You can find my article “How To Fail; a lesson for my children.” In the latest addition of the NI4Kids magazine. It’s about the need to build resilience in order to succeed. If you are not local to Northern Ireland you can find the whole magazine online or click the link for my article. I hope you enjoy.
Are you 2018 ready? Yes, or no it appears to be storming away at an incredible rate!
I was silent on this blog for the last part of 2017 because, to be honest, I hadn’t the heart to write anymore. After finishing my second novel, and the excitement when the team at Hardman&Swainson loved it, I had a summer and an autumn filled with ‘positive rejections’. This means my book was well received, very well received in some cases, but no offers were made. My mojo evaporated and disappointment prevailed. I felt bruised from the inside out. And then there was Christmas; it seems to get more twinkly every year, as each city tries to out sparkle the next. The lights distract us from the real darkness outside and for a couple of months we play along. Our Christmas was noisy and busy and hectic and full of love, laughter, arguments and (a little?)tiredness. We lost teeth, we shed tears, my eldest at eleven ‘lost his Christmas spirit’ but we gained some great Christmas memories to bank.
As one year teeters and tips into the next I never feel quite ready. I get a worry knot in my stomach for those I love. The future can be a scary place if you stare at it too long. I always want to press pause, to enjoy the moment a little longer, saviour my family as they are.
On Monday I excavated the house of Christmas decorations and suddenly I felt better. I felt braver. I gathered up my courage all around me and I felt ready. I have the idea for my third book. I know what it has to be. I know what I want to write. I’ve gone too far down this road, and got too close, to give up now. I’ve set myself a due-date and so I’ll start, again. Word by word. No one said it would be easy.
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!!
Spring has sprung, at last! Hasn’t it? Well, kind of. I’ll take the longer days, at least that’s something – right? I’ve been in the middle of a baby-boom lately; babies have been arriving like the Easter bunny drops eggs! My nephew, and a little cousin to my boys, arrived safely on 18th March.
I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know) but I can’t help but draw parallels between babies and writing a book. One friend has waited over ten long years for her precious baby girl. And then suddenly she’s here, and all the torment of ‘trying’ has disappeared. A brand new life. A miracle. A lucky-dip.
And I can’t help but wonder if I will get lucky… It’s been a hard slog. A long wait. At times, painful. And now, suddenly it’s over.
I’ve been enjoying what I’ve jokingly called my ‘retirement’ . In other words the relief of getting to the end of it. Now I’ve created a bit of distance between it and me I can begin to look back and see things that I didn’t before. My readers are starting to come back to me with their feedback and I know I’ve more work to do. But it’ll never be like it was before. The hardest part is behind me. I can start to live the afterwards, to think about what to do now that I’m not ‘writing my second book.’ Go back to my old day job? Or maybe try something completely different? It’s both exciting and scary.
As I’ve gazed in wonderment at the new lives I’ve had the privilege of holding these last couple of weeks; the parents in awe, my head awash with the memories of my own precious little bundles that I once held. I can’t help but fantasize if my novels will have a life, if they will ever live outside of me, if they might change my life and make my dreams come true. Like new mothers, the effort and pain of the journey means that I am still swearing never again. It’s over. I’m done. I have no plans for any more siblings.
But then again, time has a habit of making us forget the bad bits. And maybe it wasn’t as awful as I remember… And so maybe, just maybe there are a couple more stories bubbling away at the back of my head. Maybe I should never say never. Maybe I have one more in me…
P.s My ‘retirement’ has meant I’ve been able to indulge in some binge reading, the best of which have been: ‘A God In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson, ‘I Let You Go’ by Claire Macintosh and ‘The Girl On The Train’ is as good as everyone says!
These may seem like unrelated posts, but bear with me. Two and a half years ago I was suffering with recurring back pain after lugging my two great burly boys around. My osteopath recommended yoga – something I had practised many moons before. Before marriage, before motherhood, before life got in the way. Desperate to strengthen myself and prevent more back pain I duly found a class (which just happened to be on a beach, more of that later). Gradually, over the past few years the mindfulness element of my yoga practise has become as essential to me as the fitness aspect. On Monday I got an email from the wonderful Kelly at www.myprojectme.com with a link to the Chopra Meditation Center www.chopracentermeditation.com and a twenty-one day guided meditation to ‘Become What You Believe’ endorsed by Oprah herself. It’s 20mins. You can listen to it on your phone in the car, before bed, on the bus, when you get up, during lunch – just find twenty-minutes (the music is beautiful if nothing else!) What have you got to lose? Try it. It’s only on day 4, you could catch up. Oprah says when she was younger she believed she could do anything and look where it got her! Guess what my self-belief mantra is? (Clue; it might have something to do with becoming a best-seller author!)
My yoga practice began in earnest while I was living on the wonderful island of Mallorca. A place that is very dear to my heart. Here’s something I wrote about my fling with an island.
“We should, live here, with the boys. Let them go to school, learn the language… it would be an adventure!” It was October 2011. I was sitting nursing our newborn son facing the turquoise blue Mediterranean sea, luxuriating in the warmth and our skin to skin contact, instead of being layered up in clothes the way we would’ve been at home. There was a gentle breeze and the pulse of the sea lapped on the beach below creating a soporific effect.“How could we? How could you?”“I could fly out at weekends. Have some proper, quality time with the boys: IN THE SUN!” A twelve-hour working day meant my husband rarely saw our boys during the week.“It wouldn’t be that different, and we would be IN THE SUN!”
So, the seed was planted, and a year later I found myself packed and at the airport with a one year old and a six-year-old. We were headed for our three-month Mediterranean adventure. My husband came with us to ‘settle us in’ and then we were on our own, and he would start the commute between Palma and Belfast. Ignorance is bliss; I look back and smile at my naive audacity as I rocket-launched us into a new life. The night before my eldest sons’ first day at school; it began to sink in. I hardly slept. He’d been very happy in his school at home and had made good friends; were we being unfair to take him away from all that? To take him away from his grandparents and wider family circle who adored him? How would he cope with the language? His school day at home finished at 1.45pm, but there it didn’t end until 4pm! Surely he would be exhausted, it would all be too much, he would weep every night for his father and for the familiarity of home, how could I alone be enough for him? What ever made me think I could do this?
The next morning, my anxieties were swept aside when the headmistress cheerily took my boy to his class and he happily waved us goodbye. By the end of that first day I expected tears, I expected a forlorn face, I expected, “I want to go home” but instead we got a smiling, beaming happy face excitedly asking if his new friend could come fishing that night. He dumped his schoolbag and ran past us to play with the other children. The school was small and compact with a playground and a games pitch in the centre of the myriad of buildings that made up its entirety. In time, we would get used to the joyful chaos each morning and afternoon as kids ran in every direction, footballs were kicked and teachers stood chatting outside classrooms. This was Mallorca where the sun shines most days of the year, there is no need to rush inside because of the cold or the rain. Assemblies were held outside, children of whatever age, or class, were allowed to play wherever they wished. There was a relaxed freedom, a shift in atmosphere, it was a breath of fresh air away from the stifling ‘health and safety’ rules and regulations that dominate every aspect of the UK; it was exactly what we had been looking for.
We would discover that Mallorca is a fabulous melting pot of nationalities and stories and lives. It was a world away from Northern Ireland. In time, our eldest came home from school speaking Spanish, not just Norn-Irish Spanish like me, but actual beautiful native-sounding Spanish. It was a joy to see both my sun-kissed blonde boys bloom in the Spanish sun. Three months? We weren’t going back after three months; we were staying. So our three-month adventure was extended to another year; we had to let our boys taste a little more of this for as long as we could – didn’t we? When you stand and look at something from a distance and you’ve got the will to do it, you don’t see any of the problems, or if you do, you gloss over them. Living in a foreign country alone with two small children is not easy. You’ve got no back up, you’re IT, 24×7. But we had sun, so much sun, even in winter, we had the beach and William had good friends, I had made good friends, our Spanish was getting better, our two-year old was fluent, we were doing something different, unique, we were living the Mediterranean dream on a beautiful island, juicing oranges for our breakfast every morning; what’s not to love?
The problem was our ‘fling’ with the island was getting serious; it was only ever supposed to be a short-term, no strings attached affair, but it was turning into something more; we were getting attached. We’d swim in the crystal blue Mediterranean sea, we ate healthier, we’d cycle through the island’s breath-taking innards to discover villages that time seemed to have forgotten, we made friends from around the globe our lives there were full of colour, full of flavour and full of sunshine. Surely we had to do another year. Just one more year and then we would come home; after all one year goes so fast, and if we didn’t do it then we’d miss our window, we’d never get the chance again… so we signed on, reserved school places, made the decision, everyone celebrated. We were staying!
But the Mediterranean dream was only part of the picture, the rest of the time my husband was at home in the cold and rain, working even harder, so that he could take the time off to come over for his next scheduled visit. I struggled to manage a boisterous two-year old and a seven-year old single-handed. It became exhausting, especially for my husband, who was doing all the commuting. I missed him, we missed each other, we were a family of four (five if you count the dog) not three, and no amount of Mediterranean sunshine could make up for that. Something had to give. So it was with heavy hearts that after eighteen months we called it a day on our adventure and came home for good. It was never intended, but like many affairs, the end was sudden and unexpected; demanded by invisible forces, and leaving broken hearts on both sides.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Would I do it differently? Probably. Am I glad we did it? Absolutely. We will always have very special memories and special friends* from our time there. I hope we have opened our sons’ horizons to what is possible beyond the shores of Northern Ireland, and allowed them to experience the world as one big playground and given them their first tool; a second language, with which to enjoy it. I hope it has marked their hearts in some invisible, yet permanent way forever. It has mine.
*For my ‘special friends’ Antje, Jacqui and Maria. xxx