Round And Round She Goes…

Well, to quote Alan Carr, ‘What a week it’s been!’

Sometimes, you think life is just so dreary and depressing and you can’t see a way out and everything just feels wrong and hopeless. Then, as is life’s way, everything changes in a heartbeat, and suddenly life is wonderful again and full of possibilities.

Take my driving lessons, for example. Now, lately it seems that all I seem to do is go round and round flipping roundabouts. All right, I know I’m having problems with them but, come on! Give me a break! There are literally (maybe!) hundreds of roundabouts in this city and, of course, one of the biggest ones is right next to the test centre. I have been assured by my gleeful instructor that I will most certainly have to tackle that at the very beginning of my test, therefore it is essential that I get to grips with them. I just don’t see the point of roundabouts. They manage perfectly well without them in America, don’t they? Every time I get near one my hands grip the steering wheel a bit tighter and I start to panic. Do I signal first? Do I change gear? Do I start to brake?

‘Why not try looking in your mirror?’ asked my driving instructor, helpfully. Yes, that would probably be a good idea. Thanks for that! So, I got into the car yesterday thinking, here we go again, round and round and round. I’m in total sympathy with Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. I always remember laughing at that scene where the bemused American family are in London and hit a roundabout and just go round and round it with the poor father muttering, “I cannot get left”. Hours later, as darkness falls, they are still driving round and round and a slightly hysterical man is saying over and over, “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!” to his family who have long since fallen asleep.  Yep, I can quite easily see that happening to me.

So, anyway, I got in the car with a sigh and my driving instructor told me to start the car and off we headed. And you know what? She took me out of the city and into the countryside, along winding country lanes, through sleepy little East Yorkshire villages, with flat open landscapes, vast skies, pretty little cottages and verges bright with daffodils. Not a roundabout in sight. It was amazing and all the tension just ebbed away from me.

‘I wanted to remind you what you’ll get out of passing your test,’ she explained to me. ‘When you can drive on your own you’ll be able to come out into the countryside and just drive whenever and wherever you want to.’ She was right, of course, and it reminded me that all the tackling roundabouts is going to be so worth it in the end.

‘Did you enjoy that?’ she asked me. ‘Definitely,’ I replied, eyes shining in wonder and innocence. ‘Good,’ she said, ‘cos you’re not going to enjoy the next lesson.’  She’s a wicked woman, that one! (But very wise!)

Meanwhile, in other news, if you can recall in my last post I told you that I had given up on my marriage, taken off my wedding ring and resigned myself to the inevitable. Except now the situation has totally reversed, and out of the blue things have shifted in the opposite direction, and I never, never thought I would hear the things I have heard said to me in the last few days. I had honestly given up. They say it’s always darkest before dawn and I think they’re probably right. It’s the same with books, isn’t it? They always tell you to give your characters their “black moment” – that time when everything seems hopeless and you think there’s no possible way back for them. It happens right before the golden moment, when everything tips back into its rightful place and harmony is restored. Such is life. I have noticed this phenomenon before. When I have stopped trying, stopped pushing against fate, or God, or the Universe or whatever you like to call “it”, and just given up and allowed whatever is going to happen, happen, it always seems to come right. I call it sweet surrender. I’m not saying I’m now wearing my wedding ring and we’re back together and everything in the garden is rosy, but I do finally think we’ve got a chance…and that’s something I’d totally dismissed only last week.

On to other, less philosophical, but very interesting matters…books!! The lovely Lizzie Lamb, wrote a great blog post the other day about books that we could never part with. It’s over on the New Romantics 4 blog and if you haven’t read it do pop over and take a look. There’s a link to their blog on my blogroll on the right of this page. Lizzie was chatting about her favourite books – books that she’s had for years and couldn’t bear to lose. I don’t understand people who can read a book and then just give it away. I love my books – all of them are precious to me, and it broke my heart when I had to part with so many during my house move. I just didn’t have the room any more. I mean, I had to leave all of my furniture behind so I couldn’t justify ALL of my books coming with me, although I did give it a damn good try and the box room of my daughter’s house is still crammed full of boxes with the ones I couldn’t be persuaded to let go. If there was ever a book version of Desert Island Discs I would be hopeless at it. I just love them and when I’m feeling stressed I often find myself just standing or sitting gazing at my bookcase and staring at the books on the shelves. It soothes me. (I do hope you’re with me on this one or you’re really going to be thinking I’ve lost the plot…so to speak!)

Anyway, when I started thinking about all the books I have loved, it occurred to me how much I actually adored the physical form of the book. I love my Kindle and there is something highly seductive about being able to spot a book on Amazon, press a button and have it delivered to you, ready to read within a second or two. But books, real books, are just so beautiful, and you miss out on the feel and touch and smell of them with ebooks.

Choc Lit author, Sarah Tranter, recently posted her cover reveal on Facebook for her brand new novel Romancing the Soul (can’t wait till January to read it!) and it really is lovely. It occurred to me that we miss out a lot on these things when we only see the cover as a tiny square on the Amazon page. Just the other week, I was in a supermarket staring at the bookshelves (I always do this – my family hate going shopping with me) and I found myself drawn to two in particular. In fact, I was so drawn to them that I bought them. The first was Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley (which was fantastic, read my review elsewhere on this blog) and A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews (currently reading). The covers were lovely, the books felt chunky and the smell of fresh books is almost as enticing as the smell of fresh bread!  There has been a lot of talk about the demise of the printed book but I honestly don’t believe it will ever happen. There is a place for both electronic books and physical books and I don’t see why there is so much hysteria about the subject. Books are far too beautiful ever to be replaced and in an uncertain world, I find that deeply reassuring. How about you?

Have a great week x

The C Word

“The trouble with you,” said my driving instructor, as we crawled to a halt and I wiped the sweat from my fevered brow with the back of a shaking arm, “is that you just don’t have any confidence in yourself.”

And there it was again, the “C” word.  Confidence. You knew that’s what I meant, right? Wash your mouth out with soap and water if you thought I was talking about the other one – although, to be fair, that one has crossed my mind a few times this week I can tell you.

I passed my theory test this week and as soon as I climbed into the car for my lesson my driving instructor was full of enthusiasm and congratulations.

“So what did you get?” she demanded. Well, forty nine in the question part and sixty two in the hazard perception. This is good, apparently.

“Fab!” she squealed. (That’s one of her favourite words, trust me!) Then she saw my face and sighed.

“Go on,” she said. “What’s wrong? Put yourself down in the way that only you can.”

“Well,” I said, rather uncomfortably, “I got one question wrong, and I don’t know why. It was about attitude and my attitude is very good.”

She fixed me with that look I’m getting to know so well. It’s the one she gives me just before she threatens to beat me on the head with a stick…she’s a VERY strange driving instructor. I wilted under her stare and started the car without another word. As we drove along we passed a school.

“Now, what can you see on your left?” she demanded.

“A school.”

“And what speed should you be doing?”

I gulped, glancing at the speedometer which said thirty. “Well, I would have said twenty, but then all the other cars started overtaking me so I thought I was wrong.”

“You weren’t wrong. You were right. They shouldn’t be overtaking. They were the ones that were wrong, but you thought automatically that it must be you, didn’t you?”

I had because, frankly, if I disagree with someone I always think they must be right. Confidence, you see, is not my strong point.

“The trouble with you,” said my manager, as we sat looking at the appraisal form I had filled in and she assessed my belief in my own abilities, “is that you don’t have any confidence in yourself.”

Aaaagh! Okay, I’m getting the picture. Confidence is what it all seems to be about, and how, I should like to know, do you go about getting it? Here is a confession…I have a kind of social phobia. I haven’t been on a night out for – well, I can’t even remember when, but I’m pretty sure it was in the early nineteen-eighties. I can handle family “do’s”. I can go for meals with my mum and siblings and children and grandchildren etc. I can just about handle a party if it’s mainly family and I get very drunk. But walking into a room full of strangers is beyond me, even if I’m accompanied by people I know. Take the work nights out, for example. Every month there seems to be someone I work with who is celebrating a “special” birthday, and notices are constantly going up on the board for people to sign up and say they will be going. Not me. Ever. I have never even signed up to one of the Christmas nights out. Even when we throw a lunchtime buffet for someone’s special birthday I am the one who can be found behind my desk getting on with my work while everyone else ignores the phones and dives on the sausage rolls. Why? I don’t know. I just feel sick with nerves and totally inadequate. It’s horrible.

Confidence, or the lack of it, is what also stops me making progress on my own novel. Every time I think I’m getting somewhere this little voice whispers that I’m fooling myself, that what I’ve written is total rubbish, that I don’t belong with real writers, that I’m a total fraud. Even reading a really good book is a pleasurable experience tinged with panic, as the delight in losing myself in this fictional world gives way to the realisation that I could never write anything as good as this, and what on earth am I wasting my time for?

This week I have done two very brave things for me. Firstly, I took off my wedding ring. It has become very clear to me in the last few weeks that this marriage is going nowhere and the chances of fixing it are practically zilch. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have been replaced, and the ease and speed with which that happened has been a severe blow to my ego. Not that I should be surprised. It’s not as if it’s the first time I’ve been replaced in this way. It’s happened several times, which has been most of the problem in the marriage in the first place, not to mention being the problem with my confidence! It was still a very hard thing for me to do, though, and I admit that as I put my wedding ring in the jewellery box and closed the lid I wept like a baby. Secondly, I signed up for the Christmas night out. This was very difficult to do but, as I jokingly told my lovely and very understanding colleagues, I have eight months to get “going out” therapy, so with any luck I will manage it…

So this week I have been trying to be very gentle with myself. Instead of looking ahead to the future, which at the moment is one huge panic-inducing void, I am taking one day at a time. Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that I just have to concentrate on today, and every night I tell myself Well done! You made it! It’s not a lot, but hopefully things will get easier and there will come a day when I don’t wake up feeling so heavy-hearted and don’t have to give myself a rallying speech to get out of bed! I am determined to pass my driving test, however scary the prospect of taking it may be, and I will continue to write and try to push aside that horrible little voice. When you can be replaced so easily by someone you loved for thirty four years it can be a huge blow to your self esteem, but I’m fifty this year, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that everything passes…good times, bad times, love, hate, loss, grief, anger, happiness, depression…all of these things come and go and nothing is set in stone. Maybe I should try the Paul McKenna confidence book?? ??

On the plus side, my heroine is going to have a whole stack of emotions to deal with, and no one can accuse me of not making her realistic! 🙂

Have a great week x

Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley

First of all, a confession. This is the first Trisha Ashley novel I have ever read! Sorry, Trisha! I own several of her books and they are all sitting waiting patiently on my to-be-read pile, and have been for months or even years. It’s nothing personal against Trisha or her writing…I just buy too many books and can’t get round to reading them all fast enough! So, given that I already possessed at least four other novels by this author, what on earth made me start to read Good Husband Material the minute I saw it in the shop? Well, I loved the cover for a start, and the title intrigued me. Good husband material? Hmm, would love to know what that is! I read the blurb on the back cover and just knew I had to read this, and having finished it this evening I had to post a review because, yes, it really is a five star novel.
I just adored everything about this. The writing was fantastic. The narrative style was so appealing and so easy to read. I loved the fact that the story was mostly told from the first person viewpoint of Tish, our heroine, a redhead in denial. She is a marvellous creation and I was rooting for her all the way. Fergal is a gorgeous hero (of course!) and his viewpoint is cleverly woven in through a series of headlines in local and national magazines and newspapers as he muses on the difference between the way he is perceived in the media and the reality of his life and feelings.
The secondary characters were a wonderful assortment that held my interest. A batty grandmother, a pathetic mother, jealous women, a wily shopkeeper, weird neighbours…Even the animals were fascinating, featuring a Borzoi (or bourgeois bitch) called Bess, a rude parrot called Toby, a deformed cat and assorted offspring and hangers-on. Tish’s husband, the man her mother had decided long ago was “good husband material”, is a character who slowly shows himself to be the opposite of what Tish initially believes him to be. As the book develops we see layer upon layer of James unpeeling to reveal a distinctly unattractive and rather weak man.
The setting itself was lovely, with the village really coming to life under Trisha’s skilful writing. It may come as no surprise to discover where Tish ends up and who with, but the thrill is the journey she takes to get to that point. The narration is witty and sharp and there is some sparkling dialogue, which all goes to ensure that the book never flags and keeps you reading right to the end to find out how Tish will get her happy ending in spite of all the obstacles thrown at her.
I am so glad I read this book and very pleased that I have several more of Trisha’s novels ready and waiting to read. They have been bumped up on my waiting list and I’m very much looking forward to them. I understand that this is a reprint of a novel previously published some thirteen years ago, but I didn’t consider it to be dated, although, as a previous reviewer mentioned, the lack of mobile phones, internet etc is quite startling, if only to remind us how much things have changed in such a short period of time. Some things, however, never change, and love, thank goodness, is one of those things. So, if you want a well-written, sparkling love story with extremely believable and likeable characters and a lovely setting, buy this book! Great reading material. 5/5

Click Here to Buy

Good Husband Material