Monday, 3 August 2015

When the Bough Broke

There was a moment last Tuesday evening when it felt as if the world was crashing down around us. 

Earlier in the day, my daughter had taken her new daughter to the doctor to discuss a red swelling that had appeared on the baby’s chest. Antibiotics were prescribed and a follow-up appointment made, but events took over. Our granddaughter was admitted to hospital that night and had emergency surgery the next morning for what had suddenly become a large abscess. 

I can’t even begin to describe what a traumatic time it’s been, but my granddaughter is now home, albeit with a truckload of antibiotics, painkillers and visits from the community nurses until her wound is healed. My daughter and son-in-law have been absolutely amazing and are hugely grateful to the NHS staff – out of hours, children’s’ assessment, the surgical team and everyone at The Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital of Wales who took such great care of them. All I can do is add my heartfelt thanks to theirs.

In recovery: Dad-in-Law & Mum-in-Law meeting a brave little girl!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Moments in Time

The Icing on the Cake!
An Anniversary
‘Friends and wine…’ reads the message on the anniversary cake the five of us are about to cut, ‘… the older, the better!’.
 An unbelievable thirty years has passed since we first met as young mums-to-be at our antenatal class, but the friendship we discovered back then remains as strong as ever. My goodness, how these women have been there for me! We’re very different personalities who forged a common bond over the vexed question, ‘does yours do this?’ In the beginning, ‘does yours do this?’ applied to our new babies but has subsequently applied to toddlers, teenagers, husbands and, lately, body parts. Sigh. Many thanks Hazel, Julia, Rosemary and Ann for your love and support - and special thanks to Hazel for the amazing cake!

Here’s to the next thirty years!

A New Discovery
‘Fancy trying that new Persian restaurant?’ Tom asks Ma. Ma, who is up for anything new, readily agrees so we trot down the road from her house to Miniature in Epsom’s Upper High Street and have an absolutely delightful evening. The food’s delicious, the atmosphere’s calm and relaxing and our waiter, Navid, not only tells us about the dishes but explains some of the culture and history behind the cuisine too. Well worth trying if you’re in the area.

A successful evening!

A Meeting of Four Generations
I’ve been so looking forwards to seeing Ma meet her first great-grandchild and it’s a wonderful moment with each being fascinated by the other. Even the weather’s kind to us; warm and sunny so we can take plenty of photos to capture some memories we’ll always treasure.

Giving Ma the Beady Eye!
Four Generations

And Finally... where did that time go?

Monday, 13 July 2015

In the Pink

Yes!’ I hear myself exclaim, ‘and she’s very alert too!’ The shop assistants, who’ve been gathering round the pram making noises about how dainty and pretty my new granddaughter is, smartly return to work before Proud Nana can warm to her theme. It’s taken less than a month for me to become That Woman who attributes superpowers to her grandchild! 

I’ve come to spend a few days with the new family to help them catch their breath, but as Lily and I steer a wonky path, juggling new baby, new pram, new parasol and new sunhat on what should be a perfectly straightforward walk in the sunshine, I’m reminded of just how many complications one tiny little person can create! But, oh, so much joy and wonder too! 

 There’s nothing more flattering than the intent stare of a new baby in your arms, listening with rapt attention while you spout forth on everything from the birdies outside the window to James Naughtie’s departure from Today. It’s brilliant to see how quickly she’s changing and becoming herself… did I mention I’m convinced she can already say ‘hello’?

On Saturday, Tom picks me up from Cardiff and we drive to Bristol to help Rose and Si move into their new flat, along with Si’s mum and stepdad. Rose and Si are relocating from Surrey and we’re all delighted they’ll be so much nearer so it makes for a very jolly day. Here’s wishing them every happiness for their new adventure.

It’s been lovely spending time with all my girlies. My dad rather ambitiously hoped for six daughters, but my sister and I did our best to boost the number of women in the family by producing two daughters each. He would have been thrilled to bits to see my daughters getting on with their lives and to have had a great-granddaughter. ‘Our house has turned pink,’ says my son-in-law, Russ, at one point, looking a bit perplexed as he holds up a pile of little baby gros in every shade of the colour… all I can say, Russ, is that’s just the beginning!

Monday, 22 June 2015

New Life

Brand new baby, happy grandmother!
‘Your blog’s going to be interesting this week,’ says my son-in-law after 48 of the most intense hours either of us has ever experienced. We’ve been joint birthing partners to my elder daughter and can smile at each other, because, of course, I’m not going to reveal details of a profoundly intimate occasion. I simply want to express my gratitude to my daughter and son-in-law for the immense privilege of allowing me to be present when their daughter came into the world.

With so much of what makes up human life being reflected back at us through the prism of our computer screens we can spend hours living vicariously ‘liking’ all the places seen through other eyes - those seashores, sunsets and foreign cities – without ever feeling the sand between our toes or the rain on our faces. But no YouTube rehearsal equips us for the visceral power of real, raw life. I feel enormously fortunate to have been there when my father took his last breath and now to have seen my brand new granddaughter take her first.

Already this new life is changing those around her. My daughter is now a mother, her husband a father and it’s lovely to see them so thrilled with their daughter. My younger daughter and her husband are relocating and will be living much nearer to their new niece which is really exciting and I’ve taken stock too, thought of all the things I’ve done in my life so far and allowed myself a moment’s pause to say, ‘do you know, this isn’t so bad?’ before rushing towards the next goal. I thought we were a close family before, but this new little person has drawn us even closer in our common desire to keep her safe and give her a future that’s bright and happy. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Six Years, Six Happy Choc Lit Moments!

Happy birthday to my publishers, Choc Lit. Six years old today! To celebrate I’m revisiting six of my favourite moments with the wonderful people who made my writing dream come true.

Dec 2009 Signing my first contract. I wrote about taking those first steps to publication here.

Just a bit happy at signing that first contract!

May 2010. On seeing the first copies of Turning the Tide “Look what the postman just delivered! For someone who’s supposed to be able to tell you about these things in words, I’m really struggling to describe the feeling of seeing everything I’ve worked and hoped for come together. Choc Lit produce the most beautiful covers; this photo doesn’t really do it justice – you can’t see how gorgeous the title looks in its matt silver livery. I’m utterly thrilled and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hold a copy of Turning the Tide in my hands at last.”

June 2012 Picture This. Posing with – among other things – a plastic blow up palm tree! My first photoshoot with Adam Fradgley for National Express.

October 2012 Enjoying the razzmatazz for my second novel, Move Over Darling. That moment when ‘Doris Day split Fifty Shades of Grey’ and 'Baring it All in Best magazine'!

June 2014. Follow A Star – my third novel, the one that was such fun to write, is published.

August 2014  Wearing an imaginary crown when my first novella, Only True In Fairy Tales reaches an Amazon category number one. I absolutely love this cover, it’s so sweet!

So many happy moments and with a novel and novella in progress I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a few more. Many thanks to everyone who’s supported me during my writing journey. Here’s wishing the lovely Choc Lit team a very happy birthday with many more to come.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Waiting Games and Midsummer Dreams

This week’s been all about waiting – waiting sometimes calmly and sometimes in abject terror for the troublesome symptoms in my left eye to settle and waiting for happier news from Lily and Rose. For a control freak who likes instant results the uncertainty of all this waiting is somewhat testing so I’m taking my mind off it by joining in the promo for fellow Choc Lit author Alison May's new novel Midsummer Dreams which is out this Friday 12 June – not very long to wait at all!

Alison’s given us three dream-related prompts to think about… which in my current state of heightened tension rather reflect my immediate concerns, however, here we go!

I had a dream: Ooh, of waking up and being able to see perfectly! Imagine a day that didn’t begin like the blur of an impressionist painting speckled with shrapnel and ghostly floaters! Of being free from glasses and contact lenses. Ah, but that is just a dream.

I had a nightmare: Hmm, the opposite of above, but living in fear is living in a cage so best to think positively. When we were in Edinburgh recently, we listened to record producer Robin Millar’s Desert Island Discs. Robin Millar’s been registered blind since the age of 16 and eventually lost his sight completely. His sheer determination to meet his condition head-on is a remarkable demonstration of triumph over disaster.

My dream for the future: If we could all just be a little kinder to each other, to treat others as we would wish to be treated – wouldn’t that make the world a better place?

Watch out for other bloggers dream-related posts this week. You can buy Alison’s Midsummer Dreams here:

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.

The painting is 'Dinas and Carn Ingli from the Coast' by Tom Tomos

Monday, 1 June 2015

Get Happy!

When they were small: Rose and Lily
Friday sees me at A&E again with another episode of flashing lights and severe visual disturbance in my left eye. I have the great good fortune to be seen by the same consultant ophthalmologist who saw me last year and remembers me. Even better, she’s able to tell me that all appears to be in order and sends me away with a follow-up appointment in six weeks’ time. Hopefully all I have to do is wait for my eye to settle down, although the whole frightening business has given me a few sleepless nights.

Trying to concentrate on the positive, I was interested to read what Professor Paul Dolan has to say about happiness in this recent article from the Telegraph. Apparently, nobody gets any happier with extra cash after a salary of £50,000 … fair enough, although I reckon I’d be like a dog with two tails if I ever made half of that! Joking apart, because, of course, happiness is not about material possessions (although there’s a lot to be said for new shoes) I certainly agree with Professor Dolan’s five ways to be immediately happier. Getting outdoors, for example; we have a little south-facing suntrap at the back of the kitchen where, assuming it isn’t lashing down with rain like today, we’ll often take a short tea break. And having started thinking about the nature of happiness, I’d add three suggestions of my own:

1. Sit in your favourite place. I love our large bedroom; it’s one of the rooms which attracted to me to our deeply unfashionable dormer bungalow. With its duck egg blue walls and dual aspect windows, it makes me very happy indeed to sit there on a lovely afternoon feeling the sun on my face and looking out across the sea.

2. Read a good book. As well as being a big fan of nature writing, I love a bit of ‘rural noir’. This week Daniel Woodrell’s bleak, poetic Winter’s Bone has distracted me from my eye problems.

3. Flick through some favourite photos. Revisit those happy memories for an instant pick-up. This one (top) of Lily and Rose makes me laugh every time I see it – despite the protests from the girls about putting them in the same clothes (which saved a lot of scrapping, I can tell you). Both my daughters have exciting challenges this week which will bring big changes… but it doesn’t seem a moment ago that they were little dots eating milk lollies! And I also love this photo of Ma … who’s probably laughing at something naughty she’s said!