I love to read about - the problems facing someone whose spouse is an alcoholic (and the shame of the alcoholic who's made a complete fool of him/herself!), jealousy, the anger people feel when they realise they've been lied to, the pretensions of those who feel they are intellectually superior to others, and the joy of giving them their come-uppance ....  it will be called 'Full Circle' and I hope it will be ready for publication soon!  

After 'Full Circle' I am going to start writing another novel, about another favourite subject of mine - stalkers.  I touched on this a bit in 'You Wish', but this time it will be the main theme of the new novel - title as yet undecided.  It will also be about the way people are affected by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, another topic that interests me greatly.  It won't be as light as 'Dream On', though it's been said that I manage to deal with quite heavy subjects in an easily readable way, so it won't be much of a departure from the norm. (Note from Sept 2013 - this has just been published, and is called 'What it Takes')

I hope you've enjoyed reading a bit about what I like to write about - and what I like to read about, too - all suggestions to add to my ever growing 'to read' list are welcome!