Christmas Survival Tips – tried and tested

Jane Wenham Jones A5 Christmas Card.indd

Dreading the rellies? Christmas can be a minefield when today’s modern – often blended – families are suddenly brought together. But you can survive them with a little forward thinking…

  1. Make a seating plan. Grannies will like sitting next to their grandchildren and can deal with their runny noses and dodgy eating habits. Second wives can be put at the opposite end of the table to the original spouses, and alcoholic uncles placed away from the wine. (Make a plan even if it’s not your house and enlist an ally to help herd all into position.
  2. There is a fine art to judging how much alcohol to serve and to whom. As a general rule – for anyone likely to fall asleep, as much as you can get down their necks. Those with grievances to air? Hide the whisky!
  3. Prime younger members of the family on suitable topics of conversation, and remind them that while they may consider a baah-humbug farting sheep a hilarious centrepiece, Great Aunt Hilda probably won’t.
  4. Talk of sex, religion and politics can all add spice to the proceedings. Put a ban, instead, on discussion of parenting skills, divorce rates or anything that happened “in my day…”
  5. Invite non-family too. Relatives will behave better, and may offer polite chit-chat instead of bickering over the remote control and dragging up what Uncle Roger did in The Great Christmas Row of 1996.
  6. Prepare a fund of “rescue subjects” to distract and divert if tensions are rising. New babies, holiday plans and the short-comings of other relatives not present, will usually go down well.
  7. Serve all food in quantity. It is harder to be argumentative when stuffed to the gills.
  8. If you have a cream sofa – cover it.
  9. If all else fails, whip out the Trivial Pursuit.
  10. Try deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, meditation or yoga. Repeat to yourself: “I am relaxed, I am calm, I am enjoying this.” Then hit the gin early, grin a lot and remember in a few hours it will all be over.

 

Extracted from the back of Mum in the Middle (HarperImpulse) by Jane Wenham-Jones.

(If you now feel so moved to treat yourself – or one of those relatives – to a copy you can download or get the paperback here.) Happy Christmas!

The book’s out and I’d forgotten what it’s like…

I don’t mean the plot – though God knows I started writing it so long ago and it went through so many edits, that is hazy enough, but all the other stuff surrounding a new book hitting the (virtual) shelves. (The paperback for those who like a real book – yes me too – is out in September.)

What I’d forgotten is  the obsessive checking of the amazon ratings and the looking through one’s fingers at the latest reviews (not to mention the video of one looking rather raddled and wittering on about the squeezed generation that one’s publisher put out on launch day – it was the morning after one of those nights before). The small jump of elation when some kind soul has doled out five stars, and the resigned sigh when it is slated for having a strand about dementia – apparently entirely inappropriately for a book billed as “hilarious”. (I don’t think anyone was referring to that particular storyline.)

I’d forgotten the thrill of someone taking the trouble to write to say they liked it. (And the quiet pleasure of making a small plasticine model of those who didn’t and popping it in my pin drawer 🙂 ho ho.)  And the anticipation of planning the launch party for the paperback (watch this space). And the worry over which crash diet I am going to have to undertake in order to fit into something vaguely presentable for same (usually when I have a book out I put ON weight – it is the constant excuse to hit the fizz and open a celebratory bag of crisps – not a great look for someone who’s also written a weight loss book!).

I’d forgotten the quips. It used to be: have you sold as many as JK Rowling/50 Shades of Grey yet?  Now it’s have you made a million and  will it be made into a series on Netflix.

And the four a.m. horror of remembering who you forgot in the acknowledgements.

And which detail you included that makes it blindingly obvious to all the locals EXACTLY who you were basing THAT character on…

But mostly I’d forgotten how utterly delightful it is to have a book published and how one gets a little rush of joy every time one sees the cover.

You can hear me talking about it here, courtesy of the great Peter James…

or here thanks to my lovely publishers at Harper Collins…

If you have downloaded it – I know a few of the followers here have – then thank you SO much. If not – it’s only 99p – a bloody bargain if I might make so bold  – and I would absolutely love to hear what you think. You can be honest! I wouldn’t want anything less jxxx

Didn’t I have a lov-er-ly time…

Another to add to my list of fab festivals I have worked for. Had a great time at the Buckingham Literary Festival last weekend, interviewing three top bestsellers. First up on Friday night a packed audience were enthralled by the mega-successful crime king Peter James with whom I always have a laugh; and then the next morning  I “did” the wonderful  Clare Mackintosh and Louise Doughty –  who both went down a storm. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Anthony Seldon – what an inspirational chap he is. I loved Buckingham – never been before and it is the most gorgeous place. One for the calendar next year…

   

 

Colin Dexter – it was great to meet you too

IMG_0937Time to say goodbye to another luminary of the book world and to fondly recall the day in 2009 when I met Colin Dexter at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. It was late morning, he had just finished speaking, and was suitably dismayed to learn that the bar was closed. “Can’t we go to the pub?” he asked Beryl Bainbridge. I have no idea what I was doing standing there – I was gobbier in those days, I’d probably pushed my way to the front to announce my addiction to Morse and enduring crush on John Thaw – but I was able to share with  both these great writers, the  intelligence I’d gathered the night before when in a similar fix.   You could buy wine direct from the kitchen staff. I led the famous author to the chap who’d done the deal the previous evening, he purchased a bottle of red (it could have been two) which he  generously invited me to share. I was speaking later myself, so God knows how that went, but I do recall a most entertaining lunch with the pair of them, feeling  privileged indeed. “It was a delight to be with you,” Mr Dexter wrote in my Inspector Morse Omnibus, causing someone to joke that if I fell on hard times I could take the inscription to the News of the World. He laughed. I have treasured the tome ever since. I was pretty delighted too.

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday December 21st 2012

This might not make entire sense to those not blessed with living on the Isle of Thanet but perhaps you would would wish for similar for your town too…

Happy Christmas anyway!

jxxx

***

What would make a perfect gift for Isle?

THE GAZETTE’s regular columnists Jane Wenham-Jones and Mike Pearce have been set a Christmas challenge by editor Rebecca Smith.

It’s better to give than receive, we are told, so what could glass-half-full Jane and glass-half-empty Mike come up with as the perfect gifts for Thanet?

Jane & Mike Xmas 2012 photo by Bill Harris
WHO’S BEEN GOOD? A bumper parcel for Jane and socks again for Mike (photo by Bill Harris)
​JANE: What would I give Thanet this Christmas? Some positive vibes! Thanet has its problems but it’s got a whole heap of potential too. So I’d like to see less negativity from the disaffected quarters and no scaremongering. I wish the Isle further art galleries and creative ventures (to quote Ms Emin: where art comes, regeneration follows); a few more restaurants you can sit outside; and bars that face the sun.

I want the new micro pubs to do well, the older pubs to survive, the High Streets to hang in there and huge success for Manston Airport, (yes, yes, during the day! Don’t start that again).

I’d like to see certain councillors stepping down and others stepping up. I’d like derelict properties restored and landlords held to account and bad housing sorted.

Had I a magic Christmas wand, I would of course bring more employment and prosperity, fewer punch-ups and help for smaller shops and businesses. I’d say no to superstores and give a fat grant to anyone opening up an empty retail space and making jobs.

I’d have an open police station in each town, no more ridiculous “traffic-calming” and put Richborough Towers back where it was. I’d see the theatres full, the churches unvandalised and the loos unlocked. But in the sad absence of my fairy wings, I’ll just send a group hug. Have a good one!

And for my dear colleague Mike? I would give him a season ticket to Turner Contemporary events, a hot night out with Iris Johnston (his favourite!), a night flight from Manston and a signed, life-size photograph of Tracey Emin. Happy Christmas mate!

MIKE: AS A child, I would plead for expensive toys and receive a gift-wrapped box containing a battery and a message saying “Toy not included”. I offer my presents for Thanet, but remember – Santa is an anagram of Satan.

For Margate: A new road behind Dreamland, allowing a pedestrianised seafront paradise with a cafe culture in its true sense. Not just a few late-night boozers, but coffee bars, eateries and a tip of the hat to the glory days, with ice cream parlours, candy floss and family-friendly amusement arcades.

For Broadstairs: A large field, miles from anywhere, where morris men can beat each other with sticks, and lank-haired minstrels of indeterminate sex can whine about Strawberry Fair, Widdecombe Fair and Betfair for all I care, without providing an excuse for every yob this side of Tilbury to converge on the town centre and cause mayhem.

For Ramsgate: A fairy godmother to sprinkle stardust on the precious Ramsgate Sands site, shoo off would-be developers and turn back the clock to when it was a tourist magnet – or at least a car park.

For Thanet: A spaceship to descend and take away this hapless council. And then (oh Santa, if only) for 56 good men strong and true to come forward – people who will spend more time discussing agendas and less time discussing genders; people with intelligence and enthusiasm; people less concerned with causes and more concerned with the common good.

For the High Streets: An end to hand-wringing, silver-tongued soothsayers offering false dawns.

For the Turner Centre: A ticket machine, so they can finally admit there’s no such thing as a free Munch.

And following Margate’s inclusion in the Rough Travel Guide as the world’s seventh best tourist destination, an early copy of next year’s, showing Cliftonville has the world’s best forests, Manston the most successful airport and Westwood Cross the most efficient traffic system.

For Plain Jane?: A film company to buy up one of her novels. And an address book with the page for D torn out, so she avoids the duckies and divas and darlings who turn her pretty little head!

Prime Time paperback is now out!

Prime Time is officially out now!  I am bracing myself to start peering in bookshops (does one copy mean they’ve sold em all or is that  all they ever had?) and am just about recovered from the local bash last Saturday – coined by my fellow columnist on the Isle of Thanet Gazette, Mike Pearce (pictured below), as “The Launch that faced a thousand quips“. This is one of his….
The paperback version is available here and the Kindle version here.

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