Thursday, 22 January 2015

Cold-shouldering Cold-callers


I've chewed up and spat out not one but two cold callers this week.  I’m still not sure what they hope to gain from their scams and I also don’t know why they’re always Asian sounding gentlemen who go by the name of Mike, John, Robert or Dick.

Let me talk you through cold caller #1

MIKE:  (with very heavy accent)  Good morning Madam, I am calling regarding the car accident you had.

ME:  Car accident?

MIKE:  Yes Madam. You have had a road traffic accident?

ME:  Oh!  Yes!  Yes, the cow just came out of nowhere.

MIKE: (confused)  No, madam, not a cow.  A car.

ME:  Yes.  I hit a cow with my car.

MIKE: (in shock)  You hit a cow with your car?

ME:  (innocently) Isn’t that why you were ringing?  Doesn’t it show on your records?

MIKE:  (blatantly lying now) Oh yes, madam, but did you make an insurance claim?

ME:  No.  I didn’t think there was much point in suing a dead cow.

MIKE:  (very confused now)   Have you had any other accidents in the last five years?

ME:  (thinking)   Erm … oh wait … oh yes!  I hit another cow.

MIKE:  (incredulously)  You hit another cow?!

ME:  Yes.  I don’t like cows very much.

CUE husband doing a huge MOOOOOOO in the background and me shouting out:
WATCH OUT!  HERE COMES ANOTHER ONE!

CUE:  Mike hanging up as he realises he’s been taken for a ride.

Cold caller #2

ROB: (heavy accent again)   Good morning Madam I am calling from ***** *** ** Computer Services. We understand that you are currently experiencing difficulties with your PC and if you follow our instructions we will be able to solve your problems.

ME:  (sounding like a simpleton)  Oh yes, how clever of you.  I have been having problems.  Will you be able to help me?

ROB:  (obviously rubbing his hands together thinking he’s got a right Dumbo)  Yes, Madam.  Now you must follow my instructions very carefully.  Turn on your computer.

ME:  OK.  Erm … how should I do that?  Should I lick it maybe, or stroke it?  Maybe whisper some dirty words?  What do you think would work best?

ROB:  (clearly thinking he’s misheard)  No Madam, turn it on.

ME:  Yes, I heard you.  I asked which method I should use.  Licking?  Stroking?  Which?

ROB:  (realising that he’s being wound up)   You know what, Madam?  If your computer is playing up you should throw it out of the window.  Can you do that?

ME:  Well yes.  I did that this morning.  So does that mean I have to go outside to lick it now?  That’s jolly inconvenient you know.

ROB:  (really warming to it now)   Yes, Madam go outside and smash it up with your legs.

ME:  Oh, Rob!  How saucy! Are you thinking about my legs?  My thighs?

CUE:  Rob hanging up.

Ah yes, fun with cold callers.  My improv days at drama school were clearly not wasted.

You can see my other blog on this subject here.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Katie Hopkins ... Her Stupid Story

Regular followers may be slightly surprised by this post as I’d made a vow never to mention the vile Katie Hopkins ever again - I figured if people stopped giving her a platform she might simply shrivel up and disappear - but, after (foolishly) watching the farce entitled ‘My Fat Story’, I was so incensed by her arrogance and stupidity I felt the need to have another pop at her.

For those who haven’t seen the programme, Ms Hopkins (self declared fat hater) decided to educate the masses by gaining 3 stone in weight and then shifting it ASAP.  The phrase ‘eat less, move more’ was rammed down our throats as she rammed meal after meal, snack after snack down her own revolting throat.

Not only was this a ‘No-Sh*t- Sherlock’ approach to diet and exercise but it was also an incredibly naive experiment.  No great surprise there, given who we’re dealing with, but even the doctors who checked her out before her bingeing began said that it was unwise and that they didn’t recommend her going ahead.

But go ahead she did, determined to prove her points.

If you eat a lot and don’t move - you get fat.
When you stop eating and take up exercise - you lose weight.

Really?!  Oh, Ms Hopkins where would we be without your wisdom?

Now … here’s where I have the problem.  I am considered to be a ‘normal, healthy weight’.  I have no issues with food but I’m well aware that there are people who do, and to imply that it’s as simple as ABC to shift weight if you have an eating disorder is ignorant and small-minded.

Of course Ms Hopkins would have no problem going back to her old eating and exercising habits - it’s who she is and she’s clearly also someone with a naturally high metabolism.  Although, as the rugby players pointed out when they first saw her skeletal-bikini-clad bones, she could do with keeping on a few of those gained pounds.  Quite frankly, she looked like an under-nourished ten year old with an old lady’s head glued on top.

We are now all well aware that Ms Hopkins wouldn’t employ a fat person - a statement she’s incredibly proud of.  After learning more about her through this programme, how would she feel if someone told her they wouldn’t offer her employment because she’s epileptic?  Not nice, is it?

And now that we’ve been ‘enlightened’ on weight-loss, I wonder if she’d like to try bulimia or anorexia for a few months - and then oh-so-miraculously snap out of it.  Or how about alcoholism?  Or here’s a good one … pop your dressing gown on and sink into the depths of depression/panic attacks/anxiety and then show all the sufferers how simple it is to shed your gloom and start living again.

Because it’s really that simple, isn’t it Katie?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Because They're Worth It


I had a slightly surreal day yesterday.

Firstly I visited a friend’s elderly mother in the same hospital ward my Mum was in last year.  Bad memories came flooding back as I once again saw the good, the bad and the ugly of the NHS, the hideousness of growing old and the way some members of the caring profession choose to treat the elderly.

From there I took my mum to say goodbye to her hairdresser of forty-five years - the end of an era as she retires.

Picture this … a tiny, slightly tired and dated hair salon which caters to the blue rinse and curly perm brigade - to the ladies of a certain age who like to be coiffed to within an inch of their lives and then attacked with a full tin of hairspray to keep their set in place for the week ahead.  A place where equally tiny and tired great grandmothers go to have their morale boosted as they are made to feel glam again.

As I sat, sipping my dry sherry in a 1920’s glass, I witnessed another side of caring.  My mother’s hairdresser is 72, sprightly and finishing a job she clearly adored.  She treated every lady with the same love and compassion.  As did the lovely and incredibly camp 60 year old shampooist as he shimmied and sashayed his way around the rollers and the 1950’s driers, a camouflaged man bag strapped diagonally across his chest.

I watched them manoeuvre a client of approximately 110 (!) in her wheelchair to the sink and then to the mirror to set her approximately 3 (!) yellow hairs on her head as her orange make-up and clogged mascara dripped down her tiny bird-like face.  They joked with her as her husband (also 110!) sat beside her wearing his wife’s string of pearls around his grubby blazer to keep them safe.  She giggled at their banter like a little girl, her voice sounding like she’d sucked all the helium out of a Minnie Mouse balloon.  She was being made to feel important, fussed over and, in her eyes, she would leave that salon looking like Marilyn Monroe.

I could have sat and watched forever.  She was clearly once a young vibrant woman, attractive in her day, and I began to weave stories of her past life in my head.

But it was the joy of watching people who care so much about what they do and the people they do it for.

I left the salon feeling saddened that my mother has had to say goodbye to her weekly confidante, but buoyed by seeing people doing a job they truly love.

Getting old is a horrible thing but, if we’re fortunate enough, we all go through it.  The nursing staff who don’t do their jobs with love in their hearts would do well to remember that and to take a leaf out of my mother’s hairdresser’s book.  OK, wiping bottoms isn’t as glamorous as titivating someone’s hair but it was the job they chose.

Happy 2015 to all those who care - and to those who don’t, your time will come.

Monday, 15 December 2014

2014 -The Year that I ...

I've been tagged by my writer buddy Jamie Dougan and been asked to share the highlights of my year.  You can read Jamie's blog here

Here goes ...

2014, the year that ...

*  I realised that I can live independently and survive without my husband.  But I didn't like it one bit!

*  I hit 50 and survived!

*  I got an eternity ring after 20 happy years of marriage.

*  I felt I could truly call myself an author as sales began to hit figures I'd only ever dreamed of.

* I saw my son turn in to a fine young man, holding down a job he loves and heading off to gigs that strike the fear of God into me!

*  My Canadian cousin and her husband visited and we had a blast.  I'm hoping 2015 sees them heading this way again.

*  I started a 'tin of good things' and every time we had a stroke of luck or something nice happened we scribbled it on a piece of paper and popped it in.  It's quite full now and we're looking forward to opening it on New Year's day and reflecting on our good fortune rather than focusing on the negatives.

So, there you go.  My year and its best bits.

Here's to 2015 and whatever it may bring.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Every Little Helps ...

What a funny old place Twitter can be.  I've made friends (who I've gone on to meet in real life), chatted, promoted my books, been taken for a ride by a lunatic and been given various promo gifts including chocolates, books, lightbulbs and a picture frame.

But this blog is about a totally unexpected Twitter twist which has left me grinning like a Cheshire cat all day.

Yesterday I tweeted that we'd lost one of the teen's Christmas presents.  It has since materialised but in the the meantime @Tesco tweeted me and asked if they could help in any way.  As this particular present was not something that Tesco stock, I knew that this was unlikely.

However they continued to DM me as their policy is to #Make_Christmas and they wanted to help make mine a happy one.

I'd just happened to see a coat in one of their stores and, as I really don't need another coat, decided to exercise some restraint, put it back on the rack and walk away.  Once I got home though, I realised how much I liked it and decided that if I could find an online discount code for it, I'd treat myself.

When I found that all the codes had expired, I DMd @Tesco again to see if they knew of any current discounts that I could use.  Imagine my surprise when they messaged me this:

What size and colour were you looking for? We're buying this for you for Christmas :-) What's your address?

My reply - after reading three times!- was 'What?  Buying?!'

And was then told by the lovely David:

Yes, a present from us to you.

After a few more exchanges - where we discovered that there were no coats in my size available online as it's popularity has been huge after it featured in the press - I set off to my local Tesco in the hope that the one I'd looked at was still there.

I am now the proud owner of a double breasted boyfriend coat and it didn't cost me a penny.

David from @Tesco really did #Make_Christmas for me and all because of a random Tweet about a misplaced present.

So ... a huge thank you to Tesco.  This is the way to do customer service and I will wear my coat with pride.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

LIFE AFTER SETH - and a FREEBIE or TWO!

My next (EIGHTH!) full length novel is due for release on 10th December and will be available for pre-order from 1st December - that means, if you order 'LIFE AFTER SETH' on Amazon at the beginning of December it will be 'auto-magically' delivered to your Kindle the minute it goes 'live' on the 10th.  And hopefully shoot me to #1 in the charts.  Hey, a girl can dream can't she?!

So today I'm feeling a little Christmas joy and want to wave my wand of happiness in a shimmy-shaky fashion.  Not only am I going to give you a cover reveal, the blurb AND the first chapter of 'LIFE AFTER SETH'  but I'm also doing FIVE DAYS - yes, you heard me correctly - FIVE DAYS of both of my Christmas novellas for FREE!!!!

From Wednesday 26th November right up until the end of Sunday 30th November, you can grab both of my novellas for absolutely NOTHING on Amazon.  How good is that?  Let's call it my little Christmas present to you.

And, furthermore, if you're on Twitter and you Re-Tweet my #free posts or this blog, you can go in the MAGNIFICENT MISFIT MAGICAL MACHINE.

Now, this isn't ANY old machine. If you enter this stupendous place of wonder and get picked as a winner - you know, like on The X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing? - you get to pick any of my books to be delivered to your Kindle for your delight and delectation!  For no pennies whatsoever!

See?  I really am feeling the Festive Funk right now.  What have you got to lose?  Get your fingers poised, your RT button going and tell all your friends that there are FREEBIES on offer.  And if you leave me a review, I'll love you even more.

OK.  Ready for the cover reveal, the blurb and the first chapter?  Grab a drink and a packet of biscuits and prepare to meet 'LIFE AFTER SETH'.





THE BLURB



Picture this …

A summer wedding booked in a beautiful English village surrounded by rolling hills and stunning countryside.

The guests are waiting, the bride is blushing and
the groom is … where?

Left to muddle through in a ramshackle cottage with half-naked builders, a selfish mother, a New Age sister who’s away with the fairies and a hormonal teenage nephew, Lizzie sees her world spiral into farce.

It may seem like a romcom that cinema goers giggle over as they chomp on their popcorn, but this is no laughing matter for Lizzie - it’s her life.

With Seth gone, there’s no shortage of men should she ever choose to love again.  But which one would she consider letting into her broken heart?

And will she find the happy ever after she’s
always dreamed of?

LIFE AFTER SETH
when being jilted is the best thing that can happen to a girl.


*   *   *   *   *
 

 

Chapter One

You know those daft dinner party games where the guests ask probing questions to find out more about one another?  The ones that start as a bit of fun and then end up turning into a full blown domestic between the loved-up couple at the end of the table or an epiphany for the closet gay who realises he really does want to sleep with the guy sitting to his left?  Those games.

Well, the next time I find myself at one of those ‘all jolly good, light hearted fun’ affairs and I’m asked the question ‘What was the worst day of your life?’, I can guarantee that no one will be able to top my answer and I’ll have the assembled guests in stunned - possibly embarrassed - silence.

Oh yeah, as bad days go, by anyone’s standards, it was a humdinger.

Of course it was meant to be the happiest day of my life but as I woke and stretched in the sunlight, cocooned in the cosiness of my childhood bed, I could never have imagined what the following few hours - indeed months - would bring.

If I’d had any idea, I would probably have rolled over and gone back to the dream that involved Daniel Craig and, intriguingly, a rather large jar of Nutella.

But no, silly old me jumped out of bed filled with thrilling anticipation, threw on my dressing gown, lovingly stroked my lace gown hanging on the wardrobe and then headed down to breakfast en famille.

Any normal family might have had Buck’s Fizz on ice and the tempting smell of a cooked breakfast floating on the air to greet the blushing bride-to-be, but not mine.

My father was nowhere to be seen and my mother was on the phone to best friend Glynis moaning about the lack of husband presence.   My sister was saluting the sun in the garden as she chanted and wailed in some sort of Tai Chi pose, and my nephew was sporting a tie-dye sarong while strumming a depressing tune on his guitar in the corner of the kitchen.

Rather than being showered with love or greeted with bubbling excitement, my arrival was ignored until my nephew decided to turn his attention to me with a lazy, ‘Yo, Auntie Lizzie.  Cool day, huh?’

‘Morning, Zeus.’ (I always cringed every time I said his name, but when your sister’s a happy-clappy hippie, what can you expect?)  ‘No, it’s not a cool day, it’s a pretty hot one actually but when you’re sixteen, without a care in the world, I guess every day is cool.’

Zeus shook his rasta dreadlocks - a little odd in ginger - and put down his guitar.  ‘Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, Auntie Lizzie.  My head’s filled with worries, man.  Global warming.  Pollution.  The state of Palestine.  The banality of ‘X-Factor’.  It’s all going on in here, every minute of the day.’  He tapped his head and looked as if he had to sort the world of its problems before a bowl of muesli had passed his lips.

‘Yeah, well thanks for that Zeus but today’s my wedding day so I’d rather we stuck to light-hearted chat and left the major humanitarian issues until tomorrow if that’s OK with you.’

He stood and stretched, reaching for his pouch of tobacco.  ‘Pftt!  Marriage.  Society’s way of constraining the weak-minded and dictating who you share your bed with.  Not for me, dude.  My heart and spirit are too free to be shackled.’

His comments were best ignored.  It was like talking to a testosterone fuelled version of my sister Alice as he churned out the lines she’d been feeding him since birth, and it could only turn into a mega debate or heated argument.  I figured an offer of a bacon sandwich might lighten the mood a little - all teenage boys lived for their stomachs, didn’t they?

‘Gross!’  He looked ready to vomit.  ‘Pig!  Bacon is pig, Lizzie.  Packed with chemicals and crap.  How could you?’

‘And the foul smelling tobacco that you constantly puff on is packed with vitamins and minerals, is it?’ I countered back as I busied myself at the stove. 

His attempt at any wisecrack response was thwarted by the appearance of Alice, bangles jangling and ankle bells chiming.  ‘Good Morning, my little Lotus Blossoms!  What a glorious new day Mama Nature has bestowed upon us!  My chakras are flowing and my yin yang beautifully balanced.  A little shot of wheat-grass should see me ready to face the challenges destined for me.’

‘And a happy wedding day to you, darling sister of mine,’ I mumbled childishly under my breath before biting defiantly into my swine sandwich.

‘What are you grumbling about, Lizzie?  If you will insist on filling your body with dead animals, you can only expect your mood to be foul.  Get out of the wrong side of the bed, did you?  I told you that you should have slept in the tepee in the garden with me.’

My breakfast began to turn to sawdust in my mouth.  By pointing out that I was eating a little pink corpse, my sister had totally ruined my pleasure.

Most siblings would greet one another with a hug and some kind words on such a momentous day,’ I said.  ‘Most sisters would be over the moon and rushing about the house in a whirl of curling tongs and make up.  Most parents would be on hand to calm any nerves or pour drinks.  And what do I get?  An AWOL father, a whinging mother and a mini bloody Glastonbury in the back garden.  Let’s all have a joint and henna my hands shall we?’

‘Cool!’  Zeus was unable to do sarcasm.

Unlike his mother, who looked at me as if I’d eaten her last lentil burger as she turned on her Birkenstocks with an ‘Oh that’s just great!  Now my energies have been tinged with your toxic seepage and I’m going to have to cleanse myself all over again.  Thanks for that, Lizzie!  Just thanks!

Sisterly love!  The Nolans we most definitely weren’t.

As I chucked the remainder of my now unappealing breakfast in the bin I was reminded that my mother shared the same selfish trait as my sister.  Slamming the phone down, she huffed and puffed and then made her way towards me from the hallway.

‘Make me a coffee, Angel.  And throw a good slug of brandy in there.  Today is not going well.’

Flicking the switch on the kettle, I began idly humming ‘Going to the Chapel’ in my best Bette Midler warble.  If no one else could be happy for me, I’d have my own little celebration.

Because in less than four hours time, I’d be walking down the aisle to the gorgeous Seth - and I couldn’t believe my luck.

I was marrying the man of my dreams and escaping the confines of the Addams family.

Bring it on!


*****


Growing up in the Addams household - yes, that really is our surname - was … how can I say? ... reasonably OK, would be the best way to sum it up.

Dad worked hard as a bank manager, Mum was involved with the Women’s Institute and charity work, and Alice in those days was just your average sister - annoying occasionally but mainly bearable.

Three years my senior, she never let me forget it.  Whether it was to boss me around, lecture me, protect me or look down her nose at my immaturity, I was never allowed to lose sight of the fact that she was the big sister.

Now of course, she’s ageless.  Children of the Universe don’t have a number to determine how many years they’ve been on this planet.  Every day is a ‘birth-day’ in Alice’s Wonderland and she’s been reborn, regressed or found herself so many times I’m surprised she recognises the person she looks at in the mirror - which incidentally isn’t very often because her face is merely ‘a hindrance’.  It’s the soul that counts.

A fairly run of the mill teenager until she hit sixteen, Alice fell for a boy during a fruit picking job in the summer holidays that determined she would never return to school.  Our village of Upper Moreton was conveniently situated for seasonal work and we were never short of odd jobs or ways to earn extra cash.  She could have worked in the local dress hire shop or in the coffee bar which served delicious pastries and scones.  But I guess her latent hippie was lurking somewhere even back then - the freedom of the fields and the sun on her back called and she strawberry picked with a song in her heart and a spring in her Jesus-sandal clad feet.

When the summer came to an end, she packed her rucksack and headed off to Greece with her first love, Reece.  At the time she’d believed he was for life.  She’d even had Mum and Dad convinced, so that they’d let her go with their blessing.  It didn’t last though and I think her current notch on the headboard (or tent pole) is around the three hundred mark.  Love is free, apparently, and she’s always shared as much of hers as possible.

So I became, to all intents and purposes, an only child.  At thirteen years of age, that had been thrilling and lonely in equal measures.  I didn’t have her moaning at me or sparking up arguments but I missed the company and the odd times that I did need her.  She had her uses and I found myself with no one to ask those all important questions.

‘Is this boob bigger than the other one?’

‘If Peter pulls my ponytail does it mean he likes me?’

‘Is this zit really noticeable?’

Of course her answers were never very tactful but at least I had somebody.  I couldn’t possibly ask my mum stuff like that.  She’d just twitter and bristle and then tell me to get the Delia book out and go and bake some nice shortbread.

How relieved was I when I returned to the autumn term at school to find that we had a new girl in our class - Nadia - and we instantly hit it off.  She had a brother, Ralph, but she longed for a sister, a confidante, a partner in crime.  From the first day we met we became inseparable, sharing our secrets, our worries, our dreams and our bedrooms.

Most weekends would see us sleeping at one or the other’s house and, for some reason, I always preferred it when I was invited to stay at hers.  Her mum and dad were a lovely couple and they were always laughing - a really happy family.  Ralph was fifteen, and quite good looking, and for a long while I had a bit of a secret crush on him.  To him though I was just his little sister’s friend, so it wouldn’t have been the done thing for him to see me in a romantic way but I bumped into him in London one day a few years later and he joked that the ugly duckling had turned into a bit of a swan.  Cheeky sod!

Now it’s not that my family were unhappy, it’s just that Dad was always wrapped up in the stress of work and Mum was just too busy being … Mum.  Everything had to revolve around her and Alice and I had grown up knowing what this meant.  So, if a colleague from the WI was diagnosed with a serious illness, all we’d hear about would be how it would increase my mother’s workload.  If someone wanted to tell her all about their Mediterranean cruise, she’d rush to the photo albums and talk about her own trip.  If I had a spot, she had a wrinkle and I’d be told, ‘Think yourself lucky you’ve still got youth on your side!’

So, time spent with Nadia was precious.  We played hard but worked harder - attending every party and always making sure we were up bright and early ready for homework or revision.  We both dreamed of becoming teachers and were determined that nothing would come in the way of that.  No boys or hangovers were worth it, although we had a few of both - we were only human.

Eventually we left Uni with a couple of degrees between us and placements in two local schools doing the jobs we’d worked so hard to get.  I’d opted to teach the younger age range with all its wide eyed innocence but she’d longed for the challenge of the back chat and gobby smart talk of a secondary school environment.

It was time to start looking for those dream men we’d envisaged as we lay in the darkness of our bedrooms, planning how our adult lives would pan out.

Four failed relationships later, Seth walked into my life …


*   *   *   *   *

I hope you enjoyed this sneak preview - If so, remember to pre-order from 1st December.

And don't forget to grab my Christmas novellas for FREE for five days from tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Finding your Happy Place.

People who know me and love me would say that I can sometimes be a bit of a control freak and can very often be black and white with my opinions.  I hold my hands up in surrender and admit to both of these accusations.

 My name is Amanda Egan and I am what I am.

There's nothing like life and experience to make you realise that there can come a time when you have to change your way of thinking - you can't always be in control of things that happen, you can't influence people and sometimes you have to 'roll with it' rather than drive yourself nuts.

Over the last few years there have been about four life changing issues that I've had to do battle with.  I won't go into details but, suffice it to say, I've realised that there's only so long you can give 'set in stone' situations any more head-space.

There are two routes:

Madness.

Peace and acceptance.

I tried the first option and it didn't work for me.  Sleepless nights, constant inner turmoil, voicing worries/discussing with hubbie and/or friends - nothing changed.  The worries and problems remained as large as life, refusing to leave.

So ... I booted them out.  I didn't need them.  How were they enhancing my life?  And, if I was totally honest with myself, the misery I was putting myself through would never actually affect the future outcome.

I guess that's what my husband is so good at - being pragmatic.

Definition: dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

Maybe a bit of the pragmatist has rubbed off on me (no euphemism intended) but once I learnt to let go, I felt a whole lot happier.



My energies are much better being channelled towards the characters who live in my head.  And that's not madness, that's a happy place!