The Electoral Garden: Will You Vote Conservatory or Sun-Lounge?

Time was when UK Prime Ministers were decided on the playing fields of Eton, but the political landscape has changed. Gazing out of the window, I realise the battleground is much closer to home. I rarely get political, but now the election is literally in our backyard. Let’s take a look.

in the electoral garden

We all know what the conservatories stand for.

Vote Conservative

Sun-lounges are really the same thing, only with working-class aspirations.  There’s even space for a lectern these days.

Those might be the two main contenders, but there are plenty more. The Greens are, obviously, the greenhouse. Well, they call it a greenhouse, though it’s more of a glorified poly-tunnel. With a solar panel.

the Green Party

The gazebo embodies the Lib-Dems. Nobody’s sure what it’s for, but there are still a few seats in there. A couple of people are holding it down to stop the wind blowing it away completely.

If you go up the garden a bit, you’ll find the Wendy house. It’s small yet perfectly formed, and has everything anyone might want, twee tartan wallpaper included. 

UKIP have gone and got themselves some nasty garages.

UKIP

And you can’t go in. Especially not you. Or you. Oi, there are far too many of you. Clear off.

Plaid Cymru have got a kind of shed, called a penty, a bwthyn or a gollyngant or something. It’s a very nice comfy shed, if you don’t mind a little bleating. It’s just the sheep sheltering inside, see?

The Respect party is the makeshift garden swing. It’s out on a limb, some splits have appeared, and the rope looks a bit dodgy. But don’t you dare diss it.

tyre swing

The National Health Action Party have got the first aid tent, and the Monster Raving Loonies have bagged themselves the bouncy castle. Then there’s the potting shed, headquarters of the Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol Party. It looks kind of chilled, man.

growing pot plants

I don’t think there’s much doubt about this one. Dress the BNP up however you want. It will always stink.

outside khazi

Have you seen the chimenea in the corner? Nobody dares move the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition, so it still has its space on the patio.  There’s real fire in its belly, and if you get too close the coals spit at you.

fire in the political belly

There are others too, like the DUP, SDLP, Sinn Féin and the UUP across the pond. You can’t see them from here, though you can occasionally hear them.

Of course I couldn’t possibly comment on the real pros and cons of any of the parties. On May 7 you get to choose who will lead you down the garden path.

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Selfish Thoughts on World Book Night

No, I’m not doing anything for it either. Not giving out any of the 20 lovely books, or encouraging people to love reading. Nor (and thank you for reminding me it’s also St George’s Day and the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) even reciting random sonnets while dressed up as a dragon. Though it might have been fun.

St George

I’ll be doing something far more self-centred. Writing two more books, and hoping that at least one of them will be done by the deadline without my turning into a dodgy fabric merchant. The worst thing about writing is that you become a recluse, as my family often points out. My husband is hovering as I write, holding up that dragon costume that will remain unworn this year, just as last. I may look up momentarily and point out that St George, if he slayed the dragon at all, slayed him in Lebanon, not England, before returning to my work in progress.

The second worst thing about being a writer is that you run out of time for reading. But all authors love reading. It’s what made them write in the first place.

Kathleen Jones

So I’m pointing you in the direction of a celebration of reading by the authors of Outside the Box: Women Writing Women, with Jane Davis, Joni Rodgers, Orna Ross, Kathleen Jones, Roz Morris, Jessica Bell and myself, along with a guest spot from bookworm extraordinaire Peter Snell. It’s all right here on Jane Davis’s fine blog.

Happy reading.

Carol Cooper

 

Is There Such a Thing as Awesome Free Stuff?

Can you really get awesome stuff for free?

Course not, silly! As a smarty-pants friend always reminds me, the preposition ‘for’ is redundant here, and ‘for free’ is incorrect.  But I just threw it in for, like, free.

I’ll keep this short because you may need time to hunt for free stuff (see how ‘for free’ is correct here, Ms Smarty Pants?).  Here’s what I bagged this week.

1 The best thing was this bike, courtesy of a lovely friend of mine.

Universal Ladies' Bicycle

I hadn’t cycled since my teens, but, with a bit of encouragement, off I wobbled.  As well as the bike, I got three bonus bruises and a grazed elbow. Yep, this could be the gift that goes on giving.

2 Advice from a hairdresser.

Thanks to a cut-and-blow-dry on Wednesday, I’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge. Did you know acupuncture could cure hair loss? I got so much free info that I may have to start a new blog. Maybe haircourse.wordpress.com or headteacherblogspot.co.uk.  

3 Two free pillows from a bedding shop.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there was a snag. You had to be in Geneva to get them.

Geneva, Switzerland

4  The Indie Author Fair at Foyles.

It’s a free event at the iconic Foyles bookshop in central London, with loads of indie books, authors, and refreshments. Who wouldn’t want to be there? It’s on Friday April 17 from 16:30 to 19:30, so it’s still up for grabs. It’s unticketed, and did I mention it’s free?

Indie Author Fair 2015 at Foyles

Whether you go or not, you can also enter a free draw for a huge number of prizes, including an awesome digital swag bag from the OUTSIDE THE BOX team. It includes a novel, music, a printable “Reading is Bliss” poster, inspiring wallpapers for your desktop, phone or Facebook, and all manner of playful surprises. You can enter the draw right here.

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)See? There are awesome things to enjoy for free.

 

Is Researching a Book Better than Sex?

Some authors say that research is the best bit about writing. I’ve never believed that. What’s so great about spending long hours in the stacks at the library, or ages trawling the internet to find out what people had for dinner in 17th century Crete?

reference library

But now that I write fiction, research has taken on a whole new hue. I wouldn’t say it’s better than sex, even if in some cases it IS sex. Here’s a rundown of some recent endeavours.

1 Intel gathering for a steamy bathroom scene.

steamy bathroom scene

Is it possible for the earth to move while scrubbing lime-scale off the taps?  Everything had to be just so: a non-slip bathmat, a filthy dirty bathtub (this takes months), and of course the right bathroom cleaner.

Cillit Bang

2 The front seat of the Mini scene. If a couple feel inclined to bonk in their Mini near a lighthouse in Norfolk, can they do so without tearing an Armani suit or a ligament? We may never know for sure. Thanks, man who rapped on the window to say, “Ere, lost me mobile. Can I borrow yours?”

Mini Cooper S

3 The Gents at the hospital. There’s a scene in my work-in-progress where a character has to rinse his tackle in the loo at Watford General Hospital. I couldn’t do this one on my own, but the great thing about being married is all those vows. My other half is an honest guy, so he takes such things seriously.

However, it proved not to be so simple. The water was either freezing cold or boiling hot, and the hand dryers were at the wrong height. Besides, who’d actually dip his bits into a Dyson Airblade?

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

4 Undercover underwear work. Hopefully this quiet day would keep me on the right side of the law. St Michael may be the patron saint of underwear. They’ve even made briefs with the word Gentleman woven into the elastic, just like the Diesel ones say Diesel. But John Lewis has the range of men’s kecks I needed for my research. So there I was, checking out the feel and, more important, the scent of the fabrics used in boxers, briefs, budgie-smugglers, front-loaders, posing pouches and thongs.

Pierre Cardin knitted briefs

As I crumpled the waistbands and studied the gussets, I managed to side-step six shop assistants, or, as John Lewis calls them, partners. Unfortunately I didn’t spot one of my patients who was shopping for Y-fronts. He caught me with my nose up a pair of Calvin Klein trunks (low-rise, if you want to know). It’s funny, but he hasn’t made an appointment to see me since.

5 Bridge over troubled water. It used to be so easy to climb in and out of King’s College, Cambridge after the back gate was locked.

King's College Cambridge bridge (1819)

But what about now, after they’ve added extra ironwork as a deterrent?  As I found out, there’s a very real risk of losing your footing and falling into a deep and murky ditch, especially if you’re 40 years older than the last time you did this.

I tried to think calming thoughts.

Keep Calm.You're in Cambridge

This is hard when a couple of tourists are standing over you, offering to ring an ambulance. A passing medical student thought an air ambulance would be more appropriate. Perhaps he hoped Prince William might pitch up.  What got me out of the ditch in the end was a snooty college porter, incensed that I was doing my research on his patch.

6 An overnight stay in a bookshop.

bookshop

Luckily I didn’t have to do this myself, or enlist any of my family, as an American tourist did exactly that in late 2014.

Right. That’s it. From now on, I’m doing all my research on Twitter. Though I will miss my husband.

***

I’ll be at the Indie Author Fair at Foyles, Charing Cross Road on April 17, and so will lots of other authors. Why not come in, see their books, and maybe ask them about their research? The event is free.

Indie Author Fair