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A single girl's guide to Amsterdam's NEMO Science Museum

Check it out - a building that looks just like my love life. A giant, sinking ship. (Sigh). Yes, yes, the dating game's a drag ...

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View from Dubrovnik city wall

Croatia: Getting around in Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar

So, if you're here, you're probably looking for information on travelling to and around Croatia? You're in luck' because I just got back. I can only ...

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Remembering Yemen...

I never did make it to Syria unfortunately, but I did visit Yemen in 2008, which I'm thinking about now in the midst of this ...

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Christmas in Prague...

I just got back from Prague - another new city for me. I love nothing more than heading off to a new place and just ...

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Tinder Diaries: Getting my Groupon...

Shamus's profile shots scrolled like some kind of Action Man calendar. In one photo the 39-year-old Irish-Canadian was hugging a goat on what looked like ...

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Tinder Diaries: Tempur-Pedic promises...

And another Tinder Diary for you, this one's also from last year in Vancouver.  Tempur-Pedic promises... 'I got you a drink!!!' the text message yelled at me. ...

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Tinder Diaries: The Burner In The Park

In trawling through folders on my laptop for some old work I've just come across some diaries I wrote about Tinder dating last year in ...

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I go to the gym a lot. And other things I never thought I'd say...

Once in Sydney I joined a yoga studio for $350 a year and went once. In New York I spent close to $600 and went to ...

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Things you should probably know before going to Burning Man

So, Burning Man. Hmm. How was it, you ask? Honestly. I can't even really tell you yet, and it's been three weeks. But I'll try. As a ...

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11 things you only ever say on WhatsApp when you're going to Burning Man...

I LEAVE TOMORROW!! Am I ready? Probably not.  I'm what's known as a Virgin, (this will be my first time at Burning Man) and in ...

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Thoughts about rainbows...

I cycled home tonight right under a rainbow - the kind of rainbow that smiles across the sky in every colour, and then more colours ...

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How to tell when you travel too much (and when you should stop)

Yup. That's how. That's a screenshot my friend just sent me, when I told her to add my new phone number in Amsterdam. "Another one?!" "Yeah, but I'm ...

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…Best Of...

It started with a boy called Matt: why I'm going to Burning Man (in 2 weeks!!!)

Going to Burning Man has been pretty high on the bucket list for years... ever since I started chatting to an American guy online back in 2003, who ...

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The Royal's idea of 'Indian street kids' is not quite right

I know I shouldn't read the Daily Mail because it always annoys me... but today THIS was ridiculous. Honestly. Been to India? Yeah, so have I. Met ...

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How to write a novel: 25 rules

This post is so inspiring, just had to share! Thanks to Matt Haig, who posted it originally. Sometimes us writers really need to read cool stuff ...

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Amsterdam, I love you! See you again soon.

I've decided to move to Amsterdam. Maybe not forever but definitely for a little bit, because, well.... this. And this: And this:  OK maybe not the last one... ...

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Free tsunami romance for Valentine's Day...

Winner of the TBC (The Book Club) award for best non-fiction, 2016.  Hey guys, I'm giving away The Day Of The Wave over Valentine's weekend in ...

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How to Create Titles to Hook Your Readers

This post is written BY JUDITH BRILES posted on February 10, 2016 on The Book Designer Are you sometimes stuck when it comes to adding a title to ...

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Yay, I won an award!

It's a super duper awesome start to the new year, because after a long hiatus during which I've been working reeeeeeally hard and not blogging ...

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Who's the Mills and Boon Man Of The Year 2016? Get your face on a book cover!

Here ye, all you amazing men - and women who know amazing men! Thought I'd spread the word about this. Mills & Boon are launching ...

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Pills that make you poop glitter...

Oh my! We should give these to ALL the pigeons in London until the whole city is a sparkly rainbow! Granted we'd be covered in shit, ...

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Know your strengths...

I'm sitting in the cafe. It's just me, two loud ladies who sound like they're from Essex, and a blonde with her boyfriend. An Essex ...

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Humans of Iceland...

This is Sverrir and the replica of his great grandfather, who was once the pastor of the pretty and remote herring fishing town, Siglufjörður. He was ...

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Adventures in Iceland (in brief because I'm VERY remote right now and WIFI is scarce)...

It started when we flew Fokker. Yes, Fokker. Oh come on, tell me I'm not the only child who finds this funny? It wasn't long before ...

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NOW FREE ON AMAZON: The Day Of The Wave

A moving, emotional romance based on real-life events. NOW FREE ON AMAZON! The Day Of The Wave follows Isla and Ben in the wake of surviving ...

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***FREELANCE PHOTO - POSTMEDIA NETWORK USE ONLY*** VANCOUVER, BC.:JUNE 24, 2014-- Pedestrian traffic in front of Canna Clinic on Commercial Drive, in Vancouver, BC, June 24, 2014.  Canna Clinic at 2223 Commercial Drive, has a doctor from 5 to 8 p.m. every day. Locals can get certified by an in-house  naturopath, and pick up some pot.  (PHOTOS by Don MacKinnon)

Comedy night at the Canna Clinic...

Today I learnt two things. The first is that penguins have knees inside their bodies. Yes. Knees. Inside. I'm not even kidding. The second is that ...

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Spalding School Reunion is Imminent...

I got a message today about a school reunion for the class of 96. My first thought was JEEEEESUS, did I really leave school 19 ...

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Best things to see on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. OK, maybe not the best...

I was just eating my sushi on a restaurant patio last night when a man seemingly dressed as a Mario Brother climbed a nearby tree ...

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Oh Canada, how I LOVE being in you...

And I think these photos prove why! I'm so inspired the more time I spend here, which is Vancouver right now, in case you were ...

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Fun on the Natchez Trace - recreating scenes from a novel in real life!

Yesterday a friend and I drove from Nashville, out past the famous Loveless Cafe (where we stopped to pick up some Peach Preserve) and onto ...

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Read and review 'Before He Was Gone' and get a FREE copy!

The New Adult Book Club on Goodreads are reading Before He Was Gone to review. Sign up if you want your free copy to review! "Sometimes, ...

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RIP Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (an excerpt featuring their great work, from Balilicious)

How fuggin AWFUL to hear about the executions of these two men, and the others who were wiped out needlessly today in Indonesia. Don't people ...

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Boxing Day Tsunami book trailer (The Day of the Wave)

I made this today! One day I will give up trying to be a filmmaker (maybe), but it's SO satisfying when it uploads and I'm ...

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The Day of the Wave - Playlist

This is probably the most fun I’ve ever had putting a playlist together for a book. There were just so many great artists who inspired ...

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Aliens in the White House...

Just got a newsflash on my phone: 'Small one-person helicopter lands at White House West Lawn. Pilot in custody.' I know I should click on it ...

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Boxing Day Tsunami romance excerpt: (The Day of The Wave)

This is an excerpt from my latest new adult romance, coming May 2015. In brief... "Isla and Ben were just sixteen when the Boxing Day ...

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Uber in Nashville is interesting...

Me: 'So, what's the craziest thing that's happened to you since you started driving for Uber?' Him: 'Are you a shy girl?' Me: 'Er, I don't think ...

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Have I mentioned the Family Dollar Store yet?

Have I mentioned the Family Dollar store yet? It's my new favorite place here in Nashville. Contrary to the name, not everything inside costs a dollar, ...

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Lavenders, motorcycles and a feeling of deep uncool at Nashville's Barista Parlor...

There are some places in this world that will just serve to make you feel deeply uncool, no matter how young and awesome you previously ...

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Why Craigslist in Nashville is killing me...

Here's what this guy just wrote in reply to my post about looking for a room to rent in Nashville: "We are seeking a FEMALE caring nanny/care giver. ...

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Observation of the day...

Ubud cafes were full of middle aged women writing books on macs. Nashville cafes are full of cute young guys making music on macs. I know where ...

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Before He Was A Secret (Starstruck #3) Playlist...

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmhXXflqDQPAxUHvBiWosmLHWTd6sBM4Z I can't write a word without being inspired by every sound in the air around me, and I turned to music more than ever with ...

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Musings on a Nashville snow day...

No one told me flying south for the winter would take me somewhere colder than England. Then again, there's something so peaceful about walking alone down ...

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Fight your way through! A message to writers like me…

Fight your way through! A message to writers like me...

...and other creative souls no doubt! Someone sent me this video today by the amazingly inspiring Ira Glass, which I found very interesting. I can relate ...

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The difference a motorised bike makes...

I miss my bike in Bali so much that today I actually hovered outside someone's house in South Harrow contemplating whether I could justify spending ...

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Proving my roots: The nonsense that is taking the IELTS test in London...

"PUT YOUR PENCILS DOWN! PENCILS DOWN, NOW!!!" Dumbledore boomed. I almost jumped out of my plastic chair, nerves shot to sh*t. I have a problem ...

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There's nothing more sexist than The Sun pulling Page 3 Girls...

Yes... SEXIST. If only for what's being said around the decision to drop this whole thing! "Instead of bare breasts, the pictures will now show scantily-clad ...

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I SURVIVED: The Freak British Tornado (and the suspect still running loose)

A mini-tornado hit north west London this afternoon - causing damage to homes and cars. I think I summoned it. I was thinking very dark ...

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It's cover reveal day for Before He Was A Secret. Exclusive excerpt here...

Today's the day, whoo hoooooo! I can finally reveal another amazing cover by designer Jeanine Henning, for the third standalone romance in my Starstruck Series, ...

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The night Emma Watson stole my toothbrush...

WARNING!!! I feel like I should say something. I've been quiet for way too long... almost an hour actually, but about an hour ago I ...

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Vaginal smoking and the benefits of yoni egg insertions (note: there are many)...

I have recently become quite fascinated with vaginal treatments. The fascination began when I saw this tempting advertisement on a board outside a spa in ...

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The truth about 'Ecstatic Dancing' at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali... (warning, this post may smell)

Everyone in Ubud knows the Yoga Barn. It's a sort of second home for eager expats, all of whom are quite happy to spend an ...

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Go to Bali for less than a quid! Balilicious is 99p, starting today.

Becky Wicks lifted the burqa on Dubai In BURQALICIOUS. Now she turns her attention to Bali as she hilariously navigates life as an adopted Balinese ...

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How do you handle negative reviews for your book on Amazon and Goodreads? And are readers actively LOOKING for bad books?

What didn't make me smile throughout my recent and ultimately successful free book campaign on Amazon KDP (and I'll tell you this, seeing as we're ...

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Proving my roots: The nonsense that is taking the IELTS test in London…

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.31.22“PUT YOUR PENCILS DOWN! PENCILS DOWN, NOW!!!” Dumbledore boomed. I almost jumped out of my plastic chair, nerves shot to sh*t. I have a problem with authority. I realized in a heartbeat yesterday why I hate office jobs and didn’t like school very much either. As soon as someone tells me what to do, a little voice in my head screams “screw you, no!” and I just don’t want to do it.

Anyway, the blubbering, sweaty-faced man who looked a lot like Dumbledore minus the magic was not taking any crap yesterday during my IELTS test in London. “DO NOT OPEN YOUR BOOKLETS UNTIL I SAY SO, OR IT WILL BE CONSIDERED CHEATING!”

What a waste of time. Seriously. But in order to get my immigration papers for Canada I must, apparently, prove I am capable when it comes to writing, reading, speaking and listening in English. The fact that I’m English, and a writer, and work in social media, and have been getting along just fine here for 35 years means nothing. Nothing. I must pay £150 to have someone “qualify” me.

If you’re wondering what exactly you have to do for your IELTS test, it’s a whole lot of f*cking about quite frankly, standing in queues and being shouted at like you’re 16-years-old, about to take your GCSEs. How long does it take? Well, it’s supposed to take two and a half hours in all, but I was there in that building from 8.30am until 3pm on a Saturday, because once you’ve taken your reading, writing and listening tests, all in a row, in one atmospherically-forlorn schoolroom, you must hang about for your personal allocated slot to do the speaking test, which can start at any time up to 6pm.

I had to speak about traffic for 6 minutes to a crinkly lady in scarlet lipstick. It was quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done in my life.

“What is your favourite colour car?” she asked me, slowly, like I was retarded, before pressing play on her little recorder. She was staring at me intently, scrutinising my words, as though she’d been expecting me to talk in Swahili. I wound up saying silver and comparing it to spaceships, before discussing at length a time in Dubai when I painted my toenails in a taxi cab. I hope I pass.

Let’s go back. So what happens on the day of the IELTS test? Well, when you get to Westminster University, or whichever British Council institution you’re unfortunate enough to be visiting for this bureaucratic nonsense, you will be instructed to line up to register at 8.30am with roughly 200 people, most of them Chinese, Polish and Indian (from my experience anyway) and a few Brits.

The British people will be the ones scowling, moaning, whinging and generally feeling very hard done by at this insult, which is having to be tested like a rat in a laboratory for traces of one’s actual heritage, which one has undoubtedly been living in unquestioned acceptance for a very long time. (Yes I was one of those people).

You have to be there at 8.30, even though the tests don’t start till 10am – because… well, because it’s all designed to be annoying: “DO YOU WANT TO BE IN THIS COUNTRY? YES? THEN YOU WILL ENDURE.”

“Are you Chinese?” the man in tweed asked the girl in front of me, as I waited my turn to register, “because the girl before you was Chinese. Do you know each other?”

I just about managed to hold my snort back. And my words. It wouldn’t have been a great start to inform this tweed-coated toff that there are 1.355 billion people in China, the largest population of any country in the world. I’m sure he didn’t mean to be offensive, but he didn’t ask me if I knew the Queen when I sat down.

Anyway, once registered we were sent to put our stuff in a cloakroom. This was essentially a classroom with one “guard” in the corner: a woman eating a packet of Walkers crisps. I asked if I could please have some kind of ticket for my bag, seeing as I had my purse, laptop and mobile phone in it but I was told no.

“Just find a space,” she said, boredly. “And you can only take your passport and a pencil in with you. Do you have a pencil sharpener?”

I felt my brow crease. “No, I’m not three.”

“Well, you’ll need one, maybe you can borrow one.”

“I don’t even have a pencil.”

“Well you’ll need a pencil.”

“I haven’t got a pencil, don’t they provide them?”

“They might have some left, if you’re lucky,” she said, shoving another crisp into her mouth.

Turns out they did. Dumbledore handed me one begrudgingly when I got to my test room – but not after I was fingerprinted and interrogated at the door. “DO NOT BRING IN MOBILE PHONES. IF YOU HAVE A BOTTLE OF WATER, TAKE THE LABEL OFF!”

I did snort at this one. Not least because I was expected to have my own pencil and water for a pointless test that cost me £150 to take, but because someone might consider a label on a bottle of water to be harmful or a means of cheating. I have no clue.

YAWN.

First up, the listening test. It goes something like this:

Dumbledore presses play:

Shopkeeper: “Hello John, thanks for coming into my shop. How many tangerines would you like?”

John: “I would like four tangerines, please.”

Dumbledore stops the recording. You look at your answer sheet, at the question: How many tangerines does John want?

You answer the question.

SIGH.

On it went for an hour, in a similar vein. Then came the reading. This was a bunch of paragraphs about native bees versus honeybees. We had to read and answer questions based on the text. The guy next to me, who’d told me he wants to be an aerospace engineer, finished in ten minutes. I was suspicious. How the hell can you take a test that’s meant to take an hour in ten minutes?!

“Reading’s kind of my thing” he told me afterwards. Still, that was impressive. I found an hour just long enough, but to be fair, reading about bees was so dull I had to read it three times just to make myself care. NASA needs him.

Next up, writing. We had a list of a facts to work into a paragraph based on environmentally-friendly activities. 150 words minimum. Easy. The second part gave us a topic to write about, up to 250 words: Some people think mobile phones should be banned in public places like public transport, shops and libraries. Do you agree or disagree? Use examples from your own experiences.

I wrote a bit about tracksuit-wearing teens blasting tinny monotony from their headphones on buses, and a bit about how libraries are sacred spaces that in a 100 years time will be something we’ll remember as fondly as things like spacehoppers and Michael Jackson. I’m guessing you could just write “no” and say why, though.

“PUT YOUR PENCILS DOWN! PENCILS DOWN, NOW!!!” Dumbledore boomed again, and that was that.

Irritating, insulting, yet apparently essential. That my friends, is taking your IELTS test in London.

 

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