Extract from Igboland by Jeff Gardiner

Igboland coverIGBOLAND is a novel of passion and conflict set in Nigeria during the late 1960s Biafran War. Lydia is a young English woman, married to Clem. Their first real home together is in the West African bushland, where Clem will be doing missionary work in the Igbo village of Ngkaluku. Their marriage is under pressure as Lydia begins to wonder why she has travelled so far away from home. Here is an extract from the opening chapter of IGBOLAND:

An intense migraine slowly took control of my entire being and I couldn’t be bothered to find the aspirins. I drifted in and out of consciousness only vaguely aware of the voices on the radio until Clem abruptly prodded my shoulder.

‘Lydia, you need to hear this.’ He turned up the radio.

 ‘…the Nigerian Federal Government has declared that the country is officially in a state of civil war. Major hostilities continue in the border regions, as the federal troops continue to advance southwards. Clashes have occurred in towns such as Kano, Kaduna, Oturkpo and Enugu between Northern Muslims and the Igbos in the Southeast. Southern rebels are seeking to gain independence from the Nigerian federal government with the aim of creating their own republic of Biafra. Yakubu Gowon, the head of state declared that Nigeria would stay united, whilst the Igbo military leader, Colonel Ojukwu, has promised to ‘Fight fire with fire’…’

That night I kept restlessly waking at every sudden noise of train on track. Each sound conjured vivid and irrationally frightening images in my mind as I lay there paralysed and half strangled by the twisted, damp sheets pinning me down. Once my eyes got used to the dark I could see various creatures scuttling across the ceiling. One large hissing lizard stayed close to where the mosquito net connected to the ceiling and I prayed that it wouldn’t find a hole to creep through and end up on my face or my pillow. The thought stopped me sleeping for many hours.

Eventually I drifted off but then was rudely woken up by a hand pinching my bosom and Clem snuggling up behind me, naked and clearly aroused. I turned with a heavy sigh, met by his stale breath. I was going to give an excuse but instead I just lay there inertly, waiting for him to speak, but as usual he said nothing; just groped me imploringly. I didn’t respond which I knew would annoy him. Then I gave another sigh to imply my fatigue. He released me, jerked back impatiently and turned his back to me in a huff. I slipped out of the bunk and self-consciously dressed as quickly as I could.

Idoma villageThen I sat in the chair next to the bed from sheer exhaustion of moving in the morning heat. In the corner of my eye I caught a quick movement and turned my head to see a lizard scamper up the wall – perhaps the same one that kept me awake last night. In the light of day it seemed smaller and quite friendly with its strikingly blue body and its bright red head and tail. It suddenly twisted its head round with a flick, hissed loudly and I heard a crunching sound as its head moved up and down. Clearly visible, sticking out of its mouth was a pair of wings and the dangling legs of some kind of flying insect.

‘Ah, he’s an agama lizard,’ Clem announced, suddenly sitting up in my bed.

‘How do you know it’s a he?’ I asked with a slight irritation.

‘Because the females are plain and less colourful,’ he said. ‘Often the way in nature, my dear.’

‘God moving in mysterious ways, I suppose?’ I ventured, looking away.

‘Sorry?’ Clem asked, as he stretched unselfconsciously. I didn’t reply as his mind was clearly elsewhere.

For more information and to purchase IGBOLAND:Igboland

Jeff’s Website >

Jeff’s Blog >

Amazon UK >

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Television writers – why?!

Okay, so I know that TV shows and movies (and real life!) cannot always have happy, romantic endings. But when I watch something, I want some fun escapism. Not to be reminded how depressing life can be. Writers of the following – why? Why did you let me down?!

The following 4 TV shows have disappointed me:

  1. Lost. It started so well, but just got too weird. I didn’t even watch them all, in the end.
  2. Grey’s Anatomy. Gave up on this, too… the chemistry between Meredith and McDreamy was great, but too many characters died. I mean, really, can’t anyone just move away when the actor wants to leave? Too depressing, GA writers, too darn depressing.
  3. Downton Abbey. Killing off Sybil and Matthew (the only two truly likeable characters, except Granny of course) led me to the decision to boycott DA. Actors want to leave, I appreciate that, but you could consider just using a different actor. Sybil could’ve gone to Ireland and never come back. And Matthew died on Christmas day! Soooo depressing. No thank you, DA. I’d rather spend my free time laughing than crying.
  4. Dexter. Oh how I loved this show, but the last episode let me down – it was uncharacteristic of Dexter and very unsatisfying.

Entertainment should make you laugh and feel good, and I shall be more selective in future.

On the other hand, here are 4 shows that I love:

  1. Friends – funny, romantic, light with a satisfying finale.
  2. New Girl – upbeat, fun yet real, and colourful
  3. Scrubs – crazy but serious at times, what laughter this show gave us
  4. Miranda – my favourite right now, funny, inspiring and with a great will they/won’t they

So the morale of this blog post? Watch more comedy, I guess.

My evening with Miranda

Hello, readers. Now, as the title of this blog post suggests, I spent last night with Miranda Hart. No – alas – it wasn’t just me and her (I’d love to meet her and become her friend, wouldn’t you?) but me, Miranda, and a whole arena full of people.

And do you know what? I came away feeling not only jolly from all the laughter, but – inspired.

Now, I’ve seen a fair few comedians live, and some of them have been absolutely hilarious… but this was more than just a stand-up show. Miranda threw a party; complete with buffet, a sing-a-long, and much to my delight; the Whigfield Saturday Night dance … and amongst all the fun and frolics, she told some very funny anecdotes interlaced with references to her sitcom (my favourite TV show). In summary; it was the best comedy show I’ve been to.

Most wonderful of all though, she inspired me. She talked about making life more fun – for example, we should all gallop more often. And, on the way to the car, my step-daughter and I did gallop – and it was such fun – plus we got there quicker, so multiple benefits there. I aim to gallop far more from now on. I also plan to act more like I’m living in a musical, to dance and do the popstar routine regularly, to care less about what others think and just be me, and to eat more desserts (Miranda suggests four desserts, one fork – what brilliance).

Really, I cannot convey in words how splendid the whole show was; but if you love Miranda then go see her live. You won’t regret it.

I will leave you with the wonderful words of Heather Small, which of course, blasted out as we were leaving the arena:

What have you done today to make yourself feel proud?

A random update including something about my third book…

It seems about time I wrote a blog about my writing (regular blog visitors will have noticed I’ve become a bit of a wannabe food critic!).

I’ve had a lot of questions from readers on Twitter about what’s taking so long and the truth of it is; I struggled a bit with the story I started writing after I finished Izzy’s Cold Feet and about half way through, I started all over again with a different plot. So this one has taken quite a bit longer to write but I’m back on track (I hope!) and it’s nearly done… hopefully it’ll be published later this year – watch this space!

In the meantime, I don’t have title yet, but the main character is called Jenny, and if you thought Izzy’s life was in a mess, just you wait until you meet her! :)

So… when I haven’t been eating out or writing, what have I been reading lately?

I’ve just recently finished The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon, a YA book although it was written with the same skill and talent as Paige’s usual adult chick-lit, and I loved it – it was fast paced and engaging. Visit my ‘Books I Love‘ page to check out a list there for some more recommendations.

Right, well back to work – Jenny’s story is waiting to be told!

Jamie’s Italian (MK) – my review

Well, I seem to be getting into this amateur food critic biz now (see my thoughts on dining at Theo Randall’s restaurant here). On my birthday last week, I went to Jamie’s Italian in Milton Keynes, and wrote a whole bunch of notes so that this very blog could appear.

So… this was my third time at JI MK and I obviously enjoyed those previous visits, hence going on my birthday. I’m also a member of Jamie’s Gold Club which meant I was promised a birthday treat. Never one to turn down the offer of a treat/special offer, my husband, step-daughter and I went there and had a splendid evening.

Service – very good indeed. The waitress was friendly, welcoming, and wish me a happy birthday. My treat? A bottle of Prosecco, and very nice it was too. Hubby was driving, leaving me to drink most of it myself (what’s a girl to do). I’m a lightweight so was rather giggly but the notes have helped me recall the evening with plenty of clarity.

Food – delicious…

To start: I had the crab and avocado bruscetta to start with. I love crab, and this was really well seasoned and went beautifully with the avocado. Sharp little bits of apple really completed the dish. We also receive a complimentary little bowl of celeriac soup – superb. I could eat (drink?) a bucket of that! Hubby & step-daughter had a meat platter and bread to start and shared, both seemed to really enjoy.

Mains: I chose the special, which was ravioli stuffed with chicken and ricotta in a tomato, garlic and chilli sacue and let me tell you, it was superb. A great flavour combination with firm cooked-just-right pasta (none of this stodgy too soft/over-cooked rubbish). Very yum indeed… also tried some of step-daughter’s carbonara (pretty good although not my thing) and hub’s rabbit – wonderful, I might have that next time.

Dessert: well, would you believe it, Jamie wasn’t satisfied with providing me with just one treat. I also received a free gorgeous brownie, with amaretto ice cream (divine)  and a swirl of sauce spelling Happy Birthday. Hub & step-daughter shared the tiramisu, and seemed pretty darn pleased with it.

So… The verdict: excellent food, fab service… the chairs aren’t the comfiest (I’ll ask for a booth next time), but this is the nicest chain restaurant in Milton Keynes. Highly recommend it.

Visit the Jamie’s Italian website here >

Happy Birthday to Amy & Zach!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my becoming a published author. What an interesting year it’s been; I finished my second novel, Izzy’s Cold Feet, I learned A LOT about writing, editing, & promotion… I was overwhelmed by the lovely comments and nice reviews from readers… and I made a bunch of great author friends.

amy-and-zachThank you to everyone who’s bought Amy & Zach or Izzy’s Cold Feet, written a good review, hosted me on their blog, shared or retweeted my posts and supported me throughout. I am very humble and grateful.

Lots of questions lately about the third novel; I’m working on it but progress has been much slower than my first two novels. I keep changing my mind about some of the central plot plans, but I’m getting there and hope to finish it soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate Amy & Zach’s birthday, it’s on sale on Amazon for just 77p/99¢ for this weekend only! Please share and spread the word… You can buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Thanks again – and have a spectacular weekend!

PS: Also had a few questions about an Amy & Zach sequel. I’ve been thinking about it, I admit… watch this space…

My experience at Theo Randall’s restaurant

As readers of Izzy’s Cold Feet may suspect, I’m a bit of a fan of cooking, fine dining and food in general. Jason, one of the central character’s in Izzy’s tale is a well-known chef with his own restaurant, which features in the story.

For me, it all started when I got hooked on Master Chef a few years ago and my enthusiasm has been increased by my step-daughter Chloe, who wants to be a chef. She has a real passion and cooks very technical and challenging dishes – her passion to learn astounds me (I wish I’d had that passion at her age!).

ChloeLast year she became a particular fan of Theo Randall. We enjoyed watching him on Chef’s Protege (where he found an apprentice – David) and between seeing him on that and other TV appearances, we both became keen to visit his restaurant at the Intercontinental on Park Lane. And last night we went there to celebrate her birthday… We were not disappointed.

We expected the food to be good, of course… and it was outstanding. The best meal I’ve ever had. Beautiful tagliatelle, incredible flavours with my guinea fowl, and scrummy dessert – all amazing. If (when!) you go there, you must order the zucchini fritti – so delicious.

Everything else about the experience also made the evening perfect – the fantastic ambiance was complimented by the wonderful staff who all wished Chloe a happy birthday and made her feel like a VIP; the smile on her face throughout the evening was a wonderful thing to behold. She spotted David from the Chef’s Protege show a few times, so she was also pretty chuffed with that.

Theo & ChloeThe highlight for her was meeting her idol, and Theo was so friendly and kind to her, even inviting her to see the kitchen and talking to her about work experience someday.

So: a huge thank you to Theo and all of his staff for providing us with a wonderful evening. Chloe said it was one of the best days ever – and her passion for becoming a chef has grown even bigger. She came away with a signed copy of Theo’s book so I’m looking forward to her cooking his recipes over the coming weeks!

A bit of a different blog for me today, but I wanted to share my experience and highly recommend Theo Randall to all who love Italian food. Normal book/writing-related blogs will resume next time :)