Wednesday, 20 March 2013


I used to be completely crazy about the band Tyrannosaurus Rex (later T-Rex) featuring the tangled-haired Marc Bolan who was as famous for his mischievous grin and glitter daubed clothes as he was for his poetry-set-to-music.  

One of the best experiences of my life was managing to get in at the back of Croydon's Fairfield Hall, where they were performing.  I chucked my (glittery) scarf  over the fence, persuaded a security guard to open up the gate and then my friend and I legged it to the stage door, where we convinced the band's manager we were mates of Marc's!  I'm sure he didn't believe a word of it but he let us sit on the side of the stage for the entire performance. 

The evening passed like a blissful dream.  Sigh.  I've always thought Marc Bolan's musical ability and guitar playing was hugely under appreciated, and this is my very favourite track of all time.
Listen to the twang of the guitar;  I defy your heart not to melt....

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Can't resist including this clip from the excellent film of Tom Bradby's novel, SHADOW DANCER.  It's one of those films which inspire, simply because it is so well-acted and so tense and atmospheric.

It stars (and is stolen by) the charismatic actor, David Wilmot, whose brooding face you can see below....

Monday, 11 March 2013


I love looking at pictures of food almost as I love eating it.  So here is a little taste of food-porn - namely the giant Tandoori prawns I had for lunch yesterday.   I was eating at the Shapla Indian Restaurant in Alresford, which The Independent voted one of the top 50 curry houses in all of England.  And so it is.  The food is interesting, delicious and different.  


Alresford is a cute little market town near Winchester, full of posh shops and people wearing wellies and pale-mauve crocuses flowering along the grassy banks.  There is a crystal river on which sit luscious houses.

It's the kind of place where you could imagine Agatha Christie having tea, the kind of place which might be hiding lots of secret murders....

Sunday, 10 March 2013


Today is Mother's Day in the UK - where all over the land countless breakfasts will have been prepared by inexperienced little fingers, while Mum lies in bed, preparing her face in an expression of delighted surprise as she tries to ignore the crashing sounds coming from the kitchen and wondering what kind of mess will be waiting for her downstairs.  

Bit of a bummer that the day during which all mums are traditionally spoilt falls on the same day as the Six Nations rugby tournament*, when England will later be playing Italy and men will be watching from their position on the edge of the sofa, cold beer in hand as they yell their support.

My own two sweet little angels bought me the perfect presents:

Pink flowers in a hat-box from my daughter (just what every romantic novelist needs).

And a boxed- set of Mrs Brown's Boys from my son.  If you're seeking the biggest belly-laugh in the world - then this is what you need to watch.

Happy Mother's Day.

*Ireland were robbed yesterday!

Friday, 8 March 2013


UK readers will know all about the famous brand of toilet paper (Andrex!) which ran (and continues to run) a series of highly successful commercials.  These feature a puppy wreaking havoc in a neat suburban home - his little teeth clamped into some never ending loo-roll - while his perfect ad-land family look on with benign indulgence.  
Here, in the first ever Andrex commercial from 1972, a super-cute little labrador demonstrates a canine version of Mummy Wrap.

Andrex decided to market a soft-toy version of the little dog.  The usual rules applied.  Collect vouchers and send off modest sum and a cuddly puppy could be yours.  This I did and duly presented it to my young son, who was absolutely thrilled with his new toy (what do you mean, *cheapskate*?!).  

Rather touchingly, he called his new toy Puppy.

Puppy became a valued member of the Kendrick toy family.  He was always present for bed-time stories.  He would often try to finish food which fussy eaters had spurned (they soon changed their mind when they saw that greedy little dog about to attack their plates!).  Puppy could often be relied upon to settle arguments or (sometimes) to hold views which coincided uncannily with those of my son's mother.

And then, one day my son was sick all over Puppy.  Puppy stank!  I put Puppy in a plastic bag outside the door, intending to give him a lovely bath - when the dustmen took him by mistake!

My son was heartbroken.  I told him that "Puppy has gone on holiday" and meanwhile I wrote a frantic letter to the makers of Andrex, explaining my dilemma.  The soft toy had long since gone out of production, but they managed to dig one up from somewhere (oh, dear - that makes him sound like Zombie Puppy, but I can assure you he wasn't).

My son was delighted when Puppy returned from his holiday, looking very rested (and therefore much younger!) and normal service was resumed.  Over the years Puppy (naturally, sniff, sniff) became less important in the life of my son.  He was shifted from his kennel (oh, alright - he didn't really have a kennel) and bundled behind books and football trophies.  Eventually, he made his home on top of a dusty wardrobe but I have to say that he never complained.


Last week, my grown-up son was clearing out his room prior to moving to Milan and he and I took bags and bags of rubbish down to the council dump.  As he handed me one of the lighter bags, I saw a dearly-loved and familiar face sticking out from among the paraphernalia of broken sports equipment and odd socks.  You've guessed, haven't you?  
It was Puppy.
I think my son was taken aback by the level of shock and vitriol which was directed at him - and at that point I thought I heard Puppy giving a plaintive little whine from his horrible home in the black plastic bag.
You're wondering what happened next, aren't you (though in your hearts, I think you know)?

Reader, fear not.
Puppy has come home!

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Three lovely things have happened to me today (so far!).

First up, I discovered that A SCANDAL, A SECRET, A BABY is at #116 on this week's USA TODAY Bestseller List

Squee!  Woo-woo!  (And other similar noises of wild excitement).  I can't tell you what a thrill it was to discover that this Tuscan romance is currently one of America's most popular books.  Mainly because it means that readers are enjoying Dante and Justina's emotionally explosive love-story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It handles some big themes and fairly contentious issues - and I'd love to know your views on how the characters handled these.

The second lovely thing to happen was pressing the *send* button on my latest manuscript (provisionally titled PROMISED TO THE SULTAN).  Delivering a book to my editor always makes me feel elated - through a little bit empty, too.  Suleiman and Sara have been occupying so much of my time and thoughts recently that it seems strange to have to let them go.  It's just fortunate that there's someone waiting to take their place, since one of the characters in their story is itching to have a story of his own.  So, you hunky and completely irresistible Mr Gabe Steele - COME ON DOWN!

As for the third lovely thing to complete the hat-trick - well, it has something to do with the first on this list, namely Tuscany.  Lots of you know that I take a writing course there every May.  Some of you have already been published!  Those of you who have attended (and returned, again and again!) will know that it's one of the most beautiful places on earth and you can hone your writing skills to a backdrop of mountains, surrounded by roses and listening to the soothing sound of the nearby river.  Last year we visited the Cinque Terre for the first time - a place about which no superlative could ever do justice.  And here it is.  (The photo was taken on my cell-phone - imagine!)

The May course has sold out and because there was a waiting list, Bill and Lois asked if I would run another one.  You can imagine the arm-twisting which followed - particularly when they suggested the glorious month of June.  There are four places left - so if you're interested, please contact the Watermill and come and join me.

Oh, and if you come back tomorrow, I'll tell you the STORY OF PUPPY.