Tag Archives: breakfast

These I have loved…

It’s an exciting day here in Rees Towers.  This morning, the typeset page proofs of Emlyn’s new thriller, Hunted, arrived.  It’s always a great moment for an author, when you see your work professionally set out.  When it’s no longer a file on your computer, with your silly font on the title page, but instead looks like a real life book.

It arrived by special delivery.  (A miracle in itself.  Mostly, the van man sprints to the door and shoves a ‘you weren’t in’ red card through it.  Grrrr.  It’s become a secret obsession of mine to catch one red-handed.)

Anyway, the arrival coincided with the Little One in full tantrum mode.  She wasn’t in my good books anyway, having back head-butted me – twice – in two separate wake-up calls during the night.  She’d just protest-blown chunks of dippy egg across the table, when the doorbell rang.  I dumped her on the naughty step on my way to answer the door, realizing as I went that I was only wearing a t-shirt and white running socks.  Not a good look, I thought, as I saw the postman impatiently peering through the glass panel.  I hope he hadn’t heard what I’d been shouting. He wouldn’t be nominating me for a good parenting award any time soon.

Then everything changed.  The package was handed over reverentially.  When I saw the Publisher’s insignia and felt the neat block of pages inside, I called for Emlyn, who was out of bed in a shot.

Of course he ripped open the package and put the precious manuscript straight onto the egg smeared table, before I could say anything.  Doh! But we all oo-eed an ahhed anyway.  Especially after I discovered he’d dedicated his novel to me.  Awww.  What a lovely feeling.

Talking of lovely feelings, I went into the kids’ school to teach creative writing as part of their World Book Day celebrations yesterday.  It was great fun getting all my girls dressed up before hand – as Hagrid, Wimpy Kid and the Cat in the Hat – but it was only when I was actually in with the Year 6 class that I realized that the reason The Big One had insisted on going in as Hagrid from Harry Potter was so that her face would be almost entirely covered by a huge wig and beard – meaning none of her mates would be able to see her cheeks burning as I stood up and started the session in front of her peers.

I used a poem by Rupert Brooke and an extract from ‘The Great Lover’ in which he lists all the things he has loved.  It’s a beautiful passage. The kids did their own version and they all worked on ways of describing the things that are special to them.  Here’s what they came up with.

Wind in my hair                                                                                                          Cantering through the green lushness of a field; the soft giving                           Warmth of a vanilla sponge; elegant stone statues posing;                                            Icy blue droplets viewed from the red warmth inside; boating on a               Diamond-sparkling river; talking; a red caterpillar on a green leaf; a beach with Crystal blue water lapping at your feet tempting you in to swim;                    Gymnasts flying freely around the room; an explosion of exotic colours.

Purple snuggling under my duvet; the solitude of a garden;                          Welcoming metal Fingers; sheets of fur; the soft fluffiness of pets;                  Sydney’s intriguing eyes; canine tickling: a dog’s coarse fur;                                       The exhilaration of performing and the pleasure of                                                Getting the part I wanted; competing in a sporting challenge;                                    Sun shining, the feeling of happiness,                                                                    Splashing in the warm calming sun.

Exploring the lanes with my dad on a Sunday; my carved silver leopard; the Adrenaline rush of a perfect hand-spring landing;                                              Grabbing my pillow as the movie monster appears; a shower of red football Cheers;   hip-hop dancing; lemon-soaked sugary pancakes;                               Stroking my guinea pig; watching the water                                                         Twizzling down the plug hole of my bath; the smell of                                                 New paper; the luxury of a car; the tangy aroma of                                                       Wet paving slabs; a water slide squeal; and the radiant sun                                 Melting into the cold, crisp sea.

Oh to be a ten-year-old again.  I hope that’s given you a nice warm feeling too.


Filed under Jo Rees

The children of writers

Today the super-shiny proof of my latest novel, Forbidden Pleasures turned up.   It’s not being published until August, but here it is, in print.  It’s a cause for much celebration over the breakfast table.

After we’ve all ‘oo-ed’ and ‘ahh-ed’ and taken turns to stroke it, we have a big session of ‘finish the sentence’.  It’s a tradition.

Emlyn reads, ‘Lois was in the senator’s arms…?’

‘When she heard the shot,’ I reply, not missing a beat.

It’s the big one’s turn.  ‘Does anything really matter, apart from this?  Apart from us?’ she reads.  ‘And then…?’

‘Easy!’ I say, munching my toast. ‘And then his lips were on hers in the moonlight.’

‘Well done, Mummy,’ says the little one, clapping her sticky hands together in the booster chair.

But the middle one has learnt to read too and she wants a turn.  She opens the book at a random page and reads slowly.

‘She leaned down and flicked her tongue over -’

‘Give me that!’ I yelp, lunging over the table to grab the book.  ‘Shouldn’t you be getting ready for school?’

Emlyn laughs, but I again I’m left worried about how this weird profession of ours will affect our kids in the long-term.

I like to think that they’re getting a totally normal childhood, but I supposed there are little ways in which our writing life infringes on our family life.  The kids fridge magnets that get commandeered to attach reviews in pride of place in the kitchen, the haphazard pile of foreign editions wedging open the playroom door, the tiny scraps of paper bearing sacred nocturnal jottings that must never be touched or moved – even if they happen to be on the back of homework.  The promised bed-time story that gets postponed because one of us has ‘book head’ and has retreated to speed type the section we’ve been puzzling over all day, which only surfaced when we were flipping the fish-fingers.

And then there’s the irrational superstition about the post. In our household, the post gets shuffled through and discarded, until we find ‘The Precious’.  These are envelopes containing an invoice statement from our agents.  When one of these arrives,  Emlyn rubs it in a Gollum-like way and makes eyes at me.  The invoice inside tells us how much we’ve been paid, but neither of us have a clue how much this may be.  It could be say, news of twelve pounds eighty-eight pence royalties from Latvia, or a big load payload from Holland, where our books have always been popular.

Back to this morning, and the little one says ‘are my words in there?’  It’s sweet that she’s remembered, although technically she only typed a space, in between ‘The’ and ‘End’ which belonged to her sisters. I remember now that hot summer night, when I hauled the girls out of bed to come and type ‘The End’.  Exhausted, wrung out, I wept as they typed.  ‘Promise me you don’t become writers,’ I wailed.  ‘Look what it’s done to your old mother.’  They looked disturbed and went back to bed, but I was too absorbed in post book-birth to worry.

Despite my warnings, however, the big one is showing worrying signs of becoming a writer.  As I did as a child, she wanders around all the time with a pen and a spiral bound notebook.  She read some of her work in progress the other day to us.  I didn’t have to look at Emlyn to know we were both thinking the same thing:  She’s good.

So good in fact that afterwards, we did have the hushed conversation:  would it technically be plagiarism to nick one of her descriptions?  Surely as writers, breeding our own metaphor machine is allowed?

Fortunately, the middle one is showing promising signs of being a level-headed future accountant.  Not long ago I found a big pot of money under her bed.

‘What’s this?’ I asked.

‘I’m saving.’

‘Saving for what?’

She shrugged.  ‘Food…University…Stuff.’

She’s six.

‘Look, Mummy, I know the precious have stopped arriving,’ she added, with a sympathetic look.

I had to explain that thanks to the postal strike at Christmas and the literary agents desire to save paper, invoices were now arriving by email and no longer by post.

It took a moment for this to sink in.  But it still didn’t dent her resolve.

‘Whatever happens, I’ll look after you,’ she told me, hugging me close.

That’s what you want your kids to tell you, right?  But when you’re eighty.

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