Friday, 10 December 2010


Rolling about with lion cubs is not something I expected to do on a recent trip to the island of Mauritius.   Lions are not indigenous to the island, but have been brought by Graeme Bristow, owner of Adventures Safari ( where he and his team enables groups of up to twelve to literally walk with two full grown lions for about half an hour through forest and have their pictures taken with the lions.  We are literally within breathing distance of the animals.   It's the first place in the world to do this, but not the only place).   Ajay, our guide, advised us not to walk in front of them, not to run, not to bend down and not to shout.   ‘they are wild animals’ he kept repeating, but as I stroked one of the females on the back I had that surreal sense of doing what I had always wanted to do on safari as a child and ‘stroke the cuddly lion.’

If the lions are the icing on the cake, rolling about with the lion cubs is the cherry on the icing on the cake.   These solid little bundles of play time have wide bright brown eyes and long sharp claws but in the same way baby elephants are more dangerous than fully grown ones, they don’t know their own strength and consequently could lash out playfully bearing their claws and knock your eye out.   Ginger and Rolly were abandoned by their mothers.   Lions are famed for being good mothers, but this is not necessarily the case. They are above all ruthless survivors.   If the lioness feels the cubs will endanger the pride, she will let them die.  So much for the largesse of a lionheart.  But as I kneel down by Ginger, a very playful cub, tickling his tummy, marvelling at the intimacy, relishing each moment, looking into his large glassy eyes its hard to believe.  I strongly recommend.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Am watching the protests in Whitehall today on the TV.    Terribly un PC thing to say but I'm so very pleased the students are angry and showing it. That they feel it's wrong that only the wealthy should get the best education.   They're not fearful or apathetic.  They are challenging a decision which is fundamentally flawed.   Educate the masses and they work for you.    But then again, perhaps if we have a government who are fearful and apathetic and flawed, then they believe educate the masses and they work against you.  Or rather, they vote against you.   The government won't listen. They feel that if they do now, it will show that they have backed down to force. To violence.  Not that they have backed down to better logic.   And a more intelligent decision.    The government are in a no win situation and they have put themselves in it.    Or they will claim, the previous government have put them in it.  Or put us in it.  It's never their fault, always the fault of someone else.  And oh yes, we voted the previous government in, or the majority did, so ultimately its' our fault. Or the fault of the parents of those students who are now protesting in Whitehall today on the TV.    If you can't convince the masses confuse them.   If you can't confuse them, don't educate them...... 

Thursday, 18 November 2010


BTW, thank you to those who attended the event at the Orange Tree Theatre on Saturday last week, on have children won't travel.   Lovely venue and the rugby was on as I suppose were a plethora of kids clubs, sports clubs and other stuff that parents needed to catch up on.    I hope you found it useful. I'm going to be doing more round the country next year having done further research on this topic.   I had expectant mothers and grandmothers in the audience so I tried to cover all ages and all expectations.    I'm talking at the Notting Hill Travel Shop in December about travel writing in fiction novels.   


Am I the only one who saw the elephant in the room when Kate and Wills met the press?  Kate dressed in blue, looking aslant to the side, dark eyeliner, and the ring, that ring and William looking the spitting image clone of she who must not be named.  Kate froze when asked about Diana not because she didn't know how to answer the question,  Kate knows how to follow in her mother in law's footsteps - she simply makes her own footsteps. She froze because she knows how uncomfortable, how awkward, how vulnerable and how utterly pathetic she who must not be named makes the Windsors look and feel.    Charles looked grey pompous, every day increasingly looking like a spoilt little prince behaving like a chippy little rich man, when he was asked about the engagement.   And Camilla, step mother that she is, uttered the immortal words 'wicked'.   She who must not be named has a sense of humour.   'Wicked' step mother.   I don't think she has been accepted whatever the tabloids suggest.  She's just so innocuous she makes even Charles look substantial.   William chose the ring because he wanted to feel that his mother would not miss out on the fun.     Diana was screaming loud and proud in that room when the press appeared and the rest of the Windsors knew it.   Everyone will be thinking or her when they see William walking down the aisle.  And I love the fact Kate is allergic to horses.   William your mother would have approved. xx

Monday, 15 November 2010


I attended the launch of a new eye wrinkle cream last week.     I was a good twenty five years older than most of the women in the room, all of whom were wearing black, most of whom had blond hair and no visible signs of cellulite, curve, wrinkle or need of aforementioned eye wrinkle cream. A travel journalist should never attend anything to do with beauty or skin care,or rather this one shouldn't have, as I found myself being inspected/analysed quite closely by all those I met.    What I had always hoped was a natural outdoor glow, a light tan, had suddenly turned into the skin damage, oh dear, and the crepiness, and oh no, I didn't cleanse tone and moisturise regularly and that was the reason my skin had aged so badly. I felt 102.   I did a test. I have the skin of someone marginally younger, but only marginally.   I have spent too many years on planes, baking in the sun, being outdoor in too hot or too cold climates and not taking care of my skin.    Too much coffee, not enough sleep, too much time in front of the computer squinting not wearing glasses, etc. etc.    Too much travelling, too much laughing, too much living....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I’ve been busy behind closed doors, stocked with black coffee and rice cakes, writing my next book, but I took a break to attend the World Travel Market yesterday, a place where tour operators, tourist boards and everyone and anyone to do with the travel industry sell and tell.   It’s more like a world cattle market on certain days and there’s a lot of non news, but it’s always fun to look at the diary on route to Excel and see that I am visiting India, California, New York and Canada all in the space of a morning.   I usually return with a few press releases but this year the ‘travel trends’ as originated by Euromonitor (I know it was Euromonitor as the presentation which lasted fifteen minutes mentioned them no less than fourteen times, sometimes three times in one sentence).  This year I sat in the audience with my friend and colleague Alistair Mckenizie who edits the very useful website and listened to where we should all be going and what we would do when we got there in 2011.    I write fictional novels and some of the stuff I heard would even stretch the imagination in even those books.     I realise that every continent needs something to say and sell but it got really stupid this year.

The most farcical trend came from North America, which it usually does.   Deprivation holidays are fashionable in North America. No I’m not talking stay-cations where we don’t have the money so we can’t go anywhere, we’re talking holidays for the very wealthy who have got tired of five star, being treated like the Gods they think they are, and want to cast themselves out into the wilderness and suffer like the rest of us, or even better suffer more than the rest of us.   Sort of an extreme no pain, no gain.   Low is the new high, and anyone wanting to feel the pain of being poor, has to pay a high price for going without.  I suppose if you‘ve got a Catholic guilt thing about making loads of money illegitimately (they never think they do) and realising you’re still not happy despite the luxury lifestyle and perhaps a little bit of induced fasting and spiritualism to ‘get God’ or at least loose pounds is the way forward then I hope those who are marketing this holiday form to their wealthy wimps will make a mint and induce some sort of karmic retribution on the bankers, I mean punters.   I’m not talking luxury boot camps (Euromonitor made this clear). I’m talking trekking across deserts and forests with little food and water, working in appalling conditions.  Why don’t they just take a plane to Afghanistan and help our boys there?   Why didn’t we just send them to Chile to help with the digging or Haiti or anywhere they can actually help with the suffering of others rather than getting a kick out of their own?  I can’t quite work out if this idea is karmic, ironic, moronic, masochistic or just plain insulting to those who genuinely are deprived but the idea of ‘playing at being deprived’ is just plain patronising. 

Another trend is Iraq.  Forget France and Spain.  Everyone should go to Iraq. Perhaps those who want to experience a deprivation holiday in North America should go to Iraq although I doubt Iraq wants to see any more Americans in their country even if they are willingly paying a lot of money to be beaten up and treated badly.   (Wonder if Tony Blair will go on one of these deprivation holidays?)

In Africa there’s ‘space tourism’, as in looking up at it (astronomy) as opposed to going up in it, which at some stage ‘Africa’ wants to promote as well.     Africa allegedly boasts some of the clearest skies in the world, so hotels are installing telescopes in their rooms.   As I know many hotels have issues with towels, dressing gowns and toiletries being nicked, I don’t hold out much hope for the telescopes lasting long.   

In Latin America, they’re trying to improve the roads (all infrastructure actually) and in Asia the only thing they’ve got to sell is what they call ‘the fragrance factor’, as everything is being scent branded. For example when you think of Holiday Inn you think citrus, green, floral, woods, bouquet.  Personally I think Lenny Henry or is that another hotel chain?

And according to the survey on travel trends Europe is closed for business. We’re all skint, unless of course we’re very wealthy in which case we will be paying an awful lot of money to feel the pain somewhere very dangerous.  

As for which nationalities are coming to the UK. Move over the wealthy Russians, we now have the wealthy Chinese, followed closely by the wealthy Indians. Although what they will find in Blightly will be largely owned by the wealthy Arabs who have bought up our real estate by then. I couldn’t make this up. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I am talking at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond at 11.30 on 13th November about travelling with children, or rather how to not travel with children.    I've just returned from the most wonderful experience in India with my eleven year old, and it's given me new ideas about how to travel and encourage others to travel.     We saw tigers, ate curry for breakfast (I don't eat breakfast at home so eating curry for breakfast was a step I hadn't anticipated) but as the chef taught Jamie Oliver everything he knows about Indian cooking, it was the best meal I've ever tasted (care of Oberoi Rathambore). Tom learnt to cook Indian, planted a lemon tree and several herbs (long story) and learnt how to manipulate Indian puppets which were magical in every sense.   Saw the Amber Fort, the Observatory, 19 hours of road travel all of it like watching an India I've seen so much on TV - colourful and hypnotic.   Took a wonderful yoga class which taught me why I was in the position I have been in for the past ten years (they never explain in UK classes - not the ones I go to anyway) and went to a spirit ceremony giving offerings to various Gods.    Tom painted on silk and I went to the Gem Palace in Jaipur and had a fascinating talk on politics and philosophy by the owner Sanjay.   A wonderful adventure.  

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Well, I arrived care of Easyjet, not after missing the flight, by missing my turning on the M25 and then being held up by a car crash, albeit on the other side of the road, but everyone has to stare don't they, just in case there's any blood.    Got to the airport, booked car hire at extortionate rate, got on plane, full of exchange students preparing to practice their French on the locals.  No chance.  Drove to the house to see what the damage was.     Thank fully a good friend had tidied it but the gaps where the TV was, the hifi, the wii and all the things that I was told were missing, were gone.   And also a block of kitchen knives which was worrying but as soon as I told everyone that, they immediately said 'kids'.     Some ornaments have been broken, some sign of break in and now it's in the hands of the local gendarmes.  But as I stood in the courtyard and stared out the windows of the main house overlooking the valley I still felt how much I love this place.   For those of you who don't have the burden/blessing of something like this, it's like having a wonderful lover who when you are with them, you love every moment of their company, and when you are not, you wonder what the hell you are doing with them.    I slept in Tom's room amongst his toys.    

Monday, 4 October 2010


Grey Monday morning, it's raining and there is a tube strike.    I get a call.   My home in France has been burgled.   They've taken all the electrical stuff and wrecked some of the other stuff.  It's a mess.  The local gendarmes think it's an inside job so I am going down to see what has been taken and hopefully nothing sentimental, irreplaceable I will cry if I've found it's gone stuff. Having a lovely home in another country is wonderful and despite the expense of this place it's been somewhere to escape to each year from the traffic wardens and same old same old of my home here.    OK, every time I've gone down there, there's been another bill to pay, someone else wanting money and another thing I've absolutely must, got to have, immediately get fixed that costs ten times more than it should.   So the burglary is hassle.  And the fact it's an inside job is a hassle - the person had a key?  Someone I trusted.    So who did it?   

Friday, 1 October 2010


Is it a good idea to write about your divorce after your divorce? In a book, in for a newspaper, for your diary? Opening up, emotional honesty for every tear and tantrum? Well I did all three, and having been on radio, presented talks around the country about ‘how to fictionalize your life in print..and get away with it,’ I’ve come to the conclusion the answer is ‘yes’, but with reservations. 
Writing a diary of what is happening as it happens is a good idea.   The lawyers are always interested in the facts and detail and what you may think is irrelevant they will find important. But when the dust has settled and you’re in your twilight years, and you may have forgotten what all the fuss is about, it’s important to remember what you have forgiven. Always forgive and let go of what is gone, but never forget because by doing so you will remember your own strength and the journey you've taken to get where you are today. 
Opening up your heart in print in a magazine or newspaper is another matter and I’d advise against it. Unless you have strict control of what goes in and what’s left out it might come out as an emotional outpouring of cruelty and retribution when a far more balanced, both sides are culpable attitude would have greater impact and be far more help to couples going through or contemplating divorce or marriage for that matter. No one wins. 

As for a book, I didn’t mean to write a book about what I got up to during and after the divorce, in fact the first one I wrote was about what I got up to before I got married. I had written a book on traveling with toddlers, dedicated to my son and the his father ‘all my love always’ (always comes back to haunt those dedications..) Completely by accident I met a woman at a party who happened to be the commissioning editor of Mills and Boon. When she gave me her card, I gave it back to her, ‘I don’t write about princes at the moment, I just know a toad.’ ‘We want toads, she replied, they’re more interesting copy.’ So I wrote my book THE LAST YEAR OF BEING SINGLE (Mira) which although not in the same league as EAT, PRAY, LOVE, worked as a catharsis and gave me something to do during the nights when I couldn’t sleep. It was a fictional account of what happened my own last year of being single, and it gave me my first two book deal when I least expected it and most needed it.  There's a lot of sex in it. 
The second The Last Year of Being Married (Mira), was like The Empire Strikes Back to Single’s Star Wars. The reviews on amazon are hilarious, so nasty, with detail that's not mentioned in the book, I can only guess they are from the ex, friends of the ex or someone who has been an ex, is a city trader and thanks his bank balance that their ex isn’t a writer or a novelist and has no aspirations to be one.   I had written Single to show women that just because their partner may appear right on paper, doesn’t mean he’s right for you. I knew and know many women and men for that matter who go up the aisle very unsure they’re doing the right thing only everything has been paid for already. With Married, a book every couple wanting to be married should read (if you still want to after reading it, you do love each other), I wanted to show women there is light at the end of the tunnel. Book writing is a wonderful way to step out of yourself and view the drama, not be the drama.   
Since then I’ve written five more books, all fictionalized accounts of various times in my life – The Younger Man, The Playground Mafia, The Battle for Big School, Schools Out and the most recent The Control Freak Chronicles. They are all about 'single mother with son' against the world sort of thing, with a few heroines who are happily married although realistically I never really identified with those ones.  At the moment, I’m writing a children’s book which has absolutely nothing to do with control freak ex’s or divorce or bullying in or out of the playground of life or the local school.  Done that, been there....

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


I am writing regular travel blogs for those who are interested.   Issue based more than destination based, I'll focus on seeing behind the melting pot of cultures and cliches and the myth that everyone is friendly and the grass is greener overseas. It's not.   It's not even different in many cases now thanks to companies and brands going global and taking their 'brand' of mediocrity, or as they would chose to see it 'excellence' with them.  Check out  

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I love the film One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.  I don't identify with the characters (the play takes place in a mental institution, although there are times perhaps I think I should)  but I have met so many Nurse Rachete-types in my life - the butter wouldn't melt women who talk in whispers, all sweetness and light - but have an anger, bitterness and frustration - like an Icelandic volcano that threatens to explode any moment and devastate any one and everyone that gets in their way.  There was a woman at the Air Canada desk several years back that offered to upgrade me from Toronto to London, but when I thanked her and asked politely if I could also have access to the business lounge, she looked at me and smiled 'I have the power to give this to you and the power to take it away'.   There is power and there is madness and there is power madness. 

I saw a Swedish dance group called BOUNCE at the Peacock Theatre this evening which was One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest with hip hop and a bit of disco thrown in for good measure.   Sounds utterly ridiculous and wired but was utterly brilliant.    It managed to entertain, haunt, humor and stun an audience who were transfixed by the skill and cleverness not only of the dance but the production.   Gloriously crazy.  Go see. 

Monday, 14 June 2010


I was 46 today.  I don't feel or (think) I look older but as Tom was at school today I spent the day doing very grown up things, on what is really, if you think about it, a 'growing up' day.    I will share only some of what I did, one day I'll put it in a novel, but I certainly won't in a blog.

Last year I sky dived over the Oxfordshire countryside.  The guy I went up in the air with told me I wasn't the usual type who does it in their forties because of what he calls a 'midlife crisis urge'.    The type who needs to do everything at once because they realise they suddenly haven't done a lot with the first forty years of their life and now want to do things that had never occurred to them before.    Like sky diving over the Oxfordshire countryside.   It was a wonderful experience and I would do it over and over again.  Unlike bungee jumping and getting married which I would only do once.   This year I did the positively sedate past time of visiting galleries. I have tried to encourage Tom's love of art, but he's still at the stage where unless the artwork is particularly odd or disgusting he would rather be at the computer screen at home or kicking a football about.  I started at the Royal Academy which was interesting mainly because I didn't know Tracey Emin had the nerve to charge what she does for her paintings and people have the stupidity to pay for them.    They deserve each other.  But I bought a print of Quentin Blake because I love the Roald Dahl books and his drawings remind me of those dark and inspired stories.   Then I visited Tate Britain and stared hard at Henry Moore works, a fascinating artist, producing sexy and tortured sculptures and wonderful paintings.   I watched those who were wandering around these galleries.   By coincidence I had watched the film 'Dressed To Kill' the night before, that film with Angie Dickinson and Michael Caine.   There was a scene in an art gallery at the start but hard as  I looked I didn't see any frustrated glamorous housewives looking for a one night stand or cross dressing pyschopathic knife carrying killers.   Galleries aren't what they use to be... 

Sunday, 30 May 2010




I walked in the park. I usually run or cycle with head down determined to beat the clock and my time and sweat and burn.    But I slowed down to talk and walk with a lover who didn’t’ want me any more. And sit on a bench looking far over to the corners of a park I had never seen before, not in that light.   The deer grazed closely by and we sat under a tree and I wanted to cry. As soon as I stepped out of my car I wanted to cry, looking at him, sitting down, unable to stand. I knew he’d met someone else.  I walked carefully and looked at the earth and wished I had bare feet so I could feel it between my toes and wish it would feed me with light.   We walked through trees that whispered my fears back to me but gave me hope as the sunshine burst through and then went and then came back again.   We need to talk, the need to talk, his need to talk and mine to listen to all the things that I had done wrong and why, without telling me, he was seeing someone else.  About how there were two sides to me one he didn’t like, one he loved and adored and bewitched him into doing things that he shouldn’t do, and overwhelmed his better self and side.   And how there was someone else in me, who he didn’t like, the fragile woman who has a son, who is afraid of hurting, and messing up a life that is still so fresh and free.   My son’s and mine.  And makes mistakes.  And there were countless other things he said, listed long and deep until I couldn’t see myself any more only a reflection of his words. Or the words of others who I may have met before who hadn’t seen me.   He wanted the space to think and clear his mind and his bed and his time and I let it wash over me and looked up at the tree which covered our conversation and hoped my roots were as strong and deep and sound and I could reach within myself.  I wanted to leave then but he wanted to eat and talk and suggest we don’t see each other for a month, may be two.  No dialogue I think he said.  And then we went for supper, me holding car keys that would take me away at any moment.   I questioned how a weekend in Paris full of lust and walks in the parks and along rivers and narrow streets could turn so quickly. And then echoes of the pain I had with my ex when he started seeing someone else, and accused me of things that I didn’t even know were on the list.   And I saw someone else in my love I recognized who had a strength that didn’t belong to him.  I asked him if he was seeing someone else. He said no.   Until of course I saw him a week later.  On a train to see him for the first time because the month or two became a week and he texted that he had met someone else.  And was very sad. And perhaps it wasn’t a good idea I came after all.  I still made the journey in tears which everyone ignored, including me, because denial is easy.    I saw him, but he doesn’t see me any more.  Well he wants to see me, and her, he wants to see both of us in his bed and as friends because he and I have this energy together and she doesn’t quite do it for him, so he says, and I do. And he wants to maximize his life.    And he tells me I mustn’t tell anyone.    I see him now.


Friday, 21 May 2010


I think it’s the ash. I’ve recently had two very unusual encounters with people who are both nutty or may have been turned nutty by the (volcanic) ash. They both looked normal, well insipid, which I suppose is normal. One was a tall, be suited man (in his fifties, weak left eye, six foot five, lofty in all aspects) on the underground who scolded me for not telling my son and his friend to stand up for him (there were seats but he wanted THEIR seats). He followed me up the escalator and tried to brow beat me, couldn’t look me in the eye (they never can) and I stood there, looking at him. ‘You’re a banker aren’t you. I said after listening to him tell me how he use to treat his elders when he was a child, realising that only a banker would have that heady combination of arrogance and ignorance that makes them so unworthy of the money they earn (give it to a footballer any day rather than these guys). Nutter number one. Nutter number two. A woman, (middle aged, plain, silver Volvo, East Sheen), remonstrated because I tried to over take her. She was driving at ten miles an hour, so I went at twenty, then so did she, then I speeded up, then she stopped in front of me, blocking the car coming the other way, got out, banged on my window and said she was going to call the police. That I was driving by a school (long closed) and that, when I failed to call her the names she was calling me, told me she had two children in the car and I was a stuck up toffy nosed bitch. Nutter I thought. So I reversed back. ‘You’re going to ram me now are you!’ she shouted at me. ‘No I’m just trying to get as far away as possible from you,’ I replied. There are so many really important things in the world to get angry about, to rant about, but that is not one of them. Perhaps her husband was having an affair, perhaps she was menopausal, perhaps I don’t know what, and I don’t care, but her raving at me was nothing to do with my driving or hers for that matter. Perhaps she was the wife of nutter number one, in which case she had every right to be angry. She drove off eventually, not before telling the guy in front who she’d blocked while shouting at me why she had blocked him and then drove off, slowly, I trailing behind her. She couldn’t resist shouting at me one last time, before turning off, to which I gave in and gave her the finger. Only a little one.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

wise man says...

I told a colleague about the event I attended about corporate charity and the wealthy giving their wealth away.    His response was this.   Anyone wishing to prove him wrong let me know.  

Sarah, our 'takes' on affluent people wanting to do good are gleaned from very  different social levels. My wife works in a charity shop, and we always laugh  about the crappy stuff which affluent people bring in- sometimes friends of  ours-  for Cancer Relief to sell. I'm equally guilty when I give her some of my  books. In Rochester terms, the very great majority of people who are comfortably  off have to be fairly driven and aware of looking after Number One to get into  that position- unless they inherit from Mum and Dad and in that case must  constantly tell everybody that they are desperate and down to their last penny,  because they don't want to be disliked or envied for their good fortune.   By contrast, when you go to City accountants, or indeed take a latte in a  Richmond High Street cafe , you are among people who make their large sums more  painlessly and can therefore think grandly and benevolently about the outside  world. In the case of accountants, they can usually grab squillions without even  seeing the faces of their customers, the people actually paying the bills.  But I see most of this FT-style goodwill and generosity as a front really, and  partly an insurance against something terrible happening, like being involved in  a court case or exposed as a paedophile. How benevolent would some of those who spoke be,  though deeply religious,  actually be if you and his family both wanted the same  thing, I wonder? 

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Givers and takers

I attended a fascinating evening last night organised by the excellent Carole Stone. The Stone Group organises debates and events throughout the year which you can attend for a fee as a member and discuss with the good and the great. It's a bit like BBC Question Time but better and the questions aren't fixed - well I don't think they're fixed. There's a questionnaire on various issues which is sent out via email and the results help to add another dimension to the debate. The last one I attended was on education which I went to when researching 'Battle for Big School'. There was lots of shouting.  

This discussion for the evening was 'You can create wealth by giving it away'. They didn't define the 'you' or the 'it' but I presumed the 'you' was to do with wealthy individuals - Bill Gates et al and the Cadbury's and the 'it' was wealth - money wealth, rather than the wealth in a feel good sense of spiritual worth.  

The debate had some very interesting speakers, some of whom I think spoke from the heart and experience, others who appeared superficial and shallow. The debate was set at the HQ of KPMG, who gave good PR by telling the audience their company have huge social awareness and told us what they do. Having listened to the talking heads and Andrew Neil who was moderating the evening, I must admit the philanthropy - the genuine sort (ie give without the 'what's in it for me' come back)- comes from individuals, not companies, unless it is family led. I don't believe as one of the speakers commented 'business has a contract with society'. Another mentioned that CEOs have big hearts. Those I've met have big egos and a keen interest in the bottom line, but their hearts have nothing to do with their business. To hope that companies have a social conscious is wishful thinking. I'm told it's different in the States and things are gradually changing but as a journalist commented when I told him I was going to this event 'they give when they have so much money the guilt eventually sets in, but they have to have an awful lot of money before it triggers.' The banks who are more than able to filter off money to charities fail to do so. Mind you, charities should get their act together, and its shameful that more is given to donkeys in this country than to kids charities. We have all lost the plot not just the companies. My view for what it's worth is companies will never give unless it is made in their interest to do so - that they are penalised if they don't. And it's weaved into their structure of business if they don't. Since the meeting I've been told about companies who have spent time and money on sustainability - a word that came up a lot in the debate. I've been at those meetings when that word has come up. It's at the bottom of the minutes and it's given scant time and interest, because it doesn't make 'wealth' and the PR gleaned from it, whatever some of those who spoke last night said, it negligible. Even the recent attempt at the Robin Hood tax on bank transactions has received little interest. Their business is to make money. It is in their DNA. They do not believe 'giving' in the sense we were discussing last night makes wealth, or the sort of 'riches' they find of interest. Philanthropy they have researched does not make money or wealth. If it did, they would do it. And their understanding of 'wealth' is limited to that of the monetary variety. Any other sort doesn't make an impact on the bottom line. And that is all they care about. That is, as one person said to me after the event (a CEO actually) they care about. But a very interesting debate.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Well, I've done it!   In under five hours, but only just.    The first 12 miles believe it or not go very quickly.   There was an African band under the bridge at Woolwich that should have it's own record label. They were utterly brilliant and so much of what the runners needed at mile 22 (see below). 

I saw one legged runners and runners who looked in their 80s (or perhaps it was just years of running in the sun that made them look that way) who were incredibly humbling. There were others who had photos of their loved ones, usually toddlers, pinned to their shirt backs, who were running because they had lost them for one reason or another.    A wave of deep heat or whatever its called washed over the waiting area at the beginning and everyone talked to everyone in the way they do when you are on a particularly rough flight and you think you're going to die.  

Up to 18 miles I had managed to jump over all obstacles and smile Cheshire Cat style at the fabulous spectators who I applaud for getting up and being selfless on a Sunday morning. You are all utterly amazing.  I saw sides of London and Londoners I never had before.    I only wish we had politicians who deserved us.   I kept being reminded of them and the election as I ran seeing images of Cameron and Brown on the hoardings - especially Gordon Brown's mug beaming down on us on those posters every five miles or so. Very off putting negative energy at every five miles. He is such a Spitting Image puppet of a man.  If they could only capture the positive energy behind that 26 mile run, when everyone seems to be going in the same direction, running through the pain, for the good.  They're not the ones that just say they're going to do something, they're doing it. 

At mile 14, we were going in one direction when the elite runners were running toward mile 22. Despite the fact they must all be very fit, they all looked like death, as though they were in a lot of pain, which wasn't as reassuring as I'm sure it should be (if THEY are in pain, what the hell are the amateurs gonna be like at mile 22). 
At 18 miles, a red head pushed in front of me and sent me (and her) flying in the air (think Run Fat Boy Run), both of us landing flat on our faces.    Thankfully I was wearing knee guards. I got up hoping that the ankles hadn't been twisted but they were fine, it was my nerves that took the most bashing.    She was ok, but I've got her number!

At mile 22, I hit what they call 'the wall'. It is not a wall, it is a huge overwhelming slap across the face of common sense when the body tells the mind 'I'm tired, this hurts, this is not fun' and the rest of the organs tell you they don't want to be inside this body any more.   There was also an overwhelming feeling that the body isn't meant to do this.   Not run this distance. It's not normal, natural.  Not for a SW woman any way who hasn't trained enough!  

There were LOTS of casualties. I know because I saw the stretchers and ambulances.  Lots of very healthy looking runners with painful cramp, and people falling over water bottles that had been dropped on the road by previous runners.    I took round some energy gel which has an intriguing consistency with a belt I bought at the Excel Trade Fair, and I looked like a cowgirl ready with her ammunition.  I was covered in Vaseline head to toe which kept me both warm (it rained hard while we were waiting to start) and free from getting sore.    

I walked for half a mile, perhaps more, when negative thoughts set in, as they do, one after another, and heard all those hateful voices and negatives that are thrown at me every day - and then focused the mind like I had the body.  The body gets you round the first twenty miles, the mind does the last six.  It really does.    I saw men and women literally fold like tissue paper as they were running toward the Mall, as though their bodies and legs were made of jelly.  Their bodies just gave up.   I just kept very focused, kept thinking of all the positives in my life, of which there are many, and all the inspiring people I know.    My son wasn't there to see me at the end - but I was thinking of Tom and his face beaming at me when I crossed the line.    I didn't feel elated which I am told some people do when they finish. I felt utter complete relief and really quite tearful.   The medal felt heavy.  The smiles and 'well dones' very welcome and the jelly sweets in the goody bag at the end eaten with the speed I would have eaten them at five not forty five.  Everyone was stretching and too tired to talk, even to the BBC reporters who were trying to get sound bites.  I am amazed people have enough energy to say anything, let alone a sound bite.    I laughed as I watched others like me attempting to climb the steps at Pall Mall. We all looked very very old.   And sitting down was hilarious. Simply couldn't be done.    I fell on some steps and slowly bent the legs and talked to a guy called Jamie who was in the same state as me but who wasn't a Virgin Virgin marathoner and had done it four years before.     He still found it tough.   I beat Branson, Princess Bea and Natalie Um...whatever her name is.   And I beat the giraffe but not the ice cream cone.   

So I seized the day and the day seized me right back and whacked my thighs hard and kicked my ankles and my body is doing what it said it would do as I ran those last four miles.  'I will get you there Sarah Tucker, but I am going to get you back.'   It is doing it today.  Sore feet, knees, legs, thighs, back.   As for my organs, I am told they are all bruised, but hey, I've had a broken heart before, so a bruised one, will mend and be stronger (which I'm told actually it will!!!)

Will I do it again? No. Yesterday it was an 'absolutely not'.  Today it's a 'no'.   Perhaps running a marathon is like childbirth.  Perhaps it will be a 'may be' in a few days time.  Perhaps you eventually forget the pain and like after the low of mile 22, you have to focus and think of all the positives in your life.   Only with childbirth you run the marathon every day.... 

Sunday, 18 April 2010


Just back from a two week break in France.   Only just though.   Like millions around the world I could have been trapped, but thankfully I found alternative means of transport.  Who else out there believes everyone has been grounded because they don't want us to see alien activity and they've told us we can't fly because of volcanic ash?   As a former avid watcher of the X Files, I believe anything now -  but I liked the idea that Willy Walsh flew up in a 'test flight' to see if it was safe to fly.    Would have made interesting headlines if he had proven it wasn't.    Ashes to ashes and all that. 

One thing I love about my place in France is the peace. The tranquility.  So it was wonderful returning to Richmond where usually I can hear planes over head every five minutes.   As a travel journalist I sort of feel that I have to bear the brunt of the noise as I make my living from it, so to speak. But it was special running through Richmond Park this morning (last week training for the London Marathon, not looking forward to it, ankles and knees sore but the worst is the sore underarms - they don't tell you about that one!)  and not hearing one single plane.  It's still not as peaceful as my place in France, but Richmond is a much more beautiful, quixotic place without the planes.   You can rest in peace here as well now.   

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Just returned from Sri Lanka.  I'm relieved to be home.   It was sort of tales of the unexpected as there was no set itinerary before I left and seven journalists arrived at the airport not knowing where they were staying or indeed what they would be doing from one day to the next.   You expect that sort of thing in a war zone but not on a press travel trip where the PR usually wants you to write about seamless service, melting pots of hidden gems using every possible lyrical adjective and metaphor imaginable.   Talking of gems - Sri Lanka is known for it's gems - moonstones, sapphires and and anything semi precious.   One of the journalists was accused of stealing one of the hidden gems (probably because it was so well hidden the shop owner couldn't find it), which left a sour taste in everyone's mouth - ironic considering it happened in a town called Kandy.   Sri Lanka is also a place where people chill.  It's a chill out place, spiritual place.    Where people connect with nature again.   Perhaps as a result you've got quite a few retreats designed for those who want to connect with nature again - ie go back to basics (hygiene, food) although the price you pay tends to suggest for less you pay so much more.   We visited a retreat where guests can live in mud huts and live off vegetarian food, and do yoga twice a day.  Monks live in the nearby hills and there are oxen in the nearby fields.   Visually the place is stunning.   The teacher came from just up the road from me.   She was good, but I felt why go to Sri Lanka when I can go just up the road.    At least I'll know what to expect.   I asked the owner what sort of people visit the retreat as it wasn't particularly cheap. She told me lawyers and bankers, and media.    They should put that in their brochure, or perhaps that's why they don't.   But at least it would manage expectations.    I'm sure Sri Lanka is a gem, just that it needs to be seen in the right light, in the right setting

Monday, 8 February 2010

Running for life

I have decided to enter the London Marathon this year.   It seemed like a good idea at the time and it's for a very worthy and worthwhile cause.  I went to a 'meet the experts' day where I listened to experts on running (I didn't know there were experts on running but hey) talk about all the dreadful things that can happen to me in the process of running 26 miles non stop - including death.   People talk about running the way they talk about skiing, golfing, anything where there's an obsessive compulsiveness anality in their wish to impart every bit of detail about every bit of detail.    It reminded me so much of all the books on pregnancy I refused to read before I gave birth, about what could go wrong.  To help prepare myself I've joined a running club.   It feels more like a singles club as there seems to be a lot of pairing off, but I'm not pairing off - firstly because I'm already with someone and secondly because when I'm running I'm just about able to breath let alone hold a conversation.    The running club reminds me a lot of the NCT evening I went to once. I only went to one.  They asked me how I was preparing for child birth and I said I was trying to get as much as possible in before the baby arrived. The woman looked at me sympathetically and told me I was in denial. I said I wasn't. I said I knew I would be having the baby and what they would entail it's just that I wanted/needed to do as much as possible before the day arrived.      I think I'm in denial about the marathon although I have started training.  The point is I find it so utterly mercilessly dull.   And what's worse, a beauty therapist friend of mine has told me it ages the skin.   You look older.   Not only that, by running this marathon, I could have a heart attack, get kidney failure, which is appropriate in light of the charity I'm running for, have dreadful shin splints, get dehydrated if I don't drink enough water, throw up if I drink too much (loss of minerals).    I must eat pasta. I don't like pasta, but I must eat it.   I must not run for a few days before hand.   I will be pulled along by the enthusiasm of the crowd on the day they tell me but I don't think so.   But it's for a good cause. It seemed like a good idea at the time.....