Stretching it

Stretching It, a light-hearted look at love, papier mache and caring for an impossible parent, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2013.  

Here’s an extract, from Chapter 26, Custard Cream

Few personal items were in evidence in Salvatore’s bedroom: nothing stood by the bed except a box of tissues and a digital alarm clock. Perhaps if you’d slid open a wardrobe door, a jumble of jumpers and trousers would have tumbled out. But in front of that door, everything was antiseptically neat and tidy. The mirror above his bed reflected this. It also reflected them: her pale spreading acreage next to his neat brown allotment.

‘Why don’t we ever go out together?’ she asked.

He pulled a face. He was lying flat on his back, while she propped up the headboard. ‘Many reasons, I think.’

‘Such as?’

‘I am too horny. I would not be able to keep my hands off your body in public.’

‘We could always, um, do it first. Then go out somewhere afterwards.’

‘But where you want go that is better than ‘ere? What is point of meal, drink, pictures, when what we really want is what come after?’

She pulled the sheet over her cooling body. ‘The point is to enjoy each other’s company in a different way. They’re showing Il Postino at the Hyde Park next week.’

The Hyde Park was an independent cinema in the student area that had never been modernised. You sat on hard, torn velour seats, surrounded by ornate Victoriana. It had been the last cinema in England to dispense with usherettes. Jennifer loved it.

‘It’s an Italian film,’ she elaborated. ‘About a postman. About Pablo Neruda actually.’

He frowned.

‘The poet,’ she added.

He nodded vaguely. There were surprising gaps in his English.

‘So, shall we go?’ she persisted.

He rolled over to the edge of the bed and sat up. ‘How long is film?’

‘An hour and a half.’

‘And how long the mother stay, at the old biddy group?’

‘Oh, two hours. Two and a half, if you count getting there and back. We’d have time. But even if we didn’t, it wouldn’t matter.’

He put on his slippers. ‘But the way we make it now, you don’t ‘ave to tell her you going out. I thought that is what you want, eh?’

Jennifer sighed. ‘I did at first. Whereas now… well, I don’t want to skulk about forever.’

‘But is modern way! Is our little secret. Is more exciting this way, no?’

‘Well, yes. But…’

‘Also is difficult for me in the salon. I no want advertise private life, there. If you Mama know, maybe she tell other customer.’

Jennifer shrugged, not seeing what the problem was.

‘Anyway, is not right,’ said Salvatore decisively. ‘ Is not right, tell the mother about the sex life.’

‘I wasn’t going to mention sex. Just that we’re, well, going out together.’

It wasn’t the right expression.

‘In my country,’ he said, ‘you tell the mother you are going out together, as you put it, and the next thing she expect is the wedding bells.’

He reached for his dressing gown. ‘This poet film is important for you, yes?’

‘Well, it’s a good film. But a different film would do.’

‘Ah. Maybe then I get video, DVD? We watch ‘ere.’

It wasn’t quite the same. But at least he was making an effort.

He took her hand. ‘As for the mother, let us not disturb. I not want everything to be spoil.’

He lowered his head, rather gracefully, and kissed her hand.

‘Well, alright,’ she said. ‘But if you’re worried that my mother will disapprove, she won’t. She really likes you, you know.’

He put up his hand to forestall her. ‘One thing I know. What a woman like for herself, she not always like for her daughter.”

He spoke with such authority that she had to believe him.

Here’s what a few people have said about Stretching It:

‘Mandy Sutter’s heroine is big in every say; heart, humour, size. An engagingly funny book about a lovable woman’s search for love.’ Jane Rogers, Author of Mr Wroe’s Virgins and winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award 2012.

‘This debut novel has it all: dry wit, brilliant dialogue, clever plot twists and an irresistible new narrative voice.’ Alice McVeigh, author of prize-winning Jane Austenesque novels Harriet and Susan.

‘Jennifer Spendlove is the Bridget Jones of West Yorkshire: no agonising about tipping the scales at 8 stones for Jennifer – she’s right pleased to get into her size 24 skirt. And you can’t imagine her succession of impecunious, inadequate boyfriends being played by Colin Firth or Hugh Grant.

Jennifer’s self-esteem is so low that she will put up with anything: bullying at work and at home, even sexual humiliation. There’s a lot of truth here about the way women can fall into the trap of thinking that any man is better than no man – and when Jennifer is at her lowest point, this comic novel teeters on the edge of tragedy and becomes much more than just chick lit. Needless to say, Jennifer doesn’t turn her life around by becoming a TV presenter: this is the north, so Jennifer changes her life in much more realistic and satisfying ways.

This is a great read, full of northern humour, real characters and a heroine we can all identify with. I read it with a smile on my face.’  Amazon reviewer.

What I think:

Stretching It was my first novel and took me a long time to write, as first novels often do. The story went through several reincarnations, starting out as a literary novel that didn’t work very well and finally getting rewritten as a comedy, which suited it much better.

It was inspired by my own ‘lonely hearts’ dating experiences. I met my partner of 20 years this way (and no, he doesn’t feature in the novel. Imagine the fallout!). It was just before internet dating became a thing. In those days you had to write in to newspapers and call premium rate phone lines if you wanted to cast your net wider than your own social circle.

As for the papier mache theme, that came from my partner’s father Jim, who in retirement excelled at making eccentric models. We still have a large blue papier mache bulldog called Cuthbert in our spare room.

And as for the theme of caring for a difficult parent… my lips are sealed.

Stretching It is available on Amazon.