1 My local library

EVERYONE says this, but we weren’t a book-buying household and my mother was a committed library-goer. Every week four books out, four books in.

As soon as I was old enough (probably about seven, they were pretty lax back in the 1970s), I would cycle up by myself and just hang out all day or as long as my bladder could manage.

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I’m sure the lovely librarians would have let me use the bathroom but at the time I thought it was forbidden for some reason.

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I read every single book in the children’s section. How To Be A Spy, The Big Book Of Amphibians, everything. I thought that’s what reading was: read every book in the world.

I am still trying my best to accomplish this goal.

2 The Bedlam Theatre

I DIDN’T have much theatre in my life growing up, then when I got to Edinburgh University at 17 I joined the student theatre company. It was an astonishing stroke of luck, in retrospect.

Students were allowed to run the entire building (right), catering, box office, physical upkeep, and put on about 60 new shows a year.

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I never wrote a good play or got any good at acting but I learned a formidable amount about freedom and creativity and, most importantly of all – if you want something to happen, you just go ahead and do it.

3 Jill Edward’s Comedy Course

I WAS working in London and looking for an evening class and couldn’t decide between stand-up comedy and calligraphy. I’m very glad I went for the former.

Jill (right) is a legend. She teaches everyone the basics and you practice in front of the class then you do a showcase and go out and get real gigs. It was just so much fun. Shaparak Khorsandi and I were in the same group and had a blast.

Shaparak was, and is, great at it. I was hopeless at standing on stage, but I found out I could write funny, and that was absolutely huge.

I fell in love for the first time, went to little cult comedy nights, gatecrashed parties. It was just such a hilarious, wonderful time, the 90s.

4 Assisting the HR director

IN my admin job I had two delightful bosses, both called David. For one I had to write letters to people on sick leave about statutory benefits etc.

One woman was on long-term leave and I had to write to her quite a lot and would put in office gossip, chatty news etc, and occasionally send her some books I had finished with.

She said once, “you know, your letters aren’t necessarily worse than some of these books” and that was all the spur I needed to start writing my first novel, Amanda’s Wedding.

5 Getting a letter

FOR some writers the route to publication is slow and tortuous. My route to not becoming a stand-up or working in theatre was slow and tortuous. My publication journey was absurdly fast.

I wrote three chapters of Amanda’s Wedding and sent it to a bunch of agents. I figured if it was no use, I didn’t need to bother finishing it.

The Davids were very nice about me using the office photocopier.

Anyway, the first letter I got back – it was letters not emails in those days – said they wouldn’t take it but I “had something”.

The second letter back also said I “had something” and they were going to call me for a meeting when they got back from holiday.

The third letter also said I “had something” and would I like to come in. It was absolutely dizzying.

I went with the second letter, the late and marvellous Ali Gunn at Curtis Brown.

She then sent the book out for auction (I had nearly finished it) and a matter of months after I first sent off a couple of chapters, HarperCollins sent a limousine to pick me up from my wee flat on the Old Kent Road.

There’s a line in a Tinie Tempah song – “Now I drive past the bus I used to run for” – and that always reminds me of that journey. They poured me a glass of Krug in their fancy staff dining room and that was it, we were away and my life had changed forever.

6 Accepting an invitation

AFTER a love affair failed in 2001, I went on holiday with two girlfriends to Miami, Florida. We met some girls in a bar and they said, ‘hey, do you want to come to a party on a yacht tomorrow?’ We kind of went, yeah, whatever.

I don’t believe in fate, but we were on South Beach the next day, which is vast, having forgotten all about it, when by total co-incidence the two girls came by again. So we did go, and I have a photo I took when I stepped on to the boat.

It’s not a very good photo, it’s blurred and not very interesting, except to me, because it shows my husband 15 seconds before I met him for the first time.

7 Moving to France

MY husband’s job in yachting centres offered three areas; we could be in Palma, Fort Lauderdale or the south of France.

I had visited the south of France with an ex years before and thought it was amazing so we chose there.

Oh, it was gorgeous. The weather was beautiful, the food was amazing, we made friends, we had these lovely French children.

I loved speaking the language even though it was difficult to start with. I still like speaking it now. It was a perfect place to have three kids under five, when you could throw them out to play in the sunny garden 350 days a year.

8 Moving back to Scotland

WHEN my mum got sick, something had to give. I couldn’t get over easily from France to Scotland. And our eldest was starting senior school.

Primary schools in France are the best in the world, but secondary schools focus very heavily on training children up to work for the French civil service and we wanted them to flourish as individuals.

At first it was really tough – we bought a little rural castle because it was so charming but of course it needed loads of work, the children were cold, then my lovely mother died and it was grey all the time. That first year was so hard.

Now we absolutely adore living back here. Scotland has been wonderful for us.

9 Sending the children to camp

WHEN we moved to Scotland, we sent the children to camp in France in the summer to try to keep their French going.

My husband also works at sea, so he’s often away in the summertime.

One year I had a free week without anyone at home and I thought, ooh, I’ll do something fun. It was a toss up between learning to surf and going to a piano camp.

I went to piano camp and although I was by far the worst player, I had the best time ever and it awakened a huge midlife passion for music in me.

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Alas, piano camp didn’t survive the pandemic but my love for playing did. I got a distinction in my Grade 8 last year and am currently studying for my Royal College diploma.

When I retire, I want to go back to Edinburgh University and do music as an undergraduate. I slightly didn’t pay attention the first time round, reading philosophy, seeing as I spent all my time in the Bedlam Theatre.

10 Getting a dog

IT is a truism that the less you think you want a dog, the more you’re going to love it when you get one.

One of the things my husband thought would perk us up when we moved to Scotland was a puppy. The children were very, very keen straight away, and

I was unmoved. Until, obviously, the dog arrived and I fell completely head over heels.

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Picking up some poo in a bag is a small price to pay for a fuzzy warm bundle of love and affection that will make you laugh every single day of your life.

There are now two dogs in our home, which is really too many dogs. One is well-behaved and neat and worried-looking. The other is beautiful and stupid and very naughty and I adore them both to absolute distraction. It always makes me think of my first baby.

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I thought my first baby, Wallace, was the most beautiful baby that had ever been born and felt sorry for other mothers, with their own, disappointing babies. It’s the same with the dogs.

There was a modelling competition for dogs in the Edinburgh Evening News recently and I thought about entering, then thought, it’s not really fair on the other dogs, mine would win so easily and I don’t really need the £20 voucher. You should know, btw, they are absolutely bog-standard scruffy terriers.