Monday, 12 December 2011

KOLKATA - The City That Never Sweeps.

Calcutta! What sensuous energy does this name evoke? Maharajas riding painted elephants. Tiffin wallahs serving British Officers on colonial club lawns. Dark exotic beauties with jasmine in their hair. . .

Forget all that. It’s called Kolkata now and it’s a drab, decaying bag lady of a place behind whose tragic eyes – if you look hard enough - still burn the dying embers of an old remembered flame.

And yet this savage city is still able to seduce, to draw you in and clutch you against her pounding breast.

At first glance, everything seems hopeless – broken down, bashed up and busted. Great mountains of garbage litter the streets, picked over by dogs, cats, vermin and, pitifully, children. Amidst this detritus, the street people live, families of pavement dwellers who gather beneath flyovers and on sidewalks with nowhere else to go. They’re not ‘homeless’ as we know it – the street is their home.

And yet they live with dignity, rising at dawn from their concrete mattresses to perform the holy ritual of cleanliness. There, at any nearby standpipe, they wash themselves with diligence, brushing their teeth and scrubbing their clothes in the abundant waters from the annual monsoon rains.

When it was first suggested I visit Kolkata, I politely declined. I’d always longed to travel through India but saw myself more suited to the marble palaces of romantic Rajasthan. The purpose of the trip proved irresistible however - to meet a man I’d worked with when I was just 19, the prolific author Dominique Lapierre whose epic masterpiece The City of Joy documenting life in the slums of Calcutta was translated into 31 languages and made into a film starring Patrick Swayze.

I’d first met Dominique and his co-author Larry Collins in Spain in the 1960s. Whilst researching and interpreting …or I’ll Dress You in Mourning, the biography of the iconic bullfighter Manuel Benítez ‘El Cordobés’, I was flung into a relationship with the charismatic matador. Now, 46 years later, here was my ex-boss offering to introduce me to yet another world.

In the early 1980s, Dominique Lapierre and his wife journeyed to Calcutta to meet Mother Teresa. The experience moved them so profoundly, they felt compelled to help the under-privileged children of West Bengal. These tiny scraps of humanity perished by the thousand, victims of malnutrition, poverty and diseases almost eradicated in the Western world.

The City of Joy Aid Organisation was founded as a non-profit making humanitarian project dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, educating and ameliorating all those little lives. By donating millions of dollars of his personal royalties, Dominique’s altruism and that of his supporters has created a network of clinics, schools, hospital boats and rehabilitation centres so that children who would otherwise have died of leprosy, tuberculosis and malaria, or grown up blind or crippled by polio could learn to read, write, walk, talk, play football and best of all, smile.

My mood as I packed for the trip was ‘flapprehensive’. Travelling alone, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the term ‘city of joy’ was probably an irony, and as I locked my front door and left the luxury of my home, I was already looking forward to unlocking it on my return.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


“In an uncertain world, all things are ‘usually...’”

So said our guide on our first morning in Moscow in response to the question: “Is it usually this cold in November?”

He followed this philosophy with another Russian gem:

“Take wodka on waking then you von’t have to vorry all day what time to have your first drink.”

Russia has always held a macabre fascination for me. Both sets of grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants chased out by the Bolsheviks in the late 1800s during the pogroms. One uncle was thrown in the Volga with rocks tied round his ankles. Another was cut off in his prime by marauding horsemen wielding sabres. No ‘Mother Russia’ gathered my family unto her breast and so they dispersed in the diaspora to Buenos Aires, Brooklyn and Bayswater. Yet here I was returning to the land of my forefathers.

I’m not sure what I expected of Moscow but it wasn’t what I expected. I’d seen the footage of grey-coated, fur-hatted armies marching across a snow-brushed Red Square while grim-faced generals took the salute. I knew about the poverty and deprivation, families living ten to a room with barely a bowl of barley soup between them. I’d heard of dissidents being tortured by the KGB and youngsters yearning for a simple pair of jeans. But when Communism collapsed, Moscow went West to bring bling to the people.

Moscow is the capital of the world’s biggest country, the beating heart of European Russia. The architecture is a fusion of splendour and austerity: affluence in the shape of ornate Belle Époque classicism battling for supremacy over inevitable Cold War concrete. Lavish cathedrals with golden cupolas stand serenely in the shadow of thick set apartment blocks. Flashy shop fronts house French and Italian franchises; restaurants serve Asian Fusion cuisine and late-night Karaoke bars proclaim the shaking off of state-imposed imperialism.

The centre is spotless; wide avenues called ‘Prospekts’ are lined with grand baroque buildings reeking of Tsarist times. Dark forbidding structures in which 007, 8 and 9must surely have been interrogated seem less sinister with a branch of McDonald’s at street level.

Our agenda for Day One offered a City Tour but it omitted the word ‘walking’. The implied coach, minibus or private car was, in fact, Sergei, on time and on foot. We set off into the cold crisp morning ill-equipped against the Siberian wind that whistled through our very bones within minutes of leaving the overheated comfort of the National Hotel.

The pavements around the Kremlin are kept pristine by a militia of lady cleaners diligently disposing of every stray fag end, waste paper or leaf that dares to fall. One of them was beating the hell out of a tree so her co-worker could rake up the remnants and cart them away. Autumn and its attendant untidiness is not welcome here...

To be continued...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Check out this feature in today's INDEPENDENT:

Great publicity for BLOOD ON THE SAND!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011



Please tell all your friends to tell all their friends to download it onto their e-readers, computers, laptops, i-Pods or i-Pads.

The link is:

and it's priced at a bargain £1.71! How cool is that?!

Here's what the press says:

The first novel from the bestselling author of THE TOYBOY DIARIES (Old Street Publishing) this is set in the vividly evoked and heady atmosphere of 1960s Spain.

BLOOD ON THE SAND IS a highly entertaining, raunchy and fast-paced drama as young Cassi Samuels sets out from swinging 1960s London into the arms of El Macho, the leading bullfighter of the day. From innocent virgin to abused wife living her life in the eye of the media, Cassi faces tragedy and the ruin of her dreams.

High in emotion, the story takes us on a roller-coaster ride through her life and loves in the heat and dust of Andalucia.

This remarkable novel is inspired by Wendy’s own romantic involvement with the iconic matador El Cordobés. Wendy came to be part of his circle when she was acting as the Spanish interpreter for Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins then working on the biography of El Cordobés: '… or I’ll Dress You in Mourning'.

BLOOD ON THE SAND is a fictional imagining of what might have been, had Wendy stayed in Spain and married her bullfighter.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I have at last up - or is it down - loaded my first novel BLOOD ON THE SAND onto Amazon Kindle. This is very exciting!!!

It came out in Spain last year but will be available any day for all my English friends to read. I'll keep you posted on the link so you can get Kindling. You don't need to own an actual e-reader - you can down - or is it upload the programme onto any PC, Mac, lap or desktop.

It's all been so exhausting I now need to lie down in a darkened room so until the next blog, have a little read of this review to whet your appetites and thank you all for your support.

We are in the early ’60s. Cassi Samuels is an English girl of 18 who lives with her parents and older sister in London. She’s an innocent ingénue and one thing is clear: losing her virginity to just anyone is not on her agenda.

On a trip to Spain, she discovers the passionate world of bullfighting. On returning home, she covers her bedrooms walls with bullfight posters as if they were film stars. A little later, she flunks her exams on purpose and convinces her parents to allow her to complete her language studies through travel. Her destination: Andalucía.

Fate introduces her to a writer commissioned to write the biography of Rafael Romero “El Macho”, THE bullfighter of the day. As Cassi speaks Spanish, she is employed as interpreter which allows her to meet her idol.

But things do not go according to plan: although he is attracted to her, it is only to add her to his list of conquests before treating her with the utmost contempt. In any other circumstances, this should have sent her scurrying home but Cassi is inexperienced and thinks what has happened is normal. She is therefore prepared to give him another chance, especially when her very traditional family disinherit her after she tells them she’s in love with a bullfighter.

Locked away on his ranch expecting their child, she becomes the victim of a violent husband who has no intention of ever being faithful.

What captivated me most about this novel is without doubt the intensity of the characters’ feelings. It is a novel of extremes: on the one hand we have “El Macho” being cruel and cool, prepared to achieve his goals even if it means harming others – and on the other hand we have the young Cassi, naive, sweet and easy to manipulate often seeming silly for not opening her eyes.

There is no middle ground. The other characters are either charming or hateful and it is impossible not to side with Cassi and wish with all your heart that her situation improves.

This novel is very dramatic. It transcends the normal romantic genres which often seem superficial and trite with over-idealized love stories.

In this book, great passion is transmitted to the reader which shows that the author has achieved her purpose. The book becomes a perfect choice for those looking to enjoy a good read with authentic feelings and conflicts between the protagonists.

Importantly, the intensity of the feelings grow as the story progresses. When things start to seem predictable, something unexpected happens that grips your heart and gives you butterflies.

The author retains the reader’s attention and knows when and how to enhance the highlights. I often thought “too much melodrama” while reading, but I don’t think this is a defect: it is sometimes good to read a book that reflects the best and worst of human passions.

The other noteworthy aspect of this novel is its entertainment value. It hooks you with its simple yet fluid style and has everything a read should have. As many people only read for entertainment or to escape reality BLOOD ON THE SAND achieves this.

There is plenty of action and the story never stagnates. It has surprising twists, which in this genre are not always easy to find. It’s impossible to get bored.

If this were a film adaptation, it could be a pretty decent movie. The book is very visual and precisely because it is full of passion, it would work well on screen.

BLOOD ON THE SAND may not be the soap opera of the century and despite being listed as ‘romance’, it goes beyond the clichés of this genre. This is a work full of passion that never leaves the reader bored. The plot twists take place at the right time; the story is very well constructed. I enjoyed the flavours of gypsy Spain and the extremism of the characters. Formally, these are not positives, but I found them entertaining just the same.

In short, this is a highly recommended option if you are a demanding reader who enjoys books full of passion and feeling.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


They always were a strange lot, the Catalans: not content with force-teaching their children a language for which they will have no use in the outside world, they have now compounded their autonomy from the rest of Spain by banning bullfighting.

I know many of you will be clapping and cheering at this news . . . and that is your prerogative. Bullfighting has always been a contentious subject: never the Brits’ cup of tea – more like the Spaniards’ jug of sangria - BUT it is as much a part of Spain’s rich culture as flamenco, sun-drenched beaches, medieval cities and a bottle of full-bodied Rioja drunk in a noisy taberna with a plate of jamon Serrano and some garlic-infused olives.

The ancient art form dates back to prehistoric times when bulls were worshipped and then sacrificed. Later, the Romans staged many human-versus-animal events and religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in local plazas, where noblemen would compete on horseback for a royal favour.

The populace enjoyed these displays so much that Spain introduced the practice of fighting on foot around 1726. Bullfighting then spread to Central and South America and in the 19th century to France, where it is now more popular than ever.

But back to Barcelona. Yes, it’s a fabulous city with its gaudy Gaudi architecture and unfinished Gothic Cathedral. The streets heave with tourists all the year round. But if the Catalans had their way, they’d cut themselves off completely from the rest of Spain and float the province out to sea – the equivalent of Cornwall disassociating itself entirely from Great Britain and banning cricket in the process.

Many Barcelona-based aficionados are now robbed of their right to watch their fiesta nacional on their own doorstep. They will have to travel far and wide to support their favourite matadors. They’re not best pleased about this. The vote only just scraped by in parliament. Fans are distraught that their freedom of choice has been taken away in what many see as a political move. And the Catalans still indulge in the much more barbaric practices of bull baiting, taunting and torturing than the artistry and tradition of la corrida.

Barcelona's 18,000-seat bullring was completely sold out last Sunday. Tickets changed hands at thousand of euros apiece. Those who couldn’t get one slept on the streets hoping to pick up a last minute day seat at the gate.

The closure of the city's two bullrings (Las Arenas - The Sands - is now a shopping mall) enrages more Spaniards than it pleases. La Monumental where the final fight took place on Sunday would have Juan Belmonte, the founding father of today’s style, spinning in his grave. . .

Sobbing spectators grabbed handfuls of sand as they left the ring to save for posterity. They hope to throw it back in one day if the ban is lifted.

I don’t wish to argue the point as to whether bullfighting has a place in modern society or not. The brave and beautiful bullfighters who face death every afternoon have bigger balls in every sense than the higher-earning footballers which whom they compete for the front pages. Their successes and failures are reported on the Arts pages though, not the Sports pages.

I have a vested interest in the subject as my first novel BLOOD ON THE SAND is about to be released on Amazon Kindle.

Based on my experiences in the 1960s as the girlfriend of the world’s most famous matador, El Cordobés, it’s a visceral love story between an innocent, young English girl and a hot-blooded Gypsy matador set against the backdrop of Andalucía.

I saw my first bullfight at the age of nine. I was immediately captivated by the colour, the pageantry, the music, the drama and the depth of feeling between a heroic man in a satin suit of lights and 600 kilos of raw killing machine.

Spain has soul. Spain has passion. The bullfight has gore and it has glory but those who don’t want to watch it don’t have to buy a ticket.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


...that gave it away - the bagel he was eating when I boarded the train: wrapped in foil, richly laden with smoked salmon and cream cheese, obviously homemade! That was what had made the alarm bell go off.

As the week progressed and our date at The Dorchester drew near, I asked myself the following questions:

Did I fancy him enough to get involved if my suspicions were justified?

Was he tall enough, gorgeous enough and charismatic enough for me to do the dirty on another woman for the sake of what? A roll (or a bagel) in the hay with a 60-something who travelled 2nd class?

The answer was an unequivocal NO!

And so I texted him again.

About Thursday...will Mrs W be joining us?

He phoned me immediately.

"Er, you're right," he said, "there is a Mrs W but..."

"Stop right there. That's not what I'm about, thanks, so I won't be joining you after all."

"I quite understand." He sounded disappointed. "I'll delete your number and never contact you again. It's just that you were so engaging and I thought..."

"Bye." I said and hung up.

I wasn't always that moral. Had he looked like Clooney, Pitt or Gere, Mrs C, P or G wouldn't have bothered me one iota. I've done Other Woman and I've done Mistress and both can be a lot of fun but I'm evolving, and although I'm not sure what I'm looking for at the moment, I know I'm not looking for that.

* * *

Following a family holiday in Spain in which I went from Glamour to Granma without passing Go or collecting my 200 euros, I'm now in Edinburgh at my beloved Fringe Festival, the highlight of my entertainment calendar.

It's peeing with rain as usual, but apparently there is no such thing as 'inclement weather', only inappropriate clothing. And so I don the mac and boots and pick up my umbrella and set off up The Mound for another round of comedy, theatre, magic and performance art.

When I get back, my novel BLOOD ON THE SAND launches on Kindle. I need you all to download it PLEASE! You can read it too, if you like, and tell everyone else you know to do the same - it'll be free or cheap as chips to begin with but the more people show interest, the higher up the Amazon sales ranking it'll go!

I'll let you have a firm date in my next blog then you can help me spread the word, so until then enjoy the rest of summer and look out for more details soon.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


I get on at London Paddington and walk through the train to my designated seat. I don’t like it and the carriage isn’t full so I sit down somewhere else.

A smart-looking man gets on and sits across from me but one row forward. He opens a briefcase and removes a bagel wrapped in foil. He separates the two halves, examines the contents, rearranges the smoked salmon and begins eating. I open my laptop and start to work.

The train sets off. After about 20 minutes, the man gets up, looks around, comes over to me and says: “Could you please watch my things for a moment? I’m going to get a coffee.”

“Sure" I say, "and when you come back, I might ask you to return the favour so I can get something.”

“Would you like me to bring you back a coffee?” he asks. I hesitate. I had more in mind a fruit juice but I don’t want to start making demands so I say: “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

When he returns, he makes a bit of a production of putting my coffee down on the tray, arranging a sachet of white sugar and one of brown with a wooden stirrer alongside. I thank him profusely and get out my purse. He waves his hand at it dismissively but continues to hover. I do not want to get involved in conversation. I have two hours of dead time ahead and I want to work.

He returns to his seat. We both sip our coffee then look at each other because the drink is just bitter hot water. Truly disgusting!

“I’m sorry about this!” he says. “I really can do better.” I shrug, smile, mutter something placatory and carry on writing.

At the next station a group of noisy schoolchildren get on. Their teacher instructs them loudly where to sit then barks at them to eat their sandwiches and clear up all their rubbish. The man and I catch each other’s others eye and acknowledge the disturbance.

As we near Bristol, he gets up and prepares to leave the train. As he passes my seat, he leans over and proffers me his business card. “Seriously," he says, "I’d be delighted to buy you a decent cup of coffee some time?"

I’m slightly taken aback but I smile and say: “Maybe...”

I look at the card. His office address is close to where I live but it occurs to me that if he was the sort of man I’d like to know I’d have preferred him to be travelling to his business meeting in the back of a chauffeur-driven Bentley or at least in the first-class carriage.

An hour passes. I’m now distracted and slightly bored plus my laptop’s running out of juice and I can’t find anywhere to plug it in. So I pick up the card again and I text him.

“I’m not much of a coffee drinker but you do owe me a decent cup!”

We text on and off over the next couple of days. I’m staying with a friend in Devon but on the Sunday night, when the man obviously estimates I will be home, I receive:

“May I have the pleasure of inviting you for cocktails at the Dorchester on Thursday evening?”

That’s more like it! I think. “How very charming!” I reply. “But I can’t do Thursday. Weds any good?”

He doesn’t reply for about 3 hours, re-arranging his life, presumably. Eventually, I get: “Weds perfect. Building up my charming points. 6.30? X”

Then an alarm bell goes off in my head...

To be continued

Thursday, 9 June 2011


7.58 a.m. Woken by frantic text from daughter: Got tonsillitis :( Could you pls pick N (aged 3) up from nursery and keep him for the afternoon? It would really help if you could give him supper and a bath and bring him home ready for bed. Pls Mama? XX

Bugger. That’s my day shot to hell. I love my grandson, oh I do, and I can always write a book, meet my PR agent, go to the hygienist and buy a hat for Royal Ascot some other time. Soon he’ll be all grown up and won’t have time to see me anymore. I know I am blessed. I throw on some clothes and make-up and run to the shops.

I buy ingredients to make healing chicken soup then pick N up at Little Monkeys. He hurtles towards me and throws his arms around my neck. My love cash register kerchings £1,000.000.

Back home, he ‘helps’ me cut the carrots up with a wooden spoon. They go all over the kitchen floor. He trips on one, falls over and bites into his lip. It comes up like a blackberry. He shrieks for his mummy. I give him a Malteser and hold him on my hip while I get the soup on with the other hand. Then I hustle him out the door and down the stairs to go to the park.

When we reach the street, I realise he’s still wearing his slippers. I clomp back up again and get his shoes.

He runs wild in the playground meant for 7-11 year olds just missing being hit by a swing. I run after him shouting warnings then have to scale the climbing frame because although he gets to the top, he doesn’t fancy the twirly-whirly slide coming down. I wrestle him into his buggy while he goes all stiff and march him up the hill.

He spies the ice cream van before I do, so I have no time to spin on my axis and go the other way. He wants an ice cream. I want an ice cream. I want an ice cream. I WANT AN ICE CREAM! It’ll spoil your supper. It’ll spoil your supper. IT’LL SPOIL YOUR SUPPER!

He throws a small fit which I ignore then thankfully, he falls asleep. I sink down on a bench to catch my breath. His mother texts: Don’t for G-d’s sake let him fall asleep or he won’t go to bed tonight. Still feel shite :/

I stride down the hill again singing The Wheels on the Bus very loudly to wake him up. Passers-by glance at me as if I’m nuts. A dog comes up and yaps stridently into N’s face. He awakes with a start and begins to howl.

The pup runs off. I lift him out of his pushchair to give him a cuddle but traumatised by his rude awakening, he has a little accident. I rummage in my bag for his spare panties and get him changed al fresco. He does not appreciate this ignominy, poor mite.

Back home, we struggle up the stairs. He just about makes it to the loo to finish what he started earlier then he wants ‘computer time’. I put on the longest Peppa Pig clip I can find and he sits quietly for about eight seconds before playing Bang! Bang! on the keys of my laptop although I’ve told him not too. I quickly save and close an important document I haven’t backed up and am terrified of losing.

I give him supper, answer a couple of urgent emails but ignore all phone calls, then I put him in the bath. He happily splashes water all over the room while I rush to redo my hair and make-up and get changed into smarter clothes.

We play: “Where’s the little boy gone?” while he hides beneath the towel then I get him into his pyjamas, put the pot of soup into a strong carrier bag, totter everything downstairs, strap him into the car seat and drive him home.

He repeats: “Where’s MisterManintheMoon, Didi?” on a continuous loop the whole way back. The night sky is cloudy but can I explain that? I hand him over to his father who’s just got in, put the saucepan of soup on the hob, pop in to check on my poor, sick daughter who’s trying to breast feed the baby without breathing on her, then I rush off to the theatre feeling guilty for not having cancelled it and stayed on to help out.

I arrive just in time, flustered, and when I open my bag to switch my mobile phone off, a tiny pair of damp Y-fronts fall out. My date raises an eyebrow.

“Still seeing that toyboy then?” he asks.

I wink at him and relax back in my seat to watch the play.

Friday, 6 May 2011


Conscious of not having blogged for way too long despite having promised to do so. Sorry, dear reader . . .

I've been in Spain - not an excuse as such but what with the weather, my sister, my nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, Royal Wedding, bullfights, Holy Week processions (mostly cancelled due to rain - yeah! In Spain while you lot were basking in some kind of climate swap) every time I sat down to write something happened and I had to get up again!

I'm working in earnest on NOW! The New Older Woman which is going well and my agent said there was plenty of interest at London Book Week recently, but the most exciting news (I shouldn't even be sharing as it might not come off) is that the BBC are looking to make a documentary about an older woman who used a throwaway line on a radio programme about wanting to dance burlesque . . .

I shan't elaborate until it's further down the line but I've already been on stage at the Cafe de Paris and may I tell you: it's not for the faint-hearted!

My children will obviously disown me once and for all. I haven't dared mention a word about it and part of me rather hopes it won't come off. If it does, that won't be the only thing coming off as I'm not sure how one can perform authentic burlesque in a twinset and pearls with a tweed skirt and 20 denier stockings on - not that that's my usual mode of attire but the sight of all that young, firm flesh parading itself before my very eyes made me realise that I must be totally insane to even think about trying to 'compete'.

I want them to laugh with me not at me. I'm not going to bump and grind, as on a woman of my age that will look ridiculous. I wish I'd kept my big mouth shut in the first place, yet another part of me is shouting: Bring It On! because after all, how many more chances to do something this outrageous am I going to get?

Gotta get ready for a date now - he's nearing 40 so not exactly a TB but still 25 years younger than me - yippee! By the way, lace top hold-ups don't stay up if you've just moisturised your legs. Just thought I'd share that, ladies, or gents if that is your proclivity.

I'll keep you posted on the rest. Promise.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Holiday romances are a terrible cliché and should not be taken seriously at any cost but I’ve just come back from a Nile cruise followed by 3 nights in Cairo and guess what? I fell in love.

Having steeled myself never to allow another man anywhere near my heart ever again (my body is another matter . . . ) this Prince of Egypt with his devastating good looks, liquid eyes, batwing eyelashes and thick black locks swept me off my feet the second my gaze lit on him.

I didn’t seek it - I didn’t want it - I didn’t need it! - but there it was: heart fluttering like a trapped butterfly, breath catching in my dry throat, clammy palms, nervous giggles – the whole nine yards.

Of course when I say ‘in love’ I actually mean ‘in lust’. He was – and is – drop dead gorgeous.

For the first few days we flirted: little flashes of eye contact, secret smiles, looks than lasted longer than was strictly necessary. A tentative dialogue began: about the temples and the tombs at Luxor, the camel ride to the Nubian village, the felucca boat near Aswan and all the wondrous wonders of his amazing ancient world.

Almost subliminally, he began to materialise wherever I happened to be: on the sun terrace, round the pool, in the lounge, the dining-room, the reception area, the Panorama Bar. Late one afternoon at sunset, when everyone else had gone to their cabins to get ready for the Galabaya Party, I stayed writing up on deck. A lone figure lingered near the prow gazing out as the languid river drifted slowly past.

My concentration deserted me. I closed my laptop and wandered over to where he stood. And when he looked at me directly, up close for the first time, I drowned . . . drowned in the eternal well of his smouldering chestnut eyes.

What quirk of fate is this? I thought. To come away with my sister to a country no one wanted us to go to and find this magician, this weaver of spells, this legend of the Pharaohs right here in my face?

“Hello again” he whispered, as if we’d known each other long ago in another place and time. The words felt like warm treacle being spread across my breasts.

With very little more passing between us, we contrived to spend more time together. Intimate glances became our private language and I knew – as a perceptive woman – that something special had begun.

We snatched an hour on the last night, up on deck beneath a lemon moon - talking, teasing, our voices thick with promise. I told him (rather cleverly I thought) that my mobile was not receiving calls and would he mind dialling it. So now he had my number.

When time ran out, we said goodbye. He took a step towards me . . . then shook my hand instead. The kiss hovered unfulfilled between us in the air, the power of the visceral more intense than the carnal. We had our chance but didn’t take it. Nothing as base as cabin-hopping for the likes of us!

The minute I left, the texting began. I miss you. I need you. When will we meet again? How can I survive without your smile?

God knows what my bill’s going to be but you know something? I don’t care. Connections like this don’t come along that often and although I’ll probably never see him again, it was a lovely interlude.

He’s 41.

And a little bit married.

So now I’m going to get on with my life and not cry because it’s over but smile because it happened.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Wouldn't you like to fly...?

Did I mention I've decided never to say 'No!' to anything again? I’m not talking about that third helping of tiramisù or paddling across the Pacific on a plank, but turning down opportunities which may not arise again. After all, how many more chances am I gonna get? And it’s never too soon to start ticking off boxes on your bucket list cos before you know it the bucket’s gone rusty or you’ve kicked it before your time. The point is not to be frightened and never to think - let alone say: “I’m too old to do that.”

This musing was prompted by an invitation, as previously mentioned, to go hot air ballooning. Wow! I thought. Offers like that don’t come along every day and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I accepted with delight and gratitude but when I started telling people, some tried to bring me down with comments like: “Is it safe?” and “Won’t you be terrified?” which only compounded my desire to go.

The Festival International du Ballon takes place every year at Chateau-d’Oex, a picturesque village in the Swiss Alps. That's where we headed along with hundreds of other enthusiasts and spectators who flock to the town to marvel at the myriad of brightly-coloured balloons of all shapes and sizes taking to the skies.

Everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed as the aeronautical displays took place: paragliding, freefalling, sky-diving and a daredevil stuntman looping the loop in his busy, buzzy biplane. Could this be the famous Jean-Pierre Camembert who always goes down in flames? I wondered - and I knew it was him when I saw his cheesy grin.

The weather was perfect: cornflower blue sky, diamond white snow and billows of impatient inflatables straining to take off. We watched fascinated as the long limp lengths of cloth laid out on the piste were pumped full of air until they rose up like perfect soufflés.

We propped up the Champagne Bar while awaiting our flight and our names were eventually called. Rope handlers controlled the eager vessel as we clambered clumsily into the basket and were then released to soar . . . up, up and away in our beautiful balloon.

The landscape below soon diminished into Dolls' World as we floated freely above the earth – free to breathe the pure fresh air and reach out into the wide blue yonder, no metal wing or plastic pane shielding us from the atmosphere.

The pilot kept the craft climbing with powerful gusts of hot air blasted into the balloon’s body from the onboard gas cylinders. Hot air rises, cool air falls – that’s how it works. I feared my hair might catch fire such was the power of the flames but luckily the tanks were far enough away.

We reached our cruising altitude then drifted lazily across the valley over fields, forests and farmland - on the north side white with snow, on the south, a peaceful patchwork in varied shades of green. Cattle grazed, deer ambled, rabbits scampered homeward as foxes prowled around. It was fascinating to watch from above and you couldn’t help but wonder at this serene and silent world you’d never seen before.

After an hour or so, we landed lightly beside a cow shed, bending our knees as instructed to absorb any impact. The balloon was kept inflated so the pick-up truck could find us then they folded it away, stashed the basket in the back and returned us to our base. If I was asked to describe the experience in one word, I'd have to say'tranquil' for that is the enduring quality of a balloon flight.

Had I said ‘No’, I’d have missed out on a beautiful adventure so I'm glad I ignored the scare-mongers and did what I wanted to do.

I'm ignoring them again on Monday when I leave for Egypt - Gawd 'elp me. Camouflage patterned swimwear is all packed for the Luxor-Aswan trip and sequinned flak jacket and harem pants for Cairo! More about that next time.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


IS IT ME... or is a bloke terrific company until that moment when he falls asleep and starts snoring – the moment when all the cooing and wooing in the world would not be sufficient to stop you wanting to put a pillow over his head or sit on his face but not in a good way?

For all the blokes already bristling as they read this, I suppose some women snore too but not like a herd of hogs at an International Hog Snoring Festival. I could possibly have woken myself up with a gentle purr once or twice in my life but that’s not a capital offence. Someone obliviously asleep while I lie there gritting my teeth is.

The latest incident occurred when Prince Harming arrived after a long-planned preamble laden with foods and flowers and proceeded to wreck my kitchen in the nicest possible way cooking me a sumptuous meal.

Many intimate hours followed: coupling, clearing up, coupling, conversation, coupling, Scrabble, coupling, bubble bath, coupling, massage, coupling - but not necessary in that order.

(As an aside, sometimes all that coupling can be excessive what with the 30-year age gap and his energy levels being slightly higher than mine! Add to the mix a few interruptions from my children asking for maternal advice and recipes and focus can become diverted . . . One has to learn to switch off and on again very quickly in this game!)

Anyway – back to the snoring (if we must). After the last bout of whatever it was we were doing, the prince finally fell asleep. Aaah! I thought. Bless! And actually Phew! But then it began...

I tolerated it for about half an hour. Every time I tried to zone out, give him a gentle nudge, a tut, a sigh, a wriggle, a poke and a prod, it stopped for a second or two then resumed again in earnest. The thing is if I don’t get my beauty sleep, I am less like a purring pussycat and more like A GRUMPY TIGER!

So what to do? The only thing possible: I woke him up and asked him very politely if he would like to go and sleep on the sofa. I offered him pillows and a goose down duvet but NO. He decided to call a cab and go home. At 3.30 in the morning! I confess I was secretly delighted: I could have a shower, take off my make-up, put on my Clarins, stick a couple of rollers in my hair, remake the bed and GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP!

But when he actually left, the relief turned to recrimination. Poor chap being turfed out of my nice, warm bed into the cold, dark night after all that cooking and caressing... Would I ever hear from him again? (I did). And how much did I care? (I did).

I’m going down the local shooting club to buy some ear defenders before he comes again. ‘Cos that was pretty noisy too!

I'll tell you about the hot air ballooning next time. It was COOL!

Friday, 14 January 2011


Considering I'm going to be 65 in 4 weeks' time (how in hell did THAT happen!!) I think it's an opportune moment to take my first hot air balloon flight at the annual tournament that takes place soon in Chateau d'Oex in the Swiss Alps.

I nearly dared in Aspen on my 50th with my then 28-year old long-term live-in lover (yes, that's retrospective boasting!) but it was sooo expensive, and this time I've been invited! : - )

After a blissful Christmas spent in peaceful solitude, I set off early next morning for Montreux where I was treated like a queen for 8 whole days. My hosts had planned a programme of events which included skiing, toboganning, skating, sleigh rides, a fondue in an Ice Hotel (brrr!), lunch on 31st December in a revolving restaurant atop the mountain with the sun shining and a glorious azure sky, sightseeing, shopping and a lorra lorra eating.

On NYE, we laid out a terrific spread, watched the fireworks over Lake Geneva then played charades till 3 a.m. Wot larks!

Back to a world of unnatural disasters: the Brisbane and Brazilian floods on the back of last year's volcanic eruption, unseasonal snow and weird weather fronts makes one a little uneasy about the future.

It's probable that these devastations have been taking place for millenia but with the lack of media and no cities where they're currently happening, who knew?

So far this year, one friend's son suffered a fractured skull falling down a flight of concrete steps, another friend's daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and another one has lost all her money due to a bad investment.

My heart goes out to them. Don't sweat the small stuff guys. Do as I do. Count your blessings ...

I know this blog is short but my resolution is to write little and often. Tell me off if I don't!