Tess and Orla have been best friends throughout most of their adult lives. So when life gave them lemons and their loved ones let them down, they pooled their resources and bought a dressmakers shop on the corner of Penny Lane. And they’ve been doing just fine ever since.
But one day, while studying her tired eyes and shapeless figure in the mirror, sixty-two-year-old Tess realised that she doesn’t want her life to be just fine anymore. She wants it to be extraordinary. For as long as she can remember she’s put everyone else first. Now she wants to rediscover herself – and experience the kind of whirlwind adventure that will have the power make her smile when she’s confined to the armchair of a retirement home.
With the encouragement of fun-loving and quirky Orla, Tess joins an over-the-hill dating agency and the two friends book a singles cruise around the Mediterranean. And that’s when their adventure of a lifetime really begins…
Check out chapter 1 here
It was the tenth of January, one of those dull, dismal days when you thought the sun would never shine again. A day when Tess Templar stared at her less than svelte self in the full-length mirror that she and Orla had positioned with great care in the shop, to ensure it gave the most flattering reflection to the larger ladies who’d be pirouetting in front of it. It certainly wasn’t doing much to flatter her. At this rate she’d be her own best customer.
She took a deep breath as the first customer of the morning squeezed through the door of Curvaceous, Tess’s boutique, specialising in made-to-measure outfits for the larger lady.
‘Good morning, Mrs Byron-Sommers!’ she said brightly.
‘Not a lot good about it,’ muttered Mrs Byron-Sommers. ‘It’s freezing cold and wet out there.’ She glared at Tess as if the weather were her fault.
‘Oh dear,’ said Tess. ‘Well, never mind. Let’s get you measured up then, shall we?’
Orla, her best friend and business partner, rolled her eyes and said, ‘I’m just going to pop out for a couple of minutes.’ And, grabbing her purse, she headed out of the shop.
She’s going to buy buns, thought Tess as she got out her tape measure, and that’s the last thing I need. She was still in shock after weighing herself that very morning for a post-Christmas reality check. And there it was – black on white – fourteen stone! Fourteen stone! One hundred and ninety-six pounds! Tess had even moved the scales around to three other places on the bathroom floor, hoping for a lower reading because fourteen stone just could not be right. But four positions out of four informed her that it was right. The New Year was a time for resolutions. And Tess knew she needed to do something about her weight. But more important than that, she needed to drag herself out of the rut that she’d got herself into. Because since David had died she’d lost the will for self-improvement. She had no one to feel special for. There was no man in her life now. She never met any, of course, because she never went anywhere to meet them. For that matter, where did you meet a man these days? Certainly not in a shop specialising in larger ladies’ outfits.
And now she faced a very long morning with Mrs Byron-Sommers, a demanding woman, to put it mildly, who was finding it impossible to stand still due to sneezing every few seconds.
‘I know you have a nasty cold, Mrs Byron-Sommers,’ Tess said, her patience waning, ‘but I really need you to stay as still as possible for just a minute, while I try once more for an accurate bust measurement.’
Mrs Byron-Sommers sighed noisily. ‘I can’t stand around here all day; I should be in my bed, you know, and I made a special effort to come here.’ She clearly thought she was doing Tess an enormous favour by being here at all, and spraying the place liberally with her germs.
At that moment Orla came back through the door, clutching a paper bag after her morning pilgrimage to the bakery. She deposited the bag on the desk. ‘Here, let me hold one end of that tape,’ she said to Tess, rolling her eyes again. Between them they succeeded in encircling the woman, and Tess finally noted the measurement.
‘Sure you’ll be pleased as punch with the lovely outfit our Tess’ll be making for you,’ Orla said to their voluptuous customer, who was struggling back into her polyester dress.
‘I certainly hope so,’ Mrs Byron-Sommers replied, in a manner that indicated she had her doubts.
‘See you next week then for the fitting,’ Tess called, as the woman strode away without so much as a thank you.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ Orla said, disappearing into the back of the shop. ‘You’ll be in need of refreshment. That woman is bloody impossible.’
‘All I need now,’ Tess said wearily, ‘is to catch her damned germs.’
‘You’ll feel better with one of Pastry Parker’s doughnuts inside you,’ Orla said, rustling in the bag. ‘And would you believe they’re still warm!’
So it was doughnuts today.
‘I won’t have a doughnut,’ she said firmly.
‘Ah well, I’ll just have to have them both,’ said Orla. ‘Anyway, I don’t know what you’re worrying about; you’re quite happy as you are, aren’t you?’
No, thought Tess, I’m not. I’ve let myself go, I feel old and unattractive. She hadn’t felt like this when David was alive, but she wasn’t as fat then either. Her years with David had been so special. She’d enjoyed being part of a couple again after five years of being divorced from the father of her children, Gerry. Now, almost three years without David, she felt she was drifting aimlessly into some sort of abyss. Was it too late at sixty-two to contemplate finding happiness once more? Trying something new? Perhaps even having an adventure of some kind? Probably not, with the shape she was in now. But she’d bust a gut before she admitted as much to Orla. Orla, of course, was equally rotund, but far less bothered by it. Her mantra was that large ladies did not want to come into this specialist shop to be served by two waif-like women. Orla was still very much on the lookout for a man again, but didn’t think they were worth dieting for.
‘I trust you’ll still be coming to Boulters for an all-you-can-eat lunch on Wednesday?’ Orla asked, as she tackled the second doughnut.
Tess sighed. Well, perhaps just one last time…
Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.
Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep., and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.
She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.
You can find Dee on Facebook at
Publication Date: 24th April 2019