Doing the Write Thing

06:45 in the morning.  It’s still dark.  I’ve been awake since 4:30 with ideas for my novel turning and churning – details on setting, the characters and what sort of food they’ll want to eat.

I used to set my alarm before 5 in the old days; tea in bed with my laptop as I tapped away before real life kicked in.  Before emptying the dog and making packed lunches and fighting my way through a fug of Lynx to get the teens off to school and then my own madly busy day job.

It’s years since I wrote properly.  It’s scary.  Instead of my old Sussex morning silence broken by cockerels crowing murderously, there are empty buses rumbling out of the depot and cars grumbling around the edge of Ipswich.  The neighbours have had new pipes and the white noise of traffic is punctuated by what sounds like twenty tons of grain being thrown down a mineshaft.  RATTLE TATTLE rattle tattle tattle as they flush their loo.  I’m glad they’re not incontinent.  Not quite the creative flow I had in mind.

The last novel I wrote, about a billion years ago, was submitted for professional critique as part of some new writers scheme.  The Romantic Novelists Association or somesuch.  Heaven only knows why I chose them; I haven’t a romantic bone in my body.  The feedback was harsh and pretty much put me off trying again.  The reviewer lady didn’t like the silk paisley scarf  a male character wore.  She loathed the almost-sex scene because “a nice girl wouldn’t do that”.  But she did say I can write.  I’d sort of forgotten that bit.  We’ll see.

I still think about that silk paisley scarf.  I might buy one and wear it with my woolly socks and dressing gown with some kickarse red lipstick while I conjure up a world for my imperfect characters to cavort in.

There’s long way to go before I become a caped crusader of words, slaying doubt as it chases me about.  But I’m here, in my clapped out telephone box, trying to squeeze into the writerly lycra before anyone notices I’ve fallen over and my bare bum’s poking out…

Mind the (Generation) Gap

I took the Greek God to Jersey last week.  Proper Jersey; the rock off the coast of France, rather than that newfangled American one.  My home, and where most of my family still are.

My life in Blighty remains a mystery to Dad.  Well into his 80s, life revolves around the minutiae of his own little patch of that small island.  He relays the tiniest details of his neighbours’ lives… what they’ve had for dinner, who they’ve fallen out with.

In return, I tell him about my life.  By phone.  He doesn’t do Facebook.  Nor email.  Internet?  Nah, that’ll never catch on… So phone it is.  And phone would be fine but he’s stone deaf.  Conversations are punctuated as his hearing aid screams at crucial moments.

But I persevere.  I explain how street food works; alongside our Greek there’s South African, French, Venezuelan food…  I tell him tales far removed from his newspaper-reading spot at Corbiere where the waves crash and seagulls wheel.

“So you’ve got a burger van, then?”

Er, no… I explain souvlaki, again.  In person.  It’s Greek food; I bake pittas – LOTS of pittas – in my little kitchen before we go to fantastic food festivals all over the place, selling our wares.  I tell him of the long queues, of famous chefs, of mad punk band revivals we’ve catered.  He nods. “Ah, right,” he says.

I bump into a friend a few days later.

“Saw your dad the other day,” he says.  “I hear you’ve bought a van and started doing takeaway deliveries…”

Ah bah crie, as us Jersey beans say.  It’s another world, eh?




Give us this day…

One of the hardest things about doing food in public is, well, doing food in public.   It’s fair to say I’m a bit anxious at the best of times.

“You don’t see pittas like this in the supermarket,’ said a lady last week.  She meant that in a good way, right?  I’ve wondered approx. 869 times a day since.

“It takes me ages to get them looking all rustic like that,” I tell her, nodding furiously.  “I have to throw all the perfect ones out.”

I’m joking, of course.  Anxiety means I have to pretend; like an actor I wear my mask, hamming it up all the time… But I’m an intelligent, adult woman.  I run a successful business.  I am not a total nitwit.

But I can’t do anything if people are watching.  I won’t be going on Masterchef anytime soon.

“Jen’s going with classic bread and butter,” says Gregg Wallace.  “But when you’re doing something simple, it’s got to be perfect.”

John Torode nods encouragingly but doesn’t look convinced.  The camera discreetly pans away from my shaking, sweaty hands.

I stand, quivering, on the designated spot before them.  They look from the plate, to me, to the plate then to each other before gamely lifting half a slice each.

“Well it tastes like bread and butter,” says Gregg, tugging at his cardigan.  “Your presentation’s let you down though.”

Tears run down my ruddy cheeks.  “I do it so much better at home,” I wail…

Bread & Butter