Picture This


I have had very little spare time recently as I finalise the manuscript for my next book, not even time to post on this blog. It is said a picture speaks a thousand words, so I thought I would use my old school sketchbooks for this post. So, crank up ‘Cavatina’ (one for the Take Hart fans) and browse through my gallery.

From my first year sketchbook, 1982/3:


Initial pencil sketch of my old cat, Tigger, and my ink version which was printed in the school magazine:


Third year work, 1984/5:


Fourth year work, 1985/6:


Fifth year studies for ‘o’ level exam, 1986/7:

Let’s Get Physical


Having heard me bemoaning the fact that I was having to squeeze into my jeans, following the excesses of the festive period, Nikki, an old school friend suggested I join her on the ‘couch to 5k’ venture upon which she was about to embark. This would involve us meeting at 8am three times a week to jog, and eventually run, ourselves back to fitness. It sounded like a great idea apart from a couple of problems: I hate running and I don’t do mornings! Knowing I would be setting myself up for failure by agreeing to it, I declined. However, I said if she could find a dance class we could go to, I’d happily join her.

Nikki must have known she was onto a winner when she told me about an 80’s dance class she had found,  15 miles from my home and held on Tuesday nights. We went to our first class this week, and I loved every minute of it. From our warm up to Wham!’s ‘Club Tropicana’, through our routines to the likes of ‘Relax’, ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, to our cool down to ‘Tainted Love’, I had the biggest grin on my face. As we grapevined our way across the floor of the hall, I had a flashback to our old school dance lessons; Nikki in her shiny green lycra leotard and tights (I had never strayed beyond our regulation grey shorts and white aertex top, embroidered with my initials).


How I imagine our routines look!

So, we might have gained a few pounds and wrinkles since then, but at least there was no rushing to get changed in time for our maths lesson afterwards. This was fun. In fact, I’m sure the Fitbit said we had exercised enough to have a glass of wine after our workout, if not positively encouraged us to!

Even better was the fact that the next day, I didn’t wake up feeling old and arthritic, as I had half expected to. It looks like this dancing back to fitness idea has everything in its favour. I can’t wait until next week. Now, where did I put my legwarmers?

This Girl Loves The Sun


The high temperatures we are currently experiencing have been, at times, almost unbearable for me. They have left me feeling exhausted and tetchy, a sheer delight to be around, I am sure! Nothing unusual in that you may think, given that most of the population has been seeking solace from the searing heat recently. Except that for me, it is usually a case of the hotter the better, as far as the weather is concerned.

I am, by nature, a sun-worshipper. The concept of a “hard-earned tan” does not exist in my world. How can the hours spent building up the bronze be considered a chore, when the process of doing so is filled with such pleasure? The ritual slapping-on of suntan lotion, the smell of which immediately transports you to some far-flung destination, even when you are only sat in your own back garden; the feel of muscles relaxing as any tension dissipates in the warmth of the sun on your skin. I have always thought that David Austin’s 1984 release, “This Boy Loves The Sun” could have been written for me (with the obvious gender adjustment!).

Since my teenage years, if the sun was shining, I would be doing everything I could to be outside in its company. Summer school days were spent coercing teachers into holding lessons outside the classroom. One fifth form English lesson, in which we studied the War Poets, whilst sat under a large willow tree, as the sun filtered through its foliage, remains a firm fixture in my mind. As does the art class, which I persuaded our teacher to hold in the orchards of our school grounds, as it would enable us to give more realism to our life drawings!

Even revising for exams became less traumatic if I could do it in the sun. During my ‘O’ levels, in the summer of 1987, I perfected a technique which saw me studying indoors in the evening and early morning. Then around 10am, I would be in the garden on a sun lounger, catching some rays, as my mum tested me on quotes from Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry, or on dates from the History of Medicine. This routine not only had me feeling better, but enabled me to incorporate into it a little beauty regime too. These were the days of lemon juice through the hair (or “Sun-In” spray, if I hadn’t blown all my money on vinyl), and baby oil on the skin. Although I have now dropped both these practices, one because I came to realise that frying in the sun was actually putting my life at risk, and the other because it turned my hair to straw, there is no denying that I still feel and look better with a tan.

I may have changed my mind in ten years’ time, when my skin resembles an old, leather handbag, but for now, I can’t get enough of those feelgood, energy-giving rays. Now, you can understand my distress at being unable to cope in the high temperatures we are currently experiencing. I am hoping it is just a blip, and I will soon be back outdoors where I belong, not only sunbathing but doing everything else that I possibly can outside. Whether it is gardening, which I never even contemplate in cold weather but perform with a ferocity in the sun, reading, writing or ironing, if it can be done in the sun, I am usually there. In the meantime, I shall continue to moan in the style Victor Meldrew, annoying all those around me with my attempts to cool down. Now, where did I put the Magicool?