Sunday, November 21, 2010

Honest Scraps

Well, I am thrilled to announce that Lori Walker, over at her wonderful blog, has awarded me an Honest Scrap blog award! Recipients of this award are supposed to post a list of ten honest scraps of information about themselves. I realize that a list is not really in keeping with the storytelling format of this blog. However, a few of the following honest scraps are almost little stories unto themselves, some of which I may tell properly one day, so I hope you will all bear with me and not ask for your money back.

So, ten things:

1) Something I wish I were brilliant at, but in fact do quite badly: playing the guitar.

2) Something I had no interest in, but turned out to be brilliant at: breaking a concrete breeze block in half with my bare hand. At least, I was brilliant on the one occasion I attempted it, in a college karate class. The trick, I was told, is to aim at a point just beyond the target, rather than at the target itself—a zen-type bit of instruction whose wider applicability is uncertain. I’d like to say that no one was more amazed than I by my success, but I think that the 40 or so men in the class—who had not managed to break their blocks—were more amazed. Oh, if only more moments in life were as thoroughly satisfying.

3) During that same phase in my life, I was stood up on a date by fellow student David Iglesias. He went on to become United States Attorney for New Mexico, and was then fired by the Bush administration in a move that was later ruled to be politically motivated. David had asked me to an ice hockey game but then apparently forgot he had, and went without me. I’m not saying he deserved to get fired. I’m just saying: um…David? Ever heard of karma?

4) A sight I love: when the sun catches and illuminates some single feature of the landscape, against a background of dark, stormy skies.

5) A sight I hate: well, I'm not going to say, specifically. This is a fairly common sight, one that most people are entirely comfortable with. I won't elaborate because (a) I am so horrified by this particular thing that I don't want to discuss it and (b) I don't want such sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

6) In 1984 I spent a few minutes crawling around on the floor with Cyndi Lauper, while the Top of the Pops director Michael Hurll shouted into my headphones: “Where is she? Where is she?” Cyndi and I were in the hallway outside the studio where the show was about to be recorded, but the immediate concern was that she had lost her Barbie doll earring. I’d love to say that I found it, but no; for all I know that earring is still there, having lain under some radiator in the dark and dust all these years. Cyndi went on stage with only a dozen or so other earrings, and blew us away with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

7) I once took second place in the North Wales German verse-speaking competition. Maybe I could have come back to win it the following year, but we shall never know. A fire at my boarding school necessitated a move to a new school building in Bedfordshire, where there was no German verse-speaking competition! Upon request, I can still recite the first stanza of “O wunderbares, tiefes Schweigen” by Joseph von Eichendorff, in a prize-winning manner.

8) I have sailed from India to England (twice!) on a ship. The first time as an infant, the second time old enough to have a costume (Jill, of Jack and Jill fame) for the ship's fancy dress parade. I've sailed through the Suez Canal, pausing to ride camels in the desert. I only wish I could remember it all. Perhaps it was all that sailing that prompted this...

9) In my early twenties I blagged my way onto the crew of a sailing trip across the Channel to France, by implying that I actually knew how to sail. I then rushed out and bought a book called “Start Sailing!” so as to not make a gigantic idiot of myself. It turned out I was the only member of the crew who never got seasick, with the result that I ended up being asked to take the helm...on my own...before I had finished reading the book! I did not sink the boat even once, though the skipper never invited me back. He thought that, for a woman, I was entirely too uppity.

10) In a quiet moment on that trip, I shared with a friend my dream of becoming a writer. I told her of a particular writer who inspired me, and said I hoped one day to write the kind of books he did. As kindly as possible, but quite sincerely, she said I could probably learn to write as well as him, but the difference was he actually had something to say. That conversation still haunts me.

In next week's story, perhaps I will have something to say.


  1. Number 10! YOU have something to say. Your stories, your LIFE are/is so interesting. Certainly, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Also, numbers 3 and 5: hilarious! Thanks for sharing. It's fun getting to know you better.

  2. Number ten: I'm gonna stone-cold slap that guy.
    As for everything else, you are brilliant.

  3. Lori, thanks for that reassurance. Unfortunately, I've lived with that first assessment for a very long time, and it has lurked in the background for a very long time...

    Malhibou: it was a girl who made the comment, in reference to a male writer I admired. I guess I didn't say it very clearly. But thanks for your willingness to resort to violence on my behalf!

  4. FUN to read and even fun-ner to think there might be longer stories to further illuminate some of these. Most especially the sight you cannot stand to see. :>)

  5. about #10 - It is she who should be haunted!

  6. I'm curious...Will you ever share "the sight (you) hate?"

  7. Andrea, considering the person in question, I feel confident that she has long since forgotten the conversation. But thanks. :)

    And Chris, one never knows. I find it revolting to speak about and even (I discovered when typing) to write about. Maybe I'll get Mark to explain it to you. He's used to that.