Listening to: Michael Buble (plus some enforced Lady Gaga)
Reading: lots (see below)
Time to catch up. What have I been doing over the last two weeks? Well, the first week back from Sorrento, DH was on holiday, so we went out for days (and I also had fairly large revisions on the Venice book as my marriage-of-convenience didn’t work for either my agent or my editor – basically it was a slash and rewrite job, and it’s still ongoing!). We’ve been ten-pin bowling, and we’ve been to the cinema a few times – to see Toy Story 3 (excellent – and, just like the friends who warned me beforehand, I needed tissues); Shrek Forever After (good in parts – I would’ve liked much more Antonio in it, and was teased mercilessly by my daughter about that); Inception (loved the premise behind this one, and the film more than lived up to it – best film I’ve seen in a long, long time); Cats and Dogs - the Revenge of Pussy Galore (most of the best bits are in the trailer - but I had fun spotting films and series they paid homage to, including several James Bond movies, Silence of the Lambs, Mission Impossible and Heroes).
I’ve also been reading a bit. In Italy, I read:
- Robert Harris, Pompeii – enjoyed very much (except the eel scene, which was a bit too much for my taste) and it was the perfect place to read the book as I visited Pompeii and Vesuvius shortly afterwards
- AS Byatt, The Children’s Book – I’m a very long-term ASB fan, but found this a tough read as most of the characters were very hard to sympathise with. They were utterly selfish, smug and complete liars (and the pretentious claptrap they used to justify their behaviour and ‘free love’ – I was grinding my teeth). Having said that, it did come across as an accurate portrayal of upper middle class life in fin-de-siècle England, and I am SO GLAD I didn’t have to live in that society. I think my main problem was identifying with the main character, a children’s author. I couldn’t bear the way she treated her children and it’s made me paranoid that, as an author, I’m equally selfish – I know I’m a magpie and I borrow bits, but please don’t ever let me treat my family the way Olive did.
- Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall – absolutely loved this; excellent characterisation throughout, good dialogue, excellent pace, and I want to read her backlist now. This is probably the best book I’ve read this summer, if not this year
- Cally Taylor, Heaven Can Wait – fun and fluffy with a few moments that made me gulp
- Milly Johnson, A Summer Fling – one of my mate Milly’s excellent summer reads (loved the, cough, vampire –and the underwear!)
Back home, the readfest continued, even though my working hours during the summer holidays are from the crack of dawn until the kids get up, then evenings:
- Liz Fielding, SOS Convenient Husband Required – enjoyed very much, especially as it was another of her Maybridge books
- Cara Colter, Winning a Groom in 10 Dates – a fun read, and I really liked the nerdy heroine
- Lynn Raye Harris, The Devil’s Heart – intense, passionate and a very good read
- Jennifer Crusie, The Cinderella Deal – I like Crusie’s books for the quirky characters and the dogs, and this was another goodie.
Other than that, I also came across something called ‘Pine Mouth’. Apparently it’s a syndrome that’s been going on for a while, and it’s very, very weird. It doesn’t affect everyone who eats pine nuts (or, in my case, an M&S pasta and pesto salad – my husband and stepmum weren’t affected by it); and you might have eaten pine nuts for years and years with no previous ill effects. But then suddenly, two days after you’ve eaten said pine nuts, you wake up with a really vile, metallic taste in your mouth. A bit like when you’re first pregnant. And everything you eat makes the taste worse, and you can’t get rid of the taste even with mouthwash, fresh breath spray or very strong mints. The only thing that doesn’t taste bad is water (and green tea with jasmine). And it lasts for up to two weeks. (I might be lucky as I managed coffee yesterday - am on the mend.)
I guess it’s good aversion therapy, because I found that bread was particularly bad (and yes, I know I shouldn’t have been eating bread in any case because I’m supposed to be low-carbing again, but this was French bread from Waitrose and it was too hard to resist). Even the guitar-shaped shortbread biscuits (yes, I sneaked into a kitchen shop and bought some new cutters) Chlo and I made and covered in chocolate tasted bad. And nice (expensive) Italian pinot grigio tasted like metal polish. (Not that I’ve ever actually drunk metal polish: it just tasted the way that silver polish smells.) So I needed a taste-tester when I made strawberry tiramisu on Saturday morning! OK, so it’s not proper tiramisu – I didn’t make a proper zabaglione, I used a mix of freshly squeezed orange juice and framboise instead of coffee and brandy, and I added in a layer of strawberries on top of each layer of savoiardi biscuits – and it got scoffed pretty quickly.
Plan for this week – radio interview today (just after 12 noon with Karen Buchanan on BBC Radio Norfolk); nailing the revisions; school uniform and school shopping (what joy - have promised more cinema as a treat after that); plus I’m doing a workshop with Caroline Anderson on writing for M&B at the library in Diss on Wednesday 18 August (7.30pm, call 01379 642609 to book a place). This is all part of the M&B New Voices initiative - to find out more, go over to their website.