I've just been whizzing round my local shops and have come home with a small treasure - two reels of Gutermann thread. We have at least six hairdressers, four shoe shops and a nail bar, but nowhere to buy threads, needles, fabrics etc (and I speak as a fabric junkie) so when someone told me that a tiny dry cleaners had bought in a range of Gutermann to fill the gap, I was there in a trice. Which makes me wonder - do shopping centres create people, or do people create shopping centres? Are all our prospective young dress designers and our knitting aunties and grannies now queuing up in the nail bar?
This morning I read with great amusement a blog about the problems of using swear words when writing for children and Young Adults. It seems that at least one library in America refused to stock a book containing the word 'damn'. A way around this is to invent words that stand in for the real thing, but how offensive is the real thing? Most of our current swear words have lost any power to shock, mainly from over-use - the words I sometimes use to address my computer when it's playing up would have horrified my mother, but we do need a magic sound-weapon to use when things go wrong. When things go very wrong, I think multiple-word curses are possibly more effective. A curse can be personalised, and edited imaginatively, although I've been told that in some languages, the whole curse thing can be compressed into a single sound, akin to a swear word, as in: 'I will do an obscene thing to your sister in front of your mother in church' (which I believe might be Hungarian).
In the past few weeks, I've been reading a trio of very different books, each one a delight. Penny Dolan's MOUSE, with its well-researched nineteenth century background and its clever, convoluted plot, was simply un-put-downable. It even grabbed my husband David, whose reading tastes are usually very different from mine. I enjoyed ONE DAY so much that I think I may pass on the film because the book invoked very personal images of the people involved, while Michelle Lovric's BOOK OF HUMAN SKIN had this human's flesh creeping at times - she's an amazing writer.
Coming soon as an e-book (apologies for the TV cliche) - my 2001 time-slip novel based in both the nineteenth and the twenty-first centuries - TO SUMMON A SPIRIT, first published by Walker Books. The ideas in the story had been brewing inside my head for years, initially triggered by the ornate stones set randomly into front garden walls in my north London suburb - where had they come from? And the street adjacent to ours which always flooded after a lot of rain - did it want to return to being a lake? Writing this book took me on a fascinating journey into local history (which I then, of course, promptly subverted). The theme of the book was of an undying friendship spanning centuries, and one of the best personal reviews I received for it came from an eleven year old girl who said simply: I think you wrote this story for me.