Monday, February 28, 2011

in search of snowdrops

Current work: new Riva
Listening to: Keith Urban
Reading: Michelle Styles, Breaking the Governess’s Rules (enjoying because Michelle’s books are always reliable – properly researched and strong heroines)

I had this great idea to go on a snowdrop walk, this weekend. We even had nice weather for it. Except… I got the lurgy and basically spent the weekend on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket and with a canine hot water bottle (not to mention hot lemon with paracetamol).

So, instead of the pics I planned to post today (because I didn’t actually leave the house to take them), here are some of the lovely tulips that bestest cousin gave me as part of my birthday pressie. (It was a whole armful and needed two big vases – and they lasted for AGES. Glorious.)


Today is back to normal. Sort of. I think I’ve figured out what my department store looks like (in its new location). The hero’s name definitely needs to change, but for now I will press on with the current one – the right one will come in its own sweet time :o)

Friday, February 25, 2011

elsewhere today

Last day of half-term holidays (well, if you don't include the weekend).

I'm over at the Pink Heart Society today talking about an unexpectedly romantic film (and why two 'proper' rom-coms really disappointed me recently). Do come over and tell me what you think.

Oh, and colour me thrilled, I was also the Pink Heart Society pick for February, with Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex - sorry, should've mentioned that yesterday but I was out with the kids and nowhere near my desk. Anyway, the post is here if you want to join in the conversation :o)

Have a nice weekend! Normal service (cough) resumed next week...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the Book of the Dead

Current work: new Riva
Listening to: DH’s iPod (say no more)
Reading: Katherine Webb, The Legacy (enjoying, but I would have liked to be made to think a little harder to work out the big secret – and I know I got it right because I was pulled out of the story by this point and went to the end to check. Plus I’m a pedant when it comes to the misuse of speech tags – brings out the copyeditor in me instead of the reader, which is a bit of a shame)

Had a wonderful trip to London. Admittedly, the book for which this was originally going to be research is currently on the back burner, but it’s still valid research as that book might just morph into something else.
Should warn you now, there's a nerd alert as we went to see an exhibition (my birthday treat to me!), which was...

… at the British Museum (I really do love the Millennium Court).

What struck me most was how clear all the colours were, for papyri that were more than 3500 years old. Absolutely stunning. Now, you’re not meant to take photos, but other people were taking pics, so I decided to be a little naughty as well (the flash was off, so I wasn’t doing anything that would damage the exhibits – also means the quality isn’t brilliant).

This is Anhai, the chantress of Amun; the papyrus comes from Thebes, dated 1100BC.


This one is from Nebqued’s Book of the Dead, 1400BC.


The ancient Egyptians believed that the flesh of their gods was made of gold, which was why they painted coffins gold. This is Henutmehyt’s coffins from Thebes, 1250BC (usually in the upstairs exhibition and I have pics of it from years ago, too).

I really liked this crocodile – another from 1400 BC. (Blurry because of light conditions!)


And this is Ani and Tutu playing the game of senet (Thebes, 1275 BC). Next to it was another papyrus showing lots of different animals playing senet. There were also senet boards on display, one of which really reminded me of Victorian watercolour boxes.

Though one pic that even my daughter couldn't moan about me taking (she doesn't have a rebellious streak yet, bless her) was the ceiling in the exhibition room. Just gorgeous.
After that, we had a wander round Greenwich; though it was a dull, dull day outside (not actually raining, but looking as if it was going to start at any second) and it made me rethink the location of my department store for the current Riva. Home late; semi-early start this morning as DH needed an eye test (and was amused when the optician remarked on his resemblance to Bruce Willis… though his current question is whether Bruce wears glasses, as he (DH, that is) is now officially middle-aged and needs them for distance).
The rest of today is for thinking and catching up writing my thank you letters (which are late because I should’ve done them a week ago), and sorting out times to do some library PR in April as I have a nasty feeling that I’m going to be in Rome when my lovely ed wants me to show my face. It may involve reading the royal wedding scene from the book that happens to be out in the US in April, and was out in April a couple of years ago her – OMG, make that three years ago. Where IS the time going?

Monday, February 21, 2011

frabjous

Current work: new Riva
Listening to: DH’s iPod (in 2-second skips. Arrgh. Why the man cannot make playlists… oh, yeah. He only has one X chromosome)
Reading: had a bit of a readfest this weekend: Kelly Hunter, With This Fling; Fiona Harper, Three Weddings and a Baby; Jessica Hart, Juggling Briefcase and Baby (enjoyed all three); Eloisa James, Duchess by Night (made me laugh for all the right reasons, and also made me cry – enjoyed it very much, and thanks to my mate Scarlet Wilson for telling me about that one)

It’s half term, so apologies but this blog is going to be a bit intermittent this week – am spending time with DH and the cherubs (and at the moment this also seems to mean loafing in bed for an hour or so in the mornings with my nose in a book instead of having to be up at 6.30 sharp to sort out packed lunches and marshal troops. Had forgotten just how much I enjoy reading in the mornings, even though it's my best work period; this is refilling the well rather than me being a lazy tart).

Had some fantastic news from my editor all of ten minutes ago – she’s just accepted the gelati book, aka my 47th Mills & Boon. It’s going to be out in the UK in October and the US in November, and the title is ‘A Moment on the Lips’.

I’m particularly thrilled as I wrote this book just before life went really pear-shaped. Actually, that’s a fib. It was already pear-shaped at that point, as I’d rewritten a book completely – twice – and then it was rejected. Half a year wasted (and I would normally have had three accepted in that period). Cue career hitting skids, big time. Pulling yourself back from that is tough enough; then the personal stuff hit, too. Dad went into his last illness and passed away, and then the family crisis - well, that takes up way too much of my headspace as it is.

But I think I’m back now. My ed says I have my stride back, anyway. And that feeling is just frabjous. Thanks especially to my friends for putting up with me during the really tough times (you know who you are, and you're wonderful).

Off on a research trip tomorrow which will hopefully get the current book grounded. Back with pics later in the week. Have a nice evening. Ours is going to be celebratory…

Friday, February 18, 2011

authors and readers

Current work: new Riva
Listening to: Keith Urban, Get Closer (excellent)
Reading: How to Bake a Perfect Life, Barbara O’Neal – fabulous and really enjoying it

Update on DH: he’s fine and rested his leg yesterday, so he’s back to work today (against my advice, but he has promised to rest his leg as much as possible). Thanks to everyone who asked; as for those of you on FB who pointed out that I wasn’t going to get much work done as I’d be dispensing tea, sympathy, painkillers, sandwiches, etc etc etc – absolutely. Bored male in pain. Say no more. :o)

Daughter and I spent an hour and a half queuing at Jacqueline Wilson’s book signing last night. What a LOVELY woman she is. Despite the fact that it was busy (not helped by some people in the queue deciding that one ticket didn’t mean one book being signed, it meant “bring half a dozen friends and their books with you for signing, too” – not fair on the author OR the bookshop), she spent time talking to each child, asking them how old they were (she knew their names because the assistants put a sticky note on all the children’s books with their name on), what they liked reading, and in my daughter’s case asking her about her favourite book and then talking about it with her. And she was sweet enough to pose for a photo with any children who asked (yes, of course I had my camera).

Speaking as an author, I love meeting readers. And what I really love is getting an email saying that reading one of my books made someone’s tough day feel that little bit better. Yes, writing is the way I make a living, but it’s also more than my job - it's who I am. And I hope that both here and in person I would come across to my readers the same way that Jacqueline Wilson did to my daughter last night: that I appreciate my readers for buying my books and keeping me in a job, and that I’m not just writing for money, I’m writing stories that I hope will put a bit of sunshine in their lives.

Y’know I mentioned India Grey’s gratitude journal? (To see what she was talking about, go take a look here.) Three things for which I am grateful today:
  • a certain author friend of mine, who read what I’ve been working on (and was stuck on) and came back with lots of questions, which works brilliantly for me in making me focus. The key thing I took away today is that my heroine needs to make mistakes. An obvious thing. One I probably knew deep down, but I needed the reminder!
  • having the house to myself, so I have the peace and quiet to work
  • my single cup of proper coffee for the day (for waking me up enough to work - I'm still wiped from spending those three hours in a hot waiting room on a very hard, uncomfortable chair)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the joys of the emergency department...

Current work: new Riva
Listening to: Keith Urban, Get Closer (excellent)
Reading: How to Bake a Perfect Life, Barbara O’Neal – fabulous

So, there I was – just sent second revisions in to ed and planning to go back to wrestling the new book – when I heard huge crashing noises upstairs. No shrieks of pain, so I assumed DH dropped something off the bathroom shelf into the bath. A few minutes later, he was at the bottom of the stairs, looking sorry for himself. He’d slipped, banged his shin on the edge of the bath, and the swelling was the size of an egg… all the way from his knee to his ankle. Cue me sticking on an ice pack, bundling him into my car and taking him to the emergency department to check if it was fractured. And waiting rather a long time.

Luckily it’s not a fracture, just bad bruising. But this means rest, ice and elevation. Bored male, forced to sit still: oh, joy. Son is still home sick with the tail end of his tummy bug, so maybe they can amuse each other and do X-box stuff or something.

Last night was interesting from a work point of view, though. Evening ED cases seem to be mainly people limping and tiny babies. Next ED book, am borrowing this case. Well, hey, a three-hour wait on a very hard chair deserves some payback!

We do however have something nice to look forward to (even though it’s going to involve a big queue) because Jacqueline Wilson is signing her new book today, and I have a ticket for daughter.

Righty. Off to do my nursing bit, administering tea, painkillers and sympathy...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner

Current work: gelati revisions, round 2 (but these are smaller than last time round so I am not getting stressed about it; the days of a book going through with no revisions are long, long in the past, and it's the same for everyone, so it's a matter of going with the flow and chilling out)
Listening to: Coldplay, X&Y
Reading: next on TBR

Absolutely thrilled to discover yesterday that Good Girl or Gold Digger? won a Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice Award 2010. (Thank you very much to the judges.)
Do go over to Cataromance to see the rest of the winners. And they even sent me a pretty graphic I can use for my blog (thank you, Donna Z).

Other things currently happening on Planet Kate:

  • son still off sick and feeling rough (possibly infection as well as D&V bug, but doc says give it until Friday and do lots and lots of fluids in between) - bless him, he's being an utter lamb
  • day 2 of Shred, and the backs of my upper arms are protesting a bit - but I can do this
  • revisions are in for the gelati book. Am teasing my ed, who has suggested I put more work stuff back in the gelati book. (She normally makes me take it out. I should add, this is affectionate teasing, and she’s teasing me back. I’m feeling a lot better about work than I was back in September.)

Righty. Coffee, work, school run and then to John Lewis to pick up my grill. (JL are just the best when it comes to customer service. Rang them yesterday, and they've put it by for me until tomorrow.) Daughter has put in a bid to pre-order the Pokemon game that comes out, the week after next (she's saved birthday and Christmas vouchers for it, bless her). Can we stay out of our 'banned' shops?

Monday, February 14, 2011

pink Monday

Current work: outline
Listening to: Rumer (another surprise pressie from DH)
Reading: next on TBR

Mills & Boon is celebrating Valentine’s Day with Pink Monday – there are special offers every hour. Go over to the M&B website to see more!

Sorry I’m a bit late posting this, i.e. halfway through the day. Busy this morning – discussion with GP about blood pressure, and he says I’m doing all the right things about the cholesterol by tweaking my breakfast back to porridge, but this time using soya milk and adding ground flaxseed (thank you, Kate Jackson Bedford, for that one!) and fresh blueberries. As for the BP – he says take a very big step back from the FC, and do gentle exercise. He also approves of Shred, and I started that today (thank you, Michelle Styles and Sarah Crowe, for the advice on that one – and I have survived my first session!).

Other than that, had a lovely weekend with bestest family. The family party on Sunday got taken over with board games (including a Monopoly session that went on for 3.5 hours!) and that made it feel a lot better. Bit of an ouch moment for me when everyone sang happy birthday to me (usually that’s for Dad). But we raised a glass to him and it was fine.

Today, I have eldest home sick with the D&V bug. Hoping nobody else in the house picks it up (or, if we do, that it’s short-lived) because we have Jacqueline Wilson’s book signing on Thursday, and a trip to London planned for next week.

Happy Valentine’s Day – and an extra hug to those who are finding today difficult for whatever reason.

Friday, February 11, 2011

new cover, thank you and some great news

Current work: not today – start of weekend off (yes, really)
Listening to: Teddy Thompson (surprise pressie from DH)
Reading: next on TBR

Thrilled to see my new cover at last on Amazon. So here’s my first UK release this year: The Fireman and Nurse Loveday, out in April. It’s part of the St Piran’s series, which follows on from Penhally. And yes, I get to have a spaniel in it :o) I think my ed put a dog in my story because she knew that, if she didn't, I'd sneak one in there anyway!


As for the thanks - it’s a tricky birthday this year as it’s the first one without Dad, and Sunday is going to feel very strange because the focus of our joint party is usually on him rather than on me - this year doesn't feel right. So a special thank you to everyone who’s spoiled me today (including daughter playing 'Happy Birthday to You' on the guitar - she's been practising it for days on the quiet until she was note perfect), and who also understand why I’m keeping it a bit understated this year.

Great news? The RNA Pure Passion shortlists are out now. I have friends on several of the lists, so I’m chuffed to bits for them. Go over to the RNA blog for the full listings. And many congrats to all the shortlistees :o)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

cholesterol

Current work: still wrestling with outline (it worked three months ago, so why doesn’t it work now? Or maybe I need a weekend off…)
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Jillian Michaels, Winning by Losing (very interesting)

I knew before my appointment on Tuesday that my BP was going to be sky high, and I explained to the nurse why that was before she took the reading. She sympathised, but wasn’t happy with the readings, so I’m back to see my GP next week. I think it’s a going to mean a change to my meds, because the situation stressing me isn’t going to improve for a while.

What I wasn’t expecting was that my cholesterol levels, which have always been really good, would suddenly zoom upwards. The only big change I’ve made in my eating habits in the last year was to swap my breakfast porridge for an omelette. Guess that’s a swap back, then. And I need to exercise more and reduce stress. (The theory for that last one is a lot easier than the practice. I think I'm going to have to have a major hissy fit.)

In the meantime, it’s another look at my diet because I want those levels well down at my next blood test in three months’ time. I’m already meeting the main dietary guidelines: six or seven portions of veg a day; main proteins are poultry and salmon; no processed carbs; red meat once a week max; dairy stuff is all low-fat, and cheese intake is hugely reduced from what it was. So it’s a matter of tweaking. (Great. Now I sound like my editor. ‘A few tweaks’… except mine are tweaks and not rewrites!)

Oats are very good for lowering cholesterol (soluble fibre), so that’s breakfast switched back to porridge – though this time I’m using soya milk and adding a handful of blueberries. (Good thing about being a nerdy science person AND a foodie: you have solid reasons for your choices.) I’m also experimenting with cholesterol-lowering drinks, even though they’re horrible. (Mainly because there are sweeteners in them. Dear manufacturers, do you have to add sugar and sweeteners to everything? 5% of my daily sugar in one of your little bottles is not good.)

Also upping the oily fish intake. Mackerel for lunch, or maybe salmon twice a week for dinner. The asparagus can stay as that also lowers cholesterol (thanks to soluble fibre and saponins). Add in some spinach (I do actually like spinach, but persuading the rest of the family might be interesting). And maybe swapping chicken for white fish once a week. Monkfish, perhaps, wrapped in parma ham or served on a bed of spiced lentils; or, thinking about it, my favourite chicken stew recipes would work for fish as well. And it’s a good excuse to spend lots of time on the BBC Good Food website. (Ha, more tweaking. Am I the only one who finds it hard to stick to a recipe and just adapts it as I go along?)

Does anyone have any favourite (healthy!) fish recipes? Would love to hear them :o)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

quiet

Current work: wrestling with outline
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Jillian Michaels, Winning by Losing (very interesting)

My dad would’ve been 76 today. So I’m toddling off to the cemetery this morning to put flowers on his grave, then going over the road to the churchyard to put flowers on my mum’s grave. It’s going to be an odd sort of day. Certainly not the usual one that would involve a nice lunch and a birthday cake. A day, I think, of quiet reflection.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

displacement

Current work: playing with outlines/ a bit of research
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: next on TBR

When the plot isn’t working, you need some displacement activity. And usually for an author that means the stuff you’ve ignored for way too long because you’ve been busy on a book.

Hence I cleaned the oven yesterday. (The Lakeland stuff you paint on with a brush is great. So is their Magic Oven Liner. And so is the stuff where you put the oven racks in a thick plastic bag, squirt in some acidic cleaner, and leave it to soak for the rest of the day. Now we have lovely, shiny racks; bearing in mind that I cook a roast dinner three times a week, it really did need doing.)

I also let daughter take a pic of me on her iPod and turn me into an alien. Absolutely not posting that here (how come everyone else in the house gets a thin face and I look like Michelin woman, then?), but I will post a pic that made me smile. This is Kleptodog giving me The Look. Yeah, it’s an ‘I want treats’ look. But with a difference: this one means ‘you let Chlo dress me in deelyboppers. Deelyboppers! My poor, injured dignity. I soooo need a treat to help me get over the shame…’ (This is also because DH gave him a haircut, and Byron’s ears aren’t quite even. So walkies means he gets the doggy equivalent of the playground sniggered ‘haircut-u-ut’.)

(Dear ed. Of course I am not procrastinating. Their voices were very clear when I gave you the outline three months ago. Then life got in the way and, um, now they need wheedling back. And I think they might have the wrong names. Hence displacement necessary while I work it out.)

Plan for today: annual health check (and explanation of why my BP is sky high right now - ha ha, FC strikes again); guitar lesson; and pummelling my outline into shape. (Pummelling. Kneading. Ooh, lightbulb. I have bread flour and yeast. However, we have no proper butter or raspberry jam, so maybe not…)

Monday, February 07, 2011

what’s in a name?

Current work: playing with outlines/ a bit of research
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Louise Allen, Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress (Louise never disappoints. Good read.)

I’m over at the Harlequin Medical authors’ group blog today, talking about names. And I learned something about my grandmothers while writing the blog. If you want to know what – and get a link to some fabulous material for research – go over to e-Harlequin.

Had a lovely lunch out with Kate on Friday (thank you, Kate – and a special thanks for listening to me rant about the latest re the FC). On Sunday, went with my stepmum to the nursing home to give the donations from Dad’s memorial service. We went for coffee afterwards, in the cafĂ© where I used to take Dad for lunch, which brought back some nice memories but also made me a bit sad. I do miss taking him out to lunch and talking about music. I even miss him ringing me up to play his latest purchase over the phone (yes, this was pre-dementia – he’s always been a bit eccentric); and when I was in town with DH on Saturday morning I spied a couple of CDs that Dad would really have loved, which put a lump in my throat because normally at this time of year I’d be finding last-minute extras for his birthday. Actually, I didn’t need a birthday for an excuse. I loved taking him something I’d found and seeing his face light up because it was a favourite he hadn’t heard in years.

I think I’m going to have to send some random pressies to people to cheer myself up. That, or open a parcel on my desk that I suspect contains goodies from Hotel Chocolat…

Friday, February 04, 2011

er, what day is it?

Current work: playing with outlines/ a bit of research
Listening to: Def Leppard, X
Reading: next on TBR

So, the plan was: go into town with DH to sort out the trip, then meet my friend Kate for lunch while DH did some shopping (aka my birthday pressie). Now, Kate is never late. (I, on the other hand, always manage to hit a huge queue in the car park, so cannot say the same.) So I was worried. I left a couple of messages on her voicemail, then thought about it; we had to change the date. Today was Thurs Feb 4th, right? Er, no, try Thursday Feb 3rd… I was a day too early. (Kate confirmed that later. She's fine. I was dozy.)

So I had a hot date instead with a gorgeous man. (Every time I say that to the kids, they roll their eyes and say, ‘What, you mean Dad?’ Er, yes. Who else do they think I’m going to go out with? Antonio Banderas? In my dreams!)

Going out to lunch twice in a week (twice in two days, if we’re being picky) is very decadent but it has to be done :o) And I have been working, so it’s not as if I’m being a completely idle mare. Bouncing ideas off another writer in person does actually count as work, too. Just it’s more fun than bouncing said ideas against yourself. And usually more productive, too.

While DH and I were in town, I spied Jacqueline Wilson’s new hardback in Jarrolds’ window. As in my daughter’s favourite author. And she’s signing said new book in a fortnight’s time. Can’t think of anything nicer than getting a signed copy from one of your favourite authors, so I’ve sorted out a ticket for the signing (also bought the book in advance, on advice of book department, to avoid panic on the day). Daughter is absolutely thrilled.

I, too, am thrilled, but for a different reason. The replacement trip is to the Eternal City. A whole week in Rome, yay! We bought two guidebooks yesterday (Lonely Planet and AA Citypak – first has the detail I want, and second fits in handbag and has ace map). Our hotel is in a nice area near Santa Maria Maggiore, is boutique and family run and the food is good (location, location, breakfast - has excellent reviews on Tripadvisor); and I feel a replacement for the book after next coming on (aka not the Riva I’m doing now or the Med that’s up next – the Riva after that). And, actually, I was dozy about that. I told the kids we were going to a completely different hotel. Until the travel agent rang up to confirm and I asked if she could remind me of the name. Whoops. Cue humble pie from me to DH.

So now I’m wondering, what’s the third thing I’m going to be dozy about? And I just remembered. I’ve already done that – I mixed up the times of my blood test on Tues. Am glad head is attached to body. Or I would be leaving that behind… (Actually, I'm not dozy; as certain close friends have pointed out to me, I have too much dumped on me that shouldn't be my responsibility, and I'm trying to fit too many things into too little time. You know my new year's resolution about saying no? I'm really not good at it!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

nice things come in threes

Current work: playing with outlines/ a bit of research
Listening to: Mark Knopfler, Golden Heart
Reading: next on TBR

Had a really lovely guitar lesson yesterday – we skipped the Bach pieces (which I hadn’t practised, cough) and Jim got me doing Darling Pretty (which has a lovely melody and chords). And then we did Romeo and Juliet (transposed into C as it’s easier to play) and he did me the chords as well. Slightly high for me, vocally, but means I can have a five-minute break from work and enjoy it. I love playing the intro. And I like the fact that the dominant chord at the end is G6 rather than a straight G. (Nerd alert: I like adding sixths and diminished chords. Gives depth and texture to a piece.)

Wrote down the wrong time on the calendar for my blood test yesterday – whoops. Turned up an hour early, but the lovely receptionist changed it to Thursday for me so I didn’t have to disrupt my morning and come back. I had arranged to be late to guitar, but the real appointment time was smack in the middle of my lesson and I’m busy the rest of the week so I couldn’t rearrange. Um, I guess that was rescheduling and involves needles, so perhaps it doesn’t count as ‘nice’.

OK. Second nice thing to happen was an unexpected delivery of an early birthday pressie. (Books. Of course. My close friends know me and my tastes very well, so I have some huge pleasure to come there. Waving to a certain lovely person further north.)

Third nice thing? Finished the gelati book revisions last night. Final, final, FINAL readthrough and tinker this morning, plus note to lovely ed so she knows what I’ve done. Now to keep fingers, toes and everything else crossed that she likes it and I don’t get huge second revs.

Plans for today; well, as no Luxor = no book set in Luxor (that’s why it was a research trip), I need to come up with a replacement idea. Given that the theme was one the eds say they want to ease back on anyway, a new outline and a new setting will be fun and also broaden things out for me a tad. So today is a day to play with ideas. (And maybe do a little research into hotels in Rome. Replacement research trip.) Yeah, I know, I should be tidying my bearpit office. Can’t quite face that. Might see if Little Miss Tidy (this is one of the things where she definitely isn’t a mini-me, LOL) is up for helping me at the weekend...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

cancelled

Current work: Gelati book revisions (last readthrough)
Listening to: Dire Straits, Love Over Gold
Reading: next on TBR

So much for my quiet day to work yesterday. Interruptions, plus I ended up spending a lot of time waiting round for a phone call (it’s hard to concentrate on creating something when you have one eye ont he clock), then was given literally ten minutes to decide whether to cancel our trip to Egypt or pay for it. (Well, hey. I wait for five hours for you to come back to me with the options, and you give me ten minutes?)

Bearing in mind that the Foreign Office says do not travel to Luxor unless essential, there’s a curfew 3pm to 8am (so even if it was safe to go we wouldn’t have much time to explore, wouldn’t be able to eat out in the evenings, and wouldn’t be able to do half the excursions I had in mind), and frankly even if the president decides to stand down there will be factions and counter-factions and unrest for months… It’s not going to happen, is it? If we wait until the day before we go and the tour operator cancels it, we will not have to pay a penny – but it also means we won’t be able to go away when we planned (and I really need some time away from all the pressure). If we cancel now, we lose our deposit, but can at least book somewhere of our choice.

We have managed to wheedle an extra week to make the decision, but we’re pretty sure now it’s going to be cancel now and book a trip elsewhere. We did borrow the travel agent’s copy of the tour operator’s brochure, but as there’s nowhere that’s even close to our wish list then a straight transfer isn’t an option. I guess we’re awkward because we like breaks where we can explore rather than ones where you do nothing but lie on a beach all day and have hotel entertainment in the evening.

So at the moment everything is up in the air and everyone in the house is staking a claim to number two on their wish list. Son is voting for Russia to see the supervolcano (dear son, bomb in Moscow airport last week, no chance); daughter is voting for India or Mexico (protests from son and DH); DH is voting for New York (if we’re going to the US, it’d need to be for two weeks to make the jet lag worth it, and I would place a counter-bid for New England); and my bid for Trondheim was scuppered because there aren’t any package tours (which means it would be hugely expensive and blow our budget).

So tonight is more debate. And I must not spend today on the internet looking up hotels in Rome (which is on everyone’s wish list). To work.

Well. After blood test – that’s my annual thyroid level check – and explaining just why my blood pressure is sky-high right now, and guitar lesson. To work...