Posts Tagged ‘Winchester’

And the girl goes to boarding school…..

Friday, October 30th, 2015

So the eldest girl has gone to boarding school. This was decided about three minutes after she was conceived. Well, when I say ‘decided’, what I really mean is that her father decreed she would go.

He had been to boarding school!

He hated it for a year but it was the best thing for him!

Therefore, his child would board from 12!


The poor thing didn’t stand a chance. Anyway, my point is that it wasn’t a surprise that she was going. I managed to reduce her sentence by leaving her at her Prep school until she was 13, but that was it, after that she was BOARDING. I didn’t realise until the summer term was coming to a close exactly how much I hated the idea. I had more cold feet about this educational decision than I did about my wedding. Which, in divorce-coloured hindsight, is ironic.

We prepared her for departure carefully. We kitted her out for the school; at an eye-watering expense. I won’t say how much exactly but there are small countries which have less debt than the sum we spent on clothing her for this educational institution. And because she was boarding, the lady who was sorting out her uniform in the shop kept gaily increasing the number of things she would need: “Oh, she’s boarding? Right, well, she’ll need three sets of games kit then….” And before we could murmur a protest, the pile in the basket would grow ever larger. And then more glorious news: “Things go missing at school. Everything and anything will go missing. You must make sure that there are name labels sewed onto absolutely every item of clothing. Even shoes.” Shoes?? If I didn’t already feel faint at the thought of sewing on what were probably about 40 labels, the idea of becoming adept at stitching leather in five days did it. This, I firmly believe, is what outsourcing is for. I can’t sew a stitch, but my friend’s mother, Granny Ann, is a wonderful Scottish woman who can sew beautifully. I think she should get a medal for services to clothes. So lovely Granny Ann sewed on all the labels for me to thwart the boarding school thieves (I’m not going to tell you who she really is because I want to make sure that she always has time for my labels).

The week before eldest child went I was having serious doubts. She wasn’t, but her old mother was desperately questioning whether this was the right decision. Thankfully, a calm friend whose son had gone to boarding school the year before settled me down before I whipped her out for home schooling. On the actual day of her departure, all parents were invited to a dinner at the school. Drinks and nibbles beforehand and then a sit down meal. Her father and I aren’t together (by mutual consent) but we make a good show of being co-parents. Especially in public.

So in we filed for the pre-dinner drinks and it was very impressive. Held in a large lecture theatre, there were long, table-clothed tables with platters of indian snacks, and black and white outfitted girls floating around with trays of champagne. I thought they were hired staff but it turned out to be just the sixth formers. We played the game of pretending we’d only eaten a few snacks and going back for more and by this point, I was confused. Was this dinner?? There was so much food and champagne it seemed unlikely that a lot more would be provided. A quick discussion with my not-partner revealed that there was indeed a separate dinner. What would it be like I wondered? If this was only the pre-dinner affair? I was going to find out soon enough.

We all filed through to where we were having dinner – which turned out to be the school dining room. With not a tablecloth in sight. Oh no, we were having the full pupil experience by queueing up to receive our food, which came from huge metal dishes and then collecting a soft drink from the machine before we set out to find a table. We were forbidden from sitting with our offspring so my not-partner and I settled for the table next to her. We were quickly joined by some Asian parents. Who were keen to talk. It turned out that they were from Malaysia. My not-partner had just married someone from Malaysia! Thrilled to have this in common, I delightedly repeated this, whereupon she looked at my not-partner, nodded sagely and said “Oh, so you have two wives.”

You could have cut the silence with a knife.

To his absolute credit my not-partner went slightly red but then confirmed the situation. Which is that he has only the one wife. Happily, the children were coming in by this point and our fellow guests cried out as their daughter came past, “That’s our granddaughter! See, there. The one with all the spots!” I physically jumped, aghast at their indiscretion. But the three of them seemed fine with this, nodding and smiling with each other. Granddaughter? I smiled feebly and finished my – food. I’m still not sure what it was.

The next thing after that was to say goodbye. So we escorted our daughter to her boarding house and left her joining in with an activity. We didn’t make a fuss, kissed her quickly, said “Goodbye darling, we love you, see you on Friday.” And left. As we walked back to the cars I suddenly realised that we hadn’t left her with any money.

“Oh God,” I said. “Do you think she’ll need money?” The activity for the following day was a trip to Winchester.

“I don’t know,” said not-partner. Just then, we happened to see the Headmistress of this vast, prestigious girls school walking towards us. “Excuse me,” I said, “will the girls need money tomorrow? For their trip to Winchester?” She looked taken aback.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” she replied. “It’s a familiarisation trip. They won’t be going to Primark or anything.” Tinkly laugh. Phew! Crisis averted. We thanked her and went on our way.

When the child came home for the weekend, I learned two things. One, that the grandparents of the spotty girl who advocated having multiple wives are actually the King and Queen of Malaysia. And her uncle is the Prime Minister, which means I’ve ruined my chance of becoming a high flier in Malaysian politics (not that there was much danger of that before, if I’m honest).  And two, I asked what she’d done in Winchester.

“Oh,” she said happily. “We just went to Primark.”

And that, my friends, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The Night of all Nights

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

me at the beginning of the night

Firstly, apologies if I sound unusually muted in this post, but one of my least favourite things has happened this weekend – my usually strong and robust immune system has succumbed to some horrible germ, which has forced me to discover anew that battling sore throats and headaches really does nothing for my writing skills. I’m slightly perturbed because I thought alcohol killed germs; however it does not seem to have done so here, despite my best efforts. Hence the delay in posting this. I bet you all thought the unthinkable had happened and I’d eloped with Boris – sadly not. The truth is far more mundane than that. Anyway, here we are now and I am getting ahead of myself in any case, before I can complain about being ill I need to go back to Wednesday and the Launch Party Night…….wow!

just me

It’s not a particularly erudite description but even as a writer I can find no better word than that. ‘Wow’ and everything that is expressed within it – excitement, awe, the sense of being thrilled, gratitude, having done something amazing – is how my party is best described. It was one of the best nights of my life, truly. This was due in part to the fabulous venue, La Place, who made every effort to ensure that we all had a good night, and in part due to me having a strong idea of what I wanted, but mostly it was down to everyone who made the effort to come along on what was a horrible, rainy night to have a glass of wine and a chat with me and each other and enjoy the occasion. Oh, and buy my books of course. The photos will give you an idea of what it was like (there’s a small selection here and the rest are in the gallery) – and I would like to extend my thanks to absolutely everyone who came and helped make it such a special, successful night. Look out for yourselves in the newspapers and magazines of Hampshire over the coming weeks!

with my books

from left: Jason, Steph, Rob and Kate

It’s hard to pick just one memory of the night that I would hold up as the greatest, but if I had to, I would choose signing all my books for the people who bought them. I discovered that you very quickly develop a ‘place’ that you sign, a ‘way’ that you sign and obviously you have to have a special ‘signing’ signature, which is clearly legible. Unlike the one that I normally use which is just a bizarre collection of lines and frankly, bears no resemblance to my name, it could be anyone’s. It isn’t, it does actually read ‘Sarah Haynes’, but probably only to me. The other tip that I picked up off a fellow writer when she signed one of her books for me is to ask “Is there anything particular that you’d like me to write?” This fellow author had had a bizarre request once where a man asked her to write something specific that clearly indicated that they’d spent the night together. Unsurprisingly, she refused. Nothing like that happened at the launch party and in fact I don’t recall anyone asking for anything specific, but I was pleased that absolutely everyone who bought one wanted it signed. And it feels like a true achievement to be putting my signature in a book that I’ve written, so that was probably the most special part of the night.

The Book

me and my father

And other than that, the launch party marked a real turning point for me. Things He Never Knew has been officially launched, it is now ‘out there’ as it were and it’s time to pick up on the small successes that it has had so far and run with them. I’ve got various signings organised (the details will all be available on this page), I’m hoping the launch event will be covered in a few magazines, I’m hoping for a steady trickle of positive reviews and I’m hoping for an ever-increasing number of sales. It feels like going onwards and upwards, this is very definitely a new phase for me and I am very much looking forward to everything that will come. One of the first things I’m going to do is make three chapters available on this page; one per week for the first three weeks of October. This will give you the flavour of the story and introduce you to Steph, Theo, Mia and Tilly and the complicated world they inhabit.

me signing a book

my daughter(right)and her friend

There were no stories about Rachel Johnson to have me howling this week, but India Knight did post a link to a very funny Clement Freud joke – – which had the same effect, as far as my throat permitted, which was nice. I like laughing. And Rod Liddle explained in his Times column exactly why Jo Johnson MP (brother of the gorgeous Boris) turned down his request for an interview. Apparently his rejection was couched in these terms: “Jo Johnson regrets that he will not be able to do the interview but sends his regards. His wife adds that she would prefer it in future if Mr Liddle did not refer to her in print as a ‘stunted loon’”. That would probably do it. But I’ve never called her a ‘stunted loon’, do you suppose Jo Johnson might acquiesce to be interviewed by me? One step closer to Boris and all that………

Southern Daily Echo page

Too Few Books……

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Well, what a busy few days! It’s been my husband’s birthday, from which we emerged tired and hungover. Obviously.  From there I went straight into a day of visiting bookshops and finalising launch plans at La Place, which involved a bottle of wine. Obviously. Which meant that my meetings went very, very well indeed. Obviously. In all seriousness – I had a fantastic day on Friday. Waterstones in Winchester were very accommodating, took me very seriously and I was thrilled with the outcome. Subject to them liking the book (emphasis on THE, I’ll explain in a minute) they are going to stock it for me, display it prominently, put it in several different sections and organise a signing for me – for which they anticipate needing 50-75 books. That seems like a wild amount to me! So a good result all in all.

However on Friday I could have done with 50-75 books; I went to Winchester for the express purpose of taking the book around several different places for people to see it. Bookshop managers are always keen to physically hold the book, I have learned. There are no conversations to be had unless they are literally able to have it in their hands – I presume this is to make sure that you haven’t glued it together yourself or something. So I in my wisdom took only one copy of the book with me to Winchester. I consider myself a veteran of selling my book to managers and I have never needed more than one copy. You will already know where this is going. Waterstones was the very first bookshop that I went into, I had a terrifically exciting conversation with the manager (lovely chap but I don’t think he made eye contact with me once; he stared at a space somewhere above my right shoulder for the duration) and at some point the sentence “….will give the book to our fiction buyer, who will read it to see if she likes it…..” was uttered. Swiftly followed by “Do you have a copy that I could keep?” Let’s think about that for a second – can I spare a copy of my book to give to the fiction buyer for Waterstones in Winchester? That would be a YES. What could I do? Possibly something other than what I did actually do; I said “Yes of course, do keep that copy,” and watched my plans for the day slide down into a sad little heap. My fault of course, I should have brought more. So I thanked him, looked longingly at my book and walked out of the shop, essentially thinking “Oh bloody hell, what do I do now?” I hadn’t taken anything else. No posters, no flyers and definitely no more books. I stood outside Waterstones for about a minute before I realised that I really had made a major error. So I swivelled around on my very high (and painful) heels, sort of slunk back into the shop, sidled up to the counter – of course the manager had vanished – and had to say “Well yes, I’m Sarah Haynes, I just left my book for the fiction buyer but could I possibly have it back?” Great start Sarah, well done.

From there I went to the next bookshop, also a major chain, and again asked to see the manager. There were muttered discussions about where he might be and it eventually transpired that he was in his Office. Which was spoken in tones that suggested the word ‘Oval’ should be in front of it. I was solemnly led upstairs and told to wait while they fetched this great person from The Office, so I did and looked at books while I waited. About ten minutes later this man appeared. He was just about a man anyway, he couldn’t possibly have been more than twenty, and he also looked like he’d been in a major car accident. One eye was black and swollen, the actual white of his eye was deep red, his eyebrow was being held together by a steri-strip, his cheek was bruised black and puffy and his arm was in a cast. It was a forlorn picture.

“Oh my goodness,” I gasped. “What on earth have you done?” It was an accident of some sort, the question was how severe and whether anyone else had died.

“Oh – I got into a fight at the weekend,” he said, and from that point my words deserted me. I was all ready with sympathy, etc. but you can’t sympathise about a fight. So I settled for just looking at him for a second, at a bit of a loss, and then launching into “I’m Sarah Haynes, a local author…..” Incidentally, when I’d said the same line in the previous shop the manager had immediately responded with “By local, do you actually mean Winchester?” To which I replied “Yes” because “No” would have been the wrong answer. And then had a fleeting panic whilst I tried to recall the addresses of friends in case the conversation became more specific.

After the bookshops I went to La Place and drank some wine. Obviously. Whilst finalising plans for the launch. It was initially going to be held downstairs in the bar area but now we are upstairs because the numbers attending suggest that this is a better idea. It has the potential to get very crowded, very quickly and upstairs will give us more space, a table for signing books and most importantly a free rein over music. I am so terribly excited that I can hardly bear to think about it. And I liked La Place so much that I went back on Saturday for a bit more wine. I do love Winchester.

I can also reveal that the newest member of the Haynes household has arrived! No, I haven’t had the world’s quickest and most secret pregnancy, our new addition is a fish called Octopus. Some time ago three year old Alice decided that she wanted a fish after seeing a pink, princess tank in a shop. My sister Kim (to whom Things He Never Knew is dedicated) is Aquatics manager at a pet shop so she obtained the tank for us and we withheld it until Alice had reached the required behaviour levels that would entitle her to it. This she has done and so we told her that yes, she could now have her tank and some fish. We were unprepared for the question: “And some sea?” But for as long as she believes that the sea comes out of our bathroom taps, that’s fine. However the next request was “And an octopus please.” Ah. Bit more tricky. And we didn’t like the tantrums when we answered in the negative so we quickly settled on calling her pet fish Octopus. Everyone’s happy.

Apart from me, because there’s still no sign of Boris.