Friday, 24 December 2010

Best Wishes and a Blog Break

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog and left so many messages of support for Ma. I’m relieved to say that she had her stitches removed yesterday (eventually – but that’s another story and it’s Christmas and I’m weary).

The last three weeks have been a painful and difficult time, especially for my mum. Time has passed like a storm; a watchful silence in Ma’s small flat in Surrey, the cyclone of Christmas swirling around without a single card being written or gift wrapped. My apologies to everyone I should have visited or written to.

Ma’s sheer bravery, her capacity to draw on deep reserves of true grit and determination as she slowly reclaims her life, has really impressed me so I’m taking a leaf out of her book. Despite ending on a distinctly bum note, 2010 has been a fabulous year for me with the realisation of a long-cherished dream and the publication of my debut novel, Turning the Tide. Huge thanks to all of you who got behind it. But now, I have promises to keep and a novel to complete so I’m taking a short blogging break to do just that... unless, of course, something really exciting happens... and hopefully that won’t include Ma taking anymore tumbles.

Until February then, many thanks to all of you, for reading this blog and for all your comments, encouragement and support. May I wish you, belatedly, a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Nadolig Llawen i chi i gyd!

The painting is County Kerry (5) by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Winter's Tale

Thursday 2 December
Feeling confined in her snow-muffled flat, Ma takes a walk up her front path to take the morning air. As she returns a cat jumps over the wall and startles her. She slips on the icy path and lands heavily on her shoulder. When her injury doesn’t spontaneously heal, she eventually gives in and calls her local GP surgery. In the evening a GP visits and summons an ambulance ‘sooner rather than later’. Around 10.30 pm Ma is admitted to her local hospital. X-rays suggest she has a fractured scapula which will require emergency surgery. She is put on a nil by mouth regime that night and transferred to a larger hospital for an emergency operation. However, she’s picked a busy period for her accident so the operation doesn’t take place.

Saturday 4 December
The operation is rescheduled for this morning, so Ma’s had a second night of nil by mouth. A CT scan shows that Ma’s humerus is broken in four places. Despite her obviously smashed-up arm, which is in a sling and bruised black from shoulder to elbow, she is given a pair of surgical stockings and expected to put them on unassisted.
The operation is cancelled.

Sunday 5 December
The hospital ring my sister who lives locally and ask her to bring in blood pressure tablets for Ma as they don’t have any.

Monday 6 December
Better road conditions mean Tom and I can travel to Surrey. We visit Ma and confirm with the ward Sister that mum has a compound fracture of humerus. There is no mention of her shoulder.

Tuesday 7 December
Am. Ma is visited by a medical team who tell her that her arm will be plated and pinned at one of two hospitals (whichever theatre is free) on Wednesday morning.

Pm. Ma is visited by a second medical team and told that the ball and socket joint of her shoulder will be replaced.

Tom and I arrive at the hospital for visiting and seek out ward sister to ask what is happening and where. Sister is unable to answer either question, except to say that she knows of no transfer to another hospital.

Wednesday 8 December
Ma calls to say that procedures are being carried out to prepare her for surgery. One of the medics asks which arm is broken. Ma clearly indicates that it would be the arm in a sling – the one covered in a huge purple bruise, now fringed with yellow, from shoulder to elbow. The medic draws a big, blue arrow on Ma’s big purple bruise. Various people visit to prepare Ma for op. All is going smoothly until a nurse (a matron, Ma thinks. None of the staff wear name badges so it’s impossible to tell who you’re talking to) visits to tell Ma that her operation has been cancelled again. The sterile pack with the replacement shoulder joint has arrived damaged. Ma is too upset to accept a cup of tea.

10.15 am. Ma rings me, greatly ‘pissed off’. However she has pulled herself together enough to ask to see ‘The Top Man’. She is visited by someone who introduces herself as the Trauma Co-ordinator who explains why the op cannot take place. The Trauma Co-ordinator tells Ma that her op has been rescheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon.

11.50 am. I visit the hospital Patient Advice and Liaison Service office to seek help and break down in angry tears explaining events to an advisor. The advisor says she’ll contact the medical team in charge of Ma’s care and ask someone to speak to me. She suggests Tom and I wait at the ward.

12.10 pm. At the ward the sister tells us Ma’s op has been cancelled ‘because machinery has broken down’. We’ve arrived at Protected Meal Time when visiting is prohibited. We’re happy to comply, but tell her why we’re there. ‘We’ll get to the bottom of this,’ Tom says. ‘Good luck,’ says the sister, ‘because we never do!’

2 pm. PALS advisor rings to say she’s been unable to summon a doctor to talk to us but shortly afterwards the ward sister tells us that one’s on his way ‘in half an hour’. She advises us to add another half hour onto that.

3 pm. A junior doctor arrives. He is clearly resentful at being summoned to talk to us and borderline aggressive. When I write his name down he looks visibly annoyed. A couple of ‘as you were told earlier’ asides to Ma are obviously meant to suggest that she just hasn’t listened properly. He impresses upon me that the hospital is overstretched and that they are struggling to cope with all the fractures. He tells me that Ma will be attended to, but that hips take priority because of the 8-10 hour window. The outcome of Ma’s fracture will not, he says, be any worse for the wait because they have a 10 day window in which to carry out the surgery. His whole manner of delivery seems to be intended to intimidate us into submission and for a split second I’m almost tempted to make his life easier by just simply thanking him. I resist. I tell him that I recognise that he has a difficult job to do and many patients to treat, but that I only have one mother.

I tell him that I’m reassured that the outcome for Ma will not be any worse for waiting, that I’m glad to know that she’s ‘safe’ until Day 10, but point out that tomorrow (Thursday) is Day 8. I also point out that Ma’s a feisty, spirited woman who has coped admirably on her own for five years, but that she has had to suffer the psychological and emotional trauma of being prepped for surgery three times. He apologies.

Ma makes a joke and he smiles – at last. I ask him what exactly they are going to do in the operation. He claims to be ‘no expert’ (ie qualified advice) and tells me that they are going to replace the ball and socket shoulder joint and pin and plate the broken humerus. I thank him and he gives a small smile and tells us to ‘take care’.
The sister suggests we take Ma for a change of scenery so we take her down to the canteen. She’d like a smoothie – but the machine is broken. I find her a fruit juice drink as the best alternative.
8.10 pm. My daughter rings to say that her visit has coincided with that of the Trauma Co-ordinator. Ma’s op is confirmed for Thursday 9 December. It should start at 1.30 – 2pm and last up to 2 hours with an hour in recovery. Well that’s the plan…

Thursday 9 December
6.45 pm. After an anxious afternoon of waiting, we arrive at the hospital just after Ma returns from recovery. Her shoulder has been replaced and her arm pinned and plated from shoulder to elbow. She’s full of praise for the consultant who’s carried out the op and the team who attended.

Friday 10 December
2.10 pm. Arrive at hospital just as a porter arrives to take Ma for an x ray. She is checked in then forgotten. An estimated 30 min wait turns into 2hrs. A radiographer realises that Ma has got lost in the system. She apologises. A porter arrives to take Ma back to the ward. Firstly she forgets Ma’s notes then picks up the wrong ones. It’s only because I’m there to check that the error is corrected.

Saturday 11, Sunday 12 December
The staff car parks are empty, the nurses are stretched and there’s no rest on the ward due to the moans and cries of patients in distress. Ma is desperate to come home.

Monday 13 December
11 am. The hospital ring me tell me Ma has been discharged. On arrival, we find Ma dressed and ready to leave, but she is waiting for strong painkillers to be made up at the pharmacy. Oh, she is also told she must have her lunch.

4 pm. The painkillers finally arrive and Ma is free to leave. Another £8 of car park fees. As for the arrangements to have her stitches removed, physio sorted out and outpatient treatment? Well, what do you think?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Home and Away

Today I'm over at Choc Lit Authors with a blog about how we read.

I'm also off on another journey; Ma's in hospital awaiting surgery after a slipping on her path so she needs some tlc. Here's one of Tom's recent paintings inspired by our trip to Ireland - I'm so glad we had that holiday.

Painting is 'Ring of Kerry from Slea Head' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Final Snapshots: The Sea, The Sea

A stormy end to our stay in Ireland...

Waves as high as the cliffs

Turning to the texture of whipped cream in the bay

Ebbing and recharging

And just to give you the flavour of how it felt...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Craic-ing Good Time

Saturday 6 November
A lovely sunshine and showers morning. The view from the house is stunning. To Lidl to buy provisions for weekend. At the till the cashier confiscates all alcohol. None to be sold before 10.30 or 12 noon on Sundays and St Patrick’s Day. Drive up Connor Pass to see the view on a clear day – breathtaking. Then back down to Supervalu for papers and now legal alcohol.

Ma is filled with the urge to visit the hairy jumper shop again to find one for herself. She is assisted by a prim and rather fierce-looking woman of about her age. They bond over widowhood. ‘Why are Irish people so happy?’ Ma says, a bit in love with all things Irish. ‘Well, mainly, it’s the drugs,’ says the assistant without blinking. ‘But what about the luck of the Irish?’ presses Ma. ‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ says the assistant. ‘This week I’ve already blowed up me hoover and me food processor.’ Ma suggests she needs a win on the lotto. ‘Ah,’ says the assistant. ‘I’ve thought about that. I’ll buy meself a nice place somewhere out of Ireland, maybe France. Then I’ll book meself a Caribbean cruise and get a **** *** *** (eyewatering detail of the stud at the top of her wishlist deleted to spare everyone’s blushes) for meself. Then I’ll decide what to do after.’

Ma’s eyes have gone wide; she has finally met someone naughtier than herself a fact confirmed as the assistant delivers her opinion on the medical profession, ‘the feckers’, the perils of pills, ‘even if they say they’re only for constipation, make sure you ask about the side effects.’ And the folly of leaving money to your children, ‘sure, you’re the greatest mother in the world for three days and then they won’t even visit your grave!’

Ma walks away with a new hairy jumper and stunned expression of respect.

We retire to Murphys for hot chocolate and a lovely chat with the nice young man in there who got dragged to Ireland when his parents fell in love with the place nine years ago. The coffee machine’s taking time to warm up so he gives us free ice creams whilst we watch the rain and wait. Drive round the Slea Peninsula when the rain clears – utterly stunning views – and walk up to the beehive huts, the Neolithic stone dwellings. Home to drink Guinness and watch Ireland lose to S. Africa. Heavy rain and wind.

Sunday onwards
Dingle puts on a fine display for the last few days of the holiday and we meet and chat to enough people to fill a book. There are bright mornings, walks and breathtaking scenery; it’s been utterly wonderful. On the last day there’s a final treat. We’re half-planning another trip to Miss Courtney’s Tearooms, but when we arrive they’re giving themselves a makeover so that they’re even more beautiful. We don’t mind too much because we’ve spotted a newly-opened retro-style burger bar which is gleamingly-clean, the service is fantastic and the food is fresh, good and made with care. You can see it was a success...

Coming next and in conclusion: standing above the most westerly beach in Europe watching the wildest waves I've ever seen.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Waterstone's Carmarthen: Round Two!

‘And you’ve got Matthew Rhys in today too, haven’t you?’ I observe. ‘Er. No,’ says Lovely Tim, ‘that was a mistake on the website. But we do have a lady from The Coal House.’ Introduce myself to Lady From The Coal House who asks me how long I’ve worked in Waterstone’s. Wander back to my table and get asked (1) where the dictionaries are (2) if I would like to buy a CD (3) did I really write my book?

Despite stiff competition from Sleb biogs which seem to be high on customer Christmas lists, I do manage to sell some copies of Turning the Tide. In addition I meet some lovely people and one very cute dog (looking for a copy of ‘Scents and Sensibility’, no doubt. Or ‘The House at Poo Corner'.)

Thanks very much to the staff at Waterstone’s and everyone who stopped to chat.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ireland Snapshots: A Spot of Tea (but no Craic)

The view from the Connor Pass was worth waiting for!

Thursday 4 November
Heavy rain thickens the mist so we drive to Tralee, but find no roses just an everyday working town. Just to add a little extra excitement we decide to take the Connor Pass home. Several large signs in different languages advise lorry drivers to turn back NOW! The high, narrow mountain pass links Dingle Town in the south to Kilcummin on the North coast and as we climb it feels as if someone has definitely taken the road in. There are steep rocky slopes one side, sheer drops on the other and the visibility is almost nil due to dense low cloud. Ma enjoys it.

In the evening Tom and I go for a walk along the breakwater. It’s still raining but the mist has cleared and the sea is a beautiful turquoise grey.

Out and about in Dingle

Friday 5 November
Great excitement! Although it’s still raining, we can actually see The Three Sisters range opposite the house! We head for Killarney, this time driving along the corniche. The scenery is ravishing with achingly fabulous colour combinations of vivid russet bracken against dove grey sea and accents of white crests.

The town centre at Killarney is fab with a vibrant atmosphere and lots to see, but our very best decision is going for tea at Miss Courteny’s Tea Rooms – an absolute delight. Loose leaf Earl Grey ‘ Blue Flower’ tea in a vintage tea pot, a silver tea strainer and delicate china cups and saucers. Lemon drizzle cake to accompany. Utterly sublime.

Things you never knew you wanted

In the evening we set out to find the ‘craic’. Alas, the craic is playing very hard to get. In a pub famed for its hospitality and billed as‘a superb place to eat, be entertained and stay, we are greeted by an unfriendly waitress who informs me when I order mussels, that they are only available as a starter. Look round empty pub in astonishment – surely they can double up? No. Order smoked haddock which arrives steamed to the point of exhaustion. Table cleared the moment we lay down our cutlery. Music not due to start until 9.30 but the pub is deserted and utterly miserable so we leave.

Little do we know that we are about to find the craic in the most unexpected place...

On the beach

On a different note
Those lovely people at Waterstone's Carmarthen have invited me back for a second signing tomorrow, Saturday 20 November, from 12-3pm so do please say hello if you're passing. Matthew Rhys fans will pleased to know that he'll be there too, from 1-2pm.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ireland Snapshots: Fishguard to Dingle

Tuesday 2 November
It’s a little before 2.45 am when the ferry sets off from Fishguard on a cold, gusty night with the winds set to touch gale force 8. With Ma sandwiched between Tom and me as we climb up from the car decks, I watch her gamely tackle the steep stairs. Her fragile back is even more delicate these days, but she never falters, never holds anyone up and never complains. And whilst I’m fretting to myself about the after-effects of such a long journey for her, Ma’s as excited as a six-year-old. Despite the terrible forecast, I’m surprised that I barely notice the motion of the ferry, or maybe I’ve been hardened by years of being thrown around in a small boat. The crossing is uneventful and we spill out into a wet, Irish dawn and take breakfast in the coldest cafe in the world. Ma laughs when I invite her to sit by the radiator which, we find is turned off. Then it’s a race to eat our full Irish breakfast as it chills on freezing cold plates.

view from the holiday home

It takes the best part of six hours to reach the Dingle Peninsula which juts out thirty miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Through the drizzle we watch the scenery becoming increasingly dramatic as we head westwards, although we can’t help but notice the ghost estates of brand new, pastel-coloured houses – nearly all of them uninhabited – creeping across the country. We find our holiday bungalow hidden up a very unlikely looking track. So unlikely we try someone’s family home first. We retrace our steps along the track towards what looks like a gravel pit – and there it is; huge, modern and very comfortable. Fall into enormous comfy beds and sleep like logs.

Murphys, an early favourite

Wednesday 3 November.
Our holiday home at Baile na nGall has the most spectacular view across to the trio of peaks known as The Three Sisters, although it’s quite hard to see any of them through the mist. So we go to An Daingean, Dingle, a pretty town and fishing port with hilly streets and brightly-painted houses. Ma spends so much money in the first two shops that I fear her bank will think a mad woman is running amok with her debit card in the far west. She is. Within minutes, Tom is the proud owner of new hairy jumper, and my sister and brother-in-law have crystal glass jug, hand cut by master craftsman Seán Daly (who, incidentally, along with his wife Liz, is completely and utterly charming). Then it’s time for proper coffee and ice cream in Murphys.

Ventry Bay on clear day

The mist lifts for one tantalising moment. Encouraged by a glimpse of The Three Sisters, we dash out for a drive round Slea Head to explore, but chase the mist all the way. Never mind, it’s been a great first day, enjoyed by all. Perhaps the mist will lift tomorrow?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Back Home

Look at this view! I was standing on the hill just above this little bay watching thirty foot waves smash against the cliffs. Ireland was so beautiful - more to report in due course, but today I'm over at Choc Lit's Author Corner writing about how to get those writing ideas flowing.

Monday, 1 November 2010

West to Far West

We're taking Ma for a much-needed break. None of us have visited the far west of Ireland before, but here's the current forecast for tonight's crossing...

'Lundy Fastnet Irish Sea:
South or southwest veering west or southwest 5 to 7, occasionally 4 at first, increasing gale 8 at times in Irish Sea. Moderate or rough, occasionally very rough in Fastnet. Rain or showers. Good, occasionally poor.'


Painting is 'November Sea' by Tom Tomos

Friday, 29 October 2010

West to East: Every Picture

I don’t spend very much time looking back; the past is foreign country. Yet on the rare occasions I return to UEA, my impressions, initially, are always clouded by my teen-aged self and the shock of the new. Raw concrete under a leaden sky. Ladsun’s ziggurats slicing into sloping green. It all looks much softer today; climbers and tall trees blur the cutting edges, but the architectural puritan in me disapproves.

We’re visiting the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, taking the opportunity to catch up with some favourite pieces in the Sainsbury Collection whilst we’re in this part of the world. The best paintings, for me, are the ones that evoke an almost visceral response; a resonance like the hum of a tuning fork. Francis Bacon does it for me every time and there are some truly stunning examples here. Henry Moore’s touching images of sleeping shelterers move me too. Antonio Saura’s, Hiroshima, Mon Amour. It’s wonderful to see them again.

From Norwich it’s off to Cromer in search of another favourite image – the cover of Turning the Tide! Oh course, I’d have to go out to sea to capture it exactly and there are no rocks at Cromer for Harry to sit on - although maybe there are some at Little Spitmarsh, the sleepy seaside town in my book - but I can see enough to get that tingly feeling. Cromer and Little Spitmarsh both have a pier jutting out into the same sea, but they are not the same place. Little Spitmarsh is an amalgam of all the faded seaside towns that I love, but which are faced with uncertain futures caught between the need to modernise and the risk of losing all that makes them unique.

That dilemma’s at the forefront of my mind when Tom and I escape the rain and dive into a seafront café for fish and chips. The place is tired, feels as if it hasn’t been decorated since the ‘seventies and, despite being almost empty, no one is eating. So whilst we wait for food we sit and drink tea and enjoy the most fabulous panoramic view of the coast. Part of me wonders what someone like Rick Stein could do with a restaurant in a spot like this – the other half wonders, like my heroine, Harry, in Turning the Tide, if I could still afford to sit here if he did.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

West to East: Girls' Night In at Waterstone's

After a seven hour car journey and a near-death experience in the Cambrian mountains where an oncoming driver is trying to create a dual carriageway in the narrow pass, we arrive at our hotel in Bury St Edmunds.
‘You’re in the chalet with the four poster,’ the receptionist tells us cheerfully. I’m less thrilled, ‘chalet’ being something I associate with Butlins not the lovely old building on the hotel’s website. Making our way across the courtyard I hear what sounds like an orchestra warming up from the other chalets; that’s because an orchestra is warming up in the other chalets. Once inside though the chalet is quiet, clean and cosy - if a little reminiscent of eighties suburbia. Still we’re not here to admire the decor, it’s a quick wash and brush up before heading into town for the Choc Lit authors (well, four of us) ‘Girls’ Night In’ at Waterstone’s Bury St Edmunds.
Stand by your Books! Sue, Christina, me and Margaret
It’s not true that all my nerves evaporate when Jen, the manager, greets me, but I’m certainly reassured that I’m in safe hands. Jen and her staff have done us proud, drumming up an audience of fifty, chairs from the coffee shop opposite to sit them in and plenty of wine and chocolate to keep everyone happy. My happiness levels receive another boost when I see the beautiful, smiling face of fellow blogger SuffolkMum coming towards me. We’ve never met before but recognise each other straightaway. Chatting to her is just like meeting up with an old friend. Lovely Lucie Wheeler and her friend Kate, Choc Lit reading panellists are there too and all the friendly faces really set the tone for a good evening.

Christina Courtenay, Margaret James, Sue Moorcroft and I all say a bit about ourselves and our books whilst Tom, the only man in the room, dashes round acting as official photographer. We then take questions from a really interested and interesting audience, leaving just enough time to mingle and sign some books. I hear some inspiring stories from some of the people who’ve been kind enough turn up to hear us and it strikes me, once again, how enjoyable it is to meet new readers. A wonderful evening and huge, huge thanks to Jen and all the staff at Waterstone’s for making us feel so welcome.
Christina and me - looking more relaxed now!

The next morning it’s up and away because Tom and I are heading to Norfolk to meet some friends. We leave our chalet, trying not to trip any members of the orchestra labouring under the weight of their instruments and bags, and look forwards to enjoying a hearty cooked breakfast in the old part of the hotel. ‘Sorry,’ says the waitress. ‘The kitchen’s closed today – didn’t anyone tell you?’ Ah well, I suppose it would be too much to expect everything to go according to plan.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Reflections on the Cardiff Half Marathon 2010

Sunday morning dawned with near perfect running conditions for my third Cardiff half marathon; dry, cold and still. And if the glorious sunshine was a little blinding at times, it was a price worth paying to see the city bathed in light.

Over eleven thousand runners took part this year, but I struck very lucky when the start was moved to just outside my daughter’s flat meaning I could avoid those loo queues! In theory this should also have made me calm and rested, but I was my usual gibbering heap before the race and still had a pre-race cry.

The new course was extremely congested in places, making it very difficult to get past walkers and groups of three and four running together, and I was glad to get to mile six when we were through the parks and had space to take off. However, the atmosphere was brilliant with lots of people encouraging each other along the way and great support from a fantastic Cardiff crowd.

What I really noticed this year was how many of us carry our loved ones with us. I cry at the start every race because I run for my dad and everything he’s missed, but as I moved through the crowds there were many runners who were not alone. Fallen comrades, lost babies, grieved-for parents and friends were there amongst us – I’m filling up now, thinking of the mum I passed, younger than me, running for her ‘beautiful daughter, Elle’- so many people loved and remembered.

It must have been thinking about family that made me suddenly look up at mile 12 to see Tom, Lily and Stepson Two all smiling and waving at me (the video clips shows how pleased I was to see them!). By the time I finished the race, Gorgeous Girlf had joined them too (she and Stepson Two had come all the way to Cardiff to surprise me) and although I was wearing my medal by then, the real treasure was all around me in the happy memories of the day.

Low point: Feeling in need of an energy boost at mile 6 and discovering that I dropped my Haribo bears!!! Disaster!
High point: Overtaking three young blokes and hearing one comment, ‘Bloody hell, she must be fit!’
Favourite quote: At mile 11 on seeing a runner ambling towards us wearing his finisher’s medal, hearing the man next to me say, ‘F*cking hell! Is he taking the p*ss?’

All in all, another memorable half marathon. Now, do I sign up for the Llanelli half in March?


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Summer's Lease

We’ve been gleaning this late sunshine, taking some time out after work to sit down by the estuary to soak up some summer warmth before the winter. This week has been something of an interlude for me. I was invited to write a short story for a monthly magazine and found it really refreshing to take a break from the work in progress to write something different. I’m pleased to say the editor liked what I sent her, giving me a boost to return to my current novel with renewed enthusiasm.

With the Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday, this has been the week when the training tapers off with a few days rest before race day. I don’t run for a particular charity as I’m too afraid of not finishing or letting them down, but if anyone feels like dropping a pound in the nearest collection box afterwards, that would be brilliant. As always, I’ll be thinking of my dad on Sunday and organisations like The Royal Marsden,The Princess Alice Hospice, Cancer Research UK and Pancreatic Cancer UK, who helped to look after him in some way.

Good luck to all the runners taking part on Sunday, but especially my writing and running buddy across the hills from me,Preseli Mags.

Good luck too, to Tom who’s completing another year of academic work with an exam on Friday. Fingers crossed for my sister who, after a run of bad luck you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, can see a glimmer of hope on her house. And finally... (because how can I not mention them on the day that everyone’s been waiting for?) the Chilean miners (is there anyone who can watch those scenes without being moved?) here’s hoping they are all recovered safely.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

My First Book Signing!

It’s a fine, dry day and there’s an Italian market in the square outside Waterstone’s. Good for a book signing? ‘Bad,’ says Tim. The stalls are blocking the view of the shop and the fine weather’s keeping everyone outdoors. Hmm, that must be why they’ve only put one small poster up for my event, I mean why waste the Blu Tack?
Tim demonstrates handing off the marauding hordes

After much refolding of a black tablecloth and a rummage around for some books, I’m invited to take up my position at the author table somewhere between ‘fantasy and horror’, children’s books and a poster of the next author, Bobby ‘Iron Duke’ Windsor who’s signing on Monday. Once Tom, Lily, my lovely daughter, and her partner, Russ, are all sure I’m not going to run away, they leave me to it, taking it in turns to make sure I’m all right and bring me tea.

Very soon, I notice a small boy watching me. When he returns with his family I learn that he would like to be a writer. His method, he tells me, is to rewrite his favourite stories, adding his own twists and new characters – amazing! It’s a brilliant start to the event especially when his family buy my book. I’m so grateful I feel like packing up and going home!

But then I would have missed the folks who made such an effort to come to see me; writers and bloggers, Liz Fielding, Preseli Mags and Fennie of Corner Cupboard and Linda, fellow student on the OU creative writing diploma course, all come in, some with family, to say hello. It’s an absolute delight so see so many friendly faces! I am quite charmed too, by the young Asian guy, who makes a bee-line for my table, gives me a sweet smile and passes me a hand-written note which reads, ‘Apollo Cinema’, then asks if I know where it is.

The author and her lovely assistant, Lily

Alas, Tim’s prediction about customer numbers is proved correct; it’s a quiet day and my ‘target’ readers are thin on the ground. However, those I do spot are happy to chat to me, interested in what I do and one or two even buy a copy of my book; it’s a huge delight and privilege. I’m relieved and Tim’s happy too. He invites me back later in the year because he thinks Turning the Tide will make a wonderful Christmas present (it will, it will!). And, who knows, if I’m very lucky, next time I might even get my own poster...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

All Sorts, Out of Sorts

Friday 24 September
With just over a week to go before my first book signing, I phone Lovely Tim at Waterstone’s to make sure everything’s in place. ‘Er,’ says Lovely Tim, ‘remind me, what book is it again?’. After a pause, whilst I listen to some electronic pips with sinking heart, LT returns to tell me that everything to do with my book signing appears to have fallen down a black hole. Reeling, I contact Lyn at Choc Lit and in the blink of an eye everything is back on track. What a woman!

It’s a chilly evening so we break out the heating. We’ve been trying to make our oil last (1) because it’s fiendishly expensive and (2) because we were hoping to move and didn’t especially feel like donating a lavish gift of a full tank of oil to someone who was messing about. Anyway, now prospective buyer has pulled out, we treat ourselves to some heat. Except that some gremlin has got into the system. And we don’t notice until 2 a.m. when we both wake up boiling alive. Three attempts to thwart the gremlin fail and by the time we conquer it, we’re both wrung out and it’s time to get up.

Saturday 25 September
Saturday mornings are Saturday papers for me; Guardian and the Telegraph. Telegraph because it’s brilliant for crazy filler stories (like the bosom-knitting granny – classic!). Buying the papers, however, involves an 8 mile trip to our nearest shop... Tesco. So I’m not thrilled to bits on our return to discover that, once again, I have a combo paper of any old bits and pieces shoved inside a Telegraph skin. Surely I shouldn’t have to stand there every week making sure my paper’s in one piece. How berludy hard is it to put a paper together anyway??

Postman arrives with my race pack for the Cardiff half marathon. A quick look at the booklet freaks me out; it’s full of photos of serious runners all looking lean, mean and raring to go.

Sunday 26 September
Go for my LSD; my long, slow distance run. Am three years older than when ran first Cardiff half. Horribly aware that tempus is fugiting but I’m not. Wah!
In the afternoon we go house-hunting. Theoretical house-hunting because no bugger’s buying ours. Maybe there’s a reason why we haven’t sold? Although that smacks of predeterminism which bothers me. Something’s changing though. I love this part of the country, but after five years, I beginning to wish I was closer to my loved ones and worry about our parents being so far away. Is it time to move a bit nearer to them or am I just out of sorts?

And finally... Saturday 2 October
If anyone’s in Carmarthen, I’ll be in Waterstone’s from 12-2pm signing copies of my book, Turning the Tide. Do come in and say hello!

Painting is Oak Leaves, by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Cats, Dogs and Hounds at Home

Although we have four children between us, Tom and I will never have our very own bundle of joy. Pets (what else?) are not us. Specifically, they are not Tom. Whilst I’m fine with cats, heck I even gave the kiss of life to one of mine after she was hit by a motorbike (sadly her internal injuries were too severe to save her), it’s dogs I really love.

My favourite family dog was Zorba (Ma’s Greek Island period), an absolutely adorable miniature dachshund who could melt the stoniest human heart. We also had Rima, a dazzling red setter, who liked nothing better than to sneak up on unsuspecting visitors and goose them and, briefly, Sam a naughty standard dachshund. Sam came to us for a trial run when his old lady owner was finding him a bit too energetic. He shot through the house, eating soap, drinking from the toilet and jumping up the curtains before racing outside to gobble some bread left on the lawn and crunch a few snails. Then he got a bit above himself and tried to stop Dad coming in the house, growling at him furiously, soapy snail-green slobber foaming from his mouth, and that was the end of the trial.

These days I mainly meet dogs on my run. I have had the odd bad encounter with scary farm dogs, and, of course, Dorothy, the Jack Russell who bit my bum so thoroughly that I had to get patched up at hospital. But I’ve also met some lovely dogs like Ben and Whisky who got to know me before their owner, wagging their tails when they saw me approaching (actually, they were probably laughing). My absolute favourite though, because I’ve always wanted one, is Max, a beautiful and gentle rescue greyhound who loves a fuss.

Since I can’t have my own dog, reading about other people’s rescue greyhounds is the next best thing so I was very happy to support the Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare kennels at Hersham, Surrey by buying a copy of Hounds at Home a new collection of true stories about adopting and living with greyhounds, by Victoria Kingston and Hilary Johnson. It’s available from the Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare website (£4.50 plus £1.50 P&P) and describes the ups and downs, the funny and the sad of adopting a hound needing a home. There are some gorgeous photos – Darius with stegosaurus is irresistible - but it’s the stories that are so touching and one or two of them sent tears streaming down my face. If dogs are you, you might like it too.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Wardrobe Malfunctions

With clothing prices set to increase by between 5 and 8 per cent next year, it looks as if the age of ‘throwaway’ fashion is at an end. We’re all going to have to be a bit more frugal about our buying - although you don’t need to be Gok Wan to look at my shrunken T-shirts and tired jumpers to realise that I’ve never had enough disposable income to bin anything for being ‘last year’. Nevertheless there are some items lurking in the back of my wardrobe that, even in west Wales, will never see the light of day...

For many years I wanted to be a Rock Chick when I grew up. Even when I was grown up. Little did I know, as I strutted around in these leather bad boys channelling the spirit of Jim Morrison, that my daughters were cringing behind my back and suffering excruciating embarrassment every time I left the house in them. I tried them on this morning, wondering what the fuss was about, then looked in the mirror and found a short woman in waders looking back at me. Please accept my profound apologies, Rose and Lily.

Well, look at this. My investment coat, wool and cashmere, purchased after months of careful saving. Very this season, don’t you think? Strange mousey colour, military references. Lovely. It’s also like a berludy tent on me! How I ever convinced myself it fitted, I don’t know! I can only think that, costing as much as it did, I thought I’d get as much fabric as possible for my

How about these then? I know! What was I thinking of? These things happen. It was my lunch hour, I was fed up, they were in a sale and the next thing I knew they were accompanying me back to the office. I can’t even walk in them – that four inch heel is a killer.

I suppose the lesson of this morning’s rummage in my wardrobe is that there are some items that should be thrown away... but in the meantime I’ll just put them back where I found them. I’m not sure about the practical value of those boots, but if clothes prices go up that much, a pair of leather trousers and a huge military style overcoat might just come in handy!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Counting Down to the Cardiff Half Marathon

Saturday 4 September.
With six weeks to go until the Cardiff Half Marathon, my running shoes have had enough. At £50 - £60 a pop, I do have to take a deep breath when the time comes to renew them, but, hey, they do a pretty good job of pounding the roads round here. The internet, once again, seems to have run out of Asics 1150s in my size so we head for the wilds of Sports Direct at Haverfordwest. Inside it’s complete havoc; mountains of shoeboxes, zillions of mum and small daughter combos, forlorn single shoes abandoned by their other halves. I am not hopeful. With sinking heart I nab the nearest assistant, who happens to be up a ladder. To my immense surprise there is some sort of order and efficiency behind the chaos and two minutes later I’m standing at the till with my new shoes. Well done Sports Direct and a big thank you to a very helpful assistant.

When I get home I’m slightly freaked out to find that the route for the Cardiff Half Marathon is a new one this year. I tweet my distress and @Cadrieu responds out the blue with a reassuring message. How kind people can be.

Sunday 5 September.
Decide to run a practise half marathon – but not in my new shoes. All goes well until mile nine when I accidentally swallow a bug. Whilst it can’t be much fun for the bug to be sucked into an enormous black hole, it certainly doesn’t do much for me – especially when the bug fights back and flutters around in my throat – aaarrrghh! There is a tussle by the side of the road after which both of us emerge slightly worse for wear.

So whilst training has taught me that bugs are definitely not good to eat, Haribo Gold Bears are amazing – just the right size and long lasting! However something called a ‘Wild Mouse’ from Lidl is truly horrid – like eating an alien with a huge foamy body and a nasty jelly tail – nearly as bad as the fly.

Wednesday 8 September.
Take my new shoes for a six mile spin – I realise how flat my previous pair are when I set off and feel as if I’m running in platforms. Absolutely rubbish run, but at least I beat the rain and manage not to eat a bug. 38 days to go...

And finally...
A couple of thanks. Thanks for your good wishes to Rose, who has started her new job. After three years of diligently working in a silent, formal office where hardly anyone knew her, it’s now jeans, Macs, music and enthusiasm. Great – long may it last.

And thanks from me for supporting Turning the Tide. I’m very grateful to all of you who’ve bought the book or said nice things about it. Getting too hung about Amazon rankings is a very dangerous game to play – but it doesn’t half make my day when the book gets a boost. Thank you!

Monday, 6 September 2010

High Heels and Book Deals

I'm delighted to be over at High Heels and Book Deals today, because:

1. I get to chat to Mel which is always a pleasure and
2. I've been allowed - encouraged even - to talk about my favourite shiny red shoes. Yay!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Moving, Not Moving

Only a month ago, my sister was thrilled to have an offer accepted on her dream home. When I saw the details I could see exactly why she’d fallen in love with the property, a beautiful Edwardian gem, treasured not trashed by the couple who’d lived there for many happy years. Last week, my sister and her family went on holiday for a much-needed break as my youngest niece has been quite poorly. They could relax knowing that a moving date – 14th not 13th September, as her buyers were superstitious - had been set and they were about to exchange contracts. And then, the day before exchange, the buyers had second thoughts and pulled out. Just to make things even worse, it rained all week and my sister discovered that something was moving – they’d taken a family of nits on holiday with them. Where did the good luck fairy go?

Our own attempt to move has been thwarted at every turn by the most bizarre and unexpected twists; a house with a private water supply... but, it appeared, no legal entitlement to the water, houses that are for sale one minute and not the next, potential buyers who... no, don’t get me started. In the process we’re racking up legal bills and throwing money down the drain. There must be a better way of doing this?

On a happier note, my lovely younger daughter known here as Rose (or PonkyRose – do all families have their own language?) has given three years of very solid work to a company who have, quite frankly, given very little back. Tomorrow she starts a new job that she’s very excited about, with a publisher of high quality books for children, and the good news is they seem very pleased to have her too! Here’s to you, Ponky, well done, darling, we all hope you’ll be very happy!

Painting is 'Under the Pier with Nets' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Absence note

Please excuse me this week... lots to be getting on with.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sign Here

A large crowd is gathered outside Waterstone’s Carmarthen store. The last time I saw huge numbers of people outside a book store, John Barrowman was being mobbed in Borders whilst, a couple of doors down, there were queues round the block and bouncers keeping an eye on the hungry hordes waiting to meet Katie Price. Since I’m about to wander in to ask for my first book signing, the sight of all those people is a tad daunting. If only I’d remembered to get a Day-Glo makeover first.

Getting closer we see that it’s not Captain Jack Harkness or Jordan pulling in the punters, but Michael Jackson or rather a Michael Jackson lookie-likie, who isn’t actually in the store, but on a stage outside. Something to do with the Carmarthen Merlin Festival celebrating ‘the legend and lore of Carmarthen’s ancient links with Merlin.’ Eh?

I take a few deep breaths, get a pat on the back from Tom and, clutching a business card and a copy of Turning the Tide in my shaking hands, brace myself to do battle. ‘Yes,’ says Tim (forever known now as Lovely Tim) as soon as I’ve explained why I’m there. ‘It’s a great-looking book, beautifully produced and it’s mass market fiction. We’d be happy to arrange a signing. Have you done one before?’ My brief burst of elation collapses; this must be where they suss me out as being a complete novice and kick me out the store, but no, Lovely Tim is kindness itself. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘We’ll look after you. We’ll put you in a good seat and send you lots of customers.’

I feel like weeping with gratitude, but hold it together whilst we arrange a date:

Saturday 2 October 12 - 2pm Waterstone’s Carmarthen.

Fantastic! And huge thanks to Lovely Tim for making it so easy for me.

Painting is Totem Gymreig by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Sailing Against the Tide

One of many factors that made sailing on Veryan, our wooden boat, so interesting was that she was a very heavy boat with a very feeble engine. If the tide turned against us we simply didn’t get anywhere. This happened on one occasion just as we were trying to get into Bembridge Harbour on the Isle of Wight. It’s a harbour that the guide books say requires ‘close attention to detail’, but running out of horse power adds a touch of additional excitement. As the wind and a ferocious current tethered Veryan to one spot, Tom and I stood in the cockpit gritting our teeth against what felt like a full gale willing her to inch forwards. On the beach, just a few feet away, a little old lady and her dog, untroubled by the tide, stood in the sunshine watching us and wondering what the fuss was all about.

Life’s felt a bit like sailing against the tide, despite last week’s fleeting visit from the Good Luck Fairy. This morning we woke to the news that archaeologists have uncovered Britain’s oldest house. ‘Does it have a ‘For Sale’ board next to it?’ asks Tom. It certainly feels as if we’ve been on the market for eleven thousand years. But whereas we’ve also woken up to the fact that the only way to sell a house in this part of the country is to take a savage price cut, many vendors are covering their eyes, ignoring the financial warning signs and thinking they can hold out for the full asking price. Until everyone gets real, no one in the current housing market is going anywhere.

Whilst not exactly sailing against the tide on the writing front, I’m certainly aware of conflicting forces. Writing the next book whilst promoting Turning the Tide is a bit like being helpless with morning sickness whilst watching a small child cross a busy road. It’s frustrating, too, not to get the promotional chances you’d hope for. Our nearest Tesco is tiny and, at this time of year, entirely geared to holiday makers. It’s hard to park and hard to shop – unless you want sun tan cream, barbecue food or a bucket and spade. A few local items do creep in, designed to attract the tourists, so why not include a really lovely holiday read – ie my book?

I put this to Tesco, after all it’s available online from them here, and had an email back saying ‘I am sorry to hear that we have not yet dispatched your books order. I appreciate how disappointing this must be for you’ and advising me to write to their Buying Team whilst making it very clear that the Buying Team probably wouldn’t write back. Somehow it’s just like being back on Veryan struggling against the tide!

Anyway, before you think I’ve turned into Mrs Moany-Moanisson, I was reminded again of how very fortunate I am when I read Joseph O’ Connor’s Once Upon A Life in this week’s Observer. He concludes, ‘If you have enough to eat, and a safe place to sleep, and nobody wants to kill you or take you from your family, you are among the most fortunate few of a troubled world, and you should never forget your sheer luck.’ Too true.

Painting is 'Two Pebbles in a Landscape' by Tom Tomos

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A Good Day!


1. My daughter, Rose, was offered the job she really, really wanted.

2. My sister had an offer accepted on the house she really, really wanted.

3. I was awarded a Distinction for my OU Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing.

With 55 mins of the day left to run, I'm quitting whilst I'm ahead!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Near Miss and a Surprise Hit

Poor DiL’s been in the wars since leaving us last week. He was pootling around on his allotment on Monday when he decided to lift a piece of old carpet, inadvertently disturbing a wasp nest. In the mayhem that ensued DiL was stung repeatedly on the head and face. No one else was about, but somehow DiL managed to grab a garden hose and turn it on himself until the wasps had had enough. He then drove himself the short distance home where a horrified MiL, who doesn’t drive, summoned a friend and got him off to hospital. Fortunately DiL’s not allergic to wasp stings and various pills and potions have patched him up, but it’s one of those incidents that has shaken us up too and made us appreciate – even when their undercrackers turn up in unexpected places – how very precious our loved ones are.

Ma’s been having an exciting time too, although her experiences have been rather more positive than DiL’s. My brother-in-law whisked my sister off to Venice for a long weekend to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary (well done, you two!) leaving my nieces, aged 10 & 12, with Ma. Not being close enough to pop in, I started ringing every day to make sure they were all coping. Well, I don’t know about my nieces, but Ma’s had a lovely time, with Izzy (12) getting her on the internet, showing her how to book cinema tickets, telling her where the best seats are and persuading her to buy a Chinese takeaway on the way home.
‘What did you see? Toy Story 3?’ I ask Izzy.
‘No, KitKat (my nickname),’ she says with contempt. ‘That’s for little kids. We saw The Karate Kid.
‘And very good it was too,’ says Ma, in the background.
Hmm, if my mother turns in to a junk food, junk film addict I shall know who to blame.

Painting is 'Sunset - Bardsey' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cool Running

After a night of heavy rain, the west Wales coast was at its most beautiful this morning when I went out for a run. Blue sky, fluffy white clouds and hedgerows bejewelled with harebells, cornflowers and diamond-chipped feathery grasses shimmering in the watery sunlight. Not so great sights included a poor little dead mole lying on its back, forlorn starfish hands reaching for the sky, and a banana skin. (Note: always avoid the banana skins.)

Hotel H has been heaving. I’ve finally got round to unpacking my bag from our recent trip to the south (don’t worry – I did unpack the manky bits on our return). We’ve had MiL and DiL here (on the ‘go-to-south-to-catch-up-with-one-set-of-rellies-bring-another-lot-home’ basis) and they like to spread out a bit. Surprise entertainment this week has included DiL suddenly being afflicted with an inability to walk – his slippers were on the wrong feet – and a mystery object falling out the washing machine with my tea towels – DiL’s undercrackers, leftover from MiL’s wash.

But now, with a book to deliver and the Cardiff half marathon in October, I’m glad to get back in the groove of steady work. There are no short cuts, at least not for me; to run 13.1 miles you need to build up slowly and train regularly. To write a book, you need to put the hours in and watch the word-count build. I’m naturally impatient and always want quick results, but running’s taught me the value of taking life a step at a time. Just watch out for the banana skins.

And finally...
My sister and I always used to dread exam results. Not because we were bad scholars, but because there was no pleasing Ma. Even 99% would have her sighing and saying something like, ‘Oh well, perhaps you’ll do better next time.’ I don’t think even Ma would find fault with today’s marks for Turning the Tide over at Novelicious – I’m thrilled to bits. So, with Miss Write's review yesterday, it’s been a brilliant couple of days for the book. It doesn’t half feel good too!

My thanks too, to lovely Wordtryst who was kind enough to give me an award – I’ll collect it as soon as poss, but do go and read Liane’s blog for wise words about writing, reading and a dash of Caribbean sunshine.

Painting is ‘Rain setting in – Pembrokeshire Coast’ by Tom Tomos

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why I love writing...

'As the last chapter came to a close, I got off at my station, sat on a bench in the sun and postponed my walk home by ten minutes or so to enjoy the last few pages uninterrupted, a little oasis of sublime romance in my rushed day.'

A lovely, lovely comment from a review of Turning the Tide by Miss Write. Check out her blog for sharp, clever writing.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

No-one Died

I worked for several years in the research department of a large trades union. It was my first job after my daughters started school and I shared it with Maureen who also had children, unlike most of our colleagues within the department. Maureen was one of those incredibly serene, unflappable people who was wonderful to work with. Just as well, really, since we were the jugglers of Research, trying to cram full time work into part-time hours to prove our worth, whilst fielding the inevitable calls from school. The one that particularly sticks in my mind was an office lady ringing me up to say, ‘Could you please collect your daughter? She’s fallen off a log.’

Maureen and I built our joint career together, starting as research assistants and fighting our way to become trades union officials. Along the way we had to put up with a lot of rubbish, such as other officials sticking their heads round the door of the department, seeing me or Maureen and saying, ‘Oh, no one in!’. I always had a feeling that as mums and part-timers we were never taken quite as seriously as the hungry, straight-from-university, twenty-somethings who began to fill up the department, hoovering up experience before moving on to the next job. At times, I got pretty fed-up about our treatment, but Maureen always managed to remain calm. ‘No-one died,’ she’d say, with a tranquil smile.

Maureen’s words came back to me after my stint on the Choc Lit panel at the Romantic Novelists Conference 2010 on Saturday. The talk that I had practised in my study went straight out of my head when I looked up and saw... faces! Where did all those people come from? I thought that caring about my subject would make it easier, as opposed to talking about some old employment nonsense, but in fact it made it twice as hard! I’m afraid I stammered and stuttered through my piece before staggering off wondering how it had all gone so wrong. And Maureen’s words came back to me. So what if I’d made a bit of chimp of myself? I got through it. No-one died.

Painting is 'The Tomb of St Basil - Westminster' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

My Guy

Excuse me if I FREAK OUT just a little, won’t you? My keyboard should be smoking with activity, but today I’m having a bit of a moment. We’re off to the south east on Friday which is good because I’ll catch up with Ma. My sister and I are both trying to sell our houses at the moment so Ma’s been something of a Freak Control Red Centre, fielding calls from both of us and handling all the ‘It’s on/off/pile-of -cr*p/best-thing-I’ve-ever-seen/b*stards/heroes’ calls with appropriate pigeon noises. A very diplomatic approach, actually, since neither of us can throw her words back at her.

But what’s really creeping up on me is Saturday, Day Two of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference 2010, because I’m joining the Choc Lit panel where we’ll be talking about our heroes. ‘But, mummy!’ said Rose. ‘The expert on your hero is you! What are you worrying about?’ And the answer is that I don’t know really, after all I’ve got up on my hind legs in a previous life and talked about such thrilling topics as sick pay and millennium payments and I knew a lot less (there, I’ve admitted it now!) about either of those than I do about Matthew Corrigan, the hero of ‘Turning the Tide’.

I suppose the answer is because I really care and I really want people to engage with my guy and to see why he and my heroine, Harry, would be attracted to each other. On that subject (terrible trumpet tootling alert), my Mslexia magazine arrived yesterday, (would heartily recommend it – and not just on a sucky-up note; every issue is packed with useful information and writing exercises... although they never pick my poems when I send them in. Sigh.) and it included a really wonderful write-up about ‘Turning the Tide’ (page 51 ‘Independent Press: Choc Lit’) which set me up for the whole day. I must remember to think about that before I do my bit on Saturday.

Painting is 'Late Light - Preseli' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Champagne, Chocolates and Crazy Horses

Well, this is it; it's Turning the Tide's official publication day today – yes, I know it first appeared at the beginning of June, on the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death, in fact, but this is its official birthday.

I began the morning with an early training run keeping my eyes open for escaped wildlife after a truly exciting run on Sunday morning when I could see a blockade in the road ahead of me. ‘Are you moving cows?’ I asked, as a born-again country girl in tune with the rhythm of nature. ‘No,’ said one of the fielders in a very strong Welsh accent. ‘Ment-al 'orses.’ After checking further down the line I got the all clear to ‘go, if you’re quick.’ At which point I shot off like a woman possessed.

I was just congratulating myself on getting out of trouble when there was a huge commotion just in front of me and two horses charged out of a gap in the hedge! Fortunately, they galloped away from me rather than towards me, all I had to worry about then was the cavalcade of cars and quad bikes speeding after them. Anyway, today I got home without any extra excitement from fierce dogs, smelly dead things (you really don’t want to know) or crazy horses.

Anyway, I was just sitting here having a quiet post-sausage-sandwich write when the doorbell went and a delivery man (actually, that’s another story, but I don’t want my publication day to scar me for life) handed over (finally) a parcel. Inside was a box of yummy Belgian chocolates, a bottle of Moet and a card wishing Turning the Tide a happy birthday from my lovely publishers, Choc Lit. Isn’t that lovely of them?

Since it is Turning the Tide’s official birthday, I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s supported me along the way – I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sed Non Culpa Mea Est

It’s typical that after weeks of inactivity on the house front, there’s a rush*of viewings the very week that Stepson Two and Gorgeous Girlf are staying with us. Given that I’m fretting about how one book baby is faring in the big wide world whilst frantically gestating the other (actually that sounds a bit yucky, let’s not go there) there’s a fair bit on my mind.

On Monday afternoon the estate agent rings to make an appointment for the following evening. Or so I think. ‘6.30 tomorrow !’ I announce. On Tuesday afternoon we clear the house of clutter and people and I sit and wait for our viewers. I wait for half an hour and nothing happens so I summon the family home. Stepson Two and GG shrug it off, but Tom and I are both grumpy about the wasted time. I want to have a big rant at the person who stood us up but can’t because of a slight suspicion that I got the message wrong. After a night of wondering if I’m starting to crack, I ring the estate agents and get the happy news that it wasn’t me – hurray! Now I can have a rant!


Painting is 'Dinas Head' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Wistful Thinking

Part of my daughter’s poorliness has meant a trip to hospital. When everything is done and dusted, Lily and I retreat to where the lovely WVS ladies are serving refreshments whilst we wait for Tom to collect us. The teas are 80p each and we ask for two. ‘£1.80!’ says the dear lady. We give her a surprised look and she has another bash, except I then throw everything into chaos by asking for a bag of Jelly Tots as well.

A young Asian man wanders in looking punch drunk, clutching a shiny, black and white image which is drying in his hand. The image is of what looks like a satellite picture of the weather forecast, all swirls and mists. It is, of course, an ultrasound image of his child and looking at the father-to-be's face as he gazes as it makes me feel both privileged and unintentionally intrusive. I tell Lily about the moment I heard her heartbeat for the first time, when I barely believed I was pregnant, now here she is, a grown woman.

For many months now a huge stack of paper has been sitting in a filing tray on the floor of my study. It’s the ‘final’ version of Turning the Tide, well, the one that was the final version before the editing process which was all done electronically anyway. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to keep it anymore, yet it was still quite a wrench to switch it to my recycling pile. Although I do most of my work straight on the computer, I still like to print out the WIP from time-to-time as reading a hard copy gives me a fresh perspective and I can sometimes hear the rhythm of the words better.

The other thing I like to do is set up a box file for each book filled with anything that makes me think about the plot; photographs, cuttings, maps, legal points. I felt a touch of sadness as I closed the box file for Turning the Tide, but at least the new one for the WIP is coming along nicely and that feels quite exciting.

And finally...
Phew! I can relax at last. MiL, who gave up reading novels, has made an exception for Turning the Tide. Although it was very sweet of her I was a tad worried as MiL is less than keen on dogs, boats, bad language and vigorous horizontal romps all of which feature at least once in the book. Fortunately, we both seem to have survived with MiL declaring it ‘quite good for a first effort’. I wonder who was most relieved?

Painting is 'Offshore Surf' by Tom Tomos

Sunday, 13 June 2010

And the winner is...

Thank you to all of you who entered the draw to win a copy of Turning the Tide. All the names were placed in a hat (one of my berets, in fact. I wasn't wearing it at the time 'though) and the one Tom picked out at random was... Elizabethd! I hope you enjoy it, Elizabeth.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Threading and Drawing

It’s all right, you can look – I’m not even going to mention You Know What ... well not until the end, anyway. Lily is poorly so we’re off to Cardiff today to give her some TLC. Looking after Lily means I won’t be a danger to myself in Cardiff, which is what happened a couple of weeks ago.

I had a few minutes before I was due to meet Tom so thought I’d wander round the new John Lewis store to look at all the things I can’t afford. But before I got there, I noticed a bevy of gorgeous women offering some sort of beauty treatment. For someone who’s resisted all that stuff all their life (and it shows, dear reader), I’ve been slightly seduced by my ten pound manicure in New York so I decided to take a closer look.

‘You want eyebrows threaded?’ said one lovely lady. Did I? I’m pale-skinned with fine hair, not exactly a rain forest among women, yet when I took a close look at the rest of them with their perfectly-arched eyebrows, I had a real desire to be in the Beautiful Eyebrow Gang.
'I don’t think there’s much to work with, is there?’ I said.
‘Oh yes. Here, here, here and here.’ What? Had I developed a werewolf gene when I wasn’t looking? The first tweak wasn’t too bad, but as what felt like millions of tiny downy hairs rained down on me, it really began to sting. No wonder women all around me were getting up from their treatment with red eyebrows and streaming eyes!

Fortunately it was over with very quickly and I was looking forwards to seeing my beautiful new eyebrows when I heard my technician say, ‘And now I take out the greys!’ What greys? Okay there is a little patch, like a clump of daisies growing in the grass, where I tobogganed downstairs in a grocery box (not recently, I hasten to add) and went through a glass front door, splitting my eyebrow open, but I didn’t think it was a problem!

At last my eyebrows were deemed gorgeous enough for me to join the Beautiful Eyebrow Gang and I was shown the result. And I have to say my eyebrows have never looked so amazing – shaping two clumps of hair I’ve never even thought about before made a huge difference! Or so I thought, until I met Tom - who didn’t notice!

And finally...
To make up for boring the pants off everyone about Turning the Tide, I’m giving a copy away. Just use the contact button my website and I’ll stick the names on a piece of paper and get Tom to draw one at random at midday Sunday 13 June.

Painting is ‘Sea, Sky, Early Heather’ by Tom Tomos

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

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; I’m utterly thrilled with mine and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hold a copy of Turning the Tide in my hands at last.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bar to Car

My sense of direction, never wonderful, fails completely when I’m in London so, despite detailed instructions from Tom, I still end up walking in the wrong direction and have to phone to be reoriented. Still, at least I’ve got as far as St James’s Park without falling down the gap boarding the train at Epsom, laddering my tights or snapping the heel off my shoes – all fears which have been haunting me. Reaching the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the venue for the RNA summer party, my next fear is that no one will talk to me and I’ll be left standing on the side like the girl nobody wants to dance with. Fortunately this too becomes a needless worry. The problem isn’t about having no one to talk to, but rather the opposite; there just isn’t enough time to catch up with everyone.

It’s a great delight to meet my fellow Choc Lit authors Sue, Christina and Margaret for the first time (Jane and Juliet, we missed you!) and to catch up with Lyn, Publisher Extraordinaire. We share a few collective ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the cover of Sue’s All That Mullarkey and I realise that it won’t be too long now before I’m holding a copy of Turning the Tide.

My shiny red shoes are another ice-breaker, with one lovely lady crossing the room to talk to me because of them. When Janet Gover photographs them for her famous Shoe Blog, along with Christina’s gorgeous floral platforms, I feel very honoured. Shoes, champagne and Choc Lit, I think, as we raise our glasses to Lucy King, the winner of this year’s Joan Hessayon trophy; what a night!

Now all I have to do is get home. After the party Bird Cage Walk seems much lonelier and darker than it was before (well, of course it is darker – because it’s later, but it feels dark too). My moment of relief at finding my way back to the Tube is short-lived when I discover that all trains are cancelled. ‘What are we supposed to do then?’ someone asks. ‘Walk,’ comes the succinct reply. After another quick call to Tom to find out which way to go, my shiny new shoes and I find our way (quite carefully, it must be said) to Victoria. Happily I’m just in time for the fast train. Someone’s even left their new ‘Hello’ magazine behind for me which is a bonus, even if it is a little heavy on royalty. The only slight problem comes when we reach Epsom and I lose the station, but then I realise I’m facing the wrong way so am pleasantly surprised when I turn round to see it’s still there, huge gap and all.

And finally...
Oh dear, we’ve had to face up to the fact that running two cars is a bit of a luxury so, last night, Lester The Fiesta was driven away by the father of one very happy new driver. I hope they enjoy their life together. Farewell Lester, a good and faithful servant.

'Abstracts' by Tom Tomos