Road Trip!


Road Trip!

I have received feedback from my family about posting my blogs about our October road-trip in the wrong order. I will therefore start at the beginning:

Saturday 28th October

Flew from Heathrow to JFK, New York. We were using airmiles, and as it was a treat, we were in the business section. This was comfortable but fairly boring, as everyone else seemed to be working (hence ‘business section’ I guess). I have no idea who the man in the photo is, my selfies often have random people in them.

  We picked up the hire car (not the one we had actually ordered—are they ever the same?) and drove to Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey. We used to live in New Jersey, when my children were small, and we planned to spend the first few days visiting old friends, looking at places we remembered and generally being nostalgic.

I should tell you first about breakfast. We ate in a diner. Diners are one of the best things about America. They are generally privately owned, and they have booths, and endless coffee refills, and food which is amazingly delicious and arrives in super-huge portions. The service is always friendly and efficient in a sort of laid-back, we have all day, sort of way. There is often a bar, where a group of ‘regulars’ sit each morning, eating their breakfast and chatting, and the waitress knows everyone by name and what their order will be. There is an overhead television, with the sound turned off, showing the news of the day.

We were still on vaguely UK time, so we arrived at The Ridge Diner at about 6:00 am (many diners are open 24 hours). We sat there, in a booth, feeling like we had properly arrived, we were back in the US. I ate banana and pecan pancakes, which arrived with a side of creamed butter and maple syrup. Husband ordered corned beef hash, fried potatoes and eggs. You could have fed a whole family in England with what arrived. It was perfect.

   Another stop was to Ramsey TJ Maxx. This is a shop I visited lots when we lived there, as it was a good place to buy clothes for the children who shared my dislike of shopping and who were not, it should be said, the best-behaved children in the world when it came to shops. In fact, it reminded me of the time when the boys discovered that if they went to Customer Services and said they were lost, it would be announced over the tannoy, and they took great pleasure in hearing: ‘Could the mother of Emm and Jay please go to the service desk. . .’ We would be in a shop, I would look at a product for one second, glance down, and they would be gone. I would sigh with resignation and shut my eyes, waiting for the announcement: ‘Would the mother of. . .’ You get the picture.

Anyhow, this visit was stress-free, and I replaced my ski-jacket, which I had bought there 22 years earlier and the zipper has now broken. (It had a good innings!)

   We also had a quick look, for old-time’s sake, at ShopRite in Ramsey, where I did the weekly shop. They used to have tiny shopping trolleys for the children to push (you can imagine how that went—an idea from someone who did not have children! The shop was full of children filling trolleys with stuff they fancied, or racing up the aisles and bumping into things). They now have much more sensible child trolleys, where they sit in a pretend car in the front of an adult-controlled trolley.

Ah, lots of happy memories.

We visited friends, and went back to look at our old house, and ate way too much food. Then we set off, Pennsylvania next stop. I will tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a happy day.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
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Buying a Bed


Some advice for Bed Salespeople (and others).

Bea needed a new bed, and so, with our suitcases barely unpacked from holiday, off we set. We went to the large shops spread along the Purley Way near Croydon, because many years ago, whenever we wanted to buy furniture, it was always worth braving the confusing dual-carriageway packed with cars, to visit a range of large, out-of-town stores. However, rather shockingly, the super-busy road, and the overly-full car parks had sort of disappeared. Instead of joining throngs of people, we were sometimes the only customers in the shops, and the car parks were empty. Where were all the shoppers? Has retail in the UK really deteriorated to such an extent so quickly? Or did we simply visit on an unusually quiet Saturday? I don’t know, but it was a little worrying (and I shan’t be buying shares in any retail businesses).

However, what I really want to tell you, is about the range of salespeople that we met (in the nearly empty shops). Some were so much better at selling than others, and I found this to be a good learning experience—so if you ever sell anything (such as books) take note!

We visited one shop and began to wander around, looking at furniture in general. Bea spotted that some of the furniture had chips, or was broken. The furniture was pretty, but the quality was fairly awful (and not particularly cheap). We were never approached by any salespeople, and we left pretty quickly. If you want to make a sale, it’s a good idea to approach potential customers before they leave!

The next shop we went into had a good range of furniture, and we were offered help (which we didn’t, at that stage, want). We tried a few beds, and discovered that beds vary a lot in softness, and some are like sleeping on marzipan and others are so hard, you may as well sleep on the floor and save the money. There were mattresses so thick that they doubled the height of the bed, and others which looked more like a thick duvet. You could buy two slim mattresses, and zip them together to make a double, which would suit the couple when one likes marzipan and the other prefers floor. Bea was very decided on her views of sleigh beds and wooden headboards and cushioned headboards. I found some lovely bunk-beds, reminding me of when she was little, but she was not even slightly interested in those. We then needed some help, and a salesperson came, but she looked cross. I felt that she thought we were wasting her time, and that really the answers to our questions were very simple, and we should have done more homework. I didn’t like her at all. Customers like to be smiled at, even if you think they are annoying! We left.

Another shop had very good quality furniture, and we saw several items that we might like to buy. We were very quickly accosted by a salesperson, who asked if we needed any help. We said no, thank you, we are just looking at the moment. However, salesperson was very persistent. She gave us information about the sale items, which was useful but long (and we are quite good at reading, so would have probably found the information eventually) but at least she was trying. She then asked what we were looking at, and proceeded to show us what was in stock. Which stopped us browsing other items (and we were interested in several things). Salesperson left, and we attempted a conversation about size of rooms and space and design. Salesperson returned, and joined in the conversation (despite not knowing the size of our rooms!) and then took us to see another piece of furniture. It was too difficult to make a decision, we felt rushed, and so—even though there were items we liked—we left. Sometimes customers need a little time and space to think! If they are looking at something (or reading a few paragraphs of a book) leave them alone.

Our final shop also had a range of furniture, and we were again approached by a salesperson soon after entering the shop. However, when we said we were just looking, he moved away, and hovered nearby, pretending to adjust display cushions. When we had a question, he was on hand to answer, and he knew the answer and spoke with authority, so we trusted him. He suggested a few items, and then again left us to discuss them. We liked the products, and he gave us the help we needed so we bought something.

There were a few fun aspects of buying a bed. Like the woman who we saw lying on a bed, with a pull-along suitcase next to her. I wondered if she had moved in, she certainly looked very comfortable. So did the chubby Chinese boy, who was asleep on one bed with his mother telling him to wake up, it was time to leave! There was also a coffee shop, and so we stopped for a quick cake and coffee, which is a lovely thing to do when you’re out with your daughter, and so much more fun than shopping. But we did buy a bed too, so it was a successful trip I feel.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a successful day too. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Forget Brexit, This is Scary!


I am holding my breath and waiting to see what is going to happen next. . . Husband has retired! Well, to be fair, he has retired from the partnership of his firm (after about 95 years) and is now doing slightly different work. But it does mean that his hours will be less, more like those that most other people work. For the last 95 years, our entire married life, he has been working from about 7am each day until late in the evening, and his phone has been permanently attached to his hand during any time-off, in case the financial world should collapse without him. Well folks, forget Brexit and global warming and anything else that might be giving you nightmares: Husband is no longer holding the fort!

So, you might be asking, what are the implications of this at home? How was the first week of having a not-busy-every-second-of-the-day Husband at home? Let’s put it this way, I know how it would feel to be married to a small tornado.

As you know, my ‘job’ is writing. After sorting the ducks and chickens and cats and dog, I aim to be at my desk by about 9am every day, and start writing. This really does not work too well when within five minutes someone is offering tea, and then five minutes later asking if you need any shopping, and then five minutes later suggesting that the lounge needs repainting. My desk was in a corner of our bedroom. It feels unreasonable to lock a person out of their bedroom. My desk is now in the ‘guestroom’ and if we have any visitors they will have to share our bedroom. It seemed easier.

One thing is for sure, it’s not going to be boring. His extra time began straight after our holiday. By the end of the first evening, before we had even moved the suitcases to the bedroom, let alone unpacked them, he was discussing where we might go next year, and which would be good dates. The family all refused to discuss possible dates, saying that 12 months was too soon to commit. By the end of the second day, he had suggested a few months living in the Italian Alps. The third day he suggested we replace our rather decrepit Fiesta. I then banned him from any more big decisions for 48 hours. The following day he suggested a month in the US. Then spending February in New Zealand. Then adding turrets to the front of the house. (Okay, I made-up the last one, but you get the idea.)

There is of course, a potential book in this situation. I have started making notes. Possible titles are:

Caution: Man Retired
Enjoying Being Retired
Remembering Why You Married Him: The story of a retirement
How to Get Away with Murder
How to Hide a Dead Body
Serving a Life-Sentence: A Wife’s Story

I will let you know which one I decide on.

I hope your day goes well, and you don’t have any unwelcome interruptions. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.
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Random Choirs


Random Choirs

One thing I miss, now my children are all grown up, are the school concerts and choirs—well the ones from when they were older anyway (I do not, even slightly, miss the cello concerts of 5 year olds, when I spent an hour hearing all my favourite songs being massacred). So, when Bea suggested I might like to go up to the Royal Academy to hear her work-choir sing, I was excited to attend.

It was a lovely sunny evening, and Bea managed to find me a seat right at the front, and someone kindly bought me a glass of white wine, so things were pretty perfect from the start. We sat in the courtyard of the Royal Academy (beneath what look like giant zombies, but we’ll brush over that weirdness). The evening was a variety of choirs, from a variety of workplaces, who took it in turns to sing 3 songs each. There were choirs from UBS, and Channel 4, and The Telegraph, and a London council, amongst others. Apparently, there are musical people, who go around, and teach choirs at all these businesses. Now that must be a fun job!

It was unusual to be watching amateurs sing—usually I am either watching children, or professionals. These people fell into two categories. There were those who were happy performing, and they focussed on the music, moving slightly as they sang, making eye-contact, and smiling. Then there were the others, those who clearly were not too excited at the thought of singing in public. I guess that they loved singing, but going to choir practise after work and singing with your work colleagues, is very different to then performing to a whole bunch of people who you don’t know. They looked distinctly worried—they stared at the conductor the entire time, and stood as still as statues, while singing. They also, where possible, huddled at the back. I decided that I had a lot of respect for these people, it is very brave to sing in public.

The choirs wore a variety of clothes. The UBS choir had tried to coordinate outfits, with most people managing to wear black and white, though the odd individual managed to sort of keep to the rule but still look different (reminded me of school days again). Other choirs were completely random.

There were three different people who conducted. They were incredibly enthusiastic, and tended to have very wiggly bottoms, which gave you something to watch if you were bored. They were accompanied by a brilliant pianist on a keyboard, who even managed to continue playing when all his music blew away.

Another bit of added entertainment were the children. There was the little boy on his Dad’s lap, who was obviously watching his Mum and who sang every song along with the choir (and his Mum was easy to spot, because she basically sang directly to him the whole time, which I found very touching). Then there was the three-year-old who I’m guessing recently started ballet, who found a space at the front and treated us all to a wonderful impromptu dance, as lost in her own world, she responded to the singing. There was also a toddler, who was quite determined that he was going to get onto the stage, and was almost crushed several times when he stood behind the wiggly-bottomed conductor (always fun to see other people not managing to control their children properly).

An unwelcome distraction, which annoyed me intensely, were the two women who stood right at the front (next to me) and then had a chat in very loud voices. I was itching to complain, but knew my family would be cross with me, so I photographed them instead. (But have since decided that I should not put the picture on here, as it’s easy to make enemies, and harder to repair damage afterwards—but they were very rude.)

Son 2 and Husband met us after work, and we all had dinner before coming home. What a lovely evening.

I hope you have some nice treats this week too.

If you enjoy reading about families, you will love my new book, Ploughing Through Rainbows—why not buy a copy? Set on a farm, it’s full of humour, but also shows the tensions that arise when adult sons make unexpected choices. Susan and Tom raise beef cattle, and have to cope when one son decides to be vegetarian. Another son gets into debt, and then Ben, the youngest, tells them that he is gay…

It’s available from Amazon,  link below:

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Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading.
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There’s No End-Date to Parenting…


Sometimes, it can feel like you spend ten years teaching your child to be independent, and then twenty years wishing that you hadn’t! When your children are young, you long for them to be strong-minded, independent people who don’t need you anymore. But then when they are adults, and start to make their own decisions about how they will live, that can bring a whole different set of problems.

Meet Susan and Tom. They are farmers raising beef cattle, and their four sons are independent adults. But then they start to make life-choices that their parents find challenging, and Susan and Tom begin to wonder what their own role should be. One son announces he is a vegetarian, one son gets into debt, one is unfaithful and then one son tells them that he is gay.

Before writing the book, I spent a lot of time listening. I listened to farmers, and learnt what it means to raise cattle.

I also listened to parents who had learnt their children were gay, and to gay men and women who are discovering what that means in today’s society. One of the groups that finds this most challenging is the church, and so I also spent time listening to what people in the church think and feel. One aspect that came out (excuse the pun) very strongly, is that sometimes, neither side of the traditional Christian viewpoint seem to actually understand how the other side feels. It seemed to me that there was a lot of talking, of proclaiming of views, and very little listening—because of all other issues, this seems to be the most emotive.

 I wanted to write a ‘nice’ book—something happy that my readers would enjoy (after a few years of learning about, and writing novels about, psychopaths, I still find that my easy-read fun novel about an infant school is the one that people want to buy a second copy of, for their friends). Writing a funny book set on a farm seemed like a good idea. Introducing potentially inflammatory issues was a little trickier. I hope I have achieved a good balance and produced a book which will make you smile whilst also giving food for thought. I worked very hard to represent differing views fairly, and my hope is that by the end you will have heard each viewpoint very clearly whilst not being sure what my, the author’s, view is. Personally, I fell in love with some of the characters, to the extent that when the book was finished, I immediately started to write the sequel!

I hope you think it is a jolly good story and you will recommend it to a friend.

Please buy a copy, and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

anneethompson.com

Ploughing Through Rainbows by Anne E. Thompson

Available from Amazon as a Kindle book and a paperback. UK link below:

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Trip to Blakeney, Norfolk


This year, we decided to go away for Easter. Usually we stay at home, and I attend roughly a million different church services over the Easter weekend, and then on Bank Holiday Monday, I spend all morning making scone dough, and all afternoon cooking scones and serving them to about 90 people who come to our house for a country walk and cream tea. It’s usually exhausting, and I love doing it. However, last year I was aware that all my children, who have grown up, returned home for the Easter weekend, and I spent the whole weekend not seeing them. Which seemed wrong. So this year, we decided to go away.

I booked a house with HomeAway—an online cottage rental service which I have never used before, so it was all a little scary. However, we needed a 5 bedroomed house, with an enclosed garden, that would allow me to take a dog, so there weren’t many options. I found a house in Blakeney, and we loaded the car with the dog and my mother and a lot of bags, and off we set.

The drive took about 6 hours, because the Dartford crossing was terrible and we stopped on the way for lunch at Castle Acre. We found a pub—The George and Dragon — next to the road, and the dog sat under the table, and the food was okay.

We arrived at the house. The last house I had booked was bit of a disaster (it had sewage coming out of the drains) so the family was slightly worried about what we would find. The parking place was outside the house, on a blind bend, so that wasn’t great. But the key-safe was where the instructions said, and the key fitted the door (these are all things I worry about) and we went inside.

The downstairs was great. There was a little hallway, with stairs lined with bookshelves (excellent start). A through-room led to a long kitchen, and it all looked clean, and there were hot-cross buns and local beer and a tea tray waiting for us, which was lovely. There was also a tiny sitting room, with a door handle that fell off when we opened it. But we could manage without a door handle, so no worries there. Then we went upstairs.

 

 


The top floor had a large room and a bathroom, with lovely views across fields. We (I) decided that Emm could have that room, when he arrived, as he was taking a holiday from work. On the floor below, were 4 other rooms. We took a room with an en suite bathroom, Jay took a double room, Mum took a twin room. Which left the remaining room for Bea, who was arriving at the weekend. It was a child’s room. With bunk-beds. And Mr Men books. I was worried about this. Bea (works in a posh bank in the city) wasn’t really used to rooms like this (not since she was 5 years old, anyway). The boys assured me it would be fine. But I was worried.

Thanks for reading. I’ll tell you more about our trip tomorrow.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels, which are available in bookshops and Amazon.
Anne writes a weekly blog – why not sign up to follow?
anneethompson.com

 

If you enjoyed this, you will love my new book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. It will make you laugh, and you can read it for free if you have a kindle.
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A Family Christening


We had another family christening on Saturday. These make me feel old, as it feels like yesterday that I was attending the father’s christening.

Arriving on time is always stressful, and not especially helped by my watch, which was 10 minutes slow. In panic, while pulling on tights and trying to find heels, I asked Husband if he could write the card. This was not as simple as I had anticipated, and I was asked a range of questions, such as: “Do I address it to the baby or the parents?” and “What the heck am I supposed to write to a baby?” I dictated the card, he stuck it onto the gift, and we were set.

Daughter decided to buy her own gift. I’m sure the parents will be delighted when they unwrap the super-sized unicorn in their tiny house (and I’m sure Daughter had only the best motives when she chose one quite so large).

Actual event was lovely. Always nice to see extended family (and always slightly odd to see the not-related-but-we met-you-once-at-the-wedding, who are all, of course, as closely related to baby as we are, even if not at all related to us). It was a very windy day, so I was glad it was a christening and not a wedding, and we didn’t all have to pose for photographs. We did though, have to be smartly dressed, and I do find walking in heels bit of a struggle these days – I really ought to practise – living in jeans and wellies means wearing dresses and heels is difficult.

The service was in a tiny village called Markbeech. My son finds this very weird, as my latest novels are all set in an imaginary town called Marksbridge (not based, even remotely, on the village which shares a similar name).

The church was very interesting, I haven’t visited before, it’s one of those little churches which used to belong to an estate (all very English and historical). As I sat, listening to the service and watching the baby (very well-behaved and asleep for most of the service) and his brother (very cute) I peered around the church.

The decorations around the altar were symbolic, relating to the spirituality of women, and looked – to my uneducated eyes – rather masonic in style. Not sure why, perhaps it was the triangles and rainbows. Anyway, after the service, I did a little research, to try and learn more.

It was set up in the early 19th century, as part of the “Tractarian” movement – which was inspired by a sermon by John Keble in Oxford (and is also known as ‘the Oxford Movement’). They believed that the Anglican Church was, in effect, still part of the Catholic Church, that clergy were answerable to God, not the state, and the liturgy etc should all be influenced by the church in Rome – not by kings. In effect, they were sort of the opposite of the ‘protestants’ (a term which means they were protesting against the rule of the Roman Catholic Church – mainly so that Henry VIII could get divorced – way back in 1534).

Anyway, the Tractarians produced lots of tracts (90, I believe) which is how they gained their name. They had support from some influential people (who even I have heard of, such as Wilberforce) but they didn’t in the end, manage to separate the church from the state, and even today, our monarch is head of the church.

I never managed to find out why Markbeech church has the unusual painting decorating the altar. If ever you’re passing through Kent, it’s worth a visit (if you like old English churches).

Hope you have an interesting week.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels, which are available in bookshops and Amazon.
Anne writes a weekly blog – why not sign up to follow?
anneethompson.com