Could you get me in a frock?


Have you ever seen me wear a frock? Probably not. It’s always been riding breeches or jeans since I was a teenager, except for work when I had to wear ‘proper’ clothes.

So frocks do not feature in my wardrobe. You could change that.

My best-selling title last year was Swallows and Robins, which is long-listed for the People’s Book Prize.

SwallowsWEB (1)

If it makes the finals, I’ll have to wear a posh frock.

The competition is formidable, from stellar writers like Frederick Forsyth and brilliant cartoonist Mac to name-drop just two of the opposition.

Winners are chosen solely by public vote. Most votes wins. So, for a rare chance to get me into a frock, cast your vote here: People’s Book Prize – Swallows and Robins. Voting closes 28th February.

Leaving a comment is optional. In case you are stuck for ideas to add to those super comments made so far (thanks hugely, whoever you are!), here are a few suggestions:

  • Brilliant!
  • Wonderful!
  • Amazing talent!
  • Best book ever!
  • Definitely the winner!

Thank you for reading. Thanks a lot if you vote me into wearing a frock. 😀


Me in a frock


Why I’ve been so angry

As an Arian, I am predisposed to anger. However, I have worked hard over the years to control the tendency, because it is mentally and physically wearing and somewhat pointless. I’ve actively practised becoming more tolerant and less critical of others, adopting a ‘live and let live’ attitude, and recognising that everybody has a point of view and it doesn’t have to match mine to be valid. Yes, I sometimes fail, because it’s hard to fight your inherent personality traits, but I keep trying.


I like to begin my day generally with a leisurely hypothyroid-friendly breakfast of orange juice with salt, toast and butter, and a cup of coffee, while digitally reading the news, anticipating that this will promote a gentle awakening and preparation for a productive and happy day.

But it doesn’t, and it was a remark I made in a recent blog post that made me realise why. I wrote how bad news attracts more attention than good news, which explained my particular choice of breakfast reading matter, which is what makes me angry.

I suspect that anybody who reads it will recognise what I am talking about. I’ll just say that almost everything it publishes makes me angry, and that is not because of the glaring errors, grammatical and factual. It highlights every negative word with LARGE BOLD LETTERS that leap out of the page and MAKE ME ANGRY. It is a daily source and blend of everything that is depressing and fatuous, from corruption, racial hatred and social injustice, contrasting with the glorification of people who have achieved fame and wealth for having outsize buttocks or spending their lives having cosmetic surgery, to how the shape of your fingernails defines your personality (or similar inanity).

Now, remember that I am tolerant and respect the right of those big-buttocked and cosmetically-altered people to their modi vivendi if it makes them happy, as well as the publication’s right to publish any articles they choose. But after spending my allocated 15 minutes reading this stuff do I ever experience that gentle awakening into a productive and happy day?

No. Never. I AM ALWAYS ANGRY. Most of all I am angry with myself, that day after day I have been clicking for my fill of bad news, like picking at a scab to prevent a wound from healing, and wasting my time on something that actively puts me into a negative frame of mind. That is as stupid as stupid gets.

Today, it has stopped. I have not clicked. It isn’t a resolution, it’s solemn oath that henceforth, instead of clicking on that source of anger, I will allocate my 15 minutes to the Guardian Crossword (Quick on weekdays, Speedy on Sundays. No way could I hope to accomplish a Cryptic, Quiptic or Prize in such a short time – if ever.) While that can occasionally lead to mild frustration, more often than not it’s cause for celebration when a seemingly impossible clue suddenly becomes obvious because you’ve managed to fill in one letter that reveals the solution. Not only does it give the little grey cells a mild jolt into action, it MAKES ME HAPPY! 🙂


Dominique Godbout/Flickr Creative Commons


What helps you to get your day off to a good start?

No. 1

The kind people at Amazon in Australia chose to feature my memoir as a Kindle Monthly Deal for December. Amazon rankings are ephemeral and change hourly; blink and you can miss them, so I snatched and grabbed a screenshot this morning.

That’s me at No. 1 in the Biographies and Memoirs category, and at No. 21 in the top 100 paid, at the time I made the snatch and grab.

Thank you Australia!

Overall 2015 has been a good year for my titles, and for that huge thanks is due to Stephanie at Blackbird Books for her faith in me, her gentle guidance and encouragement, and total support.


There’s more good news, too, as another of my books is longlisted for the 2016 People’s Book Prize. But more about that another day.


What on earth …..

,,,, is all the fuss about the 5p. charge for plastic shopping bags?

For heaven’s sake They should be banned completely, horrible and unnecessary things that they are.

For those people complaining about ‘having to pay for them’ – here’s what you need to know:

You don’t need to! You don’t need plastic bags!

Buy a shopping bag or two or three. You can get them on Ebay for 99p. Put your purchase inside them. Put the bags in your car, or carry them home.

Unpack, put perishables in the fridge.

My grandmother used string bags. Bacon, meat, fish – all uncooked – and cheese were served well wrapped in thick greaseproof paper. At home, they were put into the larder – a cool part of the kitchen.


Surely there are more worrying issues in the world than paying a few pennies for something you don’t need, and which is a blight on the environment?

The British Bulldog

Statesman, leader, painter, poet, historian, hero, bricklayer, boozer, animal lover; belligerent, bellicose, irascible, indefatigable, unreasonable, indomitable, invincible, overbearing, vain. Sadly, we shall never see another Englishman of Winston Churchill’s stature.

In Winston’s day, we were proud to be British. Who can possibly imagine what he would say if he could see the state of the country now.


As much as for his war-time leadership and bulldog spirit, Churchill was renowned for his wit.

But how did he feel about homosexuality?

His enemies and detractors could list innumerable faults, but false modesty was not one of them.

“We are all worms,” he said. “But I believe I am a glow worm.” The perfect epitaph.

How brightly he would glow among the limp, dull grey worms in Parliament now.

Suffer the little children

Save the Children executives shared a “performance related” bonus of £160,000 this year. On top of their handsome salaries.

The Against Malaria Foundation quotes the cost of a mosquito net as ‘about $5’, which at the current rate of exchange is about £3.

The ‘performance related bonus’ would therefore buy more than 50,000 mosquito nets.

Can’t help wondering if donations to Save the Children are being well-spent.