Electric Toothbrushes Can Cause Blindness


Electric Toothbrushes Can Cause Blindness

“Get an electric toothbrush,” they said.

“An electric toothbrush is much better for your gums—and gum disease is a bigger problem than tooth decay.”

I listened to the advice from my dentist, and considered whether he might be right. I have terrible teeth, and for many years as a child I neglected them, so now they are full of fillings. Plus, they’re too big and stick out (my dear husband describes them as ‘horsey teeth’). If I had the ability to change one thing about myself, it would definitely be my teeth. I guess we all have something we’d like to change.

However, now I am all grown up, I do attempt to take better care of them, and I have not needed a filling since the 1970s, so I feel I’m doing okay. I clean my teeth morning and night, with a fluoride toothpaste, and a medium sized toothbrush, which I replace regularly. I did not see the need for an electric toothbrush. I also did not especially trust my dentist, who was a new one, due to my dentist of 30 plus years inconveniently retiring. But Mr. New Dentist was insistent, an electric toothbrush was the way to go.

I left scowling.

The following weekend, Bea visited, and I heard her cleaning her teeth. She was using an electric toothbrush. She extolled the virtues, and told me I should listen to my dentist.

I scowled some more.

I looked online. There were a vast array of electric toothbrushes available, ranging from fairly cheap to needing a mortgage. I chose a not-too-expensive one, because I wasn’t convinced it would be used more than once.

Toothbrush arrived. The packaging was impossible to open, I cut my finger trying to remove it from the plastic case. I glanced at the instructions, and there seemed to be a bit missing, but perhaps they were generic instructions and referred to a different model. I carried toothbrush to the bathroom and plugged it in, hoping that it wouldn’t charge. It charged.

Returned to bathroom and scowled at toothbrush. It stood on its stand, looking smug and slightly dangerous, as if it knew things that I didn’t suspect. I picked it up and held the head under the tap until it was rinsed, then applied a ‘pea-sized blob of toothpaste’ as per instructions. So far so good. Pressed the button, and the fun started.

The toothbrush came to life with a high-pitched whirring that took me straight back to childhood and the dentist’s chair and the whine of his drill. At the same time, the pea-sized blob of toothpaste scattered into a thousand tiny specks that coated the mirror and the sink and my sweater. I realised my mistake, and hastened to place toothbrush into my mouth. It juddered across my cheek, whirred around my mouth, snagging my gums and the inside of my cheek and skimming across my teeth. I tried to stop it, and discovered I am incredibly uncoordinated. My efforts to press the stop button, rinse the brush, return to mouth, press on button, all became muddled. I splattered the whole bathroom with water and toothpaste, and some went into an eye. Toothpaste in your eye really stings. Am pretty sure I will go blind now—but at least I won’t be able to see my horrible teeth.

I managed to stop the toothbrush, rinsed it and returned it to its stand. It looked very smug.

I am looking for a new dentist, if you have any recommendations?

Have a good week.

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading
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QuaranTime to Read. . . Chapter Nineteen


Chapter Nineteen

The day of the Summer Fete arrived all too quickly. Jane was cooking with two other mothers. She recognised their names but didn’t really know them. She had been told that everything would be provided, she just had to bring an apron.

Peter promised to take good care of Christopher and Abigail. He planned to bring them both later, and was now busy sorting money. He had emptied a huge jar of loose change, collected over several months, onto the table.

“Good opportunity this,” he remarked cheerily, making piles of pennies and two pence pieces, then putting them into sandwich bags when he had a pound of each.

Jane eyed the mass of coppers dubiously. She was not entirely sure that a pound’s worth of pennies would be welcome at each stall. She decided not to comment and rummaged in a drawer for an apron. It was green and flowery and had a hard lump of old pastry stuck to the pocket. She was late, it would have to do. She said goodbye and left.

***

The barbecue pitch was in the corner of the playground, next to an inflated pool of floating ducks. The ducks had small rings attached to their backs, ready for young children to fish them out with hooked poles. Many of them were floating upside down, and a rather harried mother was attempting to readjust their weights. It was not an easy task and the yellow ducks persisted in floating with their silly faces submerged. A football bounced across the playground and landed in the pool. The mother glowered damply. It was followed across the tarmac by a bouncy father.

“Sorry!” he yelled happily. “Nice warm day to get splashed though. I’ll return this to the ‘Beat the Goalie’ stall—maybe we should rename it ‘Beat the Ducks.’ Ha!”

He retrieved his ball and bounded away. Jane heard dark mutterings from the duck lady and smiled. She was busy weighing down paper napkins and plates on a table. It was breezy, and they fluttered as though trying to escape. There were several bottles of tomato sauce—the cheap runny stuff that tastes of acidic sugar—and a fat tube of mustard. Jane left her task and went to find the meat.

Sausages and burgers were stored in cool boxes beside the barbecues. Jane was working with May and Alice. Both wore smart navy-and-white striped aprons, and were brisk and well organised. May had attached the gas to the barbecues, and was now heating them. Alice was deciding how much meat to cook initially.

“You do the sausages Jane,” said Alice, glad to have someone to organise. “Start with about thirty and see how you get on. The barbecues should be ready in about ten minutes.”

Jane began counting sausages, pulling them from the box in strings.

“What are you doing?” asked May.

“Getting them ready…” hesitated Jane.

“Oh. Well, you could separate them I suppose” said May, sounding doubtful. “It is much too early to start cooking them though. And do try and keep them off the cloth, we need to keep raw meat away from where we’ll be serving. Obviously.”

“Obviously,” agreed Jane, coiling the string of meat onto a plate. She needed to separate them, but wasn’t sure how. Frozen sausages were already separated. She didn’t have a knife. She took the first sausage and pulled hard. It slithered, greasy, in her hand, depositing a blob of sausage meat on the tablecloth.

“Here.” May passed her a knife. Jane cut through the skin.

“You need to prick those,” said Alice.

“No, it’s best not to,” contradicted May.

Jane had no opinion at all, so covered them with a napkin and went to wash her hands.

To the left of the barbecue was a trestle table laden with mouldering books. The covers were faded and the pages brown, many showing unevenly at the sides where they had come away from their binding. Jane recognised some titles from the book stall at the Christmas Fair. The parent manning the stall was making neat piles of adult books, with children’s titles spread out at the front. He surreptitiously sidled one back into the box. Jane wondered if the title was deemed too racy or if he fancied reading it himself.

She passed a tombola, a bouncy castle, and a table spread with a treasure island. There was a candy-floss seller, signs beckoning her to guess the weight, guess the name and have a lucky dip. One mother had dressed as a gypsy with red headscarf and hooped earrings, and was offering to read palms. Another was busy arranging face paints on a small table.

There was a cake stall, laden with sponges sweating in cellophane and plates of smaller cakes ready to be eaten. Someone was unloading two grumpy donkeys from a horse box. Jane could hear the chairman of the governors testing the microphone as she entered the school and went in search of the girl’s toilets.

***

When she emerged from the school, people were beginning to arrive. Excited children hurried through the gate, followed by cautious parents who stopped to pay their one-pound entrance fee and collect a photocopied programme.

“Where have you been?” said Alice, as Jane arrived back at the stall.

“She washed her hands,” said May.

“Oh. We can’t keep disappearing,” said Alice, frowning. “Here!” She handed Jane a pack of disinfectant hand wipes.

“Of course,” said May, “those are only good for killing germs on clean hands. They will not actually remove any dirt. Proper dirt needs to be washed away with soapy water.”

“Better start cooking,” said Alice, ignoring her.

“Probably better to wait a while,” said May. “We’ll begin in ten minutes.” She looked at her watch, as if absorbing the time.

Jane decided not to point out that ten minutes would make very little difference. She spied Peter coming through the gate. He held a purple carrier bag and was laboriously counting pennies into the patient hand of the parent on the gate.

He saw her and hurried over. Alice and May were busy, placing meat on the barbecues.

“We made it!” said Peter, as if this was unexpected. He was not often in sole charge of the children.

“Yes, well done,” said Jane. She moved closer, “You will keep an eye on Christopher won’t you? Don’t let him wander off on his own.

“Abi does country dancing at two, so she’ll need to change into plimsolls before then. Listen for the announcement.”

“We’ll be fine,” said Peter. “We’re raring to go, aren’t we Chris?”

Christopher grinned up at his father. He was clutching an orange bag, which Jane feared was also full of pennies.

“Don’t let them eat too many sweets,” she pleaded. “And definitely nothing that’s not wrapped.” She lowered her voice again. “Some of the little cakes look a bit dodgy,” she said, “can you make sure the kids don’t buy them?”

“We’ll be fine,” repeated Peter. “Come on Chris, donkey ride I think before the queue gets any longer.”

Jane watched them walk away, then turned to the sausages and began to add them to the barbecue.

***

There was little time for conscious thought for the rest of the afternoon. The women had a steady stream of customers at their stall and Jane worked hard, turning sausages, placing them on the outstretched rolls, turning down the heat to a mere glow.

May was busy with burgers, flipping them every few minutes, then turning to check Jane’s progress with the sausages.

“These are a bit slow,” she worried, turning the heat up to full. “They need to be cooked quickly.”

Jane passed a sausage to a waiting child. Alice fished for change in her money pot. Then she moved back to check the meat.

“We don’t want them to cook on the outside before the middle is heated through,” she said, turning the heat back down to its lowest setting.

Jane saw Abigail arriving, laden with bottles.

“Dad’s on the tombola,” she informed Jane, passing her some olive oil and bright green bubble bath.

“It takes him ages to count out the money,” she giggled. “Can you hold these?”

Jane bent and hid them under the table. May leant over her and turned up the heat on the barbecue.

“Don’t forget it’s country dancing later,” said Jane, as Abigail skipped away. She returned to the sausages. A few were beginning to turn black.

“You must keep turning them,” chided May.

“That heat’s too high,” observed Alice, reaching to turn it down.

Jane began to slice a fresh batch of finger rolls. Abigail returned, this time carrying a bottle of rum and some cheap red wine.

“Dad says his luck is improving,” she told Jane, passing her the bottles.

“You can’t keep those here,” said Alice, “they’ll be in the way.”

“I thought they could go under the table,” said Jane.

Alice and May exchanged looks. Either one was helping to run a stall, or one was not. Bottles were an unnecessary hindrance. They said nothing. They didn’t need to—their expressions were eloquent.

Jane paused.

“They can go in your locker Abi,” she decided, “we can get them later.” She passed them back to her daughter.

“And don’t run with them!” she called, as Abigail hurried towards the school with her latest prizes.

May turned down the heat on both barbecues and began to move the cooked sausages to the edge. Jane handed two sausages to a parent, then tried to open a new sauce bottle. The foil seal under the lid was firmly stuck down and she could not lift it. She scratched at it for a while, then grabbed a fork and stabbed through it. Red sauce squirted out, splattering her fingers and the table.

“Well that’s one way of doing it,” said a familiar voice. Jane whirled around. There, standing behind her, was Matthew.

He stood close, smiling down at her. Jane felt herself blush with surprise as she returned his smile.

“What…” she began.

“I saw the posters,” explained Matthew, “wondered if you’d be here. Though not,” he admitted, “at this particular stall. Cooking..?” He raised an eyebrow.

Jane laughed, her heart singing. The whole world felt brighter.

“Be careful, or I’ll sauce you!” she threatened, wiggling her red-coated fingers towards his face.

“I need to wash these,” she said, and began to walk towards the school, ignoring Alice as she waved wet wipes at her.

Matthew followed, chatting easily. She didn’t look at him, but was aware of his proximity, aware that he was with her.

They went into the school, gloomy after the brightness of the sunny afternoon. The corridor was deserted, everyone outside at the stalls. Their footsteps sounded loud in the quiet building, it felt forbidden to be inside, as if they were breaking some rule. Still Jane did not look at him. She could feel her heart, was very aware of everything, especially how alone they were. How unseen.

Their feet were loud in the deserted corridor, clattering on the wooden flooring. Jane passed paintings of summer flowers, smelt the glue and paper smell of the school, the odour of stale air and many bodies. Her senses were alive, and she knew, without looking, exactly how close to her Matthew was walking, her ears attuned to the deep echo of his voice.

They reached the sinks, and she paused. She looked at her hands, red with sauce. Matthew reached down, over her, to turn on the tap for her. He was leaning very close, looking at her face. She could smell him now, that soapy smell she knew so well. She opened her mouth to thank him for turning on the tap.

“I missed you!” she blurted out, the tension of the moment controlling her words.

She was immediately mortified. What would he think of her? He would think she was some desperate, clingy housewife. She felt her face burn and thrust her hands under the water, washing them frantically, wondering what she could say to make it sound less odd, less blunt. Trying to make the moment casual, like it didn’t really matter.

“Hey,” he said softly, seeing her confusion. He was still looking at her, trying to read her expression, she could feel his gaze on her, almost feel his eyes burning her skin, searching her face.

“I missed you too,” he said, as if trying to take the tension from the exchange, to stop her embarrassment. “I used to enjoy chatting with you,” he said, “we had fun didn’t we?”

Jane nodded. She wanted so badly to salvage the situation, to turn this back into a light conversation between casual friends. But he was too close. She was too aware of him, her emotions were spinning, she could barely draw breath and she could feel tears welling behind her eyes. She folded her lips and bit down, trying to distract herself, to calm her feelings.

He paused, as though considering an idea. He moved even closer, they were almost touching, and when he spoke, Jane could feel his breath on her cheek. She thought, for one wild moment, that he might be going to kiss her.

“We could meet, if you want,” he murmured, so quietly that Jane could hardly hear him. He was still looking at her, an intense stare, holding her eyes with his own—eyes so bright that one could drown in them—a gaze so strong, he was seeing, Jane felt, into the depths of her.

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. The corridor where they stood felt full of electricity, all was fuzz and static, only this moment, the two of them, was real.

Jane broke his gaze and looked around. The sink had splatters of powder paint around the edges and smelt of damp newspaper. Everything looked normal. Nothing had changed.

She shook the drips from her fingers and turned off the tap.

“Okay,” he said. He reached up, tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Jane thought she might melt. She kept very still, not daring to breathe. Something had changed between them, unspoken but tangible.

“I’ll text you, in a few days, arrange something?” he said, raising an eyebrow.

Jane nodded, smiling now.

“I’d better go,” he said, “can I trust you not to kill anyone with that sauce bottle?”

The tension was gone, they were back in familiar territory.

“I think so,” grinned Jane.

She watched him leave. She stood at the small children’s sink, and watched this man, this man who she desired, as he walked the length of the corridor. Tall, broad shouldered, moving with fluid ease, looking as out of place in a primary school as a film star. Then through the door, and he was gone.

Jane dried her hands on the rough green paper towel, and dropped it into the open bin beside the sink.

“He came to see me.” Her thoughts were a whirl, tumbling in a muddle with her emotions.

“He still has my mobile number,” she realised. “He wants to see me. It was his idea, he suggested it, he wants to see me. I matter.”

Feeling somewhat shell-shocked, she returned to her stall. Along the corridor, back into the sunlight. No sign of him now, as she passed the cake stall, the books, parents queuing at the tombola. She walked, dream-like, through the crowd. Nothing felt real, it was as if Jane had evaporated, and some shell, which looked exactly like Jane, was now acting in her place. She was behaving like the old Jane, she spoke and responded like the old Jane, but it was all pretend. Jane, the real Jane, was somewhere else.

Several customers were waiting for sausages. Alice had taken their money but felt unable to serve them—for health and safety reasons, she explained. One should not handle both money and food. May had disappeared to use the toilet.

Jane screwed the lid onto the rather sticky sauce bottle and reached for the tongs. She lifted the sausages onto the waiting rolls with a polite smile, apologising for the delay.

Abigail appeared. She pushed her way through the queue.

“I’ve lost a plimsoll,” she announced.

Jane stopped, feeling confused, sausage suspended in midair.

“He must like me, really like me,” she had been thinking, “to risk coming to a school fair.”

“What?” she asked, slightly dazed.

“My plimsoll,” repeated Abigail loudly. “I have lost my plimsoll. And I need it for dancing. Now!”

Jane became aware of the voice crackling from the loud speaker.

“Could all our dancers please join Miss Mott next to class four, for the country dancing.”

“Oh, I see,” said Jane.

“It should be in my locker,” said Abigail, growing more agitated, “someone has stolen it.”

“I expect it’s there somewhere,” mumbled Jane, wondering if she could abandon Alice again to help her daughter. However, the decision was unnecessary as Hilary and George appeared in the centre of the playground.

“There’s Gran!” said Abigail, “She can help.”

She ran across to her grandparents, who looked relieved to see her.

“Ah, Abigail,” said Hilary, “we were wondering where you were. Your father said to come at two o’clock.”

“And we were here on time,” added George.

“I’ve lost a plimsoll,” Abigail said, “and I need it for country dancing, which is now. Can you help me find it?—Please,” she added, as an afterthought.

“Can’t you dance in shoes?” asked George. “It’s only skipping really.”

“Oh George, of course she can’t,” said Hilary. “Right, you go and find Peter,” she said to her husband. “Abigail, show me where your gym shoe should be, we’ll start there.”

“Plimsoll,” corrected Abigail as she led her grandmother into the school.

They passed a mother and child as they left the toilets but the rest of the corridor was empty. It seemed strangely dim without the strip lighting turned on, and Abigail felt it was a little frightening being here alone. Her grandmother’s heels clicked authoritatively beside her as they walked past giant collages of multicoloured birds.

They went to the cloakroom and she pointed to her locker. It was a red cubbyhole, one of several against the wall opposite the coat pegs. There was a number six painted above it.

“That’s mine,” she said, “but no plimsoll.”

Hilary opened the door, and decided the best method would be to empty it completely. It had the look of a cupboard that had been rummaged through. She began to remove items and pass them to Abigail. Navy blue shorts were tangled with a white tee shirt.

“That’s what we wear for PE,” said Abigail, being helpful. There was a pink folder with torn covers. “That’s History.” Next came a black plimsoll, with a white sock tucked inside. “That’s the one I already found,” she said, folding her arms.

Then, jammed safely at the back, were two bottles. The rum was standing upright, its lid nearly touching the top of the locker. The wine was on its side, wedged with a sock and a sweatshirt.

“Those are Mummy’s,” said Abigail. “She’ll get them later I expect.”

Hilary paused, said nothing. Instead, she knelt down and felt beneath the unit. Her hand closed around a soft shoe. She extracted the rather dusty plimsoll and handed it to Abigail, who beamed at her.

“Just in time!” she said, pushing it onto her foot.

“Thanks Gran,” she called as she ran back to the playground. Hilary folded the clothes and placed them tidily in the locker before closing the door and returning to her husband.

***

George was standing with Peter and Christopher on the edge of a ring of parents. A large space had been cleared in the centre of the playground, and the first class was skipping in pairs to their starting positions. Music, slightly off-key, was blaring from the loud speaker and a teacher was gesticulating wildly, trying to encourage the children to smile. They frowned back at her as they stood in lines, waiting to begin.

Jane hurried over as the dance started.

“You smell of sausage,” said Peter.

“Why is Chris eating a fairy cake?” hissed Jane. “You don’t know how many people have breathed on that. He’ll be ill.”

“He’ll be fine,” said Peter. “Look, here comes Abi. Dances like a donkey!”

It seemed to Jane that the dancing lasted a very long time. It consisted primarily of skipping in a circle, with the odd exchange of partner along the way. The music was unpleasant and jarred her nerves. Most parents were clapping enthusiastically whilst staring with unseeing eyes.

“What is this dance?” queried Hilary, “I don’t recognise it.”

“Gay Gordons, I think,” said Peter.

“Well, they are doing it wrong,” observed Hilary.

“Perhaps they tried to simplify it,” said Peter.

“No,” she said, “it’s not simplified, it’s just wrong. And that boy has his shoes on the wrong feet. I’m very surprised his teacher didn’t make him change them.”

“Perhaps she didn’t notice,” said George.

“It’s her job to notice,” stated Hilary.

“This music is giving me a headache,” complained George. “Can’t they turn it down a bit?”

Jane, who until this moment had also found it unpleasantly loud, felt irritated.

“I like it,” she said, “it’s happy.” She began to clap with renewed vigour. The children continued to skip, some of them frowning with concentration, some smiling at their parents. A few looking as bored as the audience.

“I might,” began Christopher, pulling at her sleeve with sticky fingers, “I might, be going to wet myself.”

“Right,” said Jane, glad to escape, “let’s go quickly. Hold it in until we get there.”

They pushed through the crowd and hurried into the school.

“Hold it in, hold it in,” chanted Christopher, enjoying the echo of the corridor. “Hold it in!”

They arrived in time. Jane rushed to wash his hands and get back to the dancing before she missed her daughter. She felt cross, now she thought about it, that Hilary had let her take Christopher rather than offering to help so that Jane could watch the dancing.

In the playground, Abigail was doing her final courtesy. She grinned up at her mother in triumph. Jane waved and passed Christopher back to Peter. He was chewing a hot dog.

“Bit crisp,” he said, “but edible.”

“I think we’ve finished,” said Jane, “I’d better help clear up. Can you take the kids?”

“Sure,” mumbled Peter through a mouthful of sausage.

***

Alice and May were removing the last pieces of meat from the barbecues. Alice flapped the wet wipes at Jane as she approached.

“Health and safety,” she said.

Jane failed to see how it mattered as they were clearing up but she wiped her hands obediently.

“We need to cool these grills and then scrub them,” said May.

“No,” said Alice, “better to shut them and turn up the gas to full. Burn off all the fat.”

Jane returned the bread rolls to their bags and began throwing away soiled napkins.

“I’ll count the money,” offered Alice. “It will take me a long time, thanks to that man.”

“Yes,” said May, her voice outraged, “while you were gone Jane, a father bought three hot dogs and paid for them in pennies.”

“Pennies!” repeated Alice, “Pennies! Can you imagine how long it will take me to count them all? Never mind the weight!”

“Thoughtless,” said May.

“Very,” agreed Alice.

“Oh well,” thought Jane, “at least they agree on something.” She decided not to reply.

***

By the time they had cleared up, most people had left. Peter wandered over to say that they were leaving and would see Jane when she got home. She nodded, pushing a paper table covering into a too full dustbin liner.

“Wait!” said Christopher, “My stuff—we mustn’t forget my stuff.”

“Oh yes,” said Abigail, “he did very well.”

He ran back towards a nearly empty stall and heaved two big bags from underneath.

“I gave him some money,” said Peter.

“He got some real bargains,” added Abigail proudly.

Jane’s heart sank. She knew from previous fetes that the second-hand toy stall was always left with broken, dirty toys. Things that people had discarded but did not want to throw away were regularly dumped at school fairs. Now, as she watched her son struggle excitedly towards her, she knew that much of this rubbish was heading towards her home. The mother manning the stall was sweeping up, determinedly not looking at Jane. She sighed.

“I’ll see them at home,” she said.

***

As she finally drove away from the school, Jane felt tired. It had been a busy day, but mainly emotionally draining. A new knot had formed in her stomach and she could feel the tension in her muscles.

“Matthew.”

She wondered when he would contact her, where they would meet. She felt excited, but not, if she were honest with herself, particularly happy. She knew there were thoughts at the back of her mind that she was refusing to face.

“I don’t need to think about this,” she decided, “I’ll just wait and see what happens.” She arrived home and opened the door. Grubby toys were strewn across the floor. Odd jigsaw pieces lay next to a doll’s head beside a plastic castle, which was missing a turret.

Jane stepped carefully into the kitchen.

“I need tea,” she said.

Peter looked up and grinned at her. He was at the kitchen table, reading the front of the local newspaper. He looked rather pleased with himself.

“Chris is happy,” he said. “Oh, and this came for you.”

It was a plain white envelope with her name handwritten across the front. She did not recognise the writing, nor was she expecting anything. She froze. Peter was watching her curiously. Was it from Matthew? Was it possible that he had gone to text her, realised he had deleted her number, and had written her a note instead? Would he be that stupid?

“I’ll open it later,” she said, keeping her voice flippant and filling the kettle with an unsteady hand, “I need some tea first.”

“Poor old thing,” smiled Peter. “Here, you sit down and open your letter, I’ll make the tea.”

Jane slumped in a chair. Peter was watching her; she didn’t really have a choice. She felt nauseous as she slowly tore the envelope, something cold and hard spreading through her stomach. Every nerve was screaming and she felt like her blood carried shards of ice. For the first time in her life she knew what it was to feel frightened. Peter, the boy she had married, laughed with, shared her life with; in one simple stroke, he turned from her best friend to her enemy. Instead of wanting to share everything, she wanted to hide, to deceive him.

“Actually, I’m desperate for the loo,” she said, standing up. “Be back in a minute”. She hurried from the room, knocking her elbow on the doorframe as she left, crumpling the letter in her hand as if distracted.

In the safety of the bathroom, with the door locked, she perched on the toilet and finished opening the envelope. She peered inside.

To be continued on Tuesday.

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QuaranTime to Read. . . Chapter Eighteen


Chapter Eighteen

The following Thursday, Jane took Christopher to the park. It was a beautiful Summer’s day, with a high blue sky and a gentle breeze. She had parked in the small car park near the swings, and now they walked hand-in-hand across the grass. Max was in an ecstasy of sniffing under a wooden bench. The sun glinted off the paint of the large red slide, and she could feel Christopher skipping at her side. Her bag bumped against her hip. She needed to buy white cotton on the way home so that she could reattach buttons to Abigail’s school blouse.

School was not a happy thought at the moment. She had been summarily telephoned following her evening out and told: thank you for volunteering, you are manning the barbecue at the Summer Fair. Burgers! It was bad enough having to cook at home, now she would be burning food for the whole school. She sighed, at least she had nothing to prepare and it was only one day.

She lifted Christopher onto a swing and pulled it back. It was wooden and heavy, with a thick metal chain. She released it, watching it swing free, then braced for its return. Christopher wiggled his legs.

“Higher! Higher!” he chanted.

“That’s enough Chris,” she sighed after a few minutes. “You play on the roundabout; I need to find Max.”

She left her son climbing onto the orange wheel and went in search of the dog. He lumbered over when she called, tail swaying, stick in mouth. She obediently threw the stick a few times, watching her son as he played in the low-fenced enclosure. He too had found a stick and was poking beneath the roundabout. She walked over to where he was.

Red faced and frowning, Christopher was peering under the roundabout, making frantic sweeps with a thin branch.

“I can nearly get it,” he said in frustration.

At last, with one long swoosh of the stick, his prize was dislodged and tumbled over the grass in the sunlight.

“It’s magic!” he cried.

“It’s dirty!” she said.

It was a whiskey bottle, drained empty and flung under the child’s toy with drunken disregard. The golden label sparkled in the sunlight enticingly. Before she could stop him, Christopher had snatched it up.

“Can I keep it?”

“No,” said his mother, “it’s got germs on it. Don’t touch it.”

The boy inspected it closely. No germs could be seen. The glass was very smooth and the lid was made of gold. The label was beautiful, and seemed to have secret writing on it. It was clearly magic. He glanced at his mother. Her face looked cross and he could tell she did not understand the importance of his treasure. He felt his bottom lip begin to quiver.

“Please mummy, it’s mine now.”

Jane looked into the deep pools of his pleading eyes. ‘How am I supposed to not give in?’ she wondered. She knelt down and put an arm around his narrow shoulders. He gazed trustingly at her.

“Chris, it’s not clean,” she began. His eyes began to fill with tears. “Alright, we can take it home and wash it I suppose.”

She removed it from his grasp, deciding it would be easily disposed of later, when he had forgotten about it. She called the dog and clipped on his lead, then told Christopher that they needed to buy cotton before they went home. Not having a hand free to hold his, she sighed, and slipped the bottle into her bag, hoping it was not as dirty as she feared.

They moved to the road and stood waiting as traffic passed. Jane watched the cars impatiently, wanting to go home.

Suddenly, with heart-lurching familiarly, she recognised Matthew’s car. He glided down the road towards her. She searched for his face. He saw her, raised a hand in salute and continued past.

“That was Matfew!” announced Christopher.

“Yes,” said Jane, watching the car until it disappeared.

“Mummy, we can go,” said Christopher, waggling her hand so that she would notice the road was clear. Trance-like, she led him across.

She was a blur of emotion. She had seen him. He had waved. Their contact was not completely severed. Maybe she would see him again one day. Perhaps, now he knew they visited the park sometimes he would drive past again.

Or perhaps not.

She took a deep breath and gave herself a mental shake. This was silly. She was like a teenager with a crush on a celebrity. This obsession was getting out of hand.

“Come along,” she said and led the way to the hardware shop.

***

Leaving the dog tied miserably to the post outside, they entered the gloom of the shop. It smelt of glue and fabric. The floor was grey cement, and the air felt cold after the warmth of outside. Narrow aisles were precariously stacked to the ceiling with a jumble of products.

“Don’t touch anything,” Jane instructed.

She led him past cans of paint, a display of brushes perched above an array of door locks. Helpful signs warned of guard dogs, not to park in front of entrances, and a request to close the gate. Christopher put out a finger and traced their cold letters. They walked around stacked plastic buckets, and passed mops that bent shaggy heads towards them. His finger trailed across rough doormats, and onto shiny saucepans that stood in pyramids above his head. They passed boxes of electrical appliances, which nestled against a display of scissors. Bolts of coloured fabric were piled almost to the ceiling. He reached out and stroked pink fur, then poked a finger through some white lace.

“You’re touching!” his mother hissed, “Fold your arms.”

Jane had stopped beside a rack of coloured cottons. Selecting a reel of white, she guided him back towards the door to pay.

The counter was very high, much taller than his head. Behind it was a tiny man with a white beard. Christopher was fairly sure he was an elf. His mother seemed to have not noticed, and was searching for her purse. He moved behind her. There was an interesting display of tools hanging from the wall. Bright orange handles with comfortable grips, connected to grim looking blades. Saws of various sizes hung like crocodile jaws. He reached out a hand. His mother was busy paying. He pointed a finger and ran it along a blade. He snatched back his hand. Dark red blood oozed through his fist. It stung. He screamed.

“Mummy!”

Jane turned. She heard the cry, turned while pulling her purse from her bag, saw the blood and leapt towards her child. Off balance, her foot caught on the edge of a broom, which began to tumble, bringing another broom with it. She tripped. As she fell, she put out a hand to save herself, pulling a large tin of emulsion to the concrete with her. Jane, brooms, a brush and the tin all fell to the floor with a crash.

For a long second, all was still.

Jane was lying on the floor; Christopher standing above her, his crying suspended; the shopkeeper, watching.

Then they all moved as one. Christopher began to wail and Jane sat up, opening her arms for him. The shopkeeper hurried towards them, full of defensive concern.

“Madam, you really shouldn’t let your little boy touch things,” he clucked anxiously.

Jane ignored him and inspected the wound. It was very minor and had stopped bleeding already. She put his finger in her mouth and sucked to clean the wound. Then she wiped his tears with her fingers and kissed his nose.

“Stop crying, you’re alright,” she said quietly, reassuring him.

“It bit me,” he whispered.

Jane smiled, “You shouldn’t have touched.”

“I do think you should watch him more closely in future,” said the shopkeeper. “This is not a toy shop.”

Jane declined to comment and began to get up off the floor. All was fine—until she put weight on her right ankle. Pain shot up her leg. She sat again quickly, waves of nausea washing over her.

“Are you alright?” asked the man. “You really should have looked where you were going. Luckily, I do not believe anything was damaged, so I won’t have to charge you.”

He picked up a couple of brooms and replaced them on the stand, then retrieved the paint.

“It’s lucky this lid stayed on,” he said. “You would have made no end of mess if that had come off. You can’t rely on that you know. Manufacturers do not guarantee that lids won’t come loose. Paint should always be stored upright you know.”

He paused.

The woman was still sitting on his floor. She did seem rather pale. He did hope she would not faint. It would not be good for business.

“I’m afraid I need you to move,” he said, his voice rising a pitch. “I will have other customers shortly and you are rather in the way.”

‘Customers,’ he thought, ‘who will buy more than a single reel of cotton and who will create a lot less fuss.’

Jane remained on the floor. She really was unsure if she could stand. Her ankle hurt a huge amount and she felt quite ill with pain.

Then, as if she were in some ludicrous farce, the shop door opened and in walked Hilary.

Her gaze swept across the tear stained child, the flustered shopkeeper and Jane, who was sitting on the floor.

“And what happened here?” she asked.

“This woman did not have her child under appropriate control and he handled the merchandise” the man hurried to explain. “Then she did not give due care and attention to her actions and she fell over. Nearly damaging more goods, may I add.”

“I see,” said Hilary. “Jane, can you stand?”

“It hurts,” said Jane, “I don’t know.” She looked at the shopkeeper. “Do you have a stick I could lean on?”

“She could purchase a walking stick,” he informed Hilary, deciding that Jane was best not spoken to and realising the two women were acquainted.

“Right, please fetch one,” the older woman commanded, “and Christopher, please sit on this chair and hold my handbag with both hands.”

Christopher obeyed. He was reassured by her presence, and now she was clearly in charge of the situation he was extremely interested to see what would happen. His finger only hurt a little bit now, the pain eclipsed by the excitement of seeing Jane on the floor. He wondered if Nana would tell her off for getting dirty. He clutched the bulky bag. It was shiny black leather and very full. He longed to peek inside and investigate the contents but felt sure someone would then tell him off. Instead, he held it close to his chest, feeling the hard shapes inside. He found he could make his finger bleed again if he pressed it very hard, and he amused himself creating a line of round red spots across the width of the bag.

The man reappeared with a selection of sticks.

“Which would madam prefer? Lightweight steel or more traditional wood? Or perhaps one with a seat incorporated into the handle?”

Hilary pointed at a wooden stick with a plain curved handle.

“That one is suitable,” she said. She looked at Jane, “You can reimburse me later.” She handed her credit card to the shopkeeper.

They both helped Jane to stand and she tested her weight on the stick. She could walk, but it was painful. Driving would be difficult, so Hilary agreed that she would drive them all home. When she realised that a dog was involved she bought a long length of thick polythene. She then spent several minutes lining the footwell of her car while Jane sat awkwardly in the shop, Christopher standing close.

Jane thanked the shopkeeper uncertainly.

“Yes, he responded, “well, I hope this has been a lesson to you, young lady. One needs to take more care in life if one is not going to be an inconvenience. Perhaps you will take better care of your child in future.”

The child in question gave him an angelic smile, and placed a tenth bloody fingerprint on an unseen white tea towel before following his mother out of the shop.

Hilary had driven round to the shop front, so Jane had to hobble only as far as the curb. She lowered herself into the passenger seat. Christopher climbed in beside her. There was no child seat, which worried Jane, but she decided the journey was short enough to merit risking an adult’s seat belt. She pushed her coat under him, to act as a booster seat. Hilary, sighing loudly, was loading the dog.

They drove to Jane’s house in near silence. At one point she tried to thank her mother-in-law and explain what had happened. Hilary waved a hand dismissively. Jane was unsure if this was at the thanks or the explanation.

When they arrived, Hilary leant across for Jane’s bag.

“Let me take that for you,” she said, “then I can unlock the front door and come back to help you.”

She walked down the path then stood by the door and unzipped the bag. There, at the top, was a bottle. Slowly, Hilary removed it. A whiskey bottle. An empty whiskey bottle. Her daughter-in-law had been at the park—with a bottle of whiskey—and then had fallen over. She looked back at the car. Mother and child were both watching her. With a frown she found the keys and unlocked the door.

“I think this discussion is best kept for another time,” she decided, placing the bag on the hall table. Then she went back to help Jane.

Later, Jane sat on the sofa sipping tea. Hilary had advised her to bind the ankle tightly, cover it with a bag of frozen peas and raise it on a cushion. She had collected Abigail from school and offered to help the following day if necessary.

“I hope it won’t be necessary,” thought Jane, “I feel such an inconvenience when she helps me.”

She smiled at the memory of her unexpected appearance. Then her thoughts wandered to her glimpse of Matthew.

“Of all the moments when he could have passed,” she thought, “it was just as we were crossing. It’s like it was fate, like our paths were meant to cross.” It was a comforting idea and she settled against the cushions. “I wish I could tell him what happened,” she yearned. “He would laugh with me, make me feel better about that horrible man.

“There’s no one to tell,” she realised. “Peter will just tell me I’m silly, and then rush to thank Hilary. Once he’s spoken to her, he’ll be convinced I’m inadequate. They will make me feel like it was my fault, they won’t be sympathetic. He never sides with me against his mother. He won’t defend me to her, he won’t laugh about her with me. I am the outsider.”

A shot of loneliness pierced her and she felt close to tears.

“Oh Matthew, I do miss you,” she thought, “when will I see you again..?”

To be continued on Sunday.

Thanks for reading.
Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss the next chapter?
anneethompson.com

******

If you are enjoying this novel, you can buy a copy for a friend. Available from Amazon. UK Link Here

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Camber Sands with Mother


Mum said she wanted a week by the sea, and I can write anywhere, so I told her that if she didn’t mind being ignored until midday each day, I would take her to Camber Sands. Am hoping we don’t murder each other.

Other people’s reactions to the news were telling. My children all declined to join us, citing work/parties/washing their hair as plausible excuses. My siblings all advised I take lots of alcohol. My friends all said, “A whole week? Gosh!” I expect they were jealous.

We set off on Saturday. The dog filled the whole boot, so I told Mum we could only take what would fit behind her seat. I packed the dog, my stuff (one tiny bag) and the food (quite a lot of bags) and went to collect Mum. Her stuff was already packed, and in a long line down the front path and round the corner and half way to the next town. But we managed to fit it all in. And I quite like eating bruised apples and crushed crisps, so it’s fine.

Arrived at the cottage in one piece, despite my dodgy driving and fairly useless brain and completely useless SatNav. We have rented a two-bedroomed house from ‘Beside the Sea’ cottages. It’s on a little estate of pastel coloured houses, and is 3 minutes walk from the beach. The house is pretty small (Mum suggested we could empty a cupboard for big smelly dog to live in) but it’s very pretty. It also – most importantly – has a shower with decent water pressure, an outside hose (for rinsing big smelly dog) and two washrooms. There are also a few luxuries, like a Nespresso machine (am on my 4th coffee this morning and the world is buzzing) and Netflix. The owners have included helpful things like capsules for the dishwasher and hand soap for all the sinks, and we arrived to cake and biscuits and a bottle of wine. All very nice.

After a quick cup of tea, we walked to the beach. I don’t know if you know Camber Sands, but in the summer months, the only part of the beach where dogs are allowed is accessed via sand dunes. Dragged Mum over one the height of Snowdon but we made it to the beach. Tried to take selfies – realised neither of us were very good at this, and we now have several photos of our feet, and the sky, and the dunes. Both dog and mother went completely nuts and insisted on paddling. Mother told me she thought I was completely ridiculous to be wearing wellies on the beach in June. But I have lived with Husband for too long. And I hate sandy feet.

Sunday: I took the dog for an early run. The tide in Camber goes out for miles and miles, so we had a good walk. The only other people out there were fishermen digging for lugworms. I worried a little that the tide might come in and we’d get cut-off, but there were no warning signs (only about riptides for swimmers) so we walked 27 miles out to the sea and back. Kia chased seagulls and brought me dead crabs and stones to throw. (I didn’t throw the dead crabs, in case you’re wondering.)

Met Mum and we walked to the little wood and brick church on the main road, next to Pontins. People seemed friendly, and there was coffee and cake afterwards, which Mum stayed for as she likes chatting to strangers, and I didn’t, as I don’t.

We had lunch at The King’s Head in Playden. I’ve been there before, and it never disappoints. It’s pretty and cosy and the food is lovely. Spent the rest of the day walking and reading and watching Netflix.

This morning I walked along a footpath towards Rye (I couldn’t face even more sand and wet dog, I figured one trip to the beach a day would be fine.) The path went past fields of chubby lambs and great pools of deep water with fishermen next to them, and was lined with poppies. Camber seems to have lots of poppies in June. Came back to write this, and will now do some work. So far the week is going well, and we are both still alive. I’ll give you an update next week.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

This tells all the things I wish I had known when first diagnosed. A helpful book for anyone with a potentially terminal illness. It shows how to find a surgeon, how to cope with other people’s fears, how to not be defined by an illness. It also has a few funny anecdotes – because even when you’re ill, it’s good to laugh.
Available from Amazon (you can get it free if you have a Kindle).

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

Feeling Frazzled


Feeling rather frazzled as I write this. There are several reasons, but the main one is a mouse, in the house, which is never a welcome adventure. Now, I am quite good with animals in general, and I think that other than spiders, I could sensibly handle any animal, big or small, that I needed to – if it was contained. But there is something about rodents, especially mice and rats, which, when I encounter them running around freely, makes me scream like a girl. Not really sure why.

We still have the painter/decorator in the house (possibly another reason for feeling frazzled) and he had just started to prepare the recently emptied lounge, when he mentioned that a mouse had run the length of the hall and disappeared under the study door. Super news, just what I was hoping to hear.

Old incontinent cat.

I collected old incontinent cat from her new home in the garage (she can’t live in the utility room while the painter is here) and dumped her in the study. Felt she might need back-up, so went into the garden and whistled for the outside cats. They are very good at coming when I whistle. Unfortunately, so is the dog and all the chickens (note to self:learn how to do two different whistles). Separated the cats from the general group of random animals, and took them into the study.

By this time, old incontinent cat had managed to catch the mouse, whilst also leaping over all the stuff recently removed from other rooms ready for the painter, and managing to break an assortment of complicated lego models. (Do not ask me why, when we have no children in the house, it is necessary to keep aforementioned lego models, but apparently it is.) Old incontinent stupid cat had then put down mouse to play, and mouse had run into fireplace.

We could see it, sitting there, completely still. The cats, however, seemed completely blind to all things rodent, and were busy exploring the shelves and desk.

Tried waving various cats in general direction of mouse. Mouse remained still, cats disliked being waved and struggled to be free.

Decided we needed to catch mouse ourselves. Managed to trap mouse in a plastic cup, and slide coal shovel underneath to contain it. Not sure what to do next.

Mouse sat there, looking quite cute, with big round ears and beady eyes. I think it was a baby one. Did not feel I could kill it, nor did I trust the cats to do the job for me if I released it. Nor did I want it to breed a whole family of new mice in my house.

Sent Husband down the lane, with mouse in plastic cup with shovel underneath to contain it. He complained a bit, but I coped. Opened window so incompetent cats could join chickens and dog in garden.

Now, I do know, that the mouse will probably walk back to my house. Though it was injured, so it might not make it. Plus, I am assuming that should it return, it will be slightly more careful to not be seen again. I also know that a quick killing would’ve been the most sensible course of action. But sometimes, there are some things, which I simply cannot manage to do.

Hope you have a rodent free week. Thank you for reading.

Take care,
Love,
Anne x

*********

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at: anneethompson.com

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

Lexus LC 500


We went to look at sports cars. You can do this sort of thing when you get to a certain age and are bored. When you’re younger, the sales person asks lots of awkward questions about why you want to change your car, and what your job is, so they can check you aren’t just messing about. But at our age, they simply ask what you currently drive (to check, I assume, a certain income level) and then they are happy to let you play, accepting that one of you must be having a mid-life crisis.

We had been out for brunch at Marcos in Sevenoaks (best place locally for brunch) and drove down to the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, where there is a whole road of car dealerships, so you can walk along comparing cars. We started in the Lexus garage, looking at the LC 500.

It’s a very pretty car. It has nice rounded corners, and lights which are shaped like slitty eyes, assessing the road. It’s very low profile, and hugs the ground (so would probably make it to the end of our driveway before it was stuck in a pothole, but we’ll brush over that detail). It’s a hybrid, which Husband likes.

Inside, the seats were leather, with suede trim. They were very comfy to sit in, though a long way down, so I might need old-person grab handles in a few years to get out of it (if I ever gave my mother a lift, she would need to be hauled out of the seat when we parked). Very pretty, but I wasn’t sure it would be very practical with a dog. In fact, I was a bit unsure about the dog altogether. I checked the boot.

Checking the boot took longer than expected, as we couldn’t work out how to open it. There was no handle or obvious catch, so Husband checked inside the car. No clever levers or buttons there either. Eventually, I found a tiny round button next to the left rear light, which opened the boot. The cover slid elegantly back – and we both laughed! The boot was tiny. Really tiny. There was no way we could squash a German shepherd dog into it, or even a suitcase actually. Husband assured me this wouldn’t be a problem, as when we go away for the weekend, we could pack our clothes straight into the boot. I had visions of sneaking through hotel reception with pockets stuffed with socks and underwear.
 The boot did, to be fair, comfortably fit my handbag.

We were now on a mission – where could the dog travel? There was no room in the passenger footwell, as the dashboard curved over it. Perhaps the back seat would be the best place (if one didn’t think about muddy damp dogs ruining suede). We moved the front passenger seat forwards, with the rather swish mechanism that raised the seat and then slid it forwards while we watched. We stared at the back seat. It didn’t have much (any) in the way of leg room, but dogs don’t exactly put their feet on the floor when they travel, so that wasn’t a problem. However, the height from seat to aerodynamically designed roof seemed quite small. I slid into the back seat (not as smoothly as the mechanics had slid the front seat forwards) and tried to sit upright. I couldn’t, not without bumping my head on the ceiling. An adult would have to travel on the back seat with their neck bent. This is the sort of thing my children make an unreasonable fuss about, so we wouldn’t be giving them a lift anywhere. I wasn’t quite sure of dog’s height when sitting, but I had images of lolling tongue very near the back of my head while we drove.

We gave up on the LC 500 as a viable car, unless we left the dog at home. If you have lots of money to spare and either very small children or a very small dog who never gets dirty, this is the car for you.

We had a quick look at the Lexus RC, which is smaller and cheaper, and has a bigger boot. Then we wandered down the road. We looked at the Nissan sports car, but couldn’t sit in it as the showroom model had been bought. It wasn’t as pretty as the Lexus LC, cost about the same, and had no more boot room. We popped in to Toyota and Mazda too. But to be honest, I’d lost enthusiasm by this point, and all the cars were beginning to merge into one, so we went home.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Take care,
Love,
Anne x

xxxx
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

**********

Being Shameless (further confessions of an author)


As it’s a new year, I thought I’d give you an update on the whole ‘being an author’ game/business/nightmare (delete as applicable). Actually, to be honest, the last few months have at times felt like a nightmare – but I’ll come to that in a minute.

First, I’ll tell you about Christmas. For a self-published author, Christmas is busy. There seem to be sales everywhere, and if you’ve been organised a few months ahead of time, booking a table is relatively easy. Prices for a table tend to vary, so it’s worth researching which fairs are likely to give enough sales to recoup your costs. But selling at fairs is okay, all you need is a good patter, and people will buy a signed book for their son, aunty or bookclub friend. Actually fitting in time to properly celebrate Christmas with your family is more difficult. I did rather struggle through Christmas this year in a state of disorganised exhaustion – so perhaps I need to have a rethink for next year.

Regarding Christmas, I must confess, I was shameless, and did a terrible thing. You see, when you’re an author, it is very difficult to advertise your products. They are books. Unless you talk to people, they don’t really sell themselves. So, how to raise awareness? How to best remind people that my books exist, and they said that they intend to buy another one, but they haven’t yet got round to it? How to avoid being that boring person at dinner parties who always talks about her books? Marketing. The big companies do it, so why not self-published authors who are struggling to be seen? You often see massive posters at stations and bus stops, advertising the next blockbuster by Lee Child or Stephen King – why not by Anne E. Thompson?

 Now, I wasn’t sure if Husband would be happy to finance a thousand-pound advertising spree, but I thought it unlikely, so I didn’t ask him. Instead, I looked for something cheaper than a couple of posters at Victoria Station. My solution was photo-gifts. You know the ones? Those mugs, and coasters where you can have a picture of your puppy on the front. Well, why not books? I have photos of each cover, why not produce some merchandise? So I did. I went online, found some that weren’t too expensive, and had some things made with the cover photos of my books on the front. They looked okay. But then I needed to distribute them, so they were seen in public – which is where the shameless bit comes in. I decided that my family would all like to walk around, advertising my books on a bag, so they all received one for Christmas. (Okay, so actually I knew they’d be slightly horrified, but I did it anyway.) They were polite.

 I rather like the mugs, which are a decent size and a nice shape. So I had a few made. I’ll see if I can sell any when I’m next selling books, which won’t make me any money, because they’re quite expensive for me to buy, but they will help to advertise my books. I have this image, of someone drinking coffee, and being asked, “What is that picture on your mug?” “Ah,” they will reply, “that is the cover of a book I read recently. It was really good, you should buy a copy.” I tried this out on the man who came to service the boiler, and gave him his coffee in a Joanna mug. He didn’t comment.

The nightmare bit of my job is publishing Clara. As it’s my sixth book, I thought I had the publishing bit sorted. The book was finished in the summer. But everything since has been hard work. My editor suggested I rewrote lots of it, which took me months. Then the cover photo was later arriving than I’d hoped, which meant the typesetter didn’t get everything before Christmas. Then there was a strange glitch on the computers, which changed some, but not all, of the curly quotation marks to ‘smart quotes’, which look odd in a book, so I had to read through and find them all. Which took hours and hours. Plus some words were hyphenated, which always irritates me when I’m reading books, so they had to be found and corrected, because for some reason the auto-correct function only worked on some chapters. I felt like everything was against this book being published. As I write, we are negotiating with the printer, and hopefully, Clara will go to them this week. I hope so. I am worn out with things going wrong, especially as I find the IT side of publishing to be beyond my ability level.

I need to decide soon if I am going to have another book launch. They are a bit scary, but they do make it easy for friends to buy the book. If I do, I need to decide when. I want to avoid holiday seasons, but have it in time for people to buy the book for the summer (when most people read at least one book). I will let you know.

I also need to do something about Amazon. They have changed their listing policy, so cheaper books always appear first. Which means people selling secondhand copies of my books show ahead of me, and those are the copies people are buying. So I don’t receive any money. I am thinking that I might make Kindle paperback copies of all my books, and only sell my self-published ones directly. The Kindle paperbacks are less nice, they’re heavier and not of the same quality as my self-published books. But they are okay, and customers can avoid paying postage, and I don’t have to physically send them out, AND they would be listed ahead of all the other copies (because most of the money goes to Amazon, so they want to sell them). I’ll try to do it in February, at the moment I’m still trying to catch up with life.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love,
Anne x

*******

You can follow my blog at : anneethompson.com

 Anne E. Thompson is the author of five novels and one non-fiction book. Her latest novel, CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is due to be released soon. You can find her books in bookshops or Amazon.

Which book will you read next?

Happy New Year! (Survived 2017 okay?)


Well, I did it, I made it to the end of the year. Christmas was lovely, but busy, then straight into visiting family, family parties, and preparing for New Year Eve’s party. I can now collapse in a heap somewhere.

The family parties especially are good to survive. They are fun, but somewhat different to the parties we had when I was little. In those days, we all went to my granny’s house, where she had a huge room that stretched across the shop below, and we played games. The games were things like musical statues, and postman’s knock – where no one ever wanted to have to kiss Uncle George because he didn’t have many teeth. He’s dead now. Today, it would probably be classed as child abuse.

These days, I go to my in-laws houses for family games. These range from the impossible (Eg, trying to match words my mother might think of – I opted out this year and let my brother partner her) to the not so impossible (trying to stay awake during ‘Mafia’). My father-in-law brought a game this year: we had to order a list of animals according to the neurones found in their cerebral cortex. Which is a test for intelligence (the number of neurones, not the game. Though actually, now I come to think of it…) Like I said, I survived, and it was fun.

Then we began to prepare for our own party. The low point every year is lunch time on the day of the party, when the family wants food, but I am trying to clear up the kitchen and I don’t want to start cooking. Then there are always left-overs, which do not fit into the fridge, but I don’t like to waste them. Actually, the fridge is a major tension point, as I try to coat strawberries in chocolate and prepare vegetables for dips, and there is nowhere, absolutely nowhere, to put them. Why does no one ever eat the last piece of quiche/pudding/pie? And I can’t even put them in plastic bags anymore because Son who works for a conservation charity tells me it’s unethical. The dog walks around shedding hairs on my freshly vacuumed floors, and someone used the last bit of loo roll and flung the cardboard bit on the floor.

The party this year had an “Around the World’ theme. I went to church Sunday morning, mainly to avoid the annual tense discussion, when I try to keep my house undisturbed and Husband is in major ‘change everything for a party’ mode. I returned to a lot of flags, and tried to avoid going into rooms where I knew my furniture would be moved around.

Son 1 asked what he could wear, as he planned to come as ‘the international space station’. (If you have a young child who tends to announce on the way to school that today is Book Day, and everyone is dressing up, and if your friends tell you, “Don’t worry, they grow out of that,” – Don’t believe them. They don’t.)

By the time guests arrived, all was lovely, and I had a marvellous time.

Anyhow, I hope you too made it to this side of the new year. Have a rest now as you slip back into the easy routine of work and weekends. Have a great week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

 

Thank you for reading.

Why not start the new year by signing up to follow my blog?

I usually write a post every week.

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How was your Christmas?


Hello, and how was your Christmas? Or, more to the point, how are you? Full of food and love and happy thoughts I hope.

I find the work for Christmas begins several days before, when I start making lists. Then I have to rewrite the lists, because I’ve lost the originals. This year I decided to also make a time-plan, like we used to make in Domestic Science lessons at school: 11:40 boil potatoes and parsnips, 11:55 potatoes into oven, 12:00 parsnips into oven…you get the idea. I hoped it might solve the “finding the chestnuts for the sprouts in the fridge, when I put the remains of the turkey in there” problem, which tends to happen every year. It didn’t work of course, but at least I had evidence that I had tried.

Another pre-Christmas job is laundry – washing everything that’s in the dirty washing basket. This was partly because I didn’t want to have to do washing during the Christmas period, and partly because I knew Son 2 would arrive with a suitcase of dirty washing, and I prefer not to have to queue for the washing machine. Husband then made helpful comments about, “Gosh, we must’ve been burgled, and they stole all that stuff you’ve been storing in the washing basket for months.” But I ignored him.

Actually, understanding Husband is sometimes difficult. He often embarks on a major DIY project just as my workload feels over-whelming. Like the year he decided it would be helpful to re-floor the kitchen on Christmas Eve. Yep, Christmas Eve. This year he mended the extractor fan in the bathroom. At least, that’s what he told me he was doing, it looked awfully like he was playing Candy-Crush whilst sitting on the sofa, but who am I to know?

To be fair, Husband mainly helps to stop me spiralling into despair. When I woke him at 3:30am on the morning of the 23rd, to tell him in panic I was completely out of control, the time had slipped away from me and it was already Christmas and I wasn’t ready, and I still haven’t managed to proofread Clara, he was very calm. He just sort of absorbs all my worries and tells me it will be fine. Which it was. Perhaps that’s why I married him.

There were a few low points. I had decided this year to avoid the ‘pull the crackers and then leave all the stuff on the table’ activity which happens every year. I decided to buy those make your own crackers and buy a gift people would actually want, which in my family is alcohol. The trouble was, the crackers did not arrive in pieces, as I had expected, they were already formed but with one end open. So inserting miniature bottles of drink was a struggle, and adding the hat and joke was impossible. I basically had to screw them up and stuff them inside. Which did, I admit, look less than professional when they were opened, but everyone merrily wore scrumpled hats. I guess the alcohol helped.

Another unexpected moment was when the food order arrived on 23rd. Who knew you could buy such tiny packets of stuffing?

The absolute low point however, was our family trip to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect 3. Husband’s choice. I knew it would be bad, but I hadn’t realised quite how bad. Words cannot adequately express my feelings towards such drivel. But everything else about our Christmas was brilliant. Next is New Year’s Eve party – not so much potential for disaster there. Is there?

Take care,

Love, Anne x

xxx
anneethompson.com

 

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How to NOT do Christmas


(Reposted because it’s that time of year again.)

How to NOT do Christmas

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by Anne E Thompson

Okay, so it’s that time of year again, when I look around and everyone seems terribly competent, with beautiful houses and cards sent on time. Or are you, like me, still struggling to clear up stray socks and find the floor under dog hairs? Here are some helpful hints for those of you who need to decorate the house, send cards to the correct people, produce a mound of wrapped gifts and cook that all important dinner; whilst also keeping the house clean, the animals alive, and do all the other jobs which fill your life and don’t disappear at Christmas. Hope it’s helpful.

The Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas tree. Here are some things to beware of:
If you take a man with you to buy a real tree, he will lose all sense of proportion. This is true. Crude jokes aside, it seems to be some strange male trait that they always want to buy a tree that is much too big for the space in your home. They always forget the bucket and top decoration adds extra height. And they always forget that you might want to live in the room where they plan to put it – and if it’s too wide everyone will have to scrabble through the branches to communicate. So my advice: do not involve a male of any age in choosing the tree.

You cannot however, avoid them being present for the annual family discussion on where the tree should go. Now, we have lived in our present house for many years and every Christmas we discuss (heatedly) where the tree should be placed. Every year it always goes in exactly the same place.

If you buy a tree in late December, your family will constantly tell you everyone else has theirs already. If you buy a tree in early December, it will probably be bald by New Year.

If you decide to ‘plant’ your tree in soil, over time, as it is watered, the soil becomes unstable and the tree will gradually fall over. If you follow the shop’s instructions and “treat your tree like the living plant that it is” and stand it in water, then after a while, the warmth of your house will have turned the water stagnant and everyone will be asking you what the funny smell is. If, on realising this, you then add a drop of bleach to the water, the tree first gets very pale looking and then dies very quickly. A dead tree will droop and all the ornaments slide off the branches. Your lounge also smells like a public lavatory.

If you ever want a tasteful tree, you must NEVER allow the children to put on their home made ornaments. Every year I produce those faded photos in plastic frames, the robin that sheds paint. I even have the clay angels that my sister made one year, which look like they slept in a puddle after an especially hard night out. It is true, they bring back lots of special memories, but I can now never not put them on the tree, so my tree, whilst full of precious memories, is also incredibly tacky.

If you do not water your tree, do NOT leave the lights on it and go out for the evening or it might burn down your house. (This did not happen to us, but it did happen to a neighbour in the US. A dried pine is incredibly flammable.)

If you have an artificial tree, you can spend hours sorting out branches and colour codes. My advice is: tell someone else that they are in charge of putting up the tree because it is too hard for you (this works well if you have males in the family, who will actually believe that you are incapable of matching colours.) They will also be keen to supervise the taking down of the tree because they will know how impossible it is to put up if not stored carefully.

Decorations

Do NOT believe that everyone who helps decorate the house will also help tidy up after Christmas. Every year I say, “Only put out the ornaments that you will put away afterwards”. I may as well not bother. I know this is true because one year I was ill, and we had a Nativity scene on one window sill all year. I find family members are very keen to decorate all sorts of random places, and not at all keen to tidy them afterwards.

Gifts

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Do NOT buy gifts too early and if you do, do not forget where you have hidden them. It is annoying to find winter nightclothes for your daughter in June.

If posting gifts, do not forget to name each gift so the recipient knows who they are for (you would be surprised at what has happened in our family).

Do NOT assume you will know when your child stops believing in Father Christmas (sorry if this is a spoiler). When I asked one of my sons on his eighteenth birthday (okay, so he wasn’t quite that old) if he really still believed in Santa, he informed me that he had not believed for years but hadn’t liked to disappoint me by letting me know. This was a huge relief for the whole family, as we could now stop worrying he was completely thick, and it also meant that I could give the children their ‘stocking gifts’ the evening before Christmas. Which meant that we all slept much better Christmas Eve.

Do NOT forget to check that either your husband has bought his mother a gift, or you have bought one for her yourself. Really, I cannot stress enough how important this one is……

Food

Unless you are a very organised person, do NOT buy a large frozen turkey. They take days to defrost – and where will you put it during that time? If you leave it in the utility room, the cat eats it. If you put it in the garage, the mice eat it. If you leave it in the oven to defrost, you are sure to forget and turn on the oven to preheat – melting plastic over poultry is not a good smell, trust me. If you place it in a bucket of brine, as was suggested one year, what are you going to do with the salmonella-infected brine afterwards, and how will you stop the dog licking it? If you put it in the fridge, you cannot fit in any of the shelves, let alone other food. Trust me, big frozen turkeys are a bad idea.

Do NOT forget that supermarkets are open other than on the bank holidays. I always do this; I try to buy enough food for the whole holiday period, which is a military operation in an over flowing supermarket, with insufficient parking, and queues the length of the Nile . Then, soon after boxing day we always run out of something essential, like milk, and I go to a beautifully empty supermarket (which is now selling all the food that is decomposing in my fridge for half the price.) Being overly prepared is always a mistake I feel. Just buy enough for the Christmas Day dinner.

If, like me, you have a problem with chocolates, when you buy the family tub of chocolates, do NOT forget to also buy tape. Then, if by mistake you open them and eat lots before Christmas, you can buy a replacement, add the ones you don’t much like and reseal the tub. Your family will never know. Honestly, every year my husband tells me that there are a surprisingly large number of green triangles in our chocolate tin.

Important Things

Do NOT forget to go to a carol service. Actually, I do not especially like carols, unless they are sung by a choir. They are mostly really really long. A lot of them also have things in them that are very European and nothing to do with the actual account in the Bible. But I do like carol services, full of excited children, and people in thick coats that they don’t have anywhere to hang. One year at our church we even managed to set someone on fire. (It was an accident, I should add. She leant against a candle and she wasn’t at all hurt, just ruined her coat. The following year as a safety precaution the candles were suspended above us. Unfortunately, they weren’t the non drip variety and we all made polite conversation afterwards with white wax in our hair.)

Do Not forget to build some family traditions of your own. On Christmas Eve, if my children are in the house, awake before noon and sober (I assume nothing these days) then they still like to help prepare the vegetables. We all sit round, peeling sprouts and remembering how we did it every year while watching ‘The Lost Toys,’ and the year that the youngest removed every leaf from his sprout and then declared, “Mine’s empty!”

Most importantly, do NOT forget what is important. Christmas is not about family or tradition or nice food. Actually, it’s about a God who thought you were special enough that he came to this dirty smelly earth as a baby. Even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And he cared enough to come, so that you have a chance to change your mind if you want to. So spend a little time trying to remember what it’s all about. Look in Luke’s bit of the Bible, and read the account of what actually happened – no donkeys, no inn keepers with tea-towels on their heads, no fairies or snow. Just a simple story of something special.

xxxxxx

Thank you for reading.

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If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson, an easy-read, feel-good novel, set in an English infant school. Why not buy a copy today and read something to make you smile?

(Also an ideal Christmas gift for your mother, sister, aunt, or anyone who has ever worked in a school.)

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