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About me


Or what Penelope isn’t waiting for anymore – because it’s already happened. 

1.  My life as a baby

Best bit:  being a baby IS the best bit.

The horse's name is Gissy

Worst bit: like I said – it's hard to find a downside.

See what I mean?
Me and my big sister on the boat
 from Nigeria when we came home for good.

2.  Nursery school in the big hall of the Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Best bit:  being allowed to drink orange squash straight from the medicine bottle.
Worst bit: the old lady telling me I couldn’t. 
That very cold winter before climate change

3.  Trafalgar Infants’ – Horsham, West Sussex

Best bit: getting to play the bride in the show, chosen on account of already having the dress.

I know he looks nice enough in the picture, but trust me, he
wasn't my type and I'd already promised myself to Debbie
Worst bit:  unable to dispel horrible feeling that the marriage was legally binding


4.  Greenway County Junior School

Best bit: Lyn and I secreting ourselves in the airless room at the end of the corridor for “glockenspiel practice”. 

Worst bit:  the supply teacher we had in the third year.  She used to give us factual tests on Fridays and force a confession of our scores to the class.  She asked:  how many hairs do we have on our head?  I made an educated guess - a few hundred thousand.  (Thinking about this now, I should have smelled a rat – this photo of me and my dad on the beach shows I was familiar with the concept of follicular inequity from an early age.)  

The correct answer, according to this woman – oh blow it – her name was Mrs Pocock – was “I don’t know” which meant that I got it wrong and was declared officially bottom of the class.  You can tell it still hurts.

This is my class in the first year, when we were seven.  
Unlike the various hangers on to my first wedding, none of whom I even recognise, I can provide first name, surname and a character summation for every single kid here.  The shocking thing is that only four of us went on to Grammar School, the potential of all these others being squandered in the sub-standard Secondary Modern.  The 11 Plus was an abomination, and the boroughs that keep this system should be ashamed.

5.  Horsham High School for Girls

Best bit:  there are very many of these, I loved this school.  Life long friendships; paroxysms of laughter from which it seemed possible our bodies would never recover; Miss Moeller’s explicit biology lessons, Mr Mellish importing a breath of Old Labour into the unsuspecting Tory heartlands. 

This looks like a police picture of one of those kids that disappear at 14

Worst Bit:  I was gauche and grimly shy until about 16.

6.  Collyers Sixth Form College, for Oxbridge  

Worst bit: being told my essay on Hopkins was "boring". 
Best bit: getting in.

7.  Harrods Toy Department  

Best bit: the most fun to be had in a retail environment.  

The Wham! years (only kidding, Bob Dylan, me)
Worst bit:  the clocking-on system meant you could lose an hour’s pay if you were 30 seconds late.  But hang on – remind me why they were paying us anyway?

8.  Travel through Europe to Africa to use up rest of gap year  

Best bit: I was in love.
Worst bit: a car crash three weeks in meant we didn’t get out of France.  We were lucky to survive.
Supplementary Best bit:  we survived.

9.  English at Oxford

Best bit:  around 20 February, Lincoln College, staircase 12 room 3.
Worst bit:  Marlborough Road, sometime in March, a couple of years later.

Second best bit:  three years to read Shakespeare and Milton, George Eliot and Geoffrey Chaucer, Woolf and Donne; beautiful buildings, fees and living expenses paid – what’s not to love?
Second worst bit:  Anglo Saxon was compulsory in those days – The Battle of Malden is not literature.

Third best bit:  some of the people I met.
Third worst bit:  it would only sound ungrateful.

I felt a lot older than I looked

10.  Bristol Polytechnic – conversion to law course

Best bit:  the house I shared in Montpelier, and living with my best friend from school.

Worst bit:  damned bloody hard work, especially the finals exam - and for what?

11.  Articled clerk in large mixed practice in South London

Best bit:  the parry and thrust of Peckham people’s problems.

Worst bit: the six months I spent in Commercial Litigation in the West End office was the most miserable period of my life.  If ever there was an example of how not to manage … but I tread dangerously, remember what these people do for a living.

12.  Second marriage (see above) 
Worst bit:  it was a huge mistake.

Best bit:  we realised it quickly.
He left his few childhood photos behind - I'd really like him to have them.

13.  Solicitor for a trade union - my only really grown-up job

Best bit:  doing the kind of work I’d gone into the law for – discrimination, dismissals, always on the side of the victim.  Or that’s the way I saw it.
Worst bit:  my own union branch meetings.  I never had the foggiest idea what they were talking about, and then someone would ask me what I thought. 

14.  Meeting Hamish at the City Lit

Best bit: I said I didn’t want to waste time with someone who mightn’t be interested in a baby.  He said, what else is there?

Worst bit: I was still officially married, he had a rat infested flat with dry rot and negative equity and hadn’t troubled himself with thoughts of a career.    

15.  First baby 

Best bit: the happiest day of my life.   

Worst bit:  there are no worst bits, the hormones took care of that.

Hamish singing to our baby a few days old.  She is either enraptured or
desperate to get out of earshot.  Difficult to tell.

16.  Third marriage (see above)
Best bit:  love is all you need.

Worst bit: the sweatshirt and doc martens were a mistake – sorry no photos – it was very low key.
The three of us went on honeymoon to Symi.  

18.  Second baby

Best bit:  he’s my boy, what can I say?

Worst bit:  anaemia, breast feeding agony, baby awake most of the night, Hamish away a lot, toddler who didn’t see why anything should change just because she’d got a brother, moving house in first two months.

The day after my son's birth in water, the midwife returned with this painting
she'd made afterwards.  I was so touched, and it looked just like him.
Spectacular NHS service.

17.  Move to St Albans 

Best bit:  Nice town, nice people, nice schools, nice shops.
Worst bit: Nice town, nice people, nice schools, nice shops. 

18.  New job in St Albans

Best bit:  the office was walking distance away  
Worst bit the trade union was always going to be a hard act to follow.

19.  Wrote a novel called Learning to Swim  

A coming of age book, the equivalent of a trainer bra- flat, and best looked on as a stepping stone to greater things. 

Best bit:  that I could do it, and Richard Beard at TLC said if his report sounded like a rave, that’s because it was one – he loved my writing.

Worst bit:  not enough welly 

20.  Wrote another novel, Playing Happy Families
Best bit:  writing is the most fun you can have with a piece of paper

Worst bit:  I refuse to be negative.

21.  Training in workplace mediation  

See the mediation page, if you’re interested. 

Best bit:  it works, it really works, and one day people will turn to it instinctively in the way they fall into fights now.

Worst bit:  there isn’t much work around, on account of people falling instinctively into fights instead of mediation.  We live in an adversarial society – the law courts, religion, school discipline, The Apprentice.  People are led to believe it’s all there is.

22.  Birkbeck College, University of London  MA Creative Writing

Best bit: I will nail this writing thing, if it's the last thing I do.
Worst bit:  I got less than one mark off a distinction.

23.  Wrote my third novel  

It’s called Daisy Chain.

Best bit:  Oooh, there’s the opening, the bit in the stock room, the court scene, the scene in the restaurant, the fabulous dialogue, the organic plotting, the imaginative and thoughtful use of language, the absence of cliché, the thoughtful sentences, the ideas you might never otherwise have thought of, the tear jerking faux ending, the goose-pimple-raising real one. 

Worst bit:  decided that the story would be best reworked into a psychological thriller.

24.  Moved to Brighton

Best bit:  No one will argue that Brighton is a lot groovier than St Albans.

Worst bit:  I don't yet live here all the time.

24.   Wrote a psychological thriller 

It's called If You Leave Me.  It's dark with light bits; it's well written, sad and scary.   

Tessa Kent is stifled in a controlling marriage.  Constantly under challenge from her jealous husband she knows she will be safe so long as she remains innocent. 

One moment of infidelity turns that around.  Now the question isn't how can she keep herself safe, but what does she need to sacrifice in order to protect the children?

I've done my 10,000 hours.