Tag Archives: Forbidden Pleasures

The problem with shopping…


So here’s a picture of me having my big author moment on Friday.  My book signing at Gatwick.  OK, so it’s not me pulling up in a stetch limo outside Harrods in a white designer trouser suit, like I always fantasized it would be when I started writing novels, but it felt pretty rocking none-the-less.

For a whole day, I managed to cover up my pool painted toes and shutter scraping war-wounded knuckles to sign copies of my new book.  The lovely Tina had tables of books ready for me to sign and it was a fabulous feeling seeing so many copies of Forbidden Pleasures and Platinum all stacked up.

The only thing that irked me was that I had no children with me, lots of time and all the family credit cards, but could I find anything I wanted to buy in Gatwick?  Could I hell. Not a thing. 

I’m usually dashing past Accesorize, running for the gate with kids in tow and screech to a halt as a lovely bikini has caught my eye, but there’s no time to buy anything and I’m dragged off, cursing that I never have time to shop.

But shopping is an illusive thing.  It’s one of those girly life skills I seem to have completely missed out on, along with how to apply fake-tan and how to achieve a smoky-eye without looking like I’ve been in a fight.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I’m slightly phobic about shopping.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having new things, but not so much that I don’t look in my wardrobe and think that what I’ve got already will do.

So far, one of the highlights of my summer has been getting all my summer clothes down from the loft.  I only ever bring hand-luggage on holiday, as I know I have loads of clothes already here, but it wasn’t until I got them out the other day, I realized how many there were.  It was like Christmas.  Loads and loads of old favourite summer dresses – all totally shabby, but wearable.  I sat with them heaped around me, dewy-eyed with pleasure – the biggest part of which was the knowledge that I wouldn’t need to go anywhere near a shop for the whole summer.

Of course, in with the good stuff was a heap of market mistakes, which I keep purely for comic value.  You know the thing when you’re on holiday and your basket is full of melons and peaches, but the lady on the next stall is selling cheap dresses and you convince yourself that the pretty fabric will look amazing on you? My favourite such travesty, is last years pink and black paisley one-piece with elasticated pantaloon legs and a boob tube top.  Yikes.  What was I thinking?  The Little One put it on her head and pranced around like a clown to riotous applause.

But I wonder about how I should teach my girls to shop, because they don’t have a clue.  My own mother failed to pass on any clarity.  She only shops in  M&S and buys endless outfits, only to take them straight back again the next day.  She’s spent more time in the returns queue than anyone I know.

But we all shop differently, I’ve noticed.  I have some mates who spend hours browsing the stores.  They know instantly when the new stock is in at Zara, or when the sales start in Selfridges.  They sniff out bargains and compare prices and stock like truffle pigs and they’ve often bought the Grazia recommendation even before it’s gone to print.

Then there’s the really skilled shoppers regularly schedule ‘shopping days’ with their other friends and lunch out for hours before coming back with whole outfits that they’ve somehow managed to co-ordinate.   I envy those girls.

But I don’t envy the junk food shoppers.  I know loads of them.  They’re after a quick fix, but remain deeply unsatisfied and have wardrobes full of ill-fitting Gap trousers and un-washable New Look tops, but still can’t stop themselves buying something on their lunch break.  They are Gok candidates through and through.

Personally, I’m of the smash-and-grab school of shoppers.  Once in a blue moon, I’ll see something I like, run into the shop and buy it.  I’m ashamed to say that price is rarely a factor in my purchasing decision and I only have a 70/30 impulse decision success rate.

So, after mooching round all the concessions at Gatwick, I consoled myself by parking myself at the Seafood Bar, where I decadently ordered myself a half bottle of champagne and a smoked salmon salad.  I’m pleased to report that there are some life skills at which I do excel, after all.

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Beach blues


OK, so here’s the thing – and I know this is controversial and may sound weird since I spend all of my holidays out here in the Med, but I hate the whole sunbathing-on-sandy-beaches thing.  I do, I really do.  Beaches should be so fabulous, but they are so stressful.

For starters, there’s the stripping off thing.  This tummy of mine was never designed for a bikini, or for public scrutiny.  When it’s out in the fresh air, I spend lots of time looking at it, thinking that one day it might be different, but somehow that day has never arrived.  Believe me, it’s a lifelong disappointment.  Even when I was a kid in those seventies bikinis with the plastic ring bits, I’ve never looked that good in a two piece.  Three hefty pregnancies haven’t helped, either.

Anyway, so caught up have I been in pool and shutter painting, that when the kids begged loudly enough to be taken to the seaside, I realized to my horror that I wasn’t even remotely beach ready  – if you get my tufty drift.  Fortunately, Denise had a spare half hour.

Denise runs a beauty clinic in posh Portals which is an air-conditioned paradise for the buffed, botoxed, bronzed brigade.  As I stood on the thick carpet in reception, I took one look in the mirror at my unkempt bushy eyebrows and almost screeched out loud.

But you can’t screech in Denise’s.   The whole place is wall-to-wall soft peachy fluffiness.  Peach towelling beds and peach walls and there’s piped pan-pipes playing loud enough to drown out the scraping of feet and the ripping of wax and plucking and all the other peachy bits that goes on behind each peach curtain.  Considering the levels of pain that goes on, the place is as peaceful as a church.

I guess I set a new low for them, because when I lay on the bed the thin, beautiful Spanish girl took my foot in her hand and looked at it as if it were a dead thing washed up on shore.

But, boy she was good.  Half an hour later, I was more-or-less bikini ready.  (Before you ask, I’m  not quite old enough to declare myself a swim suit person.  That’s really throwing in the towel and I’m too vain for that.  That would be like telling the kids I’m forty!).  

So soon I’m on the beach, breathing in, doing that leaning down with your elbows behind you thing that they talk about in Grazia, making all sorts of vows to myself about when my sit-up regime will start.

And everything would have been fine, if I could’ve assumed that position, except that wasn’t possible.  Because the second big disadvantage of any beach trip is my kids.

Don’t get me wrong – I love them.  I love that they love the beach,  but from the second we arrive, it’s carnage.  Clothes are flung everywhere as they wrestle into bikinis (in which they all look amazing, I might add) as I trot around after them squirting sun-cream and muttering about hats and sunglasses and armbands as they slip out of my grasp into the water. 

Within seconds they’re back with a barrage of questions: Can I have my flippers/goggles/bucket/spade/towel?  Can I have an ice-cream/ drink/fishing net?  Can we get a banana boat ride/slide-pedalo/sun-lounger? Will you look after my crab/shells/OMG what is that?

I settle each demand and think about how I might open my book, but guess what?  The towel-draggers are hungry and they want the picnic I’ve bought in the cool box.  And thus begins the hell of making sandwiches.  Thus called because I turn into a witch and everything I produce is full of sand.

But that’s not the worst bit of my summer beach experience.  Oh no.  Being hot and sweaty and covered in sticky melon juice is nothing compared to the private ego bashing that the beach trip involves.  Because everywhere you look, people are reading books and I can’t help but pathetically hope that one of them is reading my book.

Emlyn keeps reminding me that my book isn’t even officially until next week, so it’s unlikely that I’ll see the airport edition anywhere, but I can’t help scanning each book cover and marvelling at what the public at large are reading and battling with chronic writer’s insecurity.  My spouse watches me nervously.  He knows from experience the consequences of accosting readers on the beach.

I guess I haven’t recovered yet from my J R Hartley moment at Gatwick when I asked for my book and the kind lady in Smiths waved me to the back of the shop, saying that the pile at the front had gone.  A blessing at least, but seeing Forbidden Pleasures alone on the shelf surrounded by so many other books, made me experience the kind of crowd claustrophobia I last experienced trying to get out of the O2 arena. 

It’s my baby and it’s special. I rescued it and sidled up to a girl who already had several books she was dithering between.  ‘Get this,’ I urged her, thrusting my book at her.  I went on to explain the roller-coaster plot and how it would be perfect for the beach.  How I’d written it just for people like her. ‘But I’m on holiday with my boyfriend,’ she said sceptically, ‘I doubt I’ll get much time to read. I just want something that makes me look good.’ 

As the saying goes, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

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A Little Bit of Escapism…

Why does everything pile up at this time of year?  The end of term is nearly upon us and I’m inundated with stuff to do – like sort out the leaving card for The Middle One’s teacher, attend the end of year Mum’s nights out, as well as the school fairs, plays, tea parties and sports days – the list goes on.  And it’s all happening along with the sudden cram-it-all-in-before-the-summer socializing. Oh, and Wimbledon.


Thank God, the football is over.  Yes, yes, despite my profound sense of ennui, I did succumb to watching the England games – quietly singing ‘I was right, I was right, I was right,’ to the same tune as everyone else chanting, ‘In-ger-land, In-ger-land, In-ger-land’.   (I really do hope they’ve left our extra syllable in South Africa.)

Those over-paid, under performing, pathetically pampered players should be ashamed of themselves.  Wouldn’t it be fun if we still had the old-fashioned stocks as punishment? I’d love to throw a few rotten tomatoes at that lot.  Fabio Cappello – take that mouldy cabbage.  Ha!

I’m clearly not alone in feeling like this.

On the Monday school run, I saw a white van man screech to a halt beside a skip.  He got out, ripped his white flags off the top and dumped them ceremoniously amongst the mattresses and fridges.  Then he spat on top of them.

Didn’t I say the world cup would be bad for the country’s morale?  As I said: I was right.

But I’ve got more important things to worry about.  Namely, that I’ve asked the neighbours to house-sit whilst we’re on holiday, which would be fine, except that I’ve started to look at my house from their point of view. And the painful truth that has been lurking in the back of my mind can no longer be avoided.  It’s a tip.

But that’s not because I don’t tidy up.  Oh no.  I spend vast quantities of each day tidying up.  I’m the Duracell bunny of tidying up. I don’t think I’ve ever once been up or down the stairs in my house without armfuls of stuff to be redistributed.

Yet despite my thin veneer of cleanliness and my ability to make my house look just about presentable for an hour or so, just look closer and you’ll see that every single cupboard and drawer is bursting with stuff.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  It’s Everywhere.   Today was the day that the creeping tide of The Stuff had to be stopped.

But before long I was huffing and puffing and wondering why I can’t be even slightly OCD?  I’ve got some friends who are REALLY REALLY OCD (RROCD). But not me.  I’m rubbish at this tidying and ordering lark. It’s bad enough coping with the never-ending laundry for a family of five, but opening the play room door seriously makes me lose the will to live.

Anyway, today I was under siege from the toppling tower of toddler debris whilst having an imaginary fantasy about calling the white van man and cheering him up by paying him a fortune to take everything to that skip, when a delightful email pinged up from my publishers.  A timely reminder that life isn’t all about cleaning and sorting out the domestic debris.

You see, publication time is approaching.  FORBIDDEN PLEASURES will be hitting the supermarkets and all good bookshops near you on 5th August.  Check out the new swanky cover above and tell your mates that their summer read is nearly here.

Thrillingly, there were some early reader previews from Chicklitreviews.com  – which I’ve posted into the reviews section of this blog.

It was just the motivational boost I needed.  I hoofed everything back into the playroom and rammed the cupboard shut, before scampering back to my  study.

So where was I…?

Ah yes.  That sultry night in Rio and the gorgeous  Argentinian stud with the mysterious brunette in a backless dress and stolen emerald necklace…

I felt better in an instant.   You see!  A little bit of escapism is just what a girl needs.

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The children of writers

Today the super-shiny proof of my latest novel, Forbidden Pleasures turned up.   It’s not being published until August, but here it is, in print.  It’s a cause for much celebration over the breakfast table.

After we’ve all ‘oo-ed’ and ‘ahh-ed’ and taken turns to stroke it, we have a big session of ‘finish the sentence’.  It’s a tradition.

Emlyn reads, ‘Lois was in the senator’s arms…?’

‘When she heard the shot,’ I reply, not missing a beat.

It’s the big one’s turn.  ‘Does anything really matter, apart from this?  Apart from us?’ she reads.  ‘And then…?’

‘Easy!’ I say, munching my toast. ‘And then his lips were on hers in the moonlight.’

‘Well done, Mummy,’ says the little one, clapping her sticky hands together in the booster chair.

But the middle one has learnt to read too and she wants a turn.  She opens the book at a random page and reads slowly.

‘She leaned down and flicked her tongue over -’

‘Give me that!’ I yelp, lunging over the table to grab the book.  ‘Shouldn’t you be getting ready for school?’

Emlyn laughs, but I again I’m left worried about how this weird profession of ours will affect our kids in the long-term.

I like to think that they’re getting a totally normal childhood, but I supposed there are little ways in which our writing life infringes on our family life.  The kids fridge magnets that get commandeered to attach reviews in pride of place in the kitchen, the haphazard pile of foreign editions wedging open the playroom door, the tiny scraps of paper bearing sacred nocturnal jottings that must never be touched or moved – even if they happen to be on the back of homework.  The promised bed-time story that gets postponed because one of us has ‘book head’ and has retreated to speed type the section we’ve been puzzling over all day, which only surfaced when we were flipping the fish-fingers.

And then there’s the irrational superstition about the post. In our household, the post gets shuffled through and discarded, until we find ‘The Precious’.  These are envelopes containing an invoice statement from our agents.  When one of these arrives,  Emlyn rubs it in a Gollum-like way and makes eyes at me.  The invoice inside tells us how much we’ve been paid, but neither of us have a clue how much this may be.  It could be say, news of twelve pounds eighty-eight pence royalties from Latvia, or a big load payload from Holland, where our books have always been popular.

Back to this morning, and the little one says ‘are my words in there?’  It’s sweet that she’s remembered, although technically she only typed a space, in between ‘The’ and ‘End’ which belonged to her sisters. I remember now that hot summer night, when I hauled the girls out of bed to come and type ‘The End’.  Exhausted, wrung out, I wept as they typed.  ‘Promise me you don’t become writers,’ I wailed.  ‘Look what it’s done to your old mother.’  They looked disturbed and went back to bed, but I was too absorbed in post book-birth to worry.

Despite my warnings, however, the big one is showing worrying signs of becoming a writer.  As I did as a child, she wanders around all the time with a pen and a spiral bound notebook.  She read some of her work in progress the other day to us.  I didn’t have to look at Emlyn to know we were both thinking the same thing:  She’s good.

So good in fact that afterwards, we did have the hushed conversation:  would it technically be plagiarism to nick one of her descriptions?  Surely as writers, breeding our own metaphor machine is allowed?

Fortunately, the middle one is showing promising signs of being a level-headed future accountant.  Not long ago I found a big pot of money under her bed.

‘What’s this?’ I asked.

‘I’m saving.’

‘Saving for what?’

She shrugged.  ‘Food…University…Stuff.’

She’s six.

‘Look, Mummy, I know the precious have stopped arriving,’ she added, with a sympathetic look.

I had to explain that thanks to the postal strike at Christmas and the literary agents desire to save paper, invoices were now arriving by email and no longer by post.

It took a moment for this to sink in.  But it still didn’t dent her resolve.

‘Whatever happens, I’ll look after you,’ she told me, hugging me close.

That’s what you want your kids to tell you, right?  But when you’re eighty.

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