Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Clutha tragedy

I was in Glasgow last night, about five minutes away from the helicopter crash. I didn't see or hear anything, and I'm glad I didn't. I would probably never have slept again. I was in the Central Bar, on the top level of Glasgow Central Station.

I was also in a pub, Lorimers in Bishopton, when those incompetent terrorists tried to blow up Glasgow Airport. I probably shouldn't go to pubs. But thank anything you hold holy or not for incompetent terrorists. You don't want to bump into the competent kind.

As I said in my last post, I was a musician in a previous life. I never played at the Clutha. It's a tiny wee place and I get a bit claustrophobic in tiny wee places that are always so busy, so I never went, but neither did I avoid it. Glasgow musicians are currently moving to set up a tribute night, because there is no better way to pay tribute the to Clutha's heart and soul than with music. If you can get involved - even if you can lend a battered old speaker or amp - please do.

I'm a proud Paisley woman. You don't have to go far to find that out. But Paisley people stand with anybody in bother, and with all my heart and soul I wish all the injured a full and speedy recovery. I wish solace for those who have lost someone. And I wish peace to those who are still waiting to hear if their loved ones are alive or dead. Much as Paisley people swat at Glasgow and jokingly tell it it's rubbish, I hope Paisley stands with me on this. It's not the town I think it is if we don't.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

When I'm not writing I'm a rock star

As well as being an unpublished writer, I'm also a musician. I will never say I'm a failed musician because I'm not. I still write songs and my writing took me in a different direction.

From 1995 to 2001 I was in a band. We were called The Rebel Sweeties and I'm sure if any video of us exists it would prove we were pretty damn rocking. From the perspective and time and age, and discounting the agreement that the only way we could remain friends was to never speak to each other again, it was my privilege to work with such talented and creative people. I don't even care if they wouldn't say that about me. I give Samantha, Gillian and Victoria a big, sweeping 18th century-type bow. You are incredible women, and amazing musicians.

I didn't expect this blog post to be so difficult. I miss those women. Losing The Rebel Sweeties was like losing a relationship. But it just all got too hard.

If I got another band together now, it would be two men and another woman, purely for the vocal harmonies I have going on in my head. I would be the drummer but I don't care if the boys and girl are bassists or guitarists.If anyone's interested let me know. I have several songs ready to go that I don't have the guitar talent to set to music.

Two people read this blog. Pass it on!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Victorian Costumes

I admit I'm a sucker for Victorian costume dramas, and going back a bit further, Jane Austen. I've just watched the most recent BBC versions of Great Expectations and Bleak House, and immediately downloaded the books to my computer Kindle. For I have never read Charles Dickens. I am a disgrace.

I think what I like most about the Dickens TV adaptations is how people struggle so hard to confine their personalities to rigid Victorian values. But at the same time, Dickens can't quite mention the seam of hypocrisy just below the surface. Many upper-class supposedly "respectable" men behaved abominably. One hundred and fifty years later, Michel Faber wrote The Crimson Petal and the White, about a prostitute raised to the heights of being a lady, and ending up reliant on a man in a way she could never have envisaged. And Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, a fond pastiche of Dickens, where everyone is revolting and Mrs Huffam needs a damn good shake, but I still found myself cheering for the idiot main character. That is truly incredible writing.

I also love the ITV adaptation of The Forsyte Saga. I could watch that once a week, even though if ITV went off air I wouldn't notice for weeks, if I noticed at all. Mostly because I think Gina McKee is one of the finest actresses this country, if not the world, has ever produced. I tried to read The Forsyte Saga but it's clear Victorian novels were serialised and the writer paid by the word, because my God it's hard going. Irene doesn't want to marry Soames, doesn't want to marry anyone, but has to for the sake of her fortunes. She suffers to be free, but it's only money that gives her the freedom she craves. It always comes down to money in the end. Having it, getting it, losing it, or waiting for it.

Sadly, I don't think Britain has moved on that much from Victorian times in terms of class or status, and there's certainly still a big dollop of grasping capitalism. Socially, yes, we're getting there. I loathe David Cameron but a Tory leader supporting equal marriage is something truly worth celebrating. I reserve the right to call him bad names for everything else he does, though.

And then there were my ancestors on my grandpa's side, with barely a legitimate child between them. I touched on them not being confined by Victorian values quite so much in an earlier post. Now, that's not to say they weren't a social disgrace - I'm quite sure they were, especially with hardcore Presbyterians running the show - but maybe just getting away from Ireland and its stifling Catholicism was a freedom in itself. In Victorian Scotland just being Catholic was enough to get you treated with total contempt by some, whatever else you did or didn't do, so why not have fun? None of them had any money at all, and they all had horrible jobs. Freedom's where you find it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Done With Dating

So, I've deleted my online dating account and hung up my pulling pants. I'm done. My future now is chocolate chip cookies and a basket of kittens. But I have some (I hope) humorous tips for anyone deciding to try it for themselves.

1. Do not say "I don't want any fat people/munters/idiots who kant spel!" when you are yourself overweight, no oil painting, or semi-literate. It makes you look like... what's the word I'm searching for here? Oh, yeah. A shallow dick with no sense of irony. Okay, that's more than one word. The English language hasn't got a precise word for that. I bet the Germans do, and it's like 62 letters long.

2. Set your expectations low. Then keep digging.

3. The hot ones don't reply to messages. At least not my messages. Either they're fake profiles or it's related to my needing half a bottle of wine before I was brave enough to contact anyone, resulting in absolute drivel. ... Nah. They're fake. I'm sure of it.

4. Don't pretend to be white when you're not. That really did happen to me. Much as I don't care, and the thought of giving racists a fright when you meet them is always enjoyable, if you're going to lie about something as fundamental as your skin colour then I had no reason to believe anything else you said.

5. Put up a photo. Or my first thought was "Who are you cheating on, then?"

6. Don't send a writer a message saying "Hi how r u u lk gd." It fries our inner editor's synapses and could make us go blind.

7. Try to keep negativity out of your profile. "I'm shambling through my worthless existence with no friends and no direction" is not that attractive. I don't know about other women but I have no experience in talking people down from window ledges, and it's not something I have much interest in learning. Most women won't think "Wow, he's so deep!" they'll think "This guy needs an ambulance." And any woman who's actively looking for a man like that is not a woman you want to meet. Trust me.

8. For God's sake, if you've got kids, don't put photos of them up on a dating site. Really. Yuck.

9. If you have major hardcore fetishes, use major hardcore fetish sites. You're unlikely to find people into cutting, peeing, and playing mummy to a man in a nappy on a general dating site.

10. READ someone's profile before messaging them. A few men could have saved themselves several seconds sending me their cut-and-paste stock opener if they'd read the bit about no racists or homophobes.

So there you have it. Now I'm off out with a big net to catch me some stray kitties.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Panic At The Printers

As mentioned way back in the mists of October, I've written up my family's history for my dad's Christmas. I've been stung by the wait for cover art from my five-year-old nephew, even though I asked my brother to get him to draw a picture of a tree for me at the beginning of September. I decided yesterday I couldn't wait any longer, so uploaded my file to Createspace and chose a cover from their stock suggestions. My artistic ability runs to wonky stick figures - in fact, I could probably draw a tree and pass it off as the work of a five-year-old with no difficulty whatsoever, if only I had some crayons.

Createspace approved my file this morning, so I got to work. I ordered two copies then got to delivery. Being skint, I went for the cheapest option. Expected arrival date: 27th of December.

I really had no clue it would take that long. How naive. I assumed they would have some kind of UK printer, but no. The books have to come from America. I'm unemployed and the next delivery option - for the end of November - is more than I can afford for a couple of weeks. It would still be cheaper than having a local printer do it, but now I'm really worried it's not going to arrive in time. The really annoying thing is that I started this project back in June and I'm still going to be pushed for time. Baws, as we say here in sunny ol' Scotland.

The other thing that made me giggle was because I don't have an ITIN, the US government decide that 30% of my royalties will be belonging to them. Just as well there won't be any royalties, unless some poor soul buys it by accident. But that's something I'll have to think about if I ever decide to self-publish anything someone I've never met might want to read. Sending my passport to the US Embassy doesn't appeal, especially since I can't drive and it's my only form of ID. I'll keep an eye out for £1 bus tickets to London.

Monday, 4 November 2013


I am not a parent. I will never be a parent. I'm making no value judgements on parents or parenting at all with this post.

I was smacked as a kid. Probably most people my age were. A friend posted about it on Facebook, which got me thinking.

My mum would never smack me or my brothers. If it was a smackable offence, we had to wait until my dad got home, which in some cases meant literally hours of terror, sitting in my room waiting to be hit. To a wee kid that seems more like psychological warfare than punishment. Is that what smacking is supposed to be about? I don't know.

My most vivid memory is from when I was eight or nine. My brothers and I all shared a room. They were in bunkbeds, and had a football they were bouncing off the floor to each other so they could catch it. I knew my dad would be angry if he caught them, because he was angry pretty much all the time, so I jumped out of bed, grabbed the ball off them, and hit it under my covers. Of course, when my dad came to tuck us in, one of my brothers (I think the younger one) triumphantly crowed "Fran's got a football in her bed!" My dad tore the covers off, asked what the hell was wrong with me, and told me to get to the living room for my thrashing. Our flat at the time had a bit of a weird layout - you had to walk down the hall, turn right, then turn back on yourself and walk down another long hall to the living room. I remember running along, in floods of tears by now, shouting for my mum and beggng her not to let him hit me. My mum had no clue what was going on, just that her daughter was screaming her head off and scared out of her mind. I don't remember what happened at that point, but my dad didn't smack me. He just took me back to our room, sobbing and terrified and saying over and over again how sorry I was, and told both my brothers, who were crying too by this point, that he hoped they were happy now. He slammed the bedroom door shut and I cried myself to sleep. I never told him what my brothers had been doing.

Is that how you want your kids to feel about you? If so, fair play. As I said, no judgements. Some kids are more sensitive than others, and I'm pretty over-sensitive as a person. If terror is your version of discipline, have at it. Just bear in mind "They'll thank me for it one day!" isn't necessarily true. Do you think if you as an adult did something wrong, it would be fine for you to be put in a room and wait for someone bigger and stronger than you to come in and hit you? If not, why do you think it's acceptable to do that to a child?  If you hit your kids, can I slap you at the supermarket for being rude? If not, why not? Think about it.