Friday, 13 January 2017

Gap Year in Australia? What!

A long time ago, I was lucky enough to spend three months in France with my best friend as part of my university degree course.  I was twenty-one.  My son wants to spend a gap year in Australia.  What could be more exciting?

Young, beautiful and alive

It might sound vain.  It might sound hollow.  But looking at this picture of myself when I was twenty-one, I think most people would agree with at least part of what I see. 

What has brought on this digging up of the past?

Why does it matter?

I’ll tell you.

My seventeen-year-old son wants to take a gap year.  He announced a couple of weeks ago that he was going to go to Australia before starting his university course in 2018..

You can probably guess my reaction.  Double it, times it by infinity and you’re probably still nowhere near the shock and fear levels that exploded in my stomach and my head.

I didn’t say much.  Just - ‘This is a new idea – I thought you’d decided on Spain...’.  

I didn’t want to hear more.  Far from it.  I wanted to turn back time and pretend we were still talking about things like an InterRail ticket around Europe, travelling with a friend, doing a bit of casual fruit picking to boost spending money.

You know what I did next?  And I consider myself an intelligent person…

I sat down at my laptop and put in ‘gap year in Australia’.  That wasn’t the worst bit.  I sought out the bad news, the disasters, the number of backpackers robbed, kidnapped, murdered, bitten by snakes, spiders or lost in the outback with no water and a mobile phone with no signal.  I knew I was doing the wrong thing, but I couldn’t stop myself.

After a week of trying to be more reasonable, I told my son, just before he went to bed, that he would be going to Australia 'over my dead body’  adding, ‘When you’re eighteen, I won’t be able to stop you, but you’re not eighteen yet.’  He took my mild hysteria with a pinch of salt and said that he would be going two months after his birthday as this would be the optimum time for casual work in Australia.


My son was getting the better of me. 

My husband said it was my own fault.

I slept on it.

Next morning, at seven o’clock, just before I waved my son off on his school bus he asked me if I had calmed down.  I said I had.  I said that we would have to talk about it.  He smiled and gave me a hug. 

It felt as though I were being handled gently by a superior being.

For the next few days I see-sawed between anxiety and excitement.  Anxiety that was, I eventually realised, due to the fact that I would not be in charge of his safety and well-being for the first time in his and my life.  Excitement because I thought back to the most memorable times of my own life so far.

I don’t mean the things like getting married or having children.

I mean the times when I was brave enough to step off the path I was taking.  To explore.  To take risks (although, at the time, I was mostly unaware of what these might be – there I go again, thinking like an adult!).

When was my first real adventure?

Who was I?

The answer is in the picture at the beginning of this post.  Or at least, partly.

I was young, beautiful (even I can see that now – at the time I remember wishing I were slimmer and didn’t have a scar on my nose) and, crucially, alive.

Alive in a way that somehow gets lost as we grow older and bury our free thinking in mortgages, taxes and our children’s futures.  When we end up worrying about absolutely everything that possibly might spoil the family life we have built.

So, I went back.  Or at least tried to.  To the summer of 1979 when I decided to go to France with my best friend.  After all, I’ve written a book about it, so it must have been memorable.  This time, though, I wanted to get further in.  To try to re-discover who I was in the picture.

Maybe it would help me to be more useful to my son.

It was worth a try.

To be continued...

PS I am interested to hear any reader comments - please feel free.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

My French Life

The French tradition is to eat a large meal on Christmas Eve - a celebration known as réveillon.  The very best of everything is served exquisitely in a multiple course event which includes such delicacies as foie gras (no, I don't eat it), caviar, chapon and (not very nice) cake. We stuck to what we know and love...turkey with all the trimmings and a Christmas pud from Asda.

Well, Christmas Day is done and dusted.  And I'd say I did a good roast this year, not to mention my stupendous Jamie Oliver gravy.  Well worth the hassle.  On a last minute trip to LeClerc I found sprouts that hadn't quite putrefied in the bag, chestnuts in a tin, and freshly prepared sausage meat for the stuffing. I also loaded our trolley (chariot) with lots of lemons for margaritas - my husband's new favourite tipple.

I know you know what a margarita looks like, but I like the glass.

Sad to report that despite my whingeing at the LeClerc Information Desk, there is still no proper double cream to be had in the region.  No Harveys for the trifle.  No Paxo sage and onion to add to the sausage meat.  And I have to say it's becoming boring reminding the lady behind the counter, with no smile and dead eyes that Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are more necessary than seven kinds of chocolate muesli.

In other random news, we have blue skies with intermittent coastal fog and tailgating, and there appears to be perishing little budget for village Christmas lights - most of the streetlights are hung with unidentifiable motifs, although there is one very convincing Victorian lamp just opposite the baker's.

Closer to home, there's something in the fridge that should have been thrown away a while back -  I'd hazard a guess at cheese or cabbage.  All will become clear during the sterilisation process for the new year, when fruit will temporarily take the place of saturated fat and luxury meat products.

Time has skipped forward - it's January 4th and I have to get back to my writing.  It's an addiction, if you hadn't already guessed...

Hope it's not too late to say Happy New Year!

I'll leave you with a pic of two gormless but happy individuals setting out for a new life in France x

Best thing we've done so far...HAPPY DAYS!

Friday, 9 December 2016


Available now - click to view on Amazon

'Memoir of an Overweight Schoolgirl' is set in the thriving market town of Bridgnorth and is anecdotal.  The author recounts memories of her early life and the time she spent as a student at Bridgnorth Grammar School (now Bridgnorth Endowed School).

Funny, unsentimental and totally immersed in the sixties and seventies - this memoir will take you back to lard-based products, Motown discos and the world of grammar school education.

Here's an excerpt during which Bev discovers that, despite her puppy fat and poor fashion choices, she has the power to attract BOYS:

...Whether these private musings had made me sway my hips more appealingly, and perhaps, who knows, appear on the verge of physical as well as intellectual ecstasy, I couldn’t say, but what happened next was confusing in the extreme and, at first, barely pleasant, despite its undeniable potency: I had attracted the attentions of a group of boys who had apparently camped out in the park and were gathering for a stroll around the town.  My radar told me they were not local.  They were of various heights, ages and beauty, but all equally terrifying to a girl who had been warned of the dangers of flesh-and-blood members of the opposite sex, who were to be viewed as predators, rapists and generally dirty buggers.  I had inadvertently strayed into their environment and set off a flurry of uncontrollable desire amongst them. Lordy!  What was a girl to do?
I walked on by, nonchalant and sweating, my eyes working overtime to gather essential detail.  Could it be that one of them looked like Davy Jones, afore-mentioned singer and Daydream Believer, with The Monkees?  I was prepared to believe.  Indeed, I needed to believe. 
Having circled away, I then cut back to return along the same path I had come. After all, I didn’t want to give them the slip too easily. They called out, whistling and complimenting me.  I flicked my hair, like the Sunsilk girl, and pretended to look the other way.  To my delighted horror, they followed.  What would my father say?  There was bound to be someone who knew him watching me from the bushes.  My tennis skirt seemed to shrink and my tiny bosom inflate.  My vest wasn’t thick enough. 
The boys followed at a distance. I was flattered beyond measure and yet inordinately unready.  In the absence of experience, I determined to remain aloof.  Quickening my step, I made it to the bridge, where, had I not looked back, I believe they would not have continued their pursuit.  As it was, one of them called out for me to wait and they showed no signs of giving up their romantic quest for my attention.  This was serious.  And amazing.  It involved real boys, who didn’t seem to be worried by my bulk.  What was more, one or two of them weren’t bad-looking!

Mandy was inside the house when I burst in, all blushes and giggles.  Instantly keen to collaborate, she joined me in a jumping dance, punctuated by girly squeals.  Soon we put a hastily conceived plan into action: we hid behind net curtains, watching as, to our stomach-twisting joy, five boys seated themselves more or less sexily on the garden wall at the front of our house.   Never had I taken in so many breaths without exhaling.  Mandy (my nine-year-old prettier sister) was impressed at my ability to lure such an impressive crowd to our lair.  Luckily, there was no imminent danger of my father arriving home to demand what on earth was going on, so we gasped and stared, and failed to take any kind of action.
“Who are they?” Mandy asked.  “I like the one with short dark hair best.  What’s his name?  Are they gypsies?”
I gaped.  I couldn't answer a single question.  Were they gypsies?  Did it matter?

Friday, 2 December 2016

Get Bev and Carol in Paperback for Christmas!

All three of my humorous memoirs (Bev and Carol adventures) are available in paperback format - perfect for a fun Christmas gift.

Click the links below to view on Amazon:

Happy Days!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My French Life

This week it's been blustery.  Love that word.  I'm a windy kind of person (!) so I've been walking and remembering trying to fly when I was a child.  I used to be able to lean into the wind on top of the Long Mynd, anorak spread and open mouth ballooning, waiting for a gust to take me up, up and away (remember the Slimcea girl), and carry me along the ridge.

It's not so strong here in Charente Maritime, but it'll do.  The wide open views make up for it. Chocolate ploughed fields and clouds racing.  Wonderful.

Apart from walking, I've been faced with a few challenges this week: finding a costume for my son to do his sport baccalaureate test (in a surreal twist, he has to do an acrobatics performance as Super Mario's Luigi), getting my new Soft Touch music player to connect to my computer, or phone, or anything, and deciding what to get on with now my latest book is with my proof reader (it's like having a baby snatched).

I failed all three challenges. My friends will not be surprised.

Highlights have been: a speciality baguette (with chorizo and nuts) produced by the village baker and consumed with wine as an apero; a new window ledge put in by my husband, Al; not running over the cat next door; and seeing 'What I Did Not Say' on the shelves in Shrewsbury library.

Today, I'm going out to lunch at the restaurant next door.  If I remember, I intend to take a picture and add it later.  Bound to be fab.  One of the perks of living in France.

Happy Days

Here I am, back from lunch.  As promised, I took some pics, unfortunately (and unbelievably), I only remembered after I'd finished each course...

emincé de boeuf avec galettes de pommes de terre et un sauce Rochefort

mousse au chocolat avec poires et caramel

just a little breezy for the terrasse

It was a yummy lunch.  I'll try to do better with the pics next time...

Monday, 21 November 2016

'Thirteen' - a collection of short stories by B. A. Spicer

Dear blog visitors,

Thank you for popping over to see what's happening on my blog.  I'm amazed and delighted to have regular page views - sometimes over one hundred per day!  Most gratifying.

As you can see, 'Thirteen', my collection of short stories, is priced at 99p for a limited time.

Short stories are not everyone's first choice, but they really do have a lot to offer.  It might be tempting to think that because they do not have the word count of a novel, they are simply dashed off in an hour or so and do not have much to offer in the way of character or plot development.

In fact, short stories take months or even years to develop and polish.  The story may take place over a few minutes or a lifetime, the characters may be many or few, nevertheless the end product must have an emotional effect, and leave the reader changed in some way. With a limited word count, there must be a potency of expression that is not present in longer works.  I always know when I've read a good short story because I think about it for days afterwards.

I recently read and reviewed a wonderful short story by Alice Munro entitled 'Queenie'.  I still recall the power of the last sentence.  It's a story that I know I will go back to. You can read my review on this blog by clicking on 'Books I've Read'.

Of course, I do not dare to compare my stories with this great writer's masterpieces, but I do hope that I can hold my reader's attention and perhaps, just perhaps, as the last page is turned, make an impression on him or her...

Monday, 7 November 2016

Win a copy of my new book, 'Locked Away'

Good morning from France!

I'm posting today to tell you about your chance to win a free paperback copy of  'Locked Away'.

It's book one of my new DCI Alice Candy series – don’t worry, it’s a stand alone book with a proper ending.  The subsequent stories will be too (book two will be out in April next year).  You’ll simply get to know Alice Candy better as the series develops – she has a few secrets of her own to reveal along the way.

I have two paperback copies to give away – all you have to do is to follow this blog, or Bev Spicer's Facebook Author Page and say: I’d like to win a free paperback version of Locked Away.  Alternatively, you can simply retweet the appropriate tweet which will appear at the top of my Twitter page - no need to add anything.
The deadline is 30th November at midnight.  After that, I’ll select two names at random and make contact to find out where to send your free copy.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Ellie Braintree wakes to find herself in darkness, lying on bare earth with her mouth taped and her hands tied.  DCI Alice Candy takes on the case and uses an uncanny knack she has to tune in to the emotions and perceptions of both victim and abductor – her methods are unorthodox, but her impressive record of success is enough to earn the respect of her colleagues.  Convinced that Ellie is alive and stronger than ever, Alice Candy and her team set out to track down the young woman’s elusive captor.

Thanks for visiting my blog and good luck!