Spelling those words since the early 80s / Purveyor of fine lines

I’ve had a busy old life so far: packing quiches in a refrigerated factory in blue plastic shoes, painting theatres at the Edinburgh Festival just so I could get free croissants from a daily breakfast show, photocopying tenancy agreements for Charlie Brooks (Janine from Eastenders), selling books to customers who insist 1984 was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and working in publishing for nine years. These days, I slave over a hot desk as an author and freelance copywriter.

Get in touch here to find out all the glorious words I could pour right into your brain.

It's Nice That

Oh Happy Day

The Bloggess

Yoruba Girl Dancing

You Are My Fave

What I'd Wear

I am a Leaf on the Wind

Gravity

The fields are filled with sunflowers, but we leave before dawn so get past most of them without being seen. I loathe those creatures. At best, they’re a forced jollity, a Chuckle Brothers prettiness with lipstick smudged round its mouth and a novelty balloon in one hand; at worst, by late August, they are fields and fields of blackened, charred children, berated, punished, burnt and sorry, their bowed heads just begging someone to forgive their cindered little faces, unable to even meet your eye.

The fields are filled with sunflowers, but we leave before dawn so get past most of them without being seen. I loathe those creatures. At best, they’re a forced jollity, a Chuckle Brothers prettiness with lipstick smudged round its mouth and a novelty balloon in one hand; at worst, by late August, they are fields and fields of blackened, charred children, berated, punished, burnt and sorry, their bowed heads just begging someone to forgive their cindered little faces, unable to even meet your eye.

I remember only after I’ve booked it that trente-deux kilometres seemed trop loin pour nous paddle, last time we came, but it’s too late now - they’ve enquired if I am French, admired my accent, and there’s no way on earth I’m asking for the shorter route. 

It is a long way, and we are in a tiny minority in our single kayaks (and thus have half the potential speed as our two-man colleagues), but I am fast, and I am strong, and the paddle feels familiar in my hands, and I do not even want to stop for lunch but I feel it’s not really in the spirit of going on holiday with someone if you just keep leaving them behind. 

Towards the end, we pass a naturist beach, and every single canoeist ahead of me is fascinated by one figure on the beach, and as I get closer I see it is an apple-breasted woman, waiting with a buggy just like she’s waiting for a bus, waiting with infinite patience while some of our fully dressed paddlers bicker amongst themselves on the beach where they are not permitted.

I remember only after I’ve booked it that trente-deux kilometres seemed trop loin pour nous paddle, last time we came, but it’s too late now - they’ve enquired if I am French, admired my accent, and there’s no way on earth I’m asking for the shorter route.

It is a long way, and we are in a tiny minority in our single kayaks (and thus have half the potential speed as our two-man colleagues), but I am fast, and I am strong, and the paddle feels familiar in my hands, and I do not even want to stop for lunch but I feel it’s not really in the spirit of going on holiday with someone if you just keep leaving them behind.

Towards the end, we pass a naturist beach, and every single canoeist ahead of me is fascinated by one figure on the beach, and as I get closer I see it is an apple-breasted woman, waiting with a buggy just like she’s waiting for a bus, waiting with infinite patience while some of our fully dressed paddlers bicker amongst themselves on the beach where they are not permitted.

I have brought all the wrong music. I have brought PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea; an Elton John Best Of which *doesn’t* contain Tiny Dancer; a White Stripes album which is so soaked in New York memories it’s as if I’m insisting on a bagel and lox from the boulangere; and the sole summery album in the car, wedged at the back of the glove box, an old Nelly Furtado CD, made in the era of claggy, spray-on, William-Orbit-esque over-production which renders much late-90s-early-2000s pop unlistenable. I really need some Solange. Or some Sia. Even some Lana del Rey, and we can pretend we’re crossing the blood-lust wasteland of American states.

So we drive in silence. 

And it’s *wonderful*.

I have brought all the wrong music. I have brought PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea; an Elton John Best Of which *doesn’t* contain Tiny Dancer; a White Stripes album which is so soaked in New York memories it’s as if I’m insisting on a bagel and lox from the boulangere; and the sole summery album in the car, wedged at the back of the glove box, an old Nelly Furtado CD, made in the era of claggy, spray-on, William-Orbit-esque over-production which renders much late-90s-early-2000s pop unlistenable. I really need some Solange. Or some Sia. Even some Lana del Rey, and we can pretend we’re crossing the blood-lust wasteland of American states.

So we drive in silence.

And it’s *wonderful*.

Sometimes clichés are lazy half-truths perpetuated by a handsome-sounding rhyme, and sometimes clichés kick around for so long because that truth just keeps coming around and reminding us with a humble shrug, Nope, still true. 

French food, man. French food. 

Even the humblest service station serves us tender, spiced ham with a rich Marsala gravy. At the grubby supermarket a few kilometres down the road, the saucisson sec and the fromage du chèvre are enough to make a grown woman keep eating hours after she is sated. And the bread. Oh, the bread. As we sit down to our breakfast each morning, golden crust and airy, tangy, chewy innards fresh from the boulangerie, I think (as best I can) of the final sentence of Jeffrey Steingarten’s essential essay on bread: “And on good days, we eat nothing else.” Jeffrey, I know *exactly* what you mean.

Sometimes clichés are lazy half-truths perpetuated by a handsome-sounding rhyme, and sometimes clichés kick around for so long because that truth just keeps coming around and reminding us with a humble shrug, Nope, still true.

French food, man. French food.

Even the humblest service station serves us tender, spiced ham with a rich Marsala gravy. At the grubby supermarket a few kilometres down the road, the saucisson sec and the fromage du chèvre are enough to make a grown woman keep eating hours after she is sated. And the bread. Oh, the bread. As we sit down to our breakfast each morning, golden crust and airy, tangy, chewy innards fresh from the boulangerie, I think (as best I can) of the final sentence of Jeffrey Steingarten’s essential essay on bread: “And on good days, we eat nothing else.” Jeffrey, I know *exactly* what you mean.

Nous allons à la rivière aujourd’hui, en route to which I discover possibly my most annoying habit yet: reading out loud all the French signs. Worse, and more bafflingly, I have to do each one in a different, strange voice. Miel, in a hoarse growl; Les Chevals, in a giddy high-pitched squeal. 

At the river, the beautiful Euro-women have pouched, puckered stomachs over their bikinis which match mine, and I feel completely contented, even with the children jumping into the river from 60 feet up the cliff face. When there is a particularly painful sounding water-landing, the whole river bank applauds in that sarcastic French way. The noise I took for distant thunder at first is actually plastic canoes scraping over shingle in the echoing gorge, and when we’re in the water, we must dodge the canoes and paddles, as we have better speed and versatility than many of their pilots. 

My lunch is pa amb tomàquet, my mother’s go-to summer lunch, warmed in the sun for a few hours. Its olive, salty smell is the most summery scent I know, more than cut grass, more than sun cream, more than anything. It is my mother making several baguette’s-worth of Catalan goodness for me and my sisters and pushing us back into the garden. One day I might even give you the recipe.

Nous allons à la rivière aujourd’hui, en route to which I discover possibly my most annoying habit yet: reading out loud all the French signs. Worse, and more bafflingly, I have to do each one in a different, strange voice. Miel, in a hoarse growl; Les Chevals, in a giddy high-pitched squeal.

At the river, the beautiful Euro-women have pouched, puckered stomachs over their bikinis which match mine, and I feel completely contented, even with the children jumping into the river from 60 feet up the cliff face. When there is a particularly painful sounding water-landing, the whole river bank applauds in that sarcastic French way. The noise I took for distant thunder at first is actually plastic canoes scraping over shingle in the echoing gorge, and when we’re in the water, we must dodge the canoes and paddles, as we have better speed and versatility than many of their pilots.

My lunch is pa amb tomàquet, my mother’s go-to summer lunch, warmed in the sun for a few hours. Its olive, salty smell is the most summery scent I know, more than cut grass, more than sun cream, more than anything. It is my mother making several baguette’s-worth of Catalan goodness for me and my sisters and pushing us back into the garden. One day I might even give you the recipe.

Half way through my fifth book of the holiday, and I’m no longer able to tell you which day of the week it is. The number of hours we are both awake is in the single digits. I’ve even started making my usual assessment of ‘in a zombie apocalypse, how long should/could we stay here?’ Which I suppose is my brain’s way of saying it’s having a good time.

Half way through my fifth book of the holiday, and I’m no longer able to tell you which day of the week it is. The number of hours we are both awake is in the single digits. I’ve even started making my usual assessment of ‘in a zombie apocalypse, how long should/could we stay here?’ Which I suppose is my brain’s way of saying it’s having a good time.

I am taught basic differential calculus on our drive down, and when I fall asleep here on the sofa after a three-hour lunch of cheese, with one bent leg somehow balanced on top of a stiff cushion, I dream that I must calculate how to find a new father, that there is a new father waiting for me in one of the tiny dark doorways I must get my unanswering long limbs to visit. I think of the maths teacher telling me at eleven that Maths Is Everything, that anything may be calculated if we only know the variables with which to begin, and the two novels I’ve been reading today metastasise in my brain to shape my dreams into airless, endless puzzles to which the answer is “the Father”. 

I might eat fractionally less cheese tomorrow.

I am taught basic differential calculus on our drive down, and when I fall asleep here on the sofa after a three-hour lunch of cheese, with one bent leg somehow balanced on top of a stiff cushion, I dream that I must calculate how to find a new father, that there is a new father waiting for me in one of the tiny dark doorways I must get my unanswering long limbs to visit. I think of the maths teacher telling me at eleven that Maths Is Everything, that anything may be calculated if we only know the variables with which to begin, and the two novels I’ve been reading today metastasise in my brain to shape my dreams into airless, endless puzzles to which the answer is “the Father”.

I might eat fractionally less cheese tomorrow.

Warm rain most of the day, which means I must just eat cheese and bread while reading under a blanket on the sofa. The horrors. 

Three days of radio silence from my mother and I was imagining the worst. Just temperamental technology, it turns out. Isn’t it always.

Warm rain most of the day, which means I must just eat cheese and bread while reading under a blanket on the sofa. The horrors.

Three days of radio silence from my mother and I was imagining the worst. Just temperamental technology, it turns out. Isn’t it always.

We’ve taken le péage, mais je n’aime pas le péage avec les personnes, par ce que je suis sans culottes, partly so I can epilate while J drives, partly because it’s so damn hot and I somehow put on my thickest trousers to travel. Don’t stare at me, buddy, I’m just trying to pay your damn toll. 

When we get to our destination the sky is lavender and lilac and peach, the same shade as the flowers by the pool, colour-matched perfectly, clouds darkening to distant booms over the hills. I walk from the shallow end to the deep end over and over, pretending to be the men in Under the Skin.

We’ve taken le péage, mais je n’aime pas le péage avec les personnes, par ce que je suis sans culottes, partly so I can epilate while J drives, partly because it’s so damn hot and I somehow put on my thickest trousers to travel. Don’t stare at me, buddy, I’m just trying to pay your damn toll.

When we get to our destination the sky is lavender and lilac and peach, the same shade as the flowers by the pool, colour-matched perfectly, clouds darkening to distant booms over the hills. I walk from the shallow end to the deep end over and over, pretending to be the men in Under the Skin.

Vader in German means father. His name is literally Darth Father.

—Keep thinking of this Pitch Perfect quote as we drive along, for some reason. Sniggering quietly to myself.