After what seemed like an endless winter, spring arrived in Slovakia a couple of weeks ago, and a week later, summer. Just over six weeks ago, the lake in the park where we take our dogs was frozen, and the ice was thick enough to walk on. Today, I’m sat in my little office in shorts and t-shirt and trying to stay cool. It’s baking hot.
I sat down to write my new book, which is still in the shaky early stages, but it was one of those mornings of distractions. You might already know from my social media posts that we have two dogs. Ricky (boy) and Lola (girl). They are father and daughter. Lola has been speyed, so there is no chance of any father-daughter puppies being born, and she doesn’t go into heat, but twice a year, around the time she should be in heat, she still seems to give off a scent. And today was that time! So, for the first part of the morning I had deal with a mad humping Ricky who wouldn’t leave her alone. Then after I separated them, he seemed to think my leg was equally desirable.
Just as I seemed to get them settled, and I picked up my laptop, Lola decided that despite being toilet trained, she would prance in front of me and pee all over the rug. There is a huge old sheepskin rug in my office, which is a little bit tatty, but very cosy. I got up to clean it, but it was a huge pee, and a hot day, so I decided to put the rug in the washing machine. I have done this once before and it came out beautifully clean and I thought it would dry quickly in the hot weather.
I picked up the laptop again, but within a few minutes the washing machine was making a horrible low growling noise and then it died. I managed to get the door open and the rug out, but it was dripping wet and covered in foam, so I lugged it into our small garden, draped it over the washing line, and started to wash off the foam with the hose. I didn’t see that one of the dogs had now crapped on the grass next to where the hose is coiled up, and I had pulled the hose through it. I now had dog crap all over my hands and down the front of my clothes.
I came back inside to clean it off and found that the washing machine had regurgitated dirty water all over the floor. By the time I got everything cleaned up, Ricky was back to his crazed humping. I got them settled, sat down to write, and then the doorbell rang with a delivery. I had ordered a new suitcase. Cue more barking jumping and then Ricky started to hump the new suitcase. I got the dogs settled again, and again picked up the laptop… Then there was a test of the nuclear warning sirens.
I’ve lived in Slovakia for a few years now, so it isn’t quite as horrifying as it was the first time I heard it (I had no idea that there was a test, and I thought it was real). It is incredibly loud, as I suppose a nuclear warning should be, and comes from several hundred speakers dotted around the town, and the test lasts for a good minute. The dogs went ballistic, barking and spinning and then the automated voice kicked in, echoing around the town and off the hills opposite. With everything that is going on in the world, I didn’t wonder if nuclear war had been declared, but after a few minutes it stopped, and the radio in the kitchen started to play ABBA, so I figured that, for now, all was good. All this had made me hungry, so I gave up trying to write and had lunch.
The dogs are now asleep, and it has started to rain, so I thought I would write this blog post.
I was lucky enough to visit New York last week. I’ve been once before, but that was 19 years ago, when I was a student, and I visited on a snowy weekend in late February. I loved it, but it was freezing cold. I remember long icicles hanging off fire escapes, piles of blackening snow at the roadside, and steam rising from the drains. I also remember that I didn’t pack warm clothes, and spent the whole trip sheltering in coffee shops and bars, which was difficult with little money.
This time around I went with Ján and met with my new publisher, Amazon and Audible will be publishing my new books in the U.S, and Grand Central, who are publishing the Erika Foster series in paperback in the U.S.
As well as our meetings, we got time to explore the city. The weather was glorious ( the word ‘glorious’ doesn’t often spring to my lips, but it was glorious) It was warm and sunny, spring was lagging a little behind Slovakia, so the trees in Central Park were in blossom and bursting with green. We were there for a week, and didn’t quite manage to get over the jet lag. I’m not a morning person, but every morning I was wide awake at six. We stayed in a hotel opposite Central Park (which was the only thing the hotel had going for it. Always check out the customer reviews before you book!) so all we had to do was cross the road and we were in the park. Breakfast in the park every morning was a highlight.
We also visited the street and the brownstone house used in Sex and The City, where Carrie Bradshaw had her apartment. I love the show, but for some reason I didn’t think that there would be lots of people there. The apartment block is on a pretty non-descript street. When we turned the corner, the road was full of Sex and The City fans lining the pavements, standing in the road, and oblivious to the cars zooming towards them and honking. The apartment block is still a private residence, and the steps up to the front door are roped off with a big sign asking people to stay off the steps. It was strange how the building was both iconic and functional. While we were there, a woman emerged from the front door holding two full bin bags. She shuffled down the steps, leaned over the rope and dumped them into a bin on the sidewalk, then went back up again. She either seemed used to the craziness around her, or she was ignoring it. All the while a young woman was stood at the bottom of the steps beaming and posing for a photo, lost in a world where she was Carrie Bradshaw.
One smart thing the building owner has done is to put a charity box at the bottom of the steps, asking that if you take a photo, you leave a dollar for the local dog’s home. I didn’t feel as guilty posing for a photo, as I was doing it for a good cause. We also went up The Empire State building, walked The High Line, and saw a show (Book of Mormon, very funny) and we walked and walked and explored. I loved New York, and it won’t be another 19 years before I go back.
But now I’m home, and I have a new book to write, which is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Ricky has started to hump my leg again, and I need another cup of coffee, so that’s all from me for now. Thank you to everyone who has sent messages about Deadly Secrets. It’s now a month since publication and I have loved reading all your messages and thoughts. I have also given the website a little wash and brush up. There is now an ‘Interviews/Media’ page and you can check out a Q&A video I did last year, where I talk in more depth about the Erika Foster series and answer questions from readers.
Until next time, Rob x