Why I took my first day off in five years
So there I was at six-thirty in the morning, preparing to leave for another trip to England on the ferry to look after my elderly dad in Preston. Relentless gale-force winds were blowing in off the sea, battering my house like a hurricane, while sub-zero temperatures added icy sleet to the maelstrom.
My plan was to get on the ferry, settle the dogs into the on-board kennels, then find a quiet spot where I could spend the eight-hour passage writing my column for the following Saturday's Weekend magazine, getting it filed just in time for the 5pm deadline.
I wasn't exactly looking forward to the journey, though. I'd been sick for the two weeks since Christmas with the worst flu that I'd ever had, but at least I could breathe without coughing, so it was time to catch up on my backlog of duties.
In the hall of my house was a mountain of things I needed to take to England. Along with all my own bags and suitcases and craft equipment, there were two big cartons that the boys hadn't been able to take when they both flew back to England after the holiday. This included most of their Christmas presents, which I was going to deliver in person during my visit; books, records, clothes, games and even a three-foot wide glass fish tank that was Luke's main present off 'Santa' (me) to adorn his student flat in Leeds.
Alongside all of that was a tray filled with turkey and ham pies I'd made and frozen for dad. It was so cold outside that I was hoping they'd still be frozen by the time I got to England.
Then there was my trusty slow-cooker (dad doesn't have one), my laptop for work, the dogs' beds and, of course, the dogs too. All of which had to be fitted into my humble second-hand Vauxhall Astra before we could even think about setting off.
After about 40 minutes of dashing back and forth in and out of the house to the car and back, via a veritable tempest, getting colder and wetter with each trip, I'd just about managed to fit it all in by putting the back seats down and loading everything right up to the roof.
As for the pies, well I couldn't get the tray slotted in anywhere and I was losing patience and worried about the time, so I discarded it and simply shoved a pie in every gap I could find, ensuring that none of them were within clawing distance of the dogs and their insatiable appetite for contraband, frozen or otherwise.
At last I was ready to leave, with just 30 minutes spare to get to the ferry before check-in closed. I locked up the house, lifted the dogs into their car seat, pushed the bin to the end of the drive for that morning's collection and finally got into the driver's seat and slammed the door. I was exhausted already and the journey hadn't even begun. Keys in the ignition: check. Wipers on: check. Headlights: check. Seatbelt: check. Aaaaand we're off... errr... hang on a minute, we hadn't moved because I couldn't get the gear into reverse. Tried again. Nope, just a sickening grinding sound and a lot of black exhaust fumes billowing out into the black sky.
Oh my god. This can't be happening.
Yes it could and it did.
The clutch wouldn't shift. I released the handbrake and rolled on to the street, just in case it kick-started into action. It didn't. Now I was blocking a public road in a full-to-bursting car, with a chest infection and two barking dogs in the middle of the perfect storm.
Of course I missed the ferry. I had to unload my overloaded car so it could be towed away. I had to go back into a house on the coldest day of the year with no central heating (I hadn't topped it up because I was leaving) and no food (I'd emptied the fridge because I was leaving) to await a bill upwards of £700 (which I didn't have). Oh and my horrible painful cough had come back too. So I took a day off from everything. Even you, which is why I wasn't here last week. But I'm back to tell another tale.
And so, 2017, what else do you have in store for me?
It's all kicking off outside the CBB house
All sorts of dramas have been unfolding inside the Celebrity Big Brother house, but it's events outside the house that have caused the most headlines this week.
Since the footballer Jamie O'Hara entered on Day One he has regularly discussed his marriage, his kids and his acrimonious split with the glamour model Danielle Lloyd with the other housemates and, basically, the whole of the UK. But perhaps the most inflammatory of all is the fact that one of his fellow housemates - who has become a bit of a confidante - is Nicola McLean who is another WAG, married to Premiership footballer Tom Williams, and a well-known to be a "frenemy" of Danielle Lloyd.
As a result (and in revenge?) Danielle appeared on This Morning and spent the time criticising her ex for his loud-mouthed indiscretions, saying that their kids were being bullied at school as a result. Meanwhile, as Jamie and Nicola flirt openly in front of the cameras, her husband Tom has been spotted out on the town in London without his wedding ring but with a "mystery brunette". Fortunately it wasn't Danielle Lloyd or that would have been an explosive act of revenge.
This week I'll ...
mostly be trying to catch up on all the films that have been nominated for gongs this awards season. Top of my list is Jackie, starring Natalie Portman and about Jackie Kennedy and how she coped after that fateful day in Dallas. I'm also dead keen to see La La Land - mainly for Ryan Gosling - Silence - mainly for Liam Neeson and Hacksaw Ridge - mainly for Sam Worthington. Of course I'll be admiring the acting, directing, set, dialogue, plot, costumes and cinematography, but the eye candy is pretty important too!