Monthly Chat: April 2016

Collage 2016-05-01 10_46_03

What I did

Oh, dear lord. April was definitely monthus horribilis for me. I don’t even know where to start..!

I met up with some old friends (in the sense of time, not wrinkles, ahem!) from school for a 30th birthday dinner (Andean food, tapas-esque, odd but interesting). As these things invariably do, dinner turned into drinks. We found ourselves in the wonderfully pretentious The Looking Glass Cocktail Club of Shoreditch, staring blankly at a drinks menu that was way-too-exciting (seriously, check it out). Drinks were made of “smoked vanilla vodka and lavender Earl Grey tea served in a china tea cup,” adorned with “burnt cinnamon in the style of the vaporising Cheshire Cat” and “served in our signature apothecary bottle” (naturally). After way too many of these designer tipples, I staggered (well, Uber-ed, but you get my point) across London to my second 30th celebrations of the evening. There one of my best friends (Nix) was waiting and an inadvisable amount of wine was had (standard). So basically the (unexpectedly expensive) night ended up in a Pool-Uber, snoring away in the back seat whilst we were driven around London and eventually back to Nix’s flat, at which point I woke with a start and jumped out of the car in alarm. I can only assume my phone had been on my lap, because it never made it inside with me. Oh well. I assume the next person into that Uber car really enjoyed the unexpected ownership of a rather battered baby pink HTC, complete with wallpaper of my friend’s baby. The bastards.

Anyway, so on top of the unanticipated drinks bill of the evening, I had to shell out for a brand new mobile. It was insured under my handbag contents, but the excess payable didn’t make making a claim worth it. Oh well, thought I – that’s a healthy dose of bad luck done and out of the way.  I should have remembered our roof problems of last month, and considered that truly bad luck always comes in threes…

Then, something a little bittersweet. Husband (Oli) and I have had Winnie the Union Jack Mini for quite a while. She was old and rattly and impractical and had done over 100k miles. All our friends seem to be impossibly leggy, and watching them fold themselves up to get in and out of the back seats, whilst comical, wasn’t sustainable. We decided we were going to get a New Car, and when I say New, I mean New – brand new. We put Winnie up for sale just to see what sort of offers the old gal got, and we were rather startled when we got our asking price immediately. So Winnie went off to a new home, and husband and I were left vehicleless for most of the month. Right at the end we picked up said New Car; welcome to the Meakin family, Zelda the Mazda!!

We were unexpectedly cultured this month, going to the theatre (pronounced thuh-ee-ar-tar, naturally) not once, but twice. The first time was to see a little indie production called Shakespeare’s Will, which focused on Anne Hathaway reading just that – her late husband’s last will and testament – whilst reflecting on their unconventional marriage. Later in the month there was yet more of the bard (fitting, seeing as this April was Shakespeare’s 400th birthday). We saw an amazingly funny production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Somehow, despite having two English degrees between us, and me with a Master in Shakespearean Studies, neither Oli nor I had ever come across this particular comedy and it was a real treat to get to be “virgins” for once (ooh, er, etc).

We bought our lovely little house (aka Meakin Manor) last July and it was only really finished in February (well, that’s when we painted the last room anyway). Last summer was a flurry of glossing skirting boards and raging over flat-pack furniture, so we were really looking forward to getting to enjoy our garden this time round. We decided that we were going to take down the trees at the back, allowing more space and light, and stick up some decking and a pub-garden style picnic bench. Luckily for us, my stepfather-in-law is a tree surgeon (handy, that!) and down the trees came. We planned to spend the first bank holiday weekend preparing for said decking, and congratulated ourselves on a weekend well spent, being that little bit closer to having a lovely garden for the warmer weather.

Now, here comes the third instance of bad luck and I’m going to get a little sober here, because even I find it difficult to speak of this with any levity – not yet anyway. Bear with me!

So any normal Monday Oli drives me to work in the morning, because I have an early meeting and I don’t trust the buses in the school traffic to get me there for it on time. But – as previously mentioned – we were temporarily sans car. So on this Monday morning I left later than usual, planning on getting the bus, and while I was stood at my front door locking it, I smelt the worst smell, like someone was burning plastic, and noticed a plume of dark smoke rising from somewhere behind my house. Long story short, our neighbours’ wheelie bin had caught fire, and – in turn, thanks to the wind – our garden fence, our carport, our garden storage unit, our BBQ (yes, even the BBQ!) and – most alarmingly – our garage, which was lovingly converted into a library/office/man-cave/fun room (and, yes, houses every single paperback book I own).

Cue very overly dramatic panic attack, Oli legging it back the 20 minutes he’d already walked to work, futile attempts by us to put out the fire (which involved running in and out of our house, much to spectators’ entertainment/horror). Eventually the fire brigade appeared (I say ‘eventually’ – it was probably about five minutes – but it felt like a lifetime right then and there) and did what heroes do, and saved the day. So now, whilst the structure of the house is okay, and we are living there fine, we have a circa £30k insurance claim and months of contractors to deal with. And I have three novellas to finish over that time, and no office. Fun times!

It took me about a week to be able to relax and sleep through the night after the fire. It really was shocking – both the reality of it (where the flames were like a film, the heat and the noise and the smoke, the molten plastic raining down from my carport, Oli and I clinging to each other, knees shredding on our gravel driveway, crying because we truly believed we’d lost the house we’d spent ten years waiting for, and only just got) but also thinking of how much worse it could have been: the fire could have started while we were in bed, trapping us upstairs, or it could have been on a normal Monday where I’d have been gone for half an hour, and the alarm wouldn’t have been raised as quickly as it was (we live on a no-through road). My first day back at work I was extremely anxious, almost to the extent that I almost traveled home over my lunch break, just to check the house hadn’t spontaneously combusted in my absence. Oli wasn’t much better, and this anxiety plus the constant to-and-fro of various contractors made us very almost cancel a weekend away…

But happily we didn’t! We and ten of our friends descended on the cabins in the Forest of Dean to celebrate a bestie’s 30th birthday; okay, she turned 30 in January, but close enough. It turned out to be exactly the sort of weekend we needed, away from the stress (and the smell!) of the fire. Good friends, good food, good drink – plus a hot tub. On our first evening we wandered out to eat in a local pub and got chatting to the landlady and some of the locals. To quote them, it’s so lovely that getting on a decade after university, we all still get together so regularly, travelling from all over the country. Having said that, the question “how do you guys all know one another?” just gives me a headache now! We’re such a lovely tangled mess now, it’s really difficult to trace it all back (“So, okay, twelve years ago I took a class with her, who lived with her, who is going out with him, who went to school with him, who’s married to me!”).

In the words of a chavvy Primark tee-shirt: Squad Goals. I do love my friends very much. People have been so great during said monthus horribilis; I am a very lucky girl.

I rounded off the month at a blogger/author event in Birmingham. I was meant to be doing the Colour Run around Cheltenham Racecourse, but the race organisers went into administration and I found myself with a free day. I got to enjoy great tête-à-têtes with so many fantastic book bloggers, and brilliant authors – I was a bit starstruck! – and days later I’m still finding out that there were people there I didn’t know about! I definitely have to try and make more of these events.

OH AND GAME OF THRONES IS BACK. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! Maybe April wasn’t that bad after all….

So, May – in between dodging and dealing with the insurance claim I’ve got a fancy dress 30th, my sisters are coming to stay for a few days and my work are throwing a huge music festival themed event. Here’s hoping the weather brightens up for it!!

PS: If you don’t already, consider following me on Instagram (at @rinylou) as I’m waiting to hit 250 followers so I can do an Instagram-only giveaway to celebrate!! Also – Twitter! Also @rinylou. I’m getting close to 1,500 followers there, and I’m already preparing the swag!


What I read

Head In The Sand, Damien Boyd (☆☆☆)
Morning Star, Pierce Brown (☆☆☆☆☆)
Kickback, Damien Boyd (☆☆☆)
Swansong, Damien Boyd (☆☆☆)
The Unquiet, Mikaela Everett (☆☆)
The Chosen Queen, Joanna Courtney (☆☆☆☆)
Flirting in Florence, Aimee Duffy (☆☆☆☆)
The Boy With The Boxes, Katey Lovell (☆☆☆☆☆)
The Boy On The Bus, Katey Lovell (☆☆☆☆☆)
Deliver Us To Dublin, Aimee Duffy (☆☆☆☆)
My Map of You, Isabelle Broom (☆☆☆☆☆)
Play Dead, Angela Marsons (☆☆☆☆☆)
The Substitute, Denise Grover Swank (☆☆☆)
Wedding Fever, Kim Gruenenfelder (DNF’d at 30%)
Our Song, Dani Atkins (☆☆☆☆)


What I wrote

The covers for both The One With The Engagement Party and The One With The Wedding Dress were revealed. See the posts on This Chick Reads, Rachel’s Random Reads, Sparkly Word, Becca’s Books and The Writing Garnet. Aren’t they stunning?? The covers AND the bridesmaids I’m using videos of to reveal them, I mean..!


What I listened to

Top 5 tracks on my Spotify this month

  • Connell Cruise, Into The Wild
  • Birds of Tokyo, I’d Go With You Anywhere
  • Shane Harte, Let You Know
  • Hailee Steinfeld/DNCE, Rock Bottom
  • Bear Hands, 2am

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