Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Duck Tales

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Oh dear. Is it just me who goes out on a sunny bank holiday for a civilised drink with friends and comes home at 1am wearing a bra and their spare Hawiian garland having a booked a holiday to Florida? Yes? Thought so.

And none of the above would necessarily be an issue were it not for the fact that:

  1. It is now no longer a bank holiday.
  2. It was my long suffering partner who had to come and scrape me off the bank holiday floor.
  3. Said long suffering partner is a GP who has to go and be responsible for people’s lives in the morning.

You may imagine my current popularity.

It’s all so unfortunate because I always MEAN WELL. I’d taken all the necessary precautions. I’d tidied and cleaned the house, I’d organised dinner, I’d informed my children, I’d sorted the horse out. What had escaped me was the fact that I’d left the rabbits in their run outside, our ducklings in theirs and today is a busy day when the Spanish tutor is coming round and then we’re going to meet the ‘buddy’ of my daughter at her new school and her mother. As it stands at the moment I’ll be turning up in last night’s clothes doing something straight out of the Ministry of Silly Walks with a duckling under each arm. It’s bad enough catching two rabbits who are thrilled to be having a sleepover in their run, it’s quite another gathering up five evasive ducklings whilst in vino veritas. They’re sweet things though and they belong to my daughter who has entrusted them to my splendid care whilst she’s abroad.

In fact, she’s entrusted them to my care from the word go. It wasn’t meant to be like that, she was due to sit her A-Levels, take a Gap year, earn some money and then go travelling for six months when the ducks were fully grown and needed minimal input. However – enter Covid 19. Funnily enough, my daughter will also be 19 in November. Perhaps a joint birthday party? That’s written in a bitter tone, if you can’t tell.

Anyway, she’s wanted ducks for a while and I’ve been subject to many pleadings over the last few months (years). It’s gone something like:

“Can I please have ducks?”




“But I love ducks and I’ll do it all myself.”


“I’ve wanted them for ages.”


***Covid 19 tips up and destroys all plans***


“OK, fine.”

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll start with the hatching. For those who don’t know, duckling eggs have to be lovingly incubated for 28 days or thereabouts. The incubator has to be sitting somewhere safe, the eggs will be turned every so often, you have to keep their atmosphere humid and above all you have to LEAVE THEM ALONE. I wanted to pester but I was kept at arm’s length by my daughter who had done some solid research. She bought the eggs, she sorted them out in their incubator, she worked out when they would hatch, she tidied the shed, she commissioned a duck house for said shed and all in all, she did a heck a of a lot of preparation. Slightly before they were due to hatch she had an eighteenth birthday party to go to in Cornwall (about 150 miles away). She said she was going to the party but she would come home a day early because the ducklings were due to hatch – all fine. She left on the Friday to return on the Tuesday and I was left in sole charge not having a clue about these eggs, but all I had to was water them every so often. Or so I thought. I waved her off happily on the Friday morning, content with my instructions, and later that evening I went to start my duck egg duties. The first thing that went wrong was that one of the eggs had split in half. I know this sounds ridiculous but when I saw this split-in-half egg it took me a moment to realise what this meant and to my horror I swiftly spied a tiny duck staggering about.


I stared. I panicked. This wasn’t meant to happen! I phoned my daughter, “Congratulations darling, you have a duckling. What the **** do I do now???”

“LEAVE THEM ALONE. They should all hatch together and they don’t need anything for the first 48 hours.”

“But do I need to – “


“Are you sure?”



Slightly uneasily I went to bed, expecting five tiny ducklings when I woke up, however I was disappointed when I opened my eyes– there was just the one duckling still.

“Darling, there’s still just one duckling.”


I’ve never been good at leaving things alone.

From this point onwards, I was a duck midwife, running a duck labour ward. The stress was unbelievable, I couldn’t keep away. It’s all very well being told to leave them alone but I was fascinated and petrified in equal measure. These things were precious and dearly loved already. So I pretty much sat and watched them hatch in fear – this wasn’t meant to happen!

 After the second duckling was born all the shells began to crack and it all started happening fairly swiftly. The incubator was sealed, I had one older duckling, one only-just-born-duckling, two eggs cracking with tiny beaks making an appearance and one egg stubbornly doing nothing. For some – STUPID – reason I thought this was a splendid time to move the incubator to somewhere more central where I could live my life as well as keeping an eye on the cracklings. So I unplugged it, picked it up – and DROPPED it. The horror was entire – I had half an incubator, two newborn ducklings, two cracklings and one egg, in my LAP. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there for a moment with the words ‘leave them alone’ on a loop in my brain. Somehow I gathered up all the bits and returned them to the incubator and made a solid pact with them that we would never mention this again.

24 hours later I had five, perfect ducklings. But it was 24 hours of zero sleep, lots of panic and even more worry. I was calmer when my children were born.

It’s all ended well though because we now have five toddler ducks who are very happy and very spoiled. And very loud. I knew they were ‘call’ ducks but what I didn’t know was how loudly they ‘call’. It isn’t the eggs that are splitting these days.

It’s my ears.    




A brand new year!

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! I couldn’t even begin to tell you what day it is as they all segue neatly into one another at the moment, but I do know that we are in a new year. Which is 2011! I love the new year; so shiny and full of promise and untainted by anything. And also the fact that it means my birthday is very, very close! I shall be 29 on 21st January. This is excellent for two reasons – one because I love my birthday and getting pink, glittery things, handmade cards from my children, drinking champagne and seeing lots of friends and family, but also because it means that I don’t have to spend the whole of January off alcohol like the rest of the population are trying to do. I just have to attempt to get to the 21st of January and then I can legitimately start drinking again. I have considerate parents you see, who knew that it might be a bit of an unpleasant struggle for me each year so they decided that they kindest thing that they could do would be to ensure that my birth was in January.

So, yes, a whole brand new year spreads in front of me – so exciting! What shall I do in it, I wonder? What will happen? The first thing I shall do is tell you all about my Christmas, which was as lovely as I had predicted. We spent six nights at my mother’s house and survived very well.  Obviously we drank an oceanic amount to help us get through – I dare not add up the number of units – but it was so nice to see my sister and brothers and just spend so much time doing…..nothing. We sat around, talked, watched television, ate and drank. And I shopped; I had to take advantage of Marlow and Windsor while I could. I spent quite a long time in the Jack Wills shop in Eton as well, in the company of my brother Charles, who proved surprisingly patient. But then he needed to be because it was him who had rung the house phone at 2am the night before and woken up 8 adults and 3 children to ask for a lift home from Reading for him and his friends because the trains had been replaced by night buses and they couldn’t work them out. Charles had no sensible explanation as to why he thought this was a good idea when he was questioned the next morning by an irate household.  It was, frankly, a time of excess but this should not surprise you because we were staying in the house of excess. I came downstairs one morning to find my mother wearing a rather nice shirt.

“That’s a nice shirt,” I said to her. And I doubt any of you could correctly predict her reply, which was:

“Thank you. I have fifteen of them.” I don’t know who was more shocked, me or my long-suffering step-father. In fairness to her there did follow a long and vague justification about colours and wearing them frequently but the damage was done.

New Year was equally as lovely; we spent it at my father’s house and had an uproariously fun evening, involving – again – lots of wine and leaping over obstacles in the later part of the night I seem to recall. I cut a dignified figure in my skirt as you can imagine. And also dancing at midnight and singing Auld Lang Syne, only mildly marred by the fact that no-one knew the words.

BUT, the consequence of all this loveliness was that I didn’t get one single word written, which is bad of me. Even when I returned home I didn’t manage to write anything because a) I was recovering and b) my girls are not back at school yet and it’s difficult to be productive with both of them saying “Mummy!” 57 times a day. Once they are back I shall be disciplined and focussed and get this manuscript completed. I have thought about it a lot and I do have a clear idea of where I want to take it, it’s now just a question of getting it written down. And it will serve me well to do so because there’s a lovely agent who I particularly like waiting to read it when I’ve finished it.

I also have a book recommendation for you all, it’s a book called One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner. I read it over New Year and I literally could not put it down. It’s incredibly sad and therefore not the sort of thing that I would normally choose to read, but woven into the sadness is such positivity that it rebalances the whole thing and makes a devastating story a very uplifting read. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. I happened to already know Sarah’s agent so I emailed her to tell her how fantastic I thought it was and she very kindly forwarded the email to Sarah who then wrote me a lovely email thanking me for my compliments and she sounds like such a nice person. One Moment, One Morning is her third book so I shall definitely be looking out for her previous ones.

So – belatedly – Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all have a happy, peaceful and fortuitous year. I intend to, and I think I shall start by duplicating everything in my wardrobe to fifteen.

Orange and lemonade lifestyle

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I love weekends. I love the fact that they’re so promising, full of potential and that if you approach them in the proper manner then anything goes; Saturday and Sunday are very hedonistic in our house. It’s rare that anyone is dressed before midday (unless my eldest daughter has Saturday school because I’ve learned that the school don’t like you turning up in pyjamas. I did actually do that once on a very rushed morning but I don’t think anyone noticed because I had a sort of flashers mac on over the top). As far as I’m concerned the weekend is a chance to eat anything, drink anything and generally indulge yourself. Saturday has to be my favourite day of the week, I always feel a bit excited on Saturday mornings for no discernible reason. I quite like Fridays because I treat them as a dress rehearsal for Saturdays. I also like Thursday nights because I know it will be Friday when I wake up. I always feel like I can be a little bit frivolous; wear a slightly shorter skirt, slightly higher heels, maybe have a glass of wine at lunchtime if I’m in the right company on Fridays. And by ‘right company’ I mean those that drink alcohol when in a pub. I know, instinct to most of us, but I promise you there are those people who order wine for me and then something boring like orange juice and lemonade for themselves. That to me always has the air of “Well I can control myself but she can’t, better indulge her.” Usually thoroughly compounded by answering “Large, obviously” to the inevitable “Large glass or small?” question. It makes me feel like saying “Oh sorry, did I say large glass of wine? I meant large glass of water. Silly me.” There is nothing more off-putting when you’re drinking wine and feeling that slight alcohol-induced glow come over you than to be with someone who remains steadfastly and determinedly sober. Just no fun. And Fridays and Saturdays and their nights are designed for fun.

This of course is unless you’re me next weekend. There will not be much wine drunk next Saturday or Sunday (by me at any rate, I can’t speak for the rest of Hampshire) because on those days I am getting as close to work as I get. And I understand that one does not drink at work. Next Saturday I will be signing books in Waterstones in Fareham between 10am and 4pm which I’m very excited about. It will be lovely to actually talk to people as they buy my book, I think it’s fantastic to be able to see the person whose mind this creation has come from and hold that thought as you read the book. I know I’ve said this before but whenever I read a really good book, and I’ve just finished a tremendous one by Rosie Alison called The Very Thought Of You, I always want to know as much as I can about the author. How old are they, what do they look like, where do they live, are they married, did they go to University, how did they get into writing, how have they been successful – ad infinitum. I’ve been frustrated by Rosie Alison because I really cannot find out much about her. Lots, if not most, authors have their own website or blog or both, they’re on twitter and if you look you can generally find a lot of information which helps you build a picture of them as a person which helps in understanding their story. That’s why I’m as open as I am in this blog and generally on facebook and twitter – if people are going to bother to follow you as a writer then I believe the least you can do is share a little of yourself and your life with them. This is no comment against those who choose not to, I do understand that some writers prefer to stay quiet and private, it’s just that I prefer to share every single thought with as many people as possible. Anyway, I digress. So to come back to it – Fareham, next Saturday, I shall be delighted to be there signing books for as long as I am required. It is my first-ever book signing so I shall be learning on the job as it were, but I expect it to be a fun and rewarding experience.

And then we move onto Sunday. Obviously. But this Sunday will see me doing something that has never happened before – being up at 6am to scan the newspapers in preparation for being on the Nick Girdler Show on BBC Radio Solent at 9:30am. I have very kindly been invited on as a guest to talk about myself and Things He Never Knew and review the Sunday papers. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds, I’ve been told by the producer that all I have to do is choose three stories from any paper on which to comment. So I thought I’d go for something from the Sunday Sport.

Joke. Big joke. HUGE joke.

The red-top papers do not generally feature in my life. But joking aside, the stories can be as high-brow or superficial as I like. So I could talk about the previous night’s X-Factor if I want, except I don’t watch X-Factor so that would be a little silly. My husband has advised me to stick to my strengths which means that I won’t venture into political comment as I have a history of disasters in this area, and probably to focus on lifestyle stories. It was sod’s law this morning that I found at least seven separate stories that I could comment on in The Sunday Times; I only hope for such luck next Sunday. That said, I do always comment if I find an article that I’m interested in, I just don’t ever have hundreds of people listening to me. I’ll have one, if I’m lucky.

Well I’ve written 1,024 words so far and my Sunday night awaits. This means ironing school uniform and watching Downton Abbey, to which I am unashamedly addicted. Already.  With the slight disappointment that Rob-James Collier is playing a gay character, about which my husband crows weekly because I think he’s absolutely gorgeous. Rob-James Collier, not my husband I should clarify. Although the latter is pretty gorgeous too. But – we should not forget that it is Sunday which means the wheels of hedonism are still turning. I shall rush to drink orange juice and lemonade. This girl knows how to live.