Sunday, 25 October 2009

Quirky things about Belgium #354

So, Delhaize helpfully write "tissues" on their tissue packets, in eight languages.

Which is nice, although they write "hankies" in English, trying I think to be cool by not using "handkerchiefs", even though the paper version is not called that at all.

And I have to say that "zakdoekje" is one of the few elements of Dutch that inexplicably took up permanent residence in my memory approximately twenty-five years ago. So it must, you know, work, assuming their goal is to subliminally teach us that very useful word in eight languages.

My question, though, is this:
since the packet is see-through, shouldn't they have saved themselves the trouble?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Delusions of Grandeur - on writing, part 3

I have this ridiculous recurring fantasy of what happens after my first novel, "Inevitable", gets published to critical acclaim in both the UK and the US. Well, a girl can dream. After all, dreaming is what turns us into writers to start off with, isn't it?

Of course, if I actually put this much effort into writing the thing, it'd be a best-seller by now. But anyway.

So, in this daydream, I'm being interviewed on a TV show, preferably by Parkinson, who has come out of retirement for the occasion, and definitely not by Jonathan Ross.

We spend some time discussing the novel, its themes, whether it is in any way autobiographical. (The main character is a French teacher in Brussels who falls for someone who looks a lot like a young Bradley Whitford, and is slightly obsessed with the West Wing, so no - it's not autobiographical at all. Cough.)

Then he comes to the subject of my name:

"So, your name's Claire Lyman. Are in you in any way related to Josh Lyman?"
"Well," I weigh my answer carefully, "It would be kind of difficult to be related to him, since he's, you know, fictional."
"But Claire Lyman is a fictional name, isn't it?"
"A pen name, yes."
"So you could be related to him."
"In my craziest moments I like to imagine myself to be his cousin." (Laughter from the audience. Phew. I was hoping they wouldn't think I actually imagined the West Wing to be, well, real.)
"Not his wife?" He plays along. "I would have thought most women would prefer to imagine themselves to be his wife."
"Well, no, because he and Donna are living happily ever after. The ship's kind of sailed on that one." (It should be noted that I have, by the time my novel comes out, mastered the art of making people laugh with me, instead of at me as they used to. Kind of like Matthew Perry. Or maybe Brad Whitford. Yep, there's a theme here. Sorry.)
"Okay. So you've met them before?"
"Erm... are we back in reality now?" I'm increasingly unsure. Even in my daydream this is becoming slightly surreal.
"If you like."
"Well," I explain very slowly, "they are fictional, so it would be difficult to meet them."
"So you wouldn't like to meet Mr Lyman and Ms Moss?"
"You're joking," I squeak. That's it - he's played me long enough. I can't hold back my childlike enthusiasm one more second. "I'd absolutely love to."
"That's a relief, because they'd have been terribly disappointed if you hadn't. They've flown a long way to be here."

Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney join me on the sofa.

I can't wipe the grin off my face.

And of course, during the course of the interview, Brad agrees to write the screenplay with me, as well as star in the film (we'll address the issue of how he is going to look 35 later...) and Janel, with that beautiful smile of hers, tells me she'd love the part that was written with her in mind.

I go out for dinner with them afterwards and we spend many happy hours discussing not only the best TV show in history, but plenty of other things it turns out we have in common. It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Well, two, really.

Look, I told you it was a ridiculous fantasy.

But, just in case, you read it here first.

And in the meantime, it is inspiring me no end.

Friday, 2 October 2009

On writing, part 2

Okay, so I really want to read Zadie Smith's "The Autograph Man".

It's set in London, where I lived for five years as a child and five years as an adult, and New York, where I am very excited about going in just over three weeks' time, and where one of my very top favourite TV stars lives.

It's about, as far as I can make out, a young man obsessed with celebrity and wanting to meet famous people.

Now, here's the thing. That sounds a lot like something I could write about. From, erm, personal experience, apart from the fact that I am not a man of course. (If anyone has been following me on Facebook or Twitter you will have no trouble understanding what I am talking about.) It also sounds a lot like something I might WANT to write about at some point in the future.

So what do I do? Do I read it? But what if there are ideas in it that I would have come with myself, but then can't use because I will know I've read them in or been inspired by the Autograph Man?

I surely can't just avoid all books for the rest of my life, can I?