In this photo (I can now admit!), I imagined I was holding my book and showing it to the world! Soon I shall be able to do that for real!
Today, or tomorrow, I shall hold my own book in my hands. This is so exciting that, actually, I want to cry and laugh all in one crazy dance of extreme emotion.
I am an Earth sign, a down-to-earth person. You may have noticed! And, while I loved publishing ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ as an e-book, it never seemed quite real to me. The same goes for my many blog posts. I cannot touch them, you see, cannot feel the paper, turn the pages, stroke the cover…
But ‘Come Laughing!‘ is the fulfilment of my lifelong dream to publish a REAL book, and to put it on my shelves, knowing it is part of ME.
I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I clicked the various buttons and ordered printed copies for close friends and family. It felt like such an achievement, such a delight. I adore giving to people anyway – but there is something very special, in my eyes, about a present one has created oneself.
So, while I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of postman or delivery lorry, why not nip over to one of the links below and order your own free copy for Kindle, or put in for the paperback!
Hooray, hooray, HOORAY!!!
What unfinished projects from 2014 are you willing to release now?
Excellent question – and entirely appropriate given the need I have to RELEASE trapped energy and use it to create my book of erotica (amongst many other things).
I think we all get locked into a prison of our own making occasionally; in my case, I would have to say ‘regularly’, if I am honest. It does not matter who summoned the original jury, judged us, convicted us and opened the cell door; we are the ones who have the choice about what happens once that key is turned – and, all too often, I have gone into passive mode and refused to fight back, or appeal, or speak to witnesses for the defence. I have allowed a skewed and biased prosecution system to beat me into submission – metaphorically! – and have failed to see that release was always possible, that my solitary confinement was only temporary, that every door which slams shut also has the capacity for bursting open.
A very common human trait is the guilt trip one, isn’t it? We waste an awful lot of time and effort beating ourselves up about what we have not done, or what we feel we have done badly. Half-finished projects gnaw at us like a bad toothache. We become caught in a vicious circle – neither able to finish them nor let them go. We get into, ‘If ONLY I had done/said this differently…’ mode, and, frankly, this is rarely helpful: It does not shift the psychological blockage, nor does it guarantee any kind of resolution.
I have two main projects from this year which I would like to share in this piece. I am going to be blunt – in the full knowledge that this may offend some of my readers. I am not a cruel woman, nor do I wish to hurt other people, but, for my own sanity, the truth has to come out eventually.
A year ago, I sought family-based counselling for an ongoing situation within my circle of relatives. I cannot be any more precise than that; I wish I could – but, for the moment, I need to keep a lid on the exact nature of the difficulties.
It was horrendous from the first session. If I had been a bit more honest with myself, I would have admitted that I had long suspected this would be the case – but I went into wishful thinking/denial – and, for MONTHS, thought it would all work out if only I tried a bit harder, did things a different way, was a nicer, more patient human being.
The thought of this particular project not being completed filled me with a horror and despair which can easily reduce me to tears even now. Not succeeding seemed unthinkable and very confronting.
But, eventually, in November, I had to face reality: This was not a project which would ever be finished the way I wanted it to be. I had to look at my rigid definition of the word ‘finished‘ and accept that, no matter how long a road is, sometimes we simply have to acknowledge that we have travelled as far along it as we can.
The counselling failed. The project had to be abandoned half-completed.
But, ultimately, I learned that, by accepting that the incomplete building was as good as it was ever going to get, I had choices – and those choices chimed very precisely with the Spiral Tower tarot card which has come up for me a lot over the past few months. Yes, the unfinished project was, like the tower struck by lightning, crumbling and ruined around me – but, faintly behind it, I could see a stronger and more enduring tower rising into the skies.
What I needed to do was to sweep up the bricks and mortar, accept that the old building could not be rebuilt – and, in so doing, release the swirling energies which had stopped growth for so long.
The second project, ironically, relates to my blog.
I will admit this somewhat embarrassing hope/delusion now. I had hoped that, after two-plus years as a blogger, I would have gone viral – or at least become a Big Name! I know, I know, sad vanity and lack of reality – but we all have our little dreams, I guess!
I have had some delightful times on here and have met many loyal and caring fellow writers – but the honest truth is that my blog has NOT taken off as I hoped it might.
It took me an awfully long time to work out what the problem was:
I had become stuck in a rut. I had made blogging into the Great Golden Idol before which I was sacrificing important aspects of my writer’s art. I had become obsessed by numbers: How many hits, how many followers…
I had all but given up on the original dream: To write excellent prose, with love and passion – and to be a published, well-known writer!
My love of words had become subsumed by this competitive urge to get more and more views on the blog.
I had to let this go. I needed desperately to release the inspiration blocked by the daily blog grind – and use it for something more satisfying/long-lasting/meaningful.
Now, obviously and in an ideal world, I would have, at this point, found traditional publishers queueing up to take me on! But, this is NOT an ideal world – and, let’s face it, I am an unknown seeking to prove herself in a very large pool of literary talent!
So, for the moment, my only option is the self-publishing route offered, in this case, by CreateSpace. There are downsides: I will not be able to use erotic images unless I pay for them, and create them myself – and I do not have the funds for this; I will need to use a somewhat formulaic book cover (I suspect) which may not be immediately appealing (though I am hoping that ‘EROTICA‘ in big bold script will do the trick!) – and, because I cannot afford to pay the team to edit and so on, I am going to need to do most of it myself.
The positives, however, are overwhelming. I feel I have that wonderful creative energy back. I feel that, by admitting that the blog (no matter how fun it is to do) is a dead-end as far as publishing is concerned, I have released the writer I AM from the chains of trying to write a certain way to get big numbers.
The blog project has made me, at times, feel very insecure and unworthy because, no matter what I did, I could not make the kind of impact I wanted – and I do not, by this, mean to sound ungrateful (I am not); I simply need to express my NEED to be a published writer, to use my talents the way I should have done from the start.
I suspect many of us labour under the illusion that, somehow, we will be DISCOVERED and made famous: That our words will be deemed good enough for us to be singled out, lionised, snapped up by the big publishing firms…
Letting go of that is hard. It is painful and difficult, But it has to be done – because, this fantasy project for 2014 was never actually going to happen! I was not going to be whisked away to ’50 Shades of Grey‘ type fame and fortune; I was not going to become the Next White Hope of the writing world – at least not as one of millions of bloggers!
If I want my chance, I need to create it for myself. I need to manifest the dream in Malkuth. I need to use my visionary and writing skills – and not the Abacus of Insecurity – in order to share Alienora’s humour, poetry and erotica with the world.
I need to release the balloons of hope…
Rather than weighing down the basket with the ballast of fear.
Released, I can FLY!
Oh, Goddess, what HAVE I taken on? Am I MAD to imagine that I – the world’s worst when it comes to technology – could ever put a book together and sell it?
I get so far – and then freeze, in utter funk and fear, the Hadrian’s Wall of my own incompetence lowering before me under the thunderous sky of failure.
‘What makes you think, Child,’ says my snooty inner censor, ‘ that you will EVER bring this creative pregnancy to a successful birth?’
‘Stop kidding yourself,’ the voice continues, ‘that you have a hope in hell where writing is concerned. Apply for another teaching job. Give up the fantasy and go back into a career which makes money each month, which gives security at that level, which will make certain other people deliriously happy. This is not ALL about you, girl…’
I wring my hands and scream and tear my hair and cry – and then I stand tall and look that judging self in the eyes we all share and tell her a truth or two:
‘Oh, yes,’ I bellow sarcastically,’ yes, go back to a life where I had no time for me, no time for writing; a life where stress was such a constant that panic attacks were a thrice daily occurrence and every lesson filled me with profound dread. Yes, that REALLY makes sense. Go back to the four, or more, hour an evening marking load, the lonely weekends, the almost complete absence of a social life? Of course I should. After all, I don’t matter, do I? Quality of life, happiness, inspiration – none of these matter as long as the Great Golden Idol of money is being given its weekly sacrifice in flesh and blood and hope…’
‘But,’ comes the insidious pipe of a voice, filling my head with the gas of despair, ‘look at how many writers there are out in the world, all trying to do what you are attempting – all desperately trying to leave their mark on the world. What makes you in any way special or different. You KNOW that only the tiniest minority make it, that sales of self-published books are minuscule, that counting on any kind of a living is little more than Dolly Day-Dreaming at its most dangerous…’
I stamp my feet in rage. If I had knives, or razors, I would slash my own flesh so that torrents of blood fell. The desperate fury is like a forest fire I cannot put out; it destroys all in its path.
‘I chose EROTICA,’ I wail. ‘I chose something which SHOULD attract at least some attention.’
‘GET REAL,’ snaps the now-angry voice, ‘there IS no pot of gold at the end of the Writing Rainbow – and, if there were, it would be divvied up between the established authors, the literary elite. You are a NOTHING with illusions of becoming a SOMETHING. Oh, you can play at putting your pathetic little book together as much as you like – but it is little more than a gesture of pointlessness in a competitive milieu you do not understand. It does not matter how good a writer you are. That is not the deciding factor. Marketing techniques – which you lack entirely – are what count. You need more than a way with words, my girl, to get on in THIS world.’
Quite suddenly, I see this part of my own mind as a series of gibbering red devils, made, for some weird reason, out of pipe-cleaners and felt. They make truly frightening faces; they clash their horns together and sparks fly from their forked tails. They point with sharpened talons at the boiling lakes of Self-Doubting lava, tempting me to leap in and be saved from myself, or doomed to a lingering and violent death – depending on how one sees it.
They threaten me with the Torment of the Self-Deluding Damned.
They chitter and dance and intimidate and squeal and flash garishly ghastly images up before my eyes.
But what they DON’T do, what they CAN’T do, is to persuade me that they are REAL.
They cannot persuade me that they have any more validity and weight than the Angels of Kindness and Love who tell me I AM worth it, that I do have talent and hope and friends and a right to at least TRY.
The Red Devils do not believe in me. They never have. But their days are numbered now that I have seen them for what they really are.
Putting my arms out, like wings, in the time-honoured way, I summons the Archangels of my own Inner Quarters.
I bring them from their fair and pleasant realms – and, safe within the swirling of warm feathers and ancient wisdom made manifest, I take my staff in my hand and set out, once more, upon the Rainbow Path, seeking the Grail I have hidden within my own heart, seeking the stories I shall blazon across the shield of the creative world, seeking the truth of who I am and what I am capable of.
‘Demons, I banish you!’ I call, from high up over the Wasteland. ‘You are no longer necessary or welcome. Go and torment someone else!’
I stride on into the radiance of inspiration, seeing my beautiful book shining ever brighter the further I travel, hearing rapturous applause from those I love, those who love me, those who have stood by me every step of the way.
I WILL succeed. I WILL make it to the Castle of Sarras.
So mote it be!
I have a nasty virus, and am feeling weepy and low in mood – but there ARE positives in my life, and I would like to share those rather than droning on about my physical status.
First of all, a situation which has been preoccupying me for thirteen months acutely, and many years chronically, has, in its own way, started to resolve. It might not be the outcome I once would have envisaged – or, for that matter, wanted – but it will, ultimately, lead to liberation and, I hope, release of trapped energy.
I know, with UTTER CERTAINTY, that I cannot continue with things the way they have been – and I have had to face some extraordinarily painful truths during the long and arduous journey.
The BIG NEWS on the writing front concerns my BOOK OF EROTICA!
I decided, in October, that I wanted to collect together my many erotic short stories – about seventy in all – and put them together in book form up on CREATESPACE, as a Print on Demand option. I will also put it up on Amazon Kindle so that it can reach as wide an audience as possible.
The thing is that erotica does, apparently, sell – and I need, if possible, to generate an small income from writing.
The stories are funny, bawdy, blunt, raucous, graphic – and, in some cases, poetic and visionary, drawing upon alter egos who have been channelled, for want of a better term, from other realms.
It is a very exciting project. So far, I have transferred all the individual pieces onto a Word Document, put them into categories (under alliterative, suggestive titles, of course!) and am now editing each one.
Once that has been completed, I can start looking at art work – because I want each story to be illustrated, if possible – and can then, finally, upload the whole thing onto CreateSpace ready to rock and roll…
For the longest time, I was mired in self-doubt. I felt as if I were lowering my standards by even thinking of such a task – but finally it dawned on me: I love writing about sex and sensuality and love and humour, and such pieces tend to be amongst my best.
I also thought, ‘Should I do this anonymously?’ – and I did seriously consider this option…for about five minutes!
But no: I have launched my writing career as Alienora – and Alienora I shall remain!
Sex is human. Sex is universal. Sensuality makes the world a better and brighter place. There is nothing for me to be ashamed of in writing about such things.
In fact, I am PROUD of myself!
Granny tells me. Roughly-callused hands shaking me into a dawn I do not wish to see, she rasps out the warning fetch still fresh upon her Inner Eye.
‘Amgel,’ she says, ‘The Battle is done, and the ravens feast and cry. Maiden you have been to him, my girl, and now you must don the Crone’s black robes for he has need of easement in his passing. Shed your tears, if you must – and you will – but we women have, eventually, to be the Washers at the Ford of Passing. You know that. He calls…’
And I know; I knew in dreams and unsettled gulping sleep; I could feel him stirring the cauldron of my love for him, reaching up in his agony to connect, to drink one last time.
The way is dark and cold. The cries of the wounded reach me from afar.
I find him as the sky begins to lighten. Does he know me? I like to think so – but he is, already, at the Passing Point by the time I kneel in the eerie cold of a bloodied field and take the weight of his wounded body, holding him as close to my warmth as I can.
As his breath flutters, each gap longer than the one before, I comfort him with song and the gentle stroking of hands across his unmarked brow:
I will love you as long as there is life in my body and light in my spirit. I will love you as long as laughter trickles upon my lips and plunging dolphins of emotion ride the swells of my soul. I will love you with my dying breath and beyond, simply because you are who you are – and you have brought the lilt and poetry, the fiery flame and the healing water of YOU into my world.
I will love you with all the sweetness and sharpness, the honey and the thorns of passion, of which I am capable; I will pour out the Grail of my heart for you and bathe you in my erotic juices. I will hide us both in the white-gold tent of my long hair and sigh the beauty of music in your ears. Moon to your Sun, Yin to your Yang, I will weave the web of lasting connection, as will you, meeting one another in the centre.
I will love you with the boundless oceans of the West, the flame-coloured furnaces of the South, the gentle breezes and howling tempests of the East, the rich earthy hollows and warm stone of the North. As Above, So Below will I love you.
I will love you even as I cradle your broken body upon my lap, and watch the red streams of your precious blood slowing upon the stained whiteness of my shift. I will love you even as I watch your eyes flutter and stare for the last time, and feel the hot pump within your shattered chest begin to cool. I will love you as I see the silvery cord of your essence rise up and fly away.
I will love you even as you leave me for far-distant shores and rebirth in the great womb of life.
And, for all that the loss of you will crack the shell of my heart, I will know that loving you was the best of me, the ONLY choice, the sun-filled pools and dancing delight of true joy, and the deepness of utter sorrow too.
I sing him into Death’s embrace. I sing him into the timelessness of our love, holding out the future – for our bond does not stop with the severing of this life, but will, I am certain, continue.
Tears flow, unstoppable, as his life-force trickles to a halt, my grief replacing one fluid with another; the combined river runs pink upon the sward.
I kiss him, one last time, upon lips almost as familiar as my own – and let him go.
My footprints alone mark the fragile dew.
I am not going to mince my words: This has been a f***ing dire week – for me, and for many others I know. I have, however, had massive support and care from people who matter. Humour has, once again, come to the rescue as I tackle the Humble Orgasm…
Wealth of potential meaning in that phrase, isn’t there? Which is why I have chosen it.
‘Without protesting, complaining or fighting,’ says a dictionary definition – and the full expression, taking this slant on it, is always accompanied by a threat: ‘Are you going to come quietly or am I going to have to use force?’
Sinister, scary – and controlling.
But the other meaning, of course, relates to that most joyous of human activities: Sex – and, to be specific, orgasm.
Interestingly, the words ‘come‘ and came‘ have been used to describe a climax since the seventeenth century – and quite possibly way before then.
Sex is – or, in my view, should be – a noisy old business. Volume added is fun squared as far as I am concerned.
Now, obviously, there are limits. If, for example, your amour is verging on the operatic and is unable to climb on board without a soulful aria or two, you may feel that you are coming a decided second to his, or her, massive ego and Drama Queen/King need for an audience; you may, in fact, feel that you are little more than a bit part player…
Howling Wolf, Ululating War dance, Plane getting to the Turbo Thrust stage of take-off – all fine and dandy in my book, as long as such exuberance is not accompanied by a Scold’s Bridle rammed into your mouth before the Rocket of Lust is Launched!
A loudly vibrating primal yell conducted a deux is favourite!
What I really cannot be doing with is, to go back to my title, those who come quietly. I’ll take that a step further actually: Those who conduct the whole of the sexual encounter in a mute and monastic silence only distinguishable from death by the occasional bodily twitch.
You know how it is, I am sure. There you are, ensacked, giving the whole thing an entire shop full of welly, going for those erogenous zones like a child in a sweetshop – and your partner, other than the occasional reproachful sigh when your erotic Sat Nav has taken you onto the M.25 by mistake, lies there like a gaffed salmon and utters not a word.
Bloody disconcerting, I call it – and it gets worse.
You accept that the dearth of moans and groans MIGHT be down to childhood inhibition, the presence of children/parents just down the corridor or sudden stress-induced loss of voice – but…’Surely to God,’ you say to yourself, ‘the moment from which there is no return will be celebrated with, at the very least, a small whimper!’
You redouble your strokes; you get into top gear; you taxi up the runway and await instructions, from your own cockpit, to take to the skies.
Seconds later, you are soaring, the old loin lightning, the bonking bomb, having gone off spectacularly – and, warbling, crescendoing and making sea-lion noises, your ears gradually notice that this is a solo performance, and that, embarrassingly, frustratingly, you have NO IDEA whether the body you are in, or which is in you, has come, is coming or, like Godot, is going to keep you waiting forever.
Now, you may well say, ‘Ah! But there are certain tell-tale signs, at least in blokes, when the Ejaculatory Eagle has landed…’ You know, the bit where we ladies undergo the entire Champagne Cork and General Celebratory Frothage moment – from the inside!
And women whose privy parts do a very good impersonation of a Boa Constrictor are a bit of a give-away – allegedly.
But, some corks go off at half-cock, or even remain embedded in the bottle, and, under those circumstances, we are talking not so much Vesuvial Deluge as Damp Squib.
Some females have all the muscle tone of a knackered inner tube – and couldn’t vibrate if you shot eight million volts through them.
So, why the Elective Mutism?
Some people just ARE reserved in bed – and that’s fair enough; others, perhaps, have been brought up to believe that pleasure is wrong, and that any kind of noise is tantamount to a sin. Difficult, but not impossible, to overcome(!).
But, there is a small section of the Silent Community who hold back through meanness, who refuse to let go; for whom noiselessness is an assertion of a peculiar kind of power – the power to bemuse, to lessen the pleasure, to make the other wonder – and that is not a situation which makes orgasm the spectacular firework display it CAN be at best!
This group of killjoys are the ones who will squirm in embarrassment when you yodel loudly enough to shatter lights – and tell you to keep the noise down because it is making their ears hurt, is deemed unseemly/uncalled-for/uncouth. These are also the ones who will OIL the bedsprings regularly, and hang a mattress on the wall behind the bedboard, so that no creaking and boinging gets out!
I blame all those formative years of masturbating noiselessly into/with a sock, myself!
And that’s just the women…
We are made, at least in part, of filaments of light – and the concept, or the metaphor, of luminescence looms large and shines brightly in our lives.
Think, if you will, of the ancient connection between love and light, passion and fire.
We say of someone we adore, ‘He/she lights up my life.‘ The state of unrequited love is referred to idiomatically as ‘carrying a torch‘ for someone. ‘Her face lit up,‘ we often say of someone who is showing happiness, or desire, or the sheer joy of being in love. ‘You are the light of my life‘ marks the apotheosis of love in all its wonder.
We glory in the sensation of being enlightened, acknowledge the double-edged sword of ‘light dawning‘ at crucial moments in our lives – and sometimes feel as if something in us is ‘dimmed‘ or ‘fading’.
We use expressions such as ‘brief candle‘ to refer to the short life-span we all face, and ‘flickering light’ to paint a picture of one who is failing in health, strength or hope.
‘I am on fire for you,’ people say, or, ‘You are HOT.’
Passion is seen as red-hot, flame-coloured, all-engrossing, burning love – and, to continue the metaphor, consuming all in its path and leaving the bare bedrock of an intense sexual experience.
We ‘burn to touch‘ the one we fancy. Our bodies flush red when we are sexually aroused. We actually feel waves of heat running from face to loin and back again when on that pre-orgasmic runway waiting for take-off.
We ‘spark one another off’ – and refer to sexual chemistry as a ‘spark‘ between two people.
We have ‘heated exchanges’ when the passion of anger enters the relationship’s calm surface.
Light and fire are all around us. We thrill to the touch of the Sun, letting its welcome heat warm our bones and our spirits; we mourn its shortened hours in Autumn and Winter, and many feel despair and depression when light-and-heat-deprived.
We are drawn, inexorably, to bonfires, hearth fires and fireworks. Something in the cave-dwelling days’ race memory pulls us close to a real fire, our nostrils widening at the primal nature of wood’s resinous scent, our bodies adopting exactly the same shadows as those which once illuminated ancient cave walls.
We have a deep need for light. Although the beauty of the world is a constant, we respond like flowers opening out on light-filled days – and, no matter how optimistic we are as people, something in us quails and shrivels during days of unremitting greyness.
Something about the interaction between light and colour has inspired us from the earliest, pre-civilisation, days. Painters thrill to the wash of light across Mediterranean skies; sensual and erotic writing flows unstoppably from trembling pens in the lusty days of light-filled youth; music, caught in bubbles of warm joy, fills the staves with perky notes almost by itself.
Bringing this round to humanity, we sense the light and heat within one another, don’t we? Whether we see it as an aura, or simply feel an inner radiance, our own filaments reach out to those in another – and, if the vibration is right, twinkle and beam merrily away, the combined light source giving immense joy to both.
We speak of others as being ‘warm‘ or ‘cold‘, don’t we? We notice when someone ‘s inner atmosphere is ‘chilling’ or ‘dark‘ – and, sometimes without being aware, we back off, keep clear, go elsewhere.
My feeling is, and has long been, that we can read another’s inner temperature very accurately – and that a feeling of unease around certain people is often attributable to a broken bulb, metaphorically speaking, or a fire which has dwindled to bitter embers.
I think we have to accept that there are people who are fire-extinguishers, who pour smothering foam on our inner fires, who put us out whenever they see the flames or smell the smoke.
I think we have to accept that there are people who live in darkness and turn our lights off whenever they can; who replace our bright voltage with a much lower one, for reasons of economy or resentment or shame; who would unplug us from the Mains if they possibly could and accuse us of being profligate because we shine.
The act of repressing, and denying, our own light, and that of others, is one of life’s tragedies, and greatest wastes, in my book.
Life is short. Love is precious. Light is worth more than a King’s ransom.
Let us love with radiance and utter spontaneity. Let the fires of our sexual desires burn intense and colourful. Let us celebrate the light we see shining in others. And let us live in the full brightness of our own precious filaments.
The Hallowquest lesson for this week has centred around the Wounded King:
I will not lie: It has been a profoundly painful and disturbing week – not just for me, but for people I know and love. The wounded energies have been tempestuous. The lessons to be learned, and truths to face up to, have felt, at times, like too much of a burden. I have been tempted to give up the quest.
My heart goes out to all those caught in maelstroms far worse than mine; I feel their grief, despair and bewilderment acutely.
Peeling the scabs off my own wounds and letting the blood flow unchecked has been terrifying. The instinct to stop the haemorrhage with thick bandage, sutures or tightly-applied plaster is almost overwhelming, isn’t it? As a race, we dread – for obvious reasons – the slightest hint that exsanguination might occur, and this is as true emotionally as ever it was physically.
Blood loss is frightening. Feeling pain fully is dreadful. Sometimes, however, both are necessary.
Last night was particularly harrowing. The meditation contained within Lesson 35, though deceptively straightforward, was one of the most challenging I have ever encountered – and, during it, the face of the Wounded King changed into that of a person I really did not want to encounter in that setting. ‘Confronting‘ does not begin to describe it – but, since my First Degree Initiation, back in January 2012, such withholds in my life have forced their way in to be dealt with over and over again.
The bitter herbs I needed to consume at that point were hard to swallow and excruciating to digest.
On the Higher Self level, I knew full well that this was all necessary; on the purely human, Ali, level, I dove straight for the bottle – just felt that I needed to put some distance between myself and sobriety.
Two large glasses of red wine later, I was weeping inconsolably and listening, over and over again, to the Chieftains‘ version of ‘Brian Boru’s March’:
Condemning myself for weakness and self-pity, I was at that stage of drunken misery where a scream was rising to the surface. Not, I have to say, my finest hour!
In the darkness of that time, two friends texted me. These are kind, supportive people who are well-aware of the various strands dominating my life at present – and who have been there for me throughout.
Their gist, expressed overtly by one and implied by the other, formed the title of this piece.
I know that one cannot appreciate the Light without also being cognizant, if not always appreciative, of the Darkness – but I will confess that I DO fall into negativity rather more freely than is desirable. In tending towards the Glass Half Empty way of thinking, I hold myself back from seeing how wonderful it is to hold a half full glass of anything!
I can be, as I have said before, my own worst enemy.
Going back to my Edna, the Inebriate Woman moment (or several), I found myself in a very familiar state of mind: Furiously angry with myself for being so bloody pathetic; beating myself up, in effect, for –
And here I pause, as I did in reality.
‘Why the hell are you so angry with yourself, Ali?’ I asked myself. ‘And why, equally to the point, are you EXPECTING condemnation from others?’
‘Because,’ I said, to myself (yes, I know there is a name for this kind of thing! ) ‘I am supposed to be jolly and cheerful and happy and not a miserable heap of weeping rat-arsed womanhood, that’s why…’
And it hit me then: I was raging at myself FOR BEING UNHAPPY.
By no means for the first time.
And I was expecting some form of punishment for this heinous crime.
I had to ask myself another question – being, by now, at that stage of pie-eyed-ness where worries about possible multiple personalities had been swallowed along with the bottle of Katy Cider which followed the red wine – and here it is:
‘Do I feel angry when others are unhappy?’
No, of course I don’t.
Only when I am.
My instinct is always to protect and comfort, hug and soothe those in distress.
It’s almost as if I feel I don’t deserve love and care and kindness.
There are GOOD THINGS aplenty: Lovely friends, on here and at home, who text and email me; who phone me and share things with me; who make me laugh, let me cry and remind me that I DO matter; delightful relatives with whom I share the bond of blood and many years of familial humour, and sadness; a beautiful, diverse world out there, and my favourite season unfolding in all its colourful melancholy; Ghost Weed and all the music and laughter and convivial sharing of red wine and Hungarian Chocolate Biscuits; my beloved son, currently in Foreign Parts on a History A’level-related trip, and a leader-of-men-to-be; the fun I have performing in the local Drama Club, and the great people I have met through so-doing; my writing and the pleasure it gives me; ritual magic and all the amazing weekends I have been on with both SOL and Silent Eye.
I am, I know, blessed – and wealthy in ways far more profound than the strictly material.
My sense of humour is one of the good things, as is my Bullshit Detector – as, of course, is my bawdiness and general vulgarity.
I am NOT unhappy all the time (which IS a good thing) – and, if I can forgive myself for my negative emotions, I think such low moments will pass far more speedily.
If I can say, ‘Hey, Ali, you never promised anyone a rose garden – and this mood is HUMAN!’ the load is likely to be lightened without recourse to my own weight in alcoholic beverages.
It has been a fucktonnery of a week – but, as intimated earlier, Sorrow’s Springs are indiscriminate and there are many who have been hit far more severely by the Wounded King energies than I.
Sometimes it is very difficult to see the roses growing underneath the dung – but it is always worth listening to those kind souls who insist that they are there.
This question is asked by those who find it incomprehensible that anyone, anywhere, should be unable to do so.
It is a fair question – but, in cases of chronic abuse, it can be less than helpful, because those who live in normal relationships do not fully understand the toxic dynamic of the abnormal.
In order to stand up to anyone, we need to know two vital things: one, that we have RIGHTS and two, that the person we are facing shares our sense of what is acceptable.
Bullies target both of these, don’t they?
They persuade us that we have no rights, other than those they are magnanimous enough to confer upon us – and they are so deeply immured in turning the unacceptable into the every day, in using witness statements from allies real and imaginary to prove their point and in winning at all cost that actually standing up to these people is all but impossible.
Now, in what I would call a normal argument, things can get incredibly heated – and a degree of stubbornness and denial is to be expected on both sides. No one particularly relishes criticism, and it is natural to try and fight back, to rebut the accusation, to blame the other – but most people, beneath the defence-inspired belligerence, DO know, deep down, that they have crossed the line from the acceptable to the unacceptable.
Certain categories of bully do NOT. Their view tends to be very simple: If they did it, it is acceptable, even laudable; if another did it, the whole thing becomes a crime.
The whole thing devolves into a nightmare of shifting reality, of a denial so absolute that the victim often emerges wondering whether he or she is going insane.
When someone is attempting to stand his/her ground, what, in effect, he/she is saying is this:
‘There is a line – and you have crossed it.’
Intransigent bullies counter this with, ‘You are imagining the line,’ or, ‘I’ve asked all my friends and they would have crossed it at exactly the point I did…and it’s your fault for that enormous ravine you crossed yesterday, and anyway lines don’t exist.’
If you persist with your, in the bully’s eyes, heinous accusations, your own sanity is called into question – because, from the bully’s point of view, only a mad person could possibly object to perfectly reasonable behaviour.
Very often, there is an underlying assumption (based upon years of brainwashing) that you are too flawed to deserve any rights of your own – and each attempt at asserting yourself is filed away as yet more evidence of your imperfections and deep-seated psychological problems.
The cleverest bullies use such a tangled combination of threat and emotional blackmail that you do not know whether you are coming or going. They WILL target your friends and family as part of the argument; they WILL use things you have told them in confidence to frighten you, and they are more than capable of bringing on floods of tears, or even threatening suicide, in order to bring YOU back into line.
It is not possible to stand up to such people because their value systems are so very different to yours – and because, bottom line here, your feelings do not matter to them; they simply do not care.
Very often, you lose all sense of what it was you were standing up to them about in the first place: Your ‘complaint’ is trivialised and twisted to such an extent that you frequently come away convinced that the whole thing was simply you being aggressive and attacking them for some utterly trivial, probably imagined, incident.
The true crime becomes your criticism rather than the behaviour which inspired your failed attempt at asserting yourself.
Arguments with these people can, and frequently DO, go on for hours, even days.
Resolution is almost impossible because, lacking any true empathy, bullies are completely unable to see any validity in your emotional experience – and the notion that they may have contributed to your distress is totally beyond them.
Bullies are very often PhD-level projectors and manipulators. Imbued with an inviolable sense of entitlement and superiority, they are unable to see that anyone else’s feelings need to be taken into account. Because they see others as inhuman and inferior, they cannot equate the kick (whether physical or emotional) they deliver to an underling with the pain they might feel if someone hurt them.
For this reason, asking a dyed-in-the-wool bully, ‘How would you feel if someone did that to you?’ does not work. They cannot extrapolate the needs and emotions of others from their own experiences.
Unfortunately, your inability to stand up for yourself opens doors – huge doors which can NEVER be closed again, and which let in all the Furies.
Unfortunately, your tacit consent means more of the same.
During my years as a teacher, children often used to confide in me – and, on occasions, this involved my hearing harrowing tales of abuse. Often, the child would have been suffering for YEARS, too afraid to come forward and ask for it to stop.
So, why the reluctance to share and be helped?
Why don’t such people just get out immediately?
This is the key question friends and family ask in such a situation, isn’t it?
Often with the unspoken rider, ‘I wouldn’t have put up with that!’
Is it fear? Passivity? Co-dependence?
Yes, without a doubt, all of these come into play at some point.
Trouble is, abuse of any kind breeds more of the same.
I am taking two strands of a highly complex psychological tapestry today – and will, I hope, make those who think, ‘I wouldn’t let him/her treat me like that!’ pause for thought.
Whatever the nature of the abuse, two dominant factors can be traced: The need to punish, and the need to work upon the mind of the abused – and it is these two put together which make it so very difficult to escape, even when one does finally become aware that abuse is part of the relationship package.
To put it bluntly, the ABNORMAL becomes NORMALISED. Through careful tweaking of the mind, unacceptable behaviour is seen as not just acceptable, but actually DESERVED. This means that, after a while, minor examples of poor behaviour barely register – which, of course, allows the abuser to up his or her game.
Outsiders rarely see what is going on behind closed doors – because who wants witnesses if playing such destructive games? But also because many bullies see themselves as basically pretty amazing people – who happen to be saddled with a highly difficult husband/wife/mother/child whose need for correction is obvious, and should be applauded.
After a very short while, ‘I deserved that. I provoked the situation,’ becomes the internal dialogue’s norm – and, even more worryingly, a kind of emotional deadness takes over, an inability to see what has just happened.
Of course, the flatness around feelings takes an enormous, and destructive, toll. Many abused people suffer from some form of psychosomatic illness – and may spend literally years in and out of surgeries and hospitals, trying desperately to get a physical diagnosis for something which essentially originates from severe stress.
Others, dimly sensing the truth but not wanting to face it, may spend hours, years and hundreds of thousands of pounds lying upon therapists’ couches – and wondering, at some level, why they never seem to get any better.
The tragic thing about all of this is that, with Normality and Abnormality so confused, with that which is unacceptable so blurred, victims of abuse tend to assume that all relationships are like theirs, and that they are simply bad, or mad, in some unspecified way, to feel this constant fear and unease. Many simply assume that THEY are at fault because ALL parents slap from time to time, don’t they? So why make such a fuss? ALL spouses ignore their husbands/wives for a day or two sometimes, don’t they? This is normal marital behaviour. Why make such a mountain out of a molehill? And, in the case of physical violence, OF COURSE you are going to get kicked or hit if you deliberately wind another person up. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
‘I wouldn’t stand for that even once!’ others say.
No, you wouldn’t – because YOU can distinguish clearly between NORMAL and ABNORMAL behaviour. Lucky you. You can see that line in the sand with utter clarity, and will not allow even a toe to wander over into unacceptable territory.
For the abused, the mind games, the gradual attrition of sense, is so subtle that they do not even realise what is going on until it is too late.
‘That seems like a reasonable request,’ they think, often when asked to do something others would see as totally outrageous, and they agree – thus opening the door to all manner of accelerating nasties.
It IS informed consent – and it ISN’T.
There is, of course, the right to say ‘NO!’ – but, very often, that right becomes, in effect, an illusion, because the persuasion used is so intense that to disagree becomes almost the cruellest thing one could do…and a punishable offence.
In a punitive relationship – and abusive ones are, by their very nature, structured on punishment – no physical contact is actually needed, and this, I think, is something some people find confusing.
‘Why are you so afraid? She hasn’t ever actually hurt you!’ tends to be a very common response.
But punishment does not need a foot crashing into a tender belly, a huge hand round a slender neck in mock death, a fist crunching into fragile lips; the threat to withdraw love, attention and warmth can be every bit as effective. Two days of being sent to Coventry can bring someone to their knees (or senses, as the abuser would, undoubtedly, see it) just as quickly and traumatically.
It is all about power and control, you see – and the annexing of the other’s mind is just as important as any hold over the body.
So, back to the question posed in the title: Why stay in an abusive relationship?
Often because the abused knows nothing else, or can no longer recognise the most flagrant examples of abuse – or is so terrified of the abuser that remaining in Hell is preferable to digging a hole and escaping. Or has been told so many times that he/she deserves this treatment that this has become hard-wired into the brain.
Sometimes, sadly, fear of rejection and replacement or abandonment is so acute that the abused would rather stay in a dysfunctional relationship than take the awful risk of being unloved – because, for many insecure people, the post-nastiness sweetness is the closest to love he/she has ever experienced.
I think that, as a society, we do tend to condemn those who stay in violent or emotionally abusive relationships, don’t we? We tend to assume that WE would do better, would put a stop to it, if WE were in their shoes. We often see the decision to remain, year after year, as a sign of weakness, of a fundamental flaw in the victim’s personality. We almost side with the abuser’s view that the victim deserves everything he/she gets.
But perhaps most worryingly, we tend to use the yardstick of a normal relationship to judge the halting confidences of the abused – and, in telling them, ‘Oh, my wife does that too: It’s what women do…’ unwittingly send them right back into the Hell they dimly perceive but are unable to escape.
The worst case of abuse I encountered as a teacher involved a girl who had been told FOR YEARS that she was making a fuss about nothing, and probably making it up in the first place, when she tried to explain that a male relative was touching her inappropriately – and worse.
She DID escape in the end, though I fear that the scars in her mind may never heal completely.
Many – children and adults alike – never get free.
So, what can we do?
LISTEN. Listen to what the abused is trying to say, without interposing our own judgements, our own prejudices and sense of our own superior strength into the mix – and have the humility to recognise that, if we were in the victim’s shoes, we probably wouldn’t find it any easier to leave than they do.
Ali’s imagined Nessie look!
Now, then, let me canvass opinion and ask advice…
I have been chosen to play the villain in the village pantomime this year. No acting required, as you can probably imagine!
This particular baddie is a sea serpent (of the lethally seductive variety – type-cast again!) named Nessie who, when not trying to get her slithy scales round Neptune, is causing mayhem and merry hell to all landlubberish creatures.
Without giving too much away, our director wants me to look all wild and Pre-Raphaelite in the hair department – and this is where Ali’s dilemma comes in.
I want waist-length tresses! I want ‘em orange and curly and full of attitude! I want them NOW!
The good news is that I am a tad Pre-Raphaelite in looks anyway, and I do have my very own mare’s nest of orange hair…
But it does not reach my waist. Nowhere near.
I want a cloak of the stuff. I want to be able to twirl in a mystic and menacing circle and have lengthy red strands flying out all around me.
Damnit, I want to be able to hide in the foliage, pitch a small tent in its follicular abundance…
I asked about hair-extensions and there are two serious drawbacks:
One, they cost an arm and a leg, and there is NO WAY I am spending that sort of dosh for a panto!
Two, they take hours – if not days – to weave into the existing barnet. How effing tedious!
So, I nipped online and found a bewildering array of wiggy-type things in all kinds of shades – and, frankly, made of some truly peculiar materials.
Human hair, it says – and I find myself just hoping that willing donation is at the heart of this very lucrative little business rather than Burke and Hare (HA!) type of entrepreneurial activity.
Call me squeamish, but I have no intention of appearing on stage with something which once belonged to a stiff perched atop my bonce.
We Panto Nasties have our standards, you know!
Halo hair pieces do look promising, however, and I am sorely tempted by the apparent ease with which one applies the things – and by how gloriously natural and abundant the finished product looks…
The models were…models.
You know what I mean?
Young, slim, beautiful, shiny of hair and unwrinkled of visage.
It looks, if I may be so bold, too good to be true.
It also looks as if even I could manage to slip my orangeness into a few yards of supplementary dome coverage.
Let me show you a picture of my fantasy look:
Have a gander at this clip from YouTube and see what you think!
If you have ever wondered about this, you are NOT alone; believe you me, so have I – countless times.
Many mornings, I wake in profound terror – and part of it is the very real fear that I am deluding myself, that all the posts about NPD and Borderline Personalities, are, in fact, unwitting self-descriptions. In my darkest moments, I accuse myself of trying to manipulate the reading public by pretending to be something I am not, and failing to face up to my own intractably ghastly nature.
I know, for I have read it many times, that Narcissism per se is both healthy and necessary to our growing psyches, that we all need to have some degree of this quality – whether you call it self-regard, or vanity, or strong sense of self. It is, after all, not a good sign if you look in mirrors literal and metaphorical and can see only a stunted and hideous homunculus, of unedifying appearance and no true worth.
But, having read up on NPD, I can see a huge divide between that and ‘normal’ Narcissism – and, of course, the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that I have got it, in spades!
You see, I could so easily be moaning and bleating, whingeing and sobbing on here just to get the endless sympathy vote (and have actually been accused of this by more than one person!) so that my true nature remains hidden, and I can carry on doing my Machiavellian deeds with little regard for anyone else.
It could so easily be that I am apeing the language of compassion, love, empathy and care – and that, underneath, I am composed of calcified stone and wouldn’t know a soft and warm emotion if I had just eaten it.
It could be that I am totally unable to feel love, but that I am a consummate actor and chameleon, able to twist my rhetoric, my imagination, to make myself look fabulous and everyone else demonesque.
As a teenager, I wanted desperately to be a doctor, and have long been fascinated by things of a medical and surgical nature. I won’t go into the gruesome details because some of you might be eating breakfast. Suffice it to say that I am both absorbed, and repelled, by the graphic and the unwholesome.
Limited skills on the Science O’level front soon put a stop to my GP dreams – but, for a few years thereafter, I longed to be a Psychologist or Psychiatrist, having always been very interested in the state of the mind, how minds work and why some people develop abnormal personalities.
But then this, too, could just be a ruse – the way some murderers cannot resist turning up at the funerals of those they have slaughtered. I am sure you can see the analogy only too clearly.
The other part of this is the well-known old saw about humans disliking in others that which is most prominent in themselves. A worry, I am sure you will agree.
Passive-Aggression, about which I wrote a couple of days ago (and which I freely admit I possess, possibly to A* standard), can be a part of the whole NPD profile, as can using the intellect to confound, confuse and persuade others that THEY are damaged and YOU are not.
Now, it may well be that some at least of my readers are ahead of me on this one, have been wondering the same and thinking, with a certain degree of peevish chafe, ‘Why the hell can’t the bloody woman see that she is writing about her own infirmities?’
‘What a selfish bitch!’ might, for all I know, be the very least of it…
And my authentic voice? It could just as well be a product of the inflated reflection all true Narcissists need so desperately; it could simply be the way I want you to see me because, at some level, I am so ashamed of the blackened lump of nastiness I really am.
The really frightening part of all this is that I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER. I fear that I am lying to you all in some way – but I am not sure.
I do not know whether I am a genuine person or a highly-skilled pretender in the Art of Humanity.
And that is pretty terrifying.
Pillar to post, she runs, and back again, breath misting in the long line of warped mirrors, hair streaming out behind her. Clawed with self-hatred and intense fear, yet unable to swivel her head owl-like and see from all directions, she hides in dusty corners, peeks out, her heart a give-away rhythm section in the Orchestra of Fight and Flight.
Doors close, a constant ominous clatter of wood against poorly-fitting socket, and footsteps taunt, hovering just outside her safe space. Harsh breathing harrows, and faint sneering chuckles cause a pool of anxiety to form in her mind’s deepest cave.
Clutching both hands to her temples, she cries out.
The susurration of dust is her only answer; the slow slanting of liquidy-gold sunrise through rotting blinds is her only sign.
Her feet, tiny and tender in the sun-combed carpet of motes, speak their own tale of fear, as little steps stretch back to the door and beyond, toes pressing down lest the whole clonk of heel be heard in the Kingdom of Menace.
Her name escaped her many hours ago, fleeing the scene as if guilty of mass murder, taking to the hills of normality – and answering only to the line of silky rose light which signals a setting, though whether of a day’s sun or a scene, she can no longer remember.
She does not weep any longer. Crying is a luxury she cannot afford. Its cost is too high; its payback too severe.
Words nudge, like the warm soft snouts of woodland animals, from time to time – and she derives comfort from their proximity even though she cannot stop to stroke their fine fur, or cuddle them or be licked by the rough affection of word-mammalian tongue.
The castle she inhabits, with its drawbridge of stretched pink flesh – which should be bouncy and malleable, but isn’t – and port-cullis wrought from the bones of slaughtered knights, defies all logic and time. It shifts between the centuries with a terrifying nonchalance and its ever-changing chambers belong in the Grimms’ forest of mythological nightmare.
Pillar becomes tangled bush and towering, face-gnarled, tree; post segues into brackish lake crammed with bloated decomposition so advanced no species can be identified.
Door becomes window, bowing outwards at an impossible angle before ricocheting backwards, showering her with shining fragments of glass and baby teeth.
The howls in the hallways turn into a seismic tremble rocking the whole edifice, bringing chunks of masonry crashing down into the sluggish blood-filled moat.
Words are beautiful things, aren’t they?
They can appear ephemeral: We hold them gently in our hands for a short time, Mayfly hovering over the Lake of Ideas, hoping to catch the mating urge for a poem, or play, prose or polemic. And then? And then they are gone, gobbled up by vast trout or whizzing and whirling into Death’s great spiral.
Bur beauty can be painful and dangerous too, can it not? Words, so sweet and fine, so gossamer-thin and sensitive, can yet be used with the weight of bricks and baseball bats to stove in a skull, to kick lasting damage to the gut of the soul, to leave another in emotional tatters.
It is a miracle both cruel and kind, grim and wondrous; it is what we are – a marvellous and terrible mix of discordant parts.
The human race has, by some fabulous trick of the Collective Imagination, chiselled letters, or hieroglyphs, out of the ancient sand of embryonic civilisations – and with this finite number of forms, has spun gold out of…NOTHING!
Except, perhaps, the inbuilt need to name, to know, to communicate life’s mysteries in a form which outlasts our own butterfly existence.
How DID we do it? Why did we make the choices we did? Why, for example, were A, E, I, O, U chosen as general fillers in the great B&Q of language, able to cement all consonants into place and fill the broken walls of sound, able to oil the wheels of words large and small? How on earth did we create the combinations of letters which gave rise to onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance?
And how is it, dear fellow writers, that, with this wealth of talent at our finger-tips, so many people in our world still bludgeon others to metaphorical death with the maces and clubs of hatred and vile rhetoric?
How is it that those shapes traced so uncertainly in the long-ago deserts of Egypt, or scratched upon stone in caves, are given the status of weapons – and used to humiliate, bully and tempt?
And how is it that we can ascend to the heights of ecstasy with exquisite poetry and finest filigree of transcendent prose?
Is this not truly amazing? A testament to something of light and divinity in the human spirit?
Twenty-six letters we have in the English alphabet. Millions of words puff up from the dust and become manifest in almost-solid reality. We feel as if we own them; because we can write them down, it almost seems as if we can touch them, caress them, bite, bark at or brutalise them – bend them to our will.
But do they, in fact, lead US in the dance?
Do they, in their sultry gorgeousness, seduce us into using them to serve the Greater Powers, good and bad?
Are they our tools?
Or are we theirs?
How strange! How nostalgia-inducing! How…bonding!
Let me explain…
Si has just started his A’levels – forty years after I started mine.
Last night, we were talking about writing essays. He’s not overly keen, bless him, although he has natural flair and ability as a writer. I was telling him that, although I always loved the actual writing process, my lack of confidence often used to get in the way – and I can remember many a time, in my Llancynfelyn days, when struggling with an essay draft would end with me screaming, throwing tea at the orange-painted walls and crying to Boyf, ‘I can’t DO this…’
A sudden memory made me delve into my chest-of-drawers, and there I found four A4 envelopes, each one with ‘Essays’ written upon it.
Sitting next to Si on the sofa in my Study, I opened each one and took out the ancient contents.
Golly! Talk about a journey into the past!
I must, at some point, have chucked all my A’level English and History essays away (a shame, because one of Si’s subjects is History) – but I found most of my university work, both for my BA in English Literature and the PCGE I did in English and History.
I also discovered that I had kept all my Finals exam papers, several notes written to me by Professors Desmond Slay and Maldwyn Mills – and, most incongruous of all, the medical card I had when I was at Aberystwyth! Most odd, that last one…
In those days (imagine feeble old crone voice here), we studied three subjects in the first year, and then narrowed it down for the second and third years.
In those October days in 1976, the eighteen year old me opted for English Literature, Philosophy and Welsh. Like you do!
I loved the sound of the Welsh language, and my tutor, Teddy Milward, was a delightful man – but I had no ability with languages at all, unfortunately, and gave Welsh up after a term, taking Classical Studies instead.
That was great fun! I’d always adored the Ancient Greeks and Romans and all that wonderfully evocative and mythical stuff: Give me a Pantheon and a damn good myth and I’m anybody’s, as you might say!
I can vividly recall some of the more eccentric lecturers I came across – including one who was rumoured to be well past Barking and heading speedily in a Dagenham direction, and who, on one occasion, strode into the Lecture Theatre (in the Old College, high up and overlooking the sea), looked at us, said, in lugubrious tones, ‘The Romans…they were very rude!’ and then buggered off, never to be seen again!
Back to my academic juvenilia: I found a Philosophy essay which Si read – in growing disbelief and barely-controlled mirth. See, I was always, by inclination, a creative writer – and although I loved the ideas in Philosophy (and something about Logic appealed to me), I was, I’d be the first to admit, not entirely abreast and thought that wittering on would, in some way, hide the fact that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about!
It didn’t of course – and the acerbic comments at the end of this masterpiece of inconsequentiality were bang on. Which is more than could be said about the essay itself, which went so far round the houses that I was out in the countryside by the end!
We looked at Poetry essays, Middle English Romances ones; we gazed at an interminable piece I once wrote on ‘Sir Gawain and The Green Knight’, and an even longer one on ‘The Dream of The Rood'; we sniggered at my History essays for the PGCE course, and feasted upon the Oxford-themed worksheet I created for third years (now called year nines) at school.
Si wanted to know if I ever actually TAUGHT History – and the answer is, ‘Yes!‘
During my first Teaching Practice, at the end of 1980, I was sent to Bryn Mawr Comprehensive, in the Welsh Valleys – and there I taught a fourth year class all about the Suffragette Movement!
This was, actually, a highlight of the experience – since, with most of my English classes, I spent the vast majority of each lesson trying to keep the buggers in the classroom and stop an egregious little sod called Gilda (don’t ask!) from dismantling the window and escaping that way!
Once I got a REAL JOB, I dropped the History – and, for the next thirty years, taught mainly English – with occasional forays into Drama.
Ah! But I have left the most astonishing find till last. This one made me well up, let me tell you.
It was a typed play-script, an adaptation of the Death of Socrates – and it brought back immediate, and vivid, memories…
Spring 1977, it would have been, and my father, who was Head of History (and Deputy Head of Sixth Form) at the Cherwell School in Oxford, had been asked to do a drama-based assembly.
Fired by missionary zeal for the Classics – and having once directed a most successful performance of The Bacchae, at his first school, a Secondary Modern in Wallingford – he opted for Socrates, and asked me to write the thing as a play.
I had to read the original first, of course, and get my brain round the philosophical ideas contained within (which, I hasten to add, nearly did my head in!), before I set pen to paper…
…but such glorious memories of sitting in my bedroom at home, pad of paper on my lap, pen in hand and looking out of the window at the beautiful Spring colours as I ‘translated’ Socrates into modern English.
I can even recall what I wore for much of this – my green Laura Ashely maxi dress, blue and white neckerchief and a black jacket! I have a photo of me, and the rest of the tribe, taken in Magdalen College gardens, wearing precisely that combination!
It was truly lovely to be able to share all of this with my lad, to give him a taste of what Mummy was like when she was nineteen – and to reassure him about the trials and tribulations of essay-writing.
My father was thrilled with the play, by the way, and it went down a storm in the assembly, apparently.
‘This was written by my daughter, Alienora,’ he said.
Lovely for Si to get this extra information about his beloved Grandpa, too: He adored my father and they used to talk Army and Navy together. Dad died when Si was nine, but he still remembers him very clearly.
A healing evening all round…
For too many years, the classroom that is my life has been chaotic, ruled by badly-behaved children, spiteful colleagues and manipulative Head Teachers – so that those who came into my world with love, good will, and a desire to learn, were being drowned out by the attention-seeking ploys of the lesson-avoiders.
Because I have NEVER asked for that crucial word ‘respect‘ to be appended to the contracts signed between me and other human beings.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Not once have I exerted myself to impose discipline upon those who seek to disrupt the orderly progression of my ‘lessons’.
Not once have I used punitive means to train the unruly, the cruel, the thoughtless and the taunting.
I set no boundaries. I excuse temper tantrums, neglect, being let down, even abused on the grounds that I DESERVE it, and that others are more valuable and important than I; that their right to express themselves, no matter how destructively, is more important than the life lessons I am trying to both teach and learn for myself.
I forgive when a slap round the face/a stern word would have been more appropriate!
I apologise when others are nasty to me – because, you know, I must have provoked the response by something I said or did, right?
If others cannot control their Dark side, that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.
For decades, I have thought, ‘If I impose some kind of control, exert discipline, people will stop liking me…’
Yesterday, this turned right round in my head:
‘I need to set boundaries, have the classroom that is my life the way I want it. People who are offended by this are not worth bothering with.’
To put it another way, if you only like teachers who allow you to do whatever you want, you are not welcome in my classroom.
For too long I have allowed others to wipe the shit of their own lack of self-control onto the carpet of my soul; I have allowed others to treat me without even an iota of respect; I have allowed others to pat me on the head as if I were a cute puppy and then, once Christmas is over and I am no longer sweet, to dump me on the M.25 of life.
On Friday, when I emerged, a naked Venus, from the sea of rebirth, laughing and singing in my magnificence and canting delightedly on the pearlescent shell, I saw the world through my own intrinsic value. I saw that I was beautiful and precious; I saw that people are blessed in my presence – and that I bring Light.
And, as I stood in the shallows, arms outstretched in Goddess mode, salt water dripping down my body, I drew a line in the sand. It was a line formed with firm love – and over it I said these words:
‘Loved ones, this is my Kingdom, and you may not cross this line in my sand without asking first. It is called Respect and I have allowed it to fade away from lack of use…’
Skulking Narcissists kicked sand over the line, blurring its contours and then said, ‘What line? I don’t see a line here. Prove it to me…’
Smiling, I dug my toe in and redrew the divide, deeper than ever before.
‘Next time, ‘ I said, ‘it will be a trench, deep as the deepest ocean, with water filling it and sea creatures going about their business. Now, be warned…’
Charming smiles, and practised seduction techniques, met me full beam.
‘Ah, you know you don’t mean it. You know you’ll let me in eventually. Let’s hurry the process along, shall we?’
The magic of my feet provided the answer as sand caved in and the beach was bisected by a vast gully, a mini ocean, a foaming expanse of greeny-turquoise.
‘No,’ I said. ‘If you had asked, with love and respect, I would have sent you a boat, built a bridge, given you my hand – but you did not. You approached me with arrogance and Narcissistic expectation that I would meet YOUR needs immediately – and therein lies your isolation from all that I am.’
The charm became sourness; the smiles blew a gale of vicious fury; the Greek God looks coarsened into a life time’s diet of hatred. The feet were stamped, and crocodile tears poured down the rage-ravaged cheeks.
‘BEGONE!’ my voice boomed, a giant echo through miles of water. ‘There is no line that you will not attempt to cross. There is no territory that you will not attempt to invade. You have no respect for my Sovereignty, and, therefore, I banish you from all my demesnes.’
I ruled the Kingdom of my classroom with firm kindness, for the benefit of both the motivated and the disaffected.
I shall now rule the underwater realms of my life in the same manner.
It is called respect, and it starts NOW.
So mote it be.
What do you love?
Oh, world, how can I answer that question when heartbroken tears stream down my face?
Don’t you understand?
The what is irrelevant in this life.
It is the who that really matters where love is concerned.
All the rest is just window-dressing.
All the rest does is to give other people signposts to the country of an individual’s personality.
I love my son, my siblings, my parents and other relatives. My siblings are wounded and vulnerable; one of them is very sick – and, even though I am the oldest, and the Mother figure in some ways, I cannot patch up their wounds or protect them from the latest devastating arrows fate’s unseeing bow has seen fit to loose upon the family.
My boy I loved as soon as I knew he had arrived in my womb. It didn’t matter to me what gender he was, what he looked like, what his interests and abilities were.
Because I was thirty-nine when I became pregnant, several people suggested that I should have the invasive tests for Downs Syndrome.
I could never have aborted my own child, and would have loved him anyway, no matter what state he was born in.
I love him with fierce and protective heat, always have. He was the gift to my middle years – and, in my view, gifts should be accepted with joy, wonder and gratitude.
My friends I love too. Love, to me, is active. It is not just a feeling; it is an engagement with another human being; it is a commitment, willingly undertaken.
Love, for me, means feeling the sorrows of others, rejoicing in their happiness, holding their hands when they are faint and rocking, providing a shoulder to cry upon and an arm to hug when the going gets rough. It means opening my heart and giving what I can of myself. It means letting my light be seen. It means walking that mile in someone else’s shoes. It means laughing uproariously with that person at a hilarious television programme, a funny play, a humorous life event. It means having a handkerchief – both literally and metaphorically – ready to pass to the other during life’s funerals, separations and devastations.
Love is a Grail. It has magical properties, as all true grails should, and never empties, no matter how thirsty the recipient becomes. Love does not hold back that chalice of comfort; love does not play mind games and refuse to comfort the weeping out of fury; love does not lie and say that the glass is empty. Love knows that the very action of holding that drinking vessel to another’s lips ensures a limitless supply of the nectarous liquid within.
Love understands that it cannot be used with the expectation of getting something back: That it has to be poured out generously without any conditions.
Love both asks, and answers, the Grail Question:
Whom does the Grail serve?
It serves ALL.
Of course it does. You cannot limit love, or trammel it up, or dam its fast-flowing streams. If you do, the land cracks and dies; the beasts starve – and the Wounded King, crying out on his bier in a forest clearing, bleeds ever-faster upon the grass.
You can dissect my physical possessions and loves when I am dead, if you wish.
But, given the choice, I would far rather be known for the quality of the love I gave others, for my loving heart, than any number of psychologically telling pointers towards my inner self.
If, when the world darkens for the last time, I feel that I have held the Grail out to those I love in warmth and peace and healing, then can I depart the shores of life in the barque of contentment.
The images shown are two of the cards from the Arthurian Tarot Deck I have worked with since 1993. They are the Grail Queen (Queen of Cups, in more traditional decks) and The Wounded King (Hanged Man).
Michael Gove, the Government’s answer to Toad of Toad Hall, has been eased out then, has he? Given the Order of the Boot, told by El Cameron that he really IS the Weakest Link (though with stiff competition, I have to add) and relegated to Chief Weasel (er, I mean WHIP) status.
Poor old Gove.
Like dear vain and puffed-up Toady, Govey was forever tinkering with educational ‘vehicles’ and ‘abodes’ – and was, when you think about it, the agent of his own destruction.
What with the canary-coloured academies (Poop, poop!);testing foetuses in English, Maths and Science; forcing all lower order animals (ie teachers) to plan their lessons five lifetimes in advance; firing Ofsted and bringing in the Spanish Inquisition (at great expense); burning anyone who dared to get less than ten A* to C grades at the stake – and generally making education such a soulless, stressful and mechanical exercise that Head Teachers queued up on Beachy Head, and the rank and file formed tribes, a la ‘Lord of the Flies’ and went feral around the playing fields.
This was clearly not a man (or toad) who knew his arse from an educational establishment. His never-ending stream of initiatives (translation: cretinous ideas which no one in his right mind would give house room to); his excruciating ‘conversations’ with educationalists nationwide; his complete want of understanding or sensitivity; his farcical decisions – all these surely mark him down as a more than worthy successor to Kenneth ‘Matthew Hopkins’ Baker (the Witch Finder General of education) and the other prize muffins, maniacs and morons who have trailed in his egregious wake.
Honestly, isn’t it reassuring to know that our children’s educational future lies in the hands of these nincompoops?
I went back to the school I taught at for so long today – and could see, only too clearly, the Brand of Gove upon the faces of my ex-colleagues. Terrifying.
No profession should be subjected to this kind of stress. It is inhuman and inhumane. It benefits NO ONE (except, of course, the politicians who make their names, and their fortunes, dictating crass and thoughtless rules and regulations to a body of people who used to teach with love, passion and inspiration); it is a bloody sad indictment of something rotten in our society – and, ultimately, it will backfire badly.
So, Gove’s gone.
But he will be replaced.
Can’t be any worse than ‘Toady’ Gove, eh?!
Ghost Weed, the band I play fiddle in, celebrated its first anniversary last Wednesday – and I made the above cake for the occasion.
The actual cake base was multi-coloured, and I shared its colourful gorgeousness with those members of the band who were in the country at the time: Mark (our flute player and lead vocalist, who took the above photos) and Neil (our guitarist and up-and-coming support vocalist).
I would like, eventually, to publish a longer post – about Ghost Weed generally and the anniversary specifically – but am struggling to write at the moment, things having gone down-hill in recent days.
That photo, however, will always remind me of happiness, laughter, sharing good times with friends and the power of music – and cake! – in our lives.
My previous post (published this morning, for those who haven’t seen it) features a recording of me playing a Scottish Chanter’s tune on the descant recorder.
Music is, and always has been, my greatest source of procrastination. When I was a teacher, I used to avoid marking – often for hours – whilst I played favourite tracks.
I will also put off expressions of emotion until cathartic music is available.
Even writing (my great passion) sometimes has to wait a few hours whilst I immerse myself in the healing forgetfulness of sound.
There is an awful lot in my life at present which I wish I could put off for an indefinite length of time – but, knowing this is impossible, I choose to soften the blow with music.
The recording below (which took two hours this morning) was classic music-based procrastination…
My playing of it expressed in sound that which I struggle to say in words.
This morning, Si got me onto Soundcloud and very kindly recorded me playing this lovely piece on my descant recorder.
I have never seen the sheet music for this, if such a thing exists (and it may not) – and am, therefore, playing it by ear.
Music – playing it and listening to it – is one of my favourite ways of expressing my emotions. This Scottish tune speaks to me of grief, of sadness. of thoughts tending towards a minor key.
Other than a slight hesitation/wrong note in the middle, it seems to have come out all right.
See what you think.
This afternoon was lovely: I was taken out to lunch by one of my closest friends.
This evening was delightful too: Fabulous Ghost Weed rehearsal in Bristol and then another of my best friends and I had an adventure, taking the scenic route round that venerable old city, laughing mightily, nipping into a couple of VERY interesting pubs and reminiscing about our individual younger days – huge fun! It was just like being a student once more!
This all serves to remind me of something so important. Those who truly like and love me do so because I am me – and they are not going to stop caring about me just because I have not succeeded as a published writer.
I have, over the past ten days, seen the two things as inextricably linked – as if I have to justify my existence by being a writer who sells loads of books; that, unless I can prove that I can make X amount of money, I am, in some way, not worth bothering with; that, unless I can justify my decision to give up teaching in real financial terms, I do not deserve to be liked, let alone loved, at all.
I have laughed and talked and been alive and happy today in a way that I have not for well over a week – and none of it was dependent upon me as a writer. Or me as a potential money-earner.
Oh God, it was so lovely to feel that huge weight leaving me just for a few hours – to feel that it was safe to be me, and to be, in a sense, childish and irresponsible and spontaneous, and not have to get so anxious about being published and getting the next book ready and trying so hard to attract the public’s eye and the readers’ fickle attention.
So, I say it again – to comfort myself because this has been one of the hardest, and most disheartening, ten days in recent years – lack of sales in recent weeks (on line) does not mean that I, Ali, am an inferior person, or that I am a useless writer. And if (as seems increasingly likely) I do not make it as a well-known, financially independent published writer, this does not mean that I am an unlovable human being, or that I lack talent.
It simply means that I did not attract the strange gaze, and random attention, of that most fickle of creatures, Lady Luck.
I cannot try any harder than I have already – and, if it doesn’t work despite all my efforts, maybe it was never meant to. Maybe there is another path – which I cannot yet see, but which will, ultimately, give me far greater happiness, peace and true wealth of spirit and love and companionship and bonding.
Because my boundaries are flimsy at the best of times, I have allowed a spectre to haunt me. Now, I need to release myself from that wailing wealth-obsessed wraith and its hand-wringing, coin-checking anguish and banish it to its dismal counting house of the soul.
Vanessa Bell in her early fifties.
Yesterday, at 4pm, I penned the final words – ‘written’ by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister – of ‘Riding at the gates of sixty,‘ the VW novel’s working title. The title was chosen because I saw wild horses as both a symbol of VW’s intermittent madness, and the way she went at things helter-skelter when well. The number sixty reflects the fact that she died at fifty-nine and thus, although she raced at it, she never actually leapt over sixty’s fence.
When I wrote that final word, I cried. Why? Quoting here, and unusually, from my own journal:
‘…tearful because, despite knowing she had died (and, indeed, that the real person committed suicide nearly 74 years ago), I didn’t want the woman I had brought to life (and. in so doing, come to care about, even love) to make that awful decision.
‘It touched me in a way that ‘LLB’ and ‘Come Laughing!‘ did not. Perhaps a more authentic voice? Perhaps the fact that the emotions are, in a sense, more genuine? The other two were written largely to entertain; this one was written from the heart, scraped from the sadness of soul, but also frothing with the glittering ebullience of life and joy…’
Here is part of the final section. Vanessa, with the unopened envelope (Virginia wrote suicide notes to both Leonard and Vanessa) in front of her, thinks about her lost sister. The water imagery comes about because, for VW, waves were a constant symbolism in her life – and her most experimental book was entitled ‘The Waves‘.
‘I sit for a long time, doing nothing, and then I take the letter, and place it in my lap. My name, in black ink: Vanessa. I put on my glasses and reach for the paper knife. Quietly, and with infinite care, I slit the envelope, and draw out the single sheet.
‘Death!’ Virginia would say. ‘And life!’
Quite suddenly, I can see that stream of water which flows ever-onwards, at times tensing into white-capped waves of power, at other times humming limpidly along – and my sister rode those waves throughout her life and harnessed a millionth of their power for her own use.
A dangerous undertaking, you may ask? But you can only go in one direction when tracing the wild-water’s path. She struck boldly into the raging current and left the shallows for others.
She won’t be back. The force of her gathered momentum at ever-increasing speed, so that she was thrown ever further, and more violently, up into the air, her thin body vibrating with agony and ecstasy – until the peak lurched into Death’s finest wave and, plummeting, sprayed waterfalls , and glittering word-shells, everywhere.
I take up a pencil and, on the back of the envelope, knowing she would not mind, and relishing this final link, begin to sketch swift shapes: Sprays, and whirls, and fiery streams, flowing in sub-human form from my sister’s exquisitely-shaped skull.’
Yesterday, I reached a nadir in terms of hope concerning my writing. I remain unknown.
The threat of censorship, on both blog and social media sites, is making me anxious and nervous. I may have no alternative but to shut down both blogs.
Do you ever read these glowing Post Mortem references, and wonder how honest the writer has been? I most certainly do! So, I am going to do a brutally honest one…
Alienora in her prime!
Alienora Judith Taylor? Couldn’t stand the bitch myself. Let me tell you straight, the best bit of her went down her father’s leg and no mistake.
Hatched on January 9th, she was, a birthday of ill-omen if you reflect upon some of the tossers, wastrels and evil sons of diseased whores who shared it.
Look at Richard Nixon! Need we say more?
A sickly and whining child, she learned to grab the attention through the skilful use of medical symptoms from an early age. Unappealing from the moment she slithered gracelessly from her mother’s womb, she irritated most of those who came into contact with her during her first few years. Something about the wheezing, the sniffing, the constantly runny eyes, the overall look of a small goat struck by lightning, inspired homicidal leanings in even the kindest of mortals.
Had there been a handy cliff in the Aldershot area back in 1958, I am quite sure her poor benighted parents would have exposed the miserable whelp on it soonest.
Lord only knows how she survived long enough to infest the local Primary School – St Andrew’s in Headington – but somehow she did. My own personal view, and writing as her so-called Guardian Angel (what a thankless task that turned out to be!), is that her Parental Pair, aghast at what they had produced first time round, were so busy going at it like weasels in a sock that they were able to forget that Bambi, as they called the egregious little runt, existed, often for minutes at a time.
Once at school, she managed, within a week, to alienate all the other children and infuriate the teachers; in fact, she was so annoying that Head, usually a mild-mannered man, itched to cane her within an inch of (or, preferably, beyond) her life – and was, two weeks into her seven year tenure at the place, carried off gibbering to Littlemore, Oxford’s premier psychiatric hospital.
That she made no friends will surprise nobody reading this. The child was, to put it bluntly, entirely without redeeming features. Charmless, graceless, brainless and friendless, she sounded just like the infamous quartet of cows from Stella Gibbons’ ‘Cold Comfort Farm’.
A manipulative and evil-tempered little basket, she had no team spirit to speak of and was always last to be picked for any sporting activity because her mulish attitude was only matched by a total inability to run, throw, field or swim.
Being the sort of child all right-thinking people wish to put in a sack and smash against the nearest wall, Alien (as she was now being called – for obvious reasons) attracted hordes of bullies.
Narrow-minded and depraved in her tastes (about which the less said the better), this pitiful creature managed, by dint of cheating, to get enough exam passes to sneak into her eighth choice (out of five!) of university.
There, she blossomed – that is to say, she grew large and pink before fraying at the edges and falling off her stem: The Demon Drink, don’t you know? That and the Magic Mushrooms, Wacky Baccie and so forth.
Boyfriends were few and far between. Unsurprisingly. Drunken fumbles dotted her academic career – and she only managed to lose her maidenhead because the lusty swain was drugged up to the eyeballs and thought she was someone else.
Then she became a teacher. Not a good choice of career for one such as Alienora. She had no natural aptitude for it, loathed children, found other adults either boring or threatening (or both) and had the classroom control of a dead mouse.
That she remained in the school for thirty years is largely attributable to the fact that she was such a quarrelsome, difficult and bolshie customer that no other school would touch her with a barge-pole.
The spontaneous applause on her final day – which went on for some minutes – was sheer relief: Her colleagues were beginning to fear that she’d NEVER go!
A domestic nightmare, she was unable to cook, sew, knit, iron or darn. That she managed to produce a child in her late thirties was a surprise to everyone – and proof of the efficacy of that good old standby, the Turkey Baster.
Becoming a writer in her mid-fifties was not one of her better ideas, given her advanced age and lack of appeal (not to mention writing ability!). Naturally, she pretended that she was a genius – but no one else was taken in for one minute, as was evidenced by the complete lack of success which attended the laboured births of her dreary tomes.
People, as the scathing wits of the time were wont to say, would pay good money NOT to have to read her books!
Had she not possessed the financial acumen of a diseased liver, she might have capitalised upon this and made her million by the back door, so speak; but, being Alienora and, thus, stubborn as an entire paddock of mules, she carried on churning out unedifying fiction until the Grim Reaper put a permanent stop to her writing career courtesy of a large warthog, a small boulder and a comically-placed banana-skin.
Don’t give me all that ‘much-missed’ and ‘widely-mourned’ bollocks. This woman will be missed in the same way that a sharp dose of the God Be Joyfuls/Delhi Belly is.
And, as you will see, I am alone in this verdant Grove, my only companion a small and cross-eyed ferret.
So, how to sum it all up in one pithy phrase:
She tried (everyone she came across!) – and then she died? No, too verbose!
She said, ‘Oh fuck it!’ and kicked the bucket.
Yup, that’ll do nicely!
Detested by all she came across, she has now gone to meet her Maker, God help Him,Her or It!
This is where I sit to write my novels and blog posts!
Thank you for all comments on yesterday’s despairing moment. I shall be responding to individuals later.
The VW book edit is nearly finished, and I have the next project already lined up. This one will, initially at any rate, be for Kindle only – and will be the first of two or more collections of short stories, all of which have some connection either to things esoteric or to my life-long love affair with descriptive writing/a sense of place.
These Kindle volumes are not going to be very long, nor will they cost a huge amount. I hope to get the first one out in the next couple of weeks, and then next one soon after that.
The general title is probably going to be ‘My Esoteric Journey’ – more details nearer the time.
I have also, in the spirit of positive thinking, written emails to family members and friends, asking for reviews of the two books already published – and have put this as a status on both Facebook and Twitter.
It IS desperately hard to get out there, to get one’s name known. I know I am not alone, that the vast majority of writers face the same insecurities, fears and dreadful disappointment from time to time.
But I AM going to persevere, partly because I have come this far and am loathe to turn back – and partly because I think I DO have a unique writing voice (as do we ALL) which deserves to be read!
I have tried various gimmicks. I have, perhaps stupidly, paid to have posts boosted on Facebook. I have, to a certain extent (I can admit this!), prostituted my first two trollops – er, I mean, books! – in the hope of snagging a wealthy kerb-crawler or twenty!
I have, in my innocence and enthusiasm and stupidity, made a bucketful of mistakes – and have, almost certainly, tried too hard!
In the end, though, my novels have to stand or fall, sell or not sell, on their own merits – and there is a limit as to how much more I can do for them!
If you know me, and read my blog, and have read either book, and would be willing to review it on Amazon, I would, of course, be thrilled.
Each review I get helps to spread the word.
‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again…’
I failed my driving test twice before passing. I failed French O’level the first time. I have many rejection letters from publishers in a thick box file.
And I can now drive, matriculated in July 1976 after passing French O’level (and English and History A’levels) – and have two real novels out in this strange world of ours, with a third one very close to completion.
Not bad for an Old Bag, eh?
I am feeling very down in spirits today. This is, perhaps in part, because I have a flu-type cold and am feeling tearful and physically under the weather, and because my private life has taken a huge toll over the past week – but also my free book offer over the weekend was met with incredulity by some people close to me.
When I pointed out that the six copies had been snapped up, the reality was drummed into my thick and naive head. Of course they were – but have I seen any evidence of a similar enthusiasm for my ninety-nine cent offer on Amazon? Have I EVER sold six books in a twenty-four hour period?
I rarely sell ONE book in a day.
And here comes the really depressing statistics: In February, I sold FIVE paperback copies on Amazon – that is less than one every five days.
I know writers who sell between five and ten EVERY BLOODY DAY.
Even my .99 cent offer has yielded NO enthusiasm.
Since January 1st, I have spent far more than I have made on this publishing adventure – and it has been pointed out to me that this situation cannot continue. I am aware of this myself, though I have not, I think, wanted to face it.
With my physical copies of both novels dwindling fast, I simply cannot justify the expenditure involved in ordering any more – and, since neither book has made any kind of impact on Amazon, the writing is very much on the wall.
If March sales are as poor as February’s were, I may have no option but to give up the publishing side of my abortive writing career.
I keep thinking, ‘If I am patient, if I wait just one more week, if I lower my prices, things will pick up.’
But the truth is that they have not picked up – and show NO sign of doing so. The fact that my most successful ploy involved GIVING copies away says it all really, doesn’t it?
I don’t know what I am doing wrong, or how to reverse this thoroughly depressing trend. I cannot afford to continue with indefinite book signing events because, although they are enormous fun (and have been supported by a small band of delightful and generous people), actually buying the books (and getting the things shipped over from the USA) is pretty expensive – and I am not sufficiently well-known for people to bring along copies they have ordered on line.
I have tried so many different tacks. I have asked for people to review the books; I have slashed the prices on both right down to the bone; I have blogged tasters and audio versions; I have had a free book offer; I have read, and reviewed, other people’s books; I have followed up all the suggestions made by well-wishers.
It is DESPERATELY difficult to keep believing in myself under these circumstances. As I edit the VW novel, there IS a part of me thinking, ‘What the HELL is the point? What makes me imagine things are going to go any better with this one?’
I have six paper copies left on my shelves at home, and one of those is already promised to a friend.
Once they are gone, I dread to think what will happen next.
Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that, in conjunction with my private life, I feel such a failure. When I announced that I was publishing a book all about sex, people said, ‘Sex sells! This book will sell like hot cakes!’
But it HASN’T. I can’t even succeed with a genre supposedly a hot one on the selling front.
In some way I cannot quite put my finger on I do not seem to have what it takes. If only I could quantify this missing element! If only I could bottle the magic ingredient other, more successful, writers seem to possess!
Without going into unnecessary, and potentially compromising, details, I am under the influence of an emotional/ financial scarcity not my own – but I have to pay it heed, and act upon its dictates, because the situation involves people other than me.
I feel like weeping with misery and frustration – and fear.
What I am going to have to do is this: Plough the very small amount of money I HAVE made back into the system for as long as it lasts, and then, if things have not changed, give up the blog and the publishing – and go back to the silence of the journal.
Here is the supreme irony: I KNOW I can write – I am just not sure I can SUCCEED in the world’s terms, in financial terms, as a name to be reckoned with in the literary world.
And there are these insidious thoughts squirrelling around in my mind: Are my detractors RIGHT? Was I selfish to give up teaching to write? Should I have got another, proper, job as soon as I could? Do I have the right to reduce my salary over half just so that I could fulfil a dream? Should I not be putting the financial security of others before my own selfish creative needs? Should I apply for another full-time teaching job and give up my ridiculous delusion that I am ever going to be a writer?
You see, if I cannot PROVE that my risky leap from the secure educational boat into the scary waters of creativity is going to bring in financial rewards, can I justify continuing with this ‘self-indulgent’ life style?
Those who still labour down the Chalk Face of the modern education system will probably be aware that full-time teaching and writing do not mix; indeed, many would say that full-time teaching and having a LIFE do not mix.
One day (probably as a posthumous document) I will write the full, unvarnished truth about my final year in teaching – and people will then be able to see, all too clearly, why I (along with so many other highly-qualified, hugely-experienced teachers)bailed out when I/we did.
But that, as they say, is a story for another time, another place.
Ironically, the full truth concerning the corrupt elements within the teaching profession would, in all probability, make for a best-seller – and I am VERY tempted to publish and be damned (which, believe you me, I would be!). I suppose a sense of honour holds me back – a wish to behave with decency and integrity.
How pitifully old-fashioned of me, eh?
The first two sections – narrated by Leonard and Virginia – came to me in a dreamlike rush. I was not thinking, or planning, at that stage.
But then, upon reading them, I thought, ‘The chances are high that many people reading this either won’t have heard of Virginia Woolf, or will have picked up the less flattering rumours about her character. Why, then, would they care about the suicide of a long-dead writer – who had a reputation for being sharp-tongued, snobbish and, at times, unpleasant…’
These thoughts were what prompted me to go back in time, as it were, and introduce the woman behind the formidable exterior.
I chose 1927, as my focal point, because I wanted to bring ‘Orlando’ and, through it, something of VW’s relationship with Vita Sackville-West, into the story. I felt that her brief Sapphic affair with Vita humanised her in an odd way, softening her, at times, spiky, edges.
But I also wanted to try and bring some of the characters of Old Bloomsbury to life in this section – Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry – as well as providing a backdrop of the society women (most notably Lady Ottoline Morrell and Sibyl, Lady Colefax) in order to show the ambivalent attitude VW had towards the aristocracy.
But, above all, I wanted VW’s troubled and complex personality to shine and live on the page. I wanted people to learn her from the inside out – and thus, by the end section (narrated by her beloved sister, Vanessa), to mourn her passing, and to recognise that, though undoubtedly difficult, she was a huge influence upon modern literature – and, in her own way, a fascinating and lovable character.
I hope I have succeeded in these aims. The proof, as they say, lies in the pudding – and this particular strange dessert is not quite ready for public consumption as yet.
I know that there are sections which are completely made up (created to add depth and warmth to VW) and, I am sure, full of all manner of inaccuracies because I, as author, may have read her and her Circle the wrong way, may have made assumptions about them all which were, actually, untrue.
I have, I hope, stayed true to the vision I had of her all those years ago – and breathed life back into her long-ago-drowned corpse.
All six free books had been snapped up this evening! The remaining four – signed and wrapped – and ready to be sent off to their individual destinations tomorrow morning.
In addition to this, one of my remaining copies of ‘Come Laughing!’ has been bagged.
Now for the question. First, look at the images below:
All right, have you feasted your eyes enough?
Now, at present BOTH covers appear on my KDP bookshelf; in fact, it appears that I have two versions of the same book circulating – or, to be more accurate, NOT circulating for the reasons given in a post written yesterday.
Tomorrow, I should be getting the Proof copies of the new, improved version (the one with the top front cover). I do not know whether this will automatically cancel out the other one – or whether I shall have to press ‘unpublish’ or what!
I much prefer the new cover (which is why I chose it!) – but I wonder if I should be giving people the option?
Do you think I should keep both covers/books – or tip the first one into the metaphorical recycling and just keep the second?
All six recipients of my free books have said they will post a review on Amazon – great!
If I am happy with the new book, I shall be putting ‘Come Laughing!’ straight back into circulation – which means that all of you who have been disappointed by its apparent ‘Sold Out‘ status can rush on to Amazon and grab an armful.
Hmmmm! Worth a try!
I AM going to say this, though: First, I am proud of myself for not giving up despite the very sluggish Amazon sales. I am proud of myself for continuing – with much help from others – to think of new strategies for my books!
You see, we self-published writers have to keep believing that our words are worth reading even when no one wants to buy our books. We have to keep that faith through days and weeks of poor, or non-existent, sales on Amazon – and we have to have the confidence to write another book and another and still another, even when it sometimes seems completely pointless and hopeless.
The Universe speaks to us, though, doesn’t it? From time to time, that little voice whispers in our ears, ‘You CAN do this. Your novel IS worth the effort…’ That small voice most often comes through a kind act, a generous gesture, a reassuring email, a thoughtful text; it is conveyed by human beings who love us, value us and believe in us.
Therefore, I would like to thank every single person who has given me those little (and big) tweaks of hope – which have, so often, lifted me back into the metaphorical saddle.
Lastly, I am proud of my books! Each one represents the overcoming of many obstacles. Each one is a triumph of determination. Each one is my dream made manifest.
What an amazing response! By the end of yesterday, I had sent off two copies, signed and packaged another three – and have had a possible bite for the sixth.
I still have three original copies of ‘Come Laughing!‘ (from the first edition) if anyone wishes to buy a signed copy from me direct.
As I said yesterday, ‘Come Laughing!’ should be available to download and/or purchase as a paperback once more from early next week.
Meanwhile, I can order and buy more copies of both books if people are interested in buying a signed copy. If not, I shall simply direct those who want to possess either book to Amazon, and they can download Kindle e-books, or order the paperback as they wish.
I am now over half way through the Virginia Woolf edit, am in the process of designing a front cover – and hope to launch that book soon.
Many thanks to everyone who showed an interest yesterday – and to Natalie for posting this fabulous review on Amazon:
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! 28 Feb. 2015
What can I say? This book is amazing! I laughed out loud, frowned, cried, groaned, sighed and cringed, sometimes all at the same time! What a breath of fresh air – feminine honesty and reality at its best! Utterly brilliant!
I was contacted this morning by Jess, an ex-pupil, who is at university and also writes a blog. She suffers from both anxiety and depression – and has very bravely opened up about both in this moving, and informative, blog post. I wanted to reblog it on here – but that has not been possible, so I am sharing the link instead.
Do read Jess piece. Many of us DO suffer from the silent, but HORRIBLE, Anxiety/Depression duo – and, although mine is weighted more heavily towards the panic end of the spectrum, I have every sympathy with those who fall into depression’s nasty trap.
Please share this link. The more people who see it, the better.
Another Alienora ‘Spot The Braincell‘ moment, I’m ashamed to admit.
Brief summary of events: Ten days or so ago, I decided to change the cover image on my soixante-neuf of erotic material book – and, in so doing, put the whole file up for re-jigging on CreateSpace.
This means that, until I get my Proof copies (which should be on Monday), have checked them and made sure they are good enough, the book is appearing as ‘out of stock’ on line (as a paperback anyway – not so sure about the Kindle side of things).
Unless there are any unforeseen problems with the new version, I should be pressing the ‘Just get the hell on with it, Mate!’ button ten seconds after receiving my own copy.
And then, those chomping at the bit to get their claws upon some excellent-quality Bonk Fodder (she says, mixing her metaphors with a merry lack of care!) can go ahead and order their very own copy (or copies) with pictures of the author, as a much younger woman, on the front!
Let’s be honest here, everyone – you don’t often get to buy a book which has the nude modelling images of the author displayed so openly!
Alienora Bares All – as you might say (and I just did!).
From today (February 28th 2015) until next Saturday (March 5th 2015), I am running a limited FREE OFFER on both ‘Come Laughing!‘ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’.
The first SIX people who contact me will receive a free, signed copy of their book of choice.
All you have to do in return is to read your book and write a review – which does not have to be long – on Amazon for me. If you were able to recommend said tome to others, loan it to a friend/relative, that would be a bonus.
What do you have to lose, eh?
Three of these are available…
And three of these…
Author not included!
Grab this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while stocks last!
Contact me if interested, via the comment section of the blog (or via email if you know it) and I will send you your very own copy!
I have moved my Study into a different space. Before I take you by the hand and lead you, wordlessly, round it, let me share my Bloomsbury craziness with you.
I never met Virginia Woolf. She died seventeen years before I was born. Vanessa Bell died when I was three, Leonard Woolf in my eleventh year.
In fact, by the time I got to know about the Bloosmbury Group, the only member of the First Generation still alive – and he died in 1978, when I was twenty – was Duncan Grant.
But, from 1978 to 1981, I became immersed, through VW’s letters and journals, in the life and mind of this troubled genius. For a while, I felt almost as if I had been possessed by her. It was very strange – though I can now see that it was part of a continuum: Other, more mythical, women have allowed me to ride in their minds since those days, most notably Granny, Amgel and Guinevere.
Re-writing this novel is confronting, as I have said before. Does one have to have experienced insanity in order to write convincingly about it from another person’s viewpoint? I am not sure. It may be enough to enter the mind of the other in an empathic way, and to withdraw, unscathed, afterwards. But, I am not sure that it is possible to leave the bloodied battlefield of another’s madness without some of it sticking to the sides of own’s own cranial vault – and, as I write, it feels as if I shimmy between me, Alienora, and the extraordinary consciousness of Virginia Woolf.
There were things I knew about the characters when I was in my twenties that I no longer can bring to mind. So I have no idea whether I made these facts up – or if they were an intimate part of my general knowledge when I was that age. It could well be, therefore, that parts of the book are factually inaccurate, lack verisimilitude.
I did not know the full, sorrowful nature of the relationship between Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant back then; I did not hear a recording of Virginia’s speaking voice until last year; some scenes I KNOW I made up, for my own enjoyment and because I wanted to suggest something of Bloomsbury which I could only imagine, having never experienced the reality.
Is the novel any good? I do not know. My confidence is at a low ebb today.
It was written by a very young woman. I was twenty-four when I started it, twenty-five when I wrote the final word. It is very short – little more than a novella. I doubt if it’ll be much more than a hundred pages in length once published.
I fear, as with everything I write, that it is not good enough – but, then, I am feeling down in spirits at present (though briefly cheered by meeting a close friend this afternoon). The fear that nothing I write will ever catch on is very real at the moment.
Here, then, is my Study.
I suspect that I, and other bloggers like me, are about to be squeezed out by the Moral Majority. Nipping on to my Blogger blog just now, I discovered, to my horror, that sexually explicit material/images will be banned from March 23rd. I gather that other sites are taking a similarly stringent line.
I cannot help feeling that this is rather a case of shutting the stable door after allowing an entire herd of horses to bolt for freedom.
I seem to be faced with the following unappetising choice: Stop the bawdy bonking posts, or make my blog private.
To what end, I ask myself? Is it to protect children (who, frankly, shouldn’t be reading my blog anyway) from material they can access only too easily (and, let’s face it, far more hard core in tone than anything I have ever written) from alternative sources?
Is it a knee-jerk reaction to the recent flurry of stories concerning aged rock stars (and other slebs) who went in for serious, and serial, kiddie-fiddling way back when?
It smacks, to my mind, of censorship – and I am not overly thrilled with this. Once again, it seems as if the misdeeds of the highly publicised MINORITY are tarring writers who send out so much as a snogging scene with the same brush.
What is hugely ironic, to my way of thinking, is that this clamp-down is coming at exactly the same time as the overblown hype surrounding the ’50 Shades of Grey’ film. Talk about mixed messages! Presumably, therefore, it is FINE for young people to learn all about the more abusive aspects of sex – and, given that hundreds of under-age kids lie about their ages and get in to see Adult movies, watch the celluloid version of E.L. James’ lurid imagination (because, of course, their viewing numbers add gelt to the system’s greedy coffers); but very definitely beyond the pale for them to stumble across wanton images, and sexually-arousing stories, on the (largely FREE) blogs!
Give me strength!
I have absolutely NO DESIRE to write deviant or hardcore porn – not my bag at all – but that’s not the point at issue here. The fundamental point is artistic, creative FREEDOM.
I may not wish, at present, to write about whipping some brawny son of the soil over the backside with a riding crop, or sucking off a stranger whilst doing interesting things to myself with a large marrow – but I sure as hell reserve the right to churn out this, and worse, if the mood comes upon me!
I spent far too many years being told what I could and could not teach by successive governments (composed, largely, of ex public schoolboys! Need I say more?) – and feel a deep unease at the thought of the same thing happening to me as a writer.
Dear God, did we fight the battle for such books as ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ for nothing?
Why the hell don’t the Powers That Be clamp down on the vicious, vapid and vituperative twattage which passes for conversation on most of the so-called Social Sites, rather than picking on writers who are, by and large, at least trying to extend the range and scope of the Literary Tradition. Why not start with a cull on the more offensive, badly-written and toe-curlingly DIRE Tweets – which seem to get sent out in an unending stream, like a terminal case of emotional diarrhoea, twenty-five hours a day!
Big Brother? ‘1984’? Orwell, like the famous Seer, Cassandra, was way ahead of his time. And how horribly risible that his character has been aborted, or even Frankenstein’s Monstered, into the current rapacious and revolting razzmatazz of a programme which has bugger-all to do with the original, and everything to do with our salacious need for canned sleaze!
Such hypocrisy abroad in what passes for our culture!
For years, people were shocked when I shouted out against what I saw as injustice, stupidity – and borderline abuse of a fine profession (teaching, I hasten to add!). I was told, in so many words, to shut up, go away; I was told, ‘You can’t say that!’ Perhaps if a few more people had spoken out against the various governmental cock-ups (or ‘initiatives’ as they are often called), the education system would not be in its current parlous state.
Bans have the sinister habit of driving a minor problem underground – where it breeds with other, similar, ones and becomes a gigantic headache for society.
Images like the one, drawn by me way back in 1994, will soon be gone from our blogs. I doubt if this post will be allowed on Facebook, or Twitter, or any of the other sites I send stuff out to – because of what I am about to write!
I am adding a verbal description of this picture as a small private act of rebellion! It’s a bloody awful piece of art work (I know that!) – but, ye gods, it shows an erect phallus – swoon, shriek with horror – and a woman lying on the ground ready for a bit of action! It shows two young people obviously about to have some serious thrusting and bucking fun! Out of doors too! He, be-cloaked and exceedingly ready, is striding towards the red-headed reclining nude (apart from a cloak!) woman, with the evident intention of getting stuck in at the earliest possible moment!
How mind-bogglingly DREADFUL! How – ABUSIVE! That’s really going to get the perverts and paedophiles going, isn’t it?!
What will they think of next, eh? Levying a tax on our private sexual fantasies? Jeez, I’d be seriously out of pocket already if that were the case!
I shall press ‘Publish’ and then call the Thought Police to take me away to a padded cell somewhere deep in the country!
I WAS originally going to put the image up on here (and it has, in fact, accompanied a recent post!) – but have decided, in the interests of pubic decency, not to! Mainly because the girl was me, in an earlier stage of my life – and sometimes one does not wish to gaze too long at one’s taut and slim former self!
It is always heart-warming when a community pulls together to support a cause, an individual or a group enterprise. I live in a village called Wrington. It is roughly half way between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, and it has a very good ethos as far as community care is concerned.
Local artists, such as Julie Kingcott and, before she moved, Miche Dunstone, are well known and people attend their exhibitions and buy their paintings.
The school I taught at, Worle Community School, was great when it came to raising money for various charities. Two I remember in particular because I became closely involved in them. One was the Eve Appeal (which concentrated upon eradicating Ovarian cancer) and the other was Breast Cancer UK.
Several years ago, I offered to make cakes for both these appeals – and this became a wonderful bi-annual institution! In fact, I became renowned for my Tit Cakes (as they were known!). I usually made three or four Victoria Sponges; they were always very colourful and tended to be frilled and furbellowed with great swathes of Smarties, Lindt mini eggs, Maltesers and so on.
On the day, the Staffroom would be in a fever of excitement and anticipation. As break approached, I would often be waylaid by academic gannets (er, I mean supportive colleagues) asking me to put a slab of their favourite aside!
The cakes below were made for a friend’s daughter’s charity event – but you get the general idea, I am sure!
All money raised went straight to the cancer charity.
It was great fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the preparation, the event and the thought that I was doing my bit for this ghastly illness.
I do try and support my loved ones when away from the blog – and have been supported in return. People I know have been most generous and kind in terms of helping me to launch my books.
I do find, however, that the Local Media have been less than supportive, by and large, and I find this baffling. Is it that writing books is not seen as sexy enough, meaty enough, to merit even a courteous answer to an email? Does the wider community not value its creative writers? Is it no longer a matter of pride to know that you have published writers working hard in your small villages, medium-sized towns, vast cities?
To be fair, I did get an article in the Weston Mercury (reprinted below):
I have made phone calls by the score; I have followed up suggestions and emailed Points West and Radio Bristol; I have emailed several of the local free magazines – not, I hasten to add, wanting reviews or anything, just wanting to be mentioned.
Let me share a little irony with you. Now, obviously, these people work very hard – and I respect them for this – and cannot get back to everyone immediately – but, in the days when I was a full-time teacher, I would have been held accountable (and quite rightly so) had I failed to return a parent’s call to the school. If parents amongst the media throng in the Bristol area phoned their children’s teachers for any reason, I bet they would be LIVID if said staff simply ignored the call.
Similarly, they would not put up with being blanked by doctor, dentist, lawyer…
One rule for the rich. One rule for the poor. In a manner of speaking.
I have a cynical suspicion that, had I been arrested in Weston-super-Mare, after tousling naked with a quartet of nuns in Marine Lake, I would have been lapped up by every single publication, programme (whether aural or visual) in the South West; why, I may even have made it to the Nationals!
Why IS it that NEWS so often reflects the nasty, the sordid, the violent and the antisocial?
Why is it that celebrations of life and talent so often revolve around which D list girlie is up the duff, or the lavish Reception held for Celeb A’s fourth marriage?
Trending case in point: Madonna (who is seven months younger than me) goes arse over tit, having caught a heel in her cape, and immediately the whole bloody world and its camera is out there snapping away, writing articles and so forth!
Going back to support: I often think that the most truly supportive thing for many of these camera-obsessed minor players is to starve them of the oxygen of media attention they so crave, and let them get back to real values and genuine people.
I happen to think that I have a great deal to offer the local community: My comic acting, music, the cakes I bake, my friendship – and my books!
But I sometimes fear that the only way I will attract the media’s notice is if I am fined for failing to pick up one of Jumble’s turds, am discovered running a lucrative brothel in Nempnett Thrubwell or am caught having sex with a stallion!
I rest my case!
One of the things which has meant the most to me in recent weeks has been the chance to catch up with ex-pupils – and, in some cases, their parents. It has been a privilege. These people, many of whom I have named on various posts, have been unfailingly kind, generous, helpful, supportive and fun to be around.
Today, sorting through my possessions with a view to a bit of a judicious cull, I came across two items which I had thought lost for ever. I nearly cried, so great was my relief at finding them again.
Let me tell your their stories.
Way back in 1991, I picked up a LOVELY year nine tutor group – 9AR, they were! – and took them through to the end of year eleven. I could probably name them all even now – and recite most of their birth dates! – but I won’t because we could be here all week if I do, and the information will mean little to the vast majority of you!
I became enormously fond of them, however, and cried when I had to say farewell. Annette and Demelza (who came to my first, Loves Cafe, Book Signing) were from 9AR, and very much represent the fabulous spirit there was amongst those thirty-odd young people.
When we parted company, in the Summer of 1994, I received a huge card, signed by all of them, and presents from various individuals.
One of these was a beautiful wooden box, small and round, with a silver violin on the top. It came from Abi A – a very musical girl – and was for me to keep my block of rosin (for my fiddle’s bow) in. It was the perfect present for one who had just started learning to play the violin!
For some years, my rosin nestled inside the box – and then, in one of my many house moves, I lost this precious object.
Until this morning, that is:
Thank you, Abi, if you ever read this. I was thrilled to receive it then – and, twenty-one years on, love it still!
The second one came from Karen A (with whom I have been in Facebook contact recently). She was a lovely girl, and a very talented needle-woman. She told me that one of her hobbies was embroidery – which impressed me hugely.
One day, shortly before they all left school, she invited me round to her house (which was very near the school) – and, when I got there, she presented me with a fantastic embroidered, and framed, ‘A’. I was incredibly moved by this, and, until I moved, the picture had pride of place on my Living Room wall.
Again, I thought it lost – and felt very sad about this – until, unearthing old pictures of my parents and grandparents from a wooden trunk, I saw the corner of a blue stitched ‘A’, and there it was!
Thank you, Karen – this gorgeous, and unusual, present now adorns my wall once more.
Checking both KDP and CreateSpace had become, for me, a moment of dread, a thrice (or more) daily torment of gulping fear and crushing disappointment. I say this because, despite reducing both books to ninety-nine cents on Kindle, and making the paperback option cheaper, I have had no bites – not so much as a gummy suck – in DAYS.
‘What am I doing wrong?’ I cry to myself. ‘Why does this work for others and not me?’
This morning, after twenty-five days (of this month, you understand) in which only two paperback copies have been sold on line and nine Kindle downloads (don’t forget, this is for TWO books, not one), I had a brief moment of complete despair, and wanted to just jack the whole depressing business in.
But something made me go back, for the umpteenth time, to KDP – and have a proper look at the books. This next bit is an embarrassing admission – but admit it I must.
One of the many things I have done recently to try and increase my non-personal sales (the online misery, in other words) is to play around with inventing, and putting up, more inviting, relevant and ‘sexy’ keywords – so that my poor little books actually stand some chance of luring people in and, thus, being read!
But, being me – and, technologically, a bear with almost no brain at all – I forgot to press the ‘Save and Publish‘ part of the process – with the result that neither book is actually live at the moment.
I could kick myself, hard, for this oversight, this cretinous failure to do the blindly obvious.
But there is more to this misery than my own cack-handedness – and again I am confessing to something pretty humiliating. Several times now I have actually paid to boost posts on Facebook. I know, I know, how low can you sink? How desperate can you get?
Because I don’t believe I have wide enough appeal, or reach, as a writer to generate interest unless I pay for it.
Yesterday, I got enormous joy from writing my ‘Fanny Hill‘ review – it reminded me why I write, and the pleasure I get from the creative process. But even doing this, I put a quick mention of ‘Come Laughing!‘ in the review because I hoped it might inspire just one person to investigate further. It hasn’t, of course, but that was the hope.
Behind the scenes, as it were, I am working hard on the editing of the Bloomsbury book – and am really hoping that this one might generate a little bit of interest.
I am very open to suggestions from other writers – and have done everything I can do adapt my approach accordingly – and here is the dilemma, put bluntly, I suspect so many of us face:
Do I order yet more copies of both books from CreateSpace – and hope to Goddess that I can sell them at various book signing events – or do I hope that my non-existent Amazon presence might, miraculously, take off at some point?
In a way, I feel very envious of my current channelled character, Virginia Woolf, because she and Leonard were able to set up the Hogarth Press and thus do away, at a stroke, with at least that part of the writer’s insecurity.
What is weird – just to get away from sales talk for a moment – is the way the voices I first heard back in 1983 have returned as fresh and urgent as they were then. Virginia, Leonard, Vanessa; I can hear them all as vividly now as I did then – and though this is, for the most part, sheer delight, the madness section leading up to Virginia’s suicide has been very confronting to rewrite because I have, inevitably, had to go back into that disturbing mind set in order to make it real and believable.
Why, I ask myself, do I still have this insidious hope that I might, one fine day, beat a system so vast, so unfriendly to the smaller writers, so impersonal? Why do I even believe that my books are worth all this effort and angst and, at times, heartbreak?
Why can’t I just enjoy the writing and stop worrying about being published, read by others, making money as a writer?
I think because, amongst the battalion of talents I do not possess (sport, Mathematical ability, sociability, stunning looks, wealth, geographical sense, ability when it comes to male/female relationships and so on), I DO have a flair for writing, an ongoing passion for words. It is, I sometimes think, the only thing I have ever been any good at!
I do not want to waste the only true talent I have, and, in my own way, I am a determined sort of boddess. It’s funny really: As a teacher, I had almost no true ambition. I never, for one moment, wanted to become Head of the English Department – and the thought of rising up to the rarefied heights of Senior Management made my blood freeze. Yet, as a writer, I have found previously undiscovered seams of ambition’s gold in the deep mine of my psyche.
It may be Fool’s Gold. I may be indulging in unrealistic hope. I may be day-dreaming and refusing to face reality. But, I think both ‘Come Laughing!’ and ‘LLB’ are worth reading – very much so, actually! – and I shall continue to think this even if I never find a niche on Amazon!
Thank you, once again, to everyone who had supported me along this difficult road. It is a highway we are all travelling, one way or another – because, even if we are not publishing books, we are all, in a very real sense, competing for hits, views, wanting to be read by others.
These somewhat despairing posts are a way of expressing the frustrations of the process – but also, I hope, allow other writers to feel that they are not alone when it comes to the occasional, ‘I GIVE UP!‘ and banging head against nearest brick wall moment!
This is Alienora’s irony: I DO think I am good enough (as a writer; the rest is still under intense debate!) – but I have yet to pass from INVISIBLE to VISIBLE in towns, let alone countries, other than my own, and upon the creaking Behemoth that is Amazon.anything!
Hmm! Couldn’t have put it better myself!
On the weekend, my friend, Marie, and I traipsed up to Brizzle (as Bristol is known locally and yokelly) in order to see ‘Fanny Hill’ at the Old Vic. Or should that be ‘Vic Hill’ at the Old Fanny?
‘Bawdy’ doesn’t begin to describe it! This toothsome and sexy tale of troubled trollops was hilarious, touching, thought-provoking, near the knuckle (and this is ME making such a comment!) and, all in all, a riotous afternoon of fun, discreet arousal, irritation (which I shall come on to in two twangs of a courtesan’s corset) and – well, may I be frank? – the intense desire, on my part, to be playing the eponymous heroine myself!
In a twist upon the original, the aged Fanny (hmm – all double entendres fully meant), having been commissioned to write her life story, recruited the innocent (or so it seemed) Swallow to play her younger self, and the common-as-muck tart-with-a-bit-of-a-heart, Louisa, to play pretty much everyone else who didn’t actually possess a Pork Sword! Mawgan Gyles and Nick Barber played all the male parts (if you’ll excuse the phrase) – and I must say their simulated sex scenes were a sight for sore eyes and a welcome bit of buttock for those of us of indeterminate years and sagging particulars!
Ros Steele, who played Fiddle, was an amazingly versatile musician – as well as a very funny, somewhat dim-witted, young slapper! Cello, fiddle, what sounded like the virginals, recorder – I lost count after this – she was, if you like, the Don Partridge of the piece!
Caroline Quentin played Fanny – and, it has to be said, filled, nay overflowed, the dress – to perfection. Her bosoms, which left little to the imagination, had to be seen to be believed. They arrested the eye. Put it this way, I wouldn’t have wanted to get too close, lest an unsolicited canter unshipped the buggers and took an eye out!
Fanny Hill (aka Caroline Quentin) and her Twin Peaks!
She did a brilliant line in Raddled Old Boiler, but was also scathing, funny, ironic and, at times, very moving. A great performance!
She started as she meant to go on, emerging from a crate (like you do), cleavage first, and opining, amongst other funny turns of phrase, the classic, ‘You don’t need teeth to give good suck…’
That broke the ice, as you can probably imagine – and, if I tell you that this one paled into sedate insignificance when set against later, and more fuck-worthy, efforts, you will, I am sure, appreciate that we were in for a jolly matinee of rogering, roistering and romping courtesy of Fanny, a bevy of younger ladies of money-based affection and two young blades.
Poetic metaphor and euphemistic phrases were cunningly broken up by the coarsest of language. Thus, for example, in one scene, a sock puppet was used to represent the male bonker’s tumescent member (shall we say?) – and, after waxing lyrical about its firmness and girth for several quatrains (I made that bit up!), the actor came right back down to earth with, ‘It’s fucking enormous!’
In another scene, the man on top, having acted out a sexual conquest most realistically (had me squirming in my chair, I can tell you), then petered out a tad previously, as you might say, and again the narration became positively flowery in its attempt to put this male dilemma poetically – before giving it up as a bad job (bit like the sex itself, to be honest!), with the aside, ‘He came too quickly…’
Perhaps the funniest, and most inventive part, came when the biggest of the wooden crates on stage opened – and we were treated to the wondrous sight of a large bed, an even larger trollop (Fanny, the Older) and the sculpted gluteus maximus of a white-shirted, be-pig-tailed man ready to be ridden for the gallop of his life!
The moment when Fanny swung from the chandelier must count as an absolute theatrical great – in my lubricious estimation anyway. But then, as the author of a bawdy book entitled ‘Come Laughing!‘, I am not, perhaps, the best person to present a sober and sensible view on the old Horizontal Pleasures!
The expressions used to describe the Wife’s Best Friend could have come straight out of VIZ – and I howled with intemperate mirth at such classics as ‘Flesh Brush’ (new one on me!) and ‘Love Truncheon’, while the almost throwaway line, ‘Tart on the turn’ had me laughing so much, I nearly fell off the chair.
All six actors looked as if they were genuinely enjoying themselves (and each other, haha!) – and they did a damned good job of persuading us to engage, albeit at one remove, with the joys of sex.
It wasn’t all light-hearted, of course – and there were some very poignant moments, in which we were reminded of the dark side of the sex trade.
The small irritant I mentioned earlier resulted from a fellow audience member who appeared to have a thriving tapeworm or similar. I make this somewhat uncharitable comment because the uncivilised person alluded to above was a sweet-wrapper rustler par excellence. Crackle, crunch, crackle, crunch, chomp – all the way through, until I wanted to either scream or hoick the blighter over the balcony!
Marie and I emerged in fits of hysterical laughter, and spent much of the journey home remembering choice phrases and falling about in fits of unseemly giggling.
Altogether, top notch entertainment. I’d love to go again – and, if I can get a Pussy Posse together, might do just that!
If you live in the Bristol area, get your arse over to the Old Vic tout suit – and bask in unbridled purple-headed womb-broom prodding of the highest order!
PS: I’ve had the ol’ barnet dyed and straightened once more:
Dear Friends and Acquaintances on WordPress –
I have, I KNOW, been neglectful of you on here in recent weeks. I have closed the doors. I have stopped listening, reading and responding, other than occasionally with very close friends (people I know on the ground, usually).
You see, the truth is this: I much prefer talking to those I love, those who I truly engage with, on a more personal level via email. The kind of ‘communication’ on here – which is often little more than mutual admiration – and unspoken peeve if one deviates from this path – does not satisfy me, and, in fact, becomes ever more of a burden. We all too often like because we hope for reciprocity – and, for all that we CLAIM we follow others because of their sheer literary brilliance, we still get pretty cheesed off when they do not respond, or fail to read us in return. The reality is that few people follow us for altruistic purposes because, sadly, we all know that the only way out of the gutter of non-entity and into the glittering firmament of success is to attract as vast a crowd of followers, in as many different countries, as we can – but, the price is high, too high for me. Why? Because, as is true in a satisfying sexual encounter, we have to lick, stroke, thrust and moan back – even if we do not, in the metaphorical sense, fancy the person we are fucking!
People tend to unfollow, punish, even get abusive with us if we do not give them the head they have come to expect from their adoring writing ‘partners’.
I have found on here a very small band of people who are friends. Through them, I have, from time to time, opened out to a wider band – but I cannot do the latter group justice. I simply do not have the time or energy to make love to that number of people – and, as I have said in these annals before, I do not personally like to just click and tick without reading first – it always seems a bit of a one night stand type of arrangement to me!
Herein lies the rub. I do not seem to have the psychological make-up necessary to befriend thousands, to have interactions from bloggers all over the world. I CANNOT maintain that kind of approach. This has always been my problem in friendship groups too. Few and intimate has always been my coping strategy.
I have followed as many as three hundred other writers on here before now – and my attention was spread so thin that the whole thing became a meaningless blur of liking blind, spending whole days trying to catch up with everyone – and feeling I was confronted with the WordPress version of the Sisyphean Task.
I am not, by nature, a sociable or gregarious being, especially when I am writing. I am not one who thrives and flowers in a huge group. Wallflower at huge parties, that has always been me.
I also have a conscience – which has often been a rather inconvenient part of my soul – and a sense of fairness. To my mind, following others without responding is not fair – and that, in effect, is what I have been doing lately. It is not supportive or kind or in the spirit of the unspoken Chivalric Code.
At times, I feel as if I am just using the blogging platform in order to flag up MY wares – and that seems selfish and unfair too. Brought up to give something back, brought up to listen and sympathise and be kind and caring, my whole being shudders and judders at putting myself first. But I need to prove – for reasons I have never divulged fully on here – that I CAN make money, even if it is not much, from writing. This means I have to spend at least some of my time actively promoting the words I write, the novels I put together, the books I publish.
For technical reasons which I won’t bore you with, I am now behind on my scheduled publication date of March 1st for the Virginia Woolf novel – and am going to need to concentrate hard upon this task in days to come.
Meanwhile, I am only too aware of the ironic little circle I have got myself into: I am unheard of. Why should anyone wish to take a chance on an unknown writer? Get out there and attract millions of followers, one of whom might be a traditional publisher or catch the quirky sexual ball of my erotic game and want to turn that localised sport into a best selling international one. But I don’t have time or energy to read, to write back, when I am actively writing myself. Scream. Scream. Be a lowly tiny fish for the rest of my life, then…
Flagging myself up at the expense of others does not, as I say, come naturally; it is, I suspect, part of the reason why I have struggled so much with marketing my books. It feels too much like showing off, like stamping roughshod over the sensibilities of others. But I know I need to do it if I am to stand any chance of attracting a slice of the attention.
So I end with something wonderful (to me) – and will ‘say’ it even though may make me seem like a boastful Mr Toad (of Toad Hall, for those not familiar with this character) type of personality.
Just after I wrote yesterday’s post, I received a message from a lovely girl (now a grown-up woman) I taught between 1988 and 1990. She congratulated me upon my books – like most of my pupils, she was aware that I longed to be a writer – and told me that she had left a review, of ‘Come Laughing!’ on Amazon. I was so thrilled and touched, went over there immediately.
I found that I now have eleven reviews (all bar one four or five star) of ‘LLB‘ (someone else having written one in early February) and five (if you look at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com as a single entity!), all five star, of ‘Come Laughing!’ Here are the latest two:
4.0 out of 5 stars Encore! !!, 9 Feb. 2015
By Amazon Customer – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Long-Leggety Beasties: A teacher’s lot is not an easy one, easy one! (Kindle Edition)
I say with great sadness that I am very close to the end of the book. I don’t want it to end. When you actually laugh out loud whilst reading in public, you know you’ve found a gooden! 4 stars rather than 5 as there is no sequel. .. yet?!
Doc Martin springs to mind as the wit continues throughout the story. Laughter and heartfelt moments full of true feeling.
I guess I’ll have to just read it again!
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book!!!, 21 Feb. 2015
By BW – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Come Laughing!: A bawdy book of erotic quickies! (Paperback)
An excellent read, extremely well written. I enjoyed every page of it. I would definitely recommend.
There are, as I say, people on here I have become genuinely fond of and can easily imagine going for a pint (or more), having a laugh, or a cry, and setting the world to rights with these kindred spirits. I may not, at present, be reading or responding to these people, but they HAVE made their way into my heart. Here are a few. There ARE more, but I am just naming a handful today – because I need to finish this and get editing once more:
Sue Vincent, Steve Tanham, Running Elk, Noah Weiss, Richard Ankers, Francine, Hugh, Mike Steeden, Inchy, Ben, Anne-Marie, Frankie and Raiha.
All of these are people I can imagine getting on very well with in ‘real’ life – and four of them actually are friends in the flesh as well as in the shared word realm.
I hope I will meet some of those mentioned eventually. That would be great.
I have creative ideas fizzing away in my head. A name for my literary output – a brand, if you like – is forming in the Alienora Pre-frontal cortex.
A Logo for my books also swims up from the depths.
I have to keep trying, keep hoping, keep planning and manifesting the bright and beautiful vision.
I am NOT a quitter.
But sometimes the Catch 22 of the on line sales situation makes me feel like weeping with despair.
People have been very generous with help and advice – and I have acted upon it as speedily as I can. I have, only this week, redesigned the front cover of the erotic novel and slashed the price on the Kindle versions of both right down to ninety-nine cents.
Sadly, this has, as yet, made no difference at all. I had hoped for a small trickle of sales on KDP. Nothing huge, you understand, just the odd one or two. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is terribly disheartening – and I confess I AM beginning to feel a measure of fear about the whole situation because I am now down to twenty copies of the books at home. This means that, after the next Book Signing, I may have to admit defeat.
I do not want to give up. It is not in my nature.
Unfortunately, I cannot put either book on another free download until the end of March – and am nowhere near ready to publish the next book, no matter how short.
I am worried that the pirates out there are snatching my books out from underneath me – so to speak – and selling them on at a profit.
But, some stubborn little corner of my character is not giving up yet – even though things in the wider world of publishing seem pretty bleak for ME.
I cling on to the positives: I have organised a signing in the village; two more people have bought signed copies from me; a close friend who belongs to a Book Club is going to use one of my novels as his choice of reading material – and I WILL be doing another signing at the Nightjar.
Let me end on an upbeat note. Firstly, thank you so so much to everyone who has bought one of my books. Thank you for all the supportive comments and shares on Facebook, and reblogs on here. I know I am lucky to have so many lovely people helping me. It is the system which is defeating me at present, not kind and loving individuals.
I have sold two copies to staff at our local Budgens shop (novel, I know! But I’ll try anything once!) – and yesterday, when I went in to get the dosh from Luke, the second lad to buy a tome from me, I was much heartened and amused by his response.
He came bustling out, handed me the money and then said he absolutely LOVED the first sentence.
‘Soon as I saw that the first word was “buttocks” I knew this would be my level of book!’ he said with a merry laugh.
And two of my lovely Nightjar guests have offered to help me with an audio version of ‘Come Laughing!’ – that is, if I can STOP laughing for long enough to read it out loud!
All is not lost.
I have GOT to believe that with all my heart and soul!
Have a lovely weekend, everyone; I am off* now!
* Actually, many would say I have been off (my head!) for years, if not decades!
Oh, what a delightful and inspiring, funny and moving event it was, to be sure. Torn between hysterical laughter, warmth and incipient tears, I drove home in a whirl of conflicting emotions.
Ali holds forth in an impromptu classroom setting – reads ‘Come Laughing!’ and certainly activates the second of those two words!
The pub was warm, inviting; it was so lovely to see Di Bradley and two of her daughters (Kim and Becky) again. I felt instantly welcome and at home.
Paul arrived first. He has come a long way since the first book signing three weeks or so ago. He has set up his own blog (which I have shared, via a guest blog, on here – PJ, he called himself then) and is writing every day. I am so thrilled to see his talent blossoming in this way, and his belief in himself increasing.
He laid the books out for me – just as well he did because I have the artistic sense of a tapeworm and would, no doubt, have displayed the whole lot in a tatty cardboard box!
People arrived: Kirstie and Louise (both of whom I taught in 1981/2); Abi and Toby (Abi I taught from 2007-2011, and I was Toby’s Deputy Head of Year for a while!); Nick (same class as Abi) and Luke (I was his form tutor for a few years); Ann (taught her from 1988-1990) and her two children, Chris and Jasmine (whom I also taught!) and Ann’s brother, Paul, whom I did not teach – though I taught his wife, Mel, and her twin sister, Debbie, back in the eighties.
Soon my lovely guests were thumbing through the books and making decisions about which one to buy. Almost everyone bought one of each, which touched and thrilled me in equal measure.
Green-inked pen at the ready, I then got my head down – with many a quip, many an interruption for mirth and jollity – and signed each copy. Tremendous fun!
This having been done, I grabbed a copy of ‘Come Laughing!‘ and announced my plans to read a section. It was like being back in the classroom – though I didn’t read frank and graphic erotica to my classes back in The Day!
Boy, did they laugh! Yes, they sure did – and so did I. At times, I was bent over with such convulsive giggling that I had to pause between paragraphs. Many of my audience felt that lessons at school would have been improved if teachers were allowed to read such material – and, for all that this was said very jestingly and in the spirit of the raucous moment, I think there is an element of truth to this one!
The conversation then ranged far and wide – bawdy laughter one moment as we discussed my suggestion (made years ago and rejected immediately!) that the renamed school Houses should be based around body parts; pain the next as various people confided stories of loneliness and sadder memories of school life and their lives generally.
Photos were taken – the one above by Di herself, and, at the same time, the group members were busy on their phones snapping images. Not, I hasten to add, texting friends with, ‘HELP! This woman’s mad! Get me out of here!’
The atmosphere was fantastic – just the way a proper book signing should be, in my opinion. I am not one for any kind of stiffness (other than in the sexual arena, of course!) or formality – and the idea of me perched behind a desk, rote-signing book after book for a long line of anonymous people freezes my very marrow. So not me!
I would much rather have a smaller group of people – and be able to have a laugh and a chat and a drink, chew fat both literal and metaphorical, and hear other people’s stories.
Di, whose wonderful landlady/Community Pub sharing skills merited a long article on P.31 of the Winter 13/14 edition of PINTSWEST (http://www.camrabristol.org.uk/PW100.pdf), was most generous and funny and helpful. She said I was very welcome to arrange another signing there – and this I have every intention of doing!
Now, obviously, the more intimate gathering works for me – but I am aware that such delightful occasions alone will not spread the word very far. So, I am going to make a request. You are all, of course, free to ignore it. I’ll never know one way or the other, let’s face it!
The support I have had so far has been overwhelmingly moving and generous, and I am so grateful.
Please, if you know me in real life (either as friend, relative or ex-teacher/colleague) could you consider the following idea:
Word of mouth is how it is going to work for me, given that I have no means of getting noticed by the literary Big Boys and Girls. If each person mentioned one, or both, of my books (and me, of course!) to just one friend/acquaintance/rabbit/other, the Alienora Virus would, I think, slowly start to infect others! Many of you have started the process already – and I am warmed by this care.
But, if you have friends or relatives in other countries and would be willing to mention me in dispatches, I would be so pleased.
I am aware that this IS a big ask – because we are all trying to get out there one way or another – but ask it I will anyway.
Doesn’t need to be a ringing endorsement or a review, just a, ‘Hey, I’ve got a friend/teacher/mad old bag called Alienora Taylor who’s written a book of erotica/humour – check it out on Amazon!’ would do the job!
I KNOW this is cheeky – and, fellow bloggers, it is aimed mainly at those who know me on the ground, as it were; you writers are all in the same boat, and I am not expecting any such behaviour from you!
I left the pub, with Abi, Nick and Toby, at 11.30, feeling so happy I almost wept as I hugged those lovely ex-pupils and said my goodbyes.
Thank you to everyone who came. Thank you for your generosity in buying my books. Thank you for being who you are, and have been in my life so far. Thank you for giving me the space to shine and to laugh and to be happy.
It is very easy, under normal circumstances, to feel compassion for those with whom we have something in common. Bonded by colour, mindset, religious belief, sexual orientation or nationality, we form a kind of secret society of self-congratulation and connecting warmth – and we shut all the ‘BAD’ ideologies, religions, colours, sexual preferences and countries OUT.
All too often, in my lifetime, a call for peace or love or compassion has had a very clear, if unspoken, Get Out Clause: ‘We want Peace – Death to all those who disagree!’
In an irony more tragic than funny, we set up groups to banish World Hunger, Hatred, War, Greed – or whatever the current Four Horsemen look like – with a clear enemy in mind.
When I was young, it was THE COMMUNISTS. My childhood was permeated by expressions such as ‘Red under the bed,’ – and the aggression which hides terror and misunderstanding.
We give Baddie Status to entire religions – The Jews, The Muslims, The Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses – because we confuse the unspeakable acts of the tiny minority with the everyday struggles and flawed humanity (which we share) of the vast majority.
We forget, in a word, to treat people as human beings first and their belief systems, political views and so on a very decided second.
We wage war against entire nations – forgetting that most individuals have no more wish to fight than we do; forgetting that the missiles and guns we train on THE ENEMY rip fragile HUMAN bodies asunder.
This concept of The Enemy is – like our great supernatural Can Carrier, The Devil – a human construct. It seems that we humans have a great need for a Beast in our lives, and the nastier the better. What better than a Satan? An AntiChrist?
We wage war against ideas and ideals. We wage war because we are greedy and suffer from acute scarcity. We wage war, in a sublime irony, because we think maiming and killing the Evil Ones (people who are not US, in other words) will, in some unspecified way, bring peace and harmony into our fractured world.
It is easy, as I said, to feel compassion for those who agree with us, who share our way of thinking. Those who vote Conservative, if we are Tories, or Labour, if we are more socialist in our views, or Green or any of the other parties. It is easy to feel compassion for the Christian Church (if one is a Christian) and to condemn all other faiths as wrong-thinking, idolatrous, fanatical murderers.
Sometimes we have to look back over the bloody battlefields of our own checkered history in order for the sober penny to drop: We, in all honesty, are no better than the Them we affect to despise.
We conveniently forget the Catholic Church’s Inquisitorial past, and less than perfect record on child abuse, when heartily condemning the actions of other religions.
We forget to treat each person as an individual, don’t we? Labels creep into our conversation all the time.
‘I am a very compassionate person,’ we tend to say, ‘but I can’t agree with, or forgive, the Muslims/Jews/Blacks/Gays. They are just WRONG.’
Compassion starts with an acknowledgement that there is no such thing as THE MUSLIMS or THE BLACKS or GAYS or THE COMMUNISTS or WITCHES. This planet is populated by billions of human beings, some of whom have one or more of the above as part of their make-up. But it does not totally define them in their complex humanity, does it?
The evil actions of individuals should, of course, be punished and viewed with fear; the bullying meted out by extremist groups from any of the religions should be dealt with – but we should not make an enemy of an entire religion because, within its ranks, there are extremists. We should not view all Pagans with suspicion because a tiny band of them practise Satanism.
No section of society should be automatically barred from our compassion.
Yesterday, a friend posted a most moving YouTube clip on Facebook. It showed a young Muslim man, blindfolded, and with two cardboard notices by him. He was standing in an ordinary street, surrounded by milling crowds – and his message was very simple; it was along the lines of, ‘I am a Muslim. I am seen as a terrorist. Will you hug me?’
I watched, enthralled. It was eye-opening, and incredibly moving, to see those who were able to view him as a fellow human being and to go up and hug him.
Yes, it is far easier for me to engage compassionately with fellow empaths, writers, musicians, people with a vulgar sense of humour, people, in a word, who think the way I do – but I think it important to remember that the loss of compassion often starts at this very simple level. It is often triggered by our fear, and sense of threat, when someone we know disagrees with our viewpoint, worships a different god, doesn’t enjoy our musical/literary/artistic taste and finds our humour puerile or unfunny. We often respond, without even being aware of it, by condemning that person’s choices in return – and the resulting value judgements all too often slam the door on compassion.
‘You deserve all you get because you are not US,’ is so prevalent that most people do not even realise they have bought into it.
The enemy is LACK OF COMPASSION and US and THEMism. It is not, and never has been, a faith group, a political party, a monarch, a country.
The enemy is the abstracts and behaviours we have created: Greed, coveting our neighbour’s land, murder, rape – and, let’s face it, they are universal and do not belong to any one group.
I am a firm believer in dealing with each person as a human being first. I have never believed in matching punch for punch (unless you are in the Boxing Ring) or sword thrust for sword thrust (ditto, fencing match). Violent and inhumane acts perpetrated in retaliation for violence simply escalate into unspeakable bloodshed.
Once again, I have no answers – just a strong sense that it all starts with our willingness to extend a compassionate hand to ALL human beings.
The only way to lose weight, and get fit, is to cut down on portions, eat sensibly and EXERCISE. The running, which was going so well – for those new to my blog, I started running on June 1st 2014, after thirty years and aged fifty-six, and ran most days until the end of November. At that point, I stopped – and have only run once since (last Saturday).
The exercise helped enormously: I lost a stone; my aches and pains diminished hugely; being out in the fresh air, and seeing natural beauty, was such a lift to the spirits; the serotonin boosted my mood – and achieving a goal each day did wonders for my tattered morale.
For reasons I won’t go into, I have spent most days, over the past three months in particular, holed up in my Study, blogging endlessly and with a desperation which cannot be healthy or, ultimately, satisfying.
Yes, I am proud of the publication of my two novels – but I am NOT proud of the obsessive nature of my blogging activities.
When I was a smoker, I tried countless times to give up, as I have on here! Each attempt to quit the weed failed because I was physically addicted. I am sure I do not need to drag this analogy out any further.
In the end, getting pregnant was the reason I gave up my twenty-plus a day cigarette habit – and I haven’t smoked since March 10th 1997, the day I discovered I was going to be a mother.
Now, frankly, a bun in the oven at my age would be a bloody miracle; to put it another way, it ain’t going to happen, egg-production having stopped in the Alienora Chicken Farm (as you might say, and I just did!).
But I AM going to go on a blogging diet – inspired by Hugh’s brilliant example earlier this year.
My days are going to change: Mornings, I shall run; after that, I shall edit novels – or even create new ones. The balance is going to change so that blogging becomes just a part of my life experience rather than the be-all and end-all I sometimes feel it to be.
But most importantly, I shall rediscover a sense of self-respect and belief – so that the fleeting fickleness of hits (and what a powerful metaphor THAT word is for any addictive personality: think about it and weep!) ceases to cause its casual chemical chaos; so that people’s opinions of me become the irrelevance they truly are; so that I am free to write as and when I want without feeling I have to do anything other than write!
I can conquer this latest addiction! I can, I can, I can – though Lord only knows what I’ll fixate on instead! Stamp collecting, maybe? Making pointless lists in very neat handwriting? Reading the telephone directory from A to Z – and making notes? Guessing the birth sign of everyone in the village? Counting silver cars on a Tuesday afternoon? Listening to ‘The Archers ‘ in Welsh?
I have been dependent upon the good opinions of others all my life – time, I feel, to put a stop to such arrant nonsense. Time to stop bending over backwards to please – and just be myself, bad temper, antisocial (at times) behaviour, weird habits and all.
Empathy is a very important quality in personal relationships (for good and for bad) – but I do NOT feel it has to come into the dialogue which takes place between two or more writers. Either someone is worth reading or he/she isn’t; whether that person is kind, sweet, empathic, generous or a complete nightmare doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the writing.
As Ali, I want to be remembered as a Creature of Light, love, heart, soul, sensuality and cracked surfaces!
As Alienora, the writer, I want to feel that Sekhmet and Hathor came through.
There is a difference!
It isn’t that I dislike people. I often care for them very deeply. It isn’t that I am bored by others. I often find them absorbing. It isn’t that I am a cold and selfish person. I often put others first, and, though emotionally shy, have a big heart.
From childhood, people have turned to me, confided in me. When I was at school, friends said I would be an excellent counsellor. I have pretty good listening skills. People trust me with their triumphs, woes, secrets and delights.
I am, in short, an Empath – and this condition should, in my view, have DANGER in red on the metaphorical box.
This expresses it perfectly – and it is, I suspect, why I struggle on here, on Facebook, on ANY social platform. Bombarded by emotion, I do not have the boundaries to cope. I drown in a sea of fragmented feelings, some my own but not all.
I can say no more.
I knew I had thrown the original, typed, versions of ‘Heneghan’ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ away – felt that the house was awash with paper versions of various novels – but, finding the Oxford-based part of a novel I wrote aged twenty-one made me wonder if any other paper copies of books were extant.
To my absolute delight, a ferret in my wooden box revealed treasure I had thought lost forever, namely the original of the Virginia Woolf novel, typed way back in 1983.
Here are two images of it lying upon the table in my Southern Quarter.
I have been thinking a great deal about blogging and novel-writing during the past few days – and, although I have thoroughly enjoyed my nearly three years as a blogger, I think my real strength, and pleasure, lies in longer, more detailed written pieces.
I am not sure how much longer I shall be around as a blogger. I say this because I am going to need to get on and edit the manuscript you see above. I have a version of it on my laptop – but it has been corrupted by age, and faint type, and I am going to need to transcribe from the original – hours and days of work involved.
I know, in my heart, that I simply won’t have time to read, do other people’s posts justice, ‘talk’ to anyone while all this frantic re-writing is going on – and, given that ‘Heneghan‘ also will need a vast amount of work, I think I am going to have to scale the blog right down – and may, ultimately, have to make the decision to end it.
I have said before that, for me, writing and sociability do not mix well. They never have, I’m afraid. I am full of admiration for those of you who ARE able to marry the two successfully – but I cannot. I HAVE tried, believe you me – but I know myself and I am only able to sustain conversations for very brief periods. I become overwhelmed otherwise.
The other thing is this – I am UNKNOWN, and, while I write for love and because I MUST, I also need to see if I can sell my books. If, in the end, I fail, it won’t be for lack of trying. I am pushing the dream vision just as far as I can. After all, I only get one go at THIS lifetime – and I do not want to look back, in five years’ time, and regret chances wasted, opportunities lost through shyness and lack of confidence.
What I see on all the Social Sites (and that includes WordPress) is a GAME. It is one we all play in real life, and it certainly has its place, otherwise we would all be mute isolates communing only with our invisible friends and next door’s cat!
Like all games, it has unspoken rules. Like all games, it can become addictive. Like all games, it can take a disproportionate amount of time out of each day!
I became, as a teenager, addicted to both Monopoly and Mah Jongg – and, whenever I could coerce friend or family member to join in, would spend HOURS each day playing one or the other!
Result? I barely moved from the house. Exercise was forgotten. Even my trusty journal was neglected!
Blogging has, for me, become like that earlier addiction – and I know, from my smoking days, that I AM, unfortunately, an addictive personality.
The truth is this: Just as, in real life, I cannot go out and socialise during the hours when I am writing, so it is on here. I was, in many ways, stupid to try and engage with so many people at once. This has never come easily to me; it is, if you like, a skill I lack. I have always been someone who had a few very close friends, rather than a woman with hundreds.
I have said before that one of my sisters believes I may be on the Autistic Spectrum – and many of my traits make me suspect that she may be right. The weird, almost savant (given my inability to do Maths) stuff about birth dates, for example, my OCD qualities (everything needs to be just so for me to feel safe) and my notorious lack of sociability with any other than known and trusted friends.
Tonight is my second book signing. I feel very anxious about it. Excited too, but anxiety leads at present. Oh, I can adopt the maverick teacher persona – after all, I did it for thirty years! – but I am feeling vulnerable underneath that mask. Socially, I am very unsure of myself – and withdraw at the slightest hint of threat.
I am very sorry that I have not been a truly sociable and interactive member of the blogging community. As I say, I have tried – but, to put it bluntly, too many people at once plunges me into profound anxiety and a feeling that I cannot cope. This then has a knock-on effect with regard to my writing. I spend so much time trying to respond and failing, or feeling guilty that I have not pulled my weight with other bloggers, that the words become trapped inside my head and I end up feeling a complete failure.
I am now awaiting the proof copies of the new version of ‘Come Laughing!’ and can do nothing more on it for the moment. I am, as you might say, in Limbo as far as already-published books are concerned.
But, with my Book Signing tomorrow night and the Virginia Woolf novel ready to be edited, I am not going to be bored.
I am going to share something musical (er, kind of!) with you today. When my son came back on Monday, he came in here to work (as he often does) and said, ‘Mum, you MUST listen to this Goat Remix…’
He found Queen’s finest (slightly adulterated by goats!) on YouTube, cranked up the speakers on my laptop and let me have it with both barrels.
I was sniggering within seconds, ROFLing by the end of the second line and aching/weeping with laughter by half way through. The Lad wasn’t much better!
See what you think…
Bloody hilarious, in my opinion!
Here is the new book cover. Much remains the same – but the image on the front is very different, and much more personal. A more detailed view below for you to peruse – and then the story of how, why, when and what!
Back in my twenties, I was approached by a local Pottery teacher and asked if I would be a Life Model for her evening classes on a Thursday. I was delighted – and, being an uninhibited kind of gal, whipped my clothes off and posed nude with no embarrassment or qualms. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience – and there is a more detailed post on here somewhere about my experiences.
I have no idea whether any of the statues of me modelling are still around – but I do know that at least one local artist make a few sketches before getting down and dirty with local clay, and the image I have now put on the front of ‘Come Laughing!’ is, in part, composed of two of those little drawings.
The whole thing was painted by local artist, Derek Stenner (who attended the classes back in the 1980s, and remains a friend!). In it, there are two views of me in a purple dress (which I thought very apt given the whole purple cover/Purple Prose aspect of the book!) and two views, sketched during one of the classes, of me reclining and sitting nude.
I thought this was a great painting to use because ‘Come Laughing!’ is all about MY views of sex and nudity and being uninhibited and talking dirty and so on. So using myself as a guinea pig, as a model if you like, seemed fitting!
I have modelled in the buff twice since then, and have been approached by two local artists in the past year alone to have another go! Must be the Pre-Raphaelite face – because, let’s face it, the body, as glimpsed in the images above, is not quite the same now!
So, take advantage of the five weeks of very cheap downloading of both (what’s not to like about a Kindle book for 99 cents, eh?) and also the reduced prices on the paperback versions. At present, both versions of ‘Come Laughing!‘ are showing on KDP – but I will get this sorted out!
This morning, I received a wonderful comment, on ‘Come Laughing!’, from an ex-pupil. I am not going to name this person, but my day was hugely brightened up by the words below:
‘ What can I say? Your book is amazing! I’ve p***ed myself laughing, frowning, cringing, groaning, crying and sighing so far and not finished yet! What a breath of fresh air – feminine honesty and reality. Utterly brilliant! Thank you!!! ‘
From tomorrow (Wednesday February 18th) until MARCH 31st 2015, both ‘Come Laughing!‘ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ will be CHEAPER to BUY/DOWNLOAD on line.
Kindle editions will now be a fantastic 0.99 cents (a genuine bargain!) and the paperback copies have both gone down in price too!
In addition, there will be a brand-new, and far more suggestive, picture on the front cover of ‘Come Laughing!‘ I am not, however, going to divulge the precise details because it will not be ready until tomorrow and I want to keep that element of anticipation.
Make the most of this opportunity, everyone!
Tomorrow, I shall post an image of the new, improved, sexy (I think!) cover – and will reveal the story behind it…
Not in my case, it doesn’t!
I am not, for a moment, doubting the veracity of the title. You only have to look at what is described as The Oldest Profession – prostitution – to see the truth in it.
People want to have sex. It is a hugely strong urge. And some people, for a variety of reasons, choose to pay for it.
People also love to buy pornography and books of erotica.
Other writers were confident that ‘Come Laughing!‘ would sell, probably by the bucket-load.
It hasn’t – and I am left feeling depressed, a touch disillusioned and cynical about what actually makes a book attractive to the reader.
Is it not kinky enough? Has my determination not to go into Sado-Masochism and the more abusive side of the sexual experience (though I could have done) told against me? Should I have made it more pornographic? Added titillating photos?
Are the graphic scenes I found arousing simply too tame for most other people? Is the female view of sex totally lacking erotic charge to most men?
I do not know.
I have found some measure of success selling to people I know – and that is great, much appreciated too – but it is a finite resource, if you think about it. I have thirty-four of the books I ordered from CreateSpace left; once they are sold, I already know that I cannot justify the expenditure involved in buying more.
And this is where my sense of despair is coming from.
I have held back from writing this because I feel ashamed at my own books’ lack of wider appeal – but February has been a thin month on Amazon, to say the very least. Depressingly so. Not helped by reading about more successful writers who are selling two or more per DAY.
Okay, I am going to share my shame with you, to illustrate the point that, in order to progress, we need to be seen and downloaded on line too.
On KDP, I have sold NOTHING for over a week – and the whole of February has netted me about four sales.
CreateSpace is even worse: TWO paperbacks ordered in the whole month thus far.
My books slide ever further down the ratings lists. No new reviews have been posted.
Yes, if you are E.L.James. Not, it would appear, if you are Alienora Taylor.
It is so ironic. Sickeningly so, actually – and, yes, I AM both bitter and jealous; I don’t mind admitting it.
I haven’t read ’50 Shades of Grey’ – but, apparently it is badly-written AND abuse wrapped up in the pleasing paper of erotica. Yet, it has made her millions of pounds and has been filmed. All the reviews of the film version I have read thus far have said that it is is, if anything, even worse than the book – and yet it is netting millions, I gather.
And, in my dark moments, I end up thinking, ‘Do I have to write something as depraved and horrible as a sexual Snuff novel in order to meet the needs of the readers? Are we so desensitized as a society that only the violent extremes – murder, sexual beatings and abuse, vampires – turn us on enough to bother reading the book?’
If this IS the case, I am stuffed.
Because, when things seems really hopeless, this is what goes through my mind:
‘Either I shall fail/sink without trace – or I shall have to join the populist band wagon and churn out a tale of murderous vampires dragging one another, hooded and PVC-clad, down to a dungeon for a bloody good spanking before a luridly-described scene of teeth meeting neck flesh, accompanied by graphic cock-in-cunt/other orifice action, brings the whole thing to a bloody, and jizzy, climax.’
See where I am coming from? Pun deliberate!
Populist ‘literature’ is not necessarily well-written. But it has become the modern version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. People do not wish to be the first one to say, ‘But this is CRAP!’ We all tend to think that, if it is popular, selling by the pantechnicon, it MUST be good, and it is we who lack that discernment, who are unable to appreciate true quality when we see it. Or we accuse ourselves, as I do regularly, of just being jealous because we are not doing well in our own attempts to sell books!
I sometimes suspect that sex only sells when it is abnormal, furtive, extremist, violent or degrading. That Vanilla Sex is seen, both in life and in books, as infra dig, tedious, not worth the effort. I think, furthermore, it is extremely telling – and not a little worrying – that the term Vanilla Sex (to describe normal fucking) has come into our vocabulary at all, don’t you? It implies that only spiced up – as it were Paprika Sex or even Spanish Fly Sex – bonking is deemed sexy enough to get us going.
Sex sells – if it hurts enough, is degrading enough, uses children or animals or whips or dungeons or nappies.
I reckon ’50 Sheds of Grey’ is far better, and probably more erotic, than its famous predecessor!!
Di Bradley about to pull a pint or two!
I have, once again, been blessed by a blast from the past – and am pushing through the pain to perpetrate publishing pleasure and signal a sanguine session of sizzling book signing.
This morning, as I moped morosely about the place, a message appeared from Di Bradley, a feisty and fun lady whom I worked with many years ago at the school where I taught, and who is now the landlady of the Nightjar Pub in Mead Vale, Worle.
Di has very generously offered me the use of the pub as a venue for my next book-signing adventure. Wasn’t that lovely? I was so touched.
Now this is fabulous is many ways. One, the pub is right next door to Worle Community School (where I taught for thirty years) and, therefore, I think there is a high chance that I’ll bump into (and, I hope, sell books to!) a fair few familiar faces. Secondly, I taught three of Di’s children when they were at the school – so that is a truly great connection. And thirdly, Di herself was always very much a kindred spirit – many’s the laugh we had during our days supervising children in the Library!
Couldn’t be better!
Now for the specifics:
VENUE: NIGHTJAR PUB, MEAD VALE, WORLE, WESTON-SUPER-MARE
DATE: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 19th 2015
TIME: 8PM ONWARDS
There is a car park right outside the pub.
I have EIGHTEEN copies of ‘LLB’ and SIXTEEN of ‘COME LAUGHING!’ – and will have these with me to sell to anyone who hasn’t got a copy. Or, if you would prefer, go on to Amazon and order a copy.
It should be great. The venue is a Community Pub (which I thoroughly approve of and support) – and many people in the local area will know Di, and, in all probability, me!
If you are an ex-pupil (from 1981 onwards!) or a parent of Worle pupils, or a friend, or just a curious local, why not come along?
Be entertained by me reading out excerpts from both books! Sink a pint or two of local ale! Sample a glass of wine! Mingle with the marvellous masses! And totter out afterwards with a signed Alienora (as it were!) clutched in your sticky mitts!
Many thanks, Di, for contacting me out of the blue – and, thus, blowing away my own fit of the Blues!
Narcissists are, according to everything I have read/experienced, more than capable of romantic gestures; in fact, they need to see themselves as adepts in this respect – as they do in every other sphere. This poem expresses – from the perspective of both Narc and, by implication, Supply – what lies behind the grand card-and-flowers-and chocolate gesture for anyone in a relationship with a man/woman who has NPD. Part of the pattern is to overwhelm the Supply with extreme generosity (Love Bombing, as it is called) – and then demand recompense – with vast interest – at a later date.
This is not, of course, a realistic poem because many/most NPD people lack empathy and are unable/unwilling to see the colours of their own behaviour, preferring to project everything on to their nearest and ‘dearest’ – and would, therefore, be highly unlikely to acknowledge any awareness of the way they habitually operate.
Forgive me that poetic licence.
I have written the text in red as an ironic little bow to the dominant colour on Valentine’s cards.
Will you be my Valentine,
Young woman – one of many! -
Prepared to drop her knickers,
And fuck every which way on
Charm’s high wattage of demand?
Will you be my Valentine,
Empathic hole to be filled
With full freight of fantasy?
Will you accept that your role
Is softest of supply -
That love’s velvet glove
Hides Gaslighter’s iron fist?
Will you be my Valentine -
And know the loss of mind,
Of health, of hope, of friends,
Of the comfort of relatives
At the end of a phone?
Will you be my Valentine -
And live in the terror of never knowing
Which way I’ll leap?
Will you be my Valentine -
And live in the stifling tent
Of my unspoken rules?
Will you endlessly check
That you have not transgressed?
Accept that being ignored, undermined,
Dismissed, belittled and terrified is
Just ‘reward’ for YOUR insanity?
Will you be my Valentine -
And accept random gifts
Which, entered in Rage’s Ledger,
Are later used as weapons
In the great War of Attrition?
Will you be my Valentine -
And, lured into my seductive aura,
Confide all the little niggles and squiggles
And wriggles and silly little fears
Residing in your disordered head?
Will you, then, accept, my inalienable RIGHT
To mete out punishment,
Using your pathetic secrets,
Whenever YOU have provoked me?
Will you be my Valentine -
And accept that you are not normal,
That no one but me would put up with you,
Give you a moment’s glance?
That you are deranged, damaged and doomed?
That only my love keeps you out
Of locked ward, strait-jacket and slit wrists?
Will you be my Valentine –
And learn, quickly, to placate my rages?
To please me at all times?
To account for your days, thoughts and expenditure?
To turn others aside, to put money
Before health, happiness, relaxation?
Will you be my Valentine -
And learn how to be a silent nothing
On the great stage of my brilliance,
Kindness, patience, generosity, intelligence, good looks
And righteous fury at the incompetence, cheating,
Insults, penny-squandering, sexual reluctance
And general inferiority of others?
Will you be my Valentine -
And know that you will only last
As long as you do what I want?
Will you accept the covert presence of other,
Better, Valentines – beautiful and obedient
Ladies, only too well-qualified to step
Into your ugly, unloving shoes?
Will you be my Valentine -
And KNOW that failing to meet my needs
Proves you do not love me;
That you are a cold, selfish and ungrateful
failure of a woman – and that most of
Your peculiar, and thoughtless, actions in life -
And that’s 99% of what you do! -
Prove your inadequacy, and my incredible love
For one so low in the pecking order as you?
Will you be my Valentine -
And never be sure
That your thoughts are right,
Or sane, or ordered or worth
The pink lips opening for utterance?
Will you promise to doubt every thought,
Every word, every friendship,
Every purchase, every present?
Will you learn to scorn unnecessary rituals of love,
And hate all the things I so loathe?
Will you learn malignant sarcasm, and call it a joke,
Even when it hurts others?
Will you learn that everyone is out to use and abuse you?
That no one loves you for who you are?
That revenge, spite and childish taunting
Save us from the cheating masses out there?
Will you be my Valentine -
Co-dependant ease of passage?
For no one else will ask you!
This might surprise some of you: I was a terribly anxious and over-protective mother, particularly when the Lad was younger. It shames me to admit that I did not let him walk to school alone until he was ten – and we live in a small village.
Whenever he went to a friend’s house, I worried. I was anxiety manifest; I really was.
I was not able to let go, you see; I could not allow myself to give him the independence we both so needed. I was so scared of him getting lost or injured or stolen that I limited his every move.
Gradually, light began to dawn, however, and I was able to see the extent to which I was holding HIM back from becoming the boy he was meant to be – and holding myself back in an unnecessary loop of terror.
This morning, it hit me that I have behaved in EXACTLY the same way with my books – and for similar reasons.
My ability to let the Boy grow and flourish flowered once I gave up teaching – and came to full fruition last August when I waved the then-sixteen-year-old Simon off to Nepal for the adventure of a life time – photo below:
Simon is the one holding the dog, for those new to my blog…
Time to let my books flee from Mother’s over-cosseting arms and fly to the metaphorical Nepal of the literary realm. I am holding myself, and them, back by constantly harping on about them. Enough’s enough! Time to move on!
You know where they are.
I shall let them make their own way in the world, with love – as I am now able to do with my son.
Me in the Otter, at Budleigh Salterton, aged four, in 1962.
When I was a little girl, in the years before my mother converted to Catholicism, my parents (and their growing Whinge of Weans) used to potter off to the local Protestant Church of a Sunday for a bit of communal singing, praying and, one assumes, shriving.
The church we attended in Headington (where we moved a month or so after this photo was taken) was called St Andrew’s – and it saw the Christening of three siblings, the marriage of the same three and, sad to relate, the funeral of my father back in June 2007.
Prior to our Oxonian days, we perambulated from Aldershot (where I was whelped), to Horton-cum-Studley, with a few other villages thrown in for good measure – and, at each one, we found, and joined, a church.
I think I must have been about two when the incident I am about relate occurred – and was, therefore, a smaller version of the bathing-suited moppet shown with doll in water.
I wasn’t a great one for speaking in those days – and wasn’t overly physical either (having not started walking till I was eighteen months old) – but I was an observant small party, clearly, from what the Parental Pair told me, possessed of a mind of my own even at the tender age of two.
When Mummy, Daddy and the little Bambi (my nick-name till I was eighteen, for those new to my blog) went to Sunday morning service, there would always be the traipse up to the altar for Communion. During this time, my parents would get the wafer dropped upon the tongue and be offered the small quaff of vinous liquid. The Vicar would also pat all the children on the head and bless them.
I watched this week after week – and, extrapolating from a memory lost to my conscious mind – must have gathered an increasing sense of peeve to my tiny bosom.
I watched, as I say, and saw Mummy and Daddy being given a dreary-looking wafer thing (which interested me not, never being a fan of rusks and similar) and a slug of ceremonial wine (which definitely DID even then – showed dipsomaniac tendencies from the earliest age, as you will gather!) – and me being given NOTHING of any value to a right-thinking toddler who could not be bamboozled by a measly hand on the bonce and a few Godly words. No, Sirree!
In my baby heart, I must have seethed at the blatant unfairness of life – but uttered not a word of this growing discontent to my beloved parents…
…until the Sunday in question, that is, when I piped up loud and clear – and, being a typical Browning in the clarity and high decibel count of voice even then, was, I have no doubt, audible well to the back of the church – and probably throughout most of the neighbouring hamlets!
The wafer passed down my eager parents’ gullets, as per usual. The chalice of wine dipped towards Mummy’s open mouth – and I had had enough…
‘Some for Bambi?’ I bellowed out, probably in querulous tones – though I might have accompanied this plea with a well-judged lip tremble, I suppose, or even a tear or two!
I should imagine my parents were hideously embarrassed at this egregious Humiliation by Toddler – probably wished that I would disappear right back from whence I had so recently emerged!
I would love to be able to report that the Vicar was an enlightened and child-friendly soul who allowed me the merest hint of a taste; I would love even more to be able to tell you that I wrenched the goblet from his flabberghasted hands, drained the lot and then staggered around church hiccuping and uttering rude words for the rest of the service – but I cannot because neither of these things happened, more’s the pity.
Thwarted of alcoholic stimulant, I gave way to wall-paper-ripping screams and had to be bundled under an arm and carried out before I set all the rest of the under-fives off!
Hmmmm! No change there, then!
I always was a disruptive little sod!
The sleeting of inspiration is rarely less than ecstatic. The following of words and images, net in hand, is delightful – though frustration can set in when the elusive Greater Spotted Metaphor disobligingly merges with the landscape and pretends to be part of a tree. The actual warm and fleshy link between brain and hand, pen and paper is, for me, the veriest Heaven: I still get a thrill from hand writing – and tapping on here has never had that soul and earth connection.
Editing I can cope with. After thirty years teaching English to adolescents, marking (which is all editing is really!) holds few terrors for me, though it can be frustratingly arduous and time-consuming.
All that formatting is more of a problem – for me, at any rate – though I have been very lucky thus far because Sue Vincent has been most supportive AND had now given me easy-to-understand (even for a numbskull like Ali!) instructions.
Getting novels up onto CreateSpace (my preferred platform since late last year) is relatively easy and painless.
The real problem, for me anyway, lies in the next stage: Trying to interest the general public in my literary wares without coming across either as a big-headed bully or as someone so timid and terrified that the potential readers could well ask themselves, ‘Can anyone so apologetic and grovelling actually WRITE?!’
There is such a melange of thought milling around in the just-published writer’s head, don’t you find? Excitement, crazy hope, fear, anxiety – dreams and nightmares whirling around in the hot rinse of the soul.
We tend to go from high to low, often in the blink of a scythe cutting spirit from life. One moment, we are sure that our little book is a solid piece and WILL sell; the next, we are straight out on the Catastrophe curve, convinced that everything we touch turns to ordure of the pongiest variety, and that others would buy crack cocaine before even considering our inadequate crap!
We go through phases of feeling threatened by, and resentful of, other writers – forgetting that we are all in this weird Alice in Wonderland world TOGETHER! – especially if they seem to be (or actually ARE) more successful than we are!
We find ourselves reluctant to support others because, ‘The buggers are already streets ahead of me; I’m not giving them any more of an advantage!’
We get to that stage of paranoia where, were this a Sports Day at Primary School, we’d be nobbling other competitors, cheating with gay abandon and even putting legs out to trip up the surgingly successful runners! We assume that everyone’s out to get US, rather than our BOOKS!
Some of us, in a firmer grip of Paranoia’s iron fist than others, even go to bed clutching our tomes – for all the world like a broody hen – just in case the legions of Word Burglars we are secretly convinced exist blast through our front doors and steal everything we have written since that smudged ‘Thank you’ note to Great Aunt Brunhilde when we were four!
Some of us need therapy and/or anti psychotic medication to get through this part of the process. One or two, at the higher end of the Writers’ Selling Disorder Spectrum even end up rather more familiar with the padded cell and clinging jacket side of things – and ECT is not unknown in the most severe cases. Certainly does the job – you forget your worries about your novel completely, but, unfortunately, you also lose the ability to write!
So there we are, gibbering tearfully in a corner or pounding the keyboard with a meat-cleaver – thinking it is a best-selling rival just announcing his/her millionaire status on Facebook!
Virginia Woolf went insane, or at least became seriously discombobulated in the brain area, AFTER some of her books were published. Before I published myself, I always used to wonder why – having assumed, in those early halcyon days, that the WRITING was the most difficult part!
I now understand only too well where she was coming from – and I don’t blame her in the slightest for communing with demised Kings and hearing birds speaking in Greek. I have, I confess, been tempted to go that route myself on occasions!
That bit where you have sent your baby out into the world (whether traditionally or self-published makes no odds really) and are waiting to see if it will rise like a successful cake or sink like a concrete-overcoated cadaver is trying in the extreme. Lunacy-inducing actually.
I would be fascinated to know what percentage of emergency submissions to psychiatric (locked) units are made up of just-published authors/creative types generally!
So how the hell DO we cope? How Do we manage to keep going when we have sold fuck-all in a week, and Writer B is proudly telling the Known Universe all about his/her film rights? How DO we avoid the twin traps of jealousy and insecurity?
And how on earth do we get ourselves out there, with integrity and without damaging any other writer’s reputation in the process? How can we manage to be ethical and fair whilst also trying to reach for success? How far should our support of others go – and to what extent should we be selfish at this stage in the game?
I desperately want people to buy and read ‘Come Laughing!’ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ – but am very unwilling to tread on other people in order for this to happen. I want people to know who I am – but I don’t want to be seen as bullying, or aggressive or a user.
I want to be Number 1 (in erotica or humour, or both!); I want to be a best-seller and make thousands of pounds – but I also want to be a decent, caring and supportive human being. At present, I am struggling to keep both balls in the air!
I have no answers. Only questions. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this quintessential authors’ dilemma.
Yes, I know – you’ve probably all seen these before and are thinking, ‘Why doesn’t the Narcissistic old harridan give it a rest?!’
Or possibly, ‘Women of her age should be busy knitting tasteful twin-sets in shades of baby vomit and reading improving literature…’
Well, bugger both those options, frankly!
The reason for choosing the above images of the Alien visage is that all of them (in my mind, anyway) cock a snook at the very idea of my true age! Not that I give a stuff. When I was a teacher, I always told the kids how old I was – and nothing has changed since then.
People say to me, ‘You don’t look fifty-seven!’
Flattering – unless they actually wish to follow that with, ‘…you look at least ninety…’ in which case a kick in the balls seems fair!
But isn’t that so bloody weird? I mean that we pigeon-hole people to such an extent that we have these predetermined views of how one should look at a certain age. Fifty-seven?! Hmmmm! Let’s have a think…
Definite Hag Territory, that’s for sure: protuberant nose a la Grimms’ witch; hair as thin as Chaucer’s Pardoner and grey as a badger’s arse; skin more wrinkled than a used handkerchief – and a dowager’s hump so ginormous that one could balance the week’s shopping on it.
Shall I go on?
‘No, please don’t!’ scream the youthful hordes who have no wish to be reminded of what they MIGHT turn into, and the aged who are desperately trying to pretend that they are still seventeen!
Okay – I’ll leave it at that apart from saying, ‘You know the old wives’ tale concerning bits of the female anatomy going south? Well, I hate to have to break it to you, but…’
I am damned proud of the person I have become; I love the fact that I am rebellious, feisty and spirited; I think it’s amazing that I have published a book of pornography AT MY AGE!
‘Good for me,’ sez I – and, yes, it has been very liberating!
I am damned proud of the title too. ‘Come Laughing!’ – well, it makes ME laugh and, given that laughter IS erotic, would probably be orgasm-inducing too, if I were in an intimate a deux setting (or between the sheets/draped over a boulder in a forest pool, as it’s also known!).
After last weekend’s lovely support by ex-pupils, the trail has gone cold on both KDP and CreateSpace, unfortunately. No books of mine have been ordered from Amazon this week. Such a shame – but there’s nothing I can do.
Oddly (or perhaps not), the personal touch has been far more successful: Having copies of both books, signing them and either sending them or passing them over (once the PayPal bit’s out of the way, that is) to those I know/used to teach has worked well.
Happy, obviously, to send signed copies to fellow bloggers if anyone wants one – but have been very wary about saying this because I suspect there’s probably (and understandably) an embargo on such activities on here. Otherwise we’d all be at it, morning, noon and night – and WordPress would turn into little more than a Literary Brothel!
If I don’t post again, assume I have been blacklisted by the Powers That Be for behaving like a trollop and touting my nefarious wares at every lamp post in the immediate vicinity…
Ought to know better at my age, eh?!
This morning, I nearly gave up on parts of the writing dream – but have been revitalized by Hugh’s lovely anniversary post. Not just the fact that he mentioned me in dispatches (though that was hugely heartening and touching) – but his whole style and attitude (which I find so positive and warming). Thanks, Hugh!
I have looked at, and followed, most of the lovely fellow bloggers Hugh mentioned. I trust his instinct for such things – and very much want to move on to pastures new on here, as you might say!
Meanwhile, I HAVE to maintain my belief in my own books – even though things have, once again, gone ominously quiet; even though no one I contacted from the local media got back to me; even though I sometimes fear I’ll disappear without trace as a published writer.
Now I want to share something beautiful and uplifting with you: ‘La Follia‘ played by the incomparable Jordi Savall. I wept when I heard it first – exultation and extreme emotion plaited so tightly together that even I was unable to extricate the individual strands:
In an attempt at shifting a few more copies of my tomes, and inspired by Annette, I wrote posts on several local Buy and Sell sites on Facebook.
To my delight, loads of ex-pupils commented – and several messaged me, asking if I could reserve a copy for them.
As a result of this, I was able to send off three books to loving homes on Monday morning – and, even better, I got to meet, and have a lovely chat with, a delightful lady whom I taught twenty-plus years ago.
Back, first though, to Sunday night. Eloise ( a feisty spirit whom I knew during my tenure as Deputy Head of House at the school) had sent me lots of very enthusiastic messages via Facebook – and, that evening, she, her partner(whom I had taught!) and son came over to visit and pick up her copy.
It was wonderful to see her again – and we had a great chat and a laugh, remembering teachers and other pupils. She turned out to be a bit of a kindred spirit – and, since she wants to buy the second book as well, I am hoping to see her again some time.
Monday, having done my bit for the local Post Office, I drove into Weston and made my way to Loves Cafe to meet up with Deb. The place was closed! That was a panicky moment, let me tell you. So, I nipped up Wadham Street to the Heritage Cafe and waltzed in.
The sight before my eyes was so incongruous and, frankly, hilarious that I was hard put to keep a straight face. Six beldames of this Parish (in their sixties, at a guess) were sitting round a table – wait for it! – KNITTING! I kid you not. They were also gossiping ten to the dozen. Click click, went the needles; ‘Ooh, you never did!’ went the mouths; slurp slurp, crunch went the comestibles and coffee as they made their way past the Dental Gate and down the Oesophageal Tunnel to Castle Stomach.
I ordered a Cappuccino and a cake – not the WHOLE cake, you understand, just a slabette – and relaxed into the arms of this early morning vibe!
Fortunately, Loves was open by the time I tottered back there – and, Deb having already arrived, I grabbed a hot chocolate (with Marshmallows, for those who wanted to know!) and two Smarties-impregnated cookies, and then subsided into the worn and comfortable sofa for a good old reminisce. Great fun!
There is something very moving about meeting up with people you last saw as children – and learning all about their life’s journey since then.
I drove back home, feeling happy and full of energy – and, having logged on here, suddenly heard the distinctive ping of a Facebook notification arriving.
To my utter astonishment, it was from an old, and dear, friend – someone I had lost touch with, and had searched for on FB several times.
Five years younger than me, this girl (as she was then) arrived at the school where I taught for so long back in 1982. Marie-Pierre was an assistant in the Modern Foreign Languages Department – and we clicked almost immediately. We shared a birth sign, a ribald -nay Rabelaisian! – sense of humour and we were both more than capable of Gossiping for the South West.
I recall several drunken evenings in the flat I owned in those days – a splendidly Victorian little number at the posh end of Weston:
A typical Cecil Road house (though not the one I had a flat in!)
After a few glasses of wine, the shoes would come off and the character analysis (er, bitching, in my case) would begin – all punctuated by howls of loud laughter.
Sad to relate, Marie-Pierre moved away from the area in the mid-eighties – and I feared I would never see, or hear from, her again.
It was so exciting to see her name – and, when she sent a few photos, the lady herself. She looks exactly the same!
These three meetings have given me great joy and hope – and this is just as well because yesterday was extremely stressful and, at times, upsetting. The tension actually caused me to be physically sick. This is not a good sign. Or maybe it is. Maybe my body is simply clamouring loudly for an end to the impasse, is saying, very clearly, ‘I can’t take any more of this situation…’
I am trying very hard to be positive, to add notes to my tin every day – but the physical response to those parts of my life which don’t work is getting ever-stronger and more frightening.
Thank you to Eloise, Annette, Deb and Marie-Pierre for giving me hope – and to all the other ex-pupils who have sent me lovely comments, wanted to buy my books or simply crossed a road to say, ‘Hi, Mrs Taylor! Remember me?’
Walking along the beach at Port Isaac, I smell that distinctive aroma of demised crab – and, turning a bladdery mass of seaweed over with the toe of my right foot, I see the rotting remains…
…back, back, back I go, to the summer holidays of 1966 when, at the age of eight, I went, with my parents and two younger sisters, on the long journey from Headington, Oxford, to Budleigh Salterton in Devon.
There was no motorway in those days; there was not even the Atlantic Highway which, these days, makes travelling into Devon and Cornwall such a speedy breeze.
No. We had six plus hours in the Mini Clubman – a nightmare of a journey broken by the regular vomiting of my littlest sister, the ghastly sucking of travel sweets perpetrated by the rest of us and increased bouts of irascibility from the Parental Pair.
But we always got so excited about seeing the sea for the first time – and I can still recall cresting the hill and gazing down at that wonderful expanse of choppy water, so different from anything in Oxford!
That year, my grandparents had moved from Flagstones, the old family home, because of my grandfather’s increasing fragility – and had holed up in a much smaller house called, appropriately enough, The Little House.
Next sister down and I, judged old and sensible enough to have some degree of freedom, spent many a happy hour on Budleigh beach foraging. We were particularly fascinated by the little green crabs which scurried about, scuttling under rocks whenever they sensed we were in the vicinity.
We collected them avidly in our blue and red buckets and showed each one proudly to our parents. I cannot now remember whether we wanted them as pets, or out of scientific interest, or just because; it is, after all, nearly half a century ago!
They were our treasure, part of the tight-knit bond we had as children; they were OUR crabs – and we were going to take them home come hell or, aptly in the circumstances, high water!
Trouble is, we had not allowed for the Dispatch part of the Hatch. Match and ‘D’ word trio – and, despite lovely fresh sea water, our aquatic friends began to roll up the curtain and join the choir invisible.
Our parents were, understandably, a tad reluctant to take several buckets full of increasingly pongy stowaways back to the Home Counties – but we put on such a weeping and wailing and rending of garments that the poor buggers gave in eventually, and the buckets were placed between small girls’ calves in the back of the car.
The smell in the car was, initially, on the spectrum between piquant and edgily bracing – but, what with the heat, the increasing mortality and the lack of air conditioning, the vehicle was soon little more than a slow-moving hecatomb – and even we, the proud owners, were heartily sick (in both senses) of our charges.
As mass purge followed mass purge, as my parents’ testiness gave way to nuclear rage, as slow mile after slow mile made the situation worse, I am sure my father would quite happily have jettisoned the lot of us on Dartmoor had he had his way!
Bracing sea smell gave way to rancid honk and, as we bumped down Dark Lane, went straight into the sinus-draining realms of full-on decomposition. Other cars overtook us in gassed desperation! I’m surprised we weren’t arrested as a health hazard!
Eventually, after what felt like WEEKS, we got home to Cumbraes – and, as we little girls fell sobbing out of the car, we were told, in no uncertain terms, that the odoriferous sea creatures were going straight onto the compost heap. No argument allowed!
Strangely enough, I have never, since that day, been able to eat crab without heaving!
Can’t imagine why.
Sometimes we need the beauty and solace of nature, don’t we?
I live about an hour away from Westonbirt Arboretum. It is stunning at all times, but especially glorious during the autumn months (see first photo) – and I have spent many a happy hour walking down its magnificent paths.
My Soul Land since 1976 has been West Wales. Twice – in 2005 and 2006 – my family and I rented this fabulous long house, near Rhayader. Again, such sublime loveliness.
Looking at both images, I feel soothed.
Sometimes I think negatively. Sometimes I feel despairing, even desperate. Sometimes, as I have shared before on here, graphic images of self-harming flock, like ghastly vultures, through my mind. Sometimes I feel as if I am expressing the sturm und drang of those who would rather not have to turn that particular stone over and peer beneath it.
Please do not, however, get the impression that I am a lily-livered and pathetic character who is perennially miserable and looks on the dark side of life’s moon the whole time. Please do not make the mistake so many have made in life – and that is to equate those who are BOSSY and ASSERTIVE with strength of character – and thus call me weak because I do not find assertiveness easy and, outside the classroom, lack the bossy gene almost completely.
I can be a hugely positive person. I have the ability to cheer others up, make them laugh and leave them feeling much better than they did before meeting me. Many people have commented that I am one of life’s Radiators. I am, as you know, keeping a Tin of Positives (see both images above) – and the second photo is, I feel, testament to my ability to look for, and find, positives in my life.
So, when I say ‘Don’t get me wrong!’ I mean it in both senses.
Like so many of us in this world, I am dealing with extremely difficult situations underneath the persona I allow the blogging world to see. Yes, I cry on here, and rage, and return to ancient vomit (as you might say); but I also laugh and sparkle and cackle and rejoice. I am human, I am me. I have never pretended to be anyone else. Why should I?
Something I will share today may surprise some of my regular readers – because I seem, I know, quite formidable in some respects: I was bullied as a child; I have been bullied as an adult and I find it almost impossible to stand up for myself.
Yesterday, I reblogged the story of teenage girls attacking me on a bus. There was a reason. Whatever it was about me that attracted that kind of attention has continued. Not physically, I hasten to add. Other than the 1988 sexual assault, I haven’t been hit in decades. But I DO have a habit of attracting (for want of a better word) psychological bullies into my life – and I am no more able to cope with them now than I was in 1970.
It takes little to persuade me that I am at fault, in the wrong, mentally ill, irreparably damaged. It takes almost nothing for my fragile boundaries to be stepped over and then wiped out. It takes a millisecond for my mind to be over-run by the determined armies of another’s need to be right.
Does this truly mean that I am weak and the other strong, though? Is bullying truly a sign of a strong character? I have never been sure that it is.
Similarly, does my emotional honesty (especially when I share my pain) mean that I am a negative and self-indulgent personality? No, I do not believe it does. The fact that it would be inappropriate for me to divulge the reasons BEHIND some of my darker moments does not mean they do not exist. They DO; they are very real and there is no obvious solution in sight at the moment – and believe me I have racked my brain for answers.
No one can be positive all the time. Our world is made up of light and darkness, of pleasure and pain, of happiness and unhappiness. Sometimes we really do have to lie in the gutter in order to fully see, and appreciate, the beautiful glitter of the stars.
But I also have to say this – knowing that it is unlikely to be popular: Some domineering, ‘strong’ people see themselves as positive precisely because of their ability to be assertive all the time – and see others as weak and negative because they do not have that ability to bull-doze over everyone and everything.
Yes, a mechanical bull-dozer IS a strong and powerful piece of equipment; yes, it can, indeed, move vast piles of earth and other debris. But that is its function; that is what it was designed to do – and that inbuilt ability does not actually make it either positive or negative. It is a machine, a thing. Its value comes from the way it is used.
Bull-dozers break. Don’t forget that.
If you are one of life’s bull-dozers, and lucky enough to be able to shift the detritus of other people’s objections out of the way with ease, please do not condemn those of us who are not built in this way. If you are a person who prides him/herself on being positive and upbeat 24/7, please try and and curb your need to look down upon those of us who allow negative feelings in from time to time.
If you are lucky enough to be a fluent confider, the sort of person who is able to phone up friends in the early hours to share your unhappiness, please try and resist feeling superior to those of us, like me, who find it easier to ‘talk’ through the written word and struggle to open up to real people.
And please, can we try and stop – as a society, as a Global Village – these destructive value judgements concerning suffering’s spectrum. Can we stop this kind of sanctimonious ‘Think yourself lucky that you have not…’ mentality. It does not help. It hinders. It pushes desperate and unhappy people into shells from which they may never emerge.
We dismiss the suffering of others so easily, don’t we? We think, with a frisson of inner pride, ‘Ooh, I would NEVER get so upset about something so silly,’ or, ‘Think that’s suffering? You should try walking in MY shoes for an hour…’
Compassion seems to be leaking out of this world. Increasingly, it is being replaced by self-righteousness, by a sense that people have no right to suffer unless they meet certain criteria – and, if they keep on being unhappy/ill/bereaved for too long, they are attention-seeking, pathetic, weak and should probably be exposed on the nearest cliff.
Can we try and bring fellow feeling back into the complex equation of the human condition? Can we try and stop feeling superior to the ill, the unhappy, the war-torn, the hungry, the mentally ill? Can we try and get away from this horrible mindset which insists that all ills are, ultimately, the fault of the person suffering them?
There but for the grace of the Creator go I.
NOT, they deserve it because they don’t try hard enough.
When I was twelve, a group of girls beat me up on a bus. In this piece, I tell the story both from the point of view of me looking back to the child I was then and from that of the older girl who actually attacked me.
Twelve, I was, a shy little thing, bit of a dreamer, not quite with it in the real world. The product of Protective Maternal instincts, I had only recently been allowed to take the bus, from Headington into Oxford, by myself. It felt such a grown-up thing to be doing, but scary too because of all the ways I could disappoint the adult world by my unthinking clumsiness and forgetfulness.
No one had told me that there was a hierarchy on double decker buses: that the back row on the top deck was sacrosanct; that, by some unwritten rule (of which I was completely unaware), this coveted area of tattered red-patterned plush was the exclusive domain of the Bovver Boys and their Female Consorts.
Of course, all the swaggering teens and posing pre-pubescents made a bee-line for the upstairs anyway; it was deemed uncool to lurk downstairs with all the boring old grannies.
I can see my twelve year old self so clearly – and can hear the crystal insult of my vowels, the crisp, if inadvertent, red rag of clipped consonants to the Cowley-bred bulls. I can see the snobbery inherent in my studied ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’s – and something more, something I could not see at the time: a quality of innocence, of gullibility, of invisible ‘Kick me!’s plastered to the back of my cardigan.
I can even remember the slices of light, from in between Spring-blossomed trees, which perched upon the murky glass of tobacco fumed and adolescent sweat stinking cocktail from which we all, in our very different ways, drank.
I sat at the back, nervously neat, out of place in every sense, clutching my ticket in damp hands, staring into the middle distance.
The short-skirted, bubble-gum-chewing, feather-cutted herd of mid-teen heifers must have been behind me in the queue, though I wasn’t aware of them at the time. But I do remember the clunking of their Bovver Boots as they clumped up the stairs and their harsh laughter at the sight of me, this much smaller, younger girl, sitting in THEIR place.
The giggling and nudging and whispering and dirty looks started almost immediately. I can recall the great blush of shame and fear which spread all over my face and neck – and the sense of being not just trapped, but also in danger.
I froze, curled in on myself, hoped to disappear, ride it out.
Then, the leader looked into my face…
Oo’d does she fink she is? Posh snob. Mummy’s li’l baby! Bet she goes to one of them grammar schools. Finks she’s better ‘n us an’ all. Look at ‘er hair; ain’t she never ‘eard of fashion? Them clothes! Me mam wouldn’t let me out the ‘ouse dressed like that. Mind, she ain’t that keen on me boots. Stupid bitch! Tells me, ‘Linda, you look a right tart!’
Huh! she’s a fine one to talk, ain’t she? I’ve ‘ad more uncles than days of the bloody year, I ‘ave – and I knows that li’l shit of a bruvver don’t ‘ave the same dad as wot I do.
Look! She’s never eyeing me up, is she? F***ing cheek! Needs learning a lesson, she does, li’l cow. I’ll show ‘er.
‘Oi, you, wot you looking at?’
Cos I know she was doggin’ me up, like she fought she was better ‘n me or summat. Could see it in ‘er sneaky face. La di dah madam.
Shaz nudges me.
‘Lind,’ she says, ‘she stuck ‘er tongue out at you. You gonna take that from some snotty cow?’
No, I bleedin’ well ain’t.
Oh, yer, that’s right, give me the ol’ innocent look, why don’t you? Like you ain’t done nothin’…
Need a good kickin’, you do, you nasty mare…
I vividly remember her aggressive, ‘Oi, wot you lookin’ at?’ and the sharp fear I felt when my trembling, ‘Nothing. Sorry,’ failed to hold her back.
I remember the utter terror I felt at her sudden lunge in my direction and the way all the light in the bus seemed to be blotted out as those huge black boots, uplifted, crunched into my stomach time and time again – until I was sobbing and wailing and hurting.
I remember the averted eyes of the other passengers, the determination not to get involved – because this little gang of Cowley girls had a bad reputation, and no one wished to tangle with them.
That was in 1970. I am now fifty-seven; Linda and her cohorts are sixty, probably grannies by now. What was it about me that set them off on that long-ago day? Did I look as if I thought myself superior? If so, it matched NOTHING that was going on inside. Was it my ‘posh’ accent, the way I dressed?
Or were they just nasty bullies who enjoyed picking on younger, weaker girls?
I have no idea – and will almost certainly never know.
But, the ability to get into Linda’s head was frighteningly easy – and, therefore, disturbing. For, in being able to identify with those feelings, the need for power and control, that desire to be violent, I am, perhaps, uncovering a deep seam of similar feelings in my own nature.
This has a strong element of truth to it! Anyone else find that? With me, it is rarely a conscious process; it is, in fact, more like osmosis – people seep under the skin of my current novel and then flow into the bloodstream of the book.
Over the weekend, I have been approached by several ex-pupils. All were intrigued at the notion of what – and, more importantly, who – lay behind the green covers of ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’. They wanted to know if they would recognise any of the teachers in my fictional Cornish school.
My answer has been utterly unambiguous: ‘Yes, you almost certainly will!’
And, in a very real sense, this is obvious: We draw upon real events from our lives, and real people, when we sit down to write our blog posts, our poems, our short stories and novels. That is how we breathe life and spirit into our words.
If you were a teacher, or a pupil, at the school where I taught between September 1981 and March 2012, you WILL experience waves of recognition. You will be reminded of teachers you once knew. A couple of them are even drawn from my own girls’ grammar school – and may, therefore, produce an, ‘Aha! I remember YOU!’ from anyone who was at Milham Ford , Oxford, between 1969 and 1976!
I DO hoard characters. We all do, at some level. And the way we feel about them has a very real bearing upon the way they are represented in our books.
‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ was written at a time when my serious disillusionment with the educational system, and some aspects of Senior Management, was setting in. For all that the book is a humorous one, I am making some pretty strong points about the system and some of its less glorious philosophies and moments.
The children were always the most important part of the profession for ME – and, although I have exaggerated types, I feel that there is a real affection (as there was in real life) for those I teach as Geraldine and taught as Alienora.
How much of it is true? Some incidents really happened to me: The Peter Dixon bit at the start is true; one of the erotic scenes really happened; the union I joined did go on strike during the early eighties; I really was teaching a bottom set fifth year group the day the world was supposed to end – and much much more.
The Archers are real people – though they were not called by this name. Cis and Marge existed too, though I have taken huge liberties with the latter.
How many of the characters, and sexual encounters, mentioned in ‘Come Laughing!‘ actually happened?
Now that is a more difficult one to quantify, partly because I have protected – for want of a better word – my sexual partners, and brief liaison co-stars, to a greater or lesser extent. The ballsy attitude towards sex is very me – and, yes, some of the scenes I describe actually happened.
Some people reading the sixty-nine short stories might wonder, ‘Ooh, I wonder if I inspired this one?’ or, ‘Was she writing about me in this piece?’
I will satisfy your curiosity only in part, dear men and women who read my books.
Yes, some of the nastier alter egos are based not just on MY inner bitch but on women I have known who have been predatory towards me – and, yes, real men have been used (as it were) in the making of these short stories. Victims? Heroes? Flattering? Terrifying?
I can only speak for myself. I would be touched and delighted if a man wrote a poem, song or short story about me – as long, I suppose, as I wasn’t painted as the hideous villain of the piece! I have never been the sort of woman who attracted that kind of attention from men, as I have said before. I get on extremely well with men, and they tend to thoroughly enjoy being friends with me (which is GREAT) – but I do not, and never have, bring out the romantic, poetry-writing instincts in them.
I DO think that some of the stories in ‘CL!‘ are a form of wish-fulfilment, if you get what I am saying. In them, I can be the beautiful, frail and sexy little number I am not in reality. In them, I can have men adoring me and writing their best pieces simply because I am in their heads and hearts.
My fictional counterparts in the book have allowed me to be, albeit for only 256 pages, a successful, sought-after and erotic woman!
Perhaps this is why I wrote the novel!
A lack, a wound, a barrenness in my actual life inspired both ‘Come Laughing!‘ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’.
Perhaps it is always so for creative writers.
If you went to either of the schools mentioned (however obliquely), and your curiosity has been aroused, why not nip over to Amazon, order a copy and find out for yourself?! Same goes for the more overtly erotic of the two books, of course!
Once again, I have been caught in the net of my own naivety – and have fallen into the abyss between assumption and reality!
I has thought that, once published, my books would take care of themselves – though I must admit that I was very hazy about HOW this would happen. I hoped, as we all do, that Amazon would be mobbed by eager customers slavering at the bit to get their paws on one of my tomes.
Hmmm! Oh ye of innocent heart and unrealistic expectations or what?!
Basically, the selling element of the whole thing is turning into a full time job – and, as I said in a previous post, I am having to get in touch with my more ruthless side in order to get this job done.
There is an analogy here. When I was teaching full time, I had a formidable marking load. I was an English teacher (as you know) and, on the Spectrum of Thoroughness, tending toward the Anal! When I had a huge pile of books to mark, I had to learn to shut out the world; I had to acquire deaf ears; I had to harden my heart.
The result of this self-discipline was that I became a byword for getting books back to the kids the next lesson. To me, this made sense; to me, this was part of an unspoken trust agreement: I asked them to give work in on a certain date; my part of it was to respond to their homework immediately. I never made any class wait more than a week – and it was usually far shorter than this.
I now need to apply this level of dedication and determination and sheer hard work to my precious books. I have been hugely supported and helped by others – but the effort, the real push, needs to come from me.
I have now set up a PayPal account and, thanks to much help/advice from Annette, am beginning to sell books locally.
When I was teaching, I often had to say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t ring you/speak to you/see you right now because I have too much marking…’
The stress of it all broke me in the end – and I am NOT going to allow this to happen with my writing.
So, I am going to give myself a time limit on this. If things are not moving by the Spring Equinox, I shall back down and let the universe take over.
But I have got to give this my best shot. I have waited all these years to be a writer, to get published, and I do not intend to blow it now!
That would be a waste of my talent, my time, my life.
My goal is to sell all the books you see in the photos at the top – by March 20th 2015 – and to have generated independent interest in, and enthusiasm for, both books on line!
My longer-term goal is to sell a thousand copies of each – by the end of 2015!
Well, as my distant relative, poet Robert Browning, said, ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?’
He had a point, did Browning! But my arrow of intention is designed to hit, or even exceed, my target!
So mote it be!
This one appears in the ‘Amorous Alter Ego’ section of the book. In it, I wake up as Giacomo Casanova and describe a day in the life of one of the world’s greatest lovers!
Black eye! Woke up with it! God knows how that happened. Punch-up? Hmmm! Wouldn’t be the first time! Tryst that turned animal? Ditto! Over-enthusiastic bout of soixante-neuf?
I’ll also add to the morning mix a mouth as dry as a nun’s underpants and a head full of tap-dancing demons. All signs of debauchery. Excellent! Sounds like Yer Man (that’s me!) is back on top form with the grape, the grain and the wenches.
Is this my bed? Don’t recall quite that acreage of pink. And who the hell is she? Er…they!
Memory is bounding back like a lioness with a fresh kill: bloody, dripping, raw and toothsome in the extreme.
My Member, already at half-mast, is saluting King and Country at the very thought. Chocks away! Bring out more flags!
Start the day as you mean to go on, Cassy old boy, with a jolly roger!
Move over, girls! Your luck is in! The Good Ship Pork Sword is about to dock in your harbour!
What? You lot still watching? Bugger off! Go and get your own doxy! Can’t be doing with voyeurs: puts me off me stroke…
Later. Much, much later…
Better in that out, I always say. Cracking pair of little hussies, it has to be said, though I am not sure I approve of the clonking of gold down yond. Bulls with rings I can understand. But, Clit Rings? Eyebrows, lips, noses and Lord only knows what else pierced? If there’d been a lightning strike, I’d have been a goner. Nor, indeed, am I entirely convinced by the over-zealous strimming of the Lady Garden. Looks like a bald wallaby. Most peculiar.
Still, once I’d shut them up – the language! You wouldn’t believe it! – they went at it like a brace of mares with ginger up their fundaments!
Turfed them out, of course. Turns out this is my pad (as they call a home these days) after all. Plenty more strumpets in the sea! I’d give them six out of ten for technique, eight for enthusiasm and five for appearance. That red-head? Collar and cuffs didn’t match.
Hey! The eye, now purple and swelling nicely, suits me! Piratical! I ought to get me an eye patch. Black. With a Mons Veneris on it. Subtle, that’s me!
Back to last night. Sure you are all gagging for it by now. As was I, dear reader, as was I…
So, my aim was to find the watering hole where the prey – uxorial or single; I’m not bothered – gather of an evening. And to pounce on the weak ones. Whoar!!!
In my day, dances were a rich source of dalliance. Nothing like a stately gavotte for revealing that sexy snatch of ankle, that rush of blood to the head, the face, the swelling bosoms in low-cut gown. Excuse me while I just take myself in hand at the thought…
Uh hum: where was I? Oh, yeah: Upper Class tarts…
Rich pickings, indeed, in every sense of the word, since I was a bit of a byword for plundering the labial hoards of the aristocracy.
How standards have fallen since then! I ask you, what sort of thrill is to be found in this heinous new form of so-called entertainment, the DISCO?!
If it hadn’t been for the wall-to-wall fillies cantering about the place, I’d have turned round and contented myself with a quick visit to a brothel.
Quite why they must have music that loud and thumping, I have no idea! Not what I’d call music anyway. Where’s the melody? The proper rhythm? Where are the moves designed to take you close to the Gates of Paradise (with the promise of a bit of rumpy-pumpy in the hereafter!)?
And the lights!!! Like a vision of Hell. Hieronymus Bosch at his worst.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like a woman to be slightly more clad. Though, I think I could get used to the very tight Quim Quilts I saw hugging the thighs of these luscious young things.
But the level of wit was minimal and the Art of the Flirt has all but disappeared.
I shudder as I recall the’conversation’ I had with one beauteous creature. Looked like a dream, she did, all flowing hair and big promising mouth – which she kept licking in a most provocative manner. Sideways looks a plenty, heaving tits, hips a-wiggle and the scent of arousal. Thought I had her in the bag – until she started talking, that is.
Now, in my understanding of things, the word ‘like‘ means to enjoy something; it is not, as she used it, a kind of all-purpose pause, punctuation mark, ellipsis in the flow of speech. She used the word fifteen times in the first five sentences. I counted.
I went from trouser-busting readiness to limp within seconds. The only way I’d have got it up in the boudoir with her would have been if I’d gagged her first.
Not sure what they put in the drink either. Very gaseous. Burped like a camel with indigestion. Most unattractive.
Tried to put my arms around one pert little piece for a quick waltz – and she told me to fuck off. Me! Casanova!
In fact, her words were, ‘Fuck off, you pervert!’
My prowling did yield a prolonged grope in an alleyway, with a scrumptious dark-haired female. Didn’t get to give her one because she said she had a boyfriend. Honestly! The excuses some people come up with!
Know I scored – as they put it these days – in the back of a taxi: can remember her saying, ‘Ooh, you ARE a big boy, aren’t you?!’
And then, somewhere along Lust’s Highway, I picked up the racy and raucous little numbers I woke up with. That part is rather misty, though I do remember that neither of them had heard of Congress with Large Watermelon.
Which just goes to show that educational standards are edging ever more speedily for the gutter. A six-year-old would have been familiar with the terminology, though not the act (obviously!), in my day!
Disappointing pickings for a night on the job. Must be losing me touch.
But, I have a few leads. Crashing an Ann Summers Party (whatever that might be) is, apparently, an excellent way of carving a few more notches on the bedpost. As, I gather, are Murder Mystery Weekends!
I’ll keep you posted! Ha ha ha ha!
I wholeheartedly agree with the above quote – and used its precepts whenever I could. It is just as true of writing as it is of teaching.
I have been delighted by the reception of PJ’s two posts. Thank you very much for your support of this budding writer.
I want to encourage other writers, particularly those who are young, shy or lacking in confidence. I would like to feel that my site is a safe space for other creative types to visit, to vent, to write beautiful images.
I have, therefore, put up a status on Facebook calling closet writers to take that all-important leap.
One of the parts of English teaching I loved the most was inspiring the children and coaxing out their Inner Authors. Too many came into the school, aged eleven, already convinced that they were useless, couldn’t write, had nothing to say. This always used to anger me. I was passionate on their behalf – and, I confess, on behalf of the unconfident little girl I was and still am.
I do hope that some ex-pupils will take me up on my offer to host them on here. That, to me, would be wonderful.
Funny really: I am one of the least confident people you could meet – and yet I have always been able to bring out confidence and increasing self-esteem in others, especially children. I think, ironically, one of the reasons I WAS a successful teacher (in a very maverick way) was precisely because I COULD empathise with those who felt stupid and afraid and untalented. Things I feel to this day.
If my plan works, there will be far less of me on here – and far more variety in terms of pieces from unknown writers.
PJ wrote to me following the publication of his first blog post on here. He’s blossoming as a result of your likes and comments, and from the process of writing itself. Below is his message.
Really Was Not Expecting that
Being new to the hungry writers’ and readers’ world, I really was not expecting that.
That being a Pandora’s Box. With the reading hunger, it’s fantastic but I’m getting a sense of what happens when that book is finished. As my discovery of ‘Long Leggety Beasties’ was quite by accident, the good kind suggestions are welcome.
Thank you for the likes and comments on my first post. I Really Was Not Expecting that. Like with reading, writing seems to have suddenly come alive and I am getting curious as to how I improve my skills. But what’s the best way? This new traveller is chomping at the bit, eager to get going.
Alienora, you have unleashed the beast. I thank you – I think.
Any suggestions for books to read, or writing tips, would be gratefully received by PJ.
With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, and love hovering upon the lips of young and old alike, I thought I’d take a look at the thorny delight of this subject.
We are trained, from our earliest years, to look for the ideal romantic and sexual love. We seek The One, don’t we? Seeing him or her in our mind’s eye, whittling down our ideas of perfection – and, all too often, dismissing true love because we are blinded by appearance, felled by the pheromonal truncheon!
We expect our love relationships to follow a certain pattern – and, by and large, they do!
But sometimes, we meet someone who is more akin to a Soul Mate, or a Twin Flame. Such relationships do not always go on to become sexual, let alone partnerships in the more traditional sense – and yet they can confer deep and delightful gifts of a very different kind, and they can fill our hearts, minds and spirits with the chemicals of joy and arousal just as effectively as the more conventional Boy Meets Girl ones do.
I think we lose out by closing our minds to these rather more lateral relationships.
I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a bond like the one described above. More than once, actually!
Here, without going into any specific details, I muse upon this, to me, hugely valuable connection between two people.
What attracts us to a potential beloved?
Eyes? Hair? Height? Looks?
None of the above – though good looks were there in abundance.
No. I knew him, instantly.
I had never met him before in this life, but he was immediately, and profoundly, familiar.
It was like coming home, to a warm peaty fire, after a long and exhausting journey.
‘There you are,’ I can remember thinking to myself. ‘I wondered when you’d turn up again!’
It was like getting to know someone backwards – because the soul connection was already there, you see.
The facts, the divergent life stories, the laughter and the shared tastes came later, came piece-meal, as such things tend to do.
But, I knew WHO he was the moment I set eyes upon him. And I don’t mean that in the worldly sense. This was not a case of having heard his name spoken by others. Though, oddly, he appeared in a dream some years before – and, terrified, I dismissed the message and the man.
As it happened, I had never heard his name before. No reason why I should have done. We were all new arrivals at this particular place.
Strange: even then, I knew that this was not simply love, or even lust, at first sight. It was something else. The click of Soul Mates, I would have to call it.
That is not to say that there wasn’t a thread of lust between us – because there was; that is not to claim, either, that the bond was in any way cold because there was a deep love.
But, this relationship operated outside the parameters of boyfriend/girlfriend.
It was both less – and, in an odd way, far, far more.
Difficult to explain.
This man, so beloved to me, never became a significant other in any conventional sense – but, in the spiritual sense, I feel as if we were hand-fasted and free at the same time.
Did I dream him?
Did he actually exist in this realm?
Oh, yes, very much so!
Did I, in some way, call him forth?
I sometimes wonder. Though, if I DID, he was calling too – and our wordless ululations met in the middle.
My elvish counterpart.
My soul’s delight.
The one who made my heart smile!
My self-respect and sense have both come surging back – and I am no longer prepared to pour my own money into selling my books!
I will, of course, continue to sign and sell the forty-six copies I still have at home – but I have created my last boosted post on Facebook.
To put it bluntly, I think I – and my books – are worth more than this.
I have come to the end of the road as far as conventional attempts are concerned. They have had limited impact, if I am to be brutally honest.
It is a real shame because I think both ‘Come Laughing!‘ and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ are well worth a read, being funny, different and well-written.
Just to explain a few matters which ARE confusing to non-writers. Because my books are brought into being on the self-publishing site, CREATESPACE, they do not appear in book shops or general stores. They can be ordered, from Amazon, as either paperbacks or Kindle e-books. Or, if you live near anywhere between Glastonbury and Bath, you can order a signed copy from me – a slightly cheaper option!
I very much want to make this work. Obviously, from the financial point of view, it would be fantastic to make some money from my writing. But there is more to it than that. I think I have a unique style, a lively way of expressing myself and a very unusual view of the world.
There are so many books out there which, while tapping into a popular vein, are almost indistinguishable from one another. The Mills and Boon Syndrome is, unfortunately, alive (or should that be ‘undead’?) and well in all too many genres. Formulaic novels abound in their thousands.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in relaxing with an easy read. I regularly unwind with such books.
But, I do sometimes feel that people in our society are not so willing to give unusual or confronting literature a go. I also think that societal attitudes towards sex and sexuality – and towards women who write openly about such matters! – have made the selling of ‘Come Laughing!‘ problematic. People do not wish it to be known that they read erotica, or they feel unable – for religious reasons – to endorse and support my attempt to break down a few barriers. Many of my emails when the book came out were met with a deafening silence as if people were afraid of being tainted by association with me!
I have had unstinting support from my Inner Circle (on here and on the ground) – but some people in ‘real’ life I thought WOULD support me have not responded at all.
My ex-pupils have been AMAZING. They have shared and liked and messaged and commented. Two of the books I sold privately yesterday were to adults I once taught.
As soon as I can, I AM going to arrange a price-reduced deal on Amazon Kindle for both books, and for a week or so – but, having put both on a Free Download recently, I now have to wait for a couple of months.
I am also hoping to arrange some local publicity via radio and newspapers.
Meanwhile, and as I said yesterday, I DO need to crack on with my next novel. I have a plan to get five out by December of this year. Two are already in existence – and the other three are there in draft form, ready for me to tweak.
Keep on visiting Amazon and looking for the Alienora Taylor Two! Let me know if you live locally and would like a signed one.
I am not looking to be Number One in the world – that’s next month’s plan! – but February has, thus far, been like a flat line on a heart monitor as far as the paperback book side of things is concerned, and arrythmic on the e-book front!
If you could help me get the word out, even if you don’t wish to touch either book with a barge-pole yourself, I would be absolutely delighted!
All shares gratefully received.
Ye gods, it’s an uphill struggle, isn’t it? Writing was a doddle in comparison!
My first photo with ‘Come Laughing!‘ taken on December 27th. It all seemed possible then! Now? I am wiser – and, at times, sadder – but still determined!
So, if you know me in real life, it would be lovely if you could tell your friends and relatives about my books. I am beginning to gain a little bit of cheeky confidence myself – and am mentioning the novels to random bods I meet in the vicinity.
…to Sarah, Sara, Richard and a young man whose name I do not know.
Today has been, in many ways, very difficult – and I am at a low ebb.
But, the four lovely people above approached me and asked if they could buy a copy of one of my books from me.
Three of them wanted signed copies of ‘Come Laughing!'; the fourth a signed copy of ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’…
This has restored some of my belief in myself and made me think, ‘I CAN do this…’
I still have forty or more physical copies to sell; I still have the current lack of movement on CreateSpace or KDP Select – but that little voice in the universe has spoken.
It was delightful to see Sarah – and also to see a close friend later on in the day. Both cheered me up more than I can say, and gave me welcome respite from the ongoing situation.
Thank you again.
I’d never heard of her until I went to university. Though I was an avid reader from an early age, she was not a writer I had come across in my regular hungry forays into Bury Knowle Library in Headington.
As a young woman, I was said to resemble her – though I was never able to see this myself!
Be that as it may, I devoured her journals and letters back in the late seventies. I read everything I could about Bloomsbury – and felt almost as if I had been there. I identified with both Virginia and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell.
The two women struck me as being so beautiful and talented and brave – and Bohemian, particularly Vanessa. I wanted to BE them!
In 1983, Leonard Woolf’s voice came to me with great insistence one day – and I found myself telling the story of Virginia’s suicide from his point of view. I have no idea how accurate (or otherwise) this narrative was, but it told itself with very little intervention from the twenty-five year old Alienora Browning.
Virginia spoke next – and the second section is her voice. Then Vanessa grabbed the metaphorical microphone.
The closest I can come to describing the process is that the book was written on auto-pilot. I followed word pictures for days, weeks, months, occasionally emerging into the blinding daylight of ‘real’ life.
This is the book I shall be editing and publishing next. I hope to get it out by March.
Thank you very much for the support you have given PJ, my guest blogger from yesterday.
It gives me enormous pleasure to introduce PJ. He has very kindly agreed to start the Guest Post ball rolling. I am touched and impressed by his piece at all sorts of levels. Read on…
My name is PJ. I went to a school much like the one in ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ – and remember fondly the more colourful members of staff and same with my peers and friends also.
When it came to English, instead of having someone like Miss Dolan, who on a colour chart is say bright red, I ultimately ended up with Captain Grey (no relation to ‘50 shades’ unless this was his much less imaginative brother).
English lessons meant copying illegible chalk scrawl for 40 minutes or watching the 80s film version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the 4th time that year. This didn’t inspire me to become much of a writer or a reader. I am, however, a master at spoken word and love one liners and little clever and fantastically childish playing on words.
Some 14 years later: Just going through my news feed and a familiar face had popped up, sharing a link to a blog site. I clicked the link and arrived on this page and found myself just reading and time had passed me by.
This is unusual for me as I’m Not much of a reader. However, I then started reading a book penned by Alienora and, well, in 7 days, I’ve read more than ever before – hungry to find out the next bit
As well as being Not much of a reader, I’m also as lack-lustre when it comes to writing.
Often if you have a brain like mine, it’s easy to get lost in ‘What should I write and how should I write?’
I have Cerebral Palsy which makes it common for coördination to do as it wants. It took me till year 5 to do joined-up hand-writing: Better late than never!
So from being not much of a reader or writer, here is my first written piece!