So far I seem to be taking the agent rejection thing in my stride. I’ve sent out about ten submissions and had two or three rejections. That’s fine, I expected it. Occassionally if I really liked the agency I’m disappointed but I certainly haven’t taken it personally. However I have discovered a type of rejection today that does hurt.
I spent the afternoon painting props for my daughter’s Jungle party, which we’re having in our house this weekend. Nothing fancy just a giant palm tree, a pin-the-tail-on-the-zebra and some leaves for Musical Leaves (think musical chairs). I showed them to her after nursery and her first response was “that one isn’t quite covered. You missed some.” And that was it.
And it HURT.
I wanted to yell all sorts of rude things at her. Analysing my over-reaction afterwards I realised that I wasn’t (that) bothered that she didn’t like my jungle leaves. It was more that she was being exactly like me. When my husband does house DIY I’m much more likely to say, “what about this bit?” than “well done that’s amazing.”
Breeding a mini-me has forced me to come to grips with my worst habits and traits and it’s HARD. I’m also worried that she won’t enjoy her party because of something I haven’t managed to get right. She has talked about her birthday party pretty much every day since the last one and it’s become a big thing in her mind. Settling on having a zebra party (which I have expanded to be a jungle party) has put my ingenuity to the test. So far I have only failed to source a zebra cake (and I don’t do baking) so not sure what I’m going to do about that. Hoping I’ll find a store that will do one of those print-from-picture things.
Anyway, as today has been mostly party prep and a couple of query letters I haven’t done any research on Alnwick Youth Hostel. I’m trying to decide whether to send Claire to the castle or focus on her first night in a dorm. You’ll find out in a minute which I chose!
Claire put her key in the lock, opened the door, and peered into the room as if someone might jump out and attack her. It was dark so she reached inside for a light switch, hoping no one was asleep. Surely no one will be in bed at 8pm?
A quick scan of the bunk beds showed them all unoccupied. Claire released a breath she didn’t realise she had been holding and stepped into the room. It looked like only one or two of the four beds were taken, as there were only two bags in the room. Relieved to be alone Claire shut the door behind her and had a proper look at the room. The walls were blue and cream and there were stripy curtains in similar colours.
It’s not about to win any décor or luxury awards but at least it’s clean.
She looked closely at the beds and realised that both bottom bunks had been claimed by the current occupants. Maybe I should have come straight to the room this morning, I might have been able to claim a bottom bunk. She didn’t fancy the idea of climbing up and down a ladder in the night. I haven’t slept in a top bunk since I was about eight and I got concussion falling out in the night. Thank god mum thought it was time for me and Ruth to have our own rooms.
The memory brought others to mind. How Ruth used to wriggle, shaking the bed as she shifted position every fifteen minutes. How her snoring that would resonate up through the mattress when she had a cold. Claire felt a chill prickle her skin. She hated sharing her space with people. Except Michael. The words entered her mind only to be shoved away.
Claire chose the bunk furthest from the door and tucked her bag in the corner. She removed her nightie and wash-bag from the rucksack and threw them on the bed to stake her claim. Then, with nothing else to keep her, she decided it was time to go and have dinner. She hesitated before taking her iPad from its position stuffed between cashmere sweaters. She had avoided having it on display in the hostel in case it marked her as different, but she needed to spend some time on Twitter and the other social media sites and it would prevent her from looking like an idiot by herself at dinner.
The hostel dining room reminded Claire of school dinners at primary school, before she was whisked away to join the same school her father had attended. Not that there had been girls there in his day. The dining hall there had been rather more opulent.
Claire chose a seat in the corner and prayed no one else would join her. There were a few people in the dining room but it wasn’t crowded. Claire ordered the most palatable thing on offer, then loaded up her blog and tried to think of something interesting to write. She had spent the day in a giant second hand bookstore – largely because it was warm and she didn’t have to walk anywhere. She wasn’t a big reader, but had found herself caught up in some silly romance with a bright cover. The book was in her bag upstairs. Purely for research purposes, so I can embody the backpacker spirit.
“Hello, may we join you?”
Claire looked up from her iPad to see two blonde girls standing in front of her holding trays. A swift glance confirmed what she already knew – that there were empty tables in the dining room. Claire hesitated. She couldn’t bring herself to tell the women no, feck off. But at the same time she didn’t fancy being crowded in by a couple of strangers. She noticed a flicker of consternation whisk across one of the girl’s faces and relented.
“Of course, please.” She gestured to the empty seats and sat back so her iPad wasn’t taking up table space. There are two of them, it’s not like I need to make conversation. Claire resolutely stared at her screen, giving off her best Metro-travelling vibes, the ones that created an area of blank space around her even when the trains were crushed with commuters. It failed.
“Hi, my name is Ola, this is my sister Francis. We are from Sweden. The nice man at reception said you were staying in our room, so we come to say hello.”
Claire looked up and stifled a sigh. She couldn’t ignore them now, no matter how tempting it was to pretend she didn’t speak English. “Hi, I’m Claire, nice to meet you.”
“You are English yes? You travel long?”
The one Claire thought was Ola was clearly puzzled that someone would choose to travel solo round their own country in the middle of winter. Or that’s what I would think anyway. Who knows what she’s thinking under that beautiful Scandinavian mask. Claire tried to decide whether to come up with a story more interesting than the truth, but she couldn’t find the energy. She settled for a slight twisting of the facts.
“I’m a writer. I’m researching a piece on hostelling in Britain.”
The girl who hadn’t yet spoken, Francis, lit up at the words. “You write for Lonely Planet?” She spoke the words reverentially, as if Lonely Planet were on a par with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
“No, sorry, it’s an independent piece.” She finished speaking then gazed away, signalling that she had no more conversation. The girls took the hint and began talking quietly to each other in their own language.
I wonder if they’re talking about me? Claire eyed up the lasagne and garlic bread the girls were eating and wondered if it was too late to change her order.
If one of us is going to reek of garlic all night, I want it to be me.