Saturday, 2 January 2016

Rip It Up and Start Again?

Reviews, resolutions, predictions: the New Year as ever crawls in with enough baggage to make the contestants on Married at First Sight look like fully-formed and functional human beings (don't judge me - I've been in the kitchen a lot near an unregulated screen and the 'Relationship Doctor' is called Pepper Schwartz, an intervention may be needed).

Let's be clear, I don't do New Year Resolutions. Think about it for a moment: we don't let crime victims dispense justice, we don't elect our political leaders based on their ability to screw everything up (let it go, it's the holidays), so why do we think it's a good idea to ask people who have spent a week behaving as though a chocolate orange and a Baileys constitutes a fruit and milk breakfast to make life-changing decisions and speak about them publicly with no sense of shame? The truth about resolutions? Unless you set the bar very low (resolving to breathe perhaps) all that will result is a sense of failure, reactionary over-indulgence in the style of a screaming toddler and such wasted opportunities...

The date of the New Year may have wandered about a bit, calendars apparently being as reluctant to come together as the average family by Boxing Day, but the idea of celebrating and making resolutions is nothing new. Apparently the Babylonians were big on making promises they couldn't keep over 4000 years ago but the real champions of the idea was that happy bunch of revelers, the Puritans. Drink till you fall over then promise to be good as some strange race memory from more repressive times seeps through the champagne and the bells - you have to love the human appetite for optimistic denial that heralds every change of year and its not just the resolutions that fall into this, it's the predictions...

Google predictions for 2016 and you could be forgiven for crawling back under the duvet for the next 12 months to avoid the terrorism-laden, probably literal flood of misery awaiting us. So, in the spirit of denial that January heralds, let's ignore all that and focus on the things we can be confident will happen: Hilary gets into the White House and no one comments on her age or appearance; actresses get the same pay as their male counterparts and no one comments on their age or appearance; women everywhere get do to their jobs, make intelligent comments on social media and no one comments on...Fair enough, even Inside Out's Joy doesn't get to be that optimistic but I do predict we'll all get far stronger at dealing with the nonsense, just watch the Norwegian World Cup team's response to persistent comments that women just can't play football if you need any tips:

So I will risk prediction for 2016 - more kick-ass strong women everywhere and anyone who thinks I'm making that claim simply to tie in with my debut novel released on 11 January (full details, pre-order at Amazon) about the indomitable Margaret of Anjou needs to take a cup of kindness yet for the sake of all book hype. Moving swiftly on...

To the recast which I'm going to do slightly differently this time in honour of feisty women and this strange mixed-up time of year. Mashups have been a thing in music for a while and now they seem to be creeping into literary re-tellings as anyone who has watched either the brilliant Dickensian (all his key characters living in the same area of London and implicated in Marley's murder) or the frankly bizarre Sherlock: Abominable Bride special (time-travel, drugs, reincarnation, drugs, weight issues, no idea unless you give me the drugs) will attest. With that in mind, I thought I might replace some of the, let's be honest seriously irritating, heroines of classic novels with women of a stronger temperament and step it all up a bit...

Let's start with the most irritating one first: Cathy from Wuthering Heights. Self-centred, dramatic, needy and completely unable to take any responsibility for her actions - the only good thing about her is that she's dead for most of the book. Interestingly some of her words ("I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy and free...") are very reminiscent, in their spirit, of one of my favourite characters: Jo March from Little Women ("It's bad enough to be a girl anyway, when I like boys' games and work and manners") so that's who gets to replace her. We know Jo has a thing for dark-eyed, curly-haired men and she definitely has the flashing temper Heathcliffe seems drawn to but as to his moods? She'd have his hair sold to pay the rent, his stomping satirised in a newspaper column and his sulking cured on the naughty step. In this version, when Heathcliffe dies after wandering the moors (pneumonia, he was too much of a know-it-all to take a coat, even though she warned him the temperature was rather unseasonal), Jo inherits everything and turns Wuthering Heights into a writing school for young women, romantics need not apply.

The next on my list of women I don't want to waste cocktail money on is Elizabeth Bennett. To be honest the plot of Pride and Prejudice always struck me as a bit of a cop-out: snooty Elizabeth might not be Darcy's class but she was hardly a bit of rough who would have eaten with her hands and necked whiskey at the dinner table (just my New Year then?). If you want a real challenge to Darcy's pride, we need a tougher proposition so let's ditch Elizabeth, bring in Pygmalion's Eliza Doolittle and see how mister stiff britches deals with "a creature...picked out of the mud" who has more backbone than he's had curled lips. Besides, I want to see Alfred Doolittle meet Lady Catherine and seduce her over the poorly-held teacups...

I'm saving the best/worst for last: Jane Eyre. Don't get me wrong, I love that book but dear God she is hard work. The last thing Thornfield and Rochester needs is a meek and mild little miss: it needs a good sort out and some organisation so pack your bags Miss Eyre, Mary Poppins just breezed into town. Faster than you could say spit-spot, she'd have the servants separated from the gin, Rochester in analysis and the mad wife down to the hairdressers. Job done, practically perfect in every way.

So that's me done thinking about the New Year until it comes around with exactly the same madness next time and we can all pretend again that 2 bottles of champagne mixed with the dregs of the Christmas liqueur bottles is a magical route to psychic powers...


  1. Just what I needed as I contemplate being back in gray drizzly Glasgow (sans Bailey's). I've always loathed Wuthering Heights but your corrected version is perfect. Happy New Year!

  2. It's worse than the moors here! Compliments of the season to you - coffee please!

  3. Yeah, I have to admit I'm not big on new years' resolutions myself. I figure, why not just be nice all year round:)


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