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Topol, Time and Temperature . . .

Clear skies stained watercolour blue. The world backlit by sunshine. Heat suffocating the birds till dusk. Tingles on pink skin. Air indoors too thick to breathe. Salad bars scraped clean in supermarkets. Barbecues. Paddling pools.

All this in one day.

Summer has arrived in London. Finally.

The tension seeps out of me. I’m a smiley girl once again. I purr like a cat even when I’m on my own. Or perhaps especially when I’m on my own. I love the warmth. I live for summer. Maybe it’s a hangover from a childhood growing up in dusty dry heat, more likely it’s just human nature. Summer is a kind season. Aches and pains recede. The days are long and full. We take time to relax. Picnics. Pubs. Parks. Laughter.

I have a love affair with summer. I have love affairs in summer. It’s a cheeky season, that’s for sure. Why can’t summers last forever? Like they did when we were kids? Why can’t summers last until we’re so bored we’re sure we’ll die from it? Remember those days? Yesterday and not yesterday. Too many years gone by.

I went to LA last November. It was beautiful T-shirt weather the whole time. That was apparently the coldest it got. I always thought I’d like to live in a place like that, where the sun pretty much always shines. A place where you could face the morning with a smile. Endless summer. I hate the grey days of Autumn. The bleak, cold days of winter. I can be an Eeyore of a person and it’s invariably when the days get colder and darker that the black dog comes sniffing at my door. Christmas is a little bright light in the middle, but then it’s the long haul through the slush of February before spring and the promise of another summer on the way.

I spend a lot of time looking out the window and waiting for summer.

I might still go and spend six months in LA next year. But live there? No, I don’t think I could. That endless summer felt all wrong. It unsettled me. I need the seasons. We all need the seasons. As much as I might hate the autumn, get irritated with winter and barely tolerate spring, in a lot of ways they make summer more special. Like the bad times make the good time amazing. Like the memories of broken hearts make you love stronger the next time it rolls around.

More than that – and most importantly – the seasons give me the fear. They remind me of time passing. As soon as the chill creeps in and my heart tightens, I know its time to take stock. What haven’t I achieved? What didn’t I do? How much time have I wasted dicking around on Twitter and Facebook when the real things that are important to me are not to be found there. How many stories haven’t I written or read? How many friends haven’t I laughed with?

Every year that passes I need those seasons more. Every year that passes the time they signal gets more precious.  Yesterday and not yesterday. 10, 20, 30 and now 40. The seasons give the fleeting years deadlines. They give my life deadlines. The seasons are a constant reminder that summers don’t last. Nothing does. Not even you. Not even me.

When I was a kid my mum used to iron while watching a video (yes, a VHS) of The Fiddler on the Roof. I still love that musical, even though it kind of makes your heart ache. There was a song in it that always made me feel both melancholy and afraid. Just like autumn does. Even without the lyrics there was something in the music that spoke of sad truths. Of time, always just out of reach, running too fast to catch. The older I get, the more the song makes me shiver a little.

But still, a touch of fear can be good for the soul.

It’s why I couldn’t live in an endless summer. I might forget that the clock was ticking. I might forget the cold winter that gets us all eventually.

Anyway, here’s the song. Have a listen. It’s beautiful and haunting. Think about your time. Take stock.

Then smile, remember you’re still gloriously alive and get out there and enjoy the sunshine.

While it lasts.

SP x

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzK3Jl64dyc


First item of Gollancz news from me this month….

http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/06/gollancz-acquires-three-fairy-tale-novellas/


Sugar paper on the tongue…

I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot recently. Of all the abstract nouns it seems to be the one we all find the most abstract.

Are you happy? Am I happy? Could I be happier? If only we were as happy as they seem to be? If only I had this or that or him or her then I could be happy. Why can’t I just be happy? What would make you happy? Really happy?

Endless questions. Pointless questions.

I’m not a naturally happy person. I’m prone to being an internal Eeyore and someone once told me that they thought my dopamine receptors were off – I never take a moment to stop and celebrate achievements but am always, always pushing on to the next thing.

But you know, I don’t think that’s got anything to do with happiness. Maybe we’ve just forgotten what happiness actually is or should be.

Everyone’s looking for THE BIG HAPPY all the time, don’t you think? The grand passion, the surge of adrenaline, the X-Factor win in life’s events. It’s not enough to be happy, we have to be HAPPY. We must be physically perfect, beautiful, endlessly talented. Love has to be like something out of Notting Hill. To be happy, life must be PERFECT.

You know what? To equate HAPPINESS with PERFECTION is to keep it forever out of reach. THE BIG HAPPYS? They’re something else. In my head, those are called ‘moments’. You see a man across a room and you have a ‘moment’. You get that book/film/TV deal and you have one huge motherfucking moment – but that’s still all it is. A moment.

Happiness is something more subtle. Happiness is like sugar paper on the tongue.

I spend a lot of time chasing the ‘moments’. I’m one of those kind of people. But recently I’ve taken stock of everything else.

Life has changed over the past few weeks. I’ve moved to London (I know, I know, I’ve barely mentioned it). This has been both brilliant and a bit scary, but it’s certainly made my life busier and put me back in the world after my Miss Havisham existence in Milton Keynes. I have wonderful friends nearby who have been great during my whole moving house experience, I have a city I love on my doorstep,  and I’m loving writing at the moment.

My little flat is starting to feel like home. I’m buying stuff to ‘put in it’ – something I never did with the house I owned. Writery people abound in London and are always up for wine. I have the Keynes to escape to if I want quiet. The world seems warm. I’m smiling a lot.

I woke up yesterday and I realised that although I’ll always be prone to a little bit of darkness and fear, those things can’t be helped, and actually – all things considered I’m tentatively feeling happy. What a rare thing to feel in this age of DEMAND and WANT. It’s a quiet feeling, happiness. A gentle thing. Butterfly wings against the beat of your heart. In the rush of life, you can almost not notice it’s there until it’s gone again.

I have sugar paper on my tongue. I’m going to savour it.

SP x


‘I’m so vain…I always think this song is about me…’

I should really write this blog on my actual birthday but I’ll be in London being far too busy, so, in my usual tradition, I’m writing it in bed, after wine, and while my brain ticks over. 

Vanity is a funny thing.

I’m pretty vain, all things considered. If I’m passing a reflective surface, I’ll always peer in. Always have done. Check the size, shape, general appearance. Give myself the nod. Looks are important to a girl. Any girl who says otherwise is a liar. Like it or not, we know it counts. We know its usefulness. Trust me.

And yet here I am – 40 on Wednesday, and not feeling a moment’s misery over it. Comes as quite a surprise to the 21 year old I once was, if I’m honest. I thought 40 would reduce me to tears –  if not Botox. But no. As it turns out, I quite like the wrinkles I have. I feel I’ve earned them and most of them come from laughing so what’s not to like? If this is the half way mark then the second half has some keeping up to do. I quite like the idea of being 40. There’s a don’t-mess-with-me ness about it. I know who I am, what I want, and still feel like the world is my oyster.

I’m tipping the universe the wink and expecting it to deliver.

The thing is this – when I look at the life behind me I see adventures and happiness and heartache and insecurity, and when I look ahead, I see the same things. And that’s exactly how it should be. That’s what life – the future – is, after all. I hope I’ve learned from the past adventures. I hope I’m smarter than I was at 18. But in essence the future is as much a blank page as it ever was.  Time in itself is immaterial. My best friend died at 24. You can’t trust time. You just have to make sure you live in it.

Right now, I feel more alive than I have in ages. I’m moving to London. A new decade and new beginnings. I have my family and great, great friends; my writery friends, my ‘The Keynes’ friends, my actory friends and all the ones in between. They’re probably far better friends to me than I deserve.

My career? Well, that, as with all things creative will always bring ‘the Fear’ with it. But ‘the Fear’ makes us feel alive, and it just takes one good deal or one promise of a ‘maybe’ to make you buzz for days, and if that isn’t being alive then what is?

I might not have a lover, but I feel well-loved, and you can’t beat that, can you? Lovers come and go – there are always men – but people who really love you are rare. And I’m lucky to have a few. They see through the arrogance and the pride and the toughness. They help me when I’m down.  They know that I’m always full of self-doubt, and afraid and just want to hide from the world. And they tell me to buck the fuck up and get out there and show the world what I can do. I love them right back for that.

That’s the kind of shit that comes with age. People get to know you. Really know you. They can separate the wheat from the chaff. Sitting here on the cusp of 40, I realise that I love a lot of people. Properly love them. And that’s a great feeling. When you’re young, you take your friends for granted. As you get older, you choose them more wisely, but you hold them close. I intend to keep mine. They make me feel alive. 

I’m not going to tell you anything special about 40. There isn’t anything special about it. It’s just a number. I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 25 and maybe that’s the only secret. There are no answers in growing up. There are only more adventures. More adventures that YOU choose, because you know yourself better.

I’m a little sad that maybe there won’t be any babies, but at the same time, I know that when one door closes another opens, and there will be other doors open for me and who knows what adventures will be behind them?

On reflection, I was never that conventional anyway. I think life always wanted different things for me.

So come on forty, you look foxy enough for me. Let’s crack on, shall we?

SP x


Say no more…one from the archives…

I winked at a kid in Tesco Ghetto today.

His mum and dad were arguing in the biscuits aisle. Nothing major, just one of those day to day snipes the marrieds that shop together seem to have, but it was enough to distract their attention from little Wayne or Dwayne who trailed behind.  He took advantage of that. I think D/Wayne was that kind of kid. He ambled sneakily to his left, grabbed a couple of small bags of Haribo and then slid them under the huge cereal box in the trolley. He looked up like butter wouldn’t melt. He caught my eye. For a moment his expression darkened.

Rumbled. Caught. Shit.

And then I winked. And smiled. He smiled back. We didn’t need to say anything. We had a moment that was entirely our own. We both wanted to giggle. We understood entirely without words. There was just me and him and the rest of the world could go to hell in a handcart. I wheeled my own handcart away and left them to it. It made me think though. That wink.

The world is too loud, don’t you think? Or maybe it’s just me. It seems to be getting louder from where I’m sitting. Email, text, phone, facebook, Twitter, blogs– everyone filling every space with words. Needing to communicate. To get their point across. To be liked. To be loved. To make themselves heard.  And yes, I get the irony of me making a statement like that. I do all of the above and then some. But recently all these words have started to wear me down. They’re like a tidal wave and what does it all mean anyway? It’s just words. Endless amount of words. Mine, yours, theirs. It’s white noise.

A couple of years ago I was in a room with a man. We weren’t standing near each other. Too many others stood between us, cluttered gatherings of conversations. I barely even knew this man beyond the occasional muttered hello. But I knew him enough to know he made my stomach go funny and my heart race a little faster every time I saw him. I stumbled through words near him. I made no sense. On this occasion, back in the days of stranger, I looked up from my own polite conversation to catch him looking at me. Watching me. I winked. His face cracked into a smile. Mine cracked back. The man beside me kept talking and I didn’t hear a word. I was too busy smiling across the room. That wink had created a moment. The ones that come so rarely in life. A silent, private moment where two people look at each other and an infinite number of impossible possibilities open up. All the potential of what could be. All the things that you could never put into words. The whys and wherefores of what happened after that wink are neither here nor there. That moment I’ll remember forever. I’ll savour it, and sometimes take it out of the memory box and make myself smile all over again. There are men I’ve slept with that I’ll forget before I forget that moment. And not a single word was spoken. There weren’t words that could cover it. I wouldn’t want to even try to explain all that went through me/us in words. Words could break it.

Words are clever. We can twist them. Bend them into new shapes of meaning. Words make liars of us all by their very nature. We tell people what they want to hear. I would die for you. I love your new haircut. No, your arse doesn’t look big in that. Great Christmas jumper, grandma – I’ll wear it all the time.Words, words, words. Fiction and fact. Cruel and kind. Always there. But we feel long before we have language. And it’s the insides that are honest.

My dad used to wink at me. Normally when my mum was angry. You all know the wink. The kind that lets you know things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’ll be all right. I loved my dad’s winks. The ones that were just for me. He still does it from time to time, often when we’re standing in a bar, and I’m laughing along to one of his friends’ jokes, and he’s just feeling proud or fond of me. They make me feel six years old again. My dad doesn’t do words. He never says ‘I love you.’ I don’t think he’s ever said it. Over the years and the many, many failed relationships, my dad’s answer to all my problems is just ‘Shall we go to the pub?’ and then we get there we don’t talk about anything much at all. But those winks – they say everything that’s needed and so much more. They’re me and my dad summed up those winks. We get it. Without words. We don’t need words.

I’m trying not to make this an essay – keep it short and sweet – keep the words down.  I could talk about other winks. One in a pub after a week of unsure flirting, a wink that led to kissing in a car park ten minutes later and an affair that would kick the crap out of my heart a year later but c’est la vie. The less pleasant winks that promise so much other and create moments that send a chill across the pit of your stomach. Those moments can’t be put into words either, but they’re just the small dark clouds that pass across a sunny day.

One wink delivered while I was prison visiting in Woodhill. I was maybe 22 or 23 and just realising that these games I played were dangerous. I’d gone with my then boyfriend (he was on day release from Open prison himself), and his friend to see said friend’s father – probably the biggest ‘gangster’ in Milton Keynes at the time. As we sat there sipping tea and eating our Twix I watched the other inmates and their visitors watching us. There were some frightening people there and I had a moment of dawning realisation that the most frightening was probably sitting on the other side of the table from me. I remember thinking that this would be a really really good time to keep my big mouth shut and just be quietly blonde for the hour. I remember for the first time feeling slightly afraid of these people that I considered my friends. I looked up to see the man’s son, then in his late 30s, watching me. My boyfriend was talking to his dad, but he’d seen my face. He smiled and winked. It was a gentle wink. It said many, many things about him and his world and the expectations on him, some of which he probably wasn’t even aware, but most of all I guess it said ‘don’t worry. This isn’t your life. You’re just passing through.’ He was right. I saw him a couple of years ago. He didn’t recognise me. But I remembered that wink. And I’ll always think well of him for it.

Don’t get me wrong. Words are brilliant. I love them, I love using them and without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living. But sometimes, in life, I just get tired of them. Words don’t make you feel special. Not often.There’s too many to sift through.

So if you like me and want to make me smile don’t give me your words. To be honest,  I don’t trust them. Find me in a crowded room. Look at me and wink. Make me smile. Give me a silent, private moment that’s just ours. Because winks don’t lie.;-)x


Why the Chinese should stop eating cats.

It’s an old post from times gone by found in my computer.

Why the Chinese Should stop Eating Cats.

Let’s get this straight before half of you switch off straight away. I used to have a dog. I am not a dog-hater. I like dogs. Dogs are great. They love you, they need you, they can’t do without you, they constantly need your approval..Dogs make you feel great…The chinese should probably stop eating dogs too.

Dogs make you feel great with no effort at all….they love you unconditionally.

Get a dog. You’ll be loved. Easy.

Meh.

Yes there are dogs. Man’s best friend. And then there are cats. Cats are a different matter completely. Cats really don’t need you to clear up their shit. They don’t need you to show them the way home. In fact, cats really don’t need you at all. And therein lies the beauty of a cat.

A lot of people are put off cats because of this apparent indifference. But actually, it’s the cat’s finest quality. If a cat stays with you, it’s because it loves you. End of. They’ve chosen to stay with you. They’ve decided – normally after a good snoop around and evaluation of what other homes in the area have to offer – that you’re the best person to co-habit with at this particular time.

That’s got to be a good feeling, hasn’t it? To be chosen rather than loved just because it’s in something’s nature to love and you’re the handiest person with a lead and a tin of pedigree chum?

A cat will love you. It will curl up and rub faces with you. It will follow you from room to room and watch you work. It will come running down the stairs when you get home. Hell, mine waits outside the bathroom door for me in the mornings. When a sick friend came to stay, in the last week of that man’s life I watched as my cat crept cautiously up the side of the bed and tucked his head under the dying man’s hand and just lay there. This coming from a cat that will normally clamber all over you and sprawl across your chest however he damn well pleases. I think the cat knew he was ill. The cat was gentle. Cats are sensitive like that. Sometimes I think cats chase ghosts in the night.

Cats don’t just take despite what some people think. A cat will bring you things. And not items you’ve thrown for it specifically to fetch. A cat will go and tear the head off a living thing and proudly bring you the body. Here’s what I did. How great am I? And I’m giving it to you, because right now I think you’re pretty great too and this is the best possible way I can think of to show you that.

Now that’s love.

But you have to earn that love. And there is nothing unconditional about it.

Not ever.

A cat can hurt you when it plays. It might not always be intentional, but sometimes it will be. If you get rough then the claws will come out, and really, what do you expect? A cat needs to let you know that as sweet and affectionate as it may be on your pillow, it can draw blood. Cats can survive. You learn quickly how to play with a cat, and let’s face it you have to have respect for something that can hurt you so unexpectedly if you’re not careful.

A cat will never save you from drowning. Primarily because they don’t like water, and secondly a cat will think if you were stupid enough to get yourself into the situation, then what do you expect? There is no blind trust. Ever tried to get a cat down from a garage roof? You stretch your arms out to them, and you get a ‘Really?’ with a raised eyebrow. ‘I’ve seen the clumsy way you move. Like you’re not going to drop me? I don’t think so...’ as it jumps past your ladder and down your back to the ground.

Most importantly, a cat doesn’t forget if you hurt them. A cat stores information. When you weren’t available for a bit of lap action. When you forgot to re-fill the bowl. The amount of times you shut it out of the bedroom because you had a better offer. How many weekends you stayed away. If you don’t put the time in, the cat will get distant. Suddenly your pillow is not its favourite place first thing in the morning. It’s in the corridor instead, seemingly infazed. Just watching.

Jealousy is a cat trait. Bring a puppy into another dog’s house and the dog thinks it’s Christmas. A cat does not. A cat will yowl and scratch and beat that kitten into submission because the cat knows that attention is limited. You see the change in cats that suddenly have dogs around. The cat becomes more aloof. The dog is too needy and the cat is too proud to fight for love. Why should it? Its love needs to be earned too, after all.

And like anything worth having, if you don’t value it, you can lose it. Love’s funny like that.

One day, maybe, if you don’t pay your cat quite enough attention, you’ll find it’s moved next door. Maybe someone else was filling the milk bowl when you weren’t looking. Sometimes it may creep back into your garden, but it will never be your cat again. You can see the change in the eyes.

You’ve got to stay on your toes with a cat. Because cats are clever. And independent. And they know a love that’s worth having, and they know their love is worth earning.

I’ve been thinking about getting a dog. A puppy. Hell, I get needy too. I want some unconditional love. And then I catch the look in Mr Fing’s eyes and I think, you know what?

Maybe I’m a cat kind of girl at heart.


Writing advice? From me? Well, this is all I’ve got.

I’ve had a few emails of late from people asking advice about the business of writing. I never blog about actual writing, cos I think it’s a ‘find your own way’ kind of trade, and more than that there are people out there better at it than me…ask them.

The only advice I would give new writers is more general and as follows:

1 – Don’t waste time on envy. You’re only in competition with yourself. It’s a long road and just use others’ successes to inspire you or make you raise your game. It’s a happier way to live. I’m a believer in sharing. I’ve got people in with my agent who’ve come away with better deals than me. Am I envious? No. Good on ’em. I always put people I know who are need of  a break in touch with my editors and agents. It might come to something, it might not, but I’m not in competition with them. I’m in competition with me, see? Plus, being nice feels good. Even for a wicked woman like me.

2 – There is no easy road. This is a tough business. So toughen up. Take the knocks and the criticisms. Listen. Watch. Learn.

3 – Be charming. Charm goes a long way. It won’t get you a deal, but it will get you remembered for when you’ve got something dealworthy.

4 – And finally – always remember that the trick is not in getting published (tough as that is), it’s in staying published. Embrace ‘the fear’. It keeps you working harder and smarter.

All of which is probably better than the advice I used to give the school kids I taught which mainly involved ‘Everyone has favourites. Get over it.’ and on Sports day, ‘Just remember. Second Place is First loser.’

SP.


Once upon a time when I was small…

…there was a magical man.

I remember the day this picture was taken. (yes, I AM the one who looks like a boy and is determined to NOT stand where my sister is attempting to put me). Somewhere, probably in a battered suitcase of memories at my parents’ house, there are two more photos from this day in our garden in Damascus back in about 1978/9. One has me and my sister on either side of my dad, and the other is of me and my sister both hugging another man – an American man called Swayne Britt. I think in the picture I’m holding him so tightly round the neck I’m close to choking him. And smiling. We’re all smiling.

Because Swayne Britt was a magical man.

We loved Swayne Britt, me and my sister. He was one of those unique people. He was from Texas. He had a long grizzly grey beard. He was tall. His skin was just on the turn to leather from the sun and his hair was thinning. He wore soft cotton shirts with all those flowery patterns that were hip back then. His eyes always twinkled. He was always laughing.  Swayne Britt didn’t just HAVE stories, he WAS stories. Of course, I was six, my sister was nine. Maybe that’s just how he appeared to us. But then truth is only perception and my truth was that there was no one more fascinating on this planet when I was six or seven than Swayne Britt. Even his name sounded like it came from story.

Swayne Britt was a single man. He must have been in his early forties. I don’t know how he became friends with my family, but I guess, knowing my dad, it probably happened over a beer. He was my dad’s opposite number in the American Embassy and all the ex-pats mixed. Swayne Britt became a firm favourite in our house.

The magic of Swayne was that he loved kids. He understood kids. We spent a lot of halcyon days together, just me and my big sister and Swayne. I don’t know when he started taken us off the for day to give my mum some peace. It just kind of happened. He took us swimming. He took us to the Marine House where they had proper American lollipops. He’d take us to his house and play us all his Rolling Stones records and we’d dance like idiots. It was in Swayne Britt’s house that I first saw a KISS album cover and I remember being both fascinated and terrified by the make-up.  Swayne Britt told us fantastical stories of ridiculous things, and fantastical stories of real things. He made us Cowboy Beans for lunch.

Once, when my parents were having a party and Swayne was there, a little English boy asked him who he was. Swayne said, ‘I’m a cowboy, son.’ The little boy looked at Swayne’s shirt and trousers, shook his head and replied, ‘I don’t believe you, Mister.’

You know what Swayne did? He put down his beer, got into his car and drove back to his house on the other side of that dusty city. He came back about an hour later all dressed up in his chaps and stetson and neckerchief. He winked and smiled at that little boy and said ‘Now do you believe me, son?’ That little boy was completely lost in the magic. He was in AWE. I bet he remembers that to this day.

And that’s the magic. Some people just have it.

Yeah, me and Laura, we loved Swayne Britt. We loved him a lot.

I don’t know why I started thinking about Swayne Britt today. Maybe it’s because I’m writing (should be writing) a story about another city of my childhood. Or maybe it’s just that barely six months goes by when I don’t think of Swayne Britt and smile, which given that it’s been thirty-two years since I’ve seen him is quite a testament to the magic he made for us.

These days though, when I think of him, I always feel a little sad. Not because of the passing of time and wondering whether he’s ill or happy or sad or even still alive – I don’t think those things because in my memory he’s always exactly as he was the day those photographs were taken – but because of the way the world has changed.

A single man. In his forties. Playing with kids. On his own. All day.

I asked my mum a couple of years ago if those days were now, and we were small in this decade, would she let him take us off for the day like she used to? Or would she say no? Find it weird? Think he was weird? She thought about that for a moment before agreeing that she would probably say no. She wasn’t happy with herself for the decision, but it was an honest one.

I thought about it too. In this day and age, he probably wouldn’t have even mentioned it. Single man. In his forties. Offering to look after someone else’s small girls for the day? What would people think?

We know what they’d think. THAT word.

Best not offer.

That makes me sad. It makes me feel old. The world has made us all so cynical. The world is so in our face about every terrible crime that we forget that most people are essentially all right. Some forty year old men are just people who love kids but don’t have any of their own.

There are no more wicked people in the world than there were thirty years ago. There are just a lot more suspicious ones.

Probably with good cause.

There are no answers. The clock can never be turned back to more innocent times. That world is gone. Just memories.

But they’re my memories and I’m happy I got to have them.

And I’m  very, very glad my mum just saw the goodness in the magical man.

SP x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


‘She’s Behind You….’

She came. She stalked. She filmed.

http://www.youtube.com/user/snaxhanson#p/a/u/0/ylT-EQWJfC4

 


‘The thing is, these people think they know you…’

There have been two conversational incidents of late that have given me personal pause for thought. The first came during Fantasycon in Brighton where I was Master of Ceremonies. It was the lovely (and tall – just check out Kim Newman’s picture of the two of us on his Facebook) Maura McHugh who stopped me the day after the (endless) raffle and said, ‘Why do you do that? You’re smart and funny and talented. Why do you make yourself the butt of the joke?’

Let me put this into context. The previous evening, author Guy Adams, who is one of my best friends, and I, had hosted the raffle. We have become a kind of double act on these things, and much of our humour depends on me being blonde/dumb and him pointing it out. It kind of works. People laugh anyway. But what I forget, amidst the laughter, is that a lot of those people DON’T KNOW ME like Guy does. The parody has become my failsafe. It makes people feel comfortable, and I like people to feel comfortable. What I didn’t realise until that conversation with Maura, was how much I liked the feeling when people  ‘saw through it.’ Because it isn’t me. Not really.

Anyone who was at World Fantasy last week  has probably heard about the weird guy who ended up getting his membership taken away from him and evicted. (Oh yes, we are totally rock n roll in the genre.) The other day I went for lunch with a producer friend, Ray, who is also in LA currently, and a partner of his. We were chatting and I started telling the story about how this guy had stalked me, harrassed me, and then my good friends Paul and Marie had walked me back to my room because they were worried about me. My version of this events had lots of jokes and laughs in it (as you do), but when I’d finished, Ray looked at me thoughtfully and said, ‘The thing is, these people think they know you.’

This reinforced something that struck me after the fiasco of this years BFS awards, when some has-been soap actor who was a dinner guest of the then-chairman came on stage to present an award and said I’d look better with my dress off (he’d never even spoken to me before) and then afterwards tried to join in a conversation I was in by referring to me as ‘This tart…..’ (Trust me -he won’t ever do it again.) I remember being shocked that he thought it was okay to speak to me like that, but then afterwards I thought, what exactly is it I allow? I don’t draw a boundary, so how is anyone supposed to see it?

That’s the weird thing about the internet/public persona, I guess. Am I flippant? Yes, of course. Otherwise, I couldn’t be the ridiculous person I am in front of a microphone or in a tweet or a FB update. I play for the laughs. Look at my Twitter or Facebook and that’s what you get. Blonde in a nutshell. It’s all part of who I am. But is it who I am?

Hell no.

I’m serious. I believe in true love. I work really, really hard. I think too much about everything. For all my talk of wine and men, I’m normally in bed by midnight and on my own. I don’t do one night stands. My standards are high. I like kind people more than I like successful ones. I want a man who is talented, stands his ground, makes me laugh, makes me feel safe, and doesn’t make me want an audience. My friends are the most important people to me. I cried for days when my cat died. I’m scared of everything. I like to sit outside on warm evenings and think about everything I will never do in my life and feel okay about that. Autumn makes me think of death. Only if I trust someone will I let them touch my neck.

The people that know me know that. Probably about three of the people reading this. See?

I used to joke that my flippancy was my judge of character to see who could see who I really was or not. However, I can’t help but wonder  if, as I get older and wiser, the joke has fallen back on me. Maybe I should ease back on the flippancy and be happy to just be me.  Or maybe we should all remember that a public persona is never who the person really is…

Or maybe my persona is me, and I just don’t like to see myself that way because I’m afraid of becoming Patsy…;-) Who knows…it’s only me..and I’m a blonde..and I’m rambling…

SPx (under the influence)

PS. But the pope is still a cunt. Just in case you were wonderin’….