it doesn’t work ‘just like that’
Posted on December 10, 2021 Leave a Comment
WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead for the SATC reboot ‘And Just Like That’ so please stop reading now if you don’t want to read such things!
It’s been a while, dear reader, since I was moved to write a blog post. This almost feels like going back in time to the more innocent days of MySpace, really clunky html and webpages that flashed through RGB codes in alphabetical order. And, in a sense, remembering such times is what has moved me to write this. Being of a certain (clears throat) age, I have watched and loved Sex and the City from the beginning. I know that it’s a programme that gives away its age with some out of date views, a little bit like Miranda in a cringworthy scene in this new version. But I always loved the sense I got of New York and, rewatching, the 90’s. It was a nostalgia fix.
When the Friends cast reunited for an interview earlier this year, the writers of the show said how they hadn’t wanted to do new episodes. To do another series, they said, they would need to create a storyline with impetus. This would mean unravelling the happy endings they had given the characters and this was something they didn’t want to do. Having now watched the first two episodes of ‘And Just Like That’ I think their instincts about this were completely right.
OMG they killed Big. (The bastards!)
They also potentially killed the sales of the premium indoor bike the Peleton by having our favourite reformed toxic bachelor do a workout on his and then keel over with a heart attack.
It upset me. My hand went over my mouth. I had to watch the next episode right away to check it wasn’t a bit like the first time Nate died in Six Feet Under. But it wasn’t. And it was done BADLY.
I’ve read reviews today that have mostly complained about the ‘woke’ aspects of the show’s reincarnation. But, honestly, what did you expect to happen? All of them to carry on living in the 90’s like some weird guy they do an ‘and finally’ piece on in the local news? I’m yet to find a single review taking issue with Big’s death. In fact, many suggest that this storyline might save the series.
But it is WRONG. It is bad writing. It is poor research. It is ANNOYINGLY inaccurate. All I can think is that none of the reviewers can have ever lost a friend to a cardiac arrest, nor lived with a partner with a heart condition. As for the writers, did you consult a doctor about this plot twist? Or anyone who’d experienced their partner having a heart attack? Because, if you did, you must surely have ignored everything they said. What’s more, you made me want to slap Carrie. And I like Carrie!
So, where do I start?
First of all, if you have a husband who has had a stent fitted in the past, regardless of any ‘clean bill of health’ it’s highly, highly unlikely you’d let him get on his Peleton for a very vigorous workout unsupervised. Sorry, no. In fact, once somebody has had this kind of surgery there are all sorts of rules about exercise. Yes, it’s good. Yes, it’s encouraged. But only with constant heart rate monitoring to check that the heart doesn’t go above a certain rate (for my husband 56 btm, which sounds very low but he has drugs that keep it down). Sure, it’s possible that these things relax many years after the surgery, as would have been the case here. But the idea that someone would get on their bike and do that kind of workout alone in the house just comes off ridiculous to me. Similarly, the idea they would smother the healthy fish they were cooking with salt. Madness!
Also: when you have a heart condition you are given a spray of something called GTN. This helps your blood vessels dilate in an emergency and can save your life. There’s no chance you’d do a vigorous workout without having it to hand.
And, while I’m here, at one point Big reaches for his phone but can’t get hold of it. I mean, why not? A mycardial infarction (which is what we must assume this was since he had arm and chest pain and didn’t just collapse and die) is debilitating but doesn’t stop you from using your arm. I mean, perhaps it could, but my husband had quite a serious one (a full STEMI blockage) and was conscious for hours and able to walk around, so I find this plot point a stretch, given that Big is still conscious when Carrie gets home. And, anyway, what kind of multi-millionaire in a swanky New York pad has no Alexa or Google voice controlled devices? Why couldn’t he just say ‘okay google call 911?’
And it only get worse when Carrie arrives home.
There’s a huge build up to Big’s heart attack that makes it oh so obvious what’s going to happen, with cuts between the recital where Charlotte’s daughter Lily gives a dramatic virtuoso performance on the piano. It’s well done, I guess, except that it felt a bit clichéd to me. I can’t say exactly why but it did.
Then Carrie gets home and comes in looking for Big. She calls out his real name, John. No reply. She finds him slumped beside the shower, still conscious but clearly very, very poorly. She screams his name. Runs over. Holds him. Snogs him! Keeps saying oh John, oh John. He’s conscious. Alive. He doesn’t look in any way like someone experiencing agonal breathing and cardiac arrest. He looks like someone in pain and close to losing consciousness. You wouldn’t just hold your partner in this situation and give up.
WTF Carrie? Sure, we all do mad things when we’re scared but if you have a partner with a heart condition, you rehearse this scenario in your head time and time again. You know exactly what you’ll do if and when you need to. You’ve watched videos of CPR and know where the nearest publicly accessible defribrilator is. I can believe that she’d run over and grab him before dialling 911 (at a push) but not that she’d continue holding and kissing him for that long without making that call. He’s still conscious ffs. I do not buy that her reaction would be to hold and kiss him rather than save his life!
The scene ends with a classic call back to the voiceovers of the original show (which are much quieter in this version). Carrie tells us ‘And just like that, Big died.’
And I am screaming at the screen at this point. What do you mean ‘just like that’? Where’s the CPR? Where are the paramedics? Where is Carrie reaching in a cupboard to get the AED device that they would surely own given their affluence and Big’s heart condition? No. This does not make sense. Giving CPR to a loved one is traumatic. Watching paramedics try to revive them is, too. Seeing them in intensive care with their life on the line for days or weeks is horrendous. But stepping aside from this trauma with a line of voiceover is unforgivable. For women like me, and friends who’ve been through worse than I have, our favourite TV reflecting that is potentially A Good Thing. But not if they’re going to gloss over the reality and just give us some trashy signal that Carrie’s lost her mind with fear because the shower is still running and she lets her Jimmy Choo’s get wet.
I stayed up very late watching the next episode and, to be fair, things began to improve a little. Carrie’s stony silence and vulnerability felt right, as did her rejection of the funeral parlours she visited. It felt in character. But how do they continue the series from here? Grief, especially on the premature loss of your partner, is not something that clears in a few weeks and allows comedy in. It’s massive. It’s an iceberg compared to the break ups, relationship troubles and even the fertility and health issues the characters have faced before. We can’t simply get “our Carrie” back, who calls Stanford rather than Charlotte because he will make her laugh. I just don’t see how they can do this in a way that is realistic but also entertaining.
But, hey, they might surprise me and completely redeem the series. It’s going to take actual genius, though, for me to forgive them for the way they let John James Preston die.
Nottingham, City of Crime
Posted on September 5, 2019 2 Comments
Today is publication day for Dead Flowers and I want to talk about Nottingham, where I live and where the novel is set.
I was born in Nottingham in 1971, moved away in the early 90’s, then moved back to the city, in part to study Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, in 2002. I had been writing exotic stories, set in exotic places, like Paris, Ecuador and New York City. But, when I moved back to Nottingham, I realised that my home town had far more interesting things to offer.
I absolutely believe I write differently about Nottingham. That I write with heart about my home city.
Nottingham has had its ups and downs. Around the time I moved back here, it built a reputation as Shottingham, the crime capital of the UK. Like most of these narratives we hear about places, it was far from the full story.
Nottingham has had its problems and, in many ways, it truly represents a microcosm of the UK. But, at the same time, it’s the city that was brave enough to premiere Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs at the Broadway Cinema (where I worked, for a while, in marketing). It’s a city famous for its rebels, and for its rebel writers. It’s where a river divides north from south. It’s the place that grew Vicky McClure, Charlie Resnick, and Dead Man’s Shoes. It’s the home of Raleigh, Player and Arthur fucking Seaton. It’s one of the furthest places you can get from the sea in the UK, but it builds its own beach every summer, in the market square. It’s urban to the core, and yet it has a huge cliff in the city centre, and a massive network of caves, as well as several of the oldest pubs in England. I love this city, except when I hate it. It’s fucked up, and it’s brilliant, too.
Whatever people say it is, that’s what it’s not.Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., Robin Hood statue, Nottingham Castle, CC BY-SA 4.0
Posted on September 4, 2019 Leave a Comment
So, in the latest in my blog series about Dead Flowers, I’m going to talk about Opportunity Knocks. This was TV talent show in the 1970’s (briefly revived in the late 80’s, I think)
The show pitted some very different acts against one another, a bit like a school talent show. So, any one week, you might see a comedian compete against a magician compete against a singer, band, or even a plate-spinning dog. And the 70’s (and earlier – the original format of the show started in 1949) was not just pre-internet but before most people had a phone in their home. The result of the contest was established via a postal vote, and, as a viewer, you only found out a week later. Now, that was suspense…
Quite a few of the stars of the day came to prominence through this show, including Paul Daniels, Su Pollard, Darren Day, Paper Lace, Pam Ayres and even (as Royston Vasey) Roy Chubby Brown. I suspect his act was rather different back then.
A fictional episode of the show plays an important part in my novel. And, yeah, you’ll have to read it to find out how 🙂
Here’s a taste of the show, for those who never saw it
The Pitcher and Piano
Posted on September 3, 2019 Leave a Comment
Tonight, it’s another location from the book and, actually, another pub. This one’s the Pitcher and Piano, a converted church that is one of the most beautiful bars in the city.
This pub sits at the top of the same cliff where the Loggerheads nestles at the bottom. As pubs go, the two places couldn’t be more different. The P&P attracts a rowdy, city centre type crowd, as well as the stag and hen nights that are very characteristic of Nottingham’s weekend nightlife. Sian’s uncle used to have a rather derogatory nickname for the pub, but you’ll have to read the book to find that one out. (Thanks to Al Needham for the inspiration!)
My book has two timelines, the present day and back in the 60’s/70’s. Back then, this was the Unitarian church and there’s a scene there in the historical part of the book. One of the things I’ve had fun with in this novel is playing with the connections between time and place.
If you’re ever in Nottingham, make sure you visit the Pitcher and Piano for a pint, and decide if you agree with Sian’s uncle’s assessment of the place or not 🙂
The Loggerheads Pub
Posted on September 2, 2019 Leave a Comment
The Loggerheads is one of my major settings in Dead Flowers. In fact, more action takes place there than anywhere else in this Nottingham-set novel.
The first reviews are in and they’ve been lovely, which makes me very happy. One of my favourite comments so far was from The Bookbag about the setting. “Monaghan’s other great skill is in making the city of Nottingham come alive, to the extent that it’s almost a character in its own right.“
Representing Nottingham fully and vividly is really important to me, which is why this particular comment means a lot to me.
I’d like to think that the Loggerheads had a lot to do with that. The real version of the pub sat on Cliff Road, a small crescent of council houses almost in the centre of town. This street has always fascinated me; its closeness to the bustling city centre and yet its separateness from all that. Its strange position right at the bottom of a cliff, and under what used to be the city’s prison. Its history, previously as Narrowmarsh, a dirt poor, disease-ridden slum. Walking along Cliff Road to the pub I can almost feel the place bristle with all that history.
The version of the Loggerheads in the book is my made up, fictional version of the pub. I did lots of research, but I’d never been there myself. I think this is better, in a way. I’ve invented two versions, two sets of characters hanging out there, the first in the 60’s and 70’s, when it was thriving, and a contemporary version where the pub is closed.
I hope readers enjoy visiting my Loggerheads and, indeed, my Nottingham
Posted on September 1, 2019 Leave a Comment
My new novel, Dead Flowers, is out later this week. In the run up to its release, I’m going to post a short blog every day about an aspect of the story.
Today is all about Elvis.
Elvis is my main character Sian’s dog, a retired cadaver dog who used to help the police find dead bodies. He’s a German Shepherd, and her very best friend (and probably the only creature in the world she truly trusts)
The inspiration for Elvis was my own dog, also called Elvis. He’s a German Shepherd/Mastiff Cross and a total gentle giant. He’s never been trained by the police, but he’s good at finding his toys, and any food anyone’s left.
We adopted him from the dogs trust as a puppy and, currently, he shares the house with his sister, Bongo, and step sister who we are fostering called June.
Elvis is a very good boy!
Dead Flowers – cover reveal
Posted on August 4, 2019 Leave a Comment
It’s getting exciting now as my next novel Dead Flowers will be out in just four weeks. My lovely publisher Verve have revealed the cover, so here it is!
You can read more about the book and preorder it on Amazon here!
Or read first reader responses and reviews on Netgalley here!
Indigenous sea criminal subject matter
Posted on March 18, 2017 Leave a Comment
Indigenous sea criminal subject matter
One is auditorially stimulated by a number of thoroughfares
Immobilise the tuning dial that is in your possession
Consider oneself to be comfortable as if in one’s own domicile
We are in possession of vegetation, some of which we have propagated by our own means
Recline in one’s own royal chair, deactivate one’s telephony device
As this is the area in which we are prominent
Pictorial recording devices, televisual machines, eight squareds, gathering places of entertainment
Those of us who are here are creating coupled relationships to within a 5% significance level
An insignificant quantity of chemically reactive foliage and a compact amount of dried tobacco plant
Bring to one’s mind an awareness of the paper-based cigarette making materials
Cause to list at a non 90 degree angle, resembling the campanile in the Piazza dei Miracoli
Liza, I will increase my stake in our wager
And this is one full revolution of the planet in the existence of a streetwise gentleman
For, one should say, this isn’t a recording aimed at popular discotheques
Disclose one’s carrying apparatus and recline
Whether you are pale of skin or somewhat darker
Inhale fumes of burning foliage, or of heated opium extract
Or make the tune on a pipe full of free base derivative of extract of the coca plant
Indigenous sea criminal subject matter
One is auditorially stimulated by a number of thoroughfares
Immobilise the tuning dial that is in your possession
What might have happened if R Kelly had been a member of a writer’s workshop
Posted on February 27, 2017 Leave a Comment
In today’s writing workshop, we’re going to look at R Kelly’s Ignition (remix)
I enjoyed reading this piece of work and can certainly see that there’s a rhythm to the way you use words. I particularly liked the bouncing, tooting and beeping, which are lots of fun and encourage participation with the text. That said, I have a few questions about some of the other aspects of this piece that I’ll address now.
Starting with the first verse. I’m struggling with the simile where you compare the girl to the Lexus Coupe. I can’t quite see where you’re driving with this, if you’ll pardon the pun. I don’t know. As an image it just doesn’t quite work for me. Also, why has this one girl got you ‘playing the field’? If you’re as into her as the lyrics here suggest, surely you’d stop playing the field and pursue just this woman. And, on that subject, isn’t ‘playing the field’ a bit of a cliche? Can you come up with a fresher way to say that?
The chorus here has a lot going for it. It scans on first glance, and certainly comes off the page rhythmically. I’m not sure about ignition and kitchen, though. Yes, it’s a half rhyme, but aren’t we getting a bit of a mixed metaphor here too? I wonder if you could try for more of an extended metaphor and use ideas that fit together? I don’t think it matters so much whether it rhymes or not.
Most of the rest I can live with and yes, on the ‘freaking weekend’ I like to ‘have me some fun’ too. Although I did wonder if you were being a bit coy with your use of the word ‘freaking’. People can probably cope with a little bit of swearing. It’s 2003, after all!
The only other thing that really jarred me was the simile you use at the beginning of the second proper verse. You say:
Now it’s like “Murder She Wrote”
Once I get you out them clothes
I wondered, reading this, if you’d ever actually watched ‘Murder She Wrote’. I’m not sure the comparison quite does the work you want it to. This drama, starring Angela Lansbury, wasn’t very sexy at all. In fact, it was really quite a cozy crime drama. There wasn’t really anything edgy about it, either. You might have been better to pick something darker. Some good classic noir or Hitchcock. The Postman Always Rings Twice is quite a racy film. Just a thought!
So, yes, this is a good start but I think it needs more work. I’d suggest to worry less about rhyming and more about finding the right word for what you want to say. And, generally, tighten up your use of imagery so that we get more clarity about exactly how you feel about this woman. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with this one!
It’s that time of year again
Posted on November 7, 2016 Leave a Comment
I’ve always loved autumn. The carpets of shed leaves, the colours, the skies. Halloween and all the fancy dress and apple bobbing and toffee. Bonfire Night and fireworks, the smell of gunpowder in the air. And, in Nottingham, the fair comes to town too. I love that feeling of being cosy inside whilst the rain comes down and the wind howls and the night closes in much earlier than you’re used to. It’s my wedding anniversary too, early November. But, of course, it’s no coincidence that I chose to get married at my favourite time of year.
And, of course, November is also National Novel Writing Month. I considered doing it this year but decided against it. I’ve completed (or won, as the folks at Nanowrimo like to call it) twice and failed once. And I’ve got a lot out of it in terms of productivity and words. But, this year, I’ve decided not to because I’ve worked out that the biggest issue for me as a writer is not writing fast. I tend to be in a bit of a rush, if the truth be told, so that the trick, really, is slowing myself down and thinking more about things. Taking some time over it. That said, I’m not knocking Nanowrimo at all. 50 000 words in a month is not ridiculous and to get that chunk of book finished in one month is a good start towards that finished first draft. Just don’t send it out in December, that’s all.
If you are doing Nanowrimo this year, I thought I’d give you some of the benefit of my experience along the way. So here’s my three top tips for getting 50 000 words written in a month.
- Turn of that pesky internal editor. She’ll try to get you. She’ll try to slow you down. Tell her to do one and keep on keeping on.
- At this point in the month, you’re heading for 10 000 words. Ace. For me, this is the point at which I’m getting to know my characters well enough to understand what they’d do, or not do, in various situations. If you’re a planner, it might be worth revisiting that plan now you know who you’re dealing with. If you’re a pantser, well, you might want at least to think about your ending at this point. Or some of the key points along the way. As someone who falls between the two ways of working, I do think some planning can really help you find your way through all the thorny forests of doubt and to the end of that draft.
- Stay playful. It’s easy to get so wrapped in a project that you lose your way, and forget the things you enjoyed about writing. Keep going with those morning pages, if you do them. Keep finding writing prompts and having a go at them, even if you use them to explore your novel or its characters. Write haiku in between chapters. Or blog posts! Or some flash fiction…
Getting too wrapped up
and forgetting to play can
make you lose your way. *
Keep on keeping on
*I’m not a poet and believe me, I know it!
PS If you’re quick off the mark, there are still a few free enrollments left on my Kickstart your Novel Skillshare course. Click here to enroll for free, or here to get three months premium membership and access all their courses for just $0.99.