Seven Go Mad In Filey

So that was my fiftieth birthday! And yes, before you ask, I can remember it. I’m not entirely sure how, though. I don’t drink as a rule – well, a Snowball at Christmas because it’s traditional but that’s about it. It only takes a couple of alcopops and I’m everyone’s friend and that’s the truth. So the fact that I didn’t get even a sniff of a hangover is a complete mystery.

We arrived late – obviously. We headed into reception three hours later than we’d expected and got the keys to the caravan and a map showing us where we were going to be staying. Easy, right? Well, let’s just say there was a bit of a delay as we circled the camp trying to find our caravan. Turns out we’d been put at the furthest edge of the park as far away from all the amenities  as it was possible to place us without actually dumping us outside the park boundary. Maybe they saw the booking form and panicked. Seven females, all in different stages of hormonal meltdown…make damn sure you keep them well away from the decent law-abiding families and the pubs!

So, after driving round and round countless times we finally found our caravan and there was a mad rush for the door as seven women with bursting bladders scrambled for first place. Luckily, there were two toilets. Well, I say two toilets…put it this way, you could sit on the loo and brush your teeth at the sink at the same time. One of us did. I won’t say who, she knows who she is. So, legs uncrossed and sighs of relief all round, we had a poke around the caravan. This was where I played my trump card. It was MY birthday, right? There were three bedrooms and a pull down double bed settee in the lounge. DD2 and her partner were noble enough to accept the bed settee on the condition that we weren’t up at some ungodly hour disturbing their precious sleep. That left two twin rooms and a double.

Now, I have stayed in caravans before. I have stayed in caravans with this particular company before. Hell, I’ve even stayed in caravans on the same park before. And let me tell you, considering this was the most expensive caravan I’d ever booked and that it was billed as the absolute best available, it was microscopic compared with some of the others. I was expecting it to be huge. The last caravan I stayed at with this company was in Somerset and it had a washing machine, a proper table and chairs, a flatscreen TV on the bedroom wall, an en suite toilet…this caravan was not in the same league. Oh, it was clean and probably brand spanking new, but it wasn’t really big enough for seven adults.  But, as I say, it was MY birthday, so I got the double bedroom, hehe. Even that had its problems. You couldn’t walk round either side of the bed and had to either shuffle sideways or crawl over the duvet to get into bed. I chose the latter. So that left two twin rooms.

My DD1 and daughter-in-law bagged the first one so my sister and sister-in-law were left with the final one, which seemed okay at first.  Until they realised that it was actually even smaller than the first one with no room for manouvre at all. My sister-in-law grabbed her choice of bed before my sister even saw it. She didn’t want to be near the door in case someone broke in and grabbed her. Fair enough, said my sister, if that’s what you want. It was only later that S-I-L realised that she was now sleeping underneath the window, which she decided was much more risky. Not only that, but the wardrobe was at the base of her bed, and because the bed was so short she was sleeping with her feet up on the doors. How we laughed…

Before we’d even had time to unpack, my sister brought out the vodka and grabbed the glasses from the cupboard. Now, I should say that I’d seen one of the doctors at work that morning (yes, I’d worked that very day!) and he’d given me a prescription for antibiotics, due to the fact that I’d developed an infection in my ear lobe caused by wearing cheap earrings. I have very discerning ears which will only entertain gold but I have a very stubborn nature which says I can’t afford gold and if I only keep them in a couple of hours everything will be fine. It often is, but this time, no. My ear lobe was swollen and painful and I was getting a lump under my jaw bone. However, you can’t drink alcohol if you’re on antibiotics, so guess who didn’t go to the chemist?  By seven o clock (about an hour after arrival) I was already the worse for wear, having drunk a quadruple vodka and coke and a quadruple Malibu and coke, but at least my ear had stopped hurting.

We then ordered pizzas from the park fast food joint and were so drunk that we didn’t realise that it was going to cost us an arm and a leg for a simple pizza and salad. They didn’t even do chips so we had to be content with potato wedges which just wasn’t the same. It was only when I’d sobered up that I realised how expensive it had been. My wails of, “But I could have bought three pizzas for four pounds at Sainsburys” could be heard round the caravan for hours.

If I learned anything from that weekend it was, never play Truth or Dare after drinking quadruple anything, unless it’s lemonade. Let’s just say truths were told, misunderstandings abounded, strops were thrown and sulks were had by many. Onwards and upwards, though. After a couple of shots and a sip of Jack Daniels – why? It’s truly disgusting! – it was time for bed and we all headed to our rooms to sleep it off.   I fully expected to be throwing up all night, but in fact I slept like a log and woke the next morning clear-headed and more refreshed than I’d felt in months.

To Scarborough then and a fry up in a cafe, or a bacon sandwich in my case. Very nice, too. By this time my face was scaring the other tourists and I looked like a half moon so I headed up the long, long, looong hill that led from the seafront to the town and found a chemist. After crying over the cost of the prescription I left the shop to find that the heavens had opened and it was pouring with rain. My family were cowering in a shop doorway and after some discussion we decided to rush across the road to the Poundland, mainly because it was dry and had a roof, but also because it sold toilet roll and we were out. Priorities.

After sauntering round Poundland asking everyone “How much is this?” and being told in increasingly exasperated tones, “A pound!” I had replenished our stock of toilet roll and found a giant Toblerone at an unbelievable price, (a pound, go figure!) and we were ready to go back to the caravan. That evening we were much more canny, sending DD2 and partner off to Filey to get us all fish and chips at normal prices. This was washed down with Moet & Chandon champagne – classy. It was my first taste of champagne. Yes, I waited a full half century to taste some. Yuk. I could have waited longer. It’s just like wine, and I don’t like wine either. Still, the thought was there. Thanks, sis. After that I had a can of Malibu and cloudy lemonade – yep, I am a really class act – then we all got changed and headed out to the club.

We drove to the clubhouse and left the cars outside. Look, that may sound incredibly lazy but you have no idea how big that park is and how far away we were! Anyway, it looked like rain again. So we went inside and there were no seats to be had, but upstairs was a huge balcony that looked almost empty so we decided to go up there. However, two big, burly security guards immediately stepped forward and told us that upstairs was reserved for owners only. Since there appeared to be only three owners in that night and and approximately ten thousand guests it seemed a bit unfair but who were we to argue? So we finally found a couple of tables with stools that were so high I needed a crane to get me onto mine, and we had a drink, and we wailed about the cost…£10.20 for two vodka and cokes!…and laughed at the band who were trying to be Take That but were more like The Tweenies (bless them, they looked about twelve) and then we all decided that it was too loud, too hot, too expensive and we may as well go back to the caravan and get drunk there instead.

We tottered into the shop just before it closed intending to buy alcohol but ended up buying a pack of muffins instead after deciding all we really wanted was a nice cup of tea. It was pure rock and roll. We spent that evening in our pyjamas, eating junk and watching Big Brother. Bliss. And I say that as one who hates Big Brother.

The next day was The Big Day! I turned fifty at last. I lay in bed thinking about how old I was. I swear I could feel my bones creaking. Then the bedroom door flew open and little sister stood there singing Happy Birthday to You, which wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. She was the only child ever to be thrown out of our primary school choir because of her dreadful voice. True. Anyway, when she’d finished that she launched herself at me and threw herself on the bed, wrapping her arms around me…she has very long arms, obviously…and giving me a big birthday hug. When I’d recovered from all this exertion I dragged my ancient bones into the kitchen where my sister-in-law quickly joined us looking like something from Shaun of the Dead but determined to be there since she’d waited all weekend for me to open my presents.

Usually I open my cards first. This is because I rarely get presents. Yes, I am that deprived. Tiny Tim had it easy compared with me…actually, it’s because usually I get money stuffed inside my cards but let’s not ruin the story. Anyway, today the table was positively heaving with gift bags. It was all very exciting. I opened them slowly and carefully – partly because I didn’t want to spoil the bags or the wrapping but mostly because it was great fun seeing my sister-in-law’s agony of impatience.  What a haul! My lovely workmates had spoilt me rotten. Not only had they decorated my desk at work with balloons and banners, thrown a surprise buffet complete with birthday cake and clubbed together to get me a 22″ flat screen TV/DVD for my bedroom, but they had also bought me things individually, too.  When they were fishing a few weeks ago to find out what I’d actually like, I’d just said, “A pony.” It’s my standard answer to that question and has been since the age of eight. Why change it now? Anyway, one of them had remembered that throwaway remark and bought me a lovely plush pony. She also bought me the Doctor Who Series Six complete box set of DVDs. And chocolate. I love that woman. I got a voucher for a hair cut and blow dry at a local salon, a complete set of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven books,(they know me so well it’s frightening!) a 1963 penny set in a bookmark, drinks, chocolate, toiletries, jewellery, vouchers and money. And a fabulous Mum’s Survival Kit from DD2 which made me cry. I was overwhelmed by people’s kindness and generosity. It was amazing.

We celebrated with a  bacon sandwich at the poolside cafe, where we watched in fascination as semi-naked, shivering creatures swam determinedly in an outdoor pool in pouring rain, and then we went gift shopping and headed back to the caravan where we had birthday cake and a cup of tea (and an antibiotic in my case – finally!) and then four of them packed up their cars and headed home. With just myself, DD2 and partner left, we spent a lazy evening watching Poirot and Miss Marple and, because it was a special occasion, we ordered pizza again and a good time was had by all.

So, the next morning we headed home and back to reality. Except for one last treat. I walked in to the house to find a huge 50 balloon, a present and a beautifully romantic card from DH waiting for me on the sideboard…aw. I have 46 cards sitting on the various surfaces in the living room, two balloons bobbing near the ceiling as I write and a lot of very happy memories of a very special weekend. Oh, and my face is almost back to normal. What a fabulous birthday, and what a great start to being fifty! Roll on sixty…but not too soon!

Have a great week xx

The Trouble With Knights in Shining Armour by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Having read and loved this author’s previous book, Once Upon A Winter, I had high hopes for The Trouble With Knights In Shining Armour. Reading the blurb and discovering that one of the characters was called Gawain only increased my optimism that this would be a story well worth reading. I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. Valerie-Anne Baglietto is a wonderful writer, with the ability to transport her readers to another world where all things are possible. From the very beginning of the story, with its allusions to Narnia, I was already opening my mind and heart to the possibilities of the unseen and the hidden – the realm beyond this reality. There is a tenderness and beauty in her prose that leaves me feeling happier for having read it; a sprinkling of magic in her stories that makes me believe that anything is possible, and what could be better than that?
MaryAnn Laurey and her young daughter Beth arrive at the family home of Wychewood in North Wales, in need of an escape. MaryAnn has had a broken engagement, her mother is embarrassed by her, anxious to send her away until the fuss dies down, and her three-year-old daughter has retreated into silence for reasons that MaryAnn cannot fathom. If anyone needs a knight in shining armour it’s MaryAnn, and when she meets Gawain he arouses feelings in her that she never knew existed. But why are her Uncle Rex and housekeeper Dilys so worried about their budding relationship if Gawain is as perfect as he seems to be? What is his secret?
With Wychewood’s future uncertain and her mother pressurizing her to secure the place for her branch of the family, the arrival of an American relative with plans for the estate causes more confusion and places Beth in great danger. With Gawain, her gallant knight, riding to the rescue, it is only much later that MaryAnn realises the terrible fate that awaits her daughter as a result. As events take a dramatic turn, MaryAnn must face up to the inevitable and recognise that there is more than one knight at the court of Wychewood.

This is a lovely story of love, loss and hope. An enchanting, modern-day fairytale where we learn that people are not always as they first appear to be, and it’s not just a frightened little girl who needs to find her voice.
Utterly spellbinding, like all good fairy tales it will leave you feeling like you’ve just learned a great truth all wrapped up in love and magic. Wonderful. 5/5

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The Trouble With Knights in Shining Armour

The Trouble With Knights in Shining Armour

Breathless by Louise Marley

I have to confess I really didn’t pay enough attention to the blurb for this book. I think I just saw the cover and skimmed the description, which was why what happened a little way into the story took me so much by surprise. The cover gave me the impression of a bright and light chick-lit type novel – it’s not. Actually, what it is an amazingly entertaining and gripping read.
Set in the ancient coastal town of Port Rell, this novel has everything. It’s kind of like The Famous Five for adults, with smugglers, historical diary entries, old shipwrecks, murder, mystery and romance. Sadly not much ginger beer, but even so…
Seriously, this book is well worth reading. I quickly became hooked, wanting to know just what the heck was going on in Port Rell and who was behind it all.
The heroine of the novel is Lainey, a young girl whose entire life has been dominated by the wreck of the Mary Eliza, a ship which may or may not lie in the waters off Port Rell. Her father was obsessed with the wreck’s whereabouts and it cost him his life. Lainey wants to prove that he was right and is desperate to find proof that the Mary Eliza exists, but she’s not the only one.
Before long, Lainey finds herself a suspect in a murder case and is caught in a baffling mystery, not knowing who she can trust and losing everything as events twist and turn around her.
So what did I love about this novel? Well, Lainey herself is a great heroine. She’s very independent, very strong minded and far from helpless. However, she does make mistakes and she’s certainly not perfect. I also loved the setting. Port Rell is a character in itself, beautifully described and inhabited by some fascinating characters. I liked the diary entries from the late seventeenth century which provided a lovely subplot. Lainey’s friends were nicely drawn, too, and I really liked the mysterious Greg.
I loved the fact that the first shock came quite early in the book. Without giving anything away, it really did leave me breathless as I just wasn’t expecting it. After that, I was never sure who was behind the sinister happenings and was as baffled as Lainey, wondering if Greg was someone I could really trust and not being certain about anyone!
I would definitely recommend this novel. It’s a real adventure story for grown ups with a touch of romance to warm the heart and some intriguing and entertaining characters. The only thing I would possibly change would be the cover. Lovely for a different sort of story, it really doesn’t do this gem of a novel justice. 5/5

Edited to show that, since writing this review, the author has indeed changed the cover of the book. The top image shows the new cover and the bottom image is the original, to which I was referring. Love the new cover, Louise!

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Breathless

Embracing The Crone

By the time you read this, if all goes according to my family’s wicked plans, I will be semi-conscious in a caravan on the Yorkshire coast, nursing the mother of all hangovers.

On Sunday 23rd June 2013 I reach the dreaded milestone…my 50th birthday. Fifty whole years on this planet. Yikes! How did it happen? I have absolutely no idea. I mean, it seems only yesterday I was in my bedroom back at my parents’ home, recording Paul Gambaccini’s countdown of the American Top Forty and trying desperately to hit the stop button on my cassette recorder before he started talking again. I don’t know where all that time went. I was just fifteen! I don’t get Smash Hits through the letterbox any more. I get funeral plans and offers of cheaper life insurance!  It’s baffling to me that I’m fifty. My dad used to say to me that you never really feel any older in your mind and he was right, though I doubt I believed him at the time.

Anyway, fifty is what I most certainly will be on Sunday, so to celebrate this epic achievement, my sister came up with the idea of a weekend away. Just the girls. Strictly no men, no children, and no pets. That was fine by me. Then she dropped the bombshell…and no laptop! What?? So that’s why I am being super organised (and breaking the habit of a lifetime in the process) and writing this blog post early, scheduling it to be released the morning after our first night clubbing.

Clubbing! Ha! The last time I went clubbing – I kid you not – I don’t think I was even old enough to be in the nightclub legally. It’s funny how most of my social life occurred before I was even of an age to drink. Oh, the fun of it. Dressing up, slapping on the make up, trying to look sophisticated so that no one would ask me if I was eighteen. In those days, no one had photo ID. No one really seemed that bothered about proof of age. I remember going to see Saturday Night Fever at the local cinema without a scrap of make up on. It was an X certificate (eighteen and over) and I was fourteen years old at the time. No questions asked. In you go, enjoy the film. Ooh I did…I really did! Though hearing the F-word spoken with an American accent for the first time in our lives amused my friend and I so much that we had to imitate it all the way home. Yes, that’s how mature and sophisticated we were. No wonder we got in so easily.

I was a young mum – nineteen years old when I had my first child. So really, after that, clubbing was the last thing on my mind. I stayed at home, looking after my young family and bit by bit my confidence ebbed away, and the thought of going out at all socially became a terror to be avoided at all costs. I suppose the good thing about turning fifty is that you become more confident. I’m not sure why. When I look back at photos of my young self I can see that I was quite a decent looking person. I certainly had no reason to hide away from the world the way I did. Yet, I rarely went out and the thought of going to a club or a party was enough to bring on a panic attack. I was constantly apologising for myself. Strange. Now I don’t look anywhere near as good as I did then.  But somehow, I am more at ease with myself, and feel more able to face up to strangers than I did before. Maybe it’s because, having lived through so much I can see that it’s the person that matters, not the outer shell. I am more interested in other people and their lives now rather than being totally absorbed in what they must be thinking of me. Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous and I still have to psyche myself up to get out there, but I am going out there! I may be scared and still feel nervy but I can make myself do it and nine times out of ten I really enjoy myself having made the leap. And the main thing is, I like me now. I spent a lot of years beating myself up for not being perfect, not being “as good” as everyone else. Who these mythical people with their perfect lives were I have no idea. Age brings the wisdom to recognise that no one has a perfect life and everyone makes mistakes, has worries and doubts, fears, insecurities. I’m not that special after all! 🙂 And I have survived! I have battle scars to prove it. I am proud of the way I have coped with the difficulties and obstacles in my life. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, and it’s only now looking back at it all that I can see that.

This year has been quite a traumatic one. I think maybe turning fifty had a lot to do with that. I started questioning my life, growing restless, scared. All this life…all these years, and what had I achieved? I felt useless and was becoming increasingly aware of my own mortality. It’s hard when people you were at school with start shuffling off the mortal coil, and I’ve heard about a few in the last year or two. It’s scary stuff.

‘How do you think I feel?’ my mother demanded when I voiced my fears. ‘The first thing I do when I get the paper is turn to the death announcements. There’s always someone in there that I know!’ Crikey.

They say that there are three stages of a woman’s life – aspects of the triple goddess, if you like. (I do.) They are, maiden, mother and crone. I think the problem with me is that I didn’t make full use of the time when I  was a maiden. My shyness and insecurities kept me prisoner and I wasted all that precious youth hiding away from the world. Then, when I was a mother, I was so harrassed and stressed, and struggling so much with financial and personal problems that I wished those days away, too. There is nothing  guaranteed to make me cry more than seeing old videos and photos of my kids when they were little. Remembering a house full of noise and chatter and laughter and tears and kids fighting, and wretched Disney films playing over and over again, and spilled drinks, and frantic mornings getting them all up and ready for school, and chicken pox, and Christmas mornings and family holidays…oh how I miss them all, and yet, when they were little I longed for them to be grown up so that my life would be peaceful.

And  now, I have to say, I feel my days as a crone are approaching. How do I feel about that? Well, a bit scared, obviously. It’s weird to think that you’ve had most of your life and what’s ahead of you is likely to be at least a bit less than what you’ve already had. On the other hand, having wished my time as maiden and mother away, I think it’s only right that I make the most of my time as the crone. After all, if I wish that time away there’s not an awful lot left, is there? Anyway, being a crone can be a very positive thing. Crones have more patience, more wisdom, they know what they want and what they don’t want, there is time to look around and think about themselves rather than others, to surround themselves with people they love, do the things they want to do, and stop worrying so much about what other people think about them.  Crones do not have to worry about bringing up their children. They may have the pleasure of grandchildren (I’m lucky. I have four beautiful grandchildren and I love them all to pieces.) But when the day is done, they also have the pleasure of handing them back to their parents and claiming back their space and time.

So, all in all, I think I will embrace the crone and do my utmost to enjoy my life now that I’m half a century old. As you read this, I will be in a posh caravan with my sister and sister-in-law, my two daughters and two of my daughters-in-law. They are some of the loveliest women I know. They make me laugh. They have mopped away my tears more than once. They have been right there beside me through some of the happiest and saddest times of my life. I have been beside them in some of the happiest and saddest times of their lives. Some are mothers, some are maidens, one is just behind me in approaching Crone-dom. All of them are special and loved. And every one of them is intent on giving me a birthday to remember…or forget. (It will only take two Bacardi Breezers and I’ll think we’re celebrating Christmas. I am a very cheap date.)

So, my laptop is banned, my Kindle is banned, even my phone may be banned (though not if I can help it!) and the birthday celebrations are beginning.  There had better be cake!

Have a great week x

After Happily Ever After

So the new Bridget Jones novel is to be released in October and will be called Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy.

When I first heard about this I was delighted. Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the original chick lit books, and Bridget is a true chick lit heroine. Plagued with insecurities, far from perfect, dreaming of her Prince Charming, falling for the wrong man…she is someone many young women can relate to, even if not every young woman is lucky enough to have Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fighting over her.  Of course, the films of the novels are so closely intertwined in our hearts with the actual books that everyone’s first question when the news of book three surfaced was, “Will there be another film?” And, inevitably, “Will it have the same cast?”

That’s when I began to have my doubts. No disrespect to either Colin Firth or Hugh Grant but they have aged since The Edge of Reason. A lot. I can’t speak for Renee Zellwegger as I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything new for ages, but it’s been a while. Then the rumours began about the plot of book three and my heart sank. Bridget and Mark are married but are struggling to conceive – Bridget gets pregnant by Daniel Cleaver…what???

Obviously, it’s all speculation. I have no idea whether that particular plot line is pure fantasy from someone with no insider knowledge at all or if it’s straight from Helen Fielding’s pen, but it made me cringe. Bridget getting pregnant by that swine, Cleaver? Breaking Mark Darcy’s heart all over again? Nooooo!

The thing is, even if it isn’t true, there is something depressing about the fact that we will almost without question have to go through a rollercoaster of emotions with Bridget and Mark. This will not be a hearts and flowers book. Our favourite chick lit couple will not be allowed to be happy. The very nature of a romance novel means they will be tormented and tortured, thrown apart, have obstacles chucked in their path like grenades and have their hearts broken. I don’t like it.

When Mark and Bridget fell into each other’s arms at the end of The Edge of Reason, that was it. Job done. Happily Ever After. That’s how we learn about romance as children isn’t it? Cinderella was swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Snow White was saved by the handsome prince. Sleeping Beauty was awakened with a kiss. They all lived happily ever after. There was no sequel to tell us that Cinders cheated on the Prince because he couldn’t get her up the duff and she’d always had a sneaky crush on Buttons. There was no revelation in Snow White that the huntsman had saved her life because he secretly fancied her and, having confessed his love for her at the wedding, they began a sneaky affair behind the handsome prince’s back. Sleeping Beauty never announced she was buggering off back to bed because she was sick of her hubby leaving his socks on the bedroom floor and he spent too much time at work and she felt neglected. Oh no, happy ever after meant just that.

There are some who think The Edge of Reason was a step too far. Bridget had found her Mr Darcy in book one and it should have been left at that. Jane Austen, after all, never felt the need to write Pride and Prejudice: Trouble at Pemberley, (although many other writers have!)  Charlotte Bronte never wrote Jane Eyre: Married with Kids. So is it wise to revisit a couple after they have found their “happy ever after”?

Some fictional couples are revisited but as secondary characters in subsequent novels in a series. For instance, Jo Carnegie writes about the featured couple Benedict and Caro in several of her Churchminster novels, but they are mostly subplots after taking centre stage in book one. Jilly Cooper revives Rupert Campbell-Black in most of her Rutshire novels but again, as background. Once he had found happiness with Taggie she never pulled them apart again.

It can work, though. Tash and Hugo in Fiona Walker’s novels are two of my favourite characters in chick lit. Their story seemed to end quite happily in Well Groomed. Then, some years later, Fiona revisited them in Kiss and Tell. The perfect couple were put under extraordinary pressure. They didn’t just have rocks thrown at them, they had massive boulders hurled in their direction. They were torn apart, tormented and tortured by the wicked Ms Walker. And it worked. I loved it. It’s still my favourite book of Fiona’s. So, done right, it can be successful.

There are other books which finish with a teasing “happy for now” rather than a “happy ever after”. Sarah Tranter’s No Such Thing As Immortality, for example, leaves many questions unanswered and, although you just know that Nate and Rowan are meant for each other, you’re still not sure how it’s all going to pan out, what’s really going on, and if they can make it work. Books like this are ripe for a sequel and I’m delighted to report that there will be one.

But when the story is so clearly tied up neatly, as in Bridget Jones’s case, do we really want to know what happens next and watch as the magic starts to fade and our loved up couple fall apart again? Or would we prefer to close the book and keep them safe in our heads, imagining their happy ever after is just that?

I have mixed feelings about Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy. In my mind Bridget and Mark have been living in bliss for fourteen long years and I don’t want that illusion spoiled. On the other hand, it’s a chance to meet up again with old friends, find out what they’ve really been up to, see how much they’ve changed and how they are coping with the demands of modern life. The horrific thing is, though, that Bridget must be now heading towards her fifties. Definitely more hen lit than chick lit now…

One thing is for certain, whatever my feelings, I’ll be buying it. I suspect it will be a best-seller. Whether it will be a hit with the readers is another question entirely.   What do you think? Will you be buying it? Would you rather leave Mark and Bridget in the world of your imagination? Or have you read other books that revisit couples you have loved in the past and been disappointed or delighted? Do let me know your opinion!

Have a great week x

A Class of My Own

It’s been a weird week at work. All sorts of new initiatives are coming in and it seems every day we have been handed new protocols to read and have more boxes to tick and more rules to follow.

We have been given an eleven page handout on how to wash our hands correctly (honestly!) and there is to be an assessment. We won’t know when, but at some point when we least expect it we are going to be dragged away from our desks and asked to demonstrate the difficult task of handwashing. I do hope I don’t fail. I can’t sleep for worrying about it.

The latest thing is we are to be issued with name badges. This is so that if any members of the public wish to complain they can at least complain about the right person. Charming. Personally, given that we are mostly post-menopausal females, I believe they are issuing us with name badges so we can remember who we are. I had a very senior moment the other week when I needed to call for my colleague and she got away from me because I couldn’t for the life of me remember what she was called! Scary…

Our youngest colleague is only in her early twenties and is all bright, pretty and alert with a fully functioning endocrine system. She is away at the moment and won’t be impressed when she gets back to find that she has now got to wear a name badge. She is still young enough to resent anything that makes her think of school. The rest of us pine for our school days, wishing we could go back to those golden days of our youth and do it all differently. Like pay attention and learn something, for example.

They say youth is wasted on the young and the older I get the more I think that’s true. School, when you are that age, is just a drag that you have to get through before real life can start. Now I can think of nothing more wonderful than being able to spend your days actually learning something with no worries about paying bills or keeping a roof over your head. What luxury. Such times never come again.

Of course, time does cast a rosy glow over such memories. If I’m honest, the lessons were mostly deadly boring. Science went way over my head because the teacher just droned on and on about formulas (formulae?) that I had no idea about and no interest in learning. Maths was horrific with a psychopathic teacher who would throw a blackboard rubber at your head if you dared to tell him that you didn’t understand what the hell he was babbling on about. History was dreadful. Apart from a brief interlude when we were taught very intimate details of the Tudors (most of it made up by a perverted teacher but I’d better not dwell on that) it consisted of learning the dates of the Corn Laws and other fascinating facts like who invented the Spinning Jenny and the invention of the steam engine. Not the most riveting subjects when you’re fourteen and just want to go home and listen to your Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. English was the only subject I really looked forward to and a lot of that was because I had a massive crush on the teacher…no really, massive!  Thankfully, he was a decent man. If I’d had a crush on the history teacher I dread to think what may have happened.

Anyway, a lot of my colleagues agreed with me that if we’d had different teachers and different teaching methods things may have been a lot different. When I watch history programmes or science programmes now I find them absolutely fascinating and wish I’d learned all that stuff back then. I would like to know more about art, but our art lessons consisted of my best friend and I and a few other girls sitting in the back room of the art class, listening to Radio One, drooling about John Travolta,  and gossiping about boys, including the man who later became my husband, but that’s beside the point.

So that got me thinking about how different school could have been if we could pick our dream teachers. Obviously, it’s way too late now and the people I came up with mostly weren’t around then, but in a fantasy world, here is my dream school staff.

Maths: Carol Vorderman. What she doesn’t know about numbers isn’t worth knowing. Of course, Johnny Ball would be a fabulous maths teacher, too. I’m not fussy. Anyone would be an improvement on the psycho we had.

Geography: Michael Palin. Who has travelled more widely than this chap? I loved learning about different countries, but then lessons changed to deal with map reading and contours and all that technical stuff and I lost the will to live. Michael could definitely revive my interest in this subject.

History: Tony Robinson. I considered several candidates for this post as I watch a lot of history programmes, but let’s face it, who wouldn’t want Baldrick to be their teacher? And, anyway, I love him on Time Team.

Science: Has to be Professor Brian Cox, doesn’t it? He’s fascinating and I have learned more about physics from him than I did in five years at school.

Biology: David Attenborough. Is there anything that he couldn’t tell us about the life on this planet? I doubt it. Nothing I’d want or need to know anyway. And with that soothing voice it would be a pleasure to learn.

French: Johnny Depp. Okay, I’m not entirely sure that he speaks French but he was with Vanessa Paradis for years and she’s French so he must have picked it up, right? And if he didn’t, well, who cares?

Music: So many candidates here. I reckon we’d need a few music teachers. Sue Perkins could tell us all about conducting an orchestra…and baking cakes. Gary Barlow could demonstrate the art of song writing. Tom Jones could reel off many musical anecdotes and name drop for England (or Wales, actually) and what about Lindsey Buckingham to teach us guitar? Or Phil Collins to teach us drums? Or Elton John to demonstrate piano, or…well, you get the gist. Definitely need a HUGE music department.

Drama: Benedict Cumberbatch. Because he’s Benedict Cumberbatch.

English: There are any number of experts on grammar, poetry, Shakespearean plays and novels. I’m not going to pick any of them – I’m going for JK Rowling because she got a whole generation of kids reading and I love her.

Art: Neil Buchanan. Presenter of Art Attack and enthusiastic enough to get any kid painting and drawing. For Art History we could have Prince William or Kate. They got a degree each in that subject right?

Religious Education: Difficult. Wouldn’t want to offend anyone so I’d probably choose the Dalai Lama, because he is full of wisdom and serenity and has no problem with people finding their own path and no interest in insisting there is only one true religion. Or, alternatively, we could have Geraldine Granger, the Vicar of Dibley. She’s Church of England, but what a hoot the classes would be. And there would also be chocolate.

Physical Education: Any number of sporting superstars out there. I’d go for Jessica Ennis and Louis Smith, two of our  Olympic heroes or any of our Paralympic stars … no one more inspirational.

Food Technology: Known as Domestic Science when I was a girl, who else could I choose for this? There’s only one Mary Berry!!

That’s my staff sorted. Although, this is fantasy and if I could choose just one person I’d pick The Doctor. After all, after over nine hundred years of space and time travel, mixing with Shakespeare, Dickens and Van Gogh to name a few, and saving the universe countless times, he would be an expert on all of the above subjects. And he’d have time to teach the whole school, too, since a jaunt in the Tardis after each class would find him at exactly the same moment he began. Oh, if only…what do you think? Who would your dream teacher be?

Have a great week!

Just Faffing About

So here we are on the first day of June. I can tell it’s June by the grey skies and the fact that I am having to battle with myself not to turn on the central heating. June is the month I was born in, and I rarely celebrate my birthday in sunshine. In fact, given that my birthday always falls during Wimbledon fortnight, it’s a pretty good guess that I’ll usually celebrate it in pouring rain. But I digress…

The merry old month of May has been and gone and, as any of you who read my blog regularly will realise, I didn’t write a single post during that month. I hang my head in shame. I fully intended to, but time just gets away from me. I am not the most organised of people. I know lots of people who write blog posts weeks or months in advance and then schedule them to be released regularly at weekly or even – how the hell they manage it I’ll never understand –  daily intervals. I’m not one of those people. Between work, driving lessons, family responsibilities, reading and writing my novel, (oh, okay, I admit it, and Facebooking and tweeting) I have somehow let my blog go to pot. I apologise.

To give you some idea of how disorganised I am, it has been a whole year since I sent my last  assignment in to my tutor. In my defence, I have moved house twice, separated from my husband, taken on an extra job at work and gone through a whole host of things in that time that have kind of shifted my priorities. I have also – and this is the main problem – suffered a major crisis of confidence that rendered me unable to show anyone my writing, so convinced was I that every word I had written was complete and utter garbage.

So a week or so ago I decided that enough was enough and I scoured through all my opening scenes to decide which one was going to be the one that would start my novel. All my opening scenes? Oh yes, there have been many. In different styles, with different viewpoints, at different starting points…frankly, I must have written a hundred thousand words over the last year just trying to perfect the first chapter.

Having chosen one that I thought would be the one I would finally go with, I emailed it to my tutor before I could change my mind and then tried to forget about it. Then I emailed her to let her know that I’d emailed it to her. Then I emailed her again because I realised I’d left the name of something out and had typed “insert here” and hadn’t inserted it. She is the most patient tutor in the world and assured me that it was all going to be fine and not to worry.

Having sent it off I tried to concentrate on other, more mundane matters, but then I realised that it was the wrong beginning that I’d sent her after all, and I was going to go with another one. So I rewrote the first chapter again, cursing the fact that I’d sent the other one to her and wondering what she’d say when she discovered the horrible truth. Then last night, as I lay in bed, trying to think about what car I’d like to buy, or what I should get my daughter for her birthday, or how beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch’s eyes are, or anything at all other than my novel, the perfect first scene unfolded in my mind just as I was finally drifting off to sleep. So this morning I got up, switched on the laptop and wrote Chapter One straight through, no stopping. And it works. And I feel much happier with it. With that sorted the end is now in sight – at least of the second draft. Not a bad way to start a new month. But how the heck do I tell my tutor that the chapter she is currently assessing is now redundant, and even I think it’s rubbish?

Is it just me? Does anyone else chop and change this much? I can’t believe Charlotte Bronte faffed about so much with Jane Eyre, somehow. I always imagine her pouring the words out like runny honey onto the page with not so much as a wobble about narrative viewpoint.  Can some kind soul out there please reassure me that it’s all normal? Or, if it’s not, can you just give me the brutal truth please so that I can put it all out of my head and take up stamp collecting instead? On second thoughts, don’t bother. I think I’d rather not know.

Have a great week x