After the Fire

I was hoping to write a happy blog about going to Helsinki, but today is not the right day for that.  Today, I’m considering how we react after we are shocked by events.

You have to be made of strong stuff not to have been deeply affected by footage of the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London. I could barely watch it, finding myself sick to the stomach in a way that I haven’t been since September 11th, 2001. Twenty-four hours after the fire started, the final death toll is not yet known and Fire Officers are talking in terms of weeks for this to be established, giving some idea of the unimaginable job they face. Once again, we find our emergency services doing their utmost to save lives while putting their own in jeopardy. The reaction of the local community has been magnificent, the level of support has been astounding, but it doesn’t take away from the reality that several hundred families have lost loved ones, friends and their homes.  I’m finding it hard to comment on it. Some of the articles I’ve read and the interviews I’ve seen contain the words of very angry people and the fallout from this will be immense, I’m sure.  The shock and trauma will continue to ripple through the community and they are going to need a great deal of care long after the last news camera has moved on to the next event.

In just a few days time, it will be a year since those who voted to leave the EU prevailed by 4% over those who wanted to remain.  Whereas some have been almost holding parties in the street to celebrate what they achieved (nobody knows what that is, yet); for me, and I suspect a great many others, accepting the result of the vote is one thing, but the reality of how its left us feeling is quite another.  With the outcome of last week’s general election the country is now making course corrections for this EU-less destination and its forcing me to make some course corrections of my own.  I can no longer worry about things I can’t control, I’m going to have to leave that to someone else. I have to narrow my focus, reduce it down to what I can tangibly affect the outcome of, or else I will continue to feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.

Shock makes us think and for a while afterwards there is a community cohesion and a willingness to embrace change for the good. But, we inevitably fall back if we don’t continue to embed those new habits that keep us talking and working together.  Last year, in the run-up to the referendum, we were all horrified by the shooting of the MP Jo Cox. This week, her husband Brendan’s book is out.  It’s called More in Common. Alongside it, he’s promoting  the Great Get Together, an opportunity for communities to come together. Social media is great, but there are acknowledged problems; one being an increasing sense of isolation and another is that we tend only to hear like-minded voices. We rarely stray out of our online bubbles to listen to the views of other people.  I’m as guilty as anyone for doing it and that’s one of the things that has to change.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but nothing will change if we don’t continue to talk about it and act on it.




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Blowing the Dust off.

If you’ve ever played Animal Crossing on the Wii, you’ll know that if you leave the game for a few weeks, you have roaches in your house when you get back. It’s been a long time since I wrote here, and I didn’t quite have roaches to kick out, but I’ve had to do a bucket load of updating and remind myself where the windscreen wipers are before I hit the post button. There is still a lot of updating to do, but that will have to wait for a week or so.

It was way back in 2006 that I started blogging, back when I had a Myspace page and way before Facebook had traction.  Myspace.  Does it still exist? Answer: Yes.  It taglines itself as ‘the best of music and culture.’ From it, I have learned that Alanis Morissette’s musical Jagged Little Pill opens next year.  Yes, Jagged Little Pill the musical.  OK, I am going to have to get my head around that one, seeing as I can’t think it’s going to fit with the traditional mould of what I expect from the word ‘musical.’  Will there be live drunk-dialling? Will Ironic be fixed to actually be ironic?

If you’ve never read my blogs, you may be wondering what I write about?  Anything.  Literally, anything – from the stupid thing that happened to me, to stupid things happening around the world, and the people doing them.  Can’t promise to stay away from particular subjects, although, from experience, it’s always best to avoid mentioning Liza Minnelli.  Been there, done that and nope… Don’t go back there.

Firstly, an update about me.  Since last autumn’s trip down into the Slough of Despond, I’m mostly fine.  I have good days, not so good days and my concentration isn’t as good as it was. Neither is my memory, so if you want me to remember something, for goodness sake, get me to write it down.

The writing?  It’s coming on and that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

So, what’s caught my attention over the last few days?

First of all can we give a big hand to Tim Farron for telling people to turn over and watch Bake Off, rather than listening to politicians speak.  It’s the most sensible thing any British politician has ever said and it’s advice we should all heed.  Only six days to go of this trial by election campaign… Thank God.

Donald Trump has caught my eye several times, and each instance has been even more eye-popping or rolling than the last, culminating in Thursday’s plan to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.  It’s getting to the point when this is what you say to yourself every time you see the red logo on Twitter with his name attached.




For this first blog, I’m going to stop there, because it’s late, I’m on my laptop in bed and somebody has to get the what-the-hell-o-clock train from Flitwick station tomorrow morning, and it’s not me.

Night night.

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The History of Me

WritingBack in 2006 when I started blogging, I’d click open a new page on Livejournal and out would come something or other.  It never took much effort to crack out 1000+ words, some blogs almost wrote themselves – such as the one where I decided to take a swipe at the ridiculous ‘Candystripe Technology’ that had inexplicably found its way into Lil-lets tampons.  If you ever wanted a case study on how to reinvent a piece of string, then the makers of Lil-Lets achieved it with aplomb in 2011.

Livejournal contains an awful lot of my life: the good, the bad, the sad, the hilarious, the time on MySpace and the frankly embarrassing.  It documents my many failed attempts to lose weight – and the one time it worked (yay for Cambridge!), my undulating mental health, my fledging attempts at writing and my tirades against the stupid.  As a history of me it’s both fascinating and sad to read.  In many respects I have come far, but in others I have stayed in the same place, battling the same old things.  It doesn’t have Pepysian significance, but as a record of me, it’s invaluable.

It proves that on days when I feel mired in a large vat of treacle the good days will be just around the corner.  When I tell myself that I am fated to repeat the same old mistakes, I have written evidence from my life that I can escape them.  When I feel that I constantly fail, there are entries where I very clearly win and that is a laser-guided missile to the small voice within me that pulls me down.   Much has been made in recent years on the impact of writing therapy (writing events down as a means to releasing yourself from the hurts of the past) and perhaps this is what Livejournal has been to me, albeit unknowingly.   It’s also brought me friendship and a network of friends that stretches around the globe, including someone in Ohio with the name Rachel Lewis.  Well, we just had to be friends.

I do still post at Livejournal but new posts are only available to friends as they continue to be deeply personal.  Meanwhile, here at WordPress is where I post more openly – although it’s been somewhat neglected over the last year.  One of the reasons for that is because there is less of a culture of debate.  During the early years of blogging, one of the good things was having a really good discussion in the comments.  These days, it’s mostly spam and reactionary attacks because commenters don’t seem to understand the difference between opinion and fact.  Also, as I get older I’m less inclined to humour the fuckwits.  Facebook serves the purpose of posting a quick comment about an issue in the news, and Twitter has cornered the market in funnies.  But, for those of us who like expressing ourselves in more than 140 characters, the blog still has a valuable place.

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My Shade of Grey

WritingThe furore over Fifty Shades of Grey has died down – just – but it’s left me unsettled and unhappy.  I read countless social media posts repeating the mantra that FSOG was about abuse and the worst thing ever to appear between the covers of a book.  We’re going to have to agree to disagree on those points, for reasons which I’m going to expand upon.

By and large I watched the posts scroll by and remained silent. When I did break cover it resulted in a temporarily suspended account – which probably goes to show the strength of feeling that the subject creates.  Now everyone’s moved on, but I’m left with an uneasy feeling about the whole thing.  Abuse was not what I picked up on in the books and in the cascade of hate, I didn’t feel able to speak adequately about the way these books have unexpectedly rippled out through my life.  I’m sure it’s not in the way the author intended or the media give a stuff about.  It certainly isn’t one that I’ve heard anyone else voice. So this is my take on it.   This is my shade of Grey.

Note:  This might turn out to be a long piece so grab something to drink.

Some basics:
* Yes, I read it because everyone else was reading it.  I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
* Yes, I downloaded it to my Kindle because I didn’t want anyone else to know what I was reading.  I now own physical copies of the books and am not ashamed of them.
* I am a strong believer that your reaction to a book depends on the life experience that you bring to the reading of it.  Your lens, if you will.  Everyone has their own lens, therefore, everyone’s reaction to a book will be different.  It is really important that you appreciate this when you are discussing a book.
* No, I do not think it’s the best series of books ever written.  Nor do I apportion magical powers to the fingers of E L James.  Sex sells – go figure.  She’s a good storyteller, yes, but if I had been that book series’ editor it would have had a major polish before it hit the bookshops.
* No, they are not the only books I have ever read.  My standard fare is British literary classics and contemporary fiction.
* Yes, I have read all the books and I’ve done that at least five times all the way through.  I know the text pretty well.
* I have not seen the film.
* I read my Bible on a daily basis. I read it completely through every year.  I know that pretty well, too.
* I do not find the two incompatible.
* Fact:  There is more rape in the Bible than there is in Fifty Shades of Grey and there is NONE in FSOG.
* Warning: Spoilers. You might not want to read this blog if you are interested in reading all three books.  If you’re not, then go ahead.

JD as CGSo then, Christian Grey.  He’s a divisive character, isn’t he? For the purposes of illustrating who we’re talking about, I’m choosing to use a picture of the man who’s just played him in the film adaptation of the first book.  I’ve not seen Jamie Dornan in ahem… action, but the reaction’s been mixed.  Less so for Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele.  She seems to have hit the nail on the head in her depiction of the character.  I’m only going on what friends have said, I’ve not had the chance to see the film myself,  because I’m not a great fan of going to the cinema alone.  Husband wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole and none of the people in my immediate circle of friends were interested in seeing it, so it didn’t happen.  The only film I have ever sat through in a cinema on my own was The Passion of the Christ.  It was a truly harrowing experience.  Therefore, I can’t discuss what you see on screen because I have no idea.  I have studiously avoided watching clips of it on YouTube.  Again, this comes back to life experience.  My decisions are now coloured by me spoiling the finale of Star Trek: Voyager for myself by hunting down the spoilers.  These days I will watch an official trailer once or twice and that’s it.

The lens through which you view things is an important point and I am not going to say that anyone who read, or tried to read FSOG having been affected by an abusive relationship does not have an equal and valid case as to why you shouldn’t read these books.  They have stated their cases frequently and well over the last few weeks.  Also, I’m not going to set about rehashing the tired argument that it’s ‘poorly written.’  Most people who trot out that stock phrase wouldn’t know what constitutes ‘poorly written’ if it kicked them up the bum.  They throw it out there because it makes them sound like they know what they’re talking about.  As a writer myself, it’s utter bollocks as a descriptor.  Poorly written would mean that you can’t understand it – and there’s no lack of ability to understand what’s going on in FSOG.  I prefer to use the terms ‘repetitive and inelegant prose’ because I believe that encapsulates what’s wrong with the writing.  It’s nothing that can’t be ironed out if you study the craft – and it is a craft.  Good writing is a skill and you should never expect a first-time author (which E L James was), to whack it out perfectly first time.  We all develop and improve, so give the woman a break.  I feel the editor was more at fault for not addressing a few key inadequacies before it reached the presses. But I haven’t had a book published, so what do I know?

What I have objected to about the coverage of FSOG is the focus on the first book. I know it’s because it’s linking in with the film, but few journalists have bothered to do their research.  If they had, I believe we would have seen more of them finishing their pieces with one sentence:  It’s not the end of the story!  Fifty Shades of Grey is a trilogy and it’s designed to be read as such.  If you’ve managed to get to the abrupt end of the first book, you’ll know what I mean.  It’s a three book series and it gets my goat that we’re banging on about what a vile specimen of manhood Christian Grey is and a weak specimen of womanhood Anastasia Steele is, without getting the whole story.  Because that’s what we’re all about, these days, isn’t it?  Jumping to conclusions before we know the whole story.

I’m not going to paint Christian Grey as a saint or Anastasia as a martyr, but I would like to raise a point.  I’m fully aware that he is a fictional character, but imagine if his story was your story. If you’d had the start in life that Christian Grey had had and been affected by manipulative people in your formative years, but over time had managed to deal  successfully with a lot of it to arrive in a place of happiness and contentment,  would you be happy if the only things that anybody knew about you were the bad bits before you got the help you needed?  That’s what we have in Fifty Shades of Grey – the first book in the trilogy. That’s the Christian Grey we meet.  A man, who on the face of it is glamorous  and successful, with the power to have relationships on his terms, with women who are happy with those terms. Women who are happy with those terms. Key phrase there. We’re dealing with consensual sex, we’re not dealing with a man who preys on innocent young girls and steals their virtue.  He’s a man  riddled with insecurities, who lives his life by rules that he both imposes on himself and on those around him.  He exists in an emotionless void,  having had love twisted so out of shape for him that he believes he doesn’t deserve it.

And then love walks into his office. Sorry, trips and falls.

What the next two books do is chronicle the impact that true, immovable and unconditional love has on a man who has never experienced it before. Love given from a woman who wants nothing more than to help him out of his dark, lonely place and into the light. Yes, Christian Grey is, by his own admission,  fifty shades of fucked up in the first book, but that’s not the end of the story!  Anastasia invests her time and effort in discovering why and, more importantly, helping him to see why;  so that they can arrive at the end of the third book, not in the role of him being the Dominant and she being the submissive, but in something even more powerful: A marriage partnership.  How is that not a love story?

Yes, Christian Grey is controlling, even after she’s worked on him.  Similarly, I’m still overeating even though I’ve had many years of therapy to work on my issues.  None of us is cured overnight, but we make steps along the road to a better place.  I would hate for anyone’s persistent image of me to be the fat, unhappy, 260lb woman I used to be, without knowing what happened next. I am not that woman anymore, but yet many have condemned this character to be synonymous with the term ‘abuser.’

It’s my want of it not to be the end of the story that manifested itself in a totally unexpected way.  I started writing stories about what might happen to Christian Grey after we leave him at the end of book three.  Yes, I write FanFiction.  Please deal with it.  I’m fascinated by a character who is learning to cope with overwhelming emotion by facing it, not by blanking out its existence.  A man who belatedly discovers the joys of what should have been his childhood, through the lives of his own children.  And most importantly, discovers himself through the security of a relationship with a person who won’t move from his side. When we meet Christian Grey he’s trying to control the world.  He’s making a passable stab of it if you ignore the festering wound that he’s covering up.  By the end of book three he’s understood that his wife can see the potential that exists in him if he will let go of trying to control things, open up to her and come to rely on trust and love.

As a meta-narrative, it’s deliciously Biblical.  But that’s another blog.  🙂

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I really love…

lookatmypinkieBecause sometimes it’s nice to take a look at your life and remind yourself that the good bits far outweigh the rubbish bits.  So, in no particular order and probably embarrassing myself with bad taste in the process, here’s a (not exhaustive) list of the things I really love. 

I hope BBC Radio 4 never invite me to do Desert Island Discs.  The thought of picking ten pieces of music that I would be marooned on a desert island with, fills me with horror.  Only ten?  And I can’t change them?  Gah!  I can only ever compile you a top ten favourites list based on what I like today, because tomorrow it will be different and I’m always finding something new that I love.  But let me pick out some non-negotiables.  The ones that I can pretty much guarantee will be in there whatever else comes and goes from the list.

Today, my very favourite song is Fleetwood Mac Sisters of the Moon from the album Tusk (1979).  Has to be the album version, though.  I don’t like the live versions.  (Yes, I will go and stand in the corner and think about what I’ve just said).  Everything about this is epic to me: the vocals, the guitars, the bass, the images it creates in my head… I could go on.  However, this version seems to crash into the buffers at the end – which doesn’t happen on Tusk! Nevertheless… I present (pretty much) musical perfection (IMO).

Fleetwood Mac – Sisters of the Moon (1979)

Surviving my misspent childhood listening to Radio 1 here’s one from the 1970s.  Again, there’s a blend of lyricism, melody and images going on that seems to hit some sweet spot within.

Renaissance – Northern Lights  (1978)

And then there’s this.  Hands down the best thing to ever come out of Christmas (and no, Jesus didn’t).  Don’t start me on that one…

Greg Lake – I Believe in Father Christmas (1975)

There is more, but that’s enough for now.


I think the first track might be a huge clue.  I think the writing behind her might be, too.  How much do I like her…?  Let’s just say that there are days when Jesus and Stevie Nicks sort of change places.  Yeah, I know, I can see the resemblance, too… 😉

Stevie Nicks











Oh good Lord, this is like picking your favourite children.  A task that is much easier for me, seeing as I just have the one child.

Books that I’ve read and loved…
WintersTaleMark Helprin – Winter’s Tale
Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns –
Joanne Harris – Chocolat
Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day
Sarah Gruen – Water for Elephants
Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
The Bible.  (Makes Game of Thrones look tame)


 Another tough category.
The Fifth Element – Love the visuals although it’s the only film I can watch Bruce Willis in
Steel Magnolias – I dare you not to cry!
Lord of the Rings trilogy – Sat through the first one in awe.  Beautiful!
Love Actually – Emma Thompson crying during ‘Both Sides Now.’  Gets me every time.
Much Ado About Nothing – So, so funny.  More Thompson.
Stargate – Marvellous escapist fantasy
Girl With the Pearl Earring – My favourite painting brought to life.  Exquisite.
Paul – Disturbingly close to home.  Love Pegg and Frost!

A2AQuattroI don’t really watch much TV, so I tend to buy boxed sets and catch up. 
Costume Drama:  Pride and Prejudice (1995) / Bleak House / Lark Rise to Candleford
Sci-Fi: Star Trek / Doctor Who / Battlestar Galactica / Torchwood
Fantasy: Game of Thrones / Gormenghast
Drama:  The West Wing / Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip / Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes / White Collar
Comedy: Father Ted

Basically, anything that comes under the general heading of ‘not British.’  Feed me Indian, Sushi, Mexican, Italian, Chinese or whatever.  But not a roast dinner.  Boring!

My favourite wines are dry whites.  Absolute top is a New Zealand Malborough Sauvignon Blanc, but Pouilly Fume, Chablis, Frascati or a White Zinfandel will be downed quite happily.  Away from wine I like a good real ale and I’m developing a taste for Scottish Whisky.  Speyside and Highland, particularly.


Above anything, I would love to go and see this view of Hong Kong at night for real.

Hong Kong 5







Most beautiful place I have ever been – Crater Lake










Am at my happiest when writing gloriously stupid and probably pointless fiction, drinking, chatting to my friends, or quietly reading a book. Have also taken up jigsaws which are proving to be addictive.

General Geekery
Motorway at night








I love driving and motorways  – yes, really.  I also love cars, planes, trains and big ships.  I’d love to have a go at driving a 44 tonne articulated lorry.  I like computers and I’m good at fixing them.  I can read maps, parallel park cars and I think I may actually be slightly along the spectrum to male.
I love photographs, over paintings.
Love seeing the sun rise over seeing it set
I love both chocolate and vanilla
I love loyalty and encouragement
I love cityscapes
I love rain and ice
I love the glass being half full
I love being every so slightly drunk.

Guilty Pleasures
I think I’ve dobbed myself in enough without revealing the truly odd bits, don’t you?  😀


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Distraction Tactics

loudlyimightaddIt’s always the same.  I get fabulous ideas for blog posts during the week and then when it comes to Thursday and I can finally sit down to write them, the ideas have evaporated.  “Write it down”  I hear you say.  Yes, I know I should, but somehow I keep laboring under the misapprehension that my brain is better at retaining great ideas than it actually is.  My memory is rubbish.  I’m at the stage where I go upstairs and forget what I came for and sometimes even forget the whole point of what I was trying to…ooh look, a new Facebook post.  And yes, I get distracted.  I have joint first class honours in Getting Distracted and Mucking About.  But if you think it’s a new phenomenon, it’s not.  Crossing the Sinai Desert on foot takes 11 days – apparently (I’m not going to check). But the Israelites, when they were expelled from Egypt after that regrettable incident with the plagues, took 40 years before they got to their destination.  Some say this was due to Moses being a stubborn old goat and not asking for directions (typical man 😉 ).  But even if you don’t subscribe to the ‘God teaching them a lesson’ message, it’s a wonderful example of an entire people group getting distracted – BIG TIME.  In Christian circles (or squares, or triangles, or even dodecahedrons – some of us are very liberal about these things);  we refer to this 40 years in the desert thing as ‘ being the wilderness.’  Those times where you feel as if you’re aimlessly drifting about with no direction or purpose in your life.  Or God’s trying to get your attention to do something and for whatever reason you’re not cottoning on (new career over here, dangle, dangle.  Oi, cloth-ears!  Do I have to smack you in the face with this?).  I wouldn’t say I’m in the wilderness, because I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing; I’m just not very good at getting it done.

I’m quite well aware that I have a problem and I’ve been taking baby steps to try and sort it out.  Probably the most effective one would be to delete my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but as my social life is mostly conducted on there, I would rapidly turn into a very productive but very unhappy person.  Instead, I read Mark Forster’s book ‘Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play.’   I’m not a great fan of his writing style, but his methods in that seemed simple and sound.  It was published in 2000 and since then he’s gone on to develop things.  I did take a brief look at one of his more recent time management books and found his evolved system to be incomprehensible.  However, his first book contains much that I can use.  The first thing is using a timer.  12 hours of writing time can stretch out before me like a great sea of wonderfulness, but I have amazing skills to be able to fritter that away with aplomb.  Setting the timer on my phone for 50 minutes (with a ten minute break), means that I can have close to 1000 words down in a defined period of time.  That simple thing, writing or working against the clock, is helping me to focus on what needs to be done and still have a few minutes to re-fill my tea mug and argue with someone over Fifty Shades of Grey.  Ironically, that particular topic turned out to be very effective at getting me off social media!

Thing is, people fascinate me.  I can people-watch for hours and I love listening to or reading people’s comments about themselves.  I’m not making this up, either.  Everyone is far more interesting than I am.  The human experience never bores me and that’s why I like social media.  That and… yes, OK, I’m a nosey bitch  😉

I could try self-banishment, but I know I’d creep back on.  I’d be rubbish at giving Facebook and Twitter up for Lent and to be honest, I’d rather do something more meaningful in the time.  So managing it is the way to go.  Short bursts during the day so I don’t feel that I’m missing out.  Well, apart from the irritating algorithm Facebook has in place to determine who I see on my newsfeed. That annoys me so much!  What is wrong with giving me every status update from everyone in the time order that they were posted?   Not the games posts – I don’t want those.  Or the adverts.  Or the freaky stuff on the right that tracks you across the Internet and posts the thing you were looking at on another computer entirely.  But I’m getting distracted and my irritation with social media is a whole other blog post…  🙂

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Friday on my Mind – Go Team!

loudlyimightaddI’m a big fan of teamwork.  This is probably because I’m not a natural leader and would much prefer to stay in the background.  That would explain why I’m chair of the Ampthill Literary Festival, then.  🙂  Actually, that’s because books and writing are my passion, so it makes sense that I lead it – in an odd sort of way.  I have no desire for glory, though.  I may be the chair, but our committee consists of eleven other people and all of them need to take an equal share of the credit because it’s a team effort.  I’m not as good at dealing with the press as Phil is, so he looks after that bit.  I’m not good at knowing what a great book is for a young teenage boy, but Katie’s a Middle School English Teacher and she does.  My skills are with paperwork and policies and labels and rotas.  Basically, if it needs to be on paper, I’m your woman.

The Literary Festival is only one subcommittee of a larger entity – Ampthill Festival.  Other people are working to put on other events during the year.  There’s AmpRocks, Proms, Gala Day, Events, Site and probably another committee that I’ve forgotten.  We all feed into the main committee, working towards putting on a great set of events for the people in the local area.  Volunteering is something I have a thing for as it totally flies in the face of modern day ‘me, me, me’ culture.  You can’t think of yourself when you’re trying to organise a Gala Day that over 8,000 people will come to. Neither can you do it yourself.  You need a team.

People get passionate about teams.  A week or so ago my Facebook newsfeed was awash with posts from my American friends cheering on the teams vying to reach the Superbowl.   I’m not a great sports fan.  I have a working knowledge of Rugby Union and Tennis, but I rarely watch them.  I don’t watch football (soccer) and golf bores me.  But my attitude completely changes when the Olympics, Winter Olympics or the Commonwealth Games are on.  There’s something about competing for your country that I respond to and it’s because it’s team work on a grand scale.  True, you may win a gold medal, but it counts towards a country total.  I get addicted to it.  I thrill at people’s individual achievements, but when your country’s doing well it’s almost like a hit of the happy pills.   I first noticed it in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics and since then I’ve recognised that it’s a feeling I crave.  Although I draw the line at participating in actual sport to get it – be serious!  I have tapped into the drug of doing well in my own way.

Please don’t get the idea that I’m some good-time junkie looking for a hit of endorphins by serving on every committee going.  Committees are bloody hard work – as anyone who’s ever served on one will know.  To produce this perfectly formed thing at the end, you have to endure many months of  stress, disagreements, deadlines, let-downs and endless what-the-fuckery.  It’s a bit like giving birth, although you get nine months of labour before you pop out this wonderful, fully-formed thing that instantly humbles you and makes you forget the blazing row that you had with the treasurer.

As I am possessed with endless knowledge about the Superbowl, I wish good luck to the other team that are facing the Seattle Seahawks – whenever it is.  🙂 Meanwhile, I shall go back to my own team, who are working towards putting on a Literary Festival in Ampthill on Saturday 11th July.  We have a date, we have a venue and we’re signing up guests.

Go Team!

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You know you’re doing ‘Cambridge’ when

Health&FitnessIt’s diet season.  Hot on the heels of consuming every available calorie during the month of December, January is the time when a large number of us make a promise to ourselves to shed the excess fat that we’ve accumulated.  While there are a great many diet plans on the market, this post specifically relates to my experience of using the Cambridge Weight Plan.  While there are many ‘steps’ to the plan and it’s suitable for anyone who wants to lose weight, it really comes into its own when you have a lot of weight to lose (more than 50lbs).   In its basic form it is total meal replacement and the SAS of diet plans.  It’s hardcore dieting for those of us who really can’t face three years at Weight Watchers.  I lost 7 stone using CWP, it completely changed my life for the better, but it has a few unique characteristics… 🙂

You know you’re doing Cambridge when…

1. Even if you never even thought of possessing one before, a stick blender becomes an indispensable kitchen friend.

2.  Your entire week’s food can fit into one small cardboard box.

3. You didn’t think it was possible to drink 2 and a quarter litres of fluids per day, but somehow you manage it.

4.  You never go anywhere without going to the loo first.

5. When you arrive anywhere the first thing you do is go to the loo.

6. Your idea of a bottle of something special is Italian mineral water.

7. A big bowl of chocolate mint mousse is a meal option

8. Nobody likes the Butterscotch flavour shake.

9. You only need a minute to prepare it, but this immediately coincides with everyone needing to use the work’s kitchen.  They are naturally curious about the packet on the side and you wielding a stick blender.

10. Everyone has an opinion about what you’re ‘doing to yourself.’  While other diets are seen as good and healthy, there is something about CWP that doesn’t sit well with other people.  They are very keen to tell you how it’s a ‘bad thing.’

11. You are perplexed to know why your much lower blood pressure, more energy, fewer aches, feeling happier and having a better heart function is a ‘bad thing’

12. Ditto the four stone you have already lost while they’ve been mucking about with 3lbs at Weight Watchers

13. Forgetting to eat.  This really happens.

14. Forgetting that other people in your family need to eat.  This also happens.

15. Never staying the same clothes size for more than 4 weeks. (Charity shops are your friend).

16.  Your knickers falling down.  (Charity shops are not your friend for this one)

17. Your feet shrink.  You lose fat from your feet – who knew!  Even your favourite shoes will need to be replaced.

18. Your stomach looks very much like a three week old deflated balloon.

19. And let’s just gloss over what happens to your boobs.  Thankfully the remedy is a push-up bra.

20. Let’s also gloss over the fact that you learn what it is to be cold. Damart underwear becomes your new ‘must have’

21. The minute you decide to go on the plan, the world and his wife will invite you out for a meal.

22. And someone at work decides that Friday is compulsory cake day.

23. Sitting in a restaurant nursing a coffee whilst everyone at your table eats is completely acceptable.

24. If you do eat, any restaurant that can’t make you a chicken breast and a plain green salad will be avoided in future.

25. Moving up the plan steps means a few odd food lists.

26.  No, really,  if you choose that option, that really is how much cottage cheese you need to eat.

27.  Ditto tuna

28.  You buy every condiment under the sun to make plain white fish more interesting.

29. No, really, you can eat an entire punnet of raspberries.

30.  Towards the end, when you’re working back up and stabilizing, the first week that you put on weight is a massive shock.  You’ve been used to hitting a regular 4lbs a week weight loss.

31.  People blank you because you’ve changed so much.

32. Some people have a hard time that you’re not the fat person you used to be.

33.  The first time you get into your target size in the store changing room is a very special moment.  You may cry.

34. Despite all your success, you learn that losing weight does not solve all your problems.  Most of the ones that you had when you were a size 26 are still there when you’re a size 12.

35.  People never stop waiting for you to put it all back on again.

UPDATE:  Since I wrote this in January 2015, I’ve become a Independent CWP Consultant working in Bedfordshire and people are still waiting for me to put it all back on.  Nope!


Me: September 2010 versus September 2011.


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New Year and you’re stuck with the same old me.

I'm FabulousI have just deleted my blog post.  I wrote 700 very worthy words about new year, fresh starts and all that jazz.  I went down to dinner, came back again and deleted the whole lot.  Bollocks to that.  In fact, bollocks to a lot of things.

15 things I know for a fact will happen this year – because I’m 44 and have been around the block a bit.

1)  I will say some very inappropriate things.  It happens without fail.  I open my mouth and crap comes out.  That’s why I stick to writing.  I write crap too, but at least I get the chance to edit it.

2)  I will drink too much.  I like alcohol, so sue me.  I will go to the pub.  A lot.  Get over it.

3)  I will eat too much food that is considered bad for you and not enough food that is considered good for you.  My relationship with it will continue to be dysfunctional.  I will hide it the best I can.

4)  I will post too much on social media.  You know where the unfollow / unfriend button is.

5) I will feel upset if anyone does unfriend me on Facebook.  You are my tribe, I love you.

6) I will write.  A lot.  Some of it maybe very bad.  Some of it maybe very good. But in every word know this:  It has come from my heart.

7) I will do my best.  It will fall a long way short of the mark, but I shall give everything my best shot.

8)  If you need me I will be there for you.  Promise.

9) I will cry. Sometimes I will cry over you.

10) I will dance when no one is watching.  Because I’m crap at it.

11)  I will have insomnia.  A lot.  It’s an old friend.

12)  I will have a wildly inappropriate relationship with somebody – in my head.   They will never know it, but it will be there.

13)  I will try and fail at being a Christian.  Mainly because of every single one of the points above.  But I still think loving each other, sharing what you have and not believing the rubbish the world tells you is a good philosophy to live by.

14) I will piss someone off.  Someone will tell me how much they hate me.  Always happens.

15) I will be myself.  I cannot be anyone else.


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2014: A Year in Books


Just a simple list.
During 2014, I read 31 books.  They were…

Airframe – Michael Crichton (Bookgroup)
A Storm of Swords 1: Steel and Snow – George R R Martin
The Contemporary Christian – John Stott
Things I want my daughters to Know – Elizabeth Noble (Bookgroup)
The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (Bookgroup)
Moominvalley in November – Tove Jansson
Friday – Robert A Heinlein
Mother Country – Libby Purves
Adventures on the High Teas – Stuart Maconie (Bookgroup)
The Four Streets – Nadine Dorries
Secrets of the Italian Gardener – Andrew Crofts
Weirdos Vs Quimboids – Natasha Desborough
Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (Bookgroup)
A Place to Call Home – Carole Matthews
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
The New Mrs D – Heather Hill
The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai (Bookgroup)
Silver River – Daisy Goodwin (Bookgroup)
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro (Bookgroup)
From Pain to Pears – Arianna Walker
The Approval Fix – Joyce Meyer
The Christmas Party – Carole Matthews
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova (Bookgroup)
The Flame Tree – Yang-May Ooi
Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
The Pink Hotel – Anna Stothard (Bookgroup)
A Scandalous Man – Gavin Esler
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Sepulchre – Kate Mosse (Bookgroup)

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