Wednesday, 29 February 2012


‘Erm, I was wondering if you’ve done anything for our anniversary?’
‘No,’ says Tom, looking anxious. ‘Have you?’
‘No,’ I reply, thinking phew!
It’s not that we’re unromantic and, of course, it would be lovely to splash out on something frivolous like an iPad each – except that’s the best part of year’s heating oil - but money’s not really what it’s about. Which is just as well.

Luckily for us, Lily and Rose and their other halves have very kindly made sure that our anniversary will be memorable. Our Christmas present from them is a night in a swanky boutique hotel (‘Well, we knew you wouldn’t do it for yourselves.’). Yippee! So we are heading north on our jaunt soon and greatly looking forwards to it. We’ve even decided to see a bit more of the area courtesy of a Premier Inn special offer… should be an interesting ‘compare and contrast’, shouldn’t it?

In other news ...
Monday 5 March sees the announcement of the category winners of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2012. Each category winner will then go on to form the shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, which will be announced on 17th May. My Choc Lit friends with eligible books have done rather well in the shortlists and, conveniently, have spread themselves across three categories. Kate Johnson’s The Untied Kingdom has been shortlisted in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category. Christina Courtenay’s Highland Storms features in the Historical Romantic Novel shortlist and Jane Lovering’s Please Don’t Stop the Music has been shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy Novel category.

All of which is great news for everyone at Choc Lit, especially Kate, Christina and Jane. Alas, I can’t make Monday but here’s wishing you a brilliant evening! Good luck to you all!

It’s also great to see fellow Novel Racer, Tamsyn Murray, whose novel, My So-called Phantom Lovelife has been short-listed for the Young Adult Romantic Novel Category and fellow RNA Carmarthen Chapter member, Liz Fielding whose novel Flirting with Italian (Mills & Boon) has been shortlisted for the RoNa Rose Award. At the RNA Carmarthen Chapter we’re also celebrating the publication of Toni Sands' debut novel, Orchid Pink (Xcite). I’m hoping that Toni will find time in her busy schedule to visit Home Thoughts so she can tell you about more about her novel then. Although I may have to hide MiL’s eyes.

And after all that good news, it’s time for me to pack… hurray! Thank you so much Rose, Si, Lily and Russ! 

ePainting is 'Bedroom Window View, Morning' by Tom Tomos

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Don't Look Now

This week has brought my parents-in-law to Hotel H for their first visit of the year. Their stay coincides with a quick trip from Lily for more things wedding. Sunday morning arrives bright and clear, so Lily and I decide on a brisk walk to the beach before she heads off at lunch-time to catch her train. Seeing the sun, MiL and DiL decide to accompany us for as long they can manage and Tom says he can always pop back for the car if they have to give up.

The good news is MiL and DiL complete the full mile and a half walk down to the beach. The bad news is that it’s taken twice as long as usual, the sun’s gone in, rain’s threatening and it’s a humungously steep climb to get home. Lily and I decide to forge on ahead to get the car, but, having blasted our way back, discover that the spare key is not in its secret hiding place. Pretty soon the garden is like a scene from Time Team, but the spare key is nowhere to be found. Leaving Lily sheltering from the cold, I hoof back down the hill where Tom announces the spare key is in his pocket. MiL and DiL have now determined to do the entire walk under their own steam, so I powerwalk back to the house to reassure Lily that they’re both fine and to put the kettle on. By the time we sit down for a cup of tea, several of us feel as we’ve run a marathon in a rhino suit.

Finding a television programme to suit everyone can also be tiring. MiL is a gentle soul whose preferred viewing is Flog It (not as much fun as you might think, foreign readers) Antiques Roadshow and a good, old-fashioned costume drama. Unfortunately this week’s schedules are heavy on language, s*x, violence and other. Halfway through an entertaining documentary about Lucien Freud, MiL can bear it no longer. ‘What horrible paintings!’ she announces in alarm, ‘who would want those on their wall!’. The first few minutes of Homeland, a gritty new drama, sees some vigorous horizontal romping that has MiL seeking cover in the crossword, although DiL is quite pleased to escape the constant diet of ‘bonnet and bustle’ dramas that are his usual fare.

But very soon the week is over, another month has almost vanished and every time we say goodbye to our loved ones these days, we hold each other a little tighter. Blink and it’s gone. 

Painting is 'Winter Seascape Dusk' by Tom Tomos

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

About Time

Sit this side,’ says Tom, as I board the train. ‘Then you can look at the view.’

I have to admit that it hasn’t occurred to me to look out the window when I’ve got my Kindle and almost two hours reading time before I meet my elder daughter, known here as Lily, at Cardiff Central. As someone driven by the constant fear of time running out, I can’t even walk up and down stairs without thinking of something that might need to go with me.

But on this bitterly cold, clear morning, I’m so glad to have done as I’m told for once. From Carmarthen, the railway drops down to Ferryside and along the coast which is spectacularly lovely in the frosted fondant colours of the morning light. Clusters of oystercatchers are slapping along the shoreline, poking orange beaks into the exposed sandflats and a calm, glassy sea shimmers under a low-slung sun.

At Swansea, the train fills and the peace is shattered by a group of ladies eager to shop in Cardiff and happy to share their digestive complaints and problems with persistent wind with the rest of us. Nevertheless, their anticipation of their day out is infectious and I’m ready to shop too… though a little less jet-propelled. I’m spending two whole days with Lily who is marrying Russ in September, doing the kind of things mums and daughters do when there’s a wedding on the horizon. Both my daughters have demanding jobs, Lily with an independent employer’s organisation and Rose with a publisher of children’s books so our time together is limited and precious.

At one point, after a particularly emotional visit to one bridal shop, Lily and I retreat to a fabulously Boho cafĂ© to recharge our batteries and I have one of those supremely happy moments. I’m sitting on a battered leather sofa with the sun on my back, a coffee and homemade flapjack to hand and one of my beautiful daughters beside me. It’s just a gentle reminder to savour the moment and be thankful.

Painting is 'O say can you see by the dawn's early light' by Tom Tomos.