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Showing posts from 2019

An Accident Happens

Monday 2 December It’s an especially beautiful morning when I set out for my seven-mile run, frost twinkles under the low sun in the Secret Valley creating an enchanted landscape. Once I leave the shelter of the valley behind, I realise that many of the lanes are glazed with treacherous black ice so pick my path very carefully. I love a good downhill sprint, however, so with home in sight and a clear road ahead I take the brakes off and fly. Only, somehow, my left foot snags in gravel. In the split-second before I hit the ground, I know that when I land it’s going to be bad. There’s a smack as my left cheekbone hits the ground and my teeth clash together as my head bounces. My mouth has gone numb, but when I touch my fingers to my face, I’m surprised to see blood on my hands. I fumble for my phone and try to call Tom, but there’s no answer. I know I’ll freeze if I sit still so I drag myself up wondering why it’s all such a struggle. When I try to walk, it feels as if the ribs on my

A Convenient Marriage. Blog Splash!

This week, I’m delighted to be involved in the blog splash for Jeevani Charika’s novel, A Convenient Marriage . Chaya and Gimhana’s very convenient marriage pleases their parents, but what happens when the promise of personal happiness threatens their perfect arrangement? Jeev's question to me was, 'what's the strangest thing you've done because of your family?' which made me think of all the holiday, temporary and part-time jobs I’ve done to make ends meet. As soon as I was old enough, I took a Saturday job working in a restaurant doing a bit of food preparation and some waitressing. To discourage customers at the end of the day, I and another Saturday girl would stand at the window pulling faces at anyone who looked as if they might be about to enter. I can’t think why the manageress decided she didn’t need me after all. I’ve worked at a swimming pool and in a make-up factory, I was nearly run over by the actor Patrick Macnee when I was working as a chamb

Dystopia. And Margaret Atwood.

Shortly after leaving Aberystwyth , a disembodied voice announces that our train, which is already moving very slowly, will be held between stations for 20 minutes until we can proceed. Around the same time, I receive messages from Lily, who is travelling from Cardiff, and Rose, who’s coming up from Keynsham, that their trains have been cancelled. Time is already ticking on our long-awaited trip to hear Margaret Atwood in conversation at Birmingham Symphony Hall. As Lily struggles to board an overcrowded train, the middle-class family behind her yell at her to ‘just get on the f*cking train!’. Rose’s train is similarly packed. She is heavily pregnant but no one blinks, let alone offers her seat, so she is forced to stand for an hour and a half. When we eventually meet up at Birmingham New Street, we’re all frazzled and half the afternoon has gone. A pre-theatre dinner at Côte provides us with a calm interlude and the chance for a proper catch-up before we make the short walk to Bi

Cardiff Half Marathon 2019: The'Diff with a Difference

The night before the Cardiff Half Marathon, I toss and turn and have so many hot flushes I wonder if I’m going to self-combust. It’s not the best preparation for a race, but, hey, I’m fortunate to be here and I’m determined to enjoy the day. For the first time in the event’s 16-year history, female runners are in the majority and the starting pen definitely has a different feel. I talk to Stephanie and Clare, two mums who, like so many of the women taking part, juggle running with family responsibilities. Every runner has a story. My dear friend and running buddy, Helen, has defied the odds and overcome her dreadful injury to take part today. I know she’s somewhere amongst the runners and suddenly the crowds part and I see her smiling face. Frustratingly, I lose her again, but then she’s there by my side just in time for the race to begin. We hug, (lots of ‘“awwws” from the women around us!) wish each other luck and then we’re off! This year, I know my granddaughter, Be

September Selection

Befriending the Black-eyed Dog Ma sits alone at home night after night, she’s in constant pain and, occasionally, there are days when she doesn’t talk to anyone. She might - justifiably - grumble from time to time, but she resolutely deals with everything life chucks at her without going under. I have no reason to feel depressed yet September begins with the oppressive sense of the sky falling down on me which also makes me terribly ashamed. However, as I mention in ‘Running Kind’, experience has taught me that punishing myself for perceived failures only leaves me depleted and less able to look after anyone else, so, when Tom heads to the south-east to catch up with old friends, I stay at home to refill the well. I read a lot, I listen to hours of music, I go for a long run and soak up the sights and sounds of the changing season. Not so much an attack from the black-eyed dog, but a gentle reminder that a bit of self-care is not selfish. Sailing Our poor boat has languished in th

A Summer Full of Memories

The last of our summer visitors depart and the house falls still. I can wake up gradually, slowly sipping my tea in bed rather than being on call the split-second I open my eyes and I no longer have to grab a nightie and cover up before one of the little grandchildren bursts into the bedroom. When I go for a run, glistening veils of dew spangle the fields and the tall spikes of fireweed are cloaked with clouds of feathery seed. There’s a melancholic sense of autumn in the cool morning air, but my head and heart are too full of all the memories we’ve made this summer to feel sad. We started early with a long-overdue visit to Canada to spend time with my elder stepson, his wife and their son, (our one and only - so far - grandson) who made their home in Alberta five years ago. We began with some sightseeing, flying out to Vancouver and driving through the Rockies before meeting up with Gill, Dan and Harry. It was precious time and we’re so grateful to them for their generous hosp

Guest Blogger: Margaret James

This week,  I'm delighted to welcome fellow writer, Margaret James to my blog to talk about her work. Over to you, Margaret... Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your lovely blog, fellow novelist and journalist Christine! I’m delighted to be able to share some home thoughts of my own today. I’ve been writing novels since my children were very little, and I’m a grandmother now. But, as well as writing fiction, I’m a journalist working for Writing Magazine , the UK’s bestselling title for writers of all kinds and at all stages of their careers. I write the Fiction Focus pages for every issue and some of the author profiles too. It’s been my privilege to interview many of today’s bestselling novelists and learn the secrets of their success. I’m also one third of the team that runs CreativeWritingMatters . The other team members are Sophie Duffy and Cathie Hartigan. We organise literary competitions, offer mentoring, and provide a whole range of other

Cover Stories

One of the most exciting moments for me, as an author, is that first glimpse of a new cover. All the hope, the dreams and the hours of hard work brought together and epitomised in a single image. I loved the cover of my first published novel, Turning the Tide , so much that I framed it and put it on my study wall. I have to admit, though, the the girl on the cover, cast away on a pile of rocks, looks nothing like the Harry Watling of my imagination. My heroine, Harry, is a fierce, angry, scared woman with a chip on both shoulders who’s prepared to take on the world to save the business her father started and wouldn’t be seen dead in anything except a pair of oily dungarees. When Turning the Tide went to Norway, Harry transformed again; her hair’s grown, so have her legs, and she’s wearing a teeny-tiny pair of shorts my Harry would never have had in her wardrobe. Eloise Blake, the heroine of my novella, Only True in Fairy Tales, is a reclusive woman who’s been badly hurt and

Roads to Recovery

Red It’s my longest solo drive in a couple of years; I’ve dropped Tom off at St David’s for the start of his 55 mile bike ride, a training session for his RideLondon 100 charity ride to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Now all I have to do is drive home. I still feel very anxious about driving but a couple of weeks ago I drove 45 miles by myself to collect Tom from Neyland so I know I can do it. I’m okayish, but still quite nervous… especially when the satnav lady tries to send me in an unexpected direction. I’m still wondering if I’ve done the right thing ignoring her when I notice - to my horror - that a policeman at the side of the road is pointing a speed gun at me. Even worse, it looks as if I’m just over the 30 mile speed limit. I think about turning round at the next roundabout and going back to beg for forgiveness, but manage to talk myself out of it. I’m so cross with myself I forget to be nervous so the rest of the drive is easy! I get home, ring my daughters and T

Only Connect

Sunday morning and I’m out running. No music, no company (more about that later), just the rhythm of my footsteps to ground me and the rise and fall of my breath to rebalance during what’s proving to be a very busy time. I love this time of year when the lanes foam with white blossom and cow parsley and jewel-like studs of pinks, purples and blues glow in their green setting. There’s something new to look at every day. I’ve written in ‘Running Kind’ about how this reconnection to the natural world always creates a sense of well-being and especially so on day when I’ve been processing news about friends who are going through a tough time. The changing seasons are a reminder that nothing stays the same. Tom and I have had the great privilege of looking after one of our little granddaughters and tomorrow I’m off to Cardiff to spend some time with two more little girls who are growing up fast. I love listening to the funny things they say as they learn to express themselves and it

From the River Valley to the Sea

‘Fancy a pint?’ Helen asks, naughtily, making me laugh. For a moment I’m almost tempted, even though it’s only a little after 10.30 a.m. We’re sitting near the bar at Lampeter Rugby Club waiting for the start of the Teifi 10 Mile Road Race, organised by Clwb Sarn Helen running club and the nerves are beginning to kick in. I’m one of the few non-affiliated runners and, for all my race experience, I’m a little daunted by all the serious runners and club vests. It’s also clear that almost everyone else is younger than us. There are only 13 runners my age or older in a field of 129! At 11 a.m. we set off on what turns out to be a day of record Easter temperatures in West Wales, but I quickly realise that I won’t be breaking any records in the boiling sunshine. The course takes a very beautiful, scenic route climbing up along the Teifi river valley before winding back down to Lampeter. I decide to take my own advice and be kind to myself. Today’s not the day to go crazy! I run when I ca

Running Kind

Running in The Olden Days. (With the giant leap and crazy hair coming in second!) My goodness, it’s been a while! There have been birthdays to celebrate; Baby Iris has just turned one and her cousin, Joy, is now two. Where did that time go? There’s been illness and worry, but there have been lovely occasions and places to visit too. But in the gaps, I squirrelled away some time to write a book.  It’s no secret that I’ve been in the doldrums when it comes to writing fiction, but a conversation with my son-in-law, Si, got me thinking. And suddenly, I had the idea of writing a book about running. Anything I’ve put into twenty years of running has repaid me a hundred times over in terms of physical and mental well-being, but I know some people are very put off by the idea that every run has to be a tough challenge. Yes, there are times when I push myself way outside my comfort zone, but only to explore what I can do. Running really doesn’t have to be painful. It’s entirely up t

The Finish Line

Never mind the finish line , for a little while it seems as if Helen and I won’t even get to the start of the Llanelli Half Marathon! Roadworks in the town have brought traffic to a standstill. We can see Parc Y Scartlets, where the race begins, but no one’s going anywhere at the moment. Tom, who’s kindly taken on the role of driver and team support, patiently listens while Helen and I try to control our jitters by planning a pre-race strategy. We change into our race shirts (my running bra’s the size of a crop top - so why do I worry about possibly revealing it to other people sitting in their cars?), we drink our coffee, eat our snacks and - phew! - the traffic moves at last. At the stadium, we charge to the loos for a pitstop but there’s another anxious moment when it seems as if all 2,000 runners are crowded on the stairs trying to avoid a sudden shower. Eventually, we make our way to the starting pen only to discover the start has been delayed by fifteen minutes! Aargh! It fe

Return to the Forest

Four days before we are due to go on holiday with Lily, Rose and their families, my lovely Aunty Vera - Ma’s elder sister - dies. I’m absolutely hollowed by grief and a cumulative sense of loss. Another part of myself has drifted away; someone else who tucked me up when I was a little girl and kissed me goodnight has gone. ‘But, Mama,’ Rose reminds me, gently, ‘think of the new little ones coming along.’ Our holiday, it seems, has come at just the right time. Lily and Russ are on their knees from worrying about Bee and baby Iris who both suffer terribly with repeated ear infections and, in Bee’s case, severe hearing loss. They badly need some light relief. Fortunately, Rose, Si and little Joy are doing well, but all of us, once we arrive at our Forest Holiday location in the Forest of Dean, start to feel better. It’s exactly a year since we were last here. We had such a magical time that we decided to return (no, I’m not on commission!). Last year, Joy was learning to walk, this