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

 

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

The Fat Club

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

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

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

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

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

 

Much love

Lynda

xx

 

 

Fish Fingers and Poo Poo’s

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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Having a four and half year old living with you is very sobering, very sobering indeed. The fact that he thinks I must be at least 100 years old is rather disconcerting too. Especially as I see myself more like a young Bohemian Lady Gaga. Mind you, since he arrived to live with us I have aged considerably. I’ve invested in the best face creams known to man and Timothy still claims I look 100. Mind you, I blame a lot of this on the stress of trying to cook Fish Fingers and chips. You might think it’s easy. I’ve never cooked bloody fish fingers and chips in my life. Let’s face it, why would I? But there is clearly a knack to this which I don’t have. Although in theory and as a working class kid I suppose I ought to have the knack to prepare the perfect fish finger.  The truth is while all my mates were eating them, my lovely mum bless her, hardly bought them. Not because she didn’t like them but most likely because we couldn’t afford them. Much of my life was spent scraping margarine off the wrapper and filling my sandwiches with sugar. Ah, that’s where my sugar addiction started, with sugar sandwiches. Just the thought of it now makes me want to puke. Can you imagine offering a child a sugar sandwich? Jamie Oliver would have a stroke if he even heard the words. Even worse, when we ran out of sugar we had to eat that sandwich spread stuff, which looked very much like vomit in a jar to me.

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Come to think of it, it also tasted rather like vomit too. I had a mum who could do a hundred and one things with mince. Well, that’s not strictly true. Mostly she could do one thing with it. Boil it up and then dish it up with mash and processed peas. On reflection fish fingers may have been better. In fact we consumed so much mince when I was a kid that I really don’t know how the whole Renham family escaped Mad Cow disease. Although it could be argued I didn’t escape it. My sister seems fine, in fact, she seems normal, you know, like most people. Maybe, she ate less of it than me. But the less said about that the better. Anyway, as usual, I digress.  How hard can it be to make Fish Fingers and chips? When his father cooks it everything is perfect. Fries are nice and brown and just crisp enough and the Fish Fingers, crisp and hot. Surely it’s simple. Just throw them in a dish, shove them in the oven and follow the cooking instructions. Surely if I can make Cambodian chicken and Tom Yum soup I can cook Fish Fingers and chips for goodness sake.  I thought the reason most kids lived on the stuff was because it was quick and easy to do. I’m starting to think that all mothers should be given a Damehood, never mind giving one to Joan Collins. When did she ever cook Fish Fingers?

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I was left with the four and half year old for an afternoon. I figured this would be a doddle.  I was so confident I even invited Andrew’s other son over for dinner. I decide to make fish pie. I’ll impress his kids with my culinary skills.

‘Are you sure you’ll be okay?’ my stepson asks before leaving for his private nursing appointment. ‘I’ll only be a couple of hours and dad will be home soon.’

Ooh, that’s the worst thing to say isn’t it? It’s like saying dad can handle it but I can’t? It’s only babysitting and some Fish Fingers. I sit Timothy on the couch and go into the kitchen to start the dinner only to have him yell,

‘Who’s looking after me?’

‘I am,’ I yell back.

‘But you’re in the kitchen.’

Well, that’s because I’m cooking his Fish Fingers isn’t it?

‘I can see you,’ I say.

‘Someone needs to look after me,’ he says again his face creasing and tears welling up.

Oh no, this is all I need. I fleetingly wonder if Bendy would be considered human enough to sit with him but dismiss that as quickly as I think of it. It might not go down well with Daddy if Timothy tells him I abandoned him and left him in the care of a cat. No, that won’t work will it? What’s the point of a cat that eats me out of house and home but can’t babysit when needed?

‘Can you read me a story,’ he asks weepily.

Timothy that is, not the cat. I don’t spend my time reading stories to Bendy the cat. I may be mad but I’m not that mad.

Ah, now this I can do. This is what I know, right? Okay I can make up a children’s story. All I need to do is throw in some monsters, a few dinosaurs and a few starfish and he’ll be happy. In fact he can sit in the kitchen while I do it. I can multi task. I’m a woman after all. That’s what we do best isn’t it? But maybe not so well when we’re 100 or at least heading that way, but right now I feel about thirty. I can make up a story, prepare a fish pie, chuck in Fish Fingers and chips and clean up. It’s a doddle, right? except, it would have been, if Timothy hadn’t decided to act out the roles of all the characters in the story. I’m now trying to prepare fish pie, while making up a story and trying to cope with a terror bird squawking around me. Telling Timothy that terror birds don’t squawk is pointless. He’s into it now and that’s that.

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I give the oven chips instructions a quick glance and shove them in the oven while hastily mashing the potato for the fish pie.

‘Can we play Starfish now?’ he asks.

‘Not at the moment,’ I say while thinking a Starfish might be quieter than the bloody terror bird. The kitchen is beginning to resemble a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’ So when the Doctor walks in a few minutes later my sense of relief is so great that I almost throw myself into his arms. The Alfred Hitchcock hero is home to board up the house and save me from terror birds and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Son number two arrives and it finally seems safe to run to the loo. Or simply run away. Yes, it feels that bad.

‘Can you watch the fish pie,’ I yell down the stairs ‘and pop some peas on.’

‘Sure,’ says my confident, very clever husband.

I saunter back down ten minutes later to find them chatting away like two women while Timothy is still squawking away. I realise the fish fingers haven’t gone in and there is still no water on for the peas.

‘Poo poo,’ says Timothy, grabbing me by the shawl.

I know exactly how he feels.

‘I need to poo poo,’ he repeats.

He’s surely joking. No one poo poo’s just before dinner. Besides I’ve never taken him for a poo poo. I’ve never taken anyone for a poo poo, come to that. Why the dickens would I? I look to Andrew who pulls a face. I grab his hand Timothy’s that is, not Andrew’s and take him upstairs shouting my orders as I go.

‘Can you keep an eye on the peas and the fish pie?’

‘Sure,’ says Andrew.

I’ve heard that before haven’t I?

Timothy crouches over the loo and begins grunting. I’m holding his hand, terrified he’ll fall off.

‘Is this right?’ I ask.

‘I always do it like this,’ he says, looking at me oddly.

You usually have a shower after too, I’m thinking and I just don’t have time for that. There is more grunting and straining and I think it will never happen when finally … Well, I won’t go into details.

‘Finished,’ I ask.

He shakes his head.

‘I think there is more.

There bloody would be wouldn’t there?

‘Will you be ok for one minute?’

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘I’ll hang onto this,’ he says, grabbing the toilet roll holder.

I dubiously consider this. Okay, I’m only going to be a minute. A quick check on the pie and peas and I’ll be back. Surely a child can’t fall off a loo onto the floor and concuss themselves in one minute can they? Mind you, knowing my luck …

‘Don’t touch the loo roll,’ I instruct.

I dash downstairs, where the peas are nearly boiling over.

‘Andrew,’ I shout. ‘I’m in the middle of a poo poo.’

‘This is a mad house,’ says middle son.

‘Sorry,’ says Andrew. ‘It’s just I haven’t seen him for six weeks.’

My ears are cocked for a thud. I really don’t want to have to tell stepson number one that I managed to kill his son during my first babysitting stint. I fly up the stairs to find the bog roll all over the floor.

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               ‘Finished,’ he says. ‘Shower now.’

No way, Jose. I show him the shower substitute cleaner which is my Liz Earle polish cloth and some Johnsons baby wash and a quick scrub of his arse. We make it downstairs to see stepson number one is back.  I hand over child.

‘He never gets held on the loo,’ he says.

I give Timothy a stern stare who just grins. Bloody four year old’s, no wonder I look a 100.

I dish up dinner only to find the chips are now crisps. I toss them onto his plate and he stares at it for a few minutes and then asks his daddy,

‘Why are the Fish Fingers soft?’

Honestly there’s no gratitude for making up stories is there?

I raise my eyebrows. How can they be soft? They’ve been in the oven like forever.

He crunches on his chips and finally says.

‘These are burnt. Can you make my Fish Fingers Dada? I don’t like it when Lynda does it.’

‘No pudding for you,’ I say.

Well, I’m entitled to the last word aren’t I?

 

Chocolate Pancakes and Banshee Cats (Part 2)

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

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‘Are you hungry?’ asks the doc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh yes, we have a room.’

Thank goodness for that.

‘Can we see it?’ asks the doc again.

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

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‘We’ll take it,’ we say in unison.

‘And tomorrow night?’ asks Andrew.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Oh James, you have no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh,’ I say.

Three rooms in 24 hours, this is amazing.

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

My look must have said it all.

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

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

 

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

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

‘It’s very quiet,’ Andy assures me.

Oh Good, no banshee cats then.

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

Sounds wonderful. To good to be true in fact.

‘For a small charge,’ he adds.

You see what I mean, I’m never wrong.

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

‘Mister Andrew, you went to wrong hotel.’

We turn and stare at him.

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

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

Oh what!

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

‘You booked in there,’ he says.

‘But,’ begins Andrew.

‘Me thought you Andrew Hall.’

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

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

‘Can we see the room,’ asks Andrew.

I’m getting a sense of Déjà vu.

We check the room and it’s perfect.

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

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

Beautiful Laos
Beautiful Laos

 

 

 

 

The Well Showered Cockroach. (Holiday Part One.)

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

The Disastrous School Run as Performed by Lynda

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Only I can mess up the school run, although I do wonder why it’s called the school run. I don’t recall there being much running this morning, at least not at the start anyway. Oh no, I hear you groan, what went wrong this time? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

My grandson and I get on really well. We make cakes together, go for walks together and do arts and crafts together. Of course, these things are quite easy to do aren’t they? We’re going to the library together later, which is fun. So, I imagine my stepson thought who better to ask to take him to school than Lynda. Of course, normally they take him in themselves but Monday morning saw an important appointment come up and you know what happens if you cancel appointments. You end up waiting until you’re eighty for the next one to come up. I readily agree. I mean, how hard can it be, right?

Monday morning arrives and I drag my hung over body from the bed. Okay, okay, so Sunday night saw me consume just a little too much wine. I am allowed you know. It’s not like I’m going to drive him to the school under the influence is it? After all the school building is right next door and before you ask, yes, I do get up early some days and some nights I work late and get up later. A writer’s life is a complicated one. I wander downstairs where grandson is sleepily eating breakfast.

‘Good moaning,’ I smile.

Nothing, absolutely nothing.

‘He’s a bit dopey in the mornings,’ says stepson.

Dopey or grumpy I want to ask. But I just swallow two pain killers instead.

‘Will you be okay?’ asks stepson.

‘Sure,’ I say, more confidently than I actually feel. ‘Just remind me what I have to do.’

Although it can’t be much can it? Seriously, I just throw him into the classroom don’t I? I hear your gasps. You don’t really think I’d do that do you?

‘Take him in at about 8.45 and he’ll show you where his bag, coat and water bottle go. You can then sit with him until the music plays. That’s the time for parents to leave.’

How sweet. They play us out to music.

At twenty to nine I do battle with the shoes. Tuck him warmly inside his coat, hand him his satchel and off we go, straight next door. He excitedly shows me where his coat goes. I follow and say hello to his teacher. This is dead easy that I could do it with my eyes closed.

‘This is where my bag goes and this is …’

He turns and looks accusingly at me.

‘Where my water goes,’ he finishes.

Oh no.

‘Where is my bottle of water?’ He asks accusingly.

Good question. Where is the water bottle when you need it? still sitting on the table in our living room if I remember correctly.  Damn it.

‘Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.’

Did he roll his eyes?

This is when I did the school run. I fly back to the house, grab the bottle and fly back to the school where he is waiting in the same place.

‘Where does it go?’ I pant.

He points to where a thousand other bottles sit. Okay, maybe not thousands but you get my drift. How can this be so difficult? I flop into the chair beside him and start helping him with his numbers. This is better. I can cope with this. In fact I get so into it that I even help the little girl who sits opposite. Then, before I know what is happening, grandson is standing up and pushing me.

‘You’ve got to go now. Go on, go.’

I hear the music playing and realise all the parents have left. Trust me to be last. They could at least play the music at decent volume. My grandson is blanking me now. I’m just one big embarrassment. I sneak out of the door and breathe a sigh of relief.

‘How did it all go,’ stepson asks me later.

‘Great. It was good fun this morning wasn’t it Matthew?’ I say to grandson.

He harrumphs and continues building his Lego. Oh, well, you can’t please all the people all of the time. However he loves me when we make cake.

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All I want for Christmas is a present.

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Our first Christmas cards arrived yesterday and I suddenly realised Christmas is upon us. So, I thought a gentle reminder to the doctor AKA Andrew (my husband) about my presents.  I seriously think I would have achieved more by writing to Santa.

‘There’s plenty of time,’ he says.

He’s no idea. Do all men live in a different world or is it just my man?

I’d already tried the Christmas list which I’d given him and my stepson over two weeks ago after stepson had asked what I would like. I’d also emailed husband the link to the camera I wanted.

Two weeks on and the Christmas list is nowhere to be seen. I’d like to think he has it in his jacket pocket but I’m no fool.  So last night I casually mentioned how close Christmas was.

‘There’s only a few weekends left to do Christmas shopping,’ I say.

‘Oh no’ he gasps and then with a relieved sigh adds, ‘But we have everything don’t we?’

Well I do, I can’t speak for him. I’ve been preparing for the past two months. One thing I hate is last minute Christmas shopping. And as I have ten people on Boxing day I don’t want to leave anything to chance.

‘Have you bought anything for me?’ I ask.

Might as well be up front is my motto. Now, I should mention at this point that my period is not far off. A week to be exact and the week before my period is not my best time. I’m highly emotional and feel quite sure that doctor and the whole world are against me. So when doctor replies to the question with,

‘Ah, that reminds me, where is that Christmas list that you wrote?’  Obviously I see red.

‘If you don’t get them soon, there won’t be time,’ I say emotionally.

What is it with men? Or is it just the doctor? I swear it would be easier to buy the presents myself. Ask him for the money and off I pop. It’s the same with flowers isn’t it? Doctor claims the Sainsbury he goes to doesn’t sell them. This seems to be the case with camomile tea too and popcorn. When I go, the store is abounding with them. Strange that. The other annoying thing doctor does is query my list.

‘Do you really need more books? Don’t you think you should read the ones you’ve got first?’

Or.

‘Do you really want that DVD? That was rubbish if I remember.’

Oh was it? I never realised. I can’t imagine why I put it on the list.

Or.

‘This camera looks ok but do you really want one that takes AA batteries?’

Why ask me what I want for Christmas if you’re going to question everything I ask for. Oh, that’s a point. He never asked me what I wanted for Christmas now I come to think about it. Also when I come to think about it, the one year I didn’t give a list or ask if he had bought me presents was the first year we went to Cambodia. We were leaving on Boxing Day and I had so much to do before we flew that I totally forgot about my presents and I got a beautiful bracelet and an internet radio and some perfume. Am I at fault? Should I just sit it out and hope for something fantastic? Or should I rummage around and try to find that elusive list?

Answers on a postcard to Lynda.

Merry Christmas and I hope you get everything you want.

Calling the fireman for chocolate … Why not?

choc

 

My friend called me on my mobile to see how I was feeling. I had the phone on silent so I missed the call. An hour later I noticed it flashing and listened to her message.

‘Hope you’re feeling better. I did come round to see you but there was no reply when I rang the bell.’

It seems when I’m writing I turn stone deaf.  Near the end of the message she breaks up but I feel sure I hear her say ‘I’ve left (breaks up) outside your door.’

It can only be chocolate right? She knows what an addict I am. I dash downstairs, turn the front door handle only to find the door is locked. I then remember I had asked my stepson when leaving the house if he could lock it after him as I don’t like being in the house with the door unlocked. I go to dash upstairs to fetch my keys. I’m so desperate for this chocolate now that I am shaking. I didn’t feel the need for a sugar rush until I knew the sugar was there, now I can’t stop thinking about it. I reach the top step and freeze. I don’t have keys. I gave them to my stepson so he could drive my car. I can’t get out. I’m a prisoner in my home. I’m under house arrest and what’s worse right outside that locked door is chocolate.  This has to be my worst nightmare.

Chocolate so close but so far away. I actually start thinking of other ways I can escape my home. Can I squeeze through a window? Can I wave crazily from the window and attract the attention of a passing parent on their way to the school? I should have trained Bendy to fetch, damn it. I even consider making a makeshift net and hanging from the bedroom window with it in the hope of retrieving said chocolate. It then occurs to me I can climb over the back wall. The problem is at 3 in the afternoon all the parents will be lined up along that very wall. Maybe not such a good idea. You’ll be pleased to know that I pulled myself together and didn’t phone the fire brigade. You can laugh but it did enter my head.  Twenty minutes later I rush down again when I hear my stepson return.  My chocolate fest is near. I open the door and come face to face with a huge bouquet.

‘Someone left these for you,’ he says.

‘Where’s the chocolate?’ I ask.

Stepson and wife look at me like I’ve gone crazier than normal.

‘Should we have bought some?’ they ask.

I trundle back upstairs for a quiet weep.

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

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

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.

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!

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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?

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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!
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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/

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Erect Nipples and The Dog’s Bollocks

I thought of riding a horse, wearing nothing but Thierry Mugler’s Womanity perfume through the streets of Oxford. I figured if that doesn’t catch people’s eyes and have them rushing to Waterstones to  buy my books, then nothing will. Then I looked out of the window, saw the fierce wind and occasional spits of rain, and figured that perhaps it was just a touch too cold and me with erect nipples and red cheeks (face ones that is) may seem appealing  to some, but I felt sure there would be just as many, if not more, that it would not appeal to. Although I had no doubt it would sell trillions of books. But I realised there was a good chance I may dramatically develop Pneumonia and die a very dramatic, if not glamorous death. Well, if I’m only wearing ‘Womanity‘, how could it not be glamorous? Then I considered the fact,  that of course, I may be arrested. That alone didn’t bother me. After all, If I sold billions of books it would be worth it. But what really stopped me was Andrew’s face. It didn’t so much say, ‘What a crazy idea’  but more, ‘You really believe you riding a horse through Oxford, naked, will sell books?’  Of course, what the look really meant was, ‘Have you seen your body lately?’ Of course he never voiced any of this. But you know what those looks mean don’t you?

So, I decided perhaps a nice little innocent post on Glipho might be safer for everyone. The new book is enough to shock everyone without coupling the sight of my naked body to it as well. The new book by the way is about me. Now you’ve shut off totally haven’t you?

It’s my exploits as a woman. Or you could say it is my exploits as a crazy woman. Because if you consider me normal after reading this little ditty maybe you need therapy too. Mind you after reading of my attempts to remove a tampon, you may well need therapy. Thank goodness my publisher issued a warning on the Blurb. If you’re wondering about the blurb, here it is.

A collection of short funny tales and a unique insight into the world of chicklit royalty, aka Lynda Renham. A right comedy of errors if ever there was one. If you’re looking for her beauty secrets and fashion ideas you’ve come to the right place. Read of her intimate sex life, her secrets for staying young and how she keeps her man – just. A fly-on-the wall true account of the life of a romantic comedy novelist, written in her own words. It’s all here, the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Publisher Note: We are not responsible for any of the advice given in this book. If you do not look like Lynda after reading this we cannot be held accountable.

Warning: Tena Pads recommended while reading. 

Now, the best part about this little ditty is that it is only 99p. What can you buy for that these days?

So, off you pop and download your little copy here Go on, save me the ordeal or freezing my bollocks off on that horse. Talking of bollocks, you can buy my other book if you like, ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ here Give yourself a laugh over Christmas. If not, see you in Oxford on that horse.

Steamy Sex, Tuscany, and much more with Debbie Flint.

So it’s the day of my big interview with Debbie Flint (Debbie Flint is a TV presenter (formerly BBC, currently QVC UK) and writer whose first novel was self-published in June. She lives in Dorking, Surrey and has just published her second romance novel.

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 I’m interviewing her! It’s very exciting. I don’t know what to offer her with tea. Surely someone like Debbie Flint wouldn’t want Hobnobs. I think maybe I should get the best china out. I so want to impress. It occurs to me that a Lady Gaga greeting would be great when she arrives. It would certainly get some attention, and I could tip off a few local newspapers. But then again I don’t want to send her flying when I tumble off my fifteen inch platform shoes as I go to hug her, do I? Maybe a Lady Gaga greeting is a bit adventurous; I’ll just be myself. Oh dear, that’s infinitely worse.  I’ll just give her a cup of tea and a fig roll and crack on. Oh, I hear she has arrived. Here we go.

Hi Debbie lovely to see you. Oh and do help yourself to a fig roll. Well, obviously you can have two. We don’t ration here. So exciting times with your new book coming out. I’ve got a few questions for you, so that readers may learn more about you and your books.  So how are you?

 To be honest – knackered! NaNoWriMo has a lot to answer for – it inspired me to get my second book done by the end of the month! I wrote 54000 of the 86000 words, plus edited proofed and uploaded it all, in the last three weeks. Crazy! Sadly for my sanity, it did involve a lot of late nights, dozing off at the keyboard and waking up to birdsong only to delete lines and lines of  sdfjnsdvhdkfjhfffgjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjzzzzzzzzzzzzzzj.

(God, I hope she doesn’t nod off.)

 But now it’s up on Amazon, well done! What’s it called and briefly what is it about? And how does it fit in with the first one – they’re part of a trilogy aren’t they?

Thank you! Yes what a relief! Already doing well so I’m so pleased to have got it off my chest as it were! It’s Hawaiian Escape – and it’s the PREQUEL to Hawaiian Affair, which was my first book and took three years of ‘off and on ‘writing. It came out last summer and was my first ever finished novel. It’s a bit steamy! Unless you buy the PG option! Lol.

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‘Hawaiian Affair’ follows Sadie, the rookie businesswoman who needs an investor, and her adventure with Mac, the playboy billionaire who won’t mix business with pleasure. They travel the globe, from a luxury yacht in Monaco to the magic of Hawaii, with just 30 days to seal the deal and stay out of love.

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‘Hawaiian Escape’ is what happened BEFORE that.

It started off as a short story in response to readers’ requests – they wanted to know more about Sadie’s background. But a funny thing happened when I started writing – out tumbled Helen, Sadie’s more feisty older sister, who’s facing a crisis in her own life. She needs to manifest her own destiny instead of fixing everyone else’s, but something mysterious is going on, taking the sisters from Surrey to New York to Tuscany in pursuit of the prized escape to Hawaii. With Helen’s secrets causing a few hiccups along the way…The third book in the series I’m bringing out next summer – it will be called Hawaiian Retreat – what happens to Helen afterwards as she goes round the world with something called Try it For the First Time Club.

I’m having great fun doing this writing lark, I must say, and the response has been tremendous. But they don’t tell you about the back ache and caffeine addiction do they, these novelists!

 What made you become a writer?

 Usual story really – always loved doing it – even now I say ‘when I grow up I want to write movies and live in LA!’ Lol. Did a couple of short kids’ stories for Buena Vista children’s telly back in the day when I’d just finished presenting on children’s BBC and Forces Television and I was at home with my kids (now twenty six and twenty four.) But apart from the first 50,000 words of a steamy novel that never saw the light of day, I’d not really done anything till I began lots of courses and conferences four years ago. I then joined the RNA new writer’s scheme, also seeing friends self-publishing successes recently kick-started the dream to see my own work in print. Whoop!

 Tell us about the steamy version of ‘Hawaiian Affair’. What made you produce a steamy and non-steamy version? Great idea I have to say.

Ooh well I guess I always had it in me … (er, well not lately but that’s another story, hehe)… seriously, when it came to writing the sex scenes, I found the censor in me was switched off! I’d been reading a couple of books from the raunchy Harlequin imprint ‘Blaze’, so it just followed on that I wrote a bit more detail I guess. Then when I began getting it beta read, a couple of ladies said they wouldn’t usually go for this type of book, as it was too steamy. Or that they loved it but couldn’t give it to granny. I said that depends on the granny! But with that in mind, I edited a ‘PG’ version – primarily to see what the FIFTY SHADES EFFECT was having on the demand for women’s fiction. The answer was –eight out of nine wanted steamy!

I serialised Hawaiian Affair initially, because an agent suggested it – and parts two and four were the steamy bits, where people could opt for either PG or HOT versions! Now the serialised parts are no longer available it’s just the compete novel and sales on Amazon overall are staying about the same – eight x Hawaiian Affair (steamy) for every one x Hawaiian Affair (PG) in either paperback or eBook! 

The new book Hawaiian Escape is hot, but not shocking, so granny should be ok. Unless she doesn’t like vanilla… J

Who do you consider your greatest help in writing during times of strife? I know for me my husband is the rock at times like that.

Well my last partner is a script writer and we’re still pals so he’s quite helpful if it’s plot angst, but having a fabulous group of lovely Facebook readers online in a group called – imaginatively – ‘Debbie’s Readers’ – lol – is a real life-saver sometimes and the lady Sharon who runs it is amazingly helpful and a good pal.

If you mean life-strife, then my sis and my kids! I’m one of five – I also have three brothers –  but in ‘Hawaiian Escape’ I must admit there’s a fair bit of me and my sister Linda – who’s also on QVC – she’s a guest for a gel nails product – and some of the scenes could be me and her talking! But which of us is which, well, you’ll have to guess!

 What made you decide to go the self-publishing route as opposed to traditional publishing?

 Instant access, speed, control as well as some of the success stories I was hearing about from writing friends who had taken the plunge. Plus the odds of getting taken on by one of the big six publishers in the traditional way, are as minuscule as they ever were so it’s not as though it’s an active choice right now! Never say never, but I’ve only had meetings with one agent so far – a guy who I think was a bit put off by the steaminess in my first novel! But I’m happy to build a brand meanwhile. Plus as you’ll know, the corporate guys are now using self-published charts as their slush pile – we’ve heard many stories about that, too, haven’t we?

As long as your MS is edited properly, and proofed, plus you get a proper cover designed, I think self-published/indie-published turns out just as professionally as traditionally published books. You’re not in bookshops obviously, but considering the horror stories we hear from some published authors, that’s ok for now. For instance, one indie friend has – in the first half of this year – sold over 30,000 copies of her rom-coms, (four of them) – making the 70% royalty per copy (price varies but it’s often around £1.99). By contrast, another friend said that she’d heard a sad story from HER author pal – whose traditional publisher sold 12000 copies of her book into a major supermarket and all the author got was £360. Interesting isn’t it?

I love that so many major authors are now going down the self-pub route too – ideal if you already have a following for sure. Jackie Collins, even, who was on QVC recently with her newest book, and did a blog posting recently about her decision to issue a self-published book. And on Xmas day, the legendary Lawrence Block issues his first self-published tome – I can’t wait – called ‘The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons’! (Russell Blake’s fab blog (www.russellblake.com) will have an interesting author interview about it in December.)

Plus I’m a bit geeky and I love being able to access immediately all the statistics from my own self-published sales on Amazon – like on day one, my book went straight into the top 15 of the humour chart and I could see how many sales that equated to! And on the same day! Ahhh statistics! Lol. And you don’t want to know about my excel docs .., although I’m not as bad as Sadie because they’re not laminated…!

Lap top or pen and paper?

 No contest – laptop every time – I was one of those kids who always came home with ink over everything… Mind you, I do keep a journal which I write every night, and that’s with ink. No-one can read my scrawl but me though! And I have dark bed sheets… Lol.

Where is your favourite place to write?

 Los Angeles in an all-night diner, or coffee shops out there in LA, where you can be amongst people but totally left alone at all hours – in the choice of air con when it’s blazing hot or sitting outside in the balmy evening breeze. Corrr! Here in the UK it’s @retreatsforyou in Sheepwash, Devon, where lovely Deborah the owner runs a cosy B&B. I went there start of November with one of my fave authors Julie Cohen when she had her little writing workshops. Julie’s going to do some more in the future, but you can just book in yourself direct for one or two nights, if you like to get away and concentrate. Otherwise my kitchen table with my four Labradors reassuringly snoring away nearby. They put up with a lot when I was frantically finishing the new novel, bless them. It wasn’t unusual for them to be fed at 2 pm because that’s when I was getting up after late nights!

 How can we get your new novel because that is what we are most excited about?

 All on Amazon – eBook or print-on-demand paperback for normal cost. A couple of people have said ‘but I don’t have a Kindle’ but as you’ll know but some don’t, there’s a free kindle APP so if you have any smartphone or tablet or laptop you don’t need an actual Kindle or eBook reader. Anyone can read the eBook, or there’s paperback option to order online.

Hawaiian Affair (Steamy) is here

Hawaiian Affair (PG) is here

Or new one – Hawaiian Escape  – click here

I hear there is a steamy extra download which you’re planning for Hawaiian Escape though? When is that out and how will we know?

 Haha – yes! Again, by popular demand! I just had to go behind the bedroom door for one particular night of passion in Tuscany but didn’t want it in Hawaiian Escape so it can be gifted easily without too many wink-wink-nudge-nudge’s! So mid-December there will be a free download via my website, or it’ll eventually be on Amazon as a short story.  

Best thing is to sign up for the little newsletter I send out every so often and you’ll be notified when and how to get it. www.debbieflint.com has all the info! Anyone who’s purchased the original will be sent the extra scene in a download. Yay!

Otherwise I’m on Facebook or Twitter, as you know Lynda – we keep each other busy don’t we!

And what else do you like doing?

 Well apart from family stuff – my son got married in October and I was a very proud mummy I can tell you. Then there are the four dogs with all the walking that entails and so on. I also love doing family tree stuff. I’ve found an ancestor called Fanny Flint! And her maiden name was ‘Tidey’ – hehe! I’m also working on a new dating concept that I’m trialling provisionally called ‘The Box’ which may or may not lead to another pet topic – finding a man. But it’s nice having the time to do what I want without worrying about anyone else, most of the time. Said ex-boyfriend and I are actually writing a fabulous TV pilot together – well, he writes it and I say ‘ooh that’s good! You’ve missed an apostrophe’… And of course I do my weekly blog on QVC UK which is like a magazine, with bloopers and film reviews etc., and a book segment called Read It Write It Sell It (where your book was book of the week recently!) What else? Well, my work means I get to test out products as a pastime too – you should see my junk room and bathroom shelves! One day I’ll ‘clear out my crap’ as my daughter calls it! I think she secretly wants it herself though. I also attempt to cook. I do try my hand at new recipes, not that they’re nice all the time. If I stick to a recipe, like baking or soups, it’s fine. But if I go ‘off-piste’ – well, what can I say – not even the dogs wanted my most recent ‘raw vegetable smoothie’! lol.

There is a competition to win signed copies of both her books on Debbie’s current QVC Blog here – closes midday Thursday 5th December.  Or keep in touch via Facebook or Twitter @debbieflint

Or find Debbie here www.debbieflint.com

Have a fab Hawaiian Christmas.                                          photo-002

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Mine’s An Eggnog (a humorous look at Christmas and warning: tits are mentioned)

 

 

  naughty santa

So that wonderful thing called Christmas is looming towards us. You can’t escape it. Radio presenters are already playing those ‘throw up into your handbag’ Christmas songs, although thankfully most of them banned Cliff Richard.

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I’m scared to turn the radio on. Not that I hate Christmas or anything it’s just all that stuff that goes with it. If you’re organised like me then you’ll be turning the house upside down trying to find those sodding Christmas cards you bought for half price last year along with that cheap roll of Christmas wrapping paper. Not to mention the sellotape and scissors. Where do they hide themselves at Christmas? The continuing conversation in our house when Christmas wrapping is ‘Do you have the sellotape? What happened to the scissors?’ Mind you, they’re not needed much these days are they? When I was a kid I got presents. What happened to that? When did presents get replaced by money and vouchers? My sister insists on giving us a cheque each for twenty five quid and when asking what they would like (wrong thing to do by the way. Never ask what someone what they would like for Christmas because you’ll always get the ‘Oh don’t get me anything,’ and should you take this literally … Yes, you’ve been there right? How many friends have you lost?) Anyway back to my sister who responds with ‘The kids prefer money and we’re sending you a cheque.’ So we end up giving them a cheque for twenty five quid each, plus another two for the kids of course. I’m not good at maths but even I know that doesn’t work out fair. I can’t help thinking it would be much easier if we just said ‘Go and treat yourself to something for twenty five quid and we’ll do likewise, saves on the postage sending the cheques.’  But of course we don’t do that do we because we wouldn’t go and treat ourselves to something for twenty five quid because it’s more sensible to put it towards the heating bill. So cheque exchange we continue to do. Although I can’t help feeling short changed somehow with us not having kids. Anyway, the fifty quid we’ll receive we’ll put towards the heating bill. Get my point?

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It’s the time of year when we sit in endless traffic queues trying to get into town and find ourselves in the same car park we always use only now it’s free. The barriers are up. Except you can’t get bloody parked can you? Not unless you get there at three in the morning. Then for some odd reason it is presumed we forget how to use the car park at Christmas as there are now bossy men telling us where and how to park. ‘Over there mate,’ they say pointing to an obvious space. It seems the powers that be deem us to be brain dead at this time of the year. Well we must be if we eat Brussels sprouts and drink hot wine. Do you ever drink hot wine any other time in your life? Precisely, but at Christmas you consume tons of the stuff don’t you? Not to mention that Eggnog stuff. When do you see that at any other time? When have you ever been in a pub and heard someone say Mine’s an Eggnog? I rest my case.egg

And why do we have to eat so much? It seems it isn’t Christmas if you don’t eat enough to make yourself sick.Do you know how much we spend at Christmas? No, I won’t tell you otherwise you may end up another Christmas statistic. Because, of course, it is that time of year when suicides rise apparently. It seems more people are prone to putting their head in the oven as opposed to a turkey. I’d do the same but it’s an induction one and I don’t think I’d achieve much. Think of the poor turkeys and pheasants though. It’s mass murder for them. Seriously it’s poultry genocide however you look at it. Still, don’t let me put you off yours.

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But Christmas is special isn’t it, and who does it fall on? Yes us women. There is just so much to do isn’t there?  No point sending the men out for the sprouts and stuffing is there? By the time they reach the supermarket they’they’ve forgotten why they’re there and they get side-tracked and of course their mobile phone is always out of signal. No best to do it all yourself. This probably means you end up in bed with a Christmas migraine on Boxing Day but at least everyone is having a good time right? And someone is bound to bring you up a turkey sandwich.Then there is the tree. That’s a project on its own isn’t it? I mean, when else would you have a tree sticking out of the back of your car and no one bats an eyelid? And when else would you move your whole house around so you can put a tree in it? Then there is the whole debate of where to put the sodding thing so the cat won’t constantly jump up to catch the baubles while at the same time having it in prime position. By the time ’you’ve done all this and managed to hide the wiring of the tree lights you’ve got pine needles every bloody where, on the floor, on your jumper, under your jumper and I don’t know about you but I certainly had a few stuck in my tits. Also have you noticed how at Christmas you suddenly discover more friends? Where did they come from? Christmas cards drop through the door from people I barely know, and they’re all signed lots of love. Every week I have to buy more cards to keep up with these people. I’m now realising that Christmas cards are a bit like Facebook Friends. Let’s see how many we can get. Then all our other friends (the real ones) will see how popular we are. That’s mature right?

 

Seriously, when else would you wear a silly hat while you’re eating dinner and feel it is perfectly normal, while reading out cheesy jokes from your crackers? That’s another thing have you seen the price of bloody crackers? If you want your guests to get a decent little something from the cracker these days you have to take out a bank loan. I bet the banks love Christmas. You can almost see them rubbing their hands in November can’t you, totting up their Christmas bonus no doubt. The thing I find most worrying is how we are all so afraid to be alone at Christmas. You have to be with someone or have someone come to you. I’m just as guilty of this that I spend most of November trying to sort out where we will go or who will come to us that I eventually have too many invites and everything gets more complicated as I untangle myself from it.

 

But best of all, we break all the rules don’t we? We drink to excess, eat to excess and talk about the after Christmas diet, which I don’t think anyone ever starts do they? Finally, the best part about Christmas where rules really are broken are with the children. Ask little Johnny what he did today in town.

 

‘I saw Santa, sat on his lap and told him where I lived and what presents I wanted.’

 

Bloody marvellous. No one has a clue who the guy in the Santa outfit actually is right? He could be your local paedophile on a protection list. Even the employer at the store wouldn’t know.  All year we tell our kids not to talk to strangers but at Christmas what do we do… we actually take them to see a stranger and encourage them to talk to him and even allow them to sit on his lap. So remember kids, as long as the stranger is wearing a costume of sorts, calls himself Santa and says he will go up your chimney it’s perfectly okay to chat to him and sit on his lap. I mean, why not, it’s Christmas after all.

Picture 370Dedicated to my lovely dad who loved Christmas and dressed as Santa for his grandchildren every year.

 

The Dog’s Bollocks

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I’m so excited to be called Rom Com royalty by the lovely QVC presenter Debbie Flint. I’m also thrilled to be on her book of the week feature on the QVC web page. here

If you enjoy my books then do pop over and read my funny blog post here on Debbie’s own blog. I think I blew the royalty bit there though by titling my piece The Dog’s Bollocks. Still I’m sure the Queen uses that phrase all the time don’t you? And I was comparing myself to Lady Gaga at the time.

Not sure I’ll be invited to present on QVC now but never mind.

 

Cow Cart fun…Yeehaa!

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When I arrived for my Cow Cart experience here in Cambodia and they handed me the special hat and scarf that goes with the whole experience,  I, of course, immediately felt like Karen Blixen and had to fight back the words, ‘I once had a house in Arfrika.’ Although I would very much like to one day say ‘I once had a house in Siem Reap’

I love this country so passionately that to leave it in a few days will cause me the same physical pain it always produces. I laugh so much here. Not only with family but with the Cambodian people too, who are just fabulous. I’m lucky to have family living here but even so it is easy to make friends here and there are some wonderful places to stay which do not charge the earth.

The Cow Cart experience alone was hysterical. A wonderful enterprise set up by Cambodian students. What a great idea. As we prepared in my step son’s flat to leave, the rain just fell down. From the window we could see the children running out into the downpour to enjoy the monsoon while all we could think was, ‘It would piss down now wouldn’t it?’ Typical Brits off to do a Cow Cart ride through the heart of Cambodia in a monsoon, made me smile.  Every time I choose to do something unusual here, a monsoon comes. Memories of my Bamboo train experience came flooding back and I immediately turned to Andrew who I saw had a rain mac. Why is it he always comes  prepared?

‘They have some at Apsara market,’ says my daughter in law, helpfully.

Apsara market is the equivalent to the local coop, in case you were wondering.

I look at Andrew pleadingly. Well, I don’t have any head covering or a jacket at least he has a rain mac already. He gives me that despairing look, tells me to stop scratching my bites (of which I have thousands, at least it feels like thousands)

‘Okay, I’ll go and get one,’ he says.

Ten minutes later he returns with a bright pink rain mac. I don’t like to complain. I look at my daughter in law.

‘I hope this isn’t like a pink rag to a cow,’ I say, which sets her off laughing hysterically before we even leave.

The Tuk tuk has arrived and we all climb in. Within seconds I am scratching like mad. The plastic from the rain mac is making me so hot that every bite I have goes insane.

‘Stop scratching,’ says Andrew.

‘Take an anti-histamine,’ says my stepson. I don’t like to say I have well overdosed on anti-histamines now.

The tuk tuk ride to the farm where we are to meet the cow cart is pleasant and the rain stops. But just because the rain has stopped doesn’t mean it won’t start again and of course just thirty minutes of a monsoon means everywhere is flooded. The tuk tuk stops suddenly.

‘You walk,’ says the driver.

Of course we have no idea where we actually have to walk to, but the frightening conclusion we come to is that is must be the only dirt road that we can see which is now water is logged. I’m wearing sandals so the thought of negotiating this dirt track is not terribly appealing. But of course we do it, arriving at the Cow Cart village with muddy feet but very dry bodies, if not itchy (in my case). We are shown our carts and wonder of wonders the sun comes out. Our adventure begins. If you ever do visit Cambodia and I can’t recommend it enough, you will never regret it. I never want to return home but if you do then you must do the cow cart experience for an experience it truly is. If you are anything like us you will have great fun. In our case because the weather was so bad one of our cow carts couldn’t get down the dirt track but no one told us this. At least if they did we didn’t fully understand it. So when all five of us tried to climb into one cart you can imagine the fear in our eyes.Image

‘You do two hour trip?’ the girl asked.

God, I’ll be scratching myself to bits, I think, and in these cramped conditions I won’t have to worry about DVT on the flight home, I’ll most likely get it on the cow cart. Not to mention my daughter in law who was already complaining about cramp in her foot where I was sitting on it. I had visions of them amputating it after two hours of this. Off we go, or should I say off we bumped. Twice we nearly lost Andrew, not to mention my womb and my stepson’s hat. We giggled so much that I’m surprised we didn’t all fall off. A few minutes later we arrive to where another cow cart waits and we all sigh with relief. We will have one each. We alight and wander off to the rice wine making factory, picture below.

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and just make it before the rain pours again.

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 Obviously we all had a good swig of the wine first. Believe me I felt we needed it. A Cow Cart experience may be better slightly pissed I thought.  But then Cook luck set in and soon the sun began to shine and we climbed into our separate carts. This is no easy feat let me tell you, especially after a glass of rice wine, or should I say plastic mug. First we have to jump up into the cart backwards. I barely do things that well when I am going forward so you can imagine me trying to jump up backwards onto a cow cart, then again maybe you don’t want to imagine it… Once I’m up I have to dangle my legs over and remove my sandals so the mud doesn’t dirty the cart. Finally, one big heave backwards and I am as intimate with the cow cart driver as one can be. Andrew then follows and I push my legs down the side of him and off we go with bump and a strange noise from the driver. I seriously thought the guy had a bad case of wind until I realised his odd burping sounds were instructions to the cows. I don’t know what I imagined this trip would be like but I have to say it was an experience of a lifetime and the beauty of Cambodia is breath taking. There was one scary moment when a bike got in our way and we had to veer into the water. But amazingly the cart stayed upright. We stopped at a crematorium and Monastery and had a break for a drink (this time water) before travelling through the villages and countryside. Once the cart tried to leave without me almost sending me sprawling into the mud as I was about to jump on, much to Andrew’s amusement. As it got late we went to where the families fish and have family time. It was the most intimate I have been with the Cambodian people in all my visits here. Our two hour trip lasted much longer and by the time we got back to the farm I could barely feel my bum. But it was worth every minute as you can see.

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We thanked our Cow Cart hosts and paid and were taken back down the dirt road to meet our Tuk Tuk driver who was going to drive us back  to my stepson’s apartment. The journey was like tuk tuk Grand Prix. We were thrown all over the place. Meanwhile James my stepson is asking,

‘Do you want a takeaway Indian when we get back?’

‘Yes,’ I say in a shaky voice as we go over a huge bump and my handbag jumps up and whacks me in the chin.

‘The usual butter chicken,’ he asks, obviously more used to bumpy tuk tuks than me.

I grab the loose handle hanging from the top of the tuk tuk as we bounce around a corner and I almost slide out. My daughter in law laughs hysterically as James asks do we want poppadum’s.

‘Why are you asking me this now?’ I ask scrambling to grab my camera before it smashes to the floor as we take a corner on one wheel (a tuk tuk only has two)

‘I know what you women are like.  I may not get your attention later.’

Like he’s getting it now. I say this to him only to have him fall about laughing. Or maybe he just fell about because the tuk tuk went over another bump.

I ask you, men!

Go to Cambodia and go on a Cow Cart and preferably get a tuk tuk home like ours. Life is fun, and here you can have the best fun of your life. Enjoy the smiling people for they are the best company ever.
You can find The Cow Cart experience here Facebook here.

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Giving it away…

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I’m giving away a free signed copy of my new novel ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties’

All you have to do is pop over to my Amazon page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lynda-Renham/e/B004U1PWDU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1378217065&sr=1-1

check the blurbs on my books and email the names of all my heroines to ‘Bloggiveaway@renham.co.uk

I’ll announce the wiiner on the 10th September.

Meanwhile read all about me, my handbag and Lady Gaga over at Talli Roland’s blog.

http://talliroland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/handbag-highjinx.html

I’m loving writing books to cheer you all up. I wrote comedy after deciding how nice it would be to re-create in a book that wonderful feeling you get from a lovely feel good film and I think I have achieved that. Enjoy and Good luck. xxxxx