Grief, Letting Go and A New Novel, of Course.

Putting on a brave front is not the thing to do. I’ve found this out the hard way. Loss is something we all experience. Grief shouldn’t be ignored. However, I just soldiered on, thinking, for some odd reason, that grieving wasn’t for me.

I lost my mum a year ago and a few other things happened around the same time. It taught me that not all people are like me and that others don’t empathise in the same way. I learnt that people are thoughtless at the most difficult times.

I became introspective and withdrew from social media because I felt I was often misunderstood. I found myself over thinking my status updates and suddenly felt inadequate and a failure. I was grieving also but didn’t really realise it.

Then we lost our little Bendy. Yes, he was just a cat but even typing his name has me in floods of tears. My doctor has explained that losing Bendy reawakened the feelings I had buried at not being able to have children. Suddenly my grief was compounded by this sudden loss being felt all over again. Bendy had been the child I could not have and now he was gone. I was devastated. All those thoughts of being alone in my old age resurfaced. Thoughts of no one coming to see me when I needed people the most began to really frighten me. Being childless hit me all over again. So, like I normally do, I tried to put it behind me. ‘These things happen and you have to get on,’ was my motto. It’s so wrong. You must grieve and you must cry. Burying your feelings will only cause them to erupt at a later date. I know because it happened to me.bendywed

On New Year’s Eve my mother in law died and I took this much harder than my husband. I was suddenly overwhelmed. My heart began to race so fast that there wasn’t a single moment in the day when it wasn’t pounding away. I was scared to move. I couldn’t even play in the garden with my two new cats because it would race even more. I was crying at the drop of a hat and felt like life had no meaning.  The smallest thing that normally I would shrug off had me in the depths of despair. I was affected by how people treated me. Facebook updates by others would have me feeling totally useless and I considered giving up writing because it seemed to me that I was an absolute failure at it.

I finally took myself to the doctors for a routine check. He immediately arranged an ECG as my heart was going too fast for his liking. Fortunately it was okay and after a few more tests he diagnosed extreme stress and delayed grief.

I do miss Mum.  I miss her terribly. I missed her when she had dementia. Even though she was never really mentally with us, I could still see her. I can’t do that anymore. Losing both parents has a profound effect on you as I’m sure many people reading this will agree. Losing a pet is no easier, especially when they have been part of your life for 16 years.

So, moving forward, I am looking into bereavement counselling.  I’ve also told myself that as a writer I am okay. I may not be J K Rowling but a lot of people enjoy my books and that’s what it is all about isn’t it?

On February 1st I have a new novel out titled ‘She Saw What he Did’ It’s a fast paced thriller.  Abby Millers’ life changes when she looks through the viewfinder of her camera and witnesses something terrible.


‘Abby Miller thought she had the perfect family; a good looking, loving husband and a beautiful daughter. Her life was complete. The shock discovery that her husband, Jared, had been having an affair rocked her world. So when Jared suggested a short break to the Cannard Islands, to heal their fractured marriage, Abby agreed. An idyllic holiday turns into a nightmare when Abby witnesses something terrible. Suddenly her life and the life of her daughter are in serious danger and no one seems able to help them.

I hope you will read it. You can pre-order today for 99p Here 

Meanwhile my romance ‘When Archie Met Rosie’ is doing well and has wonderful reviews. Thank you to everyone who bought it and reviewed it. Reviews make such a difference. If you want to read a love story with a difference. Then this is the one for you. Go herearchieoriginal

We have two new cats now. They are named Lytton and Schrody. They won’t replace Bendy. He was very special. But I am sure these will become very special in time too.


Thanks so much for reading.

Much love

Lynda x


Books, ‘La La Land’ and Cats


Gosh, I can’t believe I haven’t written in here since November 2016. What have I been doing with myself, aside from eating Kit Kats untill I look like one?  It’s been so long that even WordPress has changed. What’s worse, I forgot my password to get in. Let me tell you getting back into WordPress was harder than breaking into the Bank of England. Not that I’ve tried to break into the Bank of England, I should hasten to add. The important thing is that I’m back.  I was thinking about this blog in bed the other night and thought if only I had the time like I used to. I then realised that I actually have more time now than I ever had. When I worked part-time I seemed to find the time to write in this blog, write novels, cook dinner and keep on top of the housework. Now, I work at home full-time and get nothing but books written. The less said about housework and the dinner, the better. That’s great, but how is it I have more time but get less done? Time management, I hear you say. Quite right too. Less procrastination and more work. So, today I am editing and I thought why not take a break and write a post for the blog while listening to the soundtrack from ‘La La Land’

So what’s been happening. Do I have news? Yes I do. I have a new novel coming out soon. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my last little baby came out. Here it is just in case you had forgotten. You may remember that ‘Phoebe’s Smith Private Blog’ had two different covers. I’d love to know which one you preferred. Leave a comment. Anyway back to novels.  ‘Phoebe Smith’ is £1.99 on Amazon. Better still you can borrow it for free if you are with Amazon Prime. Take a look. You can get it here  All my books apart from a few can be borrowed for free on Amazon. Check it out. I’m also delighted that ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ popped back into the charts this month. Borrow that for free too. Check it out here


My new novel is due to be released early April. I’ve gone for a change in genre this time and it is a psychological thriller. I do hope you like those. It’s very gripping and I’ve just got the cover. I love it. I’ll be sharing it soon on Facebook and Twitter and there will be the usual competitions on my Facebook page so do join us here  if you haven’t already. I’ve been holed up here in my writing room working hard on the new one. I so hope you like it. There will be lots of lead up on my Facebook page so keep your eyes peeled. My little companion in my writing room is my lovely cat ‘Bendy’


About six months ago we almost lost him. One Sunday morning he just collapsed. There was no warning. He couldn’t move or do anything other than sleep. I even had to pick him up from the garden after he had a pee. Not ideal! Me being me, I went into a massive panic, while my husband, AKA as the doctor, kept remarkably calm. we drove to the vet. That is the doctor did. I was shaking so much I could barely hold onto the cat basket. The vet diagnosed heart failure and gave little Bendy a week to live (ooh deep breaths at the memory) So we brough him home with his meds. I needed some Valium for myself at this point. Oddly he bucked up the next day, although he was still cautious going up and down the stairs and slept more than usual. But the next day he bucked up even more and the doctor and I started to get a bit suspicious about the flea preparation we had used on him a few days previous to his collapse.  I then Googled, which I’m prone to do about any illness, only to discover other pet owners having had a similar problem with their pet after giving them flea treatment. I’m now dead against flea products. I think they’re too toxic for little cats. Does anyone know an alternative treatment for dealing with fleas? Please let me know.

So, that’s it for the this post. I hope it wasn’t too boring. I’m now going to edit and then write another post about our holiday. That will be a more humourous one, so hold onto your hats 🙂

Lots of love

Lynda xx


Kippers and Marzipan



Holiday breaks are odd things aren’t they? Or maybe they are just odd for me.

Off we go on Thursday evening for an Easter break in Ross on Wye. I’m very excited. Of course this may have something to do with the fact that I have it in my head that we are going to Hay On Wye, where I know there are lots of book shops. This is, of course, completely wrong, as Hay on Wye is an hour away from Ross on Wye and only has two bookshops. Well, that’s all I managed to find. I’m sure it has more, if you feel inclined to look, but not as many as Hay On Wye, and seeing as I thought that’s where we were going you can understand why I felt a bit let down.  Not that it’s anyone’s fault and after all I was the one who booked the break.

The doctor arrives home from work and I’m packed and ready to go. I’ve packed enough books for two weeks in Mauritius. I’m determined to have a break. It is then little Matthew (my grandson) realises we are not joking and that we are really going away for a few days and leaving him. He’s having none of it and races to the car before we do and dives in. Now, there is nothing worse than an upset child, except an upset child who refuses to budge from the back seat of your car demanding to go on a weekend break with you. I had planned a lot of things happening on this break but babysitting a child was not one of them. I check my phone aware we had booked our table for dinner at the B&B for 8 pm. We still had the rush hour traffic to fight through. Twenty minutes later we have wrestled said child from the car, handed him back to his parents and are waving goodbye. I start to fret about Bendy (the cat) Did I leave enough cat milk for him? Will my stepson and his wife remember to pull the blinds at night so he doesn’t see the bully cat? Is this whole break thing a bit extravagant?  I tell myself I deserve it and the doctor tells me so too, so it must be true.

We arrive at Ross on Wye and the little B&B I had been expecting is nothing short of Ross On Wye’s own Shangri La. Our room looks like one out of the Shangri la that Andrew stayed in while in Hong Kong (okay slight exaggeration) but it feels as hot as bloody Hong Kong. I struggle to turn down the radiators and have already drunk my way through their two bottles of  complimentary water when I realise it is the towel rail that has turned the place into a sauna.


After freshening up we go down to the bar for dinner where we’re invited to sit in the library and peruse the menu. I’m not sure if my eyes pop out before the doctor’s or vice versa. £36 per person for a three course meal? I check I’m wearing the right glasses.

‘Was dinner included with our booking,’ I whisper, thinking of the little pub just up the road and how pie and chips would be just as good as the Garlic and thyme rump of Herefordshire lamb, saffron potatoes chantenay carrots, peas, and broad beans offered on the menu in front of me.

‘What was that?’ asks Andrew, who never hears me at the best of times but at present has an ear infection so is basically only hearing me with one ear.

I whisper again, a little louder this time.

‘I think so,’ he whispers back.

Before we know it, drinks have been ordered and we’re being led like lambs to the slaughter into the dining room, a waitress carrying our tray of two glasses, which we could easily have carried for ourselves.

‘Would you like me to pour water into your glasses?’ asks the waitress.

I shake my head. I think I am still capable of lifting a jug.  Dinner turns out to be quite superb and we both make a mental note to check that the evening meal is included in our booking.

I can’t believe we have this luxury for three nights. The following morning we toddle down to breakfast (also included, in case you were getting anxious for us) we’re shown to our table where we consume a pot of lemon and ginger tea, cereal with yogurt, followed by kippers for Andrew, full English for me and toast to finish.  We then toddle off to Ross on Wye for me to look in the two bookshops and countless charity shops. I’m at my happiest. The doctor then encourages me to do some sightseeing away from the shops.

The churchyard
The churchyard

We wander into the local church yard and I take a few photos before we walk towards the church where a vicar stands to welcome us.

‘Hello,’ he whispers ‘are you visiting?’

Oh dear. Andrew inclines his head, obviously wondering how his hearing could have deteriorated so quickly. I lean forward in an effort to hear the vicar thinking he must have a sore throat.

‘We’re having a service of silence for six hours. But if you’d like to come back.’

Andrew inclines his head.

‘Come again?’ he asks.

‘If you would,’ whispers the vicar. ‘Tomorrow would be fine.’

‘That’s good,’ says Andrew. ‘The weather is not so good today.’

Meanwhile I’m standing there wondering why the vow of silence seems to have included us on the outskirts of the church. But God moves in mysterious ways, so they say.

We leave the vicar to his silence and when he is out of earshot, Andrew says,

‘I can barely hear you at the best of times and that’s with both ears. How am I supposed to hear him?


We make our way back to the town, discussing what great food it is at the hotel. How the breakfast is so vast that guests can’t possibly want lunch.

‘It’s nearly two and I couldn’t possibly eat lunch,’ I say.

‘People do though,’ says Andrew. ‘I’d never want to be a glutton like that though, would you?’ he asks as we both glance in the local bakery window.

Ten minutes later we exit the bakery after buying two marzipan cakes, a hot cross bun, and a large custard tart.

Well, it’s a long time before dinner.

Hope you all had a fun Easter.

Chocolate Pancakes and Banshee Cats (Part 2)



I’m walking through Laos and not looking in the least like Karen Blixen, or Meryl Streep come to that.  But it’s not like the doctor is looking like Robert Redford is it? More like Michael Douglas on a bad day maybe. I’ve not slept for 12 hours and sadly it shows. Note to self, go back to Nivea cream because that bloody expensive Rodial cream obviously isn’t working. All this ‘Come off your flight looking as fresh as a daisy.’ I look more like a wilted daffodil, which is the story of my life.  To top it all guess what Lynda, who packs the house when she is going away, forgot to bring? I’ll give you a few seconds. I didn’t bring my sunglasses. It’s hitting the 30’s here and I didn’t bring sunglasses. It’s not like I don’t have enough. I have about three pairs (all back home, of course). We look at The Mekong river which is beautiful and see all the restaurants along the river front. If I felt just a little better I could enjoy this but all that is on my mind is the tatty hotel we have to go back to.


‘Are you hungry?’ asks the doc.

‘I’d rather find a hotel first,’ I say.

So, we continue walking and by now I am starting to feel like we’re doing a Kilimanjaro climb.

‘I can’t go any further,’ I groan. ‘I’m so knackered and I feel rough.’

We’ve stopped outside a small hotel with vacancies. I’ve never rushed into anywhere so fast in my life.

‘We have one room, only tonight but tomorrow we do have room.’

Am I so sleep deprived that I’m not hearing people’s words properly.

‘Can we see the room?’ asks the doctor. ‘Or do you not actually have a room.’

‘Oh yes, we have a room.’

Thank goodness for that.

‘Can we see it?’ asks the doc again.

Ah smart idea Dr Watson. We don’t want more toilet seats in our hands. Or, should I say my hands. He happily takes us to the room, which is actually perfect. Nice loo, seat stays on. Apart from the wailing rabid cat outside it is perfect. You get used to wailing rabid cats in Asia so that’s okay.


‘We’ll take it,’ we say in unison.

‘And tomorrow night?’ asks Andrew.

‘I have other room for you. I show you.’

It’s getting better and better. We accept both rooms and I trot away happily with Andrew to the first hotel, trying to work out how we will explain to the owners, or should I say the young girl who doesn’t speak any English why we don’t want their room. We can’t very well say it’s grotty can we?  Meanwhile my phone bleeps with another update on Bendy.

‘Hope you got into Laos fine and were able to catch up on sleep. Attached are some photos of Bendy today, relaxing with me in the lounge and eating again.’IMG_6212 IMG_6232






Oh James, you have no idea.

We arrive at the other hotel and the girl isn’t there.

‘What do we do with the key?’ I ask nervously. ‘We can’t just leave it on the desk, someone might steal it.’

We creep upstairs like burglars and quickly pack the few things we took out of the suitcase and drag all our stuff back downstairs. We peek around the corner to find the girl still isn’t there and hurry out. We decide to take the key back the next day.

Finally we fall into bed and can you believe this? I can’t sleep. Meanwhile the doctor snores contentedly beside me. The cat howling like a banshee and a dog barks in sympathy. I pop a sleeping pill into my mouth, ear plugs into my ears and finally sleep.

I awake to no sign of the Doctor. This is not unusual. I often wake to no sign of the doctor. He isn’t one for telling me where he’s off to. At least not all the time, and I blame it on him being a man.

I’ve just showered and dressed when he rushes in.

‘I’ve found us an even better room I think,’ he exclaims.

‘Oh,’ I say.

Three rooms in 24 hours, this is amazing.

‘This American guy named Andy owns a place but he’s booked, unless, of course you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.’

My look must have said it all.

‘No, right, I thought not,’ he says quickly. ‘But his brother has a place, we can go and look at the room there.’

So, off we trot. It’s hot and I still don’t have sunglasses but things are improving you have to agree. And the Mekong river looks beautiful.


Andy is very nice, if just a bit excitable and maybe a touch over friendly but you can’t have everything can you. The room is nice too.

‘Ooh, this would be nice for tomorrow night.’ I say.

‘It’s very quiet,’ Andy assures me.

Oh Good, no banshee cats then.

‘Come round for chocolate pancakes and coffee. My wife makes the best.’

Sounds wonderful. To good to be true in fact.

‘For a small charge,’ he adds.

You see what I mean, I’m never wrong.

He advises us where to get sunglasses and we make that our next stop before deciding to go back to the original hotel, you know the one don’t you? I know it’s hard to keep up but do try. After all it’s not that many hotels is it? We arrive and again there is no one there. A guy sitting on the wall outside asks if he can help. Andrew explains and hands back the key and we begin walking back to our current hotel, you know the one? Mind you, I’d understand if you don’t because even I’m getting confused now and it happened to me. We get part way up the hill when the guy comes running after us waving the key.

‘Mister Andrew, you went to wrong hotel.’

We turn and stare at him.

‘No, that’s the key to the room at your hotel,’ says my very confident clever husband.

‘No, no,’ insists the man. ‘You went to wrong hotel last night. You not booked here.’

Oh what!

He points to the hotel next door. And let me tell you this is a very nice hotel too.

‘You booked in there,’ he says.

‘But,’ begins Andrew.

‘Me thought you Andrew Hall.’

Andrew who? I don’t believe this. We wander slowly into the hotel and check if we have a reservation.

‘Yes sir, for four nights,’ says the man behind the reception desk.

‘Can we see the room,’ asks Andrew.

I’m getting a sense of Déjà vu.

We check the room and it’s perfect.

Somehow in less than twenty four hours Andrew and I had managed to book ourselves into four hotels.

‘I suppose that means the chocolate pancakes have just flown out of the window?’ I say.

Beautiful Laos
Beautiful Laos





The Well Showered Cockroach. (Holiday Part One.)

There is something about holidaying in Asia that always makes me feel a little like Karen Blixen, you know, the woman depicted in the film ‘Out of Africa.’ Different continent I know but you get my drift.

It is rather romantic to think of myself as like her of course, aside from the syphilis, hers that is not mine. Let’s clarify that before rumours start and as lovely as Andrew is, he isn’t Robert Redford.

Anyway, back to holidaying in Asia. I always transgress as you know. So, let me tell you a little about the romance of our holiday shall I? Be prepared. It isn’t anywhere as romantic as ‘Out of Africa’ I mean, really, did you expect it to be? This is me we’re talking about. Let’s face it starting a holiday with your other half sniffling and coughing is no fun. The Doctor (aka Andrew) decided to catch the flu before we left. Okay, he didn’t exactly decide to. That would be a bit silly wouldn’t it? The point is we became those passengers from hell. You know the ones? The passengers everyone avoids. The passengers you dread will be your seating companions. That was us. Of course, you try to hide it. But it is a little impossible when Andrew had a choking fit and I’m doing my first aid bit in an attempt not to have him die on the plane.  We finally arrive in Bangkok where we have a seven hour stop over and I get my first update on Bendy from my stepson James.

 ‘Hello, just to say Bendy is well and enjoyed the biscuits, treats and milk earlier, as you can see in the photo here. He spent most the day sleeping in the lounge, although is always welcome to go upstairs for quiet time.’


I feel a little better knowing Bendy the cat is okay but by now I’m feeling a bit rough myself and the Doctor is barely able to speak for the pain in his ear and sinus and I start wondering if he’s perforated an eardrum. That’s just wonderful. He claims never to hear me half the time as it is. Now he’ll have a really good excuse to claim he doesn’t hear my nagging. We trudge to the departure gate for our next flight. It’s now pm and we have six hours to wait for the flight to Laos in South East Asia. I’m so tired but the air conditioning is so fierce that all I can do is shiver. The Doctor lays himself out on three seats and tries to sleep. Everyone avoids us which is good in a way because at least we have plenty of seats to ourselves. If only it weren’t so cold.  Seven hours later (the flight is delayed. I bet Karen Blixen never had these problems) we finally board our flight to Laos. It will take one hour and the time there is pm. We’ve lost a whole night’s sleep and feel crap to boot. But at least the Doctor is out of pain. He can’t hear a thing mind you but he’s out of pain. We both just want to get to Laos, to our hotel and to crash out. Well, that’s simple, I hear you say. You’ve no idea. This is us we’re talking about Lynda and the Doctor remember, not Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.


The plane lands and we depart with throbbing ears and sinuses and queue for our visa. We then collect our suitcase and It looks less bulky to me and I say as much to the Doctor.

‘Don’t be silly, it’s your memory. It looks the same.’

It doesn’t you know but who am I to argue with the doctor. We get a taxi to the centre and tell the driver where our hotel is. We’re dropped off and walk up a short hill and Andrew says,

‘This is it.’

I’ve never felt more relieved in my life. I trip over a stray cat and follow him to reception where a young girl greets us. She doesn’t speak English and just looks curiously at us. After trying to make her understand that we have booked a room for three nights she finally makes a call from her mobile. A man talks to Andrew in broken English. Andrew gives his name and the man says,

‘Ah yes, Andrew. No problem.’

The phone is handed back to the girl, who takes a key and leads us through a dingy kitchen, out to the back and then into the tiniest room I have ever seen. She closes the door and I look around me. The bed linen looks like it hasn’t been changed in weeks and there is a strange musty smell about the place.

‘We’re paying thirty dollars a night for this,’ I say, struggling to keep my eyes open.

The doctor looks like he couldn’t care less.

‘I’m too tired to care,’ he mumbles.

I trundle to the loo and stare at the dingy shower. Oh God, is that a cockroach making itself at home. I don’t believe this. I’m feeling decidedly jet lagged now not to mention shivery and achy. Now my stomach feels dickey. I’ve been here two minutes and I’ve already got deli belly. I lift the lid of the toilet seat only to have it come away in my hand. What the…

‘Andrew,’ I begin angrily, ‘the toilet seat …’

At that point I sit on the loo only to have it break underneath me. I’m halfway between the floor and the loo when the doctor walks in.

‘What are you doing?’ he asks to a chorus of wailing cats from outside.

What does he think I’m doing?  Toilet seat yoga? Honestly men!

I burst into tears.

‘The toilet seat broke and don’t say it is because I’m overweight. I’m not staying here,’ I blurt out. ‘It’s a dump. I want to go home.’

I want to go home? Have I gone mad? It’s nearly killed me to get this far. If I have to do a return journey now it will be in the body bag our insurance agreed to pay for. Can things get any worse? Andrew sneezes loudly.

‘Let’s go and explore and if we see another hotel that is nicer then we’ll check out of this one.’

If we seriously don’t see another hotel nicer than this one I’m likely to slash my wrists. I swallow my malaria tablet, dash to the useless loo one more time and tiredly follow him out for a walk.

To be continued.

Part 2 A new hotel and a promise of chocolate pancakes with a twist.


Where’s Lynda? and how it’s all playing havoc with my irritable bowel …

What the hell has happened to Lynda, I hear you say? Then again, maybe you’re not saying that at all.
I’ve not blogged much or tweeted much and my Facebook appearance has been pretty minimal. So where the hell have I been? Not on holiday, that much I can assure you.
It’s been a mad few months. It’s been a crazy year in fact and it isn’t improving. I’ve been worrying my arse off mainly and trying to write a book. And the madness doesn’t look like ending either. But at the end of January I am off to Laos to sit in the sun. I’m going to get a holiday if it kills me and I’m determined to fit into my life things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m also going back to Cambodia in the summer. Hopefully with the Doctor (otherwise known as Andrew) or on my own if necessary but go I will.
So, what’s been happening for Ms Renham Cook to be so quiet?
I’ve been working really hard on the new novel. Which I feel certain is a load of bollocks but I have been assured by those in the know that it isn’t and I should stop having minor panic attacks especially while studying kangaroo in Lidl. Kangaroo meat that is, not kangaroo as a whole, you understand. Although, I have been known to have mild panic attacks over the novels while studying the lamb too, just in case you thought it was only kangaroo that sent me over the edge. Anyway, let’s move away from Lidl, shall we, before I give you a mild panic attack. So, with the novel almost finished, I can now relax. At least until I get my edits.
Basically, I’ve not been around because I’m wrecked. Several health scares, a small op, and a family of three moving in with us has left me completely and totally wrecked. Not to mention a cat having a mini breakdown, Christmas looming and my house turned upside down. I’ve lost a room, gained a son and grandson, lost a car (only temporarily) given up my summer house and half my kitchen. This is playing havoc with my OCD. Worse of all, I’ve had to buy a nightie. Gone are the days of strolling into the loo while naked. Mind you, I’m lucky if I can actually stroll into the loo. It’s normally engaged these days. This is playing havoc with my irritable bowel. I’m always the last in the shower these days and that means that the water is tepid by the time it hits me. This is not my idea of fun. I tell myself if I can get through having the builders in, then I can get through this.
More worrying is the amount of money I’ve spent online. I know it’s Christmas but I think I’ve got carried away. At least my bank balance hints I got carried away. So if I carry on like this I may have to take a temporary job in Lidl until the new novel comes out.
I’ve also been eating far too much. Sugar is essential to a writer, especially if the creative juices are to flow. I’ve over indulged on fig rolls and Galaxy, my two very favourite things. We’ve also eaten out more the past six weeks than we have in fourteen years together. And the amount of fish and chips we’ve had is shameful. So, what is looming? The big WW. Weight Watchers to be exact just in case you thought I was referring to a world war. Things are desperate but they’re not that desperate.
Now to top it all I have the monster of all colds. Annoyingly, no one else in the house seems to have it. How bloody unfair is that?
Still let’s look on the bright side shall we? Can you see one? Oh good. Christmas is coming. My Christmas newsletter will be coming and hopefully Christmas in the village photos are coming. With that I’ll close. Lynda is back. Slightly skew wiff, but she’s back.
Love you all xxxx

Giving is receiving


When someone takes the time to write a piece about my books I am thrilled. When they offer to feature my lovely orphan kids in Cambodia I am even more thrilled. So I am reprinting it here. The lady who wrote the article is Kathryn Brown and she has written a very good romantic comedy herself called Bednobs and Batchelors. You can buy it on Amazon.

I am currently in Cambodia. A place so close to my heart, that even throwing up seems worth it.

The last few days here have been busy. Last night we went to a nice hotel and watched Apsara dancing, which is beautiful.

Two days ago I visited my sponsored child at The Children’s Sanctuary and you can read more about them here. I am at my happiest here. We tried on the donated clothes I brought with me and played pass the parcel, danced, and generally had fun.


I met with my Cambodian friends for dinner and shopping and of course we went to the circus.

A Cambodian circus is like no other. I urge you to check out the You Tube video here.

Enjoy Cambodia with me.







You can read Kathryn’s piece here. Please do.

Holey knickers, sex gods at hospitals and fiddling the NHS



cat 2If yesterday was not scatty enough with having to chase a demented cat out of the kitchen with a baby green finch in its mouth, then I certainly made up for it today.

Yesterday I flew out of the new French doors to chase Bendy (the cat) screaming the whole while for him to drop the baby finch he had in his mouth. The poor thing was twittering so much. Of course in my haste to rescue said bird I rushed out practically naked. It was early. I did grab a shawl in case. I had of course totally forgotten the kids would be arriving for school and you only have to look over the wall to see the mayhem in our garden. Not that we have continual mayhem here. Mayhem yes but not continual. Anyway as always I digress. So there I am a shawl draped over my naked body save for holey knickers and what happens? You guessed it the parents arrive with their kids. I don’t know how many saw my backside. Suffice to say Andrew was not thrilled. He expects me to end up on a list any day now. After dashing to the vet with a poor shook up little green finch I finally got on with work. I managed extra 2,000 words to the novel knowing I would be out half the day today at the hospital having a foot scan and x-rays.

Now, I ask you what can go wrong with a simple visit to the hospital. First stop the Orthopaedic hospital for my X-ray. I pop my money in the pay and display and off I go. So far so good. I am out within the hour. Jump in the car and off to the next hospital ten minutes up the road. Don’t ask why I couldn’t have the ultrasound at the same hospital. Only the NHS can explain that one. Arrive at next car park take ticket from barrier and park car after much difficulty. God, when did hospitals get so busy and when did you have to pay to park? Anyway, off I go to the next Radiology department. I sit and wait until, my Goodness, this Greek god comes to get me. I kid you not. Open necked black sexy shirt, so I get a glimpse of his hairy chest. I say, radiology never used to be this sexy. He wears tight black jeans and gives me the sexiest smile ever. I begin to think my legs may give way completely. Oh well, they have wheelchairs here, so that’s handy. He talks to me in broken English and leads me into the room for the ultrasound. He then caresses my feet in such an erotic fashion that I think I’m in a scene from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ hunk

I blame the Greek god for what happened next. I leave with the news that I am showing slight signs of Arthritis. I look around for the machine to pay my parking fee and then remember I already paid. I climb into my car and the bugger won’t start. I phone Andrew thinking he will have to come and get me or arrange a tow. As I talk to him, the engine starts up. My husband the miracle worker.  I love him for just that reason.

‘Right,’ I say. ‘I won’t stop now until I get home in case it conks out.’

Off I go to the barrier where I push my ticket in. (spotted the obvious mistake yet) I still haven’t and I try again and again and again but it just spits out at me. The lady coming into the car park tells me her barrier won’t work. I tell her mine isn’t working either.barrier

She gets me to buzz and some man snaps at me through the machine. I tell him there is a huge queue behind me and that the barriers aren’t working. He is quiet for a moment and then tells me the system has crashed. We wait. I try again and again. The queue gets longer. People start climbing from their cars and asking me what the problem is. I explain the system has crashed. Finally another man buzzes and complains and then someone comes and lifts the barriers. Relieved I drive through, my engine still running. It is as I am halfway home that I realise it was in the other car park that I paid. It was a pay and display there. The last car park I didn’t pay at all and was trying to exit with my entrance ticket. With a gasp I realise it had been me that had crashed the system. The question now is do I tell Andrew or leave him in the dark? I don’t want to be sectioned yet do I?

Oh, to live a normal life…

Doughnuts and Valium (the best combination)

Even this sight of me doesn't drive the builders away
Even this sight of me doesn’t drive the builders away

I thought to myself, because I do that sometimes. I talk to myself also (more than I should) but let’s not go there. I thought to myself, let’s write about this building work, after all it might be cathartic. Before I even wrote three words there were tears falling onto the paper blurring the words Okay, there would have been had it been on paper written in ink. In fact the words may well have been blurred by the scarlet red of my blood, so suicidal have I felt. But… there is always something good to be found. I don’t have to worry about dieting. It’s quite impossible to cook anything. The slow cooker is buried in brick-dust, the kitchen no longer exists and even heating up two TV dinners has become a skill. Balancing one on top of the other, making sure the dish covering one is just large for the top to take another TV dinner while continuing to rotate nicely. Wednesday night has become fish and chip night while Sunday has become Roast dinner down the pub. I buy the builders doughnuts and myself hot cross buns. I’m drinking copious amounts of wine (mostly because the doctor won’t give me Valium and wine is the next best thing) I don’t have to clean (no point) I use someone else’s bathroom as I don’t have one (luxury) and I always have a man about the place. Some of them are admittedly as good as useless but I have men never the less. I don’t have heating but I do have a small electric fan heater which we sit huddled over. I have found washing using a bucket isn’t so bad. I’m beginning to wonder what the fuss is about sinks. So between popping pain killers and laughing till I cry I am managing to stay sane amidst the chaos which begins every day without fail at 7.30. Come rain or shine I drag myself from my bed at 7 or earlier and am sitting in my tatty towelling robe when they arrive. They sadly realised quite early on that I am no Brigitte Bardot so why pretend? If Andrew can cope with the morning nightmare of me then so can they?
There is Mark, also known as ‘Dipstick Mark.’ Named thus by us. Dipstick Mark swaggers around all day swigging from his never-ending cans of Red Bull. I imagine he is flying by the end of the day and seems incapable of doing anything without an ensuing disaster. He plumbed in pipes for the heating and then forgot to turn the water on. We attempted to later that evening only to have a flood. Dipstick Mark returns to repair said damage and fits a tap in the bathroom so we have water upstairs. He then forgets to turn the water back on. When we do turn on the water we discover said tap has a leak. ‘Dipstick Mark’ almost flooded out our bathroom and ruined our new ceiling.
There’s lovely Dan, who I would adopt if I could. I’m not sure life will be the same once Dan goes and I won’t be able to shout ‘Dan,’ every time something doesn’t seem to work. Dan flies out to bring in the washing if it rains and takes in any deliveries. It’s like having my own manservant but without the ‘Mam’ bit.
There is lovely Kevin, the boss. He doesn’t say much but does plenty. There are two Steve’s otherwise known as sparky and the plumber. Not being versed in this language I spent several days waiting for someone called Sparky to arrive. I finally said to Dan,
‘I must keep missing Sparky. I haven’t met him yet.’
Dan patiently informed me that Sparky is the trade name for electrician. Well, I’m not to know that am I?
I’ve had four periods during the time they have invaded my home. Trying to insert a tampon while sitting in a portaloo with three builders outside having a tea break is no fun at all.
I’ve read builder nightmare stories of course but you never think it will happen to you. Oh, be afraid be very afraid. These builders are all the same. I’m actually lucky to still be alive after a rain of scaffolding came hurtling towards me. I have slipped on the mud inside the house not outside I hasten to add. Lovely Dan places the dust sheets neatly on the stairs every day showering the living room in a cloud of grey making the room resemble smoky Joes by the time he has finished. There was also the day they forgot to tell me that although I could see a cat flap hole on the outside, they had actually plastered it up on the inside. That night the cat couldn’t

Bend the cat has a tea break
get out to pee, hence the house reeks of cat pee now.
The worst thing possible they have done is… filled my fridge with Snickers bar. The overwhelming temptation has proven too much and was a disaster for my diet. But I am proud to say I weakened only once and stole one. ‘You’re roughing it very well,’ said Kevin. Is that a gloat I see on his face?
But enough of my story telling. Have a look at the photos.
All donations to the new building fund to repair builder damage can be sent to me directly.
Lovely Dan

Our living room/bathroom/kitchen/junk room

Living room

Bendy thinks ‘Ah this looks promising.’

This looks even more promising


Our current draining system

But it will be worth it

It’s only wind!

My life surely has to be more entertaining than a soap opera. I really don’t intend for it to be that way. In fact I was not aware it was even similar to one until Andrew said as much and some good friends confirmed that he was indeed a saint to cope with it all. Poor Andrew. No wonder he swings from lamp posts.
Last week was a prime example I suppose, when I popped to the Doctors with what I was convinced was a serious problem with my stomach.
‘I imagine they will send me for tests,’ I told Andrew the night before.
‘Yes, of course,’ was his response. ‘Although the most likely scenario is that they will tell you it’s wind.’
So, the next morning off I trot to the Doctor, almost wanting to prove dear Andrew wrong.
After much poking around. Ah, talking of poking, that reminds me I must be due a smear test soon. Aren’t blogs wonderful things. They even jolt your memory.
‘Take a seat Mrs Renham-Cook. Now…’
Oh dear. Convinced she is about to tell me I can’t now travel to Cambodia, I begin forming the words to convince her of otherwise.
‘I can find nothing wrong.’
She can’t?
‘It could be irritable bowel.’
Seems Andrew was right as usual.
I go to stand up and the pain I had been having in my calf catches me and I gasp. She notices, has a feel and immediately phones the hospital. I nearly pass out in fear. This is the thing with being a hypochondriac. The illness you expect to be diagnosed with never materialises but when something does happen that you hadn’t even thought of it throws you into blind panic.
‘I’ll phone the nurse, see if she can take your blood now and we can send that off and get it checked for Deep vein thrombosis. We will have it back in the morning.’
Deep vein thrombosis. Oh my God. I immediately picture a clot on my lung. Convince myself I only have a short time to live and beginning planning how to break the news to Andrew. God, I know I sit down a lot but this is ridiculous.
The nurse rushes me into her room. She only has a few minutes before they come to collect the blood. I am jabbed unmercifully with her needle. I’m someone used to having blood tests. I have my thyroid checked monthly but nothing hurt like that one did.
‘Best to be safe than sorry,’ the nurse tells me.
Yes, quite. But does being safe mean it has to hurt so bloody much?
I drive home in a dream. Well, that’s normal actually. I do everything in a dream. But this time I think I was more in a dream than normal.
Andrew comes home and I break the news.
‘I may have DVT.’ I say. ‘Well it’s highly likely actually.’
My leg has been throbbing ever since I arrived home.
‘Yes, I’m sure,’ he responds looking through the post.
I’m sure he is worried, he just doesn’t want it to show.
I spend the evening with my leg up.
‘I read on Google that’s the best thing to do,’ I tell Andrew.
‘I’d chop it off if I were you. Save all the bother.’
Obviously he is trying to cheer me up with humour.
Now, of course my arm is so sore I can barely move it. By the morning I have a massive bruise. Although the morning seems a long time coming. Andrew seemingly unperturbed sleeps like the dead. I know this because at one point I try to wake him up. Before I tell you about the night’s adventure I should just set the scene a bit. Andrew sleeps very soundly. I don’t. I am up and down like a jack in a box. This used to cause all kinds of upset. I now use my Blackberry to see where I’m going. I’m night blind, did I ever mention this.
‘No, no, but please don’t fill us in,’ I hear you shout.
Okay, don’t worry. There isn’t time anyway. Suffice to say I use my Blackberry to find my way to the bathroom. So, here I am on my way back when from the light of my phone I spot something black and large on the bedroom floor. Oh God, a spider. How do I get past that? More importantly if I do, what is to stop it coming onto the bed. I am terrified of spiders. Yes, I have killed spiders. Or I should say asked someone else to kill them. I was told off for this on Facebook. Told I should think twice about taking a life. Does this apply to the mice that are overtaking my house and the ants that seem to be everywhere. I mean, where do I draw the line? Anyway, back to the story. I’m sure I will hear lots of opinions on killing spiders. Even I am rethinking it through. I call Andrew, well that is I whisper Andrew. After the eighth whisper I am screaming Andrew. The spider hasn’t moved but with all this racket going on he is bound to soon. Bendy the cat, sitting downstairs, hears the racket and joins in with his meows.
‘What’s going on,’ utters Andrew.
At last!
‘There’s a spider, do something. I can’t go back to bed.’
‘Is that why you woke me up?’
‘Isn’t it enough?’
He sleepily climbs from the bed, finds the spider, kills it with the metal detector that sits on the landing (lent to me by a friend to find my engagement ring, if you’re curious and that is a whole other post.) wraps it in my sock (I ask you) and asks if I am returning to bed.
The following morning Andrew informs me that the spider I was so terrified of, was in fact the fluffy cover off of my headphones. I mean, typical or what?
‘Let me know what the verdict is,’ he shouts as he leaves the house. I wait all morning by the phone chewing my nails and wondering if I should pack a small bag ready for my stay in hospital. I begin a list of things we will need from Waitrose. That way Andrew can go instead of me. Doctor finally phones.
‘All is well,’ she tells me.
Surely she has made a mistake? I feel so tired.
‘Let’s check your thyroid,’ she suggests.
Yes, let’s do that, I agree.
Oh, well this means I can go to Waitrose today after all.
Normal life resumes. I know, I know, it’s far from normal but it’s how I like it…

The great escape

As Andrew and I bit the heads off our little Chocolate rabbits (to celebrate Easter don’t you know) I was horribly reminded of the little headless bunnies that Bendy, our cat, brought it for us last year. The thought of a recurrence of that this summer makes me shudder. The pleasure of a cat is certainly overshadowed by that cruel thing known as nature. How often do you hear that? Don’t you just hate those calm people who, as your cat belts into the house with a live mouse, say ‘But it’s nature? What? Nature is flowers in bloom and buzzing bees surely. Nature is watching those little seeds you planted, blossom into something edible. I know, I know. Nature is also that awful savage thing where animals tear each other apart. Can’t we just call it massacre instead, that seems more fitting?
I love my cat but the pleasures of having a pet are wearing a little thin in this household. Our cat while cuddly and loveable in the house turns into a mass murderer when venturing outside. The problem however is not his hunting ability but his inability to hang onto his prey or finish them off. Last Summer I walked into the kitchen to many a headless rabbit, a leftover mouse’s kidney, and on the odd occasion a bat but there were many more that he had somehow dropped and lost. Not to mention the ones he has left only half dead and which Andrew has to finish off. Then there are the sparrows and blackbirds which no amount of screaming will force him to drop.
Last weekend my mother-in-law came to stay and obviously as a gift to her, Bendy brought in a large mouse. Mother-in-law, thanked him with a horrendous scream and a fast leap to the bathroom. In shock at this response, he promptly dropped and lost his prey. Andrew, of course, had conveniently gone for a run. I was left screaming at the cat to ‘Find it, find it,’ as if he understood one word.
Thankfully he did and finally took it outside where he proceeded to throw it in the air with much gayness. How could my lovely cuddly cat be so sadistic? I felt like locking the cat flap. I also swear he waits for Andrew to go out or even better, go away. For whenever he has gone away, Bendy has brought me more than my fair share of gifts. One time he brought me three bunnies in the space of two hours and another time he left me a lovely big juicy rat. Oh, I shudder at the memory. The problem with Bendy, however, is that he loses more mice than he kills. Last week Andrew went to get a saucepan from the cupboard only to find mouse droppings.
‘That’s it, I’ve had it with that cat,’ he snarled, as saucepan after saucepan came out of the cupboard and the whole place was scrubbed and disinfected and a mouse trap strategically placed.
‘That’s one mouse dead then,’ I hear you say.
Oh, if only it were that simple. This mouse is not just any mouse. It is SuperHoudiniMouse. So far, it has gotten through half a jar of peanut butter which has been used as mouse bait, teased Andrew when he tried to catch it and has managed to avoid the cat. Three times he has been caught in the trap and managed to escape somehow. Mind you it has dragged the trap around with it. It has peed all over my J cloths and bin bags and left a tidy mess eating through dusters. To say Bendy is not popular is an understatement. Sharing my kitchen cupboards with a mouse is not my idea of fun. This bank holiday weekend I traipsed around the hardware shop searching for superhuman mouse traps. I came home with two more traps and a sonic deterrent, which scared me and the cat but has had no effect on the mouse. We now have five mouse traps in the cupboard but amazingly Houdinimouse is still at large. We are reaching the stage where blowing up the kitchen doesn’t seem like an insane idea. So, if you read of a mouse coup in Oxfordshire, you can be sure it is us.

You is well funny!

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I have always looked on the bright side of things. My sense of humour is wacky and I have been called eccentric, nicely mad and well funny. One memorable comment from a student I was teaching many years ago was.
‘You is well funny, you should be on the telly.’
Yes, well… There have been times that it could seriously have gotten me into trouble.
I have already recounted many funny episodes in my life but believe me for every one that I have told you there are a million others. So, here we go, sit down, get comfy and those cheeky ones can bugger off now. It all began with this morning, well, in theory on Thursday when my friend Marie, and yes Marie, this is your entire fault, gave me an early birthday card. She asked me to open it right away and of course I did. There is always the vague hope that there might be a cheque inside. There wasn’t, just in case you wondered. I think she must have forgotten to put it in. Hopefully when she reads this, she’ll pop it in the post. On arrival home, I showed Andrew my card which was a lovely lookalike picture of my cat Bendy. Where she is going with this, you are asking. Don’t deny it, because I heard you. The card was then placed on the book shelf. I did notice Andrew’s newly purchased tax disc but that is really the only time I recall seeing it. It is at this point that I have to claim total ignorance at whatever followed because I honestly cannot remember. I blame hormones myself, mine that is, not Andrew’s. It is a miracle of nature that I am still having periods actually but that is probably another post altogether. But while we are on the subject of periods I would just like to raise the question, why are sanitary towels not free? Did I ask for periods? More importantly did I ask for them to go on forever? Did I ask to make history? No. I spent over nine pounds on sanitary protection the other day. I think the NHS should supply them; after all they supply condoms don’t they? It’s all one and the same thing surely? But I transgress as usual. The next day he asks have I seen his tax disc. I admitted I had but that was the night before. He insists I have lost it, I insist I haven’t. Andrew finally finds it in the recycle bin, folded neatly and inside the envelope clearly marked Lynda which originally housed my card. I mean, honestly what is going on? How did I do that? More importantly when did I do that? And most importantly of all, why did I do it?
My question to you is this. Am I clearly mad, or can this all be blamed on hormones?

I have been known to trudge round Marks and Spencer for over an hour, pack my shopping, ask for the collect by car option, accept my number disc and then drive all the way home, get indoors and then realise I am still holding the disc and my shopping is still at the store.

I’m the part medical receptionist who politely argues with the patient who comes to collect a prescription.
Patient, mumbling:

‘I’ve come to collect my prescription.’


What’s your name?

Patient: Whispers

‘Joe Smith’

Me, looks for prescription can’t find it. Ten minutes of me asking when was it requested and trying to trace it, I suddenly come to the realisation that it must be a controlled drug and the script is somewhere safe. I search in the relevant place but no prescription. Joe Smith, mumbles his name again and fidgets uncomfortably. I again ask him what it was for in the hope it will give me an idea where to look. He shifts about again and whispers something I don’t catch. He finally reveals it is a private script. Ah, why didn’t he say that in the beginning? With a flourish I produce his prescription which he grabs and quickly exits.

‘What was that all about?’

asks my fellow worker.

‘Oh, nothing,’

I respond.
Well, how was I know his prescription was for Viagra?

I really hate to hurt people’s feelings and that can go as far as our local milkman. Rather than telling him we didn’t want him anymore, I said I now had lactose intolerance and couldn’t drink milk. He was so sympathetic and helpful that I found myself accepting his offer of lactose free milk and yoghurt. Andrew’s face when seeing them in the fridge was quite a picture.

I am even polite to obscene phone callers. One once phoned and asked if I wasn’t too busy would I talk to him while he w***ed himself off. I apologised, saying I was in the middle of the ironing. I mean, who does that?

I have left my handbag in a shopping trolley and driven home.

Left the house, locked the front door while leaving the back door wide open.

Slept in the summer-house when Andrew was away working because there was a spider in the bedroom. Because we do not have a back entrance I had to leave the backdoor unlocked all night, so I could get back into the house in the morning… (shush) don’t tell Andrew.

I have unbuttoned my skirt while travelling on a coach only to forget to button up again. Yes, you’ve guessed it. While running along Oxford Street to catch a connecting bus I ended up with my skirt around my ankles.

I’m the woman who gets a tampon stuck and has to have it surgically removed, oh yes, that’s me…

I have also attempted to get into a car that looks very like mine for about ten minutes until I finally spot the baby seat and remember I don’t have a baby. Thank god, the car wasn’t alarmed.

I find I am out of control whenever I hear Irish music. When walking through the grounds of Blenheim palace and hearing ‘Lord of the dance’ I break into an Irish jig. Klik hier voor meer gratis plaatjes

Like a good wife I prepare dinner early and put everything in the slow cooker and then potter off to write. It is only when Andrew arrives home at 6.30 that I realise I had plugged in the toaster instead of the slow cooker. No dinner!

I have handed over my NHS employee smart code to policeman when stopped in my car, thinking it is my driving licence (well they are both pink!) and been told I can go. (Obviously they mistake me for a Doctor. Understandable.)
I send text message to the wrong people… Seriously, this can be quite dire.

Now, you are all going to tell me how similar things happen to you every day aren’t you? Or are you just going to tell me.
‘You is well funny!’

You have 72 hours to shoot the computer…

A few weeks ago our internet connection died. If I had known the hassles that were ahead of us I seriously think I would have emigrated to Australia or something. Oh, it surely wasn’t that bad, I hear you say. Oh, trust me, it was worse. But as usual I digress. So let me go back to the beginning. It all began on a Sunday night about three weeks ago. Andrew was trying to get his server onto something called a cloud. Now, don’t ask for any more information on that. Suffice it to say that he runs a business from his office and had some concerns about his personal server going down so that particular evening he was attempting to get it onto a cloud. Not a cloud in the sky you understand, although for as much as I know about it, it could well have been in the sky. Again I digress. Trust me, the server, cloud and everything else is really unimportant in this story. The next day we both toddled off to work. Well, I toddled anyway. I only work a few hours in the morning at a health centre and believe me a few hours working for the NHS is still a few hours too many. Andrew doesn’t work for the NHS and therefore works more than a few hours and is far more important than me. I left work and travelled miserably to Sainsbury’s, as you do and fought my way around the aisles. I knew exactly what I wanted but nothing goes to plan does it? It seemed something had blown up that morning so their freezer department wasn’t working properly and for some reason it affected their spit roast chickens. I did query the connection but no one seemed to know what it was. I quickly re-arranged dinner in my head and headed for the fish counter. Finally, I got to the tills where the queues were a mile long. Eventually I reach the till and am faced with twenty questions.
‘Hello, how are you? Would you like bags for your goods?’
Actually no, I thought I would carry the whole trolley load in my skirt! Or better still in a basket on my head.
Of course I want bags. But before I can answer…
‘Do you have your own bags? Do you need help packing?’
No, I don’t have my own bags and no I don’t need help packing. I mean, do I look helpless. Before you ask, I have sex three times a week, or more if I am lucky. Of course, he didn’t ask about my sex life but you know how it is? And yes I have a club card but I forgot it and no I don’t need to complete a form for a replacement as it is just at home. What an ungrateful woman you think. Well, yes, but I just want to get home and I know they are only doing their job. But really, if you have more than three things in your trolley, then obviously you need bags, right?
Next comes the bit that makes me cringe and bite my tongue. Along the conveyer with a thump come my apples followed by my pears. The bag of flour splits slightly as it is thrown along and the lady behind me gasps. Oh no, I now have to say something and then he will ring the bell and then I will wait forever for someone to get another bag. I sigh and push it into my bag. I really do not have the time. I pay and smile when he tells me to enjoy my nice things, like I have just bought an iPad rather than Mackerel and salad. Ah well… I drive home, lumber inside with my shopping and put the kettle on. Now, you can tell that already I am not in the mood for anything more dramatic than perhaps the teabag splitting. No luck for me. I realise the answer phone is bleeping like crazy and the skype phone is flashing like mad and there is a loud screeching coming from Andrew’s office. I feel an overwhelming temptation to flee while there is still time. I enter the office warily and prepare myself for the horrors that await me. I fight the temptation to scream. The computers are consistently rebooting themselves in an effort to re-establish connection and the answer machine is flashing menacingly at me. Poor Bendy quakes behind me and attempts a purr but it comes out a bit shaky. I listen to the messages with a sinking heart. Andrew’s customers can’t access the server. I phone Andrew and pop two painkillers in case. Pre-empting a headache is always a good idea I find.
‘Not to worry,’ says my calm husband. ‘It’s probably the router. I’ll sort it out when I get home.’
Andrew arrives home at about six and by ten thirty we still have no internet connection. We have a new router though which doesn’t work and irate customers who cannot access what they need. We phone BT. Well, we actually phone India, which is the same thing. We think the woman tells us it is the router. Now, I am not being racist here when I say we cannot understand her. It is just a fact, we simply can’t understand her accent, or the man who follows her, or the woman who follows him. Andrew consistently tells her it isn’t the router to which she responds.
‘Good, we agree it is router.’
Hello, are you talking to us?
We finally give up and phone our internet provider. There is a thirty minute wait. Forty five minutes later someone answers and thirty minutes later after we have turned the router on and off several times we are told the problem will be logged.
‘Someone will contact you in 72 hours. In the meantime should your connection resume please contact us.’
’72 hours,’ I repeat in a strangled voice. We don’t own a television, I want to shout. What are we supposed to do? For God’s sake, you can’t leave us for 72 hours. What are we going to do? How will I get onto Facebook? Andrew slaps me round the face and I calm down. (Obviously he didn’t slap me round the face but it sounds dramatic doesn’t it?
So, we wait 72 hours. During that time I buy a dongle which doesn’t work, or at least it does but it cost me £5 just to surf Amazon for ten minutes and five of those minutes is spent waiting to get into Amazon in the first place. Andrew suggests we use his Android phone as connection. So we do and this takes 10 mins to get into the web page and just as I order a book and go to pay, it times out. How did I ever cope in the days when we had only BT phones and no internet? Can you remember what you did when there was no internet? Anyway, as usual I digress. So, finally one afternoon 72 years later, whoops I mean hours later. It probably just felt like years. Anyway many hours later, they text Andrew at work who then in turn texts me and asks would I like to phone them as I may get the connection back. Even with a thumping headache this sounds good to me. Never again, do you hear me, never ever again, at least not with a thumping headache. The guy is named Mark and this is how it went.
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‘Hello, how are you?’ Asks Mark.
‘Fine,’ replies I.
‘I need to go through the router settings with you.’
‘But we have done that already.’
‘I have nothing to say it has been done already.’
Lesson number one, do not argue with them because…
‘Well, I assure you we did.’
Phone goes dead. Now, I am not saying they do this on purpose. I mean why would they? With a thumping head I redial and wait fifteen minutes. While we wait, let me tell you something about Andrew’s office. No, better still have a look at Andrew’s office. (the picture below is just one part of the office but it would have to be the bit where the router is kept)

Now, believe it or not he knows exactly where everything is in here. And believe it or not, I don’t! I fumble around all the papers trying to find the old router. I then fall over objects as I try to plug things in while the whole time Bendy who has picked up the atmosphere is meowing around me and trying to get the airing cupboard door open with his paw.

Bendy hides in cupboard

‘Mark speaking, how can I help?’
‘We got cut off.’
Silence. Oh no!!
‘Are you there, are you there,’ I scream, slightly hysterically.
He politely gives me a web page address to type in. I start typing.
‘Are you in?’
‘Not yet.’
Was that a tut I heard?
‘This lap top is a bit slow. Ah, here we go, it says there is no internet connection.’
Surprise surprise. In fact he does sound surprised.
‘Are you certain?’
Why is it I now feel like hanging up? Finally I get into the settings and they are in Italian. I tell him this and he coughs nervously and then begins telling me to type things in but I haven’t got a clue where to type them.
‘Why is it in Italian?’
‘I don’t know’ I reply honestly.
‘Are all your settings in Italian?’
‘Well, that’s obviously the problem.’
‘What is?’
‘The fact it is in Italian. The best thing to do now is turn your router off, wait a few hours and then turn it on again. It should be okay now we have reset it.’
A few hours? Why does everything take hours with these people, what is wrong with minutes?
‘But, we have done that already and…’
‘The best thing is to wait until your husband gets home. He can phone us this evening.’
Wait till the husband gets home! Oh, do I see red, or do I see red? I stand up angrily, fall over the cat and curse. The phone goes dead. I am so livid I want to sue them. It has been four days now and so far all we have done is buy new routers and turn them on and off. Where is the engineer that everyone talks about? I decide it may be best to leave it to the husband. In fact, neither of us do anything and the next day it is back on. Of course it goes off again a week later but I really don’t want to put you through all that again. You will be pleased to know that after another 72 hours, copious amounts of Valium, a study clear out and a tranquilised cat, we finally got an engineer down who discovered our eighty year old wiring had gone rotten. But of course, we all know, it really is the router…

Dog food and Jude Law (a fable)

Time to come clean I think. All that skulking around the fish counter and pretending I am buying crab sticks when my eyes are clearly on something else has got to stop. I am close to becoming a menopausal woman for goodness sake. No, you’re not, I hear your cry. Oh, all right then, I’m not. But I will one day and then all this madness will have to stop. So what is it that has me behaving in the manner of a mad woman when visiting my local supermarket. Who or what is it, that drives me to buy twelve tins of dog food when I don’t own a dog? Or has me so demented that I enter the place wearing sunglasses, even when it is raining, in the manner of a celebrity so no one can see the desire in my eyes? It is Jude Law of course. Or more to the point the Jude Law look-alike clubcard man, otherwise known as Frank. I admit to even being tempted to drop by late at night in my P.Js such is my addiction. I see you holding your hands up in horror. I have tried to get this under control you understand. But Valium and counselling have had little or no effect. It all started last summer when I popped in to buy some bog roll. Jude Law accosted me at the door and amidst much swooning and patting of my hair I signed away my life. Well, it felt like that. I actually signed up for a clubcard and have not looked back. I also bought three lots of bog roll as they were triple points as well as 8 packs of crab sticks, also triple points (we don’t eat crab sticks, however we do use bog roll). I went back two days later and Jude Law commented on how nice my hair looked.
‘Oh, I just washed it,’ I shrugged. Well, that is Cheryl, the hairdresser had washed and blow dried it the day before, after highlighting and trimming it of course. But he didn’t need to know that. He showed me the special offers with double clubcard points and would you believe I couldn’t find my clubcard and we had to do the whole registration thing again. That was the day I came home with twelve tins of dog food and four lots of Denture Fixative. We don’t own either dog or dentures.
I am getting into serious hot water now. Today I saw that triple points are on I mean, we just don’t do Durex. We JUST don’t okay. But I was staring at them so closely that I did attract a few odd looks. Then, I saw that cat food has an offer. Now, how do I explain to Jude Law about the cat? Do I say the dog went to doggy heaven in the sky and in no time flat I replaced him with a cat? I mean it would kill two birds with one stone, if you get my drift. I would be rid of the dog and Bendy would at last get some real food instead of those mangy mice he keeps catching. Or do I just go cold turkey and cure myself of this disgraceful habit? I could of course say the cat is my neighbours. Well Bendy does spend a lot of time next door. Okay, okay, just a thought. Perhaps I can put myself on a withdrawal programme. Yes, that’s what I will do. Anyway must go, it’s national chocolate week and we need some chocolate and I could have sworn they were on offer.

Life in the country. A pictorial memory.

“It’s beautiful,” we both enthuse on first seeing the country cottage we had always dreamt of. We had driven through a wooded lane and crossed an attractive bridge, the river shimmering in the sunlight as we drove towards the village. At an almost giveaway price we manage to romantically overlook the cobwebs which seem to cover the entire house (the spiders I would terrifyingly encounter) and the large damp patch on the lounge floor.
“We can make this room look great,” we said, with the evident pride of owners. Of course our experience of builders and insect poison was quite limited at that point but would later become extensive. Again we ignored the creaking doors, never imagining that at some time in the future our magical home would have the power to lock us in at will. We never for one moment saw our cottage as a miniature Amityville horror. How easily we deceive ourselves. Friendly village folk smiled and greeted us warmly as we walked across the village green and had a drink in what we already regarded as our local. We thought how quaint and peaceful it was to have no shops, or street lights. Oh, the pleasure of seeing the stars at night. The primary school, next door wouldn’t be a problem we decided, in fact the sound of children’s laughter would bring us much joy. However, three months on and sticky finger marks on our fence coupled with tiny heads stuck through our railings changed our view somewhat and now, some days I am inclined to favour the idea of our predecessor, which was to chop off their little fingers but I digress and should go back. At that moment we fell in

love, even though we knew the whole house needed damp proofing, and dry rot had to be treated, we were not perturbed. The survey report should have swayed us but it didn’t. We would get everything done, it might take some time but in the end it would look wonderful and as we browsed through house and home magazines every night our confidence grew.

Eventually we would be able to rent it as a holiday home, paying for our own summer holiday. Ah, that was ten years ago. We moved in as partners and married eight years later. Our wedding was held in the garden and the reception on the village green, moving a bit later into the local. But it was not always like this!
We moved in on New Year’s Eve amidst a screaming match. We couldn’t move for furniture as Andrew had chosen to use a ‘man and van’ (who dumped all our belongings into one room and abandoned us to rush to his next job) I could see no end in sight, in fact I couldn’t even see the blooming front door at that moment and stressed as much to Andrew in just a few four letter words. He stressed me more by remaining calm, of course. We finally ambled across to the local pub for a calming drink to find, an invitation only, New Year’s Eve party in full swing. More tears followed before we ambled back, shivering and depressed. A few days later we began working on the house. The first hurdle was the floorboards in the bedroom. No matter how hard we tried the boards would not be sanded. They were too old and badly damaged and the sander kept breaking
‘A hundred pounds wasted on hiring a sander’ I shouted and another row followed as I demanded carpets and he argued to keep the original floorboards. I hate to admit he was right after all. Eventually we got down on our hands and knees to scrub and varnish them ourselves. Of course it would be at these times that the friendly village folk would choose to visit.

“Just say if you need anything?” they would offer as I struggled to rub the paint from my face and hide behind my paint streaked, oversized, holey jumper.


“It’s nice to have some young people in the village” they said struggling not to grimace at the sight of our cottage, which resembled a holocaust inside and a building site outside. The realisation that we were the ‘young people’ sent warning bells about our future social life. Never the less we battled on. I had a near breakdown during a wood lice invasion and it somehow erupted in me throwing a glass of water over Andrew. The memory of this eludes me now… For days our lounge was inundated with loft insulation and I waged a constant daily battle with dust but dust eventually won. Finally, one day, something positive. Our sleigh bed was to be delivered at nine on a Friday morning. It actually arrived at five in the afternoon but I was so excited I overlooked the long wait. At last, our long-awaited comfortable night was here, but we were wrong again. The delivery men looked at our stairs made one half-hearted effort to carry the headboard up and then declared in a bored tone.
“That bed won’t go up there.’
We stared at one another. Oh for pity’s sake.
‘What about the mattress?’ I asked. Our lovely comfortable and very expensive temper mattress.

‘I know all about these things, that mattress will never go up them stairs.” he said knowingly.
‘But if you heat it with a hair dryer it will bend in half,’ said my knowledgeable Andrew.
‘Excuse me mate, what makes you think I carry a hairdryer on the van?’ retorted the other delivery man.
The next thing we knew they had driven off in a cloud of dust with us looking on despondently. I could cry, two thousand pounds down the drain.
“You can choose something else,” the manager of the furniture shop said, but we didn’t want anything else. Therefore, he informed us, we would get our money back minus six hundred pounds for restocking.
“Six hundred pounds! They can bring it back then and I’ll saw the headboard off if I have to. But they will get it up the stairs.” my loving partner declared. I was close to tears, my beautiful bed driven back to the warehouse and next it seemed it was to be sawn to bits. How much could a woman take? Our cottage looked like it had been desecrated, with carpets torn from floors and rubble piling up in my lounge as a fireplace was demolished.

“It will be great when we get back to the original two hundred year old fireplace” Andrew would enthuse. I would nod and think, oh, to live in a normal house.

But there were good moments and still are. Like when we actually did get the bed in. And yes, some neighbours are friendly. The professors next door seems to live in a cloud of smoke, all literary and romantic and seem to permanently sip whisky and find it very decadent to recline in their night-clothes all day. The milkman delivers milk and anything else we need, and oh yes, blessed of all things, the mobile library comes to the village green every Wednesday but I always miss it.

Then, of course, there is the story of Mick, our first builder and the missing plums bag. How I spent a good fifteen minutes looking for a bag of plums when in fact he had lost a Plumbs bag. Something very different indeed and nothing whatsoever to do with fruit. But Mick was the discoverer of our inglenook, so I quickly forgave him. Then of course there was the day we dramatically crossed off our new home list the entry, ‘Buy a dog’ This all came about after one of our neighbours invited us for drinks and their dog almost snapped our hands off when we went to enjoy the nuts that were presumably for us. Not to mention much crotch sniffing which put me off dogs for life.

Bendy and Iris

We, instead, opted for two kittens. Bendy is still with us. Sadly Iris we lost after her first litter.I run a mile whenever I see this particular neighbour and her dog. Also of course there was the day I got locked in my own bathroom due to the decrepit state of the door and had to scream from the window for someone to help me.

But we are still together? Is life in a village as friendly as one imagines? Is everyone popping into everyone else’s house? Well, we are still together, apart from the odd storming out of the house episodes. As we speak, the war on ants and wood lice continues, although at times I think the poison is killing me. But overall, life in a village is great.