Happy New Year!  I feel like Jabba with his excess rolls of bulging fat and inability to do much more than vegetate on the sofa, but all in all, it’s been a good Christmas.  The kids were suitably spoiled, the shelf my carpenter husband promised to make me is still sat as a block of wood in the garage, and the Celebrations tub strangely remains unopened.  And now we have the next two or three months of it being dark by four, iced-up windows, and winter sadness to look forward to.  However, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions and whether or not to bother with one.  Here are the top ten which I have been considering during the lost week between Christmas and New Year:

  1. The classic lose weight resolution – one that is frequently made across the world because you’ve just eaten your own weight in Christmas crap and you now feel like you have doubled the size of your waist.  The TV is also screaming at you to go out and buy exercise goodies or to book some exotic holiday where you might have to flash your butt on a sandy beach somewhere.  The trouble is, when January hits and I return to work, I’m going to have the willpower of a golden retriever.  It’s a resolution that’s bound to fail before I’ve even started.  I leave in the dark, at the butt crack of dawn, am on my feet all day with little people repeating my name I don’t know how many times a day, only to come home and have my own children repeat my name all the way until bedtime.  I then have to check work emails, make sandwiches for the next day (God, I hate that job), prepare and cook dinner before I might be able to attempt to do a star jump.   The thought of watching some over-enthusiastic fitness instructor who has the figure of a Barbie doll in real life, along with having to squeeze myself into a sports bra is enough to give this resolution the finger.  Perhaps when summer hits or my clothes refuse to go over my curves, I’ll give this one a go.  But in January?  Na-ah!
  2. The learn a new skill resolution – I’ve tried this one for the past two years in the form of learning a language.  I’m sorry to say, I’ve not renewed my Rosetta Stone App this year.  I guess the inability to get away to Italy and use said language has finally broken my will to follow through with it.  Not that I’m giving up on the idea completely, just not at the moment.  I have to admit, this country is thoroughly pants for teaching languages.  Having taught children who didn’t know a single word of English when they arrived in Infant School, I can tell you these children usually end up being my more able students.  Because they’ve had to use different parts of their brain and show resilience, they generally excel in all areas.  We leave learning a language far too late and don’t give children enough opportunities to exercise this skill.  I achieved an A in my French GCSE and a B in Spanish, but can I speak it now?  Un peu, mange tout!
  3. The be more organised resolution – Even though someone is laughing hysterically inside of my head over the idea of me being more organised, I was recently informed that I was once like this.  You see, at school, you can walk into some teacher’s classrooms and feel overwhelmed by how uber organised and neat their rooms are.  There’s a damn label for everything.  When a child comes into my room to show off some stunning piece of work, they’re given an IOU for a reward sticker because I’ll be buggered if I know where I’ve put them.  However, I can remember a time when I trained my class to organise their pencils by colour and all the correct way up inside of a labelled pot.  If someone came into my class and asked me for a specific piece of paper (if you teach, you know just how many piles of paper are given to you on a daily basis), I could locate it within seconds. But then I had children.  Organisation went flying out the window and an acceptance for just being dressed and out the door on time became a major win!  So, this is a trier of a resolution, but if I’m being realistic, I still have the young demon child to deal with in the morning, and I am only human, people.
  4. The save more money resolution – Well, national insurance rises, remortgaging, higher energy prices and without a pay rise means this is a very boring no.  I can’t even get excited over the fact I’ll be spending my money on stuff because the stuff it will go on is, as you can see, extremely boring.  However, some people are a lot worse off than I am so I’m not going to grumble.  Things are tight for a lot of families and if I think about how many people are having to rely on food banks, or worse, then I don’t really have much to complain about.
  5. The read more resolution – More hysterical laughing because this one’s a given and one I can actually stick to without it being at all arduous. In fact, my husband would be arguing for me to do the opposite.  I’m ticking this bad boy off before I even begin the year.  Why don’t we give ourselves more positive resolutions?  Why have we always got to pick resolutions that make us feel like it’s a chore?  In fact, with this one, I’m also going to add write more, listen to more music and generally broaden my cultural horizons.
  6. The travel more resolution – I wish with today’s covid restrictions!
  7. The quit smoking resolution – I don’t smoke or drink.  Not because I have anything against them, I’ve just never taken to either of them.  Smoking is a firm no for me for many obvious reasons but also because I lost two grandparents to smoking.  I’ll never forget the fear in my nanny’s eyes when they told her she had cancer caused through chain-smoking.  She died not long after.  I don’t have an issue with anyone if they want to do these things, they’re just not for me.  My husband has informed me that I could quit nagging him, so there’s that.  However, I don’t believe for one minute that I’ll keep that one up. (‘Nag’ being a man’s definition of having to be told more than once to do something because they can’t be bothered to listen the first time).
  8. The try something crazy resolution – Again, this is more difficult to achieve with young children, however, it’s not something I wouldn’t consider.  In my past, younger life, I have flown a plane, quad biked across the desert, ridden a camel, got my scuba diving certificate, self-published four books, run ten kilometres for charity*, cut my hair for charity, and had a go at pole dancing (an awful, totally unsexy attempt).  This resolution could be a strong possibility; I just need to think of something. *This wasn’t through choice.  The week before my wedding my sister called and asked if I wanted to do it.  I said, no, ta very much, to which she laughed and informed me she had signed me up anyway.  In fact, a lot of my ‘try something crazy’ activities have been down to her, including going to our local sports centre dressed as a ninja from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
  9. The spend more time with family resolution – This one isn’t really that hard.  I already spend most of my time with my family.  If I’m not with them, I’m at work or having time to myself. In fact, they might want to spend less time with me.  I have given my husband permission to go away with his friends for his fortieth.  The moody bugger always chucks a strop for the month of September, and this year, with the milestone birthday, he’s going to be extra miserable.  If that’s the case, he can go elsewhere and grump.  Besides, when he returns I can hold the fact that I let him go away without us over his head for at least a good few years.  It’s a win, win situation.
  10. The be healthier resolution – Again with the boring chore of a resolution!  Granted I could stand to be less of a pig and eat more salad or whatnot, but what an unappealing outlook for the year.  So, with that in mind, I’m going to change this slightly.  Instead of my health, I’m going to try and do my bit to improve the health of the planet by using less plastic and buying more responsibly.  I already tried to do this over Christmas, which is bloody hard with kids’ toys, but I think I did better than the year before.  I also believe in asking for presents that can be made rather than bought (for me, at least).  Last year, my sister, the artist, painted a picture of Hades and Persephone, my mum knitted a cardy, and my husband bought a plank of reclaimed wood to make into a shelf for my books.  As already mentioned, it’s still in the garage, looking very much like a plank of wood.  Ah, well, you can lead a horse to water…

So, there, I’ve managed to poo pah a lot of resolutions, but I think I’ve also taken on a few to try out.  What are your resolutions for the new year?

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So, that time of year that creeps up on you from about mid-August is finally within sight.  You can no longer scoff when you see the shops have thrown up Christmas all over the place and are actively trying to shove it down your throat. No, it’s time to give in to the enforced merriment of the season.  And I know I sound like Scrooge on a particularly bad day, but when you have small children who have been asking how many days it is until Christmas since the summer holidays, it does become a little tedious.  Having said that, when December hits, I’m all for it.  I’ll watch the cheesy Christmas films, stuff mince pies into my mouth, and even break open the glitter in my classroom (my sincerest apologies to the cleaning staff who I will gift with lots of choccy and biscuits).  Trust me, you can put the damn stuff in a tray and tell the children to sprinkle it inside of said tray, but you can guarantee the moment your back is turned, you’ll hear an intake of shocked breath, followed by a ‘Miss, Ben’s dropped the tray on the floor!’  And that’s it – your classroom looks like a unicorn just had a bad bout of diarrhoea all over the floor.

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of the Scott’s Christmas traditions, or what I like to call it, that time of year when all logic and common sense flies out the window.  See if you can identify with a few:

  1. Christmas TV – I’ll admit, I do enjoy a good film, particularly feel-good movies that as a child, gave me a false view of life.  When my first boyfriend and now husband professed his love for me, it was not while gifting me flowers, declarations of adoration, and with a full orchestra playing some insipid music behind us.  No, as I have mentioned before, it was while I was hiding under the table in the Nicol’s building and with him laughing hysterically because he was a fifteen-year-old boy who had already been chasing after me for three years.  However, Christmas films are one of the few romcoms you can watch without worrying about whether your impressionable young daughters will catch sight of a naked bottom bouncing up and down. Do they give them an exaggerated idea of how Christmas will actually play out?  One hundred percent.  The best one I’ve seen to date portrays a young teacher at the end of the day in the lead-up to Christmas with a flawless complexion, full mask of makeup, a beaming smile with perfect white teeth, talking to a young student about…can’t even remember what.  I hate to break it to you, but as a teacher myself, I can assure you, no teacher looks like this at the end of any day, let alone during the week before Christmas.  You’re more likely to see me with paint and glitter all over my outfit, which is designed for comfort rather than for attracting the ridiculously rich and handsome single father who is still nursing a broken heart while simultaneously looking for just the right woman to come and join his picture-perfect family. By the way, if such an affair were to happen, you would pretty much have to leave your job because that kind of gossip would last for so long, you’d be nearing retirement by the time people actually stopped talking about it.  I’m also likely to be rocking in a corner, just praying for home time because my class of five-year-olds are so hyped up on Christmas, late nights, and advent calendar chocolate, you’re just one step away from having a mental breath down.  And you’ll be lucky if I’m wearing a dab of concealer or pulled a brush through my hair on any given day of the year, let alone at Christmas.  I do love them though – mindless crap to make you giggle over how ridiculous it is.
  2. Food – Here’s the thinking from about October onwards: force yourself into dieting so you can eat like a pig over a two-week period in December.  Effectively, you’re deciding to starve yourself with the intention of putting it all back on again for the sake of one day.  Of course, my husband doesn’t bother with the first part, just engages with the overeating with gusto.  He’ll use the phrase ‘because it’s tradition’ at least a hundred times over the course of December, with at least eighty of them being used in relation to food – Why are you buying that tub of Celebrations?  You don’t even like chocolate! Because it’s tradition.  Why are you buying all those cheeses and biscuits?  It’s only the four of us for Christmas!  Because it’s tradition.  Why are you making more food?  You said you’re full!  Because it’s tradition.  Why are you buying every meat known to man?  Because it’s tradition!  And don’t even get me started on the tubs of chocolates that have you eating beyond comfort because they’re just there, calling for you with all their chocolatey goodness.
  3. Father Christmas – Perhaps the one time when you deem it acceptable to tell your children that it’s perfectly acceptable to let a stranger into your house, feed him, and let him wander about the living room while you all remain sleeping upstairs.  You can also ask him for tons of plastic crap you don’t need, even though you literally had your birthday about a month ago.
  4. Closely linked with the big red stranger in your house, is the newly invented idea, Elf on the shelf! Who in God’s name came up with this idea?  Not only have we got to think of a sack full of gifts to get our bundles of joy, but we’ve now got to think of ways to model a creepy-looking doll for virtually the whole of December.  I’m not gonna lie, I’ve left this aspect of Christmas to the husband, which is risky, but worth it to not have to do it myself.
  5. The Nativity…or not.  This is perhaps one tradition I really look forward to, and thanks to Covid, the bastard, schools have had to cancel the delights of dancing and singing to a room full of parents who will smile and gush no matter what happens.  Little Johnny hollers out he needs a pee during the tear-jerker?  Ahh, with some chuckling.  Little Angela is flashing her pants during the jive number?  Just keep on smiling.  Mrs Parker is sweating up a storm while trying to direct three classes full of five-year-olds, half of whom are completely ignoring her and waving at their grown-ups instead?  All the more endearing…and an excuse for Mrs Parker to buy an extra tub of Celebrations!  Now, I might not be doing a nativity of my own, but my daughter’s school has decided to hold one anyway.  My youngest is the donkey, which is both cute and hilarious.  When I told her how important her part is, she grinned excitedly, then asked, ‘Who’s Mary?’
  6. The obligatory argument between the husband and I over what we want for Christmas.  Now, having been married for over eleven years, and having known each other for longer than we didn’t know one another, I have learnt that believing him when he says he wants nothing, is an epic mistake to make.  When it comes to the day and he has no gift to unwrap because he had said, and I quote, ‘Don’t get me anything, babe, so long as I have you, I have all I need!’, the boy turns into a full-on puppy dog from an animal shelter commercial.  The eyes droop, the shoulders slump, and I swear he’s able to make his bottom lip tremble on command.  To be fair, I often tell him I don’t want anything because, well, there’s nothing I really need.  Perhaps Mary Poppin’s click?  Jedi mind manipulation?  He’ll think of something, he always does.  Surprisingly, the boy always pulls it out of the bag at this time of year.
  7. The Christmas dinner – When I lived with my parents, we turned the tradition on its head and decided each adult would make a given set course.  The idea is that it’s less expensive, less time-consuming, the food is spread out across the day, and it means one person isn’t being left to do all the work.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with mini people, unless you’d like a bowl full of every ingredient in the kitchen as well as a lump of red Play-Doh served up for dessert.  I also live with the aforementioned ‘traditionalist’ who maintains it is positively sacrilegious to serve up anything other than a roast dinner.  It’s a strange concept, spending months preparing for a day when you begin cooking from morning till noon, only to then consume a dinner whose weight is comparable to that of an infant.  After which, you can pretty much do nothing other than shuffle about in your chair with the occasional groan and promise to never eat again…until the Christmas tea and mince pies.  Because, you’ve guessed it, it’s tradition!
  8. A Christmas Carol – yes, this is a must, even for me.  Whether it be muppets, singing from the seventies (Albert Finney, in case you were wondering), or Bill Murry portraying the famous Ebenezer, it is almost law that you watch Dicken’s festive masterpiece.  Of course, you could also read the book; it is a classic and one of his more accessible novels.

So, here are a few of my Christmas traditions, and although I sound like I’m poking fun at some of them, I will continue to do all of them.  Apart from the elf.  When the kids are old enough to know the pain of what we’ve had to do for all these years in the name of make-believe, that creepy little bastard is going to be gifted to whichever one of them wants it.

Don’t forget my new release, ‘My Best Friend’, is available on Amazon KU from December 10th!  You can pre-order now:

My Best Friend – Kindle edition by Scott, Taylor. Contemporary Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

My Best Friend eBook : Scott, Taylor: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Merry Crimble!

So, that time of year that creeps up on you from about mid-August is finally within sight.  You can no longer scoff when you see the shops have thrown up Christmas all over the place and are actively trying to shove it down your throat. No, it’s time to give in to the enforced merriment of the season.  And I know I sound like Scrooge on a particularly bad day, but when you have small children who have been asking how many days it is until Christmas since the summer holidays, it does become a little tedious.  Having said that, when December hits, I’m all for it.  I’ll watch the cheesy Christmas films, stuff mince pies into my mouth, and even break open the glitter in my classroom (my sincerest apologies to the cleaning staff who I will gift with lots of choccy and biscuits).  Trust me, you can put the damn stuff in a tray and tell the children to sprinkle it inside of said tray, but you can guarantee the moment your back is turned, you’ll hear an intake of shocked breath, followed by a ‘Miss, Ben’s dropped the tray on the floor!’  And that’s it – your classroom looks like a unicorn just had a bad bout of diarrhoea all over the floor.

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of the Scott’s Christmas traditions, or what I like to call it, that time of year when all logic and common sense flies out the window.  See if you can identify with a few:

  1. Christmas TV – I’ll admit, I do enjoy a good film, particularly feel-good movies that as a child, gave me a false view of life.  When my first boyfriend and now husband professed his love for me, it was not while gifting me flowers, declarations of adoration, and with a full orchestra playing some insipid music behind us.  No, as I have mentioned before, it was while I was hiding under the table in the Nicol’s building and with him laughing hysterically because he was a fifteen-year-old boy who had already been chasing after me for three years.  However, Christmas films are one of the few romcoms you can watch without worrying about whether your impressionable young daughters will catch sight of a naked bottom bouncing up and down. Do they give them an exaggerated idea of how Christmas will actually play out?  One hundred percent.  The best one I’ve seen to date portrays a young teacher at the end of the day in the lead-up to Christmas with a flawless complexion, full mask of makeup, a beaming smile with perfect white teeth, talking to a young student about…can’t even remember what.  I hate to break it to you, but as a teacher myself, I can assure you, no teacher looks like this at the end of any day, let alone during the week before Christmas.  You’re more likely to see me with paint and glitter all over my outfit, which is designed for comfort rather than for attracting the ridiculously rich and handsome single father who is still nursing a broken heart while simultaneously looking for just the right woman to come and join his picture-perfect family. By the way, if such an affair were to happen, you would pretty much have to leave your job because that kind of gossip would last for so long, you’d be nearing retirement by the time people actually stopped talking about it.  I’m also likely to be rocking in a corner, just praying for home time because my class of five-year-olds are so hyped up on Christmas, late nights, and advent calendar chocolate, you’re just one step away from having a mental breath down.  And you’ll be lucky if I’m wearing a dab of concealer or pulled a brush through my hair on any given day of the year, let alone at Christmas.  I do love them though – mindless crap to make you giggle over how ridiculous it is.
  2. Food – Here’s the thinking from about October onwards: force yourself into dieting so you can eat like a pig over a two-week period in December.  Effectively, you’re deciding to starve yourself with the intention of putting it all back on again for the sake of one day.  Of course, my husband doesn’t bother with the first part, just engages with the overeating with gusto.  He’ll use the phrase ‘because it’s tradition’ at least a hundred times over the course of December, with at least eighty of them being used in relation to food – Why are you buying that tub of Celebrations?  You don’t even like chocolate! Because it’s tradition.  Why are you buying all those cheeses and biscuits?  It’s only the four of us for Christmas!  Because it’s tradition.  Why are you making more food?  You said you’re full!  Because it’s tradition.  Why are you buying every meat known to man?  Because it’s tradition!  And don’t even get me started on the tubs of chocolates that have you eating beyond comfort because they’re just there, calling for you with all their chocolatey goodness.
  3. Father Christmas – Perhaps the one time when you deem it acceptable to tell your children that it’s perfectly acceptable to let a stranger into your house, feed him, and let him wander about the living room while you all remain sleeping upstairs.  You can also ask him for tons of plastic crap you don’t need, even though you literally had your birthday about a month ago.
  4. Closely linked with the big red stranger in your house, is the newly invented idea, Elf on the shelf! Who in God’s name came up with this idea?  Not only have we got to think of a sack full of gifts to get our bundles of joy, but we’ve now got to think of ways to model a creepy-looking doll for virtually the whole of December.  I’m not gonna lie, I’ve left this aspect of Christmas to the husband, which is risky, but worth it to not have to do it myself.
  5. The Nativity…or not.  This is perhaps one tradition I really look forward to, and thanks to Covid, the bastard, schools have had to cancel the delights of dancing and singing to a room full of parents who will smile and gush no matter what happens.  Little Johnny hollers out he needs a pee during the tear-jerker?  Ahh, with some chuckling.  Little Angela is flashing her pants during the jive number?  Just keep on smiling.  Mrs Parker is sweating up a storm while trying to direct three classes full of five-year-olds, half of whom are completely ignoring her and waving at their grown-ups instead?  All the more endearing…and an excuse for Mrs Parker to buy an extra tub of Celebrations!  Now, I might not be doing a nativity of my own, but my daughter’s school has decided to hold one anyway.  My youngest is the donkey, which is both cute and hilarious.  When I told her how important her part is, she grinned excitedly, then asked, ‘Who’s Mary?’
  6. The obligatory argument between the husband and I over what we want for Christmas.  Now, having been married for over eleven years, and having known each other for longer than we didn’t know one another, I have learnt that believing him when he says he wants nothing, is an epic mistake to make.  When it comes to the day and he has no gift to unwrap because he had said, and I quote, ‘Don’t get me anything, babe, so long as I have you, I have all I need!’, the boy turns into a full-on puppy dog from an animal shelter commercial.  The eyes droop, the shoulders slump, and I swear he’s able to make his bottom lip tremble on command.  To be fair, I often tell him I don’t want anything because, well, there’s nothing I really need.  Perhaps Mary Poppin’s click?  Jedi mind manipulation?  He’ll think of something, he always does.  Surprisingly, the boy always pulls it out of the bag at this time of year.
  7. The Christmas dinner – When I lived with my parents, we turned the tradition on its head and decided each adult would make a given set course.  The idea is that it’s less expensive, less time-consuming, the food is spread out across the day, and it means one person isn’t being left to do all the work.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with mini people, unless you’d like a bowl full of every ingredient in the kitchen as well as a lump of red Play-Doh served up for dessert.  I also live with the aforementioned ‘traditionalist’ who maintains it is positively sacrilegious to serve up anything other than a roast dinner.  It’s a strange concept, spending months preparing for a day when you begin cooking from morning till noon, only to then consume a dinner whose weight is comparable to that of an infant.  After which, you can pretty much do nothing other than shuffle about in your chair with the occasional groan and promise to never eat again…until the Christmas tea and mince pies.  Because, you’ve guessed it, it’s tradition!
  8. A Christmas Carol – yes, this is a must, even for me.  Whether it be muppets, singing from the seventies (Albert Finney, in case you were wondering), or Bill Murry portraying the famous Ebenezer, it is almost law that you watch Dicken’s festive masterpiece.  Of course, you could also read the book; it is a classic and one of his more accessible novels.

So, here are a few of my Christmas traditions, and although I sound like I’m poking fun at some of them, I will continue to do all of them.  Apart from the elf.  When the kids are old enough to know the pain of what we’ve had to do for all these years in the name of make-believe, that creepy little bastard is going to be gifted to whichever one of them wants it.

Don’t forget my new release, ‘My Best Friend’, is available on Amazon KU from December 10th!  You can pre-order now:

My Best Friend – Kindle edition by Scott, Taylor. Contemporary Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

My Best Friend eBook : Scott, Taylor: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Merry Crimble!

“Mommy, don’t cry!” I call out to her shivering body as she lets the sadness consume her.  My words are hypocritical given that I am crying just as hard. Mom had always been a daddy’s girl, and with a man like my grandfather, it was easy to see why.  He brought a sense of calm about him; his peaceful smile could cut through any tension like a knife through fresh butter.

“Is she crying about Grandad?” Bowie asks from behind me, trying to act the brave man of the house.  If it wasn’t for the circumstances, it would be cute.  However, I say nothing, just take him in my arms and shuffle us over towards Mom’s bed where she remains fetal.

“Come here, my babies,” she says as she holds her arms out to us, inviting us into the warmth of the bed where we can all fall apart together for a little while.

Mom used to tell us all sorts of stories about growing up with her parents as an only child.  Grandad had been in the army like my father, so he wasn’t always around, but he sure made it special for her when he was. They’d go out for long hikes while her mother would stay behind to cook up a feast for when they got home. I never knew my grandmother, she died before I was born.  Mom always told me I was the blessing that came to melt away all the sadness.  Bowie came a few years after and has always been a wild contrast to me.  Where I am quiet and unassuming, he’s like a bull in a china shop.

After a few minutes of us lying together, she turns quiet, as though the pain has silenced her into nothing but sobs and whimpers.  My father is trying to get home but being out in the middle of the ocean on the other side of the world is understandably slowing him down somewhat. I’m worried about how my mother is going to cope with organizing a funeral without him here.  As it is, I’ve been trying my best to take over the run-of-the-mill chores, as well as making sure Bowie and I get to school on time.  Not that it matters too much; we’re moving at the end of the summer anyway. 

“Sam,” she says softly, breaking me from my anxious thoughts, “I think Bowie’s fallen asleep.  Do you want any dinner?”

“No, it’s ok, Mom,” I tell her. I see her shoulders slump in relief while I try to ignore the grumbling from my stomach. I’m sure I can knock up some toast or a can of soup when I know she’s going to be ok.

“You’re a good girl, Sam, always have been,” she smiles as she brushes away some hair from my cheek.  “Don’t forget to live, though.  Sometimes I worry you’re almost too good.  Enjoy being young!  Especially after all of this.  It slips by so quickly.”

“I’m happy, Mom,” I try to reassure her, “and I love being at home with you and Bowie.  And when Daddy finally finishes in the army, then I will love it even more.”

“I know, baby, but when we move, try to branch out a little,” she says with fresh tears running over her cheeks, “make friends, date boys, whatever!”

“Oh, God, Mom!” I gasp with embarrassment.  “Boys are idiots, and they smell!”

“Girls have cooties!” Bowie whispers from the side of me, still with his eyes closed. 

My mother laughs for the first time in what feels like weeks.  I laugh with her, and I finally relax into her embrace like she’s the adult and I’m the child again.

The weeks have been full of grief and pain, alongside anger and confusion over losing such a great man. I can only hope this will be the last of it for a very long time.

9 months later

The building before me looks so much bigger than my last school, and they have no uniform in place. I’m hoping the hour of changing and selecting the most neutral-colored outfit I could find will put me in good stead with the locals inside.  I’ve done this more times than I can count so I know the score.  You go in slow, assess the dynamics, the who’s who, then take it from there.  I was quite popular in my first two schools, but the school after that was so uptight, I was too afraid to do anything but keep to myself.  I’m hoping this school is like the first two and I’ll make friends quickly.  High School can be an incredibly lonely place if you have no one at your side.

“Do you want me to come in?” Mom asks, but I smile and shake my head. “Ok, well, have a good first day and don’t take any crap!”

I salute her with a cheeky smirk before I wave at Bowie in the back.  The boy is still sulking after he was told to take off his black army boots and leather jacket.  He’s such a poser, even at the tender age of thirteen.  God help my parents when he starts High School.

As I walk down the path to the front entrance, I keep my eyes dead ahead and make sure I stand up tall and straight.  I don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention, but I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m a pushover.  It appears to work when I manage to clear the front doorway and walk into the hall which is crawling with students before the first period.  I follow the signs to the administration office where I tell them my name and explain my situation.  This is something I can do almost robotically now seeing as I’ve done it so many times.  The friendly receptionist smiles and gestures for me to take a seat.

I take in some of the other students waiting to see various members of the administration. Someone already has an injury and is clutching hold of their right eye where a purple bruise is beginning to take shape.  After about five minutes, a girl with beautiful long blonde hair comes bouncing in with a kilowatt smile and a genuine look of excitement to be here.

“Oh, hi, you must be Samantha!” she says as he holds her hand out for mine.  “I’m Scarlett, your assigned buddy for the day!  Don’t you worry, I’m going to take good care of you.”

“Hello,” I reply, taking in how perky she is.  This girl is going to be in customer relations of some sort; that or marketing because I bet she could charm the panties of anyone. “It’s Sam, but nice to meet you.  I’m so glad you’re nice.”

“Well, sure,” she says with a flap of her manicured hand.  “Let’s get started, shall we?”

I try to hide my smile when I think of how much she sounds like one of those Youtube instructional videos on how to make a filing cabinet out of a toilet roll or something to that effect.  I pick up my bag and begin to trail behind her as she shows me various parts of the school, everything from the cafeteria, the library, and the sports field.

“We have an excellent football team here; I’m the head cheerleader.  You should definitely try out, honey!” Scarlett finally pauses to draw breath as she turns to face me. I smile half-heartedly, then turn towards the field and watch some of the team already running around like ants caught out on a rainy day.

“I’m more into athletics actually.  I used to do sprinting, hurdles, and long-distance at my other schools,” I tell her, but keep my eyes on the field ahead.  “My brother loves football, but I’ve never really seen the fascination.”

“Oh, me neither, but cheering is fun!” she says as she joins in with my gazing across the field to where the players are all dressed like warriors about to go into battle.  You can smell the sweat from here.

“Besides, the view is quite something, if you know what I mean!” She leans in as she taps my arm with a playful giggle. “There are a lot of cute players on the team, especially number thirteen, Grant Thomas.  I’ve had my eye on him for a while now; just waiting for the right time to make my move.  Shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve already caught him checking me out on more than one occasion.”

“Please,” a new voice says from behind us, which instantly takes my attention away from the field.  “Grant Thomas has made out with almost every girl on the squad, apart from Scar and me that is.”

“Oh, hey, Ashley, this is Sam,” Scarlett says as she gestures to the gorgeous girl in front of me. Her soft smile has me instantly warming to her and for some reason, I know I want to be friends with this girl.  Her smooth ebony skin is just as flawless as Scarlett’s and I have to wonder if they put something in the water around here.

“Nice to meet you,” I shake her hand, “are you a cheer-“

Before I have a chance to finish that sentence, a large body takes my feet right out from under me as he tackles me to the ground with all the grace of a charging bull.  The slam of my body against the hard ground below has me gasping for air, while his weight on top of mine feels like I am steadily being crushed.

“Oh my God!” Scarlett yells as the lump on top of me leans up onto his hands to look at me through his helmet.  “Sam, honey, are you ok?”

“Scar, what kind of hell question is that?!” Ashley snaps as she gets out her phone to call someone.

“Fuck, I’m so sorry!” The hulk of a player rushes out as he tears off his helmet to let his sweaty dark hair hang over his eyes…his gorgeous, hypnotizing, mossy green…

“It’s ok, Sam, I’ve called the office.  They’re sending someone to check you out.” Ashley leans down to tell me, thankfully snapping me out of this God-like creature’s mythical powers to render me stupid.

“Sam?  Is that your name?  I’m so sorry, Sam,” he says in a voice that should be used for saucy audiobooks, like the ones my mom secretly listens to.

“I’m-” I begin but have to clutch at my chest to try and stave off the pain of trying to talk again.

“Shit, I was trying to get the ball and totally misjudged where you guys were standing!”  he says as he finally crawls off me.  “Can you move?”

“Just,” I reply as I try to curl up.

“Here, let me,” he says as he bends down to pick me up like a baby inside of his muscular, beautifully tanned arms.  As I cling to his neck, he looks at me in a way that’s disarming; it holds my gaze captive and I feel like I’m melting against him. “I’ll take you to the nurse’s office.”

“Is this really necessary?” Scarlett says with a less perky tone of voice. “I’m sure Sam is able to walk by herself!”

“Sam, you enjoy yourself!” Ashley winks at me as I’m led off inside of this stranger’s arms. I swear I see Scarlett stomp her perfectly heeled foot in protest.

“I’m Grant by the way,” he tells me as if he really needed to after Scarlett’s little performance back there. “Grant Thomas.  You new here, Sam?”

“Ah-ha,” I reply rather gormlessly. “Scarlett was giving me a tour when you ran into me.”

“Please accept my apology for knocking you over like a clumsy oaf!” he says as his stern expression melts into a wicked smirk.  “Not that I’m a hundred percent sorry that I did.”

To be continued…

I often ask myself how the hell I went from being a child living in the middle of the New Forest, with scrappy hair and dirt under my nails to being a fully-fledged mother with two girls, as well as being a wife to a boy who tormented me for the first three years of my secondary school life.  In my head, I’m still living in Forest House, tearing around the fields, climbing up trees to avoid the farmer’s pack of pungent dogs who were long past dead, and making mud pies.  Boys were merely good friends who weren’t afraid to get mucky and indulge in some good old-fashioned toilet humour. They certainly weren’t considered on the rare occasion I would picture my future wedding. Of course, I knew one would need to be there, but, ultimately, it was all about the dress.  And thoughts of having children were limited to picking out cute outfits from the Freemans catalogue and playing make-believe with a tired old doll we used to call Rosie. It’s a shame her head eventually fell off and Mum was forced to throw her in the bin.

But here I am, in my thirties (I won’t say whereabouts), eleven years married, and with a nine-year-old and a four-year-old.  I gotta say, life is a lot more stressful than I pictured it at eight years old, and the fact that I’m not all that far away from being middle-aged is a little terrifying.  Still, I can’t say it hasn’t been fun.  Poor mini-me romanticised meeting the boy, getting married and living happily ever after, much like a Disney film which was a staple Christmas gift every year.  Father Christmas always got a thumbs up when you felt that tale-telling shape of a VHS tape under a piece of wrapping paper that looked suspiciously like the paper your parents had used to wrap all the other gifts. However, meeting the boy at eleven years old wasn’t what I had ever considered, neither was our on/off relationship, or his gross man habits, such as flatulence, a severe potty mouth, and his propensity to sulk over absolutely nothing. 

But let’s talk about having children, the little darlings.  It’s fair to say I’ve always liked children, being that I decided to become a teacher from a young age. I like their bluntness, their honesty, and their fascinating views on life.  However, having a child who is dependent on you twenty-four/seven is not something to decide to take on lightly.  The feeling of responsibility is huge when it first happens, knowing that this tiny human with an insanely powerful set of lungs and the ability to suck your nipples raw, is going to need you to do everything for them, is immense.  I thought giving birth was exhausting, but once you get through it, it’s not the end of the hard part at all; it’s just the beginning.

Charlotte, my eldest, was overdue and over nine pounds when she was born.  She was a hungry baby, but also one who would begin feeding only to fall asleep on me.  Meanwhile, I was usually fighting sleep myself, trying hard not to risk falling under and smothering her in the process. It’s like nature thought, ‘How can I make this necessity to feed your child as difficult as possible?’  It got so bad, I would be silently begging her to not be hungry.  And I caked my boobs in nipple cream, but they still resembled huge angry red chilli peppers.  Much to my disappointment, breastfeeding didn’t work out for me, or Lotty, or my boobs. I hated it because as a new mum you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect. Not that feeding with a bottle is imperfect because, let’s face it, keeping your baby fed is what’s important, but you still have a lot of people out there telling you it’s what you should be doing. However, the bonus of bottle feeding was the fact that Bryan got to have more of a fair share in feeding her, and he loved it.  He didn’t enjoy the explosive poops up the back, but the bonding was amazing.

Evie, however, wasn’t easier as such, but I was given much better advice, so I was able to breastfeed, and given my OCD was going haywire, it was much easier than having to wash bottles and keep everything sterile. I loved the baby stage with both of my girls, even with the sleepless nights and hormonal breakdowns; they were both gorgeous babas.  Would I want another one?  Uh-uh, nope, negative.  Am I that evil smug bitch who gets home late to see the light on in the neighbours’ house’s nursery and smiles to herself?  Yes, that is me; absolutely.

You see, when I had Evie (or ‘Evil’ as my husband affectionately nicknames her), I didn’t feel ready to say she was my last baby; it seemed too final.  Bryan, on the other hand, was running to get a vasectomy as fast as his legs would carry him.  What can I say? The boy loves his sleep, whereas children seem intent on stealing it from you.  However, when Evie turned into a toddler, I had to admit, I was done.  My girls have a five-year age gap due to the fact childcare costs the same as most people’s monthly mortgage. It’s been good but it does mean I’ve been bringing up mini-human beings for the best part of a decade, and Evie certainly has her own personality.  She’s a mixture of fiery temper and angelic cuteness; all blond hair and big eyes to hide her mischievous personality.  Some days it feels like everything is a battle with her, right down to which pair of drawers she’s going to wear.  She’s also an adrenaline junky; the kid who wonders what will happen if she leaps off a rock that is three times as big as her and will do so just to find out.

Charlotte, on the other hand, is motherly, warm, and has to micro-manage everything to within an inch of her life.  If we are going out, she has to ask a billion questions, some of them more than once. If I’m telling Evie off for, I don’t know, spreading slime across the living room carpet with a butter knife, or planning to take over the world, Charlotte is there, right behind me, trying to give her two pence worth as well.  Evie then loses her ever-loving shit, I have to tell Charlotte not to get involved, she gets offended, and the whole house is in uproar. And where is the husband in all of this?  Probably sitting on the toilet, where he’s managed to remain hidden for the last hour or so.

However, Charlotte is somewhat more trustworthy than her sister in the sense that Evie will reveal all our secrets to whoever would like to listen.  Actually, she’ll put on her foghorn of a mouth whether she has an audience or not.  For example, telling the family staying in the yurt next door that Daddy had to go and drop his poo babies off at the pool in the loudest voice possible, or asking me why I have hairy bits when getting ready to go swimming, or the time when she picked up a grape and announced, ‘Jesus Christ, look at the size of this grape!’  Yes, I’m afraid that last one was on me. 

With three girls living under our rook, one could feel sorry for Bryan, especially as it is likely to be mood central when they become teenagers.  However, he has quickly adapted to life with a wife and two little girls and has developed a number of survival strategies to use at his disposal.  Here are but a few:

  1. Use the bathroom frequently.  In fact, as soon as you get home, bomb it up there and hide away for as long as humanly possible. So long as you’ve got your phone, you have all you need to survive. If necessary, let off plenty of flatulence (or worse) so the area is literally too toxic for anyone to come near it.
  2. Another good hiding place is on the floor, behind the bed, where, from the doorway, it’s virtually impossible to see you.  Remember to lie still and silent and hope to God they give up and go away.
  3. The garage!  This is mostly your domain and the excuse of needing to sort it out is something the wife can’t argue with.  It’s not as safe as the previous options, for the little one likes to come and rummage around with you, and you know how much she likes to ask questions about absolutely everything. But if times are desperate, and the wife has already ripped your balls off for being in the toilet for so long, then it’s a perfectly good place to hang low.
  4. The dump – you do love a good tip run, don’t you?  Clearing out the crap, while escaping the house for at least a good hour or so?  What’s not to love?
  5. Wind everyone up to the point of the wife losing her sanity, then get in a massive huff because she’s finally snapped at you. This is risky but extremely effective!
  6. If all else fails, Wickes, B&Q, or Screw Fix are all excellent places to escape to.  The best time to need to go to these places is when the wife is in the middle of dinner, the eldest is complaining she’d hungry, and the youngest is yelling down that she needs help wiping her bum.

Not that Bryan is a bad father; he is a brilliant Dad who loves his girls and wants the best for them.  Alas, there are occasions when it feels like he’s my biggest kid.

So, the picture-perfect, Disney-esque family unit probably doesn’t exist in the way you imagined it inside your head when you were still a child yourself. But I’ll admit, I’ve outgrown Disney.  Even though I can sit through a princess film with my girls, smile in the right places, and sing along to those songs which plague your thoughts at three in the morning, I become easily bored.  Real life is much more amusing with my hairy husband and our offspring.  Of course, ask me again when he’s hiding in the toilet and the girls are arguing over which God-awful YouTube video they’re going to watch, and I might be craving a little alone time. Perhaps on the floor behind the bed?

As the summer holidays draw to a near close, I thought about how romance novels, films, sitcoms, and other portrayals of real life, look at having children through rose-tinted glasses.  Now, before I begin waffling on about my own experiences of having my little cherubs, I want to make it abundantly clear that I do love my girls more than anything. They are everything to me and I wouldn’t have them any other way (well, maybe sleep through the night without climbing into my bed at three in the morning).  Everything they do, what they say, and how they meander through their little lives, makes them who they are, and I am beyond thankful to have them in my life. Please don’t read my anecdotes and think I am taking their presence for granted.

If I start at the beginning, I think most girls will relate when I tell you that I dreamed of becoming a mum from a very young age. I had lots of ‘babies’ when I was playing make-believe and even engaged in picking out what I would have from the Argos catalogue; I lived in the middle of nowhere, so you had to make your own fun sometimes!  I hit my early twenties and my hormones and natural instincts frequently whispered to me to procreate, and I almost gave in to them by buying a rabbit as a substitute.  Fortunately, I refrained from buying a fur baby and managed to give those hormones the finger for a good few years. I had a plan, and being just a tad stubborn, I stuck to that plan.  Fast forward through university, getting my first job as a teacher, moving in with my boyfriend, an unconventional proposal (we journeyed to Paris, went all the way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then all the way back down again, and he still hadn’t done the deed), a wedding, and I was about ready to give those aforementioned hormones the thumbs up.

Step one involved getting the husband onside, which was perhaps the easiest part of the process seeing as I simply reminded him of how babies are made.  Unfortunately for him, I fell within six weeks of coming off the pill. To say he was disappointed was an understatement, and if I’m being honest, I was secretly crapping myself over how fast it had happened. I found out the day we were due to fly out to New York with a couple of friends. After I had questioned my eyesight and had had a mini-meltdown, I had precisely thirteen and a half minutes to get my shit together and leave for school.  Nine of those minutes had been spent taking a bunch of new tests, just to make sure. I chose not to tell the hubby until after school, especially as I had to consider the fact that he could have been operating heavy machinery and my revelation might just cause an industrial accident. However, when I did, this is how it went:

Me: So, Bryan, I took a test this morning.

Bryan: A test? For…

Me: A pregnancy test. It was positive.

Bryan proceeded to laugh at a high pitch for a good few minutes, looking and sounding like someone who belonged in an insane asylum. The cat even grew a little concerned and made a mad dash for the door, obviously sensing the impending explosion of my husband’s head.  Meanwhile, I perched against the banister, and let him have his five minutes of hysteria.

Bryan: So, does that mean you’re pregnant?

Me: Well, that’s usually the case with a positive result, yeah.

Bryan: Er…ok…well, I better go and give the spare key to my parents.

(He laughed once more, rubbed the back of his neck, then escaped through the front door.)

His less than the stuff of a romance novel reaction was enough to break me out of my own anxieties and laugh, for this was the perfect ‘Bryan’ reaction to such a life-changing moment. If he had reacted in the way they do in romances (oh baby, I’m so happy, thank you…) I think I would have growled at him for being creepy. When he returned home ten minutes later, he came into the living room, looked at me watching TV, and laughed again. He then told me he had walked to his parents’ place with high-pitched screaming going off inside of his head and his face set to ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munz. We laughed, hugged awkwardly, then carried on getting ready for our trip away.  It was my first visit to the States, and I’d been so excited but ended up feeling sick the entire time. Alas, turbulence, New York taxi drivers, and morning sickness do not make for a great combination.

Fast forward through a miscarriage scare, terrifying scans, swollen ankles, hating the smell of school dinners, going off meat and tea (!), losing our cat, walking around our block shouting for the damn cat when I was nine months pregnant, going overdue, and having to have a sweep (yeah, don’t ask if you don’t know), to the night before I was to be induced. I began to have twinges, which my mum informed me were the beginning of contractions; the little ones that have you believing it won’t be that bad, aka traitorous bastard contractions.  Bryan went to bed, Mum finished making an array of snacks for our impending trip to the hospital, and I ended up watching the most bizarre programme about a man who had donated his body to science so they could try and preserve him in the same way the Ancient Egyptians had done.  Mum joined me to watch the section about a ‘death garden’ that exists in the States, which is essentially a garden where they throw out dead bodies and study their decomposition. Lovely.

I arrived at the hospital with very mild contractions and was induced. The kind nurse then told us to go for a walk to help the process along a bit, however, I only made it to the front doors before doubling over and having to return to the room again. Hours of painful contractions passed by, during which I randomly met someone I had gone to school with, Bryan scoffed all of the snacks intended to keep my energy levels up, and I was offered a couple of paracetamol. I even tried having a bath but was fast approaching the point of strangling someone if they didn’t offer me something stronger than a damn over-the-counter medicine.

I felt like an elephant of a woman as I gripped hold of Bryan’s shoulders on the way to a delivery room, but when I got there, they offered me the magic of gas and air. I sucked that thing like a hoover, so much so, I was feeling like I was on a night out and wanted to declare undying love to my husband with a good old dose of slurred speech. It’s my belief every household should have one of these babies fitted; it’s like feeling drunk without any of the pesky side effects.  It’s a win-win situation!  However, then the effects wore off and I felt like the whole Alien situation was about to happen all over again. (If you haven’t seen Alien, let’s just say the thing literally bursts out of the victim’s stomach!)

“I need something!” I growled at whoever was in earshot, most likely sounding like Regan from The Exorcist.

“Ok, Taylor, what can we get you?” the sweet nurse asked.

A tranquilizer, a bottle of Vodka, perhaps whatever the hell Lewis Carrol was on?

“I dunno,” I whimpered, “I’m so tired!”

Cue some pethidine and a shuffle onto the tallest bed in the world, and I was feeling a little better. I even managed to slip in and out of sleep, during which my waters broke.  Then the pain stepped up another gear and I could tell Bryan was using all of his willpower to keep his shit together.  Meanwhile, the nurse looked at me and told me she wanted me to try and pee.

“You’ve not been to the toilet in a long time. I think you need to try!”

Jesus, I felt like I was being sliced in two and this sweet, stupidly pretty nurse was asking me to have a pee? She got hold of a cardboard bedpan, asked someone to help her lift my arse in the most ungraceful manner (did I mention how pretty she was), and instructed me to pee!?!  Funnily enough, even my bladder gave her the finger and refused to play ball.

Fortunately, the time to push came soon after that humiliating act of trying to urinate in front of a bunch of strangers, and they gave up on the whole idea. Ladies, if you’ve not had a baby, the feeling of needing to push is the weirdest sensation in the world, and literally has you sounding like a demon from the deepest depths of hell. Upon emitting this horrendous noise, I was warned, “You’ll end up with a sore throat!” Hmmm, this wasn’t high on my list of concerns, and it took a lot not to say as much, probably with a few extra expletives for emphasis.

Charlotte was born at one in the morning on a Sunday, weighing a whopping nine pounds, three and a half ounces (that’s just over four kilos).  The staff were a little taken aback by how big she was for they all thought I’d be having a small baby, but there she was, healthy and extremely long!  She was dosed up on pethidine and went to sleep soon after her first feed. Meanwhile, I was left with my legs in stirrups, waiting for someone to come and stitch me up with my hoo-hah on show for whoever decided to walk in. Bryan was rocking in the corner, looking deathly white, mumbling something about it being the worst experience of his life.  I’ve got to give him credit, though, he was pretty awesome during the thick of it, gripping my hand and cheering me on with, “Come on, girl!”  However, the moment they slapped the old placenta into a bucket with a healthy slop of a sound, marked the final straw for his sensitive stomach. Bless his cotton socks, childbirth really was hard on him.

The months that followed were some of the hardest I’ve ever had to endure, not least of all because it was 2011 and the recession forced Bryan to have to work away all week. My parents returned to Egypt, where they lived during the Winter, and I was left alone to try and deal with a newborn.  But somehow, I did, and I’ve even managed to keep her alive for nearly ten years. She’s also a pretty cool human being, even if those pre-teen hormones are beginning to kick in and she’s already perfected the ‘death glare’ teenage girls like to cast over their mothers, fathers, sisters, teenage boys who are still trying to perfect the art of flirting, the wind when it changes direction, and whatever else manages to piss them off. When the actual teenage years do arrive, it’s going to be fun times.

To be continued…

Now, I’m a writer who likes to use their personal experiences, as well as nabbing those from some of my nearest and dearest, to influence their writing.  And seeing as it’s been a ridiculously hot week, I thought I’d reminisce about my family holidays to Spain.  We weren’t the sort of family to frequent the cinema, go bowling, spend the day at a theme park, and other such places I purposely try to avoid now that I’m an adult, those family-friendly past-times just weren’t something the Scotts engaged in.  When deciding to have my own little bundles of joy, I didn’t consider that I’d have to visit such torturous places and do so with a big fake grin on my face.  Put it this way, I feel sick pushing my four-year-old on the swing, let alone going on some mountainous roller coaster that decides to take you backwards halfway through.  Suffice to say, I forget the no-cursing rule on these particular trips and just pray to God I don’t run into any of the kiddywinks from my class.

Anyway, we didn’t go on such family outings when I was younger because my dad felt the exact same way about them as I do now, and, unlike me, didn’t feel it necessary to indulge in our childhood wants.  Excitement was a trip down the pub or to the local swimming pool.  Not that I’m complaining about my childhood, for in all fairness, it was pretty awesome.  With the New Forest on our doorstep and an annual trip to Spain, I couldn’t complain.  Not only that, but I also went to primary school in the eighties, when children were supposed to learn through a magical osmosis of knowledge; that is we were surrounded by books, told to write a story about what we liked, and followed a maths book scheme that had a nice answer booklet for the teacher.  What need did I have for grammar when we had good ol’ Biff, Chip, and Kipper to keep me going?  Those bad boys are still knocking about in case you wanted to know.  Given the fact my daughter is expected to know what a subordinate clause is, as well as be able to tell you what a frontal adverbial is, I would say we got off lightly.

So, Spain!  Every year, about one week before the summer holidays were due to commence, my sister and I were taken out of school so the parentals could save on cheaper flights, and we could avoid the torture of ‘Sport’s Day’.  Back then, it wasn’t all about ‘taking part’, it was a chance for the cool kids to show off their athletic talents and the rest of us to sit in a makeshift holding-pen in the peak-day sun, where we would die a slow death of heatstroke and boredom.  The bastard of an event seemed to take all afternoon and I swear I only participated in one race.  Not one for competitive sports, I would more than likely linger at the back where I would be called a whole host of unscrupulous names that were meant to cause me to question my very existence. To which the teachers would give a half-hearted ‘shush’ because they were too busy chatting. I can’t blame them; at this point of the year, they were officially on count-down.  Fortunately, I only ever took part in one or two of these ‘sporting’ events because the parentals usually did me a solid and pulled me out to go on holiday.

The package holiday hadn’t yet conquered the market at this point, so we were considered even smugger because we would rent a private villa every year.  Most of the time, they came with a private pool and a secluded spot to avoid the crowds along the Playa.  Car hire came in the form of a Mini Moke, the only one the company owned, and which must have been decades years old.  It had no roof, sides, or much of a boot, and the leather seats practically ripped your skin off in the Mediterranean sun, but hell if it didn’t make our year to have it for two whole weeks.  Driving from the airport was an extreme sport given that Liz and I would be piled high with suitcases, and the wind along the motorway gave everyone an instant face-lift.  But let me tell you, it was the best.car.ever!

Practically every year we’d holiday with another family with whom we had been friends for years.  My father knew their dad through a diving club they belonged to, and their children were of a similar age to Liz and me. Joe and Martin were the same age as us, and Mia was in the middle.  They were sports’ nuts, extremely athletic, and always appeared to be infinitely cooler than us, but somehow it worked.  We were pretty much left to explore the terrain of our locality and, as such, got up to plenty of mischief.  A few examples included playing epic games of ‘Sardines’, body-boarding in waves that bordered on suicidal, releasing stink bombs on crowded beaches to clear a space, and playing British Bulldog with the local Spanish kids.  Times were good.  Liz and I may have come close to drowning once or twice, but all in all, we were rarely in any danger.

Now, being that we visited this seaside town nearly every year for near on a decade or so, we got to know some places.  Here are a few still in memory:

1.Nudey beach

Yes, you read right; the local naturist beach where the majority of sunbathers were often out in the peak-day sun, roasting their unmentionables for all to see.  I can clearly recall traipsing along the shoreline (because my family always had to find a good hideaway spot that is miles away), carrying towels, mats, and iceboxes, with an interesting view of dongs, ball-sacks, boobs, and hairy moos in the background.  As a kid, I found it odd, but invariably shrugged my shoulders and took it in my stride.  Each to their own; even the guy who was lying on his side with his nuts squished between his legs.  That’s an image I’ve never been able to shake.

The other bonus of this beach was the fact that you had to drive around a single-track cliff-top road to get to it.  It was nothing more than dirt and sand, and if an oncoming vehicle came your way you basically had to hold your breath and make the sign of the cross in front of your chest. I’ll admit, you invariably had to check your knickers when this happened, especially in a Mini Moke that had no doors and was about half the size of any other vehicle on the road.

2.Old town Mojacar

In contrast to Nudey beach, I cannot jest about this place because it is a truly beautiful location.  Sitting on top of a hill behind the Playa, this is where the main village was originally situated and where the traditional side of the fishing village still exists.  It contains a mixture of quaint shops, restaurants, cafes, and markets, as well as an amazing view over the Spanish landscape below.  Many tourists gather to take photographs of the setting sun that sinks beneath the mountainous horizon.  Tapas is served in the local bars and Spanish Flamenco dolls are sold in tourist shops.  You will need to be able to exercise your holiday Spanish, for English is rarely spoken.  I remember buying many an unusual trinket in this quaint Spanish village but would recommend it purely for the experience and beauty alone.

3.El Cids beach bar

The Playa consisted of one long strip of beach bars, with a few restaurants and nightclubs interspersed between them.  Some were more popular than others, but there was little doubt as to which one was considered the best amongst both the tourists and the locals.  It was a bar that managed to attract the young and trendy but also families and old guys who sat on their personal stools with a pint of Cerveza and a plate of tapas.  Entertainment consisted of a football table, a dartboard, and a hook and a hoop between two of the posts holding the whole place up. Oh, and there was also the whole stretch of beach leading up to the water, that somehow managed to be the best stretch of sand along the playa.  This was where Martin had decided to release his French stink bombs, just after lunch when the place was full of topless women sun-bathing and hairy dudes showing off their tats.  This was the eighties; it was hairiness and handlebar moustaches galore!

4.Poo Beach

Again, yes, you have read correctly. ‘Poo’ beach was not as gross as its name suggests.  In fact, it was only one particularly unfortunate event that led to this poor beach acquiring its nickname. On one of our hikes down to the shoreline, one of our crew happened to step in a steaming pile of human faeces.  That’s right, ladies and gents, someone squatted down on a public beach and pushed out a log for all to step in – charming.  However, this was one of my favourite places as a kid because you literally had to hike down a small mountain to get to the water’s edge.  It was an adventure for us kiddies, like something out of an Enid Blyton book.  However, with parasols, towels, and bottles of beer and Fanta underarm, the adults had a somewhat more treacherous journey, and all in a pair of flip-flops and a string bikini.  That’s dedication for you.

The water flowed in through a narrow channel of cliff faces which meant the waves were fun without having the danger of drowning because you had got yourself trapped in a washing machine of water.  That delight had once happened at El Cids, whereby we ignored the red flag and got caught in a series of tsunami-like waves that dragged you to the bottom, threw you back up, only to drag you down again.  My mother terrified the local children with her cacophony of effs and jeffs after she managed to escape this ordeal and vowed never to set foot in the ocean again. The only unfortunate side to ‘Poo Beach’, apart from being called ‘Poo Beach’, was it was full of brown seaweed, whose aim in life was to try and get lodged inside any orifice it could find. To be fair, we only went to the beach once or twice a holiday, and I completely understand if I haven’t managed to sell it to you.

5.The Shack

On the way to Nudey beach, there was literally a shack of a restaurant that consisted of a mobile bar, a structure made from driftwood, and an old white sheet that had seen better days perched over the top of it.  It’s not the type of place you would think of frequenting, yet for some reason we did.  This place made the best paella in all of Mojacar, hands down!  And for the grown-ups amongst us, the owner always rewarded them with a free shot (which was actually quite a lot more than a shot’s worth) of liquor.  If you had attempted to speak Spanish, you’d be rewarded with one or two extra shots on top of that.  It just goes to show you, never judge a book by its cover.

The journey home would normally consist of my dad panicking about making the flight (we are invariably late for everything). I remember being sat at the side of the Departure’s Lounge with some Spaniards, feeling hot and bothered while the mad Englishman marched up and down the airport, turning the air blue with his potty mouth. My sister and mother walked casually behind him, rolling their eyes as they followed his theatrical rendition of a nutjob. He came up to me and started barking instructions with his face covered in sweat and his language still being ‘colourful’ to say the least. The people around me watched on in fascination and when he finally left to go and give some poor security guard hell for whatever reason, they turned and looked for what appeared to be some sort of further explanation. Being only ten years old, I merely shrugged my shoulders with a look of complete bewilderment and muttered, ‘no se’ (I don’t know). I was given a sympathetic nod of my head and left to try and remain hidden behind our luggage. God, I miss those days!

And the good news, it’s all still there!  My family returned there a few years ago, before Covid invaded, to visit my parents who now own a villa out there.  Even though it’s not the same as when you are a child, like Christmas, it is still one of the best holiday destinations to visit.

Happy summer holidays, everyone!

Let’s talk heroes and heroines, from a reader’s perspective.  After all, this is where I started: reading and lots of it! I learnt a long time ago that literature is subjective and not everyone is going to think the same as you. It’s both a little frustrating but also pretty fantastic. I would love to have people arguing over my work, it would make me feel like I’ve made it – ha! Writing essays at school, college and university could literally make me tear my hair out with irritation because if your tutor didn’t agree with you, those bastards had the power to mark you harshly.  Not to mention you had to study what they liked so you were already at a disadvantage if you didn’t feel the same passion that they did. My apologies to all you budding poets out there, but I’m not an overly big fan. I enjoy a bit of Ogden Nash, some Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, but I’m otherwise indifferent to it.

Let me go off a tangent for a moment, Lewis Carroll will forever bring up bitter memories of being sat in a Year 9 English lesson that was reserved for reading a book from home for the full hour (code for, ‘what an easy lesson without the need for planning!’) Anyway, bitchiness aside (for now), I was reading Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, a text my mother had to study for her English degree because of its use of similes, metaphors, old-English language and the fact that its nonsensical and fanciful style has been influential to many writers for decades. I was most definitely the odd one out when I looked all around me to see teeny-bopper books designed to entice adolescents of my age, but no one seemed to take much notice.  That is until Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Was came up and announced to the entire class that my book was far too young for me, and should I not be reading something a little more advanced?! Now, I remained quiet during this humiliating showdown from a woman who had obviously never read anything beyond a Mills and Boon, but inside I was calling her a whole host of names.  Ladies and gents, I still think about all the witty things I should have said to her, but I won’t bore you or wind myself up by listing them out. However, it’s fairly safe to say I am still bitter about it.

And breathe…

Back to the subject at hand, my stance on heroes and heroines.  To put it bluntly, my main characters need to be flawed. Otherwise, what’s the bloody point?  I’ve read books whereby the protagonist acts the way we would all like to think we would when faced with angst, drama, stupid English teachers who have never read Lewis Caroll before, and if that’s what people like, then good for them.  I probably like things many people hate.  However, I’m not someone who likes to read about perfect people. Probably because I am flawed, the people I know and love are flawed, and, to me, that’s what makes them interesting. The term, ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ can sometimes be misleading as it implies they are perfect. I don’t try to make my main characters perfect; I use experience and influences from other pieces of fiction to help develop their stories.  Again, some people enjoy this about my writing, others are frustrated by it, but it is how I work and what I enjoy writing about.

Let’s think about the hero for a moment or two. My first two releases included the enemies-to-lovers trope, which means the guy had the potential to behave like a bit of a douche. He had his reasons, his influences, but ultimately, he begins with a less than loveable personality towards the heroine.  So many people have said they didn’t know how I was going to turn Bowie’s character around because he was a complete arse to Amelia.  Guess what? He was based on a real-life person from my school days.  Again, he had his reasons, and at fifteen most teenagers act like a bit of twit, blowing rationality and all of their previously learnt social skills to shit, but in the end, they need to grow out of it or face a lifetime of people calling them a *!£$ behind their back.  I’ve since seen the boy who made me feel inadequate for a good year or two and he’s now a really nice bloke.  You live, you dick about, you grow, you learn.  What I don’t agree with, personally, is glamorising semi-abusive characters, whether it be mentally or physically, sometimes both.  I’ve seen this and the results are not pretty. Not to mention that if this is the new ideal for poor boys, they are not going to know what the hell to do when it comes to seduction because they’re either being told to respect women and not use sexist comments (a big issue in UK education at the moment) or being given the dangerous idea that being abusive is attractive.  And you best not be anything other than confident, alpha, or self-assured, otherwise, you are deemed as weak.

Heroines are also under huge pressure to conform to multiple ideals.  You must be strong, be able to follow the best course of action, not be bitchy or slutty, but also not in any way prudish.  Virgins are considered weak and if you don’t come out fighting after something traumatic has happened, then you are deemed as ‘stupid’, ‘unlovable’, and a poor character.  You should also have some ninja skills wrapped under your belt so you can beat the crap out of some beefy dude who most likely weighs three times as much as you.  And maybe some women would be ‘stronger’ in the face of danger, but from my experience, not many would slip on a boob tube and begin ‘hi-yahing’ all and sundry.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and such, I’m just pointing out the fact that it’s not very realistic. After something traumatic, you are more likely to be stuck in a state of irrational, clouded thoughts, just desperately trying to make sense of everything.

However, strength also comes in many guises. That woman who is shy, quiet, and always so affable, might well be living with domestic abuse, coercive abuse, or trying to get over some trauma you have absolutely no idea about because she keeps it so well hidden.  The girl with the nervous laugh who avoids confrontation might be living with a parent who frequently forces her into confrontation whether she wants to avoid it or not.  The girl who says nothing when someone is a douche to her might be living with depression and anxiety and just wants to avoid any more stress by keeping quiet. She might have been up all night worrying about things out of her control, performing rituals because she believes it will keep her family safe. So, yes, my heroines aren’t often on attack mode and sometimes they do not react the way you think they should, but there will be valid reasons for their behaviour. In the end, they show their true strength, just not in an action movie way.

The miscommunication between heroes and heroines, the back and forth, and general bickering between couples is also a source of frustration for some readers.  Sometimes it can go on for a little too long in works of fiction or can be the only plot in a book, and this can detract from the overall story if not handled properly.  However, if you look at a lot of influential pieces of fiction, Jane Austen for example, some of these issues are very prevalent. Look at Romeo and Juliet, one of the world’s greatest love stories in history, this is very much an example of miscommunication.  If the priest had made a point of going to tell Romeo, ‘Oh, by the by, Jules is going to take a little something to knock her out for a bit, but don’t worry, she’ll still be alive.  Don’t do anything stupid like try and top yourself until you’ve spoken to me about it,’ things would probably have turned out a little differently.  But would it still be worth telling the story? Perhaps.

Also, let’s not brush over the fact that ninety-nine percent of real-life couples suffer from what I like to call, ‘dickish behaviour’. When the husband and I were ‘courting’ back in secondary school, I think our friends wanted to kill us at least once a week.  We were often referred to as the ‘Ross and Rachel’ of the group.  There was no cheating, but we were both ridiculous and running on hormones.  We still bicker and argue about who said what (code for he says something stupid, I remind him, he feigns ignorance over it).  Some of my favourite authors show this aspect of romance to perfection.  Whenever I read a TL Swan book, especially the Stanton series, I’m always up stupidly late so I can get to a point where I know they’ll be ok.  At the end of the day, we all love a bit of drama.  We’ve outgrown the Cinderella ideals whereby the girl meets a handsome-but-with-no-personality prince, with whom she instantly falls in love with and lives happily ever after with.  I’d go so far as to say modern day children’s films now include more conflict between couples – Shrek, Trolls, Frozen.  Top selling franchises, by the way.

So, in conclusion, I wrote this post for several reasons:

  1. A warning that I like to write about flawed characters and try to represent them from real-life experience –I am not a fantasy writer.
  2. I am a review junky – I love to hear people’s differing opinions, even if it’s to moan about one of my characters.  As a reader, I will read reviews and make my own conclusions but find it immensely interesting to see how people react differently to the same novel.
  3. I’m crap at poetry!
  4. I’m not into glamorising abusive behaviour. I’ve seen too much of it to think it is anything other than destructive.
  5. But above all, I was wronged in Year 9 and will forever kick myself for not coming up with some witty retort to my uneducated English teacher!!!  Breathe…

Thanks for reading my waffle everyone!  Do an author a favour and leave an honest review, however brief, or if nothing else, leave a rating.  Cheers!

You can access my current releases using the links below (free on kindle unlimited):

Learning Italian:

Learning Italian eBook: Scott, Taylor K.: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

The Darkness Within:

The Darkness Within eBook: Scott, Taylor K.: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

One of the reasons I love romance so much is because it can encompass a range of relationships, not just the one between the heroine and hero, hero and hero or heroine and heroine (or multiple if that’s your thing).  I enjoy reading about the connections between parents and children, friends, enemies, siblings, cousins, the list goes on.  Yes, I include a little bit of naughtiness and I enjoy the affection between lovers, but for me, it has to have more than this. And one of the relationships I like to explore is the one between siblings.  Some are close, some are estranged, some are bitter rivals, but, ultimately, when you’ve grown up with someone, particularly if, like me, it was in the middle of nowhere, the relationship you have with that person is bound to affect what type of person you are.  Fortunately for me, I have a good relationship with my sister and bar the odd sibling squabble when we were younger, we have always got on.  So, seeing as it was her birthday recently, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to my sister, slash chum, slash comrade-in-arms, Liz.

Now, if you’re reading this and you personally know the Scott clan, you’ll agree with me when I say we are a strange tribe of people who have more in common with the Adam’s Family than the Disney type.  We enjoy our personal space, have fiery tempers and think way too deeply about everything.  We enjoy poking fun at ourselves and take rejection to heart, if only to then stubbornly rise out of it and flip the bird to whatever is keeping us down, telling ourselves we’ll show them if it’s the very last thing we do.  We’re also very adept at getting ourselves into whacky situations, including hiding up in our spare bedroom because I had seen a man walking up the lane with a machine gun in his hand.  It was broad daylight, and the guy turned out to be going to a fancy dress party, but I was only seven years old and it looked perfectly authentic to me.  Liz, Jo, me, and even the dog stood on standby with various make-shift weapons from around the house (a pair of nail scissors, a feck off massive roll of paper and a bottle of shampoo).  Mum and Dad were at the pub, completely oblivious to the potential nightmare scene from a thriller movie. 

Anyway, here goes a trip down memory lane:

  1. The horror!

Being children of the eighties, Liz and I weren’t restricted by ‘nanny-state’ restrictions, so it was not unusual for my parent to leave us alone from a young age (for hours, not days).  We could also stay up as late as we liked, so long as we didn’t moan about being tired the next day.  Liz is five years older than me and liked a good horror film when she was entering adolescence.  I was introduced to the world of Stephen King at the tender age of six and, as such, I am now immune to all things horror. I’m more likely to laugh than scream when watching one nowadays, unlike my husband who was literally crawling onto my lap during a showing of ‘IT’.  He was so vocal, I think he was providing more entertainment than the actual film was. 

Back then, however, I would frequently scare the living bejesus out of my mother when I wandered into her room in the middle of the night, having had a nightmare about cannibal clowns, white nightie blowing in the wind and a pasty face coming at her, at the same time as I whimpered, Mummm!’ She would scream, dad would leap out of bed with nothing on, the dog would start barking, all the while the instigator of my nightmares, aka my sister, remained sleeping peacefully in her bed.  However, if nothing else, my early education of all things horror meant I learnt fairly quickly to run the other way in the face of something likely to give me the willies for the foreseeable.  For example, when I drove home from Exeter in the middle of the night and saw a wellington boot and what looked like entrails coming out the top of it.  A normal person might have stopped to investigate, but not me!  I knew that if I got out to be met by some bloody zombie-like creature, one which most likely wanted to eat my brain, they’d still outrun me on only one leg.  So, I’ll give you this one, Liz, your obsession with horror films was marginally useful.

2. Keep your emotions in check!

To demonstrate this particular point, I’m going to give you a little anecdote about my wedding dress shopping experience with Liz, aka, my matron of honour.  Liz, mum and I walked into the bridal boutique with our hands tucked inside our pockets, looking all around in bewilderment and feeling like we were intruders for marching into such a shop.  As we sorted through a multitude of dresses, most of which I could reject based on the size of my chest alone, a woman of the tall, skinny and stunningly beautiful variety wandered out to an audience of what looked like every female she had ever met in her life.  She was wearing what was essentially a giant doily of a dress, but still managed to make it look attractive given that she was tanned and gorgeous.  The chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from her fanfare immediately grabbed our attention.  She gushed and floated further in front of them before bursting into tears, fanning her face and hugging each and every one of her crew.  Meanwhile, her matron of honour and bridesmaids began crying and calling out, “That’s the one, that’s the one!”  It was quite the show, which left us Scotts looking on with wrinkled foreheads and deep Vs between our brows.

Cue my turn to come out in the dress, which actually turned out to be the ‘one’.  A nice corset back to flatten up the boozwhams and have me looking a lot thinner than I actually was.  Our reaction was somewhat different, but believe me when I say, that for the Scotts, this was a highly emotional scene:

Mum: Ahh, it’s lovely! (Complete with a smile made up of teeth and bunched up shoulders.  This is more Banfield than Scott, but they’re a whole other clan to discuss at a later date.)

Me:  Are you sure?  It’s not too big? (Puts hands over bobs and starts to bounce up and down on the spot, test driving it for all eventualities, such as earthquakes and the aforementioned hobbledy man running after me.)

Liz: (Walks up to the mirror I am standing in front of, arms folded, looks up and down at my reflection, then nods the once).  Yeah, it’s alright.

Me: Job done!

Dad, on the day of the wedding, seeing me for the first time in all my get up: Yer taking up the whole room!

3. Test Driver

Now, I don’t think this one is exclusive to me and Liz.  Being the younger sister, I had to go along with a lot of her ‘brilliant’ ideas, including trying to run away from home with two cartons of orange juice, only to get as far as the back gate and decide it was too much effort, melting the garden furniture with a kid’s chemistry set which clearly stated there was positively no way the contents could cause any damage, and taking part in one of her homemade films.  Over the years I played a cockney wolf, an old lady news presenter with a piercingly high voice, a tribesman, as well as a mad scientist from an animal testing laboratory.  I guess she was going through her political phase back then.  She was a frickin’ evil genius, however, because no matter how crazy the idea, we all did it, including my parents, who, at some point, had to pretend to be part of the Japanese mafia. The best was when she convinced her best friend, Jo, and I to dress up in black bin liners, pretending to be ninja warriors in her own version of an Indiana Jones movie.  We went to a country club dressed up in this plastic finery, where one of the most popular girls in school happened to be there, looking at us as though we were one picnic short of a sandwich. 

But lest we forget the many inventions she came up with, including a go-cart made from a sheet of mdf, an old pram axis and a cardboard box.  As test driver, I had to get inside the cardboard box with a border collie and a golden retriever, while she pulled me along on her bike.  Funnily enough, it didn’t work.  My mother had to put her foot down when, in the face of adversity, she suggested we try it out on the hill on the main road with a 60mph speed limit.  But you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you crave for those care-free days of the late 1980s.

4. The many ways of saying, ‘You mean something to me,’ without having to actually verbalise it:

This is true of not only me and Liz but also my dad and the Scott extended family.  To be honest, my mother is probably the most emotionally stable one amongst us. Now, I can cuddle and lay affection on my daughters without fear, but the thought of hugging my father or sister is almost paralysing.  It’s not that we don’t care about one another, it’s just weird.  In fact, whenever we have had to do such a thing, there is an unspoken rule that we must make a joke about it and awkwardly pat the other person’s back.  It’s like a man hug – both fascinating and painful to watch.  If we want to offer each other praise by saying, ‘Well done’, and ‘Congratulations’, it has to be said in a weird voice, often with over-exaggerated pronunciation.  Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way it is.  During my father’s wedding speech, he described me as being ‘goodo’, which was high praise indeed.  My husband was told he was, ‘alright, which for most people would sound insulting, but for Dad, this was a positively glowing assessment. 

So, Liz, if you’re reading, I think you’re ‘alright’!  Happy Birthday!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a master at tearing myself to pieces. Some days I achieve my self-annihilation quicker than others, but all in all, I can guarantee I will have made a mental list of all my failings, flaws and bad choices at least half a dozen times within any twenty-four-hour period.  I don’t need to have beautifully flawless women without an inch of cellulite, wrinkles or excess fat shoved onto my retinas, and yet, images of such are forced on me whenever I put on the TV, look on my phone, go on social media, glance at a magazine or anything else with a hint of a screen having been behind it.  Even beautiful men with bulging muscles and a wicked, shiny smile make me feel truly dire about myself. Such Greek-looking Gods run through my mind pointing at my five-foot something lumpy frame, telling me that not only am I past being desirable, forever changed through doing something so primitive as to have children, but I’m also physically flawed beyond all attraction. 

Fortunately, I have reached an age whereby I am beginning to not give a shit.  I’ve reverted back to feeling like a kid who cares more about comfort than whether or not my derriere looks big in an ugly pair of trousers that are deemed fashionable by some all-encompassing, faceless style guru.  If what I’m wearing gives me the stretch to make chase after my four-year-old with selective hearing and a penchant for flying down skate ramps on her balance bike with no fecks given for all the professional show-offs in her way, then I count it as a win.

However, and here’s the terrifying thing for anyone with young daughters, I can still remember how socially anxious I felt when I was in my teens going all the way through into my early thirties.  I would turn up at parties and feel instantly sick, desperately wanting to run home where I could hide my body because I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, made up enough and definitely not fashionable enough.  Sadly, from what I hear, it’s only getting worse for girls. 

Natural instincts have always had men and women wanting to be at their best to attract a mate and to strut their stuff like a peacock.  But what if your best isn’t good enough for society to deem you even remotely attractive?  And what if what is deemed as attractive is constantly changing?  What if being attractive has you injecting yourself with Botox, cutting up your body, or in tragic circumstances, have you developing mental illnesses that you might never be able to shake?

As before, when I blogged about ‘Boys’, I’m going to put a comical spin on this, otherwise, I might end up turning to wine on a school night.  However, let me be absolutely clear when I tell you, I am more than aware of how ‘unfunny’ this subject is.  I’ve lived it, breathed it and turned to the dark side because of it (which mainly consisted of listening to Radiohead on a Saturday night).  If you are currently going through this, feeling like you may as well give up now and get a posse of feline companions, please let me assure you that ninety percent of the images and messages about how to be beautiful are complete and utter dog turd. 

And as for what the opposite sex thinks, I’ve had many a conversation with guys of different ages and I can almost guarantee that a decent one won’t know if you’ve had your jawline injected to look more defined, nor will they know if you’re wearing a particular brand of clothing and are more likely to embrace your curves rather than judge them.  I can also tell you that most people aren’t looking at you to pick out your flaws, for they’ll be too busy feeling shit about their own.  I can look at my face and notice the fine laughter lines forming around my eyes, my hair which resembles a lion’s mane on a good day, and the rollops of excess bulge, but I never, ever look at my friends and spot their flaws. To me, they look just like they always have.  But that’s how marketing works. It targets what you’ve been looking at on search engines, then bombards you with images designed to make you want to pay and do whatever it takes to make yourself feel that little bit better. Mainly, buy a load of crap they’re trying to spin as the next beauty essential.

Anyway, here goes my version of someone trying to teach young, impressionable, girls how to be considered ‘beautiful’:

Ms Influencer: Good morning, ladies, welcome to Ms Influencer’s guide to being desirable in today’s society, including to other women, as well as men.  Men who you will no doubt conjure up inside your head as being just as immaculate as the women you see everyday images.  That’s right, ladies, every other person out there is flawless apart from you.  Nobody else has doubts, lines, weight issues, fears or social anxieties, just you.

Alice: Wait, my friends all moan about what they look like, so it’s not just me.

Ms Influencer: Ah, but they’re just telling you fibs to try and make you feel better, dear. Behind closed doors, they’re all secretly judging you. Now, moving on, let’s talk about weight.  I don’t think I need to tell any of you that you’re all overweight.  Might I suggest getting some good old heartbreak? Nothing quells your hunger like stress and feelings of worthlessness!

Alice: I’ve got a healthy BMI, surely that’s ok?

Ms Influencer: Maybe for your GP, but if you’re not smaller than all the other girls, including those models in the magazines, you’re not skinny enough.

Alice: Yeah, but aren’t they all airbrushed?

Ms Influencer: You still want to look like them though, ay?

(Alice slumps onto her desk because she has to admit she does.  Unbeknownst to her but the actual model who posed for those photographs wishes she looked like that in real life too.)

Ms Influencer: Right, well, the face!  Fashion is forever changing in this area but we’re wanting to go for a natural look that takes hours of makeup application but must appear to be like you’ve just woken up like that-

(Ms Influencer is interrupted by a message beeping through on her phone. She takes a moment to read it and puts up her hand in a stop sign.)

No, sorry, scrap what I just said.  The new look is ‘fake, fake, fake’, the more obvious the better.  Hair extensions, lip plumpers, lashes, boobs, the lot!

Staci:  Eyebrows?

Ms Influencer: Oh, yes, excellent point, Staci. Get them plucked off, then buy a shed load of product to pencil them all in again.  Remember, cosmetic companies want your money and are coming up with new ways to sell you shit no one really needs!  Course, you could always go down the route of microblading whereby they literally cut into your skin and use a needle to add a semi-permanent ink.  Very painful, very expensive and will also need replacing a few months down the line. I give it a big thumbs up!

Alice: What about boobs?

Ms Influencer: Another good point!  Bigger boobs have always been preferable but only if they’re fake so clothes can remain upright without the need for underwire.  And I’ve also heard the latest trend is to have a huge, but fat-free arse.  Be warned though, you are not allowed a hint of cellulite. This means unless you get surgical implants to achieve such a mountainous booty, you need to get to those surgeons and give them your money!

Alice: My boyfriend says he likes natural tits, an average-sized bottom and normal-sized lips.

Ms Influencer: Your boyfriend’s opinion should be no higher than third on your list, well below how many likes are given on your social media account and how society compares you to other women on reality TV shows.

Staci:  Speaking of, I’m set to ace my GCSEs. Should I make this known or act stupid?

Ms Influencer: Well, that all depends.  If you want to aspire to be a reality TV star, you should really be concentrating on what you look like and definitely act stupid.  No one wants to listen to you talking about scientific theories or the literary devices of famous poets.  All they really want to know is who you’re sleeping with, how many people you’ve slept with and who you’re cheating with.  Those people on TV are the ones making millions while you’re overworked doctor and dejected teacher are barely making enough to get onto the property ladder.  If you’re really lucky you can go on one of those shows where you run around naked and sleep with copious amounts of men who only see you as a pair of tits and a vagina, then talk crap about you behind your back to the entire nation.  Or you can go on a show where you bare your uglies and wait in the hopes that some other weirdo picks you out based on your nether regions.

Alice: Sounds appealing!

Ms Influencer: I know, right?

Staci:  While we’re on the topic of sex, should I be considered promiscuous or virginal?

Ms Influencer:  This is a hard question, girls, one which has been around since the beginning of time.  Even poor old Eve got judged for being naked in the garden of Eden.  You should appear to be sexy, throw your body about like you’re imitating the act, wear next to nothing, but also appear modest.  You must give the impression you are sexually open but maintain your virginity until you meet that one special boy (who, by the way, must have slept with at least a dozen girls before meeting you).  When you finally gift him with your virtue you must enjoy every second of it, moan and sigh like you’re eating forbidden chocolate for the very first time and ignore the inevitable pain and awkwardness of what is essentially an alien invasion inside of your nether regions.

Alice: But I’ve already slept with a few boys and I kind of liked it.  It was liberating and I don’t see why I should have to hold back if boys are expected to put ‘it’ about.

Ms Influencer: Slut!

Staci: I’m not sure I even want to do it yet, boyfriend or not!

Ms Influencer: Frigid!

Alice: So, you’re saying we should focus on our looks, which will never be good enough, lose weight, even though we should be embracing our curves, be seen to be sexually enlightened but not in practice, use corrective surgery to try and perfect ourselves according to today’s fashion, even though it could well change overnight, and aspire to be a reality TV star?

Ms Influencer: Precisely!  And don’t forget to head on over to the nearest cosmetic counter and spend, spend, spend!  Debt is something to worry about when you’re older.

Staci: But what about when we’re considered too old for such things?  Won’t we need something to fall back on? And won’t surgical procedures eventually cause irreversible changes to our bodies?

Ms Influencer: Oh, dear, you don’t need to worry about that.  By the time you’re thirty, you’ll be past it, so you won’t care. Neither will society!

Staci: Wait, aren’t you over thirty?  You don’t look like you’ve had a lick of surgery and from your suit and bags of money hanging from your armpits, I would say you’ve had to use your brain to get to where you are today.

Ms Influencer: Don’t do as I do, ladies, do as I say! 

(Ms Influencer takes to her leave to return to her multi-million pound company, selling crap no one really needs by convincing people they are ugly and worthless without it.)

I get I’ve been on my soapbox for this post but as a mum of two girls, one who is only nine and already worrying about the fact she doesn’t look good enough, it truly terrifies me that they’re going to be entering this superficial, ‘you will never be enough’, society.  Schools are constantly being told to educate children to accept who they are and to rate themselves higher than a stagnant turd, however, with everything else, which is deemed as being ‘cool’, telling you otherwise, it’s a hard task.  I won’t stop trying, though.  Just know that one day, when you’re past the peacock stage, you can hopefully give toxic advertising and marketing the finger.

‘The Darkness Within’ is due out soon! Find out more by following me on: