Marital Battle in the Bathroom

As writers know, the bathroom is a great place for ideas.  Inspiration is more likely to strike when you’re reclining in a warm bath than when sitting facing a blank screen.

While soaking today, I vaguely contemplate the Poppy Appeal, and how achingly suitable the poppy is as a symbol of conflicts from Flanders to Afghanistan, but the brain cells aren’t exactly working overtime.

What’s this I see?  A little green ceramic dish on the edge of the basin. ramekin dishI mentioned it to my other half two weeks ago, and it’s still there, where anyone could easily elbow it off when reaching for a toothbrush, sending it crashing down onto the floor tiles.  Or, God forbid, the hurtling ramekin dish (for that is what it is) could concuss the cat as she crouches in her litter tray.

But does he listen?  Does he heck!  Still, only to be expected when we’ve been married this long (nearly three months, since you ask).  I don’t listen to him either, allegedly.  That is why I keep putting the toilet roll the wrong way round, and always leave my undies near the laundry basket.  Not in it, obviously.  Just next to it (allegedly).  Plus I drape my bra from the taps, which looks like a skinned rabbit and is beyond annoying to someone wanting a bath.   braI fire right back.  He always has the radio on, full blast.  Does he not realise that some of us like peace and quiet?  I neither need nor want aural wallpaper.  And another thing.  Why do we have to have all six bathroom lights on?  OK, a guy might need decent lighting to avoid amputating his Adam’s apple while shaving, but it seems a bit over the top to require 360 watts just to brush teeth.

Then it dawns.  Here we are approaching the annual Poppy Appeal, and, instead of battles like Passchendaele, El Alamein and Goose Green coming to mind, we’re having a ding-dong in the bathroom.  poppiesThe postscript is that peace has broken out in the flat.  We’re not arguing about the toothpaste tube, or the toilet paper that’s the wrong way round (by which he means the right way round, obviously).  The skirmish over the laundry is over, and even the ramekin dish has been moved before the cat had a head injury.

If you’ve read this far, please visit

While you’re there, you might also be interested in the RBL Centre for Blast Injury Studies (CBIS) at Imperial College, London, where academics and military experts work together to better understand and reduce the effects of injury on the human body.   Here’s AnUBIS, one of their research tools.  anubis cropped and big credit

Thank you.

Where on earth can you meet someone?

When you’re 30-something, it’s tough to meet people.  I know a couple who met on an allotment, but, when I tried growing vegetables, all I pulled was a bunch of deformed carrots.

Laura has a similar problem.  At uni, men were young, plentiful and persistent.  Now it’s a different story.

She dreams she’ll randomly meet a hot guy while out shopping.  He’ll have eyes like molten chocolate and a French name like Yves.  They’ll swap phone numbers and then – well, the rest will be in soft-focus.   shoppingIn point of fact, the only time she spotted anyone attractive in a shop, she up-ended her handbag in the aisle.  Instead of helping her collect coins and tampons off the floor while begging for her number, the guy turned away and carried on studying tea-bag prices.

Back to dating websites then.  Where she’s 34, called Emma, pretends she’s not a lawyer, and gives a fake phone number.  It’s a pay-as-you-go mobile she can easily discard.  All those phoney layers will have to come off if (or when?) when she meets someone nice.  She’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Geoff is another character out of my forthcoming novel.  He’s a newly divorced doctor, and the nice pay packet no longer makes up for sky-rocketing patient demand and new government diktats every other day.  During his years working in hospitals, women threw themselves at him, and academic awards came equally fast and thick.  stethoscopeBut he’s been a GP for over 10 years now, and the sea is remarkably empty of fish.  GMC guidelines forbid relationships with patients, and he doesn’t fancy the new receptionist, even if the patients adore her.   Plus there’s a new problem now.  He can’t perform as he once did.

Geoff returns the call to the nursing home.  Bad news: 94-year old Mrs Montgomery fell out of bed again so he’ll have to visit.  She seems fine, they say, but as always the staff want to ‘cover’ themselves.

Get yourselves a duvet, thinks Geoff as he gets into his car.

Karen, now.  Men haven’t exactly been beating a path to her dilapidated front door.  No, her best friend tells her, the meter reader doesn’t count.

Newly single, Karen has 4 children and no job.  She’s still confident she’ll meet someone eventually, even if all the evidence so far is against it.

After a clear-out, today she’s headed for the recycling centre.  It’s on her way to the hairdresser’s for a much overdue appointment, via the shoe repairers and the bank.  Why spend more on petrol than you have to?  Karen doesn’t obsess about her appearance, especially when she’s busy cramming her clapped-out Toyota with bags of garden refuse, broken toys, mouldy trainers, 994-piece puzzles, and clothes that her kids have worn to death.recyclingParking her car in front of the containers, she notices a man in a green T-shirt unloading a wardrobe from the back of his estate car.  Nice buns.

He turns to face her.  It’s a Nike T-shirt, and more to the point he has a great smile.  She makes eye contact and returns the smile with a Hi, ready to talk about the wardrobe, or anything really.

He clocks her, but his smile promptly fades.  In fact he hot-foots it back to his car, driving off a lot faster than the 5 mph limit.

When she gets to the hairdresser’s, Karen is ashamed to see in the mirror just how bad her roots have got, how much garden rubbish she has on her sweatshirt and, in short, how bad she looks.

Michael knows exactly where to meet women.  After all, he’s an accountant, so he’s got it planned down to the last detail.  That’s how he does everything, even watching porn.

More to come in my novel on dating. Meanwhile why not take a moment to share your experience of meeting people? I’d love to hear your tips too.

The Top 5 Cities for Dating

It depends what you’re looking for (and, as a friend rightly says, how old you are, there being obvious differences between Vienna and, say, Ibiza).

I was on the look-out for settings for my latest novel and wanted guidance.  The advisory panel retired to a bar to deliberate the top cities for dating.  Several rounds later, they had discarded New York and Rome, and came up with these five choices.

1.  ParisParis frame 2

For: Possibly the most heavenly city on earth, with no shortage of romantic places for a rendezvous.

Against:  the pickings can be slim, according to a writer friend who lived there and longed for more than a married lover for some cinq-à-sept.


Amsterdam framed2.  Amsterdam

For: Vibrant, hip and imbued with sex as well as culture, this city can put you under its influence without ever going near one of the infamous coffee-houses.

Against: the weather is unpredictable.  And the men love to eat raw fish.

3.  DublinDublin framed

For: A beautiful and historic city, with plenty to see.  And Dubliners are wonderfully gregarious.  There are no strangers, just friends you haven’t yet met – with some bound to be single.

Against: the weather is predictable.  It rains all the time.

Havana framed

4.  Havana

For:  If your idea of dating is to go salsa dancing as soon as you land, or be serenaded to Guantanamera when you only stopped to cross the street, this is the place.

Against: prepare to consider yourselves ‘engaged’ by the end of the night.

5.  Cleethorpes

London was going to be on the list until my friend Rachel convinced everyone how much Cleethorpes has to offer.  There’s the seafront, a lovely pier, a light railway, romantic trams, even a statue of The Boy with the Leaking Boot.*  The Greenwich meridian goes through the town, and the weather’s not so bad if you wrap up warm (you weren’t going to have sex on the beach, were you?).

Despite these obvious attractions, I did the dirty on Cleethorpes.  I plumped for London as the setting for my novel on dating.

I know it’s beautiful, because I live there.  Alongside the obvious pubs, restaurants and bars, there are some of the finest shops in the world.   There’s also free entertainment:  museums, galleries and parks, or just a stroll by the river. Time it right, and you can catch Tower Bridge opening. Tower bridge framed

Cleethorpes may have lyrical trams, but in London a lot can happen on its iconic red buses or the extensive underground system.   Commuters being what they are, you can even give birth on the Piccadilly Line without anyone batting an eyelid.

I set several scenes in Marylebone because it’s buzzing.  There are upmarket grocers, specialist bookshops, funky gadget stores, designer boutiques, not to mention charity shops which stock a lot of designer cast-offs.  Despite there being more cafés, patisseries and restaurants than anyone could possibly need, they’re always full of customers lured by the aroma of warm bread and freshly ground coffee.  Marylebone is very much the place to be, especially if you have nothing very much to do.

The Jacaranda bar, where most of my characters meet, is off Marylebone High Street and has the longest zinc bar in town.  It’s named after the original Jacaranda bar in Liverpool, the first venue ever to host the Beatles.

It would be poetic to say the advisory board met there, but it wouldn’t be true.   My Jacaranda bar isn’t a Mecca for Beatles trail tourists.   If you go looking for it in Marylebone, or anywhere else in London, you’ll be disappointed.  I made it up.

Still, my city is the star of my story, just as much as each character.   It’s cosmopolitan, it’s loaded with heritage, and, best of all, if you don’t like the one you’re with, it’s big enough to avoid said person.  Not something you can say about Cleethorpes, is it, Rachel?

*Cleethorpes is said to be the number one destination in the UK for seaside holidays.  For more, see

Seven Lessons from a Honeymoon

Honeymoon Mark II got off to a promising start.  For one thing, my mother didn’t come along this time.

The years since my first marriage had rolled forward like breakers on the shore, too many to count, so there were other changes too.  I learnt a lot in just one sunny week in the Med.

1.   It’s a good plan to tell the hotel it’s your viaggio di nozze, not least for the complimentary fruit and fizz in the room, plus free entry to the spa.IMG-20130927-00545

2. Italian is a language that comes back easily, even if you never studied it before.  New Husband went native.  By day two, he could say ‘Bon Jovi’ and pinch my bottom at the same time.

3.  Russian is a must if you want to chat to fellow hotel guests.  It had been a few years since I’d stayed in a resort hotel.  Nobody told me the oligarchs had bought Italy.

4.  Champagne can be sold out even when it costs 5,000 Euro a bottle. Yep, conspicuous consumption is the name of the game, and they don’t just drink vodka.

5.   Someone’s changed the print on every single map, menu and guide book.  We should have brought a magnifying glass.  It would also have been useful after a rash encounter with a prickly pear, especially if we’d packed tweezers as well.


6.  It was low season for humans, though not for insects.  Without repellent, female mosquitoes zoomed in on New Husband’s legs and feasted on a lavish buffet.*  More gorged themselves next day.  Had the mozzies given him a rave review on TripAdvisor?

7.    It’s not such a good idea to hot-brush your hair when your other half is feeling romantic.  Your hair wand could singe his, er, wand.


Although my mother wasn’t with us, we managed to entertain ourselves.  Every morning, a date palm burst into activity as parakeets squabbled until they evicted one or more.  But you know what large families and overcrowded flats are like.  The respite was temporary.

People-watching came into its own at dinner.  When not admiring Russian molls in their pink patent platform heels and the worst of Cartier’s excesses, we were amused by Monsieur Langouste.  Moustachioed, combed-over, and looking for all the world like a TinTin character in his black vest, he began every meal with five lobsters, which he’d repeat for the main course.

Most people took advantage of the extensive menu, piling their plates high with rack of lamb, aubergine parmigiana, sea-bass, Brussels sprouts, tuna carpaccio, pizza, plus a side salad.

Oh, wait. That was us.  Which may explain the souvenir we brought home.  Excess baggage.

* Link to Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

I’d love to hear from you.