Monday, 20 April 2015

10 Horrible Things That Are Still Nicer Than Katie Hopkins

There's a cloud hanging over me and it's shaped like Katie Hopkins. I'm annoyed with myself for being annoyed with someone so insignificant. Or maybe I'm annoyed that someone so insignificant is being given so much significance with such a massive platform in The Sun. 

How can the language of her column be described as anything other than hate speech? I wonder how much more tolerant people would be of her if she wasn't white and wealthy. As it is, she'll probably flick her blonde locks, flash her eyelashes and say, 'so what if I sound like Hitler? Hate me, see if I care.'

To make myself feel better about living in the same country as someone so odious and lacking in humanity, I've decided to catalogue 10 things which are unpleasant to many, but still more pleasant than Ms Hopkins:

1. Mole Rats  

Katie might identify with the female mole rat since the queen mole rat isn't born queen, but fights her way up to the top. 

However, mole rats are nicer, because they don't squeak about gunning down desperate men, women and children.

2. Cracked heels 

Unpleasant? Yes. But better to have cracked heels than a cracked heart made of ice.

3. Slow Internet Connection 

A first world disaster... and yet at least it delays the possibility of Hopkins popping up in your browser and calling you a cockroach. 

4. Cockroaches 

Unpleasant but a manageable size. If Katie Hopkins skuttled out from under a cupboard I'd have difficulties trapping her under a glass.

5. Street Hot Dogs 

You can only stomach them when you've had a few drinks, but at least you can stomach them, unlike the bile spewed out in that column.  

6. Faulty goods  

I know. It's such a pain when you get home to find what you've bought is broken. But as long as you've got your receipt, you can take it back. 

Has anyone got a receipt for She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named*? 
(*I worry I'm giving her too much publicity.)

7.  Dirty Ovens 

A domestic nightmare. However, with elbow grease and will power you can transform a dirty oven from the inside and make it sparkle again. 

No amount of polish will make a rotten heart twinkle.  

8. Post Office Queues  

Often made up of people with hacking coughs, no sense of personal space, bad tempered 'tutters' and deodorant dodgers.  Still a more welcoming bunch than Ms Hopkins.

9. Damp and Mould 

A common problem in UK  flats, but as long as you're just renting, you can usually get a reluctant Landlord to remove it on threat of ringing Health and Safety. Easier than removing Ms H from The Sun... 

Or is it?

10.  Online Petitions 

My hotmail account is so choked up I've stopped using it, but still, there have been many successes and happy endings for both humans and animals thanks to online petitions... just one more then?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

To Worry or Not To Worry - Is it a choice?

It feels strange to set a novel in a place I've only ever been to once, let alone up sticks and move there!  With three weeks to go until we head off to Mallorca, I admit to feeling a little anxious. 

The longer the wait, the more time I have to wonder if we're mad to leave behind a thriving capital city in favour of a country whose economy has been in intensive care since the crisis of 2010. Then there are our beloved friends who support us when sober, then tell us not to go after a few drinks.
When I'm crushed between rucksacks and sweaty armpits on the rush hour tube, I get a thrill that it won't be for much longer. I close my eyes and dream of mountains and sea. I fantasize about rollerblading along Palma's promenade...  
Then I wonder if I'll feel isolated in a city where I know no one. I think how I'll need to learn to drive as soon as possible. I worry that in Spanish I'll mix my left and right and drive off a cliff. It's not even the language; I mix them up in English. Poor driving instructor, he had so much to live for.
I think about jobs I've applied for and feel my stomach clenching as my comfort zone slip away into the distance.  

In moments of doubt, I turn to my trusty Eckhart Tolle book Stillness Speaks and open up on a random page. Today it reads:
              "What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash - one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.
                To the egoic self, this is a depressing thought. To you, it is liberating."
Crikey. Not as upbeat as I'd hoped. But I suppose it's putting all that worry into perspective. I've already spent too much of my life fretting over things that might never happen, or did happen and weren't worth the anxiety.  

We don't have much say over what life throws our way, but maybe we have a choice about how we deal with the present moment - the only moment we've really got. Remind me of this philosophy when I haven't found a job and I'm constructing elaborate sandcastles on the beach for spare change.  
We're not in danger of changing our minds about the move. Thanks to the wondrous eBay we sold our sofa and our bed on the Easter Weekend!  
To be honest, what makes me even more anxious than the thought of moving, is the thought of not moving.  Despite my fears, I'm hungry for adventure, eager to escape routine, determined that I'll look back one day and think:  my life might well be summed up on my gravestone as 'a dash', but it was a bloody brilliant dash...                
I'm rambling, aren't I? I'll stick the kettle on. Living in the moment is a great antidote to worry, but so is a cup of tea.

I wonder if tea will taste as good as Mallorca... Well, we can live in hope.  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

What Annoys People Most on Twitter

With one cupboard sold, half my clothes in piles across the floor, I have stopped to prepare a Twitter for Beginners workshop. It is hosted by Southwark Arts Forum and there are still places left for this Wednesday 1st April if you would like to attend.

One thing I love about Twitter is how engaging people can be. Today  I wanted to find out what everyone found annoying about this particular social network so I could warn those at my workshop.

The responses flew in immediately and they were so spot on. I'm guilty of a few of the things mentioned. It's always good to be reminded that you're not tweeting to yourself but to an audience who isn't afraid to unfollow you when you ignore Twitter etiquette! 

Is that everything? Please feel free to tell me what annoys you in the comments and together we can make Twitter a better place! 

You can follow me @EmilyBenet 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Big Move: Selling It All

I currently have six people watching my cupboard. They're not actually sitting in my bedroom waiting to see if it moves or anything, I've just put it on ebay.  

With 6 weeks left until we move to Spain, the pressure is mounting. It's time to sell the hardcore, heavy stuff. The 'collection only' items. 

It wasn't long ago we started buying things to make our rented flat more homely - a more stylish bed frame, a quality mattress, a sofa bed for guests - now we've got to find a way of recuperating some of the money.  

Every time I open a cupboard I find something big and heavy. I just came across the raclette oven we bought in a spirit of 'let's be more sociable and have friends over!' It probably weighs three times easyJet's luggage allowance.

"It's putting me off going," said the husband, this morning.

When I hear him worry, that's when I panic. He's a cool cucumber. All those things I would get into a flap about - upgrading phone contracts, switching energy providers, doing tax returns - he does all those things without breaking a sweat.    

"I'll sort it!" I said, hurriedly. "Leave the selling to me!"

I don't know how I'm going to shift all this stuff but I'm not letting a portable stone oven stop me going on an adventure!

Are we getting cold feet?

Yes. That's why we're moving to hotter climes.

Of course these next 6 weeks are going to be challenging, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn't they?

In the next blog post, I'll be worrying about giving up my income and saying goodbye to friends! Until then, thank you for reading!



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Confession: The Real Reason I'm Selling My Furniture.

So I may not have been entirely straight with you about my reasons for having a Spring Clean. Don't get me wrong, I do clean when I need an idea for a novel, but I don't go as far as trying to sell my furniture on Twitter, which is what I've been doing lately. 

In my workshops. I preach that you shouldn't bombard people with sales pitches on social media, and here I am, trying to sell a 2000 pocket sprungmattress and a leather sofa (subtle or what?).

Do you know what my favourite daytime TV show is? It's A Place in the Sun. If you don't know it, it's a property show,  where a British Couple is shown around a sunny part of the world looking for the right house. Usually the couple is approaching retirement age or already retired. It always seemed a shame to me to wait so long until you could enjoy the sunshine and a life lived outdoors. I'd look longingly at the Spanish fincas; bougainvillea climbing up the walls, a sundrenched terrace inviting me in, making me imagine every meal enjoyed al fresco.  

Have you guessed where I'm going with this yet?
It just so happens my husband and I are part of trend of people in their 30s leaving London, hoping for a better quality of life and a flat that costs less than half a million pounds.The only difference is we're not moving North as so many are, we're leaving the country.  
We're going to Spain. Mallorca, specifically. We both speak Spanish, half my family live on the mainland... is it so crazy?
This is how a conversation went with a patient at the osteopath, (where I work,) on hearing I was moving:

Patient: Wow. Have you spent loads of time out there then and fallen in love with the place?
Me: Uh, no. I don't really know it at all. I only went once for a wedding. My husband didn't come though. He's only been there once for three days.
Patient: But you have friends out there? Family?
Me: No, we don't know anyone on the island at all. Not a soul.
Patient: So you've never really been and you don't know anyone there...  so, why are you moving?
Me: (shrugs) Why not? We don't own anything and we don't have kids. If it's a disaster, we can always come back.
So there you have it, dear readers. We are packing up shop and seeing what life on a Balearic island is like. It's only down the road really, isn't it? We'll be back all the time. In fact, I'm already booked to come back for a Self Publishing Conference and Winchester Writers' Festival, so please do keep offering me jobs!

Good, I'm glad I've got that off my chest. Now I can focus on plotting my next novel. You'll never guess where it's set... 

(If you do happen to know anyone who needs a very comfortable double bed, or a sofa, please share the info. Free delivery withing M25! Thanks a million.)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Big Clear Out - Making Space for Creativity

It's not easy to follow up that last blog post. However I can hardly keep the 'More Laughs than Bronte' tagline if I don't lighten up the mood soon. We gave my Grampa a good send off on Thursday and yes, there were tears and sadness, but above all there was love. 

I'm back in London now, my next novel #PleaseRetweet is at the publishers, meaning I need a new idea. 

At the moment, I'm preparing for the new challenge by having a big clear out. My Mum's solution to any problem has always been: CLEAN OUT A DRAWER! 

It makes sense to me that clearing and cleaning your physical space, has a direct influence on your mental space, increasing the chance of new ideas and creative energy to arise.

After reading the brilliant The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell, I feel very lucky that I don't have any hoarding tendencies! But still, even if you enjoy throwing things out, there's always objects that stop you in your tracks:

1. THE 'VINTAGE' TOYS - I went over to my Mum and Dad's and rediscovered my childhood in the loft. I got so much pleasure from seeing my collection of Trolls and all the memorable outfits for my Barbies. Now I can't decide if I should try to sell them on ebay, or whether in 5 years I'll get even more joy from seeing them again. My parents would like their space back though... what would you do?

2. THE ONCE WORN PAIR OF SHOES - During my life I have made so many mistakes with shoes. I've finally learnt my lesson that cheap or synthetic shoes are bad news. Generally I spend more money on plasters and jelly pads than I did on the shoe. I was therefore most dismayed when what I thought was an intelligent selection of leather flats by Timberland ended with a severely blistered foot! My husband blames my feet. Anyway, they are in such good condition and my query has been try wearing them in, or accept defeat and sell them? (I've just decided to sell them - check them out on ebay!)

3.  THE MISCELLANEOUS PILE OF PAPERS - My urge is to rip my way through the pile. I don't think anyone can help with this problem. The solution is grit my teeth and deal with one sheet of paper at a time.

4. BOOKS - What's everyone's policy on keeping books? I'm keeping the signed ones, and the ones I might want to revisit to study their structure... but like most things, it seems a waste if they're not being (used) read by someone! Charity shop?

5. THE WEDDING DRESS - No longer a dilemma actually as I've sold it on ebay. Taking it out of the box and seeing how beautiful it was just reinforced my belief that it shouldn't spend the rest of its life hidden away! I hope the buyer has a beautiful wedding day and feels wonderful wearing it!

6. THE CHILDHOOD TEDDY BEAR - After selling my wedding dress I gave myself a pat on the back for being so detached from my possessions. But then I came across my first Teddy bear. Attachment flooded in. No way am I getting rid of him! The poor thing doesn't even have a name, but my god I'm holding on to him! 

Is this normal?! Do you still have your first teddy bear?

After all the clearing out, I'm bound to have a new idea for a novel very soon... 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Goodbye my beloved Grampa...

Dear Grampa
My Mum called me this morning.  All she said was, 'I'm in Wales...' and I just knew. I knew you had left us.

A coal miner, you had black lung, and had been having problems breathing. I'm so glad you weren't in hospital when you closed your eyes for the last time. I'm so glad you were at home. For me, it will always be the warmest, most welcoming home in Wales. I picture you in the armchair near the fire, having an och (kip) and Gramma  on the sofa opposite watching The Voice (Come on the girl from Cwmparc!).

Ninety one years young and dancing two nights a week until a few years ago. Any music would get you and Gramma dancing around the living room. I can hear you laugh now.  A whisky in your hand.  

As I sit here, I'm overwhelmed with grief. Think of the good memories, people say. I only have good memories and they are making me cry; I wanted to go on making more.  

I know  I'm so lucky to have had you as my Grampa. Everyone who knew you is already missing you. You were always so kind and generous. My Mum once told me how she had called you from London when she was young and homesick, and you had just got in the car and driven all the way to bring her home. It was no trouble. You would always go out of your way to help people.

I loved the way you would sneak twenty pound notes in our hands and say, don't tell your grandmother! As if she didn't know.  As if she hadn't just snuck a twenty pound note in our hands a minute earlier!

Grampa, you are Christmas; top of the table and never too serious to wear a paper crown. You are holidays in Spain; sitting in a fold up chair by the river. You are walks up the Bwlch leading us to the winberries for Gramma's pie.   

Oh Grampa, if you could see the tissues surrounding my lap top right now, you'd probably tell me not to be so twp! You would want all the family to get together and celebrate you... and we will. It's just going to hurt for a while. But that's because you were so loved.

I love you Grampa and hope you are at peace,

Your granddaughter