With over a decade of experience in language teaching and half a lifetime of language learning, it would be an understatement to say that Sharlene likes words. Her professional writing experience includes pieces for lifestyle and travel publications, a teaching resource book and editing academic articles on anything from mushrooms to heart valves. Born in London, she grew up listening to her parents’ stories of childhoods in Malaysia and Kenya. She believes that real life holds the very best stories that the world has to offer and relishes the chance to help you share yours with the people you love.

As a Story Terrace writer, Sharlene interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better: you can read an autobiographical story of her own below. Get in touch today to work with her!

Use the Fours

I will never be comfortable buying things in quantities of four. As a child, my mother repeatedly told us that it was a bad number – something to do with the word for the number four having the same sound as the word for death. I didn’t speak much Mandarin, so I didn’t really get it, but the notion of an unlucky number was enough to haunt me into buying everything in quantities of three or five. If I were making dinner for four, I’d tell myself it was always good to have a spare in case something went wrong, or an unexpected guest arrived.

As the silver in my own hair started to take hold, I began to see the holes in Mum’s many arguments. Not all the best fruit comes from South Africa. Leaving rice on my plate won’t lead to a spotty husband. Chocolate doesn’t give me nosebleeds.

After thinking about this for some time, and watching a lot of QI, I started to think how silly I was being. Houses have four walls, most families that I knew had four members, The Fantastic Four made it to the end of their last film, albeit with terrible reviews. On top of that, I started dating a scientist, and I blushed as I could hear him scoffing silently as I dithered over three or five tomatoes in Tesco.

So, one day I decided to leave my superstition at the automatic door and rashly, boldly, defiantly I bought four tomatoes. I got home safely, unpacked my bags without disaster, made a cup of tea without burning myself and flopped down onto the sofa, relaxed and just a little bit smug. I would celebrate with a biscuit. As I stood up, I swung my leg out and smacked the outside edge of my left foot hard into the wooden trunk that was our coffee table. I swore, loudly. Tears of pain rolled out as my little toe screamed at me.

I bandaged it up, splinting it clumsily to the next toe and kept it under wraps for a week. Every time I stretched out my foot it throbbed. When the deep aubergine bruise had faded and it felt a little less fractured I finally unveiled it to myself. I found that it hadn’t yet fully healed and was still rounder and redder than usual, resembling a small, singular baby tomato.

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