My overriding feeling looking back on 2019 is that it has been a good year packed full of fabulous things, but of course every year has its ups and downs and we have had a few downs to contend with too. I guess it’s the way we deal with the downs in life that help us grow as individuals and move forward to the next phase. I have a T-shirt that says, ‘Don’t Look Back, You’re Not Going That Way’ and usually that is my motto in life. However, as the year (in fact the decade) draws to a close it’s nice to reflect on the high points – the bits that live on in your memory forever. With that in mind, here is an overview of my good things from 2019 and I feel very blessed to say there have been plenty.
January – Having got engaged in 2018, we had a wedding to plan. We both wanted a small gathering on some far-flung beach but we were torn between two favourite destinations; would it be Barbados or Mauritius. We usually try to get away in January to celebrate our anniversary of ‘living together’ on the 19th so we booked a last-minute trip to Mauritius (if I remember rightly, Chris booked it on the Friday and we flew out on the Monday!) to the Maritim Hotel and Spa. The location was lovely, the staff friendly, the beach gorgeous…. it just felt right! Two days after we arrived home, we had the flights and accommodation booked for our wedding party having confirmed the 27th August as our actual wedding day with the Mauritian authorities – it had to be that day, as it would have been my mum and dad’s platinum wedding anniversary had he lived.
February – The month started with snow on the ground and ended with temperatures in the high teens. I particularly remember the end of the month as my son and I went to Kew Gardens on the 27th February to enjoy my birthday treat from the previous year of admission and a cream tea for two. The weather was unbelievably good – it felt more like May than February – and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The last thing we did before heading home was go into the palm house. I had already made a start on my second book for Bookouture while we were away on holiday and the prologue was set in the palm house of a world-famous gardens in south-west London. If you have read the book you will know why this image of a European-looking girl sketching took my breath away!
February was also the first meeting of myself and the Diamonique team at QVC regarding the piece they had asked me to design to celebrate 25 years of Diamonique on QVC UK. I knew I wanted feathers as they have a special meaning for me, and we decided the main piece would be a bracelet with earrings to match. It just shows how long things take from sketchpad to appearing on QVC – my pieces finally aired in October, although Dale’s, Charlie’s and Ali K’s had all appeared earlier.
March – I decided to have some new author photographs done as the one I was using on the back of my self-published books was at least ten years old! I asked Sharon, who you will have seen many times on QVC as one of our models, if she would do them as I had heard good things about her photography skills from the other models. She was brilliant – so many good photos it was had to pick a favourite! I’ve made good use of them in magazine articles and also this banner I had made for when I do book-signing events. Thanks also go to Siena one of the Make-Up Junkies girls who do our hair and make-up for TV.
Good news on the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia front – I was allowed to stay off medication for a further three months.
April – You might remember we had glorious weather over Easter. It was particularly good as we had my mum down to stay for a few days and we were able to sit outside on the new decking area. A lovely Easter Sunday was somewhat marred when our son had a fall on our stairs, so Easter Monday was spent partly in hospital. Thankfully he was okay, despite a minor bleed in his brain and at this point I should say a huge thank you to the NHS staff who were very thorough.
May – One of the highlights of the month was a visit to my home town, Nottingham to host an afternoon session for Rotary International at their Annual Conference as part of their quest to ‘End Polio Now’. I am on my own personal journey to improve my progressively weakening left ankle (a result of contracting the disease as a 14 month old baby) – and this acted as a catalyst for me to seek out an ankle specialist to see if surgery might be beneficial – more on that later.
June – Is my birthday month, but this year it also saw the ‘birth’ of my first crime thriller novel, Little Girl Missing, with publication on June 14th. We hosted a small party at home in celebration and I’m sure you’ll recognise some familiar faces in this selfie that Debs Flint took – I was really touched by their support!
A few days later, I attended another party – my publisher Bookouture’s annual bash. Writing is actually a very solitary business with hours spent at the keyboard, so it was great to meet some fellow authors.
July – The month kicked off with an interview on BBC Radio Nottingham to talk about Little Girl Missing, I had some more good news regarding my CML (still no medication required which meant I would be drug-free for the wedding) and watching my daughter, Sophie and her step-daughter, Amber in their dancing show – both were very impressive.
July was also the month where I had to get my ‘line-edit’ for What He Did, the second in my crime thriller series, submitted. Once that was done I was able to focus on the wedding. Apparently, most brides choose their wedding dresses 6 – 12 months before the BIG day…. I had four weeks before we were due to travel. Fortunately, Jill Franks put me in touch with a dressmaker who is local to both of us and also has a wedding boutique. The dress I selected needed some alterations, so several trips to see Emma were required, but she did an amazing job and even packed both my dress and Sophie’s bridesmaid dress in our carry-on luggage.
We also had to choose and have the wedding rings made. Lovely Alison O’Reilly, who helped design my engagement ring, visited our house with a selection of designs to choose from. It was tight to get them made in time but she delivered them to us on the Friday before we flew out on Monday 19th!
August – Well, of course the most important thing about August was Chris and my wedding after over forty-one years of living together. I can honestly say that everything about the day was just how I hoped it would be. It was vaguely surreal to be sunbathing on the beach in the morning, meeting up for lunch in the beach restaurant with our family and friends and then walking down the ‘aisle’ (a red carpet across the sand) for the actual event. My favourite photograph of the day was the one at the top of this blog, where the boys almost dropped me, but this picture of ‘my little family’ fills my heart with love and pride. I’m sure many of you will have read the blogs about our wedding back in September, so I won’t bore you except to say I’m glad we waited and I’m glad we did things the way WE wanted to – it was magical.
Prior to leaving for Mauritius (the same day we bought Chris’s wedding outfit actually) I had my appointment with the ankle specialist to discuss how he could help arrest the deterioration in my left ankle – I was so pleased that something can be done to keep me on my own two feet for a bit longer.
At QVC we were celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Butler & Wilson and I was very happy that my final show on air as a ‘single lady’ was with Simon Wilson – I wonder how many of you saw the veil he made me wear?!
September – The month began with my husband and I on our honeymoon – still in Mauritius but at a different resort. I did have the final proof-read edit of What He Did to do but that only took around eight hours out of our week and fortunately most of it was done on the one day of less than gorgeous weather.
A couple of days after getting home, it was the Butler & Wilson 50th Birthday Bash at a hotel in central London. Wonderful location, lovely people and some very kind words from Simon about our working relationship over the past twenty-five years… really touching.
A week or so after Simon’s party, Sophie and her family came round to our house for dinner with Chris and my wedding present from her and our son. I already loved the picture when I ripped off the wrapping paper, but loved it even more when I realised that the couple sat talking on the end of the pier was us. She had secretly taken the photo the day after the wedding! Isn’t It just the best wedding present ever – definitely a few happy tears shed.
On QVC, it was great fun to work with RuPaul in his collaboration with Mally and her make-up range – what a professional!
October – October 1st was QVC’s 26th birthday – who would have dreamed how successful shopping on TV could be when Jon Briggs and I launched the channel in the UK all those years ago! My Diamonique piece finally aired (and sold out, although I think it is due back in stock soon) and we launched a QVC Podcast called Inside QVC. I was thrilled to be asked to be on the first one with our UK CEO, Rob Muller, but there was a slight technical hitch so ours eventually became the third one in the series – I think they are all still available to listen to on our website if you fancy it. Will Gowing does an amazing job at interviewing all the guests – all the ones I’ve listened to are filled with interesting facts you may not know about our Presenters and guest Presenters too.
Still good news on the CML front – my next blood tests are due in January so keep your fingers crossed for me. Although I have been off my medication for CML, I did have to have some injections in my left leg in preparation for surgery – Botox!!!! I know… I said I would never have it and I stick to that in terms of a cosmetic procedure, It really hurt, as did the steroid injections in my ankle, but it’s a means to an end.
October also saw the release of What He Did, my second Bookouture book – thanks so much if you’ve read and reviewed – the reviews make all the hard work worthwhile. And we went to see Skyfall with a live orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall which was fab u lous!!!
November – while everyone else is busy with Christmas preparations, I usually don’t start until after my son’s birthday on the 27th – this year though I did try and get ahead of the game as I was also trying to make the deadline for the next book in the DCI Rachel Hart series…. I missed it, but thankfully I have a very understanding editor who realised it had been a pretty packed year for me. It was very helpful to have someone else make his birthday cake – he’s very lucky that his girlfriend is a good baker, it was delicious!
I also attended my first Christmas Fair selling signed books – I enjoyed being able to tell customers about the different stories I’ve written and helping them decide on the best choice for them – a bit like being on QVC really.
December – following a series of physiotherapy sessions, we have now decided on a date for my ankle operation – it’s on January 29th so you won’t be seeing me for a while after that until I’m back on my feet!
The other decision that was finally reached, three days before Christmas actually, was that my mum would spend it with us. I always invite both our mums for Christmas as I don’t like the idea of them being on their own and I realise how lucky we are to still have them, but I never pressurise them to come.
Chris’s mum always accepts but my mum had repeatedly said she couldn’t face the journey from Nottingham – fair enough as she is ninety-three! With a few days to go, she changed her mind. I’m not going to lie, it has been pretty full-on having them here (plus Sophie and her family Boxing Day and into the 27th) but I wouldn’t change it for the world. They’ve eaten well, slept well, had a couple of sips of wine and sherry and joined in the games of Sorry, Chase the Ace and the traditional ‘colander’ game (or name game as it is known to others) and we have had plenty of time to chat and of course ooooh and aaaah over the wedding photos. Honestly, a wonderful end to an amazing year for which I am very grateful.
Wishing you and yours a Happy and Healthy 2020 as we step into a new decade.
Much love as always