Thursday 12 September 2013

You are what you.... wear!

This morning I was going out shopping, dressed in summery patterned trousers, suede ankle boots, and an oversized, hooded (and rather scruffy) sweatshirt belonging to my husband.  He said to me, "You look as though you're on the way home from Glastonbury".  It occurred to me that perhaps, mentally, I am always on the way home from Glastonbury - the Glastonbury of 20 years ago, anyway (older person getting sniffy about how such events aren't what they used to be!).  

On the way home from Glastonbury, 1993!

Anyway, I was thinking, on the way to Morrissons, not only about how we dress to express our personalities in a conscious way, but also how we tend towards different styles, as a subconscious thing.  A few years back I worked for a woman who was younger than me but much more 'straight' (please note: I am not talking about sexual orientation here!! - I mean that her idea of a fun night out was probably a Celine Dion concert) and I remember her asking me if I would ever get my hair cut.  

"Why don't you have it cut into a nice bob?" asked she, to which I replied, "Because I'm not a 'nice bob' sort of person."  

Not a 'nice bob' sort of person ~ 1990

Which kinda summed it up, really.  I always found office clothes difficult, which is because I am not one of nature's admin workers.  Couldn't do that neat skirt, tights and shoes bit.  It was easiest when I was just given a uniform, like for the Nationwide Building Society - I love jobs with uniforms, you don't have to think about what to wear each morning!  I used to find that my work clothes were too 'square' (lovely old-fashioned phrase!) for my normal wear.  I felt almost restricted by them, in the same way as I did the daft office rules.  I think the preferences of your younger days stay with you, too.  I wouldn't wear it these days because I think it would make me look like Bet Lynch, but I always find myself edging towards the leopard print - I try to keep it just for things like make-up bags now, though!  Though my husband is not in the first flush of youth by any means, I am instructed, when buying clothes for him, to ask myself this question before I make a purchase: Would Liam Gallagher wear it?  If the answer is "you gotta be kidding", I must leave it in the shop.

At the height of my rock chickery, 1990

When I was at the height of my rock chickery I always wore short skirts, suede boots, denim, leopard print, huge belts, etc; but I didn't think I frequently go to The Town & Country Club to see Thunder, thus I must dress like a rock groupie - I just did.  I don't anymore; I've moved gradually into the slightly boho-chic look, though not always with a great deal of chic, it has to be said. It wasn't a conscious decision but, of late, my eye tends to be caught by patterned trousers, floaty tops, odd jacket-ish-shrug-ish-waistcoat-ish garments, and the odd scarf!  I try to resist the scarf thing a bit, though - have you noticed how writers always wear them, artfully draped?!  I don't want to look like a middle-aged writer, I really don't.  I draw the line at witty earrings, too.  

Me and my pal Lesley, 2012.  
We may be in the autumn of our lives but we spit on colour co-ordinating separates!!

My sister, who is much more conservative in outlook than me, usually dresses like a smart city office worker.  Okay, she can do 'bag lady' as well as I can, when at home, and can still be seen in an Aerosmith t-shirt if you catch her early enough on a weekend morning, but her well cut dresses and classic tops express how she is, I suppose!  How anyone can be bothered to wear posh dresses when they don't have to is beyond me, but we're all different!  She wore lycra mini skirts and and over the knee boots twenty-odd years ago, too (Julia, remember the black stetson?) but we've just moved in different ways.  

Jools in one of her many smart frocks!

Often, though, people use the way they look as their identity, don't they?  The uniform of the punk, or the biker - or, one that always makes me laugh, the new age traveller types who want to be so 'individual' but actually wear as much of a uniform as the conservative city gent - the dreadlocks, the facial piercing, the tie-dyed trousers, the ex-army jacket.  

As instantly recognisable as the stockbroker in his designer suit...!  People who really are individual don't need a wacky hairstyle to prove it (that's a quote from a character in one of my books!).

For the lacking in confidence, assuming a certain mode of dress can given you an 'in' into a certain club, too - think geeky oddball blokes wearing heavy metal band t-shirts, for instance!! Um.......

Wayne and Garth... or is it???!!

Last of all, I give you the truly insecure ~ the fashion victim who spends £800 on a handbag because it's 'the thing to have'... because that handbag is not a handbag at all.  It's a placard saying "I am not only at the cutting edge of what is hot, I also have enough disposable income to buy it.  Thus, I am better than you".    They don't realise that on the back of the placard it says "I am desperate for approval and admiration."

Not quite sure where else I am going with any of this, huge subject that could be a much longer article - I'd love to hear about your own clothing preferences and any general opinions on this!

Monday 9 September 2013

One of my favourite places!

Lovely Cromer: the Gem of the Norfolk coast!  Written in September 2013 to go with the publication of WHAT IT TAKES which is set in Norfolk, but aside from that it's got lots of lovely Cromerian pictures ~ and memories. 

*What it Takes is on offer at just 99p/99c from 19~24 June*

I love Norfolk and find it hard not to set all my books there; with my latest one What It Takes, I succumbed once more. It's the most beautiful, peaceful place - most of it, anyway; maybe not Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, on a Saturday night, but I like the way it's remained very English, too, and a bit old-fashioned in the nicest possible way. I lived there for nine years and I miss it.

What It Takes is mostly set in a fictional village called Branningham and a fictional town called Aylsworth, but I've also written about Blakeney, Brancaster, Salthouse - and there is a whole chapter set in Cromer, where I used to live, as a tribute to it.

Mostly to amuse any of my readers who live there, but also for those who've read the book and might be interested, here's a run-down of the places mentioned in that chapter, so that they might become more real to you.

Welcome to Cromer!

Photo by Jackie Rivett

First of all, here's where I imagined the guest house to be - the one where Karen and Ava stayed.  See the bigger of the yellow coloured buildings?  I used to live in one of those flats!  Just at the bottom of the page you can see the beach.  It was lovely - instead of a water feature in my front garden I had the North Sea. 

And here's my sister, leaning on the window, so you can get a better idea of how 'in the sea' it was!

Here's a picture of my sister and me outside The Kings Head pub, in winter 2009 - it's where Karen sat in the beer garden with gorgeous sister Ava, wishing she turned heads, too:  "...she took her hoodie off to reveal a faded t-shirt that Karen knew she’d had for years; all the men in the courtyard sat there with their tongues hanging out."    It's my favourite pub in Cromer, was my local for the nine years I lived there, and felt like an extension of my living room at times - so often I'd nip in with my friend Kathryn for 'a quick one' and end up staying for hours - a great place with a really good atmosphere.  Happy days. I love the 'High Street' too - narrow and winding with six inch pavements!

....and here is The White Horse, where Karen met Gavin for her night of passion on the beach!!  I used to walk up that road to go to work every day.

..."Mrs Flowers at the guest house had recommended the café as the best in Cromer, and even Ava untied the leash on her calorie count..."   and here it is, Breakers Cafe, undoubtedly the best!

....with the welcoming staff to greet you - okay, yes, the owners are friends, and I worked there for a little while :)

Please note - there is no need for me to put the exact locations of any of these landmarks, as Cromer is roughly as big as Toy Town - you're never more than ten minutes walk away from anywhere, and usually less.

This is a shot of the old Victorian Hotel De Paris, which Karen could see as she sat on the pier, watching the world go by and drinking the coffee that she wished was a gin and tonic ~ 

".....she could see families relaxing on the right side of carefully situated windbreaks, lone walkers wandering along the soggy sand where sea met land, children splashing in the surf, joined by the occasional teenager in a bikini or mum wearing a t-shirt over a swimming costume to hide cellulite-ridden thighs..." 

To leave Cromer for a moment, this is The Dun Cow at nearby Salthouse, where Danny wanted to take Karen for their reunion day out ... that never happened.

"....he’d read a leaflet about the birds that populated the marshes while he was in the pub on his own, once, and he was rather proud of knowing about them.  He would tell Karen, point them out; spotting them might be something they could do together.  Hey, perhaps they might even become ‘twitchers’!  He laughed at the thought.  Nah, perhaps not... 

... and also nearby is Blakeney, where Karen went for that December walk with Sam, when suddenly everything became clear...

Photos by Jackie Rivett

I've been to Blakeney and Salthouse many times myself, as you can probably guess.

Back in Cromer, here's a lovely photo of the beach, another one taken by the very talented Jackie Rivett - on Christmas Day!  ....where Karen looked out to sea and " made her feel as though nothing else mattered, none of the silly things she worried about, as though she could just keep wandering out into that shallow, warm water, become part of the sea and the land and the sky, and never think about anything else again..."   That's how it used to make me feel, too!     

and another one by Jackie...

one more... I think this one is terrific!

On a far more down to earth note and slightly less picturesque note (!) - here is Budgen, where Karen bumped into her lover Gavin, the morning after the night before, as one tends to do...!  Down the road and just out of sight is the Kings Head pub.  
A friend of mine used to have one of the flats above - a perfect view for the switching on of the Christmas lights in the churchyard over the road...

.... where Karen sat, bemoaning her fate, before meeting Gavin!
  "...She stopped for a moment and wished she still smoked; Danny used to stop on benches to have a cigarette, when they were walking through town.  It was something to stop for, like people walking dogs instead of just going for a walk...."    You can walk up the church tower and look out from the top; it's the highest in East Anglia I believe.  The museum (on the right) is excellent, too.  

I hope you've enjoyed your little tour around Cromer, and if you've never been there, I hope you will one day.  In nine years, never a day went past when I didn't appreciate living there.

Me and my pal Sharon on the prom, 2009

Photo by Jackie Rivett

Sunday 8 September 2013

My impressions of the Strictly Come Dancing premiere last night...

I wrote this last night as I was watching it, and it was originally posted on entertainment site The BizzNiz - which has regular updates on all the reality shows, soap spoilers, etc!

Here they are…. I see Mark Benton’s wearing a blonde wig….oh no, sorry, that’s Vanessa Feltz… Sophie Ellis Bextor looking fabulous… are we sure Ben Cohen isn’t one of the professional dancers? Abbey Clancey looks amazing, but Fiona Fullerton…. that dress is for someone twenty years younger and two dress sizes smaller. She’s a great looking woman, why do they have to dress her up like some X Factor dancer? Give her a bit of dignity!

Right, the couples… who’s going to get hunky Artem??? Promise I won’t make too many ‘murder on the dance floor’ jokes about Sophie… whoa! Lucky Natalie’s got Artem!!! And Deborah hasn’t done too badly for herself with Robin, either! Bad luck Pasha… Rachel Riley’s a bit boring after the divine Kimberley Walsh last year….

Nice bit of Aerosmith…. first thing that strikes me about Jessie J is that she doesn’t look or sound anything like as incredible as she does in the music videos on the Viva channel…

Wondering if all the professional dancers are crossing their fingers they don’t get the ‘joke’ celebrity contestant! And I wonder if when they do that ‘celebrity reveal’ thing, they think “I only know who about half of them actually are”, like the rest of us!!

Two guys thinking, please don’t let me get Vanessa Feltz, please don’t let me get Vanessa Feltz…

Think Susanna Reid is going to win the prize for ‘most irritating’ – but never mind that now, because here’s the fabulous Rod! Wonder if Jessie J will still be around in over 40 years time – I think not!

Aha, now it’s Louis and Flavia – the man who turned it into Strictly Come Gymnastics last year – well, Kimberley should have won!! Love that doctor dance though.

It’s the moment they’ve all been waiting for …. who will get the pleasure of spending 3 months in a sweaty armpit’s reach of Dave Myers and Mark Benton? Though Ben Cohen, luv, you can sweat over me all you like..! And how delighted Karen looks with her hairy biker….not!! Two girls left – one of us gets the hunk, one of us gets…. !!!

Wasn’t the group dance fabulous? Dear little Tony Jacklin! And it looks like Natalie Gumede could win it already!

Roll on the kick off later in the month - who will you be rooting for???!

Sunday 1 September 2013


I intend it to be live on Amazon this Friday morning, September 6th!

If you've read all or any of my other novels, I think the one this is most like is Nobody's Fault, as it's a family drama with twisty bits, too.

Here's the cover and blurb.....

Karen Kavanagh has spent her life feeling like the runt of the family.

Her two elder sisters, domestic goddess Ava and salon owner Saskia, are mini versions of their mother, a gorgeous Danish former model.   Karen has inherited her father's droopy, dull brown hair and long nose - with two Scandinavian sauna babes for sisters, she feels like Cinderella in reverse.

Danny Alvarez doesn’t see her like that.  He thinks she’s wonderful.

Lots of women want Danny, but Danny just wants Karen.

The trouble is, she can’t quite believe it.

She pushes him away ~ and then realises what she’s done…

What It Takes is a tale of insecurity, obsession, sibling rivalry, love and loss, and the games people play in the search for love - because if you love someone with all your heart, you’ll do what it takes to make them yours…


I'm so excited about seeing it out there! I think it might actually be typo free, too - I really think we've caught all the little blighters this time, or is that tempting fate???!