A Touch of Poldark for your pleasure.

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I’m really excited to release the second in my Little Perran country romances. ‘A Village Romance’ This one is slighter racier than ‘A Christmas Romance’ and somewhat funnier. I thought I would give you a free sample of the first chapter. It was such fun and a little departure from my normal comedies and I do love writing romance, especially with a touch of erotica. And this one certainly had me fanning myself. It wasn’t quite Lady Chatterley but more Poldark, so I’m told. I rather think it is a bit Lady Chatterley-ish. Get the book and meet the sexy Rafe Wylde and decide for yourself. It’s only 99p. Get away from the referendum for a while.

You can buy your copy here

And hitting Amazon, Kobo and all other good bookshop on Saturday is ‘A Summer Romance’ the sequel to ‘A Village Romance’ and it goes tits up in that one.  Lot’s of racy stuff in this one. If you love the country and you love romance then you’ll enjoy this.

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I’m now back to writing my next comedy.  Talking of which ‘Perfect Weddings’ is still 99p but not for much longer.  So pop over quickly. Meanwhile below is Chapter One of ‘A Village Romance’ ENJOY!

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Chapter One of a Village Romance

 

‘Move to the country?’ protested Billy Baxter. ‘Why the hell would I want to move to the country? It’s all tractors and cow dung out there. Anyway, I don’t speak the lingo. I’ve got a nice little pad here thank you very much.’

Ian sighed.

‘I thought, a little break, you know, might get the old creative juices going again,’ he said, and gave a false laugh. Old was the operative word, he thought, but didn’t say it. The fact was he had no idea what to do with Billy Baxter these days.

Billy stopped strumming his guitar, shook his shoulder-length hair back and grinned.

‘What are you talking about? The creative juices have never stopped flowing. I tell you, this new one is my best yet.’

Ian took a swig of his lager and said,

‘The trouble is Billy, no one else has heard your new one yet to decide if it’s your best. I can’t get anyone to play it. Radio 1 just doesn’t air your kind of stuff any more, and Radio 2 …’

‘Radio 2,’ scoffed Billy. ‘That’s for old has-beens. I’m not Val bloody Doonican. You won’t get me in a bleeding rocking chair.’

Ian was silent. Billy whipped off his guitar and grabbed a lager.

‘So you want to farm me out to the country?’ he said sulkily. ‘And what does that achieve? Everyone rediscovers me when I’m not around is that it?’

‘The last time the press discovered you, you were on a boat with some bird half your age sitting on your …’

‘Yeah, I remember it well,’ Billy smiled.

‘Not the image you need Billy. Anyway, you could do with a rest. You’re burnt out,’ said Ian with faked sympathy.

‘Everyone else goes to The Priory and I go to the bloody country,’ said Billy sourly.

‘I don’t think you can afford The Priory. You’ve got to be doing really well to enjoy the privilege of having a meltdown there.’

‘But the bloody country, come on Ian. It’s all barn dances and Women’s Institutes. It’s not me,’ Billy said as he picked up his guitar again.

‘I think it will be good for your image. It suits Elton John and that lot,’ said Ian, resting his hands on his beer belly.

‘It suits Elton John to be a poof. I suppose you want me to become one of them too. Anyway, they play Elton John on Radio 1 …’

‘You’re not exactly in Elton John’s league and …’

‘What about Graham whatsisface? I thought you were getting me on his show.’

‘They’ve got a lot of celebs lined up …’

‘I’m a celeb for Christ’s sake.’

‘New celebs Billy, like Finn Morrison and …’

‘Huh,’ scoffed Billy. ‘Have you heard his record, it’s …’

‘No one calls them records any more Billy,’ sighed Ian. ‘Anyway they turned you down for the Graham Norton show.’

Billy shook his head in despair.

‘What about Desert Island Discs?’

‘That’s Radio 4,’ Ian reminded him. ‘You hate Radio 4.’

‘That’s true. I do,’ agreed Billy thoughtfully.

They sat in silence for a few moments and sipped their lagers.

‘How about one of those reality programmes?’ Billy said finally. ‘I can do that. I can cope in the jungle. That will give the record a boost.’

‘Forget about the jungle, Billy. You just said you wouldn’t cope in the country.’

Billy sighed.

‘You’re my manager and the best you can come up with is that I retire to the country. I’m only fifty-six. Surely you can set me up with some gigs.’

‘I’ve tried Billy, I’ve tried. There’s a lot of competition …’

‘Huh, you call this new crap ‘music’? If that’s competition then I’ll eat my arse,’ he scoffed.

‘I’m thinking we could build a new image for you. You know, like Paul O’Grady and Julian Clary. They went to the country and then …’

‘One ended up on Strictly Come Dancing and the other’s doing a bloody animal show. Christ, I hate animals and I can’t dance for toffees. Why do you keep lumping me in with bum bandits?’

‘Gays, Billy. People call them gays these days. It’s image building mate. If you look like a country gent we may have a chance of getting you on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

Billy’s eyes sparkled.

‘Wicked.’

‘I do wish you would stop talking like you’re stuck in the eighties,’ Ian sighed.

‘And you think moving to the country will be good for my image?’ Billy asked doubtfully.

Ian nodded.

‘I’ll put it out to the media. We may even get a story.’

Billy punched the air.

‘We can say I’m going there to meditate and stuff. That I’m into tantric sex like Sting. They like all that. We can do some photo shoots of me in those yoga positions. Isn’t there some charity in Nepal I can support? How about if we give Richard Gere a bell, he’s into all that stuff isn’t he?’

Ian closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

‘Let’s keep it a bit more low key shall we?’ he said patiently. ‘Keep the press guessing for a bit and then we’ll give them a story. I know the break up with Clara was tough but you’ve got to stop knocking off twenty-five-year-olds. It looks a bit, you know …’

‘It looks a bit what?’

‘Immature. You look like you’re going through a midlife crisis. Give yourself a nice break. A good bit of image building is what we need. The press will be crying out to know what’s happened to you.’

Not that they could really give a shit, he thought, but didn’t say that to Billy. There was a lot Ian thought but never said.

‘You know Clara’s asking for dog bloody maintenance?’ scoffed Billy. ‘That bleeding dog is better groomed than I am.’

‘That’s not hard, Billy.’

‘She feeds it caviar. I bloody ask you. It nearly bit my whatsit off once. All I was trying to do was get into my own bed. It was my bed of course. Comes to something when the only threesome you have with your tart is with her bloody poodle.’

‘And you really should stop calling her a tart in interviews, Billy. It doesn’t look good. That’s partly why she’s taking you to the cleaners.’

Billy sighed.

‘So where in the country do you think I should go?’ he asked. He pulled open two more cans and gave one to Ian.

‘Here,’ said Ian, and handed him an estate agent’s leaflet. ‘There’s a nice little place for rent. Higgledy Piggledy Cottage in a Cotswold village, you can’t get more country than that.’

Billy looked at the leaflet and shook his head.

‘Who’d have thought it, me, Billy Baxter in the country. I’ll be herding chickens next.’

‘It looks peaceful. It will do you the world of good,’ smiled Ian.

Billy studied the leaflet and then picked up his guitar.

‘Sounds a real drag but if you think it will improve my image …’

Ian lifted his can in celebration.

‘Here’s to your new life in Little Perran,’ he said, barely able to hide the relief from his voice.

 

 

Going All The Way With A Bus Driver

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So, I’ve got a bus pass. Let’s not go too much into how I got one, okay? I’d rather not go there. Anyway, a free bus I have. It’s been in my purse for months. I live out in the sticks, where buses run hourly (if that) so the thought of standing around waiting for a bus when I could pop into Oxford quite easily in my car seemed a silly choice to make … until. I met my friend Marie in Oxford for a few hours shop and some lunch and the car parking charge was over ten quid. Now, that’s just taking the Michael right? So, when we arranged to have another jolly (as Marie terms it) around Oxford, I thought why not use my bus pass? It’s free after all.

So, Organised I became. And that’s unusual for me. I checked the bus number, G3. It came to my village at a quarter to the hour, every hour. I then checked the times of the returning buses, emailed them to my phone. I prepared a chicken curry in the slow cooker, turned it onto low, after all I would be back by three so it would be safe enough. Armed with everything I needed for my bus trip, I set off to get the 11.45 bus which would get me into Oxford by 12.30 and all free of course. Marie never said a word but I sensed she was uncertain about the whole thing. It was a lovely sunny spring day. Perfect for my first venture on a bus, after all it must have been all of thirty years since I went on a bus. It was lovely. I travelled through several other local villages before heading onto the main road, and then finally towards Oxford Town itself.

‘Let me know when you arrive?’ Marie had texted.

I don’t know why she was so worried. I arrived on time and we had a great shop and several coffees. In fact we had been enjoying it so much that we lost track of time. It was almost four.

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‘Fancy something to eat?’ asked Marie.

My stomach churned at the thought of the chicken curry. It would be okay wouldn’t it? It was on low anyway. But to be on the safe said. I text my stepson who lived nearby to ask if he could pop in and turn it off, after all, better safe than sorry and then off we trotted to Pizza Express. Halfway through my phone bleeped. It was a text from my stepson.

‘Sorry not at home today, won’t be back until after 5.30.’

My stomach flipped over. Oh no. I’d just presumed he’d popped in around four and turned it off. Visions of my cottage on fire now began to haunt me. Oh no, this is a disaster. Even a free pass isn’t worth my house burning down.

We finished up our food and I glanced again at the time on my phone.

‘I’ll be in time for the 5.30 bus,’ I said confidently.

But I won’t be home until well gone six and by then we’ll either have char-grilled chicken curry or a burnt down cottage. I sent Andrew a message saying I should be home before him but to be aware the slow cooker had been on since 9.

‘You worry too much,’ he replied.

‘Where do you get your bus from?’ asked Marie as we hurried along, both of us conscious of my burning cottage.

My brain froze. I had no idea.

‘Presumably outside Debenhams,’ I said.. ‘That’s where I got off.’

‘Probably,’ said Marie, unworried.  ‘My friend used to get that bus and she picked it up around Debenhams.’

We kissed goodbye and she trotted off to her bus stop and me to find mine, except the G3 wasn’t mentioned at the Debenhams bus stop, or at the bus stop further down. I strolled around the corner to the next lot of bus stops. The sun had now gone down and the wind was sharp and cold and I didn’t have a coat. I tried not to panic, after all the G3 had to go back too didn’t it? Finally I found it. G3. I double checked it did go to my village, although I knew G3 was the right one. And then I waited and I waited and I waited. It was getting colder and there seemed to every bus in Oxford but the G3. I checked my phone again. There should have been one at 5.30. Then I saw it, large as life and the most beautiful sight ever, the G3 bus. Except it said it was terminating at Woodstock, which was quite a way from my village. Never the less I jumped on and checked.

‘You want the next one love,’ said the driver. ‘I’m not going the whole way.’

I sighed and clambered off into the cold again. Meanwhile another passenger waiting at the stop asked me about his bus. I simply gave him a blank look. I barely knew which, was my bus, let alone what was his. Plus, I had a lot more on my mind. Like my slow cooker. It seemed my stepson at this point was going to pop in and then he saw my car and presumed I was home. How was he to know I’d taken the stupid bus?

Finally another G3 came along and I jumped on, sighing with relief. Maybe I would be home just in time before the dinner dried up totally. I struggled to relax and focused on the two women chattering away behind me. My ears pricked up when one of them said

‘This is the Enstone bus isn’t it?’

I nearly threw up into my handbag. Enstone, what did she mean Enstone? Enstone is miles from my village. No, she must have it wrong surely. It’s the G3 and it goes to my village via Woodstock. Yes, here we are coming into Woodstock. The bus goes through the village as I hoped and then travels along the road that leads to the turn off for my village. I check the time. It’s now almost six. Andrew will soon be home. Please let him come home to a charred chicken rather than a charred cottage. The turning for my village loomed ahead. I’m ten minutes from home. I may even make it before Andrew. I get my phone out ready to dial 999. Best to be prepared, I always think.slowcook3

But the bus flies pass my turning and continues on into the countryside. Oh no, he is going to Enstone which is miles away. Has he gone insane? I jump from my seat, almost flying into his lap as he brakes sharply.

‘You want this stop?’ he asks.

I stammer out my village and he looks curiously at me.

‘I’m going to Chipping Norton,’ he says.

Oh my God that’s even further away. He may as well have said Dublin.

‘But … I thought …’ I begin.

‘You needed the Charlton G3,’ he said.

How many bloody G3’s are there? Why can’t there one like everyone else has.

‘But …’ I begin, but it’s no good telling him about my charcoal cottage is there

‘You’ll have to go all the way with me now,’ he says, moving off.

I sigh and text Andrew, fighting back my tears.

‘I’m so sorry for burning the house down. I only wanted to save parking fees.’

A quick message back tells me he is home and that home is still there in fact, and that the curry looks great. Meanwhile, I’m travelling through the countryside of Oxfordshire.

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We arrive at Chipping Norton where the driver tells me he has to wait a while before turning back.  We then go all the way back and finally reach the turn off for my village but instead of taking it he stops.

‘This is you,’ he says

‘But aren’t you going to …’

‘You need to cross over, get the next one. It should be five minutes and that will take you to the village.’

Oh for goodness sake.

‘One consolation,’ he says.

Oh really, is there one?

‘You won’t do this again will you?’

He’s quite right of course.   I cross the road, get the oncoming bus and get home at 6.45.

Still it could be argued I got the most out of my free bus pass.

You can buy Lynda’s latest bestselling comedy novel ‘Perfect Weddings’  here

 

Giving is receiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy Cambodia with me.

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

Cow dung and cream teas


There’s nothing like doing a bit of research down on the farm is there? Except I’m not a real born and bred country girl as many of you may have already worked out. I’ve spent the past eleven years fighting a constant battle with wood lice, mice and spiders. Give me a lizard any day and I am fine. But a slug in the kitchen is my biggest nightmare. But I have decided the next novel is to be set on a farm and that my research can easily be done on the internet and via emails with a lovely farmer that I tracked down. Not so. Andrew thinks differently.
Last week he surprised me by saying.
‘I’m taking you away for the weekend’
Those immortal words every woman dreams to hear.
‘To a working farm in Cornwall, where you can see the milking and get up close to and smell the dung,’ he continued.
Not the words every woman dreams to hear.
All the same it sounded like a good idea. Nothing like experiencing the real thing now is there? So on the Friday morning we left our builders with their tea and doughnuts (oh yes the builders and the extension are a whole other blog) and began our drive down to Cornwall. I learnt it was down from a very irritated Andrew after I had mentioned to a few people that we were going up to Cornwall to stay on a farm. Up or down I can’t see as it matters but it seems it certainly does. Of course we had forgotten it was the school holidays and the traffic was a nightmare and the service stations were completely packed. You know the kind of thing. You revert to a Cornish pasty from the van outside because the queues are unbearable and the loos look like they have been raided and all that was worth stealing was toilet roll. There isn’t a roll to be found for neither love nor money. I found myself sitting on the loo with hand dryers going like no tomorrow frantically searching for just the smallest piece of tissue in my bag. I was desperate and finally rummaged to the bottom to find something (I’m not telling you what, but it did what was needed)
And so we continue and finally arrive at the farm where the sheep dog Molly greets me with a leap up my trousers. It has been pouring with rain in Cornwall. Everywhere is muddy and so is Molly and now so are my trousers.
‘Good boy,’ I say good-naturedly.
‘I think you mean good girl don’t you?’ asks Andrew. ‘Especially with a name like Molly.’

Molly

Okay, so I’m a bit tired. But Molly didn’t seem bothered. In fact she jumped all over me again in gratitude.
We are shown to our room with a promise of a farm tour the next day.
It rained all night and all the next day. But a farm tour I got, or more a tour of mud and dung.
Pearl, our lovely B&B lady told us to wear our old clothes. For her that was an old boiler suit. For me it was the only rain mac I possessed and my wellingtons over an old pair of leggings. I’m not a country girl remember. Andrew however looked well at ease in his old jeans, wellies and jacket.
Well, I cannot begin to tell you. I was the one with the camera which seemed a little unfair as even in my Wellington’s I am gingerly moving through the mud while trying to snap away. Pearl and Andrew forge ahead while I am slurping my way through muddy fields and several times almost went head first in the mud to comments of,
‘You okay with the mud there? From Pearl before she surged ahead.
And from Andrew,
‘You’re okay you’ve got your Wellington’s on.’
Andrew with Pearl. Looking sexy indeed. Andrew that is.

This isn’t mud this is quicksand. Even Molly is no help. She just keeps pawing me for more strokes. Talk about me, me me.
I slosh my way to the milking sheds and sigh with relief. Hopefully now we are in the dry I can relax. I take more photos and slap down Molly’s muddy paw for the hundredth time.
‘Let me show you the dung heap. That’s the dung spreader you can hear,’ says Pearl proudly.
‘We had to hire the spreaders. As we have twelve months of dung to spread we will need to work as long as possible to make the most of the hire. We only have them for four days.’
Holy Crap! (As one might say in ‘Fifty shades of Grey’) Twelve months’ worth of shit? She is seriously taking me to see and of course smell twelve months of shit? I am seriously thinking there are many places where the novel could be set and perhaps now is the time to tell Andrew I have changed my mind. But before I can he is again forging ahead with Pearl through the mud, slime, and now the dung. I slip and slide all over the place and I feel sure I cry out at one point but hey who is listening to me. I’m only the writer. The smell is now overpowering and there in front of me is the dung heap. It is fascinating. Pearl tells me how they will take the dung and spread it over the fields.
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Cow dung

‘Fascinating,’ I say and it is but not so fascinating that I want to stand for fifteen minutes hearing all about it. Andrew, however, who has to leave the room if I should ever so much as dare to fart seems happy to stand all day in cow shit with the rain pouring on him. I am beginning to find it quite sexy. If you believe that then you will believe anything.
But it is quite amazing to watch I have to admit. I have never seen so much dung in my whole life.
We finally leave the smell, and sounds of the dung spreader behind us and head for the fields. Well Andrew and Pearl headed for the fields. I just kind of sloshed my way along. Then we’re in the farm buildings and facing me with wide eyes and wet noses were the cutest calves ever. Pearl explained that the female calves will be kept for milking. We were silent as I coo cooed over a male calf with unusual markings and then asked ignorantly.
‘What happens to the male calves?’ I asked
‘They go to the slaughter-house,’ said Andrew.

Right there right then, of course, I wanted to rescue every calf on the farm. In fact every calf residing in Cornwall I could have rescued at that precise moment. But like everything I quickly forgot. Had she offered me roast beef later that night I’m sure I would have thought nothing of it. As it happens it was roast chicken.
A quick trip into the fields or in my case more a quick slip and slide and we were heading back the whole time listening to Pearl’s wonderful stories of farming life and life in the farming community.
With an aching back and aching legs probably from all the tension I built up in my legs trying to stay upright, I made hundreds of notes. Andrew then took for a wonderful cream tea. Seriously it was one of the best cream teas ever. The scone was huge, the jam was runny and the clotted cream was divine. If you are ever near Bude do find the Lavender tea rooms. I can’t recommend them highly enough. It was just warm enough for us to sit outside overlooking the lavender fields. Heaven indeed.
Nothing like a bit of dung research to get the juices flowing, so to speak. Let’s hope it worked. 15,000 words into the new novel so can’t be bad…

A Cambodian catastrophe


So, it is now official that I do not save my catastrophes for home only. I also manage quite easily to have them in Cambodia too. It is typical of my luck that the loo in my en-suite bedroom got blocked. My stepson and his wife forgot to tell me to be economical with the loo roll. Those closest to me know that loo roll is my one extravagance in life (as if.) We have a problem and no plunger. I suggest asking the landlord. Down we trot only to find he has gone out. I cannot face the thought of a blocked loo all night. Travelling between bedroom and loo is where I get most of my exercise! I suggest asking at the restaurant opposite.
‘They must have to plunge a fair bit,’ I say ‘seeing as they rent out rooms too.’
James agrees but feels less inclined to walk into a restaurant and ask for a plunger. After all he does have to continue living here. However, I don’t speak Khmer. But I agree to have a go. After all I did block the toilet. I walk confidently across and into the restaurant full of dining tourists. Of course, it is at this point I very much want to walk back. How do I explain a blocked toilet in front of all these people who are happily eating? I lean across the bar in the manner of a conspirator. The waitress leans forward expectantly.
‘We have a blocked toilet,’ I whisper.
‘Oh,’ she says.
‘Do you have a plunger?’ I ask while miming the actions of plunging and not very well at that.
I can’t imagine how I look.
‘Oh yes,’ she says and rushes away to return a few minutes later with a large plunger which she diplomatically hands to me behind the counter. I feel like I’m doing a drugs deal.
I walk head held high from the bar swinging the plunger in my hand.
James thrilled that I have obtained one, agrees to do the plunging, except the plunger seems too small. Why am I not surprised? This is me this is happening to after all.
‘It doesn’t seem to have great suction. It’s too small,’ says James.
Too small? Good lord how big does it need to be?
It is then decided, by me. Who else would make such suggestions? That I should hold it over the hole and maybe this will help. James seems unconvinced but searches out some rubber gloves for me. So we try again. It looks rather like we are about to perform an operation and with James being a nurse it all seems quite apt. Still no luck but I spur James on to keep trying as a blocked loo in this heat is too unbearable to even think about. Finally, there is a loud spluttering sound and we are cleared.
I walk across the road to return the plunger to find the restaurant now has more people dining. I look around for someone to hand the plunger to but they are all busy serving. The waitress sees me and smiles. She wanders back behind the bar and holds her hand out. Cringing with embarrassment I hand the plunger across the counter, carefully avoiding the Cointreau bottle.
‘Thanks so much,’ I whisper and hurry back across the road.
Why do I feel this is one of many catastrophes I will have?

The one that got away


If anyone told me I would have pet tadpoles in my kitchen I would have laughed in their face. But, pet tadpoles I have. In fact, the thought of releasing them back into the wild is making me feel quite sad. It is going to be something of a wrench.
How did you manage to get tadpoles in your kitchen, I hear you ask.
It all started with a routine walk around our village. We love our home in Oxfordshire and feel very privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the country. We began our Sunday stroll about four on a Sunday afternoon. We had just had a lovely couple of sunny hot days. We walked past the church and on towards the small pond by the meadow where the frogs lived. Except, there were no frogs, in fact there was barely any water as the pond had dried up. Struggling in the small amount of water were about a hundred tadpoles. We stared in horror trying to work out what we could do. Andrew suggested we go back and find a container and return to rescue them. Without giving it anymore thought we rushed back. I rummaged through the kitchen cupboards and found a huge vase that I never use and off we went again. With a small plastic cup Andrew rescued almost all of them.
We plucked several pieces of pond weed and trudged back to take the tadpoles to their new home. We filled the vase with fresh clean water and they all swooped to the bottom.
‘You’ve killed them,’ I cried.
‘I’ve stunned them. They will be okay,’ says a confident Andrew.
He was right. They were fine. They have resided in the kitchen for several weeks now and the pond is only just starting to fill up again. Bendy (the cat) has given them odd looks but overall has not seemed very interested.
Then, the day came when they had outgrown the vase. Again I rummaged through the cupboards. Ah, yes. I had a large bowl that I used once for transporting soup. I won’t need that again (she hopes) I hand it to Andrew and we look at each other. How to do this without losing our precious babies down the sink? It was nerve wracking. Out came the sieve. The kitchen bowl was emptied. Deep breaths taken and Andrew empties the contents of the vase into the sieve. I squeeze my eyes shut, convinced they will all fall through the holes, into the sink and down the plug hole. Oh, what a thought. Some tadpole mother I would have been. How would I be able to live with myself if I killed a hundred would be frogs?
‘Are they okay?’ I whisper.
I open my eyes to see them wriggling in the sieve. Quickly Andrew tips them into their new home. A big sigh of relief from us both. Then, we see a tiny black wriggling thing on the kitchen counter. The one that got away. I grab a spoon and hand it to Andrew who gently scoops it up and pops it into the bowl.
‘He’ll have a big story to tell,’ he laughs.

Our growing babies
Our growing babies

My heart is still in my mouth that I cannot laugh back. My legs are all weak. I mean what a state to get into over a tadpole. You’re so kind, you are thinking. Well, I guess you’re right. Although there was the day that I almost killed them with an overdose of stale bread after misreading a text from Andrew. As you can see Andrew is in charge of our babies. I noticed a stale piece of bread in the bread bin and text Andrew to ask how much they could have. I don’t want to be the one responsible for killing them you see. I’m sure you understand.
‘Give them what they want I guess. There is a big piece in there that should be thrown out.’
I took it to mean there was a big piece of bread in the bread bin that should be thrown out, so the tadpoles can have it. What he meant was there was a large piece of bread in the tadpole bowl that was no good anymore. Whoops. I piled in the bread, along with what was already in their bowl. Andrew comes home to a bowl so murky he cannot even see our babies, let alone see if they are still alive.
‘You’ve probably killed them on bread overdose,’ he accuses.
I nearly cry.
Luckily all is well and once the bread is cleared out they can breathe again and so can I.
As I write this, babies are doing well thank you and getting very big. I fear I will wake up one day to a kitchen full of frogs… I’m not kissing them all, so forget it.

The things we do for love


My husband has always been more adventurous than me, although since meeting him I have become more so. It is amazing how much influence another person can have over you. When we first met I had something of an adventurous spirit but not an ounce of what I have now. Any fears I had of trying something new was quickly quashed when Andrew introduced me to his microlight.Andrew and his microlight
We had been together less than a year when he drove me to the airfield where he had a hangar. I had no idea what a hanger even was, except something you hang your clothes on. In fact I had no idea what a microlight was and I do wonder now if I had had even the slightest clue, would I have gone that day. It was a lovely Summer’s evening. Very warm and all Andrew seemed to talk about was thermals, while I wondered why we would even need them. Of course the thermals he was talking about was rough bumpy warm air and not extra warm clothing. I asked more about the restaurant we were going to afterwards than I did about the flying. After all, I had been on many flights; it couldn’t be much different from that could it?
Oh, good lord, it was very different.
We parked outside the hanger and Andrew opened it up and wheeled out what looked like a motor cycle. I watched in fascination as he checked it over thoroughly before wheeling out a huge wing. My stomach lurched at this point when it dawned on me that this was the wing that would keep me in the air. I looked frantically around the hanger for a possible plane. I didn’t mind how small as long as it was something enclosed. There was no plane. I then looked for the cover that would go over the top of the motorcycle thing, but there wasn’t one. I watched with trembling legs and beating heart as Andrew positioned the wing on and fastened the bolts. He then handed me a flying suit and helmet. I nearly passed out. My god, I can’t go in that, can I? I quickly learnt that a microlight is pretty much a motorcycle with a wing and not much else. Well, a motor obviously. Heavens, did he actually say that he can fly up to about 10,000 feet in this? Not with me in it, thinks I?
‘Ready to go?’ he asks with a smile.
I climb into my flying suit and zip it up with shaking hands. This is it, I shall die and this relationship that I had hoped would be something good will be no more. I stare dumbfounded at the two small seats and try not to picture myself sitting in it at 10,000 feet. I feel sick. Andrew helps me clamber in and helps me on with my helmet. He then affixes the mike that will allow me to speak to him while we are up there. Oh, God, what if I fall out. He straps me in tightly and I thank god for that. I wonder if I should make a few last calls from my mobile, you know my final goodbyes and all that? But before I can do anything he is climbing into the front seat and starting the propeller.
‘Clear prop.’
I would come to know those words very well in the coming years.
‘How long have you been flying?’ I ask in a shaky voice.
‘Since yesterday,’ he jokes
‘About ten years,’ came his confident response.
Well, he must know what he is doing. We motorcycle down the track and stop at the runway. It’s now or never. I can either run, or close my eyes and pray. I choose the latter. You only live once after all.
‘Golf, mike tango, Yankee, echo is lined up for immediate departure.’ he says in one of those typical pilot type voices.
‘Golf Yankee echo is cleared for take off at your discretion.’ Advises a voice in response and I wonder what at your discretion means.
‘Golf yankee echo, take off.’ Says Andrew and before I can ask what is happening we are storming down the runway at about 50 miles an hour. The things I do for love. Then, we really do have lift up and, oh, here are the thermals. A few bumps and I feel myself clinging onto Andrew. Well, we certainly got close on this flight. We go higher and higher and I feel myself tense and tense even more. Finally we are so high that I don’t care anymore and the views are spectacular. I am like a bird.

The wind blows against my face and ahead of me is a hot air balloon.
The cows and sheep below look like tiny dots and I see people sitting in a field having a picnic and they begin waving to us. I wave back. Andrew takes us higher and higher and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. The colours of the fields seem to change with the shifting light and the shadows are incredible. There is one shaky moment when he asks me to lean over the microlight very slightly so he can check the fuel. I do so and find myself seemingly dangling from the flying motorbike. We turn, go lower and then rise up again. I am having a wonderful time. We skirt around Blenheim Palace where they have a function happening and the driveway is lined with flaming torches. From 3,000 feet the scene is amazing.
I was disappointed when that flight ended and as the years went on I went up many times with Andrew. On one flight I leant forward and guided the microlight by the handlebars, with Andrew assisting of course. I helped wash down the wing and have even been known to sew it before now. I do not enjoy bumpy flights however and always avoided even slightly windy days. We have visited other airfields and have enjoyed the sights of Oxfordshire from the air.

Just over two years ago the microlight failed its MOT and although we got it repaired Andrew felt it’s time was running out. We were both busy but he was busier and had his studies to focus on. After a lot of thought Andrew sold it.

We have done many other exciting things since and I know I would never have done them had it not been for Andrew. Navigating the whole island of Boracay in the Philippines for instance on a motorcycle. I had never been on one in my life and Andrew hadn’t ridden one in years, but what a fab time we had.
Oh, yes the things you do for love.

A builder, a builder, my kingdom for a builder

Now I’m not a difficult person. I don’t ask for very much. I don’t want diamonds or extravagant holidays. I try to see the positive in everything and have vision. However if anyone had told me what was in store for me at Marlborough Cottage after we purchased it I think I would have been a touch nervous. We moved in over ten years ago and we were very aware that the kitchen and downstairs bathroom would need to be replaced at some point and that the whole cottage needed renovating. At the time I had such vision and really imagined that three years on we would have a beautiful cottage but as usually happens life takes over. Money was not available and everything seemed to cost more than we could ever have imagined. After decorating the whole house we felt that other things could wait and we could live adequately in Marlborough cottage as it was. This was not always a happy state of affairs. Our first winter was like something out of the film ‘Ethan Frome’ and if you haven’t seen that film, then you really must.’My hands cold as ice’ (Mattie from ‘Ethan Frome’) In our bathroom my hands tits and bum ‘cold as ice’ I kid you not. I swear if you do not pee quickly it will turn to ice mid-stream. My shower gel has iced up in the can before now. I see you shaking your head. It is true. The only heating in the bathroom is a little fan thing on the wall and that has to go on at least forty minutes before a shower. After a few weeks I devise the perfect routine.  First put bath towel in tumble dryer for thirty minutes before shower and fan heater on about twenty minutes before shower and then quick dive into bathroom and under the hot water where skin tingles from going to one extreme to the other. Jump from shower, wrap hot towel around oneself and dive into warm living room. What a palaver. But we managed to survive. The other problem in the winter became the night time wee. The bedroom is also freezing and the only saving grace is the electric blanket which I assure you has stayed on number one all night this winter. Andrew and I must have more cuddles than any couple I know.

Our bedroom, quaint if not cold.
A horrified friend warned me this could be dangerous, not the cuddling, of course, but the blanket. Andrew is not that electrifying in bed, well he might be, but I wouldn’t tell you now, would I? There is a risk of electrocution she advised. I assured her the risk of frost bite was even higher. Having once braved the loo in the night and returning to bed like an ice cube I decided drastic action was needed. Let’s say I devised a little loo for us upstairs. I won’t go into more detail. Then, of course there is the kitchen. I don’t have a kitchen in the winter. I have just one big freezer. The olive oil in my cupboard is currently frozen as is the peanut butter and honey. Oh, it is not a joke. On Sunday I convinced Andrew to help me prepare dinner because more than fifteen minutes in the kitchen means you cannot chop carrots or onions, especially if they have been in the fridge. I got as far as the garlic and could no longer feel my fingers. We almost collided with each other in our rush to dive back into the warm living room. Oh, you are pitying me, I can feel it. The waves of pity are just penetrating through the virtual world of the internet.  But I get to be very close to my lovely hubby if nothing else. At least the cold is better than the rain which floods in under the back door. In the winter at least the bathroom is not plagued by wood lice. You see, one can always find the positive. In an attempt to keep warm I light lots of candles. Perhaps not the most sensible thing seeing as this house has a history of fires. It’s okay it is safe to read on but only just.  About 89 years ago poor Miss Marshall lit a candle in her bedroom, the same bedroom which is now ours. Our neighbour now 92 remembers it well.

‘Smoke was billowing from the window and we rushed to get in. The next thing I remember was Miss Marshalls charred body falling through the ceiling and landing on your living room floor.’

Now that does make you shiver? and I won’t lie and say we have not heard noises from upstairs because sometimes we have.

The lounge where Miss Marshall fell to her death
Another blog posting I think. Then, of course there is the odd case of the house deeds which were strangely lost in a fire at the solicitors. Our predecessor’s Molly and Clifford had two fires in the freezing lean to which I referred to earlier. Then there was the day that yours truly nearly went up in flames. Andrew was upstairs working. I had just showered and quickly grabbed my flowery flowing skirt that tied at the waist. It was a bit chilly so I decided to light some candles to warm the place up. I only meant to warm the place up, you understand, but someone else obviously had other intentions of warming me up. I had already lit those on the fireplace and was lighting the few I had put on the coffee table when I had a strange hot sensation in my leg. I ignored it, as you do. I then went to rub it only to find my skirt was on fire. Of course I can write calmly about this now. I frantically tried to untie the knot of the tie-up that held my skirt while repeatedly calling Andrew. God help me the damn thing was knotted. I began to frantically tug at it to get it over my hips, while the flames were licking further and further up my skirt.
‘Andrew,’ I screamed hysterically. No response. ‘Andrew, help me, please.’
No response. Oh my god I was going to burn alive like Miss Marshall. I ran dramatically towards the wall almost knocking myself out. Smoke was everywhere along with floating pieces of my skirt as Andrew opened the door at the bottom of the stairs. He did not rush, it seems, because he thought I had seen a spider or a dead mouse. I ask you! Trust me I do not scream hysterically when I see a mouse or even a spider. When I am burning to death I may have a tendency to scream hysterically, justified I think.
I swore never to have candles in the house again. But of course I lapsed. A few years went by and they were no more fire incidents so I put it down to bad luck. Then only a few months ago when Andrew was in Taiwan, Bendy and I were sitting cosily on the couch when there was a strange bang from upstairs. Bendy jumped onto the coffee table almost knocking over a vase of flowers. I jumped up to catch them, throwing the cushion I was using to lean my net book upon, straight onto the candles on the table.
Gently stroking Bendy I realised there was a burning smell. I looked behind me to see the cushion on fire. I quickly doused it with water and sighed when I saw the large hole. Was this Miss Marshall striking again? We never did find out what the bang was. But we are brave here and do not give in to ghosts and still light candles. Full blog posting on this here. Are you over your trembling, shall I continue. Okay, Onto less frightening house complications.

Last summer we replaced the front and back doors. Ten years on and we started thinking we really should do more. The past few years we got side tracked with family weddings, trips abroad, Andrew’s studies which seemed to go on forever but yay he finally graduated to Dr Cook in August

Andrew's graduation
and there was a sigh of relief all round. So, this year is the year of the builder or at least so we thought. We phoned the builder who had built a new home for our neighbours and he seemed very keen.

‘I’ll pop to see you,’ he said.

Three weeks later we phoned again to see if he was still interested.

‘Oh, yes, I’ll pop round on Friday.’

And he did and he advised us of an architect whom we contacted.

‘I’ll pop a quote in the post for you this week.’

A week later we went on holiday for two weeks. We returned, still no quote. We phoned, no answer, we left a message, no response. Perhaps he is sick or something, I said sympathetically. Oh, I am so innocent.

Andrew not so innocent phoned several other builders to get as many quotes as possible.  Meanwhile, we had the plans drawn up and applied for planning permission. Still no quote. Then the lovely Julian came. He was very impressive and spent a long time with us.

‘I’ll put a quote in the post. You should have it before Christmas.’

We got planning permission. Christmas came, Christmas went. We flew to Cambodia and flew home to NO QUOTES. I was in tears.

‘We will never get a builder.’

‘Things take time,’ Andrew advises ‘It may take a few weeks.’

A few weeks! I am beginning to think these builders work on years. Three months later we ask more builders for quotes, we ask our friends if they know builders. Andrew begins to talk of doing it himself.

‘I’ll take a week off work,’ he says with a grin.

Not funny!

Another builder visits. He doesn’t even ask to see where the extension will go but from the plans assures us it will not be a problem.

‘I’ll pop the quote in the post.’

Haven’t we heard that before?

Another visits and thinks we want an extension to cover the whole garden… We explain the plans and tell him we want a new kitchen/living area to go onto the existing lounge and a downstairs loo plus a bathroom upstairs and another small bedroom. He says he will have to ask his mates who couldn’t make it today. At the word mates, we look at each other suspiciously. He also happily advises us that if he can’t do it he knows someone who throws these things up really fast and cheap. Yes, right…

Three months on we get a quote from the first builder for 60,000 pounds, minus fittings and decorating. I pick Andrew up off the floor and ask can he take two weeks off work to do it himself. He scoffs. Then nice Julian’s quote pops through the door. Oh, at last. Except it isn’t a quote. It is Julian telling us he now can’t do it. Basically he has been offered bigger jobs. Charming.

We wait for ‘It’s not a problem’ builder quote.  Meanwhile another one visits and seems very unassuming.

‘I’ll get the quote to you in a week’ and HE DOES. Impressed we are.

Andrew looks into the price of scaffolding and I start to worry that he is serious about doing it himself. Oh, good lord.

The builder who got the quote back on time phones to say he would like to discuss it with us. He wants to come and see us again without us asking. Ooh, we get very excited. Meanwhile, another comes and Bendy runs and hides again. I begin to wonder how he will cope with all the work when it starts. Then on Wednesday the prompt builder arrives and guess what? Bendy is all over him, at one point putting his paw onto his knee so he is sure to see him and give him a stroke. It’s a sign. I tell Andrew this later and he just scoffs but he agrees this is the guy for us and his quote is reasonable. I can’t believe it. In just eighteen weeks he will start work with his team.

I so hope I can post good things…

Pictorial memory

My hobby as an amateur photographer has very much taken a step into the background. There seems to be only so much in life that I can do. However, today I was glancing through my photography folder on my computer. Mainly because I turned a year older yesterday and I felt it was time for the yearly computer clear out. Of course, clear out is not what happens. Instead, similar to sorting through old boxes of memorabilia, one gets carried away and all sorts of ideas present themselves. So instead of shelving photography, I have decided to get involved again. As soon as I get time I will set up a new page on my Blog for photos. I am getting quite excited. I first got involved in photography in the late seventies and then acquired a Praktica single lens reflex. I thought it was the bees knees. I did so much with that. Finally I was given a Pentax which became the love of my life for many years. I updated it only once. Then along came digital and I bought myself a simple Fuji single lens reflex. I was quite content with this but my dream was to own a Nikon. A wonderful director friend, impressed with some of my photos offered me a Nikon he had no more use of. He kindly bought me a lens to go with it. This camera has been my companion for some time and I love it. See for yourself. In the meantime, enjoy and all constructive criticism is welcome.

Turin, in the moutains

School girls on their way to school. Phillipines;

Andrew and his daughter in Oxford

Philippines

A wedding guest

First pregnancy

In Scotland

Turin

Israel

Cambodia

Oxford

Horses, near home

Andrew (in Oxford)

A friend with child

Oxford

Wedding dress

Rose in our garden

Taken near our village

Lambs

Scotland

Cambodia

Cambodia

Cairo

Oxford
Capturing the bride

Cairo

Wedding

Horse near our our home

Life in the country. A pictorial memory.

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

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

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

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

Exhausted!!

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

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

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

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

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

Bendy and Iris
Bendy

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

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