Sunday, 26 January 2014

Let's Dance...

It’s been a very sociable week.  Hurrah!  A restaurant followed by The National Television Awards, another restaurant, then a club and, later this evening, yet another restaurant.  What a pleasant change.  Because until very recently, my social life was like a drought.
          Prior to Christmas I was convinced a party or two might be on the cards. Having moved house a few months ago, I was convinced the New Year would see an invitation or three from neighbours, either with offers to join a house-warming ‘do’ or else a New Year’s Eve knees up.  But whilst our neighbours are pleasant, it turned out they had young children and peace and quiet took priority.
          ‘How I wish,’ I said to the husband, ‘that we were still young enough to go to a club.  I’d give anything to have a good dance.’
          ‘I’m done with dancing,’ said Mr V.
          He’s been saying that for the last decade.  A few years ago I managed to bully him into taking up Ceroc as an evening class.  We did this for a little while, until Mr V declared he didn’t like it.  So we switched to salsa.  Who can resist the lure of the music as pin thin women and snake-hipped guys effortlessly blend their bodies as one?  It’s not called dirty dancing for nothing!  So, can we salsa?  No, of course not.  Regrettably Mr V kept reverting to Eighties Disco moves, and I didn’t progress beyond the forward and back steps.  And that, I thought, was that.  Until last night.
          Wham!  Suddenly we were in a club.  The location was Leeds, so a long way from home.  It was a leaving ‘do’ for some of Mr V’s colleagues at Head Office.
          ‘Can you salsa?’ asked a female colleague.
          ‘Can I salsa?’ Mr V laughed in a of-course-I-can-salsa-any-idiot-can-salsa voice.  He then swiftly declined the offer of a salsa dance on the grounds of having just bought a drink.  ‘Debbie will salsa with you instead.’
          The female in question was quite happy to dance with another woman.
          ‘You’ll have to lead,’ I said, ‘as I can only go backwards and forwards.’
          And we were off.  Forwards, backwards, strut-strut, a messy twirl, forward, backwards, hip swing, strut-strut, oops, wrong direction, forwards, backwards, bounce off each other’s tummies, strut-strut, fling arms up and, oops, punch somebody walking by, and forwards, backwards, feet protesting, strut-strut, ouch, going to have to stop, feet are really not liking this…
          So I resorted to wiggling.  For the uninformed, this is dancing on the spot.  The feet don't move and therefore do not protest so much.  Two hours later I was all wiggled out.  There’s only so long you can impersonate a tree blowing in the wind.
          By this point many of the gathering were the worse for wear.
          ‘We’ve had enough of the music in this club,’ said one merrymaker, ‘and we’re going to another where the music is a mixture of,’ she frowned and did an expansive gesture, ‘just everything.’  Fabulous.  Except my feet were having none of it.  I was also stone cold sober thanks to drinking a gallon of soda water.  An earlier attempt to sup a Bacardi and Coke – which I haven’t touched since last summer – resulted in a head rush after three sips.  By this point it was half one in the morning and Mr V and I suddenly felt monumentally tired.
          ‘We’ll say goodnight,’ said the husband.
          Saying goodnight took a while.  In England you hear talk of the North/South divide.  It relates to quite a few things.  From regional scenery and house prices, to politics and employment.  I would like to add something else to the North/South list. And that is friendliness.  I should have been born a Northerner.  They are so much friendlier than Southerners.  How many times have I been friendly to a fellow Southerner and had it misconstrued for either being a bit eccentric, totally bonkers or even flirting?  Numerous times.  But in the North?  Saying good-bye is something else.  You hug.  You fully embrace.  You wrap arms around each other.  You ruffle hair.  You swear undyingly that you will see each other again, even if you know you probably won’t.  And if you really feel so inclined, I suspect you could even get away with a lip lock.  The people are just so much warmer than Southerners.
          Back at the hotel I pulled off my stilettos and limped across the carpet.  It felt as though somebody had put my feet on back to front.  For now, I’m all danced out.  But if anybody out there is having a party, let me know!  Which reminds me.
          What kind of dance do mothers do best?  The Mum-bo…

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Bit of a Drama

Last September my daughter took up Performing Arts at the local college.  Earlier this week she took part in her first show.  It was an amazing play.  Highly emotive and full of emotion.  The audience were in tears – as were many of the young actors and actresses.  And these weren’t fake tears.  Oh no!  They were real rolling rivers of water.  It explained why my daughter had been hell to live with for the past month.  Rewind to four weeks ago.
          ‘Hi, darling,’ I trilled, as my daughter slumped into the front seat of the car.  ‘Good day at college?’
          There was an unintelligible grunt while I mirror-signal-manoeuvred the car onto the highway.  Eleanor gazed stonily out of the window for a moment.  Eventually she spoke.
          ‘I think I might have made a massive mistake opting to study performing arts.’
          ‘It’s not what I thought it would be.  We did a workshop today where we were all given a soft piece of cloth.  We were told to hold it and think of somebody very dear.  We had to interact with the cloth.  We hugged it, laid down on the floor with it, and were taken through a long visualization exercise with our eyes tightly closed.  And it was all very beautiful and harmonious and uplifting.  And then the Director tip-toed around to each and every one of us.  She snatched the cloth away.  And she said that this wonderful connection was now severed and we’d never, ever have that again.  And everybody started crying.  Even the lads.’
          I came to a halt at some traffic lights and glanced at my daughter. ‘And who did you think of when you were doing the attachment exercise with this piece of cloth?’  I had a feeling I knew the answer before my daughter even spoke.
          ‘My dad,’ she whispered, eyes starting to brim.
          No wonder she was emotional.  My daughter’s father is deceased.  Acting out losing him all over again in a ‘learn how to cry’ workshop, must have been tough.  The students were told to detach from the exercise and file it away in readiness for an acting experience which might demand they produce real tears on stage.  They didn’t have long to wait.
          Along came their first show.  The students were excited.  What would it be?  A comedy?  A thriller?  Neither.  It was a drama based on true events - politics going crazy, concentration camps, and millions being exterminated for no good reason other than not fitting ‘criteria’.  The director was a formidable lesbian who stomped about in her Doc Martens punctuating every sentence with the F word and, when things didn’t go right, resorted to an awful lot of screeching where the F word went into overdrive.  ‘F*ck*ng call yourselves f*ck*ng actors?  You’re f*ck*ng all a f*ck*ng load of f*ck*ng rubbish!’
          My daughter was shocked.  Shocked that somebody they were meant to respect was not just foul mouthed, but disheartened that this particular director seemed to think that getting the best out of her company was to actually demotivate them.  After all, if you are continually told you are ‘rubbish’, after a while you will believe it.
          My initial reaction was to ring up the college and complain bitterly about this member of staff.  However, I didn’t.  This wasn’t school.  This wasn’t really even college.  It was the theatre attached to the college.
          The traffic lights changed to green and I pulled off.  Tentatively, I cleared my throat.  ‘I’m sorry you are having to rehearse in such a negative atmosphere.’  I reached across the handbrake and patted my daughter’s knee.  ‘However, I have a horrible feeling this is a learning curve.  It might well be that this is how a lot of directors behave and, in fact, serve as a lesson.  Do you think you can toughen up – grow an extra layer of skin?’
          A tear rolled down Eleanor’s cheek and plopped onto her lap.  ‘I’ll try.’
          That evening I got on the phone to my mother to let off steam about it all.
          ‘Oh dear,’ quavered my mum.  ‘I’m so sorry to hear Eleanor isn’t enjoying the acting at the moment.  Who is this woman that is making everybody miserable?’
          ‘The director,’ I sighed.
          ‘Can’t you have a word with her?’ asked my mum.
          ‘Cripes, no!’ I clutched the phone in horror.  ‘She might gore me with her spikey hair.  And she’s built like a bloke.  Got muscles on her muscles.  Spends all her time stomping about.  The only time she takes her Doc Martens off is when she goes off to her kick-boxing class.’
          ‘Kick boxing?’ asked my mum.  ‘Is Eleanor studying kick boxing?’
          ‘No, Mum, I was talking about the director.’
          My mother is eighty-one.  Sometimes her concentration wanders.
          The director continued to terrorise her company and told them their acting was so dire there would only be the one performance.  And so, tickets bought, I sat with my family in the audience as the spotlight hit the stage and the drama began to roll.  I was stunned.  Gobsmacked at the brilliance of these young people.  Shocked at their ability to literally morph into the characters they were playing.  And they all carried a piece of cloth that represented something very significant – a dog, cat, mother, father, sister or a baby.  And when the cloth was snatched away to be brutally executed, they cried.  And their tears infected the audience, and the audience cried with them.  The play finished to a deafening round of applause.
          Needless to say, it wasn’t a one-off performance and the show ran for a few more days.
          ‘I have to take my hat off to your director,’ I told Eleanor.  ‘She might be a cow, but she did a good job with you all.’
          My mother toddled over on her walking stick.  ‘Well done, dear,’ she kissed her grand-daughter on the cheek.  ‘But I’m a little confused.  I thought you were playing the part of a lesbian wearing big boots?’
          As I said, my mother is eighty-one and her concentration does wander.  Meanwhile, my daughter has decided that she hasn’t made a mistake opting to study Performing Arts.  She’s grown that extra layer of skin and looks forward to embracing the next performance and a new director.  Let’s hope the language will be a little more fragrant.  Which reminds me.  Did you hear about the director who said, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.’  She was proved wrong when an irate parent hit her over the head with a dictionary...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Introducing Gillian Felix

Hello Gillian!

How did you come up with the idea for ‘The Banovic Siblings’?
‘The Banovic Siblings’ is the second novel in the ‘Family Portrait’ series, which was originally written as a television series.  I have twenty-four episodes written and parts of episodes two, three and four make up ‘The Banovic Siblings’.

What is your next project?
I am working on the third novel in the ‘Family Portrait’ series.  I may call it ‘Bastard’s Brew’. By now people have gotten to know the characters, and fans are starting to choose their favourite characters. The third novel will feature more about the mysterious bad boy, Kevin Banovic. It is scheduled to be released in March/April 2014.

The best thing about writing this book?
The friendship I've developed with the characters.  Sounds weird, but I love them!  They've made me laugh, cry and get angry.

What made you become an author – have you always wanted to write?
I have always written. As a kid creative writing was one of my favourite subjects. I got my highest marks in the subject. Growing up, I was told you have to ‘get a real job’. I've had ‘real’ jobs, and they always brought me back to writing.

Do you prefer to read e-books or paperbacks?
E-book only, because I can have as many as I want and not have to worry about physical space. Plus, if I hate it, it can be deleted!  That said, I do love the look and feel of a ‘proper’ book.

What is the best thing about being independently published?
I love the flexibility of being able to tell the story exactly how I want to tell it, plus I have more control.  There are more and more big name authors going down the indie route. They get to keep more of the profits, and have more creative control. I’m also an entrepreneur, so enjoy the business part of it and forming connections with bloggers like you!

Please give us a taster of The Banovic Siblings
College boy Kevin Banovic’s casual affair with Savi DaCosta suited him perfectly. Things change when he finds out that Savi is his mom’s high school bestie. When Kevin tries to end their affair, Savi blackmails him. After Kevin rescues Savi’s stepdaughter, L’Wren, from her abusive boyfriend, he can’t stop thinking about her. He must find a way to handle Savi, protect L’Wren, and keep his sanity.

Bad girl Adriana Banovic is pleased with herself for getting her nemesis expelled from Westwood Academy. As feelings between her and her latest victim, Haze Lyndon, escalate, an unexpected rival discovers her secret and threatens to expose her. With emotions on the line, will her new rival beat her at her own game or end up another casualty of Adriana’s wrath?

Zax Banovic has it all. Tall and handsome, he’s an academic genius with a killer smile and a heart of gold. When his best friend gets into trouble, he feels responsible and covers for him. But his best friend is not as honourable and has other plans for Zax.

‘The Banovic Siblings’ learn that blackmail is a gift that keeps on giving. This is the second book in the ‘Family Portrait’ novel series.

If you like Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and Nashville, where the guys and girls are hot and the schemes are hotter, you will like ‘The Banovic Siblings’.

Thank you for chatting to us, Gillian.  I’m sure we all want to get downloading,  so here is the link:


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Pure Filth

Earlier this week I took my car to the car wash.  I don’t mean the local BP garage that has a drive-in drive-out jobbie with automatic whirling brushes.  No.  I mean one of those foreign car wash enterprises.  Have you noticed how they’ve sprung up all over the UK?  They aren’t the most salubrious looking places thanks to their leaky corrugated roofs and mismatched shelving units.  And I wouldn’t want to befriend the chap who wields the high pressure jet.  There’s something about a man with a balaclava, missing teeth and a face full of bristles that tends to leave me a bit nervous.  Not to mention the way they communicate.
          Mr Grisly:  Meaty fist banging against driver’s window.  ‘Oi, lady.’
          Me:  Uneasily.  ‘Yes?’
          Mr Grisly:  Intimidatingly.  ‘Park car here.’
          Me:  Apprehensively.  Right here?’
          Mr Grisly:  Raises hand, extends stubby forefinger, and makes circular motion.  ‘Face car other way.’
          Me:  Dithering.  ‘Why?’ 
          Mr Grisley:  Sneering.  ‘You drive car through wrong entrance.  You all back to front.  Turn car.’
          Me:  Panicking at prospect of doing a three point turn in a narrow area.  ‘Do I have to?’
          Mr Grisly:  Menacingly.  ‘I no have all day.’
          Me:  Swiftly executes a thirty-eight point turn.
          Mr Grisly:  Summons gang.  Car assaulted with pressure jet, soap, hundreds of whizzing sponges, water, and chamois leathers.
          Me:  Presses central locking button.
          Mr Grisley:  Bangs on sparkling window.  ‘Gimme money.’
          Me:  Hands over entire contents of purse, which turns out to be two pence because, unbeknown to me, daughter ‘borrowed’ my last tenner.
          Mr Grisley:  Sounding like The Godfather.  ‘You come back.’
          Me:  Gibbering wreck.  ‘Yes, yes, of course, I wouldn’t dream of not paying, Honesty is my middle name, and, oh…!’
          Mr Grisley:  Violent arm gesture.  ‘Move.  Next customer, he waiting.’
          Needless to say, because these car washes aren’t exactly a comfortable experience, I don’t frequent them very often.  Nonetheless these chaps do a mean car wash worthy of show room quality.  And, boy, did my car need a good clean.
          After weeks of endless rain, the roads have been awash with filthy water, grit and mud.  The first clue that my car needed a good clean was because, after almost a month, it was no longer silver but matt brown.  The second clue was more obvious.  Some kind soul had licked their finger and written a message in the muck.  It said I wish my wife was this dirty.  Even worse, somebody else had licked their finger and added a post script.  She is.  I’m not the only one to be on the receiving end of this ‘car graffiti wit’.  Whilst passing a stationery lorry emptying the local school’s septic tank, some wag had etched onto the lorry’s rear  No stools left in this vehicle overnight.  And whilst stuck in the local rush hour, I was sitting behind a van on which somebody had put the signature R. Send.  Others, more predictably, had Clean me, Also available in white, and Driver lexdyslic.
          Despite the terrible weather, I suspect car washes all over the country have been doing a roaring business.  Which reminds me.  A blonde heard that a new car wash was in her neighbourhood.  ‘How convenient,’ she said, ‘I’ll be able to walk to it…’

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Happy 2014

The New Year is now well and truly underway.  It would seem many of us out there were pleased to wave good-bye to 2013 (I was one of them) and are keeping our fingers crossed that 2014 will be kinder.  At Casa Viggiano, New Year’s Eve was one of peace and quiet.
          My sister telephoned on New Year’s Day.  ‘How was it for you?’ she trilled.
          ‘Quiet,’ I replied.
          ‘Oh, you mean boring.’
          ‘No, I mean quiet,’ I said through slightly gritted teeth.
          ‘You should have gone out, like us.  We went to a black tie event.  A ball.  It was wonderful.  I’ve never had so much fun.  It was brilliant dancing non-stop for three hours.’
          Well obviously it would have been fun to go out.  What woman doesn’t want to put on a glam frock and rock like nobody is watching.  Especially when I’m so good at the Birdie Dance.  However, I was on taxi duties to my sixteen year old, and that rather put a lid on any of my own intended party frivolity.

          ‘You should have told Eleanor, “Too bad, I’m going out, not you,” and let her get over it.’
          'Oh, yeah, that would have been a fab start to the New Year.  Dealing with an even more stroppy teenager than usual.'
          ‘So what did you actually do on this fabulous quiet night in?’ my sister persisted.
          ‘I watched that film, you know, Clouseau.’
          ‘Peter Sellers?’
          ‘No, Steve Martin.’
          ‘Oh God, that was dire.’
          ‘I found it funny.  I like silly humour.’
          ‘I’ll bet Mr V loved you for appropriating the television so he couldn’t watch football.’
          ‘Of course he didn’t mind!’
          This wasn’t strictly true.  The husband watched the film under duress.  My sense of humour isn’t his.  He doesn’t do slapstick.  Or farce.  Or…well…anything other than sport really.  So I left him to work his way through a bottle of Prosecco while I creased up at two grown men wearing pink outfits and blending in with curtains before launching into a routine as BeyoncĂ©’s backing dancers.
          ‘Sounds riveting,’ my sister said drily.  ‘And what did you do after that?’
          ‘Took Eleanor and her boyfriend to their party, came home, went on Facebook, took my Scrabble moves, chatted to people near and far, and then watched the fireworks – which were absolutely spectacular.’
          ‘Gosh, how exciting.  Not.  And what time did you go to bed?’
          ‘Um, it was quite late actually.  I think it was gone 2 before I put the light out.’
          ‘Really?  Did you go somewhere after the fireworks then?’
          ‘Yes, I went to pick Eleanor and her boyfriend up from their party.’
          There was a stunned pause.
          ‘So let me get this straight.  You went to bed really late, but didn’t actually go anywhere other than up and down the motorway?’
          ‘Yes.  But that’s what parents do on occasions like New Year’s Eve.’
          ‘Thank heavens I never had children,’ said my sister faintly.
          Anyway, I’ve more than made up for any dancing deprivation since New Year’s Eve.  You see, the children gave me an iPod for Christmas.  It’s fabulous.  I now dance all over the house – up the stairs, down again, round the table as I set it for supper, over to the dishwasher, you get the picture.  And when I can’t dance – like when ironing for example – I sing instead.  Which rather unnerves the family if they don’t realize I’m plugged in.
          ‘Can I have a lift?’ asked my son.  ‘Mum?  Did you hear me?  Can you take me to Ebbsfleet Station?  Mum?  MUM!’
          ‘I said I loved yooooo…warble warble…but I lied.’
          ‘Does that mean you won’t give me a lift?’
          ‘A lift?’
          ‘To Ebbsfleet?’
          Followed by two earpieces being wrenched from my person and my son almost bellowing his request for a lift.
          ‘I’m not deaf, you know!’
          ‘And what is that rubbish song you’re singing?’
          ‘Michael Bolton.  Lots of hair.  And a fit body.’
          Argh, that’s not how I want to hear my mother talking.  Are your hormones playing up again?’
          Which reminds me.  Many of our New Year’s Resolutions will be to get fitter.  If, like me, you don’t want to harm your middle-aged body, try the following:

Day 1
Beat around the bush
Jump to conclusions
Go over the edge

Day 2
Drag your heels
Push your luck
Put your foot in your mouth

Day 3
Make mountains out of molehills
Hit the nail on the head
Open a can of worms

Day 4
Jump on the latest bandwagon
Run around in circles all day
Lift a glass of your favourite tipple

Day 5
Start the ball rolling
Go to pieces
Blow your own trumpet

Day 6
Raise the roof
Skip the washing up
Add fuel to the fire

Day 7
Kneel in prayer, raise hands in praise, bow head to the Mighty I AM that I AM
Wade through newspaper to conclude.
What an amazing workout!