Archive for the ‘Peirene Now!’ Category

The Belly Dancer

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

‘Where is James?’21812390163_8f01f3ac17_z

I have just walked back into the office after my first Arabic lesson with Suhir. I’m on cloud nine. Suhir will help me to brush up my language skills in preparation to teach the creative writing workshop in the Shatila refugee camp this summer. My Arabic is rusty  – after all I haven’t spoken it for a few years  – but even after today’s session I can feel it’s all still there and has started to resurface.

Peirene is sitting at her desk. ‘I think he’s downstairs in the kitchen. Working from there.’

‘Why?’ I’m surprised.

The Nymph shrugs her shoulders. ‘He said I’m disturbing his concentration.’

I reply to a few urgent emails, before I pick up the thread of our conversation. ‘What did you do to James?’

‘I didn’t do anything. He’s a joy killer,’ Peirene says decisively. Then she rises from her chair, dropping the cardigan she is wearing from her shoulders. Underneath it she reveals a sequined belly dance bra top, tassel skirt and in her belly button sparkles a big fake blue stone. She glitters so much that for a moment I have to avert my eyes. Arabic music begins to blast in high volume from her laptop and she starts to move through the room thrusting forward first her right hip, then her left hip.

‘I thought that I too should prepare for our workshop in the summer,’ she gasps, struggling to draw enough breath in between her wild dancing movements. ‘And while you do the serious bit – the teaching – I decided that my role will be to entertain the workshop participants in the evening.’ She’s now bending her upper body forward and backwards, shaking it wildly. I’m not sure what to say. ‘Look I’m getting better.’ She beams across her face while sweat is streaming down her forehead. And suddenly I worry that she might have a heart attack. I walk over to her laptop and turn off the music.

‘Why did you do that for?’ She bends forward, then collapses onto the floor. ‘You’re behaving just like James.’ She says between gasps for air.

‘We love you, Peirene.’ I hand her a glass of water. ‘And I guess, both James and I feel that belly dancing might not be the best thing to do for an Ancient Greek Nymph. You are not fit enough.’

She gulps down the water. ‘Ok. Here is a deal: I promise I will go the gym regularly to get fit and you in the meantime set me up with some proper belly dance classes. And then come July, you and I will deliver a workshop that truly enhances both the mind and the body.’

I agree. Fortunately it’s a long time till July. Between then and now, I’m hoping that Peirene’s enthusiasm for belly dance might diminish. Perhaps even be forgotten.

Image  by SupportPDX, creative commons.

The Sun Hat

Monday, February 27th, 2017

‘How you’re going to pull this one off then, Peirene?’10169902455_b7e950022d_z

I’m not sure I like Peirene’s latest plan. In fact I didn’t realise that it had already become a confirmed project. In my head I was still assuming we were brainstorming possibilities.

‘It’s one thing sending writers to Calais,’ I continue. ‘It’s something totally different visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. You can’t just walk in like a tourist. It could be dangerous. One of the camp factions may take against Ancient Greek nymphs.’

‘I’ve already arranged it.’ She beams with satisfaction. ‘We are going to collaborate with an NGO, Basmeh & Zeitooneh which operates from the Shatila camp in south Beirut. We are going to hold two 3-day creative writing workshops in Arabic and select the writers from the participants. They will write the book in Arabic, we will then translate it and edit it in English. Et voila, we will have an amazing collection of original stories – Peirene Now No3! – to be published in Summer 2018.‘

I suddenly relax as I realise that Peirene can’t be serious. Workshops in mid-summer in the Middle East? Book manuscripts in Arabic? The Nymph doesn’t speak a single word of Arabic. She obviously hasn’t thought this through. No need for me to stress. It’s an interesting idea but impossible to implement.

‘And by the way,’ Peirene now says with an even bigger smile. ‘It’s not me who will travel to Lebanon and give the workshops and deal with the writers and manuscripts. You will do that. I’ve already given them your name. I, on other the hand, will be our project co-ordinator based in Peirene Headquarters.’

‘You are joking, aren’t you?’ My mouth has turned dry. I studied Arabic nearly 30 years ago. It’s now quite rusty.

‘Don’t you worry,’ Peirene replies with a wave of her hand. ‘I’ve sorted that too. I’ve found an Arabic tutor for you for two hours a week and you will draw up a creative writing workshop together. You have plenty of time. Your first trip isn’t until July.’

I get up and walk out of the room. The Nymph is taking liberties with my time, my plans, my future. How does she dare? I make myself a cup of tea – and feel my mood change. What an exciting opportunity. I’d be foolish to let this challenge pass me by.

I walk back into the office. ‘OK, I’ll do it,’ I announce. ‘But you are coming with me.’ It’s now the Nymph who turns to look shocked. ‘But I don’t know what to wear. And July will be very hot.’

‘You’ve sorted everything for me,’ I humor her. ‘Now let me help you. I think I will start by finding you a stunning sun-hat.’

Image by Jean L., creative commons.

A Cuppa To Calm The Nerves

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

‘I don’t believe he’s done this. It was all going so well… and then this.’ I hyperventilate, drop the page I was just reading and jump up.14117815200_cd63075cfc_z

‘What? Who?’ Startled, the Nymph lifts her head.

I gesture that I wish to be left alone. I’m too agitated to speak at the moment. I head into the kitchen and return with a camomile tea.

‘Have you finished reading through it?’ I point with a despairing glance to the most recent manuscript of The Cut that Anthony sent us this morning.

‘Yes. And … Wow! Wow! Wow!’ Peirene’s face breaks into an expression of utter bliss. ‘Isn’t he just wonderful!’

‘Wonderful?’ I exclaim impatiently. ‘Surely you can’t mean the draft that  has just arrived!’

Peirene doesn’t seem to have heard me. Her eyes shine brightly. ‘What progress from the last version. The two main characters, Cairo and Grace are now interacting, being drawn towards each other, driving the plot forward. Anthony has got under their skins. We are on the homestretch with The Cut. Little can go wrong now.  In the next version the narrative wheels are going to click into gear, I can feel it.’

The Nymph and I clearly have read different manuscripts.

‘Have you got to the scene where Grace suddenly leans across the table and kisses Cairo on the head?,’ I enquire. ‘No preparation. Just out of the blue. I’m sorry it simply doesn’t work.’

Before I can continue Peirene interrupts me: ‘And have you read to the end of that page?’

I shake my head. ‘No need.’

She holds the page in front of my face and points to the bottom of it. There Anthony has typed in capital letters THIS SCENE DOESN’T YET WORK. NEEDS MORE DEVELOPMENT.

‘You see. He knows his craft.’ She turns on her heals and walks out of the room. I sink into my chair with a sigh of relief. Peirene is right, Anthony is a good writer and I should stop worrying. The Cut will be another inspiring Peirene Now! book and our readers won’t be disappointed.

Peirene walks back into the office with my training shoes under her arm. ‘Why don’t you go for a run? I think a break will do you good,’ she says in a soft, motherly tone. ‘And don’t worry about Anthony and me, we can have the editorial meeting without you.’ I now notice that she has put on lipstick and her most sparkly earrings.

‘I better stay,’ I smile. ‘If only to make sure that your attention remains on the manuscript.’

Image by Jan-Willem Reusink, creative commons.

The Perfect Selfie

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

‘Which photo do you like best?’ Peirene is holding her phone in front of me and flicking through an array of selfies.4312513669_15b8f1d918_o

‘This one.’ I point to one where she smiles straight into the camera. It looks very natural.

‘Impossible! Too many wrinkles around my eyes.’

She continues flicking through, then shows me a picture where she is heavily made up – back combed hair, bright blue eye shadow and scarlet red lipstick. She’s looking over her shoulder, pouting lips, eyes half closed.

‘Peirene, I’m not sure this is you,’ I laugh.

‘So, you think I look ridiculous?!’ she glares at me angrily.

‘Well-‘ I can see she’s hurt and I stop myself. ‘What is it for anyway?’

‘I need new facebook, twitter, instagram and what’s up accounts.’ She’s now standing in front of the mirror, continuing to pull seductive faces, photographing her image in quick successions.

‘But we’ve got all of that,’ I reply.

‘Yes, as a company,’ she rolls her eyes as if I’m slow off the mark. ‘But these accounts are going to be my own, private ones.’

I’m suddenly intrigued. ‘And for whose benefit?’

‘Anthony’s.’ She’s leaning into the mirror, putting blush onto her cheeks.

I’m surprised to hear this. The Nymph is usually quite pragmatic with her romantic feelings and only becomes infatuated with people – and men in particular – who have delivered results. Anthony Cartwright is still a few drafts away from the final version of Peirene Now! No2, so I expected the Nymph to hold back.

She seems to have read my mind. ‘My heart belongs to the other Anthony, and to him alone, the one who pushed us over the £6500 mark to ensure we receive our kickstarter funding.’

That Anthony! Of course! I could have guessed. He’s been the talk in our office since last week. He’s a Peirene fan. None of us knows him personally but he was one of the first pledgers for our kickstarter project with a gift of £18. Then, when we were very close to hit our target, we put out another call, asking our supporters to increase their pledge by £5 each. Anthony increased his donation to £150 and then must have seen that if he added another £12 we would hit our goal. And so he adjusted his pledge again, pushing us over the victory line. What a man! What a hero!

‘Peirene, he already likes you. No need to lure him with selfies.’ I feel I have to save the Nymph from herself.

She lets her shoulders hang down in disappointment. ‘But I thought that’s what the youth of today does, post selfies for their sweethearts on social media.’

I put the arm around her. ‘You’ve impressed him with your books. That’s far more important.’ I wet my thumb and wipe away blue eye shadow that has smudged her cheeks.

Image by Annie Pilon, creative commons.

Cake Cake Cake

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

‘I feel hurt.’ Peirene is sitting on the sofa in the office, holding a plate with a half eaten slice of Black Forest gateau on her knees. ‘My soul is weeping.’ Two big round tears are running down her cheeks as she pushes another forkfull into her crumbs_saucer_fork mouth.

I sit down beside her. ‘What’s the matter?’ I eye the cake. I wouldn’t mind a couple of bites.

‘Have you recently looked at our kickstarter?,’ she sniffs.

I nod and wipe away a bit of cream that has got stuck at the tip of the Nymph’s nose. ‘It’s going fine,’ I say. ‘We are up to 60% after two weeks and we have another three weeks left.’

‘That’s not why I’m upset.’ Peirene takes another, massive bite. Then she continues: ‘Of all the goodies that we are offering our pledgers, the two that have received the least attention involve me’. I know what she has in mind: a day at Peirene HQ with the Nymph and a personalized character assessment based on the investor’s three favourite book titles. ‘Meike, you tell me, when, over the last 2000 years has there been an opportunity anywhere in the world to have your character analysed by an Ancient Greek Nymph! Not to mention the preparation I have done to satisfy my customers!‘ She pointes to the big pile of books at the side of the sofa, ‘So many nights in the past few weeks I’ve spend brushing up on my Freud, Jung and Melanie Klein. I’m fully prepared.’ She rises to her feet. ‘I need another piece of cake. This defeat is unbearable.’

I follow her into the kitchen. ‘I wouldn’t take it too personally, Peirene.  People might not have the money to pay for your expertise,’ I try to calm her.

She takes the remainder of the gateau out of the fridge.

‘Wow, that’s a bit excessive,’ I exclaim.

She shakes her head, cuts a slice and hands it to me. She cuts another one for herself. ‘There is a guy who made tens of thousands of dollars with his kickstarter project and what did he offer? Each pledger received a personal insult – yes insult – from him on a postcard. People loved it. They paid for the joke.’

‘But that’s not you,’ I remark, feeling slightly sick of having eaten the cake so fast. The Nymph is now on her third slice.

‘I’m too serious, too odd. No one loves an oddity like me,’ she whines.

Before she has time to go for the fourth slice, I put the cake back into the fridge.

‘You and I we are going for a run now. Because I still love you. And I don’t want an unhealthy Nymph. And when we come back I will pledge money for our kickstarter project so that you can analyse my character.’

Peirene immediately perks up. ‘Let’s go.’ She has already grabbed her trainers. ‘I will finally be able to tell you the truth about yourself.’

Suddenly I feel less certain that my offer was such a good idea.

Approaching Hollywood

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

I’m at my desk. The phone rings. I hear a breathless Peirene on the other end of the line.6228188120_3012416506_z

‘Oh, I’m so pleased that I haven’t missed the film crew,’ the Nymph pants. ‘I’m just at the bottom of the road. And I can see their van hasn’t arrived yet. I’ll be with you in a moment.’

I’m not entirely sure what she’s talking about. As soon as I put down the phone I turn back to the Advanced Information sheets for our 2017 books.

Five minutes later she walks into the office, surrounded by a cloud of different artificial smells: hairspray and perfume and creams.

‘Wow!’ I exclaim.

The Nymph’s hair is backcombed a la Brigitte Bardot, big earrings, red lipstick, dark eyeliner, matching red jacket, skirt and high heels and even her finger nails are done. As a small girl I always dressed up as a film diva aiming to look just like that. I sigh, about to continue with my work.

‘Shouldn’t you get ready?’ Peirene disapprovingly runs her eyes from my carelessly pulled back hair down to my bare feet. ‘They will be here any moment. And,’ she looks around the office, smiling fleetingly at my assistant James, ‘-and where is my co-star Anthony?’

The coin drops. I suddenly understand all the Nymph’s efforts.

We have decided to crowd-fund our next Peirene Now! book. The novel will be a response to Brexit written by the Black country writer Anthony Cartwright. Every project on kickstarter, our crowd funding platform, requires a video introduction. James filmed Anthony and myself with my laptop in the morning. It took numerous takes until we finally learned to behave naturally in front of the camera.

‘I wondered where you were,’ I now say. ‘We could have done with a diva in our video. It would have added some colour to our performance.’

I click on the film saved on my laptop. The Nymph watches the three minutes in utter silence, not even breathing. At the end she straightens up.

‘Anthony is a star, worthy of my presence beside him,’ she shakes her head slowly at me. Then turns to leave the room. I’m surprised she isn’t more upset of having missed chance to appear on screen.

‘You don’t mind that we went ahead without you?’ I asked carefully.

‘Not at all.’ She stops in mid-stride. ‘You are planning to make a couple of more videos in the coming months talking about the process of the book, don’t you?’ I nod. She continues: ‘Well, I’m off to make a demo tape now and will send it to Anthony. He can then decide who he prefers to have next to him in his forthcoming films.’ She waves her painted nails at me and leaves. A cloud of perfume follows her out of the room.

Image by Shinya Suzuki, creative commons.