Shared Interests.

George and I are sat at the services. Drinking a cup of tea. And discussing how much we dislike the new neighbours. Well, I say we, it’s more me. George is nodding like one of those cheap nodding toys.

He knows his place.

I don’t like the vans. There are so, so many of them. All white. White vans line the street. You would think vans don’t come in any other colour.

Or the tradesmen have no imagination.

I’m sure vans are sold in other colours than white.

And then there’s the smoking and the uncouth behaviour. I’m convinced they’re all football hooligans. They look the type.

I see George looking at them, wistfully. His snatched glances from the lounge bay window, or across the gravel drive. Imagining himself a man of such masculinity. Manual labour. Hard hands. Downing pints.

My George is not like them. He doesn’t drive a van. Doesn’t even like them.

He nods as I say this and inspects his nails. He has perfect nails. Like he’s been to a manicurist.

But he hasn’t.

I draw the line at that. Men should take an interest in their appearance, but they shouldn’t be too interested.

There’s a fine line.

One shouldn’t be too encouraging.

George lifts his eyebrows and tuts in his silent fashion that sounds more like a gentle cluck. It is his sign to me that things are not as they should be.

My eyes seek out the aberration: a teenage mother, covered in slap, stick thin – likely from drugs, dyed hair piled high, not much a day over fifteen.

What is the world coming to?

I turn my head slightly so George can see my lifted eyebrows so we are in unison.

I like it when we are in unison.

Disapproval of others is a shared interest.

George coughs. He has a very awkward cough. Attracts attention. I think he may be signalling he’s about to speak. He sips his tea instead.

I look the other way.

I’ve finished my tea and am hankering after another, but not at those prices. I’m sure they’ve made the cups smaller. Put less water.

They think we don’t notice.

But George and I, we notice. We keep a shared mental tally.

Life is not how it used to be.

George coughs again.

He starts talking, but I’m not really listening. A passer-by dressed in green nylon a size too small has caught my eye.

Does nobody check their appearance before they leave the house?

George’s lips are still moving. I turn my head, tune my ears. He’s stumbling and rumbling and rolling around words as though they were balls.

I stifle a yawn.

I think it’s best we went our separate ways.

I imagine him saying that. Getting up with gusto. Leaving me.

Or I leaving him.

But we have shared interests.

I don’t disapprove.

We stay.

Advice to my future self.

You will never be as young as you are now.

You will never have less wrinkles – no matter what magic moisturiser you buy.

Save your money, keep your hope. Be happy to live a day longer and gain an extra line to prove it.

Call your friends, even if you don’t feel like it. Everybody gets days when they don’t feel it too. You sending out love to the world, will make you feel better, even if you didn’t feel it from the start.

Send good thoughts out to everybody. Thinking positive things makes your heart sing and your soul throb.

Happy vibrations should fill your body.

Tell those you love, you love them.

Understand you will have down days. There’s nothing wrong with hiding under a duvet, but don’t stay there too long.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is key to refreshing and relaxing your body and mind. Don’t over-guilt about afternoon naps, but know they will ruin your routine.

Eat vegetables.

Even if you prefer meat, try every day to get at least one fresh ingredient into your life. Plants are a source of fibre and nutrition.

Eat fruit.

Don’t wait for your bananas to go mouldy so you can make bread. Make a concerted effort to eat them while they’re ripe and hard.

Focus on the good things. Even when things are bad. Know too these times will pass. Good or bad, these moments don’t stay for long.

Get used to the transience of everything. Understand change happens – whether you like it or not.

Don’t waste time on regrets and thinking ‘what if’. Look to say yes and ‘why not?’. But, also learn when to say ‘no’.

Respect your time as you do for others, don’t beat yourself up when you haven’t done what you set out to do. Extend the deadline and congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come.

Listen to what your body says. If it’s tired, sleep. If it’s hungry, eat. Don’t deny yourself so many things. Your body fuels your mind and treating it right will pay dividends in the end.

Don’t overdo anything, all the time. Blow outs will happen. Let yourself feel free. Learn how to fly in your mind and allow yourself space to go wrong.

Tomorrow is another day.

Understand the power of the present. The gift of now. Try not to harbour too much on things you wish you’d done differently.

Nourish your soul with song and dance and words from books yet to be read. Take an active interest in what news and views you listen to and don’t be afraid to switch off.

Too much information can drive you crazy.

Be kind to yourself. Think how much love you show others and start to be a better friend to yourself.

Stop telling yourself off when you get things wrong, even the greatest people got things wrong at some point in their lives.

Love yourself for every bump, fault and line. You are not perfect and were not built to be perfect.

Your perfection lies in your imperfection.

Smile often.

Brush your teeth twice per day and make sure you maintain good oral hygiene. Smiling is the best form of medicine.

If you don’t feel like smiling, ask your tummy to smile, you know you can’t help but smile when you imagine that.

Understand it’s OK to be scared. The future is uncertain. Nobody knows what will happen, no matter what they claim or the statistics they present.

Hope to be OK.

Trust you can make it through.

Be resourceful and resilient in all that you do.

Know getting back up, means you fell down to start with.

Make it OK to cry when things don’t go your way, but use the wet of your tears to smooth your next way.

Because there is always a way.

Know that when all hope is lost, you still have hope. Hope is never lost, only in your mind.

And when you think things are tough and you need reminding, read this again from the start and know I am speaking the truth.

Life. Will. Go. On.

Let’s Get Piggie! The 2020 Guinea Pig Christmas Party

This morning I came up with the idea I’d love to write a guinea pig themed Christmas blog post. I didn’t know what to write, but I felt inspired to put a call out on social media to see if anybody had any festive piggie pics they’d like to share.

I was not disappointed.

The piggie love was overwhelming, so thank you to everybody who took part.

Here we have the Hottest Invite of the Year:

#Piggie2020 aka The Guinea Pig Christmas Party!!

‘I’m going to wear my hat,’ said Cinnamon.

Billie King

Jasper laughed. ‘That’s not a hat, that’s the promotional lid off a bottle. Your hoom’s winding you up!’

Jennifer Hogarth

Shimmer and Shine giggled.

Sarah Reading

‘Hmph, don’t you go laughing at me when somebody’s eaten too many carrots to fit into the sleigh,’ grumbled Cinnamon.

‘We’re not laughing,’ chorused Tilly and Fred from underneath their giant Santa hat.

Natalie Plumb

The other piggies looked around.

Karen Mullins

‘When is this nativity going to get started?’ asked Misty.

Natalie Plumb

‘My hoom has just started to build it…we’ve got a stable and a sleigh to start us off’

Georgina Newton

‘I’m all ready for my starring role in the guinativity!’ said Honey, standing proudly.

Amy Richards

She cast her eyes at the others squashed together. ‘Just because you’ve got cozy new beds in front of the Christmas tree, don’t you go thinking you don’t have to do any work!’

Claire Williams

Mo kept his head down, he’d found a tasty treat in front of the tree.

Angela Tauscher Pittman

Distracted by the tasty treats, he didn’t see Tiny sneak in for a nibble.

Angela Tauscher Pittman

Before Scot decided he also wanted in on the action.

Angela Tauscher Pittman

‘That’s not very spirited, not very Christmas!’ came a disapproving voice.

Jennifer Hogarth

‘Is anybody still playing hide and seek?’ called Honey, wondering if she’d disguised herself too well.

Amy Richards

Tigger and Eeyore kept very quiet, they were still playing…

Jamie Lee Wilkinson

‘Just keep still, they won’t know which are the piggies and which are the puppets.’

Laura Ruano

Angel glanced about: Who was meant to be hiding and who was meant to be finding?

Natalie Plumb

‘I’m starting to feel a little sleepy.’

Jennifer Hogarth

‘You can’t sleep yet! We haven’t done our hat shot!’

Sarahrose Gourley

‘I don’t know if I feel like having my photo taken today…’

@ceona

‘Don’t be shy, it’s fun! Look at this lovely poinsettia, it matches my hat and the floor…I think it must be tasty!’

Karen Mullins

‘Tasty? You can say that again!’ laughed Jasper. ‘My hoom gave me a pumpkin the size of a house!’

Jennifer Hogarth

‘Pumpkins? I didn’t get the memo about any pumpkins?’

Karen Mullins

‘Then that means you didn’t get the note about our Christmas Card Selfie! Say Hay, Hay, Hay!! Merry Christmas everyone!!’

Abbie Kirsten Coles

The End

Thank you so much to everybody for sharing your piggie pictures with me. It was an absolute joy to write about your pets, I hope you enjoyed their story too.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas xxx

Travels around my room: the window handle

I didn’t realise before, but if I stand just so, half standing, half pushing my booty out – like a chicken needing a poo – I can see my reflection in the window handle.

It was a moment of discovery. Unintended, I have to confess.

My eyes were travelling around the room. I wanted to suck in all the details of my interior space and go for my travels – into minutiae I’ve never before considered and really take the time to look and to think and to wonder.

So the shiny, mirrored surface of the chrome finish caught my eye.

‘I wonder if I can see my reflection?’ was how the conversation went. That is why, dear reader, I stood from my chair in the most awkward of positions to check my theory.

It was a small moment of satisfaction.

And one which, now I know of its existence, I feel rather compelled to keep repeating.

I have worked out the angle at which I must stand, to catch a glimpse of myself in the window handle.

It obviously serves no purpose, other than to remind myself I am here and I can see myself in the chrome veneer. Which, I tell myself, is as good a reason why I should always ensure my window handles remain cleaned, buffed and polished to a mirror finish.

Not a thought I had considered previously.

And while studying the handle I ponder on it’s slim, simple, yet elegant design. I know I was given a choice of handles by the builders and I chose these because – if memory serves me correctly – I didn’t like the other choices they offered.

I forget now what I didn’t like about the handles proffered, because how can one really dislike a handle?

Which is rubbish. Absolute balderdash. Complete nonsense and all the rest of it.

Because… 

Handles are so very important.

And despite them being very important, we forget the power of the detail of a handle.

Say for instance, if you’re choosing a new kitchen, the design of a handle can have a huge influence on the look and finish of the room. A handle can make kitchen doors look traditional or modern, outmoded or bang on trend.

Handles can be quiet and unobtrusive, they can be loud and proud and shout ‘look at me’. Handles can be functional or frilly, wildly expensive and/or dirt cheap. They can be made of anything, literally anything, makeshift tugs can be made from sticks and carrier bags if needs be.

And yet before now, I don’t think I’ve ever really sat down and considered the importance of a handle. How very critical it is to the opening and closing of things.

Without a handle, how would I open my window? Without it’s chrome bar, would I push and shove and tie it with string so it wouldn’t blow away? And what about my doors? How would I enter and exit a room and block out the rest of the world when it’s time to go to sleep?

And it was at that moment I realised, with a very deep, big feeling of realisation and recognition of a previously assumed assumption of something and nothing, that a handle makes things secure and it allows and prevents access.

So I survey again the simple, humble handle. And I find myself saying a small thank you to its presence, to its inventor.

I remark in my mind, how often it is we overlook the basic, yet important things that make life just work: the unseen, forgotten items that don’t mean anything, until perhaps, they break.

And in that moment, I realise why we say we have a ‘handle on life’, for it means we understand things, we get things, stuff makes sense: we can open and close, to our heart’s content.

When we don’t have a handle on things, we are cast adrift, confused in chaos – for how can we open and close without a handle? How can we secure anything and everything without a handle?

And so I look again at my simple, humble window handle and I say a small prayer to the handle Gods, for this little handle keeps out the cold and the wet and the rain.

And I smile, because I have another realisation: sometimes gratitude can be found in the most unobvious of places.

A Mr Bob Guinea Pig Mini Mystery Fun Story: Mr Bob and The Mystery of the Missing Hay

Mr Bob & the Mystery of the Missing Hay

‘I was quite sure I’d left your box of hay here.’ Tarah looked thoughtfully at the place where she usually kept Mr Bob’s stash. Her head was a little fuzzy this morning, but she was strict about things being in their right place. Living in a small studio in Fuerteventura meant she had to be organised so as not to have everything all on top of her.

Hay hoarding was a not a look she fancied, plus she was quite sure she was allergic to the stuff.

‘Aichoo!’ that was Tarah’s reaction every time she opened the box of hay. Mr Bob would roll his ruby eyes at her in dismay at her human frailties. He’d then wait patiently while she dillied and dallied and took far too long (he felt) while she got herself together and finally got him his hay.

Mr Bob wasn’t ungrateful though, he knew Tarah went to great effort to get his favourite Small Pet Select Timothy Hay delivered especially for him to their Canary Island home in the sun. So he always rewarded her with a juicy lick on her finger. He knew she liked it – she always giggled and smiled at him and gave him some extra fussing.

‘I’m at a loss where it could be,’ Tarah said, turning to her furry friend. ‘Have you any ideas?’

Mr Bob sniffed the air. He was always on high alert to the scent of hay and knew the steps Tarah took from the hay pile to his food bowl. He twisted his fluffy muzzle to where the treasure usually lay. He stared at the empty space.

There was no Timothy Hay!

‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’ ‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’

Tarah turned to Mr Bob. ‘It’s OK, don’t worry, I’ll sort it,’ she said soothingly.

Tarah picked up some clothes and various bits of paper to see if the hay had got hidden under some things. She looked under the bed, opened several drawers (none of which had any room for hiding any hay) and shoved her head in every spot where a box of hay could be.

Nothing.

The hay was gone and Tarah didn’t know what to do.

She sat on the chair and looked from Mr Bob’s pining face to the dishevelled contents now upended in her little flat. Where on earth could this hay be?

And then it struck her: yesterday she’d finished the box of hay and was due to open another one, she’d ordered it a couple of days ago and delivery was…?

Tarah pulled out her mobile phone and checked her Amazon account. The hay should’ve been delivered yesterday. Yesterday. She sat and thought about what she’d done the day before. It had been a Sunday, so she’d had the day off work.

Mentally she retraced her steps of the day. Where had she been? What had she done? Who had she seen? She moved to the bed and thought back from the start. She’d got up quite early yesterday, it must’ve been 7ish. The sun was glorious and had been streaming in through the cracks in her curtains. She’d made a tea, had a Magdalena cake and then decided to have a second – it was her day off after all.

Tarah and Mr Bob had sat on her little balcony and enjoyed their side view of the sea. They’d watched together as sun-seeking tourists had laid their towels on sun loungers in preparation for their day of roasting. She’d played a little guessing game, pinpointing those who would tan nicely like a sausage and those who would burn red raw like lumps of undercooked roast beef.

Had she fed Mr Bob hay for breakfast yesterday? She felt hazy as she cast her mind back to their breakfast on the balcony. No, yesterday, she’d fed him a carrot as his Sunday treat.

What did we do then?

Mr Bob ruffled his fur and wagged his bum. He was tiring of Tarah’s recollections. He wanted his hay.  

‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’ ‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’

‘OK, I know, I know.’ Tarah smoothed his hair, her hands stroking down a slice of ginger fur sticking up at an awkward angle. ‘OK, I think we need to treat this like a mystery, you up for helping me?’

Mr Bob threw his head back like a lion showing off his mane. He didn’t need asking twice.

Tarah looked at her watch. Luckily she still had an hour before she started work, so she had time to track down the missing hay before the next guests at Jorge’s Place were due.

Pulling on her flip flops, Tarah did one last check about the studio apartment, flinging bags and clothes into the air in a last ditch attempt to find the missing hay. She folded her arms. It’s definitely not here, she said to herself and picked up Mr Bob in his carrier.

Walking down the whitewashed stairs and across the cobbled yard, Tarah’s thoughts flicked over all the food stuffs she could feed Mr Bob until a new batch of hay arrived. She did a shopping list of things she could entice him with: romaine lettuce, carrots, bell peppers, spinach, peas. She knew it was no substitute for hay, but the local supermarket sold that, so at least he wouldn’t go hungry.

‘Buenos Dias!’ Jorge called from across the courtyard.

Tarah waved at her boss. ‘Good morning, Jorge! Have you seen a package that was delivered for me yesterday? I seem to be missing Mr Bob’s hay and I’m trying to track it down.’

Jorge furrowed his bushy eyebrows. ‘Ah, I saw the man, he came maybe some time in the morning.’

‘Do you know where he left the package?’

‘Sorry, no, I was going in the car and so I didn’t stop to see him. I thought maybe you saw him and got the parcel?’

Tarah shook her head. ‘No, I must’ve been out, but usually the driver hides the packages behind the bougainvillea pot so I’ll try there!’

Tarah looked over at the flowing blossoms of the bright pink laden vines, the turquoise pot she’d recently painted looked stunning in the early morning sun. It made a perfect contrast, even if she did say so herself. Twisting behind the floral twines, Tarah was disappointed to see there was no package hidden behind the flower pot. She scanned the courtyard – where else would a delivery driver leave a parcel?

She opened the office door, hopeful some helpful person had already left it inside for her. Nothing. She lifted and moved every plant pot. Nothing. She opened the rubbish bins. Nothing. She moved the stacked parasols. Nothing. She shifted the sun loungers. Nothing.

Who on earth would want a box of hay? She muttered.

And then she went quiet as the realisation dawned on her. Nobody would know it was a box of hay. All they would see is an interesting shaped package from Amazon. It could be anything.

Anybody could think it could be anything!

‘I’m sorry Mr Bob,’ she said, turning to stroke his face through the carrier. ‘I think somebody must’ve pinched your hay thinking it was something interesting.’

‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’ ‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK’

‘I know it’s interesting to you, but I don’t know where else to look,’ she said, her hands resting on her hips.

Mr Bob shook his head. His ruby eyes staring at her.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll pop to the supermarket now, then I’ll get another order from Amazon and it’ll only be a day or two…Maybe I could even call Pablo the vet and see if they’ve any hay in stock for you? I know it’s not your favourite brand, but just for now, you could do that for me, couldn’t you?’

Mr Bob let out a high-pitched squeal and flicked up shreds of hay.

Tarah bit her lip. Her cherished pet could be such a diva sometimes.

Opening the gate to the complex, Tarah exited onto the beach side. The golden glow of the sand never failed to make her smile and she stood for a moment watching as the deep blues of the sea and white fluffs of the waves buffeted and banged. The sun, even though early in the morning, was hot and blanketed her skin with its rays. It’ll be a scorcher again today, she smiled.

A gaggle of newly arrived tourists, five adults and three children, juggled with their overly-stuffed bags and caused way more noise than was necessary or desirable for this hour of the morning. Tarah could feel her smile disappearing into a frown and decided to look the other way. She hadn’t seen them smile and wave and bid her good morning.

Tourists will be tourists, she tutted, and reminded herself not to be too judgemental. Not before 9am, anyway.

She started to head towards the supermarket when she saw the gaggle of tourists were now dancing in the sand. They were playing music from a little portable speaker wedged amongst their colourful bags. A memory flittered into her head.

Tarah had been out walking yesterday. Had stopped by the supermarket and got some bits and then had gone to the beach to read her new book. Well, that had been her intention, but then she’d bumped into Kris ‘Karaoke’ King and he’d convinced her to have a drink at The Ship and try a new cocktail recipe he’d put together.

It had been strong. Way too strong than Tarah had ever drank before, and she’d felt rather woozy for a Sunday lunchtime. But she hadn’t wanted to stop drinking the cocktail. It was a delicious sweet concoction of strawberries and cherry liqueur and some special secret ingredient that Kris wasn’t going to share (although she was quite sure it was his triple strength vodka) and it made her feel warm and fuzzy inside.

He got me drunk!

An overwhelming plunge of panic soared through Tarah’s brain and a cold trickle of sweat pricked at her forehead. That’s why her head felt fuzzy this morning and her memory of yesterday was hazy.

What had she done?

Tarah swallowed and realised her throat was a little sore.

Karaoke!

Kris had convinced her to sing karaoke – the one thing she swore she’d never do. She had a terrible voice, you couldn’t even call it a voice, it was more like a whine, or a whinny or a wheel coming off a car at high speed.

‘You’ll be great,’ she could remember him saying as he led her to the stage. And she’d tried to say no, but the crowd were going wild. They were clapping and fist-pumping and Tarah felt like she was some sort of rock star. And she’d drank another drink for courage and she could remember bending down and talking to a guest from the complex. She tried to recall his name: was it Geoff or Gary or Gordon? He was a small man with a pinched face and a large belly. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that looked a size too small with the top collar buttons done up so tightly, that it looked like his head was being squeezed through a sausage maker. And Geoff, Gary, Gordon – or whatever his name, had passed her a parcel.

And despite every fibre of Tarah’s being shouting at her to get off the stage and not sing, she’d gone along with the buzz of the crowd and she’d got up, caught up in the moment, the energy and the vibe. She’d chosen a song to sing, a nice crowd pleasing, easy singalong: Dolly Parton‘9 to 5’.

But then the computer had got stuck. Her selection hadn’t come up and the out-of-date karaoke gear had jammed on the Billy Idol song ‘White Wedding’.

‘I can’t sing that!’ Tarah had said and put the microphone down.

But the crowd had shouted at her to stay and sing. And she’d wanted to get off the stage. But then Kris had said he’d duet with her and once the music started, and after a few faltering lines and twisted tongues, she’d got into her stride.

Tarah was a rocking God.

Or that’s how she felt. She’d imagined herself with spiky, peroxide white hair and a punk attitude. She’d stomped and she’d sang at the top of her voice and she’d flung her hands into the air with a wild abandon only reserved for five-year-olds. At one point, mid headbang, she’d even considered crowd-surfing into the arms of her braying fans.

And it was maybe at this moment, when she was at the peak of her performance and she wanted to give more, go further, and really kick some beats, when she reached for the parcel she’d been given by the guest. With a lashing energy, she’d ripped open the box and the contents were just like confetti.

And it was likely at this point in the song, Tarah was sure she’d been shouting rather than singing, that the final ‘It’s a nice day for a white wedding’ seemed the appropriate time to launch the contents of her parcel into the crowd, showering the karaoke pub-goers with bits of the finest Small Pet Select Timothy Hay.  

The End

Why I Love Writing Cozy Mystery Books

Outside the wind is blowing a gale. I’m watching the leaves fly like tears from the trees.

And now the rain has come. Great streaks of water are splashing against my window making it difficult to see outside.

The sky is grey and moody. And it’s yuk. There’s no other word for how to describe what I can see outside my window and so I will suffice with: Yuk.

But here, on my laptop, on my little white screen I have tens of thousands of words which describe a different place. A different world. It’s a world I’ve made up full of characters I love spending time with.

Some of them I hate. Some of them I want to kill. Some of them will be killed.

Because that’s the joy of being an author. If I don’t like you, I can kill you. Metaphorically speaking, of course, before you call the cops.

And this is when you truly realise the pen is mightier than the sword.

I can put words into people’s mouths. I can make them act in certain ways. I can say things and do things I would never dream of doing in real life.

Which is the beauty of writing cozy mystery books.

I don’t like being scared.

I don’t like blood and gore.

And I abhor violence.

Which is why I shy away from these sort of themes in my books. I like action, I like fun, I like silly things and twists and turns which is why I love writing cozy mystery.

But if you’re thinking it’s all frills and no substance: you’d be wrong.

Anybody who’s read any of my books: Who Killed Patrick? and Eternal Forever will know while they’re easy to read, they also contain deeper thinking about our world. The characters and the storylines are relatable, but they also explore so many issues of our lives.

Feeling unsure about where you’re going in life and what do next? Enter Tarah – the heroine of Who Killed Patrick? who jacked in her dead-end job to start again in Fuerteventura. OK, so maybe things didn’t go according to plan – but what does?!

And that’s the beauty of writing stories. They are of our time. They speak to the issues and problems we’re facing now. As a writer, of course you want your books to be timeless. But at the same time, writing needs to be relevant and relatable. The issues you face today need to be contained within the stories you read.

When I write, I think about why people do what they do.

Motivation is everything.

I know sometimes we, as people, don’t really understand our actions, but always when we look hard enough, we can find a reason for why we did what we did.

Explaining this to ourselves is part of the journey in life and helps us to understand when we get stuck next time, or when we’re confused and don’t know what to do. Experience guides us, it shapes us and shows us the way.

And so, even though, as I sit here now watching the rain, and wondering how I’m going to write another 40,000 words to get to the end of Mr Bob 2, I know from experience I can get there.

I look at my plan and I know it will be awry. That’s what plans do.

But in a moment, when I start reading my words again (the tens of thousands I’ve already written), I know I can transport myself away.

I look down at my slippered feet and I can see Mr Bob wheeking at me. He’s now rubbing my ankles wanting to be picked up. He wants me to write his story, the next adventure.

And when I look out of my window again, I don’t see the grey clouds anymore, I see the hues of blue of Fuerteventura. I can hear the sea crashing, I can feel the sun on my face. I’m putting my hair behind my ears because the salty wind is tugging…

And that is why I love writing cozy mystery books 🙂

Travels Around My Room: The Desk

Stuck inside, I started to wander and wonder.

I stare at the shiny orange-brown surface and wonder: is it beech? And then I question, given the retailer, if it would be beech or is it likely some kind of plastic, imitation, faux effect of beech? I don’t think they use real wood in desks. I don’t think they use real wood in much nowadays.

I stop myself from googling the type of wood.

It’s so easy to look online. To search for the answer. To search for anything.

Search is second-nature. Just ask Alexa. Or Siri.

I think search destroyed so much imagination.

And so I sit here pondering some more on the grains, on the stripes of tree bark which I’ve never noticed until now. The streaks of age before the trunk was cut and life was stopped.

And then I wonder if the grain is even real? Maybe it’s just injected dye stained across this laminated surface to make it look like wood.

The thought crosses my mind that maybe the desk is metal? That it’s all a ruse and the desk made to look like wood, isn’t in fact wood, and it’s made from the remains of a car. If cars are made from metal?

I hold the surface. It’s too warm for metal. And then I wonder why I even thought that.

And I realise it’s because I wanted to entertain something stupid.

And then I say, if you wanted to think something stupid, you would ask: is my desk made of blancmange?

Now that would be really insane to think my desk was made of blancmange. But then without wanting to stop this train of thought, because it is rather entertaining, I then contemplate what flavour it may be.

I look at the patina and see the reflection of the light on the shiny surface. The answer should be butterscotch, if I was going by the colour alone. But I’m not sure I’d like a desk made of butterscotch blancmange, when I think of butterscotch flavouring, I think of Angel Delight.

I eyeball the smooth texture again and decide it should be strawberry flavoured. A strawberry flavoured desk made of blancmange would be ideal.

And how does it stay up? I ask myself.

I look at the grey legs and decide they are chocolate flakes. The sheer physics of how I sit at a desk made of strawberry blancmange and chocolate flakes is neither here nor there.

It doesn’t matter to me how my laptop stays on top of my imagined desk, in fact, I think I’d rather see my laptop as a chocolate button. Like the giant ones Cadbury’s brought in a few years ago. And I look at my table light as it swathes me and my giant button in its glow and I decide it can be an orange smartie.

Again, it matters not that an orange smartie does not emit a glow. If you shone a torch on it, it probably would emit something.

But it need not matter.

The truth of any of it, need not matter.

What matters most, is to use my imagination. There is no sense to be made. Making sense is a very boring occupation.

I thought that when I watched the news today. When I tried to look ahead and think of what the future holds.

It made me feel bleak. It made me feel down. It made me feel upset about too many things.

And so I came to my desk, where I spend too much time, and I made it a fantasy of blancmange and chocolate.

And I like this fantasy, my little dream world, so I will allow it to continue.

I sit here now, writing on a giant chocolate button atop a strawberry blancmange stilted by Cadbury’s flakes and life is a joy.

I will remember, however, not to lick anything!

Can You Be Eternal Forever: Really?

Eternal Forever claims to be the first UK digital legacy management agency. Their offering: online immortality.

Given how much of our time we spend online, it’s a pretty hot prospect as a business idea. Eternal Forever means you can remain online, even after you’re dead.

But how does it work?

Mack Majors, the account director at Eternal Forever, explains: ‘We provide a full-service account curation and clean-up of your digital profile after you’ve departed. Upon your passing, we manage the digital footprint you’ve left behind to create a cohesive posthumous identity to remain alive online forever. We use AI algorithms that behave as if you’re still here. We can even create pictures of your favourite places with you in them eating your favourite food – with your favourite friends!’

‘People often forget how many online accounts they have. We’re not just talking the socials and email, but also loyalty cards signed up and never used, picture sharing sites, blogs, the list goes on. What we do is curate and cleanse your digital profile to ensure the safety and
security of your data. You have to be careful because there are hackers who could use the information in nefarious ways. Our role is to preserve and protect your online identity.’

‘We strongly believe death isn’t the end, but an in-between stage before the next status update from your digital legacy manager. At Eternal Forever we offer the gift of immortality: You don’t have to be alive to be online.’

Eternal Forever have a three-tier service system offering basic account closure, clean up and close, to full curation. The services cater for the needs of the customer and their digital demands.

Since launch, Eternal Forever have been gaining subscribers at a rate many start-ups would envy, plus they have investors clamouring all over them desperate to be in on the next big thing.

But what’s the catch?

Eternal Forever is not real.

Eternal Forever is the eponymous name of Syl Water’s novel on which Eternal Forever is based. It’s an idea she had years ago when she saw how dead stars such as Elvis Presley had Twitter and Facebook accounts.

‘It got my brain churning,’ she says, ‘I thought to myself how fascinating to still be alive online even though you’re dead.’

And so started the journey into writing her first novel. A book, she admits, went through various iterations and took four years to complete. ‘In the beginning I tried to shoehorn too many stories and characters in, I didn’t give them room to breathe and the story got lost. After too-many-rewrites-I-lost-count I ended up with the final book.’

And you’d be forgiven for thinking Eternal Forever is likely a work of sci-fi, but Waters’ love of cozy murder mystery, saw her turn, what many would think a future dystopia, into an easily accessible whodunit.

‘I didn’t want to make Eternal Forever hard for people to get their head around. I know the fundamental idea can be a bit freaky and I wanted to make it as everyday as possible. I know some people think I missed a trick by not going down the ‘Black Mirror’ path, but that wasn’t what I wanted and not how my brain works. This was an idea which I wanted to appeal to people in their everyday lives, because the net is so part of our lives. It’s a tricky balance, but I wanted to make the thought of being alive online when you’re dead, as normal as having breakfast in the morning.’

Asked if she believes there could be a digital afterlife management agency like her fictional Eternal Forever company, Waters says, ‘I often said to myself rather than writing about this tech service, I should build it. Maybe I could turn it into the unicorn the staff and investors believe it could be!’

Will that ever happen?

Watch this space.

This article originally appeared in CoFounder. I’m grateful to them for humouring me.

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Is this guinea pig toy really a sex doll?

So you know how things are, you’ve got stuff to do and you don’t feel like doing them. You procrastinate a bit, make a tea, pretend you’re going to focus and before you know it your fingers are flying and you’ve opened up a whole internet storm of stuff.

So, today I found myself perusing Amazon to find a guinea pig toy. I don’t have a garden and only a small flat in a city so I can’t have a guinea pig at home. However, despite the numerous guinea pig themed paraphernalia I have about the place, I realised today I was missing an actual guinea pig toy.

What did you say?

No guinea pig toy?

I know, it’s bad and sad, so I decided to rectify it sharpish by tootling my fingers along the keyboard and selecting a soon-to-be lifelike toy.

Now the key thing about choosing a piggy companion is that I wanted life-like. I know full well he is going to be a toy and is not real, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want him to look real (in case you’re wondering why I keep referring to him, it’s because I want him to be a boy like Mr Bob).

So size is important.

You want a cuddly piggie which is the actual size of a guinea pig. And that may sound like the easiest thing a manufacturer of toy guinea pigs could do – but you’d be surprised.

One toy I was considering, until I read a review, informed me the product was on the small size and more like a ‘Syrian hamster’ than a guinea pig. For what it’s worth, a Syrian hamster is about 13-18 cm in length, versus 20-25cm for a guinea pig, so there’s considerable differences at stake here. Another reviewer said the product reminded her of a two-month old guinea pig, and while pups are cute I was looking for a fully-grown specimen.

Size being an important aspect, I was therefore delighted to discover a toy that was 24 cm in length and quickly scrolled through the reviews. I was delighted to read about somebody who bought it for their grandson, who’s in a similar situation to me living in a flat with no garden, and apparently he loves his new friend and it goes everywhere with him. so I’m excited by this.

I’m about to hit the *buy* button.

But then Amazon does that thing – they display other items that ‘may’ be of interest. And you know, you can’t help yourself but to take a little peek.

So I open up the recommendation and I’m a bit surprised, because this piggie, in my mind, doesn’t look as much like a guinea pig as the others, and it’s also only 18 cm – which is more like a Syrian hamster.

Still, I’m intrigued and start to read the reviews. I read how people are buying them as companions for their piggies – and I start to think to myself – hold on, this must be super realistic then, maybe I’m being too human about this?

Until then I read the following review from Stephanie which says:

“I bought two of these for my own live guinea pigs after one of them in particular had become somewhat ‘amorous’ with this bedding. Being the wonderful owner that I am I thought he would prefer a little guinea teddy to spend his nights with and so bought these. Although upon reflection; looking around at these other reviews I feel slightly bad for turning an innocent child’s toy into well, essentially, a sex doll.”

Stephanie was kind enough to even include a picture of her two boys with the toys, fortunately, not an action shot.

She goes onto say the toys are pretty realistic although a little smaller than the description “but hey, who hasn’t got into bed with something only to find it a little smaller than expected” but that “The teddies are machine washed regularly with no issues.”

And I’m sure Stephanie was jesting (kinda), but as we all know: Many a truth is said in jest.

And somehow, when I flicked back to the cute face of the cuddly companion I was about to buy, the same glee of innocence was no longer there.

I never needed my guinea pig toy to be machine washable. I needed him to be cute and adorable and make me squee with joy, now when I looked at him I thought of Stephanie’s boys…and you don’t want me to write the rest!

It’s time to find out: Who Killed Patrick?

I’m so thrilled today to welcome my new book baby to the world: ‘Who Killed Patrick?’

This is the first book in my Mr Bob Murder Mystery series featuring Mr Bob the guinea pig as he and Tarah turn amateur sleuths to find out the truth.

It’s set in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, an area I have been visiting for 25 years and a place I love so much!

It’s a cozy crime novel, which means it’s more of a whodunit. I don’t like being scared and I don’t like violent crime and blood makes me squeamish, so you won’t find any of those nasty things! But what you will find is plenty of action and a story I hope you will enjoy set in a place where you can feel the sunshine on your face and the wind in your hair.

When I wrote this book I always envisaged I’d have some sort of fun launch party in Fuerteventura, but the situation means that’s not to be. And I have to be honest it left me feeling a bit flat.

But, I’m so very lucky and I’m feeling so loved, because the people I’ve reached out to in Fuerteventura have supported me.

Amelia Bolger, a popular vlogger based in Fuerteventura mentioned my new book and Corralejo Info ran an article

I know these are difficult times and there’s more to life than good times and holidays, but I also believe good times are needed in these bad times. Good thoughts can lead to good things.

I started writing ‘Who Killed Patrick?’ with the main aim of fun escapism with a bit of drama thrown in. I’d also say, underlying the main story is an alternative love story, it’s not the Hollywood version of romance, but I think it shows the reality of love in all it’s different guises.

To give you a taster of the book I’ve included a short extract below. The context is that Tarah, the main protagonist, is in Fuerteventura where she’s taken a job managing a holiday apartment complex. Patrick, a guest, has been found dead and now his wife has gone missing and they are looking for her.

If you’ve been to Corralejo, I wonder if you will recognise the place I’m describing!

“The sea at night looks black. White crusts form, foam and crash down onto the shore. At any other time, I’ve always thought the sea at night looks beautiful, but tonight, it looks menacing. The crests and troughs look savage and wild. Where before the sea had signalled freedom, adventure and a force of nature, now all I can see is a fierce, rampant monster smashing against the sand, pulverising and pummelling anything in its way.

The streetlights bordering the walkway of the seafront promenade throw off a yellowish-orange glow, illuminating the path in a low, cloudy, candlelit way. Their dim radiance throws off enough light for visibility, but not enough to see. I switch on my torch and the white beam feels harsh in contrast to the darkness all around. I’m tempted to turn it back off again for the light feels too abrasive, but then I remember the reason why I’m out here in the middle of the night.

Click to order ‘Who Killed Patrick?’