Fish Food

Yesterday was my birthday, and my feet briefly became fish food when I took myself off for a fish pedicure, followed by a full body massage. 

I’d fancied the 1-hour massage anyway, but when I found out my local beauty salon had started doing fish pedicures I decided, based on the “I’ll try anything once” principle, to book a 15-minute treatment.  Tiny, toothless fish nibble at your dead skin, leaving you with baby-soft tootsies.  I thought it would be one of those things I would either love or find a bit squeamy. 

My feet were firstly washed in a foot spa, then I was asked to place them into the tank filled with scores of tiny Garra Rufa fish.  I was encouraged to keep my feet as still as possible, to avoid shaking the fish off.  I was advised it would tickle to begin with but then as I became accustomed it would feel more like a massage.  This advice was absolutely correct. 

I was given an OK magazine, and read about Beverley Callard’s latest wedding while the Garra Rufa nipped at my bunions.  Those little fish really went for me – clearly there must have been something about my feet that attracted them.  It was an unusual sensation to begin with: ticklish, resembling a very mild electric shock, but then yes it did become more akin to a very pleasant massage.  It was lovely.  I now feel like booking a course of such treatments.  It can be my thing to look forward to each week.

The massage was lovely too, of course.  I hadn’t had a full body one for years, and I just love the warm, relaxing sensation; the heady scent of lavender; being enveloped in towels.

In all, it was a perfect, chilled-out birthday.  At my age I don’t particularly crave thrills and spills – just to spend the day relaxing is enough.


Pulp Fiction

I shredded three of my manuscripts yesterday. 

Yes, I wilfully fed my early creations Classmates, All the Rage and Gap Year two pages at a time into our paper shredder, ultimately filling three binbags with the ribboned results. 

I’m sure the book-lovers amongst you are throwing up your hands in horror at my admission.  It isn’t as disastrous as it sounds, though.  I already have these novels in book form, since I had them bound a couple of years ago – not to mention that I of course have them saved in numerous formats on my computer and backup software. 

Besides, I don’t realistically think they will be published now – I like to think of them as my early experiments in novel-writing, before I moved on to better stuff – and anyway surely weighty paper manuscripts will soon be a thing of the past as everything seems to be done by e-mail these days. 

The main reason for my pruning is we are surely to have our two bedrooms decorated and are pruning or boxing up the contents of those rooms (we use one as a study, and the manuscripts were in the desk in there) in preparation.  Those three great wodges of paper were simply taking up too much space in what we are trying to make a more minimalist home. 

Not to mention the fact that even looking at the Gap Year manuscript made me cringe as it was covered in petty, schoolmasterly crossings-out and amendments of mythical “punctuation errors” made by the vile Romantic Novelists Association reviewer.  So I took great pleasure in feeding those annotated pages into the shredder never to return. 

I have, however, kept the vitriolic critique penned by that person.  I still can’t bear to look at it, but there may come a time in the far-off future when I can guffaw over it in a “(S)he’ll be sorry now I’m famous” sort of fashion.  I wish, perhaps – although I did experience moments of “the RNA can kiss my bum” triumph when two of my short stories were accepted by top-selling women’s magazines.

After an hour or so, I was slightly shredder-happy.  I can actually still hear that horrible grinding metallic noise inside my head. 

Anyway, what are you all doing for Valentine’s Day?  Hubby and I never eat out on this date (To be unromantically squished into a restaurant charging magically inflated prices?  No thanks!), so we always have a special meal at home.  This year I’m doing Nigel Slater’s sausage and mustard pasta, followed by brandy trifle. 

The cynic in me knows today is a manufactured celebration, designed to extract more money out of the gullible public, but at the same time I do like to make a thing of it.  The reason for this is that, even though I have been with my husband 13 years now, I still like to relish having someone to celebrate this day with. 

When I was much younger Valentine’s Day was always a sore point with me.  When you’re 14 it’s hell to be surrounded by girls whose Head bags are positively bursting with cutesy cards featuring puppies and tacky blue glitter, who then croon bitchily, “So many did you get them, Leigh?”  It was one of the innumerable reasons I hated school, and I guess that shit feeling has stayed with me.   Ah, school is a living hell when you’re not popular.

Like members of the older generation who never saw a banana until an advanced age, I never got a Valentine card until I was 21 (altogether now – “Aaahhh!!”).  That was from my now-husband.  I never got any cards at school, and when I finally did start getting boyfriends I never happened to be going out with any of them in February! 

So happy St Valentine’s Day – whatever you end up doing!

Ramblings after a couple of ciders…

I am attempting to write another story for My Weekly.  I am planning a 700-word piece for the Coffee Break section called Scents of Time, in which a girl called Roberta is preparing a romantic meal for her boyfriend Patrick and likes to set the scene with some of her favourite scented candles.  It’s aimed at being a mood piece that this particular magazine seems to favour.

I feel under a lot of pressure trying to submit something to My Weekly again.  Having already had a piece published in that magazine, I feel added, self-inflicted, pressure to succeed again.  I know I will feel gutted if anything I submit to MW in the future gets rejected. It will feel like a step backwards; as though my work has got worse.

I just want to get back into the swing of writing short stories.  I like to take my proverbial pen for a walk across the page.  I want to feel uninhibited; as though I can confidently let language free to dance across the page; metaphorically dance barefoot along the beach.  I really like writing my novels, and the manuscript of Majella Bracebridge is really what I am looking forward to getting back to, but am itching to get some more short pieces in print.

I just wish I could be more prolific.  Is the ability to write prolifically something that comes with experience, I wonder, or just one of those traits you either have or you don’t?

Majella Bracebridge

Chapter 1 is up!

1: I Last Saw Maj…

I Last Saw Maj…

Melba Most (AKA Melvyn Corns), drag queen extraordinaire:
It was, ooh, ages ago. Years. That’s showbiz for you. I’m on tour so much, it’s hard to synchronise diaries.

We’re in touch, though – Christmas cards and the like. And she did visit my mother when she had her hip replaced, which I’ve always very much appreciated. She always loved Mom, did Maj; used to say she was, among other things, ‘the best cook in the entire world.’

It must be said that back in the day Majella was no Nigella. I can still remember winter nights when I had my coat and three jumpers on because the kitchen window had been hurled open to purge the flat of putrid smoke. I mean, how can you burn a Pot Noodle?

Even now, I have joyous memories of that microscopic flat in Brum city centre. Testing each other on our lines; swapping frocks.

Ah, I miss Maj. I’m itching for a natter with her right now. In fact, where’s my address book…?

Linda Dyson, top comedian and actress:
It was over twenty years ago, sadly at the funeral of a mutual dear friend of ours.

We didn’t speak much on that occasion. Pity. Back in the proverbial day, before fame and all that jazz beckoned, we were great mates. Flatmates, in fact; along with Mel and Nelson (not forgetting Tesco the cat, of course).

There are things I don’t think she will ever forgive me for. As I say, such a criminal pity. Things she said at the time wounded far more than any heckler ever could, or even this critic in today’s Daily Mail who is calling me…let me see…oh yes, ‘a Zippy from Rainbow lookalike and poor man’s Jo Brand.’ Water. Duck’s back.

I mean, Jo Brand! I was around years before her.

Gareth Rushcliff, lead singer with seminal 80s group Glinda Spitfire:
I saw Majella Bracebridge (though she no longer calls herself that, it seems) two days ago, in fact, on Come Dine with Me. Sadly not the celebrity version – for the artiste formerly known as Majella Bracebridge is employed in a very different capacity to when we were acquainted – but the one featuring members of the public cooking for and entertaining each other.

I can’t quite believe I’ve just admitted to watching that. Put it down to tour-bus boredom. Along with seven other bands, we’ve hit the oft-trodden comeback trail. Again. In fact our comeback has outlasted our original chart career, but who gives a crap? As long as our ageing groupies continue to drench their drawers over us, we’ll keep chugging out the old hits. This particular enterprise is called the Now That’s What I Call a Pension tour.

Anyway, Come Dine with Me came from Lichfield that day, which as a Midlands boy raised a faint glimmer of interest.

During the black pudding and goats cheese starter, one of the contestants, a gay insurance clerk called Wayne who apparently wears feather boas and enjoys fire-eating in his spare time (Where do they dredge these people up from?), squawked at the hostess, ‘Hey, weren’t you the girl from that advert?’

I confess the last time I experienced a jolt like that was an early gig at the Old Hill Plaza, when the ancient lift which contained the four of us and our instruments ground to a juddering halt. I hate lifts.

The object of my sudden fascination blushed behind her wine glass and admitted that yes, she was briefly known in the 80s for an ad, one which gave rise to a short-lived catchphrase. Cue squealing repetition around the table of said catchphrase, in the manner it once echoed through school playgrounds and pubs. Behind her beautiful head I even spotted a framed photo of that bloody cat of hers – what was his name, Tesco, or something?

‘Howzit going, geezer?’ Joe, our drummer, joined me, cracking open his sixth beer of the day (it was quarter-past-five) and thrusting one at me. I took it from him robotically. The television was echoing and eddying at me as though along a tunnel. Joe vaulted into the leather seat, stretching out his stocky little legs. ‘Hang on, ain’t she that wench you was knocking off years ago?’ He woggled a pudgy hand in front of my eyes. ‘Earth to Gaz. That blonde sort there, next to the fat poof.’

Political correctness, it is fair to say, has bypassed Joe.

‘I know which one she is, thanks!’

‘Woo, touchy!’

I took a deep breath, cursing my telltale loss of restraint. ‘Sorry, mate.’

‘Not like you to get mushy over an ex. You can still tell it’s her, eh? Swanky kitchen she’s got there.’ He expelled an impressed whistle. ‘Didn’t you say she used to burn Pot Noodles?’

‘Hmm.’ I took a wobbly gulp from my beer can. A different brand, incidentally, to the one she used to advertise.

Joe chuckled. Even when he was twenty-one, a Record Mirror interviewer described him as possessing ‘guttural tones.’ In middle age he’s a Brummie Arthur Mullard. ‘Who’d have thought it, eh? Tell you what, though,’ he glanced around to check we were not overheard by our backing singer/dancer, ‘she’s aged a lot better than bloody Romy. She’s looking as rough as mustard these days – kinell! Rotunda by name and nature. Her norks are round her knees.’

He was being kind. Braless, they reach to her feet.

He pointed at the TV. ‘Perhaps you shoulda stuck with that one, mate.’

Joe was right that the years had been considerably kinder to Majella than to Romy Rotunda, my intermittent lover and Glinda Spitfire’s unofficial fifth member. And, I couldn’t fail to notice, than to my wife Katy (Katy is wife number three, if you’re keeping count).

While Majella’s guests shared memories of the advert that had brought her fleeting fame, I found myself compulsively – hypocritically – scrutinising for a wedding ring. Were I watching on DVD (can you even get Come Dine with Me on DVD?), I might have even been poised over the pause button.

I entertained a brief paranoia that the lack of shots of her left hand was a deliberate dodge, to tease and spite me. At one point she reached for the wine bottle with said elusive left hand – only for the camera to cut maddeningly to Wayne inanely simpering.

‘I’m amazed you all remember that,’ she was saying with modest but obvious delight. She sounded the same too: the Midlands inflection, refined by drama school.

Oh, I remember, Maj. I remember.


Chapter 2:

Will Majella be stellar??

I have made a start on novel number 5, Majella Bracebridge.  Chapter 1.  I am about to upload it if you fancy a read!  The bulk of the novel will be set in the 80s in Birmingham, where Majella is a drama student.  The plan is that the chapters will not necessarily follow chronologically but will leap about a bit and detail scenes from the 80s, and perhaps be written from different characters’ points of view.

I am taking a more laid-back approach to this project than my previous efforts, in that I haven’t got a rigid plot mapped out but instead just want to get on with the writing and see where it takes me!  Taking my pen for a walk across the page, as it were.

So what I have written thus far may alter in due course!  For some reason, this time I don’t want to faff around planning a plot, I feel impatient and hungry to just write!!

Hope you enjoy…