A ROMANTIC WEEKEND -NOT!!!!!

Because my husband has a promotional gifts company he is particularly difficult to buy presents for. Present him with just about anything and you know immediately that he is thinking: “how much did she pay for it? I could have found it 25-30% cheaper.” Over the years, particularly when the children were little, it has been a great advantage to have free access to a warehouse full of gifts, giftware, cards, chocolates, tins of biscuits, table gifts, myriad cuddly toys, candles etc etc. Some of the stuff – the 3D clock of the Last Supper with each digit a different disciple; the £0.99 Capodimonte teapot -has provoked hilarity rather than relief at having found a last minute gift, but the problem remains – what do you buy a man who is surrounded by gifts on a daily basis?

Back in August, his birthday, the kids presented him with a motorbike track day – which he still hasn’t done anything about – and I told him his present was an all-expenses paid trip to … Liverpool. As his mother had given him a night away with dinner for two in a  (very limited) choice of hotel, I suggested we combine the two, discovered the nearest participating hotel to be in Preston and perused our diaries to pencil in a suitable date.

It took three months to actually get him there- or not, as it turned out – and turned out a rather different weekend away from the one I envisaged.

My plan involved a relaxing train journey across the Pennines, lunch in an upmarket restaurant, cultural visits to The Cavern, The Tate and The Albert Dock culminating in a rendition of Ferry Across the Mersey as we set sail across the river. We would then make our way to our hotel for a romantic evening meal, journeying home the following day via the Antony Gormley “Another Place” Exhibition on Crosby beach. The birthday boy immediately pointed out to me that if we were staying the night in Preston and hoping to see the Gormley exhibition we would have to go by car rather than as a guest of British Rail. As we drove west along the M62 – windy and wet at the best of times – the heavens opened and the tail end of some storm -Abigail? Barnaby? – hit the motorway causing flooding and queues.

We googled “Liverpool” and saw the city had been hit particularly badly by the rain and wind, the ferries were possibly suspended and we didn’t have an umbrella between us. We decided we’d have to leave the cultural bit of the weekend until later that day and, instead, headed for the Cheshire Oakes designer outlet to do some Christmas shopping. As, it was quite obvious, once we saw the full car parks and queues, had every other person in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire. I actually enjoy shopping – no, let’s be honest, I love shopping – but my husband hates it and even I felt daunted by the sheer numbers of people obviously fleeing the rain as well as trying to find that elusive Christmas gift.

It took us two hours to exit the car park, the rain was assuming biblical proportions and we decided to forget ‘culture’ and head for ‘romance.’

Four-star hotel it wasn’t. The rain was lashing, the wind howling – and that was just the inside!! The room was freezing and, apart from us and a rather disgruntled pair of bridesmaids who appeared to have lost their party as well as the plot, the place was deserted. We were shown four different rooms until we found one that was actually heated- it was, we were told their executive suite – and deciding we needed gin, headed for the bar.

We ate our romantic meal in a gloomy dining room in solitary splendour. Just as I was expecting Norman Bates to appear, the Turkish waiter, obviously bored with his own company, basically joined us. This was the entertainment for the evening.

At one in the morning I went down with food poisoning.

On the Sunday morning, with a new storm  – Cyril? Derek?- revving to compete with Abigail, we decided to leave early and head for Crosby beach and Antony Gormley’s figures. We’d obviously got our tides wrong as the majority of the hundred figures were under water. IMG_7536The beach was deserted except for us and a couple of lone six-footers that had escaped the advancing water.

IMG_7537And then I turned against the wind to a totally surreal scene. One minute there wasn’t a soul to be seen, the next the beach was full. There must have been over a hundred people accompanied by what appeared to be hundreds of identical dogs, each one – dressed in reindeer antlers, mistletoe, holly and other seasonal appendages – a clone of the next.IMG_7538

Next time I plan a romantic weekend away, I shall check that the North West Schnauzer Christmas outing will not be joining us.IMG_7532

We cut our losses and drove home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the protocol when swimming towards an ex??

5iRKjBRiaWhat is the protocol when, on one’s fifteenth length of an early-morning swim at the gym, one sees, coming in the opposite direction down the parallel lane, one’s ex?
Your face is as bereft of make-up as the day you were born, you’re wearing your mother’s old baggy-bottomed swimsuit unearthed from the back of your drawer because your teenaged daughter has swanned off with your jaunty little number and, worst of all, you are wearing the compulsory blue baldy-rubber hat thingy that makes even Kate Moss look like Kojak or Duncan Goodhew.
Do you:
a) Pretend you’re not you – you don’t look anything like you anyway in that hat?
b) Pretend you don’t recognize him in his compulsory blue-baldy rubber hat thingy.
c) Pretend you’re the next Olympic hopeful and, even though you’re doing breaststroke with your head and neck out of the water because you don’t know how to do any other stroke, set off down the pool faster than Rebecca Addlington?
d) Get out of the pool as quick as you can, go home and write a post on facebook asking what is the protocol when, in the pool, one see’s one’s ex coming towards one?
I plumped for d) which consequently elicited record likes on my facebook page and much speculation as to who the ex might be.

Swimming at the gym, most mornings, is akin to the rush hour on the M62 from Huddersfield to Leeds: if you want to do the trip in the twenty minutes it should take, you need to be up at sparrow fart to avoid congestion – or take the train, which I invariably do. And what should be a fast-paced thirty to forty lengths up and down the rather super Olympic-sized pool is fraught, like the M62, with impediments to my journey’s end. Now, I’m not a real swimmer. By that I mean I don’t don goggles, dive in and then front-crawl my way up and down the pool, face down apart from the occasional breath to prevent expiry as do real swimmers. I can swim for any length of time quite happily, but I can’t do any other stroke than breaststroke and can’t put my face in the water. It’s a fear, I reckon, carried over from junior school swimming lessons and a teacher called Mr Lodge. (Yes, you evil bastard, I am naming and shaming.) He was a tyrant and would finish every lesson by making us line up in the water and duck under a wooden pole on the surface of the water. My sister, a few years older than me and subjected to the same weekly torture, reckons we were so terrified because no one ever told us to hold our noses or that we shouldn’t actually breathe as we went under water. What should have been a two second duck from one side of the pole to the other morphed into a dangerous underwater journey that seemed to go on for ever and from which we emerged spluttering and frightened, convinced that death was imminent.
Anyway, I digress – it’s a few years since I was seven-years-old, I’m a big girl now and more than ready to stand up to the swimming pool bullies. What I want to know is why, when you are in a swimming pool do people insist on walking up and down? I try to be charitable, sympathetic even, and appreciate that maybe they simply can’t swim. So have to walk instead. So, if that is the case, why don’t they walk up and down the –empty – small pool and get out of my way? There is one elderly lady who is plugged into some sort of waterproof MP3 player who boogies her way down the pool, and I think fair play to her. She sticks in the slow-lane where she can be overtaken and moves pretty quickly anyway. What does turn me into a one-woman Loose Woman show is those who see these early-morning swims as a social occasion, meeting up with their chums, and talking as well as walking their way to some modicum of fitness. OK, so there are three lanes put aside for the real swimmers, but they really are real swimmers who thrash their way down the pool, goggles hiding their manic eyes, on a mission to do fifty-thousand lengths before breakfast. If I’ve ever dared to venture into the fast lane when one comes free, I’ve always abandoned it and slunk back to the main pool, if I’m joined by a real swimmer. I can hear them snorting and thrashing their way down the pool behind me, wanting me out of their way. This morning I started in the main pool, dodged the walkers and talkers, manoeuvred my way round Mrs Boogy Lady, swam to the slow real swimmers’ lane where I was forced out by a thrasher and snorter and ended up back in the main bit with the walkers. If everyone could just stick to their own lanes according to their speed and method of propulsion, life would be a lot easier. Just like the M62 really.

Talking of Duncan Goodhew, (see above) Janet, a lady I used to work with, tells a very funny story about the bald-headed one.
She and her daughter and five-year-old granddaughter are in some very posh hotel in London having breakfast.
Janet nudges her daughter and whispers, ‘Don’t look round, but Duncan Goodhew is sitting at the table behind us.’
‘Who’s Duncan Goodhew?’ five-year-old Charlotte lisps, craning her neck to get a good look.
‘Shh,’ her grandmother warns. ‘Don’t stare. He’s a very famous swimmer.’
‘You mean that man without any hair? Can I go and say hello?’ the little girl asks, still trying to get a good look at hDuncan-Goodhewim.
‘No, absolutely not. He wants to have his breakfast in peace, not be stared at.’
Charlotte studies her own breakfast for a second or two and then asks, ‘Can I go and get some more orange juice?’
‘You may. But do not stop and say hello to the swimmer. And don’t stare at him or he’ll know we’ve been talking about him.’
‘I promise I won’t speak to him or stare at him.’
‘OK, but I’m watching you,’ Janet warns.
So, Charlotte makes her way across to the breakfast bar, keeping her eyes, as she’s been told, from Duncan Goodhew. As she walks towards him, she continues to keep her eyes firmly ahead but as she passes his table very nonchalantly executes a perfect breast-stroke movement and ‘swims’ past him and down to the orange juice!!

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THE ONE SAVING GRACE

 

 

 

 

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Saving-Grace-Julie-Houston-ebook/dp/B00THAEWUS/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424280133&sr=1-2&keywords=julie+houston
goodnessgraceandmesticker (1)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Goodness-Grace-Me-hilarious-Romantic-ebook/dp/B00DQBZLPY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424280085&sr=1-1&keywords=julie+houston

 

 

THE ONE SAVING GRACE is up and running!! It was published last Friday by Amazon White Glove, the arm of Amazon publishing for agented authors. It is the sequel to GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME which went to #1 in Amazon Top 100 Humour last year BUT, and this is a big BUT, THE ONE SAVING GRACE can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Having said that, GOODNESS GRACE AND ME is on an Amazon Countdown promotion for just another 3 days and can be bought for just 99p 99p 99p!!!!

I would love it if you got back to me and told me what you think!!

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THE ONE SAVING GRACE Nearly there!!

THE ONE SAVING GRACE my second novel featuring Grace, Amanda and Harriet will be available VERY SOON!!!!!!!

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Who nicked the bollocking bollard???!!!

I’m the first to admit I’m not the best driver on God’s planet. When, after living and ‘Working as a Waitress in a Cocktail Bar’ in London, (there must be a song in that somewhere) I returned to Yorkshire to take my driving test, it didn’t really hit me that I was now driving in the Pennines, and hills need hill-starts or you roll back and crash into the car behind. Which is what I did.
On my first driving test, I went down a dual-carriageway the wrong way – the examiner said turn right, so I did – and cried all the way home. On my second test I actually did OK, I thought, but still failed and cried all the way home. By the third test I was feeling rather more confident but still failed. I stuck two fingers up at the examiner and kicked everything in sight on the walk home. Luckily for me, the fourth test was on a morning in January when it was lashing down with rain. The rain was so heavy that, on completing my round-the-corner-reversal thingy, the examiner was unable to open his door and see how far I was from the pavement. I was probably a taxi-ride away but I fooled him: he never knew, and I passed. My boyfriend of the time drove me home in my little white mini (bought from the loot earned W as a W in a C Bar) and I was so shocked at actually being allowed out on the highway alone I had to lie down and recover before daring to venture out by myself.
Over the years there have been a series of, shall we call them, incidents. My second mini (orange) collapsed in Chiswick High Street narrowly missing going under the wheels of a London Transport double-decker, but I was gaining in confidence and would merrily drive off to see said boyfriend in Cheltenham and London.

Now living in New Zealand and travelling round the South Island with a bunch of fellow teachers, I was finally allowed to take the wheel of the hired car and, after an hour at the helm, it was suggested we stop for coffee. Imagine a one-horse town in rural South island, NZ. There wasn’t anyone – man nor beast nor car – along the town’s main road apart from one other car parked while its occupants stood around it, map strategically placed on the roof from which they could work out where to drive next. Now imagine the music from some Spaghetti-Western as we drive into town looking for a bar. Why I felt the need to park right behind the one other car I’ll never know (unless it was down to a feeling that we should get to know others on the road after not seeing a soul for miles) and I can still see their amazed faces as I bumped into them, their map fluttering into the air as they dived for safety.

More recently, my husband caused me to need a whole new panel on my little silver BMW. He’d very kindly put my car into the garage for me but it wasn’t at the angle I normally drive it in. Consequently, when reversing out at my usual angle, I knocked the wing mirror. This would have been alright – a new wing mirror was all that was needed – but for some reason, before I could get it to the BMW garage, the wing mirror decided to totally give up the ghost and die and sort of collapsed, wires hanging out, onto the door causing a bit of a dent. OK, still not too bad – only a new door needed. I’m still not convinced as to why, eventually, I had to have a whole new side in order to match the door. But, as I say, not my fault.

Driving my husband’s brand-new new car down the M62 while planning my daughter’s birthday party was the nearest I’ve come to my own demise (that I am aware of, anyway.) I accept full responsibility for pulling out into the fast lane without looking and fully concede that the poor man coming up behind me needed to frighten me half to death with his horn, but I don’t accept that it was my fault when, now shaken and terrified, I lost my nerve at the next roundabout and, instead of going out into the roundabout traffic, I hesitated, hit the brakes and the man behind went up my rear. When someone hits you from behind, I was always told, it must necessarily be them to blame. My husband was very kind to said driver on the phone that night. He wasn’t very kind to me.

In my own garden I have reversed into a builder’s skip (again, not my fault, I most indignantly told my husband – the reversing bleeper thingy didn’t bleep. He did point out that the skip was of huge proportions, lumimous yellow and anybody reversing into that must be blind – or daft – or both) and my cleaning lady’s huge farm land-rover. She needed a whole new wing; there was not a dent to mine. Which must prove something.
My last car lost its left side when, avoiding a double-decker bus (a Yorkshire one this time) I went into a wall, its back side in Harrogate when the guy behind me at the traffic lights drove into me (what is it with men and my rear?) and its rightLit_bollard_in_traffic_island_UK side when, with the low winter-afternoon sun in my eyes, I mounted a bollard hidden by roadworks.

Which brings me neatly to bollards. My present car (for anyone who might be thinking of buying it if I ever put it up for sale) has really behaved itself and managed to skirt round all double-decker buses, skips, bollards and ladies armed with dusters and polish.

Until last Friday night that is.

I was trying to get to a friend’s house where she was hosting a pink-ladies do for breast cancer. I missed the turn off for her road but knew all I had to do was execute (driving-test-examiner-speak) a u-turn at the bollard in the road and be back on the main road before taking the first left onto her road. If I could draw a picture on here I would, but unfortunately my ability to draw ranks lower than my ability to avoid bollards. The next thing I knew I was stranded on a concrete plinth in the middle of the road. I honestly could not work out what had happened. The bollard I’d gone round was still sitting smugly in the road – intact.
‘The second bollard’s been nicked,’ said the nice young man who drew up at the side of me on his motorbike.
‘Well that is helpful,’ I said, my car now balancing very much in manner of a see-saw. Not quite The Italian Job but well on its way. Quite a crowd gathered as we tried to work out the best way forward – or backward depending on whose advice would best get me off the bollocking bollard! Thanks to three strong young men who flexed their Friday evening muscles and, with a one, two, three, lifted the car clear of the concrete plinth, I was able to carry on my way.
‘You can see, it wasn’t my fault,’ I said to the gathered crowd. ‘Someone nicked the bollard.’
The more-muscled of the nice young men handed me the bits of broken plastic from underneath my car, shook his head and said, ‘You’re a blonde.’

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January 29, 2014 · 10:34 am

HUSBAND, ANYONE?

Thursday afternoon 4pm

Husband: We need to pick up son’s car from MOT garage.

Me: I’m just about to start cooking. Can’t it wait?

Husband: No we need to go. Garage closes at 5.

Me: Why can’t we pick it up in morning?

Husband: I’m not leaving his car in garage overnight.

Me: Why not? It’s a car. Cars like garages.

Husband: It might be stolen.

Me: It’s a Corsa not a Ferrari. (Looks out of window) Can’t go. Freak snowstorm.

Husband: All the more reason to go. Son’s car only car fitted with snow tyres.

Me: No way am I driving in this snow.

Husband: Don’t be such a girl. We need a car with snow tyres to get up our lane

Me: Exactly. Your car doesn’t have snow tyres. We won’t be able to get up lane.

Fifteen minutes later after skidding round the bend on our lane and 2cms from crashing into wall we arrive at top of our lane to find Kaye Lane in chaos. Cars all over the place, can’t get up or down. 

Husband: F word (to power of 3)

Me (No words forthcoming. Never want to speak to him again. Abandon ship)

Set off back down lane, several snowballs hitting my back sent from Husband in what can only be supposed  flirty, consillitary manner. Was not won over. Uggs obviously not best footwear for freak snowstorm-laden lane. Heard the crack of broken arm before felt pain. Husband worried. Pain incredible. Husband back up lane with shovel and grit. Car 1cm from wall on bend as it comes sliding back down. One and a Half hours to do twenty minute journey to A and E fighting sliding cars and resulting traffic jams.

8pm Thursday 

Three different X-rays, two different plaster casts, paracetamol, diclafenac and eventually morphine later, was surrounded by Polish orthapeidic surgeon called Bron, one student nurse, one fully trained nurse and two plaster cast technicians who did a virtual tug of war from my shoulder to fingers in an attempt to reposition bones in wrist. All of us covered in white plaster. Daughter, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, decides on career change from lawyer to A and E consultant.

Husband goes very white and sweaty and has to be removed to waiting room. Daughter on to Kit Kat,and I’m in a morphine-induced promotion of my book to the lovely Bron and all his minions.Image

One final X-ray through plaster cast and Bron tells me Tug-of-War been in vain and I need to come back in morning for General anaesthetic and pins to be put in.

10.30 pm Thursday  Home

Can manage all clothes off myself except bra. Husband offers hand.

Husband: (with gleam in his eye) Mmm Not done this for a while!

That’s when I hit him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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