bad ping pong

It was the worst singles night in the history of mankind. I should know.

Listen, I will put up with pretty much anything in the name of trying to meet that elusive soulmate/Mr Right-now/someone who gets part of my name right and does not have really bad breath. I have, as recounted here, been to a night where I had to sniff smelly t-shirts potentially worn by my future beloved. On other occasions I have put up with milling around random bars whilst rather sinister ladies called Matchmakers forced me to talk to verbose men about football. That was called an anti-dating night, as it did not involve any speed dating. And for me, it was true, no dating happened. At all. I have even attempted to climb out a toilet window after turning up on a blind date, to find out my date was hogging the only doorway, which was almost as wide as he was. He may or may not have resembled his photo, in the way that that a small lamb resembles a five-tonne Bullock. With horns.

I am not afraid: to admit that I am single online; to date blindly; or to speed date. Hell, I’ve even been on holiday with all singles. There’s no way I am in denial. And my standards are so low, I don’t think even Usain Bolt could limbo under them.

But this singles night, it was a step too far.

It all seemed so innocent. Ping pong. Yes, a dating night based on playing your paramour at table tennis. What could possibly go awry? As you gazed across the pleasant green meadow of reinforced plastic, your future bride/groom would tap a little white orb of loveliness in your general direction. You would laugh coquettishly and then wave this dove of joy back, to wing its way into their heart.

The night was called ‘Balls to Dating’. A typical recent trend in singles nights is not only that they seem to have increasingly bizarre themes, but also to pretend they have nothing to do with dating, being single, or anything so embarrassing. But this night did, oh God, if only the flashbacks would stop.

I managed to persuade a friend to escort me to this doomed soirée. Only thing was, she wasn’t single, so I erm, had to pretend we were just going for an extra-sporty night out. I casually mentioned the singles side when we were almost there (a slightly dingy bar-entrance in Holborn), it was too late . . . and it all got so much worse.

As we approached the bar, and received our hand stamps, they should have just fixed a millstone to our necks and branded us lepers. We descended to the sweaty basement, to discover about 300 people crammed into a not-very-big space. We had just entered a scene from a bad high school movie. It didn’t help that the organisers, in the pursuit of cash, had clearly got the balance wrong, and there were roughly twice as many women as men (and they were hot women, very hot). Instead of joyfully embracing this, and doing little dances of delight, or pluming their feathers in joy, herds of males were clustered, petrified, plastering themselves around the walls and hunched at the bar, darting angry glances and carefully side-stepping any female contact.

It didn’t help that the organisers had decided to organise table tennis tournaments which did not involve couples competing, or even matching people together, but instead were highly individualistic competitions to knock each other out. In desperation we both decided to get horribly drunk and try to beat everyone at ping pong. We hit several men in some rather sensitive places (by accident, I stress). Though to be honest I got shoved out of the way by some other overly-competitive boys who seemed less keen on dating and more keen on trying to kill me. With a bat. This was not what I was expecting.

Clusters of feral women had taken to bunching in corners, behind protective protruding surfaces, and throwing ping pong balls at random mates from afar. Others were simply beached on benches. At one stage a small Italian took to stalking us around the room until we had to physically restrain him. At least he was making an effort.

As my friend pointed out the whole business of being single gets so much worse when you are all fenced off together and forced to dance to the rhythm, of the date-makers’ music. Which was way too loud. We are not all defined by being single – the fact we have not yet hooked up with the love of our lives is not something that somehow unites us or makes us the same bunch of losers.

Number of drinks bought for us: nil. Number of drinks we bought anyone: nil. We would have stood more chance of meeting a couple of guys if we had picked a pub, any random pub, and just gone out for a drink. At one stage I did manage to win us free drinks through a bit of pretty shit-hot dancing (what can I say? I rock).

Singles nights aren’t too bad, right? This was just a one- off right? It’ll all be ok, yeah?

No. It won’t. Don’t do it. I have conclusively decided that they are the devil’s work. If I ever think about going to another one just stop me and give me a good dressing down. Do anything else – proposition people on the tube, get drunk and go clubbing, talk to people in the street. Go on! Anything but this. We are not singles. We are human beings. Punch the air now and say it with me. For the sake of man(and woman) kind.

Things to do this Bank Holiday: Gypsy at the Savoy

It’s Easter. You’ve gouged yourself on chocolate, taken a customary walk, maybe popped into church to celebrate and to get you away from the chocolate… Now what to do on the Monday?

I’ve got just the (actual) ticket! Head to the Savoy. Not for an extortionate cocktail, or even tea, but for the Theatre. The Savoy theatre next to the famous hotel on the Strand is currently playing host to Gypsy! Staring Imelda Staunton (Prof Umbridge from Harry Potter) and Lara Pulver (‘The Woman’ from Sherlock).

Gypsy is loosely based on the Memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee the famous striptease artist and her mother the formidable Rose played by Imelda Staunton. It follows Gypsy Rose Lee AKA Baby Louise and her sister Baby June as they are pushed into Vaudeville act after Vaudeville act across America by their mother who is determined to make them ‘Stars’ to compensate for her own mother abandoning her as a child.

The Musical takes us along Louise’s journey, pushed to the side in favour of her sister at ‘Kiddie’ shows and then becoming the sole focus of all her mother’s ambitions once June has run away with a beautiful dancer to escape. It’s a musical about trust, love and motherhood as well as a warning for overly pushy mothers!

Gypsy also has some amazingly good songs, many of which are so much part of the everyday we have forgotten where they came from… the best examples of which are: Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and Let Me Entertain You (Better than the Robbie Williams version)

So, heave yourself off the sofa and head to the Savoy, and hey, why not grab some afternoon tea before the show? It’s a bank holiday after all!

– Helen

Are You Feeling Fruity?! Easter Weekend Hot Cross Buns

There was something of a revelation in the office this week when the lovely Helen (who’s been helping us on work experience) dared to suggest that the best thing about Easter, the heavenly Hot Cross Bun, was actually better without dried fruit?!!!

Anyway we haven’t been able to stop thinking of those buns since, so we’re spending our Easter weekend baking a batch of these doughy pillows of deliciousness. To fruit or not to fruit, that is the question.  

*We’ve named the chick Paul.


Hot Cross Buns 

  • 450g Bread Flour (Strong white- not wholemeal or they turn into little bullets)
  • 2 x 7g Sachets of Easy Blend Yeast
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 150ml Warm Milk (Semi- Skimmed or Full Fat)
  • 1 Egg Beaten
  • 50g Butter (Unsalted)
  • 1tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 50-100g mixed peel (to taste)
  • 50-100g The dreaded fruit (optional)

To Decorate:

  • 5 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 2 tbsp water


  • Put all the dry ingredients including the spices, peel (and fruit) into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter and make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the butter, milk and the beaten egg into the well and mix with wooden spoon till it forms a dough- add more flour if too wet, or add more milk of too dry.
  • Flour the work surface and knead the dough for about 3 minutes then put the dough back in the bowl. Place a tea towel over thee bowl and put it above a radiator or in the airing cupboard for about an hour till the dough has doubled in size.
  • Then take the dough out of the bowl need a for a moment then divide your dough into 12 equal balls and place them on two greased baking trays leaving plenty of room around each one. Pop the baking trays back on top of the radiator covered with a tea towel and leave for another 20 mins till they have doubled in size again.
  • Heat the oven to GM 6/180c Fan. Mix plain flour and water into a thick paste and put it into a piping bag and draw a cross across each bun.
  • Bake for 12-14mins until they sound hollow when tapped and look golden, and enjoy!


The Truth Is Still Out There by Angela Campbell #XFiles2015

It was only Tuesday and I was having a bad week, overwhelmed at the day job, suffering from seasonal allergies, and worried how much the veterinarian was going to charge for my cat’s annual visit that afternoon.

XFilesPosterThen I heard the news. You know, the news that Fox was officially bringing The X-FILES back for a limited six-episode run with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles and Mulder and Scully, and a miraculous thing happened. All of the chaos around me faded away. I spent the rest of the day in an absurdly good mood, grinning like an idiot, completely worthless at the day job because I was too busy exchanging emails with friends who were fellow X-Philes. When the vet receptionist handed me the bill that afternoon, I smiled, said, “Thanks!” and didn’t cringe at the cost. Well, maybe I cringed a little, but still.

I know. It’s ridiculous that a TV show, for heaven’s sake, could turn my frown upside down so quickly. Especially when that TV show has been off the air for 13-plus years.

But you only have to look at the type of books I write to understand this is THE X-FILES and it had a profound effect on me. I still remember the night the first episode aired live on television. I had just started college and was starting a new journey, one I was uncertain about, one that both terrified and excited me, and one that made me feel more like an outsider than I already did. I had always been a bit of a geek, interested in the paranormal and science fiction, quiet and kind of a loner, too. Suddenly, there was a guy named Mulder who had an “I Want to Believe” poster in his office who ran around investigating UFOs, monsters and conspiracy theories. He was smart, funny, and sexy. And there was a woman named Scully who was skeptical, but she was intelligent, witty, badass and was right there at Mulder’s side no matter how harrowing things got.

I look at THE X-FILES as the birth of the modern day cool nerds. I made friends in college because of Mulder and Scully. People who already seemed really cool loved THE X-FILES as much as I did and didn’t judge me for all of the geeky things I liked. It gave us something to talk about when ordinarily we wouldn’t have said a word to each other. We discussed the possibilities of Bigfoot, aliens and the Loch Ness Monster between classes. We all admired the heck out of Scully and wanted to date Mulder — or vice versa, depending on your orientation. I wasn’t such an outsider anymore.


Not to mention, THE X-FILES became a cult hit, and suddenly paranormal romance books became a thing. Like, a really big thing. Other paranormal-centric TV shows followed — SUPERNATURAL, FRINGE, LOST — but none have lived up to THE X-FILES in my eyes. When I met Gillian Anderson at DragonCon a few years ago, I could barely say a word to the woman because I was so nervous, and I don’t get nervous around celebrities. I remember simply saying “Thank you” because how do you express gratitude to an actress for bringing to life a character who feels like one of your best friends, who was there to help you through good times and bad without even realizing it?  You know, without sounding like some whacko stalker? So I just said “Thank you” and probably mumbled some other nonsense that embarrassed me, but whatever. I MET SCULLY! Ha!

The revived series might suck — you can’t be a true X-Phile without admitting some episodes were sloppy at best and the theatrical movies didn’t turn out too well and you either love or hate Chris Carter as a writer — but until I see it, I remain hopefully optimistic. And excited!

I bought a replica poster of Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster at an X-FILES convention once, many, many years ago. I assume it’s in storage now, but hearing the news that Mulder and Scully will be back on TV again has made me want to search for it and hang it up. I think it’d be a nice complement to my book covers.

Come to think of it, I think every book I’ve written has had at least one brief reference to Mulder and Scully in it somewhere. It’s the least I can do for those two.

So tell me: Are you excited to see the show return?


Learn more about Angela Campbell’s books at

Cocktails on My Mind… by Nikki Moore

It’s almost time for the weekend and we were looking for some cocktail inspiration. So we asked Nikki Moore, author of the coveted #LoveLondon series, for some help!


It’s no secret that I’ve loved the research trips I’ve been on for The Ritz Mary Pickfordmy#LoveLondon series, and drinking cocktails at The Ritz and trying different ones back home in Bournemouth has been no exception. So withCocktails in Chelsea released on Thursday 19th March, I thought it would be remiss of me not share some of those cocktails with you… plus a few recipes! Enjoy…


A lovely summery drink (a traditional with a bitof a fruity twist) is the Strawberry Margarita; really refreshing on a hot, sunny day.


1.5 cups of strawberries Strawberry Margarita

1 x cup crushed ice

1/2 cup tequila

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

0.25 cup of sugar

3 tablespoons Cointreau


Use a blender to blend until smooth, pour into glasses and garnish with lime or strawberries.


There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cocktail that has five different types of alcohol in it, so the Long Island Iced Tea is a firm favourite!


1.5 cl TequilaLong Island Iced Tea

1.5 cl Vodka

1.5 cl White Rum

1.5 cl Triple Sec

1.5 cl Gin

2.5 cl Lemon juice

3.0 cl Gomme syrup

1 dash of coke


Serve in a highball glass over ice, stir gently and drink!

Both Cosmo’s (Cosmopolitan) and Mojito’s feature in Cocktails in Chelsea, probably because they’re two of my favourites. Cosmo’s are perfectly balanced with vodka offset against juicy cranberry and a splash of lime; while zingy Cuban minty Mojito’s are great for sipping while lying on a beach (I’ve done this in a deckchair, overlooking the Med on the French Riviera…)


4 cl Vodka Citron

1.5 cl Cointreau

1.5 cl Fresh lime juice

3 cl Cranberry juice


Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake well and strain twice into a glass, garnish with a slice of lime.



 Cosmo and Mojito

4 cl (4 parts) Bacardi (or other white rum)

3 cl (3 parts) Fresh lime juice

6 mint leaves

2 teaspoons sugar

Soda water


Muddle the mint leaves with the sugar and lime juice, add the rum and top up with soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a straw.


The trip to The Ritz was a definite highlight, and being served cocktails in the gorgeous art-deco bar was no exception. I was brave and tried something new, the Mary Pickford, according to The Ritz, ‘ A prohibition classic created in the 1920’s at the Hotel National De Cuba for the silent movie star who was in Cuba filming a movie with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.’ I can’t give you the full recipe but it contains Rum, lime cordial, pineapple cordial, cherry liquor and pomegranate syrup….

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