I’ve always considered myself as an introvert, the shy girl, the one to hide in the shadows because it’s too intimidating to be seen ‘out loud’.  If you ask many other authors, I think it would be fair to say, they too, are often introverted, preferring to speak through their written words.  After all, being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t want to be heard, that you don’t have anything about you, you’d just prefer to do it behind the power of a pen.  In the words of Seamus Heaney, ‘This is my pen, I’ll dig with it’.  Every introvert has their reason for wanting to stay hidden – low self-esteem, trauma, learned behaviour – to name but a few.  I believe some people are born like it, that it runs in families, however, there is usually a story there.

When it comes to writing, particularly romance, introverts tend to excel, for they hang back and spectate human behaviour.  They see beyond what most others do, which makes them very good at character development.  They’ve often lived through situations that have caused them to be naturally quiet.  I’ve had some reviews comment that a character wouldn’t react in the way I’ve portrayed them; however, I often know they would because I’ve either experienced it myself, or I’ve witnessed it happen to those close to me. Of course, different people behave in different ways, but I try to write about things that I can relate to.

Introverts are great listeners too, taking on board what they hear daily while storing little snippets of stories inside of their heads for later.  It’s incredibly useful for plot development.  It gives the main body of the story those little twists and turns that help flesh out the main themes, as well as offer a more three-dimensional and realistic plot. 

As for my day job, I’ve had to fight against my naturally introverted persona to get to where I am in my career.  This was perhaps harder than all the studying I had to do.  Teaching interviews often involve being observed whilst teaching, giving a presentation to a bunch of strangers, as well as a formal interview (once in front of the whole board of governors).  I’ve had to role-play situations, as well as engage in debates with groups of people I’ve never met before.  And in the back of my mind, I had to keep telling myself to push my way forward; that if I wasn’t noticed for my voice, I would never get the job.  I had to compete, even though I am not naturally competitive. For an introvert, this was incredibly stressful.  Fifteen years on and I still find speaking out in front of adults really challenging.  Children are different, for me at least.  There’re no expectations from them, and they generally accept your word as a given.  I might not be as theatrical or flamboyant as some of the other teachers, but children tend to warm to me as I am calming, non-threatening, and always ready to listen.

What’s hard is the fact that people don’t know or understand your reasons for being inhibited.  I remember being frequently told off for being rude as a child, for not speaking to people.  At school, I would be made fun of, particularly by boys asking me why I didn’t speak. Even though it would make me feel frustrated with myself, I couldn’t even find the voice to argue, to tell them to leave me the hell alone. I still can’t (apart from with my hubby, because he’s special).  You’d think I’d be loud, bubbly, and happy to talk in front of an audience because I chose to be a teacher.  I have had to give presentations, lead assemblies, and speak at staff meetings. Perhaps I see myself as someone completely different when in a teacher role, but when I’m me, in a social situation with new people, my mind goes blank, and I instantly want to blend into the wall behind me.  In fact, part of my social anxiety is the need to decide what I want to say in my head before I say it out loud.  The last thing I want to do is bring more attention to myself by saying something stupid or controversial.

Let me give you a hint as to what it feels like.  This week we had to attend a staff meeting on drama.  As you can imagine, this is not my cup of tea.  I’ll do it with the kids because a) they’re kids, and b) I want to be the best I can be for them.  But in a hall full of adult staff members, some of who did drama at school, or who are naturally theatrical, I found the whole experience extremely difficult.  Upsetting, in fact. It made me appreciate how a child who is shy must feel when we try to get them to ‘act’.  The whole time I was sitting in my chair, I was thinking, ‘please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me!’  My head was dizzy, my hands were clammy, and a deep-set panic was developing inside of my stomach.  I did it, to some extent, but I hated every moment of it.

Later in the week, I had someone say something to me which made me feel extremely angry. So angry, I ended up in tears.  And whilst most people would say something back, explain to them how insulting they’ve just been, I physically couldn’t open my mouth to utter a single word.  You then end up feeling angry with yourself.  It has its plus points; I come across as calm, peaceful, and easygoing. I don’t hold grudges and I would say my life is better for the ability to let things slide, however, I have also been told that I’m too nice; a pushover.  Perhaps I am. I’ll admit, there are still occasions when I wish I could go back in time and say my piece. If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t be the same shy, unconfident person I am today.

On the other hand, I would argue that introverts are very thoughtful beings, always looking beyond the surface.  It makes us naturally caring, empathetic, and creative.  I would also say it has made me a good observer of people, trying to see beyond their dominant behaviors.  When you see an angry person, what is it that has caused them to react in such a volatile way?  When my five-year-old is having a meltdown, has she already gone past the point of rationality?  When I cannot stand up for myself, why is that I feel so silenced?

The trouble is a lot of people who aren’t introverted look at shy people like me and come to the conclusion that I am either weak, stuck up, stupid or vapid.  I’ve been accused of all these things at one point or another.  Funnily enough, this has often been by men.  Not all men, for there are many introverted guys out there too, but from my personal experience, it has usually been men who have found my shyness confusing or perhaps intimidating.  If I don’t talk or give much away, they can’t read me.  If I don’t respond to their teasing or bullying, it makes them feel small.  Whatever it is, it has never been intentional. I would argue it is my natural instinct for self-preservation.  If I keep quiet, you’ll eventually leave me alone. I guess some people see us as going against the grain, unintentionally showing a silent defiance, even when the perpetrator of the abuse keeps pushing at you to react in a more obvious way.  There’s a power in it, though the introvert is rarely aware of this fact.  I know I never was. I just wanted whoever it was to leave me alone, or, in most cases, to run away and hide. Remember, indifference is more hurtful than hate.

‘Save Me’, Book 1 of The Mayfield Trilogy, goes live on May 9th on Amazon!

Pre-order here!

This month, I’m on the lookout for ARC readers for my upcoming release, ‘Mayfield’.  It is the first book in a dark mystery romance trilogy.  The books do follow on from one another, however, all three books have been written and are to be released within a month of each other.  The first novel is to be released at the end of May, so there is plenty of time to read.  There are triggers so I have listed these in the Author’s Notes section of the book.  If you read the blurb and enjoy the teaser (https://taylorkscottauthor.com/mayfield-trilogy/), you can sign up to ARC read (receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review) on booksprout:

https://booksprout.co/reviewer/team/18309/taylor-k-scotts-review-team

I hope to hear from you!

Blurb:

Mayfield 1

Save Me

Taylor K Scott

Once upon a time, a small town was mourning the loss of a young woman…

Beth

They say your past will eventually catch up with you, but what if it’s a past that you never even knew existed?

I never saw my own past coming for me, never imagined I would come face to face with a destiny I cannot possibly escape.  I am slowly and painfully being wrapped up more and more tightly so I cannot move, cannot escape the inevitable.  When the end of my senior year comes, my fate will bite, and I will be taken away from everything I’ve ever known and loved.

Unless he can save me.

Xander

I went through my entire life not knowing about the things I do now. Life was a series of popularity contests, with girls practically throwing themselves at me while I basked in the easiness of all that I had been blessed with.

Then I met Beth, and I fell…hard.

She pushed, but I pulled.

She hid, but I found her.

She said to live without her, but I refused to.

She’s trapped inside of something bigger than us, but I will save her.

Spring greetings and mad march hares to you all! I, myself, am a mad march hare, being that I share my birthday with St David’s Day.  Yes, I have turned another day older, and it feels…pretty much the same as it did last year, bar the niggling pain in my hips and pelvis.  I guess that’s what happens with age and carrying a nine-pound baby.  But enough about my old donkey of a body, what I wanted to focus my waffle on this month is on the more serious side of things. It’s come off the back of my recent release, ‘Gabe’, which is the second standalone in ‘The Darkness Within’ series. Although I’ve put quite a bit of humour in it, as well as romance (obviously), the characters have also been through some trauma and as a result, are dealing with some mental health issues, including PTSD, low self-esteem, feelings of abandonment, and social anxiety. Therefore, this month, I’ve decided to talk about mental health.

Now, if you’ve read any of my books (lots of love, hugs, and kisses to y’all), you will have picked up on the fact that I like my characters to have flaws.  After all, what human being isn’t, especially adults.  I like them to have histories that have led to them being the kind of people they are.  If you want the Disney ‘Sleeping Beauty’ heroine who speaks about five sentences, all of which are about finding one’s true love, then my stories won’t be for you.  Neither are they going to always choose the perfect, most sensible course of action.  Because people who do, don’t exist in real life.  A lot of my characters are made up of a mish-mash of myself and/or other people who I know. So, when people say, ‘that’s not realistic, people wouldn’t say or do that’ then, I’m sorry, you clearly haven’t met the crazy awesomeness of people who I have.

So, what I thought I would do is go through some of the issues many people are facing in today’s modern society (and no doubt suffered with in the past, though it was less recognised). I am no health expert; I can only go from experience. I sincerely apologise if I say something that doesn’t relate to your own experiences. Unfortunately, not all these conditions manifest themselves in the same way.  What I will say, however, is that after having suffered from my own mental health issues and working with many children and adults who are also suffering from mental health issues, these people are some of the strongest people I know. They are not weak characters; they are incredibly strong.  If you look at someone who has a physical health condition, you will see how amazingly well they manage to go through life with that ailment. They adapt to survive. People living with a mental health issue, are also working hard to live with their disorder, and often without anyone realising they have any affliction. 

Anxiety

Let’s just agree that everyone suffers from some sort of anxiety; it’s nature’s way of protecting ourselves from danger.  A little bit like having a natural risk assessment for life.  However, some people have it more than others, and some have it to the point whereby it stops you from living a normal life.  It can be a total bitch of a condition that can manifest itself in different ways. Phobias, PTSD, OCD, social anxiety, separation anxiety are a few of the more familiar ones.  Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, intrusive thoughts, night sweats, migraine, panic attacks, plus many more little lovelies.  I could go on for pages about the condition and its effects, probably whilst going off on many tangents because it’s huge.  Flippantly saying, Oh, you’re just anxious’ is a little short-sighted, especially when talking about children.  But it doesn’t make you weak.

When I was eleven, I began to get intrusive thoughts – my loved ones dying, people being able to see me at all times, getting some hideous disease, a plane crashing, worldwide catastrophes, and so forth.  The ‘what ifs’ began to play out every minute of the day, especially at bedtime and mealtimes. This progressed and I began to carry out certain rituals and mantras to try and counteract these thoughts. Such rituals included washing my hands, checking the ceiling, repeating prayers, touching wood, and various other actions that made no sense at all.  If I thought of something at all bad, I would have to repeat the process over and over again. I couldn’t simply get into bed and go to sleep; I would be up for hours carrying out these rituals until I would be having full-blown panic attacks. My hands were bloody and cracked, I stopped eating because it was easier not to, and I was severely depressed.  I wanted help but I also didn’t want anyone to know because it’s weird, right?  What rational person believes they can stop someone from dying by washing their hands?  And I did know it was irrational, and I did know it wasn’t right, but it didn’t stop me from doing it*. So, I had to do all of this whilst trying to keep it hidden. On the outside, I was as normal as one can be, but on the inside, I was raging a war against my fears, the urge to carry out a ritual, and fatigue.  When I eventually came clean to my parents, my father, quite logically, told me to just stop doing it. It was like telling someone with a cold to stop coughing. I couldn’t.

*I recently learned that OCD can be linked to OCPD.  OCPD is the condition whereby people need to be excessively neat and ordered.  People with this condition often don’t think they have anything wrong with them. So, lucky me had the condition whereby you realise you’re not right but without the bonus of having a neat and tidy household! My house is neither neat nor organised.

My point is, I covered up my condition for over five years and not one teacher, friend, or significant adult ever called me out on it.  Occasionally they would question as to why I was checking under the table, usually with a chuckle, but that’s about it.  Five years, day in, day out.  I survived secondary school, got through my GCSEs, and managed to ignore people who made fun of me for feeling too intimidated to speak, all whilst this was happening for every minute of every day.  I’m not saying it makes me special, but I would defy anyone who tried to call me weak.

PTSD

This is another form of anxiety, one that a lot of people have heard of. It is usually associated with those who have fought in the armed services because of the trauma they have had to face, usually on a frequent basis (which can make the condition worse).  However, it can affect anyone who has suffered from any form of trauma.  Examples include witnessing a disaster, an accident, a violent incident, suffering through abuse, being subjected to a traumatic experience over and over again.  Not only have you had to survive something awful, but you also have to live through it again and again. Flashbacks, hallucinations, nightmares, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, and excessive arousal (irritability, rage, alertness, difficulty sleeping, etc) are all symptoms.

In ‘Gabe’ I made my poor hero suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, and excessive feelings of guilt because of what happened to him when fighting in the marines.  However, he is also suffering from PTSD because of his bad childhood whereby he was frequently caught in the middle of his parents’ arguments. As a result, he has shut himself off from meaningful romantic relationships and cut ties with his mother and father.  Gabe certainly isn’t a weak character, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t battling with his own issues.  I can relate to his reoccurring nightmares. They take you back to the trauma and force you to relive it as though it is real. When you finally come to you have to try and remember that what you thought was happening in the present, actually happened years ago.  It’s both distressing and a relief and can leave you with leftover feelings from when it actually occurred. I rarely sleep well, and I always have vivid dreams, some that are harder to bear than others.

Abandonment

This usually occurs through a loss in childhood – death, divorce, trauma. However, it can also stem from neglect or emotional abuse, including parents who ridicule their children, adults who stifle their children’s emotional expression, or even parents who treat their children as peers.  In adults, this can manifest itself in their relationships with others.  Symptoms include being a ‘people pleaser’, insecurity, trust issues, lack of intimacy, a need for control, and settling for relationships that aren’t good for you.

If you’ve read ‘Gabe’, you can see how both the hero and heroine are suffering from this condition.  One of the main criticisms I have received is why Cesca stays with her fiancé for so long.  She explains why when she finally opens up to Gabe and also through her narration.  However, Gabe is on the other end of the spectrum, whereby he avoids relationships so as not to become like his parents who were neglectful.  Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who settle for less than satisfactory relationships.  They are so consumed by the fear of being alone or being rejected, they would rather stay with what they know. It’s a sad reality, but a reality, nonetheless.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

This is huge and I’m not even going to attempt to fully delve into this.  However, I wanted to include it because I have worked with so many children on the spectrum (which is wide-ranging).  I also know people who, if they were at school now, would most likely be highlighted as showing signs of this condition.  Some people with this condition, particularly girls, hide it by masking their symptoms.  In fact, for a long time, people thought this was a condition more prevalent in boys, however, experts are now finding that girls tend to show their symptoms in different ways and will mask them by mirroring others around them or what they see on television. Can you imagine how exhausting that is?

People on the spectrum may find it hard to communicate and interact with other people.  They might not be able to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings, have sensory overload (light, noise, tactile), and become anxious or upset in unfamiliar situations and social events.  It might take them longer to understand information and will need to repeat things over and over again.  People who are close to those on the spectrum often question why they don’t understand how upsetting they are being, why they are saying cruel things, however, some of these people don’t understand beyond their own feelings.  I had a little boy who would lash out because he felt angry; it was that simple to him.  He did not understand that he reacted more severely, that the other person had a point or that what he did was breaking the rules.  He would apologise but he rarely understood why he was apologising.  The only thing to make him calm down was to give him a hug, to extinguish his high energy levels so he no longer felt the need to release it through angry outbursts.

A lot of children who I have worked with over the years exhibited anger and frustration, so needed a lot of support to help them manage these feelings; feelings they couldn’t even name.  Being that I work with young children, I was usually able to help them with their daily stresses at school.  They were open to strategies that would help them feel more at ease and less burdened by sensory overload and having to be social with lots of other people.  But what if you’re an adult who has never had that understanding shown to you how to survive it all? What if you were never given the strategies or support to help you cope with everyday life?

Although autism doesn’t come up in ‘Gabe’, I have kept it in mind for future characters.  As an author, it is scary to delve into these sorts of conditions, knowing that some readers won’t have come across them before.  It may turn some readers off. However, as a romance author, which is all about relationships and human behaviour, I want to include characters who are not always ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’.  Even those alpha males who we all love so much will have reasons for why they are so masculine and dominating.  It’s why I enjoy writing in the first person and with dual points of view.

Anyway, a little bit serious this month, but I really wanted to try and put across why I choose to create characters who aren’t based on flawless caricatures.  I also want to stress that people who are suffering from mental health issues are not weak.  They are warriors, each and every one.

You can get a copy of ‘Gabe on Amazon KU:

Amazon.com

Gabe (The Darkness Within Book 2) – Kindle edition by Scott, Taylor K. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Amazon.co.uk

Gabe (The Darkness Within Book 2) eBook : Scott, Taylor K: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Amazon.au

Gabe (The Darkness Within Book 2) eBook : Scott, Taylor K: Amazon.com.au: Kindle Store

Well, I’ve had a mixed bag of a January.  The cleaner at work asked me if I was expecting (FYI, I’m not), work has been extremely busy and now I’ve tested positive for covid – awesome! On the plus side, my next release, Gabe, is all set and ready to be released on Feb 25th.  The cover came back this week and it is amazing; my designer has done a truly brilliant job.  I’ve also received some really beautiful reviews for my other books, for which I am extremely grateful.

Now, seeing as I’m battling with a raging headache and my bed is calling to me, instead of giving you my usual rundown of monthly events, I’m going to leave an excerpt from Gabe.  Hope you enjoy!

“Well, here I was being polite when you have to go and lower the tone, Cesca,” I grin, before passing her a drink, which she downs in one go.  I watch her throat swallowing as she leans her head back to expose her beautiful, long neck.  Dear God, I hope I’m not drooling!

“Keep telling yourself that, big boy,” she mutters, then orders another lemonade from Gynni. “But you’re the one currently sporting a tent in your shorts.”

She proceeds to point her dainty finger down towards my groin where sure enough, my dick has sprung to life and decided Cesca is what he’s living for.  I shrug nonchalantly before leaning back, giving her the impression that I couldn’t give a shit when inside I’m fist-bumping the air; he lives!

“I’m going to pretend that’s your wallet, I hope you realize,” she says matter of factly, and saunters over to a sunbed that is sitting strategically underneath an umbrella so it will fully shade her from the sun.  Of course, I follow her over and take the bed next door, which conversely, is fully exposed to the punishing rays.  It comfortably warms me, being that my complexion is much better equipped to handle it.

“You should get out in the sun, Cesca, it’s beautiful!” I tell her, keeping my eyes closed and pointing up towards the heat.

“Maybe to a reptile, but for me, it burns, only to turn my skin lily white again,” she replies with a long sigh. “I’ve accepted my Anglo-Saxon heritage, much like you seem to have accepted that it’s perfectly ok to display your arousal for everyone to see.”

“Not everyone, just you,” I tell her with a wide grin. “Apologies if I find you attractive, though it does seem to be playing on your mind a lot too.”

“Fuck, dude!” I hear Chase’s taunting voice just before he and Jackson scrape back a couple of stools from the bar.  Our party of two has now become a party of four.  Plus, Gynni of course, who must think I’m a fucking deviant given that I’ve been sporting a hard-on without a care in the world. 

“Put that thing down, there might be children around!”  I hear Jackson chuckling to himself, which with Chase’s gruff tone of voice, has me dropping flaccid again.

“Tsk,” Cesca offers, “you’ve frightened him away!”

“I’m sure you could get him to come out to play again.” I turn to see her rolling her eyes. “Fancy showing me what a ‘killer’ you are?”  Jackson and Chase are now sipping on their drinks with avid fascination, while Cesca merely shrugs and continues to lie there looking unbothered by my attempts to seduce her.  Trust me, back in my hay day, it wouldn’t have taken nearly this long to have successfully charmed her underneath of me.

“Nah,” she emits with a carefree sigh, “I don’t know you very well so I would feel compelled to fake it, and I’m just not feeling that theatrical today.”

My friends, and even Gynni, erupt into fits of laughter with Chase yelling at me for just getting burned.  I continue to smile at the wicked woman lying next to me who is acting beyond laid back over the conversation at hand.

“What makes you think you would have to fake it?” I ask, ignoring the laughter all around me.

She sighs again, thinks for a moment, then turns onto her side to face me with a look that tells me she’s not going to beat about the bush because it’s just too damn hot to bother.

“Because no man has ever brought me to climax with his dick, not one!” she replies, which surprises me, but in no way puts me off.

“See, I take that as a challenge,” I argue, “trust me, princess, I could get you there.  You’ve seen I’m not packing a chipolata down there.”

“Typical,” she laughs condescendingly and turns back to face the sun again, “a man with a big dick who thinks that’s all it takes.”

“I never said that,” I laugh and follow suit, returning my eyes to face the heat of the sun, “but it helps, right?”

“Shhh,” she emits through her pouty lips, “I’m trying to relax.”

“Is me turning you on getting in the way?” I coax her.

“It takes a lot more than mentioning dicks to get me going, Mr Harrison,” she replies, which only convinces me that she is definitely something I would like to try and crack.  “But no, it’s the sound of your voice hissing in my ear that’s disturbing my relaxation.”

I laugh softly at her quip before falling into my own silence.  After a few moments of thinking about all the stuff I could do to break her dry spell, I look over at the bar to see Chase, Jackson, and even Gynni staring at the two of us, as if in waiting for the next scene to unfold.

“What?” I ask with a questioning frown.

“Well, where’s the rest?” Chase asks with a frustrated shrug of his shoulders. “You guys were totally turning me on!”

“End of scene, my friend,” I reply casually, “her bitch side has come out.  I’m fighting a losing battle.”

When I glance at her, I notice the gentle curve of her lips as she pulls them into the smallest of smiles, one that is obviously satisfied with her performance.  Meanwhile, I’m left at half-mast, but more than determined to show her what a good time I can offer before this holiday is out.

Gabe will be available to download from February 25th on Amazon and KU!  You can pre-order:

Amazon.com

Gabe (The Darkness Within Book 2) – Kindle edition by Scott, Taylor K. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Amazon.co.uk

Gabe (The Darkness Within Book 2) eBook : Scott, Taylor K: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

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…