Saturday, 23 August 2014

A Canadian Affair


Having recently had a meeting with my accountant, it was agreed that I could use a planned trip to Canada under the heading of Business.
          ‘Obviously you are looking at research for your next novel, yes?’ my advisor peered at me through his spectacles.
          ‘Obviously,’ I nodded my head vigorously, and gulped.  What if I had a brain freeze and couldn’t think of a single thing to write?  I had a schedule covering Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver which, naturally, my fictional heroine would also be visiting.  So what was driving her to do such a trip?  Um, um, well, er, she was running away of course!  From what or whom were mere details.  I decided to scribble down ideas and a rough plot while on the long flight from Heathrow to Montreal.
          ‘So,’ I said to my children as our jumbo jet waited for take-off (the kids had gate-crashed my business trip upon finding out the destination was Canada), ‘my heroine is running away from some personal problems.’  I pulled out my iPad and opened up Notes.
          ‘What specifically is she running away from?’ asked Eleanor.
          ‘I don’t know yet.’
          ‘Couldn’t she just stay at home and stick her head under the pillow like normal people?’ asked Robbie.
          ‘No.’
          ‘Why not?’
          ‘Because it would make for boring reading.’
          ‘What’s her name?’ asked Eleanor, flicking through a selection of movies on the little screen in front of her.
          ‘Good question.  Care to make a suggestion?’
          ‘Petunia,’ said Eleanor, selecting The Other Woman as her chosen flight movie.
          ‘No, that doesn’t work.’
          ‘What about Fatima?’ suggested Robbie.
          ‘I have nothing against the name Fatima, but as my heroine is a bog-standard Brit with no trace of Arabic origin, I think an alternative name would be more apt.’
          ‘Oh, okay, what about Jemima,’ said Robbie wickedly, ‘fritefly porsh, eh what?’
          ‘Oh for…– can we be serious for just one moment?’ I appealed.
          ‘Miss Piggy,’ said Eleanor warming to the task.  ‘And she could be running away from Kermit.’
          ‘Thank you, children,’ I pursed my lips as my fingers started to tap out some opening words, ‘I shall call my heroine…Bethany.’
          By the time we were half way across the Atlantic Ocean, Bethany had changed to Suzie, Samantha, Amanda, Belle and Philly, and she was running away from a man called Harry-Ted-Jack-Steve-Josh.  It would be fair to say that the only drama going on with my characters was a massive identity crisis.  Frustrated, I snapped the iPad shut and picked up my Kindle.  There were over seventy novels waiting to be read.  So far this year, I’ve managed to read just one.  Sighing with happiness, I selected JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and began to read.
          ‘Want to play chess?’ asked my son.
          ‘No, thanks,’ I murmured, deep in storyland.  My tummy tensed as I read with mounting horror about the collapse of Barry Fairbrother in a public car park.  Two neighbours, who happened to be at the scene, jumped into the ambulance with the dying man as paramedics fought–
          ‘Want to play cards?’
          ‘No, thanks,’ my eyes flicked backwards and forwards looking for the lost sentence.  Ah, there it was.  Oh, dear Lord.  Barry Fairbrother was indeed a goner.  As the news of his unexpected and sudden death rippled through Pagford, it was greeted with mixed reactions.  Krystal Weedon, teenager from the local sink estate and daughter of a heroin-addled prostitute, was devastated.  Barry Fairbrother had been her mentor, encouraging her to believe that with education and hard work she’d one day escape her roots for a better life.  But on the other side of the borough border, self-satisfied Shirley Mollinson was absolutely delighted.  Councillor Barry Fairbrother’s passing meant his seat was up for grabs.  And who better to fill the dead man’s shoes than Shirley’s son–
          ‘Want to play Scrabble?’
          ‘No, thanks.’
          And who better to fill the dead man’s shoes than Shirley’s son, Miles Mollinson.  But Miles’ wife, Samantha, wasn’t so chuffed.  She hated Pagford with a passion, and everything to do with the Council.  If her boring husband was expecting help with his campaigning leaflets, he was on his own.  Samantha was far more interested in pretending she was nineteen again and studying her daughter’s poster of rock-star Jake, who had chiselled cheekbones and rippling muscles and–
          ‘Wanna play I Spy?’
          ‘No!’
          ‘I’m bored.’
          ‘Watch a movie.’
          ‘I have.’
          ‘There are ten movie options.  Choose another one.’
          ‘The rest are rubbish.’
          I sighed and cast about for a piece of paper.  Pulling out the sick bag from the seat in front of me, I shoved it in my Kindle and snapped it shut.’
          ‘Why have you put a sick bag in your Kindle?’ my son frowned.
          ‘I need a book mark.’
          ‘Oh my God!  Ha ha!  It’s a Kindle, Mum.  Duhhhh!’ Robbie put one finger to his temples and made a swivelling motion.  ‘Why are you so ditzy?’
          Exasperated, I pulled the sick bag out and shoved it back into the seat pocket in front of me.  ‘It was simply a force of habit from reading paperbacks.  Not to mention being driven dotty by your constant interruptions.  Right, now that you have my undivided attention, what do you want to do?’
          ‘Okay, no need to get narky.  Keep your hair on.’
          ‘I’m not being narky, I just–’
          ‘Go back to reading your book.  I’m going to listen to some music.’
           And with that my son plugged himself into the music channel.  Tentatively, I picked up my Kindle.  I’d barely read the next sentence, when there was a tap on my arm.
          ‘I’m bored,’ said Eleanor.
          I was glad when we finally reached Montreal.  What a great city!  From Mont Tremblant and karting, to climbing four-hundred-and-thirty-two steps to the top of Mount Royal to gaze upon spectacular views, there was a wealth of things to do, see, taste and touch.  From Montreal we travelled to Toronto, went giddy at the top of the CN Tower, walked along the waterfront with its amazing yachts, shopped in designer outlets and drove to the mesmerising Niagara Falls.  Then on to Vancouver to bounce across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, walk among treetops, stroll around Whistler, cycle Stanley Park and see grizzly bears on Grouse Mountain.  One thing is for sure, right now my fictitious multi-named heroine is totally in love with a new country rather than her handsome hero.  He needs to distract her with some serious wooing.
          Which reminds me.  When Harry-Ted-Jack-Steve-Josh finally captures the heart of Suzie-Samantha-Amanda-Belle-Philly, she’ll say he took her breath away.  A few years down the line she’ll probably find him just plain suffocating, but fortunately romance novels always end before the following happens:

Before falling in love - She says she loves the way he takes control of situations.
After falling in love - She calls him a controlling, manipulative egomaniac.

Before falling in love – She says it’s like Saturday Night Fever.
After falling in love – She says it’s more like Saturday Night Football.

Before falling in love – ‘Don’t stop…’
After falling in love – ‘Don’t start…’

Before falling in love - The Sound of Music…
After falling in love - The Sound of Silence…

Before falling in love – He says, ‘Is that all you’re having?’
After falling in love – He says, ‘Maybe you should just have a salad, honey.’

Before falling in love - Turbo charged…
After falling in love - Jump start…

Before falling in love – He says, ‘We agree on everything!’
After falling in love – He says, ‘Doesn’t she have a mind of her own?’

Before falling in love – She says, ‘You’re my idol.’
After falling in love – She says, ‘You’re just idle…’

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