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Showing posts from 2015

Why Kindness Matters

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Last night I retweeted a lovely positive thought from a running friend (the running community tends to be a supportive, encouraging bunch) about kindness… and provoked a troll who came out of his cave to tell us exactly what he thought of us. Some people, it seems, will have a pop at anyone which is a great shame when there’s more than enough unhappiness and pain in the world. Perhaps the troll thought I was a bit of a Pollyanna which is ironic because the only reason I’ve been trying to hold on to any moments of comfort and joy is because this year’s been so demanding!

Like everyone else, our family’s had its share – quite a large one, in fact - of unhappiness, illness and tragedy. A full life comes with ups and downs, light and shade – it’s part of being alive – so we have to cherish the good times, take pleasure in small moments and make the most of every day. My birthday, at the end of November, brought a moment of pure happiness when I looked round a restaurant table at my dau…

Beyond The Comfort Zone

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Our roller coaster year continues, hence the radio silence. Last week saw me back at hospital for what I hoped would be the final appointment for what’s euphemistically known as Women’s Troubles… though I daresay there have been moments when Tom might feel that this Woman’s Troubles have resulted in a few Man’s Troubles too. Tom and I are ushered into a small room with a male consultant and his male colleague leaving me feeling slightly outnumbered. The consultant introduces himself. His name is so wildly inappropriate for a gynae that I have to suppress giggles. We engage in a little ‘why we are here’ session and he asks how my libido is, explaining, in a low voice, ‘your sex drive’ just to make it clear, I suppose, that he’s not asking about the welfare of a small pet. ‘Fine,’ I assure him, resisting the urge to add, ‘how’s yours?’

The next step is a small procedure. ‘We’ll do another biopsy whilst we’re there,’ he says, momentarily rattling my composure. Another? Will there …

A Day of Contrasts

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One of the joys of working freelance (and let’s not think about the downside of that fluctuating income) is being able to rearrange my own hours. I have two deadlines looming, but after week that brought news of the death of my 92-year old aunt (a good age, yes, but another member of that dwindling generation in my family lost) and saw my sister in A&E with concussion after she fainted and fell down a flight of steps at a station, we decided to make the most of a blustery, sunny day.

I’m not religious, haven’t been since I was little girl, but I love visiting cathedrals for the beauty of their architecture and all the skill and effort that goes into their making. St David’s is a favourite.

We then had a brilliant walk on the stunning beach at Whitesand where a passing stranger ‘complimented’ me on my hat. Cheeky b*gger.

And Tom and I grappled with the mysteries of the selfie.

It was one of those glorious days when the beauty of nature was almost sublime, yet a few hours later the im…

The Container of Our Years

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We’ve had the pleasure of my younger stepson and his girlfriend’s company for a few days. Between jaunts, they’ve been meticulously tracing and compiling family trees, something I’ll never have the patience or energy to do. It’s not just the double and triple checking of hand-written entries in various logs that bothers me; I can’t help but think of the inconvenient truths that lie behind some of these official documents. Are you really who they say you are? Mostly though, it’s just that I don’t feel that those long-dead ancestors, whoever they were, make me the person I am.

However, when my stepson produces an old ordnance survey map for Epsom in 1912, I’m very moved to see the outlines of two tiny little squares which instantly fill with colour and life. One represents the small Victorian cottage on the edges of Epsom Downs where I grew up, where I watched the ebb and flow of the seasons in the racing stable opposite from the bedroom window and where our family was ruled by Zorba,…

Many a Slip

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Ah, why did I talk about light at the end of the tunnel? Less than two weeks after we gathered as a family to celebrate my parents-in-law being married for a magnificent sixty years, my poor MiL is in hospital recovering from an emergency hip replacement having broken her hip in a fall. Our immediate concerns are to help both MiL and Dil get over the shock and to do what we can to assist MiL’s recovery.

Autumn Light

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I had such plans for this year; writing plans for a novel and a novella, running plans for another Cardiff Half Marathon. But I hadn’t bargained on the posterior vitreous detachment, which temporarily knocked out a big old chunk of the central vision in my left eye, or the debilitating health problem which saw me fast-tracked then, thankfully, declared free of anything sinister. Just a couple of loose ends to tie up and all should be well again.

Perhaps things do happen for a reason; this year also brought the utterly amazing experience of being with Lily and Russ when their daughter was born, and with no deadlines to worry about, I’ve had the joy of spending unhurried time with our new granddaughter. Having Rose and Si move closer was an unexpected bonus and makes getting together a lot easier; a couple of weekends ago, for example, we had brilliant time at the Millennium Stadium watching Wales play Uruguay.


However, with my personal goals in disarray, there have been moments when …

Summer's Lease

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‘Someone’s going to be busy,’ says the cashier at Wilko eyeing our bucketful of cleaning goodies. Summer in west Wales, like the roses outside our kitchen window, showed early promise before being battered by strong winds and heavy rain leaving only a glimmer of hope. But today, the sun is shining so what are we doing to make the most of this rare bright day? Why, we’re scrubbing the boat, of course!
Actually, one of the aspects of sailing that I really like is the ‘playing houses’ bit, making another home from home. We’re currently working our way through washing the teal and white upholstery covers, we’ve tackled the mainsail cover – which included The Thing That Crawled Inside, Cr*pped Itself and Died (discovered when Tom shook the mainsail out over me, Rose and Si when we were eating our sandwiches) – and now, I’m cleaning the inside whilst Tom sorts out power and water to clean the outside.

For a 23ft boat, Blue Nun’s surprisingly spacious with lots of headroom, which is one …

Please Release Me: A Blog Splash and a Gale

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Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog splash for fellow ChocLiteer Rhoda Baxter to celebrate the release of her latest book, Please Release Me, which has a rather unusual premise for a romantic novel. In Rhoda’s own words, “Please Release Me, is a contemporary romance with a touch of the paranormal, published by Choc Lit Ltd. It’s set in a hospice (granted, that’s not the most intuitive setting for a romantic comedy…) and features Sally, whose body is a coma while her ghost gets to walk through furniture; Peter, who reads to his comatose wife every day; and Grace, who is the only person who can see or hear Sally’s ghost. It’s a story about moving on in one way or another and about how people need each other, especially when they think they don’t.”

Something else you need to know about this book is that Rhoda’s generously donating half the royalties from it to Martin House Children’s Hospice.

When Rhoda invited me to take part in her blog splash she suggested ‘being stuck’ a…

A Slice of Dundee (with a Topping of Edinburgh)

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Tom, to his great credit, is presenting a paper at The Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy Annual Conference in Dundee. This leaves me with some freewheeling time to explore a city that’s famous for the three ‘js’; jam, jute and journalism. Keen to find out more, I head for The McManus, a neo-Gothic building designed by George Gilbert Scott which houses an art gallery and museum.

An exhibit in ‘The Making of Modern Dundee’ reminds me that Dundee’s also famous for the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879; there are pieces of the collapsed bridge, fragments of glass from the doomed passenger train, and poignant memorials to lost lives. It’s a bleak story in this dark, almost empty gallery so I move on only to find myself standing in front of a couple of enormous whale harpoons. Whale oil, I now know, was essential to jute processing, softening the material and making it flexible, but these relics from the whaling industry still make me uncomfortabl…

Sea Fever

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‘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! …

Cheers, Boos and Coos!

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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 …

When the Bough Broke

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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.







Moments in Time

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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!



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…

In the Pink

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‘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 be…

New Life

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‘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 granddaugh…

Six Years, Six Happy Choc Lit Moments!

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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.

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

October 201…

Waiting Games and Midsummer Dreams

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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 …

Get Happy!

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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 Pr…