Saturday 2 January 2021

Happy 2021! Here we go again...


Happy New Year! We made an effigy of the Old Year and burnt it on the terrace. We danced around it to a 90s soundtrack as the wind blew and for a while I felt like I was 20 again. I stamped on flying sparks in my cheap gold trainers and transitioned from wine to cava to beer like a true amateur. Oh, how fun to be alive! Burn Covid burn!

And then 1st January arrived with a bang. A bang bang bang as my brain set up a scaffold to repair the damage. Needless to say I no longer felt in my twenties. The soles of my shoes had partly melted and the cloying smell of smoke clung to my nostrils like a roasted bat.

2021 begins with great intentions. Time to be healthy! Time for fresh air!  My husband bought a second hand bike in the morning to accompany my own oxidized purchase. My bike's called Rusty (it might not last the year), his is Squeaky (its brakes are tuneful). We took our toddler out for a ride as the rain clouds gathered. My legs ached as if they hadn't been used all year. I suppose 2020 was the year of hanging around at home.

Time to change, now. Yes, I shall get fit again! I shall meditate and do yoga and write regularly! What a cliché I am! Three cheers for all the optimists! In fact I did spend time in my new office today. Did I embark on a new creative project? Don't be silly! I pushed Sol around in my office chair for half an hour and said Weee Wee! as her soft owl was propelled into the air. I could draw parallels with her spinning around in that chair with my writing career, but best not. It's 2021 and anything can happen!

My dad always said what matters is making an effort. Cheesy as it sounds, I will be making an effort to live my best life. But unlike in my twenties, when I was desperately impatient to be a famous author and suffered a lot of anxiety... well, today I'm less interested in winning anything, and more interested in accepting my life as it is. Because to be happy with what I have means I can be happy right now. And so with my new year rambling over, let me wish you good health, love and happiness to you and your loved ones.

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Saturday 30 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Rediscovering Home

Suddenly I had to get away from my computer. Away from my home office. Away from the municipality I hadn't left in three months.

I couldn't stand the thought of any more online research. I needed to see what I was writing about with my own eyes. I needed to get out. Far away.

Far away when you live in Mallorca rarely means more than an hour's drive. But the thing about living on the island is your perception of time and distance changes. 

When I lived in London everything seemed to be at least forty-five minutes away. Here, if something is more than a twenty-five minute drive away it makes me seriously question whether it's worth it. 

I had to do some research about the fishing town of Portopetro so we (husband, toddler and I) decided to take advantage and stop at a bay at the Mondragó Nature Reserve nearby.

Portopetro, south east Mallorca

It took us just over an hour. It was the longest journey we'd done in over three months. As we got out of the car, I hoped it wasn't going to be exactly like the beach 500 metres from our front door. I hoped it had been worth it. 

We made our way down the stony path surrounded by Aleppo pines towards the bay. 

Dried algae covered a large part of the sand but it didn't matter. Ahead of us was the clearest seawater I'd ever seen in my life. It shimmered turquoise between striking volcanic cliffs on either side of it.

Calo des Borgit, south east Mallorca

"I've never seen it so clean," a local told me later.   

If only it hadn't taken a pandemic and closed airports to reveal the island at its most beautiful.  

I felt energised and inspired after that trip. It hadn't been a lost day of work because the following days were more productive because of it. 

Lost day? Stupid to considerate it that for a split second. It was a day of full fantastic living. I'm still daydreaming about that crystalline water. In fact I already want to go on another adventure. If only it hadn't taken a pandemic and a lockdown to remind me how wonderful it is to explore. 

I feel as curious as if I've only just arrived on this island. I feel excited to explore my home.

Read the first Covid-19 Diaries post: Lockdown Begins 

My new novel TIPPING POINT is now available in ebook and paperback from Amazon. 

Sunday 24 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - what stories will we tell after the pandemic?

How will Covid-19 change the stories we tell?

I haven't even begun to promote my new novel Tipping Point and I'm already wondering what I'll write next. What world should my new characters inhabit? A world where there never was a pandemic, one where it's still happening, or an imagined post-pandemic world?

When watching films I catch my mind interrupting with little observations. That shopping centre is too crowded, they wouldn't shake hands now, that nightclub is contagion-heaven... 

The creepy film Vivarium was popular during lockdown. In it, a couple gets stuck in this lifeless neighbourhood looking after a strange child. They try to leave but the road keeps taking them back to the same front door. I imagine it resonated with a lot of people. Perhaps it made them think, things could be worse!   

Would you rather fictional characters to have experienced the pandemic or do you not want to be reminded of it? Perhaps it would be more realistic if their back story included it.

I say back story but it's no one's back story yet. It's very much our present. I admit to feeling more anxious now than during lockdown. During lockdown, we kept very busy with our routine. It was very quiet and still. Now we are supposed to be moving forward, but I'm not sure how or where.

I don't know what kind of novel I will write next, but perhaps I'm over-thinking things. The storm isn't what makes the story but the consequent reactions and decisions made. It's the truth which is revealed in the midst of a crisis.

What stories will emerge after covid-19? The same ones. The timeless stories of loss and gain, love and hate, fear and courage. The pandemic doesn't define who we are, but we may catch glimpses of who we are more clearly because of it.   

George and Ellen have retired to sunny Mallorca. Social butterfly Ellen is itching to make yacht-owning friends while George's heart is set on a secluded farmhouse in the country. In fact, now that they're no longer living busy London lives, they're beginning to realise they have very different ideas of happiness.

Private investigator Salva specialises in cases of adultery. That's why it's particularly embarrassing that he didn't realise his long-term girlfriend has been cheating on him. He has no time to nurse a broken heart, since his family are the victims of a property scam they urgently need him to solve.

Robyn Chase is giving talks on her self-help book, No More Toxic Relationships - 7 Years, 7 Lessons. She's finding it awkward being a relationship guru when her own boyfriend is avoiding her.

The sun is shining in Mallorca and everything looks beautiful. But the residents of one particular apartment block are about to discover it all might be too good to be true.

Available now in ebook. Paperback out 1st June. 

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Phase 1 - Ten People Walk into a Bar (No Joke)

The Balearic Islands was promoted to phase one on Monday. Phase one of Spain's four step plan to return to normality, that is.  

What does it mean? What can we do?

Confusion reigned for a while as we tried to work it out.

I think I've got the main points sorted:

We can meet ten people at a bar at any time of day.

By bar, I mean bar TERRACE which can only be used at 50% capacity.

We can meet ten people at a bar but we can't sit on the beach.

We can meet ten people at a bar at any time of day but we can only exercise at certain hours of the day. (Adults 06.00 t0 10.00 and 20.00 to 23.00).

We can also meet these ten people in a house. Any house. (I think.)

In non-bar news: Shops under 400sqm can open and customers should make an appointment. 

Mask are compulsory on public transport.

Back to the bar news: Meeting ten people in a bar isn't compulsory but recommended to help kickstart the economy. 

Those who find themselves in a bar should celebrate having understood the regulations of phase one.

I'm embarrassed to say I have not met anyone at a bar yet and have yet to help the local economy.

Instead I did something I had been daydreaming about doing once lockdown relaxed: 


We were four adults and two toddlers. There was no one else about.

After being so excited about the prospect of going 'uppamantin' our toddler seemed grumpy. When we paused to set her down on the ground she tried to walk off the side of the mountain, pointing and shouting, 'Aguita!' at the sea view. Clearly she would have preferred the beach. To be fair, it was bloody hot.  

She cheered up later and the two little friends rekindled their friendship. They explored barefoot, showed each other snails and swung on hammocks rigged at different levels from two trees.

Meanwhile the adults caught up over wine - why only one bottle? - and ate shredded chicken and homemade bread and hummus and carrot sticks.

Oh, I felt pleased that the bars of Mallorca were making so many people happy that day, but at Phase One, the mountain was the only kind of bar for me.  

Don't worry. There's still time to help the local economy.  *Cheers!* 


Escape this brave new world with some brand new fiction.  My new novel Tipping Point is out now!

Saturday 9 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 56 - Love in the time of the coronavirus

It was our 9 year wedding anniversary on Thursday - another special event celebrated under lockdown.  We spent the morning trying to remember where we had been for each one. 

Beautiful Sienna for the first... a British seaside for the second? Was it two years ago that I was 8 and a half month pregnant and we moved into an empty flat and had a picnic on the carpet?

We pieced the memories together. For each one I'd made an effort to make a personalised card. There had been collages and paintings, pop-ups and puzzle cards. Not this year, though.

As I settled down to put Sol to sleep in the evening, I thought: next year we'll do things properly. Next year we'll celebrate the birthdays, father and mothers' day, and anniversaries that had quietly passed by during confinement.

Sol was quietly snoring. I replaced the side of her cot and left her room.

As I passed by our bedroom I noticed my flowery dress had been laid out on the bed. There was a note beside it that said: Put this on and follow the signs! :)

Feeling a mixture of uncertainty and excitement, I did just that. On the back of the front door, another Post-It read: This way to Sitges!

Sitges was where we got married. Friends and family had come from all over the world to join us for a party in a beautiful rustic villa. There had been sun and rain and thunder. There had been moving speeches, salsa dancing and rum in the hot tub.

Along the corridor outside the flat, there was another note with an arrow. I headed up the stairs, my smile growing with every step. This way to London. This way to Mallorca.

I reached the apartment on the top floor. It belongs to a Swedish couple who use it for holidays. The key was in the door. Clearly my husband had asked them a favour.

Candles glowed on the steps up to the terrace. I picked up another Post- It. Up the stairs for a taste of our future!

My husband was waiting for me at the top with a bottle of champagne and a table laid out for dinner. His happy guileless grin was the same one I'd fallen for twelve years earlier in a bar in Camden Town. He hadn't needed to wait until next year to make things special.

It was perfect. It was love in the time of lockdown. It was an anniversary I wouldn't forget. 

It was also a little windy so after our meal we cuddled up under a blanket and beneath the full moon we listened to old songs and laughed and reminisced.

And we toasted to love and imagination and our future together.

We also toasted to my new novel Tipping Point

Finally, I can share it. 

TippingPoint is inspired by my love of multi-character storytelling, and books by Liane Moriarty and Deborah Moggach. The e-book is out now and the print book will be released next month, lockdown permitting. 

It goes a little something like this:

George and Ellen have retired to sunny Mallorca. Social butterfly Ellen is itching to make yacht-owning friends while George's heart is set on an isolated farmhouse in the country. In fact, now that they're no longer living busy London lives, they're beginning to realise they have very different ideas of happiness.

Private investigator, Salva, specialises in cases of adultery. That's why it's particularly embarrassing that he didn't realise his long-term girlfriend has been cheating on him. He has no time to nurse a broken heart since his family are the victims of a property scam they urgently need him to solve. 

Robyn Chase is giving talks on her self-help book No More Toxic Relationships - 7 Years, 7 Lessons. She's finding it awkward being a relationship guru when her own boyfriend is avoiding her.

The sun is shining in Mallorca and everything looks beautiful. But the residents of one particular apartment block are about to discover it all might be too good to be true.

Note: For those who would rather not buy from Amazon, please get in touch to buy direct. In the future, I hope to have a smooth direct sales system in place! Thank you.  

Note 2: No, you're memory isn't failing you! I did change the title last minute from Melting Point to Tipping Point!

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 52 - a fear of going outside

It's been ten days since Spain's children were first allowed out of their homes.   

"Do you want to go outside?" We ask our toddler every afternoon.

"No," she says.

"We could go to the beach! Don't you want to go to the beach?"


"We could go to the grassy bit and say hello to the Guau-guaus!" 

Say hello as they poop all over the grassy bit, I think. 

"No," she says, focused on her building blocks.

Once we get outside though, she is happy. She points out the colours of the cars. Blue! Blanco! Blue! If the stray cats aren't around she miaows at a tree for a while.  She loves the sea and doesn't seem to feel the cold. 

But before she steps outside the door, there is a hesitation. I'm not sure if it was there before lockdown.   

A few other Mum's in my whatsapp group have observed a fearfulness in their children about leaving the house too. Some have become clingy and want to stay in their parents' arms. I came across a piece about this side effect in the local newspaper. About how adults and children can become anxious about leaving an environment in which they've been confined in for a long time, even when it's imperfect.   

The truth is, even I have felt apprehensive about going outside. Although I expressed relief in my Liberation Day post, I wrote it before I went out that evening. 

After I published it, my husband and I crept out while Sol slept, taking the monitor with us, and leaving a neighbour in charge, just so we could walk around the block together. There was so many people along the main promenade. I felt quite overwhelmed. 49 days in lockdown and I wanted to go back home.

The next day, when the allocated exercise time arrived, I went outside by myself. 

I walked away from the main streets, choosing the quiet roads behind my house. The first thing I noticed was a wonderful smell of jasmine. As I walked, a lump grew in my throat. 

There were individual and couples out and about too. As people approached each other on the same pavement, they would step onto the road or cross to the other side to observe the recommended social distancing space. I wanted to cry so much, but the tears wouldn't come.

I told myself to slow down. After so long closely investigating every detail in our apartment block - dried up woodlice, decapitated millipedes, petals, leaves, sticks - I didn't want to suddenly return to old ways and rush past all these things. 

I stopped. I looked at the moon. I said hello to a stray cat. I observed a fleshy cactus. I wanted to cry, but I didn't know how.

Today was a special day. Today my friend and I agreed to meet on the beach below the house. Her son is Sol's best friend, who she has asked after nearly every one of these lockdown days. Worried the mum would expect Sol to wear a mask, I told her that I would be happy if they played as normal, because if they couldn't touch each other it was more stress than it was worth. She agreed.

My stomach ached with anticipation that morning. I didn't tell Sol who we were going to see until we were preparing to leave. She became so excited. 

There was no hugs or kisses, only big smiles. The smiles were mainly between us adults! After pining for her little boyfriend all through lockdown, in the end Sol was so totally absorbed building a "grande grande" sandcastle that she barely acknowledged him. Meanwhile her enthusiastic little friend went to a lot of trouble trying to find her the very best shell on the beach.

It was a really wonderful encounter. It wasn't just any old day at the beach. 

In fact. It was. And that was why it was perfect. 

For the first time in a long time, life felt normal. I realised I wasn't holding my breath and I didn't feel like crying. Instead, I felt full of hope.

Read more posts from Covid-19 Diaries:

Lockdown Day 41 - Important announcements


Saturday 2 May 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 49 - Liberation Day

It's Liberation Day here in Spain. After 48 days in captivity, the adult population is finally allowed outside the house to exercise. Apparently there were huge smiles on people's faces between 6.00 and 10.00, the allocated slot for morning outings. I didn't witness them myself since at 9.36 I was still in my pyjamas, having breakfast with the husband and toddler.   

The rule is that adults between 14 - 70 years old can go outside between 6.00 and 10.00, and in the evening between 20.00 and 23.00.  Those over 70yrs have the 10.00 - 12.00 and 19.00 - 20.00 slots.

Got it? Keep up!

Going out with one other person from the same household is permitted. However, children can't go out during adult time. They must be taken out between 12.00 and 19.00. So my husband and I can't go outside together unless we leave our toddler at home alone... Now, nearly 2 year old Sol has learned  a lot of new skills during lockdown: names of colours, parts of her body, how to make (wooden) kiwi and onion soup, random song and poetry lyrics including Each Peach Pear Plum... HOWEVER, I still wouldn't feel comfortable leaving her on her own.  

As much as I'd love to go out with my husband, I'm not here to moan. I think the Spanish government has been doing a much better job that many others in these dire circumstances, and this new phase is just that... a phase.

Today there was a huge collective sigh of relief around the country. I've no doubt there was laughter and tears and promises never to take our freedom for granted ever again. There may also have been a few stiff joints and a twisted ankle.

My brother's Boxer puppy, Bobby, summed up the happiness of so many as he splashed in the sea near Alicante. Finally out for a proper walk with both his owners, he couldn't contain his excitement and bounded from stick to rock to water, digging up sand, and spraying everyone. The wag of his tail seemed to say: ISN'T LIFE MARVELLOUS!

Though I'm not immune to the stresses of lockdown - I've a mouth ulcer the size of the moon and my teeth are aching - knowing I can leave the flat this evening, to walk around the block, is one of those small things which is actually the big things.

If lockdown is a difficult journey through the desert then today we reached the first bar in nearly two months. And my god, does the beer taste good.

Thanks so much for reading. Get in touch on my Facebook Author Page!  

Continue reading blog posts from the Lockdown:

Or, escape the lockdown with a copy of The Hen Party - set in the beautiful island of Mallorca!