Monday, 28 May 2012

The Teen, The BAFTAs, that Cumberbatch boy, and Me.

So last night the Teen and I hot footed it down to the Royal Festival Hall for the BAFTA TV awards. In the car on the way there, my "usual" route to Waterloo, I realised how far I'd come. Normally I'd be sitting, cushion under the seatbelt, on my way to Guy's or St Thomas's for treatment, wearing loose clothing, a headscarf, and a grimace. Last night I wore a dress, high heels, short hair (OK, VERY short hair), and a smile. And what a time we had!

As a Southbank member, I was able to get a couple of tickets to the event and even though, when I bought them I had only just completed my treatment, I was determined to be well enough to go. Teen and I dressed up and off we went, all excited at the possibility of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch, and all the others too, of course. We had to arrive before all the celebrities (dammit) but we did get to walk the red carpet (actually red, white and blue carpet) which was hugely exciting.
I have no idea who these people are!

Then we made our way upstairs and hung over the balcony watching the arrivals. Even then, before it had even started, the atmosphere was wonderful with everyone talking to each other (how un-British) and pointing out all the famous people. I was relieved when the Cumberbatch boy arrived because the Teen was so desperate to see him, but I have to say, I was rather keen to see Rupert Penry-Jones!
Before it all started.

The event itself was glittering and lovely and rather a thrill. Moriarty (Andrew Scott) won best supporting actor to a barrage of screams and applause and, oh, he was so sweet. Cumberbatch didn't win - the best actor award went to Dominic West. It was rather funny though that when they played the clips of the nominees, you could hear nothing of the Cumberbatch clip because of the screams. Yes, from me and the Teen as well. The best part of the evening for me, however, wasn't who was there or what happened on stage, it was just being there with my lovely daughter. Her face as Cumberbatch and Matt Smith came on stage to present Stephen Moffat with his award was just the best thing ever. Her two favourites on stage at the same time and she was there!
The Teen (who won't thank me for posting this)!

The most moving thing was watching Terry Pratchett receiving the award for best single documentary, Choosing to Die. It took him ages to get to the stage and he looked so slight, but his speech was so heartfelt and humble.

So, all in all, we had a fantastic evening. I said I would go and I did. I dressed up (with thanks to my sister for the dress). I laughed, I cheered, I screamed (just a bit) and I was able to forget the past six months completely. Oh, and we got chocolates!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Why The Tiniest Things Sometimes Matter The Most

After everything I have been through over the past six months, today I am crying. And why? Because my number arrived for the Bupa 10K - a race I applied to take part in before I became ill. Seeing number B14994, my time chip, and my four pins is far more upsetting than I thought it would be. I knew in September that I wouldn't be able to run the race. I knew I couldn't cancel my place and that the pack would eventually turn up. I'm fine about not running it, really I am. So why am I so upset? I suppose it's tangible evidence of my illness. I can hold the number in my hand and know that I'm not fit enough to wear it. It represents my physical weakness. And I guess, deep down, I wonder if I will ever be able to regain my fitness, if I will be able to run the race next year.

And all this has got me thinking. What I need to get over this is a thick skin. And, hey, guess what? I'm a writer. I've got a thick skin! I've managed to write whole novels, big ones too. I've had the courage to send them out into the big wide world with a feeling of hope and a dream of success. And they've come back. I've had hundreds of rejections, from the standard photocopied letter, to a nice email, right the way through to detailed positive feedback. And I'm stronger for it. My writing is better for it. But, and this is the most important thing, I never, ever gave up.

I keep on writing and hoping and dreaming, just as I will, one day, keep on running and hoping and dreaming. So while this paper number, a thing that is so tiny in the scheme of things, has upset me today, it will also inspire me. While I won't be pinning it to my vest and running down the Mall, I will be pinning it to my wall. And every time I look at it I will remember not to give up! It might even help me to finish this novel too.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Everything I know, I learned from Enid Blyton

Well, OK, not everything. I mean, I did go to school. It's just that as I was walking into Forest Hill today (I know, such a glamorous lifestyle), I heard a starling sing and it reminded me of the Enid Blyton Nature Lover's series; she describes his "song" as gurgles and gasps, splutters and wheezes. I still have the books. I loved them. How I longed to go on country walks with Uncle Merry, and rambles with Zacky the Gipsy. I read the books avidly, learning about birds, trees, plants, reptiles. Out I'd go trying to find the things Blyton wrote about. We were a bit short on mountain hares and fallow deer in Radlett, but I had a damned good look for them all the same. So, little success on my own rambles, but the series did inspire in me a love of natural history books, and of nature itself.

And, of course, I read the Famous Five, and the Secret Seven. Again, out I'd trot to try and build a den in the woods, or set up camp at the bottom of the garden. I wanted to solve mysteries, have adventures, explore new things. I read the Mystery of… books. I can't remember the title but in one of them, the children go behind a waterfall and find a secret place where the mystery is solved. To this day, I have a fascination with waterfalls and at the first opportunity, I will try and make my way behind one. Here I am doing this very thing in Jersey (a long time ago). Note that I did not try this when I visited Niagara Falls - although I did do the touristy behind the falls thing. Not the same at all. But still good.

 It's amazing really that one author has been so influential in shaping my imagination. Yes, of course she was hugely prolific, but it's not just that. There was something in her words that spoke to me, opened up a new world, made me want to live that life, both inside and outside my head. From a writer's point of view, this is an incredible achievement. It's why I write, I think. I want to write stories that fuel such excitement and wonder, both for myself and for others. What a gift! But analysing what it is that captivates is nigh on impossible. It's not just the subject matter, it's not just the choice of words, the characters, or the setting. It's not even right place, right time writing. Perhaps it's an authenticity; writing about the extraordinary or the unknown with a sense of reality. After all, I was never going to get to Narnia however many wardrobes I went in, but I could have an adventure, couldn't I?

Anyway, whatever it was that worked the magic, I will always hold those books in my heart. And, who knows, there may still be adventures ahead.