Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas with Bev and Carol

   Carol turned the roast potatoes and put them back into the oven.
   'Do you ever clean it?' I asked, through the black smoke billowing out.
   'Can't,' said Carol, 'Cleaning stuff makes me cough.'
   'Oh!' I said, with my hand over my nose and mouth.
   'Want some fizz?'
   'Why not?'
   Carol was not used to cooking.  It was her first Christmas dinner.  It was New Year's Eve and we were spending it with friends.  What better time to celbrate Christmas?
   The turkey had been half-price, as had the crackers and party-poppers.  The Christmas tree was still up, with some of its needles still attached.  Perfect.
   I was not much of a cook and neither was Carol, but we had years of vicarious experience behind us, not to mention Delia for emergency measurements and timings.  So we were confident we could produce something edible for our guests, who would be arriving in about two hours. (All time is relative, as you know.)
   There would be Dave, Rick, Michelle and Andy. It would be great.  I had always dreamed of having a Christmas with my friends.  This way, we didn't have to offend family.  We had hours of Frank Sinatra, Slade and Wizard at the ready.  We had champagne and wine.  We had Stilton and Bath Olivers, trifle and meringues, Andrews for afters.  All set.
   'More fizz?'  I suggested.
   'It's good with a shot of brandy in it,' said Carol.
   She was right.  It added a certain 'je ne sais quoi'.  So I made another one.
   'How about a splash of Cointreau this time?' I said.
   It was.
   Soon the vegetables were peeled and jauntily chopped, and the turkey was sizzling. George Michael was doing 'Careless Whispers', and Carol and I were slow dancing.
   'I love you, Carol,' I murmured.
   'I love you too, you lovely tart.'
   When the doorbell went, we burst out laughing and ran side by bouncing side down the hallway, Carol wearing a pink Christmas hat over her eyes and me attempting to steer her.  We were both beautifully pissed.
   'Hello Dave!'  we cried, greeting him like a long lost brother as we spilled out into the daylight.
   'Ooooh, look!  It's raining...' sang Carol, waving a plastic spatula above her head, batting the raindrops.
   It looked like fun, so I joined her, jumping up and catching the rain.
   Dave rolled his eyes, walked into the house and left us to it.
   We stayed outside until we realised that rain was wet.  Then we laughed some more, singing 'Jingle bells, Santa smells...'  Then, we realised that we were cold.  So we sang 'Jingle Bells' replacing the words with 'brrr, brrr, brrr...'
   'Are the potatoes supposed to be this colour?'  asked Dave, who had magically appeared from inside the house, with a tray of potatoes.
   We looked at each other and laughed again, dancing round, gleeful and unconcerned about the blackness of the roast potatoes.

   When we woke up, I wiped Carol's dribble from my shoulder and beamed at our newly-arrived mates. Ten minutes later, dinner was served (by Dave).
   'Happy Christmas!' we cried.

 If Carol and Bev are your kind of people, you can see more of them here:Bev and Carol books

Friday, 21 December 2012

Alternative to Amazon

I think I must be a little slow, as I've only just heard about Amazon's rather sudden move to exclude/delete reviews of books by fellow authors. 

I do think that there must be some dishonest practices going on and that some authors are benefitting from somehow 'fixing' their ratings.  But, I do take exception to the idea of penalising a whole section of Amazon customers, who happen to write as well as read books. 

I don't want to get involved in who's right and who's wrong or whether it is acceptable to ban a whole group of people from using the Amazon site to read and review books.  I am sure, however, that if a system becomes too tedious to use, then people will turn elsewhere.

My husband emailed me a link that you might find interesting, either now or in the future.  See what you think.  And apologies if this is old news to most of you.

I hope it's not the end of Indie authors on Amazon, but there are alternatives if it is and this is one that looks very good to me:

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Apologies if you have already watched this video.  I just thought it was worth sharing with those who haven't.

This morning, my two sons told me that they were sick of getting up at 6.00 in the morning and catching the school bus at just before 7.00 to start school at 8.00.

They spend an average of forty hours in school, mostly studying things that they would prefer not to.

The teachers at the school are adamant that, when they get home at between 5.30 and 7.00, they must sit down to at least two hours of homework and must not waste time watching television.  In other words they must study whilst they are conscious. 

Not content with loading up their leisure time with study during the week, the profs insist that there should be a minimum of five hours' schoolwork at the weekend.

My children are, like most kids of their age, interested in an enormous range of things and especially in having fun.  They like to dance (when no one is looking), sing in the shower, put short videos on YouTube that, to them, are hilarious.  They listen to music, have a keen eye for innovation on the Net and, when gently encouraged, like to watch a range of interesting and educational programmes on TV.

In addition to all this, they worry about their hair, what kind of sweatshirts to wear, which brand of deoderant is worthy of being  applied to their increasingly stinky armpits and how many doughnuts they are allowed to eat when they come home from school.

I find myself explaining that their education/diet/sleep/attitude to teachers is very important.  They listen reasonably and then disappear upstairs calling each other by the current insulting names, laughing and pushing each other until I tell them to stop.

They are creative and imaginative beings.  They are round pegs being forced into square holes. 

Ok, I know that if I said they could do exactly as they pleased, they would be on their PS3 or XBox for hours on end, exposed to various degrees of violence and swearing while I fretted and banned  unsuitable games on the basis that they are not meant for children.

In the back of my mind, all these observations lurk, begging a question, waiting for an answer.

And then a friend of mine sent me a link to a video of Ken Robinson talking about what schools are doing to our children and I listened, rivetted.  It was funny.  Very funny.  But it made sense, too.  It was about what is happening to my children and it made me sad, because I know that the schools which my children attend will not change.  After all, the education it is providing now is the same education it was providing twenty or even thirty years ago.

The teachers are not bad people.  They are restricted by the ethos of the school and its culture of teach and test, just as much as the students are restricted by the rules in the classroom and the limitations of their timetables. 

But, listen to Ted.   He can explain what is happening and what should be done about it much better than I can.  And he'll make you laugh too, I promise.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Progress Report

Prequel to Bunny on a Bike

I'm half-way through my prequel to Bunny on a Bike and am having the time of my life remembering the brilliant summer months I spent in the South of France with my best friend Carol, paid for by the University in an attempt to help degree students immerse themselves in the French language and culture.

Writing about it is almost as exciting and probably even funnier than the reality of actually being there.

The Internet has been invaluable whenever I have wanted to jog my memory about the names of places we visited, the music we listened to, the clothes we wore and the food we ate.  I've revisited the beaches were we sunbathed and the road to Spain we drove along on our hired mopeds.  All using Google Earth and Google search engines. 

We travelled down to Carcasonne with our student Railcard, where we were 'adopted' by Maurice and Antoine, then on to Argeles-sur-mer, where we stayed on a campsite called 'La Sirene' and met lots of interesting people and had great adventures.

When I write, I find that I can go to these places and see the detail in my mind's eye, smell the sun on the sand or the ripening tomatoes on the roadside stalls. I can see Carol's face and hear her exasperation at my loopy impressions on life, literature and the world. 

I have of course changed the names of the people we met to protect them from the embarrassment of having had anything to do with the two eccentric English girls who invaded their personal space in the summer of 1979.

I must say that I am thrilled with the comments and reviews that I have received for Bunny on a Bike and I am hoping that the prequel will be as well received. 

I often think there must be something wrong with me, because I never get tired of re-reading what I have written, laughing at the bizarre and yet, I suspect, commonly shared experiences that I had with my friend Carol all those years ago.  We were so different and yet such good friends.  She was decisive and possessed a cutting sense of humour, while I was constantly searching for enlightenment in the most unexpected places.

We were young and unafraid to say what we thought and do as we pleased, and to have the opportunity to go back and feel again the freedom and spirit that was mine at that time, is a rare treat. 

The fact that some people have found my writing worth reading and have told me so, is an extra spur.  Ultimately, I write because I love to tell a story, but I also write so that people can be entertained.  Without this element, in the end, I might eventually stop writing.  Although, I can't imagine doing so yet.

So, I'll get back to my prequel (which has no proper title as yet) and, when I have done at least three drafts, I shall put it on Amazon and cross my fingers that it will be read and enjoyed by people who find themselves on  the same weird wavelength as me. 

Now, let me recall exactly how Carol dealt with the voyeur on the naturalist beach in Argeles sur mer...  Ah, yes, I remember!

Other books by Bev Spicer:

'Bunny on a Bike'

 'My Grandfather's Eyes'

 'A Good Day for Jumping' 


Saturday, 1 December 2012

The final draft?


The time had come when I thought that I should commit to the 'save and publish' button. 

After all, it was the fifth draft, edited and re-edited, checked for spelling, grammar and punctuation, its plot so tight it might snap, characters so engaging you feel as though you have met them personally, and an ending that leaves enough said and enough left to the imagination.

So, what on earth was I waiting for?

Well, I thought, I might just read it through one more time...

Then, as I went back to the beginning, I missed the the way I had felt at the end. 

Every agent says that you must grab your reader in the first chapter, the first page, the first line.  But, although this may be true some of the time, I would say that the majority of books I have read, and thought memorable, have not been instant in their appeal.

I like my interest to grow as I turn the pages of a good book, getting closer to the characters, to their hopes and concerns, their idiosyncrasies. Finding out how the plot is developing, second guessing, and revising my assumptions.  Taking part in the game set up by the author and hoping that I will not outwit him or her, that I will be surprised, delighted, entertained by the turn of events.  All this takes time, and cannot be delivered in the first few pages.

I felt like this about Sarah Waters' The Fingersmith, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.  All favourite books of mine that got better as they went on. 

What is difficult for new writers is that readers have no innate faith that you will deliver.  They cannot rely on past form, because they don't know who you are.  They have taken a risk based on a five star review or a pithy blurb, and so it becomes even more important to spark interest in your reader, to keep him turning the pages. 

Consequently, I will look again at the beginning of my book, because it is the beginning of everything that comes next and must instill a desire in my reader to find out more, in a steady yet irresistible building of empathy and curiousity.

There will be significant events, of course.  The plot must have a structure.  But it's not all about precipitous excitement and dramatic sequences.  I want my reader to believe in my characters, whether they care about them or despise them.  I am after an emotional involvement. 

I think I am probably ready to publish.  My trusted proof readers say that I am.  But, the more I write, the more I learn how to write, and the more I seek a better product.  Not because I believe that I will be famous one day or sell millions of books, but because I want to publish a book that is as honed as possible in every way in order to give my reader as positive an experience as possible. 

If that means that I must take the time to let a book rest and read it again, then so be it.  I shall begin again at chapter one on Monday morning and, who knows, by Friday I might be satisfied.  Or not...

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned the title of my book, and I have to admit that the reason for this is simple - I have not found one that I like well enough yet!

Bev Spicer 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Excerpt from Bunny on a Bike

Carol and Bev look for somewhere to live in London:

Willesden Green High Street had shops that were not boarded up and its very own traffic congestion.  We got out the piece of paper with the address we were looking for scrawled on it and asked for directions.  After a couple of people had scowled and scratched their heads we found someone who could help us and soon we were in a leafier street within a few turns of the busy centre.  In front of us rose up a rather grand, detached house with enormous gates and a separate pedestrian entrance.  The driveway was pebbled (good for hearing the approach of burglars) and there were two large stone steps up to a wide, panelled front door.  There were bushes and shrubs that looked as though they had been transplanted from a botanical garden.  We double-checked the address, opened the side gate and walked up to the house wondering what the catch might be. 

‘Probably a caravan in the back garden,’ said Carol.

Carol rang the bell.  A woman of about thirty-five with curly, strawberry blonde hair and freckles opened the door.  She was wearing baggy yellow trousers and a cheesecloth shirt, bangles and bracelets and lots of rings. We were not expecting any of this. 

‘Hello.  What a lovely day.  You must be Bev and Carol.  Please come in.  Watch out for the cat.’  She jangled when she moved, like my auntie Vera used to.  She wasn’t a real auntie.  I mean, she was real, but not my auntie.

We stepped over a ball of happy, black fur and waited politely in a large spangly hallway.  It was a house where the cat would be more important than us. There were mirrors and tapestries, a glass lamp on a shiny black table engraved with elephants, a Buddha carved in wood and standing almost three feet tall, and a framed proverb hanging above it that said: ‘Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.’

‘Oh, don’t mind that.  Adil thinks we should constantly strive for spiritual fulfilment.  My name is Ursula.  Pleased to meet you.’ We shook hands and I bowed. 

‘I like your house.’  I blurted, in the short confused silence that followed.

‘Yes.  It’s not bad, is it?  Would you both like a cup of tea?  The lounge is through here, I won’t be a sec. Make yourselves comfortable.’

The lounge was sumptuous, with sofas thick with padding and strewn with silky-bright cushions.  Exotic paintings in colours rich enough to make you squint hung on the walls, expensive looking rugs layered the floor and adorned the walls and a large stone fireplace of intricate design housed a roaring log fire.  It was light and cosy and I wondered whether we would be kidnapped and sold as slaves to rich Indian men who wanted a bit of western promise.

‘Weird,’ Carol whispered.

‘Yeah.  Like some kind of palace.’  I whispered back.  Carol raised her top lip and rolled her eyes. 

‘Shall we sit down?’  I suggested in a more normal voice, now that I remembered we were alone.

‘She said to make ourselves comfortable,’ Carol said.

We sat on the edge of the largest sofa.  I could feel the muscles in my buttocks tensing so I did a few pelvic floor exercises.  Shame not to. I had read about what happened to women if they neglected to maintain their intimate muscles. Ursula returned with a tray of tea as I was in mid clench and I smiled serenely as she carried it towards us.

‘I brought biscuits.  Don’t know whether you girls are watching your weight.  I don’t bother any more.’  She took a chocolate finger and shoved it whole into her mouth as if to prove a point.  ‘Adil will be here shortly.  He likes to interview.  Don’t worry – he isn’t as fierce as he looks.’

‘What is the flat like?’  Carol wanted to get down to business. I got stuck into the biscuits.

‘Oh?  Yes.  Well, it’s quite small I suppose.  It has a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom with two single beds.  What else…? Perhaps it would be easier to just let you see it after Adil has spoken to you.’

‘And the rent is £64 a week all in?’  Carol asked.

‘Adil will discuss the terms with you.  I don’t really… Here he is now.’  She seemed relieved.

A large bellied Indian man with long hair and a beard, wearing white trousers and a white shirt ambled importantly into the room.  He wore sandals with broken straps that threatened to trip him at any moment.  I imagined him falling on top of us and pinning us both down on the sofa.  Perhaps that was the plan.  I thought about Mr. Badal and his less complex advances.

‘Good afternoon ladies.’  His lips were full and very pink.  He looked at us and stroked his beard. He swivelled into a chair and Ursula handed him some greenish liquid with stuff floating in it. 

‘My name is Adil and you are?’

‘Beverley,’ I thought it better to use my full name. 

‘Carol,’ said Carol.

‘I see.’  He nodded and said something to Ursula in what must have been Hindi.

She passed him the biscuits.

‘I see.’  He nodded again, ruminating on a custard cream.  ‘Well.  I understand you girls are looking for accommodation?’

‘That’s right.  We want a flat as near to Edgware Road and Park Lane as possible.  And not too expensive,’  Carol said.

‘We are going to work for Playboy.’  I added and Carol pinched me on the arm.

Adil raised his eyebrows at this and stirred his tea.  Ursula coughed.

‘I see.  And what… type of work will this be?’  He had difficulty in formulating the question and I wondered whether he had mastered the English language sufficiently to follow our conversation.

‘ We will deal cards.  Blackjack.  With chips.’  I spoke very slowly and dealt from an imaginary pack of cards.

‘She means we will be croupiers Mr…’

‘Desai.  It’s Mr. Desai.  Thank you Carol.  I see.  And are these positions…permanent?’

‘Yes Mr Desai.  We have signed a contract.  I have a copy in my bag if you would like to see it.’  Carol was acting very strangely. I wondered why he might want to see our contracts.

‘That won’t be necessary.  No.’ He nodded, spoke again to Ursula and then smiled benignly at us.  ‘Would you like my wife to show you the accommodation?’

‘Yes please.’  I said, standing up and watching the biscuit crumbs fall from my lap and bounce across the carpet.

Once more he spoke in Hindi and I half expected Ursula to produce a dustpan and brush.  She didn’t.  Instead, she extended her arm for us to go with her, and her husband said that he would speak to us again once we had inspected the rooms.

The ‘rooms’ were in a large annex at the back of the main house with a separate entrance to the side.  The hallway was dark and pokey and there were stairs disappearing up to a second floor.  First impressions – nul points.  The vacant flat we were shown was on the ground floor and above us Ursula said there were two others, which were occupied.  She turned the key in a huge lock and we found ourselves in a medium sized bedroom with a small sofa and a television in one corner.  There was no window.  Through another door and down some steps was the kitchen, where a fridge hummed noisily and then shuddered into silence. It was freezing. There was a small, shoddy table and four matching chairs, a cooker and a kettle. 

‘Where is the bathroom?’  Carol asked, politely.

Ursula pulled back a curtain and revealed a maroon bathroom suite, stained and with dripping taps.  To the right, there was a heavy piece of plastic nailed inside a doorway.  Carol pulled back the plastic where it had come loose and looked outside onto an area filled with dustbins. We both looked at Ursula.

‘Adil will of course be having a new door put in.  There is a separate lock on your bedroom for extra security.’ 

I looked at Carol, who was looking at Ursula.

‘I see,’ said Carol, nodding and stroking her chin.  I wondered whether Ursula would take offence at Carol’s mocking of her spiritual partner but she didn’t seem to notice.

‘I see,’ I said, nodding and stroking my chin.  I think that did it.

‘I’ll leave you to look around on your own and, when you’ve decided, you can come back to the main house, okay?’  Her tone was colder but so were my extremities. She fiddled with her bangles and practically fled.

The flat was basic, dark, ill equipped and open to the elements but we had found no others advertised at a rent we could afford and it was not far for us to travel to work.

‘What do you think?’  I tried to open the window in the kitchen and failed.

‘I think we’re stuffed.  For the money it’s as good as we’re going to get.  As long as Ursula keeps Adil under control I’d say we should go for it.’  Carol opened the fridge and gave it the thumbs up.  No fridge stink is a basic human right.

It would do. We wandered back to the house, theorising about the other tenants. Perhaps they were drugs dealers or murderers. Perhaps they were illegal immigrants.  Perhaps they didn’t exist and we would be prisoners, doomed to a life as sex slaves.  Mr. Desai was waiting at the door and waved us into his den with a knowing look on his insufferable face.  He knew we would take the flat.

After we had signed the relevant papers, it turned out that there were several rules.  There was to be no smoking or playing of loud music at any time, and silence after eleven o’clock. We would be asked to pay one month’s rent as a deposit and two month’s rent in advance, which, although we had been expecting this, added up to a shocking amount of money.  We were not allowed to sub-let, take drugs or run a business from his premises.  We thought Mr. Desai had either had a lot of trouble with tenants in the past or had a very vivid imagination.

Anyway, we were pleased to have found somewhere.  It meant we didn’t have to waste any more time looking.  It meant we could go home and sponge off our parents for a couple of weeks and see our friends before the adventure in Tring began.  Tring – could it be a real place?

Bunny on a Bike is available on Amazon to download to your kindle, nook or pc etc.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Promotion results for Bunny on a Bike

Promoting Bunny on a Bike.

First of all I’d like to thank the ubiquitous and exquisite Terry Tyler for telling me how to use the Connect page! 

Then, I’d like to thank everyone else who helped me get my book noticed.  There are so many names going through my head that it makes me dizzy.  THANK YOU ONE AND ALL!

As for the results – my book was downloaded a total of 640 times, 410 of these in the UK.  Bunny achieved a UK general ranking of 114, was no. 1 in biographies and memoirs and no. 3 in humour.  I even knocked Miranda off her perch!  Not, for long, obviously – she’s bigger than me, and funnier.

I met some great people, who made me feel less like falling asleep on my keyboard as the hours went on and on and on…  You were all funny, enthusiastic, imaginative and kind, not to mention wonderfully weird just when I needed you to be. 

 I think there are lots of people on Twitter who thrive on helping others – very humbling.  I shall do my best to reciprocate even more and generally pull my finger out in the future.

I’ve made a summary of my promotional experience:

Negative points:

Blurred vision, numb bum, stiff fingers, bored husband, unfed children, unwashed laundry, unwritten book, gormless expression, wrote down lots of stuff that I didn't need to and (you guessed it) didn't write down lots of stuff that I did need to.

Positive points:

Got to know some brilliant people, had a good laugh, learned a lot about promotional websites, lost at least two kilos (didn’t have time to eat or drink), saved on soap, deodorant and toothpaste (nasty).

Oh, and 640 people have my book.  Some of them might read it, some might like it.  I might get that funny feeling in my tummy when I read a new good review.  (Let’s not talk about the bad ones I might get!)  And perhaps I will sell a few more books in the future.  Or a million.  Or a billion.  You never know!  Anything is possible:  all the photons in a room could accumulate in one corner – I read about it.  

So, now that I am refreshed, relaxed and looking forward to dinner, I suppose I’d better stop doing this and go and cook it!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

FREE DOWNLOAD (Weds.14th and Thurs. 15th November) - BUNNY ON A BIKE

It's not about rabbits, by the way... 

I've written a humorous memoir about the time I spent as a blackjack dealer with Playboy in London in the 80s.

I was young, garish and daring, and keen to avoid working in an office or using my degree in English and French to get into something I was sure I would hate.  So, when I saw the advert for Playboy croupiers, I just went along with my best pal and, somehow, got through the interview.

Read about how I did it in Bunny on a Bike.

We met some very dodgy landlords in our search for accommodation.  The truth is definitely stranger than fiction!

You'll read about the training we did at Victor Lownes' mansion in Tring.  There were parties, of course, and lots of champagne, but the fun we had was not limited to these.  Life in London for two girls with attitude, was brilliant and hilarious in so many ways.

Working for Playboy was a revelation.  Not at all as we imagined it would be. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely!

Download Bunny on a Bike FREE  on 14th and 15th November.  It's got great reviews - so what have you got to lose?

Here's the link if you would like to give it a try:

Friday, 5 October 2012

Hedge cutting

It's been a strange day.

The man next door has cut down half his hedge and now we can see much more of his lovely garden, which is full of walnut trees, cherry trees and silver birch.

That said, I don't really care about hedges and trees in other people's gardens.

I prefer to get up early, do my facial exercises and go looking for the parrot that kept me awake all through the night.  In fact, I think there might be two of them.

Then, I have breakfast in the garden and wonder when the man next door will cut down the other half of the hedge.  It's a laylandii, apparently.  There are websites that sell only laylandii - I looked.

Breakfast is difficult.  The milk is not cold enough.  The muesli is too sweet and the coffee gives me stomach ache.  I think about the first muesli.  It was Alpen, I think.  Like sweet sawdust, I remember.  My muesli is organic and wholesome, with lots of big bits of nuts and seedy things.  The milk is homogenised and will, I'm told, block my arteries much better than pasturised.

At the end of the hedge, there is a huge laylandii.  It hangs over our roof and the chimney for our wood burner.  My husband wishes the man next door had started at this end of the hedge.

After breakfast I go to the next village to get bread and somebody coming the other way smashes off my wing mirror.  The sound is amazing.  I see them stop and then drive away.  I tie the mirror back in place with some string and wonder how much it will cost to get a new one.

My husband says that he is glad he didn't do it.

The man next door has started up his chain saw again and we peer through the window at his progess.  One hour later, he has finished.  And the large tree at the end is still standing.

My husband hopes it falls on him.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

My Grandfather's Eyes - Prologue 



I have never been beautiful. And, of course, my appearance has deteriorated over time.  It is something I have become used to.  When I look in the mirror these days, and that is not very often, I am not surprised by what I see.  Nor am I disappointed, as I have given up hope of catching myself in a good light. 

Let me tell you what I see.  First, the shape of my head is noticeably irregular, with a medium-sized bump just in front of the crown.  Next, my forehead is lined.  It always has been, ever since I can remember. People used to say I must be a deep thinker.  Only some of them were being kind.   Now the lines are deeper, but the traces they follow date back to my school days, when they did not go unnoticed by bullies.  My eyes are large and green; some might say they are intelligent eyes, that they are insightful or sincere.  I have learned not to set much store by what other people say. 

I have meagre lashes, but it is usually boys who have the lavish kind.  My nose is straight and my mouth is full.  My hair is mousy, fine and thin.   I used to buy shampoo for flyaway hair, when I believed in such nonsense.  When I was young, I wanted thick, straight blond hair, like my friend Lizzy’s.  We all want what we can’t have.

There is perhaps nothing so far to complain about very much, you might say. 

And so I come to my moles: the unnatural, crawling growths that spread themselves over the side of my face and the underside of my jaw.  If you could see me now, you would probably recoil. I have noticed that even the most educated, the most sympathetic person has difficulty in hiding the innate disgust my moles excite in them.  Ah yes. Disgust is not too harsh a word, I can assure you.  And the others? Those who make no attempt to hide their feelings towards me?  They cannot help themselves, but stare in horror at what they see, as they sit on the bus clutching their shiny, plastic bags full of new things or as they push their wholesome choices around the supermarket.   Young children are the worst.  I do not admire their honesty, as their obsequious parents do. 

My moles. My nevi.  How can I describe them?  I should say they are more or less dark brown in colour, although there are two above my left eye that are noticeably lighter.  My husband called them Castor and Pollux.  All have a rubbery, soft texture and, apart from one large mole near my ear, are hairless.  The one near my ear has short, thick hairs that bristle untidily.  My husband had a name for this one too.  He loved me too much.  He couldn’t help it.  None of us can choose whom we love.

What more can I tell you?   That I am ambivalent to my nevi? That Castor and Pollux are my favourites?  That I like them for being different?  You may think this kind of reasoning is strange and I wouldn’t blame you.  I can only explain it as a truth, a principle that has grown inside me as my moles have swelled and spread; have become part of my life.   Now, I am not sure I could be separated from them. 

There was a time when I believed my mother loved me. A time when she called me beautiful and, because I was not yet self-aware, I let myself be preened and cosseted in exchange for the comfort I felt from the warm glow of her approval.  I did not notice how she suffered. I did not recognise the mortification that lay beneath her smile.

However, a story must start somewhere nearer its beginning, and so I will go back and show myself more clearly to you, before I reveal what I have done.  I expect that you will judge me.

But I do not care.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Excerpt from new thriller - My Grandfather's Eyes


I have had enough of this hospital waiting room. I have been here for hours and yet nothing has happened.  The nurse who deposited me here, with her tight bun and disinterested manner has not returned and I am left in the dark, not knowing and tired of surmising the fate of my husband. 


This place is claustrophobic and the inadequate chair has turned my legs to jelly. I feel as though I have been shut away in a giant glass box, like a creature in a medical experiment or at an exhibition, although of what I do not know. I get up carefully, like an old woman. I am thirty-two years old, not yet past my prime and yet no longer young.  I open the door and look towards the double doors that lead to the front entrance of the hospital, where there will be a coffee machine.  It is enough of a lure, although I don’t expect much. Anything is better than waiting here in this desolate forgotten corner.


The linoleum floor is thick and smooth, it muffles the sound of my footfalls so that when I swing the door open, I am hit by the echoing sound of people talking quietly in a large space.  I have been sitting on my own for too long and it is difficult to turn my thoughts outwards.  I stand for a moment and get my bearings, looking for a vending machine and somewhere to sit. I pull out my purse to look for some change.


I settle in a padded chair outside the hospital crèche.  The brightly coloured pictures are out of place without electric light and children’s voices. It is late and the building seems to sleep.  There are hospital staff chatting in murmurs.  I catch odd words. They are people with nothing to do, who should be doing something.  They eye me suspiciously and I ignore them.  I insert coins and push buttons and soon have a cup of hot liquid that gives off an aroma of chicken soup.  I sit and watch the receptionist who is talking to a woman in a white coat.  Her legs are muscular and her shoes practical.  She puts a hand in a pocket and takes out a pen, glancing in my direction.  Then she puts the pen back in her pocket. It is a strange place to work, I imagine.  You would always be dealing with pettiness or tragedy.  It would be depressing. Also, I decide that the atmosphere is wrong.  It is too officious.  It reminds me, inexplicably, of bad science fiction films.


I have a yearning to be entertained.  I want to watch people. I want them to be unpredictable.  I want Lizzy to walk in and throw her arms around me. None of this will happen.


The bad coffee is strong and hot.  It revives me a little and gives me a chance to review my situation.  Now I think about it, it seems that I have been foolish to wait.  There is so much I could have been sorting out at home to make things easier on myself later.  I wonder why I had wanted to stay and realise that there are two reasons:  firstly, it is easier not to go home, where other people will be arriving, and secondly, I have no idea what Richard has told the doctors. 


Until I can speak to him there is no point in making any plans.  That is why I have to stay.  I look for a telephone and dial my home number. I do not use my mobile phone.  I do not know why.   Instead, it plays dead in my pocket.  The large grey and black public phone rings twice and is answered. It is Lizzy.


Time advances slowly. I wade through a present thick and sticky with chaos and I wonder how to extricate myself from a growing sense of inertia.  I glance back at the telephone remembering the feel of the receiver in my hand and the sensation of the vibrations travelling down the line, miraculously translated into words.  I wish I had not called home.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Green

I read a recent article on E L James along with millions of others, presumably, wondering at her good fortune and wishing it were me wearing the smug expression.

I am in the unenviable position of not having read the dratted book and not wanting to buy it.  I put this down to pettiness and an inflated sense of my own importance in the world of literature.  I would be loading her coffers and betraying my high standards. Also, I understand that there are rude bits that might either shock or bore me, according to the comments left by those who have read the ' best-selling book in Britain of all time'.

Surely this must be wrong. I climb onto a higher horse and think of Shakespeare, Dickens, J K Rowling or Eric Carle.  How could we love her this much?  

One answer that springs to mind is that it is because she has become controversial, and everyone loves a good fight.  Or it could be that we really do think about sex most of the time and want to find out new ways of doing it. Then again, it may be that, just as we will queue for anything that looks as though someone else might want it, we will buy a book that is popular because everyone else is doing so.

The fact remains that E L James has written a book that has outsold every other book written and distributed in Britain to date.  I would pinch myself if I could find a part of my body that wasn't already blue.  Or should I say green?  

Yes, I am envious.  I'll admit it. But I have an idea, courtesy of Jak in Ambleside who reports that locals receive a free pair of fluffy pink handcuffs with every purchase - perhaps a free pair of Playboy bunny ears with every copy of Bunny on a Bike would do the trick?  

In the meantime, I shall content myself with skimming the first (free) chapters on Amazon in an effort to be as outraged and pedantic as possible.  When, one day, I become more magnanimous and less bitter, I will download the book and give it my undivided attention over a cup of coffee and a suitable electronic device... 

Bev Spicer is the author of Bunny on a Bike (humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier in 80s London:

New book out soon:  My Grandfather's Eyes (dark thriller).


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Towel/Sunlounger dilemma.

Let's see.  Either I get up at the crack of dawn and fling a towel on a vacant plastic recliner or I arrive too late and have to mask my venom with a radiant smile as I wander round enquiring whether there might be a chance of nabbing one that isn't actually occupied. If you don't mind.  Shame on you.

'Excuse me.  Do you need these six loungers?'

'Yes.  You should have come earlier.'

'And you should be boiled in oil.'

Of course I don't say anything like this.  Not out loud, anyway. But I would like to have the nerve to just take off the towel and plonk myself down.  Can you imagine the seconds of satisfaction?

As it is, I generally find a normal chair, borrowed from a lifeguard, and pretend to enjoy myself until someone leaves.  Then, I jump up and race for the lounger, trampling small children and slow movers  to get there first.

I drag my lounger back towards the shade of my palm tree and tan safely, marvelling at the amount of chorizo coloured flesh oozing in its various forms all around me.

The pool is full of people.  There is nowhere to swim.  I read my book and swig my warm drink, wishing that my sunglasses were not so heavy on my nose.  Should I have paid more for some better ones? 


I wonder whether I would rather not be here at all. But I am on holiday and I must make the most of the pool. It's free and set in acres of beautiful pine forest.

I am hot and uncomfortable.  Perhaps I should go for a quick dip.  Just to cool off.  I stand, stretch and move gracefully towards the pool.  The lifeguard blows a whistle and people swim or lumber to the sides, climbing out as fast as they can.

A turd has been found and the pool will close for twelve hours.

Next morning the alarm rings and I think about reserving a lounger.  Then I go back to sleep.  After all, it's not fair to reserve a lounger if you're not actually using it, is it?  And I reason that the muscles I will use to glare at the smug lounger-baggers after a leisurely breakfast, will do wonders for wrinkle prevention. 


 I think briefly about where I might purchase a plastic turd.


So, where do you stand on the towel/sunlounger issue.  And don't lie, because I'll know. 





Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Short excerpt from Bunny on a Bike

South of France dream goddess bikini

We were shown into a curtained changing room and told to put on our swimwear.  There were girls everywhere, exposing various parts of their generally perfect bodies.  I wished I hadn’t eaten so much at breakfast and wondered whether I too should have topped up with some fungal-smelling Quicktan.  Carol got a Bic razor out of her bag and did a tidy up of her bikini line much to the horror of a tall Italian-looking girl who was stuffing paper into her bikini top.

‘Did you bring the yellow one?’  Carol asked.

‘Of course.’  It was my South of France dream-goddess bikini, which had won general acclaim at ‘La Sirene Camping’ the previous summer.  Guaranteed to get you noticed, although not yet tested in an interview situation.


‘Now, now.  No seething in public.  Did you bring your space-girl bikini?’


She did.’ I nodded towards a girl wearing a silver two-piece with an intricate choker arrangement around her neck.  Very Barbarella.

‘God, look at my blotches!  These mirrors must be wrong.’  Carol was examining the fronts of her thighs, which looked as though they had been tie-died.

I pondered the idea of wrong mirrors.

‘Viviana, please!’  The Italian-looking girl was in fact Italian and she was next.  She turned and gave us what can only be described as a deprecating sneer, stepped gracefully through the curtains and disappeared with her perfect ass in tow.

‘Did you see her cellulite?’  Carol scowled.

‘No?’ I said.

‘Neither did I.’

Thanks for looking! Bunny on a Bike is on Amazon if you'd like to read more:

Friday, 3 August 2012

Short excerpt from Bunny on a Bike

The tube station was not far from the casino and when it came into sight I thought it looked more like an enormous, ungainly office block.  It was on pillars, but not the classical kind, and it looked so, so wrong.  The windows were high up and masked by long curtains, which presumably hid the bright, luxurious interior.  I suppose I thought the building would be grander, more ornate – dripping with wealth.

‘What a dump!’ said Carol.

She wasn’t wrong. 

Then, we saw all the people.  There were hundreds of them.  Girls and some boys too, just standing there, in the longest queue I had ever seen.  It went along the side of the building, round the corner and on for at least a hundred yards. On closer inspection I noticed how the young trendies were dressed. Never had I seen so many fashion mistakes in one place.  I pushed back my dyed blonde hair and eased up my skin-tight jeans.

‘Do you think they are all here for the croupier jobs?’  I wondered aloud.

‘Of course they are, you silly cow.  Let’s get in the bloody queue, shall we?’  Carol shoved me and we walked along the pavement, checking out the competition. 

‘They look younger than us.  And prettier,’  Carol whispered.

‘Speak for yourself!’  I said.

The advert had specified young, good-looking people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three.  I was twenty-four, Carol was all right, she was twenty-three. We were young enough and certainly attractive, in a brash kind of way.  Looking back, I blame Debbie Harry for my lack of sophistication. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bev and Carol go shopping in France


This is not an extract from my book Bunny on a Bike but it is typical of what Bev and Carol might get up to.

Bev and Carol go shopping in France.

'Why is it never the right temperature?' Carol hitches up her long skirt.

'What do you mean?' Bev smiles at the passers-by.

'How can you not understand that? Let me explain: it's always too hot or too cold. Never just right.'

'What? Look! A Brocante! Shall we have a look inside?' Bev goes into a junk shop, saying  a jolly 'bonjour' to the man with the moustache, who is standing in the doorway minding his own business.

Carol follows, snarling quietly.

'These lamps are nice. I like the green one.' Bev shows Carol a very ornate brass oil lamp with a pretty glass shade, which is cracked.

'Buy it then! No sense in missing a bargain. The world is crying out for broken oil lamps.'

'I might just get it. Such a lovely colour!'

'You already said that. Anyway, do you know how to say "oil lamp" in French?' Carol grins.

'I won't need to, will I? I'll just hold it up and say "C'est combien, s'il vous plaît"'

'What does that mean?'

'How much is it, you silly tart!'

'He won't like being called a silly tart, I shouldn't think. Probably knock you out with it.'

The man slides towards Carol and Bev.

'Vous-avez trouvez quelque chose Mesdames?' His teeth are startlingly irregular.

Carol eases herself behind Bev.

'Oui, Monsieur. C'est combien?' Bev beams.

'Ah! English? You are from England!'

Bev is disappointed.  She wants to practise her French.

'Oui, nous sommes anglaises.'

'I see. You like the lamp? It's very ancient. Beautiful.' He gazes at the lamp and Carol fidgets.

'Saw you coming!' she whispers.

'Oui, Monsieur. Je voudrais l'acheter,' says Bev, stepping on Carol's foot.

'Does that mean "how much for a broken lamp"?' Carol nudges Bev in the back.

'No! Not broken. Just small, how you say? Scratch! Is art! One hundred years old!' The man gesticulates dangerously.

'Should be dirt cheap then!' Carol hisses.

'I make you a good price. A good price for the beautiful English ladies.' He fingers his moustache.  'Thirty euros!'

Carol stifles a snort.

'Bien! Je le prends, merci!'  Bev replies.

'You could get a new one for that!' Carol says

The owner puts the lamp into an old plastic bag and wishes the girls a 'bonne journée'.

'What does that mean?' says Carol, tripping up on the step.

'It means: "fuck off out of my shop you silly tarts!"'

'Oh? Shall we get a baguette, then?  I'm starved.'

If you want to read more about Bev and Carol's adventures as Playboy croupiers please spend your 77pence on BUNNY ON A BIKE at Amazon And may all your bargains be as gratefully appreciated!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Bev and Carol meet an unscrupulous landlord (extract)

BUNNY ON A BIKE by Bev Spicer (memoir/humour)

This is an extract from my book.  Carol and Bev meet an unscrupulous landlord.

Carol rang the bell.  A woman of about thirty-five with curly, strawberry blonde hair and freckles opened the door.  She was wearing baggy yellow trousers and a cheesecloth shirt, bangles and bracelets and lots of rings. We were not expecting any of this. 

‘Hello.  What a lovely day.  You must be Bev and Carol.  Please come in.  Watch out for the cat.’  She jangled when she moved, like my auntie Vera used to.  She wasn’t a real auntie.  I mean, she was real, but not my auntie.

We stepped over a ball of happy, black fur and waited politely in a large spangly hallway.  It was a house where the cat would be more important than us. There were mirrors and tapestries, a glass lamp on a shiny black table engraved with elephants, a Buddha carved in wood and standing almost three feet tall, and a framed proverb hanging above it that said: ‘Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.’

‘Oh, don’t mind that.  Adil thinks we should constantly strive for spiritual fulfilment.  My name is Ursula.  Pleased to meet you.’ We shook hands and I bowed. 

‘I like your house.’  I blurted, in the short confused silence that followed.

‘Yes.  It’s not bad, is it?  Would you both like a cup of tea?  The lounge is through here, I won’t be a sec. Make yourselves comfortable.’

The lounge was sumptuous, with sofas thick with padding and strewn with silky-bright cushions.  Exotic paintings in colours rich enough to make you squint hung on the walls; expensive looking rugs layered the floor and adorned the walls and a large stone fireplace of intricate design housed a roaring log fire.  It was light and cosy and I wondered whether we would be kidnapped and sold as slaves to rich Indian men who wanted a bit of western promise.

‘Weird,’ Carol whispered.

‘Yeah.  Like some kind of palace.’  I whispered back.  Carol raised her top lip and rolled her eyes. 

‘Shall we sit down?’  I suggested in a more normal voice, now that I remembered we were alone.

‘She said to make ourselves comfortable,’ Carol said.

We sat on the edge of the largest sofa.  I could feel the muscles in my buttocks tensing so I did a few pelvic floor exercises.  Shame not to. I had read about what happened to women if they neglected to maintain their intimate muscles. Ursula returned with a tray of tea as I was in mid clench and I smiled serenely as she carried it towards us.

Carol and Bev in France
 Bunny on a Bike (Carol and Bev at Playboy)

This is not an extract, but it is the kind of conversation Carol and Bev might have.

 Carol and Bev in France

There is a nice garden with hollyhocks, sunflowers, roses and decking.  There is a large table and benches for eating outside. 

'This is great, isn't it?' Bev breathes in the ozone and coughs.

'If you like rain!' Carol looks up at the clouds with a small sigh.

'Lets look inside.  It said there were three bedrooms.'

'It said the average temperature in mid July was 32 degrees!' Carol follows her friend inside the maison charentaise. Their holiday home for the next three weeks.

'The kitchen is okay. Look! There's a fridge, cooker, sink...' Bev says.

'No! Really?' Carol heads for the stairs and cracks her head on a beam.

Bev says nothing.

Upstairs, the largest bedroom has orange floral wallpaper and wooden floors that bounce. The window looks out over a graveyard.

'Lovely! So peaceful! And look - the neighbours have chickens!  Maybe we can get some eggs for breakfast?'

'This isn't Little House on the Prairie! Anyway, how do you say "Can I have some eggs?" in French?'

'Erm. Let's see. Ummm. Okay. "Puis j'avoir quelques oeux s'il vous plait?" '

'What does "errr" mean?'

'That's French for eggs.'

Carol gives Bev one her looks that says 'you are making it up'.

'So... you can have this room if you like,' Bev smiles.

'Okay. What's the French for "There's an enormous spider on your head"?' 

(Carol and Bev are friends. They love each other. Find out what happens to them when they get a job at Playboy in 'Bunny on a Bike' - link at top of page.)


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bev and Carol on what to have for tea.

Carol excavates a molar.

'What shall we have for tea?' 

Bev looks up from her collection of poems by Baudelaire.

'These poems are amazing. There's one about his lover's hair.  Shall I-'

'It's in French!'

'Oh, yeah. Sorry.'

'Not Pop Tarts.'


'Anything but Pop bloody Tarts.'


'Or rice bloody pudding!'



'We need some bread from the shops.'


'And some butter.'


'And the toaster's broken.'

'What kind of Pop Tarts have we got?'

   'O shadows of fleece falling and billowing upon those bare
   Young shoulders! O rich perfume of forgetfulness!
   Ecstasy! To populate the evening 
   With memories hidden in this tumultuous mane,
   I long to shake it out like a handkerchief!'

Bev allows the words to resonate in the ensuing silence.

Carol stands up and regards her with an indifferent stare. 'On second thoughts, I'll get some lamb chops from the Co-op.'

She takes her purse and leaves.

'Don't forget the mint sauce!' Bev calls, before settling down with her book and curling a strand of hair around her finger.

This is not an extract from Bunny on a Bike.  (But it is the kind of conversation Bev and Carol might have.)

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Problem with Memoirs

When I wrote Bunny on a Bike I listed it as a memoir and as chick lit.  Events are based on my real experiences at the Edgware Road Playboy casino in 1981. 


Not really.  More than a few people have said that they think I should include more information about the plot, on my blog and in my Amazon summary.  They want to know what happens.

This is obviously a sticking point and I have to tackle it if I want anyone to read my book.  So, here goes.  Please tell me whether I have hooked you by the end of it!

Carol and Bev are graduates, with no idea about what they want to do for a living.  They see an advert for Playboy croupiers, and with a typical lack of forethought, decide to apply.   After parading in bikinis and completing gruelling maths tests (with a certain amount of cheating), they get the job.  They do four weeks training at Victor Lownes’ mansion in Tring, where there is free-flowing champagne and a well-stocked juke box.  They are commandeered to be photographed with Victor on his return from hospital and are invited to attend one of his weekend parties where they meet Peter Cook and Kenny Lynch (Bev has him confused with Kenny Everett!). They encounter unscrupulous landlords, and exact a savage revenge.  They deal blackjack to punters with more money than sense, and give the reader an amusing insight into life inside the casino.  Along the way, they make us laugh with their very different attitudes to life and the various adventures they have in London.

Bunny on a Bike is a memoir.  It is anecdotal, unfolding chronologically and told in the first person.  Its tone is ironic and its protagonists offer us an uplifting and humorous account of the process of becoming a Playboy croupier.  If you like frivolity and fun, if you like a dry kind of humour, if you like to laugh, you will love Bunny on a Bike. 

Are you still there?

(Read the first couple of chapters on Amazon for free.  Hope you like it and thank you for reading my blog.)