Thursday, 29 April 2010

So you live again

I need to apologise because many of you saw my update yesterday on FB and Twitter, complaining 'why can't dogs just commit suicide when it's time to go; dig a hole, fall in, die,' and correctly interpreted it to mean that Jessie was having another bad spell. And you have been full of sympathy and some of you are on tenterhooks to see if she's OK. And of course she is. So now I feel like a dog fraud - whatever is the term for Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy for dogs to get sympathy on a blog, I'm guilty of it. Sorry.

The background to it is that yesterday morning I came downstairs at 6 o'clock to find that the dog had done a shit on the kitchen floor and stepped in it, and then had collapsed and lain there waiting patiently for rescue. Her back left leg had been caught under her for however long she had been lying like that and it hurt her the whole day, she was restless, she was dejected, she was hobbling round like a shabbily upholstered milking stool. A friend who has known her since she was a puppy came to the house on Saturday. He hadn't seen her for a while and he cried when he saw her, though he tried to hide it from me. I thought maybe it was time to do the decent thing.

No-one wants to look back and think, Ah, yes - 29th April. That was the day I had my dog killed. Who wants that kind of responsibility? I don't. One of the reasons I never got very far in the corporate world (and by 'corporate world', I mean once I had a couple of sour-faced stints as a temp in a bank), was that whenever I had to fill in one of those profile personality questionnaires that are as easy to fake as the quizzes in Jackie magazine, when it got to the bit about 'would you like more responsibility?' I never faked it. I always ticked 'no'. I have raised my daughter well, I help the homeless, I give money to beggars, I have done my bit. Who in their life wants more responsibility? But apparently that's the wrong answer. ('I cope well under pressure' is also considered a better answer than 'God, no! I hate rushing around trying to finish everything at the last minute.' But then this is an environment that favours people who stay late and look busy, not those who are efficient and get their work done on time.)

So anyway I booked Jessie in to see the vet this afternoon. If you don't have a pet, you may be reassured to know that vets' receptionists hate the general public just as much doctors' receptionists do. Their redeeming feature is that they love other people's pets, but unfortunately this, in turn, only makes them more hostile towards you, as they naturally assume that, compared to them, you are an inadequate care-giver.

Hence, when I phoned to say that Jessie wasn't very well, the receptionist looked at her records and said, 'Well, she is seventeen.' And I (perhaps rather defensively) took this to imply that she thought I was spinning out the dog's life for an unnaturally long time purely for my own selfish pleasure. And so I said, yes, maybe it's time to despatch her. To which the receptionist replied, in sibilant disbelief, like a Bond villain, 'dissspatchhhh?' And I said, well, maybe not despatch... And the receptionist said, 'Shall we book her in for a checkup, then?' And I said, Yes, let's do that.

The word 'vet' is one that Jessie knows, so she has spent the whole day pretending to be perfectly OK, like the blind forger in The Great Escape - Oh look, is that a pin on the floor? - and if she wasn't quite juggling and walking on her hind legs and chasing the neighbourhood cats, she did at least fall over a bit less than she usually does.

I did have the 'do you think it's time to...?' conversation with the vet, who said, so long as she's happy - by which he meant, so long as she's not off her food - she may as well be allowed to live. I would have liked to have a metaphysical debate about when is a dog no longer a dog - after all she can't do any of the things she used to do, like going for long walks or catching frisbees, or barking or jumping or standing upright on the kitchen floor. She just sleeps all day. She's more like a cat - not that I'm advocating euthanasia for any creature just because it behaves like a cat. But my car was on the parking metre and you know what the traffic wardens are like in Wandsworth, so I didn't .

I suppose I knew before we went in that I would come back out with her all in one piece, and still breathing (albeit with that prawn cocktail scent on exhalation that older dogs get). And I did, together with another bottle of Metacam ('large or small?' said the vet, who admitted she was looking 'bedraggled'.) Oh what the hell. I opted for the large one.

We're back home now and she's doing her cat thing and looking sweet, and I'm singing that song I always sing to her which I have mentioned on here before when she's had a reprieve: So you live again.

Monday, 26 April 2010

A Writer's Life - pitchy, plinky, suffled

Bad things:
I'm supposed to be writing a pitch document but I keep getting distracted by Randy Jackson's catchphrase on American Idol, 'kinda pitchy', which pops into my head as soon as I start to type.

The keys on my computer keyboard have started to make a genteel plinking sound, like Scrabble tiles knocking together. This only happens when I try to do any work, which makes me wonder if it's a sign that I ought to stop.

Good things:
I have just finished the first draft of a short play and I'm really pleased with it. When inspiration flows, I'm reminded of a label on a bottle of water I bought in Albania when I visited the country a few years ago. It was written in Albanian and English. The English translation read, 'Suffled how it gush.' I must look it out from my box of treasures and scan it and put it up here. I think that 'suffled how it gush' was meant to mean that the water had been bottled at source, but, for me, it's a joyful expression that only comes into my head when the writing is going well, and then it sums up perfectly how I feel.

Kev's Legs

I wonder if you could spare some change so I can buy a packet of chocolate biscuits? Oh, thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. You're ever so kind.

Just go here, to TygerBooks, to download a copy of one of my first two novels as an ebook. Alternatively, you can buy both Alison Wonderland and Being Light from

Yes, if you know him, those are Kev's legs on the cover of Being Light. The picture was taken on Lamma Island about seven years ago. It's one of my favourite photos of all time.

Zoo Shame

News of yet another animal suffering at a zoo. The Independent reports that a pregnant Siberian tigress has drowned at Banham Zoo in Norfolk. The animal had been used for breeding at Banham Zoo and, rather than reflecting on the cruelty of their breeding programme, staff are reportedly eager to get hold of another: 'We are in contact with European stud book co-ordinators to find a suitable replacement female,' said zoo director Martin Goymour, who also told the BBC that 'keeping livestock means facing up to animal old age, injuries and unexplained tragedies.' He didn't acknowledge that there would not be any unexplained tragedies if zoos didn't 'keep livestock' and display them for the entertainment of a paying public.

I find it extraordinary that zoos and animal circuses are still permitted to operate in this country. According to The Independent, charities minister Angela Smith recently denounced the concept of zoos, describing them as 'relics of the Victorian era'. I wish the government would close them all down.

According to the BBC, Martin Goymour said that the tigress's partner was 'not implicated' in her death. Well, no. Mr Goymour and his staff are responsible for her death.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Money Under the Mat Update

Regular readers will recall that I put a coin under the doormat on 1st March to bring good fortune into the house. Has it worked? Well, if you're of a logical, rational turn of mind, no. Of course not.

But for the rest of you, here's what has happened:
I got commissioned to write a short play
My daughter got engaged to be married
I sold 150 digital copies of my book, Alison Wonderland
I was offered a new calling plan by BT so that I can ring friends and family abroad at cheaper rates
Could it work for you? I have no idea. I'm afraid we have to consider the possibility that the location of the doormat is in some way enhancing the power of the coin under it. So if you really want to maximise the return on your money, all you have to do is send it to this address and I will put it under the mat for you. Remember, the larger the note, the greater the fortune, although we'll have to put a ceiling on it so as not to anger the gods. Anything up to £50 per reader should be OK.

It must be time for another wordle

Wordle: Helen Smith blogHmm. Maybe I need to start talking about more weighty matters on here. Remember when the wordles for this blog used to be full of words like writing, poetry, theatre? (OK so I think it was 'I hate theatre'. But still.)

Wordle: Helen Smith author websiteI have also updated my website:
That's a bit better. At least it includes the words 'Helen' and 'book'.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Theatre Commission and Bushgreen

I have been commissioned to write another short play for The Miniaturists which will be on at The Arcola in London, 20th June.

I joined the Bushgreen theatre site when it was first developed but I hadn't got much further than uploading my photo. However, in celebration of my Miniaturists news I have now completed my profile and uploaded a copy of the Miniaturists play I wrote last year, Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange. It was directed by Gordon Murray and featured Hilary Hamilton, Stephen Billington and Mark Gallagher. It got great reviews here and here, and if you'd like to read it, it's now available for members to download for £1.49 from the Bushgreen site.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Things I Talked About This Weekend

Things I talked about with varying degrees of vehemence when I was drunk over the Easter weekend, even though I know nothing - or next to nothing - about any of them:

LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari

Is anyone on LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari? I'm on all three.

Please say hello if you're on there.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Mill Street Jazz Band

My dad's jazz band has a new website here and a Facebook fan page here.

They're called the Mill Street Jazz Band, they're based in Dorset and they play weddings, carnivals, fetes, parties and pubs.

Please check them out and please join the fan page if you're on Facebook.