Thursday, 17 March 2011

Looking for Legs

I’m in Spain with three generations of my family.
We’re on a mission to decorate the house in preparation for my (future) in-laws visit.
They’re coming over from Colombia for the wedding in May, which may sound far off but then you haven’t seen what there is to do.
As I write this, my hands still smell of white spirit.
To date, I have painted three doors and my slippers.
In addition to improving our house for the special occasion, we’ve also been exploring possible refreshments.
You may have heard of the fine supermarket ‘Lidl’.
Forget the branch in South East London, the outlet in the nearby Catalan town is sheer quality and boasts an exciting variety of wines.
Whether they taste exciting is another matter.
On Tuesday we invest in a healthy selection ranging from 0.99 cents to 4.99€
The plan is to open a bottle (or two) each evening and mark it out of five stars.
First, we sniff.
“Rounded,” someone says, “Sort of.”
Then we taste, carefully.
Is that a hint of cherry?
Or is it blackcurrant?
Perhaps it’s Oak?
I read the label of the Navarra Reserva (expensive at 3.99).
“Tobacco and leather,” it says.
I’m not sure I want my drink to taste of either.
As our tasting continues, I get a sneaking suspicion we’re not connoisseurs.
“The question is, does it have legs?” My auntie says.
She swirls the wine around her glass and holds it up.
“What does that mean?”
Supposedly, if the wine has legs, it will visibly trickle down the side of the glass, (the inside of the glass that is).
The first wines we try are vinegary, get low scores and don’t have any legs.
The next lot are only marginally better.
On Day three we open a Rioja Reserva.
It doesn’t sting my nose when I sniff it, which is a good start.
It’s smoother on the tongue and I wonder if the previous acidic wines have numbed my taste buds.
I don’t swirl it around in my glass because I’m afraid I’m going to spill it and with seven of us drinking, there’s not loads to go round. My Grandmother is far from impressed with the tiny trickle in her glass and suggests we open another.
Does the Rioja have legs?
“It has more legs than a centipede,” Mum concludes.
It certainly gets the highest score at 23.5 out of 35.
But it’s not over yet.
There are still more to go.
The suspense... is palpable.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The First Draft

As planned, I completed the first draft of my novel last week.
Reading it was as difficult as writing it.
It was abysmal.
Of course it was! I’d basically scribbled out a story without adding any colour, smell or texture.
My characters were as developed as an amoeba without a nucleus.
Still, a terrible draft is better than no draft at all.
My current method is a backward one.
Now I’ve written the book, I’m going to start researching it.
I’m going to look deep into my characters hearts and wonder what they really want for breakfast.
What are their greatest fears, their strongest desires? What on earth is in their pockets?
My young heroine, Lilly, is obsessed with reptiles and wants to be a wildlife photographer.
I went to the library and took out ‘Iguanas for Dummies’ ‘Life in Cold Blood’ and an ancient copy on how to take photographs.
I now know some very interesting facts, including why my brother’s pet iguana died so prematurely when we were kids. Iguanas don’t eat bugs.
Getting to grips with who Lilly is will be a piece of cake compared to finding out who Alejandro ‘Alex’ Quintero is.... if that is his real name.
For starters, what’s it like to be a boy?
And what’s it like to grow up on the Caribbean coast of Colombia?
I don’t have all the answers but I’m going to have fun finding out.
Meanwhile, if you are a boy and were brought up in Cartagena de las Indias, please get in touch.