Anna has a steady job, a great social life and a recently deceased relationship with unreconstructed hippy Nic. She has never changed a nappy or kissed a baby in her life, and that’s the way she intends to keep things. Until Laura, her best friend, announces she’s pregnant, Nic discovers he has a teenage son from a long-ago relationship and Anna falls madly in love with a man who just happens to come complete with a baby daughter.
Does Anna really want a baby in her life? As broken nights, toys on the floor and the carnage of children’s parties take their toll, she begins to wonder. Then the baby’s mother reappears on the scene…
“A fresh and funny take on the chick lit novel” – Hello!
“A delightful debut” – Daily Express
“Feel-good romance” – Marie Claire
“A funny and touching novel about motherhood, romance and responsibility” – Woman’s Own
Saturday afternoon in Selfridges’ cosmetics hall: the smell of the face-paint, the roar of the crowd. Very heaven.
If shopping is the new religion, its cathedrals are those beautiful department stores, lush with everything from the most expensive designer items to egg whisks and reels of cotton. To me, shopping is department stores. And, it goes without saying, bookshops. I’m not really a fan of those huge shopping centre/mall things, because I do take a perverse enjoyment in the experience of negotiating a busy street, dodging the umbrellas and pickpockets, and trying not to breathe near anyone selling hot dogs (apparently they all have tuberculosis).
Though I have to make something clear right now: this is not going to be one of those sex-and-shopping bonkbuster things. I wish it was, but although sex and shopping are probably my two most favourite things, I’m in the wrong income bracket for Gucci and Prada, and I’m more Dolcis than Dolce e Gabbana. I’ve never even been to Harrods, if you can believe that. This may seem strange for someone who has just been extolling the virtues of department stores. Surely many people would claim Harrods as the pinnacle of the genre?
The fact is, I’m a North London girl, by habitat if not by birth, and Knightsbridge is a bit off my beaten track. I would have made the effort, normally, but I’ve just got this grudge against Harrods, like my Granny had a grudge against Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. First, the tourists put me off, sitting smugly on the tube clutching their moss-green and gold Harrods carrier bags, probably containing a small box of toffees or ‘English’ mustard, something cheap just so they can prove to the folks back home in Hoboken or Hartlepool that they’ve been there. Then I was deterred because they wouldn’t let in the then-popular Australian soap star Jason Donovan wearing shorts. Well, what chance do my legs have of getting in, then?
Harrods aside, I do love shopping: finding a gorgeous pair of shoes or earrings, indeed clothes generally, smellies or even some decent chocolate when cash is short, but what I love most is coming home with a bag full of new, clean-smelling paperbacks.
I’ve got this sort of fetish thing about books. I don’t really like hardbacks. They’re like certain types of men: inflexible, unwieldy and absolutely no use in bed. I would go for paperbacks every time: to continue the man analogy, they’re soft, yielding and above all, portable. However, I’m a fanatic about keeping them clean and pristine (books, not men). When I’m in a bookshop, it’s normal for me to look at every single copy of my chosen title to find one free of creases, smudgy marks and what have you: basically, one that doesn’t look like someone has touched it. And that’s how they stay. I know people who break the spines of books so they can hold them in one hand while doing something else with the other (no, not that – at least I hadn’t thought of that until I just wrote that last sentence – I actually had in mind things like eating or holding a ciggie). I know people, and it pains me to have to say it, who turn back the edges of the page like little ears to mark their place. I even knew someone once who, although perfectly lovely generally, had a disturbing tendency to write notes in the margins of her books; in pencil, admittedly, but I shudder even to contemplate it. None of my friends dares borrow any of my books; they can’t trust themselves to return them in a satisfactory state and they don’t want to ruin a good friendship. When I was a kid, and most of the others my age wanted to be astronauts or pop stars, I wanted to be a librarian, and catalogued all my books, stamping them with a classification number using my John Bull Printing Outfit. But I didn’t lend any of them: in the end. They might have come back blemished, and I just couldn’t take the risk.
So… Shopping. One particular early October Saturday I was in one of those wonderful department stores that smells of perfume and leather as soon as you walk in the door. Part of the loveliness of these retail nirvanas (is there a plural of ‘nirvana’?) is that they have all the facilities you could wish for: you can spend your heart out, get a bracing cup of mid-shopping coffee, and then ‘freshen up’ afterwards. You can even have a relaxing pedicure ‘while you wait’, as if there was any other way to have a pedicure. My friend Laura tried that once and according to her, the pedicurist spent the whole time having an argument with one of the other staff, and it was alarmingly obvious that her mind wasn’t on the job, which isn’t what you want from a person who’s wielding an emery board at your foot. Laura got out as fast as possible, and it took about ten minutes to unglue her ruby red toenails from her sock.
Anyway, I was en route to the Ladies’, deep in thought about a small, black, satin handbag I’d seen on the way in – could I possibly justify the purchase of yet another bag? So I almost collided with a large, denim-covered posterior. Actually, at second, and third glance, the posterior proved to be not so much large as… well, pert. But there was a horrible smell around it that put me off a bit. And then there were the piercing shrieks.
The owner of the posterior straightened up, swung round towards me, and the smell and the screeching got louder. I involuntarily stepped back a couple of paces, clasping a hand to my nose, before my odour- and sound-assailed brain could register that standing in front of me was a jaw-droppingly good-looking bloke clutching a bright red, screaming child. Which had obviously filled its nappy.
“Oh, God, Lily, why now, eh? Couldn’t you have waited for half an hour? Come on, shush,” and he continued making soothing sounds. Or I think he did – he continued making soothing faces anyway – all further sounds being blocked out by the child’s 100 decibel roar. Cute Bloke then noticed I was there. “She needs changing,” he explained. No shit. Or rather – shit. “But the problem is, the baby changing room is in the women’s toilets. I tried going in, but I nearly gave an old lady heart failure – I should imagine she’s on her way to the police even now.” He paused for long enough to give me an impossibly gorgeous smile, considering he was trying to hold a screaming miniature kickboxer, and said, “I know it’s cheeky of me to ask, but it is an emergency: I don’t suppose you could…?”
Could what? Oh no, mate. Oh no no no. I don’t do babies, and I definitely don’t do pooey babies. “Maybe you could come in there with me while I change her?” he suggested. “Then if anyone comes in, they’ll just assume we’re together and they won’t be so alarmed.” I calmed down; this was a plan I could accommodate.
“Okay,” I said, with what I hoped was a can-do yet seductive smile. “Lead the way.”