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Friday, 15 July 2011


I idly asked F12 on our journey into school this morning what he thought the publican in my novel (ha!) should be called. We had had a bit of a tense time getting out of the house – over which I’ll draw a veil – and some neutral territory was a must.
“I was thinking of Alan Tutt,” I said, “Something non-descript.”
“No,” F12 said dismissively, “Vasily. Vasily Hutz.”
“Vasily?!” I said, “He’s not Russian, he’s just an ordinary English bloke.”
“Ah, so you’re saying English people are just ordinary and you have to be Russian to be interesting, are you?”
Need I say I sighed.
“No, I’m saying that if you suddenly have a Russian chap running a pub in an English village, then people are going to snag on that detail and he’s going to become more important than he deserves to be.
“Why shouldn’t a pub man –?”
“Enough,” I said, “He’s not Russian. He's just there to wipe glasses and he’s called Alan and he’s got a surly son in the North.”
“Vasily wears a trilby and a checked jacket and brown loafers and beige trousers. He got fed up in the Homeland with cocaine being brought in over the borders in lead-lined coffins.”
This was me told. Alan faded into the background.
“And he’s got a double barrelled shot gun and is from a noble family and is going to become a Duke. And an Earl. And a Lord.”
Alan negotiated to move back in with his ex-wife and re-commit to the surly son.

I should have dumped it there and moved onto something uncontroversial like gay women vicars or the siting of industrial incineration but I found myself musing on my heroine and what she should do. She needs to be at home (don’t we all) but the practicalities of funding the Riley lifestyle had to be addressed. I asked F12 for suggestions.
“She makes flower barettes,” he said with absolute certainty.
“What? Hairslides?” I said, “how have YOU heard the word barettes?”
“I just have.”
“Too much MI High,” I said, referring to a presumed crap TV programme.
“No. Not MI High at all, I just have, OK.”
“Alright, so she needs to make a lot of …. barettes …. to earn her money,” I was worried that she would be bent double over her desk and not be able to do all the things she needed to do, like be a heroine, like not actually work at all, just earn enough to warrant occasional trips to the pub to be served by Vasily. Alan. Vasily.
I had wanted the work to be a vague detail. Again, don’t we all.
“How long do people have to work each day?” he asked, “12 hours?”
“Hmm, a bit steep,” I said, “more like 7?”
“We’ll say 12,” the task-master said, deaf to my Union Rep. “So that’s 12 times by 7 makes 84. Now, if she makes one every 3 seconds …”
“Steady on,” I said, “Give her a break, one every 3 seconds! It’ll kill her. No way. One every five minutes, max.”
“SShh,” he said, irritably, “I’m Working It OUT!! She can make one every 3 minutes then. But she’s very organised,” he added, clearly displeased with the downturn in productivity, his fingers twitching like a turf accountant’s. “OK, so she can make 240 a day, that’s 1,680 a week and sell them for £5 each, that’s … that’s …
“£5!” I squeaked, “she’ll be lucky to make 19p and that’s pushing it and there’s profit and time spent buying all the stuff, and she’ll have to post it out and do her accounts and advertise .…” I was quite impressed with my business acumen here but he greeted it with a
“SSHHH! I’m counting, she can buy rhinestones for £10. That’s £8,400 a week. Less the £10. Cool. That’s good. Why don’t you do that?”

Why indeed. It was a relief to get to school.
On the way home, my heroine tossed aside, I thought, hmmm, barettes; cool. And if I could just up that productivity, haggle on the rhinestones …


Anonymous said...

Guess they come in useful for some things, kids. You have a clever one on your hands there!

CJ xx

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

That sounds like a 'conversation I wish I'd never started'! Mine is just like that, like a dog with a bone and never lets me away with anything.

Edward said...

Tears still streaming down my face. I think the person sitting opposite me thinks I've had bad news.

Very funny.

Tattie Weasle said...

I have feeling that it is best to write novels while they are babies and cannot actually reply to questions posed; there again I was just so damned tired then...best I get on with making the barrettes...life of Riley here I come!

Nora said...

How old did you say he was?

Milla said...

Thanks, CJ, he is clever. Makes it a hard path to trudge sometimes. Plus, of course, he's always right. Oh God.
Trisha, indeed, relentless. And where does it all come from. Interesting, though, in an exhausting way. This was all before 8am. No wonder I look 100.
E, you have had bad news, you've been reminded of What It's Like. You are feeling weak and shaky and glad to be 10 miles away. I'd move into that office if I were you. I'm fine here. Making hairslides.
TW, yes, E made it a condition of baby number 2, oops, that's F12, that I write a novel first. Yeah. That was successful. Maybe I didn't have enough cocaine-evading Russians with a fondness for Squire-togs in it.
Nora. 12. Yes. But has issues with placing self in a traditional age-led context. Or something. What I mean is he thinks he's been an adult since he was 9 months.
Thanks for comments.

TheMadHouse said...

Oh my what an exciting novel this is going to be, or maybe you should just make sure he is a foreman somewhere cracking the wip!

Fennie said...

Maybe you could turn the tables. How many scripts could be knock out if you wrote it all down for him? Let's say he could dictate to you 5 hours a day and you could type for 10 hours. Let's see that's about 10,000 words a day - a novel a fortnight let's say. Now if you make £3,000 a novel that would be something like £75,000 a year allowing a week off from Christmas. You could start with the 'Abduction of the Wealthy Barette Maker,' and then on to the 'Rise of the Phantom Calculator'. I'll look out for 'The Mystery of the Chequered Russian' next month and then on to 'The Painful Ending of Alan Tutt.'

Milla said...

Maddie (sorry!) believe me, the last thing that child needs is weapons. Though he has plans. Heart sinks. Glad you're home, must be such a relief. :)
Fennie, I have missed you! you're back, staggered off stage. I LOVE your ideas. Classic. Grinning away.

elizabethm said...

Why won't blogger let me comment!? aargrough. Thought I had commented last time, not here, and now seem to have eaten this one. Barettes, it's barettes that get me. Don't talk to him though, write.

Frances said...

Milla, once again you have made me laugh and laugh some more. That son of yours might want to be considering setting up some sort of competition for Etsy.

I was reminded of some conversations I had with my father many decades ago. It was summer school holiday time. I wanted money for some special shoes whose price was beyond the boundaries of my accumulated allowance.

And so. I approached my dad with the idea that I could do some needed weeding in the long gravelled driveway. I thought we could set up a certain price per square foot of clearing the driveway from weeds. It seemed a modest amount. He agreed. I began my weeding, and before long he realized that I had indeed cleared many square feet, also knew that my feet would soon be wearing those new shoes.

I think that we were both pleased with this result, but never knew for sure. Children can be quite good at negotiations.

You are always fabulous at writing! xo

Kitty said...

Classic F there I feel. Barettes not a bad idea, only don't think of putting sequin pansies on them, impossible to get hold of, I've tried.

So - novel, eh? Just let it run. I started one a few years back (now where is that CD-rom with the first five chapters on?) and the pub ended up being manned by two gay chappies. I don't know how that happened, they just sort of moved in as I wrote. And they had a tartan carpet. And the cleaning ladsy had a peach acrylic jumper. Nothing ever happened I just described stuff and people. A lot.

I'd maybe better start a hairslide business myself then ...

V funny Milla, keep 'em coming.

Kitty said...

Plus - Fennie - brilliant.

Sordel said...

Barettes make an appearance in the song "Burma Shave" by Tom Waits and I don't think I knew what they were for about twenty years after first hearing it, so your son is obviously well advanced in his comprehension of key cultural information.

Incidentally, there is an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which the nerds help their neighbour set up a business selling flower hair grips ... it sounds like a must-see in the Lite household.

Exmoorjane said...

Weeping. To coin a phrase - That is all.

Calico Kate said...

Utterly brilliant! I'd read the book - both books - and all the ones Fennie is suggesting - superb! & Frances's comment too - lovely!

The word verif is 'Baroide' do you think that might be an alternative to Barrettes? (Barrette from a 12 yo boy LOVE IT!)


Pondside said...

I'm so glad I came upon this, reading down the Armchair list. How old is he?...30 going on 15?
We say barrettes here - never had any idea of what a hair slide was until I started reading blogs. The word conjures up visions of a very uncomfortable piece of playground equipment.

Fred said...

Milla and Fennie, a double act.......

Anonymous said...

Oh, just pure genius!

Leigh said...

I have been out for the summer, but what a joy to return to this. 11pm and you have me laughing out loud. I love F12 (I might have said this before), and am happy to give him a lift to school any morning he likes. Hope he won't mind looking at the odd business plan on the way...