Sunday, 28 October 2012

Home Sweet Home

For the last eighteen months I’ve been trying to persuade Mr V to downsize.  With only one child left at home, we do not need a big house with monster heating bills and a garden I struggle to find time to deal with.  I’ve rebelled slightly in the last couple of months by hanging up my lawnmower and employing a gardener.
The gardener’s skills are impressive.  Unlike me, he doesn’t hack shrubs about so they seamlessly blend into one another.  Oh no.  These days my shrubs are manicured.  Each one is showcased.  The gardener hasn’t yet reached the stage of shaping plants into peacocks, but that moment isn't far away.  After all, my previously wayward holly bush now looks suspiciously like a Christmas pudding.
Anyway, I digress.  Project Moving House was never destined to be something that would happen overnight.  Not with a man like Mr V in the equation.  Unlike my husband, I am a person who makes swift decisions and acts instantly.  Some people might call this impulsive.  Others (like me) call it not farting about.  I don’t know where that expression comes from, but it’s very apt.  Mr V is full of hot air about reasons not to downsize swiftly:  like parting with hard-earned money over stamp duty (don’t get him on that subject unless you have a spare couple of hours), estate agent fees (ditto) and removal costs (ditto ditto ditto).  His next pet hate is viewing a house in a street blocked with cars.  Nor must a potential property be by a main road, or out in the back of beyond, or near a telephone mast, or pylons, or gasworks, or a railway station, or a motorway, or a massive supermarket, or a....
Is it any wonder that I feel battle worn before we even ring the doorbell of a potential viewing?
Yesterday we spoke to three different estate agents and viewed three different properties.  I could have lived in every one of them.  Right area, right price, absolutely no revamping required whatsoever.  Mr V only liked the last property.  But when I say liked, I mean blown away.  The estate agents were eager to know our thoughts.  Mine were unhesitating.  I was having them all.  Whereas Mr V said, ‘All I need to do is...think about it.’  This is major progress. Another 18 months and we just might be on the move.
Which reminds me.  Did you hear about the estate agent who sent a complimentary bouquet of flowers to a client?  Unfortunately the florist delivered a wreath with a card that read Rest in Peace.  Furious, the Estate Agent complained to the florist.  ‘Oh dear,’ said the florist, ‘somewhere there is a funeral with flowers on the coffin and a message that reads Wishing you every happiness in your new home.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Swanley Village – the Soap Opera

There can’t be a Brit that hasn’t heard of Coronation Street.  As a child I was brought up on Corrie.  When I met Mr V he asked, ‘You don’t watch that rubbish do you?’  ‘Moi?’ I asked, eyes very wide, ‘Good heavens no.  Absolute drivel.’
In fact I couldn’t wait for half past seven on a Monday, Wednesday and a Friday.  I adored this soap opera.  Would Bett Lynch divorce Alec Gilroy?  Would Rita Fairclough ever find love again?  I am reliably informed that she did and is now known as Rita Tanner.  Apparently her name changed several times in between.  Rita might be knocking eighty, but she’s clearly a goer who has been round The Kabin’s block a few times.  Needless to say, I no longer watch the box.  And Mr V is now an avid fan of Coronation Street.
However, who needs to tune in to a soap opera when there has been one unfolding right on my own doorstep?
A couple of weeks ago there was a murder.  Right outside the village’s twee country pub with its frothy hanging baskets, cosy beams and lamplight.  Hundreds of floral tributes are still tucked into the hedgerows that border the narrow lane.  Shocked villagers put their hands to their mouths and whispered, ‘Things like that don’t happen here.’  And then earlier on this week, whilst walking my pooch with a fellow dog walker, my friend told me that the windows of her husband’s car had been smashed to smithereens overnight.
It has since transpired that two men have been arrested in connection with the murder.  Likewise regarding the car vandalism.  Regarding the latter, lads were driving around with a massive homemade catapult randomly firing large stones at cars, houses and even people.  It begs the question why?  Boredom?  Fun?  Born with a brain the size of a pea?  Oh sorry, I mean no brain at all (can’t insult peas).

Folk in my village aren’t used to horror.  The most outrageous thing to have happened in the last twelve months was somebody swiping the church’s lychgate.  Heaven knows why (no pun intended).
Hopefully village life will get back on an even keel without any more nasty incidences.  If not, instead of typing novels, I might be pitching a new soap opera to the Beeb.
Which reminds me.  Why are men are like soap operas?  Because they’re wonderful to watch but you mustn’t believe everything they say...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ring Bling

Next month Mr V and I will be celebrating an anniversary ending with a zero.  I can’t believe where the years have gone actually.
I’ve been married before (my first husband is deceased).  I met my children’s father at the age of 18.  It was a bit of a whirlwind thing and, back then, we didn’t have any spare cash.  My engagement ring came from Argos and cost ninety-nine pounds.
I didn’t think I’d re-marry, but life has a funny old way of telling you otherwise.  The great thing about getting married later in life is that finances are usually more solid.  So when I accepted Mr V’s proposal of marriage, instead of pouring over a catalogue for an engagement ring, I found myself walking the pavements of Hatton Garden.  At the time I was working for solicitors in the City, and Hatton Garden was just around the corner.  ‘Go along in your lunch hour and see what you like,’ said Mr V.
I defy any woman to turn her nose up at a diamond or three.  I certainly didn’t.  Rather my nose turned into that of a sniffer dog.  And I was off, tail up nose down, seeking out my ring.  I knew it was there, I just had to find it.
Hatton Garden was and still is mesmerising.  The pavements are lined with gorgeous brightly lit shops showcasing vast displays of jewellery.  Intricate, complicated, simple, fashionable, retro, traditional, contemporary... I’d barely gone a dozen paces when my nose twitched uncontrollably.  And there it was, nestling in a velvet cushion pad.  The shop’s ever-so-craftily-placed lights bounced off a diamond of which to be proud.  I pushed the door open and went inside.
‘Hello, do sit down; can I make you a tea?  Coffee?  Have a sweetie!’  A bowl of chocolates were pushed in front of me, and a plush chair pulled out.  I sank down, feeling like a VIP.  Which, in hindsight, I was.  Very Important Purchaser.  The ring was brought out.  The jeweller slipped it on my third finger.  A perfect fit.  It had my name all over it.  I glanced at the price tag.  That bit had Mr V’s name all over it.
I floated back to the office with my mobile clamped to one ear.  ‘I’ve found it!’ I sang.  Mr V’s response wasn’t as enthusiastic as I’d hoped.  ‘You’re not having the first ring you’ve clapped eyes on.’  There then followed a week of intense ring shopping with Mr V marching me into – I do not lie – every single local jeweller in the Kent vicinity.  Nothing compared to that first ring.  In time, I returned to Hatton Garden, this time with my fiancé.  The jeweller slid the ring on my finger and I fell in love with it all over again.  And the rest, as they say, is history.
Except Mr V promised me, all those years ago, that in 2012 he would buy me an eternity ring.  So once again I found myself back in Hatton Garden, standing outside that first jewellery shop.  I knew what I wanted.  A bespoke design to match my engagement ring.  The jeweller pushed a piece of paper across the glass counter.  On it was written a figure.  Mr V choked on his chocolate and nearly fell off his plush chair.  ‘Thank you so much,’ my husband’s larynx struggled for composure, ‘we’ll be back in a bit.’
We were meant to be going out for a romantic lunch.  Instead I found myself encountering déjà vu as Mr V propelled me along the pavement randomly diving off into different shops.  Once again it was time to suss out the best deal, the biggest bargain, the greatest choice.  Except I knew what I wanted.  And other jewellers said my design was either beyond their craftsmanship or too intricate for them to attempt.  The romantic lunch ended up being a very rushed tuna sandwich in Pret.
Meanwhile we’re waiting for a mock-up picture to be emailed.  Mr V can’t envisage the design I can see in my head.  So patience is required for a little longer.  But I really can’t wait to get my eternity ring!  Which reminds me...what do men call the three rings of marriage?  Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Only Fools and Dogs

As far as I’m concerned, my senior pooch is Super Dog.  Why?  Well, because she’s wonderful of course!  She sleeps at the foot of my bed, beeps her nose against mine when it’s time to wake up, and waits patiently for the last piece of toast.  When I go out, she transfers to the half landing in order to gaze through a window and wait for my car’s return.  And when I’m writing into the early hours, she lays on my feet snoring.  At bedtime, she bounds up the stairs ahead of me.  Except this week, she stopped bounding.
It seems only 5 minutes ago we rescued a mad beagle that could leap over fences, dig faster than a JCB, swipe 20 picnics in as many seconds whilst walking through Greenwich Park, and bust open every single supermarket shopping bag if you dared to turn away for a nano-second.  But time marches on, and none of us are getting any younger.  Which includes the pooch.  So I took her to the vet.
Taking a beagle on a car journey is always noisy.  For pooch, the car means one of three things:  a trip to Footscray Meadow to chase squirrels; a spell in the kennel or – every pet’s nightmare – suffering a thermometer where the sun doesn’t shine.  The moment the dog is settled on the back seat, the barking begins.  The initial noise is akin to Yippee, Footscray Meadows followed by lots of neck craning as she awaits the vast green space to come into view.  Upon sailing straight past, the joyful bark turns into a furious protest with nose pressed up against the glass.  When the car bypasses the dirt track to the kennel, then pooch knows we’re down to the last option.  And the baying begins.  Ever heard a beagle bay?  You don’t want to.
The receptionist looked slightly anxious as my beagle burst into the waiting room.  After all, the last time we were within these walls, they’d changed from white to brown.  I won’t go into detail.  Fortunately there were no other pet patients in the waiting room and we went straight into the vet.  The dog was diagnosed with a touch of arthritis and a prescription was written up.  ‘One more thing before you go,’ said the vet, ‘I’d like to check your dog for diabetes.  Collect some urine so I can do a test.’  Sounds a doddle, doesn’t it.
The following morning I found a small unwanted Tupperware and showed it to the pooch.  She wagged her tail.  Food?  I shook my head and grabbed her lead.  Ah, walkies!  I shook my head again.  ‘Wee wees,’ I told her.  Pooch looked at me.  What?  In that?  Don’t be ridiculous.  We set off.

We trundled along the pavement.  The dog had her nose to the ground sniffing out the all-important precise spot to piddle.  The minute her rear end bobbed down I shoved the Tupperware under her...oh!...where exactly did the wee...damn.  She’d stopped.  ‘Mummy?’ said a child’s voice a few paces behind me, ‘what’s that lady doing?’  It was perfectly obvious what I was doing.  Bent down, doubled over, hair in face.  Which ruddy keyhole did the wee come out of?  Mummy took her child’s hand and swiftly crossed the road.  ‘Can we have a dog Mummy?’ asked the child.  ‘Absolutely not,’ was the firm answer.
We entered the local park.  Hallowed ground for weeing.  But not in great abundance.  Rather the ritual is leaking a maximum of three drops on a daisy or nettle before sniffing out the next particularly interesting thistle or weed.  And so, Tupperware poised, I spent the next hour painfully collecting a urine sample.  Drip by drip.  By the time we’d completed our circuit, the Tupperware contained not just wee, but flies, dead leaves and a half a fluffy dandelion.

Anyway, the good news is the pooch doesn’t have diabetes.  Which reminds me, What did the sign in the vet’s waiting room say?  Sit and stay...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Next Big Thing!

Last Wednesday, the lovely writer Wendy Loveday tagged me in her post entitled The Next Big Thing.  This Wednesday it is my turn to participate.
I’m answering ten questions about my Work in Progress before tagging five other writers. And those writers will tell you about their latest novels next Wednesday.  As you have probably now deduced, The Next Big Thing is also A Wednesday Thing!
So without further ado...
• What is the working title of your next book?
Lipstick and Lies.  The original working title was Silicone and Stretchmarks, but for all sorts of reasons it had to change.  Here's a sneak peek of the cover.

Lipstick and Lies sees Cassandra Mackerel and her good friends, Morag and Nell, reunited.  Morag is now a yummy mummy but still sex mad.  Nell has also popped a sprog and is struggling to get back into both her jeans and a routine.  Meanwhile Cass is juggling weaning with the reappearance of Selina, her husband's glamorous ex-girlfriend.  In Stockings Selina did her best to split up Cass and husband Jamie.  And if Selina has her way, this time she’ll do it permanently.  Yes, we’re talking murder...

• Where did the idea come from for the book?
A number of readers got in touch saying they'd loved Stockings and Cellulite and wanted more.  They begged me to consider writing a sequel.  So that’s how Lipstick and Lies was born.  And I’m dedicating it to all those lovely people who got in touch!

• What genre does your book fall under?
Women’s Commercial Fiction.  Romance/Humour.  Oh all right!  Chick-lit.  In all its girly glory!

• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ha!  That would be interesting.  Way back, when I first wrote Stockings and Cellulite, I compared the hero to Brad Pitt in his hey-day.  And – in order to assist my rubbish memory – I portrayed the heroine’s looks as something like Jennifer Aniston.  Stockings was my learning curve and took six long years to produce.  At the time of first putting pen to paper, Brad and Jen were married.  In Stockings a woman comes along and tries to split my couple up.  I wanted the other woman to be the polar opposite in looks to my heroine.  In my mind’s eye I visualised somebody with looks not unlike Angelina Jolie.  How incredible that a couple of years down the line, the very one and same actress was cited as splitting up Hollywood’s golden couple.  But somehow I don’t think the three of them would agree to do a movie rendition...

• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Lipstick and Lies is the story of what happens to one married couple when an ex-girlfriend makes a reappearance and invades every area of their lives.

• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Last week, and completely out of the blue, an agent got in touch with me.  So the initial chapters are currently with that agent.  However, I’m not holding my breath.  Realistically I envisage self-publishing.  I self-published last time around with Flings and Arrows. That novel fell a little short of getting into the Top 100 best-selling Kindle books on Amazon (UK).  Indeed, not long afterwards a publisher asked if I’d like to partner up on my next novel.  I was flattered, but said no.  It would have been nice if they’d had some faith in me previously.  That said, if a publisher like Simon & Schuster came along, I’d say yes!

• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took, give or take, one hundred days.  Nowadays, once I start a novel, I want nothing and nobody interrupting.  My target is 1,000 words per day.  One hundred days later I have a novel.  Obviously it needs editing and polishing.  But there is a Work In Progress.

 • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As far as I know, there isn’t one!

• Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Ah, this question dovetails with the earlier one asking where the idea came from.  To answer, the inspiration came from the single overwhelming desire to please my readers.

 • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’ve played on the fact that most women like gossip.  If a female hears somebody’s marriage is threatened – especially by the likes of another woman – she wants to know all about it. 
Mega thanks to the following fabulous authors for allowing me to tag them.  Do read their wonderful blogs and even more wonderful books.  I give you....

Milly Johnson
Carole Matthews
Rowan Coleman
Madalyn Morgan
Jack Barrow