The Age of Loneliness

age of loneliness

When I was first asked if I would consent to being featured in a documentary about loneliness, I was pretty nonplussed.

Although my wife and I had just split up and I was spending at least part of the week living on my own, I still hadn’t come to terms with my own feelings, let alone being ready to talk about them on camera.

Could I really go on the telly and tell people how bereft I felt?

Who would want to hear my tales of woe anyway?

What would my kids say?

What would my mates think?

Come to think of it, I knew the answer to that last question.

Eventually, after some back and forth with the producer about how my story would be handled, I agreed to mull their suggestion over.

That night, I talked to my boys about the documentary.

‘Are you really lonely?’ Joe asked.

‘Will I be on the telly?’ William wanted to know.

I explained to the boys that, since their mum and I separated, I hadn’t had anyone to share life’s trials and tribulations with, to snuggle up with on the sofa, to cook for.

‘I don’t know about the snuggle bit, but you can cook for us any time you want,’ William reassured me.

‘And you can share life’s trials and tribuwotsits with us too if you like,’ Joe chipped in.

Ah, bless.

The truth is, I needed to talk to someone about my loneliness. I’m not one of those men that find it hard to talk about their emotions. In my case, I am quite prepared to open up when I feel it would help.

My problem was that I didn’t have anyone to open up to. The kids are great but when all’s said and done, they’re teenagers. Their capacity for listening is pretty minimal at the best of times, but it’s non-existent when what they are being asked to absorb is an outpouring of their father’s innermost feelings.

My wife was now my ex so I wasn’t about to confide in her. My mates would have been embarrassed to be forced into having such a conversation and my mother would have told me a few home truths that I wasn’t ready to hear.

So that left me with two options. Either talk to myself or confide in a cool Scottish woman with a camera.

Thinking what the hell. I made the call.

me interview

And I haven’t regretted my decision for one second since.

Sue Bourne is a fantastic documentary-maker. Known for programmes such as Fabulous Fashionistas, My Street and Wink, Meet, Delete, Sue handled the subject matter sensitively.

We had a fantastic time filming my story – a process this blog describes.

celebrity chef

The process even helped me come to terms with my loneliness. Sue got me to open up about how hard I had found the whole break-up thing. She made me realise how much my life had changed over the previous few months.

‘I don’t want to come across as a sad sap,’ I told her.

‘What are you doing about addressing your loneliness?’ She asked me.

Er, good question.

In truth, the answer at that point was not a lot.

Instead of going out, making new connections and meeting new people, I had been hiding away in my study for the previous few months writing Six Months to Get a Life, my not autobiographical at all novel about a man learning to live again after his divorce, and Six Lies, my second rom-com with a twist.


Sue’s question made me realise that I would indeed look like a wet blanket if I hadn’t started enacting a plan to rebuild my life by the time the camera crew turned up on my doorstep.

Gradually, over the summer, I forced myself to start thinking more positively. Because I had been able to talk about my recent past, I began to stop blaming myself for my marriage ‘failing’. I learnt to look myself in the mirror without cringing. I grew to like myself again.

Once I felt ready, I signed up with an internet dating site. ‘Half-blind sad lonely middle-aged man with two teenage boys seeks Swedish super model,’ my profile read. Or something like that…

Remarkably enough, by the time Sue and her fantastic entourage turned up armed with expensive recording equipment and almost as expensive sandwiches, I had recovered somewhat from the low point I was at when I agreed to be featured in the documentary. I had met someone new. Sue, you may yet turn out to be my Cilla.

dating couple

Looking back on that difficult time in my life, talking about my loneliness, even to a film crew, certainly helped me in my recovery. As did writing novels that did their best to give people hope that a mid-life crisis is sometimes no bad thing in the long run.

Being in the documentary has raised my awareness of loneliness in its different forms. 19-year-old Isabel who is spending her first year at university, and Emily, a stay-at-home mum in her thirties, will, like me, hopefully find that their loneliness is temporary.

But Bob, a 93-year-old widower, and Olive, who will have received her telegram from the Queen by now, expect to have to live with their loneliness for the rest of their lives.

I have seen the final cut of the film, which is being broadcast tonight at 10.35 on BBC1. It features people of all ages, from a variety of backgrounds. It is beautifully shot and expertly edited, with the various vignettes woven into a moving account of loneliness in twenty-first century Britain.

Although I admit to feeling a bit sheepish about how my friends are going to react to The Age of Loneliness, one thing is for sure. I don’t regret being involved in the project. Loneliness is something that will affect most if not all of us at some point in our lives.

Being lonely is nothing to be ashamed of.


The worst radio interview ever

radio interview

‘That was Adele’s fantastic new single. Now I’m really excited about our next guest. I’ve been a big fan of his for ages. You’ve gotta love his books. And, ladies and gents, he’s got a new one out today. If it’s as good as the last one, we’re all in for a treat. Give it up for the one and only Ben Adams.’

‘What a great intro. Thanks Chris.’


‘Shit, sorry Nick.’

‘This is going well, isn’t it. I must apologise to anyone who was offended by Ben’s language. Ben, it’s lovely to have you on the show. I’m a huge fan. Six Months to Get a Life was a hilarious book. And now you’ve got a new one out… Is that your phone?’

‘God, sorry about this Chris. I mean Nick. It’s my son. Hang on a minute. Joe, what do you want, I’m live on the radio. An emergency? What sort of emergency? Well, how am I supposed to know where the bloody remote control is? Sorry about that, Nick. I’ve turned it off now.’

‘Kids eh, who’d have em. So, you were going to tell me about your new book.’

‘Yes, my award-winning second novel is called Six Lies…’

‘Award-winning? Has it won an award already?’

‘Well, not exactly, but it’s just a timing thing. Anyway, let me tell you about it. Dave Fazackerley is not in a good place. He has just buried his mother. His wife has left him for a librarian and neither his band nor his career as a City Banker is progressing smoothly. The only thing keeping him sane is his close relationship with his life-long role model, his father.’

‘Sounds intriguing, Ben.’

‘But all this changes when, the day after his mother’s funeral, he sifts through the condolence letters piled up on his doormat and finds an envelope addressed to him in his mother’s artsy hand. The letter reveals a secret…’

‘Oh, we need a drum-roll.’

‘That sounds more like the travel news jingle to me.’

‘Sorry, wrong button. Back to the secret. Do tell.’

‘Biologically-speaking, his mother isn’t his mother.’

‘Was that your stomach?’

‘Yeah, sorry. I had a kebab last night and it’s been repeating on me ever since.’

‘We’d best get back to the book I think. So, it’s like that programme Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall present on the BBC? Long Lost Family?’

‘Er, no, it’s nothing like that. Their families don’t have rows in supermarket isles, drummers throwing hissy fits, drunken pub quizzes, book dorks, Virginia the virgin or their best mate’s kids taking the piss, sorry micky, out of their sex lives…’

‘Wow, sounds great. Right, the producer’s giving me the evil eye. Time to play another record. Ah, I see where we’re going with this one. Nice link.’

‘Let me guess, ‘Paperback Writer’?’

‘No. ‘Shaddup You Face’.’

six lies cover for pc w endorse

And now for the boring bit…

Thanks to Debbie, my publicist and new best friend, my books are getting lots of really exciting coverage at the moment.

I’m doing the rounds of radio studios around the country. Fortunately, the above wasn’t a transcript of my appearance on either Radio Newcastle or Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. Hopefully, my chat with Allison Ferns on BBC Sussex this lunchtime won’t be anything like this either.

My diary is chock-a-block between now and Christmas. There’s more radio banter, an article for a national newspaper, some magazine work and a few personal appearances (get me!).

The BBC documentary I was involved in is being shown during the first week of January. There is talk of something even more stellar in the near future. I’ll blog about that in due course if it looks like comeing off.

Finally, for the writers amongst you, after a chat with my publisher, we have decided to make the e version of Six Lies available exclusively on Amazon for the next three months. By enrolling it in KDP Select, I am giving those who have signed up to Amazon’s Unlimited subscription service the opportunity to download my book for free. My thinking is that I might get more early reviews by going with this approach.

If you have views on KDP Select, or if you have any great tips on how to avoid messing up a radio interview, I would love to hear from you.


The book club is the new pub

book club

As an author, what’s not to love about book clubs? They involve copious amounts of wine, lots of intelligent conversation (some of it even about books), and women.

If the photo above is anything to go by, book clubs also do strange things to your hand too, but we’ll gloss over that for now.

Despite its members being Cambridge graduates, gene therapists, vets and librarians,  those of them that had actually seen a copy of  Six Months to Get a Life seemed to enjoy reading it. Mind you, they did name their book club after a penis, so maybe we shared a similar sense of humour.

I promised the members of Ralph (read Judy Blume’s Forever) that I would blog about my interaction with their book club. Unfortunately I drank so much wine over the course of the evening that I haven’t got a clue what went on. Hopefully the below excerpt from the book club scene in my second novel, Six Lies, will keep them happy. I’m very excited to shout from the rooftops that Six Lies is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

six lies cover for pc w endorse

Excerpt from Six Lies

After talking to Dad about my birth mother, I decided to push my luck and see if I could make progress in my other life goal, reigniting the spark between Lou and me.

Bearing in mind the way we broke up, it was a miracle we were even talking again now, let alone thinking about getting back together. Well, at least one of us was thinking about it.

Before Lou ran off with the book dork, if anyone had asked me what I thought of my marriage, I would have told them how happy the two of us were. Sure, the novelty of each other’s company had generally worn off, but we were happy. We went out together when the mood took us, we didn’t row about who did the washing up and we still laughed at each other’s jokes. Well, she laughed at mine at least.

The first time I can remember even getting an inkling that Lou might not share my view of the state of our marriage was one night when I was watching the football on the telly. ‘Not football again, do you have to watch that crap tonight?’

‘There aren’t any period dramas on tonight, it’s a Tuesday,’ I told her. I wasn’t necessarily sure my statement held true, but the football was tense so I did my best to sound convincing.

‘I don’t want to watch the telly. It would be nice if we could have a conversation from time to time.’

‘We are having a conversation, aren’t we?’

‘No, I’m talking to you and you’re watching the football. That’s hardly having a conversation. We don’t stimulate each other anymore.’

That got my attention. ‘You stimulate me, darling.’

‘Not physical stimulation, Dave, mental stimulation.’

To my shame, I sighed with relief and turned back to watch the Liverpool game.

The next thing I knew, Lou had committed us to attending a book club. She went to the library after work one night and picked up two copies of the Cobham linguists’ book of the month, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Now I can read a book as much as the next man. There is nothing better than a gripping whodunit or a meaty courtroom drama. But, since studying Shakespeare at school, dissecting the author’s motives for taking the plot in one direction or another has never been my cup of tea. I couldn’t even understand the bloody man let alone critique the development of his characters.

Not wanting to upset Lou, one sunny evening in May, I traipsed along to some double-fronted mansion in deepest Surrey to talk about The Book Thief. Lou and I, along with six or seven middle-aged white women called Emily and Olivia, and one bloke with an unruly beard that seemed to morph at about neck level into a brown cardigan, were shown into a conservatory looking onto a garden as big as a golf course. Feeling irritated that my free time was being taken up by this crap, I grabbed a chair overlooking the manicured lawn. If nothing else, at least I could enjoy the view.

My mood improved no end when Bernadette, our host for the evening, started opening the wine. I fancied a lager. She didn’t have any so I opted for the red. Even the crisps were a cut above those I was used to.

‘So, what did you think of the book?’ my new friend Bernie asked to kick proceedings off. Having given up my evening for this, I was as anxious to express my opinion as everyone else. We all spoke at once.

‘It was remarkable.’

‘Stunningly vivid.’

‘Story-telling at its best.’

‘Fabulous portrayal of attitudes.’

‘A bit long.’

Luckily for me, Bernie didn’t turn to me first. Instead she asked Mr Beard, later to become known as the book dork, why he had found it so ‘stunningly vivid’.

Listening to pretentious drivel isn’t one of my strengths. Mr Beard’s use of phrases like ‘evocative symbolism’ and ‘enlightening soliloquies’ soon had me clamouring for more wine.

By the time Bernie did come to me, I had drunk most of the contents of her two hundred year-old wine cellar and could only just remember what we were supposed to be talking about. ‘It wasn’t the best book I have ever read, Bernie,’ I began.


‘I beg your pardon.’

‘If you must shorten my name, it’s Bunny, not Bernie.’

‘Sorry, Bunny.’

‘Thank you. Now feel free to tell us why it wasn’t the best book you have ever read.’

‘Listen, this book starts off with a load of complete drivel and goes downhill from there. It’s just pretentious bollocks, the author’s up his own arse. I’m sure there’s a great story in there somewhere, but couldn’t the writer just tell it from start to finish in a normal way rather than trying to be clever?’

‘Ah, so you didn’t you like idea of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel then? And please refrain from using bad language. It offends my sensitivities.’

‘Shit, sorry Bunny.’



‘Did you even finish the book?’ the book dork chipped in.

‘Of course I finished the f***ing book.’

‘What happened then?’

‘He died.’

‘Who died?’ Lou jumped on the bandwagon.

‘I don’t know, the bad guy?’ I hadn’t finished the book. I hadn’t got beyond the pretentious introduction. Lou didn’t utter a word to me as she drove us home that night.

And that was the start of the ignominy that was to escalate when I witnessed the book dork kissing my wife at New Malden station a few weeks later and then conclude with him turning up in his Ford Ka to help her move her stuff out. ‘What, are you taking one pair of knickers at a time?’ I asked when I saw what make of car he drove.

‘I’m not taking my knickers,’ my soon-to-be ex replied, ‘I won’t be wearing them much.’

Six Lies is released on 23rd November.

Writing is better than sex

Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her
Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her

Earlier this week, a fellow writer chap I met on twitter gave me a piece of advice that, quite frankly, gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘To succeed as an author,’ he told me, ‘you need to prefer writing to sex’.

‘You’re joking?’ I replied. Surely no one in his or her right mind prefers writing to sex?

‘Nope,’ he told me, ‘I’m not joking. Writing is my life. I perk up when I develop a good plot, I get excited when my characters interact and I practically orgasm when I spin a great twist.’

My first reaction was to get straight onto twitter and unfollow the weirdo. Block, block, block!

But just as I was about to hit that blue button, I had a thought. What if he’s right? What if all successful authors shun the bedroom in favour of the study? Maybe they really do prefer alliteration to allure, epithets to erogenous zones, foreshadowing to foreplay, imagery to intercourse. sucking their pen to sucking… I’d better stop there.

Authors can be pretty solitary, selfish characters, right? They are slaves to their keyboards for days on end. I have read countless stories about writing widows and widowers. My twitter friend must be right. If you want to make it as an author, you have to love writing more than you love sex.

love typing

Coming around to my friend’s way of thinking was a thoroughly depressing experience. Instantly, I thought I might as well chuck my laptop out of the study window, dust off my CV and get myself a proper job. Being a red-blooded male, I haven’t got the love it takes to become a successful author.

Or have I?

As I was trying to find the key to undo my study window lock, another thought took hold. I really do love writing. I might even be able to convince myself that it is better than sex.

  • Writing lasts longer than sex. I have been known to write for eight hours in one stretch. Making sex last for eight minutes would be an achievement worth celebrating.
  • I can write more than twice a day without fear of letting myself down. You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the comparison here.
  • People pay me for my writing.
  • I enjoy making people laugh. I occasionally manage it through my writing. If someone laughed at me during sex, I’d probably get a complex.
  • I’ll be able to show my grandchildren my books on Amazon…

Hold the bestsellers list, there’s hope for me yet!

And now for some real news…

Six Lies cover screen

My second novel, Six Lies, is being released by SliverWood Books on 23rd November.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has asked if they can convert my debut romp, Six Months to Get a Life, into a talking book for those with sight impairments and unable to access normal print and online books. They normally only convert bestsellers. It’s a real honour to be asked and a thrill to be able to give something back to such a large community. I can’t wait to hear the narration.

My third book, the one set in a primary school, is the reason I haven’t updated this blog as often as I should have done. I’m utterly obsessed with it and can’t put it down. I’d almost go as far as to say writing it is better than…

Happy writing!


Crowdsourcing a title for my third novel


The last three months – the time since I gave up my well-paid job to become an author – has been a hectic time for me. There’s been The Ashes, day-trips to the seaside with the kids and the dog, catching the rays in the garden, internet dating, champagne receptions and filming for a BBC documentary. Oh, and the occasional bit of writing too.

Those of you that have read my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, will know that I am big on characters and how they strive to negotiate their way through life’s many challenges, snatching the occasional bit of romance while negotiating the devastation, heartache and carnage that more commonly surrounds them. (Six Months… was recommended as a ‘great holiday read’ on BBC Radio 5’s Thursday night book club a couple of weeks ago – #honoured!)

My second book, Six Lies, continues the theme, following the lead character as his wife runs off with a librarian and his mother confesses from the grave that she wasn’t his mother after all. I finished Six Lies over the summer and it has now entered the sausage machine that is the publishing process. Hopefully it will be ready to consume in late November, to coincide with the airing of the BBC documentary.

I have even had an idea for a third book. In fact, my brain hasn’t switched off since I thought of the concept a week or so ago. I can’t wait until September when I return from my holiday and can really get cracking on the story.

My third book will definitely bring more of the same romantic comedy, farce and fun dialogue that I love so much. It is going to be set in a mythical primary school in Wimbledon. I know already that the senior staff will be under threat of losing their jobs if the school doesn’t improve during the course of the school year. Obviously, the key protagonists will also have their fair share of personal challenges, with alcoholism, unruly offspring, love triangles and the occasional politician making an appearance. An overbearing Head with her own issues and a new Governor will combine to keep everyone on their toes. Can you tell how much I’m looking forward to writing this book?

My list of fun anecdotes to include within the story is growing longer by the hour. A number of twitter friends have tweeted their ideas too (@benadamsauthor), for which I am very grateful.

But one thing I am struggling with is a working title. Some authors will tell you that the title comes to you after you start writing a novel. This may be true, but I always find that if you can get the title right to start with, it helps you shape the subject of the story. Hence me striving to come up with a good title upfront.

I am trying to conceive of something that captures the daily grind of working in a school while also drawing the rom-com reader in, something that hints at hilarity in school improvement while also appealing to the chick lit lovers out there. The four options on my notepad at the moment include:

Who Left Their Bra in the Staffroom?

The Staffroom

It all happens in the Staffroom

[insert school name] a la Waterloo Road

None of these ideas exactly hits the spot that I am aiming for. They don’t excite me as much as the thought of writing the book itself does.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I’ve been a full-time writer for two months now and…

dog writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know that, at the end of April, I gave up ‘work’ to become a full-time author.

The last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been meaning to reflect upon my experience but, ironically, I have struggled to find the time. Now that my second book, Six Lies, is with my editor, I have suddenly got a bit more space to reflect upon my decision. Hence this blog.

Has my decision been the right one for me? Well, to answer that question, let me revisit the hopes and fears that preoccupied my mind as, with some trepidation, I took my resignation letter up to our HR department a few months ago.

My main reason for resigning from my day job was the pull of writing. After penning my first book in the early mornings and late evenings of 2014, I wanted to give myself the space to write more often, and for longer. With work and my boys keeping me busy, I was struggling to fully immerse myself in my characters. My writing was lagging behind my ideas.

In the two months since I have been a full-time writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being master of my own destiny. My routine has been to start tapping away at my keyboard once the boys head off to school, and then to carry on until either my concentration begins to wain or my German Shepherd, Albus, deposits his rugby ball on my brand new laptop. If I am lucky, I can write until lunchtime. I then have a break and walk the dog, before going back to writing, or possibly editing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon.


I have been quite productive in the last couple of months. Six Lies is now complete in draft form. My editor is hopefully reading it as I type. My aim is to work on her comments before we jet off to Turkey for a not particularly well-earned but nevertheless much looked forward-to holiday towards the end of August.

Had I still been fitting my writing around my work life, I would never have finished Six Lies so soon. It wouldn’t have been as good either. The best thing about being a writer is immersing yourself for hours on end in the minds of the characters you are creating. Writing full-time gives me the space to do that.

My main fear about giving up my day job, the fear that physically made my hand shake as I handed my note to Minal from HR, was that I would find the writer’s life too solitary. I am a sociable person and love debating the merits of Dan’s latest beard trim or Rebecca’s latest board report (quick double-check I got the names the right way round) at the tea point.

It is early days yet, but, at the moment I can safely say I am loving my new life. Before I gave up my job, I did muse about ruses like writing in coffee shops full of people to break up the monotony, or travelling with my laptop to friends’ houses and writing with them while they work from home. But, if truth be told, I haven’t needed to go down that route. Writing isn’t lonely. It’s completely fulfilling.

You can’t get lonely when you are in your characters’ heads. You can’t get lonely when you’ve got a TV crew filming you for a documentary about loneliness. You can’t get lonely when you are training for a 100+ KM walk. You can’t get lonely when the cricket’s on (you can’t get much work done either, mind). You can’t get lonely when you have tried internet dating for the first time and you have met… Actually, I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being.

Now that my second book is in someone else’s hands, I might begin to think differently about my routine. I need to keep up the momentum in my writing journey. I need to develop my author platform (yawn). I need to get out there and sell myself (gulp, I’m off to a champagne reception in Knightsbridge in a couple of weeks). I need to write more Huffpost blogs. This stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as the novel writing, so it will take more effort. Will it keep me interested until my holiday, or will I begin to miss the human contact when I am slaving away? Only time will tell.

The other obvious fear I had when I was on the sixth floor of my Smith Square office clutching my life-changing letter was that I was throwing away a reliable and undeservingly high salary in pursuit of my dream. In common with Greece , my long-term economic prospects were uncertain.

To be frank, my finances are still uncertain. My first novel, Six Months to Get a Life, is receiving great reviews. Chick Lit Central loved it when they read it. But, no matter how hard you look, you won’t as yet find my name on the best-sellers list.

When I gave up my job, I vowed to give my dream every chance of succeeding and not to bottle it and get another job too soon. I am resolutely sticking to that plan. When I am back from my holiday, I intend to start work on a third book. My second book will be published in December. I will throw all I have (the kitchen sink, the dog and my limited imagination) at publicising my work. Hopefully, I will be able to coincide publication with the airing of the BBC documentary but we shall see.

Then in the new year, I will take stock. If my sales haven’t increased to a financially sustainable level, I will either sell a child or look for a new job. I may even do both. If I have to take up paid employment again, I won’t consider the whole experience to have been a waste of time. I will feel proud of myself for pursuing my dreams. As they say, you regret what you don’t do more than what you do do (they put it much more eloquently than that, but that’s the best I can do before breakfast).

Other things that have changed since I quit my day-job:

  • My lunches. I eat far less over-priced sandwiches and far more salad-based stuff. I do drink more coffee though. The post-lunch graveyard shift would quickly turn into an afternoon nap if it wasn’t for my fancy coffee machine.
  • I eat breakfast, or at least a mid-morning snack. I could never manage breakfast before the morning commute.
  • I am spending a fortune on dog treats to keep Albus from distracting me.
  • I have knocked my eldest son off the top spot in my dog’s affections.
  • I am getting a suntan. There is nothing quite like having lunch in the garden.
  • My kids hate not being able to come home from school and raid the fridge ‘without me knowing’.
  • I haven’t polished my shoes for two months.
  • I am forgetting the art of looking busy when really I’m just not. Or maybe that’s what this blog’s all about…

Happy days!


Walking from London to Brighton. WTF?

the team

‘How was your weekend?’

Most of us will be asked this question at least once on a Monday, by work colleagues, family members or a friendly bus driver. Normally my replies range from ‘too short’ to ‘chilled’, or if I am really lucky, ‘we had a party on Saturday night and I spent the whole of Sunday recovering and trying to remember her name.’

This weekend was different though. I have just hobbled back from my local supermarket. ‘How was your weekend,’ Rita the friendly shop assistant asked as I was paying for the milk.

‘It was hard work.’

‘It normally is with those two boys of yours.’

‘No, this weekend was really hard work,’ I told her, ‘I walked from London to Brighton.’

Yes, my weekend, along with those of a lot of souls far more hardy than mine, was taken up with walking 65 miles, or a far more impressive-sounding 103 kilometers, from Kempton Park to Brighton Racecourse.

My adventure started with a fairly innocuous-sounding email from my mate Bryn. ‘I have just found something interesting in the Metro. How do you fancy walking from London to Brighton?’

‘What would I want to do that for? Isn’t it quicker to get the train,’ I replied. This was a response I would become thoroughly sick of hearing during the walk itself…

‘It’s raising money for the British Heart Foundation. You’d probably be investing in your own future.’

Bryn’s email was marginally more interesting than the other emails I received that afternoon. After a period of deep meditation and self-reflection, as well as a quick look down at my ever-expanding waistline, I thought ‘what the hell’ and signed up.

I wasn’t the only one Bryn managed to persuade to join him on this epic trek. Ben, a father of two young children who don’t always sleep through the night, accepted Bryn’s promise of a night without disturbed sleep. Dave, a horse-racing enthusiast, signed up to the idea of visiting two race-courses in a weekend. Dave’s wife Helen even agreed to give up her weekend to drive here, there and everywhere, supporting us in our endeavours.

team members

Once we had signed up (and bought our hats – I must have missed that memo), we read all the literature the good folk at the BHF threw at us. Our training regime kicked in fairly early. We might not have visited the gym or done quite as much walking as the training plans recommended, but we did visit some fine pubs in Surrey and surrounding areas.

Our intrepid team leader kept us on the straight and narrow as the event drew ever closer. My team mates tell me he sent out not one but three check-lists. I must remember to stop his emails from going straight into my junk mail folder now that the walk has taken place.

As my taxi pulled up outside Bryn’s on the morning of the event, I did my best to disguise my hangover. Three physically fit athletes and a South West London author. We were ready.

Once we picked up our BHF T-shirts, our head torches and particularly our pre-walk rolls and coffee, we were even readier.

The walk started innocuously enough, with a quick breakfast-time jaunt through Kempton to the Thames, and then a stroll along the River Wey. A friend joined me for a portion of the Wey walk. It felt like a pleasant Sunday stroll. But gradually, as the temperature rose and the distance mounted up, we began to realise what we had taken on. Reaching Guildford in the late afternoon sun, we were already counting the aches and pains, and we were only about a quarter of the way through the walk. I was feeling a bit light-headed, from the sun, not from my hangover. An ice lolly, a rehydration tablet and a chocolate muffin – especially the muffin – helped deal with my problem.

At checkpoint four I took my walking boots off to check the state of my feet. Taking my socks off hurt too much. I think I removed a layer of skin too. Not liking what I saw once my feet were exposed to the elements, I quickly put my boots back on and, for the rest of the walk, did my best to forget about my feet altogether.

Ben, a deputy head by day, was in charge of walk entertainment. His team quiz kept us going until the 50 km marker. If you can name the last ten Eurovision Song Contest winners, or ten of the members of Nottingham Forest’s 1980 European Cup-winning team, then you are a better man or woman than me. I only managed to name one Bob Dylan album, and that was a lucky guess.

As night began to fall, we were making good progress. Ben’s other great contribution to team morale was a quick detour to M&S Food at checkpoint four. Fuelled by extra sausage rolls, as well as the BHF-flavour soup, we passed the half-way point as darkness fell.  The other thing that helped us through the night was ibuprofen.

England’s countryside is noted for its picturesque rolling hills and dales. Sussex is particularly lovely in the darkness.

sussex in the summer

The banter slowed slightly in the early hours of Sunday morning, as did our pace. My team mates resorted to running through the alphabet, naming anything from heavy metal bands to sitcoms. I tended to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

As dawn began to break and the beautiful sunrise was revealed, sorry scratch that, as the rain began to fall, we passed the 75 km marker. We were beginning to realise quite how far Brighton is from London.

There were times when one of us would go a bit quiet on the walk, slow down slightly or grimace in pain. That one of us was normally me. And the times normally coincided with us walking past, rather than into, a  pub.


Even our team leader felt the pain. Instead of his normally Churchillian inspirational speeches, somewhere between Surrey and Sussex, in the early hours of Sunday morning, he was heard to mutter ‘what’s the point’. He was also heard to mutter ‘f**k off you w***er’ as a runner jogged past him as we made our way over the South Downs.

The last 25 km was tough. Not just because it was the last 25k, but because it was the hilly bit. Uphill was hard work, but for me, with my dodgy knees and by now my probably near gangrenous toes, downhill was harder. For some reason, Dave and Ben were setting a fearsome pace as we negotiated the South Downs, so I had little choice but to shatter the pain barrier and crack on.

We made Hove, and a rendezvous with friends, at about ten in the morning. I did my best not to offend Andy and Sam, but the reality was that the bacon roll and coffee were top of my priority list.


The jaunt along the seafront to Brighton was OK. The climb up the hill to the racecourse certainly wasn’t. What sadistic git decided we should finish our 100 km-plus trek at the top of the steepest hill on the whole walk. I nearly quit with only a kilometer to go.

‘Anyone fancy jogging the last bit,’ Ben asked as we entered Brighton Racecourse. It was probably a good job that I wasn’t capable of actual speech at that point. I just shook my head.

Had I had any breath left, the welcome we received at the finish-line would have taken it away. Lots of the fantastic volunteers who made the event possible were there to greet us at the finish line, as was Helen, our awesome support driver.

The other three members of my team have all run marathons. Their unanimous verdict was that walking from London to Brighton was harder than running a marathon. I have now removed ‘running a marathon’ from my bucket list. Phew.

The whole event was fantastically organised. It was truly humbling to be surrounded by so many positive and enthusiastic people, be they the volunteers who gave up their weekends to make the event possible, fellow participants who all had their own story to tell, or the members of the public who showed genuine interest in what we were doing. If you would like to help the British Heart Foundation to deliver their ambitious, vital and ultimately life-saving programme of work, you can donate via my justgiving page.

My writing…

I will share some more exciting news about my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, in the coming few weeks.

When my editor returns from her early summer holiday today, my second novel, Six Lies, will hopefully keep the smile on her face for that bit longer.

My fifteen minutes of fame… as a TV Chef

celebrity chef

As the burgers browned, the film crew filmed. As the sausages sizzled, the sound man dribbled. He played with his fluffy thing too.

When I posted this picture on Facebook, someone had the audacity to ask me why I had a film crew videoing my burgers. ‘Isn’t it obvious,’ I replied, ‘they’re bloody good burgers.’

And they were too. My mate Kev turned up trumps with the recipe – lamb mince, onion, mango chutney, chopped green chilli and a sprinkling of bread crumbs. I forgot the coriander but no one seemed to notice.

Had they been there, John Torrode and Gregg Wallace would have been salivating appreciatively as the burgers were removed from the BBQ bang on time. They were actually removed about five times so Dan the cameraman could get shots of them from every angle.

John and Gregg would have loved the presentation too, with the perfectly roundish patties, together with a fistful of coloured detritus more commonly known as salad placed jauntily into supermarket economy buns.

‘These are the best burgers you’ve ever made, Dad,’ my eldest son pronounced on camera. He’s a clever boy, I only made him rehearse those lines for three days.

I’m now waiting for a call from Saturday Kitchen. But just in case that call doesn’t come, I thought I would try my hand at cycling. How hard can it be? After fifty seven different angles, lenses, planes flying overhead and someone banging next door, I had probably ridden the entire Tour de France distance before they would let me get off my bike.


And then there was the international ‘hang your washing on the line’ world championships. In all my life I have never put so much washing out as I did the other day. They really hung  me out to dry. I wonder what Gogglebox will have to say about how well hung my underwear is. For obvious reasons, I’m not sharing that photo.

The South West London dog show was a classic too. Albus didn’t show any respect for the media luvvies, causing them to change their plans and film him in the park with a long lens rather than in my back garden at close quarters.

‘Why are they filming you doing all that stuff, Dad,’ my youngest asked me, ‘aren’t you a writer?’

Good point, well-made son.

writing through blinds

They had me write in Graham Hope’s voice, as per my debut novel, Six months to Get a Life. ‘Day 36 of being divorced. I joined a dating site today and wrote my profile. Forty-two year old bloke with two kids, a big nose and an even bigger… Etc.’ They got me reading it to camera too.

To cut to the chase, I have had a film crew invading my house this week, filming for a documentary to go out on the BBC. They are coming back next week too, with a drone of all things, hopefully not the sort that takes out international terrorists.

The documentary’s working title is ‘Up and Coming Superstar Authors Called Ben’. Oh no, they scrapped that title. ‘Good looking eligible middle-aged bachelors’. Sorry, that was last month’s.

‘A Life Less Lonely’ is the actual working title for the programme. They were talking to me about what it is like to be a single dad after being a husband in a nuclear family; about what it is like to be a writer, working from home all day as opposed to co-existing with others in a busy office environment, and about dating once your hair has started going grey.

The programme will feature a variety of people, of all ages, and from different walks of life. It was fun to be part of it, and I can’t wait to peek at it from behind the sofa. If you want to follow developments, look up #alifelesslonely on Twitter.

I’m not going to tell my Mum about it though. I noticed after they had filmed me typing my second novel, which I sent off to my editor this week, that I had ink under my thumbnail.

More about my second novel next time…


Will my children like my girlfriend?

dating couple

I’m going to deviate from my normal blogging about my writing journey. Everyone needs to play from time to time, right?

I’m not one to brag, but allow me to gloat for a while. I went on a date the other night. It was with Eliza from Adelaide. Eliza is my age, but she’s lively, chatty, wears cool clothes and loves ‘hip’ music. If anything serious comes of our dates, Eliza may well party me into an early grave.

But we need to negotiate a few big hurdles before we get anywhere near that far. According to Eliza, there’s my taste in music, my dress sense, my dancing and my inability to be coherent after two glasses of wine. To be fair to Eliza, sometimes I struggle to be coherent before wine.

According to me, there’s Eliza’s use of her bragging rights whenever the cricket’s on.

None of those hurdles, except for maybe the last one, is insurmountable.

The bit I will spend more time worrying about is whether Eliza will get on with my children. Would they like her? Would she like them? What would she say when I inevitably phone her and tell her I can’t come out to play because Boy One is ill, or because I’ve got to take Boy Two to football?

You see, I’m a single dad.

Or to put it another way, I’m a dad with significant childcare responsibilities who would very much like not to be single for ever.

I separated from my wife just over a year ago. She has some issues which, from time to time, prevent her from being the mother that she would otherwise be. Our two teenage boys spend much of their time with me.

I love my boys to bits. I love them being with me, but I also miss adult conversation. In fact, with my boys being teenagers, I miss any conversation that doesn’t sound like a grunt.

My days are filled with domestic chores, from explaining the point of soap through to washing school uniform. As an added bonus I even iron it sometimes. I supervise homework and I break-up the fights. I probably start some too.

Occasionally, when I fancy a break from the routine and can find a respite carer (the boys won’t tolerate ‘baby-sitter’), I engineer myself a night out.

To start with, I wasn’t very active on the dating scene during these occasional nights out. All too often I would end up drinking with my married mates. But gradually my need for the odd bit of intimacy, rather than just hearing about my mates’ intimacy with their respective wives, pushed me to reconsider my stance.

It took me a while to convince myself that I was allowed to date again. I didn’t want my boys to think I was betraying their mother. Or, worse still, trying to replace her.

Being someone who likes to build a consensus before I act, I canvassed the views of the people who mattered most to me before I started dating.

‘You shouldn’t be dating yet,’ my mother offered, ‘it’s far too soon.’

‘You haven’t been dating yet?’ my friends asked, ‘has it fallen off?’

‘You shouldn’t bother,’ my sons mocked, ‘no woman will want you.’ Thanks boys.

In the end, a few months ago I chose to ignore my family’s advice and braved my first date. It was with Sue from Essex. She was attractive, intelligent and sophisticated. Probably too sophisticated for me.

We went out a few times together. We got on well. I was thinking of inviting her round to dinner with my boys, but I suddenly had a vision of awkward silences at the dinner table. Sue was a womanly woman, into make-up, fake eyelashes, enhancements and nail polish. My sporty boys would have been petrified of having to talk to her.

After a good deal of agonising, I opted not to continue seeing Sue from Essex. My mates called me an idiot.

Dating after kids is a different world from dating before kids. No longer does my date have to impress my mother over Sunday lunch before the relationship becomes serious. Now, I care more about whether she impresses my children.

What are the implications of this for me going forward? I will probably end up dating a young-sounding cool woman who doesn’t do rules and discipline. Someone who likes ‘alternative’, whatever that means. Someone from a cool place.

Someone like Eliza from Adelaide.

Update on my writing…

Six Months to Get a Life is my not autobiographical at all tale of a man’s struggle to come to terms with life after divorce. Will Graham Hope get over his ex? Will he continue to be a great dad to his kids? More importantly, will he ever have sex again?

The book continues to receive great reviews. I was interviewed on local radio a few days ago. The audio will be added to my website in the next couple of days.

Now that I am a full-time author, my second book, Six Lies, is progressing well. It would be no exaggeration to say that I am really excited about it. The aim is to finish a first draft by the end of June.

Where do I write?

This excellent blog gives a great insight into a few eminent authors’ writing habits. It mentions me too! I am currently reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, a gift from my work colleagues when I left my job. It would seem that Stephen and the authors featured here share a love for writing in the mornings…


For those who know me and where I live, the question is often asked about how I manage to find space to write and avoid the obvious distractions of family life! We live in a modest sized 3 bed semi-detached house with 2 school age children and the whirlwind that comes with that! In an ideal world I’d love to have a writing shed – somewhere in the garden that I can physically retreat to, in order to have my own space, make my own mess and be away from the distractions that come with ‘working from home’! It doesn’t need to have much – a desk, a comfy chair, lots of book shelf space, lighting and heating. And windows – lots of them! But in reality, writing space can, I guess be anywhere, I mean JK Rowling famously wrote much of the Harry Potter series in a cafe down…

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