Monday, 22 February 2010

Once Upon A Time...

... one of the daughters (I shall refrain from saying which one) was invited to a friend's house for tea, and was so excited about going that she forgot to put knickers on.

That's how I feel about being invited over to Nalini Singh's blog as a guest author. Come over and say hello! (I will be properly dressed, I promise.)

Friday, 19 February 2010

It's all a matter of taste

Usually for me these days London means champagne, Abby Green, Natalie Rivers, posh frocks and late nights. That last little bit of the journey, when the train slows down and you can look into the bedroom windows of the black-bricked houses that back onto the line, I’m always excitedly texting either or both of the above to find out their whereabouts and putting away my laptop; but yesterday, as we passed the huge sign that says ‘Euston station 1 mile’ I was frantically collecting up coats and putting away the Travel Chess set.

As it’s half term we went down just for the day to Be Tourists. We’ve done the sights before, but I thought it was high time the daughters - who have lived all their lives in a small market town in the heart of dairy farming Cheshire where everything closes for half a day on Wednesdays - were taken to the temple of overpriced metropolitan tourist consumerism that is Harrods. It was just supposed to be a starting point and a place to meet up with friends: Daughter #1 – who was 15 this week (! How can that be right?) – gets shopping, but the other two are a bit bewildered by too much choice so I wasn’t sure they’d like it.

However, one glimpse of the giant gold Tutankhamen statue in the designer handbag department and they were hooked. We spent the next few hours travelling up and down the Egyptian escalators, wandering around the foodhalls, necks craned upwards to look at the carved and painted ceilings, sniggering at the kids’ frou-frou designer clothes (and squealing over the price tags) sighing wistfully over a pen of Siamese kittens (£900 each) in Pet Kingdom, and wondering whether Ruby the Airhead Cat would prefer a pink Swarovski-encrusted collar or a tiny cashmere poncho and set of matching legwarmers.

As we walked around I realized that nothing much has changed since my mum used to take me there when I was little. Back in those days Harrods seemed like the height of sophistication and exquisite taste and we used to have lunch in the uber-refined Georgian restaurant, with its tinkly piano music and peach-upholstered chairs (both still in evidence, of course.) These days – and maybe it’s as much to do with passports and conspiracy theories as uniformed doormen and No Shorts Allowed rules – Selfridges and Harvey Nicks have become much more synonymous with posh shopping (posh, cool shopping, anyway). Yesterday we weren’t looking to shop. We wanted entertainment and theatre and eccentricity, and Harrods provided them all in spades.

Favourite find for me was the Laduree department, tucked away in a corner of the food hall and accessed through a narrow doorway like Narnia...

I’d wanted to go to Laduree when we were in Paris, but what with daughter #1’s tonsillitis and Daughter #3’s aversion to the metro we didn’t quite get there. Made up for it yesterday, and went round for the rest of the day clutching a pistachio-green bag far prettier than most of the lurid offerings in the handbag department next door, and at £9.50, including macaroons, definitely better value for money.

(Feel this attitude may encapsulate some of the many and varied reasons why I'd make the world's least successful WAG.)

What's everyone else been up to this half term?

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Times they are a-changing. (But luckily The Independent's still on my side...)

So, it was Valentine's Day yesterday. I like Valentine's day - obviously, since I'm a romantic novelist with three daughters who have always appreciated any excuse for a bit of heart-themed baking and table decoration. In previous years that's the way it's gone: we all make the heart-shaped chocolate cake/creme-brulee/strawberry shortcake, they lick the bowl and I bribe them to go to bed early so He and I can light the fire and open the champagne.

This year however, with daughters burgeoning all over into luscious boy-magnets with legions of adoring admirers and romantic plans of their own, it was all a bit different. He and I found ourselves sidelined by the demands of young love, lurking out of sight with a sneaky bottle of fizz and Gordon Brown on television. (Gordon Brown! Not even Robert Pattinson or Ben Barnes!)
This glimpse into middle age and Valentine's Days Yet To Come might have been a bit depressing had it not been for a lovely article in The Independent by charming Peter Stanford, who rang me a couple of weeks ago and caught me at a moment of sheer panic about my book; and whose grave, intelligent voice on the other end of the phone was an infinitely soothing lifeline from the world of sanity. He could have written what he liked after that and I'd still have adored him, but... (ahem) 'early thirties'...
That's got to be better than red roses and chocolates.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

If only...

...I was as well-travelled as my books, because just look where Orlando and Rachel have got to! This is my first Japanese translation, so we were all pretty excited when the postman delivered a couple of copies yesterday. The children were utterly confused by the fact that, to us, it's written backwards. ('That means people will know the ending first' commented Daughter #3 in deep bewilderment.)

In other news, had a lovely time at a workshop in Stoke on Trent library on Saturday. I say 'workshop' as that’s what it was billed as, but not a lot of work went on because we were way too busy talking. It’s an unexpected perk of the job to be able to get out and meet people who share their stories and their ideas, and if anyone from the group is reading this I’d like to say a great big thank you for an inspiring afternoon (and sorry about the Lost Workshop. Hope the printed sheets make sense!)

Actually, anything at all that gets me out of the house (and away from The Book That Will Not Work) is very welcome at the moment. Was thinking wistfully about this time last year, when some sparkle was added to the iron-grey wasteland of January and February by the rugby series launch party and the RNA awards lunch. Haven’t had a proper lipstick and mascara excuse for weeks and can feel the excess Christmas poundage solidifying as the streaks of grey in my hair widen and are matched by my skin tone. At the moment the only glamorous event on the horizon for me is a glittering scene set in Monte Carlo casino in The Book That Will Not Work - if I only I can keep going long enough to get there.

So, what about everyone else? Have you been up to anything lovely that I need to know about? (And has anyone got a ticket for the Oscars or a villa in the south of France going spare?)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Excuse me, but why did no-one tell me...

About Shahrukh Khan??

I don't usually get my hot hero alerts via the News at Ten, but that's exactly where I saw this man last night, promoting his new film My Name is Khan. I'm booking my ticket and buying my popcorn now.

And while we're on the subject of inspiring viewing, I hope all you UK viewers are remembering that tonight is Secret Diary of a James D’Arcy Fangirl. Research gold.

(Ooh, and I've also got to mention that my new mac computer is being very erratic about emailing. I think it's part of its master plan to gradually take control of my life - starting by cutting my channels of communication with the outside world. If you've been expecting to hear from me and haven't, that's why; I'm being held hostage by a despotic machine. Help!)