apolla: (Percy)

I read a book called The Secret Island the other night. It wasn't the first time I've ever read it. In fact, it probably wasn't even the twentieth time I read it. No matter how often though, I had not read it in years. It was on my childhood bookcase in my current spare room (read: Natasha's Room or Rachel's Room for when my dearest friends visit), stuffed alongside various remnants of my life thus far. Jessica Wakefield, my most beloved Sindy doll sits alongside a green beanie bear with a shamrock on its chest which was named Paddy O'Bear as a joke by my godfather. Amongst the books are Tom's Midnight Garden, The Winnie The Pooh Cookbook, The Mystery of the Blue Tomatoes (signed by the author, no less), some of the Traveling Pants books that I must admit were published since I reached majority but which I enjoyed, and the few Sweet Valley High books I couldn't quite get rid of. The bottom shelf is given over to my collection of Titanic books, which range from the studious to the ridiculous – who needs to know how to cook the Titanic's First Class menu?

Anyway, on one shelf, amongst the SVH and other books of my young life, are a handful of Enid Blyton books. Enid fucking Blyton, the grande dame of the over-simplistic, racist, sexist, repetitive children's book. There's all the Malory Towers, some St Clare's and the Adventure series. They sit on the shelf, not quite forgotten but they haven't moved since the shelves were arranged a couple of years ago. I retrieved The Secret Island last night after watching some of the Enid Blyton biopic on BBC 4. Helena Bonham-Carter played the old bird and it was... blah. I don't care a fig about Blyton's real life, only the ones she committed to paper.

It must've been three years ago that I bought the Adventure series on eBay. I was still harbouring a smidgen of bitterness over the fact that some of my copies back in the day had gone missing, either lost in the depths of a friend's bedroom or put in jumble sales without my knowledge. As I have done with other similar things from my childhood, I decided to confront the bitterness. Once the books arrived, I read the first one and at the first mention of the coloured, stupid, sullen servant Jo-Jo who rolled his eyes and was full of 'queer beliefs', I started to feel queasy, like I'd had too many sandwiches and too much ginger beer.

Oh, by the way, I hate ginger beer.

It was an awful book, of course. Badly written, even taking into consideration that it was written for children, and full of the kind of casual and not-so-casual racism that I thought even the 1940s considered 'not quite cricket'. I didn't remember reading it that way when I was a kid. I consoled myself with the thought that I didn't remember reading that particular book at all. I remembered a couple particularly well but the others not at all. I can't have owned them all, after all. The Castle of Adventure was probably my favourite... and even a cursory glance now highlights Tassie the gypsy girl who has never had a bath and couldn't read or write yet 'like a Red Indian'. Ick, man. I'm all for the reading and the writing, but surely even then it was well known that Native Americans had other ways of communicating? The ancient Irish didn't write anything down either, does that make them ignorant and savage? Hang on, don't answer that – I know what the Britishers of 1946 would likely reply. “The ways of England are the ways of the world” it was said. Well no, that's not quite true, only that the alternatives were given no merit by the English and were generally trampled by the English. In few places is this mindset given better voice than in Blyton books. There appears to be no room for anything besides 'the right' way of doing things as she sees it. None whatsoever.

I did have all the Famous Five books too, all 21 of them. I remember them all lined up on the bookcase I still own. My book collection as a kid was part-Blyton and part-Usborne edumacational books with a little room for my first Titanic books. I was a weird kid, I guess. I grew up in the mid-late 80s and early 90s. Blyton books were already outdated. My mammy's generation, who had been reading Blyton's books more contemporaneously, were those 60s and 70s ladies who said 'hang on a minute, why can't we have equal treatment?' and subsequently marched and burned bras and *insert feminist struggle stereotype here*. I was born three years after the start of Thatcher's regime and remember her departure from Number 10. I grew up with IRA bombs and race killings on my TV, the rise of the Yuppie and the early 90s recession. For me, Blyton books with their sunny days, picnics and characters with names like Peggy, Nora and Lucy-Ann, were a slice of a Britain I knew had already passed by.

Of course, that Britain (I should really say England) never really did exist. The Britain of the 1930s was impoverished, the 1940s were desperate and the 1950s were (under the veneer of post-war opportunity) largely poor and desperate. Really, I think these books must have been escapism for children even at the time. Maybe that's the reason they are still cherished, even as we see the dark stain of bigotry on the page. I can't bring myself to outright hate any Blyton book, even though they're rubbish, because I remember too well my own dreams of running off and having adventures, of going to secret islands, or going to a boarding school where all the girls are nice really (or get dealt with appropriately). I spent too many car journeys staving off boredom and car sickness with Darrell at Malory Towers, and too many evenings after school eating Pot Noodle and reading one of the St Clare's to be able to just say 'no, absolute tommy-rot, the lot of it.' While so much of it is absolute tommy-rot, there is just enough to save it from absolute awfulness, if I read them the way I always have...

I read Blyton's book the same way I did Sweet Valley: as I chose to. I made up my own stuff, saw things the way I wanted to. I didn't see the racism, because I didn't agree with it – I wiped it from the page. As far as I was concerned, both George and Anne were adventurers as much as Julian and the other one whose name I can't remember, and the domestic rubbish was more evenly spread out. As with Sweet Valley, where I rendered Jessica less sociopathic and Elizabeth less of a nosey parker with a sainthood complex, Blyton's books were solely about the adventures and the rest of the detail was just rubbish I didn't need.

From Blyton I learned what a jackdaw was, and what an ingot was (both of these feature heavily in the first Famous Five book). I learned about midnight feasts and lacrosse and ginger sodding beer. I learned that you should always try tapping all the panels on a wood-panelled wall just in case there's a hidden passage somewhere – and maybe check under any rugs too – and that cows can swim. I learned that what I rather wanted to do was go and have adventures myself, and that if I did, I would know some stuff to help me on my way.

I really do hate ginger beer, you know. I like stem ginger and powdered ginger and crystallised ginger and gingerbread biscuits and ginger ale but I hate ginger beer.

Of course, if I was one of the kids on the Secret Island, I would take some flint, so I didn't need to worry about matches. I knew about flint and its fire-making potential as a child, because I was a weird kid. I would know what wild garlic looks like, too. If I'd combined my Girl Guide training with my Blyton know-how, I could've run away and lived very happily on a secret island or in a mysterious castle or on a curious mountain. I might've managed, and what's more, prospered.

I would've done it without having to get boys to help too. How'd you like them apples, Miss Blyton? I would've had to take a gramophone with me, or a Dansette, to listen to my records, but I would've managed somehow. I would've been able to do it without resorting to knackered-out stereotypes, too, Miss Blyton.

Even at the time, as a child, I had to edit these damn books as I went along, so that they could fit my world. In my world then as now, women did not exist solely to do domestic tasks. My mum rarely does washing up. My dad, on the other hand, rarely cooks. They split laundry tasks and do their own ironing, I think. Thus it ever was. My mum drives when they go out and always has. I think she hates being a passenger – she will always find a reason to drive instead of someone else except on particularly long journeys. I have never managed to persuade her to be a passenger when I drive, although she trusts me to drive her car. Gender stereotypes were not my experience. While I was reading those Blyton books, I was also playing with toy cars (and love Top Gear now for the cars, not Hammond, though I know little of engineering) and climbing trees and playing football. For more than several years as a child, I don't believe I owned a single dress. I had to borrow one for a Guides pantomime one year.

Speaking of Guides, the company I was a part of didn't much correspond to the stereotype of Girl Guides either. Kate, the legendary Leader, took us camping and climbing, abseiling and caving and stuff. We did the baking and sweet-making, and we did craft stuff, but at no point were we told we must adhere to an out-dated notion of gender. In fact, Kate let us be exactly who we were, and only encouraged us to be the best version. I mean, she dealt with me and my scruffy, footballing, psychedelic bag carrying and whatever madness I tried to introduce.

The thing is... I think that's actually the clever part of her writing, such as it is. It is so basic, so spare, so devoid of any particular descriptions that the child reading can do that. Unfortunately, she did editorialise where it mattered in terms of race, gender and class. It didn't occur to me at the time that I was not of the same class as the O'Sullivan twins or Darrell or the Five. I just figured that they were a bit like me in some ways and not in others. The basic, simple and unprejudiced view of that open-minded child is one I still cling to. I knew that Gwendoline Lacey would scoff at me, because that was her character – sketched roughly though it was – and that Darrell had a temper like mine and those were the things that mattered. Blyton's descriptions are generally so vague that they can be most things to most children. At least... most white, British, middle class children.

Then again, I was a white, mostly-middle-class girl. I was her demographic. I could find myself in her books if I squinted hard. I don't suppose a minority child (of any sort) would see it the same way. In Blyton's world, multi-culturalism seems to mean people who dress for dinner and people who don't. Not forgetting of course, the occasional gypsy stereotype (sometimes good, sometimes bad, depending on the story). I didn't see it like that, because my world wasn't made up of pigeon-holes. For all their eccentricities, my mum and dad taught me that I was no better or worse than any other human being – that we are all equal. In our house, that was mostly true, too... except that Mummy's word is, was and ever will be, Law.

I was able to read Blyton's books without becoming an unquestioning bigoted little horror because there were stronger influences in my world. My teachers at primary school were fabulous – Mr Price, who took us through a mini-version of the Blue Eyes race 'game' so gently I'm not sure we fully realised we were doing it but with the intended result (at least for me, I can't speak for anyone else). Mrs Evans who read us some of the Blyton books during reading time so that I still hear Kiki the cockatoo with a Northern accent in my head, but who I now wonder if she edited the books as she read. Mrs Porter, who I didn't much like, but who explained to a bunch of seven year olds the difference between 'Nazis' and 'Germans'. I had more in my life than Blyton books and I was in a different time. A bit like watching Gone With The Wind, I guess...

But no... that's not good enough, is it? It's fine for me, Privileged White Girl to say 'oh, they didn't do me any harm' now, twenty years after the fact... but how many children sat on little carpets for reading time felt like they were being picked on or just ignored by these books? I understand why schools don't allow them anymore, and no it's not terrible that 'gollywog' is no longer an acceptable term, Mrs Outraged Daily Mail Reader. It's all very well for me to say 'oh, I just edited that rubbish out' but that's not good enough, is it? Isn't it surely time to consign this crap to the dustbin of history, along with Birth of a Nation and Oswald Mosley? How many of the children sat on that carpet with me felt left out by the Blyton stuff? We were 99% white and I was a 'minority' by dint of being Irish (mostly), Catholic and from London... but race is not the only way children can be excluded, is it? How many of the 'girly' girls felt excluded from the fun, and did the other 'tomboy' girls like me feel excluded from both the male and female sides of the coin, with only George Kirrin to barely represent us? How many of the boys felt excluded because they didn't fit the Julian or Jack or Philip moulds? How many other children found exclusion and hate instead of the comfort of escape for the crime of being in some way 'different'? I'm quite, quite wrong: my lingering little bit of fondness for this stuff excuses nothing.

For all that I still have a sliver of fondness left for them, I won't encourage any currently-hypothetical niece or nephew or godchild of mine to read them. I wouldn't ever stop them doing it, but I'd make certain to talk to them about the books. Hopefully they'll all be too busy listening to the Beatles, if I get my way!

For all that her books suck, I can't quite shake the feeling that Blyton's at least partly responsible for me being a writer – such as I am – myself. Would I always have wanted to write, to tell stories? Maybe, but she helped... I'm horribly aware of that. I wanted to write stories with people like Darrell and Sally and Alicia. I wanted to tell my tales too. I am telling my tales. My Dinah is taking her shape in the world – named after the song, not the girl in the Blyton books – and hopefully one day she'll be on shelves in book stores and Amazon warehouses the world over, waiting to be discovered by children who want adventure. Hopefully.

So Miss Blyton: you suck, but thanks just the same. I intend fully to learn from your grave and important mistakes and shortcomings so that I can be better than you. I intend not to fill children's heads with lessening things, but to suggest to them the radical notion that we are not all the same, but we are all equal.

apolla: (Percy)

I read a book called The Secret Island the other night. It wasn't the first time I've ever read it. In fact, it probably wasn't even the twentieth time I read it. No matter how often though, I had not read it in years. It was on my childhood bookcase in my current spare room (read: Natasha's Room or Rachel's Room for when my dearest friends visit), stuffed alongside various remnants of my life thus far. Jessica Wakefield, my most beloved Sindy doll sits alongside a green beanie bear with a shamrock on its chest which was named Paddy O'Bear as a joke by my godfather. Amongst the books are Tom's Midnight Garden, The Winnie The Pooh Cookbook, The Mystery of the Blue Tomatoes (signed by the author, no less), some of the Traveling Pants books that I must admit were published since I reached majority but which I enjoyed, and the few Sweet Valley High books I couldn't quite get rid of. The bottom shelf is given over to my collection of Titanic books, which range from the studious to the ridiculous – who needs to know how to cook the Titanic's First Class menu?

Anyway, on one shelf, amongst the SVH and other books of my young life, are a handful of Enid Blyton books. Enid fucking Blyton, the grande dame of the over-simplistic, racist, sexist, repetitive children's book. There's all the Malory Towers, some St Clare's and the Adventure series. They sit on the shelf, not quite forgotten but they haven't moved since the shelves were arranged a couple of years ago. I retrieved The Secret Island last night after watching some of the Enid Blyton biopic on BBC 4. Helena Bonham-Carter played the old bird and it was... blah. I don't care a fig about Blyton's real life, only the ones she committed to paper.

It must've been three years ago that I bought the Adventure series on eBay. I was still harbouring a smidgen of bitterness over the fact that some of my copies back in the day had gone missing, either lost in the depths of a friend's bedroom or put in jumble sales without my knowledge. As I have done with other similar things from my childhood, I decided to confront the bitterness. Once the books arrived, I read the first one and at the first mention of the coloured, stupid, sullen servant Jo-Jo who rolled his eyes and was full of 'queer beliefs', I started to feel queasy, like I'd had too many sandwiches and too much ginger beer.

Oh, by the way, I hate ginger beer.

It was an awful book, of course. Badly written, even taking into consideration that it was written for children, and full of the kind of casual and not-so-casual racism that I thought even the 1940s considered 'not quite cricket'. I didn't remember reading it that way when I was a kid. I consoled myself with the thought that I didn't remember reading that particular book at all. I remembered a couple particularly well but the others not at all. I can't have owned them all, after all. The Castle of Adventure was probably my favourite... and even a cursory glance now highlights Tassie the gypsy girl who has never had a bath and couldn't read or write yet 'like a Red Indian'. Ick, man. I'm all for the reading and the writing, but surely even then it was well known that Native Americans had other ways of communicating? The ancient Irish didn't write anything down either, does that make them ignorant and savage? Hang on, don't answer that – I know what the Britishers of 1946 would likely reply. “The ways of England are the ways of the world” it was said. Well no, that's not quite true, only that the alternatives were given no merit by the English and were generally trampled by the English. In few places is this mindset given better voice than in Blyton books. There appears to be no room for anything besides 'the right' way of doing things as she sees it. None whatsoever.

I did have all the Famous Five books too, all 21 of them. I remember them all lined up on the bookcase I still own. My book collection as a kid was part-Blyton and part-Usborne edumacational books with a little room for my first Titanic books. I was a weird kid, I guess. I grew up in the mid-late 80s and early 90s. Blyton books were already outdated. My mammy's generation, who had been reading Blyton's books more contemporaneously, were those 60s and 70s ladies who said 'hang on a minute, why can't we have equal treatment?' and subsequently marched and burned bras and *insert feminist struggle stereotype here*. I was born three years after the start of Thatcher's regime and remember her departure from Number 10. I grew up with IRA bombs and race killings on my TV, the rise of the Yuppie and the early 90s recession. For me, Blyton books with their sunny days, picnics and characters with names like Peggy, Nora and Lucy-Ann, were a slice of a Britain I knew had already passed by.

Of course, that Britain (I should really say England) never really did exist. The Britain of the 1930s was impoverished, the 1940s were desperate and the 1950s were (under the veneer of post-war opportunity) largely poor and desperate. Really, I think these books must have been escapism for children even at the time. Maybe that's the reason they are still cherished, even as we see the dark stain of bigotry on the page. I can't bring myself to outright hate any Blyton book, even though they're rubbish, because I remember too well my own dreams of running off and having adventures, of going to secret islands, or going to a boarding school where all the girls are nice really (or get dealt with appropriately). I spent too many car journeys staving off boredom and car sickness with Darrell at Malory Towers, and too many evenings after school eating Pot Noodle and reading one of the St Clare's to be able to just say 'no, absolute tommy-rot, the lot of it.' While so much of it is absolute tommy-rot, there is just enough to save it from absolute awfulness, if I read them the way I always have...

I read Blyton's book the same way I did Sweet Valley: as I chose to. I made up my own stuff, saw things the way I wanted to. I didn't see the racism, because I didn't agree with it – I wiped it from the page. As far as I was concerned, both George and Anne were adventurers as much as Julian and the other one whose name I can't remember, and the domestic rubbish was more evenly spread out. As with Sweet Valley, where I rendered Jessica less sociopathic and Elizabeth less of a nosey parker with a sainthood complex, Blyton's books were solely about the adventures and the rest of the detail was just rubbish I didn't need.

From Blyton I learned what a jackdaw was, and what an ingot was (both of these feature heavily in the first Famous Five book). I learned about midnight feasts and lacrosse and ginger sodding beer. I learned that you should always try tapping all the panels on a wood-panelled wall just in case there's a hidden passage somewhere – and maybe check under any rugs too – and that cows can swim. I learned that what I rather wanted to do was go and have adventures myself, and that if I did, I would know some stuff to help me on my way.

I really do hate ginger beer, you know. I like stem ginger and powdered ginger and crystallised ginger and gingerbread biscuits and ginger ale but I hate ginger beer.

Of course, if I was one of the kids on the Secret Island, I would take some flint, so I didn't need to worry about matches. I knew about flint and its fire-making potential as a child, because I was a weird kid. I would know what wild garlic looks like, too. If I'd combined my Girl Guide training with my Blyton know-how, I could've run away and lived very happily on a secret island or in a mysterious castle or on a curious mountain. I might've managed, and what's more, prospered.

I would've done it without having to get boys to help too. How'd you like them apples, Miss Blyton? I would've had to take a gramophone with me, or a Dansette, to listen to my records, but I would've managed somehow. I would've been able to do it without resorting to knackered-out stereotypes, too, Miss Blyton.

Even at the time, as a child, I had to edit these damn books as I went along, so that they could fit my world. In my world then as now, women did not exist solely to do domestic tasks. My mum rarely does washing up. My dad, on the other hand, rarely cooks. They split laundry tasks and do their own ironing, I think. Thus it ever was. My mum drives when they go out and always has. I think she hates being a passenger – she will always find a reason to drive instead of someone else except on particularly long journeys. I have never managed to persuade her to be a passenger when I drive, although she trusts me to drive her car. Gender stereotypes were not my experience. While I was reading those Blyton books, I was also playing with toy cars (and love Top Gear now for the cars, not Hammond, though I know little of engineering) and climbing trees and playing football. For more than several years as a child, I don't believe I owned a single dress. I had to borrow one for a Guides pantomime one year.

Speaking of Guides, the company I was a part of didn't much correspond to the stereotype of Girl Guides either. Kate, the legendary Leader, took us camping and climbing, abseiling and caving and stuff. We did the baking and sweet-making, and we did craft stuff, but at no point were we told we must adhere to an out-dated notion of gender. In fact, Kate let us be exactly who we were, and only encouraged us to be the best version. I mean, she dealt with me and my scruffy, footballing, psychedelic bag carrying and whatever madness I tried to introduce.

The thing is... I think that's actually the clever part of her writing, such as it is. It is so basic, so spare, so devoid of any particular descriptions that the child reading can do that. Unfortunately, she did editorialise where it mattered in terms of race, gender and class. It didn't occur to me at the time that I was not of the same class as the O'Sullivan twins or Darrell or the Five. I just figured that they were a bit like me in some ways and not in others. The basic, simple and unprejudiced view of that open-minded child is one I still cling to. I knew that Gwendoline Lacey would scoff at me, because that was her character – sketched roughly though it was – and that Darrell had a temper like mine and those were the things that mattered. Blyton's descriptions are generally so vague that they can be most things to most children. At least... most white, British, middle class children.

Then again, I was a white, mostly-middle-class girl. I was her demographic. I could find myself in her books if I squinted hard. I don't suppose a minority child (of any sort) would see it the same way. In Blyton's world, multi-culturalism seems to mean people who dress for dinner and people who don't. Not forgetting of course, the occasional gypsy stereotype (sometimes good, sometimes bad, depending on the story). I didn't see it like that, because my world wasn't made up of pigeon-holes. For all their eccentricities, my mum and dad taught me that I was no better or worse than any other human being – that we are all equal. In our house, that was mostly true, too... except that Mummy's word is, was and ever will be, Law.

I was able to read Blyton's books without becoming an unquestioning bigoted little horror because there were stronger influences in my world. My teachers at primary school were fabulous – Mr Price, who took us through a mini-version of the Blue Eyes race 'game' so gently I'm not sure we fully realised we were doing it but with the intended result (at least for me, I can't speak for anyone else). Mrs Evans who read us some of the Blyton books during reading time so that I still hear Kiki the cockatoo with a Northern accent in my head, but who I now wonder if she edited the books as she read. Mrs Porter, who I didn't much like, but who explained to a bunch of seven year olds the difference between 'Nazis' and 'Germans'. I had more in my life than Blyton books and I was in a different time. A bit like watching Gone With The Wind, I guess...

But no... that's not good enough, is it? It's fine for me, Privileged White Girl to say 'oh, they didn't do me any harm' now, twenty years after the fact... but how many children sat on little carpets for reading time felt like they were being picked on or just ignored by these books? I understand why schools don't allow them anymore, and no it's not terrible that 'gollywog' is no longer an acceptable term, Mrs Outraged Daily Mail Reader. It's all very well for me to say 'oh, I just edited that rubbish out' but that's not good enough, is it? Isn't it surely time to consign this crap to the dustbin of history, along with Birth of a Nation and Oswald Mosley? How many of the children sat on that carpet with me felt left out by the Blyton stuff? We were 99% white and I was a 'minority' by dint of being Irish (mostly), Catholic and from London... but race is not the only way children can be excluded, is it? How many of the 'girly' girls felt excluded from the fun, and did the other 'tomboy' girls like me feel excluded from both the male and female sides of the coin, with only George Kirrin to barely represent us? How many of the boys felt excluded because they didn't fit the Julian or Jack or Philip moulds? How many other children found exclusion and hate instead of the comfort of escape for the crime of being in some way 'different'? I'm quite, quite wrong: my lingering little bit of fondness for this stuff excuses nothing.

For all that I still have a sliver of fondness left for them, I won't encourage any currently-hypothetical niece or nephew or godchild of mine to read them. I wouldn't ever stop them doing it, but I'd make certain to talk to them about the books. Hopefully they'll all be too busy listening to the Beatles, if I get my way!

For all that her books suck, I can't quite shake the feeling that Blyton's at least partly responsible for me being a writer – such as I am – myself. Would I always have wanted to write, to tell stories? Maybe, but she helped... I'm horribly aware of that. I wanted to write stories with people like Darrell and Sally and Alicia. I wanted to tell my tales too. I am telling my tales. My Dinah is taking her shape in the world – named after the song, not the girl in the Blyton books – and hopefully one day she'll be on shelves in book stores and Amazon warehouses the world over, waiting to be discovered by children who want adventure. Hopefully.

So Miss Blyton: you suck, but thanks just the same. I intend fully to learn from your grave and important mistakes and shortcomings so that I can be better than you. I intend not to fill children's heads with lessening things, but to suggest to them the radical notion that we are not all the same, but we are all equal.

The Storyteller

Thursday, 7 February 2008 20:22
apolla: (OTP)
I couldn't tell you the first story I wrote, and even less the first I conjured up in my fevered imagination. I remember one at primary school, which featured two princesses who'd dyed their hair pink and purple. I remember I wrote something else when I was eight or nine that got me in trouble at school because I used swear words (oh, the unspeakable anarchy of rebellion!). I remember The Story of Tottenham Teddy, which was technically a collaboration with a boy in my class called Lee, but written by me because I took over and he lost interest.

I remember my Mammy teaching me to type on our Amstrad computer, and I used this skill to write the hopefully lost secret diary of a girl called Dannii.

I know that such creative writing was the only homework I ever put any effort into at secondary school. I remember something about a Marilyn who was shipwrecked on an island or something which featured clipart (went overboard when we got a Windows PC. It was all flouncy fonts, clipart and colour for about a year and a half.) There was also an aborted attempt to write a 'Return to Pepperland' which died when I couldn't bring myself to write real people - The Beatles - which is still something I won't do.

There was another Secret Diary (I liked the form) of an English girl who was orphaned and sent to California to live with her aunt. She was called Sarina, I recall. It occupied my bored hours over a few years, took over 100 pages and her daughter's diary. It included mafia killings, betrayal, affairs, teenage pregnancy and worst of all names likes Venezia, Venus, Unity and whatever old bollocks I'd picked up from here and there. It featured whatever I'd read or seen at that time, so it was like Sweet Valley written by Mario Puzo. Worse actually, it was The Godfather ghostwritten for Francine Pascal. It was absolute rubbish and the corruption of the .doc files was merciful I'm sure.

That said, I couldn't not write it. I had the idea and I wrote it. That's how it's always been. I have ideas and I write them down. I rarely finish, but I write... I write because I can't do otherwise. I wonder if 'normal' human beings get ideas and just ignore them, or if I'm the odd one.

Perhaps it's that as children we have these flights of fancy and learn to ignore them... except that I never ignored them. Perhaps other people just don't get ideas... I don't know.

Once I wanted to be a movie star who also wrote, or a rock star who also wrote. It never occurred to me that my one absolute constant is writing. I mean, I love music deeply and with huge passion, but I can leave my guitar untouched for weeks. I don't seem to stop writing. I never have - it used to get me in trouble at school. I got so absorbed in sneakily scribbling a story during English once that I didn't hear what Mr Maidment was saying, nor when he asked me a question. I was writing at my grandfather's death bed, when it was just me and him there, when all there was to do was wait.

I started writing once, so long ago that I don't remember, and I haven't stopped since. This is not to say I'm any good. I may not be. I'm certainly not trained as those who did it at school or university are.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's what I'm meant to be doing after all. Perhaps I'm suppoesd to be the writer who sings, not the singer who writes. At least then I could work at home.

I suppose now all I need is to finish something that other humans would want to read, then find an agent and a publisher and readers. No sweat, right?

The thing is, it makes no nevermind. If nobody were ever to read, it wouldn't stop me writing. Is that, do you suppose, the thing that should prove where my ultimate destiny lies?

The Storyteller

Thursday, 7 February 2008 20:22
apolla: (OTP)
I couldn't tell you the first story I wrote, and even less the first I conjured up in my fevered imagination. I remember one at primary school, which featured two princesses who'd dyed their hair pink and purple. I remember I wrote something else when I was eight or nine that got me in trouble at school because I used swear words (oh, the unspeakable anarchy of rebellion!). I remember The Story of Tottenham Teddy, which was technically a collaboration with a boy in my class called Lee, but written by me because I took over and he lost interest.

I remember my Mammy teaching me to type on our Amstrad computer, and I used this skill to write the hopefully lost secret diary of a girl called Dannii.

I know that such creative writing was the only homework I ever put any effort into at secondary school. I remember something about a Marilyn who was shipwrecked on an island or something which featured clipart (went overboard when we got a Windows PC. It was all flouncy fonts, clipart and colour for about a year and a half.) There was also an aborted attempt to write a 'Return to Pepperland' which died when I couldn't bring myself to write real people - The Beatles - which is still something I won't do.

There was another Secret Diary (I liked the form) of an English girl who was orphaned and sent to California to live with her aunt. She was called Sarina, I recall. It occupied my bored hours over a few years, took over 100 pages and her daughter's diary. It included mafia killings, betrayal, affairs, teenage pregnancy and worst of all names likes Venezia, Venus, Unity and whatever old bollocks I'd picked up from here and there. It featured whatever I'd read or seen at that time, so it was like Sweet Valley written by Mario Puzo. Worse actually, it was The Godfather ghostwritten for Francine Pascal. It was absolute rubbish and the corruption of the .doc files was merciful I'm sure.

That said, I couldn't not write it. I had the idea and I wrote it. That's how it's always been. I have ideas and I write them down. I rarely finish, but I write... I write because I can't do otherwise. I wonder if 'normal' human beings get ideas and just ignore them, or if I'm the odd one.

Perhaps it's that as children we have these flights of fancy and learn to ignore them... except that I never ignored them. Perhaps other people just don't get ideas... I don't know.

Once I wanted to be a movie star who also wrote, or a rock star who also wrote. It never occurred to me that my one absolute constant is writing. I mean, I love music deeply and with huge passion, but I can leave my guitar untouched for weeks. I don't seem to stop writing. I never have - it used to get me in trouble at school. I got so absorbed in sneakily scribbling a story during English once that I didn't hear what Mr Maidment was saying, nor when he asked me a question. I was writing at my grandfather's death bed, when it was just me and him there, when all there was to do was wait.

I started writing once, so long ago that I don't remember, and I haven't stopped since. This is not to say I'm any good. I may not be. I'm certainly not trained as those who did it at school or university are.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's what I'm meant to be doing after all. Perhaps I'm suppoesd to be the writer who sings, not the singer who writes. At least then I could work at home.

I suppose now all I need is to finish something that other humans would want to read, then find an agent and a publisher and readers. No sweat, right?

The thing is, it makes no nevermind. If nobody were ever to read, it wouldn't stop me writing. Is that, do you suppose, the thing that should prove where my ultimate destiny lies?
apolla: (Rock Chick)



Why Fitzwilliam Darcy Is The Perfectest Hero That Ever Lived

This has probably been covered before, in fora and book clubs around the world. Between giggling friends, between whatever. It’s never been done by me before, and I like to think I can at least come up with something new to say, no matter how ludicrous. Or at least a new way of saying something old.

Yes, Darcy is about the most perfect hero that ever got put onto paper. Why so? What is it about such a painfully shy, aloof, socially backward old grump?

- He’s rich. Really really rich.

- He lives in That House.

- He’s handsome.

The description of him, even post-BBC, post-movie is just vague enough that people can conjure their own image of Darcy. So, it might be based on a bloke called Colin, or it might be based on Matthew MacSpooks, but it becomes something particular and singularly one’s own image of what the perfect romantic hero looks like. Unless you like blonds, obviously.

So far, so ridiculously typical. Rich and handsome. Snore. What about this:

- Darcy has a bit of the old ‘bad boy’ routine going on.

Yes, it’s well documented that girls like dangerous, brooding, dark-auraed men. But since when was this most honourable of gentlemen a bad boy? Glad you asked. Since he slagged off Lizzy and offended an entire town in one night. However, the real beauty of those bloody bad boys is this: they’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way.

Nobody actually wants a bastard. What they actually want is someone who has all the chocolatey goodness of a bad guy with all the nutritional benefits of a Jolly Nice Bloke. Like frozen yoghurt that doesn’t taste shit, for example. The Charm Of Darce comes in feeling thrilled at the dark-and-brooding before the joyful discovery that he’s actually so lovely and darlign that he’s up for sainthood. Heathcliff was actually an insane git, Dorian Gray was a depraved heroin addict murderer, Rick Blaine was a bitter, twisted fellow, Rhett Butler was a whoring gambler and so on and so on. Darcy: The cake you get to have and eat too.

The most important thing isn’t even that, though. It’s this: He loves Lizzy first. While she’s practically dunking Darcy Voodoo Dolls in boiling oil, poor little Darcy is pining away over her, fighting his own pride and judgement, the probable censure of his family, mooning over her fine eyes and in all other ways acting like a bit of a lovesick sap. He comes down on the side of lub, twu lub instead of money, familial pride and the rest, which of course also makes him romantic, rebellious and anti-capitalist. Why, he’s practically Comrade Darcy! (Except for all that money, obviously). The thing really is that he loves her first. Who wouldn’t want to discover that their True Love has been pining over them? Nice ego boost, methinks. We’d all like to think we’ve got a Rich, Handsome, Romantic, Rebellious, Pining, Brooding Good Guy lusting after us, willing to give us lots of money and a big house and a happy ever after.

The fact that he cocks it all up so spectacularly is just proof that he’s not perfect (because nobody is perfect, of course), so one can get on with him being practically perfect in every other way.

And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also forgiving of Lizzy. She really does lay into him and he loves her anyway, maybe more. There’s not a petulant female in the world that doesn’t wish for someone like that.

So, he’s Rich, Handsome, Romantic, Rebellious, Brooding, Pining, Forgiving Good Guy... and depending on your preferred version, he likes mist or lakes.

Hell, if he could sing or play the guitar too, even I’d want to marry that.

The world would be a better, happier place if we could just bottle the Essence of Darcy, force it down the necks of all newborn baby boys, methinks.

apolla: (Rock Chick)



Why Fitzwilliam Darcy Is The Perfectest Hero That Ever Lived

This has probably been covered before, in fora and book clubs around the world. Between giggling friends, between whatever. It’s never been done by me before, and I like to think I can at least come up with something new to say, no matter how ludicrous. Or at least a new way of saying something old.

Yes, Darcy is about the most perfect hero that ever got put onto paper. Why so? What is it about such a painfully shy, aloof, socially backward old grump?

- He’s rich. Really really rich.

- He lives in That House.

- He’s handsome.

The description of him, even post-BBC, post-movie is just vague enough that people can conjure their own image of Darcy. So, it might be based on a bloke called Colin, or it might be based on Matthew MacSpooks, but it becomes something particular and singularly one’s own image of what the perfect romantic hero looks like. Unless you like blonds, obviously.

So far, so ridiculously typical. Rich and handsome. Snore. What about this:

- Darcy has a bit of the old ‘bad boy’ routine going on.

Yes, it’s well documented that girls like dangerous, brooding, dark-auraed men. But since when was this most honourable of gentlemen a bad boy? Glad you asked. Since he slagged off Lizzy and offended an entire town in one night. However, the real beauty of those bloody bad boys is this: they’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way.

Nobody actually wants a bastard. What they actually want is someone who has all the chocolatey goodness of a bad guy with all the nutritional benefits of a Jolly Nice Bloke. Like frozen yoghurt that doesn’t taste shit, for example. The Charm Of Darce comes in feeling thrilled at the dark-and-brooding before the joyful discovery that he’s actually so lovely and darlign that he’s up for sainthood. Heathcliff was actually an insane git, Dorian Gray was a depraved heroin addict murderer, Rick Blaine was a bitter, twisted fellow, Rhett Butler was a whoring gambler and so on and so on. Darcy: The cake you get to have and eat too.

The most important thing isn’t even that, though. It’s this: He loves Lizzy first. While she’s practically dunking Darcy Voodoo Dolls in boiling oil, poor little Darcy is pining away over her, fighting his own pride and judgement, the probable censure of his family, mooning over her fine eyes and in all other ways acting like a bit of a lovesick sap. He comes down on the side of lub, twu lub instead of money, familial pride and the rest, which of course also makes him romantic, rebellious and anti-capitalist. Why, he’s practically Comrade Darcy! (Except for all that money, obviously). The thing really is that he loves her first. Who wouldn’t want to discover that their True Love has been pining over them? Nice ego boost, methinks. We’d all like to think we’ve got a Rich, Handsome, Romantic, Rebellious, Pining, Brooding Good Guy lusting after us, willing to give us lots of money and a big house and a happy ever after.

The fact that he cocks it all up so spectacularly is just proof that he’s not perfect (because nobody is perfect, of course), so one can get on with him being practically perfect in every other way.

And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also forgiving of Lizzy. She really does lay into him and he loves her anyway, maybe more. There’s not a petulant female in the world that doesn’t wish for someone like that.

So, he’s Rich, Handsome, Romantic, Rebellious, Brooding, Pining, Forgiving Good Guy... and depending on your preferred version, he likes mist or lakes.

Hell, if he could sing or play the guitar too, even I’d want to marry that.

The world would be a better, happier place if we could just bottle the Essence of Darcy, force it down the necks of all newborn baby boys, methinks.

Just an FYI

Sunday, 29 January 2006 11:21
apolla: (Rock Chick)

For the first time in about a year or more, I can tell you that there is a new chapter of Daoimear de Dán: Inné agus Inniu and you can find it here.

I doubt very much that anyone still remembers, much less cares, but I don't like leaving it unfinished. Now I've got past this bit, there should be more new stuff soon.

Knock yourselves out.

Just an FYI

Sunday, 29 January 2006 11:21
apolla: (Rock Chick)

For the first time in about a year or more, I can tell you that there is a new chapter of Daoimear de Dán: Inné agus Inniu and you can find it here.

I doubt very much that anyone still remembers, much less cares, but I don't like leaving it unfinished. Now I've got past this bit, there should be more new stuff soon.

Knock yourselves out.

apolla: (Philip)

Kaplinsky to front Six O'Clock News

For the love of all things good, holy and not smothered in six inches of stage makeup, why does this woman keep getting work? Natasha Kaplinsky is one of the most truly vapid, hollow wastes of existence currently clogging our airwaves. I love the mornings she's not on BBC Breakfast because it means the approaching-good mood I have on waking is maintained far longer than the mornings she is.

I think Sophie Raworth is brilliant and gives the impression of not only being able to write the stuff herself but to be able to understand it. When it's the likes of Sophie and her ilk, ones does not get the feeling that it's All About Her. With Natasha Kaplinsky that's all you get. She is good for nothing yet continues to get all manner of presenting gigs that would be far greater in the hands of someone a little less vacuous.  And now we're gonna have to put up with her in the evenings too? A rum deal, Auntie Beeb, a rum deal indeed.

Indeed, I'll be avoiding the evening news until they get rid of Natasha or Sophie R comes back.

apolla: (Philip)

Kaplinsky to front Six O'Clock News

For the love of all things good, holy and not smothered in six inches of stage makeup, why does this woman keep getting work? Natasha Kaplinsky is one of the most truly vapid, hollow wastes of existence currently clogging our airwaves. I love the mornings she's not on BBC Breakfast because it means the approaching-good mood I have on waking is maintained far longer than the mornings she is.

I think Sophie Raworth is brilliant and gives the impression of not only being able to write the stuff herself but to be able to understand it. When it's the likes of Sophie and her ilk, ones does not get the feeling that it's All About Her. With Natasha Kaplinsky that's all you get. She is good for nothing yet continues to get all manner of presenting gigs that would be far greater in the hands of someone a little less vacuous.  And now we're gonna have to put up with her in the evenings too? A rum deal, Auntie Beeb, a rum deal indeed.

Indeed, I'll be avoiding the evening news until they get rid of Natasha or Sophie R comes back.

apolla: (Philip)

OK. Right.

I am so very fucking tired of the government of the United Kingdom Of Chavs And Fuckwits.

They can't even stand firm on a fucking smoking ban. IRELAND managed it. DUBLIN IS SMOKE FREE! DUBLIN! If Dublin can be smoke-free, London certainly can. But no, New Labour has let us down once more and come up with a 'third way' that is ineffectual, pointless and smacks of everything that is wrong with these fools and madmen.

They don't like making decisions. They don't like risking anything that might be unpopular with someone, so they do something so weak and feeble that they annoy all of us.

They don't like being disliked or unpopular, so they do a piss-poor version of 'doing something', which is a bit like Bobby Davro doing an impression of Frank Spencer. It sounds OK, but there's nothing there.

It's been like this every day since May 1997, when some of us foolishly voted these people in because they were better than the other option. Now, I'm a fan of irony, but discovering we voted against the Conservatives only to find ourselves lumbered with a Conservative in socialist's clothing.

Everything, since day one, has been smothered and couched and disguised in smart-sounding language that rings as hollow as Cherie Blair's soul would if you smacked it with a triangle beater.

It's all about the style because they do not, repeat do not and never have had the content.

I'm not saying everyone in the Labour government is a fake, but I don't remember seeing any socialists lately. Labour was founded and continued and flourished because some of us want everyone, rich and poor, to have a chance. Labour gave us a National Health Service, among other things. Labour was the party that actually cared about people.

I suppose the fact that Blair and Brown hammered out their plans for leadership over sundried tomatoes in an Islington bistro says it all. In this way, they've lied to us in the most grevious way. There are so many people in this country that care about the rest of it that they couldn't face ticking a different box when it came to the elections since 97. They couldn't bear the thought of not voting Labour, because like me, they believed it might get better. It might get back to the way it was meant to be.

It won't. Labour can't even decided on a smoking ban or not, settling on some stupidity in between, so how can they save their party and what it once so proudly stood for.

And amongst all this, they're trying to destroy the parts of the education system they haven't yet fucked about with. This is from the Prime Minister's own website:

  • Allowing every school to acquire a self-governing Trust similar to those supporting City Academies - giving them the freedom to work with new partners.
  • Better information for parents to help them choose a school for their child - including dedicated 'choice advisers' for less well-off families
  • Free school transport for children from poorer families to their three nearest secondary schools within a six-mile radius
  • Regular, 'meaningful' reports for parents during the school year on their child's progress
  • One-to-one tuition for under-performing pupils in maths and education with more stretching lessons for talented youngsters
  • 'Clear and unambigious' legal right for teachers to discipline pupils
  • Local authorities to become 'champions' of pupils and parents, commissioning rather than providing education
  • Self-governing Trusts? City Academies? Choice Advisers? 'meaningful'? Are you taking the piss? New Labour is the dictionary definition of MEANINGLESS!

    They're fools and fuckwits. No wonder Blair gets on so well with Dubya Shrub.

    Don't we deserve better than this? Never before has this avatar been so useful.

    apolla: (Philip)

    OK. Right.

    I am so very fucking tired of the government of the United Kingdom Of Chavs And Fuckwits.

    They can't even stand firm on a fucking smoking ban. IRELAND managed it. DUBLIN IS SMOKE FREE! DUBLIN! If Dublin can be smoke-free, London certainly can. But no, New Labour has let us down once more and come up with a 'third way' that is ineffectual, pointless and smacks of everything that is wrong with these fools and madmen.

    They don't like making decisions. They don't like risking anything that might be unpopular with someone, so they do something so weak and feeble that they annoy all of us.

    They don't like being disliked or unpopular, so they do a piss-poor version of 'doing something', which is a bit like Bobby Davro doing an impression of Frank Spencer. It sounds OK, but there's nothing there.

    It's been like this every day since May 1997, when some of us foolishly voted these people in because they were better than the other option. Now, I'm a fan of irony, but discovering we voted against the Conservatives only to find ourselves lumbered with a Conservative in socialist's clothing.

    Everything, since day one, has been smothered and couched and disguised in smart-sounding language that rings as hollow as Cherie Blair's soul would if you smacked it with a triangle beater.

    It's all about the style because they do not, repeat do not and never have had the content.

    I'm not saying everyone in the Labour government is a fake, but I don't remember seeing any socialists lately. Labour was founded and continued and flourished because some of us want everyone, rich and poor, to have a chance. Labour gave us a National Health Service, among other things. Labour was the party that actually cared about people.

    I suppose the fact that Blair and Brown hammered out their plans for leadership over sundried tomatoes in an Islington bistro says it all. In this way, they've lied to us in the most grevious way. There are so many people in this country that care about the rest of it that they couldn't face ticking a different box when it came to the elections since 97. They couldn't bear the thought of not voting Labour, because like me, they believed it might get better. It might get back to the way it was meant to be.

    It won't. Labour can't even decided on a smoking ban or not, settling on some stupidity in between, so how can they save their party and what it once so proudly stood for.

    And amongst all this, they're trying to destroy the parts of the education system they haven't yet fucked about with. This is from the Prime Minister's own website:

  • Allowing every school to acquire a self-governing Trust similar to those supporting City Academies - giving them the freedom to work with new partners.
  • Better information for parents to help them choose a school for their child - including dedicated 'choice advisers' for less well-off families
  • Free school transport for children from poorer families to their three nearest secondary schools within a six-mile radius
  • Regular, 'meaningful' reports for parents during the school year on their child's progress
  • One-to-one tuition for under-performing pupils in maths and education with more stretching lessons for talented youngsters
  • 'Clear and unambigious' legal right for teachers to discipline pupils
  • Local authorities to become 'champions' of pupils and parents, commissioning rather than providing education
  • Self-governing Trusts? City Academies? Choice Advisers? 'meaningful'? Are you taking the piss? New Labour is the dictionary definition of MEANINGLESS!

    They're fools and fuckwits. No wonder Blair gets on so well with Dubya Shrub.

    Don't we deserve better than this? Never before has this avatar been so useful.

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