Excentrico guests  – Danish J – #livinginSpain

1st of July and although at one stage it looked like we’d never get here, the Casa Excentrico is in business, the G suite is up and running, and there be guests!

Oliver, the front room overlooking the street, has J, a Danish writer / translator, who has been in for a week and is booked for four. We occasionally put the world to rights over summer wine (tinto de verano) on the terrace, since between us we cover most demographics (he’s male, mid-thirties, and being Danish, EEA rather than EU).  Now to get the governments of the world to listen to our brilliant solutions, eh?

NEW 1

He’s keen on politics, but his passion is football, and the World Cup is on at the moment. He has become the house’s roving reporter, advising which pavement cafes have TV and, importantly, their allegiances (Barcelona or Real Madrid), as that affects which international game they will be showing.  Of course every Spanish game is shown at them all, and then the place to be is the Futball Café.

As it happened I was there with local friends W and E on the night of the kick-off between Spain and Portugal. We’d gone because TripAdvisor gives the place great reviews for its tapas and its fish dishes, just the 3 of us as our mutual friend Nick doesn’t care for fish and doesn’t live in Velez anyway. As they aren’t footie types either, we were a little puzzled when TV screens started appearing on the plaza next to the café, and stacks of chairs were carried out, followed by scores of tables. The gathering buzz, as the extra tables were briskly set up, and equally briskly claimed, was palpable. We ordered a third round of drinks, received a third included-in-the-price plate of tapas (the first had been mushrooms in a delectable dressing, the other two fish-based) and can report that the quality, despite the excitement, held up nicely. It’s sunny on the plaza until about 9 p.m., it was a good game, and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant.

Back to guest #1, J, he’s definitely one of the most laidback guests any host could ever want. He doesn’t mind being woken by the dawn chorus as every bird choir in Spain gathers outside the window to sing the sun into the sky:  he goes straight back to sleep and doesn’t even hear the bread van when it stops at the door and hoots around ten a.m.  He’s usually first spotted around noon, coffee in hand, as he heads up to the sun patio. If he hadn’t seen me the evening before to give me the football results, he will stick his head in the study window to update me gravely on the state of play. The guest living-room fridge is crammed with interesting food-stuffs and summer wine and he says he’s loving the place, and finding it beautifully cool after Granada, where he was staying before.

Note to self – avoid Granada for the summer, since the temps here are nudging 32 degrees most days. ‘Beautifully cool’ is the very last description I would have used.

Cameron, the room overlooking the atrium, has had its first guest too, and is gearing up for the next on Wednesday. I’m not sure I’d be doing blogs for every guest, just the more excentrico ones, but P does qualify and his blog follows shortly.

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The Firma Digital (electronic signature) #livinginSpain #FirmasForDummies

These procedures seem to change minute to minute but I have added a Citizens Advice Spain link at the end which I found useful, and my grateful thanks to them. The process had already changed slightly but not so much that it was impossible to follow.

Why, you may ask, a digital signature at all? I’d never heard of such a beast before I came here, but perhaps they are spreading everywhere. Certainly Spain has a lot of bureaucracy, and a great many forms to complete, and luckily many of these forms can be completed online rather than trekking through blazing sunshine to queue in a hot building for a chance to practice your Spanish (or lack thereof) with burócrata.  However, such forms have to be signed – hence the firma digital. It is a certified form which downloads to your computer and can be attached to official applications as it proves that you are who you say you are. It’s a bit of a fiddle to get but saves endless amounts of time (and queuing to apply for things) once you have it.

In effect you apply via, say, CERES. If you follow the instructions properly (see the CAB Spain link at the end of this blog), you will be given a reference number.

You then find the closest official representative and present yourself with suitable proofs of identity. The official representative verifies you are who you say you are, confirms to the website that reference 8283838etc is indeed human and in existence,  the website emails you a certificado which will download deep into the bowels of your computer, and Bob’s your uncle.

Dead easy, right?

Right.

Okay, my additional pointers to the CAB link are firstly you can’t apply via Google Chrome. It comes up as an unsafe site, every time. The choices are Internet Explorer (which doesn’t like me, and it is mutual) or Firefox, and after some fruitless faffing around on IE I downloaded Firefox and zoomed through the application.

(I like Firefox but it isn’t very good at translating and while it obligingly said WELCOME and my headings were in English, the text stayed stubbornly in Spanish so there was much hopping to the tab with the Spanish-to-English translator. Anyway.)

Done, and I had my reference number.

Now to be verified by an official – The closest official firma digital representative was, yay, the local council office, the ayuntamiento.  Except that it wasn’t, anymore (this is oddly Spanish, information can be quite profoundly out of date, why bother to change the website?) The kind senora behind the desk explained it had now been farmed out to the local Casa de la Cultura.  I rather wish it hadn’t, to be honest, since the official who handles it there works two evenings, and one morning, a week, and isn’t always there.

Still, on my third attempt I struck paydirt, presented my padron (see my previous blog), my NIE, my deeds and my passport (rule of thumb – take every piece of paper you own, you never know what you will be asked for) and by the time I walked home the email was already in my mailbox to download my certificado direct onto my computer.  One two three done, your certificate is downloaded.

Um – where?

And this is where the other useful piece of advice comes in. If you, like me, used Firefox, click on the Firefox menu, top right hand corner. Click on Options. Search for certificates and when presented with a bewilderingly long list, select the ‘your certificates’ tab. It will be there. If not, download again.

I have also, under Options, switched Firefox to asking me where to file downloads but I’m not sure this would have helped  – the firma hides out of sight and talks only to appropriately authorised websites. Human beings aren’t really welcomed into the equation at all.  Our role is to haul documents around in street temperatures topping 30 degrees C until our task is complete and we can drop exhausted by the wayside.

Here’s that helpful link –

https://www.citizensadvice.org.es/wp-content/uploads/HOW-TO-OBTAIN-A-DIGITAL-CERTIFICATE-FOR-YOUR-COMPUTER.pdf?18f76b

And of course now that I have my firma digital I can complete my application to offer accommodation, since I am already accepting bookings on my temporary licence. Another blog looms. Thanks for bearing with me here, guys. I need all the moral support I can get.

 

Got my #padron, waiting for the policia to call – #livingInSpain

Sooner or later you have to tell the Spanish authorities that you have moved in, and the NIE*, although fairly vital to everyday life, doesn’t cut it.  You have around six months grace – time enough to know whether you will be sticking around or not – but after that it’s not only polite to register, it is required.  It is free, and adds you to the population of the town or city where you spend the most time.  I have the stamped copy on my desk, and at some point the policia will knock on the door and ask to see my passport or NIE to confirm I am me. Sorted.

The Padron – short for empadronamiento – if you live more than 180 days a year in Spain, you are legally required to register on the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes. It’s not unlike getting yourself on the electoral roll in the UK, but has more benefits and is a vital step towards eventually applying for permanent residency.

So – this is how you get it. Well, how I got it. Call in at the local town office, which rejoices in the name of Ayumtamiento (saying ayoomta me ento will get you pointed in the right direction) and ask for the form. (Necessito padron, if you speak pidgin Spanish as I do, I still sound like a 2 year old). Requirements can change, apparently, but they asked me to complete the form and bring it back with a copy of my NIE and my escritura (deeds) or lease.

Tiny problem there as I don’t have my deeds yet – this is an old house, and the seller’s grandfather’s death certificate was destroyed during WW2 and that’s delaying things, but presenting the first page of the formal document I signed in front of the notary when I bought the house was acceptable.

Completing the form was, even with the aid of my online translator, a bit tricky, and I finally hauled in a Spanish teacher I’ve met socially and paid for a couple of hours of her time (there were other forms we tackled as well). For example, I use two surnames, unhyphenated, as a matter of course, and the form asks for 1st Apellido and 2nd Apellido. I was advised, though, to put Elizabeth Lamprey as my nombre, and my surname as 1st Apellido, as this is the way my name appears on my passport.

(In Spain it is common to include the surnames of both parents in a name, the 1st being mother’s maiden name and the 2nd being father’s, and you more or less have the choice of which to use as your own surname, but should stick thereafter with the one you chose.  Hence 1st and 2nd apellido. Confused yet? I did borrow this ambiguity for my book The Money Honey and have no idea how it doesn’t cause more confusion, but everyone seems to understand it without any problems)

Back to the form – I had to then enter my most recent previous residence (Edimburgo, Reino Unido) and my date and place of birth (which, according to my NIE, is Durban, Natal, Reino Unido, there you go, Natal always did say it was the last outpost of the British Empire), my NIE and that was pretty much Bob’s your uncle.

The only other pause for thought was my estudios terminados – level, you could say, of education – and on the advice of my helper I chose 43 from the list on the back of the form – i.e. some studies after completing school, or the equivalent of a BA.

Presented, accepted, stamped, copy issued, and waiting only for the knock on the door.

yay

*The NIE,  more than the UK NI, is part tax certificate,  part ID number, essential to prove existence, and comes as pretty much part of the deal when you buy property anyway.  NIE stands for Número de identidad de extranjero and you will be asked for your number constantly, even when accepting a delivery at your door. Passport number is accepted if you are an obvious outsider, but the NIE is preferred.  I know it takes a while to obtain – up to a month – but as mine was sorted by my Spanish lawyer while I was still in the UK I can’t report on the process.

I mentioned we were tackling other forms – the digital signature, which is proving a bit of a mission, and my licence to offer rooms to let as a rural property owner, watch out for future exciting blogs.  So far I have a reference number for my digital signature but must present myself at a suitably authorised authority for verification (closest may be  Motril but may be Granada) after which I will get my confirmed virtual document on their website which I can download and send with every online application for anything.

I also have my temporary CTC reference to advertise my rooms to let, but need to confirm that in full within the month, more bureaucracy, oh joy. I am joyful that as I live in a town of under 20K residents I am considered a rural location and didn’t need to jump through the draconian requirements of letting rooms in a big city, where you have to offer full hotel standard with all the health and safety requirements of same. Yikes!

 

The end of the beginning – aka, el final del principio

Last Saturday, 5/5,  I had a small party – I’ve been invited to several since I got here, so it was a chance to return hospitality, but more importantly it marked the end of the beginning, a target date to have things ready, all the rubble cleared. I moved in on 3rd October and I was carrying the last bags of debris to the town bins at 2 in the morning six months later.  It was a long slog!

I’m no cook, and my renovations have provided a kitchen smaller than either my home office or my bathroom. The catering was the simplest – a picnic  theme, an assortment of help-yourself fillings and a range of fresh breads from the bread van. I pre-warned him on Friday in my best Spanish – every day I buy two 8 inch rolls (at 90c for both,  the easiest and cheapest way to do lunches for myself and buddy / builder Nick) and on Friday I said fluently “mañana cinco y rosca y baguette” (tomorrow five, and 8 inch bagels, and everyone knows baguette, right?)

I didn’t add ‘por favor’ because I have a complex about that, we Brits are known as por favors because we say it too often, the Spanish find it hilarious.  My Spanish is still terrible, in part because the local dialect cuts the ends off words so learning ‘proper’  Spanish  doesn’t help much. Even something as simple as buenos dias, here, is pronounced ‘born-dia’

So that was the base catering, the dozen guests brought tapas-type items and quiche and dips, and in the end it was quite a spread, and a lot of fun.  The grass matting was still being laid until 9 pm the night before, and I was still frantically tidying the last bits when they arrived promptly at 2, help, they live here and they don’t keep Spanish time??

DSC_0882

It was only when they left that I could, for the first time in six months, savour the sheer pleasure of looking at the atrium. It’s a long narrow house with a long narrow atrium / terrace and when that’s empty, it catches the heart and the imagination – well, it caught mine.  On the 3rd of October I unpacked the camper van into it and around a week later my furniture and boxes arrived and near-filled it and ever since it has been the heart of the building operations and has looked absolutely horrible for six months.  Some day (phase three) it will be tiled properly again but in the meantime I’m loving the grass!

terry pic atrium

DSC_0607 DSC_0857 DSC_0835

In a way the terrace photos below illustrate the six months best, but perhaps that’s only because it was the last job finished. The terrace was a series of long shallow steps (the first photo is at their worst, from the top looking down). Now there is a levelled section big enough to hold a table and chairs for sundowners, with the ‘welcoming arms’ curved retaining wall a nostalgic flashback to my childhood.  The plumbing to the laundry is well old so we carefully built in new piping so that if or when the original pipes spring a leak, connecting a new supply won’t mean digging the whole thing up again.

So now I’m basically ready for guests. The trick is sourcing the writers, walkers, cyclists, hikers, poke-around-exploring travellers who want accommodation in a typical Spanish town near the beaches of the Costa Tropical and Granada and the Sierra Nevada in a slightly quirky house. No problem, eh?

Velez without powerlines

Six months in Spain, and counting

I am not yet fluent in Spanish, in fact haven’t yet started formal lessons. I speak a sort of pidgin Spanish, and sound like a toddler, relying heavily on nouns and the medium of dance. Me want (insert noun here) (eg necesita pintura blanco, I go through gallons of pintura blanco) or pointing at things for sale and asking brightly ‘much?’  (Cuánto?)  I had cards printed with name, address, telephone numbers, that helped, if I want something delivered I ask ¿transportas? then hand over the card and my NIE number. Everything  is driven by the NIE number. It’s the same as the NI number in the UK, but here it proves you exist, while standing right in front of someone doesn’t.

Saying ‘no hablo Espanol’ gets a shrug, saying ‘poco Espanol’ gets sympathetic attention, especially if I then stumble through the phrase I have carefully memorised off Google.  The Spanish are very nice to idiots, especially idiots who are trying. I am very trying.

Small town life has lovely advantages – all the shopkeepers are dedicated to teaching me Spanish, and make me repeat the correct name for something at least 3 times before they hand it over. They all chatter away cheerfully for at least 5 minutes during each purchase, and anyone who enters the shop is included in the conversation. Everyone in town – small children through to the oldest residents – greets each other (and me) in passing, without fail. Hola, or buenos dias, or just a barked ‘dia!’ Some of the children show off to each other by greeting me in English. Most people are a little nervous of my portly Frenchie-bulldog cross, and freeze if she looks their way, but a few greet her, then beam at me if she glances at them. Her manners are disgraceful, she rarely greets anyone.

The bread van comes by every morning bar Sundays at around 10.30, and he will wait a few minutes for me if I don’t come hurrying straight out (my order never changes, two plump bread sticks, 90c, muy bien, gracias.) We sometimes discuss the weather if it has dropped below 18 degrees C (frio! Si!)  My English-and-Spanish-speaking Dutch neighbour has introduced me to a few of my neighbours, and one of them insists on us kissing (mwah, mwah) in delighted greeting every time we see each other, then she chats in Spanish for a few minutes, pats me forgivingly on the cheek for not being able to contribute anything but comments on the weather, (honestly, how British am I?) and bustles on her way.

There are reasons I haven’t started my lessons, I’m still – yes, six months down the line – trying to sort out this enormous rambling shambolic house. I no longer call it the elefante blanco – the more it shares its eccentricities, the more it became obvious that it is the casa excéntrico. The renovations are not quite single-handed, although I have sworn never to have a Spanish-only builder here again: instead the Herculean task is being accomplished painfully slowly with the help of a semi-retired English builder who arrives every day around 11.00, drinks copious quantities of tea and coffee and cola cao (hot chocolate) and finishes around 6.30.  I say with his help – it is of course the other way round, there is an occasional bellow of ‘Biff!’ and I drop what I’m doing (painting walls doors and shutters, or trying to get generations of paint and plaster off floors and skirting boards, usually) and dash off to hold ladders, help carry bulky objects, go to the builders yard to collect stuff, or make what he calls ‘executive decisions’ on matters which have popped up unexpectedly. Things do pop up quite often when one is working on an old house which has had some very odd builders (and inept handymen doing patches) over the decades. He was a friend before the project started and who knows, the friendship may even survive this mammoth task – we do spend a lot of time spluttering with laughter. We also spend a lot of time bickering. It’s companionable.

Another reason I haven’t started studying is that I’m teaching English for several hours a day – I sit at my desk, headphones clamped to my head, and enter a virtual schoolroom somewhere in China, for two or three sessions a day. I’d do more but the 7 hour time difference makes that an impossibility.  It does slow down work on the house since Nick can’t drill, or use the disc cutter on tiles or bricks, or hammer at things, while I’m tutoring, and has to turn instead to plastering and quieter pursuits. There’s luckily no shortage of walls needing plastering.

Squeezing a Spanish lesson into the evenings would be do-able and the Casa Cultura is in easy walking distance, but I’m also trying to finish the last book in the Lawns series before I can no longer remember what daily life was like in Scotland – fifteen years, and yet already it seems a distant dream. I suspect I’m also struggling because it is the last book, and I shall miss them so much.

My social life, thanks to Nick introducing me to his lovely local friends, is probably busier than it was in Scotland. I don’t go out alone locally, as I’m so tired by evening, and usually splattered with paint into the bargain but soon after I moved in last October there was a night filled with regularly-spaced gunshots and distant brass band. The local Saint was out and about, and the gunshots were to alert the town. Oh help, I thought, as my dog tried to burrow through my lap to safety, this is going to be fun if it happens on a regular basis.

In fact not yet repeated. The plaster saint in the enormous church does emerge occasionally and proceed around the town, carried on the shoulders of townspeople swaying in eerie unison, but the guns have stayed quiet.  I caught up with an outing for Easter (Semana Santa) and made a very inept video of proceedings on Good Friday, link at the end of this blog. It was an unexpectedly moving event – this is not for tourists, it is for the town, and has been rooted in tradition for hundreds of years, a combination of mourning and gratitude for dying for our sins.  Easter is very different here – not a hot cross bun in sight, and a small display of chocolate eggs arrived diffidently on the supermarket shelves about a week before Easter.

There are traditional Easter foods, but you are expected to cook them at home.  One of them is torrijas, bread soaked in egg and milk, then fried, which I would have sworn was French toast. I must be mistaken, all Spanish food is unique, and by the way they invented pizza. They say so, and they’d know, after all.  Their pizza dough is sweeter, and less crispy.

Actually, everything is slightly sweeter. A lot of the baking is based on choux pastry (well, whatever it is called here, where it was doubtless invented) and cream. The Christmas cakes are a million miles from heavy dark fruitcake – roscón de reyes, (a crown shape for kings), choux pastry rings filled liberally with cream and (optional) tiny ceramic figures and garnished with candied fruit. Yummy!  Christmas lights in the streets tend to snowy mountains and stars, standing decorations are Nativity scenes, and Santa Claus is conspicuous by his absence – until you look up from street level. For some reason, my neighbours in Velez adore the dangling Santa, clinging for his life to balcony rails. There were 3 in my street alone.  Otherwise, apart from the occasional festive wreath on a door, very low-key – Christmas generally is a family day. The main difference I noticed in the beautifully decorated shops was the peaceful lack of Christmas carols – just the usual music, played at usual decibels. I actually rather liked that. Back in the UK by Christmas Eve even Slade gave me an instant headache.  There are parties and general gift-giving, but they are reserved for the Day of the Kings, the 6th of January, when the Wise Men arrived with the first gifts and the roscon de reyes is brought out for visitors.

Roscon de reyes choux pastry and cream and little ceramic figures

Before then was of course NYE, and I was braced for loud parties, more gunshots, and revelry in the streets – nope. I’d been told to eat a grape for every chime of midnight but there weren’t even local chimes. A few decorous fireworks started a minute or two after midnight, and were over in 15 minutes. Okay, this is a small town, I have no idea what happens elsewhere, but the animals loved it, Hogmanay had always unsettled them.

Moving to Spain in the teeth of Brexit does make the future uncertain, with rumours and counter-rumours flying. There’s a Citizens Advice Bureau for ex-pats on Facebook, and I froze with horror just a few days ago at a warning post about twelve agreed directives coming into effect on Brexit day in March 2019. The CAB said in the preamble that they believed several were discriminatory and they would support anyone who needed help when they fell foul of the rulings. One directive said non-Spanish speakers would have to take an official translator to all official appointments including hospital visits. Another: anyone who hadn’t switched their UK driving licence to a Spanish one by March would have to take a Spanish test. The list was draconian. The 11th said the wearing of swimwear anywhere but on the beach would be punished by law. The 12th said anyone showing signs of sunburn when leaving the beach would be fined . . .  now hang on just one cotton-picking minute.

Only then did I realize the date. April Fool . . . ha bloody ha. Nearly gave me a heart attack!

Regrets? None. Last year when I had my house in Scotland on the market I was close to giving up and thinking I would never sell, and getting tiny odd frissons of panic – I have to be out of Scotland by winter. I couldn’t understand it, but of course now I know why – what a winter I missed.  Ironically, I was probably colder indoors here than I would have been there (unless the central heating had packed up) because the Casa Excéntrico was designed for hot weather, not cold. It isn’t a sunny house. I suspect, as a redhead, I’ll be deeply grateful for that come full summer, when street temperatures will be making me wilt and I’ll be doing my grocery shopping in the cool of the evening at 9 pm, but its dim and shadowy coolness, plus the fact it has been a building site all winter, made it crypt-cold. When I first moved in I designated the room off my study as a storeroom and bought industrial shelving to put my cases and boxes there until the renovations were over. (I will be offering suitcase etc storage to holiday home owners, so it was an investment in future income.)

As the overnight temperatures dropped to single figures (during the day it rarely dipped below a sunny wear-a-jersey 17 degrees) the storeroom abruptly became the designated winter bedroom, a bed wedged in between the shelves, to share heat with the study.  The walls of the house are at least a foot thick, and one radiator did keep both rooms at around 18 degrees. Neither the dog nor the cat could be coaxed out of the winter suite until the sun was on the upstairs patio, then they bolted up there to catch rays until the evening chill drove them back to the heater.

March was wet – the average winter rainfall is 15 inches, but we had 16 inches of rain in the first 3 weeks of March. Not much of it, phew, made it into the house, old as it is, although the hall flooded twice until I learned why my neighbours spread plastic ‘aprons’ across their doors – the step may be 6 inches above street level, but the churning rapids pouring down the street can occasionally exceed that. I learned to stack empty cement and plaster bags either side of the door, weighed down with bricks, when heavy rain was forecast, and kept my feet dry.

Not sure what mañana will bring but there will be tangles with bureaucracy, that’s a given. I came here by campervan and lost track of the months a bit, suddenly realizing its MOT was about to expire. Eek. Straight off to the ITV centre, theoretically to get an ITV voluntaire to sell the van but actually secretly hoping I could go ahead with Spanish registration. Nope. The van sailed through the challenges of the ITV but – shock horror – the logbook doesn’t show the weight. A DVLA clerical error which never stopped it passing over a dozen MOTs over the years, but stopped the matriculation process dead in its tracks. I sold it instead, and waved it sadly off back to the UK. It will be returning at least once a year, but not to this area – the buyer drove 5 hours from Valencia to see it and turned out – small world – to be another former South African.

But back to bureaucracy – I have my NIE to prove I exist but must soon arrange my Padron, registering as a townsperson. My little Toyota IQ will soon have to start the matriculation process, to become a Spanish car.  The best part is that it will get a numberplate showing it as a 2018 car – as the shape hasn’t changed since it was actually manufactured, it will be able to strut the streets looking like a new car. I was advised repeatedly to sell it in the UK and buy a left-hand drive here, but I love the car and didn’t.  Second-hand cars have no value in the UK – I would have been lucky to get a thousand quid for it. Cars don’t rust here, and hold their value for years longer. The same make and model, same age and low mileage, is at least 6000 euros, and I’d have no idea what its history was. Spending up to 1000 euros to matriculate mine seems a good deal to me.

And back again to bureaucracy. Buying the house was dizzyingly quick – from making my offer to sitting in the notary’s office and taking over the Casa Excéntrico took less than two weeks. Six months later, though, it still isn’t registered in my name. The death certificate of one of the seller’s grandparents was lost during the war, when that records office was bombed and burned out. A gentle wrangle has continued at stately pace since October. The seller is spreading her hands – nothing she can do, and the town council accepted that with the last house she sold. My lawyers are insistent – there must be, I think, a sworn affidavit? Whatever. Everyone is assuring me the house is mine in law, the money was handed over in front of the notary, this is purely a formality, and will soon be sorted. Luckily the registration was included in the fixed fee I paid the lawyer so the delay is costing nothing but frayed nerves. It doesn’t help that friends I have made here bought their house 18 years ago and it still hasn’t been registered in their name. Que sera, sera.

That link to the Semana Santa video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHV_VG6f2kU

Feliz dia!

 

 

 

How famous a writer would you really want to be?

Yup, I know, international best-seller and household name. That’s the kneejerk reaction, right?

When I first starting publishing books I was convinced I was putting myself under a spotlight for the whole world to see. I’m pretty sure other writers can identify with that, because of course we are. Some are cautious and call themselves totally different names. Some do use their real names, or switch to using their nom de plume all the time, bring it on.

However, the world has quite a lot of calls on its attention. Several million writers, for starters, and unless they are phenomenally successful, writers come pretty far down on the list. From being terrified of the spotlight, we move to diffident attempts to attract it (er, hello?) to actively trying to get noticed, to shrugging and accepting that there may be a handful of people glancing our way occasionally. On a good day.

I genuinely hadn’t realised how far my own attitude has shifted until a member of the singles website which enjoys my patronage did a blog about one of my books – the guide to using a singles website, Looking For Mr Will-Do-Nicely.  It was a decidedly barbed blog, wondering aloud how many people from the website would find themselves in the book, and the first few comments were definitely a little paranoid. A website friend sent me a hurried whatsapp, you have to get that blog deleted! Contact the moderators, they are very helpful, they can take it down.

Are you crazy?

I wasn’t thrilled – the blog was barbed – but as Barnum said, no such thing as bad publicity. The book doesn’t point any fingers at individuals, only at types. It gives really good advice. It’s even listed on my profile on the website, and more to the point, it’s not private. It is for sale anywhere in the world. Anyone can buy it. I wish more people would. Everyone on a singles website, for starters.

grin

My website buddy was slightly horrified. But she’s being negative. Whatever you do, don’t comment on the blog! It will stir up all sorts of trouble.

Umm – like people talking about the book? I did appreciate her concern, but it came from her personal horror of being targeted by the malicious. Individuals crave privacy, writers crave publicity.

I commented on the blog, mainly to defuse the paranoia, and there was laughter and a little discussion before the singles turned their attention to another blog and the whole tiny storm in a tiny teacup faded into yesterday’s news.

Makes me wonder, though, having embraced the spotlight, how bright would I want it to get? It would certainly be nice to sell more books, and all the marketing in the world can’t replace being discussed. All advertising, PR and marketing is aimed at starting discussion!  He who shouts the loudest gets the most attention, and I’m rubbish at shouting.

Can you imagine achieving fame, though?  Shifted from behind the parapet, and hoisted into full view  … after those early anxieties I hadn’t thought about it at all, but these days, ouch. To be even mildly or briefly in the spotlight is to be sniped at by any mean-spirited numpty giddy with the power of being able to fire their assault rifle from cover. To be so famous that every fretful tweet you ever wrote in a bad mood was hauled up out of context and shredded, every unguarded word you ever added to a public Facebook debate was given the rubber-hose treatment, and every decision you made was criticised by the following trolls? It happens to politicians, it happens to celebrities, and it happens to household name writers, good or bad.

So, not too famous.  Selling a few thousand books a month would more than cover it. Ta.

(That singles one, you should tell any mature single you know to get it. No, seriously. Good advice. It’s not in the margin with the others because it isn’t fiction. Click here for an Amazon near you, ebook or paperback)

http://mybook.to/MrWillDoNicely

Losing the plot – “to cease to behave in a consistent or rational manner”

Okay sure that’s one meaning and covers a lot of behaviour. Irrational anger, yup, lost the plot. Dithered helplessly instead of following a clear course of action – also lost the plot.

There is the literal meaning. Your plot of land, your home. Losing that, losing everything.

There’s a third meaning for writers, a little more up close and personal, when the characters hang around listlessly and shrug at words thrown hopefully at them instead of charging off joyfully in new directions with the writer scrambling to keep up.

I gave up trying to direct my characters around book four and just followed their lead, admittedly sometimes with my eyes popping.  Now, poke or suggest or wheedle as I may, the final plot simply won’t string together. The quartet know they’re on their last book, about to be made redundant, and you could cut the atmosphere with a blunt axe. Damn it. The series has picked up a small but loyal following waiting with interest to see how the quartet disentangle themselves and work out who done it for the tenth and last time, me as much as anyone, and I’ve given them the plot and will they come to life and play with it? They will not. Not so much lost, in this particular case, as being stonily ignored. I’d give up and try to think up another but I like this one and I surely have some say?

I know, that was whiny.

Funny how one informal phrase can resonate on so many different levels. Well, funny isn’t the mot juste, really. Not laugh out loud funny. Not even funny peculiar. But now I’ve picked the phrase to pieces it no longer even makes sense. I’ve lost the plot.

sigh