Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Sea Fever

‘I think I’ll try an offer,’ says Tom. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think the same as before,’ I reply. ‘I’m still concerned about time and money.’
‘Hmm,’ says Tom.

The subject of all this intense thinking is a rather forlorn yacht lying locally whose owner has run out of, er, time and money so has put her on the market for what’s really a very competitive price. After we sold the dreaded Pig Boat, there were a couple of years when we were both quite glad to be free of all the responsibilities (ie bills) that boat ownership brings, but it wasn’t very long before Tom starting poring over boat ads and shouting, ‘come and look at this one!’ at regular intervals.

Perhaps it was because I was fed up with looking at the rain and perhaps it’s because, in these PhD days, part of me’s nostalgic for the guy who liked to mess around in boats, but eventually I’m persuaded to view one of Tom’s discoveries. We clamber aboard and as I peer down the companionway at the clutter below, I feel… excited! For all her shabbiness, it’s only going to take some elbow grease for this Cinderella to go to the ball. She’s the kind of boat that would suit us admirably; perfect for the kind of pottering we now plan to do, a little bolt hole, somewhere to plan, to dream, to write or just watch the seascape around us. Except, of course, we agree after much discussion, that it’s probably not the best time for us to buy a boat, unless, of course, the owner is willing to take an offer…

‘We own a boat!’ says Tom, a little later. And so a new chapter begins!
First meal in the cockpit!
With guests, Rose and Si

For the last two weeks, we’ve had the immense pleasure of having Lily and Bee staying here, plus Russ at weekends, whilst their bathroom is being replaced. Home Thoughts hasn’t appeared because it’s been such a unique and important time and I’m really going to miss Bee’s big, big smile first thing in the morning and seeing her arch her back and wave her little arms signalling she’d like to be picked up. We’ve introduced Bee to lots of sea air and, when Rose and Si joined us for the Bank Holiday we also took a few snaps of us girls together.

Taking the air at Aberaeron

All the girls!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Cheers, Boos and Coos!

156 has an 'Uh-oh' moment.
On Tuesday, pretty much on the spur of the moment, I decide to run the last of the Poppit Sand Series, a 5k race hosted by Cardigan Running Club which you’d be correct in thinking takes place on the wide beach at Poppit… Except it’s two laps of a looping course which begins on the road, encompasses marshy wetlands, stepping stones, grass, a long stretch of the beach and a narrow path across the dunes. It’s nine years since I last ran this course and my first mistake is to line up thinking I’m going to ace it, because, hey, I’m a hardened half-marathon runner now, aren’t I? Looking round though, I notice that the other entrants are predominantly – two thirds, in fact, - male and that although there is a handful of women in my age range they all have the wiry, determined look of seasoned club runners about them. I start to suspect this may be quite tough, a suspicion confirmed when the starter klaxon sounds and everyone else goes off like bats out of hell leaving me jogging along at my usual half marathon pace.

We hit the wetlands and I remember there’s been quite a lot of rain here over the last three weeks. Hovering by the first of a chain of muddy pools of unknown depth wondering about the best approach, I’m splattered by a big beefy man splashing straight through the middle. Lesson learned, I charge across wet stepping stones – eek! – up slippery banks, across boggy grass and merciless sand all the while pursued by a runner so hot on my heels I can hear his breath! Damnit, I think, I haven’t done all this work to be lapped at the last minute! You will NOT get past! But then, double damn, the runner in front of me STOPS in the part of the path so narrow and overgrown, I can’t get overtake! Gaargh! We reach the clearing and I manage what, in my head, is a sprint finish… although video evidence suggests otherwise… plus everyone else seems to have got there before me. I’m 90th out of 114 runners, but with the same time as nine years ago and some great memories. It might have been tough but I loved every minute!

On Saturday we set off down the M4 eagerly anticipating the Wales v Ireland game at the Millennium Stadium, a warm up for the rugby world cup. A severe traffic jam means we only just take our seats in time, but at least we turn up, unlike the Welsh team who put in a truly lack-lustre first half performance and barely redeem themselves in the second. ‘You want to get your money back on that,’ says Tom pointing to my brand new rugby top. It’s still an enjoyable occasion, though, and always worth savouring the atmosphere and the sound of 74,000 people singing. A couple of Bellini cocktails and an Italian meal afterwards also lift our spirits.

We complete our big day out by popping into see Lily, Russ and our granddaughter - since all the names in this blog are altered to protect the innocent, I’ll call her Bee. Thank you so much for all your good wishes; Bee’s coming out the other side of her operation very well with only a small scar to show that anything happened. As for me, I’m that lost cause, a hopelessly smitten grandmother!  I’ve never been that fussed about babies (there, I’ve said it) before but, seeing how quickly Bee’s personality is unfolding is nothing short of miraculous to me. Today, when I hold her in my arms and talk to her, she talks back!  Well, she smiles, coos and gurgles at me… to be fair, it’s not much of a conversation, but to me it’s the best feeling in the world!

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.