#realcharacter – or in this case me

I spotted this on Nan Bovington’s brilliant, hilarious blog. She got it off another unmissable writer Isabel Costello who inspired the equally inspiring Susan Elliot Wright, Janet O’Kane and Kristin Celms.

It’s an exercise in understanding the relationship between characters in fiction and in real life, using ourselves as source material. We’re all invited, so just copy the format and use the #realcharacter. You’ll be found.


I am  what you get when you cross an Eastern European Jew (Latvia and Lithuania via South Africa) and a (lapsed and now anti) Catholic Celt (Irish and Scottish but half of the Scottish bit is Italian).  My grandparents on both sides were horrified by the match and my parents eloped as my mother was underage at 19. They stayed married just about long enough to have two children.

I love being a mixture. I’m rarely ill and I grew up unclaimed by any religion which feels like freedom to me.

I am very catholic in my tastes though, so maybe something’s rubbed off in some way. I like all sorts of music, almost any kind of food and all kinds of people. I couldn’t do without my friends.


I live in a very small, very pretty village. This is a great surprise to me. I was born in London and expected to live there all my life. Love will do that to you. I knew something was changing the day I bought walking boots and a waxed jacket (secondhand in case things didn’t work out).


I am trying to harness the power of good ones. I mean, how hard is it to stop picking your nose, or saying, ‘I have to say … ‘, or watching CSI? Imagine if the problem was trying to stop getting up early to write, or not doing so many sit-ups? Be like winning the habits lottery.

That’s work in progress.

Habits that are forced on me are the school run and cooking breakfast and supper. I also do try to tidy up a bit sometimes, but I agree with whoever it was who said only one of us can be tidy, it’s either me or the house. And that’s with paid help.

I also have to work sometimes which, in case my boss is reading this, I do very thoroughly and methodically sitting at my incredibly tidy desk, fully and immaculately dressed.

These days there is homework for my creative writing course as well, which I also do in good time every week and to the best of my ability. I would never do it in the Summertown branch of M&S in 20 minutes in case you’re wondering, Dr Ballam.


I’m crippled with shyness and don’t like calling attention to myself in public.


Ah. Yes. Tricky one this. I’m a luxury item with almost no practical applications. Anything that requires coordination is a challenge for me. This includes all forms of sport.

I had to give up netball for the safety of the rest of the team and I need a lot of space around me in aerobics. Many of the other jumping, leaping ladies find my awkwardly flailing limbs and resolute confidence in the wrong direction for the grapevine incredibly funny. There was also laughter last year when I fell up a small rise in the playing fields of the school my boys attend. In front of the head of sport. Who I was waving to at the time.

It took me five years to learn tennis and I’m not great. It took me 10 years to learn skiing and I’m not great at that either (although I’m expert in the bumsleigh event). I play rubbish bridge.

I can’t do any form of DIY. I’m not even allowed to wash the wine glasses. I lose everything (keys, purses, scarves, children) and am lost a lot of the time myself, not metaphorically. I can’t sew or knit. Last time I gave a dinner party, three people were quite seriously ill.

I don’t believe in fate, or things ‘happening for a reason’ or any kind of invisible being up there who is in charge, but if I did I would say that She wants me to write. Or watch telly. I’m safe for those.

I do work at listening to my children. Even when my phone is alerting me to emails, tweets and texts. Yes, that is a halo around my hat.

And one more thing

I have started hiding in the larder to try to stop my children eating all the chocolate.

I was in there for quite a long time the other day but none of them appeared. (It’s when you come out that it’s a bit embarrassing. You have to just open the door, hoping no one sees you so you can go about your business acting normal.)

I got one of the kids after a few days of trying. He won’t be looking for the curlywurlies any time soon. That success encouraged me so I ended up spending quite a bit of time in there, on and off. Finally, my daughter opened the cupboard door. ‘Raaaaah’, I said.

She cried for half an hour.

When she’d stopped crying, she was really cross. I said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have been trying to steal chocolate.’

She said, ‘I wasn’t looking for chocolate. I was looking for you, mum.’

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Posted in Writing
18 comments on “#realcharacter – or in this case me
  1. zencherry says:

    Oh now I like that hiding in the larder trick. Of course I’d have to use the coat closet as my larder is an open chest sort of thing and nobody ever goes in the coat closet when it’s warm. Hmm. Must rethink this.
    LOVE this post Cathy. Love YOU

  2. This made me laugh Cathy and surprised me. I would never have thought that you were the shy type; snap! I love your dangerous lack of co-ordination, your frightening dinner party skills and your lurking in the larder. My dad used to do the same thing, walking out with a look on his face that dared you to challenge him and a teaspoon behind his back , where he’d been eating jam out of the jam jars.

    It’s a lovely piece and thank you for that very generous plug for my blog! You’re too kind x
    ps I know that M&S in Summertown, were you the woman frantically writing on kitchen roll?

    • Cathy Dreyer says:

      omg it’s like you’re stalking me – are you stalking me? How did you know the jam thing? And the kitchen roll thing? Shit. Scary.

      Thanks for warning me. I wrote ‘warming me’ by accident at first but perhaps that is, on reflection, more accurate.

      Love your blog. Brilliant idea, hilariously executed.

  3. tmycann says:

    You literally made me laugh out loud with the “looking for you”! Well done–you sound like my kind of woman. 🙂

    • Cathy Dreyer says:

      Thanks Tonya. I appreciate praise from you, as I know you read a lot (to understate it). We must have been commenting on each other’s blogs simultaneously. Spooky. Cathy x

  4. Jane Isaac says:

    Fabulous post, Cathy. What a wonderful insight into your life and a great way to play at characters. The larder moment made me LOL. Thanks for sharing:)

  5. Thank you so much for taking part – your contribution, like your writing style, is highly entertaining. Let’s face it, I was biased after you called me ‘unmissable’ when we’d never met (not even online) but we’ve put that right now. I know Summertown from my days amid the dreaming spires, I think I may even have lived there at some point. At this remove, it’s all a bit of a blur…

  6. Kristin says:

    Hi Cathy, Love love love this post! I’m so glad to meet you and get to know you better (and LOVE the Latvian background, of course). I’ll be most happy to keep up with your blog from now on.

  7. Your hiding in the larder made me laugh! Sounds like me, except I am just too lazy to actually do it. But, very funny!

  8. […] previous post called “#realcharacter – or in this case me” which led me to “writeanovelintenminutesflat,” the somewhat scary title for Cathy Dryer’s slant on writing.  She referred back the […]

  9. Oh my goodness, this is funny. Terrific stuff–thanks for making my morning!

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