Eight weeks later.

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Hello again. Apologies for my absence, though maybe you didn’t notice I’d been away? A LOT has happened in the intervening eight weeks since my last post. I’ve had the highest highs and a pretty ugly low – but that’s life – right? Most importantly I’ve turned a decade. I’m writing to you from way over here on the other side of the chasm of thirty-nine – can you still hear me? Joking aside, do you know what? It’s not so bad, not so bad at all. (Though admittedly it is early days!)

Autumn has left us (what a fabulous Autumn it was!) and winter feels like it’s well and truly here. Anyone else just want to drink wine and eat chocolate? I feel so blessed to be warm and cosy in our new forever home. I’m getting myself back into the routine of writing again after all the upheaval of our house move and it feels really good to be back at my laptop. I promise not to be so tardy in the future. I’ve got assignments for Uni and I want to put the finishing touches to my second novel ready to submit to my agent in the New Year: no more procrastinating!  Next week I have a treat for you cause I’m going to be interviewing a real-life friend that has become a real-life published author. So exciting! @Lesley_Allen_ is proof that publishing dreams do indeed come true and I’m going to ask her all about it and then tell you. (Also her book is a heart-breakingly good read) ‘The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir’ is available at all good book shops. Have a read and let me know if you have any specific questions you want me to ask.

In the meantime I’m going to try and live up to this ‘Be the person your dog thinks you are.’ A fab birthday present that will take pride of place on my study wall (once I get moved in!) And if you know my dog (s) that’s a tall order!!

 

 

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Life at 39 and 3/4

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Apologies for being MIA but I’m using every spare minute I etch away from ‘mum camp’ on revising the latest of my book edits. But I have to post this one quick or else the 39 and 3/4 will cease to apply! So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learnt as I exit my thirties:

 

 

  • Even though the calendar tells me I’m about to turn forty I feel exactly the same as I did at twenty. No one tells you that the ‘older’ outstrips the ‘wiser’ like dog versus human years! I’d say I’m only incrementally wiser than I was twenty years ago.
  • Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Yup, it’s true. Life, marriage, work, children – individually they’re hard, combine them, and you’ve got a lifetime of sweat and toil right there. None of them are easy, but they are worth it.
  • With every crisis comes opportunity. Granted it’s not want you want to hear while in the middle of a crisis, but it’s true.
  • Love endures, it just does – always. If you want to find love, you will, even in the most unlikely of places.
  • More things scare me now. A lot more. But only by doing the things that scare me, can I grow.
  • Each day is precious – appreciate each ordinary damn day – even the grey and rainy ones! This is so difficult to do. It’s what I know, it’s what I’ve learnt since being thirty, but I’m still struggling to practice it.
  • Find a good colourist. You’ll be seeing a lot of her.
  • Be the best version of yourself. That’s all you can do and it’s enough. Surround yourself with people who think it’s enough.
  • Marry someone older – it’s a guaranteed way to always feel young.
  • Persistance is more important than talent. I’m still hoping this one is true and that I can achieve my publishing goal in my forties.
  • Quality over quantity.
  • Look after yourself, no one else will do it for you. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, make time for the things you love.
  • The decade between thirty and forty goes really, really fast! Enjoy it.
  • This too shall pass. Bad times don’t last, but neither do good. Hold on tight,  rejoice in the journey and appreciate every damn day – even the crappy ones.

In other news, I’m learning how to increase my ‘GRIT’ and will pass it on in a post soon. We’ve our summer holiday still ahead of us – it entails a small boat and five children  – what can possibly go wrong? I’ll see you on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Blog Day.

 

For Kathryn.

UnknownIt’s my blogaversary! I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began pontificating on this blog. According to my stats I’ve posted forty times. FORTY!! And I know some of you have been with me from the start, so I’d like to say a huge big thank you for all your support and comments throughout my first year. I’ve learned a lot, mostly due to @ERMurray  guidance and I’ve ‘met’ some really awesome like-minded people who make my writing journey feel much less lonely.

So what about the ‘writing adventure’ I blogged about a year ago? Well, I’ve completed another draft of my second novel. It’s currently with my editor, and after she has sprinkled some editing magic on it, I will do some more work with it before sending to my agent for her all important ‘first read.’ The thought alone makes me feel queasy and light-headed; so many years of work and effort and it all comes down to one answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’… and then, at the weekend I came across this quote from the late and great Muhammad Ali, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.’ Many years on, I am simultaneously terrified by the thought of not ever being published, as getting published. At least I know I’m in good company. Thanks Ali.

For last week’s homework I was given a box with with several items in it and a genre – Fantasy. This is the result. I hope you enjoy.

Chicken Licken

‘You’ll get used to me soon enough, Chicken Licken. Isn’t that right Susan?’ Paula, my manager, was standing behind me with her hands on my shoulders gently massaging them into my flesh. I smiled towards the new girl who was standing one step further back than was sociable. That step spoke volumes. It said a hundred things. It said you’re crazy, it said don’t be touching me, it said I don’t want this job.‘She calls everyone chicken, but only the new ones get licken with the chicken.’ I said. Paula guffawed and gave one of my shoulders a light slap with her hand.‘Tsk – you’re bad Susan. You really are.’ She gave a dramatic sigh that started high and ended up in a silent wash of exhale and then trotted off down the remaining line of check-outs. Her large bundle of keys, that signalled her seniority, jangled in her wake like sleigh bells. In fact, Paula reminded me of Santa – always happy, smiling and more rotund than tall. But I knew her secret. I knew it was all an act. I knew the happiness was only on the outside just like I saw what that poor new girl was thinking.

‘The gift’, my grandmother called it, for I can see what people are thinking and feeling. I can see their colour. My world is like a permanent rainbow painted on the inside of my eyelids. It’s a filter that’s always there, like smell; I can’t turn it off. Everyone, apart from Granny, thought I was lying. Her mother had ‘the gift’ but then sometimes it skips a generation – that’s what happened with her. ‘Can’t see a bloody thing except what’s in front of me,’ she used to complain.

I learnt early that human adults pretend – A LOT! They say things opposite to what they’re feeling. The other kids my age would believe them, and when I didn’t, I’d be accused of eaves-dropping. Adults don’t believe that a child can see who they really are. Granny said I should use it for good, that I should put it use. Somehow, I don’t think working at the check-out in Marks and Spencer is what she had in mind. But here on earth people are suspicious, they’re angry and worst of all they don’t believe. They don’t believe we even exist. My job here saves me. It saves me from the weight of other people’s pain; knowing is so heavy. People don’t want to talk at a check out – not really. There’s no time. I’m saved by the beep of my scanner. I’m a stranger, a check-out girl. They don’t expect me to be able to help them. But with Paula I had to. I couldn’t bear to watch her cover it up with cheery chicken lickens.

You see Paula was a deep blue – the worst kind. Some days it was so dark I could hardly breathe; I’m like Superman and kryptonite. She’d always mask it with a smile and her jaunty little walk, but I’d know. I’d know she wanted to die. So on her last deep blue day, the worst I’d ever seen, I followed her to the staff locker room. She didn’t hear me come in, she was standing behind the door of her locker so all I could see was her legs and her feet but the blue was all around her. It hung thick and dense like fog. I walked quietly towards her even though my throat was closing up and my chest could hardly rise for the weight on it. “Paula,’ I said as gently as I could. She didn’t move or reply. I reached out and pulled the door of her locker fully open to reveal her staring down into a little box. Inside there was a hairclip and a button. She reached her fingertips in to gently touch each one. Then dragged her weary eyes from the box to meet mine. I could hardly breathe, being that close to her. Her colour winded me. But I knew what I had to do. So I put both my hands on each of her shoulders and tipped my head towards hers so our foreheads were touching and I absorbed as much of that deep blue from her as I could. It felt like ice through my veins, oh, the pain of it.  But I got most of it – apart from the blue crack through her heart. I’m not a miracle worker, you need The Boss for that.  It’s bizarre what some of them will cherish: a green bead, a pair of tweezers, a button, or a hairclip. Each one produces a colour. Tears can’t fall in space, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t crying… these people need to learn, a little belief goes a long way.

Nx

** Warning: future posts will probably contain a lot of cute puppy pics!!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Letters

IMG_4416I’ve been suffering  from self-diagnosed blog-block. All  week I’ve known I should post, but I didn’t know what to write. I didn’t think you would want to know about the vomit I’ve been dealing with (a bug has been rampaging through our family), or about the new radiators that I have chosen, or that I watched ‘Still Alice’ and cried nearly all the way through, or that I have to get new front tyres on my car before the MOT, or about my dog-walking, or the new way I cooked the sweet-potato the other night.  You see, my life has been simply ordinary. Mundane. Routine. And I am so, so thankful for that, because it lets me see the miraculous. It allows me to wonder at the little things. Take the word BOY. Three letters – doesn’t get much smaller and yet within it it holds my whole heart. Twice.

For me, the word is too small. Only one syllable! It can’t describe the life, the sparkle, the laughter, the wit, the willy-shaking, the bottom-burping, the football loving, the wrestling, the power, the maddening, the joy, the gigantic huge massive largeness of the boy (s) I have in my life today. Nine years on and I still can’t define the contradictions of my ‘motherlove.’ Today, I stumbled across this. I wrote it in October 2007 just before my eldest son’s first birthday.

It’s nearly 365 days since I became two. Since William was unceremoniously pulled from me and  placed bloodied and screaming on my chest. No longer was I charged with carrying around my bulging bump. I was free again from the prods of strangers and the restrictions of having the girth of a small pony. I could see my own feet again! Time to reclaim my life and resume where I left off… or so I thought. 

Little did I realise that my bump was fairly co-operative compared to the baby it produced. My life has inconceivably changed and will never again resemble what it once was. I’ve learned that Mother Nature is so-called for a reason. When a baby is born us women have all sorts of wonderful hormones and clever instinctive pheromones racing around our knackered, bruised and maybe even sliced up bodies. These permeate love and nesting instincts. Motherhood has made me incredibly resilient – I have to be. Suddenly I am last on the list. My baby is my priority now. I find myself leaping to his every whimper and bowing to his every need. The first few weeks were like a trance as my body learned to cope with less sleep than ever before. An educated, independent and capable woman; I became a milk machine at the mercy of leaking nipples and intimate with the wash cycle of my machine.

And yet, these long days: caring, nursing, cleaning, bathing and drawn out nights, soothing and shushing, have been the fastest of my entire life. Days have flown into weeks, weeks into months and before I feel I know it, I have a beautiful boy who is walking, smiling, shouting and babbling. I have someone who has changed me inconceivably and yet remains totally unaware. I have someone who loves me, but whom I have never heard speak. I have someone who can take away all my troubles with one smile. I have someone whose breath I can listen to for hours. I have someone who gives me joy that was inconceivable to me before. Three hundred and sixty-five of the hardest, but the very best days of my life.

Postscript

Said baby is now almost eye-level with me and tells me I’m either ‘so embarrassing’  or ‘an idiot’ with bored regularity. (he also gives the best hugs in the business & his smile can still melt my troubles away.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday love letters

IMG_0556When is the last time you wrote a letter? Not to ask for something but just to say something? October is always a special month for us; it holds our eldest boy’s birthday and our wedding anniversary in its autumnal grasp. So, when the leaves begin to fall and my breath puffs in foggy clouds in the mornings, my mind is always thrown back to either pre-wedding jitters or pre-birth jitters!  In October 2006 I could not fathom how the ‘person’ that kicked and punched with such conviction inside me could pass through me leaving me intact (!?)  Suffice to say, he arrived safe and well and I fell head over heels in love as soon as he was slapped on my chest; bloody and gooey and looking a bit worse for wear.  I remember it so clearly, so very clearly… and yet  the calendar tells me it was almost nine years ago?!

Those early years were a head-on collision in life lessons for us. He was an unplanned pregnancy. I had no inclination for children at the time – one day – yes, but not until much later. My husband and I had had a whirlwind romance, he’d lost his mother, we’d got married, we’d moved house and moved in together, a lot had happened – quickly. It was time to slow down, not speed up towards the monumental step of parenthood.

Anyway, thankfully sometimes life just gives you what you don’t realise you need. The first few years of our marriage were rocky and he was the reason that held us together, he was the reason I wrote my first book, he is the reason I’ve tried harder at life, ever since. He has grown tall and strong, if I’m lucky I have another two years before he eyeballs me. Now, he is more likely to piggy-back me, than the other way around. My little chunky blonde-haired boy lurks amid the dusty confines of my memory, but he is out of reach. I know he existed because I can see him locked inside photograph frames, but I cannot match him to the tall, handsome, big-toothed boy who rolls his eyes at me despairingly with his theme-song of, “MUUUM!”

Why can’t I remember? Why can’t I summon up that little boy from the depths of me and remember the smell of him, or what it felt like to carry him, or hold his little hand in mine? Sometimes, I think I do remember, but it seems so implausible that all these years have passed and that little boy has been and gone.  That is why I am so glad I began writing him letters. Eight years  ago, on the eve of his first birthday, I wrote my boy his first birthday letter and I’ve written one every year since.  Now, faced with the tragic holes in my memory, I am grateful because I have no idea what I wrote to him back then when he was still aged by weeks and months. Because you forget all the little things. Our memories wipe over so many of the tiny details. My letters record the changes in him in the intervening twelve months, his interests, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how our relationship has changed, how he is growing away from me step by step.

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I imagine presenting him with my secret bundle of letters, the early ones all dry and onion skinned with age, when he is twenty-one.  I know he will have grown away from me almost completely by then, we’ll have weathered many more storms together and perhaps I will just be an embarrassing motherly irritation to him (heaven forbid) by then. But they will be my love letters to him; each one recording invisible memories telling him how much he has been loved. They are a testament to the power of the written word, I wish I’d done it for my husband too. Who could you write a birthday letter to?