Blathering on about everything and nothing and what makes me sad.


Hello, it’s me …

How are you all? Okay I hope.

I’m hiding upstairs. Well, not hiding exactly. The Doctor has a meeting of the book group he’s in. So I’ve come upstairs with my crochet, except I decided to write a blog post instead.

It’s been a funny week. Well, it’s been a funny few weeks actually. I’ve not been entirely myself. I’ve not been anyone else, obviously. I’ve just felt a bit sad. Now, I wasn’t going to write about this, so I don’t know why I am now. I figure people want to read happy blog postings don’t they? Not that this is going to be a miserable one. I’m just digging a hole here aren’t I? I’m generally a happy person. Anyway … more on that later.

Did I tell you I’ve got builders next door? I probably have. I’ve become quite anal talking about builders. I’m going insane with them. They only seem able to bash things with a hammer and they’ve been seven months banging away with a hammer.  I’m sure they are doing a lot more than just bashing around with a hammer but from my perspective, it doesn’t seem so. Honestly, I’m really surprised more builders aren’t murdered by the neighbours. The owners of the house are coming over from America next week, so that will be fun, especially as they are supposedly going to camp in the garden. That’s what one of the builders told us. The house isn’t finished. How unfinished can a house be that you can’t actually camp in it, as opposed to the garden. Quite honestly our house has been unfinished for years but I can’t see us camping out in the garden.  Anyway, how can it not be finished after seven months of hammering?  I could have done loads in our house if I’d done all that hammering.

So, I’ve finished a novel as opposed to hammering about the house. I’ve probably rabbited on about this ad nausea. But I’m so excited because yesterday it went to number 2 in the Amazon chart in Canada. In case you don’t know about it, I’ve put all the details below. I’d like to celebrate with a glass of wine but I’m on another diet and that of course means no wine. Well, you can have wine but not if you want chocolate and if I have to choose then chocolate comes first every time. What would you choose? I need to diet. It’s unhealthy being overweight isn’t it and I hate it when I can’t squeeze into my clothes. I can’t keep buying a size larger as tempting as that is. I’ll be as big as a house soon. No, it’s time to take action. Otherwise I will outgrow everything they sell in ‘Evans’

Anyway, back to writing. It’s hard work writing. You spend all day, every day, alone, stuck in a little room having a weird relationship with people who don’t exist, at least not outside your head. Then you get confused and start calling people by your character’s name. I spent most of last year calling Andrew, Adam. If you’ve read ‘Secrets and Lies’ then you’ll know what character I’m talking about. Then your book is published and you spend days biting your nails worrying that no one will buy it and then when they do, you spend more days biting your nails worrying if they will like it. Then you spend more time worrying that your book won’t climb the charts and that you’ll be a total failure. Then it doesn’t sell as you’d hoped and you spend days crying in the loo.  It’s hellish and if that wasn’t enough, members of your own family don’t seem interested in your work. Hence the sadness I mentioned earlier. It’s odd how they just seem to make out that the books don’t exist. My own brother unfriended me on Facebook, I mean who unfriends their own family? I did think hard about writing about this on my blog. But I always seem to be hiding my feelings from everyone and I am human and it does hurt, especially when they turn their eyes away when someone else mentions your books, almost like it’s something to be ashamed of. This happened only the other day. It’s not just close family but extended family too. Am I tapping into something? Friends are very supportive but I’m cautious about people on Facebook who suddenly turn around out of the blue and accuse you of all sorts and then block you on Twitter. This happened shortly after my mum died and it was quite devastating. Their accusations were extremely hurtful. I’ve worked hard for my success, as little as it is, and I’m happy for anyone else who has success. Especially if they have huge success because it shows what is possible and that inspires me. But, just recently, I’ve wondered if it was worth all the work and the disappointment when certain people disregard it. Still, I’ll mull this one over. Meanwhile I’ve almost finished a romantic comedy. It’s an unexpected love story. I’ve really enjoyed writing about these characters and can’t wait to share the book with you. It’s a romance with a difference.

More news! ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ has just had its cover reveal in Brazil. I love the cover. The title has changed to ‘Harriet’s Misadventures.’ It was difficult to translate ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ apparently 🙂 I can well imagine it was!

Anyway back to the psychological thriller ‘WATCHING YOU’ Here’s the blurb.

‘When Libby receives a friend request from her dead uncle she knows it’s time to be afraid.’

Here’s what one reviewer said.

‘The book alternates between present day – after Ewan Galbraith’s release from prison, focusing on his promise that he will take revenge on everyone involved in his murder conviction – and the build up to the carnage of Millennium Eve, and the structure works really well. The writing is taut and just wonderfully edgy, and the characterisation is excellent: as well as the main characters, I particularly liked the police team – involved in the investigation of the earlier events, again handling Libby’s protection – and the light focus on their personal lives as the main story twists and turns around them. Doubts that you’re getting the full story start to creep in as the pages turn faster, the threat increasing and getting ever closer with every new text message and photo. But the “stunning twist” of the Amazon description took me totally by surprise – convincing, credible and a suitably shocking climax to a book that had me on the edge of my seat from its opening pages.’

I hope you’ll like this. Do let me know what you think. It’s currently 99p/99c to download. You can get it here

 Aw, this is so annoying. My laptop is doing the weirdest thing. It’s like it’s been taken over by a weird entity. It’s just doing its own thing and jumping all over the document. I think the cat is responsible for this. He sat on it earlier. That cat is so much trouble. Yesterday he forced himself into a hole at the back of the cupboard under the sink. He never goes into cupboards. I was quite calm at first and then when he didn’t return, well you can imagine.   He just disappeared. I was frantic and getting ready to call the fire brigade when the Doctor, all calm and collected said.

‘Shake his treats.’

Well, I thought that would get him more worked up. I mean, can you imagine being trapped somewhere and hearing your favourite sweet jar being rattled? How upsetting would that be? Anyway, in this case, it worked and he squeezed himself back through the hole much to my relief. This cat! When I was writing my thrillers I would play really scary music to get me into a tense mood. I’d be really into the novel. The music would get scarier and scarier and then suddenly the door would open and in walks the cat. I’d jump out of my skin which in turn caused him to jump out of his skin. What a pair!

Anyway I’ve been ‘blathering on’ as the character from my new comedy would say. I think you will like her. I hope you do anyway. There I go worrying again.

I’m going to make a cup of tea. I’m crazy about Angel Grey tea at the moment by The Tea Experience. They make fab teas. What’s your favourite? I’m a touch obsessed with tea. I have lots of teacups and boxes and boxes of tea. Right now I’m addicted to ‘Fikka’ by The Tea Experience.

I’ll say bye for now, until next time. I will put the links below to the books.

Much love

Lynda

x

I’m a Racist (apparently)

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Yesterday I found myself wondering why I write novels and put them out there for anyone and everyone to scrutinise. I then realised I did it because I can’t not do it and I write to entertain and make people happy. I don’t expect perfect reviews. That would be idealistic. I’m used to getting good reviews and although I’ll never get used to them, I get bad reviews too. I accept my books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and that if someone spends money on my book- although I still think £1.99 and 99p isn’t exactly spending a fortune – then they are entitled to leave a review. I think it’s a bit off when reviewers leave a bad review for a free book, however, but that is something else.

Just what constitutes a review and what constitutes  spiteful? And should companies such as Amazon argue the rights and wrongs about a review that is clearly suspicious?

The definition of a review is ‘A form of literary criticism in which a book is analysed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. Books can be reviewed for printed periodicals, magazines and newspapers, as school work, or for book web sites on the Internet. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to substantial essays. Such a review may evaluate the book on the basis of personal taste. Reviewers may use the occasion of a book review for a display of learning or to promulgate their own ideas on the topic of a fiction or non-fiction work.’

Okay, so I don’t think It didn’t arrive on time constitutes as a review does it? And yet many authors on Amazon have to contend with these stupid, idiotic reviews which pull their rankings down. When you look at a book’s ranking and it has five stars this indicates the book has more 4 and 5 star reviews than any other. If the stars drop to 4 and a half or lower then there are clearly some low marked reviews. Sometimes these can simply be someone saying ‘I didn’t like it’ I mean, seriously, is that a review? Is that justification for dragging that author’s work down?

But worse is what happened to me yesterday. This is where a review is not only slanderous but clearly looks suspicious and the only review that the reviewer has penned. The profile is hidden and the purchase is not Amazon verified which means it wasn’t even bought from the site.

Here it is

2 of 300 people found the following review helpful

Very racist., 30 May 2016

By

Sandra

This review is from: Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown (Comedy Romance) (Kindle Edition)

Amazon are refusing to remove the review which is for ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’

I write romantic comedy. I write with realism in my stories, yes, but not with racism. There is a Mrs Patel in my book who runs the corner shop but the main character has only good things to say about her. Is that racist? It’s just realistic. The book has 300 unhelpful clicks and ten comments from readers who have read the book and claim it isn’t racist.

This is not the first time I have heard that Amazon have refused to remove a review. But if someone called someone racist on Facebook or Twitter, would it be tolerated? Why is it so easy to call names and bully in a book review? For an author to have to worry that they may get a one star review because of someone’s jealousy or someone with a gripe seems wrong.

So, Sandra, or whatever your real name is, thanks for the review and the publicity. After all, you know what they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. You certainly highlighted me for the day. Of course, this may not have been your aim but you know there is something called karma. Look it up! You can buy my racist book here

You’re Invited to Perfect Weddings

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Hi everyone,

I thought I would never get over here. Things were manic on my Facebook and Twitter page yesterday because … hurrah it was the launch day for my new novel ‘Perfect Weddings’

I’m so excited about this book as everyone is saying they think it is my best one yet.

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I love the cover thanks to Katie Grace Klumpp, who is so talented, you have to agree. Click her name to check out her work.

 

I hope you enjoy ‘Perfect Weddings’ If you like weddings then you are bound to.

Do you remember Amy Perfect who wrote ‘A Christmas Romance?’ Well, my bit of fun was to name the main character in ‘Perfect Weddings’ Amy Perfect too 🙂

A Christmas Romance Design!

 

And by the way, while we are talking about ‘A Christmas Romance’ it is now 99p. It is the first in the Little Perran series and it doesn’t have to be Christmas to enjoy it. So why not treat yourself to both. That’s only £2.98 for two books. What can you buy for that these days? Go here for ‘A Christmas Romance’

So what is ‘Perfect Weddings’ about?

‘Every bride wants a perfect wedding and that includes Georgina Winters. Amy Perfect is the crème de la crème of wedding planners so who best to plan Georgina s wedding… except the man Georgina plans to marry is the same man who jilted Amy three years ago. Will her plan to give Georgina the most imperfect wedding backfire on her? Is this the chance for Amy to win back the love of her life, or will insufferable Ben Garret put a spanner in the works? Arab princes, spoilt brides and wedding catastrophes make Perfect Weddings a page-turning romantic comedy that will keep you guessing until the very last page.’

I do hope you enjoy it. You can get yours here

http://goo.gl/Vp78vS

Much love as always

Lynda

x

Scones and Sherry with Natalie Love (and Anouska)

 

Today I’m welcoming the lovely Natalie Love to my blog. You will know of her, of course. Natalie runs the fabulous Raven Street Theatre in Soho.

I love this place and have seen some really cool plays there.  My favourite has been the comedy musicals.  And I’m thrilled, in fact I’m that excited I could pee my pants. Of course I didn’t. That may have put Natalie off me forever. I’m delighted because Natalie Love has expressed an interest in staging ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ at The Raven Street Theater, how cool is that?

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Natalie has just arrived. Ooh, my excitement overflows. Although I am rather worried that the title may offend her. Ooh it looks like she has brought a friend or associate. This bodes well.

Lynda: Hello Natalie, what an absolute thrill to have you here and your friend also, of course.

Natalie: Hello Lynda, its lovely to meet you (lowering voice) I’m sorry, this is very unprofessional but I had to bring my Gran, Anouska, with me… She’s a big fan of The Dog’s Bollocks and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Anouska: Lynda. My darlink!

Lynda: Welcome Anouska.

Natalie: I promise she’ll be no trouble…

Lynda: Of course, come in, the more the merrier. What can I offer you to drink? I’ve herbal teas, coffee, fruit juice and I’ve made some scones, which we can have with jam and clotted cream. I hope you’re not watching your weight? I’m always on a diet. I have to say I wish I looked as glamorous as you two.

Anouska: Lynda, men like somethink to hold on to! I share the same diet philosophy as Miss Piggy: never eat more than you can lift. I vill take a scone piled high vith jam, and have you any sherry?

Natalie: I think tea, for me…

Lynda: *Thinks frantically* Oh dear, what did we do with that sherry from Christmas?

Lynda: Coming right up! So Natalie, what do you have in mind for The Dog’s Bollocks?

Natalie: We’d love to produce it as a musical, for our autumn season so that…

Anouska: (interrupting) Lynda darlink, vill you sign my copy of The Doggies Bollocks, before we get too drunk…

Lynda: Certainly. I have to say Anouska , I love your Jewellery. Where did you get it?

Anouska: Ah, this vas the jewellery my mother vore when she escaped the Nazis…

Lynda: Oh dear, that must have been a harrowing experience.

Natalie: She says they escaped. They actually got a lift with an SS Officer on his way to the shops to buy bratwurst.

Anouska: Say vat you like about the Nazis, but they knew how to dress…

Natalie: Look, Gran, I need to talk to Lynda about her book. Why don’t you…

Lynda: You could go and look at my garden Anouska?

Anouska: Ah yes, that vould be nice. I vill take my sherry… can I take the bottle too?

Lynda: Yes, of course… careful on those heels Anouska…

Natalie: Thank goodness she’s gone. Sorry again, Lynda.

Lynda: That’s okay. Tell us Natalie, how are things at The Raven Street Theatre? I’m excited you want to feature ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ You must meet some interesting people?

Natalie: Yes, and we’re getting a lot of press interest in our plays. I think we might be able to get some big names for The Dog’s Bollocks: The Musical. Now for the lead character of Harriet, there’s a chance we could get Lindsay Lohan? We have to just check if she’s still tagged and on house arrest… and if she can sing…

Lynda: She would need to time a comic line too… Harriet is a very funny character.

Natalie: Yes, she is. Okay maybe not Lohan. We could go the more traditional route, someone British with good acting chops. We’d love you to write the script… Can you write music? I see there’s a piano in the corner of the room!

Anouska: (comes back inside) Bloody vooman!

Natalie: What is it Gran?

Anouska: Your vindow cleaner is very rude, he said I vas too old for him!

Natalie: what are you doing with the window cleaner?

Anouska: Nothing – yet. But I am single and, how do you say, free to mingle. There is nothing wrong with dating a vindow cleaner.

Lynda: That’s not the vindow, I mean window cleaner, that’s my husband!

Anouska:  Ah. My darlink Lynda, you hev a nice husband if he cleans the vindows for you… I may hev tried to climb his ladder and kiss him… If I knew he vas your husband I vould never have done that… Although must say he is very handsome, and he has a very nice chamois leather…

Natalie: I’m so sorry… Look Lynda, maybe you could come up to London? I could take you to a lovely restaurant and we could talk more about The Dog’s Bollocks: The Musical?

Lynda: Yes, of course…

To experience more of Natalie’s world and of course Anouska’s, pop to Amazon to purchase a copy of Robert Bryndza’a brilliant new novel ‘Miss Wrong and Mr Right’ here at Amazon.co.uk and at Amazon.com And even better you’re in time to enter the ‘Miss Wrong and Mr Right’ giveaway here

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Miss Wrong and Mr Right

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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 author of the best-selling Coco Pinchard series.

You can make contact with Robert by following any of the links below

www.robertbryndza.comhttps://

www.facebook.com/bryndzarobert

Goodreads

 

 

 

Kippers and Marzipan

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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.

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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?

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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.

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.’

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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.

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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.

 

Car and the Stepson Having a Breakdown

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We’ve never been conventional in our house. Although I expect you’ve gathered that already. So, you won’t be surprised to read that we both drive old bangers. Peugeot 206 bangers to be exact and the exact same colour bangers come to that. That wasn’t intentional, it just kind of happened, you know, like things do. We have talked about buying a new car and we have glanced at some. But that’s as far as we’ve got. Cars are just not important to us somehow. But it was only recently that I realised just how unimportant material things are to us and how eccentric we are. Of course, if the doctor’s AKA as my husband Andrew) son hadn’t come to live with us I wonder if we would ever have realised. But he has come to live with us and I’m not sure how he is finding it but he and his wife and four year old son seem to laugh a lot which frankly if you’re around us you have to and they are getting adjusted to our odd way of living. So, when stepson (James) asked about going onto our car insurance we thought nothing of it. So imagine James when he first used Andrew’s car to find he couldn’t push the driver’s seat forward to get his son in the back.

‘Ah yes,’ we say. ‘That seat is broken. You need to watch that. You may also notice the seat moves forward slightly when you’re driving,’ adds Andrew, ‘It’s quite safe though.’

James gives him an odd look.

‘So we have to use the passenger side to get into the back do we?’ he asks.

We nod.

Off they go to return a few hours later looking a little strained. We’d totally forgotten to mention that the indicator has a mind of its own too and when you indicate one way and take the turn, instead of clicking itself off it clicks to indicate the opposite way. If you don’t hear it you could be indicating for miles. God knows we have done this many a time on a motorway only to be flashed numerous times. Then, of course, there is the door that swings wide open. So when you park and open it you have to be careful else it smashes into the parked car next to it. We also forgot to mention that it struggles a bit when going up hills.

‘The seat is a bit low too,’ says James.

‘Oh is it,’ says Andrew. ‘I like it that way.’

‘Hard to see the mirror,’ says James tactfully.

‘You can use mine if you like.’ I say.

His face lights up.

‘If that’s okay?’

If he thought Andrew’s car was bad …But of course, I don’t think to tell him because I’m not aware there is anything to tell him. But on reflection I suppose I should have mentioned that the clock is always an hour fast. I’m not sure why but I’ve got used to it now and always work backwards when telling the time. A light tends to come on and flashes the words ‘air bag’ too. Andrew jokingly says it is referring to me. Then of course there is the radio which doesn’t work anymore after I had a battery change. However I worked out if you press the on button and programme number 6 button it will play … for all of 5 minutes and then you push the buttons again and so on. I’ve been known to do a three hour journey playing the radio like that. The CD player doesn’t work at all. Then there is the passenger seat in my car which is broken. So to get a child seat in the back you have to do it via the driver’s side. Not to mention the state of the boot which houses Andrew’s tool box, his flying suits (bearing in mind we no longer fly as we don’t have a microlight anymore) plus his helmets and other boxes of stuff. I have to be honest and say I have no idea what the stuff is. The car is full of sweet wrappers which are proof of my guilty chocolate feasts. I do vaguely mention the radio before they go.

‘Just keep pushing the buttons,’ I say.

Off they go and off we go to visit my mum in Essex. We return to a white faced James.

‘Everything okay,’ I ask.

‘Your car flashes an airbag sign all the time. I didn’t know what to do at first but then thought maybe it always does it. That seems to be the way with your cars.’

He’s getting the hang of it.

‘I did try pushing all the buttons for the radio but nothing happened.’

Ah yes, I probably should have said which buttons.

‘I did think about doing some shopping but there was no room in the boot.’

‘Yes, sorry about that,’ I say.

‘I think it may be best if I stick to Dad’s car.’

Famous last words. For two days later he broke down with a flat tyre and was late picking up his wife from work. Oh well, at least we were there to babysit Matthew.

‘Are you sure you don’t want mine?’ I offer.

‘No, Dad’s will be fine.’

Second lot of famous last words if you can have a second lot of last words.

For as I write James has just text me to say he has broken down in the doctor’s car. It seems the clutch gave up. Poor James was convinced it was something he’d done and he asked the breakdown man for reassurance.

‘Wear and tear mate, this car has had it.’

Well, we always said we would drive them into the ground. The cars that is, not the sons.

James walks in ashen faced and exhausted.

‘What a nightmare. How do you cope?’ he asks.

‘With what?’ I reply.

I’m greeted by my daughter in law who is also ashen.

‘Oh Lynda,’ she says nervously. ‘I’ve broken something.’

I quickly look for Bendy and relax when I see him sleeping happily on the couch.

She holds out my BITCH mug.

‘James said it was expensive,’ she says tearfully.

I look at the other mugs hanging on the rack and shrug.

‘It’s just a mug. When you kill Bendy you need to think about leaving.’

I think they’re laying down in a darkened room now. I suppose this means I’ll have to collect Matthew from school. Good job the school is next door. Not sure what we’ll do about the Christmas shopping, or my appointment for my holiday vaccinations or my daughter in law’s journey to work. Oh well, we’ll think about that tomorrow.

Oh yes, and a Merry Christmas from us.

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xx

Let’s talk bags … Then again, let’s not.

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I want to talk bags. Well, actually I don’t. Personally I can’t stand the things. I just want to know if you suffer the same or whether it is just me. Why can’t I be like my friend who has a gorgeous Radley bag with everything neatly placed inside it? A place for everything and everything in its place. Even her receipts are in a nice tidy wallet. If I want to return something to a shop it usually means the whole house being turned upside down and me finally ending up in a darkened room with a Valium.
Handbags are the bane of my life. Come to think of it they are the bane of my husband’s too. He tries hard not to tut while I am cursing and throwing everything out of the bag to find my keys. I have regular clear outs (of the bag that is, just in case you thought I was talking about my bowels) but by the end of the week the contents are back. I’ve bought new bags with those lovely compartments, convinced that this time everything will be just great. So why is it a week or so later I’m in Body Shop with the contents of my bag strung across the counter as I try to find my Body Shop loyalty card? I pull out everything from a Blockbuster video rental card (Blockbuster in our village closed down yonks ago, so God knows why I still have that) to a Cambodian taxi driver’s card (that’s really useful isn’t it?) There is everything of course, but the Body Shop card, which is lying at the bottom of another handbag no doubt.

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I want to go out without looking like a Sherpa. Not much to ask. But I’m somehow stupidly convinced that everything that is in my handbag I seriously need. I’ll be carrying a camper loo soon.
I’ve made big efforts, I really have. I’ve bought bags to go in the bag. A bag for pills and let me tell you I’ve got more pills than a chemist. Except what happens? I forget to zip up the bag within the bag and the bottom of my bag is littered with foils of pills. I don’t think a junkie carries as many drugs as me. I buy a bag to house all those odds and sods. You know, handbag mirror, lipsticks with no tops, hair grips, scrunch, MP3 player, which usually has no battery so it’s useless, headphones, glasses cleaner and the odd tampon. But of course I rummage in it to get a scrunch and forget to zip it up. So, what happens? I buy new purses thinking that this will magically help me get organised and it does for a while until I feel harassed in Sainsbury and throw everything straight into the bag. Weeks later I’m overcome with receipts and loose credit cards. Not to mention a hairy hairbrush, car keys, glasses that have fallen out of their cases, a book that I plan to read in the hairdressers but I never do because they have such great mags. Then, of course, there is the odd notebook, leaky pen, mobile which had a lovely case until it got covered in ink. Recipe cards, I mean why? I don’t bloody cook, at least not fancy cakes like these. I carry a cheque book but never use it. A spare pair of knickers, I can’t imagine when I think I’ll need those and a tube of moisturiser which nearly always leaks and eventually everything is covered in Rodial day cream. Another thing why are there all these chocolate wrappers in my bag. I don’t eat that much chocolate … or do I? Are there no rubbish bins? Why are all the wrappers in my bag? Then there are the used and unused tissues. Why do I have both and how does one tell the difference after a while? A week in my handbag and they all look the same. I’ve bought smaller bags in the hope that this will stop me but no. The small bag just bulges more and more until it finally splits under the weight. I just want to leave the house without becoming round shouldered by the time I return. My bags are getting bigger and bigger so they can accommodate my needs. I’ll have room for the bloody cat soon. My husband tells me I don’t need to take every single pill I possess but I’m convinced that the one pill I leave behind will be the one I need. It’s true isn’t it? I get more comments on my bag than I do on my appearance. That’s not normal is it? Mostly the comments are about the size. It’s not just bags either. Library books are the other problem. Why is it I can never get them back on time? Seriously the money I’ve spent on fines could have bought me a small bungalow. I wouldn’t mind but I never read the things. I just don’t have time. Why? Why? Why?

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Taking a Back Seat

 

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Holidays, those lovely restful days when you come back recharged and happy or in my case, most likely divorced.  I’m the world’s worst back seat driver and probably the world’s worst passenger when in a car driven on the wrong side of the road. Okay, I know it’s the right side of the road in Italy but it’s the wrong side as far as I’m concerned. Our arrival in Italy was fine until we went to collect the car. I nearly fainted when the woman in her broken English told us the car was new. Great, that was all I needed to hear. She then proceeded to conduct a long conversation with my husband about a deposit. No matter how much we told her we had insurance she still persisted. We finally handed over the credit card. Or should I say, my credit card.

 ‘I don’t do credit,’ says Andrew, proudly.

I’m thinking it’s a good thing I do.

We find the car, not with any help from the staff, I hasten to add. They dismissed us like we were flies they would swat out of their way. As soon as Andrew started the engine, I started to tremble.

‘Will you be okay driving?’ I ask, in a shaky voice.

I get a cold look. I’m not saying I don’t trust him am I? Not much!

Off we go. Andrew driving and me hitting an imaginary brake every few seconds.

‘There’s a car,’ I say gently and then a bit louder until I’m finally screaming,

‘There’s a car, brake, brake…’ in a slightly hysterical voice.

The sat nav is in my lap and as we begin climbing a steep hill my feet are convulsing so much you’d think I suffered from restless legs syndrome.

‘Bend, bend,’ I yell. ‘Slow down. What gear are you in?’

How Andrew coped I do not know. We climb higher and I can barely look. I get confused and think cars are going to come out of a slip road and grab Andrew’s arm for all I’m worth.

‘Car, car, brake,’ I shout.

Andrew stops the car and instructs me to sit in the back. I refuse. We continue on not speaking. The lovely sat nav voice tells us we are going the wrong way and I groan. Andrew attempts to turn around but we are on a hill. He begins to roll back. I scream. I’m convinced I’m going to die in Italy and not in a romantic Princess Diana way either. I go to grab the handbrake and grab Andrew’s knee instead.  The climb continues with me constantly telling him there is a bend coming up. Just in case he doesn’t hear I say it a bit louder to be sure and emphasis the sharpness.

‘Sharp bend coming up, sharp very sharp.’

‘I can see them you know,’ he snaps.

It didn’t help that the Italians drive like lunatics and spend their time with their car practically nudging yours. It’s pretty terrifying when you’re on a hill. I found myself leaning forward in some strange attempt to help the car move forward. I’m not sure how heavy I think I am if I can move the car with my body weight.

We arrived at the villa and my heart was filled with dread when I saw it was on yet another hill. What’s wrong with Italy? Doesn’t it have flat roads like everywhere else? We climb the hill and then get stuck. I scream yet again. Honestly I’ll be screaming for England the whole two weeks at this rate. Three dogs come racing to meet us. Later, of course we came to know them as Jack and Jill and Ugo. I begin telling Andrew there are three dogs. I obviously think my husband is blind as well as deaf. I’m now stating the obvious and yelling it at the same time. By the time we were due to leave, my lovely husband had become very confident with driving the car and would zoom up the hill to the villa pushing the remote button to open the gate so he could glide through without stopping. I, of course, would be screaming,

‘Wait, wait, Andrew wait. Oh God, we’re not going to do it.’

Of course, we always did. We didn’t kill a dog, or drive the car over a cliff. Mind you, through my eyes I felt sure we came very close quite often. Next year a holiday in England I think.

A Poem

 I have a little Satnav, It sits there in my car

A Satnav is a driver’s friend, it tells you where you are.
I have a little Satnav, I’ve had it all my life
It’s better than the normal ones, my Satnav is my wife.
It gives me full instructions, especially how to drive
“It’s sixty k’s an hour”, it says, “You’re doing sixty five”.
It tells me when to stop and start, and when to use the brake
And tells me that it’s never ever, safe to overtake.
It tells me when a light is red, and when it goes to green
It seems to know instinctively, just when to intervene.
It lists the vehicles just in front, and all those to the rear
And taking this into account, it specifies my gear.
I’m sure no other driver, has so helpful a device
For when we leave and lock the car, it still gives its advice.
It fills me up with counselling, each journey’s pretty fraught
So why don’t I exchange it, and get a quieter sort?
Ah well, you see, it cleans the house, makes sure I’m properly fed
It washes all my shirts and things, and keeps me warm in bed!
Despite all these advantages, and my tendency to scoff,
I only wish that now and then, I could turn the bugger off.

Pam Ayres

 drive

Jury Duty, Codeine Phosphate and Bitches

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Today I was strangely reminded of my jury duty at the Old Bailey in London. Yes, that’s right, only my jury duty could end up at the Old Bailey and turn out to be a murder case. What are the chances of being called up? My parents never were and my ex mother in law always wanted to be but never was. Yours truly gets called up three times. Yes, that’s right three times. I blame it on my constant moving. The first time I couldn’t do it but I can’t recall why. The third time I had a back injury (honest your honour) so couldn’t do it then either. But the second time, well, honestly I’m amazed after that they even considered calling me for a third time but they obviously take any nutter onto a jury. Well, they took me so that clearly proves it.
It began on the Monday morning and someone had already told me not to be late.
‘You’ve got to be there on time, so don’t muck around. You only need one security scare and you’ve had it.’
I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and got myself ready, my stomach fluttering with nerves and with something else. You’ll be thrilled to hear that the day before I had gone down with a stomach bug, okay a nervous stomach, if you believe my doctor. He prescribed Codeine Phosphate and said take up to 8 a day. Now, all I could think about was what if I get put on an IRA terrorist trial. I could be there for eight weeks. Even worse I may have to stay in a London hotel. Just the thought induced the stomach to complain. I quickly popped two codeine phosphate said goodbye to my then husband (I’ve had one before Andrew. I’ve decided two is enough. I’m too old to think about a third. Anyway I digress. Enough of husbands. I’m sure you have one of your own you could complain about without hearing about my two) after advising him I may have to stay in a hotel I nervously made my way to the station. I’m loaded down with Hello and Ok magazines, several novels, two newspapers and the Sunday supplements. I’ve been advised the chances of me even getting on a case the first day is very slim and I’m likely to spend it in the jurors canteen reading and drinking tea. Oh well, at least I will get paid for it. It will be the first time I’ve been paid for enjoying my magazines.
I arrive at the jurors entrance to the Old Bailey and am given a pass. I then proceed with lots of other people to a huge hall where there is a roll call. It’s like being at school. So far, so good, and no sign of a criminal or murderer but I suppose they are kept somewhere else. I’m led to a waiting area and given a cup of tea. Along with everyone else I pull out my novel and begin to read. I reach page 2 and my name is called. God, this isn’t right is it? I’m supposed to sit here all day. I follow a man along a corridor along with several other people and suddenly I’m in a court room. After a time, more names are called out, mine included and I realise I am on a jury. We are told that we are to judge a murder case. Well, after the word murder my whole body went into shock and my brain switched off. Oh my God, oh my God. We were informed that the case should last the duration of our duty which would be two weeks. I was on a case, on the first day. A murder case. This could only happen to me. Why couldn’t I get a motoring offence like the rest of my friends? Oh no, that would never happen would it? Not to yours truly. Well, I’m bound to bugger this up. Already the codeine phosphate is making me feel spaced out. That’s all I need. My doctor might have warned me. Any hope I had of returning to the canteen before lunch is quickly dashed when one of the barristers begins to outline our role in the case that is to follow. We are all given notebooks to jot things down (I’m later going to thank God for this notebook)
The defendants are rolled out, well not rolled out but you know what I mean. One has dreadlocks and the other is covered in tattoos.dreadlocks

I feel my stomach gurgle and quickly pop another codeine phosphate before the proceedings start. An hour later and the judge is fading in and out of my vision. Great. The second person takes the stand and begins to talk about the defendants and tells us their street names. I scribble the name snake man and numerous others into my notebook and try to get my fuddled codeine phosphate brain to decipher which names belongs to who. It seems life in the Notting Hill ghetto is a million miles from my little life in my nice little flat in Ilford. People don’t get gunned down there. Or if they do it has never happened when I was around. It is two o clock and the judge looks at his watch as a witness leaves the stand.
‘Court adjourned,’ he says.
What already? I’m on the end of the hard bench and stand up too quickly feeling myself sway slightly. I smile nervously at the steward who helps me down.
‘Tiredness,’ I say, while feeling totally stoned as well as constipated.
So endeth the first day. jury 1

The next day was even more exciting if that is at all possible. I took two codeine phosphate in the morning. My stomach was fine but I preferred to keep it that way. I don’t want to be raising my hand during a crucial evidence moment do I? Oh no, best to take precautions. We wait and wait in the corridor outside the courtroom. Something is holding things up. I tell another juror I have to go to the loo. I like to get everything out of the way so I can concentrate. I follow the sign to the ladies and enter. I’ve only been in there five seconds when the door bursts open and two stewards fly in. I hold my hands up in fear.
‘Out,’ they shout.
I look around to see who they are shouting at and realise it is me.
‘I’m just going to the loo,’ I say shakily.
‘Not in here you’re not. Anyone can approach you. You’re a juror. Didn’t you listen to the rules when you started. All jurors use their own toilet.’
Oh my God, I could have been approached by a member of the murderers family. I could have been murdered in the loo. Not how I had planned my end. I nearly pass out from the shock. I instead pop another codeine phosphate thinking this is bound to upset my stomach.
Back in court. Ten minutes in and I’m confused.com. They keep talking about Snake Man and then Tutu, Rocka and Bo Bo. I’m seriously losing track of who’s who. Then the photos come round. I can barely look. It’s easier to throw a few more codeine phosphate down. During lunch I discuss the case with another juror and she helps clarify and says it will all become clear during the summing up. After lunch we return and watch as the defendants girlfriends give evidence. They pass our bench and the woman who calls herself Snake Man’s bitch stops and gives me and another woman juror a long intimidating stare.
‘He’s my man and I’m his woman, got it,’ she says while on the stand ‘And he aint done nothing and no one better say he did. I’m his bitch and I’ll do anything for him. He aint murdered no one.’
That’s about the only testimony I’d been able to understand so far. All the rest had been in street slang and could have been a rap for all I knew.
Oh dear.
I feel my knees knock and the woman beside me clenches her fists as the witness passes us to leave. But then continues to stare at us intently from the public gallery. At four, court is dismissed and I look down miserably at my scribblings. We leave by the jurors door and the other juror named Helen hangs onto my arm. Waiting outside are the bitches.
‘Oh God,’ says Helen.
‘Just walk,’ I say.
I’m starting to think an IRA case and a London hotel would have been preferable. At least I would have got home safely. We take the escalator down to the underground and she asks if I would meet her at the station tomorrow so we can walk to court together.
Four days in and the judge dismisses the case against one of the defendants. I’m starting to feel a great sense of relief. If he does the same with the other defendant we are home free. Day 7 and the defendant still stands in the dock and wonderful news, the judge is going to sum up. I look up at the public gallery and see the other defendant who was let off, enter and sit down. I look to the defendant who stands in the dock to my right. The judge starts summing up and I begin to relax and start to take it all in when my eyes are pulled to the dreadlocked guy in the gallery. He slowly slides his hand into his jacket. My heart almost stops beating. Oh my God, he’s going to shoot the guy in the dock. My eyes fly from him to the other guy and I freeze. What if he misses and shoots me. Oh God, this is the worst day of my life. I’m going to be in all the newspapers tomorrow. I can’t take my eyes off the guy in the gallery. If I prepare myself, I can duck or something. I feel the perspiration run between my breasts. I wipe a bead of sweat from my forehead and take some deep breaths. The judges voice disappears into the background. I wait with bated breath for the guy in the gallery to pull out his gun and fire. It feels like my whole life flashes before my eyes. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m missing the summing it. I’m not going to live long enough to help with the verdict anyway. Then the dreadlock guy removes his hand. I hold my breath and feel myself tense. Codeine Phosphate are no good now. A  bottle of wine is what I need. wine for jury

He places his hands in his lap and continues to listen to the judge. Oh no. He doesn’t have a gun. I turn back to the judge who is talking about the gun used in the crime and I start making notes. Just as well I did as that was the critical piece of evidence to which we made our decision. We found him not guilty, due to lack of evidence. I survived to see another day and did eventually go to the loo again you’ll be pleased to know. I set off back home to my man; after all I am his bitch.

The things nightmares are made of

It’s been over a year since we had the builders in. That’s the right phrase isn’t it? I’ve only finally recovered. I think I will be scarred for life. But I have reached that stage where I could actually consider having builders in again.

At the time though, my excitement at having an extension I have to admit dwindled by the day.

I stupidly escaped to Cambodia for three weeks in the vain hope it would all be over when I got back. Instead I came home to a demolished kitchen and a living room that looked as though squatters had moved in. My lovely husband had shoved everything onto the couches, into corners, and in piles on the floor. I stared aghast.  The corner of the room that had once housed my couch and a little table with romantic candles now had a makeshift sink and washing machine. My living room in a matter of days had become lounge, kitchen, bathroom and junk room.

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‘The tumble dryer finally broke,’ says my husband.

It just gets worse.

‘But we’re on the way.’

To madness I find myself thinking.

‘The builders arrive every morning at 7, so you’ll need to be up.’

‘But I’m jet lagged,’ I whine.

Oh God, did I agree to this. Can we go back?

‘Oh and the bathroom is coming down today. Come and meet the builders and see the portaloo.’

Why is making it all sound so glamorous? I just want to lie down and die. I’m so jet lagged. I don’t want to meet builders.

‘This is Dan, and Steve,’ says Andrew introducing me.

My lovely garden looks like a building site. I look at the portaloo and want to cry.

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Lovely Dan
Lovely Dan

‘I need to lie down,’ I say only to find the bed unmade, Why is it men cannot make a bed? Is it that hard?

‘Well, there’s no point, we’ll be getting in it again later. ‘Says Andrew casually.

I groan.

Now, I should tell you I am one of those women who clean up as people work. If Andrew does DIY, I’m there with the vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the dust as it falls. I’m dead serious. I can start working and if there is some mess on the floor I have to remove it otherwise I can’t concentrate.

To top it all. I’m right in the middle of a novel.

‘How can I write?’ I moan.

Honestly I’ve never moaned so much in my life.

‘You’ll cope,’ says Andrew.

He’s very understanding as you can tell.

I take another look at the living room and decide we can’t live like this and spend the next few hours sorting everything out. Dan and Steve keep looking at me and I see fear in their eyes. Oh yes, things are about to change. I’m home now.

I had these builders in my home for six months. During that time I had five periods. It’s no fun, trying to change a tampon in a portaloo when the builders are sitting outside it having their tea break.

I wrote a complete novel with them here. It was ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’

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Dan became my own personal little helper. He would run out and bring in the washing when it rained. He took in parcels for me and the whole six months had me calling, ‘Dan,’ numerous times.

Then we had a little holiday. Just a week but we were so stressed that it became an emergency to have a break. We stayed at a lovely cottage in Cornwall which had a bathroom and a kitchen. I was in heaven. While we were away we arranged for the heating people to come in to install our new heat pump…

Right, I need a minute, a cup of tea and a Valium if I am to carry on. Just the word heat pump reminds me of that horror. Forget Freddie Kruger and nightmare on Elm Street. Forget Norman Bates and Pyscho. Just think heat pump and a company called Verdalec. There I’ve said the name. I’ve actually said it. I have never wished evil on anyone but If I could perform spells on these people I would do it tomorrow.  We were doing well. Dan was wonderful. Steve was excellent. Kevin our main builder was brilliant. Everything was going according to plan and then along came Verdalec. There I have said it twice now. I emailed Dan to ask if they had been and whether the heat pump was installed. It took a long time for lovely Dan to reply. Of course, I understand why now. Finally, a text.

‘Hi Lynda, yes they have been. They were everywhere so we couldn’t do much.’

Oh yes, anything to get out of working and having another tea break with doughnuts. Of course, I was later to discover that lovely Dan had queried their mess and had actually gone behind them to clear up so it wouldn’t look too bad when we returned home. Bless his cotton socks. Because I cannot begin to tell you what it looked like when we returned home and this was after Dan had cleared up. I walked into the living room and my stomach sank. I don’t know why. It had looked like this for some time now but after leaving the lovely cottage in Cornwall it just looked a hundred times worse somehow. I went upstairs to take our suitcase and unpack and must have groaned so loudly because Andrew and Bendy came rushing upstairs. If only cats could talk. Bendy would probably tell you he seriously considered leaving home. The poor little bugger had no cat flap and was forced to stay out all night. His food was left outside as there was nowhere in the house for it. His kitchen had gone, which had once been his sleeping place. Our little cuddles on the loo (best not to go into those) had gone, as we no longer had a loo. Plus these big burly men came every day and scared the shit out of him so that he spent most of his time under the duvet. I can tell you I came close to joining him often. We were now all staring at the hole in Andrew’s office door and the scratches along the stair wall. I leaned on the bannister for support and nearly went down the whole flight of stairs as it came away in my hands. Andrew rescued me. I stumbled into the bedroom for a good cry and then saw the black footprints up the bedroom wall leading to the loft.

Bendy explores the building work.
Bendy explores the building work.

‘I’m phoning Dan,’ said an angry Andrew.

‘It’s not his fault,’ I hiccup.

‘Come on let’s go into the summer-house,’ he suggested. ‘That’s our sanctuary.’

Now Is the time to hide behind the cushions. This is worthy of a movie, I tell you. The summer-house was the one place not touched by builders. A place to relax, escape it all. I opened the door, a cup of tea in one hand and my laptop in the other. I opened the door and gasped. Someone had been in there. You know how you just know these things? Of course there were the giveaway signs. Bearing in mind I had cleaned the summer-house thoroughly before going away. It wasn’t just a feeling that someone had been in there, it was more the dirty footprints that gave it away and the throw on the chair all messed up. Of course the mud on the carpet was a complete giveaway.

‘I’ll kill them,’ I cried.

‘Right,’ said Andrew with that look on his face when he means business.

Oh, why did I ever go on holiday?

Dan explained that there had been about six people who came to fit the boiler and heat pump. That they made some mess and that he queried it but they said some mess is to be expected. So Dan, vacuumed and did his best to put the stair bannister back.  Andrew then left a stroppy message on the answer phone of the director of the heating company. Two days later someone came to see me and the damage. We went upstairs and he looked at the door and the boiler.

‘Well you can see the size of that.’ He said.

For one awful minute I wondered what it was we were talking about the size of. Fortunately it was the same thing. The boiler.

There in moments in life when you have to bite your lip isn’t there? This was one of them. I chose not to bite mine.

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Well it was difficult for the guys to get that in here. It’s a small cottage in all fairness.’

‘Yes but in all fairness, the guys could have removed the door,’ I said.

He looks thoughtful.

‘How can you be sure hour guys did it?’

Now I saw red. Was he blaming it on Dan or the other builders?

‘I’ve had my builders here for three months. Dan even tells me when he spills water anywhere. I somehow think he would let me know if he bashes my door in. Your guys did it.’

‘Okay, we’ll obviously pay for the damage but you understand that damage happens when things like this are done.’

Finally he went. After agreeing to the pay the cost of painting the bedroom wall and fixing the door. I then decide not to go away again while I have work being done in the house. Of course it stupidly didn’t occur to me that they could do just as much damage when I’m in the house as when I am out of it.

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

To be continued…

It Had to Be You (Kindle Launch)

9780957137288 - Copy

It only seems a few months ago that I was telling you that my new book was being released. Of course, now I look back, it was actually September.

Thank you to everyone who bought ‘The Dog’s Bollocks.’ It actually made number one in the Australian Amazon chart. Very cool. It is now number 8 in the UK humour chart. I am thrilled.

So with Valentine’s Day looming, I thought you would enjoy the new one and what great timing than to have its Kindle release today. It’s titled ‘It Had to Be You’ and here is a little taster for you. Do enjoy and if you would like to receive my newsletter, do subscribe in the box on the right. Scroll down and you can’t miss it.

Love Lynda xx

Chapter One

 

Don’t you just hate Christmas bonuses? Well maybe you don’t and generally I don’t either, so when my boss drops a subtle hint about giving me one I didn’t for one minute imagine he was talking about a quickie up against his desk. Well you wouldn’t would you? A bonus normally smacks of a little brown envelope with a nice wad of crisp new notes inside doesn’t it? Well it does from my experience but maybe it smacks of a quickie up against a desk for you. I avert my eyes from the developing bulge in his trousers and scan the desk for the said brown envelope.

‘It’s Christmas,’ he says, like I’ve somehow overlooked the fact, and takes my hand, rubbing it erotically over the bulge. God, I feel sick. I fear the overload of Christmas sausage rolls, turkey sandwiches and mince pies that I had guiltily consumed thirty minutes earlier at the office Christmas lunch will burst forth and decorate the lovely oak desk I am pressed up against.

‘I’m not sure what that’s got to do with it,’ I say hesitantly. Well you have to agree I do have a point. The boss is supposed to give me the present isn’t he, not the other way around? Although, on reflection perhaps he considers a quick shag over his desk on Christmas Eve is a good present; I’d much prefer a Body Shop voucher to be honest, or a family bag of M&Ms.

 ‘Goodwill to all men and all that crap,’ he whispers, launching his open mouth towards my neck like a vampire, engulfing me in champagne fumes. I think a vampire would be preferable, at least it would be over quicker. I don’t believe this is happening. I mean, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to women like me. Don’t get me wrong, when I say women like me; I’m not saying I’m twenty stone with unsightly moles on my face. Not that there is anything wrong with being twenty stone of course, or having moles on your face come to that. If you’re happy that’s what counts right? But you know what I mean. I’m just your standard size fourteen, ordinary looking woman. I wouldn’t call myself a blonde bombshell by any means. That’s the thing with Christmas, isn’t it? Things happen in offices that would never happen at any other time of the year. When else would you consume alcohol at lunchtime and it be deemed acceptable to continue working half-pissed for the rest of the day? Not to mention that secret Santa thing. I always get unstuck with that bugger, and this year has been no exception. I usually pay over the odds too. Well, what can you buy for a fiver these days? And what happens? The one who was supposed to buy my present didn’t bring it in and is now off sick, with a hangover no doubt, which means I go home empty-handed. Obviously I shrug it off as no big deal and I don’t really mind, but I know I won’t get anything now and it does seem a bit unfair. I’m Binki Grayson by the way, and that’s Binki with an i by the way. I don’t mean I only have one eye obviously. I most certainly have two and I’m not off the telly. I live in Notting Hill which I assure you, is very different to Chelsea. Just as nice you understand but different. I may as well tell you this now while I’m pinned up against an office desk by my sleazy boss as I may not get a chance later. You’re probably wondering how I came to be in this pickle, and I’m wondering that too. My boss, who I have to say is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing, has taken me totally by surprise. I never imagined he had it in him. I’ve worked at Temco Advertising for five years now. Three of those I was a junior sales assistant but the past two years I have been working as the senior sales assistant directly under Ben Newman; not literally under him you understand, that would be a bit gross. In all that time he has never had me pinned up against a desk. I’ve worked really hard to get here too. I don’t mean pinned up against Ben Newman’s desk with an unsightly bulge pressed against my thigh, just in case you thought I did. I mean, I’ve worked hard to climb my way up in the company and this is the last thing I need. I am, after all, a soon-to-be-engaged woman. At least that is what Oliver has been hinting. I know he has visited Hatton Garden on the quiet because my friend, Muffy, saw him there in her lunch break last week. I’m expecting him to propose over the Christmas holiday, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am. Oliver is my boyfriend by the way, but I expect you guessed that.

‘I’ve wanted you for months,’ Ben Newman mumbles, salivating so much that I feel sure that’s a dribble running down my neck. I shudder and attempt to duck under his arm but he pushes me back and I feel the desk cutting into my buttock. His hand slides up the inside of my thigh and I start to panic. Good heavens, this has never happened to me before in my life.

‘You know you want it,’ he says huskily. He releases one hand to yank down the zipper on his trousers.

‘Your gorgeous silky blonde hair and cute little dimpled cheeks really turn me on, and that tight little arse of yours. Ooh sugar, you drive me crazy.’

‘Oh,’ I hear myself squeal. I don’t think I have ever driven a man crazy in my whole life, and that includes my boyfriend Oliver.

‘I’ve seen you giving me the come on,’ he slurs.

He has? I wonder when that was. I hope he isn’t mistaking me for someone else. I don’t know if I should be relieved or insulted if that is the case. It is rather flattering to be lusted after, it’s just a shame I couldn’t do any better than Ben Newman.

‘You want it don’t you?’ he dribbles as his hand swoops down the front of my dress and grabs a breast.

I’ve never wanted it less in my whole life.

‘Surprisingly enough I don’t,’ I say firmly as my elbow squashes a sausage roll that sits drying up on his desk.

What is it with these creeps? And what does he imagine I find so irresistible about him? He surely can’t think it’s his disgusting alcohol and tobacco breath, or his greasy floppy brown hair? Or maybe he thinks it is his enormous erection that I want so desperately. I can’t think of anything worse than being rammed by that awful … Oh my God, he’s got it out. It’s all purple and veiny. Now I am going to be sick. I slide sideways and get a prick from a cocktail sausage stick. It seems pricks are everywhere but this one is way out of control. I so wish I was back, thirty minutes earlier, at the lunch eating a cocktail sausage rather than being pricked by one.

‘You can’t tease me all these weeks and then start playing Miss Prim,’ he hisses as he tugs at my knickers. ‘You know you want my thrill drill in your pussy. I know you’re gagging for it.’

Oh purleese, thrill drill? I’ve heard it all now. I really can’t imagine being thrilled in the least by this veiny looking drill. I bring my knee up and thrust it roughly into his well-exposed groin. He falls back groaning and I quickly pull my panties up. Oh dear, I somehow feel this is not helping my job prospects.

‘For fuck’s sake, what was that for?’ he cries, clutching the pink and now very soft appendage.

I can’t believe he has the cheek to even ask.

‘You can stick your thrill drill somewhere else Mr Newman, Christmas or no Christmas,’ I say haughtily, straightening my dress.

He gives me a filthy look and zips up his trousers.

‘Playing Miss Innocent are we? I tell you what, why don’t you think this through, we’ll discuss it again at the New Year’s Eve party,’ he says breathlessly, tucking in his shirt before taking a brown envelope from a drawer.

I don’t think we will. He leans towards me and I back away. God, he’s so ugly I swear he would win the world finals of the Ugliest Man competition. I mean, that wart on his nose, what’s that about? He scoffs and flicks his hair back with his hand.

‘Here’s a little bonus, but I expect you to work harder next year. Do you get my drift? Put in a few extra hours, that kind of thing.’

I seriously don’t believe this. Christmas Eve and I’m about to throw my job in. What else can I do? I can’t have this moron drooling over me for the whole of next year, it doesn’t bear thinking about. I snatch the envelope just to be on the safe side.

‘Mr Newman, I really can’t do any extra hours. Forty hours a week is more than enough, and my boyfriend would be really unhappy.

His hard eyes meet mine and I realise, right there right then, that I really have no choice but to resign.

‘I think you will do extra hours Miss Grayson. I really wouldn’t want to tell the powers that be how you threw yourself at me, a happily married man with two children, on Christmas Eve because you couldn’t hold your drink.’

What a pig.

‘They would never believe you,’ I say lamely, knowing full well they would. He’s a bloody director after all. He gives me a smug smile and I cave in.

‘Under the circumstances, I think perhaps you should find yourself another sales assistant for the New Year,’ I hear myself say and cringe inwardly. What am I doing? Oliver and I have only been in the new luxury apartment in the most sought-after residential area of Notting Hill for two months. I’m twenty-nine years old with ten months on a tenancy agreement. I’ve a gorgeous boyfriend who is climbing the surveyor’s ladder and is most certainly going to ask me to marry him over Christmas because men do that at Christmas don’t they? I mean, they do, don’t they? All I need is to be out of a job now with a wedding coming up. I hold my breath, you never know, Christmas may just bring out the good side in my boss.

‘Well, if that’s how you feel Binki,’ he says, leaning forward and reaching for the envelope.

I quickly push it into my bag and head for the door.

‘Thank you very much,’ I say shakily. ‘Shall we say it is for services rendered? Or shall we take our chances in court, sexual harassment and all that. What would the wife say?’

‘Why you …’

The thing is I can’t stay, can I? He’ll make my life unbearable and the last thing I want is the stigma of sexual harassment. Everyone at work looking at me and thinking, maybe she asked for it. Like anyone would choose to throw themselves at wart-nose Newman but all the same, you get my drift don’t you?

I dive out of the office faster than you can say Father Christmas and wonder if I offer Oliver sex when I get home he’ll take the bad news better. Maybe he’ll even storm up to the office and punch Ben Newman’s lights out; then again, knowing Oliver and his bad back, maybe not.

Available here from Amazon. In book shops from March.

Morcambe and Wise. We have nothing on you. Comedy writers meet.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014 (Blog posting re-printed with permission by Sue Watson.

Lynda Renham, Live and Unplugged!

 blog tour 2

Recently, I agreed to meet an online friend. In the flesh. In their home. 
Now this online friend may be Lynda Renham, a fellow author with many books and sales under her belt – but what’s to stop her also being an axe-wielding-serial-killing-best-selling-author? She might well be the literary ‘Queen of Comedy’ and has delighted us all with her best-selling books, ‘Croissants and Jam,’ ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras,’ ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ and the thoughtfully (and sensitively) retitled ‘The Dog’s Bollocks,’ but what does she do when she’s not writing best-selling novels? Does she lock people in her attic? Eat human livers with a fine chianti and fava beans a la Hannibal Lecter? Or is she simply as lovely and funny in the flesh as she is on social network?

blog tour 3

Chaperoned by my husband and 14-year-old daughter, we set out to discover answers to our questions at Lynda Renham’s pile in darkest Oxfordshire. Along the winding roads my husband kept asking me how well I knew these people who’d kindly invited us to lunch as my daughter warned me (in a voice not unlike my own) of how we shouldn’t mess with  ‘online Stranger Danger Mum!’

Arriving in Oxfordshire, imagine our concern to find the house didn’t exist, no-one was around except a man waving frantically at cars in the middle of the road. Is this a local Oxfordshire custom we wondered, putting up the car windows and locking all doors.

A text and some directions later we were finally ushered into Lynda and her husband Andrew’s home. And after a lovely warm welcome, Lynda and I talked and didn’t stop. For hours. It’s amazing how similar we are and how we can laugh… and talk … and laugh and it all started online with a few clicks of the mouse. It was a wonderful afternoon, the first, I hope of many, with fine food, lovely wine, and delicious company… and not a fava bean or fine Chianti in sight!
blog tour 4

Here’s Lynda’s version of events…..

A Sunday, not many moons ago I arranged to meet another author. Of course, we knew what the other looked like but you know how we all put on those old photos on Facebook. Yes, exactly. She might turn out to be ninety for all I knew. Not that there is anything wrong with someone being ninety of course, but you know what I mean?

So, there was Andrew and I waiting, panicking about the food. We’d checked lasagne would be okay but things have a tendency to go wrong don’t they? We usually do have lumpy sauce. But this time everything was going well. The house looked tidy, the food was cooking nicely. If only I could stop looking out of the window and relax.

Our house is not easy to find. There are no street signs. So, when I received a text telling me they were near both Andrew, I and Bendy (our cat) had our eyes fixed on the window. Then a car went by slowly and I saw the woman passenger looking closely at the house names.

‘That must be them,’ I said to Andrew.

He hurried out to direct them to our cottage and I felt the first stirrings of nerves. What if she dislikes me? What if my house is too small? I watched as the car turned around by the local pub and Andrew throwing himself in front of it. Good God, has he gone mad? He waved them down, chatted through the window and then walked back as they drove off. Oh no.

‘What happened?’ I asked worriedly.

‘They didn’t like me so have decided to go home.’

‘What!’ I said. I thought she seemed nice.

He laughed.

We strolled back to the cottage and waited for another text. Then we get one and they are at the pub. The right one this time, not pub I don’t mean but the right person. All pubs are the right ones aren’t they? And then they were here, hugging me at my front door. Sue Watson and her husband Nick and their lovely daughter and what a fab day we had. It was like meeting myself.

I think we chatted so much that we almost didn’t get to dinner.
Confessions of a Chocoholic 1
You can win one of Sue’s books ‘Younger, Thinner, Blonder’ over on my Chocolate fun day here.http://www.facebook.com/events/275421782582579/?fref=ts We are celebrating my collection of thoughts and chocolate musings ‘Confessions of a Chocoholic’ and I am thrilled Sue is on board.
We are going to have lots of fun on the day. So join me and my lovely author friend Sue on the 8th Feb. Join now! Chocolate galore for everyone.
Plus you can a copy of The Dog’s Bollocks’ Who wants to miss that?
Thank you Lynda! Looking forward to our next get-together very soon! And if you LOVE the amazing pictures of Lynda’s book, ‘The Dog’s Bollocks,’ featured in this article they are available from the talented team at Pics R Ushttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Pics-R-Us/275163365968926
Lynda’s book cover is illustrated by Gracie Klumpp at http://gracieklumpp.com/

 blog 6

In The Sack With Another Author

IN THE SACK…with Lynda Renham

The lovely author Mandy Baggot had me in the sack. Not literally you understand. It was very pleasurable I have to say, until I saw it in print. So here it is. Mandy Baggot writes strong contemporary romance and characters you’ll fall in love with. You can check her out here 

What a great idea though to sneak a look inside women’s handbags. I’m sure if you know me, the contents of mine won’t surprise you too much.

Lynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. She has had several poems published as well as articles in numerous magazines and newspapers. Recently she has taken part in radio discussions on the BBC.

She has studied literature and creative writing and has a blog on her web page: http://www.renham.co.uk

Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.

BLURB

On arriving home after a friend’s posh wedding, launderette worker Harriet finds her life irrevocably changed as she discovers her flat ransacked and her boyfriend missing. In a matter of hours she is harassed by East End gangsters and upper crust aristocrats. Accepting an offer she can’t refuse, Harriet, against her better judgment becomes the fiancée of the wealthy Hamilton Lancaster, with dire consequences. What she had not bargained on was meeting Doctor Brice Edmunds.

The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties is Lynda Renham’s funniest novel so far. A cocktail of misunderstandings, three unlikely gangsters, a monkey and a demented cat make this novel a hysterical read. Follow Harriet’s adventure where every attempt to get out of trouble puts her deeper in it.

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Buy The Valentine Present

THE SACK

This one is my favourite. I purchased it in Cambodia about three years ago during my first visit. It is hand made. I found it in a little back street. I didn’t pay that much for it but it has been hard wearing. I use it practically every day. It has been back to Cambodia with me as well as Egypt and other countries. I love this bag because it is different. I like unique bags. It has several little compartments inside and the top has a firm zip. I adore it. I mostly love it because it comes from a country that means a lot to me. It evokes memories.

WHAT’S IN THE SACK?

My bag contents can be somewhat embarrassing to say the least. Even I was astonished when I looked at them. So here we go.

The recent novel I am reading, which is Sophie McKenzie’s ‘Close My Eyes’ which is brilliant. It certainly has me gripped.

A writing pad which I jot down novel ideas in.

Hairbrush and comb.

Blackberry Z10 phone

Pack of tissues.

Purse

For some odd reason a sick bag from my recent flight to Cambodia. No idea how that got in there.

A pink glass case which holds my sunglasses (two pairs) All bought from Primark.

A small bag with painkillers and other pills deemed essential such as Imodium and migraine tablets

A photo taken of the children in the orphanage I visit in Cambodia

Reading glasses in a lovely glass case given to me by my friend.

Pen

Make up. Bobbi Brown Blusher powder and lipstick.

Small fan mirror

Earphones

Bottle of Issey Miyake perfume

Bottle of Rodial, Dragon Blood moisturiser, which I carry everywhere.

Tube of 4head.

Scrunchy

Last but not least a spare pair of undies, well you never know do

Dancing with glee…

dance

 

I’m so thrilled to be in the humour chart in the US. It is something I never expected to achieve. I always felt quite sure that my British humour would never really appeal to the American market. I am so pleased to be proven wrong and that all my novels are now in the Amazon chart there.

The novels are doing well and the next step is to hope someone contacts us about turning them into films. If you have read my books and enjoyed them do contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

To celebrate the release of the paperback of ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties’ my first two novels ‘Croissants and Jam’ and ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ are being sold on Kindle at a bargain price of 77p. This is for a limited time only.

Here’s a taster of ‘Croissants and Jam’ and further down ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’

You can purchase them here

Chapter One     

   Don’t you just hate weddings? Well, maybe you don’t. Generally I don’t either but when it is your own wedding things just get so stressful. Jesus, I feel like I am having my nineteenth nervous breakdown. I mean, there is the dress nightmare for a start. I can’t even look at a Hobnob, without everyone going into a massive panic and screaming, ‘you will never squeeze into the dress if you eat that’, while removing the offending Hobnob and plonking a Ryvita into my hand. I mean, seriously, like one Hobnob will make that much difference. This is, of course, bearing in mind I am a size ten and if I say so myself, with an enviable figure. So, it comes to something when I am denied the basic human right of a Hobnob. Anyway, back to weddings, or at least my wedding. There are just so many what ifs when it comes to weddings. You know, what if he isn’t the right one? What if after the wedding you find that sharing a duvet is just too big a sacrifice? Worst of all, what if the second thoughts you are having are for real and you ignore them? I find myself spending the mornings worrying about the big day and the afternoons worrying if it is all a big mistake. I can’t decide if the terrible churning in my stomach is simply wedding nerves or if I am really having serious doubts. So I decide to visit my mother a few hours before my flight. Not the best decision of my life. The front door is flung open and before I can say ‘hello’, Candice mounts me dramatically and I fall backward, pulling the seam on my new Yves Saint Laurent blouse on the coat rack and landing with a thud on the new shag pile carpet. Don’t you just hate bloody dogs?

         ‘Shit. Damn animal, get the hell off me, you monster.’ I attempt to push her back with my hand but only encounter her cold wet nose. The house is stiflingly hot and I feel myself perspiring. I swear a sauna is cooler than my mother’s house.

         ‘Darling, I thought you were coming for lunch.’ My mother’s voice somewhere beyond the great hound that is licking me to death.

         ‘Candy, down now,’ commands my dad, who shuffles into the hall, wearing his gardening gloves and carrying a knee rest. His old gardening trousers are scuffed at the knees, and there is a contented look on his face.

         ‘Hello darling.’

         ‘Dad, can you get this bloody monster off me. God almighty, this dog is so over-the-top affectionate,’ I puff as I battle to get up. The smell of freshly baked cake reaches my grateful nostrils. I feel so emotionally exhausted from all my wedding worries that even fighting off a dog arouses a chocolate craving.

         ‘Language please, Bels,’ scolds my mother, who emerges from the kitchen decked top to bottom in Boden Country Casuals and smelling of Estee Launder White Linen and Elnett hair spray. I scramble to my feet.

         ‘What? I didn’t swear and ooh that’s nice,’ I say stroking her cashmere cardigan.

         ‘I heard you say S-H-I-T and B-L-O-O-D-Y,’ she says, spelling out the words.

         ‘Oh Mum, come on really.’

She sighs. I hug her, and she enfolds me within her bosom. Her perfume is decidedly comforting. My old-fashioned mum who has never sworn in her life, drinks only sherry on a Friday and wouldn’t know Germaine Greer if she fell over her. But, ask my mum about fashion and she is a guru. Her wardrobe is an absolute delight.

         ‘Come along, I have made a lemon drizzle cake for you. Take Candy out, Julian. Bels and I need to talk, and do change that hideous jumper.’ We both give the offending jumper a sizable dirty look. I slyly turn down the central heating thermostat as I pass. I watch as Dad raises his eyebrows. I smile and give him a conspirator’s wink. He gives me a quick bear hug.

         ‘It is lovely to see you Annabel. Right, come on Candy, we have our orders,’ obeys Dad, shaking a lead. Candice bounces towards him while I exit to the kitchen. The door slams and Mum pushes me into a chair at the table. I check my blouse and see the damage is not as bad as I had imagined, thank goodness.

         ‘Why didn’t you get a chihuahua? I thought that was what you wanted. That dog is huge, I hate it,’ I say checking my skirt for hairs.

         ‘Candice is a loving dog, and hate is a very strong word. Now, come on, tell me everything that is on your mind.’

I watch as she places a large slab of lemon drizzle cake onto a plate, followed by a smaller piece of fruit cake. I take a deep breath. Christ, where to start. What exactly is on my mind? I am living every woman’s dream. My job is fantastic. Okay, so I am almost thirty, but I am features editor at Versity, the top fashion magazine. I have even managed to combine my wedding trip to Rome with a fashion show in the city. I mean, some of the world’s top models are on my wedding guest list, just how cool is that. My future husband is handsome, spectacularly rich and exceptionally kind. What more could a girl ask for? Okay, a Hobnob right now would be nice, or even a simple digestive, but generally though, life is pretty good. And it would be even better if I didn’t have these terrible second thoughts.

         ‘God Mum, is it too quick?’ I blurt out.

She hands me the cake which I put to one side.

         ‘Mum, you know I can’t eat cake, I have to get into my dress,’ I protest somewhat feebly.

         ‘Oh a small piece won’t hurt darling,’ she says confidently, clicking on the kettle.

She cuts an even larger piece for herself. I take a bite of the lemon drizzle and savour the tangy lemon sponge, quickly following it with a chunk of still warm fruit cake.

         ‘Darling, you are thirty, how can it be too quick? I was actually starting to wonder if you were, well you know, batting for the other side,’ she says sheepishly.

I choke on a raisin.

         ‘Why would you think that?’ I ask shocked.

         ‘Well, you work with all those women models and… Well, you only have to watch films to know what happens. Anyway…’

She places a mug of tea beside the cake and I wrinkle my nose.

         ‘Oh Mum, can I have proper tea?’

         ‘Green tea is proper tea,’ she says, looking insulted.

         ‘Oh I thought it was that elderflower stuff,’ I say, relieved. The elderflower stuff tastes like a combination of coconut and cat’s piss.

         ‘This cake is divine, Mother.’

         ‘Do you think it would be healthier if it were made with wholegrain flour?’

I shrug. I’ve never baked a cake in my life but I feel sure that somehow it would not taste half as good made with wholegrain flour. My mother, the middle-aged health-food addict. Last year my parents went to Tibet and Mum returned with strange tinkling bells and even stranger ideas. Tetley tea bags were replaced with weird herbal ones and my mother started an enlightenment group called ‘Touch the Spot’, which I always thought sounded more like a mutual masturbation group, but I knew better than to say anything. She meets with fifteen other weirdoes once a month where they meditate, burn incense and share together and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if marijuana were involved somewhere.

         ‘I can’t seem to get that elderflower tea anymore,’ she says thoughtfully. ‘Jane said, she thinks you can buy it in Harrods. Maybe you can get me some. Anyway, seven months is not too soon, and Simon is ideal for you. And who gets to have a fairy-tale wedding in Rome? Oh dear, I still think I should wear Stella McCartney for the ceremony, what do you think? I mean, the Dior is nice but I think I should be more with it as mother of the bride. Kat said, you know, our cleaner, that the bride’s mother is the second most important person at the wedding. By the way, did I tell you her boyfriend is going blind?’

I yawn, my mother, the archetypal do-gooder.

         ‘Yes, you did Mother,’ I say feigning interest.

She nods and her face brightens.

         ‘And the fund-raising thing we are doing with Waitrose?’

I nod emphatically.

         ‘Surely, though, that would be Simon wouldn’t it?’ I say thoughtfully.

She looks confused.

         ‘What would be Simon, darling?’

         ‘The second most important person at the wedding, wouldn’t that be the groom?’

         ‘Ah, good point. I must tell Kat… her boyfriend…’

         ‘Mum,’ I snap.

Christ, does anyone care about me and my future? Jesus, I have known the guy for seven freaking months, he could be a closet alcoholic for all I know. Then there are his parents, oh shit.

         ‘I have not even met his parents yet, I mean they could be like something out of the fuckers,’ I say, feeling decidedly depressed.

         ‘What?’

         ‘God sorry, I meant the Fockers. God, I am so stressed.’ Waves of exhaustion seem to engulf me.

         ‘Well, I am sorry Annabel. Even stress is no excuse for the ‘F’ word. Now, listen to me. In a few hours you are flying to Rome to meet your in-laws, by the way I meant to tell you, I have been learning Italian.’

Clearly delighted, she reaches behind me to the large oak dresser and grabs a book. Oh for goodness sake, am I under some silly illusion that my mother wanted to discuss my future? I indulgently swallow another chunk of lemon drizzle and gulp down some tea.

         ‘Look, I have been using this, with a CD. But, anyway, the good thing is I will be able to converse with your mother-in-law. I have been practising on your father.’

I sigh and wipe my hands on a piece of kitchen towel. What a waste of time this is. Any minute now I will hear how my heavily pregnant sister is making a big sacrifice by getting on an aeroplane.

         ‘Mum, she may be Italian but she lived in England up until a year ago. I have already told you this. They live in Rome now because they retired. She speaks perfect English.’

         ‘Yes, but she is Italian and we must make an effort, I mean your sister Alex…’

Here it comes.

         ‘Heavily pregnant as she is, Alex is still making the effort to come to your wedding. I just hope, I really do, that she will be okay. What with you being thirty and not married, Alex almost forty and finally pregnant and I thank God every day for that, it makes me realise we just can’t be picky Bels.’

I play with my cake.

         ‘I’m not picky. I just don’t want to make a mistake. I mean, even the getting married in Rome thing, I just feel you know, kind of bullied. Surely, I shouldn’t feel like that,’ I say dipping into the biscuit barrel.

She nods knowingly.

         ‘Have you been meditating like I told you?’

Oh God.

         ‘But, what if he is not Mr Right, Mum?’ I ask, feeling that churning again.

She clutches her breast.

         ‘Oh Annabel, tell me, tell me, how this cannot be Mr Right? Huh? A man running his own law firm…’

         ‘His father’s law firm,’ I correct.

         ‘His father’s, his, whatever, it is all the same thing. It is family. Oh and how you met, so romantic,’ she says dreamily.         

It was?

         ‘On a boat, it’s romantic, it was fate.’

         ‘I had far too much to drink Mother. I almost fell into the Thames, along with my phone, and it was more sordid than romantic. Okay, he rescued me, kind of, if you call yanking me back by my skirt rescuing me.’

I have found a Hobnob and feel decidedly better. I guess she has a point though, I mean, let’s face it, just how much longer can I wait for Mr Right? After all, Simon feels like Mr Right, I think. How do you know when it is Mr Right anyway? If I leave it much longer I’ll be so old and wrinkled and all the Mr Rights will have been spoken for. Yes Mum knows best, I must stop being picky, but hell this is the rest of my life. My Blackberry shrills and I yank it out of my bag, it is flashing Kaz, my assistant, best friend and courier for my wedding dress. Oh God, something must have happened to the dress.

         ‘Oh no, what’s happened, did you spill wine on it or something? I swear I will cut out your heart and sell it to Satanists. You haven’t ripped it have you?’

Mum gasps and Kaz whistles.

         ‘Geez Bels, thanks for that vote of confidence. You are evil do you know that? Actually, I was just phoning to let you know the dress is on its way to Rome. Are you still at your mum’s? Christ Bels, get to the airport. Love you and see you in two days.’

I throw the phone into my bag and hug my mother.

         ‘I’ve got to go Mum. Off to get married to Mr Right. Thanks for the chat, I feel loads better.’

The hell I did.

         ‘See you in Rome,’ I call back with a wave.

Rome here I come, and I just hope you’re ready for me because I certainly am not ready for you.

Coconuts and Wonderbras

Chapter One

Don’t you just hate diets? Well maybe you don’t. You’re probably one of those people who never need to go on a diet. Generally I couldn’t care less about dieting, but now that I am on a diet it is a completely different matter. After struggling to zip up my best pair of jeans this morning, and painfully pinching my naval in the process, I’ve decided it’s time for drastic action. The problem is I keep changing my mind about which diet to be on. I never realised there was so much dieting paraphernalia. You know the kind of thing, watching everything you eat, counting calories or counting points, measuring food in those colourful measuring pots and trying to get as much out of them as you can. Not to mention those embarrassing weekly weigh-ins. Then there is the awful food. Eating salads instead of proper food and making your own vegetable soup. Talking of soup, I did try the Cabbage Soup diet. It seemed so easy, but the stink in my kitchen and the amount of time I spent in the loo put me off that one. Then, of course, there are the wonderful diets. Chef-made meals diet, homemade meals diet, and tiny portion diet, eat all you like diet, not to mention the low carb or high carb diet. I rather liked the sound of the ‘Ducan’ diet, but I seemed to end up with the ‘Ducant’ diet.

Then there are the marvellous magazine articles with headings like ‘Eat Yourself Slim’. Oh yes, I like the sound of that. You can choose whether to diet online or offline, or you could just have a milkshake and forget about food altogether. It’s all so confusing. And why do we do it? I don’t know why you do it, but I’m doing it to keep the man in my life because I am sure my boyfriend is seeing someone else, and the someone else is far skinnier than me. I know, of course, I should be doing it for myself. But, starting a diet three weeks before Christmas is not only very bad timing but sheer stupidity. I’m Libby by the way, and I like to think of myself as slightly curvy rather than fat, although some days I must admit to feeling huge. My best friend Issy is blessed with a metabolism that allows her to eat anything, and I could gladly kill her. I only have to think marshmallow and I look like one. She, on the other hand, is one of those women who can polish off a plate of fish and chips with a bread roll on the side and still manage to lose a pound. However, it doesn’t seem to improve her temperament.

‘Sod off.’

It’s Saturday night and three weeks before Christmas and Issy, somewhat inebriated, shares some Christmas spirit with the carol singers outside my cottage. I am mortified and tell her so. After all, you just don’t tell the Salvation Army to sling their hook do you, especially when they are singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.

‘That’s my bloody point. If they are the Salvation Army then I’ll eat my Christmas hat. And if they are going to sing outside your front door they should at least sing carols. Since when has Onward Christian Soldiers been a carol? Hark, I do believe they have now turned into Mariah Carey,’ she says scathingly.

Embarrassed beyond belief, I attempt to inject some Christmas cheer by offering mulled wine and homemade mince pies. After all, one of us should show some Christmas spirit, especially to the Salvation Army. I open the door to be met by three youths and a ghetto blaster. They hungrily devour my offerings while I stand shivering. Honestly, it’s Christmas, what happened to goodwill to all men? I love Christmas, and the lovely warm cosy feeling you get at this time of the year. I also adore Christmas shopping and the crowds, and I happen to love those garish houses that seem to be hopelessly devoured by Christmas lights and huge reindeers. Oh yes, Christmas isn’t really Christmas without all that tacky stuff. And I like carol singers, real carol singers, that is. I am more than happy to give them my mince pies but fake carol singers are something else.

‘Now you can sod off. I don’t want to hear this rubbish. If you have to play rubbish at least play sodding traditional rubbish, then go and find your mince pies somewhere else,’ Issy, queen of tact, shouts from the living room.

The three youths and ghetto blaster trudge off into the snow. I return gratefully to the warm living room, where Issy is breathing fire down the phone to some poor assistant at Domino Pizza.

‘I know it is Christmas. What has that got to do with the price of cod? We ordered it over an hour ago, or are you telling me that you have to deliver to Santa and his reindeers first?’

‘Price of fish,’ I correct under my breath.

‘What the bollocks.’

Issy, my best friend and women’s journalist agony aunt, likes to say bollocks a lot. Frankly, she is a crap agony aunt and the last person I would ask advice from. If you feel depressed she is likely to agree that jumping off a cliff is the best option. Issy spends bucket loads on clothes and cosmetics, and always emerges from a dress shop looking like a million dollars, whereas I come out feeling like I have spent a million dollars but never looking it. I can never grow fingernails like Issy, and when I do, her bright purple nail polish makes me look more like a witch than tantalising seductress. Issy is confident where I am not and oh yes, she is slim. Like I have said, I am just a little bit fat. Did I say a little bit? Okay, a slight correction needed. A fair bit fat I suppose would be nearer the truth. Although, Issy assures me I am nowhere near as fat as I think. Okay, I am one stone ten pounds over my normal weight, or 10.88 kilograms overweight to be precise. Whichever way you convert it I still come out fat. So, what the arsing head and hole has possessed me to eat a Domino’s pizza you’re thinking. Well, it is almost Christmas, and I am convinced my boyfriend, Toby, is seeing someone else. Of course, I have no real evidence for this belief except he seems to smell very sweetly of Lancôme Trésor perfume these days. I can’t exactly confront him with that can I? After all, he is a highly respected journalist who writes not only for our local rag here in Fross but also for The Political Times, which means he works with lots of women, many of whom I am sure wear Trésor. I can’t very well accuse him of sleeping with all of them can I? The thing is, they are all slim and trendy whereas I am neither. Don’t you just hate the word ‘trendy’? In fact, according to him these women are bloody perfect, whereas I am just bloody useless. Not that Toby has ever told me that I am useless. I just feel I am. So, a few weeks before Christmas I have decided it is time to do something drastic about the weight problem. I need to turn myself into a slim, trendy and somewhat perfect woman by Christmas Eve. I decide to call in Issy for diet advice. She suggests we discuss it over a Domino pizza and a bottle of wine. Good start. Like I said, I should never take advice from Issy.

‘Obviously you should diet darling, after all, no one likes a fat person, not that you are terribly fat, but don’t do it for that little fart Toby, and stop baking sodding cakes. Nigella Lawson you’re not!’

As you can see, Issy is as tactful as a sledgehammer. Although I have to agree, I am probably more Delia Smith than Nigella Lawson. I love baking cakes you see. Cupcakes, fairy cakes, fruit cakes, Christmas cakes, sponge cakes, you name it and I bake it. Toby loves my cakes. His favourite is my Victoria sandwich and I have made one for him today along with the mince pies and sausage rolls for the office. The problem is my hobby does tend to end up touching my lips and of course lands on my hips resulting in an insult from Toby’s lips… Have you gained more weight Libby? Your hips look bigger, and that dress used to look nicer on you.

So, after exhausting every slimming pill on the market and still managing to eat like a horse I have decided drastic measures are needed.

‘A gastric band, have you gone insane? Do you really think that little sod is worth it?’ Issy gasps when I voice my plan.

I actually think the little sod is worth it.

‘I’m thinking it would be beneficial to my health and besides…’

‘Bloody hell Libs, you could die under the knife, or even worse, have your spine severed.’

Yes, that is my kind of luck.

‘Isn’t that one and the same thing?’

‘What?’

‘If they sever my spine, I will die won’t I?’

‘Whatever, anyway they’re bound to perforate something. It’s par for the course.’

‘It’s unlikely.’

‘God, you do think the little shit is worth it don’t you?’

I’m wondering how many more derogatory words Issy will find to describe Toby before the evening is over. I am actually thinking the little shit/sod/fart is actually worth it, although I don’t imagine anyone else would think so. I sometimes even wonder why I think so.

‘Right now, the little fart/sod/shit is the only boyfriend I have,’ I moan.

‘And that’s the way it will stay if your spine is severed.’

The truth is I’m not very confident, and even less so when it comes to men. I was so flattered when Toby asked me out a year ago. He is good looking, successful and confident. I can’t imagine what he saw in me.

With raised eyebrows, Issy says I should dump the little bugger.

‘Stop thinking you can’t find anyone better,’ she sighs.

With perfect timing the Domino Pizza man rings the doorbell, and I am saved from admitting that I really don’t want to dump the little bugger and that I actually do love him. I have to wonder how much I love him, however, when five minutes later I am stuffing myself full of ‘Chilli Surprise’ deep pan pizza and potato wedges, not to mention the garlic bread. I am proud to say that when Issy opens a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for dessert I actually do reign myself in. After all, there is the Christmas party tomorrow night, and I will doubtless eat heaps. Maybe I should start the diet after the party. Yes, that’s the best thing. I’ll start my diet on Monday. I’ll make the party my final indulgence. After all, publishers lay on fab parties, and Hobsons are no exception. Did I mention that I work for a publishing house? I probably didn’t. I work as an agent at Randal and Hobson’s publishing house aka Hobnobs. Not that I have anyone famous on my account but I live in hope. My real ambition is to be a journalist like Toby, and although I have written tons of stuff, I just can’t get anyone to actually read it. Toby says it is pretty amateurish, but I’m sure with practice I could get better. I actually have this crazy idea that maybe tomorrow night, at the party, I could propose to Toby. Yes, you heard me, propose. I am twenty-nine after all and I really should get married. I know one shouldn’t rush into marriage just because one is almost thirty, but can you imagine still being on the shelf in your thirties? Oh God, it is enough to make me reach for the Ben and Jerry’s. Well, I have already eaten the pizza so let’s face it the damage has been done.

‘Oh, I really can’t face the thought of being single for another year and Toby is so lovely, he makes me feel…’ I say with my mouth full of ice cream.

Issy leans towards me and grabs the spoon.

‘Makes you feel sick I shouldn’t wonder,’ she hiccups. ‘He certainly has that effect on me.’

‘Special. He makes me feel special,’ I say lamely, knowing full well that he doesn’t.

‘Oh please. By the way, did you hear that radio interview with the luscious Alex Bryant? Oh, that voice. He trashed Toby’s article on the Cambodian uprising unmercifully,’ she says gleefully. ‘But what a dreamboat. Talk about fabalicious. Did you see him on the Morning Show? He’s just back from America and has signed with a publisher here. Wouldn’t it be fab if you had him as a client? He is as close to an Adonis as any man can be. Imagine working twenty-four-seven with him. I bet he has a penis so large that…’

‘Issy, please, I have just eaten,’ I snap and try to get the image of a huge penis out of my head.

‘Anyway, I’m not in the least interested in the Oh look at me, I’m an ex-SAS super hero, call me when the world needs saving arsehole. I thought that radio interview was pathetic as it happens,’ I say scathingly. ‘He is so arrogant, I’m so glad we didn’t sign him last year. That is the second time he has trashed Toby’s work.’

‘He is ultra-gorgeous though, you have to admit that.’

‘I wouldn’t even know what he looks like.’

‘You’re the only woman who doesn’t then,’ she scoffs, flouncing off to the bathroom.

I take the opportunity to see if Toby has sent me a text. Disappointedly I throw my Blackberry back into my bag and clear the dishes.

‘Bastard,’ slurs Issy sneaking up behind me. ‘He hasn’t texted you has he?’

‘He’s probably busy at work,’ I mumble, splashing soapy water over the plates and crashing them onto the drainer.

‘Where is Toby taking you for New Year’s Eve?’ she asks, taking a tea towel from a drawer.

‘Not sure. I have mentioned the party at the Glass Dome. It seems everyone is going there this year.’

‘I’ve promised myself I will only go if I have someone special to go with,’ she sighs.

She throws down the tea towel and gleefully hands me an envelope tied with a red ribbon.

‘This will cheer you up. Happy Christmas,’ she says nodding excitedly.

‘But it isn’t Christmas for three weeks. Blimey, you’re organised.’

I turn the envelope around in my hands and then place it beside my row of cookery books.

‘I’ll stick it on the tree as soon as it goes up.’

‘No,’ blurts Issy retrieving the envelope and sending a Gordon Ramsay cook book flying. ‘You have to open it now.’

‘Can you please mind Gordon. He is the closest thing I have to male company most days.’

She rolls her eyes and thrusts the envelope at me. I raise my eyebrows. Aren’t you just highly distrustful of presents that have to be opened weeks before Christmas?

‘Why?’ I ask suspiciously.

‘Because you have to use it by the end of next week,’ she sighs.

Ah, one of Issy’s second-hand presents. I open the envelope with trepidation. Please don’t let it be anything life affirming or God forbid, dangerous. I am still quivering from the hand-me-down bungee jump that she gave me for my birthday. Please let it be a cookery lesson or something equally as safe.

‘A makeover and photo shoot!’

‘It expires next Friday,’ she cries delightedly. ‘I’ve had the thing hanging around for a year, and then I thought of you. I really don’t need it, but you do, and I thought it would be a great present.’

Bloody cheek, what does she mean I need it? I try not to look crestfallen.

‘Come on; we are going to Madam Zigana’s after all.’ She throws my coat and gloves at me.

Oh no, not the psychic. I had hoped that the pizza and the Ben and Jerry’s would have made her forget all about that.

‘I can’t hobnob with the dead. I have nothing suitable to wear, and anyway Toby might phone and I would hate to miss his call,’ I protest.

‘God, you’re starting to obsess. Come on, grab a shroud and let’s go.’

‘But it’s snowing,’ I complain.

‘Grab a fur shroud then. Come on. She is doing a Christmas special and you are getting so maudlin these days, verging on depressing in fact.’

A Christmas special… God, it sounds more harrowing by the minute. I think a hand-me-down bungee jump would be less vexing. I would much rather snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate and dream about Mr Right.

Legs Open

tootsieSo, last night I glanced through the book ‘Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps.’ I was mostly reading it to stop myself checking my book sales every two seconds. This is the problem when a new book comes out. I become desperate. Neurotic almost, in fact you could say demented. Such is my fear of failure. But enough of my psychosis. Reading ‘Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps’ made me realise how different men and women are. Not that I needed the book to tell me that. I quickly threw that in the bin. I hate self-help books don’t you?  Let’s be honest if you haven’t helped yourself by the time you buy a book you’re never going to are you? No, it’s therapy you need, trust me. A book is never going to do it. But I did think about what a charmed life men have *prepares herself for man onslaught*

Maybe Dustin Hoffman will side with me…

I don’t know about you other women but I would love to be a man for a day. I really can’t see what issues they have. Do they have breast screening, oh no. Do they have to worry about lumps, oh no.

There you are with your tit being squashed between two plates and having it look a little like a pizza while the lady doing the squashing asks.

‘Have a nice holiday this year?’

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Of course you try to make polite conversation don’t you? Neither of you wants to acknowledge what is actually going on. You both act like it is the most normal thing in the world to have your tits on show and that she is in fact becoming more intimate with your breasts than your husband. The thing that really gets me is when they tell you it is just a little uncomfortable. What the hell does that mean? A bit uncomfortable to me is when I can’t get settled on the couch or the label in my top is irritating me. You get my drift don’t you? Then of course there is the dreaded pap smear. Where you open your legs all in the name of prevention. This time you have your, you know what, on show for all to see. And as she sticks that cold speculum up you and you clench every muscle possible she says ‘Just a little discomfort.’  and you’re just praying that the fart you’re desperately holding in won’t escape. I’m right aren’t I?

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Then she tells you that you might feel a little scrape as she removes half of your cervix. Of course we kindly thank her for the indignity before leaving.

Men don’t have to put up with that. I don’t think they have their private parts yanked around that much or do they? I’m sure there will be one man to put me right.

Of course there is the other business. You know what I’m talking about. That awful moment when you need the loo and it seems a hike away, or you find yourself in a supermarket that doesn’t have one. One reason not to shop at Lidl I find. I don’t know about you but I have often cross legged my way to a loo looking like I’m auditioning for River Dance.

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‘If you are standing, cross your legs and keep your feet together. If you are sitting, press your legs down and keep your pubic area up.’

More often than not, you don’t make it right? And then there is another disaster to deal with. What do men do? They find the nearest tree. No, sorry that is dogs isn’t it? The nearest field, or the nearest bush and drop their trousers. I know we could do it too. Ever tried it? Yes, you sit there praying it will come while every muscle in your bladder screams no I will not allow it. Nothing worse is there?

 

We slap all these creams and lotions on often to be told by the other half,

‘Why do you bother?’

To look young for you of course, but they don’t appreciate it do they?

Then there is the whole weight issue. Oh God, don’t go there. While the men stuff their faces full of chips and chicken we’re chomping away on lettuce and radishes. Not happily in my case I must admit. I mean, we don’t want cellulite and all that stuff do we? Why don’t magazines make a big thing of men and their weight, or their looks, or their wrinkles? They don’t suffer with Bartholin cysts do they? Headaches, oh no. Vaginal dryness? No, it’s all us.

Okay they have the impotence thing but apart from that their little private parts do okay don’t they?

Men don’t have periods. They don’t have a clue. My husband went shopping for sanitary towels once and came home totally confused after being asked ‘With or without wings, regular or super. Or was it tampons you needed?’

‘How do I know the difference? God forbid I got wings and you wear without wings,’ he’d moaned.

I can see it can drive him to suicide.

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They don’t feel like the wicked witch of East for two weeks of a month do they? Get a tampon stuck, oh yes, I’ve done that. You can read that post here. Or have to face that dreaded menopause. No, let’s not go there yet.

So my question is this. If we suffer all this, can they not suffer two hours a week of shopping? That’s all I ask of my other half. Ten minutes into the shopping trip he is yawning and asking how many more shops are we going into. If I go near a clothes shop he has a panic attack. I have many times asked him to wait outside a fitting room so I can show him a new outfit only to tra la in front of a total stranger as my man has gone.

‘Looks lovely,’ said the stranger. Except I wasn’t attending a wedding with him was I?

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I have been known to wander around a store in one of their dresses looking for husband. I even set off the alarms after spotting him outside.

‘Do you like this one?’ I’d shouted to have sirens and bells going off everywhere as I got too close to the entrance.

I’m always phoning him in supermarkets because he wanders off when I look at beauty products.

I wonder what it would be like to be a man. Maybe I wouldn’t like that expectation that I can take care of everyone. That everything is down to me. Perhaps it isn’t easy to seem strong all the time. I like to cry easily plus don’t I get to live longer supposedly?  I need to weigh all this up.

The new book by the way is ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties’ available from Amazon and all good bookshop. £1.95 kindle and £5. 95 Paperback.

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Shameless plug over.

Party time. It’s here…

To celebrate the launch of ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties’ I have released a bargain box set of all my romantic comedy books. Here it is for the bargain price of £3.99. On Kindle only.Image

It is a fab bargain and only available for a limited time.

The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties is released today in paperback and to wet your appetites here is an extract.

Thank you to the eighteen reviewers who have so far given it 5 star ratings I am thrilled.

Enjoy the extract. The Diamond’s are everyone’s favourite as they are mine.

Thank you Lady Gaga for all the inspiration

The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties

Chapter One

 Julian slams the door of his Mercedes van, juggling a freshly iced birthday cake in one hand and a card in the other. He pauses for a moment to admire his new vehicle. Spotting a tiny mark on the bonnet he rubs it with the sleeve of his jacket and, after satisfying himself that the mark has gone, rushes to the communal door of the flats. God, he’s so late. Not even time for a shower. He lets himself in and places the cake onto the kitchen table. That will please her. He will hide it on the top shelf of the cupboard and present it to her on her birthday. He saunters into the bedroom and smiles when he sees the morning suit laid out on the bed for him. He is just about to pop on the bow tie when he hears the front door open. Thinking it is his girlfriend he strolls out of the bedroom beaming.

‘I thought we were meeting at the ch …’

He stops instantly. The smile freezes on his face and his mouth opens and closes several times with nothing emanating from it. Two burly men stand in his living room. The room normally looks small but now it seems miniature. A smartly dressed man walks between the two men and smiles at Julian. Julian’s eyes lower to the man’s left hand and the missing little finger.

‘Ello Julian, ‘appy Valentine’s Day,’ says Jack Diamond. ‘I’ve come to deliver your Valentine’s present,’ he smiles, revealing a gold tooth.

‘Yeah, and it ain’t a Valentine’s card either,’ says one of the younger men.

‘Ow rude of me,’ continues Jack. ‘Where’s me manners? I didn’t introduce me lads, Babyface Jack and Mad Jack Junior.’

He smiles while slapping his hand on the shoulder of each son in turn.

‘But it’s not Valentine’s Day,’ says Julian.

‘I like to be early,’ smiles Diamond.

‘Yeah, I like to be early,’ repeats Babyface Jack.

‘You needn’t have worried,’ mutters Julian.

‘Cat got your tongue Julian?’ asks Jack as he winks at Mad Jack Junior.

‘Of course, we could arrange for you to lose your tongue,’ says Mad Jack.

Julian struggles to lick his lips, not wanting to expose his tongue for too long so as not to draw attention to it. Oh God, this is a nightmare. His mobile rings and he tries to ignore it but it continues incessantly.

‘Someone loves yer,’ laughs Jack Diamond.

‘Yeah, someone loves yer,’ repeats Babyface Jack.

‘It’s been three months Julian, and you ain’t given me nothin’.’

‘Yeah, it’s been three months,’ echoes Babyface Jack, ‘and you ain’t given me nothin’.’

‘You’re taking a diabolical liberty you are,’ says Diamond.

‘Yeah, a diabolical liberty,’ repeats Babyface Jack.

‘It’s just I haven’t had it to give to you Jack …’ Julian looks from one Jack to the other, unsure of which Jack he should be addressing. Christ, how can they all have the same bloody name?

‘The restaurant has only just opened and things have been difficult,’ he apologises.

‘And yet I still make an effort to come ‘ere and give you a present. With Valentine’s Day coming up, ‘ow could I not? But I thinks you wanna give me your present first don’t yer Jules?’ says Diamond menacingly with a twitch of his shoulders. Julian cringes.

‘I, well … The thing is …’ begins Julian, his mouth growing drier.

‘That cake looks a bit of awright. Is that for me? I’m touched.’

Julian nods dumbly. Jack sighs.

‘Shall I remind yer what your little present should be? And it ain’t a frigging iced cake.’

He beckons to Babyface.

‘Yeah, shall we remind yer what your little present should be,’ says Babyface, giving Jack the note.

‘Will you stop frigging repeating everything I say,’ growls Diamond.

‘I’m not frigging repeating everything you say.’

Jack sighs.

‘So Julian, it’s been three months now and …’

‘I’m only behind with one month,’ breaks in Julian.

The three Jacks stare at him menacingly.

‘You disagreeing with me mate?’

Julian shakes his head,

 ‘So, you owes me, with interest …’ He glances at the piece of paper and Julian holds his breath as Jack reads from the note.

‘Two chicken breasts, a tin of tomatoes and a pint of milk?’

Julian looks up questioningly.

‘What the hell is this Babyface?’ demands Jack.

‘Sorry, that’s Mum’s shopping list, she said …’

‘I don’t give a toss what she said.’

Jack slaps him across the head and the man whimpers. Julian winces and takes another step back. They all wait while Babyface Jack composes himself and produces the right note.

‘Kids, you see how I indulge ‘em? Now, you owes me twenty grand plus interest, which is?’ he looks again at Babyface.

‘I dunno but I bet it’s a lot,’ says Babyface, turning to Julian. ‘You scumbag, we should cut off your ear and send it to your mother for not paying us.’

Jack Diamond grunts.

‘I’ll cut off your sodding ear and send it to your bleedin’ mother if you don’t give me those sodding figures,’ he snarls at Babyface.

Babyface Jack pulls a mobile from his pocket and punches numbers into a calculator. Jack Diamond fidgets uncomfortably while they wait and Julian wonders if he can make a run for it.

‘Well?’ asks Jack.

Babyface wrinkles his forehead in concentration.

‘The creep owes us, with interest, thirty thousand quid and ten pence.’

‘We should smash your skull in you tight-fisted loser,’ says Mad Jack, kicking over the coffee table.

Jack Diamond sighs.

‘Ave some respect Mad Jack, now pick that up. Sorry about that Jules. I blame their mother. You should see ‘er in a temper. It’s bleedin’ worse than an ‘orror film.’

‘That can’t be right,’ says Julian. ‘There is no way it’s that much even with the interest. You’ve calculated it wrong.’

There is silence.

‘What I mean is, I don’t owe the ten pence,’ Julian adds quickly.

‘You saying you owe us less, you pilchard,’ snarls Babyface. ‘You saying my phone don’t know ‘ow to add up?’

‘You saying my son’s an idiot? No one calls my son an idiot, Julian.’

‘You do Dad,’ argues Babyface Jack.

‘Shut up,’ snarls Jack, clipping him round the ear. ‘That’s different.’

Mad Jack Junior sniggers as Jack Diamond pulls a penknife from his pocket. Julian swallows.

‘I’m not calling him an idiot,’ Julian adds frantically, ‘in fact, I think he is a genius.’

‘You do, do yer,’ says Babyface, pulling his shoulders back. ‘You got a death wish or something?’

Jack pushes Julian back against the wall and holds the knife to his throat.

‘No one calls my son a genius, do you understand? Not even me. And Christ knows if he was one I’d know. So, don’t insult my intelligence.’

‘Bloody hell,’ groans Julian quietly. They’re fucking lunatics. He begins to move and Diamond grabs him again.

‘I’m giving you twenty-four ‘ours Julian. But I need a present now.’

‘Oh God, not my ear, please don’t send my ear to my mother.’

‘I was thinking more of that nice shiny motor you’ve got outside and we’ll see what else we can find in this lovely little flat of yours shall we?’

He turns to his sons.

‘Trash the joint.’

Mad Jack opens a gym bag and removes a baseball bat.

‘Oh Christ,’ groans Julian.

He lifts it high into the air and is about to bring it down onto the glass coffee table.

‘Aven’t you forgotten something?’ Jack asks exasperated

‘No, I don’t think so,’ replies Mad Jack.

‘We don’t wanna upset the neighbours do we?’

‘You want me to slit their throats first?’ suggests Mad Jack Junior.

‘Oh God,’ groans Julian.

‘No, I want you to put on some music so no one will ‘ear you doing the ‘ousework.’

Mad Jack nods as Diamond pulls a shaky Julian into the kitchen.

‘How about a nice cuppa and a piece of that cake you made me Jules? Did I ever tell yer about the nice tea party I ‘ad with Fat Tessie when he owed me money?’

The booming strains of Lady Gaga drown out Jack Diamond’s words but Julian hears enough to groan Oh God one more time.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Don’t you just hate people who are always on time? Even worse are those people who aren’t only on time but fifteen minutes early. Totally unexpected buggers aren’t they? There you are in the middle of a quickie and they turn up on your doorstep, and you’re staring at them with that post orgasmic flush on your face as you accept their bunch of carnations and bottle of plonk. Not that Julian and I often have quickies before people come to dinner you understand, just in case you think we do, but you know what I mean. The only quickie you’ll catch us doing fifteen minutes before guests arrive is sieving lumps out of the cheese sauce. Lumpy cheese sauce is a speciality of mine. As for me, I am late for just about everything. I just can’t seem to get anywhere on time no matter how hard I try, and believe me, I try. I’m trying pretty hard right now. Julian, however, is one of those people who is always on time and I imagine he is well on his way to the church by now.

‘I’ll meet you at the church. Try not to be late,’ he had said with a wink, knowing full well I would be.

Meanwhile, I’m desperately trying to bungle Celia Blakely out of the laundrette where I work so I can finish my shift, change, and get to my friend, Silvia’s, wedding.

‘So, I said to Mr Newman, you know Mr Newman don’t you?’

I don’t know Mr Newman in the least and I am beginning to wonder if I actually want to.

‘He lives just up the road. His wife was …’

She leans closer and I shift slightly so I can hear her while continuing to unload the dryer.

‘Having it with Mr Douglas from number thirty-three.’

‘Oh,’ I say, folding the towels and placing them into her laundry bag.

‘She went to the Isle of Dogs with him. Well, I said to Mr Newman she can go to the dogs a woman like that. We don’t want the likes of her here in Battersea do we?’

I shake my head and glance at the clock. I’m going to be so late. I find myself wondering if Julian and I might have it later. A wedding always gets you in the mood doesn’t it? Lots of slow dances and champagne, and Julian in a nice fresh smelling shirt and I can see myself getting quite turned on. After all it seems like ages since we have.

‘Where’s this wedding you’re going to?’

‘St John’s Wood, it’s a bit of a posh one. My mum used to clean at their house when I was little and I used to play with their girl. I’ve got to get the bus when I clock off here.’

She grabs the washing bag and hands me ten pounds.

‘Here’s a little extra. Get a taxi. I know you’re struggling with that café and your studies.’

Café? God, Julian would have a hundred canary fits if he heard the restaurant being called a café.

‘Oh no, I couldn’t Celia.’

‘Don’t argue, just take it. It’s your birthday soon, ain’t it?’

‘Yeah, tomorrow actually. Thanks Celia, I’ll pay you back. Honest.’

She tuts.

‘I wouldn’t want it back.’

I see her to the door and rush to the back room to change, tapping Julian’s number into my mobile as I go. It rings and rings and finally goes to voicemail. Shit, he is probably at the church already. I pull off my stripy laundrette overall and study myself in the cracked back room mirror and slip on my new scarlet satin dress. It’s not strictly new of course. I bought it at Oxfam, but it’s perfect. I expect Alistair will quip something about The Waltons when he sees it. A quick shake of my shaggy blonde hair and a stroke of mascara transform me. I look critically at my reflection and sigh. Not enough time to achieve my normal Kate Moss look. Who I am I kidding? I clip a diamante slide into my hair and swipe Sugar Kiss Red lipstick over my full lips and stroke Rosy Red blusher onto my cheeks and sigh. Not bad I suppose. Of course, I’m sure I could look sensational if I had that Bobbi Brown stuff that Fiona uses. I’m so knackered. The last thing I need is a wedding, and a posh one at that. I slip on my trainers, as they are easier for running, and throw my red satin sling backs into a carrier bag. Clutching my woollen shawl, I open the door.

‘Bye Maud,’ I shout to my boss.

 My mobile trills and I fumble in my bag. It’s Sid, my landlord.

‘Harriet, I hate to phone you darling. I’ve tried Julian but I’m not getting an answer. I’m sure it’s a silly mistake. Just a bloody oversight but as it happened last month I just thought I should check all is okay.’

What happened last month? I look down the street for a taxi.

‘Sorry, what’s that Sid?’

‘Julian’s bank isn’t paying the standing order for the rent. I’m sure it’s a mix up again, like last month.’

I feel my stomach lurch.

‘Last month?’ I say my voice rising.

I sense his embarrassment.

‘Not to worry babe, I’ll try him again. We’ll get it sorted. He said he would settle last month‘s rent and this month by the end of last week, but I think he must have used the wrong account again. Not to worry huh?’

‘I’ll speak to him. We’re at a wedding today. But I’ll get him to sort it tomorrow for you. I’m sure it’s just a mix up like you say.’

I hang up and push the conversation to the back of my mind. Sid’s right I’m sure. It’s just a silly mix up. Right, all I need now is to hail a taxi and that’s no mean feat. I’ll probably have to flash them. Oh well, there’s a first time for everything.

 

* * *

 

 ‘This is it,’ I tell the taxi driver as I slip on my new Shoezone stilettos.

‘That’s twenty quid darling.’

‘What? You’ve got to be kidding. That’s bleeding extortion more like,’ I quip fumbling in my purse. ‘What a liberty.’

I reluctantly hand over the money and dash through the church gates, struggling with the strap of one of my sandals as I go. That will teach me to buy cheap. I wobble on one foot and fiddle with the strap when I feel a hand on my arm.

‘Can I help with this?’

I turn to the voice and come face to face with a very striking man. In fact, he is so good looking he sends an ache through me. He’s wearing a dinner suit and his white shirt complements his tanned skin. His warm hazel eyes twinkle with amusement and a small smile flickers over his face. His voice is soft but clear and seems to have a hint of laughter in it. Is he mocking me, or is it just his manner? He holds out his arm and I lean gently on it and adjust my shoe strap while trying to ignore the fact that my breathing has quickened. His arm feels warm and sends a tingle down my spine.

‘Ta very much,’ I say gratefully, removing my hand as quickly as possible before I end up ripping off his shirt.

Blimey, I haven’t felt this randy in months. He nods towards the church where the organ is playing softly.

‘I think they’ve started,’ he says in his soft cultured voice.

 I do believe I have lost the power of speech, bloody hell, that’s a first.

‘Shall we?’ he asks, heading towards the church.

Ooh, I’d love to but I’m not so sure a church is an appropriate place. For a split second I imagine him without that white shirt and feel myself go weak at the knees. I follow meekly, slipping in quietly at the back. I spot Fiona and Alistair but Julian is not with them, and I can see no sign of him. I love the smell of churches. I couldn’t tell you why. They are kind of sweet and musty all together. Although right now this church smells of Chanel perfume, Pierre Cardin aftershave and rose petals. There is also a faint smell of baby vomit which I am trying to ignore. I love weddings too. I don’t care where they are, I just like the atmosphere. Church weddings are best of course. The atmosphere in a registry office is nowhere near as holy is it? I’d like to get married in a church, not that Julian and I have ever talked about marriage even though we’ve been together for three years. And let’s face it, we can barely afford to eat at the moment, let alone plan a wedding. We never seem to have time to discuss our relationship. Either I’m dashing out to work, or panicking to finish a study assignment and you don’t normally bring up the subject of marriage as you’re tumbling out of bed or flying through the kitchen waving a piece of Marmite-smeared toast. Julian is working hard getting his restaurant going and if we are both home at the same time we are so knackered that we barely exchange more than twenty words. When it’s time for bed we are normally out for the count in seconds. Our sex life isn’t riveting but then whose is after three years? Mind you, my sister Caron and her boyfriend are at it nine to the dozen, or so she would have me believe, and they’ve been together for four years. It would be exciting though, I don’t mean not going at it nine to the dozen, although that would be pretty exciting if I could just get up the energy. No, I mean getting married would be exciting. I look down at my dress and feel my head again to check the diamante slide is still there. All the other women are wearing huge hats and fabulous dresses and I feel just a touch underdressed. I’m not good at top hat and tails weddings. I love my friends but I feel so out of place with some of them. I bet these guests didn’t buy their outfits from Oxfam. I pull the dress gently from my newly pierced navel and adjust my bra slightly. I love Oxfam. I don’t know what I would do without it, not that I want people to continually starve, I mean that obviously goes without saying, but charity shops are a godsend to people like me. It’s just a shame they don’t sell cheap food.

The wedding march roaring from the organ snaps me out of my daydream. I turn to see the bride enter, but am acutely aware of the good-looking man beside me and the fresh clean smell that comes from him. I gasp as Silvia glides down the aisle in her beautiful Vera Wang wedding dress.

‘She looks amazing,’ I sigh.

‘She looks okay,’ says the man beside me.

I gape at him.

‘You’re kidding, that’s a Vera Wang dress. I’d die for a Vera Wang dress.’

Oh God, I sound so shallow. I give him a sideways glance and try to guess his age. I’ve never been good with ages but at a guess I’d say he was early thirties. I wonder if his wife/girlfriend and Julian are stuck somewhere together. There is absolutely no way this sex god is single.

‘I like your dress,’ he says softly, looking into my eyes.

‘You do?’ I say surprised. ‘It was a fiver in Oxfam …’ I bite my lip. What am I saying? I don’t need any help in making a bad impression do I?

‘Alistair always thinks I look like crap. He’s dead embarrassed to be seen with me,’ I whisper.

‘Is Alistair your boyfriend?’

‘Heavens no, I’d rather slash my wrists …’ (heavens instead)

He must think me so common.

‘He’s my friend’s partner,’ I say, pointing at Fiona a few rows ahead, ‘but he’s a bit rude. My boyfriend Julian hasn’t arrived yet,’ I say quickly, although I’m not sure why.

‘I’m Brice Edmunds by the way.’

Brice? I should have known he would have a sexy name.

‘Harriet Lawson,’ I reply, wishing it were something much grander.

There is a hushed silence as the vicar begins the service. It is so unlike Julian to be late. Forty-five minutes later and it is all over and we are applauding Silvia and Hugh as they leave the church. I make my way outside and wait for Fi and Alistair while searching for Julian. Brice passes me and smiles. He could stop hearts with that smile. I spot Fiona and Alistair and head towards them. My God, his flies are undone. I’m so preoccupied with Alistair’s trousers that I send myself sprawling as my heel tangles in my dress. Fiona catches me and wraps me in a tight embrace. Thank God for a familiar face, (goodness)although it would have been much nicer had it been Julian’s.

‘On time as always,’ Alistair quips sarcastically. ‘There is something c-c-comforting about your consistent lateness.’

 ‘Hello Alistair, you look nice, like the Y-fronts.’

Fiona follows my eyes to Alistair’s zipper.

‘Christ Alistair, your flies are undone. Do something before that Jeremy guy sees you.’

‘What Jeremy guy?’ Alistair asks while fumbling with the zipper.

‘Over there. He’s a Lord or Sir or something. Anyway, zip your flies up for Christ’s sake.’

I peer at the man.

‘I don’t think he is,’ I say.

‘Are you sure? He looks familiar,’ she says.

‘That’s because he’s the parking attendant at Homebase,’ sighs Alistair.

I narrow my eyes.

‘He’s right you know,’ I say.

‘Are you sure? What’s he doing here?’

‘P-p-parking cars,’ huffs Alistair. ‘I wish you would wear your contact lenses. Honestly you’ll be curtsying to parking attendants before we know where we are.’

 ‘I do wear them. I’m just so tired and they make my eyes sore. I was sure my glasses were in my bag. I feel like I’m jet lagged. You know, that ‘when you’re not here’ feeling?’

‘I’m rather wishing I wasn’t. I feel like a sodding wallflower,’ I say looking around desperately for Julian.

‘A scarlet w-w-wallflower,’ sneers Alistair. ‘It’s a w-w-wedding you know, not a b-b-bloody period drama.’

What a cheek, some people just don’t appreciate individualism do they?

‘Bloody things,’ he mumbles yanking the zip up.

‘You look lovely,’ Fiona assures me. ‘I love the snap pearl buttons on that dress.’

‘You don’t think it’s a bit, you know, Little House on the Prairie?’ I say feeling self-conscious.

‘A little bit?’ sneers Alistair. ‘That’s an understatement.’

‘Ignore him, he wouldn’t know style if it bit him on the arse,’ Fiona says glaring at Alistair.

‘Have you seen Julian?’ I ask. ‘He should have been here ages ago. I’m sure he left well before I did. You know how he likes to be on time.’

‘Most people like to be on time,’ says Alistair.

‘I can’t see anybody without my contacts,’ moans Fiona, ‘let alone Julian. He’s probably got held up at the restaurant.’

I shake my head sending a pearl drop earring flying.

‘I’ve tried the restaurant, and his mobile, and he isn’t answering either. I’ve only brought a cheap card with me. He’s supposed to be bringing the present.’

‘I imagine he’s still bombing it down the A40 in your Mini,’ says Alistair casually.

I stare at him.

‘What?’

‘That’s just the thing. Alistair swears he saw Julian bombing it down the A40 in your Mini. I said that’s not possible. It’s completely the wrong way, and your Mini won’t do more than forty,’ says Fiona.

‘Not with an empty tank it won’t. That’s why I got a taxi here. I forgot about petrol. I don’t mean I forgot that the car takes petrol, of course. I’m not that dippy.’

‘That’s a relief,’ quips Alistair.

I shoot him a dirty look.

‘I just forgot I was on the red and I’m flat broke. Bombing it down the A40, are you sure he was in the Pooch? The thing will blow up.’

‘I don’t think it is p-p-possible to mistake your Mini. You know that distinctive whining sound that says Harriet’s Mini?’

Why on earth would Julian be ragging the Pooch down the A40 when he’s got his new van? I hope the wheels weren’t nicked from it. That’s all we need. The past nine months have been shit. Every single penny going into Julian’s dream of setting up a French restaurant which, so far, has not done very well at all. If it wasn’t for our friends eating there we wouldn’t have broken even. I’ve seriously started considering selling a kidney. Julian’s obviously, not mine. I’m not that crazy. After all, we could survive on three between the two of us. In fact, maybe I could sell off bits of Julian’s body until he has the restaurant up and running and I have all my studies paid for. Although, strictly speaking, not all our money has gone into the venture. I have been secretly squirrelling away some of my earnings. I decided from the start that one of us needed to put a little by and I’m so glad I did. I need to pay for the next part of my tuition fees as I am not planning to work in a laundrette all my life. I can’t help worrying though, what earthly reason would Julian have for racing down the A40 in my Mini? Come to think of it why is he ragging it down the A40 at all when the church is the opposite way? Still, Julian always did have a terrible sense of direction. All the same, it’s a bit odd. Julian would never be late unless there was a good reason.

‘It’s not like Julian to be late,’ I say voicing my concerns.

‘There’s a f-f-first time for everything,’ says Alistair.

‘It’s dead posh this wedding isn’t it?’ says Fiona, breaking into my thoughts. ‘There are Lords and MPs and everything. It’s a real high-class do isn’t it? They’re all big knobs.’

‘Is that a fact? Perhaps you should keep an eye on that zip Alistair. You don’t want people making comparisons,’ I laugh.

Fiona snorts and quickly turns away. Alistair scowls and storms off.

‘God, what’s wrong with him?’

‘He’s tired. He’s putting a lot of hours in at the office. We both are. Honestly, what with the rent and food …’

‘What’s food?’ I quip.

‘Oh come on Harriet, things aren’t that bad surely.’

I sigh.

‘No, that’s true. There are my mum’s scraps after all.’

‘C-c-come on,’ calls Alistair.

‘He’s not stammering much today, that’s good isn’t it?’

‘He’s taken a Valium,’ she says with a sigh and grabs my arm. ‘Come on, lead me to the reception. I can’t see a sodding thing beyond my hand without my contacts, and you know how I hate wearing glasses.’

 

 

 

A not for the faint hearted. A fun, Round Robin Christmas message.

( We hasten to add that the following bears no resemblance to anyone we know either alive or dead. If you recognise them, let us know and we can do our best to avoid them…)

Dear Friend
Well, it’s a while since we sent out the familiar Christmas update. In fact, it has been a whole year hasn’t it? And what a year it has been! So much to share about the Cook household. First, little Johnny passed with honours his grades, 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 in trumpet.

Johnny and his trumpet... Bless.
We are so proud. And on top of that, for his school project Johnny chose to travel to Libya (all on his own!) to train as a freedom fighter and single-handedly captured Colonel Gadhafi’s chief bodyguard. We are so proud. He came home safely, albeit having lost an eye, but hey, it was for a good cause and he has another and we give thanks for that.

Mike has also had an excellent year, after gaining an A, B, a pass in P.E. he was offered a place at Oxford. We are very proud and he very much enjoys being part of the team at the Oxford High Street branch of McDonalds. Not that it’s been all work and no play, Mike spent a fascinating four weeks working holiday in Pakistan, where he formed a tight network of friends and has since shared his experiences in the training camp there. Now Mike is taking a night class in chemistry and has grown a beard that looks quite fetching. He has matured so much this year he is like a different person. He has become a lot less materialistic and for Christmas only requested a large rucksack which we were

Mike, cycling back to Pakistan with his new rucksack. So proud.
happy to purchase for him. At last he seems to have found his way in life and we give thanks for that.

Sharon has very much matured this year. You would never think she has just turned sixteen. Sharon made some wonderful socially challenging friends in Tottenham this summer and we were so proud when she appeared on the Ten o’clock news! Imagine our delight when she came home the next morning with a wide screen TV under her arm, and a wonderful new boyfriend called Clyde. Clyde is very responsible and at age 35 a little older than Sharon but we think he will be a responsible influence as he often helps the police with their enquires and all the police in the area know him. We are thrilled that Sharon has this year landed

Our Sharon, looking good.
on her feet, she is really blooming these days and in the past three months has gained quite a bit of weight and has finally recovered from her sickness bug.

In April we did manage a wonderful week in Japan. It was so exciting and exhilarating. We had no idea it was such a busy place and was an experience of a lifetime. We both came back with such an amazing sun-tan, which we still have now. And for that we give thanks.

The view from our hotel in Japan.

We are very excited as In October Lynda was approached via email by a wealthy Colonel in Africa. It transpires that she is to inherit a large sum of money from a recently deceased dictator. It seems that her past good works have paid off. We took out a loan to pay the expenses that they required and are now waiting for the funds to be transferred to Lynda’s bank account which should happen any day now. And we give thanks for this extraordinary good fortune that has come our way. We will be donating a large sum to charity of course.

Sadly Uncle Jack passed away this year after a bout of MRSA following his overnight hospital stay with a severe migraine (hangover). At age 46 he had had a good innings and we give thanks for that.

Our last picture of Uncle Jack. He will be sadly missed.

Mother is doing very well after her fifth amputation, second triple bypass, liver transplant and Botox surgery. She is looking forward to her skiing holiday in January.

Mum, having fun as usual.

Andrew was promoted this year to work under the COE following his PhD after HR (AKA the CTO) realised his potential. However in March he contracted ADD when a close friend was given an ASBO, and was AWOL for some weeks. His BP went sky-high and he lost his GSOH eating nothing but BLT sandwiches. After a lot of TLC from Lynda he was back at work ASAP.
We hope you have all had a year like ours and wish you a very merry Christmas and best wishes for 2012
Love Lynda and Andrew
xx