Hillie: small village survival expert and writer.
Anna: local best friend mum and professional cake maker/decorator.
Lorelle: newbie mum to the village (American).
Babs: mum friend in the village, over achiever at playing tennis.
Ted, Toby and Lottie: Hillie’s husband and children.
Just over a week ago I received some super-bad-news in an email (from my Literary Agent). Since then I have re-read it a hundred times. I have poured over it, winced over it, cried over it, raged over it and nearly sloshed Pinot Grigio over it. Take a look for yourself….
I had been well and truly binned off. Nice huh!
Actually not nice! She had been my Literary Agent for years (ok I hadn’t written anything successful since the kids had been born) but, she hadn’t even taken the time to sack me off herself. I hadn’t replied to the email because I was too scared to write anything ever again (god help me if I needed to write a cheque, a shopping list or fill in a letter for school) – and I was all manner of poignant-and-sad-song-lyrics about it!
I’d spent days in tears and I thought I was all cried out (thanks Alison Moyet) about the email, so don’t mind if I fall part, there’s more room in a broken heart (cheers Carly Simon). Nobody said it was easy (wise words Coldplay) but I thought I gotta write a classic – gotta write it in an attic (baby I’m a an addict now, an addict for your looove -thanks Adrian Gurvitz.) For me there’s only ever been writing and if I stop…then tell me just what will I do (bang on point Michael Jackson- Just can’t stop loving you!) Thinking about my former agent, she was trying to say something -I’m giving up on you… (A great Big World- Say Something) which made me irate and I wanted to yell you and me gotta whole lotta history (Thanks 1 D) and never mind I’ll find someone like you to be my agent eventually/maybe (what you said – Adele) but for now we’ve got baaaad blood (too right! Taylor Swift). OK, everybody hurts sometimes (REM, you are all over this) so I was lucky to have my husband Ted for support because when I look around me, and see a sweet life I’m stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight, (great words- Jessie J- Flashlight) and I definitely couldn’t get through this without Anna (local best friend)- when I’m with you, I’m standing with an army, standing with an army (gorgeous song by Ellie Goulding, Army).
If you read last week’s post you’ll know Anna was also reeling from some bad news. Her husband Ben was really moving out…..to the flat above the village shop & Post Office so he could remain close to their twin boys. He would also be conveniently placed for the purchases of exorbitantly priced chutney/preserves, rank frozen pizza slices and value custard creams. Unfortunately (for him) he might get collared occasionally by Miriam Ledgeworth the Post Mistress – perpetual ear shagger and waffle bore extraordinaire.
There was no getting around it, Anna and I were a big gloopy mess!
On Monday morning after waving Ted off (tearfully), he was going away for a week of working in Bristol (bloody typical timing) I took the kids up to school. The air was cool and dark clouds were sagging above the gloomy village, mirroring my dark saggy mood. I picked up Anna’s boys Miles and Marcus on the way, promising to return for a coffee after drop off. Ten minutes later, I let myself into her kitchen (in a Midsomer Murders stylee, apart from I wan’t going to kill Anna with a pair of garden secateurs) she was sitting slumped in the old kitchen wingback chair, hugging a cup of tea, and still wearing tatty pyjamas.
“How are you?” I asked, you know, when you are actually asking the question and not just using it as a greeting.
“Crappy pants, how are you?” she answered wearily.
“Big stinky, badly fitting, chewing-gum white skiddy PANTS!” I agreed.
Thing is, the world doesn’t stop for pants (stinky, bad fitting or otherwise) and neither of us wanted to be on our own feeling like old underwear so I stayed to help Anna. She had an order for a 21st birthday cake which needed to be picked up later that afternoon so we set about baking. I say we, I mostly just stood about ineffectually in a Cath Kidston apron passing her cooking impliments and crying. Anna wasn’t a cryer, it’s not her style, she’s more stoic and matter-of-fact but I knew she was hurting.
“I’m just going to stick the radio on – anything to drown out your blubbing,” Anna quipped.
Ellie Goulding came on the radio….when I’m with you, I’m standing with an arrrrmy. “You know Ellie Goulding is playing at Radio One’s Big Weekend, I’d love to see her live,” Anna mentioned idly.
“I think I’m going to cry again,” I admitted, biting my trembly lip.
“Could you do it quietly, I love this song.”
“The thing is I’m starting to wonder if I must be a crap writer,” I dry whispered snottily, picking up a teatowel to dab my eyes.
“You’re only a crap writer to Rebecca Langbourne, I bet there’s a tonne of other agents out there who’d love to have you……..at least you’re not a crap wife,” she added woefully.
“Yeah, there is that,” I deadpanned, which made her giggle and then flick me in the eye with raw cake mix. Oww. Surprisingly sting-y!
Later that day, when the children were home from school, Lottie cornered me in the kitchen as I rooted around in the back of a cupboard for the obligatory beige after school snacks.
“Mummy, are you ok?” she asked, eyeing me up wisely, “because your face looks really BAD! And blotchy and horrible like you’ve got a yucky disease.”
“Im sad, but I’m ok.”
“Why are you sad?”
“Because the lady who was supposed to like my book – doesn’t like my book.”
“Did you start it with ‘Once upon a time?’ And begin every sentence with a capital? “ she demanded expectantly.
“Maybe not,” I conceded quietly.
“So that’s where you went wrong! Now! Do you need a cuddle?” she added matter of factly.
“Hmmm, yes please,” she then squeezed my neck in a death grip and said far too close to my ear (you know when it’s so loud it hurts).
“You are a silly Mummy, I thought you were poorly and going to die of chicken’s pox,” she rolled her eyes theatrically, adding “can we have jelly for pudding?” before skipping off. Her 6 year old words resonated…..I hadn’t given them jelly for desert for ages…..no not that bit – the other bit. I wasn’t ill. It was just a book. And only an agent……………..dot dot dot and a few more dots for dramatic effect…..dot dot!
I was just weighing up the pros and cons of cooking a few extra fishfingers so I could have ‘dinner’ with the children when my phone buzzed with a text: Babs, Lorelle and I are coming over at 8:30, defrost that M&S party platter you’ve been hoarding since Christmas, we’ll bring booze.
They arrived on time in a noisy clatter bearing alcohol, nibbles and a big box of chocolates. Babs was already in fine voice.
“Let’s see this bloody email then!” she said marching up to my laptop and slopping her newly poured drink dangerously close to my beloved keyboard.
“Cor blimey,” she continued, shouting, “she doesn’t mince her words! Email the four chapters to me, Lorelle, and Anna and we’ll tell you if it’s crap or not. And Anna – I saw your Ben buying an over priced packet of Findus Crispy Pancakes in the shop earlier, looked like he was getting a right good ear-humping from Miriam. I give him a bloody month, he’ll be back!”
Lorelle who was reading over her shoulder, “Oh my gard, that email is like rilly offal,”she opined in her lovely American accent, and I don’t think she was talking about liver and kidneys.
So after that we didn’t ‘rilly tock’ about failing as a writer or failing as a wife because we had better things to do like plough our way through a large box of chocolates and my M&S party platter which I had been saving for a celebration. But actually this was a celebration of sorts. A coming together of friends and of solidarity and alcohol – we were working our way rather nicely through a delicious bottle of ‘Seaweed’ flavoured gin supplied by Babs (who works part-time in a posh farm shop). We didn’t bother with the tonic……
“Damn, this stuff is setting my mouth on fire,” giggled Anna after taking a big gulp.
“Oh my gard! I’ve got something that will set your PANTS on fire and cheer all your sorry asses up,” said Lorelle suddenly very animated indeed. She dived into her bag/purse and then fanned out four tickets with a dramatic flourish. “Surrrrrprise! Radio One’s Big Weekend – people! Tickets for all of us!!”
If you’ve got some song lyrics that mean something to you I’d love to read about them in comments.
And if you fancy listening to Army by Ellie Goulding, here’s a link.
As you were.
Note to myself: the one about feeling miserable and turning to friends for support.