A Very Country Christmas | Zara Stoneley

Title | A Very Country Christmas 

Author | Zara Stoneley

Publisher | HarperImpulse, HarperCollins

Publication Date | 29th October 2015

Purchase | Amazon 

Source | Review Copy, NetGalley

A Page of Fictional Love Rating | 4/5

A short Christmas story of three courses.

Love is in the air in Tippermere as Lottie dreams of a white Christmas with no trimmings – other than her hot and hunky eventer, Rory. But things are never quite that simple on the Tipping House Estate.

Festive fervour takes over and it isn’t all seasonal peace and goodwill as expectations rise and it soon escalates from cosy dinner for two, to all the trimmings for ten!

With missing turkeys, loose horses, troublesome terriers and randy huntsmen, Lottie is hard pushed to find time for a kiss under the mistletoe, let alone find the opportunity to woo Rory with her sexy Santa costume.

But there is only one thing Lottie really wants for Christmas, and only one man can deliver it…
I'll be straight up with you here, I am not usually a fan of stories with horses or dogs in, I don't know why because it's not as if I don't like horses or dogs - I do. I was surrounded by dogs when I was young and I adore them.. even the Rotties - especially the Rotties, and I wasn't a stranger to horses growing up in the country although I never rode one. However I actually enjoyed this story. A lot. 

At first all the characters seem to bombard you with their names but Zara has kindly put a list of characters and who they are, who they are related to and whether they are human, horse or hound which is rather handy to reference back to if you get a little confused. Once you get into the flow of the story it's actually quite a riveting read. 

I felt that I was back in the country with friends at a country estate preparing for christmas. The entire story themes around a newly engaged couple who despite living in a fancy posh house are strapped for cash until Lottie's wedding business starts reaping in the cash. Also, it should be noted that Lottie is still without an engagement ring, and as we ladies can understand, waiting for that lush man in our life to pop the question and present us with a sparkling diamond is every girls dream. Add to that the fact that Lottie somehow offers to cook christmas dinner for not just herself and her fiance (which she hoped would be how they spent christmas) but for 10 people, in her tiny home. That's dramatic enough without adding in randy huntsmen and horses that get loose, and a man you just can't pin down. 

From doing the shopping, to cooking the turkey after it is wheelbarrowed across the forecourt into the main house kitchen aga, its fun, frolics and festivity all the way.

If you fancy indulging in a little christmas reading, and wouldn't mind seeing "how the other half live", this book will warm you to the bone and show you that life isn't perfect for anyone, but when you make the effort to be thankful for what you have, and do your best with what you have, sometimes, miracles can happen. And for me, that's the true message of christmas, perfectly captured by Zara. 

Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence | Holly Hepburn

Title | Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence

Author | Holly Hepburn 

Publisher | Simon & Schuster UK

Publication Date | 5th November 2015 

Source | Review Copy from Netgalley

Purchase | Amazon 

A Page of Fictional Love Rating | 4/5 

When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it's not quite what they imagined - it's pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it's going to be a huge job to get it up and running again. 

It's just before Christmas but they are determined to relaunch on New Year's Eve, to bring the new year in with a bang. But with nosy neighbours, miserable locals and no money to contend with, it's not going to be easy. 

And when the sisters' past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…

One of the main reasons why I urged myself to read this festive story was mainly it's length. It is a short story and one that at this time of the year where we are all so busy with prepping our homes, ourselves and hurting our debit/credit cards we find that as much as we'd like to read, some of the books are too lengthy and we won't finish. This one, is one you will finish.

If you're like me you'll grab those few moments in a queue to read it on your Kindle Reading App on your mobile, you'll grab a few minutes whilst dinner is cooking, whilst waiting for the kids to get dressed for school (maybe!), and even sitting at your desk during your lunch hour. 

Many other attractions of this book drew me in, the cover for a start is gorgeous! The blurb made me really intrigued as to how these two sisters would in fact start over again. And it was a story featuring a pub - I have to say, lately we've had a lot of cake shops, tea rooms, and island getaways... the traditional english pub was a nice and very welcome change of scenery. 

Holly gets the reader right there with the characters with her carefully selected chosen wordery to create such imagery that would be welcome on a christmas card. The characters are ... how can I describe them... honest, traditional, good people of the Country, salt of the earth folk who either set your heart rate racing, get you laughing, or even delicately encouraging the edge of your mouth to turn up slightly. 

I particularly loved the post office lady - she knows everyone and their business. And everyone does as she says. She's kind of like a character that would not seem out of place in Coronation Street, and you could imagine only Ken Barlow could sweet talk her - Maybe! 

As the sisters didn't really know their father towards the end of his life, it was nice watching them get to know him through the people in the village, even if it did mean that their father's grieving girlfriend was first spotted by one of the sisters wearing tights with the seam riding up the back of the leg.

All in all, it's a beautiful story, and I can't honestly wait for the next installment - yes there is one, its called "Valentines Day at the Star and Sixpence" and you can PRE-ORDER it now - and you can PRE-ORDER "Summer at the Star and Sixpence"

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for allowing me to review this book. 

Sleigh Bells in the Snow | Sarah Morgan

Title | Sleigh Bells in the Snow 

Author | Sarah Morgan

Publisher | Mills and Boon

Publication Date | 4th October 2013 

Source | Purchased 

Purchase | Amazon 

A Page of Fictional Love Rating | 5/5 

Kayla Green’s Christmas Survival Strategy! Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green’s favourite time of the year. Then family heartbreak shattered that fairytale. Now all marketing expert Kayla wants for Christmas is for it to be over - as fast as possible! So spending the holidays working to put a family resort called Snow Crystal on the map, is a dream come true. Jackson O’Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage Snow Crystal – it’s in his blood, and he’ll never turn his back on it. Now he’s got Kayla Green working with him, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in the town is just an added bonus! Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she’s out of her depth with Jackson – he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamt of, and it’s terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to fall, will the woman who doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell..?

I can't quite believe that it took me so long to read this book. I picked the book up whilst I was in a reading slump - I had no book reading or indeed blogging mojo but I desperately wanted to enjoy reading again. I gazed at my book shelves and this one stood out to me so I grabbed it and began reading. Days past by and suddenly I was turning the last page with such vigour that I wanted to pick up another book by Sarah and begin reading.  That's the magic of Sarah Morgan's writing. She has this magical ability to transform your mindset and improve your mood in a short space of time. 

I was drawn in by the opening of this story as Kayla Green was dreading Christmas, and everything the whole season stood for. She was more than happy to lock herself away in her office and work through Christmas - even Christmas day itself. I could empathise with Kayla, I was feeling the lack of festive cheer myself. Anyway, Kayla gets the news from her boss during a meeting with a client that she is to travel to Snow Crystal Resort and work on how they can put it on the map and turn things around. Pardon the pun but Kayla feels like all her christmases have come at once and jumps at the chance of being in a secluded location working throughout the holidays. 

What Kayla didn't have in mind was the fact that her client - Jackson O'Neil - has the most lovely family who adore christmas, and most of them warm to Kayla and offer to put their arms around her, include her in the family meals around the kitchen table - something that Kayla finds makes her stomach churn. She also hadn't banked on falling for her client - or having her client fall for her. 

I could go into so much detail about all the highs of this story, but I would be filling this review with spoilers and I don't do spoilers. Sleigh Bells in the Snow is NOW one of my very FAVOURITE christmas novels and my friends are fed up of hearing me bang on about Jackson O'Neil - luckily for them I have 2 other O'Neils to bang on to them about once I've read their stories in the remainder of the trilogy. 

The trilogy consists of;
Book 1 - Sleigh Bells in the Snow
Book 2 - Suddenly Last Summer
Book 3 - Maybe This Christmas 

I am, due to the time of year going to skip to book 3 and read more about Snow Crystal and Jackson's brother Tyler. We briefly met in Sleigh Bells in the Snow, and I can't wait to discover more about him and his daughter Jess and the chemistry that was tingling the air with Brenna. 

Oh, and added to my bucket list from reading this book? A holiday in a log cabin, in the woods, with a hunky man and good book for company ;-) 

Easily a 5/5 Golden Heart Rating! 

The Little Bookshop on the Seine | Rebecca Raisin

Title | The Little Bookshop on the Seine 

Author | Rebecca Raisin 

Publisher | Carina 

Publication Date | 16th October 2015

Source | Purchase (eBook)

Purchase | Amazon  

A Page of Fictional Love Rating | 5/5 

Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! 

And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?

Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!

Imagining days surrounded by books, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.

But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

Rebecca did it again - she made me lose myself in one of her books and dream of bookshops and Paris with romantic ideals! Now I have "Learn French", "Visit Paris", written on my bucket list - all because of this book. 

I adore meeting up with characters I first got a glimpse of in The Gingerbread Cafe series, and this time I got to catch up with a girl after my own heart, Sarah from the bookshop on the corner. There are brief mentions of Lil (who is ready to pop her little baby girl out), CeeCee who makes me laugh so much, and we even catch up with Clay & Lucy whom we met in Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm. That's the magic of Rebecca's books, they are literally like a catch up with friends. 

Anyway, we shall focus on Sarah who has a hunky boyfriend Ridge who she barely sees, yet she remains ever the devoted believer of true love conquers all. Sarah has a friend who owns a bookshop in Paris and when Sarah is contacted by her, is told that her boyfriend has left her and she needs to escape - to Ashford! But there is a catch, she wants to swap bookshops with Sarah for a short time! 

Sarah has never been out of Ashford, and has self esteem issues from her teenage years, and she has to decide what she wants more; Security and Stability, or Adventure and Excitement. Needless to say, she chooses to swap bookshops and head to Paris. During her stay she has to contend with the profits being down, rude staff, Ridge's fleeting calls and 1 day in Paris before he 'had' to fly off again for work, and having her suitcase and passport stolen the second she arrives. She also had some highlights; a visit to the antique shop under the Eiffel Tower, a shopping spree once she could afford it, lovely moments with visitors to the bookshop, and the uncovering of a romantic mystery. 

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Rebecca perfectly captures the descriptive beauty of Paris and you can't help but want to book a ticket ASAP, and lose yourself in the story of Sarah in Paris.

The characters are captivating, intriguing, and very Parisian Chic. I couldn't help but race through the book in a weekend, yet at the same time I didn't want it to end, because when I finished the book it was as if my holiday in Paris was over and that did make me sob. 

I loved the romance theme that ran through the book, it wasn't hardcore romance, but sweet and dreamy which is just what you want when you pick up a book to read. It was traditional to the core, and a treat to the soul. I loved every page and can't wait to read the next installment when we get to discover more about The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower. 

Slim Fast - The 7 Day Challenge | Part 3

Welcome back to my final part in the Slim Fast series!

I am so excited to share today's post with you all because it's RESULTS day!

So to quickly recap, I was sceptical when I started because in the past the sugar content has been too high in my opinion, and I was always left feeling hungry. But Slim Fast have updated their recipe's and lowered the sugar content so I gave it a go. I didn't stick to a strict exercise plan, but found I was walking more and fitting in a couple of sessions of the exercise bike. 

My main concerns were;

  • Would I feel hungry?
  • Would I lose weight or would I end up gain weight?
  • How will it taste with the lowered sugar?
  • Would I be able to stick to the plan? 

I found following the plan really easy actually, so easy that it didn't feel like a diet. I was able to literally "Grab 'n' Go" and know that Brunch, and Late Lunch was taken care of, as were my snacks of Slim Fast snacks and fruit. All I had to do was cook a dinner under 600 calories. The only day I struggled with the plan was Sunday due to the timing of Sunday Lunch but that can be worked out to fit in with your schedule.

I NEVER felt hungry once! I couldn't believe it. In the past I have felt hungrier than usual when I had Slim Fast Products, but this time I felt full, satisfied, and energised, which is really important as a Twenty-Something professional with hectic schedules and study periods. I actually used my snacks after work during my study time which helped fuel my brain as I tried to get to grips with Financial Performance Variances. 

The taste was delicious. Literally, there was NOT one product that didn't taste absolutely delicious. I have to say that I wish I'd been able to try the new meal pots that come in 3 flavours; Spaghetti Bolognese, Tikka, and Spicy Thai (I think!). I think that it could have really helped me boost my weight loss.
I was expecting the lowered sugar which is 30% lower than it used to be to make a difference in taste, but it really didn't. Nothing tasted sickly, nothing was too sweet, and I just enjoyed every mouthful. 

Before I come onto the weight loss, I just want to say that when I finished the diet, and had to reintroduce food I struggled. I found myself fancying a meal bar replacement or a shake.. and to actually think about what to eat was so hard. I know it was just a brain switch thing, but still, I loved how easy it was to just grab a bar, or a shake and that was it. The hardest decision I had on plan was what flavour did I want to have! 

Ok so the weight loss, this is what we're all really interested in. In fact you've probably skipped to this part and based on what I write next you'll go back and hopefully devour each post and then dive in and purchase your very own starter kit (I'll link you up below).

So, in total, I lost ..... 5lbs! 

For me that's impressive, I struggle to lose weight on diets, and more importantly I struggle to keep that weight off. So a week later jumping on the scales and i've managed to maintain 4lb of that weight loss - but as we women know our bodies fluctuate during the entire month and it can of course be water weight. However the large portion of weight loss I managed to keep off. I felt slimmer, and healthier too. 

I was actually really sad when this diet trial ended and I actually wanted to keep going, and in answer to the obvious question; YES! Absolutely I will try this diet again because I want to see what happens when you have the meal replacement bars, snacks, shakes AND the meal pots, and will update you as I go. 

I'm really impressed with the taste, size and nutritional value in the products and will be recommending to all my friends.  

Thank you Slim Fast UK for allowing me to review your products, they are superb! 

So I officially give it 5/5 

To purchase your Slim Fast 7 Day Challenge kit click on the link below; 


Slim Fast - The 7 Day Challenge | Part 2

Yesterday I shared with you the news that I was taking part in a 7 day challenge where I intend to follow the Slim Fast 321 plan. 

Today's post is where I want to share with you how I actually feel on the plan, how I'm finding it, and anything I have to report back before my RESULTS post which will be LIVE tomorrow (Wednesday 11th November). 

So, first day on the plan I was feeling nervous if I'm honest, I wondered if I would actually be able to follow the plan for an entire day. My fears of sweet sugary tastes, hunger pangs, and cravings for food not on plan filled my mind. But I opted to start the day with Brunch (I can't do breakfast, never have been able to stomach it), and I chose the Summer Berry Meal Replacement Bar. Oh my, is it a whopper in size! It was a lot like the cereal bars you find in the supermarkets, but so much bigger, chunkier - really substantially sized. It tasted really nice, it wasn't too sugary, or too sickly.. and it really was the right portion size. I ate it around 11am, and almost forgot to eat until 5pm when I had my first hunger pang of the day. 

Second and 3rd days on the plan kind of followed suit only that I skipped Brunch, had a snack of fruit to tide me over and around 1-2pm I opted for the shake (Cafe Latte) which was absolutely delicious! It really was like have an iced coffee...I didn't notice the difference, only that it was filling, tasty and packed of everything you need nutritionally one day, the other day I opted for the chunky chocolate meal bar. Dinner was a nice piece of steamed chicken with steamed rice and veg. I allowed myself the snack bar - the chocolate one for a supper time snack. It was rather like a dark chocolate milky way. It felt naughty, in fact the whole plan feels "naughty" because I'm having chocolate meal bars, chocolate snacks, cheese snacks, and pretzels. 

I think the naughtiness of the plan actually helps me stay on plan because it doesn't feel like a diet. 

Now I mentioned that exercise is recommended, and I'll be honest, I didn't plan to do any exercise, but I found I was walking more, and even jumping on the exercise bike for a good old spin class. I did make a conscious effort to "move more" and be more active, so I did what felt right for me.

Mid plan I decided to jump on the scales because I seriously doubted I'd lose any weight with what I was eating, but I was pleasantly surprised o discover that i'd in fact lost 2lbs! I can't wait for the end of week weigh in to discover how much weight in total I manage to lose. 

Slim Fast - The 7 Day Challenge | Part 1

Hello you lovely lot, 

I'm excited to bring you a *special* 3 part series this week featuring a well known diet plan - Slim Fast. 

I was given the opportunity by Slim Fast UK to take part in a 7 day challenge where we follow the Slim Fast Plan and then reveal our results. I jumped at the chance as I have struggled to lose weight easily and consistently in the past. 

Before I share with you the plan and show you what I actually had as part of the challenge I want to share a little about my background, and why I took up the Slim Fast 7 day Challenge.
I've always been a curvy woman, even at school I wasn't one of the skinny girls. However over the years of hitting my twenties I struggled to fit in regular exercise and watch my portion control and combine studying at university, and working 4 days a week in a Primary School. Although I always seemed to be on my feet, I never felt that I was as slim as I wanted to be, as I could be. Add "LIFE" to the mix of "EMOTIONS" that come and go with falling in love, and being heartbroken, stressed about assignments and exams, working non-stop and stress just got the better of me. So pretty much like the majority of the UK then. 
I've followed many weight loss programs with the sheer hope of losing around 2 stone and I've followed intense exercise regimes...sometimes those not far off being Insane (if you get my drift). I even had appointments with a nutritionist and we ran tests, followed calorie controlled diets - you name it we tried it. My weight was NOT causing any health problems and with the weight simply not coming off I was delivered with the news that; I just had to accept I was a 'big girl' and healthy with it. Whilst it was good news that I wasn't causing strain on my body, I wasn't happy to accept my weight as it was. 
So, as I turned 27 recently I decided that this is THE year that I will achieve my body dreams. I'm not wanting to reach some ridiculous number on the scale - in fact I've come to accept that my body will never give me that 'perfect' number that society can pressure us to achieve. I am feminine, I have curves... boobs and hips... and a butt to boot. I want to keep those, I simply want to be trimmer. 

Enter Slim Fast

I was actually rather skeptical about following the Slim Fast Plan as I have followed it in the past, but always found myself far hungrier than I expected to be, I was concerned about the sugar content as it was fairly high in my opinion in the past, and I was wondering whether I'd like the taste. 

But with the revamped recipes and lower sugar content on their products out now, I decided to give it a try. 

So, this is what I received from Slim Fast UK; I got the 7 day starter pack, enough food replacement products for a week. 


This is what was included; 

6 Meal Replacement Shakes; (2 Chunky Chocolate Flavour, 2 Cafe Latte Flavour, 2 Summer Strawberry Flavour)

8 Meal Replacement Bars; (4 Summer Berry Flavour, 4 Chocolate Crunch) 

Snack Bags; Cheese Flavour Snacks, and Sour Cream and Chive Flavour Pretzels

Snack Bars; Caramel Flavour, and Chocolate Flavour Bars

The plan came with a guidebook that gives you a 7 day meal plan, and meal ideas along with information regarding drinking more water and exercising for around 20 minutes a day. 

The plan is called a 3, 2, 1 Plan because it asks you to eat, 3 snacks, 2 Meal replacements and 1 main meal around 600 Calories for women (slightly more for men - details given in pack). 

When day 1 came, I was excited to start... and a little worried in case I didn't feel satisfied enough and was left feeling hungry. 

Check back tomorrow to see how I found the plan in Part 2, and then on Wednesday, I'll be sharing my results with you all! 

BLOG TOUR - Snowflakes on Silver Cove

Title | Snowflakes on Silver Cove

Author | Holly Martin

Publisher | Bookouture

Publication Date | 30th October 2015

Source | Review Copy

ISBN | 1910751472

Purchase | Amazon

A Page of Fictional Love Rating | 5/5

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. 

Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself… 

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. 

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. 

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas? 

Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.

It has been such a long time since I last laughed out so loud because of a book I'm reading - but with Snowflakes on Silver Cove (book 2 of the White Cliff Bay books), Holly Martin would be pleased to hear that I've been literally crying with laughter at a lot of the scenes in this book. In fact as I sit writing this review, I'm recalling all those funny scenes and I can't contain the laughter. This has to be the MOST HILARIOUS READ of 2015. 

I can't think where to begin to describe what I love the most about this story - the characters - I utterly adore them, the plot - Bloody brilliant, the edge of your seat moments - breathtaking, .... ahhhh It's just a wonderful story it really is.

Let's begin with those hilarious scenes that I can't stop laughing about. A couple that I'll share (because I don't want to spoil them all for you) include George being dressed in snorkel gear complete with flippers doing a pirouette on the staircase... HAHA! and again, George climbing into bed with his dream woman... noting her 'coarse' hair and cold stiff arm that felt like .... PLASTIC. Yes I kid you not, George got into bed with Candy - Candy is the mannequin in his room. 

Right, now that's out of the way I might be able to stop giggling so much, stem the tears of laughter and continue.

George and Libby are THE most adorable couple of people ever in the fictional world... I seriously wanted to go live next door to them... I mean, I would LOVE to have neighbours/friends like them. They are friends but they are so close you could mistake them for a long married couple. They blend so naturally it's the dream couple every woman wants to be a half of when looking for Mr Right. 

Next up is Amy and the shenanigans involving a 7ft Penis costume... chasing down the high street in it after men, before toppling over onto one poor guy, getting her hair stuck in his trouser zip... and well... you get the mental picture. Seriously Holly, can I go live in White Cliff Bay? I want to meet these bloody hilarious people! 

This book was such a hoot I had to keep saying to my poor mom "hey mom... listen to this" and then proceed to laugh, cry and attempt to read the book to her. It was so good she switched the tv from 'mute' to 'standby' and said "go on love, carry on reading" when I stopped to catch my breath. 

In fact, Mum just said to me, that even though it's a christmassy book - she can't wait to re-read it in the summer! 

If you love christmas, romance and enjoy laughing along... then this IS THE BOOK for you! 

Don't believe me? Here's the first chapter of the book to tickle your fancy (and you get to read one of my favourite funny scenes; 

Chapter 1
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang.
Every morning, without fail, Libby had been woken in the same way. Every morning since three weeks earlier, when the newlyweds, Rosie and Alex, had moved into the flat above her. Then Alex would race out to work, clearly late and with a huge grin on his face. At six Alex would arrive home and two minutes later the same noises would be heard again, occasionally peppered with ‘Harder Alex, harder,’ or ‘Rosie, God I love you.’
Weekends were worse. They’d do it all day. And as today was Sunday Libby was expecting an encore any time soon.
Urgh. Libby decided she hated newlyweds. Only a few more weeks and she would be gone and she wouldn’t have to be woken by the horny alarm clock any more.
She padded through to the kitchen and switched on the dancing Santa who twisted and jived to some seventies Christmas tune. He made her smile. Her best friend George had given it to her because he didn’t think her tiny tree that sat and twinkled feebly in the corner of her flat was enough in terms of decorations to celebrate Christmas. A singing reindeer, a dancing tree and a serenading snowman had also found their way into her flat in the last few weeks. He had tried to persuade her to take a four-foot-high inflatable musical snow globe the day before, but she drew the line at inflatables. George, it seemed, didn’t have this issue.
As Santa launched into another song, she made two rounds of bacon sandwiches and two mugs of tea. Loading the whole lot onto a tray, she took it over to the table by the lounge window and looked out on the glorious view.
It was that view that had made her move to White Cliff Bay in the first place. She had spent years travelling the world but, although she had sworn she would never stay in the UK again, White Cliff Bay had appealed to her in more ways than any other place had. Today the sea mirrored the first time she had seen it, the weak winter sun glistening on the water in front of her as if jewels were buried beneath the waves. Light snow had fallen overnight, dusting Silver Cove beach with a sprinkling of talcum powder. She leaned her hand on the window and closed her eyes, trying to capture the image in her mind. She would miss this place when she left.
Reluctantly she turned from the view and went to the fridge, reaching for the ketchup. It was obligatory to cover the bacon in a thick layer of it. Then she remembered she had finished the bottle the night before.
Stepping over the newspapers on her front doorstep, she walked across the hallway. Without knocking, she let herself into the flat opposite. She stopped when she walked into the lounge; impossibly it looked even more crammed with Christmas decorations than the last time she had seen it. It wasn’t just the large tree that nearly blocked out the whole window, the room was filled with almost a whole herd of life-size reindeer, a seven-foot inflatable snowman, tinsel, garlands and an army of dancing, singing Christmas characters along with the garish snow globe she had rejected. Christmas music filled the flat as she moved to the festively strewn kitchen and went straight to the fridge to get the ketchup, then followed the sound of music to the bedroom.
There was George Donaldson, topless, dancing round the bedroom with a six-foot inflatable candy cane as his dance partner. She smiled, affection for him filling her heart. He was miles away from the alpha males she wrote about in her books and maybe that’s what she liked about him. There was nothing mean and moody about George Donaldson, he made her laugh a lot. His hair was a messy mop of black curly hair that jiggled as he moved, his body was tanned from days out on the beach. He didn’t have the cut abs and six-packs her heroes always had, but he had a wonderful body with strong arms that gave the best hugs in the world, making her feel safe and adored. She would miss him more than anything once she had gone. She giggled as George took his partner in his arms and moved in to kiss her.
She must have made more noise than she thought, as he abruptly let go of the candy cane, looking guilty and embarrassed.
‘Libby Joseph! Does a man not have any privacy any more, did you not knock?’
‘Of course not. Now did you want your breakfast or not?’
‘Ah Libby, you will make someone a goodly wife one day.’ He walked past her, planting a big wet kiss on her forehead, grabbed a paper bag by his door and then stopped to scoop up the newspapers on her front doorstep before sitting down at her table, his mug of tea in his hand.
Libby sat down opposite him, smothering her bacon sandwich in ketchup, and then tucked in. George flicked through the paper for a while before turning his attention to his own breakfast.
‘So,’ he said, through a mouthful of sandwich, ‘newlyweds wake you up again?’
She rolled her eyes and nodded. He smiled sympathetically and turned his attention back to the paper. They sat in silence as they ate. There was no need to make polite conversation; George was her best friend. They could sit like this for hours without feeling the need to force a conversation. Other times they would talk non-stop, only drawing breath to eat some of the delicious food that he cooked for them. And her bacon sandwiches were amazing, if she did say so herself, although it was pretty much the only decent thing she could cook. In the first few weeks of their friendship, she had invited George to take part in several dried-out pasta dishes, numerous cremated roast dinners with unrecognisable meat and, once, some homemade soup that looked and tasted like vomit. After that, they had mutually agreed that he should do most of the cooking.
She looked across at George and found it hard to believe she had only met him for the first time six months before, the day when she was moving into the tiny block of flats. She had known instantly he was gay. As he came rushing out the flat to help her with her boxes, dressed in a garish pink t-shirt, she had done that thing that all single women do when they meet a nice-looking bloke for the first time. Wedding ring? No. Straight? Definitely not.
And knowing he wasn’t a potential boyfriend and that she didn’t have to try to impress him eased the transition into their friendship very quickly. He was loud, funny, kind and sweet. Over the first few days, as she had got to know him, she became convinced that her suspicions about his sexuality had been right. He had a huge collection of musicals, like Grease, Joseph and The Sound of Music. And instead of a collection of boy movies like Die Hard or Pulp Fiction, he had a vast repertoire of old classics such as Some Like it Hot, Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch and Operation Petticoat, dividing his love of Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant almost equally. His dubious taste in music did nothing to change her mind.
She remembered the conversation they’d had about his sexuality very vividly. They had known each other for about five weeks and had almost been inseparable since she had moved in. Over dinner one night he had quizzed her about past boyfriends. After a thorough grilling she’d turned the tables on him.
‘So are you seeing anyone at the moment?’ she’d asked, biting into the delicious lasagne he had cooked for them.
‘Nah, perpetually single me.’ He’d laughed.
She nodded. ‘I guess it’s tricky though, what with White Cliff Bay being such a tiny town.’
‘Well yes, and most of the residents of White Cliff Bay are over the age of fifty.’
‘No, I mean that there isn’t much opportunity to meet the right sort of person round here, you should try Brighton, that’s got a great nightlife.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘The gay capital of Britain?’
‘Exactly, there aren’t exactly a lot of gay bars round here, I bet there aren’t even any in Apple Hill.’
He had frowned in confusion but she had blindly carried on.
‘Oooh, my cover designer lives in Brighton, he’s gorgeous, hung like a horse apparently, or so says his ex-boyfriend. I could give you his number, get him to take you out to all the best gay clubs, show you a good time.’ She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
George choked on his lasagne and when he didn’t look like stopping, she rushed to get him some water. She returned a few seconds later and passed him the glass.
He had drunk greedily, then put his glass down and eyed her across the table. ‘Libby,’ he’d said firmly, ‘I’m not gay.’
It had been her turn to choke on the lasagne then. ‘You’re not?’
He shook his head.
‘Oh God, George… I’m… I’m so sorry, I thought the clothes, the musicals, the old films…’
‘Well you thought wrong. Bloody hell, just because a bloke isn’t sitting around scratching his testicles and watching rugby…’ he laughed good naturedly. ‘It’s OK, though. You’re forgiven.’
She shook her head, laughing at her own narrow-mindedness, suddenly the laugh dried in her throat.
‘Oh God,’ she gasped, her hands going to her mouth. ‘You’ve seen me naked.’
He smirked. ‘Yes I have.’
‘But…’ she was aware she was now flapping her hands around, ‘I didn’t even think about walking from the shower to my bedroom without any clothes on when you were waiting for me in the lounge. I mean, I just thought you wouldn’t care, wouldn’t even notice.’
‘Oh I noticed all right, I just thought you were a very open person.’
‘Oh God.’ She buried her face in her hands.
He laughed, loudly. ‘It’s your own fault, Libby Joseph, that will teach you for judging a book by its cover.’
She had groaned in embarrassment as he continued to eat his lasagne.
She watched him now as he picked up the last crumbs of his bacon sandwich, and smiled.
‘Oh, I got you something,’ George said, passing over the brown paper bag, before he started singing his own version of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. ‘Ten days before Christmas and my true love gave to me, a mug with a picture of the sea.’
Libby smiled. He had started this twelve days of presents two days before when he had presented her with a Christmas pudding onesie complete with a hood with a holly leaf and huge red berries sewed to the top. The day before he had given her a big bag of rum and raisin fudge when they had been shopping in the town, her favourite sweets in the world. She quickly tore apart the paper and pulled out a mug that must have held at least a pint of tea. It was the tackiest thing she had ever seen. It had a picture of White Cliff Bay on the side but it wasn’t tasteful, it was bright and garish in colour.
‘And look what happens when you pour hot water in it.’ George grabbed her tea and poured it inside. Straight away, lights started to flash all over the mug, including on the oversized lighthouse, and a tinny version of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ drifted from some internal speakers.
Libby laughed. ‘I love it,’ she said, honestly.
‘Now you have something to remember us by,’ he said, glancing over at a few boxes in the hall and for a brief moment his face fell with disappointment before he slapped on a smile. ‘How’s the packing going?’
‘There’s not a lot to be honest. The flat came with its own furniture. There’s a few books and things I’ve acquired over the last few months that I’ll probably take to a charity shop. I don’t really have stuff, I don’t need it. I came with a suitcase of clothes and I’ll probably leave the same way.’
‘That’s a bit sad, isn’t it? To have no belongings other than the clothes on your back.’
Libby shrugged, happily. ‘Happiness doesn’t come from the things you own, it comes from experiences, the things you do, the places you go to, the people you meet. That’s what fills your life, not material possessions.’
‘And you’ve never been tempted to stay in all those beautiful places you’ve visited, you’ve never once found somewhere you could call home?’
She smiled. ‘It doesn’t work like that for me. I have to travel for work. Being an author means doing lots of research. Wherever my story is set I always immerse myself in that place, eat, drink, sleep, breathe it until the story is finished and I move on to the next place. I’ve always worked like that, I probably always will.’
Suddenly a noise from above them disturbed their conversation.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang.
They both looked up.
‘Twice!?’ she muttered. ‘Seriously? Do they not have a TV in their flat?’
SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakbang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang.
George chuckled. ‘They really are loud, aren’t they?’
She pulled a face.
‘Well come on, Lib, we can give them a run for their money.’ He stood up and pulled her towards her bedroom. Leaving her by the doorway he leaped onto her bed, jumping up and down on it like a trampoline. The bed made a satisfying squeaking sound and the headboard banged obligingly against the wall.
She laughed at him. ‘Oh George,’ she moaned loudly, from the doorway.
‘How long do you think my penis is?’ he hissed. ‘Get over here.’
She ditched her dressing gown and walked over to the bed.
‘Christ, Lib, we’re only pretending, you don’t have to get undressed.’ He stopped bouncing long enough to help her up onto the bed. They both started bouncing again.
‘Oh George,’ she shouted, ‘that feels so goooood.’
‘Oh Libby,’ he groaned.
‘George, harder George. Oh God that’s it George. GEORGE! Faster George.’
‘Libby, Libby, OH Libby.’ He started jumping faster.
‘Spank me George, spank me.’
He spluttered with laughter.
‘Oh God.’
‘OHHHHHHHHH,’ moaned George, finally falling onto the bed exhausted. She fell down next to him.
‘Oh George,’ she called loudly, ‘that was the best sex ever. You’re amazing, big boy.’
‘Why thank you, Miss Joseph, glad you enjoyed it.’
‘No, you’re supposed to say something nice about me.’
‘Oh sorry, erm…’ He thought carefully. ‘Libby’ he said loudly, ‘you have great tits.’
‘Is that it?’
‘Well it’s true, you do.’
‘Pervert.’ She smirked. ‘I just said that was the best sex ever and all you can say is that I’ve got nice tits? Surely you can do better than that?’
He rolled his eyes. ‘Libby,’ he moaned loudly, ‘and Candy my beauty, that was the best threesome I’ve ever had.’
She could barely talk for laughing. ‘Great, now I’m some kind of sex-crazed porn star, excellent.’
‘Glad to be of service.’
‘And if they knew that Candy was that mannequin in your bedroom, they would be worried.’
He chuckled.
They lay in silence for a while to see if there was any reaction from the newlyweds. But there was none. Clearly they had been outdone.
Libby rolled onto her side, propping herself on her elbow to look at him. She smiled at the self-satisfied look on his face, as if they really had just had sex.
‘Fancy a walk?’ she said.
‘Yeah of course.’
‘Well get out my bedroom then so I can get dressed.’
‘Aw, am I never going to get a repeat performance of your nudity?’ he said as he walked out.
‘Nope never.’ She laughed as she closed the door behind him.
‘That’s a shame,’ George said to the closed door, ‘because I really rather enjoyed it.’
Despite it being the middle of winter, the sun was making a desperate attempt to warm up the windy shore. Great gusts tore at their clothes and whipped their hair around them as they walked along the almost deserted beach nestled in Silver Cove. The only other person on there was Seb, throwing a ball into the surf for his beloved fat retriever Jack to collect. He waved at them as they walked.
George loved White Cliff Bay, with its tiny thatched cottages, the bigger townhouses, and the great Bubble and Froth, Seb’s pub, with the best-tasting ale in the world. He especially loved the quieter part of Silver Cove where he and Libby lived. It literally consisted of one straight road with houses on one side looking out on to the sea. There was a pub, a small shop and that was it. A five-minute walk up the hill and over the headland led to the main town of White Cliff Bay with all the local amenities.
He and Libby crunched over the pebbles towards one of the many rock pools that had formed on the beach. She crouched down and carefully lifted one of the big rocks to see what was under it. A small pearly grey hermit crab scurried out in protest at being disturbed and a pale yellow starfish, its legs struck out at odd angles to its body, pulsated against the mossy rock face.
‘I do love the starfish. They’re so beautiful, like a little bit of magic washed up on the beach.’ She put the rock down gently, and picked up another one.
He watched her with a smile, her dark hair streaming behind her like a banner, her large green eyes filled with a continual wonder at the varied sea life that ended up on Silver Cove beach every day.
‘If you like starfish, you’ll love the sunstar, now they’re beautiful. I’ll have to take you scuba diving one day, Lib, there’s so much more beauty out there under the waves.’
She stood up. ‘I’d love that. Would we find seahorses? I’d love to see one.’
‘I doubt it – there are some breeds that live round Britain, but they’re so shy and timid I doubt we would spot any. But there’s loads of other things we would see, the visibility round here is quite spectacular.’
‘But doesn’t it take ages to learn?’
‘I can teach you the basics, and I’d look after you. Besides, we wouldn’t be going that deep, only six or eight metres, so if anything went wrong you could just come straight back up.’
‘That would be so exciting, do you have the gear?’
‘No but a mate of mine runs a dive shop in White Cliff Bay, he’d lend me what we need.’
‘Be a bit cold though, would we wear wetsuits?’
‘Are you kidding, in these waters? We would die. It’d have to be a drysuit, and a thermal undersuit and your clothes under that.’
She laughed. ‘I’d look like a Michelin Man.’
‘Yeah. It’ll be better in the spring, warmer and the visibility is nicer too. If you stay until then I promise to take you.’
‘Maybe I can come back and visit you when it’s warmer.’
‘That would be great,’ George said, knowing in his heart that once she left at the end of the year he’d never see her again. They never spoke about that though. She insisted that they would stay in touch, but there were no friends in her life, no one she spoke to from her travels. When he had put his number in her phone all those months before he had been stunned to see her contacts list consisted of her agent and her publisher. It was easier to pretend they would still be friends than confront it, it was easier to ignore that when she left it would completely and utterly break his heart.
He carried on with the façade. ‘You have to spit in the mask to stop it from steaming up too.’
Her face fell. ‘Spit in my mask?’
He wiped a tiny splash of muddy water off her face, then quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets as he walked away from her. ‘Yeah, and no matter if you get the best-fitting mask in the world, you always get a bit of water that seeps through, which means when you take the mask off you’ll be left with a snotty residue across your face.’
She caught up with him, picking up a good-shaped pebble for skimming. ‘I get the feeling scuba diving isn’t the sexiest sport then?’
‘No definitely not, still keen?’ He turned to face her.
He loved that about Libby: her spirit of adventure, her boundless energy. In fact he loved every little thing about her, and had been completely in love with her ever since he first set eyes on her.
Unrequited love, he was quite the expert. As it turned out even his ex-wife hadn’t loved him.
Libby, of course, had no idea about his inappropriate feelings for her, how he loved her with everything he had.
He glanced over at her, her smile lighting up her face, her eyes reflecting the colour of the sea. It was about time he got over Libby. She just didn’t see him that way. Nothing was ever going to happen there, she was leaving in just over two weeks. By the end of the year he was determined he would be over this silly little crush and he could watch her leave without her ripping out his heart on the way out.
They walked back towards the flats, a large old house that had long ago been converted into four separate apartments and given the rather original name of ‘Sea View Court’.
George spotted a small van parked up outside. An older man was lifting a box out the back.
‘Giselle?’ the man called. ‘Giselle? Where do you want this one to go?’
A blonde girl ran down the steps wearing leggings, which showed off her wonderful long legs, and a tiny knitted jumper, which showed off her tiny waist. George swallowed. Her hair was cut short with a long fringe that swept over her eyes, but it gleamed in the sun, like gold. Her eyes were huge, an amazing intense blue. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He knew without a doubt this was the woman he was going to marry. The easiest, quickest way to fall out of love with one unobtainable woman was fall in love with another.
‘Oh thanks, Dad,’ the blonde vision said, ‘just put it in the lounge. I’ll sort it out once it’s all in.’
‘Hey, do you want some help?’ George asked, quickly leaving Libby’s side.
‘Oh, that’d be great, thanks.’ Giselle broke into a heart-stopping smile.
‘I’m George.’ He held out his hand. ‘I live at number two.’
‘I’m Giselle, and I’m on top of you.’ She tucked a strand of golden silk behind her ear. ‘I’m moving into number four.’
He ignored the innuendo for the sake of future relations. ‘Excellent.’ He took the hand that was now extended towards him and shook it warmly, just as Libby arrived at the back of the van.
‘Hi, I’m Libby, I live at number one, here let me take those,’ she said indicating the pile of books tucked under Giselle’s arm and he watched her take them, and then she was gone. He wondered what they looked like standing there, him and Giselle, smiling at each other awkwardly. Well, Giselle was smiling awkwardly, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. A Cheshire cat on Ecstasy.
For the next half an hour, they worked diligently between them to get all of Giselle’s stuff into her flat on the second floor. There wasn’t a lot, but what there was, he noticed, was very tasteful. There was also a lot of weird cooking paraphernalia which Libby found out was used for making different kinds of sweets for her online business.
Eventually, the van was empty and Giselle’s dad left.
‘Thank you so much,’ Giselle said warmly, ‘you’ve both been very kind. But now, well, I guess I better go and unpack. I’ll see you around.’
She disappeared up the stairs and George stared after her in wonderment. He heard her flat door close and then quickly bundled Libby into her flat.
‘George, what are you doing?’
‘Oh Lib, she’s beautiful.’ He leaned against the inside of the door and sank to the floor.
‘Yes she is, very.’
‘Libby, I think I’m in love.’
She sat down next to him and gave him a playful nudge. ‘Then go and ask her out.’
‘Are you mad, have you seen me?’
She frowned. ‘George, you’re lovely.’
‘Lovely is a polite way of saying fat.’ He absently patted his belly.
‘No, it’s not, you’re lovely and funny and incredibly attractive, ask her out.’
‘No, I need to lose some weight first, and get a haircut, maybe some new clothes.’
‘But then you won’t be you any more. This is you, and you’re perfect the way you are, anything else will just be a disguise. If she’s going to fall in love with you, she needs to fall in love with the real you. You above anyone else should know the pitfalls of false advertising.’
Writing radio adverts for a living, George knew how to sell chocolate to the Easter bunny, if only he himself could be presented in such an appealing way.
‘You’re right, Lib, she should fall in love with the real me.’ He looked down at himself, despondently.
‘Hey! You’re the loveliest, most wonderful, sweetest, kindest person I know; if she can’t see that then she’s blind.’
He kissed her head. ‘Thanks Lib.’
She stood up and pulled him to his feet. ‘Go on then, ask her.’
He paled. ‘Now? No, I can’t ask her now.’
‘Yes you can.’
‘Well what do I say?’
‘You say, “Hi Giselle, I figured you might be tired after all this unpacking, do you fancy coming to the pub for something to eat? The Bubble and Froth does a mean steak and kidney pie.”’
He nodded, yes he could do that. That was easy. Very casual, very simple. He opened the door and walked purposefully up the stairs and caught Libby doing a little giddy victory dance for him before she shut the door.
He climbed to the top of the first flight then hurried back down again, but before he reached the bottom stair he forced himself to turn around. He climbed four stairs this time, stopped, climbed one more stair then ran back to the safety of Libby’s flat.
Her face fell as he came back in. ‘What happened?’
‘Yeah, I couldn’t do it.’
‘Well what if she said no?’
‘What if she didn’t?’
He shrugged. ‘Maybe I’ll leave it a few days, you know, let her settle in.’
‘Maybe you should get in now before someone else swoops in. Why don’t you practise on me?’
‘Close your eyes and ask me out, imagine I’m a beautiful woman.’
George smiled wryly – he really didn’t need to imagine that – but he closed his eyes anyway. He could still see her though, in his mind, looking pretty in her jeans and hoodie, and funky purple boots. She had a quirky style. When she was writing her romance stuff she always had at least one pen in her hair. And though the hoodie she wore today was an old grey one, she had pinned to it the most beautiful emerald sequinned flowered brooch. It matched her eyes exactly. Though this was not helping him to prepare for asking Giselle out.
He opened one eye and looked at her expectant face. When nothing was forthcoming, she rolled her eyes and ushered him out of the flat.
‘Knock on my door and ask me out.’
‘OK, role-play, I like it,’ he grinned, ‘though I’ll get changed first, smarten myself up a bit.’
She shrugged. ‘If it will make you feel more comfortable.’
As George disappeared back to his flat, Libby switched on her laptop and smiled at the tiny snowman that had been placed next to it since the day before. George was clearly determined to Christmassify her, whether she liked it or not. The computer pinged to life and she opened up her current story, set in a rural seaside town at Christmas. Her publishers had expected it to be handed in months ago but for some reason this story had stagnated on her laptop. She had no desire to finish it and she didn’t know why. She was famous for her romance stories, especially Christmas ones with snow, glitter, handsome heroes and gorgeously cosy love stories, but it was the romance parts she was having trouble with the most.
There was a knock on the door and she went to answer it, ready to be seduced.
George was standing there in a full tuxedo with black tie, and gleaming cufflinks. She nearly laughed except he looked so vulnerable.
He cleared his throat, straightened his shoulders, fixed her with a sultry stare. ‘Hey little lady, fancy getting out of this hellhole and hitting some gin joints with me?’
She suppressed a laugh, but he had already seen the smirk.
‘Too cheesy?’
‘Very cheesy. Humphrey Bogart?’
‘No, that was all me.’
‘You’re overthinking it.’
‘What about the suit?’
‘You look fantastic, really suave, really sexy, but a tiny bit overdressed for a pint down the Bubble.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘Sexy, eh?’
She smiled. ‘Yes, if we were going to Royal Ascot together, I’d be proud to have you on my arm.’
‘Right, I’ll remember that next time I get offered free tickets for Royal Ascot. You can be my date.’
‘Definitely, though you should know I’m a terrible loser and a really bad gambler.’
‘I’ll hold the purse strings that day then.’
She nodded. ‘Probably wise.’
‘Shall I try on something else?’
‘Yes, please do.’
‘Good, this collar is killing me.’
‘I’m impressed that you can do up a bow tie though, it’s not something many people can do.’
He took it off to show her it was a clip-on. She laughed, as she closed the door.
She walked back to the computer, her fingers hovering over a rather bland description of the sea. It wasn’t just romance scenes that were taking a battering, all of her latest writing lacked sparkle. Because she had no enthusiasm for the romance, the rest of it hung limp and flaccid on the pages too.
There was another knock on the door just as she was poised to write something descriptive and wintery about the trees that lined the beach.
This time George was dressed in a black suit, with a black shirt and tie.
‘Going to a funeral?’
‘Right of course,’ he said, looking a little apologetic.
‘How about something that shows your sporty side?’
‘Right, OK.’ He trudged off.
She closed the door again – not that it normally stopped George, but making him knock was all part of the role-play.
She went back to the computer, looked over the last paragraph she had written and sighed.
Another knock on her door. She doubled over with laughter when she opened it.
‘What?’ mumbled George, though she could see that he was trying not to laugh as well. He was dressed in a skin-tight wetsuit which accentuated every gorgeous curve of his strong body, with a mask and snorkel in his mouth and flippers on his feet.
‘George, it’s perfect,’ she said, clapping her hands together, trying really hard to keep her eyes above his waist. ‘Now let me see you manage the stairs in those things.’
He waddled carefully to the foot of the stairs and carefully placed his left flipper sideways on the step. With great effort he managed to put his right flipper sideways on the next one up, looking like a very bizarrely dressed Charlie Chaplin.
It was at this moment, as he struggled to move his left flipper up onto the third stair, that Giselle came running down the stairs towards him.