Thursday, 20 March 2014


The Birthday Girl and her daughters
Friday 14 March
We’re back in the south east for another whirlwind weekend. First stop: one precious laughter-filled hour with my ace gang, the amazing Thursday Girls. Four out of five of us anyway, which is pretty good considering how far-flung we are these days.

Next stop: accompanying Ma to her post-op consultant appointment. The news couldn’t be better; nothing sinister to report and no further treatment required. Ma even manages to get a big hug from the consultant before she goes!

Saturday 15 March
Romantic Novelists’ Association Committee meeting. At the station I discover all trains to Waterloo are cancelled which makes me a bit wobbly as I’m rubbish at finding my way round London. Fortunately I soon learn that trains to Victoria work just as well too. Who’d have thought it, eh?

Sunday 16 March
Tom and I do a few chores for Ma while we’re here which keep me busy enough not to accidently blurt out the secret we’ve been keeping. Ma knows that we’re going to celebrate her 80th birthday with my sister and her family, but she doesn’t know what’s happening. We drive through Surrey to the fabulously picturesque Langshott Manor Hotel 

where, I tell Ma, we’re having afternoon tea. As we drive into the car park, there’s a flash of material I recognise as someone hastily scampers behind a bush. 

Ma’s too busy taking everything else in to notice, but her face, when the rest of our party leap out from their hiding places, is an absolute picture. Hurray! We’ve pulled it off! 

There are twelve of us in all – my younger stepson, who took the most superb photos of the day, observes later that he has an interesting time trying to explain how he is related to the rest of the group, but that’s blended families, I guess. In the end what really counts is not what we are to each other, but what we mean to each other – and there’s a lot of love in the room. My huge thanks to the staff at Langshott Manor Hotel for looking after us so well and providing such a delicious afternoon tea. It was a truly lovely occasion.

Monday 17 March 
The Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel of the Year Awards
Once again I manage to make a simple journey complicated and wander round the Strand and in and out of Charing Cross station before finally realising I’ve overshot One Whitehall Place and retrace my footsteps. Being a bit nervous doesn’t help – this is the culmination of my work as RoNa Rose Organiser and I’m ever so slightly apprehensive about the evening. Once the winner is announced – many congratulations to Kate Hardy for ‘Bound by a Baby’ – I can relax and enjoy seeing the rest of the winners receive their awards. Lovely Darcey Bussell CBE is there to present the awards and she looks even more gorgeous than she does on the TV. Choc Lit’s own Christina Courtney wins the Historical Category RoNa, Helen Fielding has the room in gales of laughter when she accepts her Outstanding Achievement Award and Veronica Henry wins the accolade of The Romantic Novel of the Year for ‘A Night on the Orient Express’.

Tuesday 18 March
My head and heart are full of memories of the weekend which has seen so many celebrations, but as the busy roads give way to country lanes and the landscape unfolds, there’s only one place I want to be. It’s so good to be home.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


The final push...
It’s just before 9am on a cold, grey, drizzly Sunday morning and I’m queuing up outside Llanelli’s Parc y Scarlets with some 1400 or so other runners waiting to start my fifth half marathon. ‘Enjoy it,’ says Tom and strangely, I’m very happy to be here, especially after eye problems which ruled me out of running for a couple of years and then the dreaded piriformis syndrome which nearly got the better of me this time.

The course is lovely – out and back along the beautiful coastline. Tom’s right to tell me the views will be great… except, of course, most of the time I’m too busy concentrating on the rhythm of my running to be aware of very much beyond that! The only changes I notice are turning and running back into the increasing wind and then, at about mile eight, getting absolutely drenched in a massive shower. I’m soaked through and rivulets of water are pouring in my eyes and down my face – and I feel ridiculously, stupidly happy.

Towards the finish line...
By mile eleven, my happiness levels start dropping and at mile twelve, when a friendly marshal encourages me with a cheery shout of ‘only another mile to go!’ I want to lie down and weep… but I don’t. Somehow, I dig in. I think of all the training I’ve put in; running early in the morning, running up hills, running in the cold and wet. I visualise the final stretch of my familiar training run and tell myself I can do this. And suddenly the finish line is within reach and I feel utterly euphoric! I’ve done it – and achieved a personal best of 2hrs 10minutes 18 seconds. Even better, Tom’s there to congratulate me, sharing my joy. What a moment!

Feeling a bit pleased with my gong!

My heartfelt thanks to the organisers of the Llanelli Waterside Half Marathon, Human Being Active, the volunteers and everyone involved for making it such a great, well-organised race.

I often see the parallels between writing and running since both involve long hours of solitary hard work – like now with a second round of edits upon me. However, it’s a great feeling when the hard work results in something tangible and I’m delighted and honoured that Honno Welsh Women’s Press have chosen one of my poems as Poem of the Month for March. You can read it here.

And after all that excitement – it’s head down and back to the edits!