lundi 19 juin 2017

#authorsforgrenfell

My beautiful and amazing friend Harriet Reuter-Hapgood has organised an online auction to benefit the residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in London, with all proceeds going directly to the London Fire Relief Fund.  I am overawed that while I was sitting at home, refreshing the Guardian website and weeping, she has actually organised something brilliant.

You can bid to hang out and talk writing with me and my awesome fellow author pal Jess Vallance in the pub - details here!  Jess (the author of BIRDY and THE YELLOW ROOM) is quite possibly the funniest person I know, and I have literally no filter (plus we both love getting drunk, quite frankly), so I can guarantee it will be great fun and possibly scandalous.  Please bid, because I'm worried nobody will and Jess and I will be sitting about in the pub by ourselves, necking gin and crying (as usual).  Warning: I have never in my life hung out with Jess and not been horribly hungover the next day.  Official fact.  Apologies in advance to the 'lucky' winner.  I can't wait!

There are also loads of other ace bookish things you can bid on, involving writers far more famous and proper than us.  Please do have a look, bid and share - thank you!!!

NB - I would say there are some particularly great opportunities here if you happen to be an unagented/as-yet-unpublished writer.  Agents and editors are offering critiques of manuscripts/submissions that will be worth their weight in FAIRY GOLDDUST.

For more explanation on the topic, Harriet puts it far better than I could, so here are some of her words:

Authors for Grenfell: An Online Auction is now live
This is an online auction of items from authors, agents and editors with all bids going directly to the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, to benefit the survivors of and community around Grenfell Tower.
On offer are signed books, original manuscripts, school visits, meet the author opportunities, query critiques from agents, editorial feedback from editors, and more. New items will be added throughout the week. Famouses are involved.
Bidding opens 1pm BST today (Monday 19 June) and closes 8pm BST Tuesday 27 June.
Many items are open to bids internationally. We want to raise a lot of money.
To be clear: this is the biggest act of criminal negligence and state-sanctioned violence since Hillsborough, and it is fucking appalling that charities and volunteers are cleaning up where the government has barely stepped in. The Red Cross?! In the richest borough in London? C’mon!
Charities, churches, mosques, volunteers and residents should not be cleaning up the state’s mess, nor should we be raising funds this way. But the government has let these people down and we’re doing this anyway.
But I don’t believe Theresa May’s paltry £5m is enough. £5m between 100 displaced residents is £50k each. How does that pay for homes, furniture, food, clothing, replacement possessions? The £5,500 paid out so far is laughably meagre and polices the poor with what they're trusted with.
Money is needed immediately. £3m has been raised by Just Giving but much, much more is needed, as soon as fucking possible. 
Here’s how it works: find something you like, bid on it in the comments. When the auction closes in a week, winners will be contacted by Authors for Grenfell and asked to donate directly to the Red Cross fund.
Here’s how you can help:
Writers, agents, editors: Can you contribute a school or Skype visit, signed copies of your books, editorial feedback? Are you pals with Zoella or JK Rowling and want to give them a nudge to help?
School librarians, teachers, parents: You can bid for in-person classroom visits or even Skype visits from authors such as Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give.
Unagented writers: There are query critiques on offer from The Bent Agency agents Molly Ker Hawn and Gemma Cooper. Gemma sold my book The Square Root of Summer at a multi-publisher auction, so she knows what she’s about. Bid!
Readers: Do you like books? Signed books, dedicated especially to you? Bid! You can bid for personalised copies, original manuscripts, afternoon tea with authors, naming a character in their next book, swag… 
Everyone else: Please share the link on social media, pass on the information to anyone who fits the bill above, hassle the author in your life into donating, bid for stuff, or volunteer to help us out with the back-end admin by emailing authorsforgrenfell@gmail.com 
(Obviously if you know me, Molly Ker Hawn or Sara Barnard you can contact us directly.)
Share widely. Bid bigly. #authorsforgrenfell


jeudi 15 juin 2017

Silly, and pretentious, and a freak.

On holiday, with time on my hands, I found myself – as ever – over-relating to song lyrics.  This is acceptable in times of high emotion, if the song in question is – say – Lover You Should Have Come Over by Jeff Buckley or That Was My Veil by PJ Harvey (NB both highly recommended for times of heavy weeping).  However, probably less so when you are lying on a sunlounger, drinking gin and listening to Madonna.

I listened to a lot of Madonna on holiday.  I still listen to the (IMHO) criminally underrated American Life album A LOT.  I am constitutionally incapable of hearing Nothing Fails without welling up.  For that song alone, Madonna and Guy will always be one of the saddest celebrity divorces for me.  Although, for poignancy, nothing beats the scene in Truth or Dare when she is asked ‘who is the love of your life?’ – no syllable has ever sounded more tragic and regretful than her certain and succinct reply: Sean.  I live in hope that one day they might get back together.

As you may have gathered, I have a lot of feelings about Madonna.

Listening to The Immaculate Collection, it struck me that, in her guise of 80s supreme confidence, she manages to make romance sound like some sort of sexy Stockholm Syndrome.  You may try to leave Madonna, but you will fail.  It’s a skill I wish I had.

‘You can’t get away/I won’t let you’ – from Cherish, otherwise possibly the sweetest and most lovely song.

‘Don’t try to run, I will keep up with you/Nothing can stop me from trying’ – from Open Your Heart, a song that appears to be one big boast about stalking.

By this point, drunk on gin and emotion and deep analysis of pop songs, I was over-relating to every line.  Which is where Rescue Me comes in, just at the right time.

There are few things I love in life more than a Madonna talky bit – this one even opens with her stating ‘I’M TALKING, I’M TALKING’.  Now, I am not sure I like the idea of being ‘rescued’ by love, but it’s hard not to be convinced by Madonna, and by lyrics that play directly into my hashtag relationship goals:

‘You see that I’m ferocious.
You see that I am weak.
You see that I am silly,
And pretentious, and a freak
…But I don’t feel too strange for you.’

Dreamy.


When she talks about being ‘hungry for a life of understanding’ and the beauty of the triumph of hope over experience – always – I am sold.  Madonna, your love has given me hope.


mercredi 14 juin 2017

If you lived here you'd be home now

I am back from the wilderness (well, a whole FORTNIGHT in Spain with my grandmother).  I am very suntanned, so zen I am practically levitating.  I did very, very little.  I feel I have slowed down to octogenarian pace, which is a rarity for me.  Readjusting to real world life - alarm clocks and trains and general bullshit, quite frankly - is HARD.

I did writing, mostly on a sunny balcony, sometimes in a cafe.  I tried to go running every day and to chant every day.  I drank gin.  I read precisely zero books.  I sat still an awful lot.  I swam in the sea.  I had Thai massages on the beach.  I ate chips.  I slept.  I walked.  I wore a hat.  I listened to a lot of Radiohead and Prince and Steely Dan and Cat Power and Devendra (my nan's new favourite OF COURSE).

While I was away, I had a birthday.  How (HOW?) am I 36 years old now?  Nothing is what I thought it would be.  Mostly that's OK.  I got some great birthday presents.  The best ones were: a rose quartz necklace and the Brian Eno Oblique Strategies cards that I have been fascinated with for the longest time (I seriously cannot imagine a duo of presents that 'get' me more than this, from someone I haven't known for very long); and a black/red reversible Chinese silk jacket, that my dad bought my mum in Hong Kong in the 1970s and I have coveted literally my whole life (THANK YOU, MUM).

I am seeing a lot of cats and a lot of 11.11.  (WHAT DOES IT ALL MEEEEAN?  The cats speak Spanish so it's hard to tell, obvs.)  This generally means evolution is afoot.  Or that I am overtired.

Today I am mostly trying my best to hang on to the zen.  Wish me luck.

lundi 22 mai 2017

Sundays in Vienna

A whirlwind of a weekend... I think I have had the total of one night's sleep in the past four days, pretty much.  Entirely worth it.

I went to Vienna, where I hung out with wonderful family (including Mochi the dog), drank (a lot of) beer and ran with 30,000 women through the park.  A favourite discovery was that there is a gemstone vending machine outside the toilets at Vienna airport.  True story.  All your crystal-powered emergency airline needs met - you're welcome.

In other news, I read THE HATE U GIVE and I'm going to join the chorus of people saying that it's worthy of all the hype and more; a truly important book and you must read it.  It's (rightly) a tough read, but I wasn't expecting some of the well-placed humour and quite how much I would care about the characters (especially Big Mav, who - although I'm sure he would be appalled at the idea - has made it straight to the top of my Dream Fictional Husbands List), compounded by Lisa's advice on how to assess whether the good outweighs the bad in any relationship, which feels like a timely lesson for me.  Anyway, you don't need my words on the matter.  At all.  Just read it.

This post is also brought to you by: Roxy Music (pretty much new to me, ridiculously); kitchen discos (always) and pyjama parties; my new silver boots; Soap and Glory lipsticks; watching the video for Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie and getting the song stuck in your head literally forever; my new rose quartz necklace, which was the nicest present ever; rose-tinted octagonal sunglasses.


jeudi 18 mai 2017

Meet me in the bathroom...

You may have seen Vulture's oral history of The Strokes.  I for one am currently a bit obsessed with it.  I have many Thoughts and Feelings on the matter.  It's a fascinating all-tea-all-shade read, even if you were not into The Strokes.

I *was* into The Strokes.  Of course I was.  It was summer 2001.  I had just turned 20.  I was going out with a sweet boy called Mat who I'd had a crush on for ages; he had a mod haircut and a red military jacket. We would drink cheap fizzy wine and stay up late at night in his flat, spending hours watching a weird new show called Big Brother on his little black-and-white TV.  I had a short bowl cut and wanted to be Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  I was writing: odd snippety sad little stories about a girl called Holly Cherry.  They were supposed to be modern magic realism.  They were pretty terrible.

The Strokes were very exciting to me.  I can't remember which song I heard first - it would have been Last Nite or Hard to Explain, but I have no idea which one it was.  We all spent a lot of time talking about them, and were literally counting down the days until the full album hit.

We saw them at Reading Festival that year, when they had to be moved onto a bigger stage because they had suddenly out of nowhere exploded into the biggest band in the world (as far as we were concerned, at least).  They were so fucking cool.  So New Yorky, which obviously always appeals to me.  So louche.  So SEXY, in the way that popstars should be.  Julian was definitely at the top of the dreamboy list for a while back then; he's probably still on it somewhere.  I mean, LOOK AT HIM.



That was also the year I saw PJ Harvey, wearing a PVC bra and matching skirt, playing my favourite songs from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.  I don't care if it makes me basic; that's my favourite PJ album.  It still sounds like summer to me.  It was perfect.

I think that was the last time I ever went to Reading Festival.  When it was over, I broke up with Mat (in a young and ill-equipped way that I remain mildly ashamed about) and went to Hong Kong.  I worked at MTV and wore Hysteric Glamour and Superlovers T-shirts.  I spent hours walking around and riding the trams, listening to music and scribbling in my notebook.  I disappeared.  After a summer of drugs and bands and going out every night, Hong Kong was a meditative time.  I came back different.

Things didn't change straight away.  I still loved boys who looked like The Strokes (still do, although I've sporadically tried to grow out of it).  I vaguely remember once singing Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs outside a boy's window, some time after that.  We all got quite into Franz Ferdinand instead, briefly.  A couple of years later, I met Gordon Raphael at another boyfriend's gig in Camden, and I totally embarrassed myself by fangirling all over him about Is This It.  He was wearing a cool jacket that had a picture of Debbie Harry sewn onto it, and looked utterly confused.

It took me a while to take my writing seriously enough to actually finish a full-length novel.  I grew my hair.   I grew up.  I still love music but I've probably never loved a brand-new band like I loved The Strokes - not in that same way, anyway - since that summer.

vendredi 12 mai 2017

It's a very good sign.

I have woken up with this song wedged in my head.  This is neither the original, nor remotely cool.  However, on a gloomy Friday, I say you should always go with the 10 Things I Hate About You version.  Always.


Today I am mostly wearing my sparkly Star Wars sweatshirt, visiting the crystal shop later (I have a hankering for black obsidian in my life right now)... and probably watching 10 Things I Hate About You.

Bon weekend.

jeudi 11 mai 2017

Energy Detox

We're in a Scorpio full moon this week.  As one of my favourite websites, The Hoodwitch, has pointed out:

It's Full Moon time again, kiddies, and this week is likely to bring hella chaos, so get ready! 
The Moon will be full at 20 degrees of Scorpio on the 10th at 2:42pm PST. Expect feels to be at heightened levels of intensity leading up to this event. It’s a dangerous time for building up resentments, developing grudges, or obsessing on your ex, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Scorpio is the sign of death and regeneration, healing and destruction; whatever happens with this Moon, it isn’t likely to be chill. You’re going to want to get deep, and that can be complicated if things do go your way, which I’m sad to say they probably won’t.

There's a lot more useful stuff on there; I recommend having a look if you are so inclined.  Whether it's the full moon or what, I'm really feeling this chaos and intensity.  So, today I have written a list of the myriad hippie bullshit ways in which I am going to have a two-week energy detox.  How very Goop of me, right?  This ranges from 'no/minimal drinking', 'daily exercise' and 'more lentils' to 'pay attention to red flags' and 'don't get on someone else's rollercoaster'.

I'm hoping it will help.

One thing that *has* helped lately, is the book 'The Course of Love' by Alain de Botton.  My stepmum sent it to me in the post, as she thought (very rightly) that I would find it helpful. It was only when I started talking to friends about it that I realised how much love there is out there for this book, and how many people have found it genuinely transformative.   Cannot recommend enough.

Finally - while chatting about dating and the universe with a lovely friend today, she gave me the best piece of advice I've heard in a while: If it's right, there's literally nothing you can do to fuck it up; if it's wrong, there's literally nothing you can do to make it work. Wise words worth bearing in mind, comrades!

Now, please excuse me - I'm off to do some chanting, eat some lentils and howl at the moon. Or similar.