Wednesday 23 March 2022


We saw the first blackthorn blossom on Saturday, and what a joy it was. I've been feeling as if I've been run over by a steamroller since Mum's death, and my brain is devoid of inspiration - not surprising really, but it was lovely to spend the weekend with the fella and utterly relax.

Well, I say relax, but due to Lainy's insecurities, I decided it would be better for Lainy to sleep in the living room, so I'd got her used to that at home, but we needed to get her used to it at his place. A friend who's very experienced in looking after rescue dogs said I would need to sleep on the sofa with her for a few nights to get her used to it, so just when I could really have done with a cosy cuddle in bed, I spent part of three nights on a sofa. Not much sleep, but there are advantages - a) a bed feels SO comfy after a sofa b) the cuddles were even better and c) it's done the trick - Lainy is quite happy sleeping on his sofa when I'm not there. So, job done.

On Monday it was such a gorgeous day, and I was still brain dead, so he suggested we walk over the fields to the Halzephron pub, an hour's walk away, for a late lunch. It was utterly wonderful - warm enough for a summer's day, a treat of lunch sitting outside, and a lovely wander home.

I have been stunned by the wonderful messages and kindness from friends near and far to do with Mum. The flat looks like a florist, and my goodie parcel - like a hamper - was one of the most thoughtful and kind presents I've ever had. So a huge thank you to everyone.

Lastly, on Saturday my friend Jac and I are hoping - fourth time lucky - to go away for our much postponed holiday. Hoping to god neither of us gets ill before then.... Poor Jac broke her shoulder so that was the first postponement, then she got a horrible chest infection, and we shifted it from early to mid February. Then she didn't recover for ages so we postponed it from late February to late March. We were due to take Mum out for lunch next week so that will be a bittersweet day, but we will do something else to celebrate her life.

I hope everyone is able to enjoy the sunshine which brings a bit of cheer to a very gloomy world at present. Here's to everyone who helps make it a better place.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Safe journey, Mum

I am viewing life through a veil of disbelief at the moment. Last Tuesday I had a long chat with mum about what we were both reading, and she was delighted that she'd received some new books in the post, and looking forward to a book that I'd ordered for her, that I knew she would love. It wasn't long before Jac and I were coming up for a week's holiday and were going to take her out for lunch.

But on Thursday morning we were told that she'd gone into hospital with a suspected heart attack that was, in fact, a stroke. A dear friend came with me on Friday to drive up and see her - I am the nearest, and thanks to Covid, hospitals only allow one visitor per patient. Mum was asleep when I got there, hooked up to a monitor that bleeped and winked as it tried to lower her blood pressure. I was frustrated that, having got there, she didn't wake up, but I held her hand, stroked her forehead and kissed her so she knew I was there.

There was a reasonable chance she'd recover, given her medical history, but on Sunday she deteriorated so visiting was relaxed and my youngest brother drove down to see her, with my older brother arriving on Monday morning - his son's birthday was on Sunday and all his family were gathering for that. Darling Mum waited until Jo got there and literally minutes later, while the sun streamed in through the window by her bed, she slipped away.

We are all stunned as you can imagine. How could my vibrant, frail, indomitable, clever, kind and wise Mum just - not be there? None of it makes sense. So I do what I can. Of course, I write to her.

My brain doesn’t want to accept the fact that you’re not here any more, Mum. I roll the words around in my mouth - “my mum is dead” and they won’t make sense. They feel like cold marbles, clunking and clashing against my teeth. They shouldn’t be in my mouth at all and they’re damaging the enamel - and then a huge chunk of tooth breaks off.

By my phone, which is on the table in the window, looking out over Flushing and the docks, is a scrap of paper with “Mum” and your landline number on it. You’re the only person I ever rang from my landline and I keep wanting to pick it up and ring you. Talk to you about "The Dictionary of Lost Words", and the Olive Ketteridge books that I got Ben to send you. You would have loved those, I know. Now the phone sits looking lost and alone, and I can’t bear to throw away that scrap of paper.

But through writing to you, I am keeping you alive. For that is what we do with those we love, isn't it? Keep them alive in our hearts.

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Rejections, competitions and another blow - but keep going

We all get weeks when things go wrong, don't we? Last week I had my first rejection for The Rescue, the novel I've just started to send out. It was a real blow, particularly as it came on the first weekend I'd decided to spend at home for two months, so I didn't see The Fella. The email arrived on Saturday afternoon, so took me completely by surprise, and I could have used a very large cuddle. All you writers out there can imagine how I felt.

The next thing was that a stockist I hoped would take my books emailed to say they needed a bigger discount which I couldn't afford, given the price I pay my publishers for my books.

Then last night at around 6pm I had a phone call from the company where I've been doing some temporary admin work for the last six weeks. Last Friday I was asked if I'd like to continue, and to provide cover for when the full time admin person is away/off sick etc. I said yes - it's very close to home, and the hours fit in with my writing. I went home feeling cheerful - at least with the horrendous rise in bills, this would provide a welcome and necessary buffer.

Anyway, the phone call last night was to say they wouldn't be needing me at all as from now - and I was due to go in tomorrow and Friday. "What?" I said, confused and wondering if I'd heard right. We had a long phone call and I explained that I was very surprised, given the conversation I'd had on Friday, but it appears that's how things are at the moment. Again, I think you can imagine how I felt.

But amongst all this, there were gems of kindness. A friend took me out for a birthday bowl of soup and walk at the weekend. Another friend, who is a very talented dressmaker, altered a pair of dungarees that I'd been given and refused any money. They look amazing so I can't wait to wear them - and give her a bottle of wine.

As for the writing side of things - well, I licked my wounds, felt sorry for myself and have sent it off to two novel writing competitions. I also had an email from the editor I've been working with which ended up saying, "Stay Strong. It’s a long old slog, but it’s a great book. Keep your chin up, and keep going!"

I think I will print that out and look at it whenever my resolve falters. And good luck to everyone else out there who is struggling - all around the world - with struggles small, large and life threatening.

Thursday 3 March 2022

Surprises and Finishing Editing

For the first time in about a month we had a weekend of good weather which always lifts my spirits - and that of the poor fella, who is trying to build a garage and the recent storms and general winter low pressure have put the kybosh on that. So we had two lovely walks, and oh, the joy of walking with sun on our faces - or backs, on the way home.

I also had some really lovely birthday surprises. First of all, a birthday cake complete with candles. That was the first time I've had a cake in many years so I was really delighted.

Then, the next day a friend who lives in the top flat came down with a huge bunch of yellow roses, which happen to be my favourite. I was so delighted, I can't tell you.

I have had other surprises that have been less than pleasant, but there's enough of that in the news, so I won't dwell on those. The other good news is that I've very nearly finished what I hope is my last draft of the Moll book. Which means soon I can start sending it out. And, as most authors know, that is very scary and exciting at the same time.

The other thing I went to the Falmouth Bookseller to listen to Charlie Carroll talking about his novel The Lip - a real live author talk, with real people, in a real live bookshop - with wine! It was such a novelty... and one of the questions that came up was, when do you know when to stop editing? When indeed? Charlie said if it was down to him, he'd still be editing, and I feel rather the same. It's really difficult to tear ourselves away from our characters, but sooner or later it has to be done.

I have to check the last three scenes to make sure I'm happy with them, and then I will start sending it out into the wide world.... with lots of crossed fingers and toes.