Monday, August 31, 2009


Rex was blow drying my hair and he says: "Do you know the difference between boys and girls, Mummy?"
"Tell me, Rex," I said.
This is the Gospel According to Rex:
1. Girls have long hair and boys don't.
2. Boys have big ears and girls don't.
3. Boys can jump over the sofa and girls can't.
4. Boys are more sensitive than girls.
I ask him if he'd mind using the curling brush to smooth back my hair while he's blow-drying.
He says: "I can't do two things at once."
Another universal truth about differences between boys and girls

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I put on a pretty apron this morning and just like Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie I cooked everyone eggs for breakfast. Nick wanted fried eggs with bacon. Maud wanted an egg white omelette with thinly sliced tomatoes and a tiny scraping of cheese. Rex and Flor had hard boiled eggs mashed up with butter and Bea had a soft boiled egg with toast soldiers.
What sort of eggs did you have, Ma?
Well, I was so exhausted by the time I'd cooked everyone else's eggs I preferred to go back to bed with a cup of tea.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Love and Summer

William Trevor
I was sitting in the beauty parlour, with my nose in Love and Summer and the Indian lady who was scrubbing my feet said: “What’s that book about, that you’re reading?” I told her it was a love story, set in rural Ireland in the 1950s. “That sounds interesting,” she said. Then I told her the author is an eighty-one year old man. Suddenly she was very indignant. She said, “That’s disgusting. A man that age shouldn’t be writing about love. He should be praying and waiting for death.”
Well, all I can say is thank goodness William Trevor doesn’t have pedicures at my beauty parlour. For his novel Love and Summer is so exquisite I had to pace myself reading it, so it wouldn’t end too soon.
Rural Ireland in the 1950s was a deadly boring place. Nothing ever happened. And nothing happened the next day either. Little wonder some of the jaded inhabitants of small town Rathmoye are driven to taking an unnatural interest in the activities of their neighbours. It’s either that or going stark staring mad.
This is the story of Ellie, a foundling reared by nuns. She’s sent to work as a servant for a farmer whose young wife and child were tragically killed in a tractor accident. The farmer is still in love with his dead wife, but proposes marriage to Ellie. Their marriage is silent and respectful. He puts the meat on the table and she cooks it.
The story is also about Florian, a diffident, wealthy young man, who dabbles in photography. Florian’s parents are dead, his love for his cousin is unrequited; he has decided to emigrate out of Ireland. All summer he’s killing time, reading and smoking, seeking distraction, until his inheritance is sold.
There’s a funeral in Rathmoye and Florian cycles down to photograph it. Here he meets Ellie, and here he is first observed by Miss Connulty the spinster daughter of the dead woman. In her youth Miss Connulty fell victim to the oily charms of a travelling salesman. The romance ended badly and since then she has not trusted the intentions of any glamorous stranger appearing in Rathmoye. When she sees Florian talking to Ellie, she immediately jumps to the conclusion that he intends to seduce her. Miss Connulty – we don’t know her name – is determined this should not happen.
“Aloud, and firmly, she stated again that she intended to protect Ellie Dillahan in whatever way should be necessary.”
Miss Connulty cautions Ellie that Florian is bad news. She advises that love is a madness. But her wise words of experience go unheeded. Ellie rushes headlong into a love affair; she secretly meets with Florian at a tumbledown gate lodge where no-one can see them. And as the date for his leaving approaches, she knows she’s fallen in love with him...
William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork. His parents worked for a bank and the family moved often, from one small rural Irish town to another. He started his career as a sculptor but is best known as a short story writer, who writes about “loneliness, alienation, middle class marriage, the plight of the elderly, the eccentric, the pathetic; the unloved.” He has won many literary prizes, all of them richly deserved.
VERDICT: My father in law is eighty- one, and always says he feels exactly the same as when he was twenty. The only thing that has changed is a stiffness in his joints. Bearing this in mind, I hope William Trevor never considers himself too old to write about love.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's a Writing Thing

This is a writing tag from Claire
What word do you use too much in your writing?
'that' - it's the way (that) we Irish speak - I delete an unnecessary 'that' from nearly every sentence I write.
Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
'years of age'. Why? Why? Why? 'Anne is 41' tells you everything you need to know (perhaps more than you need to know!)
What's your favourite piece of writing (written by you)?
I wrote 'How I Met my Husband' for a Valentine's Day newspaper feature. On the days when I could wring Nick's neck I read it over and remember: 'It was immediate and amazing. A thunderbolt. It was friendship and passion rolled into one. It was easily recognised from the very first moment. And even though in the past fifteen years we've often been apart with his work and mine, I've never doubted it.
Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn't written?
No, I express myself much better in writing than I could ever do face to face.
How has your writing made a difference?
I lost a lot of friends at the start, or maybe they were never friends.
Favourite words
"Daddy's home!"
Least favourite words
(Your novels) 'would be a hard sell to a mainstream UK publisher.'
Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
Nancy Mitford - I read The Pursuit of Love when I was 21 and decided I too could write a witty novel about an eccentric family. I started The Pineapple Tart the next day.
Writing Ambition?
To write a novel which is not a hard sell to a mainstream UK publisher.
Enchanting Alice comes out in paperback, with a different cover at the end of September 2009.

Now I'm going to ask the following writers / bloggers to answer the same questions:
Deborah Riccio
Kate Carey
Alison Irving

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

sisters of misery

This is the prettiest book cover I've ever seen in my life. If I saw this book in a book shop I'd rush in and buy it immediately. But I'm not going to read it, oh no, because the title sounds a bit sad, and I don't 'do' misery lit.
I think I might frame it instead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Child's Play

It's too hot to send them outdoors - so the tartlets have been trashing the villa with their 'imaginative play'. First they ran a massage parlour, and took it in turns to karate chop each other. Then the girls dressed up in tutus and performed 'modern dance' to classical music, while Rex used the sofa as a trampoline. I suggested they sit down quietly and watch a bit of TV, but they preferred to change into fairytale frocks and smear their faces with make-up; Rex took photos of them posing. I notice in this photo Maud is wearing my wedding shoes, and Flor has pushed out the lenses of a pair of children's sunglasses, and that's my pashmina Bea has screwed up in a ball over her shoulder ...

Monday, August 24, 2009


There's no music at gym, because of Ramadan. Actually, there's nobody at the gym, except me, for everybody else is fasting. So I took my husband's ipod and went for a run to Nirvana who are not my usual cup of tea, I'm more of a James Blunt girlie. Except I can run forever to Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Come As You Are, and Lithium... Soon I had five miles run and I was bursting with energy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The Revenge of Lady Muck will be my seventh published novel. And I'm just as excited about it as I was with the birth of the first. Perhaps even more excited for Amazon preorder didn't exist when The Pineapple Tart was a baby. Lady Muck is due (out) on 29 April 2010.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good Old Days

I've just received another 'funny' email about how life was better for children in the 1970s - because we ate simple home cooked food every day, then ran outside to play...
The truth of the matter is that I was made put on my wellies and I was sent outside every morning, straight after my breakfast porridge. I hid in the hay barn, reading Enid Blyton, waiting to be called for a dinner of mince and potatoes. Then back outside again I was hunted, to ride a fat pony bareback through wet fields, cold and bored, waiting to be called for a high tea of bread and eggs.
I don't recall anything 'funny' about it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Nick and I went out for dinner because we're expecting Ramadan to be called tomorrow and, once called, all the restaurants will shut for a month. We went to Cico's which has been here since prawns and avocado were fashionable. I asked for the mushroom risotto starter as a main course.
Nick said: "Please remember we're walking home and the humidity is 85% and the temperature is 40 degrees. You'll have that tiny starter sweated off in ten minutes."
He ordered spaghetti carbonara, then a steak, then tiramisu.
He said: "There's no way I can stay two stones overweight unless I keep eating."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The foot scrubbing lady from the previous post persuaded me to have my eyebrows threaded. Then she said, "I will remove your moustache."
What moustache?
"Madam has a moustache."
I'm a Celtic red head. There's hardly a hair on my body, and what's there is fine and fair - the waxing woman charges me less than everybody else. If I have hair above my upper lip (I cannot write 'a moustache') it is also fine and fair.
"No thanks."
She's insistent. "Madam has a moustache."
Of course doubt begins to seep in. Maybe there is a moustache and I haven't noticed it - is that possible? Maybe it's only a few stray blond hairs...
"All right, then, thread the moustache," I say.
The tartlets wake me this morning and the oldest one says "What's wrong with your face, Mummy?"
I dash to the mirror to discover, to my horror, a rash on my upper lip, where my 'moustache' was wrenched out by the threading lady.
Now I really do have a moustache.
And the added worry that when the hair starts to grow back it will be a bristle.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Love and Summer

So I'm sitting in the beauty parlour with my nose in Love and Summer, that I'm going to review for the Belfast Telegraph, and the Indian lady who's scrubbing my feet says: "What's that book about, that you're reading?"
I tell her: "It's a love story. Set in rural Ireland in the 1950s."
"That sounds nice," she says.
Then I tell her that the author is eighty-one.
She's very indignant. She says "That's disgusting! A man that age shouldn't be writing about love. He should be praying and waiting for death."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Twelve

Stuart Neville
Gerry Fegan is an assassin. His tally of kills is impressive. At point blank range he has shot dead twelve people. These include a teenager who told tales, and a policeman collecting his son from school. A bomb he planted in a butcher's shop killed a mother with her baby.
It's not much to boast about -"I'm hard enough to kill you." Little wonder Gerry has no friends and his mother disowned him before she died. Even among the gangsters he runs with, his reputation precedes him; there's such a thin line between fear and respect; he has become a pariah. Only the desperate with nothing to lose will confront him. The grieving mother of the dead teenager demands to know where her son's body lies.
How can Gerry live with himself?
The simple answer is that he can't. Everywhere he turns he's surrounded by the ghosts of the twelve. They haunt his waking hours and sabotage his sleep. Even after too much whiskey he can hear them screaming in his dreams.
The sort of man he is, Gerry decides the only way to stop the screaming in his head is to kill those who asked him to kill: the godfathers who controlled him, the hard men who kept their hands clean, and the weak men who betrayed their friends for money or from fear.
As Jesus said in the Bible: "...for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt 26:52)
It's clear from the story that Gerry was always good at his job. Even now in the horrors from drink he can still kill cleanly and quickly. And cover his tracks with stealth. His first revenge killing is Michael McKenna, an unscrupulous business man who years before ordered him to shoot the teenage boy.
At McKenna's wake Gerry meets beautiful Marie McKenna. With her Uncle Michael dead, Marie is at the mercy of the head honcho godfather, Paul McGinty, who may or may not be the father of her little daughter Ellen. McGinty's now an important politician, he has his reputation to consider, he wants Marie out of the way. But Marie refuses to let him run her out of town. When things get nasty Gerry helps her escape with Ellen to a safe house in the country.
I suspect had he made some different life choices early in his career Gerry Fegan might have become a glamorous James Bond character for Marie obviously fancies him and he's not so cold blooded he can't befriend the fatherless Ellen. Even now, if only the voices in his head would leave him alone, there might be a happy ever after for Gerry and Marie and Ellen.
It's not to be. Gerry resumes his vengeful vendetta. He shoots dead a double crossing policeman who sold information about his fellow officers, he stabs a priest who turned his back on dying men, he batters to death with a brick a bully boy who was happy to pull out a man's teeth with pliers but left Gerry to finish him off with a bullet.
Soon the ghetto's in uproar. Gerry is opening a can of worms that everyone wants to keep closed. Next on his hit list is McGinty who ordered him to plant the bomb which killed the woman and her baby in the butcher's shop. But if McGinty is killed, the fragile peace process, thirty years coming, is in jeopardy.
Gerry Fegan must be stopped.
Double agent Davy Campbell, a man of remorseless callousness, is unleashed by his government handlers and pointed in the direction of Gerry, with one instruction: "Stop him."

Friday, August 14, 2009


I went to a very grand grammar school. It was academic and sporting and perhaps a wee bit elitist. So I was very flattered to be asked to give out the prizes on Speech Day this year and my major decision was: "What am I going to wear?"
Something effortlessly elegant, I decided, something that shouts: "Yummy Mummy".
Now I've discovered I'm also expected to give an "amusing and motivational" speech.
Oh no!
Oh yes, and just to make me really nervous, last year's guest star was a rugby playing nuclear physicist who works for NASA - he gave such amusing and motivational speech everyone is still talking about it.
It has always been my motto - If you can't dazzle with brilliance, then just concentrate on dazzling...
So there's been a quick change of plan on the outfit. Bye Bye yummy mummy, I'm now going to wear one of the minuscule frocks I flaunted myself in when I was 25. Thank goodness they still fit and I look OK provided I cover my sagging knees with black fishnets.
The plan is that the audience will be so busy trying to see up my skirt they won't listen to a word I'm saying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Showing My Age

My fifteen year old niece lent me Twilight and I devoured it, no pun intended. Last night we sat in her darkened bedroom, watching the movie version, while the grown-ups made small talk down stairs. Hannah is madly love with the vampires but I have an embarrassing confession. I thought Chief Swan - the heroine's dad - was the most attractive man in the movie...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

God Send

We scrubbed up the tartlets this morning and took them to Morning Prayer, to discover there's a summer camp running all week in the church, and they are very welcome. Hurrah! Three child-free hours every morning - what am I going to do with myself?

Saturday, August 8, 2009


The gorgeous Alison at AMIdesigns has asked me to list six things about myself:

1. We used to live in Africa. The tartlets each had a nanny who carried them tied to her back.
2. Thanks to the African sun I've had two melanomas removed, one from my leg and one from my tummy. Doctor refused to oblige with a tummy tuck when he was cutting out the abdominal cancer.
3.I'm popular in the spirit world - ghosts pull my clothes from behind. But only Irish ghosts, I've never been spooked in any other country.
4. My favourite jam is blackcurrant.
5. I love my husband. And I fancy him. I think he's even more attractive now than when I married him. And this not just because he makes me a cup of tea in the middle of the night when I wake up and can't get back to sleep.
6. I'm allergic to rhubarb, it makes my tongue swell up.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Regular readers of this blog will know my latest 'work in progress' is about a randy vet called Charlie whose long suffering wife despairs of finding sexy lingerie (not her own) in their horsebox. It's all fights and fornication round horses, don't you know? I'm still at the research stage of writing so I'm rereading James Herriot's veterinary memoirs, and I watched the showjumping on Sky Sports yesterday.
To my utter surprise I recognised many of the competitors - there was Nick Skelton who holds the world record for the high jump - 7'7" he jumped on a stunning grey horse called Lastic, in 1978. I remember watching when they did it. And there was Robert Smith, son of Harvey, and doesn't he look like his dad? I wonder does he use the same colourful language when he's leaping a jump as large as a motor car?
These plucky fellows now have grey hair and middle aged, weather beaten faces. They are old enough to have sired the fillies they are competing against!
"Doesn't experience count for anything anymore?" asked my grey haired, middle aged husband in a huffy voice.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Do You Want To Know a Secret?

There are always time in life when it's absolutely necessary to escape into pure frivolity. I'm currently suffering one of these episodes - the children are off school for the summer holidays and I have them undiluted for 14 hours every day. They wake fresh at six every morning , they demand feeding every two hours, they have boundless energy even after a five mile walk or 40 lengths of the swimming pool or an hour on the trampoline. And they never stop talking. Help!
To balance out such effervescence I swung past the fluffy end of the bookshop. I was seeking a pastel cover with a scribbled lower case title and bubbling prose on the blurb. I was seeking a bit of a laugh. With Do You Want To Know a Secret? I was not disappointed.
This is classic chick-lit. There are three friends with three problems and I'm happy to say that Claudia's heroines are not 20 years old with a shoe fixation - they are professional women in their thirties, with problems I can identify with.
Our principal heroine is Vicki, a successful career woman who seeks a relationship with a DSM (decent single man). Unfortunately, the minute one comes on Vicki's radar she gives off desperation vibes and the DSM runs a mile.
Then there's Barbara: she has no trouble attracting men but her career as an actress is a non-starter. She's classically trained yet auditioning for a part as a life sized cigarette in a Nicorette commercial. And Laura who has sacrificed a glittering career at the Bar to mother four unruly children: her useless husband has abandoned her for 'Miss Human Botox'.
I was particularly fond of Laura; it's comforting to realise I'm not the only mother of a pre-teen girl who frets about her weight and thinks she's going to marry a Jonas brother.
At a Mind, Body, Spirit, Health and Healing exhibition the friends learn that 'the universe' will help them achieve their heart's desire provided they think only positive thoughts (Think positive, and attract positivity, think negative and attract negativity).
Fortunately our heroines have a bit of sense; they accept simplistic new age drivel with a pinch of salt; in addition to asking 'the universe' they decide to help each other. Vicki is a great organiser. She owns a PR company and sets up from scratch a three night run of Shakespeare in the Park to showcase Barbara's acting talents. And she encourages smart, sharp Laura to write about her challenging children instead of only complaining about them, and to enter what she has written in a short story competition.
Thanks to Vicki both her friends achieve their heart's desire: Barbara gets her big career break and Laura lands a job as a columnist on a glossy magazine.
But what of lonely Vicki who seeks only a DSM? Barbara is great with the men so she takes Vicki out on the town and vets all those who chat her up.
Vicki is inundated with dates except she seems to have attracted loser men (in my opinion anyway): eager Eddie who's desperate for a woman, ex-files Pete who's still in love with his ex-girlfriend and boozer Tom, or is it Tim? Vicki can't quite remember....
Disheartened, Vicki immerses herself in work and wins a big contract with Best Advertising - she'll be working alongside Daniel Best, the gorgeous, single managing director...
Less fattening than a chocolate bar, but with just the same mood-enhancing qualities, I highly recommend Do You Want To Know a Secret? to all stressed out mothers counting the days until their children go back to school.