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Who would you invite to your dinner party? February 22, 2011

It’s an age-old question that has been asked for years in dinner parties around the world. There are those that scoff at this as a conversational crutch. But is it really that inane a question? I find it fascinating to find out who people would invite into their homes. I believe it gives great insight to a person’s interests, beliefs and values, especially when your friend tells you why they wanted to invite Deeta von Teese (whom you never knew they had a thing for) and they might surprise you when they give reasons for inviting Richard Nixon or Lenin. You achieve greater insight about friends, family and acquaintances if you allow historical and long dead figures to be included on the invite list.

So with that in mind, and assuming all partygoers would somehow be able to speak in a common language – lets say English – who would I invite to a dinner party and why?

Well, it’s a long list! Bearing in mind that you never get 100% attendance, I would invite a few more than I could comfortably accommodate.

1. Stephen Fry – for obvious reasons: intelligent, funny, full of interesting anecdotes, and I think a man who feels things deeply. No shortage of good conversations there!
2. Bill Bryson – again, intelligent, a great traveller with keen interest in the history of humanity and our planet, and a chronicler of people and anecdotes. I can’t imagine the conversation ever getting boring or drying up!
3. Professor Brian Cox – incredibly intelligent, a modern man, inspirational, passionate about some of my greatest loves- astronomy, physics, travelling, something sweet about him, funny and easy on the eye. My modern day hero. A must have dinner companion.
4. Charles Darwin – an amazing man, made a huge difference to our lives and our understanding of our planet, and yet in his later days a hermit and recluse. Curiosity drives this invitation, as well as a deep admiration. Conversations discussing how he came about his theories and his voyages would be fascinating.
5. Sir Isaac Newton – another world changing man whom I would love to bombard with questions and bathe in his brilliance!
6. Sir David Attenborough- another intelligent, fascinating man with a wealth of experience and knowledge, and a great story teller.
7. Meryl Streep- someone whom I think would be charming, intelligent, pasionate about her interests and a good conversationalist. An actress I admire, not least because she was a brilliant actress in two of my favourite movies (I have a few!) : Out of Africa and Bridges of Madison County
8. On the subject of Madison County, Clint Eatswood would also be on my guest list. What an interesting life he has led. I would like to ask him more about his days as Carmel’s Mayor, and more about his early days in film as well as his most recent. A fascinating person and most likely have some fabulous anecdotes and quips.
9. Alex O’Laughlin – currently in the TV re-make of Hawaii Five O, and before that in the vampire tv series “Moonlight”. This is where I begin to add a bit more variety to the guest mix. One of the younger guests, we share similar ages and homeland, grew up in the same city, and that’s where my knowledge ends. I know little about him except that he would definitely add a spark , and dare I say it, some levity and eye candy! I would defintely ask him whom he would invite to a dinner party, to get to know more about him!
10. Cate Blanchett- an enigmatic actress, hailing from my homeland, and I greatly respect her for the roles she plays. I think there would definitely be good conversational value there.
11. George W. Bush – yes, you read correctly! I mean the son! Purely for comic value…
12. Oh dear, yes I admit it, I would invite Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. irrespective of anybody’s politics, he has been in some interesting situations and has often been a major player in pivotal points of our recent history. I would want to delve into many of those situations to find out what really happened, (in a polite and convivial manner, after all it is a dinner party). He would undoubtedly be adept at the art of conversation and would not exclude anyone from his conversation, being a diplomat and politician!
13. Queen Noor of Jordan – I read her biography once while I was waiting for a plane at an airport. It gave me a new view on women’s roles in the Middle East , my view on what women were like there had been so stereotyped before then, as I had little else to go on. I admire her strength and character. With Queen Noor amongst the mix, more interesting conversations between our guests would no doubt ensue.
14. Socrates- the ancient Greek philosopher- for great deep and meaningful conversations- no doubt would cause a bit of friction and controversy between opposing points of view amongst partygoers- wonderful!
15. Akhenaten – the heretic pharoah of 18th Dynasty New Kingdom Ancient Egypt. he would answer some fundamental questions I have had since I studied Egypt at University: What did he REALLY look like, what was Nefertiti’s role, and what happened to them? Why did he really follow the controversial route he chose?
19. His ancestor Pharaoh Khafra from the 4th Dynasty would also receive an invite, and to him I would pose the questions – “How did you really build your pyramid?” and “Did you really carve the sphinx? How old is the sphinx really?”
21. Botticelli- my favourite painter – so much to ask him about the times he lived in, and the model that was his inspiration.
22. Leonardo da Vinci- all those inventions that he came up with- what fascinating topics of conversation.
23. Becoming more a soiree than a dinner party now, I could not go by without inviting Bono Vox of U2. Someone I have admired for years. I would ask him to do a spot for us, where he would sing with the amazing, powerful voice that was his trademark in the 80s and 90s. I am sure he would do it with good grace…!

I have many more on my “reserve list”, those who I wouldn’t want to spend too much time with but for whom I have a lot of questions…I think I shall leave those for another time!

So, would you come to my dinner party, and who would you invite to yours?

 

Bank holiday weekend August 27, 2010

My birthday falls on this bank holiday weekend so wisely, or not, my husband and I decided to go to the Brighton coast to celebrate. Well we are currently on the M25 in England and while it’s been a slow start – getting onto the motorway was a chore – things seem to be a little smoother now. I say this with caution as things can change at any moment.
Just in case, I have come prepared for a long journey – I have healthy snacks and bottles of water as well as an iPhone full of my favourite podcasts – astronomy cast and Prof Brian Cox’ CERN podcast – lots of music, plus TV series Wonders of the Solar System and my all time favourite movie Contact, should we be stuck for hours. I can’t read while in a car – I suffer from car sickness if I try so the iPhone has given me a fantastic solution to mundane hours spent in a car in a traffic jam. Luckily my husband doesn’t mind me putting on my podcasts through the car radio – occasionally!
I have also brought my writing notebook as my latest story is really starting to take shape. I just need to do a bit more research with regards to the universe, talk to a few experts and I should be well underway to creating an interesting new reality. Well, interesting to me anyway, which is all I aim for now! I am very excited about this storyline and my characters. I hope I do them justice.
Of course it goes without saying that I also have bought a new book to read. The first of the Maria V Snyder Opal Cowan ‘Glass’ series. I loved her Poison Study trilogy so I have great hopes for this next series.
My birthday weekend is shaping up to be the kind of celebration that only a geek like me could enjoy – lots of learning on my areas of passion, reading and writing with some wining and dining with Husband thrown in, and the obligatory trek to some historical buildings/ areas and walks along the coast and a spot of shopping. I am so excited. Here’s hoping the motorways behave!

 

Writing and Blogs – My Shame July 19, 2010

OK, I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. The truth of the matter is, my blog has been a victim of the London commute. It seems the only time I get a chance to write my blog these days is the few times I have been on a train on the way to, or returning from meetings, courses, exhibitions. It’s a great way to use up time which I would otherwise spend reading (not that there is anything wrong with that, I love reading on trains, in fact anywhere). The problem has been when I go to save or update my work on my iPhone, it always happens to be just as I encounter an Orange signal black spot, and somehow, rather than keeping everything I have written as a local draft, it just disappears into the ether somewhere never to be found or recovered again. It doesn’t even make it to my blog so I really am at a loss as to what happens to it. Nothing on my iPhone either. This is particularly frustrating because they happen to have been my best writing and reviews yet. I promise you, you would have loved it, or at least found it mildly relevant, perhaps even witty. Why? Because for some reason I find it easy to zone out on the train and concentrate on just this. No other distractions. Perhaps I should make a habit of travelling around the countryside on trains, never getting off, never looking out the window, just writing and making social commentary on my fellow passengers as appropriate – without being derogatory of course. That’s not my bag. I could even ramp it up and include writing my novel on the train, maybe finally get it finished in record time, and the other passengers could be my muses, my character and event inspiration.

Then it occurred to me. I am making excuses. If I can zone out on the train then I can zone out at home. All I have to do is be disciplined. I can do it when I work from home, why can’t I do it when I am creative writing? I need to lock myself away instead of trying to write in the front room with the television on, no more sitting in communal spaces where my husband can always find a reason to distract me from my writing – do my share of chores, friends to call or visit, dinner to help with, family duties to take care of and gardens which need tender loving care. The truth is, locking myself away when my house is not empty feels like I am being socially ostracised, like I may be missing out on something. The fact that it is through my own choice makes it easier for me to keep putting off the writing. I am the victim of my own nosiness and curiosity, my need to be a part of a social group, and unfortunately my need to create something wonderful, something I can leave behind for the enjoyment of others, just doesn’t have as stong a motivational pull at the moment.

It will come though, I know it will. I just need an impetus, a reason to knuckle down and then all the ideas floating around my head will come pouring out again into something that will be my magnum opus…though I will settle for a finished novella at this point!

If you have any exercises you use or any tips on how I can regain my lost momentum and motivation, I would love to hear it. How do you push yourself to write, what do you do to make yourself sit and concentrate?

 

Why is sitting down to finish writing a story so difficult? June 30, 2010

I don’t mean the very short, ten page type of story. They are often quick and satisfying to write, they come upon you on an inspiration and you write frantically, not stopping until that final sentence has been reached -the one that pulls it all together and makes you feel elated, like you have achieved something wonderful. Which you have, no one will deny that.

The kind of story I always have trouble with is the sort of story that I envision as a novel, or a series of novels. I have the plot structure- or at least a framework, I know how I want it to begin, I know the characters (well, most of them), how I want them to feel, to behave, what the inter-character dynamics will be, and how I want it to end, but to get to the end, there has to be a whole middle bit that I just don’t know how to fill. It doesn’t matter how often I try to write a chapter by chapter synopsis.

So currently I am only at my 62nd A4 size typed page and I am in danger of giving up. It’s not so much that I don’t have ideas, it’s more that I am at a loss of how to portray the emotions and significance convincingly. How to make my story mean something deep and honest. What I am most afraid of is that I will let myself and my characters down. They have already achieved great emotional meaning to me. I love them. I often think about them, especially my two central characters, but how can I transpose the life they have in my head to paper without them coming across as one dimensional and trivial? I want others to come to love them as I have. How do I turn day dream stories and characters into a written version and still ensure they retain their integrity? I always thought myself to be a decent creative writer. Lately I have been doubting myself.

Fear is what is holding me back and right now it’s winning the struggle.

 

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe May 18, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
This book was a joy to read. I had no expectations other than to be transported to another time and place – a pretty big expectation actually – and Howe’s book definitely did that.

The story revolves around a girl who has great academic career aspirations, she succeeds in her trials and gains a world-famous and respected mentor. Things are looking up until the day she discovers an old scrap of parchment and a key in an antique bible within her deceased grandmothers house. The quest to understand its meaning turns into a quest to understand herself and her roots, as well as the nature of the world around us, and a race to save the life of her new-found boyfriend.

A great book set in Salem present and the Salem of old. I loved that the book really told the tale of a whole Salem bloodline. The way the story jumps between times, bringing Deliverance and her descendants to life really vividly, whilst showing us that human nature has its inherent evil, and its redeemable good qualities, makes it a very involving plot line.

Great atmosphere and well worth a read. I finished The Physick Book if Deliverance Dane it in two evenings I got so involved in it.

 

Crazy Covers- romance May 11, 2010

The Future King's Love-ChildI stumbled across another contender for my books with crazy marketing today.

This one has a title which had me giggling for ages. “The Future King’s Love-Child”…I wonder whether this title actually helped sell the book?

I guess you wouldn’t be under any misapprehension as to the subject matter!

Oh, and the cover is pretty cheesy too – reminiscent of the 1980s and Dynasty!

 

Book review – The Infinities by John Banville May 9, 2010

I had high hopes for this book when I saw it in Foyle’s Bookshop in St Pancras Station. I have never read any John Banville books but the premise is brilliant – the ancient Greek gods are real and begin meddling in human lives once again, with one family in particular, resulting in a darkly comedic story. That sounded like something I would really enjoy.

However I didn’t feel that the book lived up to its promise. I found it slow going, and perhaps it’s a reflection of my personality that I didn’t come across any parts that I would call darkly humorous or even slightly amusing. There are sections that are described beautifully, in particular when following the past life of the comatose father, Adam Godley, who is such a large presence – positive or negative – within each character’s life. The depictions of Adam’s past and the narration by the messenger god, Hermes , putting up with his father’s whims and moods, are well done and the most enjoyable part of the story.

All in all a little disappointing, but nonetheless a well written book.