Monday, 22 December 2014

Baby Business: Week 38; Bump musings... nearly there

Finalist for New Business of the Year. Tick
VAT paid. Ouch
Used the expression ‘hubba hubba’ in a campaign! Tick
Birth plan finalised – draft seven. Tick

“Ohhh, what’s that. Oh nothing. Wait, ow is that....? No, just a false alarm... or is it... nope, nothing happening yet.” Hands up friends and family that are a getting a little fed up with the ‘is this it’ phone calls!

This really is a strange time. Baby is ready to make her debut into this world, but (as with all good females) she is going to do it in style and when it suits her... she’s her mother’s daughter after all! Every day is now spent with me pretending not to be over analysing every movement, twinge, ache and odd feeling, assuming that this is the day. The reality is that it could be another 4 weeks yet.

Life kind of goes on hold at this point. The sheer volume and scale of my body hinders anything more than a trip to the local shop for Snickers before the forced retreat to the sofa. My days are spent contorting my body to find that one comfortable position... the one that does not exist.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was dashing down to Tescos to buy that fourth pregnancy test. Seven months on and bump and I have already been through so much together. We have bonded beyond what I thought was humanly possible and have shared ups and downs, scares and thrills and gone through an emotional rollercoaster of hormones together (those close to me have especially loved those special ‘hormone’ times!).

I have fretted about the baby business balance whilst she has quite contentedly slept in her cosy cocoon growing and growing and growing. Business has grown alongside my bump and I have now come to terms with sharing myself between the original business baby and my new gorgeous baby girl who will be here any day.

I am ready.

Yup, all ready for baby. Everything’s set. No need to hang about...

Are you listening in there?

On the ‘to do’ list:
Clean cupboards... oh, is that nesting?
Stop playing with the cool dog-bot baby video monitor
Seriously need to stop bashing in to the child gates!
Make last set of amendments to my new website

Sunday, 21 December 2014

New challenges are great... I think!

So it turns out I do fall in to that category of 'people who see the dawn of a new year as a time to set new goals, reinvent a part of their life and aim to embrace more of each day'.

So why didn't I do all that this year, yesterday, last month, the other week, when I was 20 or 32 or...?

Who knows why I (and many many others of you) do this each year, but to not break with my own tradition I have set myself two new challenges for 2015. Both are creative ventures, to keep my mind as bright and colourful and questioning as possible (how can I write and illustrate confidently or capably if I don't?!).

The first I will be running through a new blog I am just setting up (more to follow 1st January 2015) and the second is a set of 12 new art assignments for me to complete (one a month).

All sounds quite straight-forward, I mean... I do actually have 48 hours in my day don't I? and I'm not trying to finish my third children's book before my 40th am I? and I haven't got to complete the research on my grown up book either do I?

Ummmmm, head back in the sand then!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Baby Business: Week 37, Bump, birth and head back in the sand

 Three new websites under development. Tick
Client’s new name finalised – on with the branding. Tick
Web review complete. Tick
Birth plan re-written for the fourth time. Tick

Can any mums out there tell me where you can buy that ‘magic’ cream that takes away all pain... you know the one, the one you get out anytime your child bumps themselves, falls over or bangs their head. Well I want some please for labour.

NCT and antenatal classes may be great for getting us mums-to-be ready for the birth and the weeks following little baby taking over our lives, but it also manages to put the sheer fear of god in to you too. I have followed a simple philosophy throughout my pregnancy - baby has to come out, so there is no point getting stressed and worked up about it. There are going to be a host of highly trained midwives and doctors who deliver umpteen babies a day and there’s an array of different pain relief options available. It will be fine.

Of course there have been plenty of people not shy in coming forward with their ‘birth stories’ (or horror stories) and scarily most of these people have been near-strangers, who end up chatting to me after they spot ‘bump’. It is lovely that people show an interest and seem to want to know about bump, but I really do not feel the need to know all the gory details of their own birth experiences.

There is a common theme though that runs through all the birth stories I have heard... “it is hard to describe as it is like nothing you can ever imagine”. Ummmmmm, haven’t I heard that before somewhere...

My NCT session this week covered all the different pain relief options available and it turns out they all have some negative sides to them, and some carry risks to the baby (even if very small). Now that’s a whole different ball game. Previously I have been thinking about how I will deal with being in labour and not really focusing on my little girl – surely nature takes it course and she wiggles her way out in to the big wide world (non-medically or graphically speaking!). But now I am finding out that the things that can help me and reduce stress and trauma to my body could actually cause her distress, however mild. That is not an option to me as those instincts to ‘protect at all costs’ are there before our little ones are even born. So what do I do then?

Simple. Back to my original philosophy – baby has to come out, so there’s no point in getting worked up about it beforehand. Besides, it’s going to be “like nothing I can ever imagine” so why bother trying!

On the ‘to do’ list:
Re-write birth plan again
Slow down and put my feet up more
Stop changing the outfit for my little girl to travel home in!
Prepare for judging of the four awards I have got clients’ shortlisted for

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Book two nears completion

And so I put down my pen after what I hope to be my final proof and mark up of book two. Now it will be over to my trusty (trusted?) team of proof readers and critics to be brutally honest... gulp!

Meanwhile, it's on with book three... no rest and all that!

Take Flight

I find the sky a continuous source of inspiration, creating conflicting ideas of insignificance or greatness, lightness or darkness, wonder or fear. But what happens when man impacts the sky, is it less beautiful than nature's impact?

The same day and two different images, man made and natures way, cut across the sky - both remarkable and both creating a sight to remember.

Can you say which is more beautiful or striking?

The flight of Geese

The flight of Man

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Birthday Cake

A snippet from a short story I am working on - the entire piece is fictional, though inspired by a brief meeting I once had with a young lady like Mary...

The Birthday Cake

This is not my story. It’s Mary’s story.

Mary was born with a number of complications that caused damage to her brain and impairing her mental and physical development, reducing her life expectancy. She died shortly before her 19th birthday.

I didn’t meet Mary until the year she died. I was at her 18th birthday party and she sat down next to me and started chatting. She’d never seen me before, I was there making a video of the event, yet she spoke to me like an old friend.

She spoke so innocently, thoughts almost popping into her head as she talked. But behind the simple child-like chatter was a sad complex life that, for the most part, Mary was unaware.

Why am I writing Mary’s story? Because she can’t and because I saw something so beautifully unaffected within her.

This is her conversation that day. This is Mary’s story.

"It’s over there, the gooey pink one covered in a hundred zillion little sparkles and there’s jam squidging out the middle. My birthday cake.

I know that you’ve probably had lots of cakes, but this isn’t just any cake. I know it doesn’t have pretty fairies or princesses on, but it didn’t come in a box or have a wrapper to take off. No, my cake, MY cake, is special and it will be the best, most tastiest cake I’ve ever eaten.

Do you know why? Because I made it. Me. All by myself. My first ever cake.

I followed a recipe: sieve-fulls of flour and sugar, dollops of butter, I cracked the eggs, broke up bits of chocolate, splashed pink stuff in and I put on a lot of sprinkles. I was even allowed to rub butter all over the cake tin and I turned the oven on by myself. I could see the gooey cake mixture get bigger in the oven and go browny colour. My cake, me a baker.

I can remember the first time I ate cake. I thought I wouldn’t be allowed any, I’d never been allowed before. It was different to my normal days because I’d been given a bath, someone brushed my hair and put pretty clips on each side, I had a new dress and I’d been given a dolly, my very own dolly. I liked her yellow shiny hair and I pretended my hair was gold too and it was really, really long down my back so I could sit on it with my bottom. That made me giggle.

There were lots of people, ladies who kept smiling at me and a man with a really big book that he kept looking at and reading out bits. I don’t know what the words were about, I don’t think it was a story for me. Then one lady, in a pretty blue skirt, brought out a cake.

I’d seen lots of cakes before, but I’d never had any. I thought maybe it would make me poorly, like the time I ate sausages I found behind the bin when I was hungry. But the cake didn’t make me poorly. 

It looked like a jam sandwich with snow on the top. I like snow. I like my footprints going crunch and leaving a shoe shape on the white floor. I like snow, though it once made me really cold and then I had to go to hospital. The nurse said I needed to wear a coat, but I told her I didn't have a coat. There were lots of noises and people I didn't know. I was scared in hospital.

But the lady with the pretty blue skirt didn’t scare me, she cut the cake with a great big knife and put the pieces onto little tissues with pink flowers on. Everyone got a bit and then she gave one to me. Yes, me. I remember the room went quiet, everyone had stopped talking and they were looking at me. I don’t know why, I was just sitting looking at my bit of cake on the pink flowery tissue. I know I can sometimes be a bit noisy, but this was my first ever bit of cake and I think I just got a little too excited. But that’s ok really, everyone loves cake and I think everyone gets excited about it too.

Everything was different after the cake day. I got a new mummy in a new house and I got my own bed in my very own bedroom. I’d never had that before, my own bed. It had soft squishy pillows and a snugly blanket with pink squares on. There was a little lamp next to my bed and the lamp had a picture of a cat and a dog on it. They looked very happy and that made me even happier. I liked it in this new house with my new mummy.

I don’t really know what happened to my old mummy. Sometimes I think about her and wonder why she didn’t want me to stay with her. But then I get sad and then I get cross and shout. Once I threw a toy car at my bedroom window and it broke the window. Then I was really scared and my new mummy had to get the man and lady from the house next door to help her hold me. They weren’t trying to hurt me, I know that. It’s just that sometimes I forget what I am doing and I get confused and frightened. I think I sometimes hurt people, but I don’t mean to, and sometimes I hurt myself.

Then Annie came to live with us. I liked Annie, she smelt of flowers and she would take me to the park or to the library. She had her own little bedroom right next to mine and she would help my new mummy with the cooking and if mummy was tired she would sit with me at night.

I find it hard to sleep, bad things happen when I close my eyes. I remember my old mummy screaming and she hurt my arm. It hurt so much that only the hospital could make it better. If I rub my arm I can feel a funny bump, I don’t remember if it has always been there.

Annie used to bring back books from the library and we would sit and look at them. Pictures of pretty fairies and princesses; puppies and kittens playing; boys and girls wearing wellies; and letters and numbers. I liked numbers, I could look at numbers all day and they made me feel happy. I could count the numbers really quickly and that made my new mummy smile. Annie said I was a clever girl.

Then one day, Annie wasn’t there any more. Her room was empty and my new mummy seemed sad. I don’t know where Annie went. We had been to the park and played eye spy, then a ball hit me and it made me shout and I got angry. I remember Annie put her arms round me, but I was really angry and Annie fell over and didn’t get up for a while. There was so much noise and so many people shouting and running over. I wanted Annie to get up. Two policeman came to help me and I knew I shouldn’t be scared. They took me to their car and drove me home. 

I haven't ever seen Annie again. I miss Annie."

Baby Business: Week 36, Bump, business and Braxton Hicks

Work on first designs for large hotel chain. Tick
Start ecommerce development for new client. Tick
Concepts for the ecast campaign. Tick
Stop going soppy every time I look at the moses basket! Still trying!

So much has been going on over the last 8 months as bump has grown and flourished and the excitement of ‘what’s to be’ has blossomed, that I have been able to just skirt over the concerns I may have about the upcoming baby business balance. Those carefree days of merrily sticking my head in the sand and living in a blissful state of denial are now gone. I am now less than four weeks away from d-day and have my eyes wide open about the upcoming changes... and there sure are going to be a whole heap of them!

Can these two very different worlds work in harmony – is there a balance?

I love my business and the work I do. I look forward to starting work each morning, chatting to clients and coming up with new and exciting concepts and campaigns. No day is the same and each day brings fresh challenges.

I love my bump and the changes I am going through. I look forward to meeting her, seeing what she will look like, chatting to her and learning how to be a mum. No day will be the same and each day will bring fresh challenges.

Ummmmmm... this is going to be tricky!

On a practical side I am fully prepared on the workfront for the upcoming time off and at home I am fully prepared for the new arrival. I have balanced the preparation of both so surely the reality of balancing work and baby will work equally as well... Alan Sugar never had these worries!

Do you know what? I am actually sitting here (laptop balanced on bump) not really worrying or stressing – I am actually far too excited about the upcoming weeks and months. As I chomp my way through my second Snickers of the day I realise that I have been balancing baby and business for a number of months already and that my mind has more than coped with focussing on both (I am a woman. I can multi-task!).

To be honest, right now I need to find a balance for the twinges and fake contractions (Braxton Hicks – technical term) that I am now encountering on a more and more regular basis. That is always an interesting moment when I am on the phone to a client and a fake contraction sets in and baby pushes that little bit further down on my bladder... you can see where this is going! Not such a good ‘baby business balance’ moment!

On the ‘to do’ list:
Stop balancing the laptop on bump ... probably not that safe!
Stop freaking out over labour stages discussed at NCT
Get measured ... you mums know what for!
Find out how all our business awards entries have done... fingers crossed

Friday, 28 November 2014

Baby Business: Week 35, Bump’s first shower

Brainstorming for new hair dressing client. Tick
Brainstorming for school ad campaign. Tick
Source promotional gingerbread men. Tick
Stop walking in to closed child gates! Tick

Got up this morning and waded through a sea of balloons to grab some yummy cupcakes for breakfast. Wholesome food perhaps not, but they are so scrumptious...

Why the balloons and cakes? Well, returning home from coffee with a friend, I was greeted by a house full of food, balloons and fabulous friends – a surprise baby shower. Thank you to Tori for organising the party and making sure bump got spoilt with an afternoon of gifts, tummy rubs and laughter as mum-to-be was put to the test with her knowledge of nappy changing and baby facts (I think I passed!). My friends didn’t get off scot free; they had to join in by guessing the name I have chosen for my little girl... if anyone put Bertha I won’t be amused!

Funny how names are such a fun thing to choose, but such a hard thing to pick. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes and as a result the world is made up of an array of weird and wonderful names, all chosen for their own special reasons by parents who have yet to actually get to know their child. Strange concept really.

At work we hark on about how important first impressions are – they can make or break a perception of a business in a split second, so why should this be different for our children? With businesses a name can paint a thousand images, portraying the services being offered, the types of customer being targeted, the style of the organisation, etc. So how much does a person’s name reflect who they are? It is after all a huge part of their identity, but does a name define them or will they define who they are.

All a bit deep for a Sunday morning, so back to my cupcakes! For me the name was easy - I have always had a girl’s name I love and it feels absolutely right for her (even though I have not met her). A boy’s name would have been a whole different kettle of fish - there was a shortlist, but even this was hazy... anyone for Maximus?

I have kept the name a secret so I can ‘try it on’ bump. When she arrives in to the world I can look at my gorgeous bundle of joy and I will know if that is the name for her. Despite endless interrogations from friends and family, my lips are sealed until my little girl arrives... after all, I think she would like to be the first one to hear her name.

On the ‘to do’ list:
Return dog-bot baby monitor – technology is only great when it works!
Put away all my lovely baby shower gifts – thank you everyone x
Not eat all 36 Snickers bars I got this weekend...
Start the full rebranding for our client that we have just renamed

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Baby Business: Week 34, Bump’s best friend?

Freelancers back off holiday. Tick
Google Adwords campaign kicked off. Tick
Tickets and advertising sales started for masquerade ball. Tick
Zebra swing constructed! Tick

It has been all hands on deck this weekend – mission baby paraphernalia. Fun and games have been had (along with tears and plasters) getting the cot bed put up, building baby swings, working out the Isofix child seat base, setting up the monitor system and then the child gates...

When you wonder around the baby shops and look at all these things it is definitely through baby-tinted spectacles, gleefully picturing how they will look in the nursery or how well they will co-ordinate with the car interior (that one’s probably just me!). I will openly admit that I didn’t stop and think about building, attaching or resizing these things – surely they will turn up exactly as they are in the shop...!

Flat packed packages mounted up and last to arrive were the child gates, at least these will be easy to put up... no chance! I don’t think I have mentioned much about my home before, and this will probably explain why the air went slightly blue around here this weekend! I live in a converted 15th century building, with nooks, crannies, lumps, bumps and general ‘skewiffiness’ that all add to the ‘charm’. However, this means that any straightforward jobs end up as mammoth headaches demanding krypton-factor style creativity to get things to work or fit. The child gates became one of these jobs.

I think I should point out here that the reason for the child gates is not because I think my little girl will come in to the world walking and climbing (though she will of course be majorly advanced!), but because I have a dog. A lot of people have asked me how I think the dog will be once baby arrives and I am not totally sure - after all, he has had the run of the house and been my ‘baby’ since he was a puppy, and very soon this is all going to change for him. He will be playing second fiddle to something way smaller and way noisier than him. So how is he going to react?

I have heard and read many stories in the past of jealous pets, over loving pets and dejected pets, which have all reacted very differently to the change in their routine and life. My dog is the most friendly, affectionate and loyal of Labradors who plays wonderfully with children of all ages and is amazingly obedient to commands – so surely he will be fine?

Whatever I think, I am fully aware that he is basically an animal. Hence the child gates. These now represent ‘dog free zones’ of the house where I know my little girl can be left without fear of an over loving dog slobbering all over her.

If any of you have any advice about family pets and new babies then please let me know. This is something that a lot of mums-to-be I have met have concerns about - the Baby Pet Balance!

On the ‘to do’ list:
Remember to open child gates.
Stop thinking every twinge is baby coming.
Stop playing with the zebra swing!
Book ad space for store opening launch.

Monday, 17 November 2014

That 'what's-going-to-happen-in-the-dark' feeling

I take photos for inspiration, to make me look at things and think about things differently, from a different angle or perspective. So off I went, camera in hand, large stick in other, to explore the woods as the sun set...

Now tramping round the woods in twilight hours may not be highly recommended, even with the faithful four-legged beast with me, but it draws out something quite different in the shapes and the shadows. It may give me the creeps and raise the hairs on the back of my neck, but that in itself adds to the experience (why do I do this to myself!!?).

I looked at the trees as the light and colours changed and it was as if they felt the 'what's-going-to-happen-in-the-dark' anxiety that I was experiencing, 'raising the leaves on the back of their branches’.

Coolness in calmness, the sun has gone and the moon awaits. There is patience in the waiting, an air of expectation, a feeling of a world about to wake.

Herefordshire, 2014

Friday, 14 November 2014

Life changes you whether you like it or not

Doug Eaton, a renowned painter, has also taken up my research challenge to find out if ‘time’ or our ‘surroundings’ change us more. This is what he had to say...

“Life changes you whether you like it or not, and I’m not saying everything is reactive, but a lot is.
When you reflect on the past there are always positives and negatives. I think I’m very lucky and very privileged , but on the other-hand I don’t feel I have the best life because of the things I lack, that I don’t have in my life.

You don’t notice how things change you at the time, you notice it over time, when you look back. You go along and life is not always very kind. It changes for you, you’re not in control of as much of it. Sometimes you’re completely and utterly in control and then that changes somehow over time, you become less confident and lose that control.

Painting is where I have control, it’s my driver and the reason to get up in the morning.”

‘What are the three biggest differences between 2014 you and 2004 you?’

“I’M LONELIER. I no longer have a partner and my family is just me and my Mum now, when I grew up in a warm friendly family. I am lucky to have good friends, but most the time it is just me and I work on my own at home and all my thoughts are only in my head with only ‘me’ to please, you have no one to share opinions and things with. You do what you think is best.

I’M FINANCIALLY BETTER OFF through my paintings. In 2004 I got a piece into the Royal Academy and a few years ago I changed my sales and marketing approach.

I’M OLDER. My body is less operative through old age. I will wake up in the morning with back ache and I now go to sleep with something to help... a little whiskey.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you think ‘time’ or our ‘surroundings’ change us more? Let me know the three biggest differences between 2014 you and 2004 you:
Or email me at

Doug Eaton is a renowned semi-abstract painter living in the Forest of Dean. He has work in many private collections in the UK and abroad. Find out more about Doug’s stunning work (a beautiful example below), visit

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Baby Business: Week 33, Down to earth with a bump

 New recruitment company branding done. Tick
Masquerade ball branding, website and program complete. Tick
Project plan for new client finalised. Tick
Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter books ordered! Tick

I know that not all mums-to-be feel the same, and we are all different in regards to our pregnancy, but I have actually loved my expanding waistline (and the fact I have felt totally justified in eating everything and anything in sight). My bump and I have really bonded, becoming one-and-the-same, which is of course how it will be from now on. The 'content' of my bump is not only going to be a part of me for the rest of my life, but also the most important thing in my life, and I haven't even met her yet... hope she likes shopping!

However, I do have a confession to make. From time to time I do forget about bump...

Stop the 'gasps' as I am told this is totally normal and it has made for some very entertaining moments for those around... What do I mean? Well, imagine your body suddenly developing a large 'addition' that protrudes outwards beyond your normal periphery. Now imagine trying to get used to that and readjusting your movements accordingly... let me tell you, it is not that easy. I have now successfully opened several doors on to bump, sat down landing bump squarely on the desk, got wedged in one very uncomfortable and extremely embarrassing gap in Debenhams (thank you to the lovely lady with the perm who tried to discreetly 'unwedge' me!) and this week I finally lost my centre of gravity with a thud!

As you have probably become aware, when I settle in to work mode I am pretty fixated, so it really is no surprise that I forget my 'bump to bending ratio'. "What" you may be asking "is that"? Well, I may not have always been the most agile person, but bending over to pick something off the ground has always been a task I have felt was fairly straightforward. Not, it seems, with several additional pounds attached to your front! That's right, I bent over to pick something up off the office floor and quickly found it was me that needed picking up... I literally toppled over. Definitely lost the 'baby business' balance there!

Note - even with all these 'mishaps' bump is fine, it is just my ego that is a bit bruised!

It is interesting how much mums-to-be have to adapt to change before baby even arrives. I am sure it is all part of the ‘gentle’ preparation for the big event, but I wonder how many of you mums-to-be out there are really ready for the changes to come.

I have spent this week (after my hospital bag shock of last week) thinking about this. I am completely prepared on a practical front - clients covered (overly so!), baby essentials all purchased and nursery complete... but what about the 'mental' side (and I don't just mean going nuts through lack of sleep!). How do you prepare for your whole emotional state and structure changing? For once I am not going to try to be clever and in control, I am simply going to leave that question out there for mums (and psychologists!) to put forward some pearls of wisdom. They will be much appreciated by us first time mums-to-be who don't want to admit that we are more than a little overwhelmed...

On the ‘to do’ list:
Not bend over to pick things up!
Get the address for my first NCT class.
Wash baby clothes (ahhhh).
Store photocopy paper at waist height or above!

Friday, 7 November 2014

"You know nothing and there is so much to learn"

Richard Vobes, author of Splidge the Cragflinger, took up my research challenge to find out if 'time' or our 'surroundings' change us more... here are his responses:

Does time or our surroundings change us more?
"Time, of course changes us. Life experiences change us. We have moved on from where we were ten years ago. For the better? The worse? I cannot answer. We cannot stop it. We have to accept it. "

What are the three biggest differences between 2014 you and 2004 you?

"Confidence: It slips away. With youth comes naivety beside it, the fearless conviction that you can do anything. Life proves otherwise or at least challenges this state of mind.

Circles: Although life is a journey, we really go round in circles. I find myself thinking about starting or returning to projects I started many years ago. I hope that this time I can bring a greater depth and understanding to them.

Importance: I think as you pass through the years, you start to discover what is important in your life and where you want to concentrate your efforts and thoughts, and what you don't. For me, I have thrown away the brash, loud noise and exchanged for the peace and smaller success

And the bonus one: You realise more than ever that you know nothing and that there is so much to learn - the question is will you take the challenge to try. Personally, I do try."

Have your say - do you think time or our surroundings change us more? Let me know the three biggest differences between 2014 you and 2004 you:
or email me

Richard Vobes is a Children's Author, TV Presenter, Entertainer, Film Maker, Award Winning Podcaster. Credits inc: TV's The Bald Explorer and author of Splidge the Cragflinger .

Find out more at

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Baby Business: Week 32; Pack your bags bump

Project planning for new contracts. Tick
Launch party planning. Tick
New salon opening posters designed. Tick
Nursery curtains up (thank you mum x). Tick

There I was this week happily minding my own business when up pops an email on my BlackBerry - my weekly pregnancy update: ‘Are you ready? You need to pack your bag for hospital – just in case’.
Just in case? Hold on, I have 8 weeks to go. That can’t be right. A number of flustered phone calls later and those in the know (friends who are mums) have firmly reassured me that there is no mistake... baby could be coming any day now!

Don’t get me wrong, planning in advance in one of my favourite past times. I think you have all realised by now that I am a bit ‘organised-friendly’, but you will also know that I have been happy to jog along growing my bump and sticking my head in the sand about the reality of ‘D day’! So to find out that baby could be in hurry to get out in to the world has made me face up to a few things...

1.       I need to make sure I am fully prepared for an early birth
2.       I need to make sure that work is all set to cope without me
3.       I need to get a new bag!

Now point 3 is easy! Funnily enough I love shopping and I love bags. Hours of shopping went in to buying my nappy changing bag - it had to be just right, co-ordinating with the buggy and my wardrobe! Yes I know – it is meant to be a functional item, but does that mean it can’t look good too? After all it is all about accessorising!

On a more serious note, the baby business balance is about being prepared. Us mums-to-be all face our own sets of challenges with the arrival of our babies, but being prepared will help us all. We want things to run smoothly, so removing any forms of stress and worry is key. When baby comes out in to the big wide world we want to give them 100% of our attention and dedication - we will only get one chance to look down in to our child’s eyes for the first time...

Am I prepared? Of course!
Despite my ‘ostrich’ impressions, I have spent a lot of time over the past weeks implementing new processes to make sure that my clients continue to receive fabulous services... the aim is that they won’t even notice I have gone!  

On the ‘to do’ list:
Pack hospital bag!
Stop panicking!
Don’t think too much about ‘labour’...
Make sure I have BlackBerry chargers plugged in everywhere!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The start of my new Short Story

An eye for an eye

“Too many turns.”

He kept shouting it again and again. “Too many turns.”

She wasn’t listening, she’d got this far despite his noise, his constant grating noise.

She winced at how pathetic he sounded, this once arrogant, mean, brash man, reduced to soiling himself right where he sat, tied to the guardrail. And still he couldn’t just shut up.

The waves were getting stronger in their impact, the tips of the waves falling down onto them. Visibility had long gone and the last of the daylight had vanished along with any hope of reaching the mainland before the storm took complete control.

Why had he not just left her alone, let her take the money and leave. None of this was part of her plan, none of this was what she had wanted, but he had not let her walk out of his life with or without the £2.2 million.

She’d always turned a blind eye to what was going on, what he was always trying to hide from her. She knew he was a crook, always skirting round the grey areas of the law and conducting muffled deals with suspect looking businessmen. She had turned a blind eye, jumped in her Range Rover and gone shopping, lunched with friends, whiled away hours at the spa. Diamonds twinkled from her fingers, arms, neck and ears and her platinum credit cards filled her purse.

But then he changed and she was no longer able to turn a blind eye, especially after he’d punched her in it.

Shocked, scared and with the pain burning through her face, she had simply ran out the door and into her car, hitting the central lock switch as she struggled to see through the swelling and pain. He had pounded at the driver’s window, pulling at the door and swearing at her. It was a minute or two before she’d realised that he was pointing a gun at her. 

A drop in time

Tranquility in a moment. The traffic silenced and the playground hushed as the ripples spread beneath the swans. Time was still. Time was quiet. Just for a moment.
Herefordshire, 2014

Does time or our surroundings change us more?

As part of the research for my new adult fiction book, I am asking the question ‘does time or our surroundings change us more?’. 

As we age and grow we change physically, emotionally and mentally, but change in our surroundings can impact our perceptions, our actions and our behaviour. So which is more influential? 

Our surroundings change as our personal situations change: we may marry, have children, buy a bigger house, we might move to another city or emigrate into another country and culture, and as this happens time keeps ticking on...

If you fancy contributing to my research - my curiosity hopes you do - then I’d like to know: 

What are the three biggest differences between 2014 you and 2004 you?

Short or long answers, weird or profound, obvious or surprising, linked to surroundings or time - interpret and answer in your own unique way. 

To take part, just jot down your answers and:
post on my blog
or email me

I’d like to publish your answers on my blog and if you have your own blog, FB, Twitter or website, then I am happy to link the post direct to you.

I look forward with interest to reading your answers and thank you for contributing to my research.

Baby Business: Week 31, Bump getting on my nerves

Holiday cover in place. My BlackBerry! Tick
Copies of client press coverage photocopied. Tick
Our own version of pop art created for a client. Tick
Nursery furniture built (love a good hint). Tick

Now far be it for me to be a drama queen (!) but what a week. Up until now I have been a fairly smug mum-to-be, having avoided morning sickness, major food aversions and swollen limbs (I promise I am not gloating). Plus, work has continued to thrive with little distraction from bump (apart from the slight forgetfulness in the early weeks and the sudden dashes to McDonalds for a double cheeseburger). However, this week took bump-induced ailments to a whole new level, ending up in A&E wired up to heart and breathing monitors and oxygen! Baby literally got on my nerves...

With the final trimester growth spurt, my body has been subjected to increasing internal pressures as baby starts her training for London2012 - back flips, kick boxing and long distance running (plus the odd attempt at the high jump). The result? Major pressure on my nervous system trapping several nerves and restricted my breathing... I never do things by halves!

I am on the mend now – assigned to the sofa for a few days, but still allowed on my laptop! Just part of the wonders of pregnancy.

This has been yet another eye opener. I am now only 9 weeks from d-day and I have had to admit that I need to temporarily stop my bid for business woman of the year. The baby business balance is about understanding what is best for my little girl as well as my work, and me in hospital is not good for either. I have also realised that my little girl is starting as she means to carry on – bossing me around and putting me in my place!

Hospital has been like a second home for me this week, as I was also there for a tour of the labour ward (it’s supposed to soften the shock on the day). The midwives were lovely, but I have never been in the presence of so many pregnant women in one go... wow, talk about ‘bump-upmanship’. Forget hair styles and fashion rivalries, this is real competitiveness: my bump’s neater than hers; mine’s higher than yours; I am carrying all out front...  

My lovely bump and I were happy to stay out of this. I was far more distracted by the moans and muffled screams from behind the closed delivery room doors. Not quite London Dungeons, but still more than a little distressing and real. And there’s always one isn’t there! That one person who likes to let you know they have ‘been there and done that’. Unfortunately this came in the guise of a pregnant mum of two who felt it her mission to loudly inform us all that pain is not enough to describe the agony of childbirth. Thanks for that! I have happily gone through the past 7 months with the belief that I will sneeze and baby will just pop out  - stop laughing, denial (as I often say) is great!

PS. I would like to thank the wonderful lady at the doctors (pre being admitted to hospital) who gave me her appointment as she could see I was distressed. There are still some wonderful thoughtful people in the world.
On the ‘to do’ list:
Butterfly stickers for nursery.
Hang ‘ickle’ baby clothes in newly built wardrobe.
Confirm buggy delivery.
Sort out recurring BT phone line fault in the office.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A momentous moment

I have just finished the editing and proofing of my first children's book and I have only the final illustration to complete for my second book. It seems all too quiet for such a huge event (to me). I am going to make some noise.....

Monday, 27 October 2014

Let's write this novel together

I’d like to write a novel with you. The novel is called ‘Memories Made’ and I have written Chapter One. I'd like you to influence the rest of the book - the direction of the characters and the story - and I will write (chapter by chapter) based on your input. I will then post each Chapter as it's completed.

Are you game?
If you are, then follow me on twitter @vrheal_author and we can start on Chapter Two...

Read Memories Made, Chapter One

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Memories Made, Chapter One

By V R Heal

As I opened the front door I don’t know who I thought had rung the bell, I had just blindly walked down the hall and turned the latch. Was it shock that I felt when I saw my visitor or was it pure joy? Did the fear come straight away or did it creep in just too late?

My heart skipped a beat, several beats. My breaths faltered and my stomach leapt as I inwardly cried out, only silenced by the dry tightening of my throat and chest. I was frozen. My legs had lost all feeling and I felt faint. How was he here?

The right words never come when you want, on your tongue or in your head. You want to skip forward to script the perfect reaction, cool calm and collected.

"Oh", was the word that came out of my mouth.

An anticlimax to the intensity and magnitude of this moment, but nonetheless that was it. My reaction to a ghost of the past: the past that had shaped my future; the past that I had yearned for, re-lived, dreamt of; the past that had somehow found me; and the past that now stood in front of me.

"Hello Sarah."

Almost sixteen years ago, sixteen lost years ago, entranced, enthralled and wrapped in the magic of a young senseless freedom, I stood on the sands of time watching the sunshine illuminate the ocean. An island, a beginning, a love imploded and a death divided.

I was beautiful then, my legs didn't end and my hips curved into my flat bronzed stomach. I covered my limbs and let my dresses drape my willowy shoulders. I was beautiful, I knew it, but I was afraid of it. Men would stare, undressing me and mentally caressing me. Women would stare, criticising me and belittling me. I didn’t carry myself with pride, I didn’t dress to embellish my body, I stumbled and shrank, I ignored and hid, I didn’t want to be aware. I wanted to be confident enough to not care and to be strong, but I wasn’t.

I'd never understood the expectations that were bestowed upon me, like a prize to be proud of. Public eyes made me curl into my shell, bury my actions to the back of the room and lose myself in the crowds, my eyes shielded by dark glasses and my ambitions hidden.

I'm not ungrateful, I just shy from paths already set, destinies foretold. I go out of my way to shock and fight the expected and I deliberately push through the fear and the warnings of the unexpected. I yearn for comfort and stability yet I wrapped my life in uncertainty, detachment and barriers.

I would travel, escaping down old cobbled streets, disappearing in to churches, exploring hidden doorways, markets and ruins. I would immerse myself in unknown surroundings, hiding from the fear of my own being, the cracks in old stone war-ridden walls mirroring my own self made cracks.

I travelled, I searched and then I found myself there, standing alone, full of fear and breathless with anticipation. The beautiful ocean stretched out beyond the bottom of the sky, the sun dropping behind the water’s endlessness. The beauty astounded, the peace flowed through me and life was about to start, I could feel it, I was ready for it and I wanted it.

I felt him before I saw him. I felt a shift, a change in the air, in the moment. He was walking along the sand without purpose and without care, his face full of life and living, a deepening in his skin from the saturation of sun, his cheeks shaped by the wisps of his unruly hair. I watched without thought, but intense with feelings inside me, deep inside me.

He looked up. He stopped. And we began.


Three weeks we lay in his house with nothing but our secrets and passions disturbing the stillness of that late summer month. Our limbs entwined, we were bound by our intensity and lost beyond our beliefs. We were in love, hard gentle crushing love.

The very thought of moving from our creation was too much, speaking it out loud would let reality take us away from our wants and our needs. We were in bliss, not ignorance. It was natural, like we had been forever and we would be forever.

We spoke of who we were and why we were. He widowed, his daughter travelling, his heart scarred. His intensity frightened me, but his passion consumed me, his love for his daughter like nothing I could grasp or feel. I was envious, to know of such love that outstripped such pain.

I’d look in to his eyes and see every vulnerability and need laid bare and I’d see his complete and utter love look back. A love I only ever felt once again after I lost his.

I felt insignificant next to this man, next to his emotions and next to the life he had already lived. He pushed me, urged me to talk, to tell of loves and lives gone by and passions that lay ahead. I felt bruised by honesty, but released from inner fears. I felt safe. I felt happy. It all made sense.
The phone rang. 

It rang again.

It was two in the morning.

It rang again.

I felt like I hadn't even blinked before he was gone, the door rattling against its hinges in the pre-dawn breeze, not even a glimmer of light to break through the long echoing empty darkness. He had left me without knowing he was leaving me, but there was no decision to make, he had to go. I understood and I grieved for him and his already shattered, broken heart.

A death of a child. There is no meaning, there is no sense. He would not cope, how could he. He would not want to live, why would he.

I returned home to start a new life. He was the reason and he was the cause for me to start again, nurturing what was new and building on what was old. If I had ever felt unsure or uncertain of who I was, if I had ever needed direction or meaning and if I had ever faltered in my own body and mind, then that had changed. He had changed it.

Now he stood in my doorway, all these years later. No warning, no time to prepare, no way to stop the inevitability of what was to come. I’m sure the questions were there, the whys and the why-nots flickering through my mind, but they weren’t important. Nothing else mattered in this second, this small fraction of time that would impact us forever. He was here, I could smell him, I could feel him and I could see inside him.  

From the corridor of shadows behind me my daughter stepped into the frozen moment and before a word or movement could prepare him, he looked into her eyes. He looked in to her eyes and he knew.

His daughter had been killed.
He had left and been lost.
Now our daughter stood before him.