One Year On

Today marks the anniversary of receiving the worst phone call of my life. 

Quickly followed by making the two worst phone calls of my life.

My niece doesn’t ring me very often – we have a text relationship – so I did think it odd when her name popped up on the phone’s screen.

Even thinking about it makes my nose tingle and eyes prickle with pre-tear gusto. I don’t want to elaborate on the content of that call because it was, and still is, too painful.

The only details that are important were that my brother had suffered a fall and was currently in hospital awaiting surgery. It did not sound good. Not good at all. This was life changing news.

I had to call our parents and tell them that their son had a spinal injury and was paralysed. I don’t know how I managed to keep calm while trying to placate their panic and fear while they struggled to comprehend what I had told them. It was clear they grasped the gravitas of the situation but had no clue how to respond. They both wanted to go to him but there weren’t enough details. They had to sit and wait. I can’t imagine how agonising it was for them given how absolutely wretched and helpless I felt. 

This was one of those times when living far from family hurt like hell.

Some days, I don’t know how I’m ok – better than ok – but I feel I owe it to my brother. I am so proud and amazed by his patience and tenacity. I just wish I could do more. I wish I could fix him.

At the start of 2018, I bought a 5-year diary to record what I was anticipating to be an incredible year with what I thought lay ahead. A year later, it’s no fun reading those entries back. 

The 12 months that followed the fall continued to test and torment. My family suffered more heartbreak and tragedy than anyone deserves and today is no different.

Hold everyone a little bit tighter today because you don’t know what lies around the corner.

Be kind to one another.



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In Their Place

Chris Martin’s recollection of the events of 14th September 1998 are an alternative version of my truth. I don’t know if he actually remembers it like that or whether it just makes for a better story. He tells everyone “there were 50 bands on the bill & Muse were number one and Elbow were number two and Coldplay were number 50. I’m not joking, we were the last band added”. It is true that they were one of the last bands added to the bill.

Being from up North I normally only had to travel a few miles to Manchester’s In The City music convention but I had scored myself a job in London as an A&R scout for Universal Records. 

54 bands played over 3 nights in several venues so if I wanted to see most of them, it took strategic planning and a lot of running around. I saw 52 that year. 

I was already aware of Muse & Elbow – I’d known Guy Garvey for a couple of years from the Manchester circuit. Both those bands already had an industry buzz but as Coldplay didn’t and weren’t on my radar they were a must-see band for me.

It was a miserable rainy Monday evening. The Coldplay (that was their billed name at the time) were on at 8.15pm at a venue in the hipster Northern Quarter of the city. The Cuba Cafe no longer exists but was more of a Salsa place. It doubled up as a live music venue for the convention – as did Methodist Halls and pubs with no stages.

Although scouts have a reputation to hunt in packs, I was on my own because I was genuinely intent on seeing every band. Coldplay are the reason I didn’t. I walked in during what must have been the first song. My recollection is that the (albeit small) place was busy. 

I went to the front. Chris’ vocals were reminiscent of Jeff Buckley who I loved and it grabbed me immediately. As was my job, I was also making mental notes of other things such as, what they all looked like – which for the record, wasn’t great. They all looked like the students they were.

Chris was wearing cords and a tank top over a t-shirt. He had a mop of curly hair and was wearing mouth braces. The front of the crowd were very respectful – which is unusual for an unknown band as people can have little gig etiquette.

One song had me reaching to switch my phone to silent in case it broke the hushed reverie that was occurring. In that moment, I remember having a wow feeling. It was special.

The nature of In The City means you can usually only see about 3 songs before you need to be off to see the next artist at the next venue. Timing is everything. Coldplay had me rooted to the spot though. I couldn’t drag myself away.

When their set had finished, I darted for the door. Luckily their manager had the foresight to leave business cards pinned to the notice board by the exit. I grabbed one: Phil Harvey, Überbitch Promotions. I didn’t use it until I was back in London but I’d wanted to call him right there and then.

“If you ask me the precise moment of which I knew that things were going to work out and we were going to get a record deal and this was going to be our life, it was two days after ITC,” recalled Phil. “I slept in the corridor in a sleeping bag of Jonny and Chris’ flat. It was about midday because we’d been up all night and Debs called me and woke me up. I just couldn’t believe it. That was the moment when we stepped through a portal in to another dimension,” Phil said. “That was the first domino to fall. It was very exciting… we owe Debs everything. Without her, no Coldplay”.

It feels surreal sometimes to think I had a part to play in their journey but it’s certainly the time I am most proud of.


This is based on an excerpt from my book LIFE IN TECHNICOLOR: A CELEBRATION OF COLDPLAY, out 4 October.

Signed copies available:




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Parallel Lives

Life can throw challenges at any given time with no notice. My most painful experiences have mostly been breakup heartache and bereavements. The grief felt unbearable but I had some rationale that it would pass eventually. Almost all of it did. 

When these moments come it can feel like a test. The constant numb feeling is a companion I’d rather not have. Sleep becomes a respite if it comes at all. I awake forgetful with that fleeting cruel moment before the realisation kicks back in. The jolt can be like an electric shock pulsating through my body. Sometimes my dreams are torture reminding me of what once was.

I’d had a tough start to 2018 but it paled somewhat when on Monday 9 April, I received a phone call that would change my family’s lives forever. My brother Martin suffered a fall and was in hospital paralysed from the neck down awaiting surgery. The spinal injury also caused his body to shut down so levels of recovery were uncertain. 

15 weeks on and he’s still in hospital. He doesn’t have the use of his hands and we still don’t know if he will ever walk again. We may not know what the future looks like for another 18 months to two years. 

To say I feel pretty useless is an understatement. When bad things happen in my life, I have a modicum of control over what happens. I can usually turn it around or find the positive. Not this.

Martin has been incredible during this ordeal. His frame of mind, determination and sense of humour are inspirational. While I remain positive that he will overcome his injuries, it has been a harsh reminder that life can flip in a matter of seconds. 

It’s made me crank up my ‘live life to the full’ motto but it’s incredibly hard to decide on the one hand to take every opportunity put before you while on the other your brother is unable to have that luxury. It is a luxury and I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t believe in God so haven’t started praying or bargaining with a deity I don’t think exists but I have been putting my positivity out in to the Universe.

I feel like I am living parallel lives. There’s an alternate universe that is too difficult to comprehend but out of my control and another universe where things are fun. There are naturally feelings of guilt living in the latter but I know that my brother would want me to do that.

I’m sure both universes will converge and order will be restored but in the meantime, I am asking anyone with faith to please keep Martin in their prayers and for everyone to put positive energy out there. 


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Same Place, Different Time

It’s 2017. Despite being a woman, I call myself a girl. I call men, boys. Other than that, I’m mostly up to date on ever evolving terminology. I hope if I inadvertently offended someone, they would tell me rather than someone who is offended on their behalf.

I’m not naming and shaming anyone here,  but I do feel the need to speak up.stock-photo-women-stitches-hollywood-editorial-weinstein-executives-speak-out-harassment-e1090889-2082-48e4-8372-b87bbd605616

I was born on the brink of the 70s. I witnessed all kinds of behaviour that I can look back on and know wasn’t right. Or certainly isn’t now. It was somehow acceptable then but thankfully it no longer is.

On many occasions I saw our family doctor pull my Mum on to his knee and have her sit there a while. I never saw my Mum kick him in the nuts or tell him to stop. That doesn’t mean she liked it or wanted it but he was our doctor and she most likely didn’t know how to say it. Just as I didn’t know how to question one subsequent doctor who whilst examining my abdomen was pressing himself against me. Men in authority have power but I wouldn’t hesitate to retaliate now.

I went to a private all girls school and I don’t recall one single time that we were taught as young females to respect our bodies, to expect respect in the way boys behaved towards us or spoke to us. I doubt my Mum was ever told that by anyone which is perhaps why she didn’t impart that wisdom, either. 

What’s interesting to me is I can recall more times that male friends, guys I fooled around with and boyfriends tried it on or pushed their luck and to some extent, were forceful. I even remember feeling overpowered and a little scared how it would end.

Two male friends once pinned me down and started – what seemed in jest – to take my clothes off. I wriggled and struggled to free myself but there were two of them and anyway, they were stronger than me. They were laughing. It was a game to them and though they were my friends and I somewhat trusted them, I couldn’t be sure they would stop. They did and things went back to normal and though I haven’t forgotten the incident, we remained close friends and hadn’t really thought of it again until recently.

It wasn’t the only time that a “stop” or  “no” was ignored. I was constantly falling in and out of love as a teenager but was pretty inexperienced compared to the average and I let myself get into situations that were potentially stupid and dangerous.

I was seeing a gorgeous boy who was a year or two older than me. We were alone in a bedroom and things were getting heated. I wasn’t ready to go as far as things were going but he wouldn’t stop. The only reason he did was  I lied and told him I could hear a car pulling in to the drive (not a euphemism).

Both were close calls and I was young and naive. I put both incidents down to immaturity both in action and reaction. What I didn’t expect was a few years later when I was in a healthy, stable, long term relationship, my drunk boyfriend ignored my plea to stop and carried right on. I was distraught. The morning after he said he couldn’t remember. I was angry and I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing.

I worked in a school for a while with many female members of staff. There were only 3 males – one was the top class teacher, the other two were the deputy and headmaster respectively. I witnessed inappropriate conduct from one of them towards a male student and reported him. I was amazed that many of the female staff no longer spoke to me for the discord it caused but I stand by that decision more than any other I have ever made.

I now work in a male dominant industry but I have seen both men and women use their positions of power. I’ve also seen a lot of horny, good looking people get off with each other when maybe it wasn’t professional to do so but hormones won over politics.

I work with men who are respectful and hopefully I always have been – to their faces at least.

I’m guilty of locker room chat with my friends & it can be downright indecent but I wouldn’t act on it.  

A man I was briefly working with invited me to his hotel room to go over a few things. I was staying in the same hotel and not for one second did I question going to his room. He answered the door in a bath towel and had obviously just had a shower. I was about to leave but he invited me in. He reclined on the bed opposite me and let his towel fall open with less finesse than Sharon Stone’s manoeuvre. I just kept talking while ignoring the elephant (& its trunk) in the room.

I left and it was never mentioned again.

Back in the 90s, a girl I worked with pinched the post boy’s bottom as he wheeled the trolley by her desk. He was a handsome looking chap and I’m sure he was used to the attention. This was unwanted attention so she crossed a line and he reported her. Bravo, that man!

I’ll admit what I have learned recently with all the cases coming to light. If a hot guy touches me or says something sexual, I will see that as flattery. If an unattractive (to me) guy did the same, I’d see it as harassment. It makes me a hypocrite but the whole point of attraction is that the outcome must be consensual.

We are hearing the phrase “different times” a lot at the moment. It was and it is. Speaking up may change future behaviour but it won’t change the past.

I think the issue for me now is to speak up at the time. I’m a very assertive person but that doesn’t exempt me from feeling uncomfortable and anxious about confrontation. I’ve hardly ever told a man not to touch me or stare at my boobs and have simply accepted it as part of being a woman. The world we live in today has given me license to be heard.

That said, without wishing to make light of the subject,  I’m single and would quite like some attention but it’s not likely given many men may fear being hit with an accusation…

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On Spin Cycle

I’ve climbed a mountain, I’ve been on live radio, I’ve been on tv, I have made an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony, I’ve done an indoor free fall, been on rollercoasters (I hate them), I ran 5k without stopping and I’ve given talks and presentations many times, but today I took on a challenge that intimidated me more than all those things put together. I attended my first spin class.

The only previous time I sat on a spin bike was seven years ago as part of a warm-up pre-bootcamp session. It lasted less than five seconds. When I attempted to put my foot in the caged pedal, the other pedal spun into my free calf and gashed it severely requiring me to receive first aid. You can see why I was put off. That’s the second time I’ve been injured by a piece of gym equipment but that’s another story.

In preparation, I laid out what I thought to be appropriate gym gear the night before. I also read a few online articles about what to expect. The first piece led me to rethink every item of clothing as it was all wrong — including the trainers. Good news though, nobody has ever fallen off a spin bike although apparently I would think I may be the first person to disprove that theory.

I mentally prepared myself and nothing else I read was all that bad. I kept telling myself that I was doing something good and kind for my body even though it would probably hate me for it. It may well report me for abuse but I have to admit that the desire to get fit and lose weight is ever so slightly greater than my fear to spin.

I suddenly remembered that many moons ago, I purchased a pair of padded cycling shorts for a bike that I bought and rode three times before selling it.

I looked everywhere but it would appear they have also long gone even though the helmet remains — just in case I rent a Boris Bike or whatever they’re called these days. To my great joy, I discovered a padded bicycle seat cover at the bottom of a box. Yes!

The time arrived and I dressed in cycling shorts and clingy wicker fabric top as advised. I grabbed a towel, some water, wipes, deodorant, sweat bands and off I went. I walked to the gym repeating my mantra all the way there: If I can climb a mountain; I can do a half an hour spin class.

I went straight to the studio 15 minutes early and the instructor, Leon, was there.

There was already a towel — holiday poolside style — reserving one particular bike.  I chose mine, fitted the padded seat and Leon helped me to adjust all the settings and got me on the thing without injury. Hurrah! That felt like an achievement.

People started to arrive and I told Leon that should I cry, he was to ignore me. The lights went out, the music started and I began to pedal.

My first thought was, unsurprisingly, “I’m the first person who’s ever going to fall off a bike,” my second was, “thank God for the padded seat cover”.

The smell in the room at the half-way mark wasn’t pleasant but I was still pedalling so I didn’t really care. I can’t lie, I didn’t do exactly everything that Leon told us to do mainly due to my thighs shaking but I tried my best, pedalled hard and didn’t fall off.

When it was all over, I was so happy — more that it was over than I’d actually made it through. I slowly dismounted to avoid last minute gashing and my legs gave way. I felt like a jelly.

After endless stretching, I made my way home albeit like a person with no leg bones. I probably looked drunk. I checked my phone and my friend Sophie had texted to ask if the saddle cover had helped. I honestly don’t know how people manage without because no, it did not help. I felt like I’d been shafted by a huge stallion.

Did I enjoy it? No.

Why? It was tough going and it hurt.

Will I go again? Yes.


I have a feeling it’s going to work. Much like the spin cycle on my washing machine. Fast & furious does the job.

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Shake the STIgma

Let’s talk about sex.

Perhaps instead of commenting on Charlie Sheen’s promiscuity, we could take the opportunity to instead discuss sexual health risks and how to avoid them.

I think Charlie’s diagnosis backlash has been disgraceful.

I was a teenager in the 1980s and recall seeing AIDS adverts everywhere warning of the dangers of unprotected sex. These days, apart from STD leaflets & posters in my doctors’ waiting room, I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

Apart from the dooming tombstone commercial, the one that really stayed with me showed a couple in bed. Suddenly the room was full of people. It represented everyone both had ever slept with.

The message that if you sleep around, you don’t really know whom you’re sleeping with historically, was a powerful one.

I had a friend who had many sexual partners. He didn’t wear a condom but was tested for STIs regularly. That’s not prevention.

It may only take one sexual encounter with one infected sexual partner. That partner may not know they’re infected. The virus could be dormant and not presenting symptoms.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover yet many people make a snap decision with a stranger based on how they look.

We need to (re) educate not incriminate. The news of Charlie Sheen has brought many judgements on his lifestyle yet many admit to not knowing that heterosexuals can be infected with AIDS.

There seems to be some awareness of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and herpes but being single, (I hope this isn’t over sharing), many people I’ve met still think a condom is to prevent a baby. Films & TV shows (not counting factual) do little to promote safe sex.

As it’s World AIDS Day, maybe it’s time to get tested and stay safe.

The 1980s message was frightening yet powerful enough to outlast the scaremongering: Don’t Die Of Ignorance.

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Online dating is hard enough without the venom incurred by not replying to a wink, a flirt or a message.
My profile is as honest as a catholic in a confessional box. I should know, I was one. 
I have recent photos. 
I set out what I’m looking for. 
I even make advance apologies for the reasons for not replying.
I couldn’t be any clearer.
OK, so my demands may make me unappealing but how it’s perceived is the viewer’s prerogative.
I’m initially attracted to a face. This is how I operate in real life. 
I wouldn’t randomly go up to a guy I don’t fancy on the off chance he’s funny & interesting so I’m not going to do that online either. I’ll take a punt on the good looking chap’s photo that caught my eye.
At least in real life, your eyes can’t lie – unless inebriated.
What I don’t expect is what happened this weekend.
A conversation started 10 days ago with someone whose profile picture I found very attractive. 
He replied and we both said we’d like to meet up sometime though I explained I was away from home for a couple of weeks. You may notice some details were shared but maybe he thought the devil was in the detail when in fact it wasn’t.

28 Aug.
I replied to his message – asking for my phone number – via the dating site. I gave my email address & asked him to send a recent photo of himself…

Later… 28 Aug
I hope you remember me. We’ve met on (name of website withheld) and you asked me to share my recent pic.
The pic in my profile is not mine but the one I am sending to you is truly mine. I have some personal reasons I could not upload my pic over there. I hope you understand me.
Just have a look at the pic and let me know If you still interested in me by replying to this mail. If you do not reply I will understand that you don’t like me.
Whatever be the decision, it would be your decision but let me make one thing clear… you won’t regret to keep the conversation on 🙂

I shouldn’t have replied.
Even later, 28 Aug.
On 19 August I sent you a message:
“Hello! Your photo is almost too good to be true! Is that really you? I’d love to meet. Whereabouts in London are you? x”
When you replied, why didn’t you tell me I was right & it wasn’t you?
I find this utterly disrespectful.
If I hadn’t asked for a recent photo, when would you have told me? If we’d have met, how do you suppose I would have reacted? I’m glad at least I didn’t waste my precious time. Please don’t reply to these rhetorical questions as I’d really rather not hear from you. 
I do not appreciate being lied to and no, I do not understand what personal reasons would make it ok to not use your own photograph. It’s not cool to use someone else’s photograph either.
You should make it clear in your profile.
Regardless of whether I like the photo of real you, I would never be interested in someone who lies. 
I despise deceit.

The following morning.
wo wo wo pretty lady, don’t get upset.
Even if you didn’t ask me, I was going to share my pics to you but not on the site rather on email.
I never lied to you this is just I didn’t say anything about it. I was first hoping to get comfortable when we exchange email and then share my pic. 
I never thought to fake on you because I knew when we meet you would know who I am. This was just a starting to keep the conversation on. After all we would not go into bed after first meeting so you would have plenty of time to say ‘no’ to me. I know relations based on cheat never going to go far and I never cheated on anyone.
Look, I was here to meet friends and make relations and that is the reason I always like mature women because they have a different thinking rather a 25 years girl. By looking of your mail, I feel sad that I need to keep my search on. There are 3 billion women on this earth and I know that I would find one sooner or later. I never wanted NSA rather a companionship.
It is not that big Issue you are making. It seems to me that you only like good looking faces (which is again not a property of a mature women) and behaviour doesn’t mean anything to you…probably that is the reason you are still looking for a man. (no harsh feeling btw)
Life is full of choices & compromises…what you want from life is entirely up to you. I will not express my opinion on any matter and you are mature enough to know what is wrong and what is right but If you get agitated on such tiny issues I am worried about you.
I want to write many things but you didn’t leave me any choice. I don’t care If you read this message till here or throw in garbage but anyway I wish you all the best for what you are looking for in your life.

I really shouldn’t have replied but the fact he can’t see a problem is a problem..
A few hours later.
You are missing the point. It is a big issue to ME. My free time is very precious and for you to think so little of that and think it’s ok for me to give up that spare time to meet someone who isn’t who I wanted to meet is not ok.
I am very busy and do not have plenty of time. I don’t know why you think I’d appreciate having my time wasted. I doubt you’d be happy if I’d have posted photos of someone else. Try looking at it that way.
I don’t do blind dates. Yes, I like good looking faces. I messaged you because I was attracted to the photo, of not you. That’s how attraction works. If I fancy a guy but he’s not funny or intelligent, I’m not interested but if he’s hot as well as those things, that’s what I want. That’s absolutely my right. 
I shouldn’t have to explain my reasons – my profile is very clear and honest – yours is not. Does the person in the photo know you are using their picture? It’s fraud.
You don’t know me so I’d have preferred you to be more respectful rather than making assumptions on why I am single and what you think I should think or feel. 

A few hours later still.
Ok cool, If you are not happy then stop sending the mails. I know how you are very busy being a media person still have time for cat sitting which i understand.
There are many things in life that could be very BIG issues to people but I do not take the life that seriously…I live the life and I feel every moment of it…so I usually more happier from life but everybody cannot be the same I know. Regarding the pics, even If you posted someone else’s pics I don’t mind rather I might ask the reason and that’s all…what a big deal. Life will take you seriously If you take it seriously and I am not that kinda person.
Anyway, enough of chatting. I am not going to reply any of the mails but I am sure you would reply because you find time from your busy schedule to the people you despise.
All the best for your future endeavours and PLEASE don’t reply me and try to forget me…you feel better trust me 🙂

He used the word trust without irony…
The only issue I ever have is trust. How could I trust someone who lied before I even met them?
Sadly, I’m not surprised he turned this around to be about me and issues he assumes I have.
I won’t be replying to his email. I was tempting at least to advise him that if he must insist on using someone else’s photo, it may be wise to choose someone less attractive to avoid future disappointments.

*I’ve copied the emails verbatim.

Disclaimer: This piece is based on actual events. Unusually, incidents, characters and timelines have not been changed for dramatic purposes.

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