Tag Archives: Tim Dowling

You need five weeks between the squirrel columns

Some time back when things were normal, I wrote to the Guardian and asked them to send me Tim Dowling. They wrote back and said they would think about it.

Finally, last night Tim was in my living room! Admittedly only on screen, and he had Hadley Freeman with him. But it was good; two of my favourites at the same time.

The squirrels, as you will know, are his. But there’s a limit to how often even Tim can write a column about them. Not every week, that’s for certain. (But I did think it could be more frequently than every five…)

And he sounds so English! For an American, I mean. Almost like an Atlantic version of Colin Firth. I admired his living room (?), until it was suggested by someone that it might be Tim’s shed. Was it just a fake background, to fool me?

I knew Hadley’s ‘background’ was in fact her bedroom. I’ve been in her bedroom before. The bedroom with the wallpaper.

Apparently it’s hard writing a weekly column, although for Hadley it provides a break in her ‘parenting’ as she knows she should refer to the child care as.

For Tim the task is to make Mrs D laugh on Saturday mornings. She’s generally not ‘pissed off’ by what he writes, knowing full well she’s the funny one. Tim ‘only writes it down.’

If they were to write about last night, the first you would read about it – except on here, obviously – is Saturday next week. That’s as far in advance as they need to be. They both dread coming up with acceptable topics, and for Tim not much beats the squirrels. Or a hole in his sock. He started his writing career with a column [elsewhere] on ‘How to live off your girlfriend’. Because it’s what he did, having followed the future Mrs D to England. She has tried to send him back.

We all love Hadley’s interviews. When asked who her dream future interviewee would be, she said Eddie Murphy. Also a lot of already dead people. And apparently her recent piece on Angelina Jolie, which I enjoyed, caused very many readers to write in to defend Angelina…

Both Tim and Hadley have books on the go. To write, I mean. But Tim filled me with dread when he said he might need three months off to finish his novel. Don’t do it!

We know that!

I love Tim Dowling. I just had to mention this. His column in the Guardian Weekend ten days ago was almost like a re-run of Daughter’s attempts with her pub quiz book and me.

Parents are amazing! Especially so since their children appear to have little, or no, concept of what makes for relevant knowledge.

At last Tim was able to show his sons what he’s made of! (Mostly old sitcoms, it seems.)

I know very little about some areas of pub quiz terrain. I don’t mind this. But how Daughter could believe, even for a minute, that the Resident IT Consultant or I would know 1980s pop music is incomprehensible. We’re ancient!

But ‘What is the name of the pub in Emmerdale?’ is a different kettle of fish. I’ve not even heard of many later television shows/soaps, let alone would know who’s in them. It’s just not important.

‘The Woolpack,’ I replied.

‘How the **** do you know that???’

Honestly. Children.

From road rage to eyebrows

Did I ever tell you about my ‘crush’ on Meg Rosoff? Well, anyway, I quite like her. And her books. So it was high time the Guardian Weekend did one of their profile thingies on her. Interestingly, she – or the editor – picked out her tendency to ‘inspire road rage’ for the headline. It was one of my earliest discoveries with Meg. You know, when she is on the verge of opening the car window (on the passenger side) to say something ‘interesting’ to the driver over there. And you’d rather she didn’t, because you are sitting in the passenger seat, and you’d quite like to survive a few more days.

Being in a car with your hero is obviously the thing. Addy Farmer published the shortest, but most succinct, blog post on getting close to someone she admires, after she gave Malorie Blackman a lift. I wish I could be that brief.

Liz Kessler wedding

Another blog entry I was overjoyed to read, was the one on ABBA by Liz Kessler (who only happens to be the subject of Daughter’s huge admiration). It left tears in my eyes, and I believe, in many more eyes than mine. The hard thing about children’s authors coming out must be that while children are generally not prejudiced, they depend on adults to buy their books for them. So if children’s authors are being over-cautious, it’s because of the ‘grown-ups.’

But hero worship is not limited to people like me or Daughter or Addy. Heroes ‘suffer’ from it as well. It was fascinating to read about Margaret Drabble’s admiration for Doris Lessing. Both the ease with which she got to know her, how Doris Lessing ‘used’ her, and about having lunch with Margaret’s cleaner.

And as we are moving up in the world (in this blog post, I mean), I need to share with you the glorious moment when MMU Writing School director and organiser of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, James Draper, met the Queen. James had better not have washed that hand since, as I’m hoping to shake it when I next see him.

James Draper and Queen Elizabeth II

Last but not least, we have someone else whose work I admire. If you can call it work? Someone who sadly has lost his cleaner, but who still has two ladies come and do his eyebrows. At home. Yes, it is Tim Dowling. When it comes to entertaining people by writing about everyday life, Tim is master of the kind of humour that ‘just happens.’ The trick is to know when and how to use it.

Behind

Never mind that I’m behind with the books.

It’s my Weekends. The Saturday Guardian Weekends, that would be. Not to mention the Guardian generally. It’s a long time since I read the newspaper with any great care and thoroughness. A quick glance at the headlines just so I know roughly what the rest of the world is worrying about. And so much is speculation that has yet to happen, and that does mean I get away with less reading.

I detest listening to the radio, I have to say. I like specific programmes well enough, but refuse to have the radio in the background, droning on and on. But if I did, I’d at least have a vague idea of what’s happening.

I was going to blog about being one day behind. And I am. One day behind. I tend to access yesterday’s newspaper most of the time, and the hardest bit is not paying too much attention to the television guide or the weather forecast.

And it can be handy, as sometimes yesterday’s news turn out to be irrelevant once it’s tomorrow. If that is what I mean. I seem to have no today in this scheme of things. More perspective on old news and speculation. However this Saturday’s reading of Friday’s news meant that I was still on Libya when everyone else is in Japan.

My Weekends, the Guardian colour magazine, is coming to my kitchen table increasingly late every week. This week’s is being ignored in favour of last week’s, but also the one from four weeks earlier, because I still have to take in the piece on Tim Dowling’s marriage counselling.

All this is fine. Really. But then I discovered I had not received my last two months of Vi. Inquired. They said I hadn’t paid. And, strictly speaking I hadn’t, but purely because they had not invoiced me. Or perhaps the same post gremlin who might be reading both the latest Sara Paretsky and the new Adrian McKinty is also protecting me from my bill.

Once we had sorted that, the missing copies were sent out and they will need some attention. My latest house magazine arrived a while back. And Pippi very kindly gave me three copies of Vi’s new sibling magazines in case I need something to read every now and then. I lie. There are two house magazines. I just turned round and there they were, behind me.

Along with some catalogues that actually are of interest to me. But then I will save money on not buying anything due to not having perused the catalogues. Which is good. Except raspberries only grow once you’ve bought the raspberry canes and put them in the ground. On the other hand, no jam for the Resident IT Consultant to make without raspberries.

It must have been last year that I finally came to the end of the pile of magazines the Uncle gave me thirteen years ago. They weren’t new then either, and you do get such lovely perspective being fifteen years or more behind.

Occasionally I read books, too.

Ash

I hadn’t given Thai orchids a moment of thought. It would be wrong to say I don’t care. But most of any care I have over the lack of orchids from anywhere, would be to do with loss of income for those whose livelihoods depend on them.

Until Monday evening we didn’t know whether Son would be able to turn up here this morning, and for a while it looked as if he’d be one of the lucky ones, with flight not yet cancelled and due to arrive 15 minutes after Manchester airport reopens Tuesday morning (if it does). But it was not to be, which I suppose should have been expected after he has narrowly avoided other air traffic disruptions this academic year. Son has a certain talent for ending up with travel disruption where his education is concerned, so why would now be any different?

But let’s return to the subject of Eyjafjallajökull, which Son can pronounce almost to perfection after his year in that place where he’s stuck for the moment. The Resident IT Consultant was amused at the Icelander interviewed on air on Thursday when it all began, because he reported that ‘the ways were closed and the cows were in the houses’. Of course they were.

Son has found himself increasingly annoyed with the BBC on this subject, and has resorted to Icelandic news on the internet. And as the orchids above indicate, I’m a little intrigued at how our trusted newspapers are reporting things.

It’s worth covering the repercussions of businesses going under, and possible shortages of tomatoes, say. But the Thai orchids can’t be unimportant only at Witch Towers, surely? Or the pre-washed salads. Convenient (and yucky, when you think of it), but hardly essential. I noted to my surprise that elusive ingredients for medicine is bad for the pharmaceutical companies. I’d have imagined it’d be worse for those who are ill and may need the medicine to survive. And I’m not going to lie sleepless if Robert Downey can’t make his film premiere next week. Will you?

Why do papers report such silly news? I’m the first to enjoy Lucy Mangan or Tim Dowling poking fun at stuff in an entertaining manner, but who checks what gets into the news pages?