The Stangest Thing: 2013 365 Challenge #189

Well done, Andy

Well done, Andy

Phew! This Sunday, Andy Murray became the first British male winner of Wimbledon in 77 years. People will ask one day, what were you doing during the match? We spent the duration trying to juggle love of brilliant tennis with necessary parenting.

There’s a bit in the Disney movie Tangled where Flynn Rider is fighting with a frying pan against a horse wielding a sword. Flynn says, “You must know, this is the strangest thing I’ve ever done.” (It’s one of my favourite moments in the movie).

Well, this afternoon I found myself watching nail-biting awe-inspiring 30-shot-rally tennis, cuddling a hot, sweaty and mostly naked two-year-old (it was HOT this weekend), while listening to Disney’s Jungle Book in German on the iPad (after daughter found it on YouTube). Bear Necessities, the elephant marching song, all in loud German. I have to tell you, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever done!

Amazing tennis (even watching the last set surreptitiously while doing jigsaw puzzles with a bored and close-to-meltdown four-year-old ). Amazing kids, surviving Mummy and Daddy cheering at the TV. Thankfully little man slept for the last 90 mins. And can I say, Andy Murray? Thank your sweet heart for wrapping it up in three sets (even if it took as long as a five-set match). The children were not going to survive another set!

So, Wimbledon is over. Back to working without distractions. Lucky I don’t have Sky Sports: The Ashes starts this week.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire looked for blonde hair, amidst a sea of children and cages, and felt her heart quicken when she couldn’t find it. Ignoring the pulse throbbing in her neck, Claire turned and searched, standing on her tiptoes to peer over rabbit runs.

“Over here, Auntie Claire. Look, come and see the ducklings.”

Sky’s face peeped around a wooden barn door, and Claire exhaled. Her head spun as the oxygen flooded her lungs, and she strode over towards her niece, trying to smile.

“Poppet, you gave me a fright. Can you tell me first, if you’re going to go out of sight? Your Mummy isn’t going to be happy if I lose you.”

Sky’s bottom lip quivered and she hung her head, her hair falling to hide her face.

“Sorry, Auntie Claire. I wanted to see the ducklings.”

Feeling guilty, Claire dropped to her haunches and brushed the blonde hair away. “Auntie Claire isn’t telling you off, sweetheart. I was worried, that’s all. Show me these ducklings.”

The wobbly lip vanished and Sky’s face lit up. “This way!” She pulled at Claire’s hand, nearly tugging her off her feet.

Claire grabbed the door frame to steady herself. “Hang on, Sky. Let me stand up.”

Sky released her hand, and ran forward into the barn. Claire followed, allowing her eyes to adjust to the gloom, after the unexpected spring sunshine outside. The room felt dank and cold and smelled musty. In the corner, Sky crouched down beside a wooden pen, her hair perilously close to the heat lamp hanging overhead.

“Be careful, Sky, mind the light.” Claire reached out a hand, to tug Sky away, but the girl had already moved.

“Aren’t they cute?” Sky pointed into the cage and Claire peered over the edge. Half a dozen scruffy ducklings huddled beneath the heat lamp. Their grey feathers stuck out at all angles and patches of pink skin glistened in between.

Claire thought they were the ugliest things she had seen in a long time. Conscious of the Ugly Duckling story Sky had read as part of her homework at Easter, Claire hitched a smile on her face.

“Beautiful, Sky. They’re lovely.”

Sky turned and grinned. “Mummy says they’re scruffy and ugly, but I like them. I think their bald patches are funny.”

Claire laughed. With kids you never got it right.

Sky dragged her into the next barn to see if the ferrets were awake. The smell hit Claire like a house brick, and she surreptitiously covered her nose. She didn’t want to be like the posh mummies she’d seen, trying to keep their white jeans clean, or striding around in their pristine Hunter wellies. But, really, the smell was awful.

Sky hopped up and down next to a large cage with hammocks and tubes in sections. The smell increased as she approached, and Claire was glad there was nothing in her stomach.

“The ferrets are always asleep. They’re so boring. And they smell.” Sky wrinkled up her tiny nose, and Claire wondered if she was somehow testing her Auntie to see how much she could endure.

I think I’ve endured enough. Time for coffee.

“Very nice, Sky. Would you like some cake?”

Her niece spun round, hair flying, and grinned. Claire ignored the pang of guilt, as she remembered Ruth’s request that Sky eat something healthy. Somehow she felt she sure she wouldn’t bribe Sky to the coffee shop with a promise of soup and a roll.

I’ll make sure it’s carrot cake.


Tennis and Temperatures: 2013 365 Challenge #180

Murray having a dip in the 3rd set

Murray having a dip in the 3rd set

Today was meant to be about cleaning (my Mum and her in-laws are coming for lunch tomorrow) and my son getting his new bike.

We managed the second part – collecting the bike from the friend who kindly picked it up from the ebay seller. Unfortunately, it’s been raining most of the day and, during the short time he had a go, he fell off twice. The downside of buying online is not being able to feel how heavy the thing is. My son’s new bike is much heavier than his sister’s. He’ll get used to it. Of course now my daughter has decided she needs a new bike, because the new one is a bit bigger than hers.

We got back from the supermarket to discover that littlest Martin had a temperature of 38.9C (102F). Then Mummy Martin began to feel poorly too. So this afternoon has been about survival, paracetamol and running round with no clothes on (him, not me!)

It's raining, the roof is shut on Centre Court

It’s raining, the roof is shut on Centre Court

We fell asleep watching Tangled and littlest Martin got a bit hotter (39.9C). Started planning a trip to the walk-in centre, but thankfully ice cream seemed to bring it down again. Darn bugs.

Now we’re curled up on the sofa, kids are watching TV on the iPads and I’m watching Wimbledon. I’m meant to be editing Baby Blues to send to the proofreader on Sunday (haven’t abandoned the cleaning. They’ll have to take us as they find us), but my brain is fuzzy. Wondering if I should put her off for a week or two, but I’d rather not.

Murray was playing really well, until I started watching, and now Robredo is fighting back. Oops. Oh, he won. Good stuff.

Is it bedtime yet?________________________________________________________________________________

Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“Claire, thank God you’re already here.”

Kim ran across the terrace and threw herself into her friend’s arms. “I’m so nervous. Find me gin, please. Tell me I’m doing the right thing.”

Claire laughed and hugged Kim tight. “You’re doing the right thing. The bar will open soon. Everything is going to be fine. The ceremony isn’t until 4pm, and it’s only 9 o’clock. Calm down.”

“I’ve been awake since 5am. Poor Mum, I’ve been driving her bonkers. She didn’t want to leave so early, but I insisted.”

“You stayed locally last night?” Claire cursed under her breath. If only she’d known, it would have been the perfect excuse to escape Michael. “I thought you had rehearsals.”

“I told them I couldn’t make it and they should give the understudy a run through. The director didn’t like it, but as they’ll all be drinking at our expense this weekend, they can just lump it!”

Claire’s brain reeled with the barrage of words. “I thought we were paying our own way? Wasn’t that the point?”

“Jeff’s parents are insisting on providing alcohol. They’re horrified that we asked everyone to cough up the cash. Jeff’s Mums says it’s common.”

The girls linked arms and walked to the edge of the terrace, taking a moment to appreciate the rolling hills spread out in front of them.

“What are you doing out here, anyway? Have you had breakfast?” Kim turned to face Claire.

“I’m hiding from Michael. I had breakfast early, and I’ve been out for a walk.”

“Michael, what’s he doing here already?” Kim frowned and pursed her lips, the sparkle in her eye fading.

“He came last night, the same as I did.” She saw Kim’s expression, and grimaced. “Not with me! I came to make sure I was here when you arrived. He had the same thought. Actually, I suspect he came to talk to me before I became caught up in wedding fever.”

Kim made a face as if she felt sick. “And did he? Come over all mushy?”

“Didn’t give him the chance. You’ve never heard so much relentless nonsense spilling from my mouth.”

Kim raised an eyebrow. “I probably have. Poor Michael, I almost feel sorry for him.”

Claire glared and swung out at Kim’s arm. “Cheeky cow!” She laughed. “Come on, I need a coffee. Let’s go and find the bridal suite and get you settled in. I want a bounce on your four-poster bed!”


“Oh, Kim, you look amazing.”

Claire stood in front of her friend and felt tears well up. Brushing them away, she reached forward to tug at a ringlet and straighten Kim’s string of pearls. Between them, she and Kim’s Mum had curled the red locks and pinned them up carefully to hide any blonde roots. The cream charity shop wedding dress fitted perfectly and contrasted beautifully with the red roses and stargazer lilies in her bouquet. Claire smoothed down the pink bridesmaid dress they’d managed to find for her, in the same shop. It didn’t fit quite as well as Kim’s, and she’d had to pin it to her bra to make sure it stayed in place.

Time had drained away like bath water, too fast for comfort. Claire had successfully avoided Michael, who’d been sent to put up signs, usher arrivals to their rooms and generally make himself useful. Every time they bumped into each other, he opened his mouth as if to speak, and Claire found a reason to escape. Flowers to be collected, the cake to be checked, hair to be dressed, make-up applied.

Now, it was ten to four, and everything was ready. Jeff had arrived and been whisked to the room allocated for the civil ceremony, while Kim hid in the bridal suite.

“Having it all in one building is genius,” Claire said to Kim, as she whisked a final brush of blusher across her cheeks. “You don’t need to worry about cars breaking down, traffic, parking or anything. I once knew a girl whose limo didn’t turn up, and she was an hour late. No one told the groom: he thought she’d changed her mind. It was awful.”

Kim shook her head, as if brushing off a pesky fly. “Don’t tell me things like that. Knowing my luck I’ll trip on my dress, fall down the stairs and break a leg.”

“That’s why you have a maid of honour. It’s my job to hold your dress and, if need be, carry you to the altar to say your vows before the paramedics arrive.”

Giggling, the friends linked arms and headed for the door.


Sleep-deprivation and sport distraction

Me and my son holding the torch (we borrowed it!)

I’ve got behind on everything recently. I blame the weather. I have to, I’m British!

Actually, the weather isn’t helping much at the moment, random as it seems. For those reading across the pond, it has been raining in Britain since the water companies imposed a hose-pipe ban back in April. Seriously, I don’t know the statistics, but I would guess it has rained nearly every day since then. Not great when you have kids. There are only so many things to do indoors when you’re three and 21 months. I’ve taken to letting the kids take off their clothes and run around in the rain, or dressing them in their all-in-ones and wellies and heading out to find muddy puddles.

Anything to wear them out and help them sleep.

Child #2 is waking every few hours at the moment, largely I think because he isn’t tired. He’s a boy, he needs to run. Husband is snoring like a steam-train, because his hayfever seems to have gone off the scale with the rain. So, yes, I can blame the weather!

On the other hand, the sport distraction I can live with. My kids have had a hard lesson in “sometimes Mummy needs to watch her own TV programmes, rather than endless Peppa Pig,” as I have been following Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France (fabulous rant, Bradley, well said) and Andy Murray at Wimbledon (great match, moving speech, thanks for making me cry!)

Watching the tennis final, my daughter decided to support the man in the bandage (Federer) and was very pleased that “her man won”. I am trying to be a good Mummy, and let her support whomever she wants to, rather than educating her in national pride at the tender age of three!

At the torch relay last week, my children inadvertently became part of the entertainment, as they ran around in the rain, jumping in huge puddles, while we stood in Burghley Park waiting for the torch. That is, until a steward asked my friend and I to stop our kids, as they were splashing bystanders, including a woman in white jeans. I ran over to apologise, but she couldn’t have been nicer about it, thankfully. I am always touched by how lovely complete strangers can be.

The kids and I also got to hold the torch afterwards, which hopefully Child #1 will at least remember when she is older. I certainly will!

All of this means I haven’t done much writing. I am trying to finish my Young Adult book Dragon Wraiths in time to enter it in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition in September. However it is the first time I have had to create a World for a novel (my romances are all based in the UK or New Zealand), and it is proving a challenge, particularly on 2-3 hours’ sleep.

I spent today drinking gallons of tea, making notes on the history of my new World, and tying my brain in knots. It is more my husband’s sort of thing. I like reading fantasy and science fiction, and have always loved the worlds created, but I have never aspired to create my own. Well, until I woke one morning with this novel in my head. On the plus side, I re-read the 45,000 words already written and, apart from some inconsistencies in the history (due to lack of planning, ahem) I am pleasantly surprised at how well it reads. It’s always nice when it turns out you’ve exceeded your own expectations.

Anyway, husband is away tonight, so I’m looking forward to some snore-free sleep.

Time for bed.

Waiting, Dragons, Tennis and Sleep

Wimbledon 2007 – photo by Kol Tregaskes on Flickr

Pictures of Love, my WIP, is out with beta readers. I’ve never had anyone but family or agents read my work before. The former have always loved it, the latter rejected it. So I wait with more than a small amount of trepidation.

To use the time well (hopefully) I have gone back to my Young Adult book, Dragon Wraiths, which I hope to enter in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition in September. I had put the idea on hold, because the rules state: Women who have had a novel published commercially, for any age group, in any country, are not eligible.

As I hope to self-publish Pictures of Love in August, I figured that meant I couldn’t enter. But I read the rules again, more closely, and it says Self-published manuscripts are eligible, so it’s game on.

Only now I’ve read the rules again I’ve spotted that the entry is 3000 words with no synopsis.


The dragons don’t come in until Part Two, a third of the way through the book, and the weighty stuff about global warming etc comes in Part Three, (assuming I can research enough by the September deadline; it’s a new addition to the story).

How can I get enough plot into 3000 words to hook a reader, and still have character development, voice, YA themes and all that jazz, without a synopsis? I guess I have to finish the first draft and see how much time I have left before I worry about it.

That’s if I can stay awake.

Youngest child has had an ear infection, together with a lovely temperature of 39.2 for days, so sleep has been a rare commodity all round. Husband and I have been staggering about sighing I’m so tired; so much so that it’s my eldest child’s favourite excuse every time she has the screaming heebie-jeebies (by the way, I love that Word has that in its dictionary!).

“But mummy I’m just so tired, that’s why I lashed out and threw something at you.”

I have to bite my tongue on snapping back, “You slept for ten hours last night, I’ve barely had that this whole week!”

One of the by-products of sleep deprivation is that I, too, become a tiresome three-year-old.

As a result, my return to writing today, after two weeks without penning a word, as I wrestled with Lulu printing and e-book formatting (posts to come), only lasted until lunchtime. Then I had to admit defeat, close the laptop and turn on the tennis. I saw about three shots before I fell asleep.

Now I’m walking the dog, hoping the rain and soggy trousers will wake me up enough to finish my chapter before I collect the kids.

Or I might go nap in front of Murray.

This is WriterMummy saying night night.


P.S. Can’t sleep. Murray is making me too nervous. Come on Murray, hold your serve!