Thursday 25 August 2016


Have I mentioned I've been writing a book for the past couple of years? A few weeks ago I completed it and am now sending it to agents. Fingers crossed, mes amies! George Orwell once said, 'Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.'

When your life is already 'a long bout with some painful illness' writing a book is double trouble. Orwell's words have been of great comfort to me. A raft keeping me sane and self-forgiving. I love when writers share their lived writerly experience - it is so friendly.

For my birthday I decided the friendliest thing I could do for my worn out mind and body would be to book myself into a spa. I chose The Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa. Knowing it would be no Balinese Shangri-La, I kept my expectations low. But it was magnifique. The Spa isn't overtly fancy, and for the first time I truly appreciated how simplicity of form in architecture and design can be beautiful.

Edith Piaf accompanied me through most of my stay. In the steam room, in the lunch bar, she rolled me up in her trills. Songs of the knowing heart.

Lunch was a jungle of rocket, avocado, orange segments and sweet potato. So this is how sweet potato is supposed to be cooked, in petite squares of delicious goodness. Mind you, after a while, chewing rocket and salad leaves can feel never ending. How do cows and horses do it? 

At the hydrotherapy pool I cannot contain my laughter when jets and bubbles nearly whirlpool me across the water. I have no cool at this point. Who cares? I have already embarrassed myself by not being able to open the steam room door (the steam had practically sealed it shut!) or work out how to turn the shower on. It took a long, long time to decipher the knob had to be twisted left not pushed. Sigh... all the while caked in five shades of mud...

It was a busy time with canoodling couples, mothers with their about to be married daughters and best girlfriends taking time for themselves. I didn't feel lonely at all. First because I had spent half my birthday with Mum and our beloved friend Victoria...

And later because I had Albus and Scorpius from the new Harry Potter to accompany me; but at dinner, when dessert arrived with Happy Birthday lettered across the plate, a couple decided I could not be alone on my birthday. They insisted on buying me a glass of Prosecco, and as the night wore on, on listening to some of my poetry. I recited three poems and was thrilled with their response - neither of them are readers, neither of them expected to like, let alone love, poetry. They wanted a birthday poem but I hadn't written one yet, so I recited the poem I wrote last year. Here it is...


Which means my birthday
Which means a beginning 
And an ending.

Months pass between poems
That don't resemble poems

Because there's too much noise 
And poems were always about silence 
On the inside.

These are the days of
Inside, Out.
And noise.

One hundred years have passed
And will a hundred more?

Here I stand.
Here I stand.

And the tide is slipping,
Pulling away from me.

And I will catch up

Tuesday 16 August 2016


So there I was minding my own quiet business in the Shire when I received a call from the diversity casting researcher at Channel 4 - she had been reading my blog and was impressed enough to consider me good TV material! Out of all the subjects I could have imagined this TV documentary to be about, the very last would have been a cooking show. I was so taken aback to be scouted for 'Come Dine With Me' that when she asked if I had a few minutes for a questionnaire, I rolled right with it.
So Shy Star, do you give many dinner parties? Er... no.
If an ingredient went missing would you freak out and be super stressed? Er... no?
Who would be your worst nightmare guest? What quality would you hate in a guest? What's your most annoying quality? What would people say is their first impression of you?

And finally, Shy Star, what will you be cooking for us?
By this point I was sweating, brain fried and hysterically laughing - Er... fusion cuisine, I fronted. With lavish amounts of fruit; avocados would feature. How would I entertain my guests to break the ice? Oh, with cocktails and charades, I said peppily, really going with the spirit of the thing. Knowing that when I put the phone down and soberly discussed the 'opportunity' with my parents my surreal encounter would dissipate.

Strange things have happened to me in my life, but this is high up on the list of strangeness. I coulda been a contender, you guys! A few weeks passed after that first call and then another casting researcher approached me yesterday. This time, head more firmly screwed on, I averred, politely but with alacrity. Talking about books, writing poetry or living with lupus, these I shall happily be on TV for - but whipping up four courses of a meal for four strangers and a film crew - almost famous will do nicely, thank you.

Although I am touched that the first lovely casting researcher visited my blog, took the trouble to read me and thought me admirable, I will always much rather be cooked for than cook for - a shame I am learning to take on the chin. My apologies to all my friends, and particularly my cousin Imran, who is still awaiting a dinner invite...

Photos courtesy C.Barrere