Briefest blogpost, ever…


A quarter of a year has just zoomed by since my last post. Unbelievable. And things are still way too flat out to squeeze enough time to go into any of it in much more in depth than this…

We became dog-owners/wranglers/lovers.

Mena’s cancer started responding to her new chemo.

Jesse started talking – ‘shark’, ‘turtle’, all good stuff.

I got braces . At 36.

Book 4 started taking shape.

We survived our first ever baby-poo-in-the-bathtub crisis. No sharks or turtles were harmed. A 9-year-old co-bathing sibling, however, was slightly adversely affected.

Mena’s cancer started outsmarting her chemo.

I got my first, and last, tattoo. At 36.

We sold our house.

Found a cottage by a canal. Imagined the kids’ childhoods punting away lazy summer days and tried to buy said cottage.

Cottage fell through. Found another renovation project. No canal, just the unique selling point of near-dereliction and likely eventual bankruptcy upon ownership.

Knighty and I temporarily moved the clan in with family brave (mental) enough to take in 2 adults, 3 boys, a rabbit and puppy. Plus boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

Book 4 held its shape. Book 4 is still holding its shape. So far. Editor may have other ideas when she finally claps eyes on it. Parp.

Mena started a third crack at chemo.

We all developed bad backs, bowing down at her awesomeness.

And the latest big shocker… finding 5 mins amidst the chaos to write this post.

See you in the next quarter, peeps 🙂




C is for Cancer, X is for Courage

Of the wayward monikers our mum bestowed upon each of her three daughters, Ximena (Mena) definitely got the top spot over Anouska (*waves*) and Tarien (the middle one) for name awkwardness. You try sitting in a waiting room, listening out for someone to call that mouthful out. Zim-mee-nah… Hex-zim-mennah… Sacagawea.. Jeez, Mother. Give your kid a chance. You know that bit, on Four Weddings and a Funeral? When Rowan Atkinson tries to say ‘Sinjin’ or ‘Singeon’… see what I mean? Can’t even spell it. But yeah, there’s a lot of that for Mena.


Anyhow, I’m digressing, soz. These days ‘X’ not only stands for my sister’s dodgy initial, but for everything I think is marvellous about her, not least her courage.

It’s another big week for Mena. Tomorrow she will have the scans that will take a detailed look at what exactly is going on inside the mass occupying her right lung. We know there’s a lot of cancer in there, there’s also fluid and infection and other nasties her body is trying to deal with. In my last vlog about it ( ) I was a little overwhelmed by the fact that at last… AT LAST… Mena had received some positive news from her oncologist in that, after changing around her cocktail of drugs and crossing every finger we had between us, the scans had finally shown a reduction in the size of the mass.

The mass. Not the tumour.

A fact that dawned on me with a swift kick in the guts shortly after I posted that vlog.

So on the evening before these more detailed scans will take place, the fronds of anxiety are starting to creep back in, ever thick and fast. And if I think on how hard it is at times for the rest of us to plaster a smile on it, I can only imagine what Mena’s thoughts must be like to deal with before she falls asleep each night. This Thursday night coming will be bloody awful for her, I should think. Waiting for the results to hit on Friday. But we’ll never know because she’ll never say.

Because Mena is courageous. I know this because instead of falling to pieces (which incidentally she has never done) she keeps it together so the rest of us can cling to her calmness like a raft. At a time when I tell you now, I’d be milking the cancer card for every favour, scrap of sympathy, cooked meal and foot rub going, Mena is always just chilled. Always ace, always facing her illness beautiful bald head on.

So whilst cancer has taken the letter C in our world, it hasn’t taken the top spot. Because around here, folks, courage very definitely got crowned with the X.

Sweet Weekend

Ah, this weekend was so lush! Just thought I’d write a super-quick bloggy bit about it in case I forget it!

So we didn’t do anything drastic, the most out-of-the-ordinary part about our weekend was that is was so uneventful. Which right now, in our family is a gooood thing. The last few months have been gulped up with writing commitments, kids finding their feet at high-school, house viewings and dashing in and out of Birmingham to see my kid sis going toe-to-toe with some unpleasant treatment or other.

image whole

But not this weekend! OH NO! This weekend was all about falling asleep reading books and yelling at the kids and dealing with babies on hangovers (step away from that phone, the baby didn’t have the hangover) and Sunday league football.

After all that post-chemo roughness had left her feeling pretty bloody awful all week, by Friday Mena had finally made it downstairs for a few hours so the boys got to say hi to her after school for a change instead of having to keep it down so she can rest. Which was a brilliant start to the weekend because they hadn’t seen her looking so beaut in ages.

So Saturday, the Knight rabble headed over to Dovedale, which is about 45mins from where we live, to blow off a bit of steam. As part of the peak district it’s a pretty gorgeous place to chill out, especially under a low sun and that’s what we’d have probably done had we not have been sniping at each other for most of it. The kids rowed all the way there, obviously. Knighty and I bickered over whose parenting needed more time on the naughty step (he knows it’s his) and then after a few happy family shots and plenty of sulking in between, we finally agreed on something and yelled (as a team) at the kids all the way back home.

By the time we were back in Staffordshire, it was like the Generation Game as Knighty reeled off all the things our offspring are now banned from. I contributed a few items, but he had it covered. The Xbox… Colour TV… Fizzy pop, sweets, crap in general, late nights… Fun of any sort. Having friends. Smiling.

The list was endless. I was so impressed with Knighty’s decree I fancied him a bit again by the time we pulled up at the house.

So saturday was a typical family day out then, only with no major worries. It was ace. (Although our newly de-funned kids might not agree.)

And then Saturday night, our clan of five actually went out! Socialising! As a family! We went out en masse and raised a glass with some pals to toast their marriage, crazy fools. We bought a round of drinks… for eight quid! EIGHT QUID! And that wasn’t the last shocker of the night either… we actually managed, as a family, to make the journey back home mucking around and laughing with each other. No threats, no bickering, just a few breakneck rides up and down the street in Jesse’s buggy. Okay, so it was only a few minutes’ walk back to ours, but hey! Harmony is harmony, right?

Larking about in the middle of the night with the homies.

Larking about in the middle of the night with the homies.

Howzat for rough? My sister thinks she's got hair problems...

The Sunday morning shot. Howzat for rough? My sister thinks she’s got hair problems…

So all in all, a decent weekend topped off with yesterday, the cherry on the cake of our delightfully uneventful two days together. After weeks stuck in hospital followed by days stuck holed up feeling like rubbish at her place, my sister rocked up at my place to hang out for an hour. Fully dressed, no drips or slippers in sight. And that was our totally boring, sweet weekend!

You learn how to pout at highschool these days.

You learn how to pout at highschool these days.

I'm not gonna lie, when those hot air balloons came over the hillside, I yipped with glee. What? Those things are massive in real life!

I’m not gonna lie, when those hot air balloons came over the hillside, I yipped with glee.


Family bliss. Sort of.


Pesky kids, took breadcrumbs didn’t they…

Little Boys and Big Blazers

So Kid A has started high school. It’s been two weeks and still something tightens in my stomach when I think about him optimistically gambolling towards the school gates each morning, arms swinging inside his too-long blazer sleeves, a healthy glint of trepidation in his eyes and Marmite around his mouth.

On the first day, he came home asking what a ‘bender’ was. The second week he got to watch his first real-life fight between two other first year boys, not live of course, some foul little voyeur had captured it blow for blow on his mobile phone for the likes of… well… my son, to marvel at.

Bleurgh. He only just turned eleven years old last month. He gave me a kiss this morning in the car before dashing out to meet his pals. He’d forgotten. He’d forgotten that for the last two weeks, he hasn’t been so much of the chirpy wide-eyed little lad we’ve always known, but some sort of Oliver/Kevin hybrid. One minute he’s snuggled on the sofa, rupturing into one of the big numbers off the new Annie (you should check that, Jamie Foxx is H.O.T.) and the next he’s listing all the ways he’s going to annihilate his younger brother if he so much as breathes wrong.


Little boy? Teenager? Where the hell is he now?! He’s not sure either, he thinks it should be somewhere nearer the Kevin end of the spectrum but this morning in his rush he forgot, and an old habit bubbled to the surface.

‘Bye, Mum!’ he chirped, offering up those lovely pudgy cheeks. I seized my chance and laid a big smackeroony on him, and then promptly checked no-one in a school blazer might be watching, camera-phone poised.

As it is, he’s just come home feeling crook. He has blood on his shirt from a sneezing fit (No, Anouska, he didn’t get flattened by anyone, it’s not going viral on YouTube… don’t be so dramatic…) and is currently asking for a bowl of soup. So I’m off. To dispense said soup. And kisses, if he’ll let me.

Right after I’ve checked YouTube…

Muffin-Top Wars – the first sweaty gyration.


That’s it. I’m all out of excuses.

Jesse Boy is ten months old, he’s not interested in mum’s moloko any more so I no longer need to eat with him in mind, book 3 is finished and in the last couple of weeks, my mum has retired.

So I can diet. I can leave the baby for an hour and go to the gym. See? My excuses are like the contents of our biscuit tin. Ain’t nuttin left.

That said, I can’t have my mother running over to our place every day and seeing as I love scoffing food almost as much as I love my kids (some days it’s close… real close), I’m going to have to put in a regular effort if these thighs are ever gonna see the inside of my favourite slacks again.

Much as I’ve enjoyed developing them, and much as they hang so attractively out of the top of my maternity jeans (yes, I’m still wearing them), I need to shift these muffin tops.

I need something quick and simple I can do at home a couple of times a day without anyone watching me wiggle. So I’m having another blast with a Hula Hoop, which is fairly fitting given how many packets of Salt & Vinegar I snaffled during the last months finishing off my manuscript.

I’ve tried this before, when they were first in fash, and it bloody killed. After knocking the kettle off the kitchen worktop with the hoop from hell (the thing was stupid-huge, you needed a helipad for safe clearance) and persevering because it was ‘working wonders’ for the bloody celebs, my weak, commoner ribs felt like they’d been kicked by a horse. I actually cried privately after wincing my way through a second bash with that awful contraption. It now resides in the shed… nicely webbed up and covered in slug trails… right next to my fitness trampette.

But I’ve got myself a new bad boy. A new, padded-so-I-don’t-hurt-meself jobby. So I’m gonna give it a proper good whirl this time, twice a day away from small kitchen appliances, and see how the old muffin-tops fare. If I’m organised, I might even manage to keep some kinda Hula Hoop diary goin. This could get messy…

Knighty’s muffin-tops. A brief history…


Briefly muffin-less


Belly nicely stretching out/disguising muffin situation

photo 2

Momentary motivation fuelled by imminent swim-suit season

photo 1

Weapon of choice/small snack to keep me goin

Parents’ Evening Curveball

Blimey. What a (completely un-) funny few weeks. Whilst this blog was originally intended to document my writing journey, I’ve decided to throw in a few posts about non-authory stuff too, and this is one of those posts.

Despite there being a gaping hole that I’ve yet to fill with all the brilliant stuff that’s happened along my writing journey so far – which I WILL get around to at some point – I shouldn’t actually be blogging right at this very minute. No, I should be in the thick of my second book which, up until this week, has been a real pain in the ass at times. It’s been a bit like riding a wild, deranged horse that knows more about the direction it wants to bolt in than I do. Thankfully, after much clenching of the thighs and my lovely editor expertly reminding me how to grip the reins confidently, I’m finally getting there and steering the story where I want it. Phew. And so with that in mind, I really shouldn’t be distracting myself here.

The thing is, I’m feeling a bit winded. I’ve told myself to get a grip, but I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m being pathetic, I know I am, and I can’t help it.

You see, I bloody hate being caught off guard and last night was a cracker.

It was the boys’ parents’ evening and, whilst I knew my 7yo had been struggling a little here and there, I was absolutely unprepared for the sock in the stomach that was the mention of dyslexia.

Hold the phone.

How have I not seen this coming? What the hell have I been doing while the little fella has been trudging through his work, trying to keep up with his pals? Ah yes, delighting in my achievements in the literary world. Nice one.

I know, I know – It’s not the end of the world. Not even close. But it’s still a bloody naff blow for the kid. I mean, if he does ‘test positive’ for dyslexia, what hurdles will he have to overcome? How will this impact his life? Not just day-to-day but overall? Sure, he loses his place easily when reading – and yes, he takes an age to write a paragraph, but a learning disability? My boy, who’s so smart and hilarious and utterly capable.

Flying off the handle? Moi? Maybe. But it’s difficult to stay cool about it. It’s difficult not to worry for him or indeed for his place within any of his future educational settings. He doesn’t have low self-esteem at home… please let that be the case at school too. I can’t believe I didn’t see this one coming. To my shame, I didn’t. And that’s a real sucker too.

It seems ironic now that I incorporated some of the issues associated with dyslexia in Since You’ve Been Gone, after being moved by the stories a friend of mine had told me of her son’s own experiences. I’ve spent most of today revisiting the same resources I used as research for that first book, only now I’m looking at it all from a new, more daunting, perspective.

Of course, my awesome laddy might not be dyslexic. He might just be a little too chilled out for his own good, right? It’s possible, more than possible in fact. But there’s a voice that’s started nagging in the far corner of my head. It’s telling me that it can’t help but think that the teachers might be onto something. I guess time will tell.

Dyslexia is not the end of the world. I know this. Twenty years ago, I used to rib my best bud in our high school English class for her dodgy handwriting. Four A-levels and two university degrees later, she’s only just recently discovered that she’s dyslexic. She also has a husband in his thirties who’s recovering from serious life-or-death surgery, so I remind myself that as far as hurdles go, ours really aren’t so high.

So before I get back to book 2, I think I’ll have me a deep breath and another trawl of the net for significant individuals with dyslexia who, like my boy, cut pretty impressive figures in their own right. Like them, my boy is kooky and brilliant and unique, so if it transpires that he does have dyslexia he’ll at least be in good company. At face value, he fits in rather well. In case you were wondering, my glorious little fella is the one with the eyeballs :¬) x