I proposed to my husband on Leap Day 1996. He was with the British Army as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia at the time, and managed to get a 72-hour leave pass. Although I couldn’t go to Bosnia as it was still a war zone, civilian flights had just started again between London and Split in Croatia, so we agreed that I would fly out to meet him for the weekend. It just so happened that my flight landed on 29th February, and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Before flying I’d taken photos of myself in one of those old photo booths that took four different pictures. In each of the shots I held up a piece of paper with a different word on: Will/ You/ Marry /Me? I handed him the photo booth shots when we met at the airport – and luckily he said yes (but the downside is that as I did the asking, I’ve never received an engagement ring!).
I used to be in the army reserves. When I married a soldier, I thought ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’, so I gave it a go and joined the TA, as it was then called. I used to go on Wednesday nights and one weekend a month, doing army style PT, first aid, fieldcraft, drill, etc. But when we got onto weapons training, I knew I had to leave. I just wasn’t comfortable firing a gun. Still, none of it was lost, as I had plenty of memories to draw on when writing scenes for my debut novel, The Gunner Girl.
I spent Christmas Day 1994 listening to hard rock with a group of Dutch mushroom farmers in Cape Town, South Africa. I won’t bore you with the details: Worst Christmas Day Ever.
I have a canal boat that I can never go on. My husband works in London during the week and we own a narrow boat on the Grand Union Canal that’s his workday crashpad. However, I suffer something called Mal de Debarquement Syndrome, which means I can’t stay on board – it’s an inner ear issue that means when I go on boats I feel dizzy for weeks afterwards. So whatever happens on that boat, I’ll never get to find out…
I’ve run one full marathon and five half marathons (although not very fast). I’d love to do another half marathon at some point, but I don’t have time for training at the moment. I do the odd jog with the dog, though.
I lived in Mauritius as a child. My dad got a job in Mauritius for a couple of years, so I lived there between the ages of seven and nine. No TV, but lots of swimming, sunshine and snorkelling – and very vivid memories.
I once hitchhiked from Zanzibar to Cape Town. I’d been travelling round Tanzania after doing some voluntary work there and decided I wanted to go to South Africa, but as I was short of money the only way I could do it was by hitchhiking. I was pretty nervous, but luckily a group of lovely South African lads were looking for someone to join their convoy down to Cape Town to help pay for petrol. We met up in Zanzibar and I got a lift all the way – I didn’t have to stick my thumb out once!
I have a Law degree. Everyone always seems a bit surprised when I mention that one (maybe I don’t look intelligent enough!). I really only did it to please my parents, and I never actually worked as a solicitor.
I love Coronation Street. When I lived in Nepal the only way you could watch UK TV was via the army’s ‘welfare discs’, which were DVDs of UK television programmes that you could loan out from the army library on the Gurkha camp. I used to host Coronation Street nights at my house, where friends would bring food and booze and we’d binge on back episodes of Corrie.
My mother-in-law was the inspiration for my debut novel, The Gunner Girl. She was an ‘ack-ack girl’ in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Because of her I became fascinated with women soldiers in WW2 and wrote The Gunner Girl whilst my husband was away on ops with the army in Afghanistan.