High Price not a £5 bang on the street corner.

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It’s here! ‘Fifty Shades of Brown’ and what a battle it has been to get it here. There was a frightening moment when it almost wasn’t here at all. In fact there was a shaky moment when it looked like there would never ever be another book.

I started ‘Roxie Brown’ about four months ago and during this time I had family move in with me. There is much to be said for having a young child in the home. They bring great pleasure. There is also a great deal of disruption. As it is I shed enough tears writing a novel. It became pretty clear I would be shedding more while writing this one. I’d been used to silence during my writing day. Now I was contending with toilet chains being pulled, bathroom doors banging, footsteps up and down the stairs, the sound of laughter from below my writing room and the clashing of pots and pans. And so the tears would come, partly out of frustration because the book wasn’t going the way I wanted and tears of stress from dealing with the noise while trying to write.

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To top it all I’m  OCD about the house and do prefer things just so. Occasionally I would pop downstairs for a drink and see the lounge was a tip where my little grandson was playing and my kitchen turned upside down as stepson cooked dinner. I’d creep back upstairs, shed a few more tears and continue with Roxie. So with all this going on it was not sensible of me to look at the Amazon charts as well was it?

I’d recently been signed to an agent, the lovely Samar Hammam who previously handled Bernard Cornwall among others. She was keen to represent me. I was keen to be represented. Then came the disappointments. Large traditional publishers are struggling to sell romantic comedy as so many self published or digitally published authors are selling e books for pennies. I didn’t want my e books to be sold for pennies. I work hard six months of the year to produce a book. I make my living from writing. When I worked part-time and wrote novels I was never able to produce two books a year as I do now. I wanted to continue as a full-time writer. A traditional publisher was interested, she said, but the advance would be very small. I checked out their authors on Amazon and saw again that their books were selling for pennies. I, then, stupidly checked the charts again and saw that the low-priced e books were high and mine were dropping.

I didn’t write for several days. I thought things through and told the doctor aka Andrew, my lovely husband, that ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ would be my last book. I was not prepared to compromise myself. I couldn’t sell my books cheaply. Samar suggested the occasional offer to promote sales. I was reluctant. I couldn’t understand readers not realising that a writer can not survive if they sell books for 99p or less. I saw readers putting their argument forward for downloading books free from a website by saying that they are not ‘all rich and comfortable’ like us authors. Hello! I wish I was. The only stinking rich authors are the likes of J K Rowling and E L James.  But all the same, you wouldn’t nick a bag from Debenhams would you? And that’s what free download sites are doing. Stealing authors hard work and giving it away. That was it! Roxie Brown would be my last book. I vowed never to write another. I stuck to this. I emailed a few close friends and close author friends and told them of my decision only to have them throw up their arms in horror. ‘You can’t stop writing, that would be madness.’

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I know it is not readers fault that the books are so cheap. It is e publishers and other writers that lower the prices. I bet Sylvia Plath never had this problem.

My husband chatted to me. A good friend chatted to me. I finally, albeit very reluctantly, changed my mind. But I have now decided that the charts don’t bother me. I’m not going to compete with 99p or less authors. I won’t drop the price of a new book to reach number one. I like to think my ego is not that inflated. I love my readers, I love interacting with them. They are good friends. So I will be writing for them. If new readers come on for the ride that is great.

I do believe that low-priced e books will eventually crash the market. Writers and publishers cannot survive. Everyone wants their pound of flesh and there isn’t much left out of 49p 89p and 99p. You can’t buy a roll of loo paper for that. It’s wonderful for the reader but I hope they realise that eventually the authors they like may stop writing simply because they cannot afford to. Imagine what they must earn per book by the time they have paid their publisher, Amazon and of course the damn VAT that is now slapped onto them. 10p a download maybe is what they may be getting. An author may as well go out into the street and ask ‘Do you want six months of hard work for free!’

I’ve worked long and hard for this. I won’t do that. I’d rather stop. I will allow the odd special. A past book for 99p or maybe the odd free promotion but I won’t sell new books for less than £1.99. I sometimes think that is too cheap. As an author friend once said to me ‘I’d rather be a high-priced call girl than a $5 bang on the street corner.’ I couldn’t agree more.

So, enjoy the new book and here’s hoping there will be another. I expect there will be. I find it too hard not to write.

Meanwhile ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ is available here

‘Croissants and Jam’ is on offer for a short time here

And you get all my other books at a reasonable price here

Thanks for you fab support. I love you all

Much love

Lynda

xx

The Fat Club

light  You know that moment. That light bulb moment. The moment when you think ‘I’m fat’? As opposed to I’m a little overweight or I’m a bit dumpy or, I’ve gained a few pounds. It’s that awful torturous realisation that it isn’t just a few pounds around the tummy and that those clothes in your wardrobe that don’t fit anymore, haven’t actually shrunk. And stuffing them to the back like they’re the ones that should be ashamed, isn’t really helping either. You’ve basically got bigger right? And you’ve only got bigger because you keep pushing stuff into your mouth. Yes, it really is that simple. The final straw for me was when the doctor aka my husband, said ‘Your bum really does look big in that dress.’ Shock horror, as I honestly thought he would never notice and that those baggy tops were hiding that extra two stone from his ever watchful eye. That sneaking those extra fig rolls into my mouth when he was at work meant he wouldn’t notice. It seems not. I had to face it. I was getting fat. I couldn’t pass off two stone as a couple of extra pounds any more. The Doctor was concerned I’d get diabetes but then he is always concerned I’d get diabetes. If I was anorexic he’d still be worrying I might get diabetes. He read somewhere that diabetes was the biggest killer of women and everything I do he watches with a sharp eye. The truth is I had been avoiding the long mirrors and telling myself that that new top didn’t fit in the shop because it obviously had the wrong size tag on it. Ha, there’s a limit to how many items have the wrong price tag on, right?

I know to use the word fat is not politically correct. I should say I’m overweight. That would make everyone more comfortable wouldn’t it, including me? But the fact is I am fat or at least I was. I’ll never be anorexic. Not that I underestimating the pain of anorexia. In fact someone close to me was anorexic. The fact is food is one of the most dangerous things we have in our house. It’s one of the things that most of us suffer some kind of dependency with, either using it too much or going the complete opposite. It’s never really about food but how we feel emotionally. I don’t see anything wrong in admitting that I was getting fat. In fact, by accepting it, I actually started doing something about it. After the light bulb moment I decided it was time to take action. I do sit around a lot. Not because I’m lazy you understand but because work dictates that I do. It’s quite hard to write a novel standing up. Although, having said that, I did get a fair amount of exercise every time I headed downstairs to stick my head in the fridge. I would eat a lot of liver pate on crackers and worse than that a lot of fig rolls. In fact I have been known to eat more than one packet in a day and then there was the chocolate. Not that we have it in the house. Oh no. Chocolate in the house is a no no. That was until the doctor’s son came to stay with his five year old son and that was it. I was doomed.  On a bad writing day I would think nothing of sneaking into their room and stealing some of the five year old’s stash, usually after I had run out of fig rolls. How low is that and I never felt guilty? God forbid I should get off my arse and walk to the shop, although it is a three mile walk there and back from where I live so you can’t really blame me. But before we all get too depressed about my fatness let’s get fat into perspective. If you can run up and down the stairs without getting breathless and your feet swelling then you’re not really fat are you? You don’t have to be a size 8 and look like Kate Moss. I’ve always been slightly overweight and that’s okay. I didn’t struggle with walks or even try to get out of them as I have been doing of late. But as soon as your health suffers then it’s time to take back the control. It’s not the worst thing in the world to be a bit overweight. But it is clearly a woman thing. Now I’ll be accused of being sexist but seriously there are more women at slimming clubs than men, although it could be argued all the women frighten them offfat

Yes, you’ve guessed it I popped along to a slimming club. This helped enormously in the first few minutes when I saw there were people (mostly women) much more overweight than me. But then I stepped on the scales and had a minor heart attack when I discovered I was well over twelve stone. I’d been kidding myself for the past year that I was ten stone. Mind you, the last time I weighed myself, I was, so I could be forgiven for deluding myself that nothing had changed.  I was given my booklets and told to ‘fill my boots’ I of course took this quite literally and hardly looked at the material except to see what the Syns were and how many I could consume on a daily basis. I didn’t take much notice of the A and B choices. Oh yes, slimming clubs are very technical but basically they all come down to the same thing. Eat less fat and sugar and basically you will lose weight. I chose only to hear ‘fill your boots’ and that is what I did the first week, stupidly expecting to have lost weight when I returned the following week. Far from it, in fact I gained.

And so it went on. I attended meetings religiously. I stuck to the plan religiously. Aside from literally stripping off when I got to the scales I did everything to make sure I was lighter before stepping on them. I walked to club. I peed before weigh in. I removed every item of clothing possible. One week I even prayed. I was actually getting close to bribing the weigh in girl with a huge bar of Yorkie. But I never lost more than a half pound and even then not every week. Some weeks I gained, some weeks I maintained and the odd week I may have lost a minute amount of fat. Depressing or what? I was sodding starving. I lived off porridge with fat free yogurt for breakfast and overdosed so much on sweetener that someone said I have no doubt given myself a brain tumour. I’m not sure what’s worse. To be fat or have the sweetener induced tumour. Anyway, let’s crack on. Lunch was Quorn mini sausages which taste foul but I’m used to them now, along with salad and Rollmops. Followed by more fat free yogurt and hey ho a treat, some sugar free jelly (more sweetener I hear you cry) I don’t stand a chance do I? Dinner would be fish and salad or a jacket potato. But no matter what I ate or how little, I still couldn’t seem to lose weight. Finally I lost it, my temper that is, not the weight. I came home and sent a text to my slimming buddy and said ‘I’m not going any more,’ and then immediately hit the chocolate. She later text back to say ‘Oh, well, I’m not either then. I’m not going alone,’ and she immediately hit the wine. The pleasures of making the decision to leave fat club … except it only lasted a day and I changed my mind. I invested in a fitbit and found my tape measure. I was losing weight. It may not show on the weighing scales but the fat was coming off. I started walking and more came off. I walked every day and even more came off. Walking became easier and I finally got into those clothes that had been shoved to the back of the wardrobe. Better still the doctor said ‘Your bum looks good in those leggings.’ What’s more I felt better. I also learnt that weighing scales aren’t the be-all and end-all. The important thing is that I’m getting fit and feeling good about it as I do. Yes, I’m still eating the rabbit food but it’s not so bad and I’ve begun to cut out carbs. But I do have chocolate on occasions and cheese. I’m more conscious of what I put into my body and even more conscious of how I treat it. I’m not a fitness freak but I’m certainly aware of my food intake and how it affects me. So, if you have any great recipes do let me know and if you haven’t tried overnight porridge then you really must. It’s fab, filling and helps you lose weight. Just weigh 35 grams of oats, add lots of raspberries or any other fruit of choice, top with lots of fat free natural yogurt, sprinkle with sweetener and stick in the fridge overnight. Delicious!

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Ooh a little PS, my new novel Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown is released on the 14th August. To celebrate, my two best-selling novels ‘Croissants and Jam’ and ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ are currently 99p on Amazon. Get them here, here and here. 

 

Much love

Lynda

xx

 

 

Miss Wrong And Mr Right

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Hello Peeps, how are you? 

I’m beyond excited. I don’t think anything can excite me more than having the brilliant Robert Bryndza on my blog. Not only is he a fantastic writer but also a good friend. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a fab cook. I managed to talk him into bringing along one of his famous apple crumbles, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Maybe I can steal a couple of his recipes before he leaves.

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Robert preparing the apple pie.

Anyway, less of my waffle and more from Rob, not that he ever waffles. He may make them though. Ooh, I wonder if he’s got time before he goes.

Hi Rob, thanks so much for coming onto the blog today and more importantly thank you for the apple pie, it’s delicious, especially with this custard you brought along. 

Hello Dame Lynda, it’s wonderful to be visiting you on your website, thanks so much for welcoming me here today!

Well, if you bring lovely food you can come whenever you want.

I have an exclusive extract from my new romantic comedy Miss Wrong and Mr Right. First though, here is a short introduction to the book…

Natalie Love has worked hard to have it all: she runs a successful theatre in Soho that’s about to host one of Hollywood’s leading stars. Her biggest supporter is her eccentric Hungarian Gran, and she even has the ‘perfect’ yoga teacher boyfriend – Namaste!

Life in the bright lights of London has always been Natalie’s escape from her chaotic country family in rural Devon and Jamie, the childhood sweetheart she left at the altar 15 years ago. And then he turns up at her theatre door…

With rivalry clouding old feelings, events in Soho bring Jamie and Natalie together in hilarious ways. Gran is loose in the city once more, it seems to be raining sandwiches and records are broken for Burlesque flash mobs. If she can keep her world together, will Natalie discover who is really Mr Right, and that perhaps she isn’t Miss Wrong?

A delightful new romantic comedy, from the Number 1 best-selling author, Robert Bryndza…

 

The following extract is when Natalie takes Anouska, her Gran, for a routine bunion operation…!

 The roads were quiet as we drove towards Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital. It was a grey day and a light drizzle covered the windscreen. I turned on the wipers and they dragged across the glass with a squeal.

‘If I die on the operating table, I vant to be buried in my green dress,’ announced Gran.

‘Don’t be daft. You are not going to die,’ I said remembering my dream, her dead face talking to me.

‘And I don’t vant a vash and set. Some morticians just know how to do one kind of hairstyle. I don’t vant to be lying there looking like any old biddy…’

‘Gran…’

‘And you vill do my make-up. Chanel red lipstick, Givenchy powder, and eye make-up like yours.’

‘Gran!’

‘I’m putting it all here in the glove compartment,’ she said pulling out a little clear make-up bag and popping it in. ‘And if I die before they finish, make sure they sew my foot up. I vant to be buried in heels… you promise.’

‘Gran, please,’ I said my eyes beginning to well up.

‘Promise me, Natalie!’

‘Okay. Yes, I promise. But you are not going to die!’ I insisted.

 I found a parking space and then we made our way into the hospital. When Gran was settled in her cubicle on the ward, a doctor appeared and closed the curtains behind him. He was very handsome with dark eyes.

‘My, the NHS has improved since I was here last,’ said Gran sitting up and patting her hair. The doctor took out a felt-tip pen and explained the operation. How he would cut out the piece of protruding bone in her big toe, which was causing the bunion, and then reset the foot.

‘It’s a very simple, routine procedure, so nothing to concern you. One of the nurses will phone you after the operation,’ said the doctor. Then he moved onto the next cubicle leaving Gran with a scribble of felt tip pen on her foot.

‘Natalie, look at that,’ she whispered.

‘At what?’ I asked.

‘That big toe he has drawn on my big toe…Is that how my new toe vill look? It’s crap, even I can draw better…’

‘He’s not an artist, he’s a surgeon.’

‘Thank God he’s not doing my tits! Imagine the kind of tit he’d draw?’

‘Gran, it’s fine,’ I said.

‘No, I vant to vear all of my nice shoes after this operation. Vat if I end up vith a huge toe like a Cumberland sausage? Go and find him, bring him back…’

With a red face, I called the doctor back. He was very nice, and explained that the toe he’d drawn was just for guidance, and that as well as being a surgeon he was a keen amateur painter. He summoned a nurse, who removed the felt tip ink from Gran’s foot with an alcohol wipe, and he then redrew a much neater toe.

‘Perfect, a toe Sophia Loren vould be proud of,’ smiled Gran admiring his handiwork. The doctor grinned and went back to the next cubicle.

‘I still vouldn’t buy one of his paintings,’ muttered Gran in a low voice.

‘Do you want me to stay with you? I can take the day off work,’ I asked.

‘Don’t fuss Natalie,’ said Gran, settling down and opening a copy of Vogue. ‘They knock me out, do the operation and I vake up. Bobby’s your uncle. Now go to vork, I’m fine.’

 Miss Wrong and Mr Right is available from Amazon as an ebook and paperback. You can also read it for free as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription, and with Amazon Prime;

Click here for Amazon UK

Click here for Amazon US

About the Author

Robert Bryndza was born in the UK and lived in America and Canada before settling in Slovakia with his Slovak husband Ján. His debut novel The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard became an Amazon bestseller and two best selling sequels have followed, Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding and Coco Pinchard, The Consequences of Love and Sex.

When he’s not writing Rob is learning Slovak, trying to train two crazy dogs, or watching Grand Designs – all in the hope that he’ll be able to understand his mother-in-law, build his dream house, and get the dogs to listen. You can find out more about Robert at www.robertbryndza.com

Sign up to Robert’s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/UITxz (Your email will never be shared and you will only be contacted when a new book is out.)

To win a signed copy of Miss Wrong and Mr Right dedicated to you, enter at the rafflecopter widget on the right hand side. Just scroll down.

Thanks so much for coming on the blog Robert, you must come again soon.

Thanks again fabulous Dame Lynda Renham for hosting me on your blog!

Isn’t he lovely? Don’t forget to buy the book. Currently only 99p.

Dame Lynda

x

My HRT Nightmare

hormone1 I usually write humorous stuff for this blog. But there is a situation making my life such hell right now that I not only wanted to share but to also ask for advice and to hear other nightmare stories or stories of success. I promise the humour will return very soon. In fact there is a new novel coming out (plug) titled ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ in fact you can pre order it now. So much humour in there it should knock your socks off.

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So, twelve years ago I went onto HRT. I had all the classic symptoms, night sweats, hot flushes, migraines. In fact you name it, I had it. I think I could have coped with most of them. The Bartholin cysts, although painful, I probably could have endured. However what I hadn’t bargained for was the overwhelming feeling of tension and the terrible nightmarish mood swings. It got so bad that every other weekend I was packing a bag and leaving my husband only to return an hour later. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. This was usually over some little petty thing. I was slamming doors in frustration and weeping all over the place. I felt isolated, unable to cope with the smallest thing and feeling terribly unloved. Then came that fateful day, the day my fate truly was sealed. I lost total control of my emotions and my lovely husband found himself standing at the sink, frozen in fear as I held a knife to his throat. It was the last straw. It was, also, almost the end of my marriage. A relationship that means everything to me and one I did not want to lose. I thought I must be going mad, having some kind of a break down. I didn’t even connect these symptoms with the menopause. I thought that was just about hot flushes and sweats. I visited my doctor and HRT was suggested. I was nervous about taking hormones. I went home did the research and decided to try it. Quality of life was surely the most important thing. One month in and my life changed so dramatically it was unbelievable. I became the person I knew myself to be. Not only did the tension and mood swings go but also the cysts and the migraines went too. The night sweats stopped and life felt worth living again. Of course, I never thought about the future or the long term use of HRT. My marriage was safe and I was acting like a normal human being again.

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Fast forward twelve years and a change of GP practice to a doctor who thumped the table and said ‘I won’t prescribe that poison.’ We’re talking HRT here, not heroin. He refused to give me a repeat prescription unless I went to the menopausal clinic at the John Radcliffe hospital. I had no choice but to go. I’m already tearful just remembering the awful year that followed. I saw a specialist who after a long chat agreed I could/should say on HRT if my quality of life was affected and in my case she felt it was. However, she encouraged me to change from my pill to a patch with a lower progesterone dose. I felt at this point I had no choice but to agree. The first thing to happen was a recurrence of the cysts. This was followed by a constant bleed. I stayed on the patch for four months, bleeding throughout and with worsened symptoms of hot flushes and sweats. Went back to see the specialist who now decided that the bleeding was maybe abnormal and a scan was organised. Three scans and a hysteroscopy later I was diagnosed with having multiple polyps which were removed from the lining of my womb. I returned three months later for post op check and discussions on HRT. Discussed yet again about reducing my intake and the consensus was to change from Femoston 2/10 which I had been on for twelve years to Femoston conti but to do it slowly. Starting on 2mg and dropping down after a month to 1 and half. No sooner I did this then my mood swings took over with a vengeance. I upped to 2mg again as advised and felt a little better. Not as good as on the 2/10. Two months later I tried again. I haven’t stopped weeping. My moods are erratic. I’ve upset half of my family. I’m at my wit’s end and don’t know what to do. The slightest drop in Oestrogen and I’m climbing the walls. I have tried St John’s Wort, anti depressant, Quiet Life, exercise, deep breathing, meditation and more. But the mood swings are only controlled when the oestrogen is increased. Can anyone advise or share their story with me. I have tried some alternative therapies to no avail. Am I fated to eventually kill someone? I mean, seriously, that isn’t acceptable is it? Maybe I should start writing crime so I can vent my feelings freely.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing your nightmare tales. Unless of course you actually have murdered someone in a hormonal rage in which case perhaps you should also tell the police. All joking aside though, there is nothing worse than being out of control.

Much love

Lynda

x

Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown

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On this lovely hot Summer’s day I’m celebrating the pre order of my new novel ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ which will officially be released as an e book on the 10th August and paperback on the 1st September. You can pre-order here To take part in our competition coming very soon, do sign up for our newsletter. There’s a link on the right hand side. Scroll down to see it. You can win some lovely gifts. It won’t be the only competition either.

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To mark the occasion you can download ‘Rory’s Proposal’ for free. Here is the link. It’s available now but only for a few days. As you know we don’t often give away a free book. So get yours now before the offer finishes. Go here

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Coming soon … Ark Morgan, a heart throb to truly rival Christian Grey ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’   I can’t wait for you to read it.

Enjoy

Lots of love

Lynda

xx

 

The Choice

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Recently I have thought a lot about the words ‘Childless not by choice.’ This is what I am. A woman who did not choose to be without children, but one who had that decision thrust upon her. You can read my story here. I never thought much about the word ‘choice’ until recently. I thought I had some choice. I thought I had the choice to be positive or negative about my childlessness. The choice to accept the pain or find other avenues to express it and I also believed I had been successful at that.

But I recently learnt that I do not have choice. I do not have the control I thought I had. That even twenty years or more along the line (probably more than twenty, but twenty is all I want to own up to) the pain can still hit as acutely as it did at the beginning. It still has the power to paralyse me and stop me in my tracks and force me to question all those unknowns all over again and to ask yet again those pointless questions. Why her and why not me? How can a woman who is a useless and cruel mother have been allowed to be a mother when I couldn’t? Why was I denied and others who don’t deserve the right have been given it? Stupid and pointless questions that no one can answer and questions which frustrate and only cause me more unnecessary pain.

I started a group for women like me. I started a group so that other women wouldn’t feel like me. I started the Childless Support Group on Facebook so that women could move forward. Be positive and find a way through the pain with support and understanding. I started with six members. It now has over 800. I’m terribly proud of that group. But I felt the time came for me to step down.  I was coping with my childlessness. I had accepted it. I couldn’t shake my fist at a God I didn’t believe in and I felt it was time to live my life and to enjoy children who were not mine. I may not have been given my own but I could still love and enjoy children.

I sponsored a child in Cambodia. I wrote successful novels and continue to do so. I took up lots of hobbies. I travelled. I filled my life and grew closer to my step children and as a consequence to their own children-my grandchildren.

Then the punch in the stomach came. It is bittersweet. I have an adorable grandson, who lives with us temporarily and I adore him. We makes cakes together, chat together, do painting together, read books together. He hugs me, kisses me, strokes my arm at the dinner table. Tells me we can play a less energetic game if I’m tired. We go for walks together, laugh together and love together. Of course there is more that I can’t go into which makes this so much harder. I thought how lucky I am to have this. I thought I would never have children, let alone a beautiful grandson that I have grown so close to.

Then out of the blue, when I least expect it. While driving the car to the supermarket, I have to stop as I am so overwhelmed by loss that I cannot stop my tears.

I realised he is the son I always wanted. My choice to accept the unacceptable crashed around me. I had no choice. My emotions would always choose for me. The thing I never thought I would have has been given to me. And I never realised how painful it would become for me.

For the fact is someone else’s children, no matter how close you are to them, are not your children. They are the children of someone you love dearly and that’s a double edged sword, for while you can love their children it is hard to not envy them having a family in the first place.

There have been so many years of feeling self-assured and confident; confident that the pain could not get me anymore. I have been cruelly surprised.

But I am positive this will pass. That I will continue again on my healing route. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have such love around me. How lucky I am to not only have a beautiful grandson but one who also loves me and loves spending time with me and one I see more than most grandparents do.

So for all those childless not by choice women know that the pain does ease. That a life can be lived and that children can be a part of it but beware the pain can hit at the most unexpected time even years after you think you have conquered the loss.

A loss is a loss and the pain will always recur at unexpected moments. But there is more to life than children. I will never cease to say that. Life is a gift, with or without your own children. Enjoy it.

*We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.*

Joseph Campbell

Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers sample

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I thought I would give you a little taster of ‘Fudge Berries and Frog’s Knickers’ after realising I hadn’t done so.

It was a stressful 2014 and my memory isn’t all it used to be. But here it is. Enjoy.

Chapter One

Don’t you just hate surprises? Maybe you don’t and generally I don’t either but when the surprise is your darling Daddy appearing on the tele surrounded by policemen, trust me it’s the kind of surprise you don’t need. I’m used to seeing my father on the tele. I’m just not used to seeing him wearing handcuffs. Armani yes, but handcuffs no. I stare bleary eyed at the silent television screen.

‘That’s your father isn’t it?’ mumbles Chelsea while trying not to crack her face mask. ‘Are those handcuffs?’

I wipe the cucumber juice from my eyes and blink. Yes that’s Daddy all right. That’s his side parting, and his Gucci tie. That’s my Daddy, my knight in shining Armani. The handcuffs aren’t his of course, at least he wasn’t wearing them the last time I saw him. And they don’t look designer. Daddy wouldn’t be seen dead wearing anything but designer, at least not by choice.

‘Can you turn the sound up Bonita?’ I ask, trying to ignore the churning in my stomach and the pounding of my heart. After all, it isn’t every day you see your father in handcuffs is it? Well maybe you do but I certainly don’t. Even the moaning whales in the background are doing nothing to calm my nerves, whale music that is, not real whales. I know this is an exclusive health club but whale singing while you have your toenails done is pushing it a bit isn’t it?  Bonita turns from my Dior Vernis toenails and presses the remote. The voice of the newsreader reaches me and I feel my blood turn cold.

‘This is a shocking blow for the government. Minister for Family, Sir Rupert Wellesley, is seen leaving Westminster police station a few minutes ago and what a shock to his constituency. Sir Rupert Wellesley charged with fraud …’

Fraud? Never mind the shock to his constituency what about the shock to his bloody daughter?

‘Fudge berries,’ Chelsea squeals.

Chelsea, my best friend, who says fudge berries an awful lot and spends a great deal of time stating the bloody obvious.

I try to stand but the toe separators make it almost impossible. I waddle to the tinsel-decorated TV screen like a penguin. My numbed brain thinks that if I get a closer look I may find the Armani belongs to someone else, but no, that’s Daddy all right.   My phone starts to flash and bleep, and Bonita looks at it fearfully as if it will blow up at any moment. I grab it and silence the ringing.

‘It’s me,’ cries my hysterical mother. ‘Will this affect my allowance?’

Never mind her allowance what about my allowance?

‘I’m not surprised,’ she continues without waiting for me to reply. ‘Minister for family that’s a laugh. When was he ever interested in the family? If he’d spent more time with his family and less time helping those on death road we would still be together.’

‘Death row,’ I correct, feeling like I’m on it myself right now.

‘He wouldn’t change your nappy. Do you remember that?’

Considering I was only three months old I’d be amazed if I could.

‘I remember like it was yesterday. He was too busy saving those on the row,’ she continues. ‘He’s always been big on human rights. What about our human rights I used to say. It comes to something when you can’t change your daughter’s nappy.’

Why we’re talking about nappies at a time like this I have no idea. I’m thirty two years old and I can assure you I don’t wear them now.

‘I had a nanny?’ I say.

‘I said to him once, let them all die.’

‘The nannies?’

‘Death road inmates, of course.’

Bonita switches channels and there’s Daddy, again, again and again. I swear his side parting moves more to the left with each channel change. He’s looking more like Hitler by the minute. His Faberge watch twinkles under the light of the flashing cameras. Three words come from the broadcaster and I feel sure my heart stops.

Bank account frozen.’

Bonita looks as shell shocked as me. I expect she’s afraid I won’t be able to pay her. I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay her. How long does it take a bank account to freeze over? Quicker than hell I imagine. I pop a Lindt chocolate truffle and relax as the flavour explodes in my mouth. Thank God for truffles. They really do make everything easier to bear.

‘I have to go,’ I tell my Mother. ‘I’m at the salon getting everything gelled.’

‘Enjoy it. It may well be your last gelling. Good God Poppy, just think. You may actually have to get a job,’ she says, and I can almost see her satisfied smug.

Is she insane, I’ve never had a job in my life.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I scoff. ‘I’m getting married in six weeks. Roddy has pots of money.’

‘Ha,’ she laughs mirthlessly. ‘He won’t want you now. He only wants your money darling. He may have pots but the way he spends it he’ll be lucky if he has one left to piss in.’

She sighs.

‘We won’t get any sympathy you know that don’t you? I’ll tell you where you’ll find sympathy, right between shit and syphilis in the dictionary. God knows what I’ll do. I’m fifty six for goodness sake.’

‘You’re fifty seven,’ I correct.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘That makes it even worse then. Trust your father to get found out four weeks before the holidays. He’ll be happy to know his ruined my Christmas. I need a large G and T.’

You and me both but I don’t think Bonita serves booze. Mother begins to cry and now it’s my turn to sigh.

‘I have to go. I’m sure it’s all a big mistake,’ I say.

Please God, let it all be a big mistake.

‘Yes, of course,’ scoffs Mummy. ‘People are always mistakenly arrested for fraud aren’t they? You’ll be saying it’s a case of mistaken identity next.’

If only it was. I hang up and watch my phone vibrate across the table as text after text are received.

‘Fudge berries,’ says a stunned Chelsea for the second time. ‘This is mind-blowingly awful isn’t it Truffles?’

Ah yes, I should mention my nickname is Truffles, the chocolate variety that is, not the mushroom, and if you saw the number of them that I eat, chocolate truffles that is, not mushrooms then you’d understand how I got that name. I’m the truffle queen. I know every single truffle in existence and I also know the best truffle to buy. Right now I could do with a truck load of them. I pick up my ringing phone.

‘Poppy Wellesley speaking,’ I say, wishing for the first time in my life that I wasn’t.

‘Martha Clegg here,’ says a clipped voice.

‘Mrs Clegg, I haven’t forgotten our meeting tomorrow for Help the War Victims.’

‘I’m not one to judge Miss Wellesley, as you know.’

Not much.

‘But there are some that do. I’m sure you’ll agree that until this situation is resolved it would be better if you stepped down from the committee.’

‘But …’

‘We wouldn’t want those poor disabled lads to think they were getting illegal money, would we?’

‘The money has been donated it didn’t come from my father,’ I argue.

Oh God, was that admitting my father’s money is illegal?

‘Yes but it would be tainted, wouldn’t it? I’ll announce your decision to the board this afternoon.’

But I haven’t made a decision.

‘Yes but …’

The phone goes dead. She’s cut me off along with Daddy. I fish my American Express from my Hermes handbag. Bonita tries to behave nonchalantly and reaches for it in slow motion, but her fingers are twitching. She pretends to admire my handbag.

‘I would so love a herpes one day,’ she says passionately.

I somehow think she is alone in that one.

‘There’s always someone willing, I’m sure,’ I say wincing.

‘Hermes,’ corrects Chelsea through tight lips. ‘It’s Hermes, not herpes.’

‘Take the usual tip,’ I say. I cross my newly painted fingernails in the hope that the card isn’t declined. I’ve never had a declined card. I’m not sure I’d know what to do. There is a tense moment as Bonita pushes the card into the machine and a small bead of perspiration forms on my forehead. I scratch at my neck nervously and I hear Chelsea utter fudge berries for the umpteenth time.

‘Your skin is erupting,’ she says with a grimace taking two steps back as if I’ve suddenly become radioactive. I throw myself at a mirror and gasp. I’ve got tiny red spots all over my neck. The ghastly rash is rapidly spreading down my arm.

‘I used the same products,’ stammers Bonita, frantically punching buttons on the card machine.

‘It must be the stress. God knows I’m amazed you didn’t have a heart attack. That was quite a shock,’ says Chelsea, stepping further away from me.

Bugger, I’m dining with Roddy’s family this evening I can’t have him seeing me like this. Okay, don’t panic. Just breathe. I take three gasping breaths and give up.

‘I think you’re hyperventilating,’ says Chelsea. ‘You’re looking a bit blue now.’

‘Do you need a brown paper bag,’ offers Bonita.

If this rash gets much worse I may well do. But right now I just need that buggery transaction to go through.

‘It’s travelling up your neck and into your face,’ Chelsea announces. She’s like Alistair Stewart on breaking news.

‘I need antihistamines,’ I say anxiously, feeling sure my tongue is now swelling. Oh God, I’m going to have anaphylactic shock. I’ll elbow Daddy off the telly with news of my own. Socialite daughter of disgraced MP dies after swallowing tongue. I really had hoped for a more glamourous death. I rub ferociously at my arm.

‘Surely that only happens if you have an allergic reaction to something,’ says a wise Chelsea.

‘I’m allergic to being poor,’ I say miserably. ‘I need a chemist.’

I head for the door grabbing my truffles as I go.

‘Card went through,’ says a relieved Bonita.

‘I’m coming,’ says Chelsea, grabbing her fur coat.

I stare at her. She looks like a furry cucumber.

‘You’re still wearing your mask.’

‘Oh cripes,’ she groans and rushes back to Bonita.

I scratch my neck and nervously peer in the mirror again. Oh no. It’s spreading up my neck and little red spots are now sprouting on my chin. I look like a strawberry. Losing my money is turning me into Frankenstein’s daughter. Oh God, this is disastrous. How could Daddy do such a thing? We burst out of the beauty salon and onto the cold streets of Belgravia, swinging our Hermes and Chanel handbags. We pass bustling Christmas shoppers trundling along with their packages. I’d forgotten it was Christmas. The awful realisation that I may be spectacularly poor after being spectacularly rich somehow pushed Christmas onto the back burner. Chelsea peeks at my face and makes a huge effort not to look horrified.

‘Is it spreading?’ I ask.

‘No, not really,’ she lies, pulling up the collar on her fake fur. ‘At least you’re not blue anymore.’

That’s comforting. I feel sure I am getting strange looks. Chelsea phones her driver after deciding it might not be a bad idea to see a doctor, which clearly means it is spreading. I dive into Chelsea’s Rolls and we hurry to Harley Street.

‘It’s a nervous reaction,’ says the doctor.

‘I’ve had a shock,’ I say.

‘A terrible shock,’ echoes Chelsea. Specks of avocado champagne face mask evident on her chin.

Well I have haven’t I? Daddy’s been arrested and my allowance will be frozen along with his bank account. I’m Poppy Wellesley, I can’t possibly be frozen. I’m rich, In fact I am very rich, that is I was very rich. I’ve no idea how not to be rich. I have only rich friends, why would I want anything other than rich friends? I live in a penthouse in Belgravia. We have a country estate in Oxfordshire. We’re the privileged. I am the daughter of Sir Rupert Wellesley, multi-millionaire and MP for Belgravia and now a crook if you believe the news. My fiancé is one of the richest men in the country; at least his family are which amounts to the same thing. I’m to be married in a few weeks. Royals will be attending. It will be the socialite wedding of the year. I do my grocery shop at Harrods. Oh buggery. Please let this be a bad dream.

‘I need it to be gone by six,’ I say.

He looks at the clock on his consulting room wall.

‘Can’t be done,’ he says casually.

‘What?’ I cry. ‘But you have to. I can’t let my fiancé see me like this. What if I pay you double?’

What am I saying? I don’t even know if I have enough to pay him single.

‘She has a Valentino wedding dress,’ says Chelsea.

Is she suggesting I use that as part payment?  We both look at her. You’d never think she went to a Swiss finishing school would you?

‘What’s my wedding dress got to do with it?’ I ask.

‘Just saying,’ she mumbles.

‘I’m afraid even a Valentino dress cannot work miracles,’ says the heartless doctor.

‘Can’t you give me an injection or something?’

‘Yes, of course, what kind of injection would you like?’

This is ridiculous.

‘This is Harley Street,’ I huff. ‘Give me an injection that will shift the rash by six.’

‘Unfortunately even Harley Street can’t turn water into wine.’

‘She doesn’t want you to perform miracles, we just want some cream to get rid of it by six,’ grumbles Chelsea.

‘That would be a miracle,’ he says.

‘I’m seeing my fiancé.’

The doctor shakes his head.

‘I’m sorry. I can only suggest you calm down. Try meditation and deep breathing.’

Meditation? Deep breathing? Is the man off his trolley? I haven’t got time for josh sticks and chanting. I’m barely shallow breathing at the moment, forget the deep breathing.

‘Let’s get a second opinion,’ says Chelsea, flinging her faux fur around her shoulders, scattering speculums and specimen bottles in her wake. We sweep out of the consulting room in disgust and visit three more doctors who also tell me there is nothing they can do in time for my dinner with Roddy. I leave the last doctor doped up on Valium, me that is, not the doctor.

‘If you’re calm then it’s bound to disappear,’ says Chelsea comfortingly.

I nod in agreement. I’m already feeling calmer by virtue of the Valium. Then my phone rings and the familiar ringtone sends a chill through my bones. It’s Jeremy, Daddy’s financial adviser.

‘We’re up the creek without a paddle I’m afraid. Are you free for a spot of lunch?’ he asks.

‘Ooh,’ I mumble in my drug induced stupor.

‘I’ve booked a table at The Ivy.’

Can I afford The Ivy?

‘Can you be there for two? That gives you an hour.’

‘I’m meeting Roddy at six,’ I say.

‘Ah yes, Roddy.’

What does that mean?

‘It won’t take long,’ he says.

That’s not a good sign.  I pop another Valium and tell myself things can only get better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

‘Is he guilty?’ Shout the paparazzi.

I don my Alain Mikli sunglasses, pull up the collar of my coat to hide my neck, and wait for my driver, Eddie, to open the door for me.

‘I’ll be back in an hour,’ Eddie says in his Essex accent.

‘I’ll phone if I need you earlier.’

My stomach churns as I climb from the Bentley. There are flashes all around me and security staff from The Ivy rush forward to shelter me from the cameras.

‘Have you seen your father? Did you know he was on the fiddle?’ shouts a photographer, flashing at me for all he’s worth, with his camera obviously, although if he had flashed anything else I doubt I’d have noticed. I’m so doped up. I trip entering the restaurant and picture tomorrow’s headlines: Socialite daughter of disgraced MP arrives stoned at celeb’s favourite restaurant.

I allow the maître d’hôtel to take my coat and then check my reflection in the mirror. God, I look stoned too. The rash, thank heavens, has stopped at my chin and I’d managed to cover it with Touche Éclat. My newly highlighted blonde hair is shiny and I’m wearing it loose to cover my neck. My blue eyes are sparkling, if just a little vacant, and I’d applied the minimum amount of make-up as I didn’t want to aggravate the rash. I look rather good for someone who’s been frozen. Jeremy jumps from his seat knocking over a glass in his nervousness. He pecks me on the cheek and sits back down.

‘Frightful business,’ he mumbles.

A waiter rushes forward and pulls out a chair for me.

‘Good afternoon Miss Wellesley,’ he says with a smile. ‘How are you today?’

As poor as a church mouse it seems.

‘I’m fine thank you,’ I lie.

‘I’ve ordered your favourite. I hope that’s okay,’ says Jeremy, fiddling with his cutlery.

I struggle to recall my favourite.

‘Roasted Devonshire Chicken,’ he reminds me and gestures to the waiter.

‘A bottle of Quincy, Sauvignon Blanc,’ he orders.

‘Just water for me,’ I say, feeling certain my head will flop onto the table any second. If I have the wine on top of the Valium there is a good chance the whole of me will flop to the floor in a heap.  Jeremy peers at my neck and frowns.

‘What’s going on there,’ he says pointing.

I push his hand down.

‘Don’t point,’ I hiss. ‘I’ve erupted. I think it’s the stress.’

‘Nasty business,’ he says, studying my neck.

‘I know. It’s spreading everywhere.’

‘I was talking about your father.’

Oh yes, that’s a nasty business too. I nod miserably.

‘Up the creek without a paddle,’ he repeats.

‘Yes quite,’ I say, taking a gulp from his wine glass.

‘Up the creek without a paddle and facing a pack of sharks,’ he continues.

Never mind the paddle, what about my money?

The waiter places the chicken in front of us and I feel myself gag.

‘Frightful business indeed,’ Jeremy repeats. ‘They’ve frozen the bank accounts I’m afraid. I’m not going to sugar coat it Poppy. There’s no money. I won’t be making any transfers to your account for the foreseeable future.’

He knows how to break the news gently does Jeremy. I swallow and scratch my thigh. God, don’t tell me the rash has gone to my legs. I throw back the rest of his wine and glance at the chicken.

‘Don’t worry, it’s on your father’s account, the last of the expenses. Think of it as your last supper so to speak,’ he laughs.

I’m glad someone’s laughing.

‘You’ll have to make some cut backs,’ he says, slicing through his broccoli.

‘Cut backs?’ I repeat dumbly.

He leans towards me across the table.

‘Sir Rupert’s pleading not guilty. It could drag on for months.’

I stare at him.

‘Of course,’ I say, ‘It’s clearly a mistake.’

The waiter tops up his glass and I take another gulp.

‘Of course,’ he agrees.

I push the chicken around my plate. We are silent for a time and all that can be heard is the chatter of other diners and the irritating sound of Christmas music playing in the background.

‘What am I going to do?’ I say finally. ‘I’ve got to pay my driver and there are the staff salaries…’

He holds his hand up.

‘I don’t know Poppy. I only know that there’ll be nothing going into your account. Your American Express will be stopped. As for the apartment, well …’

He gestures to the wine waiter to top up his glass.

‘Are you sure you don’t want one?’ he asks.

I shake my head.

‘I’m taking Valium,’ I mumble.

‘I thought you looked a bit out of it.’

He points at my chicken.

‘Aren’t you going to eat that?’

I shake my head and push the plate towards him.

‘The flat belongs to your father. He has it down as a second home, on expenses. You will have to get out as soon as you can Poppy.’

I fight back the urge to cry. He looks at me uncomfortably and takes my hand.

‘They’re some shares I can trade. That should tide you over for a bit and maybe …’ he hesitates.  ‘Maybe you can sell some things?’

I stare at him appalled.

‘You expect me to go to a pawn shop?’ I say.

‘Of course not, obviously I’ll get someone to go for you.’

Obviously. I’m not handing over my jewels to just anyone if that’s what he’s thinking. I wouldn’t even trust them with my Mother. Anyway, many of them were given to me by Roddy. Remembering Roddy and I feel calmer. I pick at a piece of bread.

‘I’m getting married in a few weeks, so everything will be okay. Daddy’s already paid for the dress and…’

‘What does Roddy say about all this?’ he asks, beckoning for the dessert menu. God, he can certainly eat. It’s good to know that my calamity hasn’t affected his appetite.

‘I haven’t spoken to him,’ I say. ‘But I know he’ll be supportive.’

He nods and I look down at my sapphire and diamond engagement ring and feel a warmth of security.

‘Nice piece you did for that glossy,’ says Jeremy.

I smile. Roddy and I have been together for nine months. We are the socialite couple. Only last month we did a special spread for Hello Magazine on our forthcoming wedding. I’ve known Roddy since I was a child; I always knew I’d marry him. We have the same circle of friends and share the same interests. Fortunately for me Roddy has pots of money so he won’t care if I don’t have any for a while. After all, I can’t be poor forever. Let’s face it I don’t know how to be poor. I fiddle with my napkin and ask the inevitable question.

‘Did he do it?’

Jeremy orders a caramel chocolate pot and raises his eyebrows.

‘Don’t you want dessert?’ he asks.

I shake my head. I can’t eat a thing, I really can’t.

‘Truffles?’ he asks.

‘No, I couldn’t.’

‘Blimey you are taking it badly. Well, the claims are outrageous, clearly ridiculous. That’s the line we’re taking and if you’re asked that’s all you need to say,’ he grabs his wine glass before I can reach it.

I debate whether to take another Valium and decide my veins have enough drugs and alcohol pumping through them. This is the rich life all right, drugs booze and fraud, not forgetting Hello Magazine. Hells bells, I hope they still cover the wedding. I’d really look the poor relation if I don’t have my wedding photos in Hello Magazine.

‘Your father is at his Oxfordshire estate, but I wouldn’t recommend going there. The press are having a heyday.’

‘He’s not in prison?’ I say relieved.

Jeremy looks at me and laughs.

‘Good Lord no. Sir Rupert in prison, don’t be silly. He’s on remand. Do you want a coffee? You look like you need one.’

I shake my head.

‘I need to go home. I’m seeing Roddy at six.’

I go to stand up and a waiter rushes to pull my chair back.

‘Right,’ says Jeremy.’  ‘Lovely lunch, ghastly subject but good to see you and I’m sure all will be fine. You’ll keep your glad rags and all that.’

He forces a laugh which doesn’t fill me with any confidence. The maître d’hôtel checks the front of the restaurant and beckons to the doorman.

‘Good day Miss Wellesley. We look forward to seeing you again soon.’

I glance back into the Ivy. An awful premonition that I will not step over the threshold again washes over me. How stupid is that? I’m marrying Roddy aren’t I? Everything will be all right.

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