I don't know about you but I've had so many toasters in my life I've lost count.
My work-day breakfast routine includes a piece of toast with jam or honey and a cup of coffee, and if I don't have a toaster that works, well, you can imagine the rest. This kick-start to the day has to be right.
I'd purchased yet another toaster during lockdown. The predecessor was off its nut, burning the bread to cinders no matter the setting. So this one arrives by courier, all shiny and flash looking and I unpacked it with glee, all ready to plug in and enjoy. Lockdown has meant many things but in this case, it meant I could not peruse the toasters in the shop so had to look at them online and pick. I thought I'd done pretty well.
So off we go. Toast in, slide down, coffee ready.
Well, a loud 'thunk' that struck a chord of familiarity for me. Said new toaster tripped the electrical failsafe for the whole house. No power anywhere. Fortunately I knew how to remedy this with a reset of the switch.
Can you imagine the exasperation: coffee ready to go, butter and jam standing by, hungry writer ready to start work, a new, glamourous but defective toaster smugly proud of its ability to destroy it all.
What to do? Dig out the old pyromaniac toaster from the garage and put up with it.
I've had cheap toasters, top of the range toasters and it doesn't seem to make any difference. They have all bitten the crumbs after what seems to me to be an inordinately short time.
Now I think this short-circuiting toaster is reflective of what's going on for me right now. Our city of Auckland has been pinned down by the arms and legs by COVID restrictions for about four months and my circuits are overloaded.
This evil minded toaster sent me over the edge. It doesn't take much to trip my failsafe. I think a lot of us are short-circuiting right now.
I just want a toaster that works. I want a nice piece of toast with my coffee without having to worry about the toaster blowing up the house.
Is that too much to ask?
I've written before about my cat Betsy - indeed she had her own journal for a while. She was with me for 21 years. That's a lifetime, you could say.
She died last December and I still miss her.
You know how it is. Sometimes you see a flash of grey-brown in the garden and your brain in its instinctive wisdom goes, 'It's Betsy-cat' and then it rationalises, 'No, she's dead - that's a young blackbird you're seeing.'
Or you'll be sitting watching TV at night and you'll hear what sounds like a plaintive meow from the front door. That would've been Betsy wanting to come inside. Maybe some feet pitter-pattering on the tin roof. Betsy loved going up there to enjoy the expansive view and moonlight.
It's been said that our deceased loved ones visit us in dreams. This is when they can drop in and say hi, let us know they're doing OK. I am not sure about this but I do know I've dreamt about Mom lots of times and I nearly always wake up feeling reassured but in pain because I miss her so much.
Despite the pain, there's a knowledge that she is fine, enjoying wherever she is, probably hanging out with her old friends over gin and tonics. Now, I don't mean any disrespect here but imagining her in this way brings me comfort. Sometimes I see her as the woman she was before Parkinson's stole so much from her - vibrant, funny, always a smile - and at other times she is debilitated and a bit wobbly but she is unfailingly happy and often, in these dreams, I am taking her shopping, something she and I loved to do together.
Last night I had a dream about Betsy-cat. In the many months since her death, I've thought of her a million times but she hasn't come to me in my dreams.
In this dream I was walking up the driveway and she was lying on the warm brick steps, enjoying the sun as she loved to do. In the dream, I was so astonished to see her (because I knew she had passed away) that I exclaimed, 'Betsy! I'm so pleased to see you!' and she lifted her head in that relaxed way she had, as if to say, 'Oh, it's you, OK' and then she got up and came towards me. 'Hello sweetheart,' I said as I gave her some loving pats and tickles around her ears.
Then, once again as was her habit, she allowed this affection for just so long and then turned away to return to her warm spot on the brick steps. By this time in my dream, I was crying, saying 'I miss you Betsy...'.
I woke up then to find I hadn't shed any real tears on my pillow but my throat was thick with them.
Was Betsy telling me she was OK, lounging about in the warmth of wherever she is, letting me know all was well?
I don't know. What I do know is I miss my old mate. We had a great run together - 21 years is a long time and what a gift it was to have her for so long - and even though she's no longer hanging out in the garden or on the roof, she'll always reside in my heart, my special Betsy-girl mate.
How do you write a book?
One word at a time, or, on a good day, several words.
It can seem like an impossible task, this book-writing gig. You have an idea, you can see the end result (your book sitting in the shop, people flocking to purchase, the movie deal knocking at your door), the fame and glory, cash rolling in ... fabulous!
But how do you get there?
I hate to tell you that the movie deal and tsunami of cash may be a bit of a challenge - but aim high, I say - and the reality of writing a book is a mission that needs to be undertaken with a commitment as solid as the Great Wall of China. Many books begin with a flurry only to languish in desk drawers or share a box in the attic with last year's Christmas decorations, or reside deep and lonely in a hard drive somewhere.
Having an idea for your book is the first step; having a plan to reach the endgame (publication, movie rights, adoration) is the next, and then, well, once again I'm sorry to tell you, you have to write the jolly thing.
Going the distance with your writing will take discipline. Just like athletes training for the Olympics, they won't get there unless they have a plan, work hard, and stay with it. Of course you can hire someone to write it for you or mentor you while you write it (someone like me...) or you can set yourself a writing goal and make a writing plan you can live with and that's important because if it's unrealistic, you may not be able to stick to it and use this as an excuse not to do it.
Now comes the 'word by word' bit. That's how you write a book. Some days the words flow, other days they don't, but those words add up, they grow, layer on layer, page by page. Some words in that first draft may be outrageous, embarrassing, totally wrong, but that's what first drafts are for, building content, page after page, chapter after chapter, giving you content to hone, craft and polish .
Focusing word by word can take away that overwhelming feeling of 'the whole', the panic and desperation we sometimes feel when we visualise the flashy book on the shelf but cannot see how in the heck we will ever get there.
The whole is the sum of its parts.
Those parts are the chapters.
The chapters are the words.
Go for it.