Amazingly it’s the end of the month again- and so the lovely Nell Peters is here. Today she is reflecting on the speed of time- or is possibly looking for an excuse to complain about Christmas… (Don’t miss exclusive story extract at the very end)
Over to you Nell…
Hello there – doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? And even if you’re not, of course.
It’s once again the last day of the month, and also the OH’s birthday – but I won’t bother wishing him many happies on here, because he doesn’t ‘do’ social media. Probably just as well, as I’d certainly have to mind my Ps and Qs, and a few X, Y and Zs as well. I had a quick look to see who else shares his birthday on 31/8 – there were a dozen or so, but since I’ve never heard of any of them, I won’t bother to list them.
I had heard of a few people who died on this day, though – David Frost, Charles Baudelaire and John Bunyan, to name just three – plus this is the nineteenth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in Paris. I remember it was a Sunday and we’d planned a day at the beach to indulge the OH (I so hate sand!) with the younger two boys. En route, I mentioned the accident to #3 son, who was eight at the time and told him Diana had been killed in a car accident. He then uttered the immortal words, ‘What, Dodo as well?’ Even now, aged twenty-seven and with an enviable job that often requires him to fly around the world, he can be daft as a bog brush. He takes after me, sadly.
We live near Sandringham in Norfolk and in 1997 #3 & 4 sons were pupils at a (now closed) prep school, previously attended by Diana and her younger brother Charles, when they lived on the estate pre-Althorp. The uniforms cost a small fortune – including ghastly cherry-red blazers trimmed with gold, and caps, with duffle coats for winter in the same shade, all of which could probably be easily spotted from outer space. The school was in the grounds of a large house, with classrooms that were basically glorified sheds and freezing cold for the majority of the school year.
The owners – Mrs P, widow of the school founder and her long-in-the-tooth son, neither of whom were qualified teachers – made a big thing about the Diana connection, but rarely mentioned her little brother, if ever. Perhaps he’d been caught doing something unseemly with snails or spiders during his time there – who knows? Or maybe he got his evil revenge on the ancestors of the horrid, smelly dogs that were allowed to roam free and bite pupils – one made quite an impression on the bottom of a certain ex-racing driver’s daughter, I seem to remember. Big trouble – Mrs ex-racing driver is a rather large woman and not someone to mess with (in the unlikely event you are reading this and recognise that description – just kidding!) She went through more nannies during the time I knew her than I had hot dinners.
Mrs P herself was an interesting psychological study – a strange mix of sycophant, narcissist and snob with skyscraper-sized delusions of grandeur, who looked down upon us fee-paying parents, while not being too proud to deposit our hefty cheques at the speed of light. I was on the parents’ committee and when she deigned to attend our meetings, there was a prize for any member who could get her tipsy enough to provide the free cabaret, slagging off unsuspecting parents who had a) not paid their fees on time or b) failed to show due deference to the old dear. And the hair! It was sculpted into a style that hadn’t been in vogue since 1940, with never a strand out of place (courtesy copious amounts of spray of concrete consistency, I suspect) even in the summer, when she drove an ancient sports car around town, top down, scaring other old ladies.
Last month, I made unsubtle reference to my birthday in the middle of July – when the calendar hits there, I always have the sinking feeling that we are past the longest day and so over half-way through the year. However, the summer hols are looming and there should still be many more long hot sunny days ahead (ever the optimist!) 31st August, on the other hand, hails the return to school for the autumn term and that slippery slope into cold weather, accompanied by the commercial gallop toward Christmas. No doubt as soon as the first assembly bell clangs, supermarkets will clear their shelves of non-essentials like food and fill them with Christmas tat. After all, they were advertising their Back to School wares before the children even broke up – and Easter eggs tend to appear as if by magic on 26th December.
Just lately, I’ve seen a lot of cover reveals for other authors’ Christmas novels on social media, plus the occasional post declaring it’s only xxx days to go before it’s time to incinerate the turkey once more. However – bearing in mind I write these ramblings well in advance, so that Jenny can correct my spelling mistakes and strike her red crayon through the bad language before I land upon her illustrious blog – I was genuinely shocked today when someone from ooop north told me that a garden centre in Harrogate is busily constructing their Christmas grotto! He tells me it’s extremely large and so will be a magnificently naff experience – that’s surely the best oxymoron of the week? J This on line conversation sparked comment from someone else, who assured us that Selfridges’ floor dedicated to all things Noel, has been up and running for a while. Seriously? I’ve heard the old adage ‘Shop early for Christmas,’ (no doubt perpetuated by retailers eager to clear their stock at full price, thus negating the possibility of making a loss in the January sales) but there’s early and there’s a flippin sparrow’s fart … And unless you live in the southern hemisphere, there is surely something not quite right about going tinsel shopping clad in scanty clothes, shades and flip-flops, smelling of sun tan lotion?
But, let he who is without sin cast the first rotten tomato. I have to confess I’ve already decided that our Christmas table colour scheme this year will incorporate the rather vulgar sparkly gold candles that someone gave me two or three years ago. I recently found them stashed at the back of a cupboard, whilst grovelling around for something else. Hideous they may be, but waste not, want not – and I do guiltily enjoy tacky every now and again, but don’t tell my mother!
Time I wasn’t here! A telepathic Happy Birthday! to the OH and anyone else who is clocking up yet another year today – and thanks again to Jen for having me!
As you are no doubt sick of hearing, Nell Peters writes crime novels for Accent Press. You can find By Any Other Name and Hostile Witness here:
Other masterpieces lurk, gathering dust, on Amazon KDP – some are even worth a look.
Amazon author page: www.Author.to/NellPeters
Blurb for Hostile Witness
When her husband leaves her and their sons to shack up with a younger model, Callie Ashton thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Already unemployed and struggling to hold everything together, Callie’s life goes into freefall when she stumbles across the murder of a neighbour. The killer soon becomes intent on despatching Callie too, wrongly assuming she can identify him. Despite her new man being the officer in charge of the investigation, Callie’s in great danger – and it soon becomes clear the murderer isn’t too worried whom he kills or maims in his quest to eliminate her. No one is safe and the killer seems to know her every movement. With no resolution in sight, Callie feels she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands…but at what cost to her safety – and sanity?
Opening of Hostile Witness
A military tattoo pounded somewhere behind her eye sockets and her entire body shook involuntarily, despite the heavy blanket wrapped around her shoulders. A mug of sickly sweet tea that had been forced upon her quivered in her grasp, slopping some of its contents onto the tiled floor to pool in a muddy, irregular oval like a Rorschach reject.
Leaning across the table, the tubby policewoman frowned. ‘You know, ma’am, finding a dead body is a terrible shock for anyone – you should drink some of that tea and you’ll feel loads better.’
She really didn’t see how anything could possibly make her feel ‘loads better’, ever again. ‘I’m trying,’ she lied, wishing the constable would waddle off and leave her alone.
Though the whole country was in the grip of a heatwave, she felt icy sweat trickle a course down her spine, seeping into the tight waistband of her jeans and down to her knickers. She was aware her nose was running, but she couldn’t have cared less.
‘Have you contacted Giles – Mr Symonds – yet?’ she asked, ‘He travels a lot and Dee says … said … he always forgets to turn on his phone … and the children – what about the children?’
‘That’s all in hand, ma’am, and someone from Family Liaison has gone to the school to break the news. Sarah and Tom, isn’t it?’
‘Thomas … he’s always called Thomas.’ The PC’s manner was brisk and – to her at least – irritating.
‘Right you are, then – don’t you go worrying about no one else, everything is under control.’
More tears flowed unchecked and she slopped more tea, ‘Poor Giles – he left for work this morning and everything was normal … now his wife is dead. Poor Giles … poor Sarah and Thomas …’ She knew she was rambling, teetering on the verge of losing control – and she just wanted to be left in peace.
The policewoman grabbed a battered box of tissues from the work surface and thrust it towards her, heavy features clenched into an ugly, no-nonsense gargoyle grimace. ‘But it can’t have been normal, can it, ma’am – not if Mrs Symonds was planning to top herself, just as soon as them kids left for school?’
She didn’t like the woman’s attitude, but when she closed her eyes to blot her out, all she could see were the deep gashes in Dee’s white wrists as they bobbed in bloodied water. Her stomach lurched ominously and she was afraid she might be sick again …
Once again, a massive thanks to Nell for such a great blog. I’m still chuckling.