Thursday, 29 April 2010

Nablopomo: phew. It's over.

So. It's over.

Thank goodness.

I've completed NaBloPoMo. Does that make me a better person? It seems mainly to be making me a tired person, although I'm not entirely sure that if I wasn't staying up blogging, I wouldn't be staying up tweeting.

I'm glad I've managed it, though. I feel like perhaps I do have the capacity for discipline after all, even if it's just for short spells. So, maybe, just maybe, I can write my novel after all.

And maybe that's the point.

Things that have made me smile this week...

... Yes, this is a real blog post on my real actual life. I'm tired, so this is the best I can do, sorry...

This week, I have smiled because:

- I felt inspired with my article: "a single girl's survival guide to weddings". (Now all I have to do is put it into practice...)

- We had a great training session at Church, about helping people to see patterns of what God has done in their lives (known as "timeline".) My life was used as an example and it was great to think about how God has been with me in my pain over the years and His hand has been with me.

- Finally got to see "New York I love you". Although, don't bother.

- I had my now-weekly twitterfest with Josh Malina

- Said Twitterfest was about my second favourite topic: grammar
- And I turned out not to be completely wrong

- And then, he called me sharp and funny! No one has ever called me that before! Especially not anyone as sharp or funny as Josh Malina.

- Someone in Dallas checked my blog. So did someone in Pasadena. So did someone in LA. All of which is quite exciting.

- I finished my article on The Good Guys and a twitter friend of mine said she loved it. Which is good, because I wasn't sure. Just felt I could have said so much more. But oh, what fun I had researching for it. Reading and writing about Bradley Whitford and getting paid for it.

- I finally got to see some of the election debate, though I really would have preferred it if I hadn't missed the first half when my dishwasher tripped my electrics. David Cameron made me laugh too, with his "I don't know what country Gordon Brown thinks he's prime minister of"... He.

- A really good lesson today with my Amnesty group - lots of discussion, mainly led by them. And one of them even knew about the Tea Party. I was so impressed with them.

- A pleasant few seconds' eye contact with a not unattractive young man at a random metro station. Fine, call me shallow. It's been a while, that's all.

- Oh, and Radio Four Comedy. Definitely the best thing about this election is the daily Vote Now show. I've been laughing out loud a lot. People look at me strangely on metros, but to be honest that is nothing new. I'm often laughing - at the moment, that's at "the World according to Bertie" by Alexander McCall Smith.

Bed beckons. That, too, is a pleasant thought.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

An introspective look at blogging

As April chugs to its much-anticipating end, I've been asking myself why? Not why as in the meaning of life, though I have had some deep, existential thoughts of late. I mean, why do we blog anyway?

I know I've taken why I've taken up nablopomo (National Blog Post Month for the uninitiated): as a discipline thing. Yes, discipline: that thing that is sadly lack in all areas of my life, especially internet-, money-, sleep- and west-wing-related areas. I thought it would do me good, and it kind of has. I also thought I needed to up my daily word count if I'm ever going to be any good at this writing thing. You can be the judges of whether that's worked, but please be nice.

But why blog in the first place? I mean, why not just write things down in a pretty notebook like people used to in the old days? Come to think of it, like I used to in the old days?

Is it a product of being an external processing extrovert who lives alone and works for herself? Well, yes, that's true for the venting posts. But I don't know if you've noticed, I haven't vented in a while.

Is it general helpfulness to the expat public? Maybe.

Is it so that all my friends back home can follow my, ahem, adventures? Well, if it is, I've failed: most of my readers seem to be in America. (Including Dallas, Pasadena, LA and New York. Some of you will know why those places are exciting. The rest of you can ignore this little aside.)Also, as you've probably noticed, reading this blog will actually tell you very little about my life and how I'm living it, other than that I'm writing a book and that I love the West Wing. Hopefully, anyone who has ever spent five minutes with me will be well aware of both of those things without having to log in to anything.

Is it because I sometimes want other people's opinions, as on my Sarah Palin dilemma? (I've solved it by the way - a sticker that says "my other book is Obama's"... I don't normally deface books, but think I could make an exception with this one.) Welllll, yes, but only if their opinions do not diverge too greatly from my own. As my oboe teacher said yesterday, referring I think to my reed, "she doesn't like to be resisted".

Is it because, as stated elsewhere, I have the fragile ego of an aspiring writer? That it occasionally needs stroking?

Hmmm. I suspect there may be a little more in that one than I'd care to admit. My obsessive checking of statcounter and comments would support this theory. Although I'm always surprised by what people actually do comment on, and it's invariably not the things I hope they do. (All comments gratefully received, though. Really.)

Fellow bloggers, tell me. Why do you do it?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Oh Claire...and you claim to be a grammarian?

See, that's the thing. I do. I do claim to be a grammarian.

And a good one.

And, when it comes to it, one to whom you would actually want to pay money to help improve your own language skills.

So why can I not work out what is structurally wrong with the following sentence?

"It wasn't me who baited him this time."

(This is quite beside the point, but I feel the appropriate response to this tweet would have been "I am most proud of you for your sudden maturity".)

Now, in the sentence "It wasn't me" - I thought me was a direct object. Whereas in the sentence "I did not bait him", the word I is clearly an subject. Which makes it all very confusing. How can I be a subject and an object at the same time?

But. Once I'd torn myself away from twitter, I practised saying "It was not I who baited him" in a posh British accent (my own) and I have to say, it does have a certain ring of, well, rightness to it.

Somebody called @blabbate quickly picked me up on my subject/object issue, which I had foolishly assumed would silence the critics, dizzying them with all my jargon. But oh, no. @blabbate said:. "Direct objects do not follow linking verbs. Subject complements do. In this case, a predicate nominative. In prescriptive English you must use the nominative case, which is "I". However, a descriptivist will tell you either is fine."

Ha! I would say next. See. We are both right. Even Wikipedia says so.

Except that, like Josh Malina, I *am* a prescriptive grammarian. There are elements of my "descriptive" grammar textbook which make me wince when I am supposed to teach them. Such as the lie that "whom" does not exist anymore. Don't be ridiculous! Of course "whom" exists.

This appeared to be one of those moments, like being twenty-three and having a degree from Cambridge and realising one has been spelling "forty" wrong all one's life. Why did no one ever tell me it wasn't "fourty" till I worked in a bank? (If only that had been the worst mistake I'd made there. But anyway...) Shame on me.

These points, in my defence: And yes, Josh Malina, and yes, Safari spell-check, I do mean defence with a C. We are not all American, you know.

- I was not wholly focused on the task in hand. I was, in fact, teaching a French lesson. But as previously discussed on this blog, I am unable to ignore tweets from certain people, whatever the time of day or night. Still, I do feel a little guilty about this, and I wish I could say it would not happen again.

- I was also a little dizzy with the excitement of being engaged in two of my favourite activities at the same time: grammar, and bantering with Josh Malina.

- We Brits in our 30s did not have any grammatical knowledge imparted to us at school. The reason for which I know some is my Belgian education. This whole "It is me" thing does not apply in French.

In fact, there it is. That's the reason. Mother tongue interference. "C'est moi qui". Never "c'est je qui".

Yet, here I am again, late to bed because of twitter, and standing duly corrected, duly rebuked, duly ashamed. At least now I have a posh-sounding excuse for it.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Desert island discs...

As I cast my eyes around my flat yesterday, desperately looking for the fourth and fifth thing to take to my desert island, I realised that music is one thing that would be difficult to live without. Hence, I suppose, the whole guitar thing.

Brits among you will be familiar with Desert Island Discs, described by the BBC's website as "one of Radio 4's most popular and enduring programmes... each week a guest is invited to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island". (The use of the word "record" is, I suppose a product of this being the BBC, and the programme having been invented in 1942.) You learn an awful lot about people through the music they listen to, almost as much as you do through the books they read. (Does anyone else think this ought to be part of the current prime ministerial debates?)

So, here we go. Eight songs (yes, songs - not whole CDs!) that would define me.

1. I would need something by Jean-Jacques Goldman. The vast majority of you will have never heard his name, but he's an iconic singer who arguably defined pop music in the 1980s and 1990s in particular, in the French-speaking world. His words are incredibly clever and he sings about all kinds of things including his Jewish faith and test tube babies and communism. Sometimes it's poetry, sometimes social commentary, sometimes he cleverly blends the two.

I'll just pause here for you to have the obligatory laugh at the expense of French pop.

Now you've got that out of your system, I will say this: give me Jean-Jacques Goldman over insipid English romance-obsessed music any day. There. I've said it.

Anyway, the song of his that best captures my life would have to be Puisque tu Pars (because you're leaving) but it still stirs up some emotions in me that I don't always feel like dealing with. Ditto Veiller Tard (staying up late - hmmm, not quite the same ring), a haunting piece about the things that go through our minds when we can't sleep. Or Confidentiel - about adopting a family for yourself. There are too many nerves that are still raw even after all these years. So I'll go for Elle a fait un bébé toute seule - She made a baby by herself - the aforementioned test tube baby song. It's an upbeat 80s tune, so singalongable, and I have great memories of some people I love very much, singing this in a minibus on the way down to the South of France for the best holiday I've ever had.

Wow. I don't think I'll write this much for all the songs, or I'll have lost all of you.

2. For good

Okay. I'll try and be briefer. This one is from the musical "Wicked", and I love it - it made me cry, in fact, thinking about the same kind of people who I sat with in that minibus singing Jean-Jacques Goldman at the top of my lungs, and how their friendships have changed me. For good.

It also expressed perfectly the theme of my novel, "inevitable": because I knew you, I have been changed for good. So it would be useful to have along for inspiration.

And, it also reminds me of Josh and Donna on the West Wing. 'Nuf said on that one.

3. Rutter's Requiem

I fell in love with this at the beginning of my journey into an interest in classical music which has since come to a screeching halt, but which began in my second year at King's College, Cambridge, whose choir had recorded the piece not long before. I know it's not cool to pick this one: you should really curl your lip in disgust and spit out "popular classical music" just afterwards. But I love it. It's beautiful; it's haunting. It transports me to another place, which could be useful after six months on the same island, and brings back for me the musty, incense-filled smell of King's College Chapel. Nostalgie quand tu nous tiens...

4. Atrapados en la red, by Tam Tam Go

Chances are, none of you will have heard of this either. A catchy, happy little piece about online dating - from the days when online anything was still a novelty. Yes, more nostalgia. When I hear this, I find myself back on the Spanish beach on which I spent much of '99-2000 and in the place - I refuse to call it an internet café - where for an outrageously high fee I could send half an hour eeking out an email on telnet to my friends in Russia and Spain and France on their Year Abroad. Anyone remember telnet? None of my twitter friends will. You're all far too young. Sigh.

5. Para no verte más, by La Mosca Tsé Tsé

Another catchy little Spanish number that was being played everywhere that year. If there was one song that defined my time in Cullera (close to Valencia), this was it. It's not the nicest of lyrics - I will rip up your photos and burn your letters, that kind of thing - but when I mix it with a Spanish accent, some sunshine and a little sangria, somehow it still makes me smile.

6. Marseille, by Patrick Fiori

Another one nobody will have heard of. Sorry about that. This one is relatively recent - my fond memories of French pop are mostly from my childhood - but it was key in my whole rediscovery of Belgium as my home. The lyrics basically talk of someone who went far away to find himself but never forgot where his home was, just like when you find a faded photograph and it stirs up happy memories. I first heard this in my adopted big sister's kitchen, and it may have been key to calling me back here.

7. Better than life - Hillsong

It's hard to choose just one worship song, and so many of them have difficult emotions associated with them. This one, though, is associated in my mind with what were, for me, the early, happy, hopeful days of ChristChurch London. It was a firm favourite, with just Rhys strumming his guitar in the upstairs room of International Students' House, and with good reason: better than the biggest dreams in my heart, better than getting what I say I need... No matter when I hear it, it's always a timely reminder of the incomparable greatness of the love of God. Plus, there's a chance to correctly use an apostrophe in better than the sound of my friends' voices...

8. Jesus, my only hope

Another great song, associated with the same sunny summer, my first in London. It has a catchy tune, and a harmony I could at one point actually master. But most of all, lyrics that are wonderful for the soul, and during which you can actually hear people singing louder. (I dont think it's just me.) When Satan's accusations make my poor heart afraid, I hear my King declaring: Father, that debt is paid!!

I could, in particular, have chosen many more soppy love songs (I'm a sucker for those...Vonda Shepherd's Ally McBeal soundtracks for example), and, of course, Bang Bang by Dizzy Gillespie and Body and Soul by Billie Holliday. (West Wing fans will know why, and if not, they should either hang their heads in shame, or hurry up and watch Season Seven.)

Jack Johnson and Norah Jones and Newton Faulkner are all on a constant loop, and I love my Notting Hill and Love Actually and Snuffy Walden CDs. So I guess if I could take eight albums, the answer would be completely different. But those are not the rules, so I've chosen eight songs that could be used on the soundtrack in the film of my life. (You know, the one where Melissa Fitzgerald or Lauren Graham plays me, though I've had a recent revelation that Liza Weil would do a great job of "capturing my essence". She does the ranting and raving so well. Anyway, that's another topic for another day.)

On that note (bad pan fully intended), I'll let you get back to whatever I interrupted with this longer-than-usual blogpost. Do feel free to tell me what songs you would take, though. It's not as easy as it sounds!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Five Things...

The Writer's Idea Book is providing me with much inspiration for blog posts - thank you Jack Heffron. Today's is this: what five things would you take to a deserted island? I came up with some things which surprised even me, leaving aside the obvious, like suncream and a boat, and assuming it's a low-tech island, with nowhere to plug in a coffee machine or my laptop, or connect to the internet, so that endlessly watching the West Wing and tweeting about it isn't an option, nor is Skyping all my friends to make them jealous of my wonderful (if enforced) holiday.

1. My Bible.

What can I say? A great opportunity to deepen my relationship with God.

2. My guitar.

Yes, I know. I've never mentioned my guitar before. In fact, I hardly ever remember that I own one. But under a sunny sky, with no one to hear me except the odd bird, and lots of time to kill, I'm sure I'd be eager to reacquaint myself with it. Maybe even write some songs. Who knows.

3. Reams and reams and reams of paper and many, many, many pens (I hope it's not cheating having these two things count as one).

With none of the aforementioned high tech distractions, I might actually get Inevitable written. And who knows, maybe its sequel. And The Muffin House. And some poems and short stories. If I'm going to be there for a really long time, I could even get going on my autobiography. Well, I'll be famous after I return from my long stint on a deserted island, and I'm sure everyone will want to read about it: day after day after day of the same thing - what's not to like?

I wonder, though - would my ideas run dry, with no real life or real interaction to fuel it? Or is it really true that writing begets writing?

4. Scrabble.

Yes, okay, I may not have thought of this if I hadn't been looking around my lounge for inspiration. But the thing is, Scrabble would be a good way to keep my brain active, and to set myself some measurable challenges. And then I could use the words I come up with as writing prompts, which obviates the problem mentioned in the last point.

5. Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

I am assuming do not deliver to this island, so if I am going to take one book, I may as well choose a long one that will make me feel virtuous, and that, let's face it, I would never get through unless I was stuck in that exact place for a very long time, with no West Wing DVDs.

How about you? What would you take?

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Delusions of Grandeur, part two

I must have signed a million of these. My publicist shakes her head, says no, only a hundred and fifty-three, but the dull throbbing in my wrist has given way to numbness and my cheeks are smile-weary.

"Hi," he says, and my heart breaks into sprinting mode, responding before my brain has the chance to. I know this voice. Know it so well that I hardly dare look up and let the illusion be shattered.

He hands me the book; Anna clears her throat, reprimanding me, reminding me I am supposed to be making eye contact with these people who have queued for hours. (Publicists like to exaggerate. It's minutes, at most.)

"Hello," I say, swallowing hard as I allow my eyes to meet his: the moment I had been so sure would never come. Except, of course, in my dreams. Hundreds of them. "Has anyone ever told you that you look a little like Rahm Emanuel?"

There they are: the dimples. I'm being assailed by all those clichés about freeze-framing the moment.

He chuckles gently. "For someone with such a British accent, you know a bit about American politics."

"Well, you see, there was this TV programme..."

"24?" He prompts, teasing me with a furrowed brow, as though he too were having trouble remembering.

"Yes," I say. "That must be it."

I must remember to stock up on Strepsils for Anna. She seems to need them.

"You write beautifully," he says, in all seriousness this time, chocolate eyes finding mine.

"Thank you," I say. I've remembered just in time that in America, it is the done things to accept compliments gracefully, rather than mumbling Well, you know...

"You're not exactly my target market, though." He raises an eyebrow. "I mean, in that you're not a woman in your thirties..."

"I know. But it's dedicated to someone with the same name as me. And the main character sounds like he might look like me a little. So I was intrigued."

"Funny how life turns out, isn't it?"

"Yes." He catches my eye again. Why is the security guard not closing this Barnes and Noble to allow me to be alone with him, to bask in this moment? Seriously.

"You're busy," he says, nodding towards the queue, and I wish I could hear more regret in his voice. But then he hands me a card. "Call me when you're done. We can have dinner if you like."

"Really?" The word squeaks out before I have the chance to screen it through my professional-writer filter: suddenly I'm a teenager again.

"Well, I've never had a book dedicated to me before," he says, and slips away.

"Wow," says the wide-eyed next woman in the queue, stepping forward, forgetting for a moment that I am the one she is meant to be star-struck about right now. "Was that..."

I shake my head. Technically not a lie: more of a nervous twitch. "Just someone I used to be in love with."

"Oh," she says, disappointed, but nevertheless smiling when I hand her the book back. In which I've scribbled,

to Corrie, who may have just witnessed the moment my life changed.

Friday, 23 April 2010

confessions of a leftie bookworm

Here's my dilemma: I want to read Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue. Now, please don't worry - confusing as it is for die-hard Labour supporter to find herself thinking about voting Liberal Democrat, I have not completely lost all sense of political reality.

I'm just interested, that's all.

The thing is, though - I read publicly. On trains, on buses, on metros. Waiting for things. I put my book down as I buy my croissant at that nice bakery in the Gare du Midi where that friendly man told me I really ought to go to California: a sign if ever there was one.

Publicly, then. People will see me reading Sarah Palin's book. And they will draw conclusions from that. You, for example, are judging me right now, aren't you? Admit it.

Should I hide it inside the latest Newsweek? Or perhaps get a T-shirt made saying: "I'm also reading the Audacity of Hope, which is much more my thing, but I only read that at home so I can really concentrate and not risk creasing the corners or bending the spine"?

But you live in Brussels, I hear you cry. No one is going to care. Well, you may think so. But there are so many Brits and Americans here that I have considered subscribing to the New Yorker just so I can sit on the metro reading it, in full view of any potential soulmate who may happen to be passing through Belgium.

What if Going Rogue has the opposite effect? Roughly, in fact, the same effect as Sarah Palin's shrill voice shouting "What's wrong with being the party of no? We're the party of hell, no!"? Then what?

Just imagine if my own Josh Lyman was watching me out of the corner of his eye, wondering if I could be the one, and then I pull that out. Would he tap me on the shoulder, and kindly ask me for my phone number so that we could get together over dinner and discuss it sometime? Or would he run screaming to another carriage?

Maybe the T-shirt is not such a bad idea after all. You know. Just in case.

Update: Barnes and Noble now produce a fluffy book protector thing for just such eventualities. Oh, and the colour? Blue. All is well with the world.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

twitter and sleep deprivation

Tired, tired, so tired.

Which is all Josh Malina's fault.

Well, okay, it's kind of mostly mine. I should have known better than to bait him on twitter regarding his - ahem - favourite West Wing co-star round about the time I was getting ready to sleep. The whole twitterverse promptly climbed on board and suddenly everyone was talking to me, about me, about me and Josh Malina in the same breath. And, he was talking to me.

I'm so tired, I said to my friend this lunchtime. I tried to explain.

"I couldn't turn off twitter when Josh Malina was tweeting me!"

"Why?" she said.

"Because he's famous! A famous person was tweeting me! I couldn't go to bed!"

"Why?" she said again.

And, let's face it, she has a point. I mean, I know why. I understand what goes on in that complicated brain of mine. But still.

Josh Malina is not only famous, he's the very best kind of famous. He's also funny. And he tweets me! Semi regularly! In fact, I have communicated with him this week more than I have with my own mother. (We're not close.)

So kudos to him for interaction with his fans, and making me feel special. (Ahem, somebody please take note.)

But, why? Why does it make me feel special that Josh Malina is tweeting me?

My friend had a point.

He's famous. (Think you've got that by now, though.) He's on the West Wing. He's one degree removed from ... well, you know, he who should probably not be named in the same breath. He's funny. He has 10,000 ish followers on twitter, as against my measly 300ish.

So, if he tweets me, if those tweets to me are mentioned on TV interviews, does that make me somehow famous too?

Somehow important?

Is fame really the same thing as greatness?

And even if it was, is contact with that kind of greatness what gives me my significance, my identity, my greatness?

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

on my blog this week...

Wow. For the second time this week my blog has had over 100 hits today. I'm quite happy about that, even though I know, I know, that it is fact entirely meaningless in terms of anything that really matters.

More excitingly, it seems that my readers are diversifying: "only" about fifty percent of them reach me through "Bradley Whitford" these days. I mean, I even had "Lauren Graham": see, not West Wing related. At all. Even though I am plotting some crossover fan fic where Rory goes to work for Josh Lyman, and Lorelai was in fact Josh's first kiss. I think they would've made a great couple. For a time, obviously.

Anyway, moving on from the West Wing, I've had some interesting keywords this week. I particularly loved "Claire the inevitable". Kind of like "Jude the Obscure", I thought. Or "Ivan the Terrible".

I also had "Reasons not to move to Belgium", which seems a little harsh. But sometimes a little bit fair too. In the nicest possible way. For example, when it snows, the country does not come to a grinding halt: you still have to go to work. And you don't get a free phone with you mobile contract. You will never get your head round the politics here. And, oh heartbreak, you will not be able to watch the Good Guys, featuring Brad and his moustache. All of which may or may not be a small price to pay for all the chocolate, and stuff. Depends on your point of view.

To the person who asked "why when I go to church it makes me cry", I want to send a hug. And to say that sometimes that happens when God is touching your heart. And that although it's often uncomfortable, and usually painful, having Him touch your heart is the most beautiful thing that can happen to you, and the most transforming. In a good way. Hang in there.

I'm bemused that the person who typed in "Actuapress mag Obama" got sent to my page about the reasons for Inevitable. I'm a good person to come to for Actuapress mag (Have I mentioned that I'm writing an article for them about The Good Guys? Have I mentioned how excited I am about it?No? Wonder what happened there. Will proceed to remedy that immediately.). I'm also a good person to come to for Obama, not because of my knowledge but because of my enthusiasm. (As, in fact, with so many things. I am, after all, a feeler type on the Myers Briggs scale.) But it's odd that this should lead to my blogpost about my novel, because how does Google know Obama gets a mention or two in my novel? Spooky.

"Reasons why the West Wing women blog". Intriguing. Am I a West Wing woman? I don't think that much blogging goes on on the show itself. (Before you all jump to the comments section -yes, I know there is some.) Why do I blog? Well, many reasons. Actually, quite a good topic for another day, too. But did they mean why do we blog about the West Wing? Many, many reasons. Perhaps mostly to keep the dream alive...

"Now is my time". I like this, and I like that it led to my blog. Perhaps it's a sign.

Though mainly a sign that I should go to bed. Thursdays start early...

Addendum to previous post

I'd just like to clarify one thing. My previous post was about the things that a person can give me.

There are deeper desires in my heart, ones that only One person can fulfill, ones too that, no matter how beautiful the sentiment is that no one is going to judge me, I'm not comfortable putting out there in cyberspace.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What would you ask for? (aside from world peace...)

After computer-related time wasting, which for once was not the fault of twitter, it's now late. I'm tired, and I'm grumpy. And my wife's in Argentina. No, wait, that's something else.

Anyway, what I am gearing up for here is my excuse for using another prompt. This time I am going to type it up myself, since my formatting was completely messed up last time I copied and pasted. Oh good, more computer-related time wasting. Weren't these things supposed to make our lives easier?

(I've chosen a nice, cheerful topic for today so I'll soon be much more fun. Hang in there.)

If someone, anyone, could give you a gift right now that would truly make you happy, what would it be? Would a single rose make your day or would you need something like a new car?

It can be anything, so do not worry what other people will think of your choice. What do you want most right now, in this moment?

I'm assuming you, whoever you are, are looking for something more sophisticated than, bed with a cup of tea and a West Wing episode, followed by a lie in tomorrow.

It's a lovely sentiment, isn't it, not to worry what other people will think of my choice, but I'm putting it online for everyone to read. And I now know that everyone includes some people I actually am friends with in real life. It would take extraordinary reserves of self-confidence to blog the same way as I write in my journal. Wouldn't it? But I'll give it my best shot.

First question is, who is the anyone who is giving me a gift? Because, frankly, if Bradley Whitford were to turn up on my doorstep clean-shaven and bearing said red rose, that is my day pretty much made. (Man, I sound American these days. But that's a topic for another day.) Actually, he could turn up with not so much as a wilted daisy and still be very welcome.

Or, if Janel Moloney or Melissa Fitzgerald or Lauren Graham wanted to buy me a coffee, that would be fine too. Especially if it was one of those nice latté things I've heard you can get in other countries.

Second question - can I really have anything? Like, for example, a first-class plane ticket to DC for after that pesky ash cloud has cleared? An apartment within walking distance of the White House and a Starbucks - or, better still, in Georgetown - where I could sit and write my book (yes, I really am going to finish it one day), gather inspiration for my next one, and, assuming the absence of Bradley Whitford from my life after all, meet my own Josh Lyman? (Yes, there's a theme here. I'm sorry, but surely by now you can't still be surprised.)

I don't even need to have the apartment forever. (Erm, didn't I used to call that a flat? I rest my earlier case.) Just a few months. See how undemanding I am.

I'm not sure what any of this says about me, but I'm thinking it's probably nothing you or I hadn't already figured out. (Just to throw in another Americanism.)

But see, I'm not yet ready to go to bed. There must be other options that would work. A very large Amazon gift voucher, for instance. A couple of weeks on a Californian beach. (There's that theme again.)

Oh, I know. I know what I really want. An iPhone. I want an iPhone. I've wanted one for a long, long time and now that you can get them free on Orange back in the UK, that the adverts for applications are everywhere, I want one even more. So close, yet...

That said, if we're wishing for things, I want Belgium to repeal its ridiculous law which forbids phone companies from giving out free mobiles. Then I could have an iPhone, everyone I know could have an iPhone, Belgium could start tweeting and I'd have some online friends in my time zone and not feel like I live in a country that is somehow lacking in something vital. Which is spectacularly unfair, because we have amazing chocolate and beer and waffles and chips here, many great people, and enough quirkiness to fill a lifetime of novels.

Novels. To be honest, a few months off work so I could write mine would be amazing - even if I can't do it in Georgetown or New York City or Cambridge or a village in the South of France. Also, for an expert in the publishing industry to move in with me and be my writing coach for a few weeks.

Wow. Better go to bed before I start asking for, ahem, the impossible.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Like a box of chocolates

I'm not sure what I expected when I moved back to Belgium, but it wasn't this.

I thought I was coming to reconnect with my past, to become Belgian again, to see some crucial friendships renewed. And while there's an element of some of those things happening, what I'm connecting with seems mostly to be my future.

Perhaps it's being away from the craziness of London, from the craziness that Church life could be there at times, that has created the space in my life for the rediscovery of some dormant passions: the writing of my childhood and teens, the politics of my late teens and early twenties. And, bizarrely, it seems God has used a TV programme - what was it called again? - to remind me of both of those things, and to create in me a new interest: like David Sedaris with Paris, Brussels, it seems, is where I have come to dream about America.

I came to rediscover my past; it seems to have opened up a whole new future. I came to rediscover my Belgian-ness; I've realised how deeply British I have become. I came to start up a new language teaching business; I've diversified, discovered writing. I came to immerse myself in French, my mother tongue; since I've been here, and in particular since last summer, I've experienced a deep hunger to read and read in English, to fill the deep chasms in my knowledge of Anglophone literature. I came, thinking I would perhaps settle here; now dreams of New York and Washington fill my heart.

I came, never once making the link between Belgium and writing that should have been obvious when I look back at my life. But God knew. God hadn't forgotten. God has taken a long-buried thing and brought it back to life, when I least expected it. He does that, you know.

So it seems that Forrest Gump was right with his box of chocolates analogy: in life, you never know what you're going to get. I came for the marzipan chocolate (Cote D'Or do a great version), and it's here for the taking, but apparently I've ended up with those yummy orange cremes instead, if that's not stretching the analogy. And when I go back to London, I buy a lot of Cadbury's. Which has, incidentally, just become American.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Twenty Five Things

It's getting harder and harder to think of topics to blog about, so please excuse me for increasingly using prompts as April drags on... and on... and on. (Why did I not choose to do this nablopomo thing in February?)

List out twenty-five things you want to do before you die. Anything your heart desires is ripe for the blogging, but it helps if you list things you are genuinely going to try to do before your time here is done.

So, in no particular order, here are mine. I wonder how many of them you could have guessed. Probably all of them, if you've been paying attention.

1. Finish my novel and get it published.

2. Write the screenplay with Bradley Whitford. Or, at the very least, meet him. (The rest I have little control over...)

3. Watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

4. Read many, many books, including Catcher in the Rye, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Catch 22. (I've just finished To Kill a Mockingbird, and was not that impressed, which I'm guessing is a federal crime of some sort.)

5. Live in DC for a while.

6. Live in New York for a while.

7. Take a couple of months to drive around France, stopping in random villages, staying in quirky gites, and trying wines and cheeses indigenous to each region.

8. Study creative writing, and/or journalism, in some way.

9. Study (American) politics in some way.

10. Meet Janel Moloney.

11. Meet, in fact, as many of the West Wing cast as possible.

12. Do some kind of road trip around America, but I'm a little hazy on the detail. I think to do it justice, really see it, it ought to take a year, so I'd need a lot of money, possibly in the shape of an advance on a travel-related book, to justify this.

13. Work on the next Obama campaign.

14. Get married.

15. Write another novel. Then another one. Then another one. Maybe some short stories too.

16. Lead as many as possible of my friends and family to Jesus.

I've stalled at sixteen. Don't be fooled, though: this does not mean that I'm easily pleased. Just tired and unimaginative, tonight at any rate.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Make it happen?

This morning, I was just pondering Bradley Whitford's quotability, and the unexplainable fact of my having omitted this in my previous post (all sorted now, worry not) when I first dragged my thoughts back to the task in hand - reading the next section from John Eldredge's
Walking with God.

In which he mentioned the curse of Make It Happen.

Which is, if you think about it, a bit of a coincidence, since probably the most quoted piece of Bradley Whitford wisdom is from his Commencement Speech to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004:

Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen -- yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.

Just to be clear: I love this quote, find it inspiring, and could probably (and, let's face it, will) blog about why at some stage. There is much good about it, particularly the part about making grace happen. I like that a lot.

But I did just think it was odd that John Eldredge and Bradley Whitford chose to mention this to me on the same day. (Kind of.)

And then, the very next page I read was about how God uses coincidences to speak to us. In our walk with God, this is the critical moment. Too often we merely say, "Wow. What a coincidence." ... and then go have a sandwich. We never do anything with it. And so we lose the gift God is trying to give. Or miss the warning He is sending up like a flare.

I doubt God was warning me about my drivenness. Time was this would have been necessary, but these days my tendency in life is to while away endless hours tweeting about the West Wing and hitting refresh on Facebook, neither of which, as a far as I know, are a recipe for becoming a famous author or for building Church.

John Eldredge's point, though, is that he has a tendency to strive, to do things his way, rather than rest in God's love (and allow any activity to flow from that). It is a valid point, a good point, one we all need to hear from time to time.

Bradley Whitford's point, I think, is fairly clear, and could have been sponsored by Nike: just do it. Is he wrong? No. Of course he's not wrong.

Both messages have their validity; and at different times in our lives, we need to hear each one. But through the coincidence of two unrelated people making opposite points in my head within five minutes of each other, and then the coincidence of reading about coincidences, I do think God might have been speaking.

Test everything, the Bible says, and hold onto the good.

I think it's safe to assume that everything includes Aaron Sorkin's scripts and Bradley Whitford's commencement speeches.

I also think it's possible that this is what God was gently reminding me of this morning.

Friday, 16 April 2010

I love Bradley Whitford because...

- Most obviously, he's an amazing actor (and if you don't believe me, please immediately go and watch the West Wing episode from series 2 called Noel)

- He's a brilliant writer (more West Wing based evidence: Internal Displacement and Faith-Based Initiative - in the latter I particularly loved the CJ/Danny scenes). (I've since found out he writes 1,000 words a day. This has done nothing to cure me of my crush.)

- He's a passionate, reasoned, active Democrat. (That's a lefty, for those unfamiliar with US politics and/or my views on such matters.)

- Everyone who has ever met him says he is an all round nice guy, and their stories corroborate that: that he has managed to stay that all around nice guy in the corrosive Hollywood atmosphere is doubly impressive.

- He's articulate: eminently quotable, and often inspiring and funny with it. Still hoping for the day when the guys at Quotable Cards put him on a stamp - I mean, a notepad. (See his commencement speech from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for just a tiny tip of that particular iceberg.)

- He engages with his fans, signs autographs, hugs them even. Hugs them! When does it get to be my turn?

- He's a devoted father, and although it went wrong and all, seems like he has it in him to be a devoted husband. "My heart is so full of you..."

- He reads a book a week. How can he not be my soulmate? Plus, people who read a lot always have lots of interesting things to say, and are usually great Scrabble players.

- He's, let's face it, not bad looking. Dimples, fluffy hair, and all.

And,of course, I get him mixed up with Josh Lyman, and with the Brad in the novel I'm working on, with whom I am supposed to be in love when I'm writing in character.

There you are. Lamest topic for a blogpost in days, but the combined power of twitter, the upcoming UK election and chatting till too late with some lovely new friends tonight mean I am far too tired to contemplate writing anything too deep. Yet nablopomo demands that I nevertheless come up with something... so I thought I'd return to my tried and tested subject. It had, after all, been a while.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Half way through...

It's 15th April, so I've made it to the half way mark... phew. Nothing is going to stop me now.

If only I could think of something to blog about.

Beyond, of course, the whole nablopomo is revolutionising my life thing. It's mostly really hard work. But I do believe the discipline is good for me, just as I believe that one day my oboe might sound less like an out of tune duck. (Which begs the question of what an in-tune duck might sound like, but anyway.)

Topics that have come to mind so far include how profoundly irritating it is that no one cares about voters abroad seeing the leadership debates, when anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world, could, and did, watch the healthcare debate in the US which, while monumental, is, you know, not quite the same as my own country potentially imploding.

I could also write about how jealous I am over something tiny and pathetic and how I really ought to sort that out. (Actually, I did draft that post yesterday, but now feel too ridiculous to actually "publish" it.) Relatedly, I could list all the reasons that exist for loving Bradley Whitford; and my considered opinion on the whole him-not-tweeting thing. Bet you can't read to read that.

I haven't finished answering all Jack Heffron's questions about the reasons for Inevitable, yet, either. Or talked much about how challenging and inspiring I am finding John Eldredge's Walking with God. Or about how heart warming it was to find out that an actual real life friend of mine actually reads my blog. (I checked - she said "you write about living in Belgium, being an author, and the West Wing". So she wasn't bluffing.) Or, in fact, about how the DCCC don't appear to have contacted me to ask for my help in the upcoming mid-terms; or my new life plan, which involves a journalism course, right before my politics and/or creative writing course in DC and/or New York. (You see, it's not so much a plan as a set of options.)

Actually, that is quite a few topics, isn't it? Which of those would you like me to write about first, dear reader(s)?

And for those of you out there doing nablopomo, how's it going? Where on earth do you get your inspiration from?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The reasons for "Inevitable", part two

So, now we've dealt with the motivation of fame - or at least, a book in Waterstone's bearing my pen name - time to answer another of Jack Heffron's questions:

Are you exploring an issue that interests you?

Several, actually. Politics and romance and the love of reading and writing.

But mostly, Inevitable seeks to challenge that timeless assumption that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. As an author, I am unconvinced: I've had no heartbreak to deal with in the last year, which leads me to agree with - oh dear, I think it might be Will Young: if I lose the highs, at least I'm spared the lows...

My character, however, draws a different conclusion: meeting Brad changes her priorities, redirects her life towards a greater adventure than "just" falling in love, towards significance. Because she's known him, in other words, she has been changed for good. And that may be enough to make the heartbreak worth it.

Significance is not only to be found in relationships; even happiness isn't. Shocking as it may sound even in our enlightened times, it is possible to have a fulfilled and meaningful life as a single woman. Jane Austen was born a few decades too early to fully conceive of it, though not to long for it; Henry James hinted at it with his own Catherine in Washington Square.

My Catherine would want you to know that there are many other happy endings than getting the guy, and that, actually, getting the guy may turn out to be anything but happy. Or, in fact, an ending.

Don't settle! She would want to tell you. Find your adventure! Maybe that man is an adventure, or maybe a partner in the adventure - on the other hand, maybe he's a distraction. Make sure you know which it is before you throw yourself in.

I don't know if I agree with her. But I have heard it said that if there is a book you want to read which doesn't exist, that is the one you should write. I long for novels which suggest, unlike otherwise excellent films like Up in the Air, that you don't necessarily die sad and alone, or happy and married. Those are not the only options, because a relationship is not the only path to fulfillment.

And that's why I want to tell Catherine's story. That, and the whole Waterstone's thing.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The reasons for "Inevitable", part one

Jack Heffron, author of The Writer's Idea Book, wants to know why I am writing "Inevitable". Well, this may be overstating his interest a little. Mainly, being unaware of my existence other than just as one of the faceless, nameless authors to whom he is addressing his unspeakably useful book, he is challenging me: what's at stake for the author in the telling of this story?

Are you exploring an issue that interests you? He asks. Are these characters running around in your head, begging to be put on the page? Are you looking for a byline or publication credit?

Of course, nothing as shallow as the final point has crossed my mind. I have never once thought about what it would be like to walk into Waterstone's on Piccadilly and to spot, on the front three-for-two table, my pen-name, on the front cover of a shiny new novel, spine unbroken, corners unruffled, surrounded by the latest Eleanor Catton or Zadie Smith or Jonathan Franzen offerings.

I've never once imagined that someone would pick it up, brow furrowed in intrigue, turn it over to scan the back copy, open it, and carrying it straight to the till, so distracted they forget to use their Waterstone's card. (Which would be a shame.)

I've never once thought about who I'm dedicating the book to, or how I am going to get a copy to him, and convince him to write the screenplay with me. I've never once daydreamed about how this might lead to our falling in love. Especially since this would in itself make a great story, given that the hero is named after and perhaps slightly modelled on him.

I've never pictured sitting on the Tube and noticing the person next to me so deeply engrossed that, when they finally look up at the end of a chapter to check they have not missed their stop, they mouth a gentle expletive.

Never. Not once.

Monday, 12 April 2010

the power of weddings

Over a year ago I bought a book called Walking with God, by John Eldredge, with whom some of you will be familiar - his most famous book being Wild at Heart, an invitation to Christian men to plunge into adventure and not content themselves with being "nice guys". It took me a year to read his A sacred romance, which, in the same vein, calls all of us to live with God as our Treasure, not to content ourselves with being "nice Christians". It was good stuff, beautifully written, but dense, and uncomfortably challenging at times - hence, I suppose, the year that it took me to get through it.

On my shelves I also had Walking with God, which I realised not long ago was also by John Eldredge, but looked like it might be an easier read, so I brought it on holiday with me.

It is indeed an easier read, consisting of in bite-sized chunks - but in many ways it's no less challenging. It's subtitled Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Really. and it points us to a life of intimacy with God, using the lessons which the author himself has learned, or been reminded of, over the course of a year. I whole-heartedly recommend it.

But none of that is the point.

Today, I have been reading about how We can get so locked onto what we don't have , what we think we want or need, that we miss the gifts God is giving.


I've been at a wedding this weekend. Now, officially, and I thought unofficially too, I'm "fine with the whole singleness thing", had almost resigned myself to it for good, though I've taken a couple of steps recently which would belie this.

But nothing focuses the mind on what you don't have better than a wedding.

And yet, there I was, wearing a beautiful dress I didn't have to pay for because I'd worn it as a bridesmaid last year, surrounded by people whom I can now call lifelong friends, whom I love very much and am so grateful for. Eating tasty food, drinking wine I thoroughly enjoyed, and the whole thing in a beautiful venue - the hotel where Hugh Grant takes Renée Zellweger for a mini-break in Bridget Jones' Diary.

I need to open my eyes to what God is giving me, not to what He isn't.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

my 12 year old alter ego...

Today's Livejournal prompt is the following: If you were 12 and could see yourself now, do you think you'd be happy or disappointed, and why?

Which is an interesting question, and one I have sometimes thought about. I think the 12 year old me would be baffled at the many ways we have to communicate (this was 1991, remember) and painfully jealous that those means were not available to her, to stay in touch with all her friends in Belgium whom she missed so much. Having said that, she loves writing letters, and is saddened that not only does this seem to be lost in culture generally, but that her older self no longer sits down, fountain pen in hand, to eloquently pour out her soul to her adopted big sister or her best friend, but instead microblogs (whatever that means) for the benefit of strangers. She'd shrug in disgust, actually.

She'd be pleased to know she'd made it back to Belgium, albeit 13 years after originally planned, and that she was spending time with her niece and nephews.

She'd be bewildered at the loss of French as her mother tongue.

She'd also be sorely disappointed that past the age of about 18, writing was to disappear from her life, only to re-emerge many years later, all the poorer for having been discarded all those years. But then, she would, I think, perhaps also be happy that the deep pain which motivated much of it had dimmed.

She'd be impatient to know that this novel was going to get finished, though - that writing was going to become more than just a dream.

How about you?

Friday, 9 April 2010


... Twitter can be good for one thing: making new friends.


Real live ones.

Today was the perfect afternoon to spend in a North London park pushing cute children on swings, convincing a little boy to read a story to his apple seeds so the tree would grow faster, and chatting to another aspiring writer about our respective books. Turns out we had so much in common we didn't even talk about the West Wing much at all (apart from a brief "we hate Amy" moment, which are ever helpful to one's sanity). Heck, we don't even know what each other's favourite episodes are. (I sense a blogpost coming on.)

So there you go. Twitter has its uses. The trick, as with all these things, is to make it your servant, not your master. I'll let you know how I get on...

NB This really counts as tomorrow's nablopomo post, since I'll be at a wedding... and separated from my computer and all forms of electronic communication...

If an alien from another planet...

...came to earth and picked me to study, what would they find?

I stumbled across that prompt on LiveJournal and felt duly rebuked. (Though, not rebuked enough to get off Twitter immediately and sleep, which is what I really should have done.)

If they studied me at this point in time, they would be surprised to find that we humans spend a lot of our time communicating via a machine with people we have never met about other people whom we have never met. They would probably wonder why we do this.

Why do we do this?

Why do I?

Possibly it's the same reflexes that used to cause me to always be the last to leave a party: the fear of being left out. If certain topics or certain people are being discussed on Twitter, then I should be there. Even if the people discussing it are in an entirely different time zone and it's therefore the middle of my night. Even if, other than sleeping, there are a million other things I could or should or even want to be doing: reading books, writing, watching intelligent TV, journalling - and yes, even spending time with God. There. I've said it.

This is a bad, bad thing. And I need to sort it out. So, dear online friends, I'm going to try and turn you off and go to sleep at a reasonable hour from now on... I've said it before, I know. But hopefully this time I mean it.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

that writer's voice

I found it today.

My voice.

You know, that elusive creature we writers are always searching for, then clinging to for dear life. Sit in the sun for long enough in enough cafés, do enough writing prompts, and apparently it comes to you. The opening page of Inevitable now sounds like it was penned by the same person who wrote "Destined for Greatness" and "The Ghosts of Christmas Past" and "After LA".

So, it really works. Keep writing! Keep practising. It will come.

And it's a great moment!

Just need to do the other 299 pages now...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

London, assessed

(I know a list of bullet points may be a little lame for a nablopomo post, but it's late, I'm tired, and I have done some proper writing today, so I don't feel too guilty.)

So far, in London, I have been impressed by:

- bookshops that are open, like, all the time
- normal sized lattés
- the lady in the Odeon cinema who reminded us about Orange Wednesdays, which then funded my Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough and (flat) Pepsi Max
- the Clapham Tandoori - stylishly presented, delicious food and amazing service

Unimpressed, however, by:

- the service in the Currys on Tottenham Court Road - seriously, someone needs to teach these guys how to address a customer. One of the girls was good, though.
- the man outside Warren Street tube who told me Goodge Street was right when it was in fact left, causing me to wander the streets aimlessly for twenty minutes looking for the café where I was meeting my friend
- the lack of helpful street signs. Well, not lack exactly, but this is one thing the US does better. Sigh. Don't let me down, please, Great Britain.

To be updated... :)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Practice makes... perfect?

Seriously, every day?

I have to think of something to write about every day?

Luckily, I have the Writer's Idea Book, which from now on, I will be using every day.

Seriously. Every day.

Apparently that is what writers do. They write. They don't just talk about it, dream about it, cast their favourite actors in the mental screenplays, or practise their signatures ready for the book tour.

Practice is a strange thing: do something wrong enough times, and eventually it comes out right. Where's the logic in that? But it seems to work for musical instruments. So I will persevere, and I might even attempt that whole discipline thing. I want to be good at this. I really do.

Otherwise the book tour will just be embarrassing.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Back in London...


The joy of walking straight off the Eurostar and into a bookshop, open on a Friday evening, on a bank holiday no less. The delight of handling books whose existence I had so far had to take on trust from Amazon and Radio Four.

And oh, the smell of Costa Coffee, the anticipation of a latté worthy of its name, tasting as nature intended, and lasting longer than a couple of sips.


No sooner had I formulated these patriotic thoughts that, standing on an escalator, I was jolted out of my British reverie.

"Excuse me," said the City Boy. I know London, lived here for five years: I recognise that tone. I've used it many times myself. It's the tone that says, look, I'm British, so I'm going to put a veneer of respectability and politeness on this, but you and I both know I am supremely irritated by your being in my way, because I am in a hurry go to and do Something Very Important.

He was lucky I was even trying to stand to the side, luggage and all. Where I come from, no such logic exists. People just stand where they like on escalators and if you're really in that much of a hurry, well then, you should have got up earlier, shouldn't you?

And much as it pains me to admit it, life at this reasonable pace may be a greater mark of civilisation than whether you open your bookshops on bank holidays or serve big enough lattés.

(Which doesn't mean I have to like it.)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Reasons to move to Belgium

This post is especially for the person who searched "reasons to move to Belgium" and went away from my blog empty-handed; I apologise. To paraphrase David Sedaris, Brussels, it seems, is where I have come to dream about America. But that's no reason not to appreciate the place I actually live.

1. In the words of Rudyard Kipling, What can he know of England, who only England knows? Getting out of the UK (or the US) will open up your perspective and help you better understand yourself and your own culture. The things you thought were indispensable (shops that are open when you need them, iphones, decent-sized lattés), you will discover you can in fact live without.
2. Brussels is a lot like America. No, really - hear me out. Ask the average person in Brussels where they are from and they will respond as if trained to be elusive at spy school - "well, it depends what you mean by from, exactly...". I've heard it said that New York is full of people with allegiances to two places, and Brussels is like this too: the home par excellence of that strange species, the Third Culture Kid. If you belong to this grouping, it's refreshing to find somewhere that's brimming with people like you.

3. Belgium is strategically placed for travelling around Europe. For such a tiny country, it does well - sharing borders with France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany. Easy to get everywhere.

4. If you're a language geek, it's heaven. Everything's always at least bilingual.

5. The waffles, the chips, the chocolate.

6. You will make friends from many different countries, who will then go home, leaving a trail of invitations to visit them in their wake. Bargain!

7. It's the place to be for international politics, or at least the European variety thereof. Washington DC probably just about has the edge overall, though.

8. People are nice. Not the people paid to be nice to you, but the average person on the street. They say hello when you walk past them; they help you work out which bus to catch and which metro stop to get off at. People at tills wish you bonne journée after you've paid. All very civilised - in those ways at least.
So there you have it... And of course, there's always the fact that I live here, and I'm always happy to make new friends...

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Keywords that made me smile

This may be cheating as a nablopomo post, but here are some of the keywords that people have used to get to my blog in the last few days:

The most popular, with 11 searches (let's assume it's the same person, though) was my favourite: "Bradley Whitford by Claire".

Speaks for itself, really.

I very much liked "Bradley Whitford Christian": it makes me happy, somehow, that this combination leads to my blog.

People also continue to come to me by the dozen (ish) to find out about Janel Moloney. So, to clarify - yes, she was pregnant; but no, I don't think she is anymore. I know no more than that, though, and believe me, it's not for lack of trying. I desperately want to jump up and down and get excited and see photos and stuff, but there you are. Still, inspiration for this ficlet came from the idea of Janel with a little girl. (Is it a girl? Who knows? Since all the important people in my life are having boys at the moment, I think it's probably a boy.) Have a read, and tell me what you think.

A recent one: "Why are Belgiums weird". Well, possibly firstly they have an issue with the fact that you don't know their nationality is Belgian, not Belgium. Secondly, many, many reasons. They are lovely though. They say hello when you pass them in the street (I caught myself just before I did this in London today) and they are very helpful when you need information of any kind. Unless they are being paid to give it to you, but that's another story.

"You'll remember me when the West Wing moves" - yay! this makes me feel slightly more normal. Someone else obviously misheard this lyric. This person may well be my soulmate. Please get in touch and leave your number. Thank you...

"Claire Belgium New York" - now that one I liked, because it's always nice when you feel people are specifially searching for your stuff on the internet. Occasionally someone googles Claire Lyman and that gets me very excited indeed.

I feel a little sorry for the person who searched for reasons to move to Belgium, though, and got reasons to move to America instead. Oh well.

"How do you put a mustache on Skype" also made me smile.

Let's see what the next week brings in keywords, and whether I can use them as inspiration for posts. I'm sure "weird things to do in Belgium" has a lot of potential, for example...

Friday, 2 April 2010

So, here's the thing. How many words do I have to write for a blog post to count for National Blog Posting Month?

Because I have a half-written existential post about where home is and stuff scribbled in my notebook, but I am just too tired to put it into decent English.

It's been a long day - six hours of trying to ram English grammar into some Belgian brains (tongue between your teeth, I need to see your tongue - yes, that's it - no, not a "d" sound, no, no, not a "f", no, no, not a "z"... never mind...); packing; Eurostar journey during which I no doubt irritate everyone by laughing out loud at the latest Best of the Left podcast - particularly the British section.

Then after arriving in London, poking my nose in a bookshop and a Costa (oh the smells of home) I had the most enjoyable Indian meal I've ever had. Impeccable service with a smile; stylish plates; free Tia Maria; free chocolate; glasses that were refilled with tap water without our having to ask. AND the food was nice. Way to go, Clapham Tandoori. Or so I would say if I were, in fact, American.

The evening ended with my occasional Friday night ritual - a random Bradley Whitford film: Bottle Shock this one. There was France, and there was wine, but sadly... all I will say is, the things we do for the love of an ageing but very lovely actor.

Definitely bedtime now, though.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Erratum: Starstruck part 2

I would like permission to revise and... oh, what's that phrase? You know, the one from the US Senate?

Anyway, permission to change my mind about something. When I said yesterday that Rob Lowe tweeting me was more exciting that Janel Moloney's signed photo, I may have been overstating it a little. I'd say they were, in fact, tied. (Nationally.)*

I've just taken my Janel picture back out of the envelope again and I have to say it is rather cool. Especially as I get two pictures for the price of one, and not just because ebay messed up and also sent me the one I didn't want where she doesn't really look like her, but also because it's the picture where she's standing with her White House pass round her neck - where there is also a photo of her. A picture within a picture. I'm sure there's somewhere I could go with that, if I wasn't so tired from staying up late getting excited about my tweet from Rob Lowe.

But, anyway. I love my Janel picture, and the fact that she has signed it. That is all for tonight.

* Sorry, couldn't resist the obligatory Josh and Donna reference...