23 February 2006


I know, my dears, I know -- I've been neglecting you shamefully. Please do stay, though -- I'd miss you all terribly, if you left. I hope that one day soon I shall be able to make it up to you.

(Hmm. Sufficient contrition there, I wonder, or was I over-emoting? Oh, thank you. You were too. Mwah.)

Right, then. Last week, half term, was very nearly busier than termtime generally is, except that -- as I've now discovered, having been back at work so far this week -- somehow it actually wasn't. Hey ho.

I did manage to get a fair bit of writing done -- most of a proposal for that New Idea for a Doctor Who reference book that I was talking about the other week, in fact -- but still have a great deal to do. Fortunately, some of it is stuff I'm being paid for (I'm currently on promises of commissions for two short stories) so I have plenty of motivation.

I also had what I thought at the time was the one good business idea of my entire life -- one that was brilliant and mind-surfing and zeitgeist-catching, and was absolutely definitely going to make me at least moderately rich. I spent at least a day flapping about what I should do with it before discovering from somebody in the know that it was completely impractical with present-day technology. Buggeration.

Half term was madly busy for many other reasons, though, most of them people-related. The Saturday before last my little-sister-in-law was in town visiting her boyfriend, who's in Bristol to work on Casualty in a frighteningly he's-something-in-the-media sort of way. B. and I spent some of Saturday with l.-s.-i.-l. in the astoundingly hedonistic Bar Chocolat in Clifton. (The website refers to it as a "shop", but is in fact very much a café, which exists to ply the weak and easily tempted with gloriously rich hot chocolate and a wide variety of stunning chocolate cakes). We ended up at her boyfriend's friend's flat, getting annoyed with Trivial Pursuit and experiencing the apocalyptic sugar rush which seems to be a prerequisite for brilliant-yet-unworkable once-in-a-lifetime ideas.

Monday brought a visit from our old university friend S., who's now a political activist in her native Malaysia, campaigning on thoroughly vital and worthy stuff like environmental issues, women's rights and freedom of the press. It was entirely lovely to see her -- the constraints of geography have meant that it's been five or six years now -- and we ended up staying up till 2:30 and finishing the Caol Isla.

Malaysia is traditionally one of the most liberal of Islamic countries, and remains the exemplar which the U.S. and the rest of the West hold up to Muslims to show them How To Do Democracy And Get It Right. S. had some disturbing stories about ways in which the reality fails to match up to this perception, including some attempts at introducing frankly Handmaid's Tale pieces of legislation applying Qur'anic principles to women's lives in ludicrously misconceived ways.

Though we obviously try not to worry, the idea of our good friend (who, if she didn't precisely matchmake B. and me, did at least help to catalyse the relevant decision) doing high-profile work in such a political environment is unsettling, to say the least. Fortunately, she feels that her visibility, and her Oxford connections, will probably afford her some degree of protection... and for all its faults Malaysia's hardly Afghanistan, at least for now.

(I was also pleased to learn that she's working closely with liberal Muslim groups as well as leaders of minority faiths, as she used to be rather dismissive of religious believers as well as the religions themselves. It's only sensible under the circumstances, of course -- nobody ever broke open a closed mindset by pointing at it and laughing.)

Unfortunately the staying-up-till-2:30 aspect of Monday evening meant that B.'s and my Valentine's Day meal on Tuesday was rather more beset by tiredness than it ideally ought to have been. The food at Demuth's was as fantastic as ever, although the details of precisely what I ate appear to have fallen out of my head. (Oh, I do remember the hazelnut and praline ice cream. And I think my main course was pasta. It was all gorgeous, anyway.) We did get pissed off, in a tired and half-hearted sort of way, when the restaurant insisted on throwing us out after two hours so that they could cram the next couple in. We'd been given no warning that this was their intention, and had been enjoying what we thought was a leisurely and unpressured meal. Grr.

On Friday we looked after our four-year-old goddaughter E., and spent much of the day acting out bizarre imaginary stories involving dolphins who aged backwards and cuddly toys which turned into chocolate brownies. It was lovely spending the time with her, although her idea of collaborative play is to tell an adult exactly what scenario she wants performed and to correct them if they deviate from this in any way. She'll make an excellent auteur director one day. We also took her to the soft play area at the local MonstroPlex, but their policy of throwing the play area open to "children" up to the age of twelve resulted in some bruising and tears. Grr again, although of course E. was fine again very shortly afterwards.

And then on Saturday and Sunday we went to visit another old university friend in Staffordshire, within easy driving distance of a very splendid pub-cum-microbrewery. R.'s boyfriend J. is a splendid cook, and furthermore they have excellent, and extensively applied, taste in wine, so we ended up eating and drinking very well. Afterwards, we played Risk (using a free download and a giant P.C. wall-projector, which felt very Bond-villainesque), and R. -- the only one of us who'd never actually played before -- ended up conquering the world, the minx.

So. An unusually sociable week, highly hectic and with far less time for writing than the actual volume of writing warranted, hence my busyness and the concomitant lack of updates to this blogatorium. So, sorry about that.

I've been reading books and watching T.V., too, but I'll leave talking about those until the weekend.

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