Is There Such a Thing as Awesome Free Stuff?

Can you really get awesome stuff for free?

Course not, silly! As a smarty-pants friend always reminds me, the preposition ‘for’ is redundant here, and ‘for free’ is incorrect.  But I just threw it in for, like, free.

I’ll keep this short because you may need time to hunt for free stuff (see how ‘for free’ is correct here, Ms Smarty Pants?).  Here’s what I bagged this week.

1 The best thing was this bike, courtesy of a lovely friend of mine.

Universal Ladies' Bicycle

I hadn’t cycled since my teens, but, with a bit of encouragement, off I wobbled.  As well as the bike, I got three bonus bruises and a grazed elbow. Yep, this could be the gift that goes on giving.

2 Advice from a hairdresser.

Thanks to a cut-and-blow-dry on Wednesday, I’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge. Did you know acupuncture could cure hair loss? I got so much free info that I may have to start a new blog. Maybe haircourse.wordpress.com or headteacherblogspot.co.uk.  

3 Two free pillows from a bedding shop.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there was a snag. You had to be in Geneva to get them.

Geneva, Switzerland

4  The Indie Author Fair at Foyles.

It’s a free event at the iconic Foyles bookshop in central London, with loads of indie books, authors, and refreshments. Who wouldn’t want to be there? It’s on Friday April 17 from 16:30 to 19:30, so it’s still up for grabs. It’s unticketed, and did I mention it’s free?

Indie Author Fair 2015 at Foyles

Whether you go or not, you can also enter a free draw for a huge number of prizes, including an awesome digital swag bag from the OUTSIDE THE BOX team. It includes a novel, music, a printable “Reading is Bliss” poster, inspiring wallpapers for your desktop, phone or Facebook, and all manner of playful surprises. You can enter the draw right here.

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)See? There are awesome things to enjoy for free.

 

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Is Researching a Book Better than Sex?

Some authors say that research is the best bit about writing. I’ve never believed that. What’s so great about spending long hours in the stacks at the library, or ages trawling the internet to find out what people had for dinner in 17th century Crete?

reference library

But now that I write fiction, research has taken on a whole new hue. I wouldn’t say it’s better than sex, even if in some cases it IS sex. Here’s a rundown of some recent endeavours.

1 Intel gathering for a steamy bathroom scene.

steamy bathroom scene

Is it possible for the earth to move while scrubbing lime-scale off the taps?  Everything had to be just so: a non-slip bathmat, a filthy dirty bathtub (this takes months), and of course the right bathroom cleaner.

Cillit Bang

2 The front seat of the Mini scene. If a couple feel inclined to bonk in their Mini near a lighthouse in Norfolk, can they do so without tearing an Armani suit or a ligament? We may never know for sure. Thanks, man who rapped on the window to say, “Ere, lost me mobile. Can I borrow yours?”

Mini Cooper S

3 The Gents at the hospital. There’s a scene in my work-in-progress where a character has to rinse his tackle in the loo at Watford General Hospital. I couldn’t do this one on my own, but the great thing about being married is all those vows. My other half is an honest guy, so he takes such things seriously.

However, it proved not to be so simple. The water was either freezing cold or boiling hot, and the hand dryers were at the wrong height. Besides, who’d actually dip his bits into a Dyson Airblade?

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

4 Undercover underwear work. Hopefully this quiet day would keep me on the right side of the law. St Michael may be the patron saint of underwear. They’ve even made briefs with the word Gentleman woven into the elastic, just like the Diesel ones say Diesel. But John Lewis has the range of men’s kecks I needed for my research. So there I was, checking out the feel and, more important, the scent of the fabrics used in boxers, briefs, budgie-smugglers, front-loaders, posing pouches and thongs.

Pierre Cardin knitted briefs

As I crumpled the waistbands and studied the gussets, I managed to side-step six shop assistants, or, as John Lewis calls them, partners. Unfortunately I didn’t spot one of my patients who was shopping for Y-fronts. He caught me with my nose up a pair of Calvin Klein trunks (low-rise, if you want to know). It’s funny, but he hasn’t made an appointment to see me since.

5 Bridge over troubled water. It used to be so easy to climb in and out of King’s College, Cambridge after the back gate was locked.

King's College Cambridge bridge (1819)

But what about now, after they’ve added extra ironwork as a deterrent?  As I found out, there’s a very real risk of losing your footing and falling into a deep and murky ditch, especially if you’re 40 years older than the last time you did this.

I tried to think calming thoughts.

Keep Calm.You're in Cambridge

This is hard when a couple of tourists are standing over you, offering to ring an ambulance. A passing medical student thought an air ambulance would be more appropriate. Perhaps he hoped Prince William might pitch up.  What got me out of the ditch in the end was a snooty college porter, incensed that I was doing my research on his patch.

6 An overnight stay in a bookshop.

bookshop

Luckily I didn’t have to do this myself, or enlist any of my family, as an American tourist did exactly that in late 2014.

Right. That’s it. From now on, I’m doing all my research on Twitter. Though I will miss my husband.

***

I’ll be at the Indie Author Fair at Foyles, Charing Cross Road on April 17, and so will lots of other authors. Why not come in, see their books, and maybe ask them about their research? The event is free.

Indie Author Fair

A Stroll though Highgate Cemetery

My mate Gus was out one day;

Someone asked ‘Do you know the quickest way 

To Highgate Cemetery?’

‘You bet I do’ said Gus

As he pushed the poor fellow under a bus.”

There are lots of reasons for visiting Highgate Cemetery in North London. Here are just a few of them.

It’s a final resting place for many literary folk, among them Douglas Adams, Alan Sillitoe, George Eliot, Pat Kavanagh and William Foyle (who founded Foyle’s with his brother Gilbert).

Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, with pencil tribute

 

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’s writer

 

Literary agent Pat Kavanagh

Literary agent Pat Kavanagh

 

One half  of W & G Foyle Ltd

One half of W & G Foyle Ltd

Then there’s this avid reader.  

Jim Horn 1976-2010

Jim Horn 1976-2010

Poor Harry Thornton didn’t survive the flu pandemic.  

Pianist Harry Thornton 1883-1918

Pianist Harry Thornton 1883-1918

I expect you know who Malcolm McLaren was, unlike the couple nearby who thought he had something to do with double buggies.   

Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren 1946-2010

Pop artist Patrick Caulfield plays a visual joke on the headstone.   

Patrick Caulfield

DEAD or alive? Probably dead if you look closely.

But Jeremy Beadle goes all serious with books.

Jeremy Beadle 1948-2008

There are war graves, mainly from World War One, and a 1930s monument to the London Fire Brigade. There’s also one very bad boy.

Mastermind of the Great Train Robbery 1963

Bruce Reynolds, the brains behind the Great Train Robbery

 You were expecting the big man? Oh, all right. Here you go.

Karl Marx 2

Funny how the communist gets the most lavish tomb, dwarfing those around him. Souls of lefties gather round, among them historian Eric Hobsbawm and Iraqi Communist leader Saad Saadi Ali, while a little further away lies Philip Gould, architect of New Labour.   

Eric Hobsbawm 1917-2012

Eric Hobsbawm 1917-2012

 

Saad Saadi Ali

Saad Saadi Ali

See? Ali is left-leaning even in death.

We were not alone, as we soon discovered.

we are not alone

These days you can still be buried in Highgate, though space is at a premium. The impressive statuary is packed close.  

angels

crosses

ivy on crosses

selection of statuary

statuary

Victorian tombstones

We’d only visited the East Cemetery, but, as the sun began to set, it seemed time to leave…  

open tomb 1