Thursday, 30 June 2011

Living the Good Life

When I was growing up I was enthralled by the sitcom 'The Good Life' ('Good Neighbours' in the USA) written by John Edmonde and Bob Larbey. It was the '70's comedy which looked at the self-sufficient Goods and their affluent neighbours The Leadbetters.  I longed to be Barbara Good, the cutesy, giggly, scruffy make-do-and-mender.  Fresh faced and energetic, she'd take every new challenge her lovely husband Tom threw at her with a smile and a wiggle of her 'Rear of the Year,' whether it be planting two tonnes of potatoes or nursing a pregnant pig through her labour.
In my book "Diary of a Mummy Misfit," Libby is the Barbara equivalent and Fenella the Margo.  I guess I wrote Libby as myself and Fenella as a combination of a real friend and Margo.  I've played the pauper with the wealthy friends, in real life - in fact we even joke that we drink 'Peapod Burgundy' compared to their top shelf vintage.
So now, after years of financial struggles, I've decided I don't want to be Barbara any more; I want to be Margo - just for one day.
Just imagine the fun I'd have!

Money no object - she had a cleaner, a gardener, deliveries from Harrods and a husband who would jump as soon as the immortal words "Cheque book, Jerry!" were uttered.  Safaris and cruises, cocktails and dinners at the golf club - you name it she could afford it. Any problem could be solved by chucking cash at it, according to Margo.

Those clothes - flowing, lairy maxi dresses, ridiculous headgear, ample cleavage on show and gardening in chiffon and bows. Not to mention the classic furs, diamonds and ridiculously outsized jewellery. It's great to watch the programme now and see that a lot of the styles have come back into fashion. In fact, I'm the proud owner of a shocking pink and orange floor-length dress which has become known as 'my Margo'.

The snobbery - combine this with the arrogance and shallowness and I want a go at it.  The joy of never having to agonise over sensitivities before you speak and putting annoying people down with cutting words, content in the unfaltering knowledge that you're always in the right. Tradesmen are treated with the contempt they deserve and husband Jerry is kept firmly under a beautifully manicured thumb.

A member of the local am dram music society - she sings badly and can never remember her lines but she manages to blackmail and manipulate Miss Mountshaft to get the lead roles.  Her enthusiasm outweighs her talent and it's not until she bombs in 'The Sound of Music' that we see her vulnerable side.

The friendship - although they have their ups and downs, the neighbours have a close relationship.  Deep down, Margo is a loyal and caring friend and Jerry has the honestly open hots for Barbara.  Help is offered to the Goods in many ways - from financial to dinner invites and much needed drinks.  On second thoughts I do have this friendship with my own Margo and Jerry, and I know the joy it brings, so I've already experienced this one - although it would be nice to be on the giving end.

The flirt - frosty, po-faced Margo can, on occasions, thaw and become Margo the Minx.  Under the frigid façade, there's a saucepot dying to get out.  One of my favourite scenes is when she's drunk and flirting with Tom who is complimenting her on her sexy neck and she finally declares "I'm not a complete woman, I don't have a sense of humour."  And who can forget the classic line, "That's the last time I play the tart for you, Jerry!"?

The perfect hostess - from entertaining ten Japanese business associates with sushi to a simple 'kitchen supper' of 'Soupe à la Champignon' with Tom and Barbara, Margo is the Queen of etiquette and sophistication.  Jerry must never eat his rare Indian takeaway on the sofa because the upholstery will reek of Vindaloo for weeks!

Smoking - one of the few who can make the disgusting habit look elegant and even like it might be good for you. 

The lines - so many classics but to name a few;

"The fact that you come from Balham probably does excuse your ignorance of even elementary Latin. It does not excuse ignoring a written instruction which is sellotaped to the handle of your pick-axe".

"I detest that child. With his nose running on one side, and the Baron's lederhosen squeaking on the other, I shall go to pieces. I know I shall."

"You are very dear friends. And by now I have risen like a phoenix from the fires of your eccentricities."

"The point is, Barbara, I got the dress home, I put it on, and I said to myself, "Margot, that simply looks cheap and nasty". So I wondered if you'd like it?"

Ah yes, they don't write them like they used to.  Must dash now to put on my maxi dress, turban and bejewelled rubber gloves.  I have a little light rose-pruning to see to before I freshen up for my evening G&T.

Read about Fenella and Libby in Diary of a Mummy Misfit on Amazon for Kindle. 
Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Facebook Fever

The world is divided into two types of people - those who use Facebook and those who don't.
I've spent many years vehemently avoiding becoming a Facebooker and it's suited me to just have the occasional nose around my hubbie's page to see what his Aussie family have been up to - usually something daft, in a sunny climate and involving lots of yummy food.
So when I published my book and found out that not only should I Twitter and blog but I should also have a FB page, I was not best pleased.
Now don't get me wrong, I can see the merits of it.  Obviously for hubbie, it keeps him in constant contact with a family 13,000 miles away.  Now they don't have to struggle to recall news in costly phone calls because if someone's passed wind you can be sure we'll know about it.
That's also part of my problem, I guess.  The FBers who post every couple of seconds to keep the world informed of their every move - coffee in Starbucks at the mo, wiping my nose, picking a spot etc. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested, tell us the stuff that matters.
And why do I need FB to keep me in touch with people?  Those who I love and want to spend time with, I see and spend time with.  Or I pick up the phone or text or email - you know, all those outdated modes of communication.
But then of course, I'm missing the point.  I can have 6,354 'friends' who I've never set eyes on before, would probably not ordinarily spend a minute of my time with but I can wile away many hours playing daft games with them - Sukisoo planted a tree in your garden, Min Long Choo sends you a smile.  I just don't get it!
Then we have the 'Unfriend' button.  Or, as I like to call it, the "Ner-nicky-ner-ner, I'm not your friend anymore" weapon.  A particularly useful tool I would imagine if you're being stalked or harassed but, in the wrong hands, this one-click action can prove diplomatically fatal.  Once you've unfriended someone, in my opinion, there can be no going back so this really should be reserved for extreme circumstances only and not on someone who is a living, breathing friend or family.  Users of this should be prepared to accept the consequences of their fit of pique and get back to the playground where they belong.
In the same playground they are likely to meet the FBers who use the site to air their grievances and dirty laundry for all to see.  Having a spat?  Advertise it on Facebook! The trouble in doing this is they have to be so obscure, nobody actually has a clue what they're talking about.  But it's great for a bit of drama, because by this point everyone's so confused, they feel obliged to ask what the problem is; are you OK, do you need a shoulder to cry on, bless?  Memories of school days come flooding back to me. You need a certain amount of maturity to manage your relationships on something as public as FB, or you'll feel a fool when your kneejerk reaction backfires on you - if you don't have that maturity you shouldn't be playing with the grown-ups.
So my relationship with this infamous social networking site remains tenuous.  I'll never have a personal page, just one for the book.  As far as I'm concerned it's for business, not pleasure but I'll remain a Peeping Tom on my hubbie's page.

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle.
Now also in paperback at Lulu.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

After yesterday's whinge and moan, I thought today I'd cheer myself up with things that make me happy.  A kind of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens list but not quite as fluffy. Just my bog standard list of things that make my heart smile.
I'll start with the obvious and most cheesy:
My family - not easy things, these.  The majority of the time they bring joy but we're not producing a Disney film here, we're talking nitty gritty.  Ageing mums, stroppy teenagers, sibling rivalry - that's what being a family is all about.  You can't choose your family, you're stuck with them but, if somewhere beneath all the dramas, you're still able to love and be loved, that's where the joy comes from.

Friday night bed - nothing like it!  It's called the "Friday Night Relish" and never fails to bring a dopey smile to my face.  The bed always feels so much more welcoming when you know you don't have to get up early the next day.  Sheets must be rubbed in delight with legs and feet, pillows fluffed and positioned for optimum comfort with a nice hot cup of PG tips at the ready.  If "Family Guy" is on the TV, it's even better but anything burbling in the background is fine.  If it happens to be music, the relish can turn into another joyous activity that we call 'bed-dancing' (and no, that's not a euphemism, it is actually doing synchronised leg routines). Aah, bliss.

A new book - so I've fallen in love with the cover (yes I do judge a book by it), read the blurb, sniffed the pages and now it's time to lose myself in the web the writer has created for me.  A trip to the book shop or library can have me skipping like a five year old.  So many new books to discover and there's always the possibility that a favourite writer has brought out a new book.  Within those pages, I can escape to a different world, fall in love with a hero and have a laugh or cry.

Looking forward ... to anything - the date's in the diary and you know you're going to have fun.  It could be dinner, lunch, the theatre or a party but you know it's with close friends and the laughs will be guaranteed.  Everybody needs something to look forward to - without it, life's dreary.

GOLD TV channel - an afternoon with Gold is a good as going to the gym, so the channel tells us.  Not great for the thighs but there's nothing like a good laugh to get the endorphins going.  I get to watch all the great sitcoms that take me back to my happy childhood - "The Good Life" being my all time favourite.  Good clean fun with great characters, a cockerel called Lenin and a goat called Geraldine.  Love it!

Clothes shopping - girly and shallow, I know but I'm being totally honest and I need it.  With money tight over the last few years, it's not a regular occurrence and is often limited to birthdays and Christmas but it fills me with the excitement of a kid on Christmas Eve.  Even if I only buy a necklace or a charity shop bargain, I can feel the glow.

Chocolate - Crunchies, truffles, buttons, Aeros, dark, milk, eggs, Kit-Kats ... the list is endless and I adore them all.  I never think of the calories because that would be daft and I believe if you do, they're doubled.  It's good for you, it smells delicious, looks gorgeous and I couldn't live without it.

And lastly ... you either love it or hate it, Marmite.  Nothing beats a slice of Marmite toast with a cup of tea.  The meal of champions.  A desert island staple for me.  I always said if I had a baby who didn't eat it, I'd have to send it back.  Lucky for my son, he partakes and is therefore allowed to stay.  I had to "teach" my husband to love it. Although an Aussie, he wasn't even a Vegemite boy but I soon got him trained and he now slathers it on like a Brit.

So go on, cheer yourself up.  What makes YOU happy?

My debut novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle. 
Now also in paperback at Lulu.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Room 101

In the past I've written about my love of themed parties.  One particular favourite, which also features in my novel, is a Room 101 night.
Just like the TV programme, the guests get to pick three things they want to dump in 101, never to be seen again.  Props can accompany the suggestions and then everyone votes on whether or not the 'irritation' can be done away with.  The winner is the person who gets the most abolished.
Trouble is, three is never enough for anyone - we all have so many bug bears.  So today, I shall list my major 101's.  It would be great to hear some of yours or if you agree with any of mine.

I'll start the ball rolling with:

Black socks - a dryer full of them fills me with dread.  They never match up and there's always the odd one that lays there defiantly announcing its independence -"Look at me, I don't need anyone, I can fly solo!"  Well no you can't actually as there are no one legged people living in this house.  Thankfully, teenage son has now taken to wearing the most jazzy and individual socks on the market so my trauma has been halved.

Eggs - yes, I know I've blogged about them before but I feel very strongly.  Boiled eggs that don't peel, egg shell in the mouth.  There, I've said it and I'll leave it at that.

Clingfilm/gladwrap/cellophane - whatever you want to call it.  I call it *%$*"!  It hates me and I hate it.  It smirks in the cupboard and comes out perfectly well behaved and charmingly flirty for my husband but when  attempt to use it, it turns into a snarling, sticky ball of useless *%$*!  It then tells tales on me when my husband next goes to use it because he always says, "You've been arguing with the clingfilm again, haven't you?"  Tin foil.  Now that's the thing for me - you know where you are with it and it never plays up.

Screeching girls - what is it with young girls nowadays?  They see one another every day at school and yet they have to throw themselves at one another and squawk at a ridiculous volume.  I swear it's in another language as well because I'm totally unable to decipher a word of it.  We didn't do it in my day ... ooh, I sound old!

Mums -  and I don't mean all mums or mine, I mean the ones who feel everybody wants to know about the bowel habits of little Tarquin or the genius of precocious Fanny.  Cafes, shops, parks are filled with them - this strange breed who dump buggies in exactly the right place for you to trip over them and then speak at the same volume as the screeching girls above. The majority of them are 'yummy mummies' (another term I hate, which is why I came up with the 'Meemies' tag to reflect their 'Me, Me, Me' attitude) who sport their offspring in much the same way as their designer handbags.  Most of the babies came through the sun roof (caesarean) as it's much more convenient to pick a date around social engagements & skiing and going the natural route involves too much sweating and grunting which plays havoc with the make up (glowingly bare, of course) And they all leave their cosy private hospitals with new bundle of joy whilst sporting their size zero jeans.

Cyclists - the bane of my life as a London driver.  They run lights, cycle side by side chatting and take ridiculous chances - rarely even glancing backwards to see if you've spotted them, so confident are they of their road superiority.  I'm a very vigilant driver and am always on the look out for them but some mornings there are just too many to keep track of.  I've been surrounded by them at traffic lights and I need to know what each and every one of them is likely to do next.  And now, you have the sneaky ones with cameras on their helmets so that they've got all the lovely evidence they need to prove it was the dreaded driver's fault.  I don't want to start my mornings having sweaty, lycra clad buttocks shoved in my face.  I'm told there are websites for that sort of thing.

And I'll just leave you with one more,

Celebrity authors - yes, I'm bitter but I feel I have a right to be.  If you're a celeb, you only need to write a shopping list to get published. Unknowns have to fight tooth and nail to get anywhere near an agent let alone a publisher ... but a celeb who's lost weight?  Write a book.  Celeb who's lost a baby?  Put pen to paper.  Celeb who's lost their marbles?  Three book deal - one about how you lost them, one about how you found them and one telling the story of their travels.

Rrrgghhh!  All finished, feel much better now.

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle or PC. 
Now also in paperback at Lulu.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

I'm a 'Homo Honey'!

After blogging about the passing of my gay friend yesterday, it got me thinking about my relationships with gay guys over the years.
My family always joke about my "Gaydar" - not only can I spot one at a hundred metres but they also seem to have the ability to sniff me out and want to become my new best friend.
Obviously, having been to drama school, I've met more than my fair share.  And that's not making a sweeping generalisation, it's a fact: homosexual men are drawn to the arts and, in particular, acting and dancing. Thank goodness they are because that's how I've met some of the most wonderful and loving personalities in my life.
So for any of you women out there struggling with the bitchiness of girlfriends, here are my reasons why it's great to be a Fag Hag!
Your gay friend will be just as bitchy (if not more) than your girlfriends, but he'll do it to your face - openly and honestly.  If you look a mess he'll tell you, so don't ever ask for an honest opinion if you can't take it because you'll most certainly get it. And he'll like nothing better than getting his claws into someone who's upset you - guyliners drawn at dawn, if he's brave enough.
He'll have a fantastic sense of humour - a generalisation I believe to be true.  Maybe I've been lucky enough to meet all the funniest, but there's nothing like a good giggle with your gay buddies.  It can be filthy, so not for the faint hearted.
He'll give the best cuddles and you'll know it's not leading on to something else.  I once shared a bed with three gay friends at a party.  It was all fine and dandy until one of them trod dog poo in!
He'll take you to great gay clubs where you can dance the night away with fabulously handsome guys, flirting like mad and knowing that you're totally safe.  And he won't dump you if he meets a hunk, he'll be too much of a gentleman.  He'll tell you you're going home, organise a cab and then get back to said hunk!  See, honesty!  He will expect you to be there when it all falls apart, and could quite possibly be sobbing over the injustice of it all, when he'll suddenly spot his next conquest.  Hair will be fluffed, eyes touched up and he'll be off.
He'll watch rom-coms with you and won't moan.  Also musicals and old black and white movies.  I once spent a lovely afternoon with one of my friends watching the 1950's film "The Winslow Boy"  To this day it's renamed "The Window Boy" because we were unable to get the bright reflection of his bedroom window off the television screen, so we only ever managed to see a half the action.  
He'll spend evenings in with you doing daft things.  My favourite recollections include: recording ourselves doing the Broadway greats and then rolling around with laughter at how bad we sounded, shaving off a moustache for a play (his not mine) and only doing half to see if we liked it or not (what did we think we'd do if we didn't?) and making lists of all the actors we'd marry, snog, or date.  Richard Gere was always all of them for both of us.
He'll only lie to you to protect you and he'll try to turn a negative into a positive if he thinks it will help.  Once, after a broken heart with lots of sobbing and little personal grooming, my friend told me that all the crying had given my skin a lovely glow and I'd feel a lot better once I'd washed my hair!
So, there you have it ladies.  For a good old, uncomplicated loyal friendship go out and grab yourself a gay.  They come highly recommended and you'll never look back.

My novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle.
Now also in paperback at Lulu.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

In Memory of a Friend

Let me tell you a little story.  It's about a handsome young actor, filled to the brim with talent for acting, painting and singing.  With a love of The Beatles, acting daft and dressing up for fancy dress parties.
He was one of my best friends at drama school and we'd often share a (platonic) makeshift bed at parties, he gave the best cuddles and told stupid stories to get me to sleep.  I was his Bambi (reference to my ridiculously skinny, flailing legs in dance classes) and his fag hag - yes he was gay and maybe that was his downfall.
I watched this friend turn from the happiest, most giggly person you could ever wish to meet to a mere shell of his former self.  He was the immaculately turned out, beautifully spoken reader at our wedding, who became what can only be described as a tramp.
You see, he fell in love.  They met on a train - very "Brief Encounter" and so wonderfully camp and fitting for them!  And it wasn't a sordid one night gay stand, they lived together for fifteen years.  They fought like cat and dog, one highly successful in his field, the other a struggling actor.  But they complemented each other and my friend needed his partner.  He believed it was for life and then it all fell apart.
I know this happens every day, all over the world and people move on and get over it.  My friend couldn't.  He didn't want to be doing the gay scene in his 30's, he thought he'd got it sorted.  He didn't want to be lonely.
So, slowly, he went mad.  Quite literally.  His career was going nowhere, he found himself in a manky bedsit (after a huge mansion flat) living with a cat and doing a menial job working night shifts just to keep his head above water.  Working the hours he did, he didn't even have the opportunity to get back out meeting people, even if he wanted to. His sleeping patterns fell out of synch and he became detached.
I was his only friend.  He gradually began to mistrust everyone - my husband included, who he'd always been close to.  When things were at their worst, he believed my husband was "spying on him and was in cahoots with John Major!"
He began to speak in accents and told me that a nose job he'd had done in the past meant he'd been micro chipped and he was being listened to by the CIA.
He was finally sectioned under the Mental Health Act when he was arrested in town trying to set fire to cars with home made bombs.  We cleared his flat for him and looked after his cat while he was in hospital and the memory of his terrifying and sad abode will live with me forever.  A ridiculous amount of crude incendiary devices were stored, a helmet made of tin foil (to keep the voices out) with holes for his eyes and nostrils and cat sick wrapped up in the freezer, labelled "evidence".
I was his only visitor while he was in hospital.  This popular, handsome young man had no one.  It wasn't easy but I kept telling myself he would eventually get better and become his old self again.
He didn't.  Indeed, I feel shame to this day for having to distance myself from him when I began to consider him a real threat to our family - he lived near my son's school and I had to warn them about my friend possibly approaching him at pick-up. My son was very young at the time and still trusted him.
Eventually, he decided to move back to the coast to be closer to his parents and family.  Surely the change would do him good?
He took his life last Easter, finally deciding he couldn't cope with it all anymore.
When I think of him, I never picture the lank haired vagrant who'd turn up on my doorstep, stinking in four layers of clothes with a Catweazle beard, and asking me to cut his finger nails - the drugs they had him on had immobilised the joints in his hands.
I remember the young, vibrant young man I teamed up with on my first day at drama school.  We had our lives ahead of us and had no idea how it would turn out.
I would never have put money on this story turning out the way it did.

I write about a gay couple in my novel Diary of a Mummy Misift - on Amazon for Kindle.
Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Friday, 24 June 2011

On Being a Technophobe

Writing and promoting my book has taught me many new skills but also some valuable lessons.
The main one being, never ask husband or son how to show me a new procedure on the computer because it will always result in speedy, cartoon style fingers flying across the keyboard accompanied by, "You just do this, this and this!"  Do I ever actually learn anything when they do this?  My bum, do I!  But you can bet your bottom euro that the next time I ask they'll say, "Uuugh, I showed you how to do that yesterday!"
NO, you didn't show me how to do it.  Not with love and patience.  You did it for me and think that's enough.  You know how to do it so you instantly expect that everyone else does.'
I often say to my son, "PLEASE, promise me you'll never become a teacher. You can't expect everyone to be as quick as you and every time you teach something you have to do it as if it's the first time" He's usually switched off by this point and gone to kill more zombies.
He's terrifying to watch on a computer.  How his brain can even keep up with his hands, I have no idea.  Same on the Playstation - he skips through menus and selects options before even one word on the screen has registered in my brain. He's now at the point where he's overtaken my husband (in my eyes a computer genius) and sorts things out for him.  Formatting my book for Kindle caused many nights of  *&%!~*!  words to come from hubbie's mouth. In stepped our son and they sorted it together.  Many *&%!~*! words then followed, on the quiet to me, about the cleverness of *&%!~*! son!
Aside from the trials of using a computer there are all the dramas that go with promoting a book online. I am now a Twitterer (or I twat people, past tense, as my mother calls it! "How many people have you twatted today?") What a peculiar concept, it is!  I know I have to do it because it's one of the best ways of networking and making writing friends but I find the whole thing very odd.  You're only allowed to "twat" people with 140 characters - I'm sorry but I like words and I like to talk and write.  140 characters is not enough.  I know I'm meant to be precise and to the point but anyone who's read this blog, knows I can't.  There's nothing like a good rant!
Then there's the peculiar "twats" you get back days later and you have no recollection of twatting them in the first place.  There's no thread, rhyme or reason.  "Sounds lovely," I got back today.  What does?  The weather?  Dinner at my place?  Beethoven's 5th?
Yes, Twitter and I are strange bedfellows but I know I've sold books through it so I'll plod on.
Forums is the next one.  Don't even get me started on those.  Suffice it to say that you post a relevant question or point and within seconds you're buried beneath all the others.  I feel like I have to dig deeper and deeper into irrelevance to get back to where I started in the first place.
Passwords?  So many for different things.  It feels like "Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be ..."  The day I get every  password right for every action, I swear I'm going to strip naked and dance down the high street singing with a rose between my teeth.  I now actually expect a message to come up on the screen when I get it wrong for the umpteenth time saying, "Oh-oh.  It's that Amanda again, the clueless one. Just let her in, for goodness sake."
And now today, I'm in trouble for posting a "like" on my husband's Facebook instead of my "Mummy Misfit" page. Slightly embarrassing for him as it was for "In my Handbag".  Oops!  May I take this opportunity to say he is all man and a true blooded Aussie through and through.
So me, my laptop and my journey into book promoting through the ether continue.  Keep looking out for that naked mad woman in the high street and you'll know I'm making in-roads.

My novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle. 
Now also in paperback at Lulu.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Sandwich Mum

It's going to be a quickie today as I have to take my mum shopping and my son to the hairdressers.  There's a name for people like me and it's not "mug", it's "sandwich mum".  Sounds daft I know but it's the new label we women are given when we find ourselves looking after an elderly parent whilst still caring for children.
My conversations can switch from how many kills streaks have been achieved in "Call of Duty" to the disgusting state of the next door neighbour's garden, within the blink of an eye.
Often I don't have time to catch my breath between two conversations - hard of hearing mum and over-eager teenage boy vying for my attention is not an easy combination.
Luckily my son has a very close relationship with his grandmother and they often have a laugh and a joke together. He's great for re-setting clocks for her, scheduling programmes on her Freeview recorder and sorting out electrical glitches.  She can burp on demand for him, give pocket money and generally stick up for him when I'm giving him a hard time.  So for them it all works out rather well.
For me, it can be tough.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have it any other way but I do sometimes find myself caught between the two very different relationships.  It can come down to something as simple as forgetting which one I'm talking to.  Son - short, speedy answers.  Low attention span!  Mum - clear, well explained with lots of detail - bored by herself all day so wants a good gossip when she finally sees someone!
Then of course, you have the daft whacky nonsense that teenage boys are famous for coming up with - catchphrases and "in" jokes.  I live with them so I'm tuned in but you try explaining half of them to a perplexed 84 year old and see what kind of knots you get yourself into!  I've given up now and generally say, "Oh just ignore him!"
Speed is another issue, for obvious reasons.  One's got the brake on and one's hard down on the accelerator.  You quite simply can't be piggy in the middle with them or, when out shopping for instance, you may well meet yourself coming into the shop as you're leaving!
A lesson learnt last week is never go to the opticians with mother and son for all three of us to have eye tests.  It was like something from a 50's farce with me entering and leaving doors like a whirling dervish.  Mum is overwhelmed and doesn't feel well, optician needs to discuss son's prescription, mum needs the loo, son wants prescription sunglasses.  When it came to my turn, the optician told me to relax as my pressure was slightly up in one eye - relax?  Fat chance, any chance you can check my blood pressure while you're at it?
Yes being a "sandwich mum" should come with a health warning but I'm grateful for having them both around.
One day, hopefully in the very, very, very distant future, neither of them will need me any more.
And that will make me sad.

My debut novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle. 
Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Joy of Words

As I was planning my blog last night it got me thinking about the endless subjects to write about.  The joy of putting words onto paper that can make people think, laugh, cry, agree/disagree or empathise.  It's the same when you write a novel - the words that you put together create characters, a plot,  paint a picture and make imaginary people speak.
This in turn made me think about my time as an adult literacy tutor and the people I encountered in my classes.  These people had never known the joy of reading a book and losing themselves in a make believe world.  These were adults who, for whatever reason, had escaped the net and were unable to turn those squiglley little lines on the paper into magic.
My classes ranged in age from anything between 18 and 80. These people weren't daft.  They could hold perfectly intelligent discussions about anything from the news to how much their weekly shopping had gone up.  It was a great leveller that my maths was rubbish because most of them were good at it and they felt that as a teacher, I could do everything! And the majority of them had families and were holding down jobs.  They'd become really clever at concealing their secret from children, grandchildren and employers - a real talent in itself.
In discussions with them I'd hear many reasons why they couldn't read.  Some were down to undectected dyslexia but the saddest were the ones in their 50's and above who'd just never cottoned on to those first vital blocks of reading and had then got lost in the system, sitting quietly in the background and pretending they were coping.
The dedication of these students was astounding.  Their lives weren't easy, often single parents holding down badly paid jobs with long hours, but they'd still find the time to come to evening class and give it their best shot.  It was heartbreaking to see those who quite simply couldn't remember a thing they'd learnt from one class to the next but the fact was, their lives were just too busy.
The upside was guiding a young man with cerebal palsy successfully through a GCSE in English - it took him seven hours to complete but he was detemined to get there.  That was a long and happy day for both of us and one I'll never forget.
Also the man who told me he was hanging out for the day he could actually read his grandchilren a bedtime story rather than ad-lib.  They were getting older and he was worried their reading was better than his and he would get caught out.
So I often stop and think how we take this reading and writing lark for granted.  It's a skill and a gift that could easily have slipped past any one of us and we really should cherish what it brings to us.  Words are everywhere - they're not just there to entertain or inform us, they give us instructions, directions and warnings.  It's not until you look around or think about your daily routine that you realise how much we need them.
I always say my son was born with the ability to read.  At two and half he was begging me to teach him and by three he was flying solo.  From those first few letters, to some memorised words he was off and never looked back.
I always tell him how lucky he was.  While other kids had to slog through their reading practice every night, he could read what he wanted.
Wouldn't it be good if it was as easy as that for everyone?

Check out my novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Teen Reflections

Now that my son is 15, I often think back to my own teenage years and take the occasional cringeworthy peek into my very long-winded diaries of the time.

Of course the scribblings tell it as it was from my perspective at that age - a, more often than not, heart-broken lass whose only other worries were the spot on her chin and not being able to afford a new outfit from Jane Norman to wear to the church disco.

When I look back now, wearing my adult head, my memories are all quite different.

Hairstyles which ranged from Farrah Fawcett wings to shaggy perms, augmented by little plaits and flowers. I once spent a month going to bed with a bandage around my head to flatten my over-permed fringe.

Swaying between Miss Selfridge "Iron Lady" lipstick (which in a bad light made your teeth look yellow) to bubble gum flavoured lipgloss which was so sticky it would immediately attract any flying debris, small bugs and dirt.  My dad used to shake his head in horror and say I looked like I'd just finished a bag of greasy fish and chips.  My mum used to tell him to Shoosh.

Moving from my Saturday job in Barretts shoe shop to a job in the local sweet shop.  Yay!  No more smelly feet and all the chocolate and trashy magazines a girl could get through.  The downside was I was too loyal and, when the owner had a heart attack and his wife asked me to work an extra day, I missed an audition for the lead in a Disney film.  Who knows where I'd be today as a result of that Sliding Doors moment?

Having a totally individual (naive?) style which meant I would wear anything from my electric blue boiler suit with white boob tube to gypsy skirts with a little under-petticoat showing.  Dad on these occasions would tell me to pull my skirt down because my "slip" was showing.  He just didn't get it!  I'd also borrow his trilby and wear it with skinny drain pipes, a grand-dad shirt and my lovely blue suede Kickers or burgundy thigh length boots. What on earth did I think I looked like?  Like I was going trout fishing, according to my dad.

Skinny jeans mentioned above would (after washing) require my dad (my mum wasn't strong enough) to position me on the bed with a coat hanger through the zip so that we could manage to do them up.  My dad insisted I was squishing my organs and would never go through childbirth but it never stopped him from helping or me from having a baby!

My first professional job on Grange Hill.  Boy, I felt like a star walking into the BBC TV centre and I only ever had one line!  My contract lasted for 18 months though and it kept me in clothes and concert tickets for a good few years.

Concerts at Hammersmith Odeon - I saw some of the best and I think we used to pay about two pounds for a ticket.  The Police, Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury, Thin Lizzy and The Pretenders.  They were the ones we admitted to liking.  In our bedrooms we would also listen to Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart and The Beatles.  My big regret is never having seen Bowie live.  My friend, Julie was going to marry him though so we felt sure we would get our own private show one day!

Thursday nights when everything would stop for Top of the Pops followed by Fame.  Bliss!  I was also a member of the Top of the Pop's audience once and it's BORING - unless you like being herded around like cows for hours on end.

My first proper  kiss at a friend's party.  Uuugh!  Why did his tongue feel like a hedgehog and why had no one told me it was so yucky?  Then the resulting embarrassment when my dad came to pick me up at 11 sharp and said "What a load of 'erberts!" about the boys watching me leave.

Taking hours to get ready.  Trying everything on in the wardrobe and then chucking it on the bed with an "Oh, I've got nothing to wear" harrumph! Then going back to the original outfit and coming home to find I couldn't get in to bed.

Come to think of it I still do that now, except it doesn't take me hours, I've got it down to a whirlwind.  Plus ça change, as they say!

My debut novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Good vs Bad

Why is it I find it so hard to do the things that I know are good for me and so easy to do the bad ones?
I know I shouldn't smoke or drink wine but I do them quite happily.  But when it comes to doing my thrice weekly yoga, I have to drag myself there, kicking and screaming - a pretty fancy yoga move in itself!
We are constantly faced with choices in life.  An apple or a bar of chocolate?  Mmm, easy.
A brisk walk up hills or a trudge round the shops looking at things I can't afford.  Again, a doddle.
Black decaf or full fat, full strength frothy latte.  It's a no brainer.
See what I mean, I'm bad through and through because I just love the naughty stuff.
Now don't get me wrong here, I can just see you picturing a wheezing, clinically obese hag tapping away at my laptop as I shovel down another packet of Hobnobs and swig from my hip flask, dropping fag ash over the keys.  I'm not that bad.  I could afford to lose a couple of pounds (couldn't we all?) but I'm a good girl in some ways - I do force myself to do the yoga. I drink water and have lots of salads, beans and veg.  That's really only because I actually like eating them though, so it's no great chore.
We live in a world where everyone is constantly image-conscious.  "Go to that gym, botox that wrinkle, live on air and mung beans!"  No one is alllowed an imperfection and people are striving for the unnatural all the time.  That's not the way God intended us to be, surely?  What about the inside of us - whether or not we're a good person?  I'd rather go to my death bed with people saying, "She had a good heart and was a dear friend but, boy could she put away the Maltesers!" than, "Such a smooth unlined body and her breasts never moved when she jogged her morning 10k!"
So, now I 've had a little think about it, I've decided I'm going to remain partially bad.  Life would be so boring if I wasn't and friends and family wouldn't recognise me.
I'm going to make a coffee, have a ciggie, call a friend-in-need and then do the dreaded yoga.

So remember a bad girl's rules for a happy life;
Never trust a person with a half eaten bar of chocolate - they have too much willpower.
A little of what you fancy does you good - and sometimes a lot of what you fancy is even better.
You never see a size zero Burlesque act and how sexy are they?
Any food eaten on a Sunday is calorie free - go for it, it's true!
Nigella can get away with it so why can't we?
Why do you think God invented chocolate in the first place? - It would be rude to waste it.

My debut novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day.

I've been without a dad now for 29 years as he did the dirty on me and passed away when I was 18.  So really, I've never known what it's like to have a dad when you're an adult - only as a child - and I'll always be my Daddy's little girl.
Thankfully, I was blessed with the best dad in the world and I'd like to take the time today to share my memories of him and to say "Happy Father's Day, Chic!"

I remember:
You had the best sense of humour and could make anyone laugh - from consultants in hospitals to cashiers in supermarkets.  You knew a joke on every subject and loved to have word-play competitions with your friend Reg to see who could push the pun furthest.

You'd pass wind whenever or wherever you needed to - highly embarrassing in an enclosed lift but it amused you no end.

You were a teetotaller and didn't need alcohol to be the life and soul of the party.  You were known for asking your host if they had any hot water and, when they replied that they did, you'd instantly ask them to stick a tea bag in it.

You'd "blow your top" if a decorating job was causing you troubles but you had the patience of a saint with your daughters.  I can still see your huge hands struggling with tiny stitches around the neck of my Daisy doll's wedding dress you were determined to finish for me because she was getting married the next day and I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

You bit a Yorkshire terrier on the bum because it attacked our Prince (who was a mongrel but you insisted on telling everyone he was a "Russian Sakuli" - your own invention) and then spent the next hour pulling fur out of your teeth.

You were a hard-working family man who thought the world of his wife and kids and always wanted the best for them.

You bought the best Christmas presents - a gold and white Bontempi electric Organ, and a doll's house with dollies and clothes.  But the best doll's house was the one we made together from matchboxes and scraps of cardboard, complete with plasticine fruit and plates of food.

You loved Dean Martin, Jim Reeves and Bill Haley & the Comets but you hated musicals.  "Bloody breaking out into song at the drop of a hat!"

You were a perfectionist when it came to decorating but were famous for short cuts in other ways - the quick fix!  My tortoise kept running away so you drilled a hole through his shell and tied a piece of elastic through it!?  And my mum's yukka tree in the conservatory wasn't looking its best so you decided to varnish the leaves.  Needless to say, it was starved of CO2 and died.

And I can never listen to the closing music of "Upstairs Downstairs" without hearing you sing along "I think it's time for you to go to bed now."  My Saturday night treat, being allowed to stay up late and watch our favourite programme.

So Dad, on Father's Day, I thank you for being the best a girl can have and I'll meet you where I said I would.  OK?  In the meantime, every time I see a rainbow, I'll admire your decorative handiwork.

My novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Art of Entertaining

Last night I was Audrey Hepburn and my husband was Magnum P.I (Tom Selleck).  I'm not talking some kind of kinky fantasy, we really were. And we dined with a glam movie star and a movie director.
Don't believe me?  Well, it's true because we had a Hollywood themed birthday dinner for one of my closest friends.  The spotlights were put in place, the table set, the food prepared, the plastic Oscar polished and the acting games organised.
What can be more fun than an evening at home with friends?  It doesn't cost the earth and you can be anyone you want to be.
Maybe it's the actress in me, but give me any opportunity to dress up and I'm there with bells on - or flares, or a mini-skirt or flapper dress.  So when my friend said she'd like a themed birthday, the thinking cap went on and the wardrobe and drawers were rummaged.
We celebrated the Royal wedding with the same friends (on this occasion with children). We danced to Royally appropriate music (from Bette Midler's Going to the Chapel to the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen), and we dressed the part with blazers, cocktail dresses, fascinators and diamonds as we all took the "stage" to perform our turn à la Royal Variety Show.  And we played Royal Bingo and "The Valet packed my trunk and in it I put ....". A great night was had by all.
In my time I've been a witch, a Princess, Hagrid (seriously! - not glamorous I know but it was a challenge), a flapper, an Indian Diva, Diana Dors, 60's swinger, gym bunny and a horsey socialite to name a few. I'm still hanging out to do the school disco theme (I've got the tunic and the legs at the mo but they ain't gonna last forever) complete with disco ball, cheesy music and a snog behind the fridge door.
So if you're feeling bored, pick your theme, invite some friends, become someone else and have a ball - all in the comfort of your own home.

Check out my novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A Haaandbaaag!!!?

There was talk on the TV today (This Morning) about how much women will now spend on a designer handbag, with figures going into the thousands.
Now, I love a handbag as much as the next woman and those who have read my book will know they feature a couple of times - from the ooh-ing and aah-ing over the much sought after Hermes Birkin to Libby’s much loved Maisie bag - but thousands of pounds on a handbag?  I’m sorry, it doesn’t sit well with me.
Children are starving and women happily prance around with an armful of designer ostrich or skin from an unborn alien’s backside. It’s become the male equivalent of arm candy and is equally stomach turning.
Now I  think I have it right.  Loads and loads and loads of handbags from charity shops, car boots and good old TK Maxx if I need something new!  I never feel guilty when I go off them because I know I haven’t broken the bank and, if I want to swop my bag every day, I can.  Women have been known to covet a particular handbag of mine - do I tell them it cost me a couple of quid at Oxfam?  Hell, yes!  I love to see them squirm! 
My favourite handbag story involves being broke at Christmas and eBay.  Picture this … Christmas approaching, husband unemployed, no money for son’s presents.  Time to offload on eBay.  Rummaging through my wardrobe I came across what I believed to be a fake Chanel cocktail bag.  You know the type, square, quilted, with gold clasp and chain handle.  I was given this bag by my brother-in-law’s brother, who had acquired it from a young lady many years ago.  Complicated, I know, but it’s the truth.  Anyway, I’d used this bag many, many times and had grown bored with the slightly 80’s look.  After a little research, my husband discovered it wasn’t a fake at all but a genuine Chanel (it had the little holographic label stitched in the inside lining).
We decided we’d be happy if it went for forty or fifty quid - a nice little amount to start off the Christmas savings. Well to cut a long story short, after much excitement and frantic bidding, it sold for £170!!! 
I did feel a little sad as we posted it to its new owner.  It had been to many a “do” with me, and to my knowledge was the only designer item in my wardrobe, but our time together had come to an end.  No time to be sentimental - time to convert to cash.
Another anecdote comes from my lovely, elderly gynaecologist.  Not the usual place you’d expect to be discussing handbags, but we’re not talking bog standard gynae here - we’re talking cuddly Father Christmas type (complete with flowing white beard) who goes out of his way to make his patients feel at ease.
 So, routine check up complete, as I’m dressing, Father Christmas piped up, “I always say to my lovely wife, it must be so frightfully difficult being a woman.”
 “Aahh,” I thought, “How sweet, a man who truly understands what we women go through!”
“Yes,” he added, “It must be such a chore having to match all those shoes with all those handbags!”
Father Christmas has retired now but his little joke lives on with me.
So, designer ladies, as you stroke your obscene piece of couture fashion, I place my latest acquisition (£3 from a jumble sale and totally gorgeous) on the breakfast bar stool in my kitchen.  Another habit of mine - any new bag will take pride of place there for a few days. It can be easily viewed as I go about my chores, admired from on high and I can pat myself on the back for my cleverness.

There's bitching, Botox and designer bags in my novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit - on Amazon for Kindle or PC.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Family sayings

While writing my book, I was racking my brains for an expression that my Godmother frequently used because I was determined to include it - then it came to me, "Ye Gods and little fishes".  She's been gone for a good few years now but I can still hear her saying it and it brings a smile to my face.
So this got me thinking about daft sayings or words that come from my family, in-laws and friends.
Sadly most of my dad's would be unprintable as he was known to be rather blue of tongue but his favourite, if somebody was a little gormless, was "She looked like two penneth of gawd 'elp us". Silly, but you certainly get the message.

Here come some more from my family:
Poor Uncle Wiggley - used when you hurt your finger and you're showing it pitifully.
Up the corner - a sour or sharp taste.
Worse than Lyons - when someone's clearing the dinner table if you haven't finished.  Lyons Tea House was famous for this.
Not today of all days - self explanatory!
Glomping - the huge, disabling, full bodied hug our son gives us in bed.
Fluffy McPluffy - the fluffing of pillows before sleeping.
Friday night relish - to truly enjoy your bed because you know you haven't got to get up early.
Thuman beans - human beings (my nephew at about 3).
Derp - to burp (nephew again!).

My husband's family:
Who let Fluffy out the bottle? - who passed wind?
You've had already a banana - my Dutch mother-in-law, to imply you can't possibly be hungry anymore.
Pog/ pog rag - to pog on the table is to make a mess which you clean up with the pog rag.
A sunbeam - a piece of cutlery that hasn't been used so doesn't need to be washed up.
Bella, Oo-hoo! - whenever the name Bella is heard it's always followed by Oo-hoo as that's how their Aussie friends used to call their cow in for milking! Recently reversed by inserting the Bella ahead of the Ohooo's when singing along with Beyonce's "Halo"
I taught you vell, my son - mother-in-law to husband whenever he achieves something, to take credit for turning out such a great son.
Hobbler - another word for horrible, "You hobbler creature!"
Een ounce kont in een pond broek - another Dutch pass-me-down,  a tiny ounce of bottom in a huge pound of pants (i.e. baggy trousers).

And friends:
Plockton toast - toast that has barely seen the grill (from a run-down Bed & Breakfast in a British holiday resort of the same name)
You're oiling me - you're annoying me (friends' son at 4)
Kenny Dalgleish - the standard answer to any football question in Trivial Pursuit when you haven't got a clue.
You look pretty - to be said in a really camp voice when the person is clearly not looking their best (e.g caught out at the door by gay neighbour when wearing manky dressing gown and no make-up).
Don't want a black egg, thanks - friend regularly to my husband after he ONCE achieved the impossible by charcoaling a fried egg.
Can't eat eggs with the window open - same friend as above, only applies to fried eggs as they taste "too eggy" with fresh air.

Feel free to add yours here!

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle or PC.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

My Love / Hate Relationship with Eggs

I love eggs, I truly do, and I could quite easily eat them every day - although I don’t because that would be bad for me, if not a little obsessive.
Eggs are so versatile and it’s not until you start thinking about them that you realise the extent of their culinary possibilities - fried, poached, scrambled, boiled, omelettes, quiches, frittatas, Benedict, cakes, sauces, biscuits, meringues, egg mayo and fresh mayonnaise if you’re brave enough.
You can also get pleasure from them when not eating them - painting them and rolling them down a hill at Easter, watching your hubbie clear them up when you accidentally drop one on the floor (same category as cat puke) and teaching your grandmother to suck them.
Then there’s the Fabergé egg - a thing of beauty if you like that sort of thing.
And, of course, the totally amazing egg that turns into the cranky teenage son who spends his life shooting zombies and eating.
There are nicknames for them too.  Living with an Aussie, I now know to call them bum nuts (a nut which comes from a chicken’s bottom?!) and cackleberries (the berry from the animal which cackles).
But as much as I love them, they can also drive me mad.  When I’m hungry, I take the advice of a very close friend, “You’ll be fine if you’ve got an egg inside you!”  Trouble is when I’m hungry, I want an egg inside me QUICKLY!  That’s where my problem with them starts.  And it’s the BOILED ones that cause all the problems.
OK, so it cooks nice and quickly with no real washing up to contend with but then comes … the peeling!  If you don’t manage to crack it in the right way and grab the first little bit of skinny membraney thing (technical term) you’ve had it!  The first grab of shell determines the outcome of the entire egg - often ending up with half a manky egg inside me.
I’ve tried everything - peeling hot, peeling cold, talking to the egg to make it my friend, positive affirmations.  But rarely do I end up with a good egg.
The boiled egg has even prompted two separate spats in our house - one with my husband and one with my mum.  Husband, whilst peeling some eggs I’d boiled and having the same struggle with them as me, asked, “How did you cook them?”  What’s a girl to answer?  Suffice it to say, my response is not printable.  Then my mum, in another egg-shell battle said, “Well, I never have this problem - what sort of eggs are they?”  Again, answer unprintable but I assured her they weren’t from a dinosaur.
So there you go, my fight with the evil bum nut continues and the day I get a perfect boiled cackleberry rolling around on my plate, I’ll be sure to blog about it.
But only after it’s inside me.

Why not check out my novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit?  On Amazon for Kindle or PC.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Thoughts on Marriage

I was talking to a couple of women at our Royal Wedding street party and they were delighting in the fact that their husbands would be away on business for a couple of days.  "Oh, bliss!" they said, "No dirty washing to pick up, watch what I want on TV, eat what I want."
I felt a bit of a wuss for not being able to agree - my husband and I have spent two nights apart in twenty years, once when I had our son and once when my husband had renal cholic (far more painful than pushing something the size of a melon out of something the size of a lemon, he reliably informs me!)
We don't spend nights apart because we don't want to.  Why would you marry someone to not be with them?  I married my best friend and every minute we spend together is precious - even when we (occasionally) bicker about petty things like not putting the teaspoon back in the teabag pot (me to him) or over-feeding the cats (him to me).  That's what makes a strong marriage.
We've had a pretty tough few years - redundancy, coping with a son with school refusal, caring for my elderly mum and we haven't had a proper holiday for eight years (no violins, please!),  but we get through it together by doing the things we do best.  Trusting and laughing.
I really believe that without those two things we would be nothing.  A marriage should be based on trust because without it you have nothing.  I trust my husband with my life and my heart and I truly believe he will always do right by me.  I think he believes the same of me.
And laughter, well, we never stop.  Luckily we both have the same daft sense of humour and are known to spend many a dull night making up ridiculous games.  And with the laughter comes talking.  We do it non stop and never seem to run dry.  Don't you hate it when you see couples in a restaurant who have nothing to say to one another?
With my husband by my side, I believe anything is possible.  He believed in me when I said I was going to write a book and he supported, and continues to support me, every step of the way.
So ladies, no I don't want my husband to piddle off on jaunts or business trips because I enjoy having him around.  I like him!

Libby and Ned have an excellent marriage in my novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit - on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Poor Liz Jones

So Liz Jones (Daily Mail) has had a face lift which cost over thirteen grand and has shared the experience with the world (You Magazine).
This is the same Liz Jones who, not that many months ago, claimed to be bankrupt and struggling with mountainous debts.  Even pensioners took pity on her and sent her money!
I can't wait until I'm as broke as her.
But seriously Liz, every week I try to avoid reading your articles because I know you'll wind me up with your endless bleating about failed relationships and "woe is me" - but this time you've taken it to new levels, you've irritated me more than I ever thought possible.
Do something about the INSIDE of your head or you will truly never be happy.   Learn to love yourself because, judging by the comments on Twitter yesterday, you're the only person who's likely to.
In fact, take a break from your writing, go somewhere to contemplate your navel (if it's still where it used to be!) and move over so I can take your job on. Thanks!

There are plenty of annoying and self centred women in my novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit - on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


I was a daddy's girl and my lovely dad taught me many, many things in the short eighteen years I had him in my life. One thing he DID NOT teach me to do was flirt ... I learnt that all by myself.

No wonder Germaine Greer found herself in hot water when, on Question Time, she claimed that girls could be sexualised by 'kissing their fathers goodnight' and that 'little girls learn to flirt with their fathers'.  Thankfully the sharp intake of breath from the audience made it clear that the sane world disagrees with her.

What a truly disgusting thing to say  - to almost make the wonderful father/daughter relationship a little bit mucky.

I used to kiss my dad goodnight, not once, but many, many times in quick succession - a silly little habit that we had.  I used to sit on his shoulders at the back of his arm chair and massage his head, tickle his ears with a rolled up cigarette paper and play hairdressers - what do you make of that, Germaine?  Because if you want to sully it and start psycho-bloody-analysing it, you've got me to answer to.  I had the best dad in the world, there was nothing smutty about it.  I grew up loved and loving.  What was your dad like?

My son, at 15, still kisses his dad good night and when he goes out.  They have joked since he was about 5 that at his 18th birthday they will have a slow dance together.  Does that make him gay?

I know Germaine has got flack from all sides about this but I still wanted to have my rant - I loved my dad and would give anything to give him another kiss goodnight - what's so wrong with that?

My novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Long live (real) books!

I bet there must be loads of people out there with the same weird habits as me.  New book purchased, stroke, sniff that lovely cover and then a quick flick to the back to see how many yummy pages there are to keep me enthralled - always being careful not to discover the ending, of course.
With the birth of the Kindle and epublishing this isn't posssible.
I would like nothing more than to hold a copy of my "baby" in my hands, sniff it and think, "I wrote that!"
Sadly that's not the way my book went - it came very close with two near misses with top London publishers but the "real book" was never born. Ironically, given that the credit crunch is one of the themes of the book, they'd scaled back new writers by the time I submitted the changes they asked for (and my agent dropped the ball!).
An ebook seemed to be my last option and I'm glad that I've done it but, being old fashioned, it will never be the same.
Had I been a celebrity, I'd have been in print before you could say "royalties!"  And I wouldn't even have had to write it myself. Bitter, me?
I may be a published Kindle author but I still say, long live REAL books.  Sorry trees!

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.

Friday, 10 June 2011

School refusal

When people find out the majority of my first book was written in the confines of my car in a school car park, their first question is obviously, why?

I then have to explain how my son developed school refusal AKA school phobia at the age of eleven.  Inevitably the first response is generally something along the lines of, "Well, surely that was just naughtiness and he was trying it on?  Why couldn't you just make him get on with it?"

The answer is very simple.  School phobia is not petulance. It's crippling and very real, like only those who have had panic attacks can tell you.

As any parent who has ever dealt with this condition knows, when it first hits you have absolutely no idea what you're dealing with.  In fact, you think the very things that others have asked.  Is he playing up?  Am I being too lenient?  And in the beginning you try everything - punishment, bribes, coaxing, shouting, crying - you name it you give it a go. Then come the darker thoughts ... is he being bullied? Or even abused?

Once he was properly diagnosed, it was a question of baby steps - with me constantly in the background.  First step to enter the form room, next a full class, a half day, a full day etc.  This took the best part of three years and I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could be there to support him.  My heart goes out to those kids who never conquer the fear and, indeed, never return to school.

There's not enough talk about school phobia and certainly not the sort of support students get in Japan, which has the highest incidence in the world. We had to pay for a child psychologist but were lucky enough to have a fantastic counsellor on site at his school.  Also the teaching staff were incredibly supportive and I could not fault the school's pastoral care.

As I write, my son has just returned from school having completed his penultimate GSCE and school phobia is a distant memory, almost as if it happened to another boy.  He's looking forward to returning in September to do his A levels at a school he now loves.

So, a happy ending all round really - a son who conquered his fears and the birth of a book!

UPDATE - 21st February 2013.  We have since featured in The Daily Mail  on ITV's This Morning (blog and link to feature here) And have met fellow tweeters and bloggers who have struggled with their children and this very real condition.  Donna Trinder and Ann Beck

The resulting novel is Diary of a Mummy Misfit - on Amazon for Kindle.

Now also available in paperback at Lulu.