Six Characters in Search of a New Year Resolution

There’s something refreshing and renewing about making resolutions, especially as it happens only once a year.  Here’s what six characters I know have resolved to do.

Ex-con Dan lost a lot of life behind bars, so he wants to make the most of the new year.  Resolution one: he’s going to get a job.  Doesn’t matter what at this point.  Two: he’s going to learn a new word every day.  Useful words to help him go up in the world.  There are plenty of those in the dictionary he just bought.  Three: he’s going to find someone. prisonIt’s a long climb from where he is, but hey, one day at a time. One word at a time.

Her boyfriend may be perfect (he often says as much) but Harriet needs to get her own act together.  First, she’s going to hone her negotiating skills so she gets decent money for the articles she writes.  Second, she plans to break into the broadsheets.  Third, she’ll try to win her first ever journalism prize.  Hopefully this year there won’t be too many entries for the Carrot Consortium awards.  Then again, maybe she should just concentrate on resolution four: staying in the black.  She sighs and shuts her notebook.

GP Geoff is tired of New Year resolutions.  His patients never lose weight or stop smoking.  From January 1 he plans to focus on his own wellbeing. stethoscopeAs every medic knows, erectile problems are often a marker for heart disease or diabetes.  These days his dick is as limp as a lettuce, so he’s obviously on borrowed time.  Fuck it, that’s his resolution sorted.  He’s going to write a will so his ex doesn’t get it all if he snuffs it.

Laure has money, looks and brains.  Still she doesn’t feel beautiful inside, her home looks unloved, and there hasn’t been a man in her life for two years and three months (she doesn’t count Martin from the commercial property department).  The resolutions are writing themselves:

  1. Find someone special
  2. Stop being so critical of myself
  3. Make flat more welcoming.

self help booksThis may take a while.  And a few more self-help books.

Karen has big plans for the coming year.  She’s going to get out more.  Find a job (one that fits in with term-times).  Get her kids to stop fighting.  Buy from more upmarket shops (isn’t there a new Oxfam in Stanmore?).  Karen throws another Lego pirate into the box.  And meet a nice man, of course.Lego modelSanjay has whittled his resolutions down to one.  Beating cancer for another 12 months will do just fine.

If you want to know how it turns out, you can find out by reading One Night at the Jacaranda.

Have you made resolutions for 2014?   I’d love to hear what they are.

Advertisements

The 12 Quotes of Christmas

Right now you can hardly turn around without hearing the word Christmas, usually accompanied by lame puns on seasonal words like holly and merry, and the lazy journalist’s headline The 12 whatever-they-are, even if those particular whatever-they-are have nothing to do with Christmas.  Well, I’m not about to get left behind in this frantic festive scramble, so here are my 12 favourite quotes.  Just in the St Nick of time.

If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don’t, they never were.”  Khalil Gibran

“What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” Eldridge Cleaver

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Nelson Mandela

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”  Vincent van GoghMLK crop

“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Martin Luther King, Jr

“True friends stab you in the front.”  Oscar Wilde

‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”   W. Somerset Maugham

“I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.” Oprah Winfrey

“Stupid is as stupid does.”  Forrest Gump

“I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.”  John Cage

“You cannot predict the future.”  Stephen Hawking

and that’s why you probably didn’t expect this 12th quote

يوم عسل يوم بصل

This anonymous Arabic quote translates as “One day honey, another day onions” and I think it nicely encapsulates the bittersweet nature of life.

What are your favourite quotes?

The Day I Never Met Nelson Mandela

I want to brag about meeting Madiba.  After all, wasn’t I there in the photos, just behind the Spice Girls? Didn’t we do one of his little impromptu jigs?  And did we not shake hands that day in Brixton?  As I recall, I even helped Mandela hone some of his best quotes, like these.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

 If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Alas, the sad truth is that, unlike the rest of the world, I have no personal reminiscences of Mandela to share with you, broadcast, or tweet.

The closest I ever got was holding a placard.   It was decades ago, when thousands of students filled the streets and chanted ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.  Some were committed anti-apartheid campaigners, like the group who held a four-year vigil in Trafalgar Square, but others weren’t.  Looking back, a few of my fellow students probably had little idea of who Mandela was.  Still, it was a lot more fun than going to lectures.

I doubt many people imagined then quite how world-changing Mandela might one day become.   So is he the new Messiah, as some suggest? Mandela in Parliament Square

Until history answers that one, I offer several points of contrast:

There are very few buildings and streets named after Jesus.

Jesus never got married or wrote an autobiography.

Mandela wore amazing shirts.

While Mandela and Jesus were both keen on love, forgiveness, and food for all, there is no record of Mandela ever walking on water.  If he had, he might not have had to wait for the boat from Robben Island.

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.

A person dies twice:  once when their heart stops, and again when they are forgotten.   As long as we never forget this wonderful man and all he stood for, he will always be with us.

Mandela plaque WestminsterRelated articles

Seven Days as a Novelist

Thanksgiving Day 2013 and my novel comes out after spending years getting ready. 

front cover reduced

First cover of my novel

Day One is great:  congratulations arrive on Facebook, in cards and by email.   I don’t have a launch party but I go to Women in Journalism’s Christmas bash.   Everyone can see that I’m floating about 6″ off the ground.  That’s because I’m wearing red suede heels like these.

By Day Two, I’m seeing stars in the form of my first review.  Five stars to be exact, and from an author I respect hugely.  I tell all my friends, which means I post the news on Twitter.  Writers lose their real friends because they spend all their time writing. 

On Day Three I see a neighbour who wants to know all about my book. When I explain how she can buy a copy, for instance here, I get a blank look.  She asks “What do you mean, buy?”

It’s the Primrose Hill Christmas Festival on Day Four   The place is crawling with models, writers, actors, whatever (MWA, darling).  I don’t see any celebs out and about with their noses in my novel, but I spot these supermodels in their new winter coats.

Ruff & Tumble

Monday night is Day Five.   I attend the British Lung Foundation’s Christmas Carols by Candlight at St Pancras Church.  It’s a big occasion so I’m wearing THE shoes off the cover, not a stand-in pair.   Along with Linda Robson, Tommy Walsh and David Oakes, I read a poem. By now my book and I are feeling proper festive.  

jacaranda tree

But that day my elderly mother has another fall and can’t stand up.  I catch a flight out as soon as I can.

She’s in a geriatric hospital.  Her lipstick tells me she’s still fighting but the rest of her tells a different story.  She has severe osteoporosis and has broken several more bones.  They give her morphine which barely helps her pain.  You have to work up gradually to the right dose and we’re not there yet.  

The red heels have come off.  I sit by her bed and help her drink from a drinker, the kind my children had as toddlers.

This, now, is reality.  Fiction?  That’s just escapism.  But what a welcome escape it can be.