“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:

This week coming I’m due to post my ‘Thoughtful Thursday’ question asking whether you would give someone a second chance after a bad first date.  Like I’ve said before I don’t have a whole lot of experience in the area of dating, but I can think of at least one occasion where I wanted to hightail it out of there, but to make this more enjoyable for your reading pleasure I’ve also borrowed a few.  Before I share them with you, I want to stress that I have not exaggerated any of these anecdotes.  Unfortunately, they are very much what happened to the poor individuals involved.  Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and gives you good tales to tell down the pub over a packet of Walkers and a glass of something alcoholic!

Freak number one – “I have no personality!”

I feel I have to make a few admissions before I begin this tale for one might question as to why I agreed to go on such a date in the first place.  Firstly, I had been on Sambucca when I met this tall, older Canadian guy, and as we all know this is a drunken mistake kind of a drink.  Secondly, I was with a couple of ridiculous university friends who were always up for a good giggle.  And finally, I was down Exeter way, where the marine naval base in Exmouth was but a hop, skip and jump away, so most of the gentlemen folk out this evening were, in fact, marines.  And who doesn’t like a hunky, chunky almond in uniform? Alas, I must have had some serious Sambucca goggles on, which I’ll have you know are somewhat different to the more commonly known ‘beer goggles’.  Unlike ‘beer goggles’ which has you seeing Mr Rich Tea as Mr Belgium chocolate cheesecake, ‘Sambucca goggles’ has you imagining Mr Bean is someone with the charm and personality of Chris Hemsworth.  Personally, I feel they are much more dangerous.  I’ll tell you why through my recount of the coffee date I had with him the very next day.

It was a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon when I drove my little, grey Renault 5 (still the best car-albeit unreliable-I’ve ever owned) into the city.  I parked up and nervously ambled up to the pre-arranged café, counted to ten, and walked inside.  Things were looking good for not only had he a) shown up, but b) he looked pretty much how I remembered him (I don’t drink beer).  We waved, exchanged awkward smiles, then sat down.  He ordered coffee, I had tea, and that’s about as interesting as this date got.  An example of our conversation:

“So, you’re from Canada,” I smiled with too many teeth and an aching mouth because I had already worked out this was going to be hard work, “what’s it like there?”

“Er…pretty much how it is here,” he laughed breathily, then sipped on his coffee. I waited for him to elaborate, to perhaps continue talking after he had drunk his coffee, but no.  That was the extent to which he was going to talk to me about his home country.  And did he ask me something in return?  Again, no, he did not.  It’s fine Taylor, you’re a waffler, you can bullshit your way through this.

“And the marines?  What’s that like?  Do you enjoy it?” I asked with lots of enthusiasm and hope in my voice.

“Er…yeah,” he replied, by which point my enthusiasm was fast depleting.

“Ok, then.  What do you like to do when you’re not ‘marining’, you know, in your spare time?”  I was now eyeing up a fork in the cutlery pot and beginning to contemplate if I would feel any pain if I stabbed it in my eye repeatedly, or if GI Bean here might react with something other than saying, “Er…”

“Er…swimming?” That was it!  I shit you not!  Somehow this most boring man had found a way to answer an open-ended question with just one word.  I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to confirm he liked swimming but by this point, I was now grabbing hold of my bag and making an excuse to use the ladies.

“Great! I just need to go and use the toilet.  Be right back!”


Oh, feck me!  I have never wanted to escape mid-date more than I did during this train wreck.

Once inside the Safe Haven of the ladies’ loos, I reached inside my bag for my phone and subsequently began dialling my hilarious friend, Lizzie.  While waiting for her to pick up and give me answers as to how to get out of this, I began wondering how the hell I did not manage to pick up on the fact that this man had no personality the night before?  Seriously, it was like pulling teeth but less interesting.  It was left to me to ask him questions, the totally mind-numbing shit you fall back on when on a date, and even then, I got nothing but a guttural moan from the back of his throat.

“So, how’s it going?” I heard her giggle, no doubt realising that my calling after only ten minutes of meeting him, was not going to be in any way positive.

“Lizzie, oh my God, what do I do?  This man is so boring I’ve almost fallen asleep twice!”  I was met with hysterical laughter, which went on continuously for no less than two minutes.  After which, she asked if there was a window I could escape through. And yes, I did look around for one because I was that desperate.  Alas, there was only a small postage sized affair on the back wall, one which wouldn’t even fit my hand through let alone my considerable boobage.  So, taking in three, deep, Christ-do-I-really-need-to-go-out-there-again breaths, I dived back in for yet more “Er…” responses.

In the end, it got so bad I made up some excuse about going to see a farmer, being hung over and needing to buy some cabbage, before hightailing it out of there.  As you can tell, my lying skills leave a lot to be desired.  That evening, I considered the fact that maybe he just wasn’t interested and had made the date as awful as possible just to put me off. But imagine my surprise when I got a text the following day asking me for another one.  Hmmmm, no.

Freak number 2 – “I’m in way over my head!”

So, this story isn’t actually mine, though was rather hilarious. When I was eleven, living in our family home in the middle of the woods, my sixteen-year-old sister, Liz, was asked out by a guy from…well, actually I can’t recall where they met but they did, and she reluctantly agreed to go on a date with him.  I say reluctantly because she was much too mature for him and wasn’t overly keen.  Still, she went for the experience. 

Now Liz was used to hanging out with a crowd of older people down our local boozer, those who also socialised with my parents.  All in all, this poor nineteen-year-old boy, let’s call him Steve, had no chance and probably should have given her a wide birth.  My parents were liberal enough, but she was still going through a rather rebellious stage. She wore make-up which made her look like a twenty-year-old, pelmets, and low-cut tops with a set of boobs which rivalled those of page three model.  He must have thought his luck was in.  Alas, it was more like his doom!

Anyway, the night went on, I went to bed, my parents stayed up watching TV and all was well.  When I woke, there was the sound of someone knocking on our front door, to which my parents got up to answer. They put on their dressing gowns, all the while looking quite concerned over this late-night caller.  Now, my father is not at all thuggish looking, you wouldn’t call him intimidating, but his ability to curse you into submission was enough to make poor Steve quake in his boots.

“What’s going on? where the hell is my daughter?!” Or something to that effect, though probably with a lot more effing and jeffing thrown in for good measure.

“I d-don’t know,” he stuttered while the angry rottweiler before him growled through our front door. “Sh-she left and I c-couldn’t find her!”

Now, I don’t know what was said or how the next ten minutes came about, but I do remember standing at the dining room window, peeking through the curtains, watching with confusion as my father (still only wearing a dressing gown) chased this poor man child up and down our country lane, with the latter yelping out in a girlish cry.  My mother walked calmly behind him, trying to talk him down from committing some heinous crime on dear old Steve.

Eventually, Dad returned inside, leaving my mum having to talk poor Steve out from behind the bushes.

“He’s not going to get me, is he?” the boy flustered whilst Gus, the old, fat horse across the way watched on with obvious amusement. You could tell he was enjoying himself by the frequent nickering coming from his direction.

“No,” Mum said in soothing tones, “I’ll walk you to your car.”

Bless him, I don’t think he quite deserved what he got, and neither did my parents when they had time to think about it.  Liz, who had left him to go to a party with the aforementioned, older friends, was made to apologise, even though she tried to explain it away by arguing, “I warned him not to let me drink! I said I would become a complete bitch!”

Poor Steve! Well, he was poor until the silly bugger asked her out again.  Glutton for punishment Steve! “Oops, I did it again!” will forever be my sister’s anthem during those teenage years.

Freak number 3 – “The Cyndi Lauper fan”

This is quite possibly the most hilarious, real-life, ‘date’ story I have ever heard.  I’ve borrowed this one from my honorary sister, Jo, who took a chance and got a real corker of a story out of it. This is how she explained it:

“I was working for ‘company A’ and my job was to welcome people into the store.  A few employees were coming down from the head office, which was situated a few hours away.  I greeted the man in question pretty much in the same way I had done with everyone else, but apparently, I had caught his eye.  The following day he turned up again, as in he had driven over two hours to come and see me to ask me out on a date. ‘Ahhh,’ I hear you say? Not in real life ladies.  A guy that eager, based on a smile, is someone to be a little cautious of. In fact, the word ‘stalker’ springs to mind.  However, I was young and naïve and couldn’t bring myself to say no, so we went out that evening.  To my surprise, the guy was a perfect gent.

The following week we went out on our second date.  Again, he was the perfect gentleman all through dinner, kept me entertained and didn’t smell (always a deal-breaker, ladies).  Anyway, he drove me back home and we continued chatting in the car for a bit with the radio playing. It was only our second date, and I wasn’t ready for him to come into my home yet, so the time was coming for when I would bid him goodbye and make my way upstairs alone.  That’s when Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Boys Just Want to Have Fun’ came blaring through the speakers.  What a fun tune!  Not anymore, my friends, not anymore!

“I love this song,” he said seductively, “maybe next time we could listen to it up in your flat?”

“Yeah, maybe,” she responded with a soft, nervous laugh, “maybe next time.”

“This could be our song,” he whispered, leaning in closer, “and maybe we could give each other lap dances…wearing your underwear!”

“Wait, what?!” she gasped with a look of utter shock and confusion. He continued staring with a creepy grin before she thrust a finger between him and her, convinced she must have heard him wrong, “As in you and I wearing my underwear?”

“Yeah, why not?” he continued to smile, still thinking this was somehow seductive for my poor friend.

“Because it’s fecking weird!” she spat before exiting the car altogether.

She never saw him again and took about a month to stop having sporadic shudders over the memory of it.  She also can’t listen to Cyndi Lauper without grimacing.  Each to their own but I think some warning might have been appreciated before dropping that suggestion.

Thanks to my sister and my honorary sister for your stories and I sincerely hope our ‘dates’ eventually found their rightful matches. 

Thanks for reading!

When I was young, romantic, and dreaming about Leonardo Di Caprio or Antonio Banderas coming to sweep me off my feet, I would watch gushy films and make-believe I was the main character, only to feel horribly depressed and disappointed with life when it finished. Regardless of what they try to sell you in hearts and rainbows land, attractive, emotionally available men didn’t fop at my feet and casually ring me up to ask me out on a date.  True, I didn’t possess a mobile phone till the old age of eighteen, and I made it a personal law to avoid eye contact with someone I found even remotely attractive. However, the bitter realisation of the fact a tall, handsome, indifferent, but totally in love with me guy wasn’t going to swing by and declare his affections for me was hard to swallow.

I eventually found my happy-ever-after with the hyperactive kid I had met in Year 7.  We’ve been married for over a decade and only want to murder each other perhaps three or four times a week, which I count as a win.  But seriously, for all those young, impressionable girls out there who are fantasising about Thor or maybe Cillian Murphy (whoever floats your boat), this blog is for you. I call it “Romance Novel verses Real Life”.  I feel for you ladies. I’ve lived and breathed those romcoms, which are most likely written by women, and I’m here to tell you it can happen…ish!

Now, being that this is a public blog, I’m going to change the f-word into a more palatable ‘feck’ but know that in both cases, the naughty version is more commonly used. 

Romance Novel (Including films and TV programs)Reality  
“Morning baby,” Jack mumbles softly as he rolls over to wrap his strong, muscled arm around Laura’s waist, laying little kisses over her exposed skin before finally reaching her soft, pouty lips.  They share a rather intimate kiss before he offers her a warm smile. “You look beautiful this morning!” “Thank you, baby,” she giggles, “I think someone’s happy to see me.” “Always with you babe,” he grins wickedly, waggling those sexy brows in a playful dance for her.“Errr,” Jack groans before throwing his gigantic arm over Laura’s body, thus crushing the very air out of her lungs.
“Get your bloody great big arm off of me, I literally cannot breathe!” she grumbles while trying to shove him far away from her. “Plus, your breath is hanging!” “Oh, I thought we could you know…” he mumbles into her neck, all the while trying to hump her leg like an adolescent dog. 
“No!” she laughs hysterically before finally managing to shove his builder body off from hers.
“You’re bloody horrible, you are!” he mutters before sulking off to his side of the bed. “I know, sucks to be married to me doesn’t it!” she grins widely now that she has her side of the bed all to herself.
“You’re so hot right now!” Jack grabs Laura from behind and begins running his hands all over her, inhaling her scent and hissing appreciatively through his teeth. “Baby, I’m trying to cook the dinner,” she giggles as he thrusts his hardness against her back, “you’re distracting me!” “Leave the dinner and let me have you!” She’s spun around to face him where he kisses her so roughly, she can’t even possibly try and stop him.  Dinner is left to burn on the stove while Jack throws her over his shoulder and takes her straight to bed.“You’re so hot right now!” Jack grabs Laura from behind and begins pawing at her IBS inflamed stomach and aching hips from being stood on her feet all day.
“I’m trying to cook the damn dinner here Jack!” she growls at him. “Why the feck is it always when I’m trying to do something you decide to get all handsy?”
“I can’t help it; it must be your pheromones!”
“Yeah, well, those bastards are just trying to trick you into procreating and that is damn well not happening again!”
“Oh, come on! Just a quick…”
“Finish that sentence and I will spit in your food Jack, I mean it, feck off before I lose my shit!”
“Bloody hell! Talk about hormonal!” he mumbles to himself, walking away in a sulk.
“What?!” she growls towards his retreating back. “Nothing!” he sing-songs and proceeds to ignore her all night.  To be fair, it’s probably a good call for him to make given the mood he’s now left her in.
“You, Laura, are it for me! I love you more than anything I’ve ever given a damn about before. I would walk through fire for you, give my life for you. Shit, if you’re not in it, I don’t wanna be breathing anyway. You blow me away with your beauty every single day and when you’re not literally by my side, I physically ache for you.  It will always be you!”“Jack,” Laura appeared before him with her face screwed up in anguish, “I feel fat and ugly today!”
“Girl,” Jack lazily looked up at his wife, just about managing to take his eyes away from whatever crap he was watching on the TV, probably something about mining for gold or some dictator’s left nut, “you’re allllright!”
“Is that it?!  Christ, I’ve given you the best years of my life, children, and look after this place like a maid and all you can give me is, ‘You’re alright’?!”
“What do you want me to say?” Jack asks with a dopey-looking expression and a casual shrug of his shoulders.  “You make me hard?  Cos I can show you if you like?”
“Any hope you had of that has well and truly gone out the window! No wonder you forgot to say how beautiful the bride was on our wedding day!”
“Oh Christ, here we go!” Jack rolls his eyes over the fact he will never be able to live down the moment he forgot to praise his new wife during his wedding speech. Jack was skilled with a lot of things in life but his use of words wasn’t one of them.
“Hey sweetheart,” Jack walked through the front door with a beaming smile on his face, looking for his wife as though they’d been forced apart for months on end and hadn’t known if he’d ever be able to feel the warmth of her touch ever again. He quickly closes the gap between them, takes her in his arms, and delivers the most scorching hot kiss to ever be received outside of the bedroom. “I missed you.  How was your day? Did you miss me?”“Girl,” Jack muttered across the room, only after he had checked out what Laura was watching on the TV.
“Jack,” she replied in greeting.
“Did you miss me today?” he asks half-jokingly.
“I saw you this morning!” Laura replies as though the very idea is ridiculous.  “You know we need time apart otherwise I’d end up ripping off your genitals.”
“Love you too baby!” he calls out sarcastically.
“I know, I’m a real sweetheart.  You’re lucky to have me!” Laura replies as she returns her gaze to the TV.
It had been a long day for Laura, and she was exhausted. She curled up in bed with the toasty warm duvet wrapped around her, but the chill from the winter’s night still had her shivering. She soon felt the warmth of Jack’s firm, muscular body wrapping around her, with his leg resting on top of hers as though possessing every part of her being for his own. She grinned widely in his embrace.  Oh, this man knew exactly how to warm her up from the inside out.
“Don’t worry babe, I’m gonna keep you toasty all night!” “Mmm,” she moaned in delight and pulled his arm more tightly around her.
It had been a long day for Laura, and she was exhausted. She curled up in bed with the toasty warm duvet wrapped around her, but the chill from the winter’s night still had her shivering. She soon felt the warmth of Jack’s firm, muscular body wrapping around her, with his leg resting on top of hers as though possessing every part of her being for his own. Two minutes passed by with Jack now beginning to emit soft snores against the back of her head.  The bastard wasn’t even snoring to a set pattern, which soon had Laura growing more and more irritated by the second.
“Ok, that’s it!” Laura huffed before turning over and pushing Jack away from her, consequently waking him up with a start.
“What’s going on?” he asked in a muffled tone of voice.
“Your furnace of a body and your damn heavy leg is crushing me and I want my own space back!”
“Oh, but I wanted to cuddle you all night!” he replied sulkily.
“Not happening! You have space for a whole other family back there,” Laura gestured towards the empty mattress beside him. “Go on, bugger off!” Reluctantly, Jack rolled over to his side of the bed, mumbling incoherently with a pissed-off tone of voice.  Not that Laura cared for she had her side of the bed back and was now indulging in the ‘moomptiness’ of it.
Jack walked into the bedroom to find Laura wearing something flimsy and deeply erotic looking. With a wicked smile and hooded eyes cased in long, flirtatious lashes, she crooked her finger and gestured for him to come hither.  Jack took a moment to take in the delicious scene before him, already hard as nails and beaming over the anticipation of a hot night with the vixen now warming his bed.“I thought we were going to…you know, last night,” Laura said to Jack the following morning, “but you just went to sleep!”
“Well, you should have made your intentions known,” he mumbled back.
“I did!” Laura gasped, clearly shocked how he had missed all of her attempts.
“Oh yeah, how?  Cos I sure as shit didn’t notice them.” Jack chuckles to himself.
“Well, I put my kindle away and lay down facing you, and as you are very much aware, I always lie looking away from you.”
“Oh,” he shakes his head over her ridiculousness, “see I just thought it was highly annoying because I was trying to get to sleep only to have you breathing all over me.”
“Well, you crapped out didn’t you!” she says on a heavy sigh before getting up to go and clean her teeth.
“Babe, just so you know, Aunt flow comes to town in a day or two, so it’s best to take advantage of me whilst you still can!” Laura fluttered her eyelashes at Jack before reaching up to deliver a lingering kiss onto his stubbly cheek. “Upstairs, now!” he growled before whisking her away towards the bedroom where he was sure to keep her busy for the next few hours.“Jesus Jack! You scared the crap out of me” Laura snapped when Jack suddenly appeared from behind the shower curtain.
“Just coming in for a feel,” he grinned, then tried reaching out to pinch her for his own amusement.
“Jack, this is my one damn time to relax and not worry about kids, work, or the house. Please leave me alone for five minutes!” she warned him with that tone of voice which should be enough to tell him it’s time to go. Jack, being the idiot that he is, decides to hang about and continue winding up Laura to the point whereby she’ll lose her temper. He’ll then sulk because for some reason, after ten years of marriage, it still surprises him when she follows through with her threat to lose her shit with him.
“Jack,” she says, now trying a different tact, “my period is due in the next day or two, so if you want any hope of getting some before next Friday, I would feck off now!” Jack ran away so fast he left cartoon clouds and the flap of the shower curtain behind in his wake.
“Feck me!” She whispered on a hot breath that skated over his bare chest. Her eyes had turned dark, and she was almost trembling with lust, just waiting for her man to take her.“Feck me!” Jack tried to say in a sexy tone of voice but was immediately left to feel flat after Laura laughed hysterically over his attempts to be the alpha-potty-mouth male.
“What?” he whined whilst she tried to find the breath to speak through her laughter. “I was trying to be sexy!”
“First off, don’t ever do that again,” she giggled, now wiping away at her tears of mirth, “secondly, it’s Tuesday and we certainly don’t ‘feck’ midweek, on a school night!  At best we have sex, that’s it. Jesus!”
Jack didn’t even get sex that night, just momentary vibrations from Laura still laughing to herself over the memory of his words.

Dedicated to ‘Jack’, who inspires me every day!

Now that some people might have taken the time to read some of my ridiculous stories from my past, or even my first novel, Learning Italian, I thought I might attempt to answer some typical questions one might ask an author.  So, in the absence of having any questions myself, I took to the good old internet to find some.  Of course, I’ve cherry picked the ones I can actually give some sort of meaningful response to because some of them were quite honestly weird.  Here goes!

What is the first book that made you cry?

During my teenage years, when I was wallowing in hormones and attempting to grow up into some sort of functioning adult, I used to love a good cry.  I purposely chose weep worthy films and felt cheated if they didn’t induce a session whereby, I leaked from my eyes and questioned the meaning of life.  However, now that I am a semi-responsible adult, I’ve done a 180 and tend to avoid such misery. I can write about it, put my characters through hell if I want to, but I can’t cope with watching it anymore.  13 Reasons Why literally had me bawling like a baby!  To answer the question, however, the first book to make me cry was Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which I don’t think I even need to explain why.  I ate that book up and it made me throw up tears and sobs.  To be fair, most of Picoult’s books do, with my favourite being Leaving Time.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

It took me a long time to get into reading, to find my genre of interest, but when I did, I became a little obsessed.  When I was in Year 3, and my attention span was at best, sporadic, I went onto free readers fairly quickly.  However, the teacher (poor Mrs Brown in her hand made cardies, short, back and sides haircut and plasters on nearly all of her fingers) noticed I would frequently start books but rarely ever finished them.  She asked one of the brightest girls in Year 6 to come and show me some of her favourites, which she did. She showed me ‘Tumbleweed’ by Dick King-Smith and I instantly fell in love with his writing, then moved onto Enid Blyton and Shakespeare (randomly).  When I find an author I like, I tend to binge read all their work, hit a bit of a slump for a while, then force myself to find someone new.  I now read so much I hardly watch TV anymore.  I guess no one can create the pictures I can inside of my own head.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I write what I write because that’s what comes to me.  I chose romance because it’s what I read but also because it can encompass more than a ‘romantic’ relationship. I like to explore the connections between more than just the romantic plot of the two main characters. For example, those between the hero and his parents, or the bond between siblings and their friends.  I also like to write stories that happen over time, which is why I often include flashbacks. I personally feel you need to have some history to a character if you want to give them and their story a little more depth.  Some authors achieve this through dialogue, flashbacks or a character’s private thoughts.  I use a variety of devices.  Which one all depends on the story and how well it fits in.  I also write different subgenres of romances, including comedies and suspense.  I’ve even had a go at a historical romance because this is what inspired me at the time.  I have the benefit of writing as well as having a teaching career, which means I can write what I like and not have to worry too much about it being widely accepted. I want people to enjoy my work, of course I do, but I won’t let it rule what I put out there. To be fair, I don’t think I could. 

 What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you    become a better writer?

I’ve discovered that self-publishing is a very sociable process.  I’ve had to come out of my comfort zone to reach out to people on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, as well as putting myself out there on this website.  A few other, well-established authors have reached out to new writers, which I think is awesome.  TL Swan (The Stanton Trilogy, The Stopover, The Takeover, Our Way and many more) has particularly gone out of her way to help aspiring authors and has given so many of us brilliant advice and insights, to which I am extremely grateful for.  I’ve connected with an American author, Nikki Paris (Sure Pal, Ok Cutie, Fine Dork) and we’ve begun Beta reading for one another, which is extremely helpful seeing as I’ve set some of my stories in the States.  Cactus Buzz, a company which specialises in marketing and editing for Indie Authors, came into contact with me through a Facebook group, as well as Liz Wilde and Tanya Caruso who offered to Beta read for me too.  At first it was daunting but now it feels pretty amazing to be talking to people around the globe.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I started writing a few years ago so have already got quite a number of works written as a first draft.  It took me at least a year to let anyone read my work, and that person was my mum.  She, as well as my friends were asked not to judge me for the naughty scenes, to which I was laughed and informed I was totally going to be judged for it.  Once I got past this horrifying notion, I eventually felt able to share it with not only the people I know and love, but also other book thirsty people like me. I have this year’s books virtually ready to go, next year’s books written and ready to be sent to my editor, and the following year’s work written as a first draft. All being well, I plan to release three to four books a year. However, if they’re not up to scratch I won’t hold myself to that.  It doesn’t serve anyone well to release a half-arsed attempt:

2021Learning Italian –Available now on Amazon KU (Romantic Comedy) The Darkness Within – Early Summer 2021 (Romantic Suspense) Unnamed Romantic Comedy– Autumn 2021 Unnamed Romantic Comedy Novella Giveaway
2022Unnamed Trilogy – A dark romance/romantic suspense (all written and edited so no need to worry about it not being completed!) Unnamed Romantic Comedy-This is a secondary character’s story from my upcoming release, The Darkness within.

These are works I have planned to release because they are written, edited and ready to go.  I have others but wouldn’t want to promise something which isn’t ready yet. 

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Oh my goodness, yes!  This whole process has taught me to always review people’s work and to leave feedback, even if it’s only a few words.  Sometimes it’s hard to hear, but if it’s constructive then I’m all for it.  Having taught for over ten years, I’m more than used to getting feedback from people like head teachers, colleagues and (dum dum dum!) the dreaded Ofsted!  Every artist wants to hear if people have enjoyed their work and will appreciate it if they have any pointers. Sometimes I can’t change things people don’t like because that’s their personal preference (e.g. one beta reader found the sex scenes too graphic, while another one loved them).  The only reviews I tend to ignore when picking a book for myself to read, are those that slate a book for no real reason, it just wasn’t their cup of tea.  Learning Italian has received some great reviews so far, to which I’m very grateful for. Some people have made comments I can take away with me, which will hopefully make me a better writer in the future.  Please, please, leave reviews for any artist because it helps not only the author but those looking for their next read too.  Much love to those who already have!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I use lots of anecdotes from my own life, and those of people who are close to me.  Elise’s house in Twickenham, from Learning Italian, is based on my grandparent’s old home.  There was a cherry tree, a couple of old sheds full of junk and a rotary phone attached to the wall in the hallway.  The bathroom was downstairs, which frequently led to a battle of wills against my bladder in the middle of the night.  These little details make the stories all the more special for me and I love including them when and where I can.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Absolutely.  I am very fortunate. And my friends, those guys are awesome too!  Sometimes my four- year-old will literally lie across my lap when I’m tapping away on my laptop, and my husband does moan about me ‘being on my machine’, but he offers his full support when it counts.  We’re definitely one of those couples who like to bicker…frequently!

Anyhew, that’s me. Thanks for reading.  My next blog will be all about romance novels verses real life!