My 58-year-old brain is so full that I have only managed to learn one new word of Spanish during our week long sojourn here.  It’s’Medusa’ – which I always thought was the name of that Greek monster-woman with live snakes in place of hair.

Yesterday Faye and I drove 15 minutes in the boiling sun on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road along an unknown route to a beach called Playa de la Cala el Canuelo, where I had to inch the unfamiliar car backwards along the side of a precipice lined on either side by other cars, even though I haven’t paid the extortionate extra-insurance fee they always charge you when you hire cars abroad; and I couldn’t find reverse gear in the Ford Fiesta as it got tangled up in my flimsy floaty top, and the clutch of the manual got stuck under my sparkly flip-flops.

We queued in the boiling sun to catch a minibus down a sheer cliff to the pretty beach below; and finally, I rushed into the cool welcoming water.


I had been stung on the ankle.  I looked around.  There were floaty red jellyfish happily bobbing along on the waves in every direction.  No one else was swimming.  They all knew better.  And after all that effort to get here, too!  No mention of anything like this in a single raving TripAdvisor post!

What to do now? Nothing.  Keep on reading, and order yet another bottle of lovely cooling Cava.  And learn that pesky word: Medusa.

Part Time Working Mummy (PTWM)

Have I gone nice? Perhaps I’ve just got sunstroke.

Passing through the foyer of our hotel in the Costa del Sol yesterday, I picked up a book left and forgotten by some previous guest,  called “Part Time Working Mummy“, because it looked a bit like the sort of thing I’m trying to do.

And it made me cry. Proper tears. Me. Who has never cried at a book since they took Boxer away in Animal Farm over forty years ago.

This book is published by something I’ve never heard of called ‘Trapeze’, and it’s written in even more childlike pros than mine, but maybe, just maybe – unless I’m suffering from holiday-weirdness – it’s changed the next chunk of my life.

Somehow I have found myself glued to it for the past 24hrs.  Why had it passed me by?

Well, now I know. ‘Part Time Working Mummy’ was only published a month ago, and it currently lies second in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List.

It’s written by somebody called Rachaele Hambleton who lives down the road from Dartmoor in the Brixham/Paignton area, who wrote a facebook page a couple of years ago about a Mum she’d observed going to work every day in Shaldon, which suddenly, out of the blue, received 20,000 likes.

Rachaele’s blog now commands 420,000 followers, and her simple little book, clearly written straight from the not particularly well-educated heart, is doing better than all the other books listed on Amazon of similar ilk, eg “Why Mummy Drinks”, “Why Mummy Swears”, and “The UnMumsy Mum” (also written by a Devon-based blogger mother).

Racheale’s story of neglect and abuse is, quite simply, harrowing. She and I come from opposite ends of the spectrum. And yet here we are, both blogging away our day-to-day stories of life as a mother of teenagers in Devon.  Racheale has turned her new-found profile into a force for good, her main causes being the abused and the bullied.  Well I have recently been discussing with Will the sort of charity that I should be contributing to, and I think this could just be it. I probably wouldn’t even notice £10 p/m, but somebody else might.

I’m also thinking of setting up some organisation whereby the abused might enjoy a moment’s luxuriating in left-over B&B toileteries, and possibly using their old bedding. Maybe some of my colleagues might offer half-price rooms during low-season or something. Maybe I should foster a child or two, once mine have completely fled the nest.

I think I should meet this Rachaele woman and see how I can help.  I am fascinated by her world and feel I am in a place now, where I could become involved. Or maybe it’s all simply summer holiday fantasy land.

Whatever – I could invite over her new husband, ‘Bird Nerd Josh’, a policeman who has clearly, immensely bravely, rescued Rachaele, and whose greatest passion is rising at 3am in order to spot some rare bird or other on Dartmoor. No.  I don’t understand the attraction either.  But I could at least offer him a spare bed.

Just as I did to Dartmoor-lover Sara Cox from Radio 2, who still hasn’t got back to me, and almost certainly never will.


Modern Mother

Is she unconscious or worse – drowned – in a pool of her own vomit, just six foot away from me on the other side of the bathroom door? Or has she checked in with me, only to sneak off again in order to have sex with some anonymous Nigerian boy?  Where is she? Her bed next to mine is empty!

This is the second night running my beloved sixteen-year-old daughter has returned back to our hotel at 4am, after a night’s clubbing with some English children she met on the beach on our first day.

Last time she reported that the world was spinning after she’d downed a Pina Colada; two Jagermeisters (whatever they are); a beer, three tequila shots and a dark brown syrupy one. All for just over a tenner.  And all imbibed by a sweet woman-child whose preference over dinner with me is still a Coke-Zero.

And now she’s disappeared again – I suspect to lie down on the marble floor of the baking hot bathroom, with her head and bum as close to the loo as possible.

Should I check? Should I disturb her? Will I sleep at all if I’m not certain that she’s actually there?  The comfy long roller-pillow of her bed is missing.  Surely she must be on the other side of the bathroom door nestled down with that?  I hope so anyway…



Dating Site for Posho’s at Last!

It’s called ‘Toffee’. Set up last April by a brave lady called Lydia Davies, and immediately, predictably, lampooned by endless (privately educated) journalists writing for things like the FT and the New Statesman.  Who, in my opinion, have completely missed the point.

We’re not simply on the hunt for posh, wealthy, idiotic, Hooray Henry’s, Henrietta’s and Sloanes.

Around 5% of the UK population is privately educated, and, in my all too many years’ experience at the dating game, it is almost only those 5% who understand where I’m coming from.

“How would you cope at a dinner party where everyone’s comparing their children’s private schools, their hunt, and where they keep their yachts?” I’ve started asking anyone ‘messaging’ me on Encounters.

“I can’t think of anything worse,” is the normal answer.  So good.  Nobody’s time or money has been wasted on stuffing unnecessary calories into my mouth.  While that sort of evening is by no means taking place every night of my life, ultimately, it’s deal breaker – for both parties.  Anyone partnering me to such a thing will have to be bloody clever/interesting/funny/eccentric/open-minded, if they’re not familiar with the private school thing, if it’s going to work.

So. Toffee!  The answer to my prayers! What I’ve been looking for, for practically ever!

Well the first problem is, you can only get it by signing on to an app, whatever that is, on an up-to-date i-phone.  Eh? How many privately educated people like me have got those? Why restrict the service to so few?

This has meant I’ve asked darling Faye to sign me up on her Dad’s hand-me-down. She started asking me questions about how much I like sport, Henley etc. So of course I said I love the whole lot, just to make me have loads in common with everybody on the app.  I had to say what my favourite starter, main course and pudding are, and if I were a drink, what would I be? All this, trying to use the titchy keypad on Faye’s phone. It’s driven me demented and prevented me from contributing anything individual or witty.  And you can only use one pic, of your face, like Tinder.  And, like Tinder, you have to ‘right’ or ‘left’ swipe.  Anyhow – we managed to wade our way through all of that and cough up the requisite £4.99 til at last I found my posh matches! Three of them! All in their forties, educated at very minor schools such as Shiplake, and living 200 miles away from Dartmoor.

Faye is so unkeen about all of this that I havent succeeded in getting her to look up people of her own age yet; but maybe the real problem is that we’re on holiday in Spain’s Costa del Sol; so the likelihood of a single Old Wykehamist, Harrovian, Etonian, Radleian etc, apart from me, being within a million mile radius, is almost certainly zero.

Being Thin

I devoured a large chocolate for breakfast.  It was thick dark whipped truffle, sitting in a crisp white chocolate base. And it followed a little icing-sugar-covered croissant stuffed with custard.

Just an experiment, you understand. To see what it’s like eating such delicacies first thing in the morning.

I always think you can tell how much people consume, simply by looking at them. I can usually tell who’s going to want a double full English in my B&B. No surprises that one of the fattest men I have ever seen helped himself to four similar pastries at breakfast yesterday.  I really don’t want people to think I’m like that – or bulimic or something, as I stretch out and admire my newly long, lean brown legs, and look down at my tanned tummy the first time I have seen such a thing for ten years; now that I’m dressed in just a bikini – for the first time since everything went wrong a decade ago.

And all of this has been made possible simply by not eating. Or drinking. For three months. A total weight loss of around 1 1/2 stone.  Half a sack of horsefood.  Quite a lot really, and I look quite different from the liner I was becoming. Yet is’s all so simple to achieve.  You Just Consume Less.  No cutting out this, mixing that, eating some days but not others, or horrible drinks made from powder.

Most of us have simply got used to eating and drinking more than we need. Simple as. An occasional rumbling tummy is a healthy sign – not something to be feared.

While we don’t want to make ourselves short of key vitamins and minerals, nor deplete our energy resources – I seem to be fine.

I don’t have very good mirrors at home but Faye and I are currently on holiday in Nerje, on the Costa del Sol, in a luxury suite with floor to ceiling glass cupboard doors, and I am astonished by what I see reflected back at me. I’m thin!  Well quite thin anyway. I even bought a little white dress yesterday, and I look nice in it! I never thought any of this would ever happen again!

The trouble is – who or what is it all for? Nobody is interested nor cares. Nobody is going to see it, feel it, appreciate it.  I have nobody to share this whole new me with.  And it makes me feel that almost all the ordinary men on the dating sites will be ‘punching’ – a new word used by the young meaning ‘punching above your weight’ – now that I look so amazing.

What was it all for, and how long will I manage to hang on to my new lithe self if I continue with chocolates and custard croissants for breakfast?

I am looking forward to fitting comfortably into my £450 hunt coat again, when the season approaches, looking good on my horse and being able to leap on and off her again.  And that’s about it really.

She Nearly Died!

Phwaor! What a stink as you come in through the entrance of the most expensive B&B on Dartmoor.

I light a Pecksniff’s scented candle I’ve just bought from TKMaxx for £3.99, to drown the smell emerging from the washroom, but it’s so old it doesn’t smell of anything anymore.

Too late – my B&Bers are here, and the pretty young girl is immediately engulfed in such a fit of coughing that I think she can’t breathe and is going to die.

We agree that in future she and her handsome young boyfriend will use a different door, and I check out the offending wash basket.

I thought lovely young daughter, Faye, had done all hers, before setting off for the ghastly Boardmasters Festival in Newquay – the initiation ceremony of all West Country sixteen-year-olds into the world of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll and general passing out.

We had already discussed the merits of ecstasy over cider, as it contains far fewer calories; but eventually we plumped for some vodka from the larder, with “Do Not Steal” written large in indellible blank ink all over it – as every bottle I’ve ever bought seems to disappear when my beloved son Will (19) is at home.

Faye prepared for Boardmasters by carefully pouring the contents into several miniature water bottles so as to get past the festival security people. Rather than getting on with her washing.

So now I have disinterred seven damp towels from last week’s surfing holiday, as well as five sweaty pairs of jodhpurs from our break in the New Forest the week before that.

At the end of her short break, I whisper to my cherished B&Ber Caroline, “Might you dare have a sniff of the normal entrance now – it smells of Persil…”

But no – this is life-threatening stuff. She makes her way, smiling, out of the normally-locked front door.  She managed a 20 mile hike yesterday, tramping in the hail across Fox Tor Mire (Grippen Mire in the Hound of the Baskervilles, in which somebody drowns in it), so she can’t have been all that close to death after all.

It would be wonderful if she and her other half (they only met five weeks ago through ‘Tinder’ – hope for us all) return soon, and he pops the question!

Book Club for Lonely Hearts

I’ve been asked to speak at a “Meet the Author” evening in September, at the Hotel Du Vin to something calling itself ‘The Pi Society’.  I’ve googled it and, surprise surprise, it describes itself as providing an ideal way to find your perfect match, offering you personal and friendly service to help you fulfil (sic) your social and personal lives, combining a professional and discreet matchmaking service with local social networking events. A dating agency in Exeter with a heart.

Yikes! I’m not even published yet! How embarrassing!

I reply:

“I’m not a published author, more a would-be one.

I can talk about how to get your book printed on Amazon and Kindle, and also about how to approach agents, the sort of response you get (there are 4 million books on Amazon and the agents only use about one in 700 of the submissions they receive), and why you need to go to them, rather than going direct to the publishers. But sadly I can’t (yet) talk about how to become a successful writer!”

Well she still wants me to do it, and is coming to Dartmoor to meet me in my B&B next week.  Oo-err… I wonder how many people will be there? And whether I’ll manage to pull some lonely-heart-bloke without paying their subscription?

The nice helpful agent of the unusual surname also told me that if you get 21 reviews on Amazon, it kickstarts something in the system which might end up on an email bulletin they send out each day, recommending books.

Crikey Moses! Perhaps this talk could get the ball rolling, and I might finally sell a copy  of “Back On The Shelf” at last!

Create a Blog, she said.

“I’ve chosen to approach you personally because you share the unusual surname of an old mate of mine – he was in Dad’s house at Eton . His brother, Bob, once threw up all over me at some Exeter Uni party…”

At least this agent replied:

“Well, this definitely wins for original approach! Michael is a second cousin – he is married to another literary agent – unless there is more than one Michael.

I have also looked up your B&B, looks beyond fab.

Anyway, I find your writing hilarious, suited to a blog. You are v good at writing in excerpts / snippets. Do you use twitter? Basically you just need to get people following / liking / sharing and then further down the road when you have a proper blog following, you think about the book.”

So – three books already written and available on Amazon, and here I am. Back blogging.

I will become a successful (if not respected) author, if it kills me!