This is my hand


It’s a hand that does dishes (or at least loads and unloads the dishwasher).
It’s a hand that has raised two children.
It’s a hand can play the flute.
It’s a hand that has written eight novels.
It’s a hand that looks its age; that has a little arthritis starting in the wrist (broken twice while rollerblading and cycling).
It’s a hand that, for half its life, has worn a wedding ring. And now it doesn’t.
I like it fine.


A good start … I think

So here are some things I’ve said ‘Yes’ to since I decided to start saying ‘Yes’ to things. Some of them are very small. Some of them might not even seem like things at all to some people, but they do to me. Small steps. In no particular order.

  1. I got a ticket to see Lou Reed. On my own, initially, and that was fine, but I mentioned it on Facebook and now I’m meeting a friend there.
  2. I agreed to plan a series of writing workshops for groups to be set up in local libraries. I may end up delivering them too, but I’ll have to be very brave and talk money. Realistically.
  3. I applied for a part-time job that I probably don’t want. And I’ll probably go on not wanting it until the moment I’m rejected, at which time it will become the only possible job that would really make me happy. If this happens (likely), please remind me of the fact that I don’t really want it.
  4. I went into the British Library and had a look round the (free) Treasures exhibition. (Did I mention I’m trying to do things on the cheap where possible, simply because I’m just not sure what my financial situation is going to be in the next few months, and I’m trying to be sensible?)
  5. Tomorrow, all on my own, I’m going to see Purcell’s opera The Fairy Queen, broadcast live from Glyndebourne, and screened at my local cinema, and I’m going to get membership of said cinema at the same time, because it will totally pay for itself as I continue to immerse myself in culture!
  6. I have a applied to do an A-level – adult-education ting, over 2 years. There are a number of subjects I’m kind of interested in, all on a Tuesday night, and the timing should work out just right for me to go there straight from work. Here’s the catch – the administrator said that last year, the one I really want to do was cancelled because of lack of interest so, in a pleasingly aleatoric way, I’ve registered my interest in four different subjects and I’ll allow fate to decide which one I enrol for. This is rather in the spirit of buying whatever is reduced in the supermarket and making a meal out of it. I do that too.
  7. I will be seeing a number of undeniably fabulous friends this week. Some of these meet-ups have been planned for a while, others are more spur of the moment. This is exactly what I want to embrace. This, and the friends too, of course.
  8. I had a cull on my underwear drawer. I’ll draw a veil for now …


The Year of Saying ‘Yes’

Here’s the thing I don’t want to do: carry on living my life exactly as it was before, but with the sense that something is missing. Like – oh, I don’t know … let’s say, for example, a husband.

That’s what I’m not going to do – go on the same but with a husband-shaped hole.

Because, to be honest, that would be a ridiculous waste of time and endow the absent one with far too much significance. Whereas, quite obviously, the important one here is me. And the important two is my children. And the important three is me and my children. So, it’s a new life for me.
Brave words, eh? And, strangely, it didn’t take me too long to come to this momentous decision, but carrying out my resolve is going to take some thinking. (All suggestions gratefully received, btw.)
One reason it’s going to take some thinking is because, after 28 of marriage, I’m not really used to thinking about what want. Like most women of my age, I’ve felt, for some time, like the jam in the sandwich, being slowly but surely squeezed on all sides until I’m spread so thin. I’m virtually invisible. I know what I am to other people – a lift, a meal, a pile of clean laundry, a secretary, a bank, a counsellor, a personal shopper. But what I am to myself is more of a mystery. 
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to try to change my habits. I’m going to alter my thinking. I’m going to try to work out what my instincts are, and follow them.
I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to go about this, but the first thing I’m going to do is say, ‘Yes!’ and see where it leads. I’m not even sure yet what I’m going to say Yes to, but I’m saying Yes to that too. I’m going to say Yes for a whole year, even when I don’t feel like it, and I’m going to write about it here.
Yes, I am.
Feel free to join me. 

Thank heaven for the internet!

The other day I had to buy a dozen double damask dinner napkins. Don’t ask why. I just did. Sometimes you simply have to do these things.

Anyway, thanks to the internet I was able simply to click in the appropriate place on the John Lewis website and didn’t have to go and actually ask for them. Who knows what might have happened otherwise!


My thoughts on ‘The Duchess’

The film, I mean. Not the person. Not that I really know any Duchesses. Except that one I made scrambled eggs for that time in the south of France. So there wouldn’t be any point me sharing my thoughts on them. Or her. Really. Would there?

Just before I get on with this, I’ve reached an interesting conclusion. My talents as a film critic seem to me to be about on a par with those of Patroclus (who has been much in my mind lately). But she doesn’t seem to reckon she’s any good, whereas I think both I and she are excellent. A paradox, surely? You can be the judge.

Anyway, here are my thoughts:

1) I always thought you pronounced it George-ee-ah-na, whereas is the film they pronounce it George-ay-na.

2) Kiera Knightly doesn’t do that thing she does with her teeth. Hardly at all. Which is just as well, cos it drove me mad in both in Pride and Prejudice and in Atonement. She didn’t do it much in Pirates, though, did she?

3) Despite the crashingly obvious parallel with the farce marriage of the late Princess of W and Prince Charles, she didn’t seem to be channelling said late princess too much. Ralph Fiennes, however, was very Prince Charles-ish. A girl I once knew snogged Ralph Fiennes. In fact, she might have gone the whole nine yards. I can’t really remember. It was before he was famous anyway so I wasn’t paying much attention.

4) It was much easier to get tickets than for Mama Mia – which was booked out by loud, dirty, boozy women days in advance. There were a few men in the audience too. Surprisingly. I didn’t think men really liked KK because of her total lack of tits. On the other hand, the woman playing Camilla Lady Bess has a magnificent rack. She’s called Hayley Atwell. God bless Google.

5) You couldn’t see any of Keira Knightley’s shoes, because of the long dresses and all, but I bet they were fab and gorgey. They sounded nice, anyhow, as she stamped long those corridors (in high dudgeon, a lot of the time).

6) Ralph Feinnes has quite thin legs.

7) Rainbow drops, at my local cinema, are more expensive, ounce for ounce, than smoked salmon. They are awfully nice, though.

8) My sister, who actually read the book – albeit some time ago – said that it covered a much longer period of George-ay-na’s life than the film does. She also thought that the author, Amanda Foreman, had kind of washed her hands of the film. I seem to remember reading that she’d sold the rights for a decent amount, but not shed-loads. Still, the book is ranked 55 on Amazon now, so she probably wouldn’t kick it out of bed.

9) If someone wanted to make a film of one of my books, I’d let them get on with it.

10) Overall, it was very good. Better than Mama Mia, but not as good as Vanity Fair (the film, I mean, not the book – which I also haven’t read). Which was fab. (Incidentally, the girl who snogged Ralph Feinnes also snogged the bloke that played Rawdon Crawley in that. She took her work seriously).

Oh! I put an 8 and a ), and look what happened!

(Bear with me, Coffee Boy. Not long now.)

The hard, hard life of a writer

Yes, it’s most awfully tough. So much so that, sometimes, when the kids are safely at school, and sensible people are at the office, I just HAVE to go out for a walk with my friend, Marie. In the Cotswolds. On our own. In all that countryside.

It’s hell.

Particularly the path between Stanton and Stanway. Gruelling, just gruelling.

 It gets even tougher when you finally reach Stanway House.


And it’s not sunny vistas the whole way, y’know. You have to go through woods carpeted with wild garlic. 

Well someone’s got to do it. Those hills won’t walk themselves.