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“The Savoy Or Your Girlfriend…”

Continuing her series of celebrity chef interviews, Caroline James talks to Michael Moore about what influenced him to succeed as a chef, ...

Bookshelf Reviews

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Internationally-acclaimed Author, R.J. Ellory, on Perseverance and Persistence

I recently attended the Birmingham City University Creative Summer Show, and the launch of the Uni...

People with a passion!


Talking about tarot …

Today I’m talking to author, and tarot reader, Rosemary Louise Gallagher Before I ask Rosemary about her background and to explain why peo...

In Search of a Happy Ending


How can I recharge my sex life?

Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about seven years and our sex life is pretty much gone. Although there is no excuse for it, I h...

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones ~ Film Review

If you are a Liam Neeson fan (and, let’s face it, there aren’t many filmgoers who aren’t), you will see this film whatever the reviews say...

A Walk Among the Tombstones ~ Film Review

Title Films

If you are a Liam Neeson fan (and, let’s face it, there aren’t many filmgoers who aren’t), you will see this film whatever the reviews say. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Neeson’s since watching his heartfelt performance in the deeply affecting film, Schindler’s List, and have seen all of his films since.

Post-Taken, Neeson has fallen into the role of ordinary man turned action hero, satisfyingly delivering what the audience expects. Unlike Taken, A Walk Among the Tombstones is more a slow-burn thriller, but no less chilling and powerful for it. The subject matter is predictable, the imagery deeply disturbing, yet morbidly fascinating and, I have to say, skilfully developed, compelling the audience to connect powerfully emotionally with the first victim and thereby the other women kidnapped. The skill is in evoking the precise tortures inflicted on these women without actually showing it, thankfully. It gets my vote for that.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson plays cop, turned PI, Matthew Scudder (from the Lawrence Block crime novels). In 1991, he’s a walking cliché, a cop with a drinking problem, on the take, who gets a wake-up call when a shootout goes wrong. He’s hailed a hero, but a consequence of that shootout has left him with ghosts (a nice touch is that we don’t get to see all of his ghosts until the end). Fast forward to 1999 and he’s freelance, an emotionally damaged, unlicensed Private Investigator with a conscience, choosing his jobs and working for favours, rather than a paycheque. The NYC setting is dark, sombre, and sets the mood well. Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin (played by Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey) to find the kidnappers who murdered his wife, delivering her gruesomely to him, despite his paying the agreed/negotiated ransom. There will be too many spoilers if I go into detail, but he pays for his drugs by the kilo. Apparently, so he should have paid for his wife.

A traditional ‘cop’, lots of legwork, Scudder hasn’t embraced new technology, eschewing the PC for microfiche, he goes to the library where he meets his unlikely sidekick, TJ, a homeless and Internet savvy teenager. TJ is smart, knows his detective novels, and soon becomes a wannabe PI. Determined to get to grips with practical private investigating, TJ is in the way and, inevitably, invaluable, linking murders via the Internet it might have taken Scudder a while to do using microfiche.

There is lots of telephone action (a la Taken, and something Neeson does only as Neeson can, negotiating with the kidnapper coolly, quietly, and menacingly determinedly).

As mentioned, the plot is somewhat predictable, littered with cliché’s (some of which are played with nicely); familiar. And that, together with the persona Neeson brings to the character, makes it a satisfying, chillingly entertaining, film.


Scott Frank


(Screenplay) Scott Frank

(Novel) Lawrence Block


Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Astro


Crime, Drama, Mystery




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Talking about tarot …

Today I’m talking to author, and tarot reader,

Rosemary Louise Gallagher

Before I ask Rosemary about her background and to explain why people seek out tarot readings, we are offering you an exciting opportunity to ask Rosemary a question to which YOU are seeking an answer. In a forthcoming feature Rosemary will select a few of the questions put forward and will be seeking the answers in the tarot cards. Details of how to apply are at the foot of this article.

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When did your interest in the psychic world begin?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia and spent most of my life there until the year 2000 when I decided that it was time for a change.  I was turning 40 and I was still single - something had to change and fast. So I took advantage of my Irish heritage and got myself an Irish passport and moved to London to see what the other side of the world was offering.  It was a big decision at the time but one I certainly don’t regret.  As much as I love Australia; and I am extremely proud to be an Australian, I always felt like there was somewhere else I was meant to be. And I guess that place was London.  I’ve been living happily here now for the past 14 years.

I’ve always held a strong interest in the metaphysical; especially the tarot cards and I have a strong connection with the angelic realm.  After settling into my new life in London I began formal tarot studies at the Psychic College of London.  I have been reading the tarot professionally ever since. Recently I appeared on an episode of ‘Made in Chelsea’ reading tarot for the girls, which was a great experience.

For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with this topic, why do people seek out a tarot reading?

The Tarot is a device which can help us in all areas of our daily life. Sometimes we need a little bit of clarity, guidance or reassurance that we are on the right path and headed in the right direction. Perhaps we are unsure of our current circumstances, are we in the right job, or the right relationship? Or maybe we just need a little bit of hope and faith that all will be OK! The Tarot will not only offer an alternative view and a new perspective on our lives, but will also help us to see the whole picture.

My tarot readings are a little bit different as I read the tarot in pairs. As an example I combine a major card with a minor and I find this method gives a far more accurate and detailed interpretation in the area we are dealing with. To illustrate, the Magician paired with the Ace of Pentacles tells me that by putting your ideas into action and making use of your potential (the magician) there could be a successful new financial opportunity coming up (ace of pentacles). Also, my tarot readings are completed with a complementary angel card spread. Not only is this a lovely way to end the reading; but I find that the angel cards always confirm the tarot reading just given. As a result, you are able to leave with the wonderful warm feeling that comes when we know that the angels loving protection and guidance are with us.

Heart wings

Cover only for webYou also have another passion …

Yes, my passion for writing only began a few years ago, and to be honest I had never written before. I Listened to My Heart is fictional although inspired by a real life experience.

I used to float along in life, happy, content – I didn’t give my life purpose much thought.  However, the universe had other plans and that changed the day my path crossed with the man I believe to be my twin soul mate. This encounter has changed my life forever. And for the better I must say.

For the first couple of years I didn’t even know he was my twin soul mate; I had never even heard of the word until a medium I visited told me about it. I had already started on my spiritual path but after I met my twin my spiritual journey escalated. I’d learnt how to read the tarot & angel cards, and I was having fun with it; even making a little money. My connection with my guardian angel which had always been strong got even stronger.

I hadn’t had much luck in love and had never really been in love before. Of course, I had had my share of fun over the years and a few major infatuations – but nothing compared to the feelings I had for this man. At first, I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did, this certainty and knowingness that came from so deep within my soul. He was on my mind 24/7. I was consumed by him. There were many times I thought I was losing it, because apart from our first date my twin was doing nothing to encourage me. In fact he was pushing me away. Although I knew he had strong feelings for me and that was what was so frustrating. I was driving myself and everyone around me crazy. I had to find an outlet to express my feelings as the angst and frustration of not being with him was taking its toll.

My sister was the one who suggested that I should write down my feelings, as it might help me. I wasn’t very good at writing but then I thought… what the hell no one was going to see it (little did I know…) So I channelled my energy to the keyboard and started writing down my story of meeting my twin – the words just poured out of me. I started to think it could even be turned into a good little novel. Then I started to receive messages from my angels telling me to write this book… “You have to write this book,” was what I kept hearing. I didn’t know why they were continually telling me to do this as I was NOT a writer. Well my angels knew better – as they always do. So with the help of an editor I ended up writing my own story and I discovered that I did have a talent…a creative one. It didn’t stop there. I started to write lyrics to love songs (mostly about my twin of course) and have written over 50 songs, many have received high acknowledgement in various worldwide competitions; one has even been selected for consideration for a top country artist which I “coincidently” wrote about in my book. A couple of other “surprising occurrences” have happened since I have written the book. I am hoping I have written my own reality!   I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches to the sequel MAKTUB: It is Written, which should be out in the coming months.

I lost myself for a while in my twin, but through losing myself… I also found myself. My twin has given me the greatest gift of all: ME. And maybe that was one of the reasons he came into my life – to help me to find my life’s purpose and become the woman I am today. If so, he has done his job, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Even though my twin and I are still not together physically, he is forever with me on a soul level and I look forward to the day when we will meet again. I know he is on his way…my angels told me so!

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HOW TO ENTER YOUR QUESTION: If you have a question you would like Rosemary to endeavour to find an answer for in the tarot cards, please email and look out for this forthcoming feature!


Follow Rosemary and visit her website for more information and details about the range of services she offers:
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Real life, neatly wrapped up in lovingly-penned layers of fiction … Sweet Occasions

SO LBH medFoR nomineeThe cover is fun and the idea of a bakery, with all those cupcakes and speciality cakes, might make Sweet Occasions seem like a cookie cutter tale … but the idea that sparked it was a real-life story.  Okay, it’s neatly wrapped up in lovingly-penned layers of fiction like a mille-feuille, because that’s what a writer does. But what intrigued me was how was I going to write the story of a relationship that forms over a long period of time, where the parties involved rarely cross paths?

The real-life situation occurred over a couple of years.

Two people living many miles apart and with lives that were so different, there was no crossover – and yet a handful of encounters brought them together. There was an undercurrent of shared sympathy and empathy, from which a friendship began to grow. Why? Because we rarely get to see the parts of people’s lives that they choose not to share, but can often recognise that hidden pain. Especially if we are going through something similar. I use the word ‘choose’ lightly: sometimes something hurts too much to admit it to anyone. We fear what people will think of us and once they know, will we see pity in their eyes next time we glance at them? Look at Facebook, for example. People, on the whole, prefer to share mainly the good news. But we all need someone who will listen when everything buried deep inside threatens to well up and spill out. Baring your soul to a stranger, someone who has no reason to judge you, and whom you may never see again, feels … safe.

Happy casual manIt’s a different sort of relationship – one without the usual constraints and the title of this novel really reflects the shared moments between Katie and Adam (right), for they were in fact ‘sweet occasions’. A series of conversations spanning two Christmases and three birthdays, that were special.

What happens? Love, heartache, new beginnings, misunderstandings, deceit, selflessness, selfishness – basically every emotion you can think of is reflected between the covers of this book. It’s called life. Being in a relationship means taking it one day at a time and facing up to the problems as they arise. Well, that’s the theory, but in practice it’s often easier to get through each day and hope that time will offer up a solution, or that the problem will go away. That rarely happens and it’s a lack of communication that usually opens up the gap that will, eventually, split a couple apart.

Katie knows she’s choosing to ignore some weighty problems, but in her case the reasoning for this runs deep. She’s not merely choosing to take the easy way out and turn a blind eye, there’s guilt and history attached to it.

In Adam’s case it’s living with the aftermath of a disastrous split, trying to be a mum and a dad to his daughter when she’s with him, and the fear of losing his main support, a beloved grandmother.

One thing we all have in common, no matter what our problems – that desire to have a happy ending. To battle through the tough times and turn our lives around. They do say every cloud has a silver lining – Sweet Occasions is really all about the search …Katie about Steve

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Internationally-acclaimed Author, R.J. Ellory, on Perseverance and Persistence

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Sheryl BrowneI recently attended the Birmingham City University Creative Summer Show, and the launch of the University’s new Anthology, I am therefore I write, in which I’m proud to say one of my own shorts features. The audience was treated to readings from fellow students and lecturers, but I think all would agree that the guest speaker, R.J. Ellory, stole the show. His speech, peppered with a witty, wry humour all writers will relate to, was truly inspirational. It delivered a sobering dollop of truth, but left me, for one, reminded why I put myself through the angst that is writing: simply, it’s because writing is what I do.

I cheekily asked Roger afterwards whether he would mind me stealing some of his speech to share. He gave me the whole speech, which – with his permission – I am reproducing here. It really is worth reading, especially if you’re having a ‘moment’, as writers do. For those who might not be familiar with his work, R.J. Ellory is the award-winning author of over twelve internationally-acclaimed novels, including A Quiet Belief in Angels, A Simple Act of Violence, Saints of New York and Carnival of Shadows. Please find a link to his website below.

For information, I’m sure Roger won’t mind me repeating that he had many a dark year, wondering ‘why’, before he was published. His truly is a story of triumph over despair. Mind you, it helps that he writes beautifully.

Herewith, R.J. Ellory’s Words of Wisdom, taken from his speech at the 2014 Birmingham City University Summer Show:


RJ Ellory Image“A writer’s life is often considered to be a life of ease. Apparently there was a survey last year of the British public, and following on from ‘professional footballer’ as the most favoured profession, writer came second. I think somewhere there must be a viewpoint that a writer rises late (he would have to following the quantity of alcohol consumed at last night’s lavish launch party, surrounded by adoring fellow celebrities, the red carpet rolled out, assistants and attendants on hand to cater to every whim), and while fielding telephone calls from Hollywood producers vying for movie rights, both Alan Yentob and Melvyn Bragg offering ever-increasing quantities of money to feature in a prime-time documentary, our writer would breakfast on lightly-poached quails’ eggs served atop scallops, a side order of refreshing sweetcorn puree, and then retire to the balcony to smoke a packet of Lucky Strikes, down three cups of Blue Mountain hand-ground coffee, and finally – no earlier than eleven o’ clock – he would move to the study. Here, reclining in a deep leather armchair, he would be struck with moments of effortlessly brilliant inspiration, leaning forward only to type a handful of words on his battered Underwood or Remington. An hour’s work, perhaps an hour and a half, God forbid, and he would retire to the club for an afternoon of witty repartee and fine cigars with the likes of Sebastian Faulks and Ian McEwan.

Sorry to have to let you down, but a writer’s life is not quite this way.

Of course, once you attain that lofty position of having been published at all, it then becomes a full-time job to stay there. Writing is a competitive business, to say the least. Apparently only two per cent of books published are bestsellers. Over eighty per cent of books published in the UK sell less than five hundred copies. The average working writer in the UK draws a salary from his writing of less than seven thousand pounds a year. This, my friends, is not the level of independent income that will provide scallops and quails’ eggs for breakfast.

I am one of those rare individuals who believes that a book is not an individual accomplishment. True, the idea and its initial execution may be considered the creation of one person, but in the grand scheme of things your average scribbler is relatively low on the food chain.

  • Telling stories is as old as speech, and no less important.
  • Telling stories is a tradition, a heritage, a legacy…it is the past making its way toward the future in an effort to show us those things we have failed to learn by our own experience.
  • Telling stories is a hope that magic can be restored to an age that has almost forgotten.

I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to be a writer. As Russell Baker was so fond of saying, “The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.” As I now know, this is blatantly untrue. Though writing might not be considered in the same league as digging ditches or painting bridges, it is nevertheless a job of work. It is not something that is necessarily gifted to you at conception. Hemingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way,” but that was merely his sense of humour.

Paul Auster said that becoming a writer was not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accepted the fact that you were not fit for anything else, you had to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days, and I concur with his attitude.

A bad book is as much a labour of love as a good one, Huxley said. Steinbeck added that “The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business”. Dorothy Parker said that the writer’s way was tough and lonely, and who would choose it while there are vacancies in more gracious professions, such as, say ferryboat cleaning? And one author, when told that she could be the next Dorothy Parker, replied ‘What? Keep slashing my wrists and drinking shoe polish?’

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Such testaments to the craft pose the question – Do you really want to be a writer – and if so, why? From the simple truth that Agatha Christie has given more pleasure in bed than any other woman, to the fact that novelists have predetermined entire shifts in social awareness, we cannot escape from the simple truth that literature plays an inescapably vital part in everything that we do, and everything we are.

Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘The Jungle’, when read by Theodore Roosevelt, provoked a government-ordered enquiry into the way Americans were being fed. Sinclair used the proceeds of the book to build a socialist meeting house, and went on to write another one hundred books about industrial corruption. Edith Maude Eaton’s ‘Mrs. Spring Fragrance’ highlighted issues about racism against the Chinese in America that caused the Chinese Exclusion Act to be repealed in 1943.Conrad’s ‘The Secret Agent’ was the first acknowledged publication about the truths of terrorism. Mignon McLaughlin said, ‘Everyone can write. But writers can’t do anything else.’

Fiction is powerful, provocative, contentious, impactful, unforgettable, and even when read for pleasure alone, there are few books that do not – even in some small way – change the perspective of the reader.

And once our work is done, once we have committed however many hundreds of hours to our magnum opus, we show it to the world. This book is our child, our offspring, and though we know that people will feel obligated to be polite – I mean, after all, who is proudly presented with a newborn baby, and feels it appropriate to comment on the child’s inordinately large ears, his complete absence of a chin, and features that appear to be arguing as to who should be in the centre? – we nevertheless are wary of what others really think. Constructive criticism from our friends and acquaintances is perhaps the least constructive criticism of all.

And then there are the professional critics. We all contend with critics, of course, regardless of our occupation. Critics of our standard of work, our timekeeping, our levels of responsibility and initiative, our ability to relate to colleagues and members of the public, the service we provide in our particular line of work. Criticism seems to require no qualifications, save the unreserved confidence to tell other people what’s wrong. As Christopher Hampton so famously said, “Ask a working writer what he thinks about critics…you may as well ask a lamppost how it feels about dogs.”

As Wendell Holmes commented, “What a blessed thing it is that nature, when she invented, manufactured and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left!” To which Jean Kerr added, “When confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumour that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence? Do his participles dangle? When moved to lyricism does he write “I had a fun time”? Was he ever arrested for burglary? It is true that no statue has ever been erected to a critic.

An author is perhaps the very last person who should judge the value or quality of his own work. All we can do is evaluate our own motives for what we do. Some of us, I imagine, write out of anger; some out of pain; some write out of prejudice or loss, some out of passion, the promise of something better, perhaps the belief that – even now – a book can be capable of changing a life.

Some of us write to remember, some to forget; some to change things, some to ensure things stay the same. Some of us – as my editor and agent will all too easily testify – write because we cannot stop.

What an author can do, however, is evaluate the commitment and dedication of those with whom he works, and in this case those with whom I work happens to be readers.

Renard said that “Writing is the only profession where no-one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.” Moliere said that first we write for ourselves, then we write for our friends, and lastly we write for money. I am still writing for myself, and believe I always will be. And the thing that drives me forward, the thing that reminds me of why I do this, and how important it is, is the constant validation and acknowledgement that comes my way from those I am involved with who believe as passionately as I do that this is something worth doing.

A great philosopher once said that a culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists. Well, to make a dream accessible, to give it a reality that can be appreciated and enjoyed by others, it is necessary to provide the platform for those creations – the theatre, the bookstore, the gallery, the library. Without such things the dream remains precisely what it is, and nothing more. Intangible, insubstantial, inaccessible. And it is the readers, the gallery and theatre-goers, those that recognize that art and culture and aesthetics are really the only true criteria against which quality of life is evaluated, that make such a job as mine a reality.

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can’t help it. And – to quote Terry Pratchett – there is no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.

What there is, is a slim avenue along which we walk, and as we walk we tell our stories, and sometimes those stories are heard, but often they are not. The simple fact that people read those stories enables individuals such as myself to continue telling them, and for this I am indebted.

As a final word, regardless of your work, your vocation, your families and friends…you must always find time to read. And when you have read one book, read another, and yet another. It keeps people like me off the streets, of course, but – more importantly… Well, perhaps such a viewpoint is best expressed by the four words found above the doorway at the Library of Thebes: Medicine For The Soul.”


I’m currently reading The Devil and The River. I’m sharing the first few paragraphs here. I defy you not to be sucked and want to read more:

The Devil and the River 1


Wednesday, July 24, 1974


When the rains came, they found the girl’s face. Just her face. At least that was how it appeared. And then came her hand— small and white and fine like porcelain. It surfaced from the black mud and showed itself. Just her face and her hand, the rest of her still submerged. To look down toward the riverbank and see just her hand and her face was surreal and disturbing. And John Gaines— who had lately, and by providence or default, come to the position of sheriff of Whytesburg, Breed County, Mississippi, and before that had come alive from the nine circles of hell that was the war in Vietnam, who was himself born in Lafayette, a Louisianan from the start— crouched on his haunches and surveyed the scene with a quiet mind and a steady eye.

The discovery had been called in by a passerby, and Gaines’s deputy, Richard Hagen, had driven down there and radioed the Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, Barbara Jacobs, and she had called Gaines and told him all that was known.

A girl’s face has surfaced from the riverbank.

When Gaines arrived, Hagen was still gasping awkwardly, swallowing two or three mouthfuls of air at a time. He bore the distressed and pallid hue of a dying man, though he was not dying, merely in shock. Hagen had not been to war; he was not inured to such things as this, and thus such things were alien and anathema to his sensibilities. The town of Whytesburg—seated awkwardly in the triangle between the Hattiesburg-intent I-59, and the I-18, itself all fired up to reach Mobile— was a modest town with modest ways , the sort of place they rolled up the sidewalk at sunset, where such things as these did not occur too frequently, which was a good thing for all concerned.

But Gaines had been to war. He had seen the nine circles. And sometimes, listening to the small complaints of smaller minds—the vandalized mailbox, the illegally parked car, the spilled trash can—Gaines would imagine himself walking the complainant through a burned-out ville. Here, he would say, is a dead child in the arms of her dead mother, the pair of them fused together for eternity by heat and napalm . And here is a young man with half a face and no eyes at all. Can you imagine the last thing he might have seen? And the complainant would be silent and would then look at Gaines with eyes wide, with lips parted, with sweat-varnished skin, both breathless and without words. Now, Gaines would say to them, now let us speak of these small and inconsequential things.

Ellory, R.J. The Devil and the River. Orion.

As if being an award-winning author of internationally-acclaimed novels isn’t talented enough, working on the “matters of perseverance and persistence being required in all artistic endeavours” philosophy, aside from writing Roger is also a member of a band playing classic British rock, Zero Navigator. Zero Navigator hails from Birmingham, England. Founded in 2013, this three-piece features Simon Chisholm on drums and vocals, Chris Malin on bass and vocals and R J Ellory on guitar and vocals. Wow! If you haven’t heard them and you love rock, you should. Take a look at the single release video here:

For info, Martin Smith (bass player of ELO) was the engineer and producer of the album from whence the Zero Navigator single came, and Roger has just co-written an album with Martin which he will start recording in the first week of September, under the name The Whiskey Poets. This is something Roger has always wanted to do, and now, approaching fifty, he’s adopted that classic Eleanor Roosevelt attitude, ‘It’s never too late to become what you might have been’.

I’m with Roger. Life is short. Let’s live it!

Find out more about R.J. Ellory here:


Find out more about Zero Navigator here: Zero Navigator


Aimed at emerging writers, the MA is taught by distinguished authors and practitioners, offering specialist modules in Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Screenwriting, Poetry and Scripting and Staging. Find out more about the Birmingham City University MA in Writing here: Birmingham City University

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Muggles to Master Builders – a mum’s guide!

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Let me introduce myself! I’m Mandy Baggot and by morning I am a romantic fiction author. By afternoon/evening/school holidays I am a mum of two energetic girls aged 7 and 9.


Having been camping, to the cinema, and had endless BBQs, it was time for the ultimate weekend away as the school holidays drew to a close. Let me present a mum’s guide to:

Legoland, Windsor,


The Making of Harry Potter!







This was the first time we’d been to this adventure park and I have to say the prices are steep at £46.80 per adult and £41.40 per child, but there are discounts if you book ahead online. Loving a bargain, I had saved a ½ price family ticket voucher from a long-since-eaten McDonalds Happy Meal! Happy Days!


There are rides for all ages and nothing too big and scary rollercoaster-wise. Both the girls were tall enough to go on most rides unaccompanied but why should they have all the fun? Mr Big and I went on everything too.

The queues for rides built up during the day but we tried to choose wisely and, apart from ducking out of one queue because it was taking so long, we didn’t wait more than 30 minutes for popular rides and less for others.


Squid Surfers, Raft Racers and Laser Raiders.


Take a picnic and save time by eating while you are queuing.

Stay late and make the most of the quieter times.

Watch a 4D movie and the live action stunt shows as well as going on rides.

Be prepared to get wet!



The Making of Harry Potter


This was our second visit to the Harry Potter Tour in Leavesden, near Watford. It’s a complete must for Harry Potter fans with props, sets and everything you can imagine from the films.




At £93 for a family of four, tickets must be booked in advance. I would say this is great value as, although you have an allotted entry time, there is no restriction on how long you stay. This time we were there for six hours.



Climb aboard the Knight Bus, play Wizard chess, visit Harry’s cupboard, his home and see a Mandrake come to life!



Riding broomsticks, and the enchanted Weasley car, entering the Great Hall, and feeling like a first year student at Hogwarts and walking through Diagon Alley.



Take photos of the back of the Great Hall when the crowds have moved on through.

Visit the gift shop before and after your visit – there’s so much to see!

Make sure your camera/phone is fully charged with lots of space. You won’t be able to stop snapping photos!

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Visit her website at

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How can I recharge my sex life?

Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about seven years and our sex life is pretty much gone. Although there is no excuse for it, I had an affair with someone else who I considered leaving him for. Anyway, I ended that affair when I realized that sex isn’t everything and that my boyfriend is so good to me in every other way. He’s been under a lot of stress for the past year, and I know this has a lot to do with it. I know that he feels terrible about this too, but he does not know how to approach the situation. The last time that I initiated sex, we were both so nervous that it didn’t work out, and it’s making me scared about trying again. I don’t know what to do. I love him very much, but lately I’ve been sexually fantasizing about other men a lot and I want to stop. I’m trying to hold on, but what do you think I should do? Is it possible to recharge my sex life?


A. Since it’s clear that you love him and want to make things work out between you, I say hold on tighter. This could be a temporary situation that could reverse itself with a few positive changes. I don’t know what is causing his stress, but he needs to address whatever problems he’s facing and try to correct them. If he can’t, he needs to learn how to deal more effectively with the stress they are causing. A good therapist can find ways to help him put things in perspective, feel stronger, and take control of his life again. A medical doctor may subscribe some medications that can help him temporarily. There are also many books that deal with all sorts of specific issues, as well as general stress management. For your part, let him know how much you miss the sex life you’ve shared with him. Tell him that since you love him so much, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to recapture it and you hope that he is, too. As hard as it is to stop fantasizing about sex when you are feeling extremely starved for it, try focusing your efforts on fixing the problem between you. (Or if you do fantasize, make it about him). Offer him understanding, patience and little tokens of affection. Give him assistance with things that may reduce his stress load or take the edge off of it. If he’s a good man who’s been a loving partner, he deserves that much. However, if you find after a prolonged period of time that nothing has changed because his efforts have been lacking, then it’s up to you to decide what is best for you in the long run. I think we’d all agree that life is way too long to resign yourself to a celibate existence. But if you decide to pursue other sexual options, do it the healthy way this time: break up with him first.


Read more advice from Bonnie HERE

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Bookshelf Reviews – with Jackie Jackson

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Today Jackie Jackson aka The Book Maven is standing in for editor Janice Horton while she’s away writing on her island retreat! Welcome Jackie and thank you for stepping into the Bookshelf Editor’s chair

Lovely to be here! First I have a very special interview with

author, Tara Sivec.

Hello, Tara, welcome to the LLm Bookshelf. Where do you get your inspiration for your books and characters?

My inspiration comes from so many different places that it’s sometimes hard to shut down my brain! So many things can be the basis for a new story idea like music, real life events, etc.  A lot of my ideas come from dreams. I make sure to keep the notepad app on my iPad open and next to my bed at all times!


?????Seventeen years old when he broke my heart.Tara
Seventeen days later when another picked up the pieces.
Seventeen years together.
Seventeen thousand problems.
Seventeen days of reliving my past and finding a new future.
Seventeen minutes until it all went up in flames.
Seventeen breaths until I took my last.
This is my story…and it’s going to burn.

Book 2 in the Ignite series – Branded is expected to release in September 2014


Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when they all three of them become adults and move out.

After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. She is the author of the Playing with Fire series and the Chocolate Lovers series. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book.

In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all of the baking she’ll do and naps she’ll take when she ever gets spare time.

Tara also writes under the pen name T.E. Sivec.

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And now for my reviews:


TQG cover medThe Quintessential Gemini by Linn B Halton - Genre: Contemporary Romance

For twenty-one years, the focus of Katherine Dale’s life has been her work. Love interests and hobbies came and went, but what has always been there for her was her nine-to-five habit. Until she’s replaced. With her confidence dented, Katherine is angry at life and at herself. She’s ignored hints of “changes to come” in her horoscope forecasts, written by the wonderful and renowned astrologer, Mark Ainsley-Thomas. Mark is now an “A” list celebrity in the UK and his new Agent is determined to raise his profile in America, so he has to take on the new, but talented, astrologer James Kingman to help him run his website. Katherine lives her life according to her daily horoscope. When Katherine finds James has been writing her daily horoscopes rather than Mark, Katherine’s life explodes in confusion and, unexpectedly, love as the three lives become inextricably tangled. Now Katherine has to learn that the stars might be telling her that love is going to feature in her life, but when Katherine finds herself implicated in the headlines ‘Mystic Love Triangle Surprise’ she’s just as surprised as everyone else None of the men in her life are love interests – so what exactly does fate have in store

My Review: “When Katherine Dale’s life is turned upside down by losing her job she immediately consults her horoscope to help give her an idea of what do.  It is at the same time that Mark Ainsley-Thomas, world renowned astrologer, takes on some help with the daily horoscopes due to his new intense schedule.  When James Kingman takes over the daily horoscopes for Mark he doesn’t realize that criticism that will come with it.  When Katherine notices her horoscopes start not making as much sense she decides to email Mark and soon discovers the reason her horoscopes are different is because now James is writing them.  What Katherine and James don’t realize at first is they have already met and didn’t really like each other.  As James and Katherine communicate they find they like each other.  While James and Katherine’s relationship is growing, Mark soon comes into Katherine’s life and with a meddlesome reporter twisting every little thing the three are thrust into a scandal that will reach across the sea into America.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was fun and very clever.  I thought it was very interesting bringing in the astrology portion of the story.  Personally, I enjoy astrology and found its presence in this book interesting.  The three characters were very well written.  I liked how each chapter had a characters point of view.  Katherine and James had a very naturally developed love story that just grew.  The addition of Mark was important for the story to move forward and his insight into both characters was great. Overall, I really enjoyed this unique story told in only a way Linn can do it.  This was definitely a breath of fresh air with many of the cookie cutter love stories out there.  I can’t wait to read what Linn comes out with next.


Bagpipes and BullshotBagpipes and Bullshot by Janice Horton - Genre:  Romantic Comedy

A contemporary tale told with timeless Scottish romanticism and a knowing sense of humour. Bagpipes and Bullshot twists an everyday love story with a whole cast of village eccentrics into an entertaining play on rural life.

My Review:  “Oley first meets Innes when Innes plays the bagpipes at her mother’s wedding.  After a few dates they have grown to really care for each other.  But, Innes must go back to Scotland.  Not ready to let Oley go he asks her to be his cattle manager and come to Scotland with him.  Oley’s first instinct is to say no but after some thought about what she needs and wants she agrees.  When Oley arrives to Scotland she wasn’t expecting what she saw.  Innes is a Laird and lives in a large home.  As Oley spends more time with Innes and his Scottish estate she begins to fall hard for both.  But, there are things conspiring against them to thwart their happiness.  It gets so rough that Oley almost loses everything.  Can Innes and Oley fight against those who wish them harm or will their love crumble like the buildings on Innes’ estate?

I loved this book.  Its both entertaining and addicting.  Innes and Oley’s love story is so sweet and natural.  What woman wouldn’t want a Scottish Laird to come sweep them off their feet?  It was fun to see the opposites attract work in their favor.  With Oley and her work and Innes and his they should want completely different people but in reality they are perfect for one another.  The story takes you from Texas to Scotland and that in itself is a fantastic aspect to the story.  I also love the element of intrigue that is within the story.  The factors fighting Innes and Oley’s being together add a wonderful roller coaster ride.  Overall, this was a fantastic read that I fell in love with.  Anyone who likes a good love story with a few hurdles will adore this story.


How Do You Voodoo CoverHow Do You Voodoo? by Janice Horton - Genre: Romance

Loveless fashion model Nola Nichols thinks being beautiful is a curse; that is until she is cursed and her looks begin to fade just a week before the most important photo shoot of her career. In her attempts to get uncursed she finds herself taking part in a rather unconventional funeral, involved in a voodoo ritual, reveals one or two unrests in her own past and falls madly in love with a doctor. Erm, that would be a witch doctor, right…?

My Review: “The beautiful but selfish and self-centered Nola is returning from her getaway to the Caribbean.  Now that Nola was on her way back to the UK and  looking forward to a big photo shoot all she wants to do is rest on the plane.  But, all of that is thwarted when a woman is brought into the cabin where she is and begins making a lot of noise.  Nola being the diva that she is, is angered by this disruption.  She is rude to the hysterical woman and to the flight crew.  While Nola is busy demanding things, the woman begins placing a voodoo curse on Nola.  At the time Nola doesn’t believe that could be what the woman was doing.  But, when her precious looks seem to be gone almost overnight, then she believes.  She makes an attempt to beg the woman to lift the curse.  When she finds out what happened to the woman, she thinks all hope is lost.  That is until she finds the woman’s son.  With her son she must help him so that he will help her, but in doing so will the curse be lifted or will she be forced to leave the career and life she has lived for so long?

Though this was only a novella, this story was as good as some of the full length novels I have read.  The story was wonderfully told and the characters did a great amount of developing in a short number of pages.  I really enjoyed Nola’s transition and the value she finally found in being judged by who she was instead of what she looked like.  I think this story was a great example of the kind of storyteller Janice Horton is.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy and one of her full-length novels.  I know that I will enjoy those as much as I did How Do You Voodoo.


Shannon's Law and Cop's KitchenShannon’s Law by Emma Calin - Genre: Romantic Suspense

Wild child inner city cop Shannon Aguerri walks a dangerous line between her methods and justice. When the bosses lose their nerve, she is transferred to green pastures to play out the role of a routine village cop. In Fleetworth-Green she encounters signs of people and drug trafficking and homes in on serious millionaire criminals.

As a loner she has attracted men but nothing has stuck. When she meets Spencer, the hunky and widowed Earl of Bloxington, there is an immediate rapport between them. Their social differences mean nothing to their passion and need. Already in the mix is an upper class female rival who has long plotted her way into the Earl’s bed. The jealousy is an evil shade of green and the anger is a violent scarlet.

Often inhibited by a sense of duty and honour, Spencer is slow to reveal his feelings. When Shannon confronts him with the need to choose between her word and that of her rival, he does not immediately support her.

All the same, when they are forced together to carry out a desperate rescue mission, their love is stronger than everything ranged against them.

My Review:“Shannon Aguerri is sent to the small village outside of London.  On her first day she catches the Earl’s son and some of his friends drinking and riding a scooter she suspects doesn’t belong to them.  Shannon takes the Earl’s son back to the manor and meets the very handsome and eligible Earl.  Shannon immediately finds herself attracted to the overalls-wearing Earl named Spencer.  But,  Spencer has a complex relationship with his deceased wife’s friend.  While Shannon continues to police the small village she begins to discover that the village is hiding an underworld kind of crime that you’d find in the city.  Along with her investigation into the crime she and Spencer’s relationship develops quickly and before they both know it, the new police woman has fallen for the widowed Earl.  But, when things move quickly obstacles and trust aren’t always solved at the same time as love develops.  When Shannon’s job and her relationship intersect in an unfriendly way, they must learn to work together or to let each other go.

I really enjoyed this novel.  Shannon is feisty and has an answer for everything.  Spencer is her perfect foil in being a posh stuffy English Earl.  The love story between these two is very much a modern day fairy tale.  The crime element in this story is well done also.  The two components of this story are very well woven together and very believable.  In fact any woman would be jealous of Shannon finding her happiness with Spencer.  I do think though that an American reading this story will have a bit of a challenge with Shannon’s English slang. You get used to it but at first I thought her slang and retorts for everything were going to be too much for this story.  But, like all good characters she changes with the story and definitely becomes one of the best parts of this story.  Her comedic element is great when some of the criminal element gets heavy.  Overall, I think this is a really worthwhile read and will suck you in once you get used to the slang and the culture.  Emma Calin really did a great job with Shannon’s Law.  I look forward to reading something else from Emma.


KnockoutKnockout! by Emma Calin - Genre: Romantic Suspense

Interpol cop, Anna Leyton, spirals down into a hopeless vortex of sexual and emotional passion as she fights to keep her professional cool. Who is deceiving whom in this fast moving ride across continents?

What motivates her art loving prize-bull of a lover Freddie La Salle?  The power of love and trust stands against greed and crime as conflicting forces grapple for that knockout punch. Knockout! A romance novel with a twist of suspense that will take you on a roller coaster ride of passion, deception and love.

My Review:  “Anna Leyton is an Interpol cop that has a jaded past.  When she is leaving Scotland Yard, one day she is attempting to hail a cab. As she finally gets a cab an obnoxious Frenchman tried to take it from her.  When she takes a closer look she realizes he is an extremely hot guy who is clearly not only French but also American.  Before Anna knows it she is developing a rapport with this stranger who is very much becoming less of a stranger.  After having a drink with her handsome stranger she goes home with hopes that Freddie LaSalle will use the number she gave him.

Anna is soon assigned to a special assignment that she doesn’t realize at first is connected to Freddie, a very famous boxer.  Once the dots are connected she readily volunteers to go undercover to find the information her task force needs from Freddie and his connections.  Soon the lines get blurred for Anna.  She begins to fall for the boxer with more depth than anyone knows.  With Freddie’s upcoming fight, the mob circling, Interpol and a number of other dangers, Anna’s true danger is that to her heart.  Can Anna build a relationship on the lies she’s told or will she lose both her life and her heart to an enigmatic boxer named Freddie LaSalle?

This was a very enjoyable story.  I liked the relationship between Freddie and Anna.  Though the love story is very quick it is also very steamy.  I would say that even though I loved this story the love story part moved incredibly fast.  So fast that I felt overwhelmed and it made the story a tad bit unbelievable at that moment.  Though the love story is whimsical in its quickness the suspense portion with the dangers of the mob was very well done.  Emma Calin also does a fantastic job with her descriptions of London, France and California.  The scenery almost becomes a character unto itself.  Overall, this is a very enjoyable romance story.   I would definitely trade a day in Anna’s shoes with the very hot Freddie!

Thank you Jackie for an awesome post – do pop by and visit Jackie over at:

The Book Maven:

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Honoring Robin

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The Film Fatales pay their last respects to one extraordinarily funny and complex, man—Robin Williams. 

“For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy. But while some of the brightest of our celestial bodies actually are extinct now, their energy long since cooled, but miraculously because they float in the heavens so far away from us now, their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever and the glow will be so bright it’ll warm your heart, make your eyes glisten and you’ll think to yourselves, Robin Williams, what a concept.”–Billy Crystal, Emmy Awards, August 25, 2014.

Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. © 1997 Miramax Pictures. All rights reserved.

Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. © 1997 Miramax Pictures. All rights reserved.


Nicole: I agree wholeheartedly with Crystal when he said, it’s hard to talk about Robin in the past tense, because he was so very present. My earliest memories of Robin Williams came in the form of his zany portrayal of the space alien named Mork from the planet Ork. From the first time he blew the Fonze’s mind on Happy Days to the Gary Marshall spinoff that quickly ensued, Mork & Mindy, it was clear for even this then naive kid that Robin Williams was something very special.

He was a rare talent that ran on stream of consciousness and untethered intellect, creating a heady mix of comic genius that we hadn’t seen the likes of since Jonathan Winters. So, it’s not surprising that Winters was Williams’ chief comedic influence, save for his own mother (who, by all accounts, was a very funny woman who nurtured her son’s comic talents). It goes without saying that Williams was not only a brilliant standup comic but a versatile actor, deftly performing dramatic roles and screwball comedies on equal footing.

I do believe that the spark of his genius, however marred by his personal strife, was mainly rooted in his DNA. He was born both funny and talented. It is all too common that creative people, especially humorous people, are afflicted with the pain and anguish of feeling the weight of life with every fiber of their being. They understand so much. They know so much…and that can be a heavy burden. I suppose, however, that is the price one pays for burning so brightly, even though the sadness of that truth is all too much to bear.

Robin-Williams in The Crazy Ones. Photo by Cliff Lipson - © 2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robin-Williams in The Crazy Ones. Photo by Cliff Lipson – © 2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For my own part, my favorite Williams moments were when we were granted the sheer thrill of catching him off the cuff…in interviews, appearing as a host, or on stage as a standup. It was during those moments that I’d buckle up and prepare myself for the ride of my life, because there was no telling what direction he was going in or how fast he was going to get me to his undisclosed destination. His improvisational skills were unmatched…manic and intelligent, yet “unapologetically” blue and non sequitur. Sometimes, in the midst of hysterical laughter, I’d be awed by how remarkable his train of thought was and by his incredibly unique his brand of comedy. I thank God that these moments are captured for posterity, because, well, Billy Crystal said it best: “Robin Williams…what a concept.” Indeed.

elizabeth: I was very lucky to have seen Robin Williams perform (there has got to be a much bigger word than “perform”—maybe took over the universe for a couple of hours?) in person at Lincoln Center in New York City in the 1980s. It was amazing to be in the same space as Robin William, but as a budding standup comic, it was terrifying as hell. How could someone think as impossibly fast as he did and not miss a beat? We all knew we were in the presence of a genius, not just a comedic one. You don’t get to reach the comedic heights that he did by being a tad dull off stage. And, I don’t believe you get to be as brilliant as he was by not having that dark side that would be called depression.

Being a comic is not all jokes and laughs. People think comedians are always on. Hardly. I remember saying to people, “Do you think Robin Williams is like that all the time?” He wasn’t, nor could he be; he would have burnt out years ago. And, sadly, he did prove that sometimes the saddest people can be the funniest. Humor is protective armor that you wrap your insecurities in and pray that no one will ever notice. And, he did just that in front of us…but armor can and does crack. There was the news about rehab and being in recovery, but Robin could not sustain that for too long. His depression just wouldn’t let him. Damn depression and what it took from us.

Robin Williams in The Face of Love. © 2013 - IFC Films

Robin Williams in The Face of Love. © 2013 – IFC Films

I will watch his movies and laugh and cry. His performances in Good Will Hunting, The World According to Garp, and The Dead Poets’ Society are some of my favorites because Robin portrayed multidimensional men. You just have to look into his blue eyes and you knew he was letting you into his world, whether it was silly or sad.

I think you can really judge the life of an individual after they leave the physical world. Only then, can we truly know how big that void will be. I don’t think we will realize how enormous a hole has been left in the universe with Robin Williams’ passing until we recall something he said or did that left us breathless.

I would like to send this piece out with a quote. This is from the movie Jack and I would like to think that Robin left us these words to ponder:

“In the end none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer skies, when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day. Make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Nanu, Nanu.


The Birdcage: A mutual favorite of the Film Fatales and one of Robin Williams' best comedic performances. ~  © 1996 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Birdcage: A mutual favorite of the Film Fatales and one of Robin Williams’ best comedic performances. ~ © 1996 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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“The Savoy Or Your Girlfriend…”


Continuing her series of celebrity chef interviews, Caroline James talks to Michael Moore about what influenced him to succeed as a chef, work experience abroad and his love of Barbados.

Chef Michael Moore

Michael, thanks so much for chatting to me; we’ve known each other for some time and I’ve always been a huge admirer of your cooking style. To achieve your level of cuisine takes many years of hard work; can you tell me how you got started?

We go back a long way Caroline! My mum was my biggest influence and it was her passion for good food that gave me my love of cooking. As I grew up, I remember her dancing around the kitchen as she cooked, and I used to sit on a bench listening to her humming as I prepared the vegetables. She loved to sing too and it was a joyful and precious experience being with her as she worked.



Many chefs have told me that their mother prompted their ambition to become successful. Tell me about your mum.

Bathsheba, Barbados

My mum was born in a little coastal place called Bathsheba, in the parish of St John, on the east coast of the island of Barbados. It is a beautiful and unspoiled side of the island where fresh fish is plentiful and much of her time was spent by the beach. She met my dad there; he was from Salvador in Brazil and later took Bajan (Barbadian) citizenship when they married. They moved to the UK in the late 50s to find work. Mum cooked traditional Caribbean food using starches and corn and fish such as salt fish with lots of fresh vegetables like okra. Dad was a good cook too and didn’t like bland food, so he would add plenty of spices and seasoning. We grew up with very sophisticated palettes and all our family loved mealtimes. We lived in the East End of London and I am one of nine children, so it was a boisterous household! My mum instilled two great passions in me, cooking and music, and she knew that I would find my way in life if I used my skills.

What was your career path and how did you set about becoming a chef?

Chef Michael Moore

I wasn’t very successful at school and I was very strong minded because I always knew that I wanted to be a good chef. When I left school I realised that, unfortunately, I was too young to work in a professional kitchen. At sixteen, I lied about my age to get a job as a labourer on a building site. By chance, I met a man named Frankie Manners who was head chef at a well-known country house hotel and to my surprise, he offered me a job. Frankie was the most flamboyant chef I ever worked with. He created a sense of theatre in everything he did. He had a keen eye for presentation and textures and I learnt a great deal from him. He was very blunt but his theory was to work as hard as you could and he encouraged me to go to catering college. At college I was fortunate to have a great tutor who also told me to work hard and aim high and, on the strength of his words, I wrote to the Savoy Hotel in London.

The Savoy Hotel – London

The Savoy was the bastion of all things great and everyone craved to have the reference on their resumé; it was your passport to great kitchens all over the world. Again, to my astonishment, I got the job. The kitchen was run by the infamous chef, Anton Edelman, and his first words to me were: “Do you have a girlfriend?” to which I responded, “Yes, Sir.” He told me to make a choice – the Savoy or my girlfriend and I chose the former. I never looked back.

Your career took you all over the world and you’ve lived and worked in many countries. Can you tell me a little about your travels?

George V Hotel – Paris

Well, I went to Paris and worked at the George V, another very famous hotel. The French chefs there were very condescending and thought that Brits couldn’t cook and combined with my lack of the French language, I really hadn’t a clue what was going on. I knew that I had to learn to speak French fast; the kitchen set up is the same the world over but you have to be able to communicate. When I went to Hamburg to work at the Vier Jahreszeiten (rated the number one hotel in Europe at that time), I soon learnt German too. In fact I’m fluent in several languages now.

fourseasons hamburg

Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel – Hamburg

Over the following years I worked in many countries, from Germany again (Berlin this time), to Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, the Maldives, USA, Canada, and my favourite place – Barbados. I also spent three years in the kitchens at the Dorchester in London.

Tell me more about your time in Barbados; did you fall in love with the island instantly?

I always knew that I would live and work on the island where my mother was born. She told me that I had to go there and I was simply following her wishes. When I arrived, I was amazed. To me it was the most beautiful place on the planet and I couldn’t understand why my parents had left Barbados to work in the UK, although I knew that their reasons included ensuring their children’s future.

Fish & Chips Bajan Style

At first I couldn’t understand the Bajan accent so again, I struggled to communicate, but that soon passed as I settled into island life. Barbados is an island of such contrasts. From the affluent west coast to the remote and rugged east coast, it has something for everyone and I loved my time there.

Barbados – West Coast

Barbados – East Coast

So, circumstances found you back in London where you opened your own business. Was that something you’d always dreamed of doing?

Restaurant Michael Moore

Absolutely, I knew that with the amalgamation of all my years of travelling and cooking in so many different cultures and styles of cuisine, I had something different to offer and now had my opportunity to showcase this. I was in the fortunate position of not needing any backers, so had no one telling me what to do and my dream was to have the standards of a family-run Paris restaurant. This all came together at Michael Moore of Blandford Street in Marylebone.

Michael moore Blandford Street

You received many awards and much critical acclaim from food journalists the world over. How would you describe your style of cooking at the restaurant?


My food was known by the terms, ‘modern global cuisine’ and dishes I featured focussed heavily on unusual flavour combinations from my travels. For example I would use tandoori spices with foie gras or vanilla with scallops and chilli with bacon. I love to experiment and it seemed to work.


Gone fishing…

So what now for Michael Moore? What’s your next venture?

I’ve been working in Norway, where I opened Restaurant 13 on the riverfront in Fredrikstad. I worked on this from concept to completion and travel back there to oversee from time to time. There has been a lot of media and TV work running alongside this project and I’ve loved the experience. I now have a very exciting new venture in London which will be coming to fruition soon. It is a modern concept with a ‘New York-friendly’ style and will have quite a ‘wow’ factor.

You always amaze me Michael; you never seem to stand still! Are you still running cookery classes?

Cookery Classes


I love getting out and about and working in a hands-on environment with the public and yes, I am often found hosting guest slots at many different schools, both at home and abroad.

And what of your media work? You’ve travelled all over the world and appeared on TV many times. Will we be seeing more of you in the coming year?


Michael Moore with James Martin on BBC Saturday Kitchen

Michael Moore with Gloria Hunniford

I have a very busy year coming up. I embrace the media. It is an honour to be asked to appear at events and festivals and I love nothing more than meeting the public and having a chat. It isn’t always about work. At many events there are opportunities to see and experience the place you are visiting. I remember our trip to Disneyland for the Epcot Food Festival, where we were treated like royalty away from the demands of the show.

Cand M Disneyland

Disneyland, Florida

I remember that too. The kitchens at Disneyland were run with military precision and scared me to death! At one event you had to prepare a thousand portions of one of your signature dishes in a very short space of time, but you still kept smiling even when you had to interrupt the cooking to sign autographs…

Signing Autographs in Florida

It was a pleasure and all part of my job.





Many of the visitors to Loveahappyending Lifestyle Magazine like to read romance; would you say that you are a romantic at heart?

I love to be romantic but I get it wrong and am not very good at it. Someone once told me that I made them, ‘want to be a better person,’ and I thought it was romantic until I realised it was a line from a famous film and I couldn’t take them seriously. But, I’m open to suggestions – any thoughts from your readers would be welcome!

Filming in Norway

Do you have any advice for aspiring cooks and chefs?

“I love really cool jazz…”

Work hard and aim high. Those words were instilled into me many times when I was learning to cook and made me want to achieve my dreams. If you can add a dash of something that you really enjoy into the mix, so much the better. My mother’s passion for music never left me and I love nothing more than to kick back with really good cool jazz.

Michael, thank you so much for our chat. It’s always a joy to spend time with you.

It’s my pleasure to feature in Loveahappyending Lifestyle Magazine. I have a recipe for your readers and hope that you all enjoy.

Bon appetite!



Smoked Chicken and Pancetta Roulade


1 breast of smoked chicken                         1 slice pancetta

40gm celeriac                                                   1 tbsp mayonnaise

chopped chives                                                 3tbsp crème fraiche

vegetable oil                                                      30gm brown sugar

3 ozs butter                                                        100gm diced tomato

small pinch dried red chilli                          dash of red wine

seasoning                                                            salad bouche garnish



  • Place the smoked chicken breast in a plastic vacuum bag and tap softly or roll lightly with a rolling pin until it spreads a little
  • Remove from bag and lightly season the chicken
  • Take the pancetta, lay it flat and season very lightly (not too much salt as pancetta can already be salty)
  • Put the chicken on the pancetta and roll into a Swiss roll shape and place it to the side
  • Wash and peel the celeriac and shred finely with a julienne or through a small grater
  • Add a tbsp. of mayonnaise, 3 tbsp crème fraiche, mix and season and add the chopped chives
  • Mix again and allow to rest to infuse
  • Heat a pan with a small amount of vegetable oil and butter and colour the Swiss roll on all sides
  • Place in a pre-heated oven at 180C
  • In another pre-heated pan heat remaining butter and add the brown sugar. Caramelise the sugar stirring all the time
  • Add the dried tomato and the small pinch of red chilli, add a dash of red wine allow to reduce and infuse
  • Remove the pan from the heat place mixture in a blender and then pass mixture through a fine sieve and allow to cool
  • Take the celeriac relish and place in the centre of the serving plate. Take the chicken from the oven and drain any excess liquid and place on top of the relish. Drizzle the reduction on top of the chicken and around it
  • Garnish with the salad bouche and serve immediately

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Where Are We Going Tomorrow?

Miriam's header final (1024x296) If you’ve been on an organised walking holiday with, say, Ramblers or HF (Holiday Fellowship) you may know that this question is answered each evening. With HF you get a choice between up to three graded walks, based not just on distance but also the ascent involved. Obviously, climbing uphill can make a walk more strenuous and seem much longer than if it were on the flat. Generally speaking, the more demanding walks, up hill and down dale, on coastal and hilly terrain, offer the best scenery, but the extra effort and stamina required need to be taken into account.

On an Italian coastal walk - you cannot get here by car!

On an Italian coastal walk – you cannot get here by car!

A sylvan paradise in Crete.

A sylvan paradise in Crete.

Floribunda in a remote Sicilian spot!

Floribunda in a remote Sicilian spot!

I do enjoy walking, but left to my own devices I would probably never have chosen to go on a walking holiday in the  first place. It seemed a rather masochistic kind of activity – lovely when it stops! I am not a naturally sporty person; not competitive, but rather a seeker of comfort and rather risk averse! However, my husband is keen on striding out, usually to reach the highest available point in a big-sky landscape, away from the crowds. Why then would he encourage me to go on a holiday that means tagging along with a group of strangers?

Preparing to set off for the day - plenty to look at!

Preparing to set off for the day – plenty to look at!

There are pros and cons of walking with others. The cons are: you do as you are told, more or less. The leader chooses the route and it would be frowned upon to suggest any alternatives to his or her tried and tested plan. Moreover, you may not get those moments of golden silence, enabling you to commune with nature and relish the solitary state. However, these slight downsides are vastly outweighed by the positives: Your leader gets you safely round in the expected time, stress free, without you having to walk with your head buried in a map. You do not get lost and you are given colourful details about flora, fauna, geology, history, and so on. Sometimes a local guide joins the group for insider information of a specialist nature such as local produce, rare orchids, or fungi.

Someone's small courtyard with spectacular views all around. Italy.

Someone’s small courtyard with spectacular views all around. Italy.

Convenient breaks do come up for snacks and drinks and to enable you to rest your weary bones for a few minutes, or take some photos. In fact, if you decide to stop briefly for whatever reason, it is possible to catch up and the last person usually keeps an eye out and would be aware that you are somewhere behind the group. Also, someone will always help you out if you need a blister plaster or sunscreen and have left it behind!

One big advantage of being in a group is that you can dodge around between the walkers and chat, which does help the miles or kilometres to pass by and those inevitable aches and cramps to be less noticeable. You soon learn where other walkers all come from, what their children are up to and what other walking holidays they have enjoyed, or not. Beyond that, topics of conversation can embrace all manner of things; that rather depends on you.

The formula is a real winner! Exercise; fresh air; fabulous scenery, often only accessible on foot; being in a sociable group; British fare or foreign cuisine and perhaps a glass or two of wine, followed by the sleep of the just. You do not feel the slightest twinge of guilt about satisfying a hearty appetite after all that healthy exercise! Sometimes a kind of entertainment such as a quiz or a talk is put on in the evening, but such things are optional. Nobody can make you!! In fact even the walks are optional. You could choose to perhaps walk just on alternate days, but in reality people rarely do.

One day I opted not to walk and fell in love with Chania, Crete

One day I opted not to walk and fell in love with Chania, Crete

A choppy seascape - Chania on my day off!

A choppy seascape – Chania on my day off!

We have found now that to go on holiday and not walk seems sadly lacking. Reclining on a sunbed round a pool; browsing gift shops and markets; visiting museums; sightseeing trips and stopping for lunch at a tempting restaurant and the other stuff of holidays are fine for maybe a day or two, but then our eyes are drawn to the horizon and a feeling of wanting to spread our wings comes over us.

A walk on our own in the Lake District

A walk on our own in the Lake District

Having said all that, there are times when you just need to relax and I must say after my year of ‘battling with cancer’ I may opt for a lazy holiday first of all in 2015 and work my way up from there!

Yes! A walking holiday! Tokyo.

Yes! A walking holiday! Tokyo.

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Off the beaten track …

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Buckle up and keep your camera ready! The drive to the medieval village of Tourrettes Sur Loup is breathtaking. Only 14 kilometres from the Côte d’Azur (25 km from Nice), it’s easy to reach and might be combined with a visit to St. Paul de Vence. Much smaller than St. Paul and far less touristy, it’s a place we like to take visitors. If you approach from the west, the moment you come around the last corner takes my breath away every time.


See what I mean? I can’t tell you the number of photos I’ve taken of this view. Different times of day, changing seasons, sunny, cloudy, any excuse makes it simply irresistible to my shutter.

Established in the 11th C, the natural setting created the fortification of the town.This medieval village has preserved its historic authenticity. When we first stopped there, it felt like almost like a secret place. One begins to discover it only after passing through the gateway towers guarding both sides of the central square. I am always intrigued by how these villages came to exist and have withstood the test of time  … it boggles my mind. The 12th C church is built on the site of a Roman temple. Simple in its beauty, it is not to be missed!


The village isn’t overloaded with shops (click here for a complete list and the town’s official site  in French, but you can figure it out) and their products are truly artisanal. Le Bois D’Olivier is our favourite with beautiful olive wood products produced by hand5.IMG_8136 since the 1950s by the Dubosq family (father and now son). Simply walking into their shop is a buzz! I love the warm shades and textures of olive wood. I haven’t seen better prices or finer work anywhere. Trust me, I’ve looked at a lot of olive wood! There is something about the colour and grain of it that really speaks to me.

7.IMG_8787Tourrettes Sur Loup has been famous for the cultivation of violets since the 1880s and the theme of violets is evident throughout the village. The entire area was an important supplier of flowers to the perfume makers of Grasse for centuries and the “Victoria” violet, known for its delicate fragrance, is still grown on the surrounding terraced lands. The locally well-known Fête de Violettes is celebrated every March to mark the end of the growing season and to celebrate the beginning of spring.

This was the first place I became aware of Glace Violette ~ violet ice cream! Its flavour was as delicate as its scent and very refreshing!

Artists and craftspeople have been attracted here for centuries and, more recently, film-makers have discovered the beauty and mystique of the village and surrounding hills and valleys.


Further along La Grande Rue you will find Poterie La Bergerie‘s 2.IMG_5528unique cave-like atelier where delicate ceramics are crafted and hand-painted with violet motifs. You can watch their original creations crafted right on the spot and place an order for something special just for you.

Atmosphere, history, and the possibility of fascinating stories breathe from the stones of the streets, the structures, and walls as you stroll through Tourrettes. Time stands still in these narrow allées. Amble, pause, wander and wonder. There is no need to rush.

It’s no surprise that somewhere within its close confines, there is without a doubt a square to play boules. Outside the gates, squeezed in between the parking lot and the street, there is still room for a bench and a game. C’est necessaire!



At the bottom of the village and through this archway enjoy a panoramic view right down to the coast. Walk a few steps further to discover a stunning Roman aqueduct. Wear the proper shoes, as hiking trails abound!

1.Les Tourrettes Sur Loup

As you can see, opportunities abound to spend a day here with your camera. There are friendly bistros to pause for an espresso, a cold beer or whatever your beverage of choice may be. It’s possible to have a quick snack or to settle in and enjoy some fine French cuisine.

When I’ve filled my camera chip … and that often takes a while …  we sometimes stay for a delicious meal at La Médiéval, 1.IMG_5504where the friendly owner fills a glass of rosé like I’ve never seen before. Check to make sure the restaurant is open before you go.

We visit Tourrettes Sur Loup at least twice every summer and frequently more than that. It’s a destination where we love to bring friends so they can feel the ambiance of an ancient village without the crush of crowds. I’m not saying it doesn’t get busy but, if you pick your day wisely, you may be as fortunate as we have been. Let me know!

I’ve attached a video below that gives you a bit of a tour through the village and also pays homage to the Dubosq family working their magic with the olive wood.

Where do you like to travel best? Are you as fond of exploring new, non-touristy places as we are?  I would love to hear about some place off the beaten track that you have discovered!

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ~ Film Review


Blockbuster sequels are always a bit of a risk, I imagine. The worrying questions being, will it make big box office? Will it enthral and capture audience’s imagination as much as the original? Apes

Who could ever forget one of the most iconic shots in film history, the Statue of Liberty, geological shifts leaving it half buried in the sand, one of the few surviving icons of pre-Apocalyptic human society?


As with its predecessor, 2011′s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ had a lot to live up to. So did it deliver? In my eyes, yes, despite one or two criticisms about there being no resolution.

Briefly, the story picks up as the ALZ-113 virus has all but wiped out the human race. The few humans that remain are struggling to survive. The apes, however, have thrived and continue to evolve, living reasonably peacefully in the forests under their benevolent…ish leader, Caesar (played hugely satisfyingly by Andy Serkis).

The remnants of what was once San Francisco is colonised by a group of humans, but fuel supplies are running low. They are eking out their existence on a day-to-day basis. An alternate power source needs to be found. A dam, located in ape territory, could be just the source required to regenerate power supply to the city. When a group of humans sets forth, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), to repair the dam, conflict inevitably ensues, and despite the efforts of Caesar and Malcolm to resolve the issues, thereby creating a peaceful co-existence, ignorance and mistrust abounds, the conflict escalates and an interspecies war is inevitable.

The premise and narrative structure are simple: good versus bad, reminding us of the often arrogance of the human race, its deeply entrenched belief in its superiority and intolerance to those we see as a sub-species. The parallels to current world conflicts are obvious. Perhaps this is why an unrealistic resolution would simply not have washed with the audience.

On an aesthetic level, right from the opening scene, a close up of Caesar’s eyes, the performances of the actors and stuntmen is quite brilliant. There was only the odd moment when I remembered there were actors behind the ape costume. They were terrifyingly real (though one can’t help but recall with fondness Roddy McDowall in the 1968 Planet of the Apes, who looked, well, like Roddy McDowell).

The CGI, as to be expected from a high budget movie, was state of the art. Quite superb.

So would I recommend it? Yes. The essence of the film is the exploration of the human race, its selfishness; its vulnerabilities. Nostalgia for Roddy and the original Planet of the Apes aside, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is touching and thought-provoking. It gets the thumbs-up from me.

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Action, Drama, Sci-fi

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Bookshelf Reviews – with Jo Hurst

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Somebody to LoveLearning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationships
Widower, Dr David Adams, has recently moved to the village – where no one knows him, ergo there’s no fuel for neighbourhood gossip – to start afresh with his ten-year-old son, if only he can get to a place where his son wants to speak to him. Angry and withdrawn, Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother, and David doesn’t know how to reach him. Andrea Kelly has too many balls in the air. With three children and a “nuts” mother to care for, her fiancé can’t fathom why she wants to throw something else into the mix and change her career. Surely she already has too much on her plate? Because her plates are skew-whiff and her balls are dropping off all over the place, Andrea points out. She needs to make changes. Still her fiancé, who has a hidden agenda, is dead-set against it.
When Andrea’s house  mysteriously burns to the ground and Andrea and her entourage are forced to move in with the enigmatic Dr Adams, however, the village drums soon start beating, fuel aplenty when it turns out someone does know him – the woman carrying his baby.

My Review:
The book flows along nicely as you get to know both Andrea and David, with added bits of their children along the way. There is a colourful array of other characters; Sally and Eve are the main ones that stand out. It became obvious that they had fallen in love with each other even if they couldn’t see it and both wanted to ‘do the right thing’.
The character I liked was Andrea’s mother Dee, partly because she was portrayed as being a bit dotty, when actually she wasn’t that bad. She was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but she had quite a few periods of lucidity, even if at times it didn’t sound as though she had. I loved Andrea’s two eldest kids, they were typical teenagers but they did show that she had brought them up to be nice kids deep down.

Reaching for the Stars by Janice Horton

Scottish celebrity chef Finn McDuff is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third star and losing his third wife. He decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears. With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef. Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff. Who will find him first and whose side will you be on…?

My Review:
Finn McDuff seems to have the world at his feet. He has just achieved his ambition of 3 Golden Stars for his restaurant. His world comes crashing down around him when his wife decides to leave him. Janice gives you a clue to the corruption that was once the press over here. This is done in a way that makes you despise the press for their intrusion into celebrities’ lives. As for Chef McDuff I couldn’t help but like him, if not the typical book boyfriend, there was something sad about his story and I found myself warming to him and feeling sorry for his plight. Ross, I really wanted to come unstuck and I laughed at the way he eventually did, a totally ingenious way of doing it, by Janice. In short the book was totally different from what I expected and would recommend it. It was a journey for so many of the characters that I found myself wanting to work out, with a great supporting cast.

SYTYACC cover jpeg high resSo You Think You’re a Celebrity Chef by Caroline James

Mix together…
A tough-cookie media agent who’s clawed her way to the top, and a con-man who wants to open a cookery school.
Add in a washed-up celebrity chef whose career needs re-building…
Flavour with…
An aging rock star fresh from rehab, and a Sloane Ranger food writer who gets her own TV show…
Bring to the boil:
At a Gourmet Food Festival, in Ireland, where anything goes!
When media agent Hilary Hargreaves travels to Ireland to look at a campaign for a new cookery school, she meets a blast from her past – the romantic but feckless chef Mickey Lloyd, who is hell-bent on resurrecting his flagging career. Her tough demeanour is rocked as it becomes apparent Mickey’s intentions involve more than a stint behind a stove in his quest to pursue her. But as plans for the school gain momentum, she realises that she’s developing more than a passing interest in reformed alcoholic Long Tom Hendry, who owns the crumbling old mansion where the school will be homed. Hilary has many ingredients to juggle with her demanding client list – which looks set to boil over if she doesn’t keep control. From London’s bustling Soho, to Southern Ireland and the sunny shores of the Caribbean, has Hilary got too much on her plate and is she really prepared to risk it all for love?

My Review:
I saw a quote by @shazjera (fictionaddictionbooktours) that this was AbFab meets Masterchef, Shaz was certainly right about that. Caroline introduced us to a whole host of charming funny characters that have each a part to play in this story. The main character, Hilary, is a media agent for lots of well-known celebrity chefs. At first you think Hilary is an utter bitch, until you get into her character and find out a lot more about her.  Caroline does this in a fun, revealing way. The book is set around her agency and subsequent trip to Ireland. From Caroline’s writing you can see she has a great deal of knowledge in this area. She made this story fun and a great read.

Orion's GiftOrion’s Gift by Anneli Purchase

While camping in the exotic landscape of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Kevin and Sylvia, both on the run from abusive relationships, meet and fall in love.
Two things stand in the way of their happiness.
One—the secrets they keep from each other.
Two—their abusers hunting them down.
Will fear drive them apart or will passion and trust surmount the violence and hostility they have endured?

My Review:
Kevin and Sylvia meet in Mexico, having escaped partners that neither were happy with, but this wouldn’t be a book if love ran so smooth… As their budding romance is building, they are then faced with the people that made their life hell. Can they survive against the odds and make their romance last? I liked how the chapters switched between the characters and loved seeing things from each point of view. It takes you to a different location and is very descriptive.

Angels Among Us seriesForever – Angels Amongst Us by Linn B Halton

Ceri isn’t meant to fall in love, as she is here for one purpose only. Alex is supposed to cross her path briefly and give her the confidence to move on and fulfill her destiny. It’s meant to be a turning point for them both—but in opposite directions. Ethan Morris, a well-respected medium, gave Alex a warning after receiving a message for him from the other side. Ceri receives her own warning when it’s made very plain to her that she is responsible for her own actions and will have to put right anything she changes in error. Alex begs Ceri to meet with Ethan, but she refuses to believe what he has to say and manages to convince Alex that he could be wrong. Psychic medium Mark Kessler becomes Ceri’s spiritual mentor. Her confidence begins to grow as she gains an awareness of her work on both planes of existence, something that can only be granted to an angel. As Ceri and Alex cling to their relationship things begin to unravel and, at their engagement party, Alex’s past catches up with him. At the same time Ceri faces the stark reality that fate cannot be cheated.

My Review:
The book follows them both switching between Ceri and Alex as they try to move on and make the best of the situation. You really feel for both of them with Linn’s words. Alex’s emails were so sad and my heart went out to him. Add that to the fact they both try to move on with different partners this gives you a “will they, won’t they” situation that keeps you gripped. Ceri’s brother is back and doing his best to support Alex through his misery. Ceri’s best friend Sheena is finally finding happiness. I loved the book and can see how Linn could write two endings. I won’t give away the ending as it would spoil the book for anyone else. Go along and buy the series.

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My daughter is neglecting her kids

Q. My daughter was recently divorced from her husband of 12 years who often travels on business. They were high school sweethearts and married young. He is a good man, but they just didn’t get along anymore. They have two children, 10 and 7, who I’m very worried about. I see them cry and act out when they are with me. It’s not just a divorce that the kids have to deal with, which is hard enough, but to make matters worse, my 35-year-old daughter seems to have reverted into a selfish child. At first she dated like a 16-year-old would, then she met a man who made things worse. He is very controlling and a negative influence on her. The kids (who sense they are unwelcome in his presence) do not like him, and neither do I or my husband. There is something very cold and unfeeling about him. I can’t figure out what she sees in him (nobody can), but he has a Svengali-like spell over her. It is causing her to be extremely selfish, neglect her children, and think the world revolves around her. She expects me to drop everything and babysit whenever she wants so she can gallivant around with this man and take romantic vacations with him. Of course I love the kids too much to turn her down, and am concerned who they’d be left with if I did. On top of everything else, she shows me no respect, gratefulness, or common courtesy and seems to think she’s entitled to everything I do for her and the children. When she was sick in the hospital recently, I was the one taking care of everyone, while her boyfriend never even came to visit her. I’ve tried to get her to seek help, but she refuses to talk to a therapist. Do you have any ideas on how I can better handle the situation?

A. I’ve noticed that many people who get married very young and then later get divorced, have a tendency to regress for a while and revert into another “childhood” of sorts, whereas people who marry at an older age are often more content with their partner because they have already sowed their oats and experienced several romantic relationships. You didn’t say how long she has been divorced, so I don’t know if you can chalk this up to such a phenomenon, but it’s an important point to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much room for children when one is “gallivanting” around on dates and romantic vacations, and I’m sure it is very hard on them to have a mother who is doing just that, especially when their father is often out of town. Pat yourself on the back for being such a doting and caring Grandma. You are putting the children first, which is something your daughter has not chosen to do. It’s unfortunate she has picked a man who separates her from her kids instead of sometimes including them as part of the package. It’s also quite distressing that she doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her behavior and therefore has no desire to seek help, but there is nothing you can do about that fact. Learning to deal with things that are out of your control is very difficult, but it is a necessary life lesson. Better to focus on what is in your control. As I see it, there are two things that fit the bill, and here are my suggestions.

1. Tell your daughter you cannot watch the kids whenever she wants to leave them. She is clearly taking advantage of you and it’s your right to put your foot down and let her know that you have a life, too. However, if you are worried they may not be left with a suitable babysitter, I can totally understand why you choose to be there for them. When you babysit, put a positive spin on it. Use that time with them as bonus time. Plan fun activities to do with them. Not only will they grow up knowing just how much you love them, but your home will be the safe and stable port in the storm.

2. I also think you should sit your daughter down at a time when neither of you are in a rush, both of you are calm, and no one else is around. Then approach the problem in a constructive way. That means a civil, respectful, and non-emotional discussion of what’s on your mind and what is worrying you. This is not the time to insult her boyfriend, reprimand her, or raise your voice. Approach her from a place of love. Let her know how her children are feeling, as they may not be acting that way around her. Appeal to her sense of motherhood without pointing out her deficiencies. If there’s hope for changing her ways, that discussion may be a good start. If not, then hopefully with some time she will see her boyfriend (who may just be her “transitional” man) in a realistic light and realize that not only would he be a poor stepfather, but he’d make a lousy husband, too. Good luck!

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