Celia Hayes shares an extract from her book set in a small Scottish town.

The further away I got from Aberdeen, the more the landscape looked like a Flemish seascape. You know those awful paintings where you see some unfortunate lopsided sailing ship teetering amongst the high waves while around it all hell breaks loose? It’s always the same in every single one of them: you can recognize them from those blurry dots clinging onto the rigging, the only survivors of a crew fallen prey to the sadism of painters looking for cheap thrills. Well, right now I feel like one of those blurry dots. Only I’m tied to the steering wheel of a Toyota while pouring rain chucks foliage and mud between the crazed wipers. I’d much rather not be spending my time thinking about frightening lines from the Book of Genesis, but considering I appear to have ended up in The Day After Tomorrow, it’s already something if I haven’t had a nervous breakdown.

I can’t see anything. Absolutely nothing. If it weren’t for the now continuous flashes of lightning, I wouldn’t even be able to make out the white lines at the side of the road. I proceed almost at a walking pace for half an hour, convinced that there’s no point just pulling over and hoping the rain will stop.

“At the next crossroads, turn right,” suggests the navigator.

I figure that it must be a sign of my imminent arrival in town, so I ignore my inherent dislike of the thing and say, “Okay, lead on!”

“At the next crossroads, turn right.”

“What is it, don’t you trust me?”

Maybe I’ve hurt its feelings, because it immediately stops giving me directions and starts making weird sounds, while the display shows the image of an hourglass.

“Re-calculating route. Just a second. Re-calculating route,” it starts buzzing in my ears, but nothing else happens.

“What the…?!” I shout at it angrily, giving it a thump. “Will you come back to life, you bloody thing?!”

Sometimes, even the most sophisticated electronic devices surrender to the logic of violence, and, in fact, it immediately stops its buzzing and says, “There’s a faster route – would you like to change?”

You never recognize – or rather, you always recognize them too late – those moments when you unwittingly throw away days, months or even years of psychoanalysis.

In my naïvety, what do the digital map on the screen showing a strange dirt road hidden in the trees and the fact that I’m convinced anything that beeps must be smarter than me convince me to do? To head off on this exciting new adventure, of course!

No, I’m not going to lose my temper without a good reason!

You know in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast when Belle’s father finds himself at a crossroads when he’s trying to get to the market to show off his inventions? One of the roads obviously leads into the kingdom of the damned and the other is a pretty country lane that opens onto a lovely daisy field, and he ends up choosing the first and finds himself stuck in the beast’s dungeons. Well, what do I do? I take the dirt road and find myself stuck with a flat tyre and the absolute certainty that I’ve just sent part of my brilliant schedule up in smoke.

And then? And then there’s the phone call to the AA, the nerve-wracking wait, the arrival of the breakdown van, my emotional incontinence and desperate pleas not to be abandoned in the bog, and finally, three hundred pounds later, arrival in what looks like a cross between Heidi’s mountains and Bilbo Baggins’ Shire.

Three words to describe how I’m feeling?

Miserable.

Hysterical.

Furious.

Can stepping out of your comfort zone lead you to ultimate happiness?

Trudy Watts has everything she’s ever dreamed of: a job that she loves, a successful boyfriend and an ultra-modern apartment in one of the most fashionable parts of London. With a long-awaited promotion due to come her way and her wedding just around the corner, Trudy’s life is just perfect…

That is until catastrophe strikes and her life is turned upside down. She’s transferred to Turriff, a remote Scottish town to manage a small, struggling bank branch. Her arrival is traumatic and she wishes she was anywhere but here… Until she sees him – Ethan, the charming pub landlord, who seems to enjoy nothing more than to tease her. And it’s right there, in that pub, that her life will suddenly change…


Celia Hayes works as a restorer and lives in Naples. Between one restoration and another, she loves to write. Her book, Don’t Marry Thomas Clark reached #1 in the Amazon Italian eBook chart.

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