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I’m going to subtitle this post ‘how NOT to look like you’d normally pick whatever was on offer at around the £6.99 mark in the supermarket, even though you’re 40 years old and should know better.’

Catchy isn’t it?

The truth is though, that despite having ‘learn more about wine’ on my mental to-do list for about the last 15 years, I haven’t quite gotten around to it. On dates, when faced with the wine list, I find myself smiling at my date coquettishly and saying ‘you choose for me’, as though it’s 1953 and I can’t possibly make a decision on my own, but really it’s just that I have no idea what’s what.

One way around this is to buy your wine online through a company that helps you to choose decent wines and provides you with information about them, so you can drop in impressive sounding key phrases at dinner parties. This option can sometimes feel too pricey though, especially if you don’t drink a lot. Surely there’s a middle ground?

There is.

(You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?)

It’s the Naked Wines ‘Angels’ scheme.

Naked Wines Angels

I was sent 6 bottles of wine to ‘test’ them, (tough job…), but I accidentally drank one bottle before I remembered to take a photo.

The Naked Wines Angels programme is a kind of crowdfunding scheme for wine, designed to benefit you, the buyer, AND the winemakers. It comes from a desire to stop wine producers having margins squeezed endlessly by supermarkets, and to give them the investment they need to produce exclusive, exciting wines. View Post

This week I went to Swindon.

I know, I’m so glam.

I actually went to speak at the Swindon Spring Festival – my first literary engagement since publication day – and it was very exciting because I had a dressing room with my name on, with lights around the mirror, and I stood on a STAGE and showed off with my book.

It was a lot of fun.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton

Image by Fernando Bagué, via Swindon Spring Festival

One of the questions I was asked though, the first question in fact, kind of threw me for a minute.

‘I’m interested to know,’ said Matt, who was hosting the session, ‘why you write?’

Well. That’s a big question isn’t it? View Post

I’m not honestly sure why I added ‘read a Mills and Boon’ to my list of 50 things to do before 50. I guess because I would consider myself a wide reader, and yet here was a massive chunk of writing that I had completely ignored. I may as well admit that it was pure snobbery – I imagined they’d be bad, and I didn’t want to waste my time with them.

I didn’t want to be that person though, dismissing something without even giving it a try, so I did a bit of research, (i.e. spent three minutes Googling ‘best Mills and Boon writers’), and settled on this second hand Regency Christmas trilogy. (I love Christmas.)

Mills and Boon reviews

As you may have deduced from the title, these are historical romances, which I’m imagining basically means a lot less sex that the modern ones. In one of these stories the hero has to marry the heroine simply because he’s caught touching her leg in a medical, if unorthodox, capacity.

I was okay with this though, as I’m not massively into reading erotic fiction. I think it’s REALLY hard, (pun intended), to make sex sound sexy when you’re describing the nuts (again, intended) and bolts of it. I’d much rather something a bit subtler – sexiness implied – and use my imagination. I do think too that there can be just as much erotic charge in a meaningful exchange of looks as in a throbbing member being thrust vigorously anywhere – in real life as well as in writing.

So there I was, Regency Mills and Boon trilogy in hand, ready to be unimpressed. View Post

As you may have noticed, but probably haven’t because, let’s face it, you have more important things to think about, I’ve been pretty quiet on the old blog front over the last few weeks.

It’s because last week – Thursday to be precise – was the paperback launch of my novel, Playgroups and Prosecco. For a month or so beforehand I’d been feeling a bit weird, kind of unmotivated and despondent and like I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with my life. I was spending quite a bit of time imagining myself dying alone, surrounded by cats, and was worrying that I didn’t have a LIFE PLAN.

It turns out that this was just pre-book launch stress, because as soon as that was done, suddenly I didn’t care any more that I didn’t have a 5 year plan or an investment portfolio or anything – it was enough again just to have pretty hanging plants in the garden and nice shaped mugs. (I am quite particular about the shape of my mugs, but I take a lot of pleasure in that, so it’s fine.)

You’d have thought really that the book launch anxiety dreams would have given it away, but I am rubbish as REALISING things, even when they seem obvious. I’m like it every month with my period – ‘oh THAT’S why I wanted to kill somebody yesterday’ – and have even been surprised in the past a couple of times by people telling me they loved me, like I was apparently meant to know we were anything but friends.

Anyway, basically I’m kind of slow on the uptake, and I was worried, but then loads of people turned up to the book launch event and Waterstones sold out and had to dismantle the window display to get more copies, and everything was okay again.

Hooray!

So, I just wanted to say thank you really. Thank you to everyone who came along and made me realise that I probably won’t end up actually getting eaten by my cats after my death, and thank you to everyone who has bought Playgroups and Prosecco or posted pictures of it spotted in supermarkets and bookshops, or said nice things on Amazon. Or any things at all actually, because I don’t expect everyone to think it’s amazing, and I appreciate people just taking a chance on it, and the time to share their thoughts.

Thank you to Mandy and Keiran at Waterstones in Taunton for hosting us and making it such an enjoyable occasion, even though we overwhelmed them slightly with the amount of prosecco we were able to get through in such a short amount of time. Thank you to I Heart Wines for the prosecco, thanks to Ebury for publishing me.

Thanks for coming guys!

(That was basically the full extent of my ‘speech’ in case you were worrying that you’d missed some kind of Olivia Colman style extravaganza.)

Here are some photos so that even if you couldn’t make it, you can imagine me mingling, clutching a glass nervously, trying to look glamorous.

And no, no sponsorship deal with McVities, but believe me it’s not for want of trying.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton View Post

I was gifted these products for the purposes of this post

I seem to spend most of my life vacuuming.

Okay, that’s a lie, I spend most of my life thinking about vacuuming – looking at the cat hair collecting on the carpet, the dust building up on the skirting boards, and thinking ‘God I really should do something about that.’ And then I don’t, because I can’t honestly be bothered to wrestle the vacuum cleaner out from under the pile of shoes in the understairs cupboard and anyway, almost as soon as you do it you stroke a cat and POOF, everything is fluffy again.

What I really need is a series of upright and handheld vacuum cleaners that I can leave strategically around the house, ready to suck up the fluff.

Oh HELLO there new range of Beldray electrical cleaning appliances, now available exclusively at Wilko.

Beldray Quick Vac Lite review

(This is the Quick Vac Cordless Lite and is my favourite because you can arrange the nozzles to make it look like a pet.)

I have VERY generously been given a bundle of THREE Beldray products to give away, worth £95 in total, so I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of them and then you’ll have the chance to win the lot. The range is designed to be easy to use and affordable, so have a read and see what you think. View Post

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In case you’re thinking ‘low alcohol wine – what even IS that and also WHY?’ then stay with me for a second.

I like a glass of wine as much as the next 40 year old single parent who sometimes wonders about the practicalities of dying alone in a house full of cats, but I don’t always get the opportunity to have a drink whenever I want. Belle hasn’t learnt to drive yet – roll on August – and because I’m the only grown up, anytime we go anywhere it means I’m in charge of the car.

I’ve also heard that there are people who actually just don’t ENJOY drinking all the time. It seems unlikely, but apparently it’s true.

Seriously though, I am joking (a bit) because the older I get, the less I seem to be able to tolerate alcohol. What I DO like though is the whole ritual of opening a bottle and pouring a glass of something. Chinking glasses with a friend in a sunny garden, feeling your shoulders drop that little bit. All of that is just NICE isn’t it?

Alcohol free wines though, or drinks claiming to be alternatives, are often a bit disappointing. I’ve tried drinks called things like ‘Chardonnay without the hangover’ and they are really NOT. Some alcohol free beers are okay, others taste like week old sandwiches.

I was interested then to give the new Black Tower Deliciously Light range a try.

Black Tower Deliciously Light review View Post