Caftans for Interviews

Monday 22 October The constant round of book signings and interviews is getting to be a bit of a grind. All that publicity and the controversial reviews. It’s exhausting being a published author. At least, it must be for J K Rowling. Personally, I think I’d cope pretty well. I’ve been rehearsing my interview technique – with accompanying light laugh – in front of the mirror for weeks now, and have perfected an air of slight diffidence, coupled with an unassuming smile. My interview wardrobe, though, is another matter. It’s a well-known fact that television can put on ten pounds, and I don’t need another ten pounds adding. I have enough pounds of my own already, thank you very much!

Perhaps I could be an eccentric writer and appear in a garish caftan Preferably with slimming vertical stripes. And maybe a turban. Although this sort of outfit isn’t usually worn by someone with an unassuming smile. It’s more of an ebony-cigarette-holder-and-loud-laugh sort of look. Which would mean all my weeks of practising down the drain.

Another month of my life wasted. Almost being a celebrity author can be so exasperating.

Sunday 28 October I have to say, Mr Young and I have got bickering down to a fine art. We’ve been indulging daily for years now. Usually it’s light-hearted banter, with the occasional foray into a squabble or two, and even an out-and-out altercation on special occasions. But these generally end well, and to the satisfaction of both parties (well, mine, anyway). In fact, I think we’re both quite proud of the fact that we can find ourselves in the most innocuous situation and still achieve a good bicker. We reach new heights this evening over vegetable preparation. “You’re peeling those potatoes in a very cavalier fashion,” Mr Young says, coming into the kitchen. “What do you mean by ‘cavalier’?” “I mean casual,” he says. But he is smirking, and I know he really means carelessly/indifferently. I too have a dictionary and know what cavalier means. I wonder fleetingly whether to continue to bicker in this direction (i.e. the dictionary direction), or whether to pursue the vegetable preparation criticism line of bickering. “I’m doing them quickly,” I say. Admittedly, the peelings are flying off at speed across the worktop, but I think this is a good thing because the pay-off is that my technique is twice as fast as Mr Young’s. “You do them ridiculously slowly. And anyway, the more cavalier the better, because you get more rough edges which, as any really good cook knows, produces more crunchy bits on the roast potatoes.” He has no comeback because I am queen of roast potatoes, and Mr Young is a potato peeling plodder, perpetually practising perfection in the kitchen. (Hey, hey, hey! Mariella! Never mind the caftan, what about that for alliteration!) Incidentally, the potato peelings now have their very own bin. It’s the fourth bin that the council have given us (nay, bestowed upon us) and is grey. It’s also, bafflingly, called a Hungry Harry. Presumably the council’s marketing department are under the impression that the only people who clear away food waste in the family are of primary school age, and therefore need to be seduced by a cartoon character. Typical marketing department. As any parent of a primary school age child knows, it’s enough work just to get them to clear their plate away, never mind scrape the waste into a small grey bin. And why grey, anyway? Such an unattractive colour for an object that now has to squat, toad-like, next to the sink and wait for cavalierly-peeled potato waste. It could at least be a jolly red. Or at least green, as it’s all about recycling. I suppose brown would be an unfortunate colour, as this is just too much of an association with food waste. As would be a sort of pale creamy yellow with green flecks.

Having a total of four bins has thrown us all into a constant state of confusion. No longer is a piece of rubbish just a piece of rubbish. Now it’s an object that has to be carefully inspected, then the council literature has to be re-read so that it can be identified, then we have to make sure it goes into the right bin. I can’t even remember which days which bin has to go out any more. I just take them all out now and line them all up so that we have a multi-coloured assembly blocking the front of the drive for most of the week just to be on the safe side.

I might as well ask the council for a fifth bin on the grounds that I don’t currently have a suitable container for all the rubbish that comes out of Mr Young’s mouth. It would have to be a very large bin, though. How about that for a cavalier riposte, Mr Young! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! (I’d have to check which bin is for pipe tobacco though…)

Wednesday 31 October My Birthday. Hurray! That free bus pass is so nearly within my reach. Plus, I do believe, discount on cinema tickets and probably all sorts of other cheap/free stuff that I may well be too old and grumpy to enjoy. But still. I’ll be positive. For today, anyway, because I have treats and presents and lots of food! The children were all home last night to cook me my surprise birthday meal, with candles on my birthday chocolate tart. Obviously not quite all the candles my birthday now warrants, as we’re all very Health and Safety conscious these days and the downstairs smoke alarm needs a new battery. This morning I had chocolate croissants for breakfast, plus beautiful shoes, DVDs, books, luxury nail care, luxury skin care. Mr Young bought me some Jo Malone body crème – not a complete surprise as I have been hinting for some time. (I say hinting; I mean outright demanding and whispering it in his ear while he’s asleep. The end justifies the means as I’ve lately grown very fond of saying. Or it could be the means justifies the end. Either way, I’m very fond of saying it.) Tom and I go out for lunch, then Mr Young takes me out for dinner to the Banyan Tree, where we eat vast amounts of spicy food and I get a free cocktail because it’s my birthday. As it’s Halloween, there are still some Celebrations left over from the trick or treating when we get home, and so – as it’s my birthday – I help myself. If television adds ten pounds, I may as well earn those ten pounds while I can. Did I mention it’s my birthday today?

Friday 2 November I have joined a gym. It’s not a luxury gym with a sauna and spa and pool, but at least it has a changing room with lockers and all the machines you need in order to lose about ten pounds or so. I don’t hang around; I joined the gym last night, and have already bought a padlock, and found some trainers – presumably mine – at the back of my wardrobe. Today is my first visit. My plan is to do free weights for strength training three times a week, and cardio (which I keep referring to as cardiac in an unfunny Freudian sort of way) twice a week. I’ve joined plenty of gyms before, so I know what to do in terms of free weights, cross training, stomach crunches and hiding away in dark corners in the changing room from all the younger, fitter, slimmer, more attractive women. So today is going to be my free weights day. I join a small band of men in the dumbbell area; clearly a bit of bantering about being a ‘new girl’ is out of the question, as they immediately back away and pretend I’m not there. Probably because of the impressive way I begin limbering up with some stretching. There are plenty of mirrors around, which would be a good thing as I could practise my form, except that there is a plump woman right in front of me who keeps getting in my way of my reflection, no matter how much I try and avoid her. Coincidentally, she is wearing exactly the same t-shirt as me. Nonetheless, I manage a good 25 minutes on bicep curls and chest presses, then look around for a mat so I can do some stomach crunches. I can’t find any so I have to approach one of the men. He flinches, which is disappointing; I would have thought we’d built up an air of camaraderie by now. I’ve certainly been doing just as much grunting as the rest of them. Well, squealing, anyway. Eventually, he points downstairs to the mats, and I do an impressive number of stomach crunches (4 ½). All in all, a very successful first session, I feel. The changing room is quite dim. Which is unfortunate, because I have trouble making out the code on the combination lock on my padlock. So much trouble, in fact, that I can’t undo it at all – this is ironic, because I deliberately bought a padlock with a code rather than keys because I was worried I might lose the keys. I am about to put my reading glasses on when I remember that they are safely locked up in my handbag. In my locker. I am reduced to twisting the numbers round arbitrarily, listening for tiny clicks, so that I can open the padlock. I’ve seen professional safe crackers do this in films. Surprisingly, this doesn’t work on my padlock. Probably because it is the size of a tiny bottle of superglue. And just as stubborn to remove. Resourcefully, I end up by breaking the lock and leaving my padlock behind. (Fortunately no one else is around, although I’m pretty sure I just caught a glimpse of the annoying plump woman wearing my t-shirt.)

Sunday 4 November I now have two reviews on my Amazon page. My clever marketing strategy is clearly working. (At least it would be, if I had one.) One five star review and one four star review. Which adds up to an average of 4 ½. Coincidentally exactly the same number as the stomach crunches I did at the gym last week.

Rather excitingly, I think this might be synchronicity – the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner. Or so Wikipedia says.

Something new to practise in front of the mirror: “So, Mariella, as Carl Gustav Jung first said in the 1920s, the number of books I sell appears to be directly influenced by the strength of my abdominal muscles.”

“My caftan? Well, you know what they say, Mariella. The means camouflages the end.”