Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tea for Two


Earlier this year, my son gave me a very different birthday present – tea for two at a posh hotel in London.  Tea is possibly my favourite drink.  Recently, when out with some family, a cousin asked me if I wanted tea or coffee.
            ‘I’ll opt for some teabagging,’ I replied.
            This produced quite a bit of sniggering until another cousin brought me up to date with some changes to the English language.  Apparently suggesting I love a brew with references to being a teabag means something else completely different.  So as my son and I emerged from Marble Arch tube into bright Spring sunshine, I reminded myself that at no point should I tell any of the waiters that I was up for a spot of teabagging.
            A short walk away, down a side-road off Oxford Street, was the boutique hotel with wrought iron railings decorated in smart flowerboxes.  We went up the stone steps and into a tea room that seemed to be from a forgotten era.
            ‘This is nice,’ said Robbie.
            ‘Indeed,’ I replied.
            As we sat down, I was captivated by the wall opposite me.  It was smothered in framed portraits, prints, paintings and something that particularly caught my eye – an intricate tapestry.  Now anybody who can painstakingly produce the tiniest of cross-stitches into a work of art needs, in my opinion, a medal.  The only time I ever attempted such a thing was when I first discovered I was pregnant with my daughter.  I immediately purchased a personalised tapestry kit of a rocking horse complete with two cute teddy bears cuddling each other in the saddle.  This, you understand, was a gift for my unborn child to one day exclaim over and say, ‘Good heavens, Mum, you did this amazing tapestry for me?  It’s incredible!’
            In fact, it’s incredible I finished the wretched thing.  I spent the next nine months going cross-eyed as I counted tiny holes for different coloured threads, muttering oaths when I realised the saddle was four squares out and the stirrup didn’t quite line up, and decided that cross-stitch was thus named as it did indeed make you very cross.  Years later, instead of exclaiming over this work of art, my daughter looked at the tapestry and said, ‘You’d better come clean, Mum.  Your sewing just about covers putting a button on a shirt, so who really did this tapestry?’  Which is why, when I looked at this particular tapestry hanging on this hotel’s wall, it was all the more amazing because it was signed and dated – in cross-stitch – in 1806 by a little girl aged ten.  Ten!  It was beautiful, elaborate and instantly conjured up a by-gone era where little girls did indeed once sit quietly and use their fingers to intricately sew rather than stab an iPhone or a computer keyboard.
            But I digress.  Our afternoon tea was delightful and, for a couple of hours, we ate tiny triangular crustless sandwiches and tiddly cakes off fancy china and sipped a perfect brew from thin porcelain cups while putting the world to rights.
            Which reminds me.  How does a teapot address its lover?  Oh, darjeeling…

 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Introducing Nikki Moore


 
Nikki Moore's Blog Hit

New Release - Crazy, Undercover, Love
 


The day has finally arrived!! Nikki Moore's debut novel with HarperImpulse - Crazy, Undercover, Love - is released as an ebook today, 24th April 2014.

 
If you like pacy, sexy romance and fancy a long weekend in Barcelona with a smoking hot guy this one's for you!  Want to know more...?

 
When uber-feisty career girl Charley Caswell-Wright takes on the assignment as PA to the gorgeous Alex Demetrio, CEO of Demetrio International, she's there under entirely false pretences; to get her life back on track. Having lost the job she worked so hard to earn, she’s determined not to give it up so easily, especially when she didn’t deserve to lose it in the first place.

Mr Dreamy CEO is her only chance of clawing back her career – and her reputation. So she has to keep things strictly professional… boy, is she in trouble!

To buy Crazy, Undercover Love as an ebook:-

 

Amazon – http://amzn.to./1gdpOxb

Google Play - http://bit.ly/1rTMrQw


Kobo - bit.ly/QlpKpC

Sainsbury's - http://bit.ly/1hoD1bj

 

Or to buy it as a paperback on pre-order, released on 26th June:-

 


 

What people are saying about Nikki's other stories...

 
The Love Letter and A Day in the Life... HarperImpulse short story collection Be My Valentine, with Teresa F Morgan and Brigid Coady, attracting 4 and 5 star reviews.

 
'I loved all 5 stories and will look out for more books by each author.'

CometBabesBooks, Amazon

 
'Whilst I enjoyed all of the stories, I particularly liked Nikki Moore's … her voice as an author really resonated with me and I can't wait to read more of her work.'

Kate Beeden, Goodreads

 
Nikki's short story A Night to Remember in the Mills & Boon/Romantic Novelists Association anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply which has also attracted 4 and 5 star reviews.

 
'My favourite story was A Night To Remember. I think what drew me to this … was its resonance with real life. I'm not going to spoil the story but I could feel the emotions spilling out of the page - it was beautiful.'

Beckie, www.beckiesbookmix.blogspot.co.uk
 

'A Night to Remember - Beautiful, devastatingly so.'

Cheryl M-M, Goodreads & http://mmcheryl.wordpress.com/

 

Nikki Moore lives in beautiful Dorset and writes short stories and sexy, pacy romances. A finalist in several writing competitions including Novelicious Undiscovered 2012, she graduated from the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers' Scheme after four years and and has contributed to their magazine Romance Matters. She has far too much fun attending the annual RNA conference and has previously chaired a panel and taken part in a workshop at the Festival of Romance.

She blogs about some of her favourite things – Writing, Work and Wine – at www.nikkimooreauthor.wordpress.com and believes in supporting other writers as part of a friendly, talented and diverse community.

 

You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikkiMooreAuthor or on Twitter @NikkiMoore_Auth and she invites you to pop in for chats about love, life, reading or writing!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Les Menuires


This time last week I was on the ski slopes of France.  Like any longed-for trip, it all came and went far too quickly.  My daughter and I wasted no time at all in getting onto those slopes.
            ‘Where do we go from here?’ asked Eleanor as we were coming to the end of our first day on the mountain top.
            ‘Les Menuires,’ I replied.
            ‘There are no signposts by that name.’
            ‘Yes there are. Look,’ I pointed with a ski pole, ‘there.’
            ‘That says Lez Manure.’
            ‘Well that’s where we want to be.’  I gazed around cluelessly.  We’d wanted to ski to Meribel earlier but had somehow ended up in Courchevel.  That’s the great thing about skiing – there is a very large area to explore.  Just don’t get lost because one mountain has a tendency to look like the next.  Needless to say, we did find our way home eventually.
            The trip had started off with high anticipation.  I’d deliberately booked a chalet with a rose-tinted dream of sitting around a scrubbed pine table making friends with like-minded people, buddying up on the ski slopes, and generally having a giggle.
            Eleanor and I set off for Gatwick Airport at 4 a.m. with a spring in our step.  There was a moment of angst on the plane when I realized I hadn’t put on my in-flight socks.  Okay, they were actually surgical stockings from a spell in hospital last year, and I was being a cheapskate recycling them.
            ‘Flip,’ I said to Eleanor as the plane began to rumble down the runway, ‘I’m not wearing the surgical stockings.’
            ‘Does it matter?’
            ‘I don’t know.  Possibly.  My legs were swelling up after every flight last year.’  Memories of nearly being denied a trip home from Crete had my stomach knotting.  ‘I think I’d be happier if I had them on.’
            ‘Well put them on,’ Eleanor hissed, ‘but hurry up.’
            Now putting on a pair of long surgical stockings under a pair of jeans when you are sitting in the middle bucket seat of an aircraft isn’t the easiest thing to do.  Not unless you are six inches wide and more bendy than a gymnast.  Which I’m not.  There then followed a lot of ankle grappling and muttered oaths as I creaked my feet up to my nose, wrestled with the surgical stockings and elbowed the woman to my left more times than was polite.  By the time I’d got the stockings on I was dripping with sweat.
            ‘Done,’ I muttered to Eleanor.
            ‘Pull the legs of your jeans down, Mum!’
            ‘Ah, yes.’  I leant forward and pulled the denim down.  Regrettably the surgical stockings rolled down with them.
            ‘Now what’s the matter?’
            ‘They’ve fallen down.’
            ‘They can’t have fallen down.  They’re skin tight!’
            ‘They got caught up with the denim.’  I hoiked a leg up onto Eleanor’s lap.  ‘Look.’
            My daughter lifted the hem of my jeans.  A very neatly rolled surgical stocking greeted our eyes.
            ‘You’ll have to leave them like that.’
            ‘I can’t do that!’ I gasped.  ‘They’re miles too tight like this.  They might cut off my circulation or something.’  Visions of black ankles drifted through my mind.
            ‘Then take them off,’ said my daughter in exasperation, ‘and put your socks back on.’
            ‘Good idea.’
            There then followed more huffing and puffing as I pulled the wretched garments off, much to the irritation of the woman sitting next to me.
            Now what’s wrong?’ asked Eleanor.
            ‘I can’t find my socks.’
            ‘Well they can’t be far away because you haven’t gone anywhere!’
            Cue more contortion as I went into the brace position and peered under our row of seats.  Two striped cotton socks were under my neighbour’s chair and j-u-s-t out of reach.  Meanwhile the aircraft was now in the vertical position having left the runway.
            I came up for air, hit my forehead on the chair in front and was nearly knocked out by a dinner tray unfolding on my head. ‘Terribly sorry,’ I said to the tutting woman next to me, ‘but you appear to have my socks.’
            She gave me the sort of look reserved for the mentally unhinged before reaching down and gingerly picking up my socks.  She dangled them between thumb and forefinger before depositing them in my lap.
            ‘God, Mum, you are so embarrassing.’
            ‘I know.  It’s embarrassing to be so embarrassing.  I think I ought to disown myself.’
            ‘Can you now just sit still?  Please?’
            I sat still.  For about thirty seconds.
            ‘Oh for goodness sake, what’s up now?’
            ‘I want to read my Kindle.’
            ‘Well read your Kindle.’
            ‘It’s in the overhead locker and I’ll have to ask the woman sitting next to me to move.’
            ‘You really know how to annoy people, don’t you?’
            So after a bit more faffing involving the woman next to me shuffling in and out of her seat, a rucksack falling on her head – yes, mine – retrieving the Kindle and shoving the rucksack back, oh, and then my ski jacket because all this Zumba in an aircraft had once again left me hot and bothered, the woman next to me finally sank back into her seat to enjoy the rest of the flight.  By that point, of course, it was all over and we had to disembark.  I never did get to read my Kindle.
            At the chalet Eleanor and I oohed and aahed with happiness.
            ‘Look!’ I said pointing to the large scrubbed pine dinner table.  ‘It’s just as I thought it would be.  I can’t wait to make friends with the others.’
            Unfortunately, the large scrubbed pine dinner table was the only thing in my rose-tinted dream that actually came true.  That evening, half the people who trooped into the chalet and pulled out chairs to sit down to our three course home cooked meal were most definitely not our ‘cup of tea’.
            ‘Hello,’ I smiled at two of the women, ‘I’m Debbie.’
            Clearly this came out as something totally different.  Possibly it sounded like: Hello, I’m an alien wanted for hijacking a number of starships across several galaxies.
            One gave a tight smile back, while the other just stared.  Seemingly they didn’t ‘do’ women like me.  They also gave the cold shoulder to the single mum and her two young boys sitting at the far end of the table.  They sat grimly hanging on to the arms of their own partners presumably lest I and the single mum grapple their men away from them and ravish them there and then on the scrubbed pine table scattering crockery in all directions.  A heavy silence prevailed.  Awkward or what.
            Our chalet maid set steaming bowls before us all.
            ‘Ooh, yummy,’ I said brightly to nobody in particular, ‘homemade vegetable soup.’
            At this point the two married women were suddenly my best friends.  They apparently couldn’t abide vegetables and were more than happy for me to eat their soup too.  So I did.  The next course was salmon with masses of broccoli.  Suddenly my plate was full of greenery.  However, that was as far as the friendship went.  The women let me and the single lady know that under no circumstances could they abide children, or pets.  The single lady and I did later exact revenge by whipping out our mobile phones and sharing our pictures of respective children and pets.  All five hundred of them.  Revenge is sweet.  Which is more than I can say about those women.
            On the last day, one of the men helped me wrestle two vast suitcases down the chalet’s wooden staircase.  Judging by his wife’s expression, she wasn’t happy.  Her mouth took on the sort of shape that resembled my dog’s bottom.  I gave her a neutral smile and wished her a pleasant trip home.
            It is the Law of Sod that when you want to get away from someone, life has a joke and makes sure you are thrown together.  Of all the people taking that packed flight home, who was sitting next to me?
            ‘Quick,’ I whispered to Eleanor, ‘give me my surgical stockings.  I want to put them on.’
            ‘I’m having a déjà vu moment,’ she sighed.
            Which reminds me.  What do you call this second moment of déjà vu?  Déjà two… What do you call being on the same plane as before?  Déjà flew…  What do you call a woman who doesn’t like you? Déjà moo… What do you call elbowing the woman next to you? Déjà ooh…  
What do you call lost socks under an airplane seat?  Déjà poo…  What do you call a menopausal hot-flushing passenger? Déjà phew… What do you call an exasperated daughter? Déjà disowning-yooo…
           

                       

 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

A Bit of a (Diamond) Do


Three days ago, on April 3rd, my parents celebrated sixty years of wedded bliss.  Okay, let me rephrase that.  They celebrated sixty years of marriage.  I don’t think any marriage – let alone one that has lasted sixty years – is literally all bliss.  Indeed, as my mother recently quipped to me, ‘I don’t know how we got to sixty years.  I always meant to leave your father.’
            Marriage is a juggling act at the best of times.  You have to work at keeping someone happy.  They, in turn, have to work at keeping you happy.  Then just when you think you are both happy, children come along and shift the balance and you have to re-think the whole keeping each other happy thing all over again.
            My parents had a nine year wait before I came along and they were happily married.  At that point my father was in the Merchant Navy.  He spent months at a time at sea – which is probably another reason for their happiness …they rarely saw each other.  Imagine when my father left his nine week old daughter to return to sea, and didn’t see her again until she was nine months old.  What a change!  And imagine, again, when he next saw his daughter at eighteen months – but she’d have nothing to do with him!  He was devastated.  Apparently I would scream if my father cuddled my mother in front of me.  And I’d scream if he tried to cuddle me.  This was stressful for both parents.
            Eventually my father made the monumental decision to leave everything he’d studied and qualified for and find work elsewhere.  Except there wasn’t any local work.  So, there was another period of stress as unemployment was experienced before making one more colossal decision – selling up and moving near London where my father found work behind a desk.  But eventually harmony was restored.  The family settled into the new abode, in a new area, and my father adapted to his new career.  And, in time, I became accustomed to this man-person who was apparently my father.  Balance and peace were restored.  The marriage ticked along…until my sister arrived.
            The effect of a new baby on an older child is considerable.  One minute the child’s life is like that of a lovely smooth pond, and then suddenly a pebble plops in and causes all sorts of ripples.  Once again my poor parents’ marriage became a bit stretched.
            Eventually the ripples subsided and there was then another period of calm until the eldest turned into a teenager.  Now this is where a marriage is sorely tested as a manipulative teenager constantly tests the boundaries – which usually involve playing one parent off against the other.
Me:      ‘Can I go to a party on Saturday night?’
Mother:‘Um, best to ask your father.’
Me:      ‘Can I go to a party on Saturday night?’
Father: ‘Ask you mother.’
Me:      ‘I did.  She said it was fine, but only if you give me a lift home afterwards.’
Father: ‘Okay.  I’ll pick you up at eight o’clock.’
Me:      ‘The party starts at eight.’
Father: ‘In that case ask your mother to collect you.’
Me:      ‘Dad says I can go to the party, but because he’s tired you’ll have to collect me at midnight.’
Mother: ‘Flaming cheek – I’m tired too!  Where is he?  I’ve got a few words to say to your father.  TONY?  Turn that television down right now and listen to me.  You WILL collect Debbie from her party at midnight, do you hear?’
Father: ‘Yes, dear.’
Me:      Mission accomplished.
            Aren’t teenagers horrible!  And just when I’d stomped off into the big wide world at eighteen, my parents had about six months of bliss before my sister turned into a walking hormonal gland and once again put them through their marital paces.
            This pattern repeats when grandchildren come along.  But we won’t go there.  Least said and all that.  And fortunately the grand-children are now young adults.
            ‘You can finally enjoy your marriage,’ I recently said to my mother.
            ‘I’m now too knackered to enjoy anything,’ she retorted.  Well, she is eighty-one.
            However, knackered or not, you can’t reach sixty years of marriage without some sort of celebration.  Even the Queen sent an anniversary card to my parents congratulating them and urging them to celebrate.  So celebrate we all did.  And how touching it was to see my parents take to the dance floor last night as their youngest daughter serenaded them, and watch the silver-haired gentleman sway in time to the tiny lady with a stoop.  Love conquers all.  As well as endurance!  Which reminds me.
            ‘Some people,’ said an elderly gentleman, ‘ask the secret of a long marriage.  The secret is this.  We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight.  Good food.  Soft music, and even dancing.  She goes Tuesdays, and I go Fridays…’