Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


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OK, So, Twitter

I always knew that the Twitter moment would arrive, but, judging by my blogging/Facebook/online Scrabble addictions, I always thought it would be healthy to postpone it for as long as possible. Do I really need to have a Tweetdeck to obsess over? A whole lot of really interesting people to follow?

It seems the moment may have arrived. I’ve just finished reading The Year of the Flood, the second in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian trilogy and it is, of course, brilliant and exquisitely scary. I woke up at four this morning to finish it, listened to my dark house groan and had delicious shivers of fear. This morning, in the sunlight, I am both pleased and sad that I’ve finished it. Anyway, according to MaAt’s Twitter stream, she’s already working on book three. This is stuff I need to know!

So my Twitter questions are:

1. Do you tweet?

2. Is it worth it?

3. Have you used it for publicity and did that work?

4. Who are your favourite Twitterers and why?

Any and all comments much appreciated.


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Project: Thin, Grey Novelist

So my goal for this year, my 39th as it coincidentally happens to be, no smack of a midlife crisis in this corner, is to get fit, learn to accept my grey hair and finish my novel. I thought you might like an update.

Getting Fit

I am attending the gym regularly (three to four times a week), despite having been called a Teletubby by a fitness instructor. I’ve attended two more of his classes since then and he tore a strip off someone for being five minutes late, and the next time gave someone else a lecture for chewing gum in class (admittedly a dumb thing to do in an aerobics class). I clearly got him on a good day. I also do my circuit and am getting stronger, and can go for longer and faster on the treadmill and cross-trainer. I have only attended one spinning-class and I loved it, but have not gone back. I must because it’s a brilliant fat-burner, but I do get sore nethers.

Writing a Novel

I have just submitted my difficult and by no means perfect Chapter Four to my writing cheerleaders. Their job at the moment is to say “Yay! You did it! I love this bit.” Later on, when there is a full novel to read, they will be allowed to provide critique. I am now starting Chapter Five, which in theory should be a breeze because it’s a part I wrote three years ago, but we no longer have the computer it was on and I’ve lost the print-out, so there’s a chance I’ll be reimagining it from scratch. Also, I am planning a writing retreat on my own, probably in the Black Forest, sometime in June and I am very excited about that.

Going Grey

This part is going well. My hair is doing the job all by itself with no input from me. I had a moment in a department store in Karlsruhe when I saw a lady with multi-coloured hair like mine fixed into a rigid helmet with a pouffe-like thing going on front, and my mother-in-law had to forcibly restrain me from running into the nearest hair salon and shrieking for highlights. A couple of days ago I heard an insert on my favourite source of information, Woman’s Hour, that as more and more women of a certain age are refusing to go grey and are dyeing or highlighting their hair blonde, that blonde is becoming seen by the young (see how that ages me) an older woman’s colour. Young women now favour chocolate brown red and black as their hair colours of choice.

Well, mine is neither blonde, brown, red or black. It is, as you see below, stripey:

But, because I am growing up, I am happy about that:


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Musings from the Pool

In the last two weeks, I spent a lot of time here:

It gave me the chance to examine closely and at length other people’s bodies. Let me say this, there is almost no such thing as a perfect body. Flaws are everywhere. While looking at bodies large and slender, I was also able to examine my own weight madness. I think my attitude to weight is odd and skewed, coming as I do from a family who believe on seeing one another that it is acceptable to say things like, “You look like you’ve lost some weight! Last time I saw you you had buttocks like a zebra.” Or who like to fling an arm around a pregnant woman and announce to a group of 12 people that, “Charlotte will lose all this weight as soon as the baby is here.” Or who think it is helpful to say to a pubescent 12-year-old, “I see you have inherited the Von Mengershausen (read: Teutonic and large) thighs.”

As grown-ups we have to own our madness and not still blame our families for every single one of our failings, but having had such a fertile start, my twisted attitude to weight has grown apace like a feral and overactive vine. While I relaxed reading in a lounger stood in the shallow waters of the pool watching my small people cavort, there was a dialogue between my weight madness and my sane mind. It went something like this …

Weight madness: Fat people shouldn’t have tattoos.

Sane mind: Anyone can have tattoos. Even if I don’t like them much, it’s anyone’s right to decide how to decorate their bodies.

Weight madness: Oh God, look at the size of her. How can she bring herself to put on a bikini?

Sane mind: She is relaxing and enjoying her holiday with her family. Isn’t that lovely?

Weight madness: I’ve never seen so many fat teenagers. Look at that brazen one.

Sane mind: Yes, there are a lot of fat teenagers. Children nowadays have different pressures to face. It’s better that she’s out there having fun with her friends than cooped up at home feeling sorry for herself.

Weight madness: I wish my thighs were thinner.

Sane mind: I’ve had three children. My thighs are a badge of pride.

Weight madness: Yes, but look at my stomach. It’s gross.

Sane mind: My stomach could be a little trimmer.

Weight madness: I’d better lose all this weight before I go to Berlin in September. I don’t want (dear and accepting friend) to go back home to South Africa and tell everyone how fat I am.

Sane mind: She loves me for who I am not for the size of my thighs.

Weight madness: True, but she’ll still go home and tell everyone how fat I am.

Sane mind: South Africans are more weight-obsessed than anyone else I know. Look at all these happy fat Italians. They’re having a lovely time and no-one’s feeling self-conscious at all. I could let my stomach hang out a little more if I wanted to.

Weight madness: No I musn’t! I won’t be able to see my feet. I’m going sit down in the water so only my thin bits show.

That bit of internal insanity aside, here are the facts:

1. I am 10 kilograms heavier than I was when I left school in 1986.

2. When I left school in 1986 I had the beginnings of a food disorder, during which I ate an apple for breakfast, a Slim Slab for lunch and only the vegetables at supper. No-one noticed that I was not eating enough, and everyone congratulated me for looking so thin. The disorderette went away after about six months when my hunger thankfully returned.

3. There is a five-kilogram window in which my weight radiates up and down, depending on mood, season and hormones.

4. I wear the same size clothes as I did before I was pregnant. The clothes are sometimes a little tighter, sometimes a little looser.

5. My husband and my children think I am gorgeous.

6. I have never mentioned weight to my children. I tell them they are beautiful, and they are. My weight madness dialogue is completely internal.

Despite knowing all of the above, I still believe – when I am at wrong end of that five-kilogram window – that I am out of control and shameful. How mad is that? I sucked in all those weight messages my family sent my way like a thirsty camel hitting the oasis. The messages were thin = good, fat = bad; thin = good girl, fat = shameful girl; thin = stand up and be proud, fat = run away and hide and don’t come out until you’re thin again.

The sane part of me has completely accepted my Von Mengershausen thighs, but the weight madness stills scrapes away in the back of my head critiquing myself and those around me who dare to wear a bikini when they clearly shouldn’t. I need to send the weight madness for re-education, from whence it can come back a Beth Ditto fan, shouting “Love me, love my zebra buttocks”. Most importantly, it needs to look at other people and not run through an exhausting checklist of how they could look better. At best, it’s superficial, and at worst, it’s cruel.

Thin-propaganda free, I could relax a little more at the pool. It takes a lot of energy being mean.


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Five Things I’m Obsessed With

Courtesy of the lovely Bindi, here are five things I’m obsessed with:

1. Reading and writing. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. The two are caught up in a wonderfully symbiotic relationship – the more I read, the more I want to write; the more I write, the more I seem to read. I love the magic of words. I am obsessed with language, specifically my language, but also the hidden languages that we use to communicate, the undercurrents that cause us to say and not say the things we feel. I love losing myself in someone else’s web of words, and making my own. Words bring me joy, and a way to read and write my world.

2. A certain place on my husband’s neck, where he likes to keep his pheromones. Mmmm, delicious. My children also have gorgeous skin – smooth, warm and kissable. I love their taut bellies and silky necks.

3. Anything flavoured with lemon: yogurt, cake, ice-cream, rice, salad, vegetables, chicken, fish, calamari, hummous. Lemon brings me sunshine in my northern European world.

4. Finding a land to raise my children in that resembles my homeland as closely as possible. I am looking for: long hot summers, big blue skies, short mild winters, equal access to beaches and mountains, barefoot days, barbeques of an evening, local wine, the smell of lemons, minimal commuting, people who smile and are warm. Basically, paradise.

5. After giving the last decade to my family, I am starting to feel a little obsessed with my own growth and nurturing. I feel poised on the brink of a creative and spiritual journey that completely excites me. My youngest will start playgroup in September for three hours, four mornings a week. That’s 12 hours of dedicated ME time a week. Some of that time I will use for work, but some of it I want to reserve for my very own self. Please, if you notice me taking on too much freelance work, reign me in, scold me and remind to share some of that time with Charlotte. She needs it.