So this should be a …what?  Philosophical piece…on the beauty of waiting. We live in an increasingly fast-paced, disposable world where we all want everything to be available RIGHT NOW! But we would be better off remembering waiting is just life: EXCEPT I HATE WAITING!!! WITH A PASSION!!  So.  Maybe I could qualify that a little better…I equate waiting with a loss of control and a bit of bad luck, I suppose. That’s partly because I’ve had some bad health luck in the past – a while ago now, and actually, once I’d had the worst news, the results actually started to get better – and so the waiting was usually rewarded with something positive.  But that didn’t mean the waiting wasn’t horrible.  It was pretty much always horrible and mentally exhausting and hard not to watch clocks and the like.  The term hyper-vigilant could have been coined for me.

And some other things I’ve hated waiting for include: hearing from agents.  Hearing from publishers.  Not hearing from agents.  Not hearing from publishers.  As a TV director back in the day: waiting to hear if I’d got THE job or was eating cornflakes for the next month (the curse of the freelancer…eternally waiting).  For my divorce to come through, so I could start afresh. For texts from men I liked, or emails.  Or no texts from men I liked.  Likewise emails.  For the blinking 202 bus home on a freezing night with too much shopping to carry and sore feet.

Now I’ve been waiting a lot again this year – largely for work stuff, which has finally – hurrah – turned out well – hurrah hurrah really!!  But at times, it was nail-biting and anxiety-inducing because I’d thrown heart and soul into something I’d worked on passionately, and now its fate was in other people’s hands.  I also had various minor medical things to wait for again; routine tests, that kind of thing but with my history, it seemed STRESSFUL in the extreme.  And actually, I am quite good at trying to live life normally whilst all around me things are crashing down.  For a while back there, I got used to a shadow of fear.  It was crap, but I got used to it.  I haven’t missed it, mind you, not one tiny little iota, and this year has been a reminder of how much I haven’t missed it – that horrible waiting, clutching feeling in the tummy.

So it’s important to also remind myself that, as a storyteller by profession, I have a tendency to spin a story and come up with the most dramatic ending…and that’s not very helpful.  My counsellor would slap my hand for that!

So: perhaps you’ve been waiting all this time thinking well come on then, you dozy cow – why am I bothering to wait ’til I get to  the end of this musingWhere are the positives in waiting?  There MUST be one or two, no?!  OK, so – maybe they are right here:…remembering to bring ourselves back to the present moment, without catastrophising; to say ‘the sky is blue’ (ahem.  It’s been mostly a crap grey colour this week.)  That cute/ funny dog is wagging his tail; the branches on the tree is blowing in the wind (and right off, last night).  The kids are laughing.  My kids are laughing: naughty, sure, and oh God look at the mess they just made: but they are here, warm and loud and dirty-handed, dirty-faced, and I love them and it’s OK.  I am still breathing.  We are still breathing.  My boyfriend is here and he’s still 6’3 and good at letting me lean my weary head on his chest (and very good at telling me off for being impatient in traffic jams, and learning to wait because it’s beyond my control).  So.  All’s alright with the world really.

And yes, I am living my life to the best of my ability in the present moment.  To not wait, to not insistently be waiting for life to get better, for life to be more meaningful, to enjoy the moments we are in, to enjoy our families, our lovers and our loved ones, we really do have to do it NOW because only then, are we not waiting.  We are just getting on with living – and we are lucky.

And blimey sometimes it’s just so hard, let’s admit that.  It’s hard to not fall down that rabbit-hole of fear and negativity: but we owe it to ourselves to drag ourselves out of the hole again, and set ourselves back on the riverbank, whatever the result of the waiting, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other.  And keep breathing DEEPLY.

On Radio 4’s World at One, I just heard the most moving letter to the terrorists from the husband of a young mother killed in the Paris attacks on Friday.  He was about to get his 17-month-old son up and feed him a snack and play with him, just as they had done before the mother was suddenly killed on Friday, and it would not be about waiting but about living and showing the terrorists that they could still live.  BRAVO my dear friend.  It made me cry.  He said “Right now I am devastated by grief” but for his son, for himself, he says, he will go on.  And that involves living, not waiting. Not waiting for it to pass I suppose, but learning to live with it.  Accepting.  Good luck to everyone who has to wait for anything that is so difficult.   Good luck to us all.

And a big PS. ‘Mindfulness’ was not trendy in the way it’s now when I went through my health trauma 5 years ago. I have my own views on the cult of mindfulness; they go along with ‘clean eating’ as a fad :)  In my case I was already interested in Buddhism and helpfully, already the proud owner of a book called “When things fall apart” by an American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. There is help and advice out there on how to live with loss of control, and to the best of our ability.  We don’t really have control anyway; we never know what might be round the next corner.  So let’s try to embrace what we do have.

LIFE, being perfect – and all that crazy stuff

So it’s a month in from the launch of my 5th novel 24 HOURS and it’s been AMAZING that it got up into the Top 30 – and nearly the Top 20.  It was kind of unexpected as it’s been a while!  I am trying so hard to enjoy it all and not worry about anything, which is hard I find and is it hard in part because of the huge pressure women my age feel ourselves under?  I was listening to Woman’s Hour last week and Sofia Helin from The Bridge was being interviewed; she apparently once said “Swedish women have it sussed, combining work and family”.  But she seemed to revoke that, saying now she feels women in their 40s are under so much pressure and so mentally exhausted that some of them can’t work at all, and Helin hazards a guess that it’s because we – women that is – are expected to be perfect, or put that expectation on ourselves.  And she talks of a shift between an old system and a new system..and us adapting to that. So I like the sound of Helin.  I loved The Bridge anyway, & this makes sense – and so, what do we do? Do we go under?  How do we cope with being ‘everything’?  we can’t really.  It’s too much sometimes and something has to give.  Just not good if it’s our sanity or our health.

As my nearest & dearest know (& rather hate sometimes), I’ve been studying psychology and counselling for the past 18 months and the reason I do is because life can throw so many curveballs (a polite way of saying loads of ****)  that we need our wits about us, and sometimes it all gets too much.  And sometimes other people behave very badly and it affects us and we don’t understand why they’ve behaved that way, or what we can do – so I want to equip myself and those I care about with ways of dealing with life.

And oh listen Woman’s Hour has picked up on this exact topic again RIGHT NOW – talk about serendipity!  Today 70,000 35-45-year-old women are reported as being stressed at work as opposed to far fewer men…why?  Is it because we are still doing the lion’s share at home as well as working full time? Perhaps …

So what’s key?  Getting help, be it at home or at work or outside the home, and realising it’s OK NOT TO BE PERFECT!!!!  We can’t have it all – the media is lying and someone needs to be around and help prop us up!!!

In slightly more cheerful news, I was interviewed by fellow writer Neil White and it’s here if you want to read it :)


So the big day came & went – yesterday my new novel 24 HOURS was published, we went to the pub to… er…celebrate! And so far the reviews have been great and very kind, and long may it last, she says hopefully!  It’s so odd though to write a character (s) and to then see readers’ reactions are often so different to what we might expect..I like Laurie, but people keep writing about her irrational decisions! I guess that’s a thriller though, you don’t always know what the protagonist is gonna do…anyway, if you are so kind as to read it, and enjoyed it, I would be ever so grateful if you wrote me a review …


and to buy it please click here: amazon

An open letter to Jeremy Hunt re TAX CREDITS


Do you have any idea why the Welfare System was set up? Do you think it was to look after feckless and idle ****ers who can’t be bothered to work?

Or do you think it was a safety-net for events that life throws at us when we least expect it? For those who don’t come from wealthy families who can pick up the pieces?

If you are going to take away with one hand, is it possible you set up something else positive with the other? Not everyone is born the same, yet we are all a UK collective. Not everyone has your chances – or mine. Don’t watch Benefit Street, provided as cheap entertainment by TV companies colluding with a public need to feel superior. Understand why this happens; why benefits become attractive or normal. History repeats itself. Damage repeats itself often, I’ve learnt the hard way.

If only we taught basic empathy, human psychology and emotional balance in primary schools. Give kids who don’t have the same chances, the same chances.

I had it easy growing up in the middle classes.

But, product of a broken home myself, I made a bad destructive marriage; in 2009, I left it, before I went mad.

I had 2 small kids, aged 3 & 5. Their father gave me nothing. I worked every hour God sent, writing books and in TV production, crossing London on an hour and a half commute each way at one point. Coming home to look after our home alone, feed, clothe and get the kids out of bed the next day before starting again.

I had to pay a lot of childcare to work; as a single parent there was no safety net of home babysitters. I was exhausted.

My friend, also a single mother, not through choice but because her ex was violent, told me to apply for single working tax credits. They really really made a difference. Thank God, I thought, some reprieve.

In 2010, still working hard, I was diagnosed with cancer. I kept working when I could, but I had 6 mths of full-on chemo & radiotherapy. My ex was still not contributing. My divorce went through.  During medical treatment, I applied for ‘sick benefit’ – it came through long, long after my fortnightly chemo was over, and was negligible.  AND considered as an earning, when I came to do my tax return.

My ex, scared by a court order (that actually isn’t worth the paper it’s written on) then intermittently gave me a bit for a while – at the most, £200 per month towards the upkeep of both kids. He rarely had them to stay, sucked up NO costs, including the childcare that i had to pay to work.

When he threatened to stop paying again, I rang the CSA. I was told I’d be worse off probably if I used them to chase for what I was owed. I might end up getting NOTHING because my ex was freelance too.

I succumbed to the idea that I was alone.

I absolutely relied on my tax credits to keep a roof over our heads. (And actually, if my family hadn’t stepped in whilst I was ill, I wouldn’t possibly have kept a roof over our heads; my house would have been repossessed and I’d be. another statistic on a council waiting list. So I was lucky.)

My ex stopped paying that bit of money, and moved away

At some point during this fight, I met a (lovely) new partner. Leaving school at 17, from a working-class family, he’d worked every day of his life (ok, not every weekend but you get me), working his way up the ladder with no qualifications. Until finally he’d had a great job, in a specialist firm making clocks for everyone from the Arsenal to St Paul’s Cathedral, for ten years.

When he was production manager, on £50k a year, the nice little family firm was taken over by an ex IBM man with quotas to fill.

After five years of corrupt culture my partner got made redundant for various horrible reasons.

He was forced to sign on because he’d used his savings to keep the family home for his kids to come back to, when his first wife went AWOL.

He was ritually humiliated every other week by dour JobCentre staff trying to keep up their quotas of getting people off the dole, so the government could say unemployment was down.  So this man who’d worked his arse off, and paid his taxes for 30 years; who’d never used a university, had a grant, taken money from the state before and who got NO tax credits because his ex took them all, despite them sharing the childcare.  This man was brushed by the broad stroke that taints it all nowadays: the suspicious benefit system that’s less a safety-net for when you fall, and more a supposition that you are probably just out to scam what you can.  I could go into who else sat next to him in the JobCentre, but that is probably a different argument.

Desperate to work again, he spent his whole time applying for jobs far below his ability and wasn’t allowed the time to go and train or do free work experience in a new line of work because he had to be seen to apply for a certain amount of jobs every day. At one point he was sent on a course to learn to be kitchen staff. One question was ‘how do you spell baked bean’?  But he’d been in senior management before the rug was pulled.

He searched his soul: he decided not to go back into composite engineering where the world was being eroded by a corporate culture that cares nothing for the man or the soul but only for marks on sheets of papers. For PROFIT AND RESULTS.

He now works as an assistant in a Special Needs school. He leaves home before 8am every day, gets home at 6 and has 40 mins – perhaps – for lunch, if not doing extra activities with the students. Every day he’s punched, if not head-butted, at least 3 times by the boy he cares for with psychotic autism, whom the system can barely find a place for. For this privilege, which is exhausting but at least rewarding, he earns £18,000 a year before tax.   Could he work any harder?? I doubt it. Does he get the living wage? I doubt it if you work out the hours he actually does.

I have been training to be a counsellor to help people who’ve been through life-threatening crap like I did. I write books, I don’t earn much. Sometimes I teach. I work really hard. I still get NO money from my ex, who rarely sees his children. I’ve resigned myself to that. THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT THAT – THERE IS NO FALLBACK.

But I AM NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH so my tax credits will be cut.  AND I AM ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.  There are SO many others out there far far far far worse off than me.



Last week on Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey said these immortal words: “I wonder if writers know the pleasure they bring”! I would have done an air punch if I was prone to such but instead I gave a small smile (I’m half British and inhibited, even when it’s only the dog & cat watching. And you haven’t seen my cat. He’s a pretty cool customer. The dog? Not so much.)

Anyway, it was a bit of an hallelujah moment for me: not least ‘cos I’ve got a girl crush on Jane Garvey and her soothing tones yet incisive questioning. Of course I know she wasn’t specifically talking about me – but still, it made me smile, so much I tweeted her – and SHE ACTUALLY TWEETED BACK OMG!!!! She did say she was partial to a footballer’s autobiography, and er..I can’t see me ever writing one of them, but still :)

So, my joy was because I have long felt that my job – when I can call it such, ie when I’m actually earning owt from writing, which is intermittent – is something I love doing so much but seems so frivolous and unimportant, how can it possibly be ‘worthwhile’. Specially opposed to something like brain surgery, or making a road or teaching a child something (though I do hope I do that too, every day, with my own kids…I teach them loads like how to duck a box round the ear, how to match scarlet with anything, how to – )

And yet I also heard the esteemed author Kate Atkinson on the radio a few weeks ago (yes how I love that little black box that sits unassuming in the corner of almost every room in my house) and she talked of writing being ‘rescue’ and again, that felt very poignant to me.

Because whether she meant rescue for the reader or the writer, for me writing is a life force, without being wanky & pretentious –it’s part of who I am, what I live and breath and I can’t stop doing it (sorry about that), even though my fortunes have been less than outrageous… :)

And at the most terrifying moments in my life, when I was very ill and feared I might die; when I left my marriage and feared for my children’s psychological well-being, I kept writing, writing, writing on and on, largely privately, but also for my work – and it helped me make sense of things, it helped me keep my head just about above water. As did reading other writers’ work…

At the height of my treatment for lymphoma, just before my last novel was published, the PR asked me if I wanted to write about my illness. I said no, because I was so shocked and scared, I wasn’t ready, it was private etc – but also the idea of using cancer as a sales tool seemed – unseemly. Now, though, five years on, I may be ready to write about it: just to say to anyone out there suffering, you’re not alone, I got through so you can too.




Yep that’s me…oh no, that’s my new book. Except it’s not all that new, it’s a re-release of FRAGILE MINDS, featuring my old favourite DI Silver, his new side-kick Lorraine Kenton, partial to a Heinz tomato soup colour hair dye, and a ‘heroine’ called Claudie.  Except is she a heroine – or has she done something terribly bad?  After a bomb explodes in central London, she can’t quite remember why she was there..

Harper Collins/ Avon have re-released it as an Ebook today with a canny new title…GIRL WITH A FRAGILE MIND

Originally, the book came out the same week as SJ Watson’s BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (to, er, slightly less furore!), and features a different type of amnesia…see what you think…

I’ll have more news soon on the publication of my new thriller, working title 24 HOURS….

And I hope you all had more luck with the eclipse than me…the thick cloud obscuring the sky might have fugged up my colander :)


So after a brief hiatus of around 3 years I thought it might be time to take to the airwaves again. If nothing else, having a blog means I can sound off quietly to myself about stuff like useless bureaucrats / mangled systems that don’t work properly. Moving house twice in a year will do that to you, I’ve found – reduced to the indignities of being a number and not a name… of course if I was in charge, it’d all work properly. To what do I refer? Oh you know, largely council departments, council depts, and er, more bloody council depts…I will sidestep that before I start to rant…

So moving onto, more appropriate bookish things, this week I read an interview with Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgaard (link). I tried to read the 1st volume of his My Struggle last summer, largely ‘cos Zadie Smith said it was like literary crack.  What’s not to like, then – a massive hit in a book and no comedown. But it’s not like any crack I’ve tried (ahem). I soldiered on for a bit; fairly interested in him getting illegal beer to a New Year’s Eve party aged 15, an episode which only took around 40 pages, but my editor’s voice kept saying come on Karl Ove, CUT!!!!! Finally after a long description of playing guitars which reminded me no less of (generally male) bores at parties you can’t get away from, I gave up. Time is too short and precious these days to waste on a book I don’t get.

But I’m fascinated by the lavish praise…amazing literary feat/ ground-breaking etc, for essentially a stream of non-linear consciousness about his entire life …so, then, just like a giant disordered diary? In the interview, he talks of SHAME, and half his family not speaking to him since airing all the dirty laundry etc. His current wife had a nervous breakdown cos she didn’t like the furore, so of course he wrote about that too. But isn’t that shameful; transgressing boundaries for – what? Art? The need to be authentic? I hate to cast judgements these days, but I’m struggling to understand MY STRUGGLE. I get that he’s an essentially talented if troubled writer, but you know…all 6 volumes of it (a new one out this week no less, with a 400 page essay on Hitler, in case you hadn’t realised they both wrote a book of the same name). If someone can explain why it’s so revolutionary, other than the ‘honesty’, I’d be pleased to hear. It just reminds me a little  of the confessional journalism I wrote for various papers, often feeling slightly dirty making a buck from my own laundry.  His is just more angsty and ‘intellectual.’  Also he’s not been hauled over hot coals for admitting being a parent is tough /quite boring, whereas if he was female, he’d be in the DAILY MAIL shame corner by now.

MY DIRTY LAUNDRY ALERT!! Look away now if you don’t like: in other news, the 10-year-old got into the big school (wrong terminology – been a long day already) he wanted to – but also got stressed as he was the only child at his primary not to find out on the correct day because YES those bureaucrats at Lewisham didn’t email us – and when I e’d her the next day, she said ‘your letter’s in the post’ even though she COULD HAVE PUT HIM OUT OF HIS MISERY poor wee soul. That is one power-crazed ******* ******* down at the council, same woman who added infinitely to the stress of the move. I’d like to air her dirty etc…

Let’s try Some Knausgaard-esque stuff: In the course of writing this I’ve eaten most of a bag of mini eggs. I hope they didn’t suffer :) Meanwhile, the puppy has eaten the cat flap. Not the cat or its flaps, I hasten to add, but just most of the cat-flap. He knows the cat food is on THAT side, the canny little bugger, so he’s gonna keep chewing ‘til he gets there. But hey, I have news for you, my doggie friend.  Watch this space…(see..well authentic)..

And so finally, to the best bit of the week…OUR NEW MATTRESS!!! And YES! This is QUITE CAITLIN MORAN BUT I FEEL LIKE THIS: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It doesn’t matter that beloved John Lewis were so busy wheeling penguins out they forgot to actually deliver it and it took 6 weeks and many many phone irate polite calls and emails when it should have taken 3, and it cost more than a small kingdom would. Who cares now it’s ACTUALLY HERE!!!  because it caused much angst…

We can go to bed without having to constantly politely negotiate who gets the shit bit.  We can sleep (perchance to dream etc). We can not wake in the night every time the other one so much as blinks (the crappy old mattress responded to any movement like a Ninja roller-coaster). We can stay away from each other if we choose, and we can cuddle up in the middle if we want and NEITHER OF US HAS TO LIE IN THE DIP.  THERE IS NO DIP!! We can just lie, as we are wont to in our bed which we spend, what is it, 40% of our time in – WE CAN LIE FLAT!!!! HURRAH!!!!!

Until next time



Well I never did….I am lucky enough to have been nominated for an award for a short story I wrote HE DID NOT ALWAYS SEE HER. Apparently that means that on July 5 I get to go to a posh dinner in London town (always a good excuse for a spot of shopping) and then they will read some names out and I will feel anxious but pretend to be very cool and fortunately I doubt there will be cameras in my face awaiting a sad response like they do at the Oscars/ BAFTAs then probably someone else will win but I will just be happy to be there and in such good company!! Mainly I want to thank the jolly nice judges for putting me up for the award.



I am not good at updating my blog because I spend so long writing fiction, I can’t always think of real stuff to say!! But I’m heading down to Bristol on Thursday (May 24) for the 2012 Crimefest & I’ll be on a panel on Friday which when I can find the details (ahem) I’ll post.. See you in the (nearly) West Country hopefully, for a pint of cider and a pasty.