blog michelle cunnah

Fabulous Fiona (or so her mum calls her) doesn’t realize that her life is about to change dramatically forever when:

A. She finds her long-lost father on the Internet (will her mother hate her forever?).

B. Her ex-pop singer mum is about to reunite with her former group for a charity concert (Fiona’s life at school will SO be OVER when everyone finds out!)

C. Fiona will have to go on the road with her mother, have to change schools (again), and achieve Total Anonymity (again!) with a whole new group of people who think she’s a freak.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, has she developed either (a) a brain tumor, or (b) the amazing powers of ESP?

Either way, her life will never been the same again…

Almost Fabulous
Feb 28, 2008
ISBN-10: 0061252352
ISBN-13: 978-0061252358



"Set in London, Radford’s teen fiction debut features an especially likeable narrator with untapped extrasensory powers . . . the novel shines when it focuses on Fiona’s struggle to understand her ESP and her attempts to make contact with her father. These elements are more than enough to capture and sustain readers’ attention"

Publishers Weekly





Not that I’m some kind of total Predictable Routine Freak or anything, but I figure that with my mum moving us every year or so until about three years ago I’ve had enough change and chaos in my fourteen years of life to last until I’m oh, at least a hundred and fifty.

Sadly, today when I climb out of bed at six to begin my Predictable Routine I have no inkling, none whatsoever, that Predictable is about to fly out of the window and my life will never be the same again.

Chapter 1

Just like every morning, I scan the newspapers online, which is no more depressing than usual since they’re always full of either global warming, or murders, or natural disasters, or drug barons and gangland wars, and then I switch to the financial reports to cheer myself up, because these are the parts I like best.

And if I find something that really interests me, like this one about Funktech, an American company that makes really cool electronic stuff, I print out the information so that I can either add it to my information dossier or research it later. I know. I’m not your usual fourteen-year-old.

But today I don’t put this particular article away for later, I read it right now. because I get a little prickle at the back of my neck. Just a little tingly kind of feeling. And as I read that Funktech has just expanded into Britain, in fact into London, the tingly feeling gets even stronger. Like I should check out Funktech’s website right now.

I get these little tingly kind of feelings from time to time--you know--call it female intuition or something. Like when Mr. Fenton, our math teacher, went on the school ski trip--I just had that tingly feeling that he might break his leg on the nursery slope if he went, and he did. Which was a total disaster because we had to have Mr. Sharpe for math the whole of the term and he made us study boring stuff like geometry, which we’d already covered, instead of interesting stuff like quadratic equations.

Or like sometimes I get that tingly feeling that I might bump into Melissa Stevens, Queen Bee Popular Girl and local menace, if I take my usual route to school on a certain day, because that would be another total disaster, so I leave home earlier and walk the long way instead. Or when I’m actually at school, and Melissa is around, and I’m wishing for her not to notice me. I mean, when I keep a low profile (most of the time), the low-level fear and the tingle seem to go together hand in hand.

But that tingly feeling can also be a good thing.

Like when I’m checking the financial pages, that tingly feeling might mean that I’ve found a great company to invest in, which is also quite unusual for someone of fourteen, I suppose. Investing, I mean, not the intuition thing. Although some people might think that the intuition thing is a bit odd. Which is why I haven’t told anyone about it.

So I follow my instincts and load Funktech’s URL, but then, when I click on the “About Us” page the tingly feeling becomes a huge big prickle.

The CEO is called William Brown, which is my dad’s name.

Not that I have ever actually met my dad.

Mum lost him oh, about twelve hours after my conception.

When I say, “lost him,” I don’t mean he’s dead, I mean lost him in a losing-someone-and-not-being-able-to-find-them-ever-again kind of way.

Yes, that sounds a bit careless, but it really wasn’t Mum’s fault. See, she met him at this huge annual music festival (which is held in a field at a place called Glastonbury), and it was Love At First Sight. And because it was a music festival and there was a lot of emotion running high, Mum and my father got a bit carried away (which was how I came to exist).

Unfortunately, at the end of the festival there was a huge riot (leading to 235 arrests and fifty thousand pounds’ worth of damage), and then Mum and my dad got separated in The Chaos That Ensued.

Mum couldn’t find him again afterwards, because they hadn’t gotten as far as swapping addresses, so wrapped up in the music and so much in love were they. They did, however, swap names, which is a relief, because it’s important for a girl to have her father’s name on her birth certificate.

I don’t think Mum’s ever gotten over her William Brown though, because sometimes, when she thinks I’m not paying attention, she sighs and looks sad as she takes out the old photo one of her friends took of her and my dad at the festival. It’s a bit fuzzy and you can’t really see him that clearly. But you can see that he’s tall, and gangly, and handsome, and has long, dark hair. You can see his eyes, too, and they look kind and twinkly. Mum says that I have his eyes. Which is nice, because I don’t take after him at all in the tall, handsome department. I don’t take after Mum in the beautiful department, either.

Perhaps I’ll add this William Brown to my William Brown File, which currently has 463 people in it, winnowed down from some of the 17.9 million pages you get on Google when you search “William Brown.” (Why does my dad have to have such a common name?!) I’ve never done anything with the file because none of the William Browns seem like they could be our William Brown – it’s just comforting to keep ruling out the wrong ones. My years of William Brown research have proven that the chances of this William Brown being my William Brown are totally improbable but there is a “Meet Our CEO” page on the Funktech website, so I might as well go ahead and meet him. And when I do go ahead and Meet Our CEO, there is a photo of him, and the huge big prickle becomes a loud, deafening roar like so much radio static buzzing in my ears.

The first thing I notice is that his hair is dark brown. But not long, so if he is my William Brown then he obviously had a haircut. That’s to be expected in fifteen years.

The second thing I notice are his kind, brown twinkly eyes.

The third thing I notice really freaks me out.

As I watch, the photo on my screen solidifies into a 3D image, which gives me a shock, but I
haven’t seen the real party trick yet.

Just as I am thinking, Wow, those people at Funktech are really out there with technology, the 3D image becomes REAL. Not like someone on TV being real, but REALLY REAL almost as if William Brown has suddenly pushed his head through the computer screen and is IN MY BEDROOM. And what’s more, William Brown’s mouth curves into a smile, and then his lips move as if he is going to SPEAK TO ME. And then he DOES SPEAK TO ME.

“Don’t be afraid,” William Brown tells me.

But even though he has a nice baritone voice, and a nice American accent, this is just too freaky.

Before William Brown Talking Head can speak to me anymore, I click the box marked X and close down my Internet connection. And then I shut down my laptop and put it in the closet, to be on the safe side.

By the time I have showered and dressed, just like I normally do, my hands have stopped shaking. Nearly.

“What would you do?” I ask the Albert Einstein poster on my bedroom wall. (Fortunately, it doesn’t answer.)

Talking Head William Brown can’t be my William Brown, I tell myself. Although my voice of reason is not listening because it is telling me that (a) he was the right kind of age, and (b) he had the right kind of general look. Especially the kind, twinkly eyes. But (c), Mum never mentioned him being some sort of magician.

I can hear Mum singing as she gets dressed. “It’s such a perfect da--ay,” she belts out in her deep, scratchy voice. “A perfect day to fall in lo--ove. To fall in love with you--oo.” She’s been singing a lot of songs from her Bliss Babes days (the pop group she used to be in) recently. She sings them a lot when she’s happy, so why upset her? What if it’s not her William Brown? And what if I’m going insane?

By the time I reach the bottom of the stairs, I decide that I will put this William Brown thing to the back of my mind and think about it later. And by the time I reach the kitchen, I decide that the whole talking head thing was just really, really great technology. That’s all. Because, truly, the only other explanation is that I am going insane. Or have a brain tumor. Or possibly both!

Deep breaths, deep breaths.

If I can just switch back to my nice Predictable Routine, all will be well.

Just as usual, Daphne Kat is dying of starvation and rubs herself against my legs, so I feed her a can of something that smells vile but is apparently delicious to cats, and nine out of ten of them prefer it to any other cat food according to the can. Which always gives me an instant vision of a scientist in a white coat asking ten kitties which do they prefer, Horrible Brand A, or Yummy Brand B, and nine out of ten kitties nodding their heads solemnly when he says Yummy Brand B.

It’s obvious that Daphne Kat likes it because she always gobbles it down and licks the dish clean like it’s going to be the last meal she’ll ever get, and after the life of Abandonment and Neglect she had before we adopted her from Rescued Pets she deserves the tastiest cat food money can buy. Although you’d think that after three years of regular meals she’d kind of realize that there would be, you know, a next meal.

Daphne Kat’s mind is a mystery to me.

Then, also just like usual, I make breakfast for Mum and me, which consists of a bowl each of bran cereal with skim milk and banana slices, and two cups of decaffeinated tea. See, that’s healthy, and in view of the fact that she’s my only parent, I need to take care of her heart. After all, if something happened to her what would happen to me? I’d probably have to go and live with Grandmother Elizabeth. Which would be a disaster.

Although perhaps I’ve just found a father to add to the equation?

“Good morning, darling.” Mum breezes in through the kitchen door and kisses the top of my head. “Isn’t it a beyoodiful day?” She pirouettes around our cheerful cream, yellow and green kitchen, and I laugh. “A perfect day to fall in lo-ove,” she sings, patting Daphne Kat on the head, before sitting down opposite me.

I squash that father thought as we sit and chat over breakfast. We do this every morning. I tell her what my plans are--which on Monday and Wednesday (today) involve class, followed by studying with Gina at her house, followed by home. But on Tuesday and Thursday involve class, followed by studying with Gina at my house, and on Friday involve just going to school then coming home, because Gina plays poker with her grandfather on Fridays. And then Mum tells me what her plans are, usually which CD she is producing and why Band A is a joy to work with, unlike Artist B who--just between the two of us--is a complete prima donna.

Except she doesn’t say that today. Because Mum isn’t producing any CDs today. No, today she is working on a charity concert full of big-name pop stars and some fairly unknown pop stars (to showcase their talent) to raise money for grants to help young musicians.

This is great, this is fantastic, and I am supportive, I really am, because helping others is really important, and Mum knows everyone in the music industry, and she’ll work really hard behind the scenes to put the project together.

But then I start to get another inkling that today might not be a normal kind of day.

“Fabulous Fiona, I have something exciting to tell you,” Mum says, getting serious.

Only Mum calls me Fabulous Fiona. It’s a nickname she gave to me when I was a baby. Because, apparently, I walked before most of the other babies, and talked in full sentences before most of the other babies, and learned to read when I was four. Also, I eat a lot (I have a high metabolism), and I’m still skinny. Mum says it must be all the energy I spend thinking about things.

But I must have peaked early because now I am simply boring, normal, nondescript Fiona. Apart from the high IQ thing. Apart from the fact that because I am so literal--too literal sometimes--and don’t like change one doctor thought I was autistic (which I am not). But calling me Fabulous Fiona gives Mum pleasure, so why protest?

“I want you to know that this is just a one-off thing,” she continues, looking at me a bit cautiously over her bran and banana slices, then pauses and tilts her head to one side.

She always does this when she’s got bad news to tell me, like, “You’re going to stay with your grandmother for a few days,” because my grandmother is not a nice person and disapproves of oh, just about Everyone in the Entire World--she especially disapproves of my mother, and therefore of me by association--and given a choice of staying with her or running naked down our road, it would be a hard one to call.

“What one-off thing?” I prompt Mum, because she’s chewing on the bottom corner of her lip, and this is also a Sign of Bad News. So now I’m just a bit (actually a lot) anxious.

“The thing is. The thing is The Bliss Babes are reuniting--you know--just for this one concert. We are definitely not going to get some idiotic idea in our heads that we should re-form for good and start cutting CDs in Hamburg, or exploring the music scene in Paris, or touring the world or anything, so don’t start worrying about moving away and upheaval. Becausetheredefinitelywontbeanymovingawayandupheaval.”

She says the last part really quickly, and I feel all the air whoosh out of my lungs, and I can’t help it, I just can’t help thinking, Oh, no, here we go again, but instead I try for an encouraging smile and say, “That will be great. It will be just like the old days.” (But hopefully not too much like the old days, I think, but do not say aloud.)

Okay, so that came out sounding just a bit lame, but I’m doing my best here. Especially after my shock with the William Brown Talking Head. Which I am definitely not going to think about.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

“So you’re really okay with it?”

“Absolutely,” I lie, and smile even harder.

Although I’m trying to look happy and normal, Mum, in that sixth-sense sort of way that mothers have says, “You sure you’re okay? Really, I know you like to worry, but don’t. Cotch down a bit.”

Cotch down a bit?

Mum definitely spends too much time listening to my best friend Gina, who currently says things like “cotch down” all the time, because Gina’s trying to be up on what she deems “uberly cool slang.”

But mothers definitely shouldn’t use such phrases as “cotch down.” Mother’s should say “chill out” instead, because that’s the slang from their own era. Although Gina’s mum says, “Don’t worry, dear,” because she’s ancient.

On the other hand, I guess Mum has to keep up with all the, you know, current phrases, on account of working with all those young musicians.

It’s kind of cool that my mother is a successful music producer and also writes songs, and wears interesting clothes such as tight leather pants, and black leather biker jackets, because a lot of the other mothers are old and wear boring, shapeless dresses and skirts with flowers on them. At least, Gina’s mother wear’s dresses and skirts with flowers on them, but it has to be said--Gina’s mum is in her fifties, which is really ancient, so therefore boring clothes are okay. And she’s nice, in a very motherly kind of way.

Mum’s only thirty-five (which is still quite old) and some people think she’s pretty hot--at least, Mr. Fenton (my teacher) obviously thinks she’s hot (as has every other male teacher I’ve had). I definitely do not want to think of my mother and “hot” in the same sentence, but at least it is distracting me from the real issues.

I am trying very hard not to panic here so am thinking of other things to distract me, rather than the fact that William Brown might possibly be my William Brown, and how did he do that thing with his head? Or the implications of The Bliss Babes reunion--which will probably have a disastrous impact on Mum’s only child’s life because it will probably completely ruin my Predictable Routine.

I don’t say any of this to Mum because of not wanting to hurt her feelings and because of not wanting to make her feel lacking and because of trying not to be selfish. As mothers go mine’s fantastic; she’s fun, and she loves me, and tries really hard. Especially because I strongly suspect that she gave up the band, and touring, for me. Plus, I know that she feels guilty that she lost my dad before I was born.

I feel instantly guilty. In view of all that Mum’s lost in her life, or given up for my sake, the least I can do is be happy for her now.

Although she might not have lost my father in the first place if she’d only told him that her parents were the Baron and Baroness de Plessi, instead of giving her last name as Blount (which is not a lie but is not the whole truth). He could have tracked her down no problem at the de Plessi Country Estate because it’s listed in all the books about the peerage.

But Mum wasn’t speaking to Grandmother Elizabeth in those days, because of Mum’s Rebel Years (which is a whole different complicated story, and involves her running off to join a band, which turned out pretty well for her eventually). Mum didn’t even tell me about her family until three years ago, and frankly, our lives were a lot less fraught before Mum patched things up with Grandmother Elizabeth.

So when Mum tells me about all the famous stars who have already agreed to give up their time, and she asks me, “Are you worried because the concert’s taking place at the Sound Garden and a lot of your school friends will probably be there?” I say, “No, I’m definitely not worried.” Even though I definitely am.

What if everyone finds out that my mother is in a band and in a concert with many famous people like The Arctic Monkeys, and Sting, and Madonna, and on TV? I will never be Anonymous Fiona again, which will be very bad indeed. Especially as I’ve spent years perfecting Total Anonymity, the only way to survive countless new schools and protect myself against Local Menaces like Melissa Stevens.

Especially as my neck begins to tingle.