….28 Days Later

Inevitably my diary keeping during lockdown became a little repetitive hence I’ve not posted anything for the last twenty eight days! I wasn’t sure that the revelation that I had converted all my family to to eating quiche was all that interesting. Or that my return to buying full-fat mayonnaise rather than the ‘light’ version has been welcomed in our home like the return of the prodigal son. Who knew I was imposing lock down on high fat products and that it has taken a pandemic to make me realise they should be released for our sanity if not our waistline.

What I can tell you is that my schedule in the last four weeks has been largely shaped by shopping. What day to go, who needs what and how to avoid the queues but still get essential items. In early April I was queueing regularly for 20-30 mins in humourless lines where people were frightened to engage at all, even in our beloved British banter. I decided enough was enough when half way into such a queue I was called by my mother to make a dash to collect a prescription from the doctors before it closed. I was in such a flap I forgot my Dad’s name (he’s always been called by his middle name but all official paperwork uses his first name). I decided supermarket queuing was no longer for me so now I go at insociable hours like 7 in the morning or 7 at night. If they have no lettuce…well so be it. Life’s too short to be upset by a lack of lettuce.

We did have some drama three weeks ago. My son suddenly suffered severe abdominal pains. Of course these started in the evening. Why does everyone always start to get sick in the evening? By 10pm we were on the phone to 111 and decided with them to monitor overnight. After a sleepless night and two projectile vomiting incidents we were on the phone again the next morning. I’m still regretting my decision to look for a bowl for my son to throw up in as he stood wretching in his bedroom, rather than hustle him to the bathroom a few feet away. A favoured cuddly toy (mine not his!) had to be binned and a bed valance put in the wash. I mean who ever has to wash those! I was also using a dustpan to shovel sick – yes a dustpan! We then embarked on a trip to the drop-in clinic to be then sent to Children’s A&E with suspected appendicitis. Of course everyone was utterly brilliant. We never saw another patient and we felt perfectly safe. Thankfully we were eventually sent home for further monitoring and my son gradually got better over the next few days.

After a couple of weeks of falling out with my guitar and feeling a general sense of apathy with all the promises I’d made on entering lockdown, I finally picked it up again. I’m happy to tell you that I can now restring a guitar…thanks to YouTube of course. After a few days of utter frustration I made a break through this week. My friends on YouTube were not helping. They could all do things with their fingers that I couldn’t and I was about ready to give up until I spoke to an old school friend who is a great musician. She told me not to worry too much about getting it to sound exactly right. Vaguely right is ok whilst you are learning apparently so I finally feel like I’m making progress and so trying to stick with it. I watched a great interview though with the legendary novelist Marian Keyes on the TV and she said you must not feel bad if you are not achieving anything at the moment. She is so right. I try and remember that when I’m slobbering on the couch watching romcoms in the middle of the afternoon. It’s very helpful.

IMG_3969

So it’s Thursday and I need to clean. Wednesday is normally cleaning day but something happened that stopped me from doing that and I have no idea what it was. I have no idea really what is happening from one day to the next. However I did do some cleaning  on Monday. I wanted to move around the layout in the living room. Try and introduce some sort of change into our static lives but my plan would have risked cutting off our Sky TV  and that was a risk I was unwilling to take. However it meant I had to hoover under everything I had moved before it went back and and I even hoovered the sofa…..that made me a bit tearful to be honest. Sad tearful. Depressed tearful. But this morning  I put on the news and there was Captain Tom Moore celebrating his 100th birthday having raised nearly £30m for the NHS by lapping his garden. I had a good cry. An opportunity to let some emotion out when we are all trying to keep it all in. For the sake of the children. For the sake of anyone we are in lockdown with. So I would like to express my deepest congratulations to Captain Tom Moore and my thanks for letting the emotional ones amongst all have a good cry this morning. I feel a lot better.

 

 

…when YouTube is the fourth emergency service.

Time for the next instalment…..second half of the first week and facing up to the prospect of the tricky second week.

Thursday 26th March

Did a 7am drop off of milk at my mum and dad’s as I just couldn’t trust myself not to want to see them and stay and chat. Felt like some dodgy burglar. Have been assigned a  vulnerable person in the village that I can help by doing their shopping. Felt incredibly nervous before I rang her to see what she needed but needn’t have worried as she sounded very bouncy and said she didn’t need anything until after the weekend. I drivelled on trying to make conversation but I’m not sure she needed me for company whereas I clearly was in dire need of someone different to talk too! Treated myself to my first guitar lesson in the afternoon courtesy of YouTube. The one I watched has 1.2m views. Now closer to 1.3m as I watched it over and over trying desperately to make any sense of it. My conclusion eventually was that I must have an abnormally short little finger as there is NO WAY my fingers can do what he was doing. I must be anatomically incorrect. My 11yr daughter made a dinner of BBQ chicken which was a joy but led to much argument about when the 13yr old boy was going to achieve the same heights. We did have to pause half way through and do the clap outside for the NHS which was very moving. We’d made a banner for my sister who is a nurse saying ‘Thank You Auntie Helen” because she is a star and I really miss seeing her.

Friday 27th March

Called my friend Richard as he had a major heart operation last year so was worried he is particularly vulnerable. He picked up the phone gasping for breath half way up a hill in Nottinghamshire somewhere. Apparently he isn’t vulnerable so glad we sorted that one out. He told me of the old man he is shopping for in his village who ordered just a dozen eggs and a bottle of whisky – genius. My daughter then approached me whilst on the phone to show me a card trick she has been learning. We talked Richard through it live by satellite building up to the big reveal – “And so is this your card?” she asked me, presenting the three of diamonds.  “No,” I replied. She dejectedly scuttled back to YouTube for more practicing.

Saturday 28th March

I’m a massive parkrun fan so I went out and ran in lieu of parkrun this morning up the footpath at the back of our house and felt like a very lucky person to be able to do that. We decided it would be movie night which inevitably went horribly wrong as there was no consensus on what to watch, my husband was called away to a family call and the rest of us were somehow left watching Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure – I know!! I think we lasted forty minutes until my daughter bailed and then my son begrudgingly announced that it wasn’t as good as he thought it would be before he sloped off. I quickly turned it off to watch last weeks Masterchef.

Sunday 29th March

Secured a food delivery!!! Feel very happy!!

Monday 30th March

We all seemed to hit a bit of a low today. ‘It’s the tricky second Monday,” my husband announced. All novelty has worn off, the grey skies are back after last weeks glorious weather and we are feeling a bit of disbelief that this week will be exactly the same as last week. On the plus side I am loving the sound of hearing my two children chat to their mates as they do their homework. I will never tire of that sound. It’s the sound of them doing ok – which is amazing. Had a lovely walk with my son where we discussed the US presidential election. Does Coronavirus give Donal Trump the opportunity to extend his term! The lady in the village I’m shopping for rang me with her food order for this week so was very happy to add it to our delivery. Quite fancy tea round at her house one night as her meals sounded a lot more interesting than ours.

Then disaster struck. I decided that my guitar wasn’t sounding the same as my skilled  friend on Youtube so I thought I should perhaps tune it! I found another YouTube video to teach me how and thought I was doing an excellent job until I managed to snap a string!! My dreams of being lead guitarist in a indie band dashed. I went into a proper sulk. A proper gloom. I was going to be that annoying person who manages to do something productive with the lock down and now I couldn’t. I emailed the shop I bought it from and am hopefully awaiting a response that reprises my dream and Lewis Capaldi can start to panic again that Tracy Bloom is back on the path to being the next greatest singer songwriter that ever lived!!

My editor at Bookouture wrote to tell me that NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON HOLIDAY has been put in a promotion on Amazon so it’s just 99p  – just thought I’d share that!!!

Tuesday 31st April

7E8EEA8F-AAD6-417D-AF12-671667566C5DIn the absence of a guitar string I resurrected my other hope for filling my time during lock down. I got out the rucksack I had bought that incorporates a water bladder so I can drink water and run at the same time. This piece of equipment is going to help me finally crack doing a half marathon….apparently. Anyway, once again, I found myself in front of my Youtube friends trying to work out how the hell to fill the water bladder. This took some time which almost made me late for my run which I was trying to do at the same time as another friend who is going to also do a half marathon. We are trying to motivate one another. We FaceTimed when we both returned so I could display my minor injury of a scraped elbow having fallen over on route. I was hoping I would get a 10k under my belt but as I don’t wear glasses when I run I can’t read how far I’ve gone from my Fitbit…making my Fitbit pretty useless I have to say! Anyway I was convinced I’d done at least 10k only to find out I’d only done 7.45k – gutted…and it still took me an hour!

 

Food delivery arrived which was awesome – the best – so happy. I sorted out my lady’s shopping and took it down to her. So good to meet her albeit across a long hallway but she looked in very good health and was so grateful for her shopping. I kept telling her she’s doing me a favour. The opportunity to help other people makes this thing so much more bearable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why am I stockpiling cushions?

Hi all…..I sincerely hope I find you all well.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try and document the in’s and outs of what is happening right now for future reference. Already I’m struggling to remember the way I felt last week so I’m going to do a diary of sorts. I’m not expecting you to feel at all interested so please feel free to unfollow my blog if you want to.

I sat down with my son yesterday morning to try and recall any key points so far and here it is:

Saturday February 15th

We went to London on the train. The four of us. My family. Nine cases had been reported in the UK as of the 13th February. We avoided China Town!!! We went to the theatre to see The Magic That Goes Wrong then queued to get into Pizza Express. There we learnt that Caroline Flack had tragically committed suicide. #Bekind trended on Twitter in her memory to encourage us to love one another. Sat in the Microsoft shop on Oxford Street whilst the family played on Xbox’s on a rainy day and cried as I listened to Laura Whitmore’s tribute on Radio 5.

Sunday 8th March

Having been involved in the organisation  of the Scout Jumble Sale scheduled for next week we took all our jumble down early on Sunday.

Monday 9th March

Jumble sale cancelled. Fetched all the jumble back including a 4ft high giraffe.

Friday 13th March

Quiz and Chips fundraiser cancelled at school. Four families congregated and did our own quiz and chips. The quiz masters were a Vet and a University lecturer. It was a hard quiz!!! Nowhere near enough celebrity trivia.

Saturday 14th March

An emotional speech from the run director at what would become the last Park Run at  Markeaton Park. Did my best time in a while owing to my dry lent and not running with a slight hangover which is generally the norm.

Sunday 15th March

My daughter’s dance competition cancelled in Tamworth. Slight relief as we were going to have to be there for 6 hours and do two 3 minute routines. Now cannot wait to have that opportunity again!!

Monday 16th March

Spent a very happy morning putting an IKEA sofa together. Went out for supplies. First time in a Boots and was shocked to see so many empty shelves. Tried to buy Calpol for a friends daughter suffering with a sore throat. No chance.

Tuesday 17th March

Demand increasing for schools to be closed. My son is asked to take off his uniform and put on his tennis gear outside his friends house to avoid any contamination entering his home. My daughter elects not to go to her gymnastics class.

Wednesday 18th March

Another sobering visit to the shops to buy supplies for parents. Empty shelves and queues at tills. Visited my mum and dad but stood outside and didn’t hug. Went for a dog walk with my mum keeping our distance. Boris announces schools are to close on Friday afternoon. And so the random shopping began. Jigsaws for my dad and for us. A laptop so my daughter could keep up with school work. Two pieces of board to make a makeshift table tennis table. Dropped in on the elderly brother and sister who live on a farm near us to give them my number incase they needed anything. Charlie had lost his oldest cow that day at 23yrs old. He said he would miss her.

Thursday 19th March

…the random purchases continued. A guitar!!! I’ve always wanted to learn so have decided now is my chance. Ink for the printer to make sure we can print out school work. Bought six cushions for a sofa that I’d been meaning to replace for some time. Corona is making me very decisive on soft furnishings. Then the sales assistant pointed out that I was perhaps stock piling cushions which made me feel very bad. My daughter came home in tears at the thought of schools closing. Park Runs officially cancelled.

Friday 20th March

My daughters last day in year 6 (more than likely). She’s utterly devastated at having to miss out on doing SATS (I know!) and their end of year play. I have no idea what to say to her. She think’s it’s unfair and ‘WHY THIS YEAR?’. I got way too deep into a parents debate over Whatsapp about whether we should be allowing them to do the traditional end of year activities such as signing shirts and clapping out. No-one knows what is the right thing to do. In the end the headteacher sent a letter saying school was not over – it had been interrupted – and we would not sign shirts or clap out as we had nothing to celebrate. I helped deliver leaflets to houses in our village alerting those self isolating that they could ring a number if they needed shopping. Passed a couple having a massive row on the street but who shut up when they realised I was doing ‘community work’. Our eleven year old daughter went to sleep in our bed – too upset to sleep on her own.

Saturday 21st March 

I ran 6.45km in lieu of park run. Met a year 6 mum on route and burst into tears. Got home and cried in the shower. Hard to know when to let the emotion out as so busy trying to hold it together in front of the kids. Cried in front of my thirteen year old son who hugged me and told me not to worry. Todays most random purchase was a 2 tables to build a lego city on! Spoke to our friends in Cardiff over Skype. They are a blended family and our friend finds himself suddenly homeschooling four children as his partner works for the NHS. Caved and had a couple of glasses of wine. We have been on dry lent for the third year running but I’m having real problems switching off so decide to give myself a break. Best nights sleep in a week.

Sunday 22nd March

Mother’s Day! Had to remind my family. Had cards without envelopes, chocs and flowers. Most importantly of all I had my family around me, so the perfect day. Me and my son discussed the events of the last week and he came up with a great analogy. It’s  like packing to go on holiday but you’ve no idea where you are going so you don’t know what you are going to need and so will probably end up not using half of it. I cleaned in the afternoon. Wanted to have the house ready for the working week. My husband went to see his Auntie in Leicester to sort out her Wifi and get her on Skype.  I went for a long walk with the kids and the dog  which was lovely and the sun shone – can’t beat that. My husband managed to link his mum down the road, his sister in New Zealand and his Auntie in Leicester over Skype. Thank goodness for technology!

Monday 23rd March

Day One of everyone working from home. We have a broad timetable. 9-12 work, 12-1 lunch, 1-2 walk, 2-4 free time, 4-5.30 some kind of fun activity. See how that goes. It’s nerve wracking as you feel very responsible for your children’s total well being and the opportunity to screw it up feels massive. I keep trying to tell myself to take my time, let it evolve, you can always adapt and be mindful that what suits your children might not suit others (ie: don’t worry about everyone else doing it better than you!!) Both are having work sent from school which is so helpful and so grateful to the teachers for organising this so quickly. I tried to work but ended up doing admin. I need to start writing a book but I’m finding it hard to decide what people will want to read in our new future. We also got hugely excited about taking part in the Taskmaster challenge via Twitter. Today they set the challenge of throwing a piece of paper into a bin in the most spectacular way. Somehow time ran away with us and we ended up cobbling something together in fifteen minutes. My nieces and nephews however did a spectacular job and we wait with baited breath to see if their videos make it into a montage tomorrow. My husband ran his first online scout meeting which seemed to go really well and involved kids ransacking their houses on a scavenger hunt. I just hope they all cleared up afterwards!  Boris announced pretty much total lockdown. Only allowed out for essential food, one piece of excercise a day, all non essential shops to close and weddings and baptisms cancelled.

Tuesday 24th March 

thumbnail_IMG_3844 First day on lockdown. A walk at 6.45am with my dog. What a beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 25th March

Woken up ironically to another beautiful day. Spring has always been my favourite month. So today I went and did food shopping for my parents and my in-laws. Arrived at Morrisons expecting it to be very quiet but had to queue for 20 minutes in an orderly fashion, 2m apart around the outside of the building so they could limit the amount of people inside. Plenty of fresh food available, packaged food still running low particularly tomato soup. Toilet rolls on the shelves – hurrah. Always good news when you see toilet rolls freely available. Some items limited to so many per shopper such as milk, cereal and fizzy drinks. Had a tricky moment when had to choose between my husbands fizzy drink of choice and my kids. The kids won!! We walked as a family at 5.30pm then came home and spent around an hour filming our next Taskmaster challenge which was to turn your bathroom into the sort of venue you might visit for a great night out. We went for a celebrity party. My daughter spent the afternoon making a limousine out of cardboard, my husband was the bouncer and a cardboard cut-out of George Clooney was the VIP guest. Went to bed exhausted!

 

NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON HOLIDAY – Out now

thumbnail_Sex-on-Holiday 2 ‘One of the funniest books I’ve read this year… I found myself laughing out loud… A fantastic holiday read.’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

Get ready to enjoy your first holiday abroad with small children. Highlights include: being woken at 5 every morning and working a gruelling day in 30-degree heat chasing kids around the pool with a bottle of sunscreen. Added features: screaming during mealtimes and toddlers moaning about sand. Absolutely no sex guaranteed or your money back!

Katy and Ben and their four closest friends are going to Spain for a week with their kids. Sun, sex and sangria? Almost certainly not.

The couples think they are prepared for all the joys and trials a family holiday has to offer but they have a shock coming, and not only from the kids. Into their first day by the pool crashes Ollie, who has just been dumped by his girlfriend, and Cassie, on her hen party holiday but having serious doubts about her impending marriage. A recipe for a relaxing week abroad? Let’s wait and see…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of No-one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday, this is the perfect book to read on the beach – either with or without small children. Perfect for fans of Nick Spalding, Marian Keyes and Gill Sims.

Click HERE to buy.

Readers love No-one Ever Has Sex on Holiday!

‘A laugh-out-loud romp that had me in literal stitches from start to finish.’ Goodreads Reviewer

Five stars are really not enough for this fantastic book but in the absence of anything more I would just like to say to people reading this review “Read it, you won’t regret it.”’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

‘A perfect holiday read.’ Goodreads Reviewer

‘Totally enjoyable, perfect for the beach!… Loved it, made me laugh from start to finish.’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX AT A WEDDING – OUT TODAY

cover wedding

Here we go….book 9!!!!! I have no idea how that happened. My favourite characters return again and this is the one where the cat is let truly out of the bag. Braindead accidentally reveals during his wedding speech that Katy had a one night stand with Matthew and the only person this is news to, is Matthews wife!!! As you can imagine it leads to mayhem at the wedding and has a major impact on the two other weddings Katy must attend over the summer. Will anyone ever have sex at a wedding ever again? I really hope you enjoy it. Click HERE to read now.

DINNER PARTY – Out Today

DP Cover Final jpeg Very happy to announce that my latest novel is out today!

Never has an unexpected guest caused such chaos!

Three couples take it in turns to host a monthly dinner party. Beth, Sarah and Marie have been friends forever. Now they are grown up, with busy lives, busy husbands, busy kids… but they still find time to meet up over dinner once a month. A cosy, comfortable gathering of happy couples – or so they thought.

Until one night, someone brings along a last-minute guest whose wife has just left him.

Simon is standing on the doorstep in floods of tears. While the women do their best to console him, their husbands feel the need to mark their territory.

And as Simon becomes more involved with the group, his presence changes everything these three couples thought they knew about each other, leading to a final dinner party that no-one will ever forget.

Amazon: http://geni.us/B07FF7GQYWSocial
iBookstore: http://ow.ly/COEw30lWpug
Googleplay: http://ow.ly/p7yU30lWpzm
Kobo: http://ow.ly/S9d330lWpq6

 

The Book I Never Thought I’d Write

Last-Laugh-final CoverI never expected I would write a book about dying. I write romantic comedies for goodness sake! And I knew I couldn’t possibly write a book that didn’t have humour at the heart of it and where are the laughs in someone dying!!!? But then life happens. Shit happens in fact and I suddenly found myself writing this book. Not because I intended to get it published or even finish it. I started writing to mainly deal with the shit that was happening and then it took on a life of it’s own and here we are…a finished published book….how did that happen?

 

Well it’s all down to a very special person you see. A very close friend who I met in my twenties. We shared so many epic times and then the shit happened. She got cancer. And then she got the all clear. And then she got it again. And then she died. My friend was a success story up until then. She was smart and funny, held high office in her career and had a wonderful husband and son. And then she got ill and during that time we had a conversation that I found remarkable. She told me that despite knowing her days were numbered that she felt under pressure to live in a certain way. To have a bucket list or see the wonders of the world or even run a marathon and raise loads of money for charity to ensure she left some kind of ‘legacy’. I was shocked that someone in this position could feel under pressure to conform when surely it is the time when all rules should be kicked thoroughly up the backside.

And so the idea for THE LAST LAUGH emerged. The story of a woman who is running out of time and decides to spend the remainder of her life in her very own unique way by attempting to live how she did when she was happiest – in 1996!

It is of course no co-incidence that me and my friend had the time of our lives in the nineties and maybe sub-consciously, through writing this book, I have in some part managed to re-live those happy, happy times to try and dispel the sorrow that there will be no more to come.

I have not written my friends story. I wouldn’t and couldn’t do that. That is hers and not mine. Jenny in my novel is a completely different person with a very different journey. Through writing this book I have found the laughs that not only lift our lives but are essential in coping with the inevitable. Many reviewers have already said that it made them laugh and cry which is perfect. There were many tears of course with my friend but there was always much laughter too. And that is exactly how I wish to remember her. With the odd tear, but plenty of laughs.

THE LAST LAUGH is out now on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. A percentage of the profits are being donated to Sue Ryder who provide fantastic hospice and neurological care for people facing frightening, life-changing diagnosis.