Today was the day that I was expecting the proof copies of my novel to arrive.

I waited in all day, but then the postman came just as I was dropping Belle back at college in the afternoon and when I got back my parcel was outside behind the bin. Not the most salubrious of starts to my novel writing career, but potentially quite fitting with the tone of the book, plus it makes a nice intro to this post.

Once I’d retrieved the parcel from behind the wheel bin, avoiding falling into the green box full of empty cat food tins, I took it inside, into the kitchen, and opened it.

Inside I found these:

Playgroups and prosecco

They look pretty nice don’t they? Thicker than I imagined, but then I did write 95,000 words, (can you believe!), so I suppose they do take up space. I looked at them stacked for a little while. I liked the neatness of them. I imagined them on one of those tables as you go into Waterstones. View Post

In association with the Money Advice Service

Bringing up two children, mainly on my own, the first one in tow when I was just 17, hasn’t always been easy financially.

Over the years I’ve accumulated debts, worried about them, tried to ignore them, faced up to them, paid them off, eaten 9p noodles for dinner regularly and switched jobs so many times that I found myself with seven separate pension pots.

Let’s call it a journey. Things always sound sexier when you call them a journey don’t they?

My point is that over the years I’ve been poor and I’ve been less poor, but I’ve learnt lessons. Some of them big ones, some not so big. One of the most important financial lessons I’ve learnt is that the very worse thing you can do is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that you don’t need to think about finances.

Spoiler: YOU DO.

The good news though is that there is a lot of support and information out there, and once you start learning more about the financial matters that impact you and your family you can quickly feel much more in control – it can actually feel very empowering and is great for your mental health too.

This week – 12-18 November – is Talk Money Week, a new public awareness week from the Money Advice Service to help encourage people to have more open conversations about money. With this in mind, and to show you that money doesn’t need to be scary, I’ve put together a list of nine ideas for parents (and non-parents) that could save you money either right now this very second, or for years to come. All of these would make great starting points for discussions about money with family and friends.

Face up to your debt

If you’re struggling with debt at the moment chances are you’re doing your best to ignore the FACTS of the situation. When I was in debt in my mid-twenties, post single parent degree, it’s exactly what I did for a good couple of years and it is a guaranteed way to make yourself feel terrible. Not only that, it doesn’t do you any favours financially as interest just racks up and people get cross. It turns out that banks and credit card companies aren’t keen on being ignored.

If I could offer just one piece of advice it would be to take a deep breath, get all those letters out of the back of the drawer, and start making a plan for how you’re going to tackle it. You will find that if you are honest and communicative most lenders will want to help come to a manageable arrangement with you – far better for them to have you paying them back five pounds a month than nothing at all.

The Money Advice Service has loads of practical advice here on how to start tackling debt. I promise you won’t regret it. Do not just hold a book over your head and pretend the bills aren’t all falling down around you. (Definitely what this guy is doing.)

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

View Post

In association with Thomas Sabo

I have this thing with rings.

I’ve always liked them, generally, but the thing started about eight or nine years ago one day in Glastonbury. I’d gone over to meet a friend for breakfast and we were talking about something rather exciting for me that had happened the day before. I’ve always had a terrible memory, but I knew I wanted to remember this particular thing, so I decided to buy myself a piece of jewellery to mark the occasion.

I bought myself a rather lovely silver ring made with abalone shell, which I love. I bought it to fit the ring finger on my left hand, not especially out of any kind of marriage related principle, but just because it looked nice there and I’m a grown up person and can wear a ring on whatever finger I like, thank you very much society.

(Gosh, that came out a bit stronger than I thought it was going to – maybe it was principle.)

Ever since then, every time I have wanted to celebrate something good happening in my life – like the first time I had a feature published in a national newspaper – or just wanted to remind myself why I am super cool and generally awesome, I’ve bought myself a ring. I wouldn’t say I’m especially materialistic and I’m definitely not one of those people who spends loads of money on clothes and shoes and handbags, but just now and then it’s nice to treat yourself. In fact, it’s somehow more special when it only IS now and then. (Plus you can spend more and feel less guilty.)

Jewellery is a bit of a funny one, as it’s often something you feel you have to wait to be given, especially women’s jewellery, which is strange in a way as it’s so personal – who knows what you love better than yourself?

Which is why when Thomas Sabo got in touch to ask if I would like to take a look at their jewellery, just as I was sending off the final draft of my debut novel, I had a browse through the ladies rings and chose this crown ring from the Kingdom of Dreams collection:

Thomas Sabo ring View Post

In association with AlchemLife

A very unusual thing happened to me recently.

It was a Wednesday during October, and we’d been up to Bristol to hang out with Bee for the afternoon. When we got home I started to feel IFFY. My sinuses were burning, my head hurt and my throat was scratchy.

‘Brilliant,’ I thought, ‘a cold.’ I looked in my diary to see what I had on for the next couple of weeks, knowing that whatever it was would have to be rescheduled when the inevitable hacking cough took root.

But here’s the unusual thing – it didn’t. No cough. My sinuses burnt for a good few days and I felt generally a bit rough, but still, no cough.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is a very strange occurrence indeed. For my whole life I’ve suffered with horrible coughs that last for weeks and push everyone around me to the point where they want to smother me with a pillow just to stop the coughing. Normally any kind of small cold will immediately burrow down into my chest, but not this time.

It might have something to do with the fact that the day after my sinus cold thing appeared, I had a parcel in the post from AlchemLife. Inside the parcel was a natural food supplement called PhytoRelief-CC.

how to prevent a cold PhytoRelief

View Post

In association with Yale

Since the various product reviews I did for Smart Home Week this year I have been ALL OVER the gadgets. I’m all ‘Alexa, turn my bedroom light pink’ and ‘Alexa, turn my heating up to 22 degrees’. You can be cosy and warm without even having to so much as LEAN.

Smart home technology appeals to my inner lazybones and basically makes my life super easy.

The Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm, part of the range of Yale smart living products, ticks both of these boxes. As well as being disinclined to get up off the sofa unless it’s strictly necessary, I’m decidedly forgetful, and often find myself halfway into town wondering whether or not I’ve remembered to lock the front door/close the windows/put on pants etc.

With a Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm you can check up on yourself, via the Smart Home app, and control your home security wherever you are.

Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm review

Before we start getting into all the cool things it does though, let’s see exactly what you get with your Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm kit. Yes, that’s right! I’ve made an unboxing video! I watched a few beforehand and the main thing seems to be to point the camera right at the thing you’re unboxing and to talk in quite a boring voice. This seemed to come naturally to me, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before this video goes viral: View Post

I was in Starbucks this morning, having managed to drop Belle at college for the second lesson of the day at least, (better than nothing), and on the table next to me were two women talking about their daughters and school. It sounded like they were probably just a bit younger than Belle – probably 14 or 15.

‘I just can’t bear to see her so miserable,’ said one. ‘It’s so horrible, because realistically school is meant to be the best years of your life.’

IS IT??

I can totally feel her pain over having a child who doesn’t thrive at school. As soon as I heard them talking I was there, at 8am on a school day morning, trying to gently encourage a sobbing Belle out of bed. I empathised with her on that, but… on her second point, I had to hope that she wasn’t saying that to her daughter – how dispiriting would that be?

Talk to anyone is my family – my sister, my daughters – and I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that school was far from the best time of their life. Even for me, who took a disproportionate amount of pleasure from a good test mark, school was tolerable at best. I did well, but I didn’t have a lot of friends and my absence rate was high. I was bored to a level I’ve hardly ever experienced since, but trapped too. I was, like most teenagers I’m sure, acutely aware of everything I said and did, turning a beetroot red if anyone said anything at all to me that I hadn’t already planned in my head.

I liked aspects of it, but mainly I just found the whole thing excruciatingly embarrassing. No way would I want to do it again.

Outside of school I spent quite a lot of time imagining all the fun things that other people would be doing, the people who had big groups of friends and went to Bridgwater Lido every day of the summer holidays. I made 3D scale models of my bedroom so that I could experiment with rearranging the furniture and went to bed at 9pm while I was sure everyone else stayed up past midnight watching 18 certificate films.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the cool kids, the ones who really did seem to be having the best years of their life, then had only one way to go – downhill. View Post