Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Buenos Aires

I'm writing this from our hotel room in San Telmo in the heat of the late afternoon. We've already got into a routine of sorts, me with my Tango workshops in the mornings , meeting for lunch then back to the hotel for a siesta, out for a stroll and then out for dinner. Of course,this being LATIN America, everyone eats late(i.e.not before 9 or 930pm).Last night after a meal at the Catalan Cultural Centre we walked a few blocks to Ave Peru and to the Queer Tango milonga. The venue - at easily passed by number 571 - was like something out of an art film. From the street the building looked like an old derelict tenanment block but there was a poster advertising the event inside the porch.We stepped into an echoey vestible which cradled a lit booth;inside sat a young woman, to whom we paid our 15 pesos. We then were directed up a sweeping art nouveau staircase enclosed by flaking green walls and eventually were confronted by double red doors(like old fashioned Gaumont cinema doors with a split down the middle- if anyone recalls those, or is that an embelishment of my vivid imagination??) We could hear the muffled sound of tango music comming from the other side and I had no option other than to surrender,quivering and filled with expectation. I wasnt dissapointed. We entered a large, dimmly lit space illuminated with(oh yes) fairy lights; a small dance floor surrounded by tables and chairs and a bar at one end of the room.It wasnt crowded .It was welcoming, though Howard was jetlagged and bored(he doesnt dance).So we soaked up the atmosphere of this intimate qeer space with men in close embrace with other men, women with women and occaisionally in imitation of the hetero mode.

All this is not getting my novel drafted BUT sublimily its good for my writers soul, I tell myself. I've decided to make the minor character in my novel - Elyes - a gentle man. Not a Gentleman you must understand but BUT a gentle man.This decision was provoked just before we came away for Christmas by a conversation I had with mini cab driver A about mini cab diver B who both work out of the same office. A is Jamaican and B from Nigeria and A ferries me about fairly often , B less often but recently more and I remarked on this to A , who said "Isnt B such an unusually gentle character" - I instantly agreed with this observation made by A because it was my own overwhelming impression of B also. His soft voice of entirely thoughtful and genuine intent, his good mannered politeness; his whole demeanour envolopes you in warmth and sincerity. This man is a giant too,he must be over 6'5" and 16stones I'd guess. Any how, at that moment I just felt it would be right to give Elyes B's gentleness trait.So, you see I havent been completely vacuous. The priority here in Buenos Aires for me is tango - obviously -when we go on to Patagonia and onto the cruise ship around Teirro del Feigo ( I'm sure thats an incorrect spelling!) thats when I plan to get into a daily writing habit again...I may try to begin here in the late afternoon after siesta if I have energy but for now we are both still recouperating from the 15 hours flight from London on 28th.


Sunday, 27 December 2009

Back from The Lookout

...and off to Argentina tomorrow.....had a great if freezing Christmas up on the Suffolk coast. Tried to interview my Kosovo Albanian GP over the phone but was informed he cannot do this as I am a patient at his practice and it isnt ethical. No writing done over christmas but finished Maupins Micheal Tolliver Lives, which I enjoyed but looking at it with a writers eye, I did find had stronger and weaker chapters.


Saturday, 19 December 2009

Been preoccupied...

..with work matters the past couple of days so no writing. Today going up to The Lookout - our Aldeburgh "seat" for Christmas , so hoping to write up the research notes I did for Almir at the Walthamstow street sweeping depot earlier this week AND maybe sort the telephone interview with my GP whose an Albanian Kosovan - whilst we are up there. Have sketched out a new idea for my first chapter - Julie on the train comming home from shopping, reflects on being an outsider(from coupledom )and not really - deep down - enjoying being on her own again at 54 but trying (perhaps too hard) to make the best of it. She notices a vacant teenage girl on the train and wants to impart upon the girl the wisdom of her own years - so that this girl with a pink mobile phone glued to her ear - doesnt waste her life; so that she seizes the promise and opportunity of youth that ,only after it has passed, only does one begin to realise what a transient gift youth is. Julie also turns in her reflections towards this young man she is about to meet later that afternoon - in Walthamstow - through the Befriending Scheme. She only has a few details about him - that he is from Kosovo, he's 24 and off work with depression after witnessing that terribleaccident last month in Hoe Street when that baby was killed; that he's been in London for about a year and knows hardly a soul.And that his name is Almir Hadjic.

If anyone is out there ..what do you think ??????????????????????????????????????????

I'm also taking up to The LookOut Amistead Maupin's Micheal Tolliver Lives -which I bought the other day as soon as I spotted it in the book shop - to read and the old Dickens compilation (I've started reading A Christmas Carol to get me into the feastive mood!)...well, I know also there'll be work to sort out as things have got really busy - as usual just before I go away on extended trips! - BUT given the recession, thats all good I suppose.

The B.A. strike is now off - for the time being - so we will be flying out to Argentina with them on 28th..hooray!


Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Have just spent the afternoon at the Local Street Cleaning Depot interviewing a local Sweeper. What a useful's really given me a fantastic insight in the world of my street sweeper protagonist. I was fascinated to learn that three kinds of brush are used on the job - each with a different brushing technique....I LEARNED also about the routine of a street sweepers day, their social club/canteen and what its actually like out on the street - especially the different areas and in different seasons..really, really helpful...and I also discovered that the sweeper who I had seen all those years ago in the village who inspired my story, was actually an eastern european illegal immigrant, who was eventually discovered and my sorry is based on stop my local Kosovo Albanian contact! Then the Pentecostal church for Roland research.


Friday, 11 December 2009

Get The Latest!

I asked the cab driver this afternoon "what if a woman was crossing the road "(like that, woman now" - as we drove by one) and a car were to hit her?. Can you imagine the baby being flung out of the buggy? He answered - resoundingly, yes - of course - thats its bound to happen ---so I think , even though I have fictional licience I defend my case for the dramatic opener Mike.ANd actually I dragged up a 20 year old memory from when I worked for an inner London Borough as an OT and someone in our office witnessed exactly this kind of accident - except it had a very dark humorous side - because the kid was wearing a batman outfit and my colleague reported seeing him "fly through the air"..

Julie IS an important character, though not major - I wrote something this week on her - just a scene -with her on a train, comming back to Walthamstow from a shopping trip in town with a new designer outfit from Harvey Nics - reflecting on being single again at 54 and inspite of all outward appearences, enjoying her newfound freedom", nagging away inside her is a recurring rumination that she's just "making the best of a bad situation" this way Julie introduces the theme of being outside( couple dom!) and wanting to be loved/give love. On the train she moves to reflecting on who this person Almir - who she's going to meet later that afternoon -is. All she knows about him is his name...he's from Kosovo and his age and that he's been here for a year and knows no one really; thats he's off work because he witnessed that terrible incident a month previuos where the baby was killed in the High st. In this way I plan to also introduce the notion that Almir has an unknown past and this is confirmed when she meets him.Also the unforseen disruption randon, tradgic events can wreek on peoples (often very contructed) lives - which are built often prinarily about doing and status v.v. emotional bonds with each other.

So, Julie is my vehicle for introducing the main themes of the novel in the first chapter - then we go to chpter 2, which will be the baby killed in the street incident.... you see...??

have also organised to visit and observe a Pentecostal CHURCH SERVICE TO absorb some cultural/religious background for Roland Mc Kenzies. Next week I am going to contact my GP who is Kosovo Albanian - I have made a list of questions I want to know : What were your first impressions of Walthastow on arrival here(smells, people, cultural differences etc - what did you miss most about Kosovo - eg food, friendliness of the people, climate, t.v shows

also some questions about attitude to gays and more specific things re Kosovo to fill in the gaps I have from my internet research already completed.

I have downloaded personal testimonials from Gay men who have fled Kosovo because of discrimination and homophobic harrassment... Also about the Kosovo War and some witness accounts of accrocities and ethnic persecution ...

phew - BUT ---dA da da da DAhhh...., I'm Lovin' It!


Friday, 4 December 2009

up early after a night out!

up early after a night out!

My response to Charlottes comments on my synposis

I'm blushing. Seriously, Charlotte so many thanks for taking the time to read my synopsis so carefully and give me this very constructive nad enormously positive feedback. I have yours printed out and ready to read(after I've done more on my essay for Alison!) have the sentiment of what I want to write and had hoped my synopsis conveys - exactly. These themes are contemporary and will touch all our lives at some point,if they havent done so already.

As you are my fav. person of the moment( cos you also came to Decongested and lent your support last Friday too)..I am going to share a secret with you that no one else has yet leaned of( it' s about the plot of my Novel - dont panic!)...Trudies'murderer - the reader will discover at the end of the book - is the disaffected teen dad of the baby so shockingly killed at Almir's feet in the opening.( Oh, and I've decided to call the baby's mum "Kimberely" - but you wont get to hear much about her, shes just part of the back story)

and...yesterday I phoned my local Council and introduced myself as a writer, requesting a visit to the street sweepers depot! I''ll let you know how this goes. I feel so really fired up about this story, its becomming something that almost wants to tell itself. The characters seem increasing very real to me and I actually care about them. The trick I guess is to write it so well that the reader cares with the same passion as I do.


some feed back on my synopsis from Charlotte(a fellow City student)

Love the dramatic opening – immediately felt sympathy with Almir, because he seems alone and vulnerable. Something very poignant about him coming to the UK for a new start, only to have this awful thing happen. Think the idea of him having this heightened sense of perception is very interesting – and am glad that you toned that down so he’s not actually a psychic – that would seem to make it a different sort of novel.

‘After twenty years, Trudy is still searching for the right man and her biological clock is ticking.’ – poor Trudy, I know the feeling!! I am not quite clear in which way he is drawn to her though – to start with I thought he was attracted to her but not sure if that’s the intention? Is it her unhappiness which intrigues him? I know this would become clear in the novel but perhaps there’s a different way to express his interest in her in the synopsis…
I was shocked when she was murdered – wondered if you were planning to lead the reader to believe something else is going to develop with Trudy, so that it really feels unexpected when she dies? That’s how it comes across in the synopsis and I think that could be intriguing.

I like Almir’s conflict about Roland – that felt very believable and again elicits sympathy for him. Am assuming his plan to marry is partly or mostly cultural? That feels a very topical, sad conflict. I don't quite trust Roland from your synopsis, but think that is perhaps because I am feeling protective of Almir! And of course in the novel itself there will be far more detail about Roland so perhaps I wouldn't feel like that then. Think it is a good sign i have strong feelings about Almir though!

Julie is a great character – always find self-delusion interesting.

Overall – love the way the plot develops, I’d definitely read this novel. I find Almir a really convincing character and sympathise with him even though he was involved in atrocities [that idea of ordinary, good people getting caught up in terrible things is fascinating]. Great theme of loneliness – that felt very well-explored – Almir an outsider, Roland in his way an outsider, the two women also lonely [would Trudy have ended up bitter and alone like Julie had she lived?] It seems the thing to believe these days is that it’s ok to be on your own, the main issue is to be happy in yourself, whereas I feel that loving and being loved IS an intrinsic human need, and wanting love is nothing to be ashamed of. Really like the way that comes across from your synopsis, and I also think on so many levels that is a very topical theme – lots of loneliness around, esp in cities. I always love books which conjure up the randomness of life – it isn’t neat and tidy, and just because something bad has happened, it doesn’t mean that something good comes next! I think you’ve used that element so well here – it’s a theme in itself and also you’ve employed it very cleverly in your plot.

...............................(thank you Charlotte)........................................................................................................................................................

I have a few tweeks to make to the final verson of the synopsis, then will post it on here( not that anyone seems to be following this!


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Its been a week I know...

Since I last posted. My reading at Decongested at Foyles on 27th went like a treat, with a sizable entourage in support - including 3 from the City course(but regretably no one from Forest Writers) ...A total starnger come up to me at the end of the evenning an complimented me on my story(Give & take) which made me feel good, I could see she really meant it. We all went off to Maison B in Soho for tea and cake afterwards, then H , Ruth and me walked up to Oxford Circus and got the tube back home to Walthamstow. Ruth read my other short story that has appeared in Decongested Tales " Seein' Red" on the journey back, and said she loved it!

Synopsis needs a litttle more tweeking but should be on here soon now.

Last night walking back fom Uni up Upper St I observed a kid outside a newsagents shop with one of those Dangerous dogs on a link metal chain lead. He let it pee up the hoarding proped up against the window of the shop. The hoarding had some Evenning standard headline on it. I might use this image somewhere in my novel - when Trudie gets murdered and the news breaks. Its irreverance summs up what I want to say at that point. I had quite alot of new thoughts at the w/e (we went up to our house in Aldeburgh) about plot and how a few new ingredients might set things alight more. Must go as need to go up to have a CRB check done for work - then need to plough on with my essay for the course(I'm analysing SlaughterHouse 5 )

BG added