Wednesday 31 March 2021
On one of my many trips to the hospital to have my eye checked, I was talking to a nurse who asked me what I did. When I said I was a writer, she wanted to know what I wrote, and I said I was editing a novel and writing another one, and of course she wanted to know what they were about.
My novel, HUNGER addresses several issues, but the main one is anorexia. I still have some of my diaries from those days and I regret to say they are incredibly boring for they are obsessed with weight (or the lack of it) and food (or the lack of it), low mood, lack of confidence - they really don't make uplifting reading.
But this nurse said, "Oh, we really need books about that sort of thing. I know so many mothers who have anorexic daughters. My late husband was an alcoholic and it's the same principle. I would love to read it, and I'd tell my friends to buy it too."
As you can imagine, that was very confidence boosting, and this morning I was having a dog walk/meeting with another writer friend who is a mother to two sons. We were discussing Jess, the daughter in my novel, and the lack of communication that often occurs between teenagers and their parents, and I suddenly remembered a time when I was working in London and hadn't seen my parents for a while. I would get the bus from Victoria to Exeter, and one of my parents would pick me up from the bus station.
As I said, I hadn't been home for a while and my Dad came to meet me, ushered me into the car and when we were sitting down, he said, "What have you DONE to yourself?" I was mortified, seeing it as a criticism, and didn't know what to say. We sat in silence for the 45 minute trip home, which was agonising. I didn't know how to break the silence, and fled to the safety of my room as soon as we got to the house.
Looking back, of course, my poor father must have seen his only precious daughter looking like skin and bone (literally) and was utterly horrified and terrified. Not only because he had no idea why I was relentlessly starving myself, but maybe more importantly because he couldn't fix it.
Like any problem, when you can't fix it is when it becomes really frightening. Thankfully nowadays there is a lot more awareness of anorexia and other mental health problems, and help is out there, although not as much as we would wish.
The message I want to get across in my novel is that yes, anorexia is a terrifyingly complex disease. It can kill in extreme circumstances. Every individual has their own reasons for developing it, and it is vital to understand these reasons in order to let go of it. But my point is that it is possible.
My lowest weight was below five stone. My organs were in danger of packing up. My hair was falling out. My periods had long since stopped. I was a very ill teenager. But it is possible to recover. In my case, I needed to regain my faith in myself and my abilities. I have been leading a happy and healthy life for decades now but like most with problems, I needed the love and support of my loved ones. And in my case, of course, that includes my dog.
Thursday 25 March 2021
My dear Mum moved yesterday into her residential home and I so wish I was there to help things along. However, Lainy is a bit of a loose cannon at the moment and it would have been too much to have an anxious mum, an anxious dog and two hulking great brothers marching around. So I am here and constantly on the phone to my brothers who are doing an amazing job.
As you can imagine, it was very emotional to take her to the home yesterday, but we talked a lot later, and my other brother arrived to help with the massive clear up. It really tugged at me to see them walking round a rapidly emptying house and think of all the times that Mum had there, and to think that we will never see Mum there again, and never stay there ourselves.
As Mum was being taken over there yesterday, a friend and I had to go to B&Q (I couldn't concentrate on writing) and I spotted a catering van outside afterwards. 'Do you fancy a bacon and egg bap?' I said hopefully. So we had our bacon and egg baps in the sunshine, then went to Argal to get a coffee to wash it down with, and this was the view. Which helped towards a difficult day no end.
Mum has asked me not to ring till Saturday. SATURDAY? And it's only Thursday.... but the boys are going to see her later and I've rung and left a message for her and will talk to the boys later. I think it will probably hit us all in a big way soon, like a tsunami, but that's life for you.
And meanwhile, it's a breezy but sunny day and Lainy and I are off to meet my Pen Friend. We started emailing just after the beginning of lockdown and for obvious reasons haven't met. But he doesn't live too far away, so we are meeting half way for a socially distanced walk. And I am very nervous. He has a rescue dog, too, so we won't be short of things to talk about. I only hope the dogs get on, as Lainy can be a bit reactive with new dogs, particularly females.
Life does this, doesn't it? Nothing happens (especially in lockdown) and then life throws loads of Stuff at you and waits to see how you deal with it. As Pip said to me once, "life's easy when things are going well, and you're successful. It's when everything goes wrong, that's when you learn about yourself, and learn to be strong."
Thanks, darling. Boy have I needed strength this year...!
Thursday 18 March 2021
But life is so full of the unexpected, isn't it? And it often comes all at once. It's been very stressful trying to sort mum out and reassure her, and look after Lainy (you can see she was riveted looking out of my bedroom window up there) and then a friend behaved in a very strange way that was very upsetting.
Just to top things off, one of my best friend's dogs died yesterday which was very sudden and brought back all the memories of losing Moll six months ago. We were due to go on holiday in May - well, we still will, but without our lovely Daisy, so my heart goes out to my lovely friend. It's such a hard time when you lose your best four legged friend. So my thoughts and love to her.
Anyway, our trip to my Mum was well worth doing, and as always, involved books galore, though I'm now panicking that I didn't vet the books I gave her carefully enough. In times of stress (and boy is this a hard time for us all, but her most of all), she likes Large Print and a Happy Ending. Who can blame her? But I have a nasty feeling a few of the ones I selected don't fit into those categories. Well, none of them do, so I'm busy selecting some more from my huge Mum pile in the hallway and will send those by post for when she moves into the care home next week.
Much has been written about the move into care homes, but it hadn't really hit me until I spent time with Mum. She's very good at hiding her feelings, and it wasn't until the carer told me how upset she was that I had to dig a bit deeper. We all hope that this next step will provide her with more friends, more things to do, and an active time for the next chapter of her life. But even so, it's daunting.
Because we have to clear the house by the end of next week, she was very adamant that I should take whatever I want - both my brothers have, and we have a spreadsheet of who wants what so it's fair. But living in in a one bedroom flat, I have no room for furniture, I've got lots of paintings, and so I've ended up asking for the microwave (I know, great inheritance) but Mum said it's too old and she'll give me the money for a new one. AFter that, I have some lovely Mary Rich pottery, and - yes, books....
I came back with The Wind in the Willows, The Good Master, Mary Poppins in the Park, The Ponies of Bunts and Susanna at Boarding School. She also gave me the pick of a bag of books that she's finished reading, so I can wade my way through them. But it got me thinking about comfort reading.
I love Frenchman's Creek, though it's more escapism than comfort as I always cry my eyes out at the end. I also love Fay Weldon's Rhode Island Blues which I haven't read for ages. The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is a more recent book that I really enjoyed, and too many others to single out. What about yours?
Thursday 11 March 2021
My dear mum has to move into a care home in two weeks, we found out last Friday. This is all due to the sale of her house which is to exchange today and complete in two weeks. Of course once mum is moved we have to get the house cleared, with auction stuff going in one direction and other stuff in another, and cleaned and all the other things that have to be done - with very little time. So I'm very fortunate in having two brothers so we can spread the load of tasks.
This is obviously a really difficult time for us all but mostly my poor mum. But I will see her tomorrow, and when I asked if she wanted me to bring anything, she said, "books, please".
My mum instilled her love of reading in me from the age of 4 when, out on walks, I would stand in front of signposts and refuse to move until I'd pronounced each syllable to spell the word out. (Try figuring Kingsteignton...) From there I discovered the library and devoured books at a voracious speed. What joys to discover a whole new world out there to match my overactive imagination!
And so our joint love of books has continued throughout our lives. Whatever differences we may have had, we could always discuss books. And now I will take her a bag of second hand books to accompany her to her next home. Well, knowing her she will have read them before she gets there, so I may secrete another bag to keep her going.
When I was little I read many of the books my mum had had as a child: Susannah of the Mounties. Susanna of the Yukon. O'ny Tony's Circus. The Ponies of Bunts (you can detect the four feet theme here), Tom's Midnight Garden. The Jennings books. A Traveller in Time. Stig of the Dump. The Little White Horse, and many, many others.
I re-read quite a few of these during the recent lockdowns. They're like comfort food - soothing and good for the soul. With a promise of happy ending (usually).
So, what are your favourite childhood reads?
Thursday 4 March 2021
I'm glad to report that I am vaccinated for my first dose - no side effects, thankfully - and the stitches are out of my eye wound and although it is a keloid scar which means it's raised and lumpy and therefore not what I want to have near my eye, at least it's healed and I'm using silicone strips to try and flatten it. (This is preferable to having steroid injections near my eye which I do not want.) I'm probably more aware than most of what it looks like, as those friends who have seen me, haven't noticed, so that's a bonus.
I can also wear my contact lenses for the first time in a month which makes life so much easier.
And then, oh joys, we had a weekend of SUN in time for my birthday. Very happy me after the last two weekends of torrential rain. So I had a really lovely weekend, despite lockdown. One of my presents was hair dye - I have never in my life dyed my hair and it took a bit of persuasion but I thought well why not, so I am now dark brown (again). I'm not entirely convinced but those that have seen it like it, so...
I started this week full of birthday optimism and then got a phone call that blew me out of the water. It's to do with one of my books and not good news. I won't say more at this point until I've decided what to do, but it caught me completely unawares and I was in such shock that I shook for ages. My confidence plummeted and I just didn't know what to do. However, after a day of reeling with it all, I started making phone calls. I am very fortunate in having some fabulous friends, so I've got three meetings lined up for next week all to give me the advice I need as to how to go forward.
The Tooth Fairy said he was amazed at how proactive I am. I don't like that word but I said, "Well, doing something about it gives me back control. If I sat and did nothing, not only would I get depressed, but I would feel I had no power over the situation."
I know it's not always easy to do take action, and it might take time, but it always makes me feel better. And then this morning, as I drew the curtains in my bedroom which is also my office, the entire curtain rail came down with a huge CRASH. So I'm off to B&Q this afternoon to try and replace that. Thankfully one of my bubble will accompany me as I am very bad at choosing anything to do with the house. I am clearly missing that Domesticated Gene...