Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


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Happiness and Revisions

I’m still unpacking boxes but am gloriously happy in my new home. Living without a kitchen is interesting, but since I was the one who sold the concept to my family as a big adventure, I’m not allowed to complain. Let’s just say that once the cooking on camping plates and the washing up in the bath comes to an end, I’ll be even happier than I am now. Fit to burst happy. Disgustingly, floating on air happy.

I had more happy news about Balthasar’s Gift. My agent M works with a fabulous London literary agency who sell her books in the British market, and she sells theirs in the German market. A couple of agents read BG over Christmas and reportedly ‘loved it.’ They have asked for some revisions and after a call with them next week, I will be getting to it.

This is the third set of agent revisions I will have done since August last year. The road to publication is not easy! And ’tis filled with revisions!

However, I can see BG getting stronger and stronger and that makes me – you guessed it – happy.


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Small Glittery Things

This post is not about diamonds, though I am not above them. It’s about a scattering of small things that are bringing me joy right now. I only have to pick up one of them and consider its sparkle for a short moment to have a flash of happiness run through me. Let me elaborate.

I have just finished reading Maggie O’ Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. It is a perfect book, neither too long nor too short. It’s a delicate balance of flavours that sit gently on the palate, never hitting a strident note. Not too say it’s genteel, because it isn’t, but it’s subtle, disturbing and lovely. A gourmet meal of a book, that leaves you sated but not crammed.

I finished my novel on Sunday.  That would be finished again, for the third time, now with comments from beta readers. I have some further outlying beta readers who I may still need to canvass, but right now it’s being read by a friend of mine who’s a talent scout. I also pinged a partial to a literary agent and please hope along with me that I was not being premature. The sparkle in this case is the feeling that my baby is out there, trying to stand on its own two feet.

Two blog pals and I are working on reinvigorating our blogs. We are all veterans now and are putting our head together to think about ways to rejuvenate and find the joy in blogging again. Watch this space! There are changes afoot.

A wonderful graphic designer is helping me design a professional writing website (different from this blog and my putative author’s website). It’s time to put my business card out there. She has recommended that I have a business blog and I would relish ideas for topics from you clever lot. What would a freelance writer writing in English but living in Germany want to write about? One idea I thought of was how writing a novel has affected my business writing (a lot, I can tell you, especially this revision phase).

I found this website and this one, both full of quirky travel options. There I found Camping Les Ormes and I’ve just booked a week’s holiday for my family in a Kalahari safari tent. It’s in the Dordogne, so we won’t hear any lions roaring at night nor will we have monkeys stealing our food, but it’s a thrill. And so pretty.

The Orange long list is out today. That’s 20 new books by twenty fabulous female writers that I can put on my wish list. I’ve read Wolf Hall and The Help, so make that eighteen, but still!

I bought new black sunglasses and am walking around feeling like I have a new angle on the world. Feeling rather film noir, I must say, but in a good way.

In three weeks I go to Prague with my oldest and dearest friends, K and D.

It’s about to be spring. The Burg burnt the snowman on Sunday and what the Burg says, goes.

Wishing you happy Spring! May your lives be filled with glittery things.


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F is for Fifteen

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Married fifteen years on 1 October 2009

Tomorrow we celebrate 15 years of marriage and to celebrate, I’m breaking with the memoir theme to give you Fifteen Things I Love About My Husband.

He:

1. Makes me laugh, and finds me funny.

2. Buys cleaning products, and uses them.

3. Is co-dependent in the book habit.

4. Not scared of the gory jobs – anything to do with toilets, vomit, dead animals, he’s the one.

5. Let me win at Scrabble twice this week.

6. Cherishes our family life.

7. Loves and keeps up with his friends.

8. Found me at least eight of my best girlfriends.

9. Enjoys answering questions like “What makes an aeroplane fly?” and “How many seconds are there in a week?”

10. Makes a salad with as much flair as he cooks a steak.

11. Does all the crafting so that I don’t have to.

12. Is a wonderful mixture of dreamy and practical.

13. Recovered our dining-room chairs in three hours last weekend.

14. Has to leave the room during key scenes of The Office.

15. Is more hot and handsome than he was when we got married.

I love you my darling. Thanks for all the years. You are my one and only.


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The Joy of Being Older

I have been spending time with a friend who has an adorable nine-month-old baby. I love this baby for her cleverness and charm, and the sweetness of watching her discover the world. Being with them has brought home to me how my childrens’ baby time is over, and, while I loved it, how grateful I am to have moved on to the next stage. I am 40 and my youngest is four. I’ve just traveled with him to South Africa and Greece, and didn’t need to pack any special equipment – no prams, no special food, no nappies. He pulled his little roll-on suitcase and walked with his sisters the length and breadth of many airports.

I have spent the last ten years in dedicated service to small children. I adore my kids, and now I especially love their growing independence from me. I am no longer essential to their physical survival – any other kind adult could do my job. As they grow and shed their extreme neediness, I feel as if I have also emerged from a chrysalis. Their independence is perfectly matched to mine.

I spent all of last year in preparation for turning 40 in December, and then spent the next six months celebrating that birthday. It was a huge psychological turning point. I turned my mind to fitness, healthy eating and writing – doing things for me, my body and my psyche. At the risk of sounding smug, I feel as if I have arrived. I am not becoming, but being. And the best thing is, I have got at least 40 more years ahead of me to feel this way.

Today’s Observer has a brilliant focus on old age. The people they report on are extraordinary – a 98-year-old marathon runner, a 71-year-old yoga teacher, an 85-year-old sculptor – and what comes across is the fun they have in living. Of course, what  they share is the luck of good health, the fortune of living in the privileged West, but even so they have survived world wars, epidemics and economic disasters.

Here are some quotes:

For Mary, aspects of growing old are met with relief, even joy. “In a way, emotionally, you change back. I am freer now to feel intense excitement like I used to as an adolescent – being out of doors, for example, or listening to music. I somehow didn’t have time for that when I was bringing up my children and working full-time. I have been able to spend much more time with my youngest grandchild than with the older ones, and that’s been wonderful, too.” Jean Crossley, grandmother, 100

“Yoga can have a tremendous effect on you, whatever age you start,” she says, “but I find I don’t need to do much practice to keep supple, as my awareness of my body posture has become second nature over the years.” She reveals that yoga has a more meaningful message, too. “I’m aware of the fragility of health and that it can change without warning. So I always retain a sense of detachment – I’m not pleased with myself if I do a complicated yoga pose, I’m pleased for myself. You’ve never got life cracked. Yoga teaches you that.” Pam Horton, yoga teacher, 71

The key to a healthy old age, he says, is continuing to work and “doing something you like doing. You’re so much more likely to go on living if you’re happy, and making art makes us both happy.” London, where he has lived since he married Sheila 60 years ago, has been another important factor. “Old people are really a pain in the neck and one of the joys of living in London is that you see young people. You could isolate yourself and be less stressed, but one of the pleasures is seeing what’s going on.” Sir Anthony Caro, sculptor, 85

And for Fauja age isn’t even a consideration: “I do not consider myself to be old. From the moment I do that, I would lose everything, because age is a state of mind – as long as you’re positive you can do anything.” Fauja Singh, runner, 98

Apart from luck, the common denominator amongst these amazing people is joy. I’d risk saying that their wisdom, joy and pleasure in life has been partially responsible for their health and longevity. Their stories increase my belief that I have every chance of being a joyful 85-year-old yoga-practising writer.


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Where Was I?

Last night I was lucky enough to see these artists live on stage:

  • Tears for Fears
  • Kim Wilde (Cambodia, Kids in America)
  • Robin Gibb (Juliet, Saturday Night Fever)
  • 10cc (Dreadlock Holiday)
  • Denis DeYoung (Mr Roboto)
  • Angels in Harlem Gospel Choir
  • Musical comedians Igudesmann & Joo

Where was I?

The first to guess correctly and post their answer in the comments will receive a complementary package of Lindt chocolate from me, sent to anywhere in the world in time for Christmas.

While you ponder, please consider just how exciting it was for this child of the Eighties to see Tears for Fears perform this song live for me:


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10 Things My Kids Love About Germany

One of the posts that consistently gets hits here is 10 Things I Love About Germany. It contains reference to cake, walking, coffee shops and great holidays. Today, while sitting in a coffee shop and eating Schwaebsiche Apfelkuchen, I asked my children what they love about Germany, and this is what they came up with:

1. Berlin. The best city in the world, even better and prettier than London (where two of them were born).

2. Swimming in the summer and skiing in the winter.

3. The coffee shops serve very LARGE slices of cake.

4. Being able to speak two languages.

5. Lots of Italians live in Germany, so you get really good pizza and extra good ice-cream.

6. Having lots of friends who speak different languages (English, German, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Greek).

7. Going ice-skating in winter.

8. Our friends P and M who are kind and funny and let us sleep over at their house.

(Please note that the grown-ups love P and M too, for exactly the same reason.)

9. Kika – the children’s TV channel.

(The grown-ups love Kika too. It is advert-free and age-appropriate.)

10. There are lots of different sports you can do – cycling, walking, skiing, swimming, gymnastics.

Germany – the land of outdoor living, great food, wonderful friends and big cake. How can you not love it?


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Things To Do Instead of Writing

You can spend time with friends, with old friends, who because you haven’t seen them for so long, seem like new friends, and with new friends, who because you feel so strangely at one with them, seem like old friends. You can drink wine with them in the afternoon, share your kids with them, wander new streets with them, and make extravagant promises to babysit their kids, once they have some.

You can spend an entire afternoon in Berlin looking for the perfect dress. You can look for something whimsical and floaty, with tea roses and cleavage, that looks like Jane Austen wore it to a party where there was croquet and Indian tea, but finally buy a twenty-first century dress, a little edgy, a little sharp, but with its curves in the right places. Also with cleavage.

You can drive long distances, to places you never dreamt of visiting, take trains where your children press their noses against the windows, ride bikes around the city of your dreams, bump into pedestrians and mutter sorry in two languages. You can float down a river, or down a leafy path in the Tiergarten and hear the white wolves howl at the daylight in the Zoo.

You can read A Quiet Flame and imagine the encroaching horror of Nazism in Thirties’ Berlin, and then read No one belongs here more than you and be swept away into an imagination and a sensibility that leaves you shell-shocked, war-wounded, but glad to be alive.

You can eat the best ice-cream outside of Elba in a glass palace of shops and elegance, merguez sausages and couscous in a leafy beer-garden, white asparagus with hollandaise sauce in an achingly hip urban square and the best rhubarb cake you can imagine in the courtyard of an Italian restaurant where you are introduced to the chef and the hostess by name.

You can climb with your children to the top of the Siegesauele, admire them hanging upside down and learning to swing and slide by themselves in playgrounds, watch them falling in love with your friends and weeping when they part, and see them take part in their lives with such spirit and joy that you want to shed tears of your own.

Instead of weeping, you shout, “Who loves Berlin?” and hear them yelling back, “Me Mummy! I love Berlin! I love it! I do!”


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Things Left Unsaid

I’m shamelessly lifting this idea from Ms Bleeding Espresso (she lives in Italy and bleeds coffee!). It is a list of 15 things I haven’t said over the years to various people, for fear of hurting them or making them angry, but also out of embarrassment, shame or shyness.

Here is my list of things – thus far – left unsaid:

1. You were a shining light of talent and beauty; it still breaks my heart that drugs took you.

2. Of all the people I know in the world, no-one deserves a loving relationship more than you.

3. I wish you would stop yo-yo dieting – accept your beautiful body and get on with it.

4. You were a lovely, funny, delightful friend and I wish you weren’t lost to us. Oh, and I still have your book.

5. I am sorry for the situation you are in, but it is of your own making: if you try to control people, they run away.

6. You are a boring narcissist – go away and come back only when you are prepared to show genuine interest in other people.

7. Being infantile is not attractive in an adult: grow up. Also, you are not as wise as you like to think you are.

8. You need to show love in your actions – mild protestations are not enough. Right now, I’m not sure I believe you.

9. Taking anti-depressants will never remove your pain completely – you need to ask my forgiveness for the hurt you caused and then you might start to feel a little better.

10. Thanks for giving me the experience of loving a jerk early in life – it helped me learn what to avoid.

11. I think you have forgiven me, but I am still sorry for that bad thing I did to you long, long ago – it was cruel, under-hand and selfish of me.

12. Living with you is the great joy of my life.

13. Stop living in fear! Have the courage to be your authentic self, and make the demands that you require.

14. Please stop babbling at me in dialect. I don’t understand you and I don’t want to.

15. Being engaged is not the same as being married. Get married already.

That was cathartic! I can recommend it. If you decide to lighten your own emotional load, please let me know in the comments.