Tag Archives: tandem

Mama J Hearts: Guest Post: Ellie Campbell

Thank you, Mama J Hearts!

Jealousy – A Wasted Emotion?  Discuss.

There I was this morning with a pair of slinky little knickers in hand. I’d just found them curled up inside my husband’s jogging bottoms (track suit pants for our American readers), almost as if some sultry mistress had placed them there to be found by my prying eyes. I knew they weren’t mine. I know my knickers (panties) – intimately. As most women do. I know they’re not my daughter’s. Even though she’s coming out of her teens, she still can’t seem to work out how to rotate that switch on the washing machine. Nor find it for that matter.

My son ambled past, yawning and stretching. “Here,” I chucked the knickers at him. “Do these belong to your girlfriend?”

“Maybe,” he looked them over, skimpy, lacy at the top, silky at the front, then left the room and came back moments later.


“Is she there?” I asked, surprised. If so, she’d been very quiet all morning.

“No. But I took a photo of them with my phone. And she said they’re not hers.”

So should I confront my husband? After all they came out of his trouser legs.

Well, if I was a jealous woman I possibly would. Then again, if I’d been a jealous woman a few years back when “the postcard” dropped through the door, professing undying love for my husband, Lorraine and I might not be here, talking about our third Ellie Campbell novel, Looking For La La.

Just as in the novel, the postcard was from a woman, who called herself La La, addressed to my beloved spouse. Maybe fleetingly, a doubtful thought might have crossed my mind, and yes, I could have smacked him over the head with the toaster and demanded to know who she was, why she had written to him….barraged him with questions, accusations, burst into floods of tears.

Sad truth is, I’m used to it. It’s been a constant throughout our courtship, years of living together, and now our married life. As an athletic, good-looking, young (and, even now, not so young) man working in the leisure industry, my hubbie is constantly in the company of shapely young women with abs like the Baywatch babes. Teaching aerobic classes, acting as fitness instructor and personal trainer, he has been surrounded half his working life by semi-clothed health-conscious predatory females. Comes with the territory.

So like Cathy’s husband, Declan, in Looking for La La (who all Cathy’s friends drool over), ‘Him indoors’ has had a lot of attention from admirers over the years, to the point of acute embarrassment. I was once in one of his circuit training classes when the girl star-jumping next to me hissed, “Teacher’s a bit hot, isn’t he?” What could I reply? “Actually that’s my husband” or like I did at the time, mumble, “Not really my type”.

Another time he had a horrifying stalker, who having failed to seduce him, (he managed to push her out of the health club door late one night, locking it quick) ran up three flights of stairs, along a corridor, down another flight, to sneak back in through a fire exit, scaring him rigid. I had to make him a stiff drink when he arrived home.

In fact it’s almost surprising there weren’t a few more La Las over the years, maybe not all sending him postcards but…you get my drift.

It’s hard enough keeping up with a husband who is two, (he says three) years younger than myself, who runs marathons like most people were going for a Sunday stroll. And, unlike me, relishes organising and taking part in various sporting challenges.

This Sunday he’s running his 10th marathon – having already done the biggies, such as Edinburgh, Brighton, London, Paris, Dublin. In a few months’ time he’s cycling from Redhill, Surrey to Paris, France – 175 miles in 24 hours. Shortly after that it’s the Three Peaks – three of the highest mountains in Wales, Scotland and England, all to be climbed again in 24 hours.

Mount Snowdon

Mount Snowdon – Hubbie’s idea of A Good Time

Then it’s the North Downs Trek, the South Downs Trek, South Downs Way – 100 miles in a day off-road mountain bike challenge. Last year of his own free will (durr), he jumped out of an aeroplane, walked on burning coals, took part in a cycling road race, a gruelling walk through the boggy Yorkshire moors, bungee jumped off a bridge with a dodgy rope in South America. You get the picture. All for charity, of course, but still…

He’s on a high protein, no alcohol Paris 2009diet right now (for the marathon), while I’m on an eat as much as I can and drink till I drop phase. Well it is still winter, so I need a few layers around my middle. Can I keep up? Could I in any way be described as toned or in shape? No is the brutal answer. I walk the dog, play a bit of badminton, tend my allotment, do the odd bit of gardening, and am practically forced every year to join him on the tandem – he must still love me then? – to cycle long distance challenges…to Paris, Gibraltar, Montpellier, and this year 300 miles (in 3 days) to Copenhagen. I guess I must love him too.

Because frankly I’m basically lazy. If I could get away with it, I’d lie under my duvet every morning, tapping away on my computer writing the next “Ellie Campbell” novel. Exercising only my fingers and thoughts.

More importantly, should I be worried about the stray knickers at present lying neatly folded on his neatly folded jogging bottoms? No, I’m sure there must be a perfectly innocent explanation. Maybe he wanted to try them out himself before he bought a similar pair for me?

And what did I do when the postcards came through the door? Well, do writers ever waste anything? Being a trusting soul, (and an author) instead of leaping up to attack him, I leapt out of my chair, raced up the stairs to the attic, jumped onto my computer and furiously began typing the first few chapters of what was to become Looking for La La, roping in my sister and co-writer, Lorraine. We enjoyed ourselves hugely as we took what was likely a mean little prank and turned it into a funny mystery novel about a scatty housewife who stirs up a whole lot of trouble by turning sleuth.

They say jealousy is a wasted emotion. Lorraine and I believe it’s far more than that – it’s a wasted novel.

And the underwear? Turned out to belong to my daughter after all.

via Mama J Hearts: Guest Post: Ellie Campbell.

"London To Paris… on a tandem? Do I look crazy?"

The Reluctant Cyclist

That time of year again. Ugh!

I loathe exercise with a passion. Oh, I’ll happily walk the dog, toil at my allotment, play badminton, even drag my cumbersome vacuum cleaner around the house until perspiration pours off me and I’m cursing like a trucker.  But aerobic classes, treadmills, rowing machines and all those other scarily complicated contraptions…double ugh!   And the worst?  Cycling.

Which does not jive well with my marriage.

A few years back, when my marathon-running, bike-racing, mountain climbing, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, fire-walking husband asked me to cycle to Paris on a charity challenge, I guffawed loudly and slapped him on the back for cracking a good one.   After all he was well aware I’d rather do an Irish jig on a bed of nails.  When I realised he was actually serious and I’d retrieved my jaw from the floor, my answer was a firm “Not on your Nelly”. He was undeterred.  Six months later, broken by mysterious powers of persuasion my husband has perfected over the years, I found myself on the back of a rickety old £100 tandem cycling through the Bois de Boulogne heading for the Eiffel Tower.


A tough 3 days.  175 miles and not without incidents.  The group had endless punctures, my bum felt like it had been whipped by a cat o’ nine tails, plus I got a bad stomach en-route. I’ll spare the details. Suffice to say there are very few public toilets alongside the River Seine.

So, challenge over, did that sate my husband’s appetite to get his exercise-phobic wife to join in with his charity fundraising? As heck as like.  Cycle challenge followed cycle challenge. Next year Redhill, Surrey, UK to:



230 miles.  My my stomach held up, but my lower back kept spasming due to the flatness of the route and being unable to change positions. I blamed it all on the saddle. I raised it I lowered it. I raised it again. I popped pills. I cried (a bit). There were constant thunderstorms. We’d get drenched, then the sun would appear, we’d smile as steam would rise from our wet bodies, then we’d get drenched again.  Never have I been so clean.  Or cold. Or hot. Or wet. 

Coast to Coast

Coast to coast

C2C” – I never knew England had so many hills

Started with our back wheels in the Irish sea at Whitehaven (West Coast), finished with our front wheels dipping into the North Sea at Newcastle (East Coast). 140 miles of horrendous hills, stunning countryside, more horrendous hills, more stunning views.  We crossed the Lake District, Penrith, the Eden valley, Northern Pennines and Durham Dales.  “Push push push”, my husband urged as we tackled another sheer climb.  I felt I was giving birth all over again. I wished I was giving birth all over again. At least I could have opted for gas and air.

Montpelier,   South of France

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Red2Med” -I’m the one in the middle not wearing the “official cycle shirt”.   It emphasised my stomach. (Vain, moi?)

630 miles over ten days.  Searing heat, especially as we neared the Mediterranean.  Main memory is the last few miles, lying almost sideways on the bike, trying to keep out of the sun and saddle, begging every five minutes for a break or water.  Tearful with pain and tiredness. When we got there, all ran joyously into the sea. I just lay on the ground exhausted, shellshocked. I swore I’d never do another one.




How’d I know we’d have a monstrous 4800 foot climb almost as soon as we left the Spanish port of Santander? We were almost beaten and we’d only just begun.  Had I attended the briefings, I’d have realised a) there were three mountain ranges to go over before hitting Gibraltar (otherwise known as “The Rock”) b) that that the whole trip totalled 800 miles and c) that temperatures would soar to 41 degrees (105.8F) as we neared Seville.  We found ourselves slightly insane with the heat. At one point our small group, spotting a river running by, veered sharply off-route, threw down our bikes and dived in fully OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAclothed. As days went on, to avoid cycling the 80 odd miles per day in blistering temperatures, we’d leave in the wee dark hours. Huge great trucks hurtled past with inches to spare as we’d wind our way up mountain roads – tiny head torches lighting our pitch-black path.  I faced my fears of downhills on that trip. Racing down a steep mountainside my husband told me to use my “never to be touched on pain of death” back brake.  I yanked it hard, nothing happened.

“I said brake!” he yelled as we gathered speed, now reaching over 40 miles per hour.

“I am doing!” I yelled back, “Use your front ones.”

“I am doing!” he replied. For a moment I knew I was dead as we headed for a tight bend, then he added with a laugh, “Only joking,” and braked violently.  The day I lost my sense of humour.

La Rochelle

2011 July La Rochelle - July 2011“French 500” -He even used those powers of persuasion to rope in our daughter(We’re smiling but it’s only pure relief)

We’d done France twice, so why again? After Gibraltar the sound of a challenge with no mountains seemed like a doddle.  Through the lush Loire Valley.  I imagined myself arriving early, sipping chilled wine as the sun went down.  How was I to know (again ignoring information evenings) that we’d arrive late at campsites, exhausted by the long mileage. Last day was the worst.  Cycling against a strong headwind. On and on we went heads down, legs aching, not getting anywhere.  Swimming against the current.


IMG_2668“Amsterdam 500”

500 kilometers – 310 miles – through France, Belgium and Holland. Thankfully lot of ferry crossings. Which meant lots of breaks.  At least this one was flat once we hit France.

Paris twice more

2005 June Paris

The route to Paris is now firmly etched in my mind. I know all the ups and downs all the way to the first night’s stop at Newhaven.  Ferry to Dieppe.  Then more up and downs to Gournay.  I know all the staggeringly high hills in and out of tiny villages, the long flat miles along the Avenue Verte and later the Seine. I know exactly how many miles I have to do before my back goes into spasm, or my stomach starts playing up and when I have to pop the pills.  I know where the toilet and lunch stops are. I am not doing this one again.

So this year’s challenge is ‘vonderful, vonderful’ Copenhagen (as Danny Kaye once sang).  Although I may not feel so wonderful when I arrive.  Over 100 miles per day for 3 days.  First morning we have to be up at 3am to leave at 4  then cycle 105 miles to the port. AND IF WE DON’T GET THERE ON TIME WE MISS THE FERRY.

No pressure then.

As ever, I’m avoiding husband’s emails to me and the other 50 or so brave souls cajoled into doing this, preferring to keep head firmly under stone, trying to “be really, really busy” on training dates, praying for rain, faking fever, encouraging him to take his racing bike instead of the heavy old tandem with the even heavier wife perched on the back.

So… To Date:

tandem~66[1]Have I lost weight?


Do I feel fitter?


Does my bum stop hurting now I have some “miles under the saddle”?


Will I say never again?


Will I do another next year?


What am I?  Mad?  Certifiably insane?

Very definitely.