So, I didn’t post for a while. Big Soz. It was La Rentree, see. The French even have a word for it because it’s a big stress: all that going back to school lark, driving to drama clubs, preparing for auditions, having no less than twenty of Alfie’s mates round for COD wars, and being on committees absorbed all my attention.
So, as soon as I feel ‘better’ I am sucked into creative endeavors once more. My favourite idea years ago was to write a book called ‘My Animals and Other Family.’ Trouble is, I was so busy feeding and grooming and walking the Animals and Family that I never got round to it. Then when we suddenly moved to New York from a tiny hamlet near Saffron Walden I started scribbling down my experiences in a journal: ‘From Wimbish to West 64th.’ I did keep these crazed musings, which came in handy for later. I then had a go at babies’ books, writing some of a series called ‘Cave Baby,’ the adventures of a little Stone Age baby. (I see that this has now been written by somebody else.) My version was going to have nothing but baby talk in it, like ‘Ooh, wana flana gaba goo noo lala.’ I thought that would be a bit novel. Unfortunately I tried to illustrate it myself, and when Fred saw the picture of Cave Baby’s Mother squatting down to light the fire he laughed so much and for so long I was more than a trifle put off. Her back was a bit long and her hairy bits maybe a little too hairy, I admit.
Then when Alfie was about three we went on holiday to Greece and forgot to take any books with us. To keep our little bedtime routine, I wrote a chapter of ‘Alfie, the Wonder Boy’ or something similar every night. Alfie was a diminutive James Bond type of hero with his magic wubber wing, bow and arrow and other gadgets. He spent a lot of time rescuing ill mermaids and fighting pirates. Similarly on a later ski trip I made up several stories about Bashi on her magic sledge finding some little wolfies and coming across eskimos and yetis and things with her fwends. I also tussled for about a year with my Alfie Bett reading scheme. Alfie Bett is a teacher and the children in his class all correspond to a letter. They are all very naughty children and behave very badly. That one is still on the back burner so I’d better say no more in case someone else writes it.
However, one project I have stuck with willy nilly through thick and thin is the Tits one. It all started with me reading Bridget Jones’ Diary and feeling disgusted that every day Bridget was writing her calorie intake into her diary. Who gives a fucking fuck? I thought. Knowing the pain that anorexia has caused in some of my friends’ lives, I was saddened at the dangerous lunacy of it and filled with hatred of diets and all the ways in which Bridget was so silly and deluded. I suddenly wanted to write a book in which the women were like the ones I knew. None of them (except the baddies!) would totter around in high heels, or count calories, that was for sure. My women would get out in nature, go to festivals, play music, help their dogs have puppies, sit around fires, be surrounded by mess, have bare feet or boots. I wanted my women’s conversations not to be lost forever. I wanted to record us, the way we were, me, Levi, Nellen, Cheryl, Bella, Barney, Fred and all the others. I wanted to bloody well say whatever I bloody wanted to. Aaargh we’re all going to die, so what the tit does it matter type thing. I in one fell swoop lost my self-consciousness and did not care what people thought.
Another thing which forced me to start writing for real was that, when Bashi was very little, I read ‘Mad Cows’ by Kathy Lette. The first chapter made me howl with laughing. It was about a lactating woman who goes into Harrods. Her tits feeling increasingly swollen and hard, she takes a pack of frozen peas and pops them in her bra. She forgets the peas are in there so gets stopped for shoplifting on the way out. By the time she gets out of prison her friend has been bringing up her baby and has the kid enrolled in zillions of kumon and suzuki classes. Anyway, being a breastfeeding mum at the time I found all this such a hoot, but unfortunately after the first couple of chapters the book abruptly abandoned the subject of tits. I was leafing through desperately, looking for more tit-related jokes, but there were none. I was anguished. This led to my brain going ‘Ping!’ as I realised there was a MAHOOSIVE gap in the market. A book ENTIRELY about TITS, that was what the world needed. Ten tits a page I would promise readers.
So, having thought about it for a good few months, I started writing when Bashi was nine months old. By the time she was a year old, I had my first rough draft. She is nearly thirteen now, so I have been puzzling upon this theme for a very long time. About five months after that first draft I had tweaked quite a lot and sent off three chapters to various agents and publishers. Fred would come home and find me in bunny-boiler mode scrawling ‘SUCK DICK’, ‘FUCKING WANKER’ and ‘ARSE’ across rejection slips in red lipstick. He’s convinced I deal with rejection badly, which is absolute codswallop. I rewrote and tried again, and was rejected again. ‘Bastard Books’, bless em, were intrigued enough to read the whole thing, but decided not to pursue it. I kept rewriting. This meant that new jokes I had come across got added so the book grew into an unwieldy mass. I carried on tussling with it in the depths of the night. I got to know my baddies, developed back stories, added the whole Bodily Fluid Terrorists subplot and read creative writing manuals. Five years ago I got it together to self-publish with Trafford. This finally gave me peace and I found I was just happy it was out there, didn’t really care who read it and kind of forgot about it.
So a few months ago I got a phone call from a chap called Damon at Trafford in Canada. He was saying he wanted to send the book off to be developed into a trailer for Hollywood. I just laughed at him. Of course, you can’t help but think it’s a scam. Damon did not give up. He phoned up every week for months. The phone calls went like this: ‘Mrs Tingey, your book is so worthy of being made into a film. You would be mad to miss out on this opportunity.’
‘Damon,’ I would reply wearily, ‘The book is no longer how I want it. I would have to rewrite it and I really can’t be bothered.’
‘Mrs Tingey, just as it is your book is really very original. I highly recommend that you go ahead with our offer.’
‘Damon, my friend, you have not read the book so how can you tell it is any good? You just say this same stuff to everybody on your author list.’
‘No Mrs Tingey, you are wrong. My supervisor was advised by our specialist readers that your book will particularly appeal to women, that women can relate very well to what you are writing.’
‘Well your supervisor is wrong then, because it’s all out of date and he would know that if he had read it.’
In another call he assured me again that the book was great and would so appeal to women. I said ‘Damon, I am the only person who can make a film out of my book, because I don’t trust anyone else to understand who my characters are and what they would look like.’
There was a pause while Damon thought about this. ‘Do you have the expertise to make a film though, Mrs Tingey?’ he asked.
Ooh, good point. ‘No, I don’t. That’s true, but, look, Damon, I’m having an operation to chop off one of my boobs tomorrow, can you please just give me a break?’
He called again a week after my op and said he had talked to his supervisor about my cancer and they had looked up my blog and he believed even more that we should make the trailer for the book. ‘Women can relate to this story and to your personal story, Hester,’ he said. (See, we’re on first name terms now. We have developed quite a relationship.)
In the end after about ten of these phone calls I agreed to pay $900 for the trailer to be made. Trafford are (they claim) paying $600. I am laughing my tits off thinking ‘how are they going to do English Country Pub in Canada?’ And if they make my main team of women skinny and wearing heels and tights I will hit the flipping roof as I will know they have not bothered to read it. For $900 you would expect them to sit down and actually read it, wouldn’t you? Another thing that makes me hoot with laughter is the fact they are going to have to find fifty women prepared to get their tits out and have pumps attached to their nipples. You just can’t depict the ‘human milk factory’ without this image. I have so much fun picturing the film team getting to this part of the book (Chapter 1, luckily!) and the expression of dismay on their faces as they realise what is required, it makes my tummy muscles, such as they are, ache with spasmic giggles. Still, fifty women with their boobies out is nothing compared to say Quidditch matches and flying cars, so they should think themselves lucky. Fred is annoyed that they are doing it in Canada. He had wanted to be on the auditioning panel and possibly the directing team for the Hooters, the Fleshy Bagpipes, the Jugs, the Headlamps and the British Standard Handfuls.
I discussed it with Fred (seeing as the poor man did earn the money that we are about to burn) and we thought actually, depending on how they cope with the 100 tits of course, $900 seems quite cheap to make a trailer.
So then I get another phone call. It’s Damon again. My fwend! I know him so well now. We have banter. ‘Mrs Tingey,’ he says, ‘I want to offer you something very special which we offer to very few authors. It is a chance to have multi-faceted marketing for your book and maybe win a Gold Seal.’
‘If I get any more animals my husband will kill me,’ I quip. He doesn’t get it. ‘Oh, come off it, Damon,’ I scoff, ‘You offer this to everyone, don’t you? Let’s face it, you work for a company that tries to make authors feel good about themselves so that they pay out for things.’
‘No, Mrs Tingey, you are wrong,’ he says. ‘This we are only offering to you and to one other author, because we have had such a high recommendation about your book.’
‘Hmm,’ I say, flattered and softening fast though not believing him for a second. ‘How much would it be?’
‘Well, normally it would be $6000, but we would pay most of that, as we have so much faith in your work, so you would only pay $1300.’
‘Ha ha LOLZ, Damon, you must take me for a fool,’ I gasp.
Four phone calls later and he has worn me down. Thing is, the whole insane yet freakily wonderful boob reconstruction thing I have gone through, plus the enormously grand and sad palava with Kate our future Queen’s tits being photographed from afar and splashed around the world, plus the groovy ‘No More Page 3’ campaign on Facebook have all freshly underlined for me the ridiculous obsession that the world has with these fleshy mounds on women’s chests. And really, I am convinced that I have thought about the tits thing longer and harder than anyone else. (Apart from maybe the author of ‘Breasts’ which my friend Janet gave me the other day – it’s not fiction though.) I believe in ‘A Breast of the Times‘ or ‘The Boob Tube.’ There are many many jokes to be made about tits, and I have made them! Investment is surely the way forward.
And no time like the present, for if someone gets in there and makes my tits movie before me, I will be well miffed. Look at what happened to ‘Cave Baby’: it got written by somebody else! You know, about twenty years ago, Fred had the idea for I-Tunes. He was too busy with whatever job he had then, so apart from going on and on to me about the possibilities of downloadable songs every night, he did nothing. Several of his big ideas have ended like this. The moral being: don’t wait, just do it! I am off to Greece on Sunday for solid swimming and finishing of The Script. (this is not true as I am actually there already but wrote this post before I left! Am just editing after a few Greek style G n Ts. ) And then at the end of October I’m going to the London Scriptwriters’ Festival (again) to indulge in some speed pitching and script labs. The race is on.
Don’t tell Fred or Gwanny for God’s sake, but I have signed up for the Gold Seal thing. Shut up! Shut up! A Gold Seal can’t be as bad as those two fucking tortoises! Or naughty Whisky when it’s raining and he thinks it’s ok to crap under the piano. No, I know it’s daft, and they’ve probably nicked my money for nowt the bastards, but it all keeps me busy. We need projects in this life. And Damon is such a sweetie, I don’t want to disappoint him. Ahh Bleeeessss.
Shit have not had time nor inclination to tell all about Monday’s first Herceptin. Basically, tricky to find a vein but…..no discernible side effects, whoop whoop! Oh, and the Persephone trial randomised me onto the six months as opposed to a year. Great. I also found out that it’s £1000 a pop! Bloody Hell. I have to phone each time to say I’m on my way so they don’t waste any. It is truly magic stuff. Maybe will have to dump Persephone so that I get a year of it and can carry on this severe jittering loondom with no comedowns. Claire came round for lunch the other day and accused me of being high. She said she needs the drugs wot I am on. Just accept your lot and have gin, Claire! It’s almost as good. And when you come to Greece on Thursday you will see that the shots they give you are humungously thrilling. In fact, shots don’t exist. They just up the bottle and glug it into an enormous glass until it’s almost full, and add a derisory amount of tonic at the top. He he. Wicked times.
Reminds me of the time a few years ago we stayed in a slightly manky hotel in Corinth on the way from Athens to Lefkada. The kids went to bed and Fred and I stayed in the bar drinking Bailey’s, the ‘shots’ of which being again unbelievable pour-fests. And we had about three. Alright, about six. Maybe eight. Anyway, say no more, say no more, wink wink, nudge nudge, that was actually the best night evs! Does she go? Ooh, yes indeedy, she does! But Greece is like that. It just does it to you. Relaxes you deep down inside right from when you step off the plane, smell the thyme and are buffeted by the warm winds. If you have never been, do yourself a massive favour and book a trip now.