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Chloe again, again…

And she’s back. The questions she chose to tackle yesterday were the easy ones. I had to talk her into returning to answer the rest. It’s wonderful what the promise of wine and chocolate will do!

You have something in a drawer that you have told no one about. What is it? Why have you kept it secret? Why haven’t you thrown it away?
Yellow BlanketIt’s a yellow blanket, one of those baby blankets with holes in. I was wrapped in it when my real mum and dad crashed the car. My mum gave it to me when I left home. One of the paramedics at the scene wrote down my real mum’s last words, and that piece of paper is wrapped up in the blanket. It’s like a nursery rhyme, but not one I’ve ever heard before, and I don’t understand it:

Rocking to, rocking fro,
The balance must be kept.
In the wood the stone will grow,
That centuries has slept.

I’ve kept it secret because it sounds a bit mad, to be honest. I never really knew anyone I wanted to tell it to. But it’s the only link I have with my parents, so I couldn’t throw it away.

Is your desire to search for info on your birth family getting stronger?
Not particularly. Well, that’s almost a lie. I want to know where I came from, for some reason the place is more important than the people. I’m not bothered about having a sense of family, because I’ve never had that and I’m not sure I could cope with suddenly having lots of relatives. But I would like somewhere to call home. I have this strange feeling that my home is calling to me, and that home isn’t Northampton (where I grew up), Nottingham (where I was at uni) and certainly not London, where I live now.

Are you going to explore the hidden meanings behind your draw to the countryside? After all, you are trained in psychology.
Yes. See above. I have a very strong feeling that my real home, where I was born, is somewhere in the English countryside. Or it could be Wales, or maybe Scotland at a stretch, but I don’t think it’s that far away. I have no explanation for this feeling, all the psychology degree gives me is the ‘knowledge’ that it’s irrational! Doesn’t stop me believing it though. If there’s a God, he’s certainly trying to steer me somewhere.

In the 10 years that have passed, do you see yet that it’s not about how pretty you are?
I guess you mean what I said about John going for the prettiest girls? Well, I always did see that, but I didn’t feel it. I’m not sure I do even now. John can make my heart do somersaults just by smiling at me, and a big part of that is that he chose me rather than any of the others. And I still don’t know why. So sort of yes and no – it isn’t about how pretty I am, but I don’t know what it is about. Does that make sense?

In your fantasies who are you?
Someone who can fly a long way. I can imagine nothing more magical than just taking off and following the sun, or the moon, or the stars.

Have you no ambitions in life?
That’s a really difficult question! See my answer to the next question, and probably tone it down a bit for what my true ambitions are.

What would you do if you won the lottery, would anything major change in your aspirations, or would it just be fun to spend it, and you’d end back up in the same old rut?
I can’t spent money just for fun, so I definitely wouldn’t fritter it away. There are two things that would change, for sure. I’d give up work, and I’d buy a house in the country. I never really liked any of my jobs, they’ve always been a means to an end. Dad left me a bit of money, enough to put down a 50% deposit on the flat, which helps. We still can’t live on John’s salary alone though, not the rate he spends money. So yes, the first thing I would do is leave work. And a house in the country, that’s always been my dream. When I was a little girl it was a magical house with a stable and a pair of horses for me and my handsome prince. When I was at uni it was a rock star pad, with a swimming pool and a stage. Now I’m not fussy really, just as long as it’s warm and dry, big enough for me and maybe a couple of dogs, and miles and miles away from any built-up areas.

Yes, what would you do if you had enough money to quit work? Would you look at John differently? Would you leave him?
I think it would depend on him. If he wanted to come and live in the country with me, that would be fine. But if he didn’t, I don’t know what I’d do. I hope I never have to choose.

Why do you think you’re so insecure?
What’s behind all that guilt?
Does being doormatic feed your guilt and give you what you deserve?
Are you an honest victim?
All these questions are really difficult for me to answer. I don’t actually know the answers, to be honest. I didn’t think I was particularly insecure or guilty, and I don’t really think of myself as a victim. I don’t stand up for myself as much as I should, I know that. I am trying to do something about it, and so far I’m doing pretty well, I think. At work, anyway. Doreen keeps trying to persuade me to stand up to John as well, but I reckon I’ll tackle one thing at a time. As for getting what I deserve, doesn’t everyone? Yes, John has hit me once or twice, but it was always when I was winding him up, so it doesn’t count as abuse or anything like that.

I haven’t got any questions at this point, but do have a suggestion for a hobby: she flies a glider.
Now that I agree with wholeheartedly. I shall book myself some lessons. I’d better not tell John though, he’d re-mortgage the flat to buy his own bloody glider!

So, that’s about it. If you have any further questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them for you (especially as the Old Bat is bribing me with yummy things). Otherwise, hopefully it won’t be too long before you can buy the book and read about the strange and wonderful things that happen to me!

And Finally…

Old Bat here again, just to play you out. Thank you so much to Chloe for taking the time to let us into her world and helping me to understand what makes her tick. I don’t think she’d be one of my bessie mates, but I’d certainly be up for going down the pub with her, or a long walk in the country.

And thank you even more to you guys who helped me by asking questions that I had to dig deep into the mystery that is Chloe to answer. It’s been a fascinating exercise, and I feel a whole lot happier about my plan to spend a lot of the next six months with her. Julian, Laura, Steph, Fran and Adrian, you’re all stars! and if the novel ever gets published you’ll definitely get signed copies and a mention in the acknowledgements!

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Chloe again…

She’s finally surfaced and is going to answer your questions. She was sulking with a hangover yesterday, too much introspection and Chardonnay the night before, if you ask me. So, Chloe, it’s over to you. Take as many posts as you want, don’t rush.

Thanks, Old Bat. I didn’t know your friends were such a nosey crowd, or I wouldn’t have let you talk me into this! I’ll start with the easy ones and work my way up (of course, you can draw whatever conclusions you like from the order I tackle the questions in).

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

My favourite trainers

My favourite trainers

Nine. Three smart pairs for work (blue, grey and black, to go with the rest of my capsule wardrobe). Two pairs of Nike trainers which I wear most of the time outside work (I always buy black ones, and when my best pair is getting shabby I buy a new pair and donate the older pair to Oxfam). Strappy red sandals, black flat shoes, and gold stilettos (for going out). A pair of expensive walking boots (essential to keep feet dry and blister-free on long hikes).

What’s a typical Saturday for you?
Chances are John will be out with his mates, playing with the latest boy toys. Last month a couple of them bought speedboats, and they race them on the Thames. So I can do pretty much as I please. I get up early and do the Waitrose shopping before it gets busy (I’m not a morning person, but Waitrose is awful at the weekend, and I get really bad trolley rage). If John’s up when I get back we’ll have a coffee together and read the Telegraph. When he goes out I write a letter to the editor – I do that most weeks. Usually about green issues and the impact of people on our environment. I feel very strongly about that. I actually got one published once. Then I’ll go out, post the letter, and most Saturdays I join Doreen for lunch at a tiny Caribbean cafe she discovered ages ago. Their jerk chicken is the best I’ve ever had. We’ll talk about her grandchildren, who are always getting into ridiculous scrapes (I thought it was only in the Beano that kids got saucepans stuck on their heads), she’ll try to persuade me to leave John, then I’ll steer the conversation back to small children. In the afternoon I might visit a garden centre, just to see the plants I’d choose if I had a garden. And in the evening, if John’s out I’ll drink Chardonnay in front of the TV, if he’s around we might go to the pictures.

Do you have any internet friends? Are you on facebook/twitter?
I don’t do the social networking thing, I’m not even quite sure what twitter is. Sounds a bit pervy, everyone following everyone else. I think I have a facebook account, but I haven’t logged into it for a while. I’m signed up for quite a few internet newsletters, like the Rainforest Alliance and the WWF. My mum discovered email last year and she’s always sending me messages, nothing interesting most of the time but she gets upset if I don’t reply. Denise emails once or twice a week, telling me about her wonderful life as a wife and mother. She’s so different from when we were at school, smoking in the toilets and dancing in our bedrooms to Curiosity Killed The Cat (two shameful secrets for the price of one there!). Apart from that, a few ex-colleagues and ex-school/uni friends stay in touch but nothing significant.

As I thought...

As I thought...

How would you score if you took ‘How evil are you?’
I’d be a kitten… hang on…
Oi! Old Bat!
What?
Can I borrow your Facebook?
Go on then, but get on with answering those questions.
Right… yep, a kitten.

When did you last dream about how you’d kill John?
I’ve never dreamed or thought about killing him. But now you’ve put the idea in my head… LOL, not really! Sometimes I think it’d be fun to destroy his current favourite toy though. Back in January it would have been the Ducatti that’s now under a tarpaulin in his mate’s garage. Now it’s the speedboat, but that’s only half his.

Are you into politics or religion, and if not, why not?
I’d be interested in politics if we had an effective Green movement in the UK. I did go on the Countryside Alliance march, not because I agree with fox-hunting, but because I don’t think people like me who live in towns and cities should dictate how things work in the countryside. As for religion, I do go to church most Sundays and I guess I do believe in a higher being of some sort. This is a secret I haven’t told anyone, but when I’m gardening at Mum’s or out walking in the countryside I sometimes hear a voice that’s somehow bigger than any human being. I’m not sure what it’s saying, it sounds like it comes from a long way away. And no-one else can hear it. If that’s not God, who is it?

I think that’s enough for now. I’ll come back tomorrow and answer the rest of your questions, but right now I need to lie down in a darkened room.

Thanks, Chloe. This is much appreciated, it helps me understand you a whole lot better.

And many thanks to Julian, Laura, Steph, Fran and Adrian too, we couldn’t do this without you!

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Interview my character

OK chaps, I need practice in putting on other people’s lives. It’s one of the prime mistakes for new writers, to make all their characters aspects of themselves, and it’s a mistake I’m certainly prone to. I often (not always, which is strange) find it difficult to imagine how a character feels, why they react the way they do, what their unique voice is… you get the picture.

At writers group on Monday we tried out the interviewing technique I learned about at Caerleon in the wonderful Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Become Your Character’ after-tea session. We each created a character (a burglar who has nightmares!), then took turns to interview each other. It was excellent fun, and we’ve come up with an ongoing project as a result – more on that in a later post.

I digress. The point is, I found it really hard to be Katie, the troubled teen from a broken home who robs houses for fun and is terrified of her dad’s new wife. Writing up a character sketch of Katie yesterday, I realised I was struggling really hard to take myself out of the equation. In some ways it was easier to write the sketch than to be interviewed in real time, as I’m not too good at thinking on my feet, but in other ways it allowed my own thoughts, feelings and reactions more time to get entangled with Katie’s.

Can you help?

I thought it might be fun to extend the exercise here, and encourage a bit of interaction… and beg for help! I’ve asked Chloe (the main character in my novel) to write a bit about herself, and I’d be eternally grateful if you could take on the job of interviewers, and ask her some really searching questions in the comments. No holds barred, anything goes. And then I’ll get Chloe to answer the questions in my next-but-one post (the next one will be #fridayflash, of course).

I’ve just read through what she’s written about herself, and I’m struggling to find any redeeming qualities, she seems like a bit of a wimp. I’m sure she must have some though. She’d better – I’ve got to spend a whole novel with her! I think she needs another hobby – anyone want to suggest something she could take up while her no-good husband is out with his mates?

Hi, I’m Chloe

Me on holiday last year, catching up on emails while John was paragliding

Me on holiday last year, catching up on emails while John was paragliding

My name is Chloe Hunter. I’m 33 years old, married with no children and no pets. I’ve been with John ever since we met at university. I couldn’t believe he wanted me, he was always surrounded by much prettier girls. He said they were all too sure of themselves, and he liked my insecurities. Anyway, after I got my psychology degree, I came down to London with John. He’d got a job in banking, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. My dad died when I was three, he left me enough money to put down a deposit on a flat. It made sense for me to take on the flat and the bills while John was getting his career going.

John by the sea

John by the sea

I trained as an occupational psychologist, and eventually I ended up in Human Resources at Hickman Carter (a property agency), which is about as inhuman as it sounds. It’s not about providing resources for people, it’s about treating people as resources. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick it. John says I have to keep my job, we need both incomes to support our lifestyle. I guess he’s probably right, but I sometimes wonder if I want the parties and holidays and new cars that go with that lifestyle. Still, if it wasn’t for John’s friends, I probably wouldn’t talk to anyone outside work from one week to the next!

I miss the countryside, and go out of the city as often as I can. I don’t know why, I grew up in Northampton and have never lived in the country. I guess I had a happy enough childhood, apart from Dad dying. I don’t think Mum ever forgave me for that, but it wasn’t my fault, not really. We went to Southend on holiday. All I remember was the sand in my shoes and the sea going on for ever. I fell in the water, off the pier, and Dad jumped in to rescue me. He had a heart attack and drowned. I can’t see him in my mind any more but I still catch his smell sometimes, pipe tobacco and engine grease. He was always trying to fix our old Ford Capri. Mum sold it as soon as he died.

I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I was adopted. Mum never told me much about my real parents, except that they died in a car crash, in a stolen BMW, when I was only a few months old. I did think about trying to find out about them, but John says it’s not worth the hassle. They’re dead, so why bother?

I used to have lots of friends, but they’ve kind of drifted away over the last few years. I’m not very good at keeping in touch with people. A couple of them still send Christmas cards, and Denise phones every now and then. I don’t like talking to her much though, she keeps telling me I should leave John. He says she’s a jealous cow who doesn’t understand how much we love each other. She just remembers the time he got drunk and gave me a black eye, but she doesn’t listen when I tell her how sweet he was afterwards. I know he didn’t mean to hurt me.

Just about the only person I talk to much these days is Doreen, our team secretary. She’s persuaded me to stand up for myself a bit at work. She hates our boss as much as I do, but she’s not as good as me at hiding it. I’m very good at keeping my head down. I have to say, though, I quite enjoy saying what I think in meetings. The looks on their faces were priceless the other week when I told them their redundancies proposal was bonkers! Perhaps I should do it more often!

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn't it beautiful?

What are my hobbies? Well, like I said, I love going out into the countryside. I can walk for hours, rain or shine. I think one of the best weekends of my life was when John was at a conference and I got in my car and drove up to North Yorkshire, just on a whim, and walked and walked and walked. Apart from that, I keep the flat clean (my mother trained me well), watch TV (I have a guilty addiction for EastEnders and Casualty), and sometimes I try to write poetry. It never turns out right though.

So, what else do you want to know about me?

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