Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Stick with what you know...

A little while ago, i read 'Hotel Babylon'.

I'd seen it on the telly, thought it was ok, but never got round to reading the original book.

Bearing in mind that i have been in the hotel industry, on and off, for over 20 years, i could certainly identify with a lot of it.

I've worked in hotels where i've had to send the chambermaids off on a cockroach inspection before guests were allowed to their rooms.

I've had the fun of finding photographic equipment set up for a porno shoot in a luxury suite.

I've had to track down some weird and wonderful things for guests late into the night, including a brace of pheasants for a couple who were checking out at 11.00pm, a particular brand of dog biscuit for a woman who had no dog with her (never did get to the bottom of that..), and a video (remember them?) of a particular episode of 'Dallas'.

Thank God there was a chambermaid who had taped every single one.

The book did venture periodically into what the Rich and Famous would ask for while staying in hotels, and it got me thinking about the famous people i met while working in the industry- how i had to 'be' with them and how now, if i meet well known personalities through Sy, i have to remember that i'm not in the industry anymore.

Sy went to drama school with Alexander Siddig- gorgeous fella, who has been in 'Deep Space Nine', 'Syriana', 'Spooks', 'Hannibal' and most recently, BBC1's 'Merlin'.

The first time Sy took me down to his house to stay, i wasn't sure how to 'be'.

My hotel training was niggling at the back of my mind, as on previous occasions of meeting somebody like this was in a hotel, and it would be my job to keep a check on whether there was anything they needed.

I totally lost it when i met his father.

He's a lord.

I dragged Sy to one side.

'How am i going to cope with this?' i hissed.

'What do you mean, Sprouty?'

'Well, they keep plying me with drink and food that i can't even pronounce-i'm way out of my depth. I keep thinking i should offer to clean their toilets...'

Sy laughed.

'Just be you. You can't go wrong.'

So, that first evening wore on...and i was treated like a lady (I want to be treated like that forever!), and these two wonderful men couldn't do enough for me.

After dinner, the conversation turned to the Arts- what else?

Sy, Sid (because that's what everyone calls him) and his lovely father started talking about Greek Tragedies, good old drama school, books i'd never heard of and the such like.

I knew now i was way out of my depth.

So i stuck with what i knew.

I got up, went to the sink, and did all the washing up.

Well, there comes a point when everyone shines...

Happy New Year to all you lovely followers and to everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings.

Let's hope 2009 is good to us all.

And if you haven't had a good look round the site recently, please do take a couple of extra minutes to see what's changed.

And if you would be kind enough to cast a vote for whether i should interview my writer, i'd be really grateful.

Please keep the question suggestions coming in- some of them are fab!

Till next year,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xxx

Friday, 26 December 2008

In the (christmas) spirit...

Thank God for that.

The stress and worry is now over for another year.

Don't get me wrong- i love Christmas on the whole- and i'm always the first one up, every Christmas morning.

This year it was a 6.00am start.

The stress and worry was because i didn't know for sure whether i would get Sy away from his computer long enough to eat Christmas dinner with us.

This year, for the first time ever, we had friends to join us. We used to visit family, but that was even more stressful, as we spent half the day in the car, and had to eat two full Christmas was always the sprouts that finished us off.

So, the day started nicely- i got up, made the vat of coffee, opened the bottle of scotch and fed the cats.

I woke up Darling Daughter (can you believe, i have never, ever had her wake me on a Christmas morning- not even when she was little... can't decide if i am blessed or i have bred a mutant strain of a child. Whichever, there would be many parents who would kill for the gene, i'm sure.)

I woke up Sy, told him it was Christmas (see earlier post regarding waking The Writer up) and finally, we were all downstairs opening the presents.

This year was fab- loads of books (of course), mountains of hand-cream (yet to see if any beat udder cream), bottles of Champagne (have hidden most of these until a book sells) and several tins of scottish shortbread (Sy had told nearly everyone that he liked the pictures on the tins- i hope to God he eats all the bloody shortbread and Darling Daughter only do chocolate hobnobs.)

As we opened presents, i could see Sy furtively looking towards the computer.

I could see he was trying to work out whether he would manage to get on it and do some work while i was cooking the dinner.

And i worried about this.

Because i knew that if he went on it, even for five minutes, that would be that.

No Sy for Christmas dinner.

So i was ruthless and brutal. Just for once.

'You are going to help me in the kitchen today' say's i.

'But you never want me in the kitchen at Christmas, Sprouty' came the plaintive reply.

'Well, i do this year. We have friends coming...remember? There are things i need you to do.'

Sy came into the kitchen and sat forlornly at the table. In fact, he looked so dejected and lost, i broke a kitchen rule, which is to never allow a book at the table.

Once he had one of his new books in his hands, he was much happier.

Dinner went well, the friends came and went, everything was tidied up and that was that.

But Sy was still itching to go online.

I can't blame him really- His stuff on Authonomy is doing really, really well, and he was missing his friends on the forums ( now he's discovered them, he keeps banging on about them. I nod and smile and, inside, scream that i know how fab forums are- how does he think i've kept myself occupied all these years while he's been writing?)

I figure by late afternoon, it might be safe to let him fire his baby up.

But, horror of horrors, the internet security package has expired.

On Christmas day.

And to be fair, we knew time was running out, but you know what it's like....

'You can't use it' say's i.

' i know. i might lose everything...' say's Sy, looking ghostly white.

'We'd better leave it till tomorrow..' say's i.

'Yes' say's Sy, while twitching quite furiously.

What i didn't tell him until this afternoon, was that we can have free security off the web, if you know where to look.

I did think about telling him earlier, but i was enjoying the fact that my husband was actually talking to me properly.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

King Arthur moves forward...i think.

As you know, Sy has had His 'Arthur' book out in the publishing ether for quite a while.
But, with the sale of books in general being a bit precarious at the moment, Sy has decided to try and give it some publicity, in the form of the Harpers Collins Authors site;

He posted details of the book five days ago, and the result has been pretty phenomenal.
Although publishers are doing there damndest to scramble away from manuscripts, it would seem the lovely readers and other writers of the world are not.

Sy's book 'Commanding Youth' has shot up the Authonomy charts in five days, to the point where it is number 4 on the weekly list, number 1 on the biography list and number 1 on the history list.
Out of over 4000 manuscripts, he is in the main chart, as i write, at number 139.

This could change at any moment of course....and not always for the better.
On the upside, this has given him a real boost- there are people out there who want to know about the real 'Arthur'.
But of course, there is a downside.
Sy has alway's said that he would never go on any forums.
Well that's all changed.
Because Authonomy has a brilliant networking forum on it's site.
Lot's of new virtual friends, who are supportive of his work.

And just you try and get him off it.

if you get a minute, go and check it out.

And in the meantime, i'll see if i can pull Sy away from it long enough to take the scraps to the compost bin.
Yes, love, that means you.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Why The Writer drinks and i don't.

Massively busy week.

Although i'm sure there are women all over the globe up to their eyes in it at the moment.

One of my ladies is in hospital and it's looking a bit on the black side for her....Broken elbow has turned into being fluid on the lungs and no mobility at at all, so lot's of hospital visits.

Another one has a husband with Alzheimers, so i'm trying to keep an eye on them too.

There's more to being a housekeeper than you think.

Christmas shopping, presents, decorations, family visits...the list goes on.

But i have parties this week.

In fact, i have one this afternoon.

But it's the one i had two days ago that concerns me.

Because i can't remember an awful lot about it.

Indeed, whereas in younger days, memories would come back in dribs and drabs, like some kind of daytime knightmare, and i would just have to cope with each horrific thought as it smashed through my head, these days i have to rely on others to fill in the blanks.

And all this because i chose to have a drink.

There is a group of ladies that meet up once a month where i live- a bit like a WI, but without the jam and Jerusalem.

There are about thirty of them, and i would say about 90% have lived in the area only for a few years.

Now, i have valiantly tried to avoid getting involved with this group, as i'm not terribly keen on the whole 'My house is bigger than your's' thing.

But i have finally been cornered, asked to join ('We need new blood...' bloody cheek) and so off i went to the grand Christmas Dinner at the new village hall on Tuesday night.

The wine was free.

Loads of it.

and i seemed to be the only one drinking the bottles of white.

Maybe i was the only one drinking...

The Piscean in me took over, and i went for it.

There are only two things that i can remember from the night.

1. Discussing last years Father Christmas (of course, i wasn't there, but i know him, he's a bloody good looking bloke- if only i'd joined this group earlier...)

I wanted to know why we weren't having the same fella this year (apparently he was just to scared to come again).

2;I remember the new Father Christmas coming in, and recognising him at once.

He doesn't like windfarms, and as you lovely readers know, Sy and me are all for them, and there is a big hoo-ha going on about the plans for ten of them being built around here.

Well, with copius amounts of the vino on board i took it on myself to make him as uncomfortable as possible.

I didn't want to wait for my turn in the queue, so i staggered over to him, shoved the woman who was sat on his knee off, sat on him, and told him i wanted a huge wind turbine for Christmas.

I think it all went a bit quiet at this point.

'Why don't you have a dig in my sack?' he mumbled.

'And why would i want to do that?' says me.

'I don't think i can get you a turbine..'He wheezed (well, i was still bouncing on his knee).

'Well, you're not much of a bloody Santa are you? The least you could have done is set up in the sideroom, and i'm sure all of us would have paid good money to have a lapland dance from you.'

I wonder if i'm onto something there...?

I was smartly tipped off his knee, resumed my seat, and had a small round of applause off my fellow wind turbine supporters (we have to sit together- safety in numbers.)

I'm hoping over the next few days friends will come and tell me about the rest of the night.

Once i've been the topic of gossip for a day or two anyway.

And no, i'm not drinking this afternoon...

This one is for you Charmaine!

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper. x

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

At last...There are others like me.

Brilliant programme on tele last night.

Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe.

Sy loves this, i can only assume, because it hurls scorn on the world of television.

I watch it with him, if only to keep an eye on The Writer, and make sure he doesn't die of a coronary while he's either laughing or jumping up and down in agreement with what's being said.

Last night it was about writers.

Russell T Davies, Tony Jordan, Graham Linehan (ahhh, go on, go on, go on. Don't you just miss Father Ted so much?) and Paul Abbott.

So i had my hands full, i can tell you.

Sy had told me once, that one of his projects had gone head to head with a project from one of the above mentioned.

And seeing as all the above you will have heard of, you can guess what the outcome was.

The programme was brilliant though. Loads of interesting stuff, and as i watched it, i knew my Writer was not really that mad.

I'm going to change that.

it made me realise that all writers are as mad as each other.

That's better.

Tony Jordan talked about writing his 'Dot Cotton' monologue for 'Eastenders'.

He went to his study with a bottle of Bacardi, a bottle of coke and forty fags.

He said how he wrote and drank and smoked and at 4.00am, he was woken by his wife Tracey, bringing him a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.

He came too, smeared in dribble and fag ash, having been face down asleep on the keyboard, and realised he had finished the piece.

Been there, done that, seen it time and time again.

But what stuck out for me, the moment i knew i wasn't alone, was when he said that his wife brought him food and drink.

At 4.00am.

And i knew that i wasn't alone.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

People i would never had met, had i not met Sy- Number One.

One really fabulous thing about being the significant other of a succesful writer, is that i get to meet people off the telly.

Not very often, but when i do, it's a real experience for a sprouty like me.

People who, in a parallell world (ie, if i had not met Sy),would still just be people off the telly, and i would just be watching them, thinking, 'I wonder what they are like in real life?'

The first well known face Sy ever introduced me to was the actor Neil Pearson, he of 'Drop the Dead Donkey' and 'Booze Cruise'.

Sy knew him from 'Between The Lines'.

Now, i'd lusted after this man for some time...Sy knew this (well if he didn't he does now- sorry darling, you know it's you i truly love, ....) and when he told me that Mister Pearson was in theatre close by to us and would i like to go and see the show- well i couldn't get there quick enough.

Sy had a script that he wanted him to have a look at, so we would go back stage after the show to say hello.


Out came the incontinence knickers again, in case i got too excited, i had me hair done and went on a crash diet for a day, that left me no thinner, but on the loo a lot.

The show was a bit rubbish actually but i couldn't wait to meet The Man.

As you know, i am one hell of a thousand a forty words a minute, and although Darling Daughter can top two thousand, i can still hold my own.

As we scurried back stage, i wondered what we would talk about.

I Knew i would have to calm down a bit- talking at the speed i do, The Man would just stare at me and possibly question Sy quietly as to how he ended up with a mad woman from the country...

Finally, there he was in front of me.

Looking a little smaller than i had imagined.

And i shook hands with him.

And Sy and Neil were talking like old friends, Sy gave him the script and they caught up with what each other had been doing.

And i couldn't utter a word.

Not even a sound.

Not one syllable.

So that was that.

I was soooooo pissed off with myself.

Can you believe- a moment to shine, be witty and interesting...

and i blew it completely.

The next day- back to normal, doing the ironing and thinking about how feckin useless i had been the night before.

Life is going on around me- Homework, tea's cooking, neighbours rowing through the wall.

I can't even be bothered to get the phone when it rings.

Ironing is just too important (being a Housekeeper an' all.)

Sy comes home from a scriptwriting workshop he had been running.

'Guess who rang me about a script.'

'Surprise me', say's i.


'Neil who?....Oh God- not Neil'.

'Apparently he rang here first, but he only got the answerphone, so he phoned me on the mobile instead....'

At which point, i put the iron down, unplugged it and went and sat down.

And since that day, a few years ago now, i have only used the iron six times.

And each time i have used it, i have had the phone swinging from a piece of rope attached to the ironing board.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Trust me, i'm an expert...

Last night, i watched the second part of a BBC2 Horizon doumentary entitled 'How Mad Are You?'

A group of people, half of them with a diagnosed mental health problem, lived and worked together for a period of time and were watched by three experts in mental health issues.

The idea was to see if the experts were able to tell who, in the group, had the mental health problems.

At first they seemed quite confident in their findings- but the more they got to know the group, the more it seemed to throw them- and indeed, they ended up diagnosing three out of the five wrongly.

Now, this got me thinking.

What makes an expert, an expert.

I looked up the meaning in the dictionary.

'Having special skill at a task or knowledge in a subject.'

I then looked up 'expert' in the thesaurus.

'Skilful, experienced, practised, qualified, knowledgable, specialist, professional, proficient, adept, master,masterly, brilliant, accomplished, able, deft, dexterous, adriot, apt, capable,competent, clever, well-versed, wizard, ace, crack, top-notch.


The word i'm still wrestling with is 'qualified'- because one meaning of it is 'make legally entitled'.

'Legal'- Of or based on law.

Please bear with me....i'm going somewhere with this.

I thought i might try to apply this to Sy's writing.

As you lovely people who read my posts on a regular basis will know, Sy has one book out with publishers about King Arthur- how he was actually a Scottish prince, who his allies were, where he was born (and concieved- can you believe he's found that information?' where he died, and most importantly, where he is buried.

And none of it has anything to do with Cornwall.

Another book is about Shakespeare's involvement with the Gunpowder Plot, his murder and who his illigitamate son is - that's nearly ready to send to his agent.

Some questions;

Does the fact that Sy has gleaned a lot of his information about these two men from other sources, apart from books, make him less of an expert?

Does the fact that Sy has not got a doctorate in Shakespearean or Arthurian studies, or whatever they call these things that you leave university with, make his findings any less believable?

Am i right in thinking that these studies are all done from books that have been dragged out, time after time, year after year, with the same information ( old information, that could be wrong, but because it is taught by 'experts', it must be right?)

I might be hauled over the coals for this one....if i have any readers with PHD thingys in the above, do let me know what universities do teach you, and what you research from.

If Sy was put in a room with half a dozen experts on the above two subjects, would his findings be believed, if the audience didn't know who the experts were?

And, if publishers want to see your work, how for F**** sake, do you make them see that your findings might just be the missing link on both these men, but because you haven't got a university PHD doctorate whiz-bang up-yer-bum all singing all dancing piece of paper to verify that you have read books in a classroom, they don't think you are qualified enough to publish.

All in all, Sy has been studying both these subjects for over twenty years.

That's a damn sight longer than any feckin' uni degree.

Now i'm going to go and lie down for a bit- my head hurts from thinking too much.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Blow the wind southerly...or easterly, or northerly...

Big news in small village (actually villages, three of them).

We are in line to have a wind farm built.

We have had meetings.

The communities in each village are split.

If it all goes ahead, we are to have up to 10 turbines, each being of about 125 metres tall.


Sy and me are all for it.

But we are rapidly losing friends along the way.

But then, so are many others.

By some random act of random things, we had a BBC journalist come knocking at the door a few nights ago. Sy asked him in, and it turns out he works for the 'Politics show' and was looking for three people to take to a wind farm in Wales, to film their thoughts on WF and then air it on Sunday.

Sy was off like a shot. Couldn't wait.

So, he's come home tonight loving them even more.

I asked him if any blood had been spilt- after all, he was with the woman who has organised the action group against the development.

He tells me they were all terribly British, and there were no fights or name-calling.

I feel terribly deflated by that news.

We asked Darling Daughter what her thoughts are on WF. After all, it's for her future.

She is all for them.

' I want to have electric in twenty years time, and if we need to generate it from wind turbines then so be it', she announced.

Sy nods.

'I can see where you're coming from- well done. But i think we are going to need more than 10 turbines. Those 10 will be needed just to power your hair straighteners. How many are going to be needed to power everything else that's up in your room?'

She still isn't talking to him.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Who the hell am i?

When i was a little sprouty, i had a famous dad.
Not famous in the conventional 'i know you, you're on the telly' sense.

More like ' i know you- your dad took me to school'.
My dad was the most famous coach driver in the whole of the West Midlands- he would always put Radio one on in exchange for a cache of Mars Bars, and had been known to strap children to the roof rack, if behaving too badly.

I am not joking- you wouldn't get away with that these days....bloody health and safety.
Any how.
I was always 'The Bus Drivers Daughter'.
For years.

Time moves on, and i'm ok with this.
Then my sister, who is younger than me, gets much louder than me.
And suddenly it's 'i know your sister- she used to have that pub in town didn't she? And she used to work 'The Doors'- chucked me out of many a club, she did'.


Now, My lovely dad passed on a few years ago, so i don't get 'the Bus Drivers Daughter' bit so often...and lovely sister has settled down and quitened down, so i thought i could finally be me.

I went for a meal with a goup of ladies from the local villages recently- at least half of them are newcomers, and didn't know me.
I was intoduced to a few.
One woman pipes up;
'I know you!'
I smile, thinking she must recognise me from amateur dramatics or at some point, she has seen me staggering from one house to the next, laden with mop, bucket and feather duster.

'You're married to Sy aren't you- he always performs the most brilliant Tam O'Shanter on Burns Night.'

So- Sy has made his mark.
And instead of being 'daughter of' and 'sister of', i am now 'wife of'.

And bearing in mind that this is where i have lived almost forever, and Sy has been here all of five minutes (well, eight years, but it's the same thing in village speak), you can imagine.

I am pretty pissed off.

till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

sing for your supper...

Darling Daughter has gone off to beat the hell out of several full grown men (aka Kick boxing), and Sy has gone off to band practice.

A couple of hours to do as i please.

I do like it when Sy has band practice.
Several reasons.

1; It means he gets some fresh air (even if it's only the walk to the car.)
2; He gets to interact with some other blokes, real men. (Not that Sy isn't what i'd class as real man- i mean they are real blokes, as opposed to the imaginary ones that are wandering around his brain when he's writing. I'm not sure i'm explaining this very well...)
3;I get to watch what i want on the telly.

Sy is the singer in the band. And he can sing really well.
Drama school training, i'm sure.
The band has done gigs in school halls, clubs, pubs, marquees and even in a sitting room one new years eve.
I try to support him, and go to all the gigs.
Mainly in the capacity of 'holder of the voice products.'
No room in the handbag for the usual stuff- everything is tipped out onto the kitchen table and replaced with throat spray, honey, cough sweets, lyric sheets and a small tambourine (i ask you..)
The band has quite a big following and a gig can last anything up to four hours (depending on where and who the audience are.)
I can remember when i was a young'un, going to see bands and falling in love with the singer- such stage presence-i think every teenage girl was the same.

These days, i can go to a gig, watch the singer belt his heart out, and know he's singing to me.

And i can say, without fear of being labelled a slapper, at the end of every gig...

I get to sleep with the singer.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Monday, 27 October 2008

Town mouse, country mouse.

The very first present i ever bought for Sy was a pair of wellies.
He'd never needed any before.
But i knew he would never cope with the cowshit and the floods if i didn't deck him out with the proper kit.
More recently i have invested in;
A garden fork.
Organic slug traps.
Thermal pants.
All for the writer, who actually does seem to like gardening.

Weirdly, it would seem that he prefers to work in the garden barefoot.
That will soon stop seeing as the temperature is now dropping below zero.
At least i hope so- i don't want to be looking in the garden every morning for frost bitten toes- i've got enough to do as it is.

I can safely say that Sy has adapted to country life as much as i can hope for.

Which is more than i can say for me, if he takes me to london.

I am totally thrown if we go there.
The first visit, i didn't even know how to open the train door.
Fancy that..not even being able to get out of the bloody train.
Several things attract my attention every time i go there (with Sy- I would NEVER venture there on my own, EVER).

1. The lack of bins at the train stations.

Sy informs me this is because people can and have hidden bombs in them.
Can't get my head round the fact there are no bins.

2. The amount of 'adverts' ( i use the term loosely) for escorts in phone boxes.
We don't have that sort of thing around here.
Phone boxes, that is.

3. The fact that you can turn from any busy main road in london, into a side street, and you would believe that you were in a different area can really be quiet.

4. The fact that you can eat out after 9.00pm at night.
Everything here is shut by then apart from the kebab shop that shuts by 11.00.

5.The Underground.

Ye Gods.

The first time i put my ticket in the machine, i stood there like a bloody idiot waiting for it to come out the other side.
It didn't, and i almost brought Paddington station to it's knees.
I think the whole train thing is going to be an ongoing problem.

6. The whole sky at night is orange.
I'm not sure how many Londoners look upwards, but i couldn't get to grips with the sky being the wrong colour.

7. Everyone walks so fast-why?

I have promised to take a home-made chocolate cake to Sy's agent next time we go to London.

But i think it might be better to send it by Parcelforce.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper x

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A question and answer session.

From time to time, i think about how Sy and i met.

It's funny how fate deals us a hand that we may not understand at the time, but i believe everything happens for a reason.

Meeting Sy has catapulted me into a world that i knew nothing about, and have had to learn about as best i can, as fast as i can. I previously wrote a blog entitled 'Things i have learned about my writer.'

That was a couple of months ago now, and it's time to add to it, although the thoughts are a bit random.

1; When Sy writes a script, It is not finished after one draft.

2; No matter how good his work is, he still has to have an editor on board, even though he also does critiques on other writers' work.

3; Publishers are a very picky bunch.

4; Agents, if you get the right one (or should that be write one) are fab. But be watchful that they are working with you. ( A tale to tell on another occasion.)

5; Waiting for the phone to ring, or an e-mail to come in about a particular project that Sy has high hopes for, is just as agonising for me, as it is him.

I have a couple of questions i still need answering- can anybody shed any light on the following please?

1; Why do writers continually look out of the window?

2; Where do they hide their pens? There are never any when they need one, even though you have put half a dozen on their desk an hour previously.

3; What are writers really thinking about when you are trying to talk to them about something?

And one final really random question, that has been bugging me for some time.

Why is the 'living' television channel full of programmes about the dead?

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The times they are a changin'...

Darling Daughter is studying Romeo and Juliet at school.
The conversation around the kitchen table last night, while i was cooking tea, went like this.

'I don't like Shakespeare mum. It's really boring for someone of my age.'
'But wasn't Juliet the same age as you? That's something you can relate to.'
' Yeah, but, like, she had those god-awful in-laws to be to cope with. I don't have to worry about all out war if i bring a boy home, do I?'

Sy, who was reading at the table (terrible manners, these writers) raised an eyebrow, and i carried on stirring, while thinking it all depends on who she brings home as to whether there is all out war or not.

' I take it this conversation is leading to some sort of homework issue.'
'I've got to, like, write an essay about why I think Romeo and Juliet fell in love.'
'And what do you think?'
'Well, it's obvious. Their hormones were running riot. Nobody knows what they want from a relationship at that age...apart from knowing that you want to go to the pictures, or go for a bike-ride. They certainly didn't know what love was.'

Sy piped up.
' You do realise, don't you, that Romeo and Juliet didn't have mobile phones, the internet, cinemas or pushbikes. None of these things had been invented then.'

Darling Daughter thought about this for a moment or two.
'Well shakespeare shouldn't have bothered writing a play about two teenagers falling in love, if they had nothing to do. If the play had been written today, it would have been far more interesting.'
'Do you want me to help you with this essay?' Sy sighs.
'You can write it for me if you like. You know all there is to know about it.'
'Can I help at at all?' says I.
'No mum- you know nothing about shakespeare and his plays, lets face facts here. Why don't you carry on with what you're good at. Making tea, cakes and lovely chutney.'

And with that, her mobile buzzed, and she was off, yapping twenty to the dozen to some unseen mate, Romeo and Juliet completely forgotton for the time being.

And today, i'm wondering, at what point did i actually become surplus to educational requirements?

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Back to books...

I have turned my thoughts towards Christmas.
It's not because of the Christmas trees that are already up in half of the shops in town.
It's not because i have heard on the radio it's only about seventy days away.
And it's not because the X-factor has started again, which is always televisions countdown to Christmas.

No, it's because i have had a list from Sy of the books he would like for his presents this year.

You would have thought that books would be an easy option really.
They are - as long as you can comfortably visit WH Smiths, buy the whole of the top shelf, and then smugly wrap them all, knowing you will have something for all your relatives who only read something once a year.
I await Sy's book list with mounting trepidation every year.
Sometimes, i get a nice surprise, and i can get one or two from Smiths ( Bill Bryson's Shakespeare was a Godsend, i can tell you. I did feel it was a bit of a waste of money though, as it told us nothing that we didn't know already- you know, like when you buy a compilation CD and you already have all the songs on it, on lot's of other CD's...)
Mostly though, it will involve me trawling the internet for obscure little book shops that just might have a copy of what he wants.
I breathe a bit easier if the list has 'don't mind if it's second hand' written next to a book.

I've sourced books from Ireland, America, Norway and New Zealand for Sy.
Mainly, they are presents, but there are some that he Just Has To Have.

At least he knows how i feel when I Have To Have Chocolate.

Sometimes, it's easier just to give him an allowance, (You think i'm joking- he would spend every penny we have on books, given half a chance. Bugger eating,) drive him to Hay-on-Wye, dump him in the middle of the town and then come back for him four hours later.

I have done that.

I might just add a CD or two. I might even sponser an animal for him( but i might not- i know you will be reading this Darling Husband.)

So, Christmas pressie shopping for Sy will start tomorrow, as long as ;
1. The obscure book shops are all still in business.
2; I don't lose the list he has given me.
3; I don't run out of money.
4; He doesn't change his mind about the books he wants.

All's well that ends well...hopefully.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A first time for everything.

I've done two things this week for the first time ever.

1; I went to see a comedian in a theatre.

2; I visited a Waitrose.

Now, going to see a comedian probably wouldn't have happened if it were not for the generosity of the comedians wife, who got me and Sy comp tickets.

If you haven't had a chance to see Rich Hall outside QI, Never Mind The Buzzcocks or his fishing programme, then find the time to go and see him live.

Very funny and very sweary (that's a word where i live.)

Saying hello to him after the gig, i told him i was a comedy virgin.

I can't print the reply.


Ahh, Waitrose, Waitrose, Waitrose.

I have found Nirvana, and it sits at the top of a multi-storey carpark in Cheltenham.

My pal Caz has a vegetarian hubby. If it were not for the fact that our hubbies are in a band together, we no doubt would have found each other on some 'What do you feed your vegeterian husband' website.

Sy has been veggie for about four years now, and i miss him eating meat. Is that really selfish of me?

When we used to go out for meals, we would dribble over the menus, wondering which steak to have, or did i think he could manage a mixed grill?

I miss that.

Now when we go out, i'm left to dribble on my own, as he peruses pasta dishes and asks the waitresses what they have in the kitchen ''that hasn't got a face.'

I would have thought there wouldn't be a face on anything much by the time it reached the table.

But i digress (word of the day.)

Caz told me, that Waitrose does a fine choice in veggie meals. And indeed it does.

So, yesterday morning, off we went to visit the mother of all food stores, to stock up for our respective men.

Yes, we got the veggie food.

Yes we got a very nice breakfast (served by a woman looking so immaculate that i thought it should be me serving her...very surreal.)

Yes, there was even a car park attendant to keep an eye on your car while you were shopping.

The sign above the doors stated that you had up to three hours parking. I pointed this out to Caz and laughingly said who could possibly take three hours to do their shopping?

But i didn't know about the hardware and home furnishing section.

Oh. My God.

I could live there.

I honestly could. If Sy ever tells me to sling my hook, i won't bother staying on a friends settee, no siree- it's straight of the home furnishing section of Waitrose.

First, we stroked sheepskin rugs. We moved onto curtains and took apart a display, so that Caz could find out if an oversized bedspread would fit on her settee.
It didn't.

We then put the display back together again, much to the amusement of fellow shoppers.

I still think it looked better than the one the staff had done.

We picked up vases, glasses, bowls, plates, teapots, toasters. And put them all down again.

We played with all the touch sensitive lights, and i nearly blinded Caz by switching on a neon light, just as she was staring into it to see how it worked.

We opened and closed all the fridge and feezer doors (because we can, that's why.)

And finished off with a tour of the television section, and complained very loudly about how the pictures were really crap close up.

By the time we got back to the car, we found that we had been in Waitrose for three hours and twenty two minutes.

It must be an age thing. I got the same buzz visiting Waitrose as i did visiting Alton Towers for the first time, twenty-five years ago.

And Sy loved his veggie food.

'When are you going again Sprouty?'

I looked at my watch.

'Give it an hour or so.....'

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...

Sy loves quizzes.

Mastermind and University Challenge have him rubbing his hands with glee, as does the arrival of a new soduko book or, can you believe, the quiz pages in 'The Lady'(??!)

His absolute favourite though, is The Pub Quiz.

There is a yearly one at our local- a grand affair with about twenty teams taking part- and we have won it three times in the last five years.

I use the term 'we' very loosely, as i have the knowledge of a mentally unstable gnat- it's Sy that seems to know all the answers.

Seriously, percentage wise, we are looking at him answering about 98% of the questions.

I answer the 'music from the seventies and eighties' section and the odd obscure one ( name Rigsby's cat in Rising Damp..)

We can usually rope in a couple of friends to make up the numbers, but the evening will normally end up with three of us getting pissed and one other (guess who) still quizzing and writing all the answers down too-It is the one occasion he will. not. drink.

I had a phone call a couple of nights ago, from the pub, asking for the shield back, for this years quiz.

'And will you be entering a team this year?'

'No, we aren't allowed to anymore. We've won too many times '(absolutely true.)

'Well, we will need your team name from when you won last year to add to the shield.' (things happen really slow around here...)

'I'm afraid i can't remember it (true again)...'

'Shall we make something up for you?'

I started laughing at this, as we tend to make our quiz names as fun as possible...The year before last we were 'Alex Nas'.

Think about it.

And it is still on the quiz shield, for all to see.

I finished the conversation spluttering something about not worrying about a team name for last year, and to leave the shield blank- conspicuous by our absense sort of thing.

I thought that was for the best, as out of the corner of my eye, i could see that Sy had already started writing down anagrams for 'The Sheep Shaggers'.

You win some, you lose some...

'Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Art for arts sake..

Sy has gone to Stratford today.
I'm sure he will visit Will's grave (again..), peruse some obscure book shops and possibly pop in to say hello to the lovely people at The Falstaff Experience.

At some point he has to do a stint at his brothers art gallery in Shrieves Walk.
He doesn't do this very often- it depends when his brother wants a day off. Today, Alton Towers beckons, so Sy has done the family thing and is standing in for him.

The gallery has been open for a couple of months now.
Beautiful paintings and sculptures of all things Shakesperian and Stratfordian, all commissioned pieces.
The opening of the gallery was lovely. Several local dignitaries, some press, some of the artists who created the pieces and some ''specially invited individuals.'

Sy was asked to give a talk on some Shakespeare stuff, which he duly did.
He decided to talk about his research, his theories on Will's illigitemate son, the relationship he had with the true love of his life (and we all know that wasn't Anne) and how he was eventually murdered.
These good people weren't expecting any of this.
And boy, did they want to know more.


One of the pieces in the gallery is a bust of Shakespeare. A lovely piece and Sy stood examining it for ages.

'Want me to buy it for you,' i joked (you should see the price tag- not in my price range.)
'It's not right'.
'What do you mean, it's not right?'

He had a quick scan of the room to make sure the artist wasn't in ear shot and told me ;

' The quills wrong- it shouldn't have feathers all the way along it- they should just be at the top.
Will didn't have straight hair- this chap looks like he's had a session with Darling Daughter and her straighteners. And finally- he looks as if he's got anorexia. Will's face was a lot fatter than that. He looks as if he hasn't had a good feed in months. He needs a month or two of your cooking Sprouty.'

Now, i don't know if Sy is right or not. He's the Shakespeare expert, not me.
But if i owned a gallery, and Sy was standing in for me, what would be the chances of selling anything if prospective buyers were given information about a piece, like the information he had just given me?

It'll be a bloody miracle if he brings home any commission.

'Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Mwah, Mwah.

I was given an award for blogging today.

Somebody actually took the time to say that they liked my blog and that i deserved an award for it.

Bloody hell.

So, thankyou again, (Very) lost in France.

It really did make my day.

I told Sy about it.

'I've got an award for my blog.'

'Which bit?'

'All of it, i suppose..'

He doesn't look too thrilled. He say's he's really pleased, but i know different.

You see, there is one thing i left out out of one of my earlier posts-(Eating, drinking...some things i have found out about my writer..)

Don't ever think that you might be able to write too- Your writer will not be able to tolerate this.
There is no room in your house for two egos.

And i think i might be on the verge of breaking this cardinal rule.
Only difference is, i'm not doing this for money (actually, at this point in time, neither is Sy, so he shouldn't be moaning really.)
And, i don't really believe i can write (he knows he can.)
I write the way i talk (without the accent, obviously)- there is no reasoning to my ramblings and no proper grammer either. I talk at a hundred miles an hour, draw breath only when i feel dizzy and start to turn blue, and lose track of what i'm talking about very quickly.

It's people like me that create the nightmares of chatshow hosts and English teachers.

Sy's Writers Guild award takes pride of place on a shelf above the telly in the sitting room.
Now and again, when he's had too much scotch and there is particularly bad police drama on the box, he will trundle over to the shelf, pick up the award, look at it lovingly and tell the world (well, just me normally) about how crap telly is these days and that 'they don't make drama like they used to.'
But his language is a lot more colourful.
And he also reels off his 'hitlist'- but i can't name names at any of the corporations, for legal reasons.

I thought i might print off my little award and sit it next to Sy's.

But then he might think i'm getting ideas above my station. And we can't have that.
I'm now going to go back to the kitchen and carry on with the ironing.

I know my place.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Monday, 22 September 2008

Reader, i married him.

...Well, i did actually. Six years ago last Friday to be precise.
But it was such a feckin' awful day last Friday, that it has taken me till now to be able to write about it.

I think i'd better do this in two parts.

Part one- The wedding day. (Which was very nice.)

Sy and i got married on the Isle of Iona, off the West coast of Scotland.
Absolutely stunning place- three miles long. a mile wide with a few houses, an Abbey and a chapel.
I'm glad it was as stunning as i had been led to believe, because i had never even heard of the place, let alone seen it, until three days before we got married.
The best way (and possibly the only way, unless you have a helicopter,) to get to Iona is by ferry.
Two of them in fact.
On reflection, i truly can't believe that i booked my wedding into a chapel that i had never seen, on an island i had never been to.

We also had to be married by our own parish vicar, so he came up to the island with us.
Best vicar in the world- covered in tatooes, smoked cigars and wore a leather jacket.
I'm not sure how many people can say they had their vicar at the stag and hen party.
But we did.
And could he drink.
I think he went on to work for Wiltshire police.

Not only that, but when i booked our B and B, i asked the people who owned it to be our witnesses.
It didn't cross my mind that they might have said no.
But they were smashing (we still visit them now) and Joyce, the lovely owner, picked me heather and wild flowers on the island for my bouquet.
We asked a passing tourist to take photos for us, and i can't remember whether we five or six people at the service itself, because tourists kept wandering in and out of the chapel.

I'm not entirely sure our marriage is legal- i read somewhere that you have to get married before 6.00pm. Something to do with the hours of daylight, and making sure you are able to see the person you are marrying.
Our wedding was about 6.00pm, but it was so laid back, i'm not entirely sure what time we actually got into the chapel. We were too busy drinking whisky in the nunnery on the way there to look at the time too closely.

After the service, more pics were taken on the beaches. Totally white sand. Totally gorgeous weather.Total bliss .

The reception consisted of dinner in the only pub on the island, lots of whisky drinking, some loud singing and then a slow moonlit walk back to the B and B about 3.00am.
Sy in his kilt and me in my wedding frock.
And as we sat outside the B and B, in our wedding attire, watching the sun come up, Sy told me where 'King' Arthur was buried.
And i remember thinking Cornwall isn't going to like this one bit.

Part two- The wedding Anniversary.

Well, the car blew up.
So, no car, so couldn't go out.
And Sy told me he has 'designed' my anniversary card on the computer.
But seeing as we have no ink at the moment, i'm just going to have to wait for it.
I'm damned if i'm going to look at it on the computer.

I have had better days.
And much better wedding anniversaries.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Follow you, follow me...

i see my darling hubby is following my blogs.
This is nice to know- he's taking an interest in what i'm doing.

This also means that i won't have to leave post-it notes stuck to his computer screen when i want to tell him something.
How convenient is this!

So Sy- this is for you...

Drinks at Emmas tomorrow night,.
The christening is two weeks away- make sure you try your suit on this week please.
Don't forget you are at the Gallery a week on Sunday.
Let me know what to get the twins for their birthday.

Bugger the post-it notes- i think this might be far more effective.

Shakespeare's Housekeeper (aka Sprouty) xx

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The one to watch...

What's on the television is always a talking point in this house-

As i'm sure it is in most homes.

'Can we watch X-Factor?'

'No, we're watching Strictly..'

Or something like that.

In this house, certain programmes can evoke an array of emotions, outbursts and comments.

Sy has to watch, without fail-

Channel 4 news.
BBC news.
BBC 24 hr news channel ( i know he watches this, because the telly always comes on to this channel whenever i switch it on- day or night).

I am seriously starting to think about looking for the news equivalent to AA..

In addition the news channels, he likes to watch;

Old and obscure movies that start at 1.00am.
Anything in black and white.
Have I Got News For You. (Maybe that should be classed under the news channels?)

I like to watch;
Desperate Housewives.
Anything that makes me laugh.

Not that i get to see what i like very often...they always seem to clash with the news.

Darling Daughter likes to watch;
A good drama (suprisingly) as long as it has plenty of murders, blood and swearing (an age thing, i feel.)
The music channels. Any of the four hundred odd that are out there- she's not fussy.

Thank God she has a telly in her bedroom.

If there is a Soap on (which is an extremely rare occurance), and it really doesn't seem to matter which one, a comment of some sort always comes from Sy.

' I went to drama school with him...'

'She had a boob job just before she joined the cast...'

'He was giving her one while they were filming that episode...'

'I had a rather interesting sexual encounter with her once...'


Sy smiles at me.

'I''l tell you about it one day.'

I really, really, don't want to know. At all. No details, thankyou very much.

One thing we did get to watch together a couple of weeks ago was the episode of 'Call the Cops' on BBC4 about the nineties police drama 'Between the Lines', and an episode of the drama afterwards.

Sy won a Writers Guild award for his work on 'Between the Lines' and it was cracking to watch, and see how the programme was put together.
The lead actors talked about how they were given scenarios to act out- shop lifter, cat burgler-and were interviewed in these roles by police to help them get 'inside their heads.'

I asked Sy if he had had to do anything like that.

' Not for Between the Lines... i did when i wrote for The Bill, though.'

Wow, thinks i.



Drink driving?

'What was it then..?'

Another little smile...

'A flasher'.

I didn't dare ask him if he rehearsed for it.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper. xx

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Radio or Radiohead...?

I've had a brilliant morning.

I have, in this order;

Cleaned and hoovered the sitting room.

Cleaned the bathroom.

Hosed down my kitchen (hosed is the appropriate word, believe me).

Washed, dried and ironed three loads of washing.

Sorted out all the weeks recycling, for the bin men tomorrow.

Visited that great monstrosity that is Tescos and bought stuff for baking.
And some sausages.

Baked an apple crumble (with scrumped apples- if they come looking for me, then the evidence is nearly all gone. It wasn't very big. Honest).

Sent four replies to e-mails that friends have sent, asking me and Sy to dinner, three of them asking if it could be 'shared' dinner, and could we bring pud? (must have heard about the crumble...)

All this before 11.00am.

And, while on my marathon job session, i have listened to some fab music.

For cleaning and hoovering- Aerosmith( just try doing anything slowly while listening to 'Dude looks like a lady')

For ironing-The feeling

For baking- ELO (Mr Blue Sky...Miiister blooooo skyyyy..yyyy)

And if i'm computering...well, most stuff really. Anything. Sky's the limit.

Until Sy appears.

Because if Sy's writing, then he really needs 'his music'.

Now, remember, i like most stuff.

But there is a time and place for certain types of music.

And today, he is turning a Radiohead cd over and over in his hands.

If there is one thing that is totally going to ruin my day, it's Radiohead.

I really, really can't cope with their music.

Might as well go and choose a form of death right now.

Not much traffic today, so no point running screaming into the road.

Broke the only rope we have when we towed a friends car out of a ditch a few weeks ago, so hanging is out.

And Darling Daughter had the last of the Paracetamol for a raging headache last night (Probably induced by the loudness of her music).

So, two options left.

1; I leave the house now- and don't come back until this particular piece of writing is finished. (not great.. it might take days, and they are bound to notice i'm missing at some point).

2; I try to talk Sy into listening to something else.

'I need to get this chapter finished Sprouty, so i'm going to listen to some Radiohead'.

At least he has the decency to warn me.

'Okaaay...which listening device are you going to put it on?'

'Cd player in the kitchen.'

My domain. Grrr.

'Can you listen through your computer?'

'No, to close to my ears. I need it as background music.'

'So, if it's background music, can't you listen to something else? If it's that far away surely you won't really hear whatever music it is.'

He muses over this for a moment.
Am i winning this one?

'Well, it's either Radiohead or the Native American chant music.'

No, i'm not.

One more try.

' David Bowie? We both like Bowie...'

Deaf ears.

His mind is made up.

And the writer has to write, so that's that.

I've packed an overnight bag, just in case this chapter takes more than a day.

And i am now wondering what electrical equpment i have with long enough cables to reach into the bathroom.

At least i have a choice. Of sorts.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Don't tell the cows...

When i first started working as a housekeeper i was 17.


I didn't even know what a housekeeper was then. I just liked the name.

I didn't know that after twenty five years of being in the profession, i would have a list of ailments that all come from doing this kind of work.

Arthritis in both knees.( from spending so much time on them).

And in my right arm (polishing arm).

Dodgy breathing. (from inhaling everything from Dettol to caustic soda- not much in the way of Health and Safety training in the old days.)

Back problems (from lugging all the equipment about.)

Actually, these problems aren't as bad as they sound, unless we get a spell of damp or cold weather, when they all hit at the same time, with the force of a nuclear attack.

So, pretty consistant, at the moment.

I try vainly to get off the settee, without having to bend my knees, or put any weight on to my arm, at the same time i'm sucking my breath in as the pain in my back starts.

Sy looks up from his paper.

'Rain, then?'

I have found another role in the family as a barometer.

Sy will tell me periodically about his 'finger'

The 'finger' in question is the one he uses most when he's typing( self taught, so he uses his own tried and tested methods).

I know it's repetitive strain, but will he go to the doctors?

Will he buggery.

No sympathy from this woman, i can tell you.

He has other fingers. I have no more knees.

Of all these problems, there is one that affects me every day, without fail.

The state of my hands.

Now, i'm no spring chicken, but apparently i look young for my age, and i try to look half decent if we go out, but the hands are a different story.

The last time i went to the manicurist, she filed my nails, rubbed on some mega-expensive hand cream and told me there was nothing else she could do for me.

I felt like i'd been diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Thank God i don't have to shake hands with many people.

Sy took me to an event where the majority of people had never had to clean their own homes.

The first woman i shook hands with pulled her hand away in horror.

And that was enough for me.

After that, i kissed everyone (because that seems to be the thing to do) and kept my hands firmly tucked away.

In the past, i've tried every hand cream you can imagine. I'm still waiting for one to appear on the chemist shelves claiming to be able to deal with 'sandpaper hands and warty callouses'.

I'll bulk buy the minute it comes out. Buy shares in the company probably.

But i do have a product that helps a bit...and it's a huge secret, so don't tell.

Go to your nearest country supplies store (you know, somewhere that sells green wellies, wax jackets and dog food in tonne bags), head for the aisle that stocks supplies for cows (there might not actually be an aisle that stocks supplies for cows- if not, speak to an assistant), and then scan the shelves until you see....

Udder cream.

Believe me, it works. It's the closest thing i've found to a half decent hand cream. And costs half the price.

My farming uncle put me onto it.

'If it stops cows udders from crackin' in the cold, it's gunna 'elp yer 'ands.'

Just don't fish it out your handbag at inopportune moments.

In the country, you might just get away with it- in the city, forget it.

You will lose your friends.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

We are not a muse....

I've looked at a lot of Sy's scripts, treatments and proposals over the years, and his characters are always beautifully developed. His female characters in particular- he seems to be able to get inside a womans head and give her all the right things to say with incredible clarity and emotion.

I'm flicking through a treatment one day for a proposed television drama. It's Sy's baby, and the characters are predominantly female.
As i turn the pages, i recognise the attributes of one of the characters in particular.
And as i read further, i definately know who she is.

And it bloody well isn't me.

It's one of his exes.

So, i carry on reading, sure that somewhere in there, is me- lovely me, who sings to my man, cooks, cleans and runs baths for him, as well as getting the bed warm for him at night.

There's bugger all.
Absolutely nothing .
No. Sign.Of. Me. Anywhere.

I talk to Sy about this, in a proper grown-up fashion- arms folded, bottom lip drooping and a little girl voice.

' I thought that i might inspire a character...'
' You will, Sprouty, just not at the moment.'
'But i thought the woman in the writers life is the inspiration for all his female characters'.

Lots of laughter.

'You've been reading too much Dante'

I go into the kitchen and Google 'Dante.' Like i said before- Educating Rita (or Sprouty.)

I start washing up and Sy creeps up behind me.

'You are my muse, you know'.
'How can i be, when i don't see me in any of your work?'
' You are my work- don't you see? I couldn't do any of it if it wasn't for you.'

And i think i know what he means.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Sunday, 7 September 2008

I like driving in my car....

..well, i have to really, as i don't trust Sy to drive at all.

His driving has to be the worst i've ever experienced. Really.

Now, i'm not saying mine is perfect (too right woman, i hear you men scream), but as the daughter of a coach driver, who drove various vehicles over many years and passed all his driving tests the first time, i can safely say i had The Best Teacher.

'Always use your mirrerrs'

'why can't i look over my shoulder?'

'Because you'll get a crick in yer neck, yer silly bugger.'

'But the driving instructor said..'

'Tek no notice of 'em...they teach yer how to pass a test, not how to drive.'

Now, you have to bear in mind that we live in a very rural area.

Single track roads, lots of floods and unexpected sharp corners.

When Sy moved in he had possession of a nifty little black sports car.

'That'll be no good round here,' i informed him.

'But it's great for nipping around in!' he exclaimed.

'Exactly how much 'nipping' do you expect to do living here... i'd trade it in for a landrover if i were you.'

Sy was non to pleased with this exchange.

Time would tell.

The first thing he encountered while spinning down a counrty lane was one of the local girls walking her sheep.

I don't mean a flock of sheep, with a dog and everything. Far to normal.

A flock of sheep, on leads, taking up half the road.

'Sprouty, i nearly had a dreadful accident..'

'What did you come across, the sheep, combine harvester or the mums on the school run?

'The sheep...they were everywhere, even though they were all on leads.'

'Well slow down then.'

I think Sy's driving is inherited from his dad. His dad taught him, and his driving is just as crap.

It's city living. Driving is very different in the cities to driving out here.

Definition of city driving;

Drive as fast as you can, brake fast and hard, make sure you have full use of hands for rude gestures at other drivers who don't get off roundabouts fast enough.

Definition of country driving;

Drive slowly, take bends in second gear, have full use of hands to wave at all neighbours and farmers.

If, and it's a big if, Sy drives, i absolutely know for sure, that he isn't concentrating.

He will be thinking about whatever it is he is writing about.

One of the last times we had to get petrol, all he had to do was put the petrol into the car. Nothing else.

1; get out of car.

2; open fuel cap.

3; take off petrol cap.

4; Put fuel in.

5; put petrol cap back on.

6; shut fuel cap.

7; get back into car.

He decided that points 5 and 6 weren't worth bothering with...

Still, i'm grateful that he works from home, for the time being.

I can't begin to imagine what the insurers would say if he told them he'd had an accident involving a flock of sheep on leads...

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Thursday, 4 September 2008

All in the name of research...

Sy takes his research very seriously when it comes to his writing- and rightly so.

He has been gathering and investigating information for his Shakespeare book for about twenty years.

I have been 'helping' him on his quest for the last four years, and thank God i haven't been there for the other sixteen too, or i would have probably shot myself by now.

Or him.

I can just about cope when he's got his head stuck in books or is on the web- it's when i hear those immortal words;

'Fancy going for a drive?'

I break out in a cold sweat and wonder if there is enough money in the Christmas fund for petrol.

In our early days, we did go for romantic drives- a forty or fifty mile round trip through the Cotswolds, stopping at a friends teashop in Broadway for scones and cream...but those drives are delegated to history now and 'a drive' has a whole new meaning.

So, I stop doing whatever it i'm doing, don my wellies, feed the cats (because i know we won't be back within the next six hours), raid the Christmas fund for fuel money and set off with Sy with a fixed smile on my face.

Now, I know exactly why Sy needs me with him for his Shakespeare research.

I would love to say it's so that he can bounce ideas off me, show me places where Shakespeare hung out and the suchlike.

In all actuality, it's for the reasons listed below;

1; I can change a tyre if I have to. (He can't- if he hurts his fingers/hands he can't work).

2; I know the best pubs within a radius of sixty miles.

3;If we should break down, the RAC card is in my name.

4; I know this area like the back of my hand.

We have been on a few of these jaunts lately.

Stratford itself, Feckenham, Earls Common (Shakespeare hid in a pub here for eight months- i'm sure the only reason was because he couldn't find his way out of the village. It's like that today- one village blends with another and you don't have a clue where you are if you don't know the area- and there's no pub anymore, so you would have to stay under a hedge.), Worcester, Alcester, Kings Coughton ( pronounced 'Cowton,' if you live here), Huddington...there are others too, but i've hit meltdown.

'Stop here, Sprouty.'

'I can't, we're on the main road into Stratford and there's a juggernaut behind me.'

'Well, pull over into that layby.'

'That's not a layby, it's the entrance to a field and it's full of mud'.

'But i need to stop there. There's a tree in that field where Shakespeare had a pee...'

And dutifully, i find somewhere to stop and Sy goes off to investigate the tree.

As I stand there in the gateway, up to my knees in cowshit and wondering how the hell i'm going to back the car out onto a main road where the average speed is seventy mile an hour, I see Sy taking notes and smiling.

Either he's completely lost the plot or maybe, just maybe, he's found out something that no other Shakespearean scholar has ever managed to find out.

I just hope i don't have to endure another twenty years of research involving 'a drive'-

Neither me nor the car will last that long.

Till next time,

Shakespeares Housekeeper xx

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

And you are...?

Sy writes under a pseudonym.
In fact, Sy is the pseudonym, and as i'm writing about the writer, in the main, it's better to use his working name.
When i first questioned him about it, he said it was easier to take criticism if it were aimed at someone who wasn't real.
I'm crap at remembering the right name at the right time.
The phone rings....
Me: 'Hello?'
Caller: 'Can i speak to Sy please?'
Me: 'Who?'
Caller: 'Simon?'
Me: 'Just a moment....' and then i proceed to call Sy at the top of my voice by his real name.
It's no wonder he hates taking me to any event or meeting where he goes by his writing name.
The first literary event he had the courage to take me to was The Cheltenham Literature Festival Sy had been invited to do a talk so we were given the opportunity to meet all sorts of people we wouldn't have ordinarily.
God, i was so excited. I bought a new frock, a pair of heels and a great pair of incontinence knickers to wear in case it all got too much meeting Jilly Cooper.
When we got there, we were signed in and given name badges. They were so beautifully written, that it took me moment or two to realise they had got my name wrong.
'They've got my name wrong!' I wailed to Sy.
'No they haven't- you're Mrs Sy tonight'.
'But i'm not Mrs Sy. I'm not even the real Mrs Sy yet, let alone the pretend one.'
'You'll manage'.
I was able to stumble through most of the event by calling everyone 'darling' because that's what everyone seemed to be doing, which also meant of course that no-one asked me my name.
The problem came at the end of the evening when we had our photo taken for 'Country Life' magazine.
' Can i have your names please?' asks the photographer.
I look at Sy and panicked a bit. Before i know it i blurt out, 'Who are we? What are our names?'
Sy looked at me as if i'd gone mad, and told the photographer his name. I just stood there spluttering and desperately trying to remember what name i was supposed to answer to on this occasion.
And before i knew it, the photographer had gone. Probably through fear.
Apparently our photograph in 'Country Life' was lovely. And underneath, next to Sy's name was mine.
'Unnamed Companion'.  Well on that occasion i certainly was.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The best days of your life....

Darling Daughter goes back to school today.

As i write, several things are happening;

There is a hairdryer whining in a bedroom above me.

Added to that is the sound of some obscure radio station (it could be Radio 1...haven't listened to it for years as i don't know who any of the bands are any more).

There is also the sound of new, heeled shoes clopping about, and the odd bout of swearing at, i can only presume, the hair straighteners not doing their job.

Sy is, and always has been, able to sleep through all this, even though it is happening in the room next to ours.

While living in London, he tells me he slept through a bomb blast.

Can't have been under the bed then.

The only things that will wake him is me giving him a gentle call up the stairs, yanking the bed clothes off of him, whispering in his ear that there is an e-mail from his agent (that's the best one) or the smell of a cooked breakfast (minus the bacon) wafting up the stairs.

I might throw a spanner in the works this morning and maybe tell him it's Christmas....

Darling Daughter has just let her mates in who live next door.

One of them is starting high school this time. Interesting exchange going on;

'Untuck your shirt'


'Because no one tucks their shirt in'.

'But it's my first day, and i'll get told off'.

'No you won't. The teachers never say anything'.

Oh yes they do, but their threats are about as effective as mine.

I gave up telling Darling Daughter to tuck her shirt in, do her top button up and make her skirt a respectable length several terms ago.

Still, parents evening is always something to look forward to.

A great evening out.

For a start, three of us go- Sy is Darling Daughters step-dad, and her real dad is very prominant in her life.

Which means the school never has enough chairs for us when we appear (they always expect two parents, never an extended family) and with three of us firing questions the teachers' look like they are under attack from a Mafia family.

I always, always ask why Darling Daughter's work isn't marked on a regular basis (sometimes not for two months at a time!)

Sy wants to know why the the history teacher doesn't teach real history, and why the English teacher doesn't take his comments about Shakespeare in Darling Daughter's homework diary into account and her dad wants to know when the school is going to start a kickboxing club.

These have been regular questions over the last couple of years, an i'm half expecting the school to ask us this time, why, with my obsession with marking, Sy's humungus knowledge on all subjects and her dad's interest in sports, we don't home school her.

Mind you, my grasp on anything to do with what they teach in schools is so limited, Sy would end up doing the marking too.

I tell Darling Daughter on a regular basis, the only reason i married Sy was so that she would have someone to help her with her homework.

So i'm not sure what i will do with him when she leaves school.

Till next time,

Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Sunday, 31 August 2008

How to Care for your Writer. An Owners Guide.

Me and Sy have learned to live quite happily together over time, but his little foibles have taken some getting used to.
If you come from a background that has no experience of writers and how they live, i thought i would write a section on their general habits, firstly so you know what i have to put up with and what i do as a writers wife, but also a general pointer to anybody out there who is considering living with someone who writes for a living.
Maybe i should add a disclaimer here....Not all writers are the same.

1/ It is imperative you ration their drinking to two caffetieres of coffee before 12.00 o'clock. If they hound you for more, do not give in. You do not want them bouncing off the walls causing havoc.

2/ After midday, they will head for the Scotch bottle. Do not let them have too much too early if you are hoping to have any form of conversation with them at any point.
If they tell you it helps the creative process, nod in an understanding way and tell them that until they get an advance on the book/ piece they are writing, you can't afford any more.

3/ Your writer will not ask for food very often, as he believes he can live on coffee/alcohol alone. Check on your writer every so often, and see how they look. Make him a sandwich, but don't expect him to leave his work to eat it.

4/ If you are going to cook a meal, make sure you tell him the day before, and also leave post-it notes stuck to his computer, with the time of the meal.
If you are really lucky, your writer will come and dine with you.Try not to be offended if they don't.

5/Never let them bring reading material to the table.
If they do dine with you, expect to be regaled with the literary history of the food you have served; for this reason, oysters are not a good idea.
It might be a good idea to stock up on ready meals, as at least your writer can grab one from the freezer when he feels like it, and you don't waste you're time cooking meals that end up in the bin- or the dog.

Some writers work through the night, which can create problems for you as you can't monitor their food and drink intake.

6/ If your writer is on a night mission, just leave a sandwich for them and hide what's left of the Scotch supply.
If your writer is working nights, do not try to adjust this-you are likely to incur a psychotic episode. All you can do to help is to impose a blanket ban on roadworks, school buses and military manoeurvres in your street during daylight hours.

7/ Your writers bathroom habits can be a problem if he is wrestling with a particularly difficult piece of writing. He will not leave his work until it is finished, so keeping him clean can be quite difficult.
There is only one way forward with this one.
Approach your writer slowly from behind, tell him that he looks tired and would he like it if you ran him a bath?
This one normally works well, as any writer will tell you, all their best ideas happen in the bath.
That is why a writer will insist on sitting in his bathrobe all day long-in readiness for that 'great' idea.
If your friends find this sort of behaviour off-putting, reasure them it is only temporary, because writers can't see the point in putting on clothes to sit at a desk.
That, or drop the friends.

Some other points to note when your writer has told you he is NOT to be disturbed (and believe me, he means it).
Make sure you take all phone calls, don't ask friends round for a cuppa and make sure any friends or family who turn up unexpectedly can be dealt with, without them even leaving their vehicle.
In addition to this, try to instil in your children Victorian values- they are to be seen and not heard-and if this fails, gag and tie them to their beds until your writer dictates otherwise.

 Whatever else happens,DO NOT ask how the work is going.

Never, EVER, throw away any scraps of paper- even if they only have a single word written on them.

Don't bother even thinking about trying to clean a writers workspace- There is no hope of you getting any where near it until your writer is dead. And buried, come to think of it.

Always listen to your writer when he wants to talk to you about his work, even if you don't understand a word of what he is on about.
Always be there for your writer, particularly when they feel they are getting nowhere. From your point of view, this would be better during the day, but in all probability it will be between midnight and 5.00am.

Try to have some interests of your own. This is vital because there will come a point when your writer will want to know what you've been doing (it will be a massive shock- be ready!).
When you reach this milestone with your writer, the last thing they will want to hear is that all you have done is clear up after them.

If you need to talk to your writer about something (and it had better be important), be prepared to tell them several times over several days, and then initiate the same plan as per food (Post-its).

Understand that although this man is first and foremost your husband, his writing is his work and it is not, and never will be, nine till five. Because of this, you are going to have to do everything, and you will manage to cope as there is always the belief that the next book will be the Booker winner.

So, bearing this in mind, to make life easier for all, try to get up in the morning two hours earlier, seven days a week, so you can fit in all other jobs on top of your working day.

Be prepared to go out and have fun at a moments notice.If your writer has finished a piece/book, he will want to go out and celebrate.
Not next week, or tomorrow- now. It really will be immediate.

Till next time,
Shakespeare's Housekeeper xx

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A space of ones own...

So, the writer is in situ.
So far, so good.
But he needs a space to work....
Now, if i need to write something (which isn't very often), i'll do it at the kitchen table. My writing is either letters for school-

Dear Mrs Andrews,
Thankyou for your letter regarding the incident that occured at the School Ball, that involved Darling Daughter.
In her defence, i have always taught her to stand up for herself and that combined with the fact that she has practised kickboxing since the age of three, it would only be a matter of time before the school bully had their come-uppance.
I feel the school should look on the incident as a positive experience- after all, that particular child has caused havoc at the school for some time now, and nothing has been done to stop the appalling behaviour.
Darling Daughter has solved the problem for you in the space of ten minutes.
I'm sorry that the child involved has been hospitalized (Darling Daughter sometimes doesn't know her own strength), but I believe the school should be supporting her, and the least you should do for her now is give her a terms worth of credits.
No doubt i shall be hearing from you (and the bully's parents) again soon regarding this matter.

...or for the ladies i clean for;

Hi Mel,
hope all is well with you!
Had a 'good go' over whole house today-including under your bed.
Found some interesting things, and thought it better to put them back under the bed, as i don't think your kids are quite ready for back massagers yet.

Sy reckons he is going to need a bit more than the kitchen table to work from.
I decide to find out quietly what sort of space a writer needs, so i fire up the laptop and punch 'writers wives' into google, in the hope that i can find others like me.

Google insists that i am actually trying to find 'Readers wives'.

This isn't going to work, so i try 'writers rooms' instead.

I momentarily lapse into a daydream-
Sy tapping away on the laptop, ideas flowing from his mind through the medium of technology, happily leaving his work to help Darling Daughter with her homework and me making him cups of coffee...
Thank God for The Guardian online.
And there they are, writers room after writers room...and i can't believe what i'm seeing.
As i click on each room, i find myself looking through my fingers at the screen- room after room, covered with books, paper, good luck charms, pens, waste paper bins overflowing with paper, more books, the odd vase of flowers (probably put there for the photographer)...and somewhere, in each picture is a computer.
I should write to The Guardian and suggest a competition- Find The Computer-and maybe the winner could get a years supply of books from their favourite author.
That or a cleaner.
I talk to Sy about what i've found out and he assures me all he would like is a little desk, somewhere quiet.
At which point 'Metallica' start an impromtu concert above our heads and Darling Daughter is accompanying them on her electric guitar.

Eventually, we settle for a desk in the sitting room, and Sy has found a way of shutting out all surround sound.

But i think men are pretty bloody brilliant at doing that anyway.

If he needs to write with no interuption at all, he will work as many nights as it takes, or go away to his parents holiday home for a few days.
But that's something else to talk about.

Till next time

Shakespeare's Housekeeper x

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

'Books do furnish a room'- Anthony Powell

...and don't they just.

When Sy and me first talked about him moving in, i stupidly thought it would all be quite straight forward. Clothes (in a couple of bin bags), Pens, paper...a laptop probably.

Plenty of room in my little two bedroom house for these few extras.

He never mentioned the books.

The morning he was due to bring all his belongings over, i was watching out of the window for his little black car, terribly excited and ready to welcome Sy and his bits into the house.

A transit van pulled up outside and i rushed outside to ask the driver to park a bit further down the was Sy driving the van.

Ok...maybe a couple more bin bags wouldn't make too much difference.

Sy climbed out the van and swung the back doors of the van open.

No sign of any bin bags- in fact no bits or pieces at all. Just a van full of books. And i mean full. from the floor to the roof, books of every shape and size were squeezed, pushed, stacked and crammed. Not only was i expected to help get this lot out, but find homes for them all once they made it through my front door.

Well, it took about three hours, but get them through the front door we did. And then they sat in the living room for the next three weeks. And up the stairs...and in our bedroom, kitchen...even the airing cupboard was a mini library for about a week.

I was astounded at the different uses you could find for a stack of books.

Depending on the height, a stack could double up as the following;

A handy coffee table.

A cat bed.

A table to eat off.

A footstool.

A step ( not really advised..)

A display stand for a bouquet of flowers (bought them myself btw).

One other thing i noticed....the smell.

The older the book the more it smelt. I think i got through at least four cans of Febreeze that first week.

Writers are incredibly precious about their books. Sy gave me a list of rules regarding book things pertaining to him.

1; I must never go through his books with a view to recycling any.It makes no difference how many copies of one particular book there is-he will need all of them, all the time.

2; I must never lend any of his books out. My Jilly Cooper are an exception to this rule.

3; If there is a mountain of books on the floor, i must not move them.They will all be relevant to whatever he is working on at the time.

4; If i see a book sale advertised anywhere within a fifty mile radius, i must be sure to let him know.

In writing.

At least a week beforehand.

I took these on board. Never let it be said that i'm not accommodating.

'I forgot to mention', says Sy. 'There are a few more books at my parents...'

'How many exactly?' Says I.

'Three, four hundred...they're all in the loft'.

And they are still there, i can tell you.

Our home is now wonderfully soundproofed, courtesy of my handy next-door neighbour, who is a dab-hand with DIY shelving units. In fact, we have a library in most of the rooms now, and so the books have furnished the room(s).

Sy's clothes and bits and bobs?

One bin bag, thirty cd's, laptop.
And a teapot.
Don't ask.

Till next time.

Shakespeare's Housekeeper. xx

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

'For a start, i've got to be out of my head to write.' (Shane MacGowan)

Nothing ever, ever prepares you for the amount of alcohol a writer can consume.
I can put a fair amount away myself, but writers take some beating.
Sy can put away a bottle of scotch in an evening if he puts his mind to be fair, he doesn't do any writing after drinking that amount (he normally sways a bit, tell me how much he loves me and watching him trying to negotiate the stairs is like watching a ball in a pinball machine)but he never seems to have a hangover either, which means he can settle down to work the next day with no serious after effects.
If we go out, i always seem to be the one who does the driving. I still haven't learnt the art of negotiation on that front.
Wherever we go, whether it's to friends, family or the pub, he will take advantage of any alcohol that's on offer.
We live in a lovely village where i became good friends with my neighbours long before Sy moved in. Every year they make their own cider- the 'Double L' which stands for 'lovely and lethal'.
Sy had been working in London- very much at home, as he is a city boy-and had come back to my house for the night. Through the wall, i heard the 'tapping of the barrel'...once heard, never forgotton.
'Let's go round', says me.
Wont they be offended?' says him.
I have to explain, on the way round there, this is a village event- everyone goes, no official invite, word of mouth.
So, Sy gets stuck in. Sat there in his Armani suit, pint jug in his hand, he looks like the cat that's got the cream.

After one pint, he asks me to take him home.

I still find it amazing that someone who can really, really pack the drink away can't cope with a pint of the local brew.
It was the same with the plum jerkum. When we decided to get married, we thought it better to do it quietly. And that was exactly how it was going to stay, until he had half a glass of the aforementioned at the yearly pig-roast.
He then told everyone.
I suppose secret village brews are different to city drinks...

Sy has told me that he writes some of his best stuff after he has had a skinful-indeed, he has actually written village plays about plum jerkum, which the locals loved.
He has written while totally stoned (a play that actually sold out it's complete weeks run)
and cannot function at all until he has had at least one caffetiere of treacle- sorry, coffee.

So, how do i deal with this drinking?
I tell him i'll buy him a bottle of scotch for every advance he gets...that normally gets him motivated.

Till next time,

Shakespeares housekeeper xx

Monday, 25 August 2008

'My way is to begin with the beginning'. Lord Byron- Don Juan.

...i enjoyed hugely an episode of 'Casualty' on BBC1.
The episode is ingrained in my memory because of it's rather eyepopping content.
It's not often you see the results of an oral sex session gone wrong on the BBC.

Moving forward a few years, i'm sat at a local am-dram audition, when i spot a new member.
He looked scared to death.
Now, i'm one for meeting and greeting, so i mosey over to say thing i know, he's the lead male and i'm snogging him on stage.
The last time i'd done anything like that i was absolutely legless, in the local nightclub-old habits die hard i suppose.
The male lead comes home with me for a coffee- well actually, it was a bottle of wine. It turns out he lives in the next road and is staying locally to get a script finished.
You can see where this is heading...

Sy has been writing professionally for about twenty years.
He has written for a few of the soaps on the telly, including the infamous 'Casualty' episode, and has won an award for his writing on a police drama.
He is currently writing books on Shakespeare and King Arthur (who wasn't a king, incidentally) and has written for the stage as well as the screen.
We have been married for six years. God knows what the women before me put up with, but i'm the first one he married.
He has been privately educated and has a voice like melted chocolate.He has 'O' and 'A' levels coming out of his ears.
He has introduced me to famous people and taken me to some incredible places.


Local comprehensive, two GCSE's, a voice that's a cross between the Cadbury's Caramel rabbit and Pam Ayres on sixty fags a day...and did i mention i clean houses for a living?

We couldn't be more different-it's like bloody Educating Rita in this house.

In fact, my nickname is 'Sprouty Wench'....i'm so used to it, i don't find it insulting anymore...

So, now you know. two very different people living together under one roof as man and wife.

With a daughter, but that's another story.

So not only am i going to tell you what it is really like to share my home with a writer, but what it it is like to share my home with someone from a completely different background too.

Till next time

Shakespeares Housekeeper xx

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