Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

New Year is a time for reflection and new resolutions. To try to live your life better, more responsibly, more selflessly. But first there's that party to go to....

In TORN, the New Year party is when all the plans and good intentions of my heroine, go awry.

Jess didn't really want to go to the party and has been persuaded against her better judgement. After all, she is a mother now; she needs to put her child first, to make his life safe and secure.

And yet it’s a long time since she's had any fun.

The event is a turning point. Her good intentions are subverted. Her conscience is thrown into turmoil. And her life will never be the same again.

What on earth has she done.....?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Everyone loves Christmas don’t they? I certainly do. It’s a serious event in our house. We are not religious, but I love the Christmas story, as well as all the traditions  ̶  sparkle, snow, carols, fairy-lights and gifts piled beside the decorated trees  ̶  which have grown up around the celebration of Christmas. We enjoy it as the mid-winter pagan festival it once was in these islands.

The perpetuation of tradition happens on a smaller scale, within families. I am well aware that the things I insist upon  ̶  the foil wrapped nugget of coal, alongside the nuts, chocolate money and Satsuma, in the toe of the stocking  ̶  is not necessarily what anyone else does, it is simply a repetition of what happened in my family when I was a child. So there is a lot of sentiment wrapped-up in the attempt to recreate the Christmases of your own childhood  ̶  a need to sink back into that remembered warmth, excitement and security.

My book, TORN, starts just before Christmas. Jessica has escaped London with her young son, and is making a fresh start in the country. Here she believes life will be simple, straightforward and peaceful. As she leaves a pub on her first evening out, she breaths in the chill air with a sense of relief and optimism.

I could have made the opening chapter of TORN a warm and cosy evocation of this time of year. But I write unconventional, unpredictable, unsentimental stories. So, what do you think happens?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Whenever I start the process of developing ideas for a new book I will always begin by reviewing my own life. I can honestly say that some real experience appears in every book I have written. After all, my own experience of life has to inform the way I look at the world, how I interpret the way people react, or how I predict they will behave. This doesn’t mean that every book I write is autobiographical. None of them are.

The autobiographical elements might be quite insignificant - fleeting moments retained like snap shots in my mind's eye.  I'll maybe use something that happened to me as a jumping off point, not in the sense that it will necessarily begin the book, but that it will work like a seed from which my story grows.  It could be something funny, flattering or off-the-wall, which prompts the 'what if...?' question.  But a real life incident can never be slotted into a story exactly as it happened to me. I always find I have to alter it, to shade and embroider to make it fit my story-line.

The incident which actually initiated TORN, occurred while travelling to Somerset by car. I was a passenger on the nearside and was looking out at the passing scene. We passed a turning on the left. In the moment or two I had to absorb it I saw a lane sloping steeply down to the heart of a village. The road we were on had obviously been widened and made into the A road to by-pass this narrow village centre.
At that instant the random thought which went through my head was: ‘I bet those villagers were pleased.’ But it was swiftly followed by another. ‘Though I doubt the people who lived up here were delighted to have the main road re-routed past them.’ I went on to reflect that life is actually never that simple or black and white. There are always two or more sides to every question, and........... The whole story grew from there.

Here and now, I have to make it clear that TORN is not a muddy story about road protest! But it is a story about opposing attitudes to life, different ambitions and competing allegiances.

Jess has taken her 3 yr old son and moved away from London intent on escaping her racketty past. She expects life in the country to be simple, peaceful and undemanding. Here she will be able to live 'the good life' and to concentrate on her role as a mother. But there’s conflict over a proposed bypass, conflict between friends with very different agendas, conflict between her own nature and her good intentions. And she finds herself torn ...... between the suitable man and the unsuitable boy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Stonking Review

"I loved this book, it was emotional, sad, happy, funny and just generally fab!"  Says Kim (The Bookworm) Nash. 

What a fabulous review!  It brings a lump to my throat.  And it is especially pleasing as no money changed hands and Kim is not a relative.  Nor is she a close friend, although it goes without saying, she will be my best friend from now on! 

Go to the full review at:  http://kimthebookworm.blogspot.com/2011/11/review-torn-by-gilli-allan.html

It is such a joy to read the comments of someone who really 'gets' your book.  Thanks Kim.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Famous Five

Yet another opportunity for time wasting! The Famous Five Plus blogspot has just been launched. 5 indie authors, including me. http://famousfiveplus.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


If you're interested to know more about me, I make an appearance here and there on other people's websites and blogs.  In all of them I'm just waffling on, repetitively, about the same old subject *Gilli Allan* but if you want to take a look.....

The first person to invite me to be a guest on their blog was the peerless Pauline Barclay.

Then I was interviewed by the witty and wonderful Jane Wenham, on her website Wannabe a Writer.

Then mad Mandy Baggot invited me onto the Meet & Greet page on her website.

And I have just been interviewed again, by the lovely Laura Williams, on Bookworm Ink!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Yet again, I find myself writing about clouds and silver linings.

Only now, 4 days after we were due to depart, am I able to write about this without grinding my teeth.
My holiday to Italy at http://www.arteumbria.com/ was cancelled. 
I was the invalid, still recuperating from a minor operation, and looking forward SO much to a week of 'doing art' with tutors Andy James and Mark Kelland, and then enjoying a week of R & R with our friends, but it was my husband who developed a severe ear infection.  Obviously, flying is a very bad idea in the circumstances.  So we had to cancel the arrangements.

I'm not bitter.  No.  Not bitter at all.

The silver lining - the contract offered by Lysandra Press - is currently still in place. Phew.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Exciting News

We are off to Italy in a few days.  So this will probably be my last post for several weeks.  So, I just thought I'd  let the world know ... I have been offered a contract by a new E publisher. They want to publish my current book Life Class. They also want to look at Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams. I don't have high hopes of the latter two, as they are likely to seem very dated now. But who knows?

I have come to a point in my life, and in my understanding of the publishing business, where I  think it very unlikely I will ever be 'mainstream' published again.  Unless (ever the optimist) one of my books goes viral in the E-Sphere.  So the e-book definitely seems the way to go.

 I am swanning off to http://www.arteumbria.com/  in a very good mood.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Festival 'fringe' gig at the Daffodil Restaurant in Cheltenham

I've done it!  What a relief.  And I didn't stutter, pant, faint, freeze, bumble, fall over or lose my place!

Fiona Stephens, who arranged the whole thing and who was there to welcome me at the Daffodil  and settle me in, was lovely. The Daffodil is a sympathetically converted 1920s cinema.  http://www.thedaffodil.com/  I've been there to eat several times, and once for a wedding, but quite a few years ago.  Doing my 'turn' there, reminded me what a lovely venue it is, and we've resolved to go more frequently in future.

I was accompanied by Geoffrey, my husband, who was charged with taking a few pics.  We were given refreshments, a glass of wine for me, which helped settle the nerves, and a coffee for him. It had started to rain heavily, thankfully after we arrived,  so some of my audience arrived wet and flurried.

The truly wonderful tea was served.  Each table was brought their own tower of sandwiches, cakes and scones, plus a pot of tea. It looked scrumptious, I'd loved to have joined them, but I was far to tense to eat a thing. 

I wasn't 'on' till the majority had finished their tea. To begin with I gave a short account of my own writing 'journey' plus an over-view of the changes in publishing since I was first published.  I didn't read from chapter one of TORN, and I explained why to my audience. As it is an account of a violent, drunken altercation, with the unexpurgated language you might expect, I thought it an unsuitable passage to read out loud, in the afternoon, to tea drinking ladies in Cheltenham!   Instead I read a short intro - a sketch of the back-story and the events leading up to my excerpt, which was taken from a few chapters in. The excerpt was about 15 mins long.

My husband says I was brilliant. I think we can take that with a pinch of salt. He was probably more nervous than I was and deeply relieved that I pulled it off, without embarrassing him or myself.  I did a Q & A. There weren’t many questions, so I just rambled on and made sure I gave the RNA a plug.

It wasn't until I looked at the photos that an odd little coincidence occurred to me.  I'd started my talk by admitting I was nervous but that I should have a genetic memory of 'performing' as I am directly descended from at least two generations of singers (paternal grandmother and great grandmother) and music hall artists.  (paternal grandfather and great grandfather).  I was speaking in front of a poster of Laurel & Hardy. My grandfather, Jamie Dallas, had known Stan Laurel from the days before he went to the US when he  performed in London with Fred Carnoe's army.

When we got home we opened a bottle of fizz to celebrate.  I'm not expecting a spike in sales, that's not the reason I did it. It's a skill writers need to have in this day and age, and for me, who's never done anything like it, it was a personal achievement, which I'm mightlily relieved to have accomplished and which I now know I could do again, and probably better next time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheltenham Literature Festival!

Throughout the Cheltenham Literary Festival, the Daffodil Restaurant, (18-20 Suffolk Place, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2AE) is running an ‘afternoon tea at the Daffodil’ event.


Every afternoon a writer or writers will be going in to talk, read from a current book and answer questions, all to the delicate clink of porcelain!

And guess what? I have been asked to kick off the run, on Friday October 7th!

Tea will be served between 3 and 4.00 pm. My bit (where I talk about myself, read from my e-book TORN and answer questions) will be between 4.15 and 5.00.

It would be lovely to see friends and acquaintances there but I don’t expect it. Actually, I don’t know what is more scary, the prospect of performing to a roomful of people I know or a roomful of strangers. Or, even worse, maybe – an empty room!!!!!

It’s advisable to book, apparently, so they have an idea of numbers. Personally I’m only expecting 3 old men and a dog.

Will let you know how I get on.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

They're going black!!!!!!

When I got so excited about the grapevine fruiting I never imagined this. 

We've lived in this house since 1988 and the vine grows against the old wall beside what would have been the original front door. This is the first summer time we have had grapes. 

They started as little green bobbles, but the bobbles have been growing bigger and bigger and forming into recognisable clumps. For no very good reason I assumed they were a green variety and when I saw the odd one in a bunch darkening, I thought they must be rotting.  I realised my mistake when I noticed more and more of them turning first red and then a deep dark wine colour. 

Get out the demi-johns.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who me?

Yes.  It's now official.  I will be appearing on the fringe of the Cheltenham Literary Festival, taking part in an event being staged at the Daffodil restaurant.  www.thedaffodil.com/

The Daffodil is a 1920s cinema which has been sympathetically restored.  It's not just a restaurant, it hosts other functions.  I attended a wedding there some years ago.  During the fortnight of the Literary Festival it is putting on 'Tea at the Daffodil' every afternoon, where the tea goers can meet an author.  

I'll be there on the afternoon of October 7th - reading from my book, TORN, talking about myself and answering questions.  Times and exact details to follow, when I know them.  Don't all rush at once.

Ancient Grapevine?

In 1988, when we bought Woodbine Cottage in the Cotswolds, we were told by the sellers that the gnarled old grapevine which grew up beside the old front door, fruited. But in the twenty something years we’ve lived here, the vine has never had grapes. Very annoyingly, there are other cottages in the village with outdoor grapevines growing on the old stone walls, and they do have fruit. Sometimes they are laden! I have listened to Gardeners Question Time and cross questioned my neighbours, but have never got to the bottom of why our vine is so stubborn.

Woodbine Cottage is situated near the top of the valley. I have always understood that it - in fact probably the entire village - was part of the demesne of Standish Abbey. We know that the monks made wine from grapevines cultivated in the valley. I have even heard it said that the Romans had grapevines in the valley. So it has always been a notion I have clung to that our grapevine (grapes or not) was very ancient, or was at the very least a cutting from a cutting of the medieval vines which grew here.

Recently, a man stopped beside our garden gate to chat. It turned out he’d lived in the cottage, with his mother and grandparents, in the 1940s. We asked him in. Mike was flabbergasted; of course the house has been modernised, and extended countless times, over the years since he lived here as a little boy. Then it didn’t even have running water, they collected water from the spring, which runs past the back door, and there was an outdoor earth closet. And in his day the garden was four times larger. They kept pigs and chickens, and rabbits for eating. There was an orchard and watercress beds. And of course they grew their own vegetables.

This week, Mike brought his 91 year old mother, Gladys, to see us. In a way, though grateful to us for the opportunity to revisit her old home, I think the experience saddened her. Though perfectly with-it and sprightly, she couldn’t really recognise the house she’d known as a young woman. Apart from the decor and the different layout, it’s now more than twice as big. She spoke of it as a mansion!
“It must be worth a million,” she said. (I wish!)

They had brought a few old photographs with them, which I’ve copied, but they’re family snaps and there’s little you can see of the cottage as it was then. And sadly, I forgot to take a picture of Gladys and her son Mike.  The one thing I was determined to do was show Gladys  the grapevine. I wanted to know if it had fruited in her day, and to tell her we hadn’t had grapes for all the years we've lived here....
“But look, we have grapes this year! The year you came back to visit the cottage!” My pathetic attempt to make connections, to invoke the possibility that the house had a kind of spooky prescience, fell flat.
“We didn’t have a grapevine there then. It was rose,” she said.

Still, it was a very interesting interlude and lovely to meet them. It gives us a better understanding of the history of our home. Even if I now know my grapevine isn't as ancient as I'd hoped.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Surprise surprise!

Who'd have thought it?  I've been invited to a give a reading at an event during the Cheltenham Literature festival!  I am both astounded and petrified.  So far the dates haven't been firmed-up and I guess there is still a chance of the organisers coming to their senses, but even so........!  If it's definitely going to happen I'll post about it here.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Silver lining?

Every cloud has one we are told. Well, I don’t believe that. But I do believe that it's true of some clouds, as I've just experienced a rather lovely and surprising silver lining. Before I tell you about it I must first describe the cloud.

Recently we’ve had troubles with our email delivery system. It’s too tedious to go into detail but it necessitated getting our ‘computer doctor’ in and he seemed to have resolved the problem. Then he asked, ‘anything else I can help you with?’

Here I have to backtrack a bit. My dad fancied himself as a photographer. And being serious about it he took transparencies. After his death, in 2009, we found hundreds and hundreds of photographs, large boxes of them, which he’d laboriously made up into slides, with glass and tape.

Not wanting to throw them away, and anyway wanting to see and keep the images of my growing-up through the many family holidays immortalised there, I bought a gizmo that is supposed to convert photographic transparencies into images that can be stored on the computer. I’d bought it online and hadn’t done sufficient investigation. When it arrived I realised it wouldn’t take my dad’s jumbo-sized slides.

Don’t despair, I thought, I’ve my own pictures I can copy. With my first 35mm SLR camera, I’d gone the same route as my dad, and had taken only transparencies for a period of about 5 years.  But, though my pics fitted my gizmo, I still couldn’t make it work. I spent a whole day puzzling over the instruction book and experimenting. I could capture the pictures but I couldn’t transfer them to the computer. 

So .......when our computer doc asked if there were any other computer related problems he could help with I immediately thought of the gizmo that’s been sitting unused on my desk for 18 months. He agreed the instructions were badly explained, but within moments had worked out how to use it. Hurrah!

I am now able to post pictures that even I haven’t looked at for over thirty years. Featured are my boyfriend of the time, Geoffrey - later to become my husband - and me, on our first holiday together in Minorca. My very own and very personal silver lining.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Find a new book review blog at nikkis-books4u.blogspot.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just to let my legions of fans know....

I am now successfully published to Kindle Amazon AND to Smashwords.  The links are here

Amazon Kindle- http://www.amazon.co.uk/TORN-ebook/dp/B004UVR81Y

Smashword- http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61772

TORN is a contemporary novel, which faces up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships. Life is not a fairy tale, it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome, it can be awkward and embarrassing , and it has consequences. You don't always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you're in love is not always good news. It can make the future look daunting......

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I can’t count the number of classes, workshops and inspirational talks I’ve attended over the years, about the writing process. I’ve learnt about plotting, becoming an ideas factory, mind mapping and overcoming writers block. I’ve gratefully received tips on how to deal with my saggy middle. I’ve been advised about pacing, how to involve all the senses in my scene building and to create my characters using enneagrams or astrology. After scribbling pages of notes, or scooping up the hand-outs, I emerge from each session believing that this time I have the Holy Grail. Metaphorically I’m punching the air. YES!

But then.... 

I certainly wasn’t the first to say this (it was probably some journalist), but I don’t know what I think till I write it down. This is not just true of my opinions, it is also true - slightly paraphrased - of anything I commit to paper. I don’t know what I'm going to say, how I'm going to say it, or where a story is going, until I start writing.

I envy other writers who are like bubbling geysers, with new stories and plot ideas forever gushing forth from the fermenting cauldron of their imaginations. When I grumble about the excruciatingly slow process of evaluation and eventual rejection, after sending off the precious manuscript, the chirpy advice coming back from these lucky people is: “Start writing your next book!”

If only it was that easy. What new book? This may be unfair, and perhaps I’m over-dramatising, but it’s like telling a woman who has just suffered a miscarriage to: “Have another baby.” It may be a good thing to do in the long run, but it’s not necessarily something you can face, physically, emotionally or psychologically straight away. Or even next week or next month. There’s a process to be gone through which is akin to mourning, to getting that book, in which you invested so much time and thought and emotion and hope, out of your system.

Also - and here my analogy stumbles a little - there are the false dawns, the conviction that if only you tweaked this and cut that, it might yet revive and be acceptable to the world of hard-bitten agents and faceless monolithic publishing houses.

There comes a time, yes, of course, I’ll admit defeat, square my shoulders, lift my head and (after self-publishing to Kindle!) sally forth again. I always know the starting scenario of the next book, I’ll know where the characters have come from in their life journey, but where the story will take them....? Ah, there’s the rub. Who knows? I’ve just got to begin ... and hope.

In the past I’ve described the process as like carving a rock of granite with a teaspoon. In fact it is more like channelling porridge. The story will unfold, slowly, stickily, hiccupping along, until that magic day when it catches fire (apologies for the mixed metaphors!). Then I’m all right. The ideas turn from porridge to a hot, fast-flowing liquid.

And when, eventually, I type ‘The End’, what of those wise and wonderful words of advice that I’ve lapped up greedily over the years? Oh! (Clutches hand to head) .........I forgot!

But don't listen to me on the subject, go to http://www.sarahduncansblog.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 9, 2011


These days, it seems, everyone wants to be famous.  We scoff at the talentless kids who doggedly queue for the chance to gain their 2 minutes of fame on shows like the X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent. And the programme-makers feed our voyeurism by selecting some of the most hopeless to appear on our television screens.  We duly jeer or cringe, revelling in their self-delusions.  I'm as likely as anyone to laugh at them, but there's a secret bit of me that weeps for them too, that understands why they are there and why they subject themselves to the possibility of  humiliation.  I know what it is to crave fame. 

From my earliest years, I have always wanted to be famous. When I played with my friends we didn't play formal games, we always enacted dramas that I'd invented.  I wasn't just the creator, I was also the director and the star, in these play-acting games. And in my head I saw them unfold like a cinema film.  We weren't seven year olds running around in the concrete palyground.  We were 'Red Indians' and cowboys, handsome princes and beautiful princesses, leather clad motor-bikers and their girlfriends. Even on my own I often had the sense of another eye watching me - as if I was the subject of a documentary film which watched my progress through life.  Sad eh?
I might never have started writing down these imaginary scenarios, but when I was ten my teenage sister began to write her own Regency romance, inspired by her love of Georgette Heyer, and it occurred to me that I could do the same.  My 'novel' didn't have a title, not that I can now remember, but it was set in the olden-days.  The plot revolved around the visit of a group of ladies to a lighthouse.  Bad weather trapped them there.  My sixteen year old hero, son of the lighthouse keeper, suffered a fall on the rocks.  My sixteen year old heroine, one of the visiting ladies, undertook his nursing.  At this point, just a few pages in, my imagination ran dry.

Despite scraping through to Grammar school there was no clue in my educational attainments, or lack of them, which suggested I should become a writer. Apart, that is, from continuing to write (though I never finished anything) throughout my secondary school years.  Art was the only subject I excelled at.  My parents were both artists and though I wouldn't say I was pressured, there was a subtle understanding that art was where my future lay.  That was all right, I thought.  I would become a famous artist. 

I'd stopped writing when real-life began to supplant my fantasies. Adulthood also brought with it the knowledge that craving fame was ridiculous and immature.  I could laugh at myself.  After all, working as an illustrator in advertising was not a sure-fire path to celebrity.  But when I took a career break and had my son, I began to write again.  This was the most magical time.  It was as if, by giving myself permission to write something 'soppy', the breaks to my imagination had come off . I could fly.  Amazingly, I was published really quickly.  This gave me a completely distorted view of the world I was joining.  Fame had come back on my agenda. I even gained myself a few sentences and a photo in several of my local newspapers. But that was all.

My publisher went bust and the world of publishing changed. I only have two print publications to my name - Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams.  Finding fame through authorship is yet another unattainable dream. In fact, it would be far easier to get published in the mainstream again if I was already famous! Nothing for it then.  Where do I sign up for the X-Factor?  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Art and Life

I am an artist.  It always sounds boastful to make this claim, but there's no other word.  I have always drawn and, to a lesser extent,  painted.  I went to art-college (though I was too young and dropped out before gaining a qualification) and I made my living as an illustrator, in advertising.

The discipline I was best at and - unsurprisingly - enjoyed most, was 'life'.  And for most of my adult life I have continued to draw or paint the naked human figure.  I've even tried a bit of clay modelling, though I've a long way to go to match Rodin!

Water colour is a medium I've always been interested in exploring, but I could never give up my life-class.  But the decision was taken out of my hands.  My local tutor, Mark Kelland, could no longer afford the higher cost of running the life-class.  If the model didn't have to be paid and was willing to pose naked in premises that could be overlooked, or if Mark was willing to pass on all his costs to his students, he might have been able to continue.  As George Harrison said:  All Things Must Pass.  So instead, I now do a lady-like water colour class instead, which I have to admit, I am enjoying. 

I am really looking forward to attending a week long art course in Italy, in October.  It is being run by a close friend of mine, Sara Moody, who last year bought the hill top Tenuta Poggiolame ( the Estate of Poggiolame) in Umbria. The course is being tutored by Mark Kelland, a master of technique, and by Andrew James, Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, a new star in the art world. But it won't just be landscapes in water-colour or oils we will get the chance to paint.  On the October course there will be a 'life model'!  Hurrah!

These art courses/holidays are being run 4 times a year.  The bedrooms are en-suite, there is a chef to provide delicious food, you can take a non-painting partner or friend to share your room, for a reduced cost.   Around the house there are terraces and formal gardens, with grape vines and mediterranean plants and flowers.  There is also a heated swimming pool. But the majority of the 220 acre Poggiolame estate is wild with olive trees, streams and pools.  It is roamed by deer and wild boar.   If you are interested go to the website: http://www.arteumbria.com/

Monday, April 25, 2011

Extract from TORN. Out now as an e-book on Kindle.

New Year’s morning....
Jess opened her eyes. It was pitch black outside the window; inside, the room was divided vertically and horizontally by dark slabs of shadow. Only a pinpoint of amber light, flickering now and again, beamed from her laptop. Though her brain was clear, her head was banging and her mouth felt furry and tasted sour.
           Drunk’s dawn, she thought. Brilliant. Have I had more than an hour’s sleep? At least she was alone. The man had crept away while she slept, thank God. Then she heard his breathing, with its characteristic asthmatic wheeze, and the dip of the mattress as he stirred. She froze, revolted by the idea that her skin might come into contact with his. The idea of touching a bony, hairy male leg – or worse – was repellent. And if he was rousing she didn’t want him to realise she was awake. He turned over then turned back again. The wheeze had developed into a definite whistle. Jess sensed he’d woken and was probably lying there wondering what to do. If she was any kind of decent human being she would tell him she was awake and go and fetch one of Rory’s inhalers for him. But she stayed rigidly still and tried to control her breathing.
           She could come up with all sorts of rationalisations for her ungenerous behaviour. She was naked and didn’t know if her dressing gown was close at hand. He’d be embarrassed if he thought he’d woken her. He might even be ashamed of his frailty, not that admitting he was asthmatic had seemed to bother him earlier, but still, he might not want to make a big deal of it in the early hours of the morning. More importantly, she was embarrassed. It was a long time since she’d done anything so bloody stupid and had lost some of the bravado necessary to face the stranger in the morning. Especially after you’ve thrown your guts up down the loo a few hours earlier, she thought. Had he fancied her sufficiently after she’d vomited, to proceed with what he must have believed, rightly, was on offer before? And if they’d had sex did he use a condom?
           The head of the bed was positioned under the flight of stairs that led up to the attic room. As Danny got up he cracked his head on the slanting ceiling. He swore quietly then padded across the room, managing to stumble over something – probably the toy basket – on the way to the bathroom. As he pulled the door closed behind him and she heard the light click on she let out her breath. Good. She couldn’t remember much about Danny but at least he must have a modicum of sense. Even if he were still half asleep the spare inhalers would be easy to spot in the cabinet. As she had the thought she heard the clatter as something fell into the hand basin below the wall mounted cupboard.
            So, he must be thoroughly awake by now. Perhaps he would use the inhaler then decide to get dressed and let himself out of the house. She need never confront him face to face again. Though she could recall thinking he was good looking, that was last night, and under the influence of alcohol; should they meet again, at some future time, would they even recognise each other? But Danny padded back to bed and slid carefully in under the duvet, evidently making an effort not to disturb her. What a cow I am, Jess thought.
            When she opened her eyes again it was bright day. If wearing nothing else, she still had on a watch; it was nearly ten. It would be tempting to close her eyes again and lose herself in sleep, but she knew it would resolve nothing. If the man in her bed had any sense of shame, he would have removed himself before now. But he was still there; even if not touching she could feel the radiant heat of another body. Nothing for it then. She would have to face him – and the situation – now or later. Better get it over with. Slowly and cautiously Jess began to turn. She didn’t want to disturb him before she’d had a good look. Cautiously she pushed herself up on her elbow.
           He slept like Rory often did. Arms flung back on the pillow, hands limp and relaxed. His face was turned away, against his shoulder, but she could see his profile; the tousled ashy hair, the straight nose, the fan of long eyelashes, the concave plane beneath the cheekbone heavily stubbled with soft blonde whiskers – almost, but not quite a beard. The beaded chokers were still around his throat, the beads dragging to one side, caught in the crease between neck and collar-bone. A part of his smooth chest was exposed, the nipple dark and small against the creamy, fine grained skin. Jessica found herself mentally mapping each detail; the pull of the deltoid against the bicep, the perfect rounded form of his shoulder. When he turned his head she could study his mouth, the mouth she had kissed over and over again; she was now perfectly able to recall that part of the evening. What struck her more forcibly than his beauty, was his youth. Jess had realised he was younger than her, but now she wondered by how much. Tentatively she touched his upper arm; the skin felt silky and cool.
            His eyes opened – clear, blue-grey, the iris ringed with indigo. She saw the sudden widening of the pupil but by no other gesture did he display surprise at finding himself under scrutiny. He stretched and smiled and withdrew his arms from their up-flung position.
           ‘Hallo Jess....’

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The power of memory

I don't have a good memory. I recall my childhood in brief, unconnected visual snapshots. But all my adult life I've had a memory of being a child, on holiday. It has always been a very strong, but unspecific memory. In my minds eye I see a little shop, set at a slight angle to a rough stone wall. Outside the shop is piled the ephemera of beach holidays - buckets and spades, fishing-nets, sun-beds, etc. Along from the shop there is a gap in the wall where stone steps lead down to a beach, which I can't yet see. There is a drift of sand against the wall. As much as anything it is the smell that I can recall most vividly. Sand mixed with the smell of the sea, sun-warmed stone, hot plastic and vanilla. No one has ever been able to enlighten me about where this was.

The strength of this memory is in the intensity of the feelings it evokes in me still. It is a shortcut to those childhood emotions; the almost unbearable excitement of being at the seaside, with everything that meant - paddling, sand-castles, icecream, scrabbling over rocks and fishing in rock-pools, parental attention, fun.

Last October my husband and I stayed with my sister and her partner in a part of Cornwall that we'd not been back to for many many years. It was my sister, in particular, who wanted to revisit our childhood haunts of Mevagissey, Porth Loonie beach (Caerhayes) and Goran Haven. I didn't dwell on whether I would find the location of this childhood memory, but it returned to me in a rush as we walked down the road from the car park at Goran Haven. Before we even reached the quay it was the smell that hit me, something about the concentration of that seaside, seaweedy ozone smell that funnelled up the lane. And when we reached the front, there was the little shop - shut-up in October - set at an angle to the wall. Sadly the wall has obviously been extensively remodelled to allow vehicle access. But I am absolutely positive that this is the spot.

I don't know why I am telling this to the world - or more likely I'm talking to myself - but it was strangely important to me. And now, in a sense, I'm sad that the memory has been defused.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My first - New Spring Resolution - blog

I have recently epublished to Kindle. The book, TORN, is now available from Amazon, or from the Kindle book store. It was a nightmarish marathon. Over a period of several weeks I painfully got to grips with the requirements and then, having thought I'd succeeded, had to redo it - correct and upload again - several times before I was satisfied. Who would have thought 'tranquility' has 2 Ls. The word was on the cover, so not picked up by either my spell checker or, more annoyingly, by my super-educated husband. I know the claim to be dyslexic is much bandied about, but trust me, I researched the subject for a book and found I could tick virtually every box. Obviously I am on the mild end, but the knowledge was a damascene moment for me, explaining so much about how my brain works or rather doesn't work, and why it constantly fails me when I most need to remember or understand. It was a weight lifted from me. I've always clung to the belief that I wasn't thick, but too often all the evidence points in that direction. Well, I've done it. Now comes the even more difficult job of promoting TORN. Gilli