Tag Archives: wine

The ‘C’ Word

OK, I know it’s November, but we can’t miss it. Christmas is everywhere.  Are you, like me starting to feel overwhelmed by the thought of presents.  Well, here’s one solution…

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Do you remember reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ when you were a kid?  It’s always been one of my favourite poems and I’ve read it to our own girls over the years.  I like that warm, fuzzy feeling I get at the end of it, when Santa has been to visit and has disappeared off into the night.

Well, here’s our much more realistic modern take on it – hopefully with the Christmas sentiment still intact…just.  ‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas is our latest parody and hits the shops this month.

We had an absolute hoot writing it. (Obviously none of our own family members – or those of our friends make and appearance AT ALL!)  It’s about Christmas Eve day and the mayhem at the Jones household when all the extended family turn up for the festivities. There are so many issues – Aunty Sue and Uncle Bob are post divorce, Uncle Trev on the lagers and Gran and Grandad attempting to micro manage everyone…oh, and let’s not forget that Mum’s internet shopping still hasn’t arrived.  It’s no wonder that a massive scrap breaks out.

Come and see our new Parody Central page for further updates.  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/parodycentralbooks/

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Working Lunch

I know I’m lucky to be a novelist, but I have to admit, sometimes I miss working in an office. Only because the lunches were so great.  Especially on Fridays.

Back in the days when I worked in Sales Promotion, flexing my literary talents by writing such copy gems as Honey Monster’s Soccer Pop-Up’s for the back of Sugar Puffs cereal boxes, we’d all down tools at lunchtime.   And even if there was a boardroom lunch and we had to stay in the building, it was always fun to nick sandwiches from the trays from the outside caterers, sneaking corners of coronation chicken from under the cling film.

But on Friday lunchtimes, we’d religiously pile into All Bar One to reward our week’s work with a big fat lunch and a couple of large glasses of chardonnay.   Oh, happy days.

The non-participation, non-event lunch is the writer’s curse. And the concept of a whole hour of free time in the day, outrageous.  You’d think since Emlyn and I both work at home and we’re kid-free at noon, that we’d slope off for long lunches, but the guilt is too great and the time for writing always too short.

But we still fantasize about lunch, like real working people do – usually from about 9.30am in my case.  But there’s no fancy ciabatta, or sun-dried tomato or salady nonsense round here.  Instead, ravenous at 1pm, we meet like cave-people down by the fridge to forage for last night’s leftovers.  Sometimes, we’ll splash out on some supermarket sushi, or take-away chips, but only on Fridays.

It’s not so bad now the sun has come out and we can eat our cold curry in the garden, but we eat and then get straight back to work.  Only yesterday, Emlyn was reminiscing about his old office lunch hours when he’d eat his sandwich in the park and ogle at all the girls for the other 58 minutes.  It’s not quite the same with just me.  And I don’t think my tracky bottoms are doing it for him.

But I have to admit that I get very jealous when I hear about people having a big corporate lunches.  Fancy being paid to do my favourite thing all the time.  I only get to have a lunch date once a month, if that.

We met a lovely MP on holiday last year who diets during August, because he has to attend so many big lunches the rest of the time.  I couldn’t bring myself to get the violins out.  And city boys are the worst culprits, although our rich friends say times are leaner these days.

But it’s not just them.  Publishers, of course,  are renowned for their lunching habits. There was once a fantastic panto at the end of the London Book Fair when a famous agent and publisher got up on stage to sing the ballad, ‘the long and winding lunch’, to the tune of The Beatles, ‘long and winding road’.  Never a truer word sung.

With that in mind, I’ve spent this week corrupting my fabulous new editor into a Friday  lunch date in May.  To be honest, it wasn’t that hard.  But I can’t wait.

In the meantime, my March lunch date is today.  (I’ll tell you about April’s exciting lunch plan in a future blog.)  I’m off to glam up to go to the AGM of ‘Rubbish Mothers’, an elite club of which I am a proud member.  It involves bunking off for a boozy lunch to a nice Thames-side restaurant with some wonderful girlfriends. Do I feel guilty?   Course I don’t.  The long and winding lunch and rubbish mothering go hand in hand.  Try it sometime.

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Undone outside

I’m always reminded of how delighted I am that I’m no longer twenty-three when I go and see Cheryl, my hairdresser.  She very kindly agreed to squeeze me in for a blow dry before ‘the rush’ on Saturday.

‘What’s the rush?’ I asked.

Cutting a very long reply short – apparently it’s when all the girls come in to be ‘done’ for their night out photo-shoot.   Photo-shoot?  Yep, you see they get all glammed up – their hair, make-up and nails ‘done’ –  and then they pose for each other taking staged party pictures on their phones to be downloaded onto Facebook later when they’re out.  Facebook, it seems, means boom business for beauticians.

Why don’t they just take pictures at the time in situ?  Well, you see, the lighting is bad in bars and clubs, the flash washes out your make-up, and your hair looks best right after it’s been blow-dried.  Being caught ‘not done’ in public is social death.  ‘Yeah, you can’t leave the house without being done these days,’ Cheryl warned me.

I thought she was being ridiculous, until yesterday morning, when we were rudely awakened by the recycling lorry at 7 a.m.  Swearing, we both raced out of bed. I got the lead, flinging on my tatty old dressing gown and manky slippers.  I scooped up the tub of bottles from the back and trotted up the hall with them, dribbling of red wine down my leg and over the carpet.

I darted outside and made it just in time for the lorry men, who scowled at me. Cheryl’s blow dry wasn’t holding out too well after five days and I had monstrous panda eyes.

I was about to hot foot it back inside, when I heard a deep, sexy voice.  ‘Hi, I’m Gareth.  I’ve been meaning to introduce myself.  You’re the writer, right?’

I looked up.  It was him.  The new neighbour. The ones we’ve been curtain twitching over for days.  The ones with a shiny black Merc with clean car seats. But they clearly know all about us too.

I clutched the neck of my dressing gown.

‘And this is Lucinda.’  He turned.  And there she was, coming towards us, all white teeth, slo-mo in a halo of perfume.  Lucinda.  Immaculate.  Hair done.  Make-up done.  ‘This is Jo.  The writer,’ Gareth said, looking between me and his gorgeous wife.

Behind them the recycling man emptied my black tub of bottles.  There was an almighty crash as they landed.  It went on forever.   ‘It’s two week’s worth,’ I said pathetically, shaking her manicured hand.

Social death.  I should have listened to Cheryl.

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The reluctant marathon runner

Apart from baking – at which I am shamefully hopeless – I like to think that I could probably do most things, or give them a go at least.  Sure, I’ll never be a nuclear scientist or a brain surgeon, unless vicariously through one of my characters, of course, but even then, I have no illusions. I’m not like one of those Holby actors who claim that it’s as if they’re really doing the operation.  Does anyone else find that really annoying?

However, in my time, I’ve scuba dived, become a qualified hang-glider, done up a house, I even changed a tire once.  But this time I’ve really gone one step too far.  I’ve signed up to do a marathon.

This seemed like a good idea, half a bottle – no, maybe more like – three-quarters of a bottle of wine down in the pub a few weeks ago.  When my lovely friend Sarz mentioned she was running to raise awareness and money for a brave little boy in her son’s class with a rare form of cancer, I started swaggering about, not to be outdone.  Sign me up.  I’ll do it.  Easy peasy.  After all, how hard can it be?  Worse than childbirth?  Worse than finishing a novel?  I think not.

Emlyn and the kids were horrified when I made the grand announcement.  My eldest, who is learning about Ancient Greece in school said, ‘But Mummy, the man who ran the first marathon got famous because he died.’  I reassured her that I’m not going to die.  There’s free energy drinks all the way round the route, apparently.

However, training for a marathon is not turning out to be easy peasy.  I’ve never done more than half hour mummy runs, followed by a restorative bacon sarnies, so there’s a fitness issue, obviously.  Yet worse than the sore legs and the time commitment to pounding the tarmac, it’s the inner battle that’s the hardest.  Because running is just so virtuous, so GOOD.  It’s bringing out my age-old smoking-behind-the-bikesheds mentality.  I don’t want to be a running bore.  I want to be cool.

But hang on, I’m a mother of three and now that I’m leaving my thirties behind, being healthy IS cool, right?   Running a marathon is a huge achievement.  A shining example to set to my three young daughters.

So why am I being so pathetic about it?  Seriously, I reckon I’ve drunk more since I started training than ever before.  I’m running with hang-overs, which is insane, heaving my carcass up the road, bleary-eyed in brand new kit with red wine stained lips.  It’s terrible.  And I’m avoiding the running club like the plague. I’ll marathon run away from the herd, thank you very much.  Ugh! I mean, there’s just something so sissy about men in lycra doing running stretches.  Give me the bad boy on the motorbike any day.

But I’m not backing out now.  Even though twenty-six miles, is quite frankly a big swear-word long way.  Oh my God.  Gimme a drink!

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