Bio: I’m a mum of four and author one (to date). I decided to try my hand at writing after reading Fiona Neill’s ‘Slummy Mummy’ (and thoroughly enjoying it). I don’t know what it was about that book that made me decide (after years of thinking ‘I’d love to write books but surely I couldn’t’) that, actually, yes I could and this is the type of book for me. So I popped it down and began to write. It took two years, since my writing time is limited to evenings, but I got there in the end.
In my spare time… just kidding; obviously, having four children, I don’t have any spare time. But I am finding the time to write my second novel, which I don’t anticipate taking two years. In fact, it should be finished early 2013.
OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES
Out Of The Mouths Of Babes takes a light-hearted peek beneath the seemingly smooth surface of Amy’s life – A housewife with a delightful nuclear family, comfortable home, pleasant daily routine, cordial circle of friends. An altogether composed existence – or so it may seem.
From the moment Amy casually mentions to best friend, Becky, that she fancies a bit of excitement in her life, trouble is inevitable. If her attempts to spice up her sex life with husband, Ben, don’t land her in enough hot water, problems just seem to snowball from there. With the unexpected arrival of several individuals from her past – some more welcome than others, the discovery of one or two secrets she’d rather not know about and the everyday trials of bringing up two young children, Amy finds herself frequently in need of a glass of wine – or three.
Theoretically, Amy’s life should have been simple. She was a full time mum with two children, James and Holly, aged five and three respectively. Her husband, Ben, worked nine to five, providing a comfortable lifestyle. Together, they lived in a modern detached house in an affluent part of town with a cordial circle of friends and acquaintances. Straight forward and simple.
It was a typical weekday morning. Amy awoke to the sound of James and Holly arguing over a dried up leaf brought in from the garden the previous day. Having resolved this altercation with the aid of a post-it-note which was evidently more appealing to Holly than the leaf, she set about the morning assault course that was preparing James for school, feeling slightly more harassed than usual.
“I don’t know what’s the matter with me this morning,” she said, handing Ben his coffee. “My head’s all over the place. I’ve just nearly given your coffee to Holly. You’re lucky you didn’t end up with chocolate milk.”
Ben placed his mug down on the kitchen table, smiling. “Sounds quite nice,” he said, resting his hands on her slim waist and kissing the tip of her nose. “Cheer up, you’re always grumpy in the mornings. You’ll be fine in a bit.” She attempted a smile. “Unless,” he went on, “you’re going through the change. I’ve heard that can turn you into a right miserable cow.”
“Oh thanks! That’s really helpful, Ben.” She poked him in the ribs and pushed his hands from her waist. He couldn’t help but laugh at how easy she was to wind up. “I feel so much better now,” she said. “And for your information, I’m thirty three, not fifty three. It’d be more likely to be pregnancy than the menopause.”
“I’m only messing,” he said. “You’re probably just exhausted. You know what you’re like – always on the go. I doubt you have the time to scratch your bum some days… You’re not pregnant are you?”
“You have such a way with words, Ben. And no, I’m not pregnant so you can stop looking so terrified. No, you’re right, I’m just shattered, I’ll be fine in a… Holly, no! Sweetie, I’ve told you not to do that. Look at the state of you, now. James, go and play for a few minutes while I get Holly changed. And please try to stay clean; that’s your last clean school shirt and I really don’t want to go rummaging through the washing basket again.”
Fifteen minutes later, she was bustling two relatively presentable children out of the front door. Despite having promised herself last year when James had started school that she’d take the half mile journey to school on foot every day, come rain or shine, more often than not she found herself bundling everyone into the car with seconds to spare.
They arrived at school just as the bell sounded and darted across the playground to James’s class, just making it before Mrs Bailey locked the door. James gave his mum a big sloppy kiss on the lips and hurried inside shouting bye to Holly as he went.
Amy started back across the playground. She’d almost made it back to the car when she was accosted by Jane, Tom’s mum. Tom being the bane of James’s life. Not so much a bully as just plain irritating.
“Amy, you look a little flustered. Running late again?” Jane said annoyingly. The fake empathetic expression on her face made Amy want to punch her. Not many people could evoke such feelings in her with a mere facial expression.
“Almost,” she said, forcing a smile. “We just made it.”
Jane shook her head. “It’s a nightmare, isn’t it? Trying to get them out of the door in the mornings.” Amy opened her mouth to speak but Jane went on. “Mind you, I have to admit, I’m pretty lucky in that sense. My Tom, he wakes up every morning at seven on the dot. He wolfs down his breakfast and he’s nearly always ready before I am - nagging me to hurry up with my make-up.” She made a grunting sound as she laughed at her own quip.
He could always give you a hand with it – pass you the trowel or something, Amy thought. “It’s not actually much of a nightmare for you then?” she said.
“I suppose not.” Jane laughed again, tapping Amy’s arm as she guffawed. Anyhow, must dash, lovely chatting with you.” She waved over her shoulder and continued on her way.
Amy shook her head as she secured Holly into her car seat. “Lovely gloating, more like,” she said to herself. Her mood lightened a little as she drove off. She’d arranged to meet Becky at the playground this morning. If anyone could put a smile back on her face, it was Becky.
They had met on their first day at school when they were both four years old and gelled from day one, slipping easily into a rather impish partnership. Throughout the subsequent years this partnership had grown into a close friendship. They’d had their share of obligatory fallings out during their adolescence, caused mainly by hormones and boys, but nothing that could test their friendship.
Nine thirty was a time rarely witnessed by Becky on her day off, but Amy had persuaded her to get up and out, complaining that it was such a nuisance to have to take Holly home and then get her all ready to come out again shortly after. So Becky was making a benevolent effort. She’d even declined an offer of dinner at her favourite restaurant; knowing that had she gone out she’d undoubtedly have ended up drinking far too much and staying out far too late to enable her to be up and out before nine thirty. Having said that, the invitation had been extended by an ex-lover for whom she had no desire to give up another minute of her life, let alone a whole evening – and possibly night if he managed to ply her with enough alcohol. So it wasn’t an entirely altruistic act.
There was no sign of Amy or Holly when Becky arrived, so she wandered over to a bench near the play area and sat down. She was amazed by the serenity of the park at this time of the day. She’d only ever experienced it bustling with children. Yet, now, with the exception of an elderly couple walking hand in hand and a Scottie dog trotting a few yards ahead of them, she was alone. They nodded and smiled as they passed by her and she smiled back. As their footsteps faded into the distance, the only sounds that remained were those of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze and birds chirping away to each other. She closed her eyes, indulging herself in the tranquillity.
“There she is, Mummy, I can see her,” came Holly’s voice, bringing Becky out of her dream-like state.
“Hello gorgeous,” she said, certain that an enormous cuddle was imminent as Holly ran across the grass, arms flailing.
“Will you push me on the swing?” she asked, leaping at Becky, almost knocking her over.
“Course I will, so long as you’ll come on the see-saw with me after,” Becky said, scooping her up.
“Yippee! Swings and see-saw,” she said, her smile widening. She kissed Becky and wriggled free of her embrace, skipping off towards the playground.
Becky turned to Amy. “You look tired,” she said. “Ben been keeping you up with his snoring again?”
“No, he slept like a baby last night. So did I. I don’t know what’s the matter with me, to be honest. I’m just a bit… I don’t know… a bit fed up.”
“No, of course not,” Amy said, taken aback by this assumption. “Y’know, just fed up in general.”
They reached the play area, where Holly was waiting patiently by the swings. Becky lifted her in. “Ignore me,” Amy added, “I just feel like having a bit of a moan.”
Becky put her arm around her and squeezed. “Ignore my oldest friend? As if.”
“Less of the ‘oldest’,” laughed Amy. “I’ve already had Ben suggesting I might be going through the menopause.”
“Higher!” Holly yelled.
Becky gave her a push, sending her soaring. “You’re only thirty three!” she said. “Anyhow, I think I can offer a solution to your problem.”
Amy looked at her sceptically. “Really? I’m not entirely sure I have a problem. I thought we’d established that I’m just having a moan?”
Becky ignored her. “Sounds like Mummy needs some fun, doesn’t it, Holly?”
“Yeeesss!” Holly squealed. “You can come on the see-saw with us, Mummy. See-saw is the best fun. It makes your tummy tickle when you come down fast.”
Amy smiled. “Wouldn’t you just love to be three again? D’you remember when the most important decisions you had to make were what flavour juice to have and whether to play with Barbie or Lego?”
“I’m not sure I do. But Holly’s got a point, the see-saw is pretty cool. It’ll do for now, Hol, but I think that your mummy and I need to get out.” She looked at Amy. “We need to go for a good drink – how long’s it been, now?”
Amy’s brow furrowed as she shook her head. “Too long.”
“Way too long,” Becky agreed. “I’m free this Saturday if you are?”
“You, free on a Saturday night?, free on a Saturday night?” Amy said, helping Holly out of the swing. “You want to be careful, you’ll be doing Sudoku and watching Heartbeat before you know it.”
“Actually, Heartbeat’s Sunday, not Saturday. So if you’ve finished taking the piss…” She glanced at Holly. “Er, I mean… taking the mick.” Holly appeared to be in a world of her own. “What d’you say – Saturday night?”
It did sound appealing. Just having a reason to get dressed up would be a treat. She felt like she’d been living in jeans since… well, forever. She tried to pinpoint the time in her life when she’d stopped shopping for clothes in trendy boutiques and started throwing pairs of jeans and leggings into the supermarket trolley alongside a roast chicken and multi-pack of Milky Bar Buttons.
“It’s a date. Where d’you fancy going?”
“You choose; you’re the one who doesn’t get out much.”
“Thanks! If this is your idea of cheering me up…”
“Stop moaning and get thinking where you want to go.”
Amy felt better already. She was convinced that a good night out was just the thing to set the world to rights.
“I’ll have a think and give you a ring before the weekend,” she said. “Anyway, that’s my life straightened out; anything new happening in yours?”
“Nothing we can discuss in the range of little ears,” Becky said with a grin. “I’ll fill you in on Saturday.”
It had been ten months since they’d been on a night out together, and by Thursday Amy was like a teenager looking forward to a house party with promises of cheap cider and cheesy music. The prospect of a whole evening with nobody but herself to worry about was pure bliss. In years gone by, ten days would’ve seemed like too long, let alone ten months.
On Friday morning, she took James to school and dropped Holly off at her mother-in-law’s house. Martha was, as always, delighted to be spending time with her cherished granddaughter. She ushered them inside, insisting on making Amy a cup of tea before she left.
“One quick cup to see you on your way and you can tell me what you’ve got planned for the day.” She regarded Amy with a troubled expression. “What are you having done with that lot?” she said, waving a teaspoon in the direction of her hair. “Can you have it styled or does it just fall back down like that?”
Amy had come to realise that Martha didn’t mean to cause offence. Prior to their first meeting, Ben had warned her of his mother’s abruptness. Although she hadn’t been too bad at first – she must have done some serious tongue-biting, Amy thought. But the closer they became the more candidly she voiced her opinions.
“Just a trim, probably. I don’t suppose it’ll make me look like the girl in the Pantene advert but it might help a bit.”
“Don’t get me wrong, sweetheart, it’s fine the way it is – the lank look suits you.”
Amy rolled her eyes as they went through to the lounge. Martha pulled a wad of paper and a box of crayons out of a drawer in the dresser and put them on the coffee table. Holly instantly began scribbling away.
“I’m having my nails done, too,” Amy said, waiting with bated breath for Martha to pass comment.
“I don’t blame you,” she said. “We deserve a bit of pampering, us mums. I’d have done anything for a day to myself when the boys were little.”
“Yeah, you’re right, we do deserve it,” Amy said, feeling a little guilty for expecting the worst of Martha. She had a kind heart; even if she was extremely irritating at times. “I hope you make up for it,” she said, “now that they’re grown up and can fend for themselves. Have you ever treated yourself to a day of pampering?”
Martha found this amusing. “I get my roots done but that’s about it. I don’t feel the need to impress anyone anymore – not much point when you get to my age. Whilst we’re on the subject, though, I can’t help but notice you have a few stray greys beginning to surface. Do you think it’s time you started getting your roots done? I’d been covering up for a good while by the time I was your age.”
Amy smiled dutifully, finished her tea and set off on her mission of self indulgence.
Her first port of call was ‘Here Come The Girls’, her favourite beauty salon. Not that she frequented the place. She didn’t frequent any such establishment. But when she did get around to having her hair cut, this was the place she’d go. She had, unfortunately, booked too late to secure an appointment with Lyle – her favourite stylist. This was disappointing; the salon being the only place where she could have the well sculpted hands of a strapping young man about her person and remain entirely devoid of guilt. Still, Imogen was a good stylist; even if she didn’t take her breath away every time she brushed the back of her neck with her fingertips.
“What are we doing today then?” Imogen asked, fingering Amy’s mass of chestnut hair.
“If you could just make me look like Eva Longoria, that’ll be great. Otherwise, I’m open to suggestions,” Amy said, smiling as Lyle walked by. She settled for a trim, a touch of feathering around her face and her roots done. It was an altogether relaxing experience, or at least it was until the waxing began. The legs were bad enough but it was the first time she’d had her bikini line done. By the time it was over, she thought it looked worse than it had beforehand. But Molly had promised her faithfully that she’d look like a goddess once the redness went down.
She left, feeling more desirable than she had in a long time. She almost skipped to the car, her long hair bouncing with vibrance, her nails manicured to perfection and her body as smooth as a baby’s bottom, well, almost.
Next on her schedule was lunch – a trip to ‘Prêt A Manger’ for a smoked salmon and capers artisan baguette. She had been introduced to this particular delicacy by Becky, when she was pregnant with James; deeming Becky responsible for most of the weight she had gained.
It had been a while since she’d indulged herself in one of these and it tasted every bit as good as she remembered. She washed it down with a large cappuccino, and feeling slightly less svelte, set off in the direction of La Senza. Despite Ben’s misgivings about her buying sexy new underwear for an evening out without him, she had decided it was about time her lingerie draw was brought up to date. And she had managed to placate him with the promise of a sneak preview.
I’ll need something strapless if I’m to wear it tomorrow, she pondered. Black, ideally. Mmm, I’m not keen on those clear straps; I don’t want to look like I’ve got Sellotape on my shoulders. Why aren’t the strapless bras as sexy as the others? Hmm, this looks quite promising, ‘Especially For You’ range. That’s more like it. What knickers does it come with? Shorts or thong?
“That’s nice. It’d look great on you – better still on the bedroom floor.”
Amy jumped at the sound of Steve’s voice. She’d been so deep in her own thoughts, she hadn’t noticed Ben’s brother approaching. She felt her cheeks flushing.
“Hi, I didn’t see you there,” she said, fiddling awkwardly with the thong she’d picked up. “Shopping for Amanda?”
Steve’s eyes widened in mock innocence. “Who else?”
Amy gave a sceptical cough. Despite being married with a daughter, Steve was a well established Casanova, never missing an opportunity to flirt. And although he wasn’t particularly attractive in an obvious way, women just seemed to love him. Amy had suspected him of infidelity many a time, but despite all her efforts to extract information from Ben, she remained unenlightened.
“And yourself?” he asked.
“Sorry?” she said, still a little thrown.
“Who’ll be reaping the benefits of that little number?”
“I will, actually. I’m treating myself. You do realise that women would still be buying underwear if men didn’t exist?”
“Not from La Senza, I bet. It’d be all big pants and comfortable bras.”
She smiled in spite of herself. “Yeah, well, if Ben likes it it’ll be a bonus, I suppose.”
“Oh, he’ll like it.” He took a step back and inclined his head, eyeing her curiously. “Actually,” he said, nodding, “you’re about the same size as Mand. Don’t suppose you fancy trying this basque on – just so as I can get some idea of what it’ll look like on, you understand?”
She shook her head, laughing. “As much as I’d love to parade around half naked in front of you, I have to collect my daughter from your mother and my son from school.” She turned towards the checkout and then stopped. “Oh, Steve,” she called back. He looked up, still smiling. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Amanda that you were in here buying sexy underwear.”
He feigned a befuddled expression. “I’m not sure I know what you’re suggesting?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, would I?”
He wasn’t worried. Whenever he bought a gift for a lover, he always bought a little something for his wife at the same time.
**Buy the book!