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!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dancing on my Doorstep

Living in Putney, we're fortunate to be close to the City when we need to be yet also surrounded by enough greenery, parks and common areas to kid ourselves that we're in the country when we want.

One of our local pubs - a five minute walk along a leafy lane - calls itself  'A Country Pub in London' and last night we experienced what can only be described as 'one of those magical nights' as we were invited to their re-launch.


The Telegraph is a pub dear to my heart - a selection of wedding guests joined us to lunch there the day after we married twenty years ago and, as it's so close to us, we often head there on a sunny afternoon for a drink and a light lunch.

But last night was SOMETHING ELSE!

Recently under new management (MD Peter Linacre) we were invited to eat, drink and be merry - and boy did they deliver!

Regular readers will know that I'm a firm believer that I've either lived before or was born too late, so for me to be entertained by a live big band with some classic standards, while sipping on champagne and nibbling excellent food was like a dream come true.

My ex was part of a big band so it's a sound I'm familiar with and love - unlike our teen, who left just a little disgruntled after half an hour! It most definitely wasn't 'his thing' but when he chooses to listen to music that leaves me wanting to puke, with my ears bleeding, it's hardly surprising.

But for me 'The Mack Big Band' with their very talented singer (sheesh, he can hold a note!), Marshall Scott, it was a night made in heaven.


For the second half of the evening the pace was upped and the place erupted - every age group, from late teens to pushing a hundred hit the dance floor.  One very persistent, elderly gentleman kept beckoning me to dance with him and I spent a while declining.  Such perseverance should always be rewarded though, so I eventually joined him and was surprised to be proposed to!  He was a good sport when I told him I didn't think my husband would approve!


What more can I tell you?  The staff were friendly and chatty, the food was mouth-watering, original and plentiful and the refurb has been done to the highest spec.  We will definitely be returning there with friends and I urge anyone in the Putney vicinity to go there and check it out.

In our goodie bags (containing bottles of port and delicious chocolate fudge brownies) we were given promotional material which told us that they'll also be running various clubs and societies - wine appreciation, dining, pub quiz, film club, digestive club talks, theatre, comedy/open mic, book club.  Any locals, get yourselves there and help make this pub THE place to be.

So, a HUGE thank you to Peter and staff for a truly fantastic night.  I wish you well and hope that The Telegraph gets the success it deserves.

*This review is my opinion.  I was not asked to write it*

PLEASE head off and check out my books.  Putney author and proud!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Thanks John Lewis!

There are milestones in any mum's life when you realise that your baby's not a baby anymore.  There are the obvious ones - those first steps, words, day at school, sleepover.  Then they move on to secondary school, heading off to Uni or work.  The list is endless.

Often these are joyous occasions, mixed with happy tears and at other times they can be heart-wrenching and those sobs aren't so easy to shed. It's all part of parenting and we wear our lines and wrinkles like a badge of honour.

You just never know when the next one is going to hit ...

This morning I had a face which would have been fit for Halloween as my mascara and eyeliner went southwards.  Yes, dear reader, I watched the new John Lewis Christmas advert just before heading off to do the weekly shop.  A bad move.  I'm convinced I frightened small children and old age pensioners as I pushed my trolley around in a daze. 

If you haven't seen it yet, have a little look and then I'll tell you why it moved me so much.


 Are you dry-eyed?  If so, stop reading!  Or maybe read on and see what caused me to sob.

My boy will always be my baby but he's now a fine young man who works hard and plays hard - despite the troubles he's had in the past. Stick with me and I'll give you the background to why this affected me so much.

When my baby was about two, he had an obsession with Pingu.  Remember him?  (Our female cat is even called Pinga - as in the sister).



Everyone we knew bought our son penguins in all shapes and sizes - his bedroom became a shrine to them.  But not one of them meant as much to him as 'Teeth' - a particularly mouthy looking specimen picked up at a car boot sale for 50p.  Teeth went EVERYWHERE with him.  The dentist would chuckle when she saw him in the chair and, on one occasion, I bumped into a lady at the college where I was teaching at the time. We stopped, assessed one another whilst trying to remember how we knew each another and she suddenly shouted, 'Teeth!' - it was my son's dental nurse! Yes, he was a well-known penguin, talked about around town!

The John Lewis ad became more poignant for me as Teeth too found a pal. Not a wife, but a side-kick in the shape of 'Gums'.

Hubbie was working in The City at the time and he called me on his way home from work to say that he'd seen Teeth's double attached to a lamppost on the side of the street.  It turned out he belonged to a tramp and was part of his patch.  I knew we had to have him, even though hubbie told me he was a fatter, fluffier version of Teeth (at this point Teeth had been in the washing machine a few times and lost a little weight).  A few quid to the tramp for some food and drink, and Gums was on the tube coming back to live with us.

As soon as hubbie appeared at the door with him, our wide-eyed son looked in awe and shouted, 'Teeth!'  And so they became two - who still live, in pride of place, on his bookshelf.

Watching this advert took me on a journey of being a mum and all Christmases past - that first Christmas Eve with a new baby, and all the joy and worries you know it will bring, and then moving on to the excitement of secrecy, stuffed stockings and those sneaky visits from Santa.

It's role reversal now as our son isn't asking for anything for Christmas.  He has a job that pays well - so what he wants, he buys.  Now, HE'S the one planning and plotting with excitement.  And that makes me happy/sad.

So, John Lewis, I know you only do this to make us flock to your shops and buy your products (I'm not stupid!) but your ad made me think about family, childhood, love, pride and cherishing every moment.

Thanks for wrecking my face!

By the way, I write books too!  Get your Kindle copies here. (In paperback at Lulu)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mummy Misfit Entertains

Regular followers of mine will know that I've been toying with the idea of a Mummy Misfit spin-off and, thanks to your hugely positive responses, I've decided to go ahead with 'Mummy Misfit Entertains' - parties for paupers.

Remember the Pippa Middleton book 'Celebrate' that hit the shelves last year and bombed?  Well it won't be like that!  Partly because I won't be fortunate enough to be lured by a £400,000 advance (oh, just let me dream for a moment!) but also because it won't filled with useless drivel about entertaining that, for the ordinary person on the street living through a recession and counting the pennies, isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Is it any wonder the book was a flop and the deal ended when Pippa decided to educate the masses with these words of wisdom?

• 'Because of their size, turkeys are perfect for feeding larger gatherings'
As my dear friend Fenella would say, 'No sh*t, Sherlock!'
So what do you think, Pippa?  Should we maybe have one at Christmas?  Oh, where would we be without you!

• 'For parties, wrap a small gift. Sit everyone in a circle and ask them to pass the parcel ...' 
Is there a name for this hugely original game? And would it be good to play with small children maybe?

• 'Store cupboards, drawers or boxes should be packed full of useful odds and ends.'
Ah, so that's what all the c*ap is!  It's good to know that the upper classes have drawers of string, fug, cracker innards and broken combs too.

From what I know of this book, I'm surprised she didn't include a few helpful tips along the lines of:

Remember to stock up on toilet tissue.  No one likes to resort to using The Tatler in an emergency - it leaves nasty print all over your 'oh so pert' little bottom.

If you run out of champers, be prepared to accept that no one will ever set foot in your house again.

Although the recipe for ice is very simple, the time it takes to set is rather lengthy. Far quicker to 'order in' (see back of book for recipe if you prefer homemade)

For decorations, pretty balloons and party fripperies simply nip to Mummy and Daddy's shop and help yourself.

I'm so sorry if I sound like I'm bitching.  But I am!  This book deal made me (and many other writers) cross.  Penguin only took a chance on her because of who she was related to.  Thankfully, their greed backfired.  Try taking a chance on some little nobodies, us Indies who slog our guts out day in and day out.  What would be so wrong with that?

So, that brings me to my book which won't be losing anyone any money.  I've been entertaining for years - on a budget.  Sometimes the budget has been bigger than others but it's certainly never been massive and I've always received compliments from my guests.

As Fenella always tells me, 'You have a talent for giving good table, good candle and good feeling.'

So watch this space as I begin work on 'Mummy Misfit Entertains'.  Unless I get offered a juicy advance from a canny publisher who's checked out my rather stonkering Amazon rankings, it won't be filled with glossy photos - just handy, practical and fun tips, recipes, themes and games.

Oh ... and it also won't include the recipe for ice either.  You'll have to Google that one for yourselves.

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Mixed Misfit Bag

It's been a busy week in the Misfit house.  The teen turned 19 and my cousin and her hubbie came to visit from Canada so there has been much fun and jollity.  Today saw me returning to the desk to chain myself up until my self-imposed 2K words for the day were written.

Here's a quick update on my week.  Oh, and be warned - it ends with a rant!

FORMULA 1 GO-KARTING

Oh boy!  What can I say?  The teen and Mr Misfit had a blast.  Me?  Well I simply tootled around the track, at an average of 16 miles an hour, like a nervous granny on her way to church. And the heat!  Dressed from head to toe in a rather unfetching BO-infused boiler suit, a beanie and a helmet, I was sweltering.  My only escape was putting myself in the Sin Bin so that I could remove the helmet and cool off.  The teen found himself covered in bruises as he has no flesh on his gangly bones and was thrown around in the kart as he swerved around corners. As each day passes the bruises grow and change.  We tell him it's the birthday gift that keeps giving!


 The teen pulling a daft pose.
Just as well this isn't a scratch and sniff photo!  The suits were ripe!

 His final lap

FAMILY PARTY

It's been 28 years since I last saw my cousin and her husband so it's been wonderful having them here.  They are both huge fans of my books and I was delighted to learn that I, at the grand old age of seven, had been the one to help my cousin's husband 'get' AA Milne.  He said it was the British accent that suddenly made it click for him.  Their lovely daughter is named after me and we keep in touch through Facebook and Twitter.  We were amazed at how many similarities there are between the two of us and also between her and the teen.  Families, can be spooky things!
On Saturday, our family got together at our place and a good time was had by all.

Sharing family memories.
My mum, me and my cousin.
 
THE SQUIRREL

On Friday night Mr Misfit and the teen came back from a late night walk and told me that there was an injured squirrel at the end of our cul de sac.  Being a bit of an animal nut, I headed off to see if he could be saved.  He was right in the middle of the road where he could have been squashed by any passing cars returning home or ripped apart by foxes (or our cats!) so we knew that we had to stay with him.  We managed to give him some Rescue Remedy (a herbal medicine) and for a while it looked like he might be perking up a bit. Sadly though, we suddenly realised that his leg was broken and there didn't seem to be much hopeAfter willing him to live, I found myself willing him to let go and drift off to squirrel Heaven.  We called him Faith as we told him that we had faith in him and that we would stick with him to the bitter end.  Watching him die was horrible.  He threw his little head back in a final spasm of pain and then he passed.  The teen then decided it would be cruel to just throw him in the bushes and insisted on a proper funeral (the second one we'd been to that day!)
A shoe box was duly found and Faith was laid to rest with a gladioli.
Sadly, Faith was dug up again two mornings later and then he disappeared.
This reminds me of the time we buried our goldfish in a Dove soapbox and the teen, then quite young, was concerned that when he got to Heaven God would be confused as the box said 'Dove' and not 'Goldfish'!

THE RANT

I had drinks with 'Fenella' last night and I found out that she'd had a falling out with a Putney mum who had been rather vocal about me and the way I'd dealt with the teen's school phobia.  I was livid!  This was a mother I'd known reasonably well and always got on with.  How dare she pass judgment on me and my life when she knows nothing about what we went through.  As any mother knows, if someone starts to pick holes in your child you become like a protective tigress.
When we went 'public' with the teen's problems, people fell into two camps - those who sympathised or had been through something similar and those who thought they knew everything and that the condition quite simply doesn't exist.  So there's no such thing as depression then?  Is that what I'm hearing?
So, to all you Putney mums who feel you know me oh so well, I hope your boring little lives where you have nothing better to do than discuss me at your dinner parties are never blighted by any mental health issues.  Oh the shame!  Enjoy your perfect children as they grow and head off in to the world and hope that you never have to stand by them in the way I stood by my son.  I, meanwhile, will be the one having the last laugh as I know who each and every one of you are in the Misfit books and my son has grown into a confident young man, doing a job that he loves. And, do me favour, if you do have an opinion, say it to my face so that I can educate you.  But then that would take bravery wouldn't it?

Rant over!  As you were.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

In Celebration of the Teen

The teen will turn 19 on Thursday, so last night saw us enjoying the first of many celebrations.  We got together with his best friend from primary school - before he heads back to Uni tomorrow - his parents and sister, an old family friend and another of the teen's pals from secondary school.

The theme was 'Curry & Games' and, as usual, we had a ball.

We'd just recently been given a John Lewis voucher for our anniversary so we splashed out on new china and cutlery.  I think our black and white themed table looks pretty glam.

Our dining table had to get ditched in the garden as it's not big enough for nine guests.
This is our ping pong table glammed up by a damask cloth my Dad acquired as an antique dealer.


I'm ready to party.
Still hating the new hair.

As the current obsession in the Misfit House is 'Breaking Bad'
we ordered a rice paper cake topper from eBay for his chocolate birthday cake.
The 'cooking' reference comes from the series!

He was pretty impressed.

Once the meal was over we started on the games.  The Misfits are well known for the daftness of our parties and, thankfully, our guests are always willing participants.

We started with 'A word from a Song' - this involved single words on a piece of paper, picked from a hat and then we each had to sing a line from a song containing that word.  E.g: LOVE - 'She Loves You' or 'Love, Love me Do.'  The aim of the game is to find as many as possible containing the word.

Then we moved on to 'Paper Art'  - we picked a category such as 'animals' or 'things you find in the kitchen' and we each had to tear a piece of A4 paper into the shape of our chosen object.  We were surprised at how many cats and giraffes we had.  Then we had the lazy man's effort of 'a puddle of milk' for 'found in the kitchen'!

Next was 'Alphabet Story'  - we began at a random point in the alphabet and told a story line by line with each person starting the next line with the next letter of the alphabet. E.g:  Amanda went shopping.  But the shops were closed. 'Can't think what to do,' she said.

The game we played for the longest was 'Keep it going' - the teen would find a well known song on his iPod and we would start to sing along with it.  One example was 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.  While we were singing, he would suddenly turn it down so that we were unable to hear it and we had to keep singing to see if we were at the same point on the track when he turned it back on.  Much fun and laughter was had by all, and I have to say we didn't do too badly.

This then led onto 'Joint Bongos' with the teen and his friend taking half a bongo each and bashing out tunes while we danced - quite a lot!

Action shot!
Their hands were moving so fast, they're a blur!

I can't believe that these are the two boys who used to camp on the floor.
Fine young men to be proud of and a joy to spend time with.

And from our boys, I gained a best friend.
(and also a Goddaughter - not pictured)
A sneaky ciggie in the snow, 13 years ago, and we're still going strong.
'You had me at the snow!'

Ugh!
The worst part of a dinner party - the clearing up.
 
Mr Misfit and other menfolk were at the party but we seem to be short on photos - which, when it came to the dancing, is probably just as well!
 
We had a fabulous time and were all feeling a little exhausted this morning.  Now ... on to his actual birthday on Thursday.  But first, sleep.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Getting the Chop

I made a pact with the Goddaughter and I stuck to it.  A glass of champagne too many on the Eve of 2013 saw me agreeing to grow my hair.

Now, over a year and a half later, I’m ready to stick a paper bag over my head.  In my dreams I saw myself with shoulder length locks, framing my face in bouncy curls.  In reality, I look like an unkempt mad woman in desperate need of help - from both a hairdresser and possibly a psychiatric nurse.

My hair doesn’t like to grow beyond a certain length.  It just doesn’t get it.  It panics and has no idea what it should be doing.  So during the transitional period, I’ve tried various taming techniques - a few long layers, a tidy up on the length, some very strong words in the mirror.  Nothing has worked.

Mr Misfit hasn’t been much help.  When I told him I was growing it, he frowned.  ‘I love the bob.  The bob is you.’  Now it’s longer he doesn’t want me to go back to the bob!  Men, huh?! But I think the main reason is that he wants to support my hair-brained aspirations and doesn't want to be responsible for a decision I might regret.

After a particularly Wayward Hair Day last week, I booked my hairdresser for this Saturday to do the deed. Now of course, I’m looking in the mirror and my hair’s decided to behave.  It’s the Dental Appointment Syndrome, isn’t it?  The minute the appointment’s made, the toothache magically disappears.

Why are we never happy with what we’ve got?  My hair is poker straight and I long for curls.  Other women with those bouncy locks I long for spend hours straightening the life out of them.  I just wish I could be like the Sindy (or possibly Tressy?) doll I used to play with, and with one press of my belly button, my hair could be either long or short depending on my mood.  Why can’t life be that simple?

I can almost guarantee that when I have my hair cut on Saturday, I’ll hate it.  Hubbie will probably like it because deep down I'm sure he’s always preferred the bob.  My mum will say it’s taken years off me because she hates my hair longer, and ‘Fenella’ will give me a good telling off because she thinks the longer look is ‘more youthful’!

But at the end of the day, I’ve made the decision now and I’m sure, once I get used to the ‘new, old me’ again, I’ll be fine.

If anyone should manage to invent the Belly-Button-Hair-Growing App before then please let me know as I’d happily be a willing tester.