Her latest offering ‘Slippers in the Oven’, is receiving rave reviews, too. Being described as “Cleverly written, a brilliant read.”; “a wonderful, funny, sad and relatable story that goes straight to the heart“; a book that will have you “howling with laughter one minute… then weeping tears“.
We have selected an extract from the book, to whet your appetite… enjoy!
DAY 8 – At Sea It was Sunday and the Brilliantina was sailing from Palma, Majorca to Valetta, Malta. During the night Ann’s mind had kept returning to yesterday’s conversation and she had only slept intermittently. In the morning, unable to get back to sleep, she threw on a tracksuit and went up to the Terrace Deck. At 7.00 am she sat alone on deck with a fruit juice. Coffee, tea, bouillon and a variety of herbal teas were also on offer for early risers, but breakfast wouldn’t be served for another half an hour. She could hear the clatter of preparation coming from the Bistro behind her. She chose a chair in the centre so that she had a panoramic view of the whole deck, beyond the prow and out to the sea. It was the first time she had been out on deck before breakfast and was surprised that it was busy so early. Everywhere she looked she saw bustle, something being washed, polished or fixed. The deck crew were placing cushions on chairs, wiping the night mist off tables and raising beach umbrellas. They were straightening up lines of sun loungers, folding towels and tucking them into lockers. Two young Filipinos were scrubbing the swimming pool walls, another wielded an electric screwdriver and attacked a wobbly table. There were many passengers already out. Normally, by the time she arrived on deck with her breakfast tray, the keenest had finished their exercise and there were just a few stragglers left who she watched as she ate, so she had expected only a few fitness fanatics. She had noticed them pounding their way around, no matter what the weather and had overheard their competitive reports of the distance covered. They were the same people who compared the number of activities they had participated in each day, the amount of food avoided and even the number of cruises they had taken in the past. There were also usually a few eccentrics, like the woman who always complained of noise in her cabin and lay outside under a blanket most of the night until breakfast. The night crew just let her, but one morning a steward happened to mention that she actually had a suite on the top deck, so there was no noise. Then there was the man who came out each day wearing tight leggings and a vest saying ‘hides no secrets’. The outfit was a different colour each day and always bright. He walked straight to the edge, leant over the railings and started talking to the sea. His clothes would have been more appropriately worn by the fit young man on the starboard side who was doing leg stretches against the railings in jeans and a shirt. This morning she was determined to walk to clear her head and despite being careful about how much she ate and completely avoiding obviously fattening meals like the fried breakfast choice or high tea, her clothes were already feeling a little tighter than eight days ago. She knew she wasn’t doing enough exercise, but she didn’t like the gym and the pools were really just for cooling off and not large enough to swim lengths. During her sleepless night, she had ticked off some new activities in the daily programme to try – only those she was sure that Emma wouldn’t want to do – but they were all sedentary. She also knew that if she walked, she stood less chance of bumping into her sister as she was not ready to confront her yet. But somehow she still couldn’t drag herself out of her seat. The sea and air were refreshing this early. She looked at the sign which said ‘6 laps equals one mile’ and she wondered if she usually walked a mile a day at home without noticing it, maybe more, perhaps less. A man was leaning against the starboard side railings pointing his camera out to sea. She couldn’t see anything that would make a picture. The sky was leaden blue and for the moment, matched the sea. Although there were the shapes of some vessels on the horizon, they were far away. Obviously he felt the same as he gave up and as he passed her to return inside said, “Damn, you have to be so fast to catch the light in the Med.” Some of the young people she recognised from her brief visit to the Electric Bar were dragging on cigarettes in the only area where smoking was allowed. On the opposite side, way away from the smoke, the yoga group was already contorted. She noticed Alf and Sylvia arm in arm, struggling against the wind. They were wearing sturdy walking boots, hiking clothes and held alpine walking sticks which looked out of place, but they kept a steady pace and she was surprised that they had the energy after their golden wedding celebrations which had gone on late the night before. A flash of bright green whisked past her. It was Gloria in a leotard and coordinated fleece. “Having a little rest? How many have you done?” she squeaked, surging ahead. Looking over her shoulder back at Ann she shouted, “I’m up to two miles now!” The dishevelled figure of the geography lecturer emerged from the Bistro doors. Binoculars were hanging around his neck and his grey hair looked as if it had not been brushed for a while. He stopped by her chair and she tucked further back into it, not in the mood for an erudite chat. “Look, do you see the swallows?” He pointed to the birds, some perched on railings, some on the backs of chairs and a few pecking at tables. “What are they doing?” she asked, “I expected to see seagulls.” “Oh, you’ll see plenty of gulls, particularly in the ports, but at the moment we are following the migratory path of the swallows and they sometimes land on board for a little rest and a snack before flying on. Look, they’re off. Anyway, enjoy your day.” Ann saw that all the swallows had flown away. ‘Can anyone look at a bird,’ she thought, ‘and not want to fly?’ “Morning!” said the cheery voice of the Captain. “Good to see you.” Startled, she watched him approach. In his uniform, he looked dignified and splendid but in shorts and a T-shirt, looked like a little boy, far too young to command a big ship. “How are you enjoying my yacht?” he called, and followed it with a hearty laugh which suggested he still found that joke amusing no matter how many times he must have said it. He waved off and she stood up, finally ready to start. One of the women who, despite being in the Health For All group, was often seen tucking into a plate of cakes at tea time or canapés at cocktail time, strode by, concentrating hard. Ann could hear her heavy breathing. Her bouffant hairdo was rigid with hairspray and miraculously staying in place despite the wind. “Walking off last night’s dessert,” said a voice behind her. “Me?” gasped Ann. “No, not you, the health freak.” It was Ian, pointing at the helmet of hair disappearing round the corner. “At least she is doing it. I can’t seem to get going. Sitting here is just so relaxing.” “You need a mantra while you walk.” “What’s a mantra?” “Two or three words you repeat – it gives you a rhythm to walk to.” “What like, strawberries and cream, coffee or tea, meat and two veg?” “I can see the food has got to you,” said Ian. “No, it should be something that matters, something from your soul. Must go, happy walking! Remember – mantra.” Ann watched him march away muttering to himself. Leaving her fruit juice unfinished, she stood up, straightened her back and placing one stiff foot in front of the other, started to follow Ian. She felt her anorak billowing around her. “She stole my husband, she stole my husband, she stole my husband,” she chanted as she started her laps.
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