Monthly Archives: August 2011

On… Errol

So, I kind of had a baby last week.

His name is Errol.

And he is perfect.


Yeah, I didn’t really mention the whole being-knocked-up thing. For lots of reasons… it wasn’t the best pregnancy ever, but the details are not exactly lighthearted-blog-appropriate. I felt – and feel – extremely protective of him, which is you know, probably good, since I’m his mother and everything – and so I wasn’t feeling very, hmm, open. You know.

Plus, I kind of feel that pregnancy is mostly interesting to people who are knocked up, or maybe if it’s one of your best friends. Otherwise, it’s boring. Talking about cravings / kicks / scans / pain / problems / excited impatience is boring. Trying to find a midwife when you’re on holiday in a small French town at short notice is kind of exciting, but then again, it’s kind of not. (Midwife in French is ‘sage-femme’, by the way, which means ‘wise woman’… see? Boring.)

All in all, the only good thing about my pregnancy was that it had a deadline. But the birth was pretty damn great – I had Errol in Switzerland, where the hospital system is about as close to perfection as you can get. I had a c-section, which was absolutely wonderful, and I’m breastfeeding, because, you know, I’m a liberal wench and I think formula is evil. See? All you non-mothers out there are wincing and saying ‘overshare, GemGem, like, gag me with a spoon’.

Anyway, I don’t think baby blogging is my bag. Other people do it far better than I ever could. I feel the same way about weddings: I posted a few photos of mine here, but I wasn’t about to bore you with like, the menu plans and table centrepieces, you know? It’s just not my bag. I blog a bit about writing and a bit about reading and a bit about me and a bit about stuff I like and always, above all, I blog with the aim of entertaining you. So I’ll write a bit about Errol, but I promise this won’t become a blog dedicated to his bowel movements, or whatever.

Having said all that, I understand why people do blog about their babies, as the urge to hold him up for the world to admire is overwhelming.

Look at him! Isn’t he beautiful?

It’s hard to write about babies and baby love without sounding at bit pathetic and/or insane. We’ve all seen formerly normal friends become Facebook babytards. You may have seen those online baby forums where mental women bang on about ‘DH’ (which I thought stood for Dick Head, apparently it’s Darling Husband) and ‘DS’ (Darling Son) and ‘DD’ (you can probably guess). Come on. Did they hand out a lobotomy with the epidural, or what? I read something once where Julia Roberts wrote to Oprah, of all people, about her newborn twins, saying they woke up ‘smelling of promise’. Lame. I was like, gag me with a fricking spoon, Roberts. Stop gushing.

But I’ve tried for the last 20 minutes to write about how I feel without gushing. And if writing cliché-free, non-gag-me copy about happiness / love / joy is hard in books, then in real life, it’s nearly impossible. My apologies, Julia.

So I’ll just say it once, very quickly, in a low voice: I am so happy.

And my friends, you should see Fox. The man giggled yesterday. Irish men don’t usually giggle, unless the better part of a bottle of whiskey is involved.

The moment I saw Errol… I can’t explain it. I’m not a good enough writer. He’s tiny and calm and thoughtful and happy and perfect and…. oh man. See? I can’t explain him. Words are not enough.

In an attempt to avoid death-by-adjective, let’s just say Errol is perfect in every way, more than I could ever have imagined was possible. He’s tiny and sweet and warm, with a habit of making happy little sighs when he’s sleeping and mewymoans when he’s feeding… My heart is full.


EDIT: Okay! More photos. Now these are just a couple from the first few days – mostly in black and white as, well, we were feeling arty. Also I looked like shit. I will download more in the next few days and post them. I swear.

This is the full shot of the one above. Tiny and sweet.

Errol at one day old. He is nestled in a bonding band thingy that the hospital gave us. I am so in love with said thingy that I want to wear it everywhere and wrap my favourite people up in it. And I mean that in a totally non-kinky way. (This is taken with my crap phone, by the way, thus the graininess. My mother has already requested I sharpen it up with Photoshop. How do I tell her I just do words?)

Trying to be arty. Two days old. As soon as I fix said Photoshop skill deficiency, those pesky freckles and wrinkles will be gone and I’ll sure as hell sort the eyebrows out. Mine not his. And maybe add a jaunty hat.

Witness the artiness.

Again, my crappy phone, but cool shot, huh? This is a tired, stubbled and unusually serene-looking Fox resting in his hospital-issue camp bed (6.3″ man, 5.10″ bed = fun fun fun) with three-day-old E-Dawg. I love this photo. I love that hospital. I love my doctor. I love Fox. I love Errol. I love you. I love everything.

More photos to come. Also, the books that are sustaining me through the feed-sleep-feed duskiness of this week.

EDIT! Okay! One month later and I have had requests for more photos of moi preggers and Errol. As ever I am happy to oblige. Now remember, if you are not baby-lovin’, don’t read on. I am probably about to be a babytard. What can I say. I love him.

Motherin’ – so far, at least – is a hell of a lot easier than pregnancy. And babies are kind of easy, too. The past month has felt a bit like having a friend come to stay who keeps getting wasted. You just have to check on him regularly, make sure he eats when he’s supposed to, hasn’t soiled himself, do his washing, etc. One of my friends described her kids as ‘really cool flatmates with attachment issues’. Seems pretty much on the money.

Okay, first: preggers.

This is me at 38 weeks. Thanks to some pesky hip problems, walking – and in fact sitting – wasn’t really a thing for me by that stage. My ass was pretty much permanently attached to that sofa, laptop precariously perched on cushions so I could write. I am lucky I didn’t end up looking like Jabba the Hut, now that I think about it. It’s probably because I was very sick almost every day for about seven out of the nine months. Seriously, I don’t know how bulimics do it. Throwing up is a NIGHTMARE. I threw up day and night, at home, in taxis, in supermarkets, doing yoga, on the street, in passport lines at the airport, in bed. I threw up when I ate and when I didn’t eat. I threw up when I was reading and writing and sleeping. Basically, I threw up. Anyway, back to the photos.

Errol Fletcher (Errol after Errol Flynn and Fletcher after the Chevy Chase movie Fletch) (yep, seriously) is just the funniest, sweetest, calmest little dude.

We just realised, by the way, that in Fox’s hometown of Cork in Ireland, people with a strong local accent pronounce it Earl. Pretty funny. (Fox dialled down his accent when he moved to London. Apparently the Euros in his office couldn’t understand a word he said. The moment he touches home soil, however, he becomes as Cork as they come. Lots of ‘how yas’ and ‘happy outs’ and the odd ‘feck’.)

Self-portrait of me with Errol last night.

I realise this photo looks like it was tinkered with because I’m so ghostly pale, but I swear it wasn’t. iPads take weird photos – something to do with having the pixel-quality of a nokia phone from 2001 – and I’m kind of a pale person. (I stopped fake tanning at about 34 weeks when it took an entire Vichy tan tube just to cover me. No, really, it did.)

And a few new ones from this morning, when he was feeling very serious and thoughtful.

On… Kindle sales


A GIRL LIKE YOU and THE DATING DETOX are both insaaaaanely cheap on Kindle (£1!) – but only for the rest of August!

They’re currently in the Amazon Kindle bestseller lists (woo) at 14 (doublewoo) and 34 (triplewoo, but a smaller woo, like a woolet) respectively.

And if we can get them into the top 10 it would be really, really amazing and do wondrous things for my future career. Like, stupendously wondrous…

Now, you know I wouldn’t normally ask you this, but if you can, please download one or both for your Kindle or Kindle for iPad or from the Apple Shop and I’ll be your BFF. For serious. FOR EVER. I will hold your hair back when you are sick and lend you my favourite shoes and talk about your ex/boss/hair for as long as you like. Pinkyswear.

After August the prices will start going back up – so don’t miss out…

Thank you and sorry for asking a favour. You know it’s not really my style but it’s just a teeny weeny one…

Click the links to download…



EDIT: Good God. Have just found out that A GIRL LIKE YOU is no.2 on the UK Apple iStore – second only to ONE DAY by David Nicholls. I am not yanking your chain. Anyone can buy it – all you need is an iTunes account for your iPhone, iPod, whatever… The same deal goes for eternal BFFism if you do.

SECOND EDIT: Wow. It’s now Thursday 25th, and A GIRL LIKE YOU is no 13 across the entire Paid Books Kindle UK store, no 12 in Fiction and no 8 in Contemporary Fiction. And THE DATING DETOX is no 31 in entire Paid Books Kindle store, 29 in fiction and 15 in Contemporary Fiction. Thank you everyone who bought one. You rock. x

THIRD EDIT: I promise not to update you every time they jump a notch on Amazon – I mean, seriously, no one cares that much, I know – but this seems blogworthy: A GIRL LIKE YOU and THE DATING DETOX are BOTH in the Apple iTunes Books TOP 10! xx And yeah, that’s a double kiss for you. I’m a total slut like that.

On… Love & Sex

Breaking up sucks a fat one.

And yet people always seem to forget how sad and hard it is. Especially people in long-term relationships. I could never understand that. I’m boringly stable and hitched, but I can remember exactly how hard it is to recover from a break-up. He was part of your life. You looked forward to his funny texts and you got to kiss him whenever you wanted, and sometimes kissing and funny texts are pretty much the stuff happiness is made of.

Now that’s gone and you have to mourn it. Not him, necessarily – just it. The relationship. Even if you know the dude was a cockmonkey par excellence (and you wouldn’t ever, ever go back there and the idea of him even having the right to look at you again makes you want to punch something really hard), you have to mourn the end of the life you led with him.

And it’s made worse by people expecting you to be over it in days, or even weeks. Because then you start worrying that you’re weird for still feeling shitty. Which you’re not. Obviouslah. They’ve just forgotten what it’s like.

For some reason I have a crystal-clear memory of the horrors of breaking up – in fact (warning: I’m about to go into a Gemma Burgess digression-from-the-damn-point), I have kind of a good memory for everything that isn’t 1. A number or 2. Practical. Ie, emotions and places. Fox says driving around London with me is seriously annoying as I keep up a running social history commentary like ‘ooh dinner with Creative Director Cheapass there, he ordered wine by the glass, total dick’ and ‘dinner with Sandhurst boy there, not that bright but oh so pretty’ or ‘drank four bottles of white wine there with Bec and pretended to be Stockard Channing by putting olives in our cheeks then gave bartender my number written in eyeliner on a napkin but he didn’t call’.

And that’s not to mention the (many) places my relationships ended. Which weren’t always bars and restaurants, of course. Once it was the hallway of a particularly grubby little shareflat, where I opened the door, he said ‘we’ve got to talk’ and I said ‘oh fuck no’ and slammed it in his face and ran to the kitchen to hide. (Yah. Because THAT’S gonna stop someone dumping you.) I don’t know if it’s healthy, being able to recall so perfectly how I felt at any given time in my life, but hopefully it helps with the whole writing stories thing. Anyway.

One of the main things about breaking up that sucks a fat one is that what do I do now? feeling.

Because what DO you do?

Literally, on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis, what do you DO when the future suddenly has a giant relationship-shaped hole in it? I didn’t want someone to tell me I’d be fine. I didn’t want to talk about my feelings. I wanted practical advice about what to goddamn do with myself and how to make time pass fast enough till my heart (or ego – sometimes, let’s face it, interchangeable) was healed.

Eventually, I made a Break-Up To-Do list of my own, based on trial and many, many errors.

Gemma’s Break-up To Do List:

1. Make immediate social plans to go out with your friends, and accept that your first few nights out will end in tears. It is the law.

2. Don’t speak to him. There is no point. You will not feel better after you speak to him, or maybe you’ll think you do, but then you’ll want to speak to him again in a few days to say things you forgot to say (or ask things you forgot to ask or get some unattainable feeling of closure or ego-gratification or that masochistic thrill that you get when you know you shouldn’t say things like ‘do you miss me?’ but you just can’t help yourself). Because then it’ll get messy. So you’ll feel much worse. Pretend he no longer exists and delete his number. (And don’t give me that shit about it not making any difference because you know it by heart: you’ll forget it eventually.)

3. Rearrange your wardrobe. Tidy clothes equals tidy emotions. And looking marvellous is the first step to feeling marvellous. Shuffle the clothes that remind you of him to the back, but don’t throw them out. Just because he was a dick doesn’t mean innocent clothes should be punished.

4. Read something comforting-yet-sharp. Nora Ephron’s Heartburn is an excellent choice. It’s a novel about a woman whose husband cheats on her when she’s pregnant with her second child. It’s hilarious and warm and smart and hugely reassuring. (Nora Ephron’s husband really did cheat on her when she was pregnant with their second child, by the way. He was Carl Bernstein – yep, as in, Watergate-Woodward-and-Bernstein. And she knew who Deep Throat was for years. Apparently whenever anyone asked her she’d say ‘It’s Mark Felt’, but no one ever listened. Anyway, I digress. Read the book. You’ll love it.)

5. Get fresh air every day, preferably listening to music in the sunshine whilst walking somewhere. Fact: breaking up is easier in summer and diafuckingbolical in winter. I gave one total idiot an extra chance when I really shouldn’t have simply because it was a very cold February and I was bored.

6. Figure out what you enjoy doing the most and do it. Now, I am very much a city cat. I like traffic and noise and beautiful buildings. I like walking aimlessly and talking endlessly. I like coffees and browsing for hours in tiny bookshops and clothes shops and art galleries. I like finding bijou little bars that I never even knew existed where I can order a really strong drink. All in all, I like the chaos and the unexpected of a big city, and I am happiest in a crowd. So even though I have to sequester myself away a bit, because I’m a writer and well, it’s kind of hard to write in a crowd, I know that to actually be happy, I also need that stimulus. Without it I wither and perish, and I certainly can’t write. Now, other people like making four-course meals from scratch or gardening or long rambling weekends in the countryside or going to the theatre or, gosh, I don’t know, running around Hyde Park at dawn when there’s no one else around. Whatever fries your burger. The point is, make a point to remember and then do what you love doing. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget what makes you happy sometimes. Especially when some asshat has just blown you out of the water. And I don’t mean in a fun sexual way.

7. Never say things like ‘my life is over’ or even a Princess Buttercupesque ‘I will never love again’. Your life will be long and interesting, and this was just one more chapter. You will love again, and be loved back. Nothing is surer. It’s how we’re built.

8. Don’t say ‘now I’ll be single forever’, either. Focusing on singledom as the enemy is not the answer. And, anyway, it’s so not true. This point is particularly relevant for anyone feeling that ricockulous late-20s-find-a-mate-pressure that we’re all aware of, no matter how strong and smart and independent we are. Particularly when it seems like everyone you know is in an annoyingly happy couple. A lot of girls you probably know who might smugly think they’ve won some imaginary race and found the right guy haven’t. Remember, marriage is not the destination. And those annoyingly happy couples are probably not even having sex.

9. Have a date with someone else as soon as you can. Fact: there are other men out there. Hundreds of thousands of millions of them. And one is just the right combination of smart and interesting and handsome and laugh-out-loud funny and generous and kind for you. So don’t curl into a ball and cry for months. Cry for a while, of course, indulge your every whim, then batter up and play the game again, because someone perfect is out there waiting for you to turn the hell up. I always think of it this way: if you were looking for a cab, you wouldn’t just expect one to read your mind and brake next to you on the street. You’d put your hand out and hail one, right? Even if the first date after the break-up isn’t perfect – and odds are it won’t be – it creates a memory that’s newer than the break-up. And it’s more fun than staying at home. So go hail yourself a dude.

10. Watch Love & Sex.

Yes. That was where this entire blog post started, as I was talking to a friend about her break-up, and I remembered that the movie Love & Sex existed, and that whenever I broke up with someone I watched it, and forced my friends to watch it with me. It’s a criminally underrated romantic comedy written by Jon Favreau, and starring Jon Favreau and Famke Janssen. It starts with Famke trying to write a positive, perky article for a women’s magazine about love, and she starts remembering all her past boyfriends and break-ups… It’s very funny and smart and silly – some of my favourite things. And it makes you feel better about life. Which is my favourite thing of all.

Got any break-up survival tips to add? Put it in a comment. Or if you’re feeling shy, email me. (I always get blog comments nerves, myself.)

On… male starlets and Sex And The City

Say what you will about Sarah Jessica Parker – and hell knows, after seeing Sex And The City 2, I said a lot to anyone who would listen, usually via shouty rants ending in ‘FOR FUCK’S SAKE’ and ‘NEVER EVER AGAIN’ – the woman has seriously good taste in men. Or her casting director does. Whatever. The point is, a lot of the guys she slept with in the TV series are now hugely successful actors.

So, in classically irritating Carrie Bradshaw-style, I’ll put it as a question:

Was banging Carrie Bradshaw the secret to success for male starlets of the noughties?

I was never the world’s biggest Sex And The City fan, but it was hard to be a twenty-something woman in the past decade and not sort of soak it up. And remember, when it was good, it was very very good. (Miranda’s drunk “I’m no Mira Sorvino, but I’m a great lay” is funny no matter how many times I think about it. Ditto Samantha’s “Gangbang? How Eighties.”) I stopped watching it around the Berger time, when they all started to really annoy me, though thanks to endless repeats I think I’ve somehow seen the rest of the episodes, too. Similarly, I’ve somehow seen almost every Friends episode, and I know all the words to Britney Spears songs despite never buying an album. This shit just happens. The Zeitgeist has a way of getting to you.

Back to the dudes.

Now, the thin-lipped hunk of lard, I mean brawn, that was Aidan, isn’t worth posting about, neither is Chris Noth, really. (Though he is really good in The Good Wife, admittedly not as good as Julianna Marguiles’ eyebrows.) (Kidding. I love The Good Wife. Smart, strong and non-crazy female characters. Plus Alan Cumming and Michael J Fox. I mean come on.)

Roger Sterling in everyone’s favourite show Mad Men is John Slattery. He also played some golden-shower-loving politician, of all things.

And here we have David Duchovny, before he went to Californication and began to look like he needs a good scrub with a broom and some disinfectant. I know, I know, he was in X Files before. He wasn’t exactly a starlet. Hush.

Vince Vaughn. Yes, he wasn’t undiscovered either, and I liked him more when he was young and hungry-looking in Swingers, too. Age catches up with all of us, my friends.

A very young Timothy Oliphant. Deadwood is amazing, by the way, in case you haven’t seen it, though I really only loved the first season. The writing was mind-blowingly good. And then he was in Justified, which I tried really hard to love and couldn’t. Sorry.

Bradley Cooper. Limitless was so great. I love a morally ambiguous character who gets away with it.

And Justin Theroux, who apparently played two different dudes in SATC. Nope, I wouldn’t have remembered that either. I saw a picture of him in some gossip magazine recently and he had a truly exceptional beard. It takes a real man to grow a beard like that.

I’m not usually the kind of person who posts things about good-looking dudes, but, you know, fuck it. The world has gone a little crazy and we all need some light relief, oui?

On… Heaven Scent

I have some good news for you.

Particularly if, like me, you have read Jilly Cooper so many times that you can recall entire passages verbatim.

I’m not alone in my Jilly obsession, of course. She and Helen Fielding are the ne-plus-ultras of British comic female-oriented fiction, the Top Guns, the best of the best.

And I’ve picked up many would-be hilarious rural romps over the years, sighed and discarded them within a hundred pages, as I recognised characters, plot turns and in one case a word-for-word character description lifted straight from Jilly. Lifting word-for-word from Jilly is veh cheeky and rather stupid, as that’s her MO: her copy is seriously crafted, fresh and effortless to read. Okay, back to the point.

So when I find a book that has all the delightful escapism I crave in a romp, then I have to share it.

It is called HEAVEN SCENT. By Sasha Wagstaff.

The setup: a gloriously wealthy and troubled French family own a huge-but-stagnating perfume house, and discover that their wayward cousin married an unknown English girl just before he died. Now she stands to inherit tens of millions and a stake in the family business – but who is she?

Can you imagine anything more delicious? I can’t. The South of France! Perfume! A family scandal! It’s classic escapism, pure and simple.

Since we’re on the subject of books (yet again… at one point this blog nearly turned into a book blog, so I’ve had to stop myself from posting about everything I read) I also just read – and enjoyed about a thousand times more than I thought I would – LA Candy by Lauren Conrad.

Now, admittedly, I loved The Hills and The City more than any grown woman ought to admit to herself, let alone her blog, but I had simply dismissed the book as crap without even glancing at it. Then a very smart girl I know told me that she and her equally smart friends all passed it back and forth, slightly obsessively. Now I understand why. It’s ricockulously moreish. I’ve already ordered the sequel, Sugar & Spice.

EDIT: The sequel isn’t as good. Shame.

On… The Boy’tician

I wrote a feature called ‘The Boy-tician’ for the illustrious Tatler magazine. And it’s out now, in the September issue.

Please check it out and let me know what you think… if you like it. Otherwise just don’t say anything and we’ll never have to discuss it again, hmm?

I’m currently writing another feature for their November issue.

Am just at that sticky point where I wonder:
1. If it’s ever going to come together
2. If the things I think are funny are, in fact, funny, and
3. If I shouldn’t just give up this writing thing and learn to knit instead.

And the answer to your next question is yes. Being a writer plagued by self-doubt and melodramatic tendencies is totally exhausting.