Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Great British Write Off


“Should it be less or fewer buns, Mary?”
“Depends how many chaps are in the changing room, Paul.”

It’s a show in the making. Imagine the fame and fortune, the prime-time slot. The book deal goes without saying. Instead of a pinny, a holey cardigan whose chief merits are how nicely it wraps around you three times, with the added advantage of a breast pocket to keep hair bands in. Instead of staring at the oven and muttering, substitute a screen of that blue variety all writers dread. Explode every now and again for the entertainment of the masses.


Judges Lynne Truss and Louise Doughty pace about offering amusing remarks about infantile sentence construction while outside the tent it rains cats and dogs. Writers make sweaty notes about avoiding clichés. They observe each other’s workstations, assessing the ratio of Post-Its to yoghurt-coated raisins, and take a measured guess where the serious competition lies. All communication between contestants is via Twitter.

“Dividing me brings certain copyright issues.”

Rather like Gaul, the contest is divided into three parts.

1. Signature challenge: Authors are required to sign five hundred books, all with a variant spelling of “Josephine”. The signatures must be uniform from start to finish.

2. Technical challenge: Competitors produce a sentence at least a hundred words long, intermittently broken up with interesting punctuation. This is tested blind, which is a challenge in itself.

3. Showstopper challenge: competitors must dazzle, adding those unique touches of humour, finesse and hazelnut parfait that really make them stand out from the crowd.

At the end of the show, one writer is selected as Waterstones Book of the Month. Another is pulped on the spot. The rest breathe again, safe in the knowledge that it’s been a journey of 110% which they’ll write about that bit harder next week.

“Soggy bottom alert! I just spilt my tea on the keyboard.”


A Golden Future


Ballardy brilliant

“Mummy, what’s cerebral palsy?”

“It’s something you’ve got which means you can win medals in the Paralympics, darling.”


Older Son knows that he’s different. He yodels in supermarkets, holds regular coronations for his teddies and sings songs about cheese, and that’s before we even get started on the CP. With Paralympians thundering up and down the track in flashing blades and space-age racing chairs, belting through water like sharks, murdering each other in murderball in fearsome blue Mohawks, leaping into sand like gazelles and flashing their tremendous biceps at the world (thank you Richard Whitehead), his question could not have been better timed. Suddenly we can hardly move for role models in this house. And around two-thirds of them have CP.

Take 20-year-old Hannah Cockroft, T34 gold-medal winner in 100m and 200m. When she was born, doctors said she’d never do anything and would probably die in her teens. She broke the world record for the T34 100m back in May.

“Apparently I’m supposed to be dead.”

“The bus that was supposed to pick us up crashed on the way, then the taxis couldn’t fit our chairs in, so by the time we got the stadium we’d missed first call, final call and the warm-up. I went out and I just wanted to get it over with. And then I got a world record.”

Right you are, Hannah.

Older Son isn’t impressed. “She’s a girl, Mummy.”

“Flame! I wanna live forever…”

Oh. Sorry. Who else have we got?

*peruses extensive list with finger placed thoughtfully against lips*

How about Graeme Ballard? World-record holder for the T36 100m, he took silver in the T36 200m this year. He’s clearly got too much time on his hands as he’s also competed in national 7-a-side football and swimming. Or Josef Craig, S7 400m gold-medal winner in the pool, who smashed the world record in his heat and then, as if the world record had in some way offended him, broke it into even smaller pieces in the final. He’s 15 years old.

Holy guacamole, I feel pathetic.

We went to the Paralympics ourselves on Wednesday. Older Son was starstruck before we had even entered the Park. “Mummy, look!” he hissed in shock as two members of Team GB rocketed by in their chairs (sadly unidentified as they were moving too fast). “ATHLETES!”