Friday, 31 December 2010


Its the last day of the year.  And I have have just spent the last 48 hours, in the midst of battling flu, trying to finish off tweaking the manuscript of my novel, The Seventh, to send  to the Terry Pratchett Prize competition.  The deadline is today.  I've known about it for months.  I've been telling everyone for the last four weeks at least that I definitely was going to enter.  So why did I leave it till the last minute, the VERY last minute?  What is it with me and deadlines?  I am furious with myself, and having kittens over what will happen if my email gets bounced for some daft reason and it doesn't get there. 

I've had that happen before with post.  I left a competition entry till the last minute and gave the envelope to my husband to post for me.  Unbeknownst to him, the woman behind the counter at the post office got the postage wrong, so it never got to its destination, and was returned to me, unopened, four months later.  I wondered all along why I didn't get the acknowledgement of receipt I sent with it.  These things can happen.  (I believe the post office woman got sacked in the end, for other, similar mistakes.)  Well, I've put a receipt function on the email this time, and am keeping my fingers crossed. Now its done and I can dissolve into my cough and aches, and not think about it any more until next week, when I have decided to start re-writing the whole thing!

In the meantime, I hope that you have a very enjoyable and peaceful New Year's Eve, and a happy and successful 2011.
luv Bex*

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas Pictures

The present haul wasn't as big as usual because no one had been able to get to the shops...
Champagne flutes awaiting bubbly on Christmas morning
We had flu.  The snow in Oxford was very 'deep and crisp and even'.  At least until Pat and his cousin Nigel got at it....
Pat and Nigel pose with their impressive sculpture, 'Scottish Troll with Tam o'Shanter'
Pat posing...
There were incredible icicles everywhere....

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Picture:  Channel 4
Its my last full day before the madness begins.  As you may have guessed from recent posts, I'm not exactly up for Christmas this year.  I've tried my best to get into the swing of it and feel festive.  But somehow, I just can't.  I've put up the tree, done the shopping and opened the cards, but I can't get excited. I haven't even played my Christmas Hits CD - no Slade, no John and Yoko, not even any Wizzard.   The black cloud of Christmas has descended in a way I haven't had it in years, and I can't seem to shake it off.

Tomorrow we start the annual Christmas Odyssey, 300 miles of driving and visiting and being cheerful against the odds. Battling through snow and ice this year looks a certainty too.  The likelihood of being stuck in a freezing traffic queue for hours on end doesn't really entice.

All this year, I've been trying to be authentic, to really be myself.  And now I have finally realised, that really, deep down, the truth is that Christmas just makes me miserable and I wish it would go away.  I know its a time when we are supposed to enjoy being with our families and celebrating love, all of which is very laudable, but for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is biological depression, I'd rather just crawl under my duvet and stay there till its all over.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to enjoy this time.  People often complain about the commercial pressure that surrounds Christmas, but I think there is an increasing pressure, an insidious one, which is social.  You MUST enjoy this time of year, otherwise you are a Scrooge, a humbug, a misery.  You must force yourself to appreciate all the 'good' things about family, belonging, togetherness.

By doing this, we exclude those who can't.  The people who are alone, or who have no relatives.  I don't just mean those poor souls living on the streets.  I mean the uncounted others for whom Christmas is a national celebration of everything they can't share, forced down their throat everywhere they look.

The mother whose child has just died.

The wife whose husband has just been killed on active duty in Afghanistan.

The daughter whose mother doesn't recognise her anymore because of Alzheimers, whose childhood Christmas memories have now been wiped.

The woman or man whose life has just been torn apart by divorce.

The souls who sit in mental hospitals over the holidays, isolated within their heads.

The grown up children (and not-so grown-up) who no longer have any contact with their families because of mental, physical or sexual abuse, because they are lesbian or gay, or because they have chosen to marry 'out' in some way.

Or those, like me, for whom Christmas is a celebration of everything they are not.  A celebration of motherhood.

When you are surrounded by those you love on Saturday, in a rosy glow of twinkling lights, mince pies and sherry, please think of those for whom this time of year is not filled with joy, but by the very nature of their losses and exciles, the exact opposite.

Merry Christmas everyone. xxx

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Have a surreal Yule

'Nighthawks' by Edward Hopper
I had the weirdest, most surreal Christmas moment today.  It was like being in a Yuletide version of that Edward Hopper painting with the diner. 

I was sitting in a roadside McDonalds (don't ask).  There was a Christmas tree with shiny red baubles. Every surface seemed to be covered in tinsel and twinkly lights.  A young couple came in with their little girl, who was perhaps 2 or 3 years old.  She sat at the table next to my booth and began hitting her dad playfully over the head with a pink dog made out of twisted balloons.  An old couple were sitting at the booth in front of mine.  They were the kind of elderly people who look beaten down, sucked dry by a hard life.  They were eating hamburgers and coffee as if it was a special treat.  It seemed an odd time for elderly people to be eating a meal, four o'clock in the afternoon.  Another older man came in, rotund and unshaven, with a baseball cap perched on the top of his white, greasy hair, its crown kind of collapsed and empty, where a younger man would have pulled it down to hug his skull.  He sat hunched over a paper cup of coffee, with his checked cotton lumberjack shirt stretched at the buttons over his vast belly.  The foil streamers in the window over my head trembled in the warmth from the heating system. A steady stream of traffic surged past as I watched.  The sky was drab and grey; it was just starting to get dark, and the curbs and verges were heaped with dark-stained snow.

And then over the radio came 'Fairytale of New York' by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl.

Happy Yule everyone.  Remember, the only way from here is up.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Story Seeds

Queen Anne's Lace seeds earlier in the year
Finally we are on the long, slow process of winding up the year.  It will soon be Yule, the Winter Solstice, and I find myself getting especially excited this year at the thought of the days starting to get lighter again.  I think its because of the hideous weather we've been having here.  Snowed in in November, and again right now, and it doesn't look as if there is going to be any let-up in this Arctic winter. 

That said, the fact that I can't get out has afforded me the opportunity of some stillness in this last week of frantic preparation.  Everybody is rushing about doing their Christmas shopping and going to office parties.  Me, well, I am sitting here, 3/4 of a mile from the nearest metalled road, listening to my head and body, just being.

For Pagans, the Winter is a time of Going Within, a time of rest and reflection, allowing yourself to recuperate after the frantic energy of Spring and Summer.  This is the time, for instance, when I write most productively, because the dark nights mean I can see the pictures in my head more easily.  (In the summer, I always feel I ought to be outside, doing something productive in the garden, or making the most of the sunshine while it's available.  It feels horribly wasteful and ungrateful to be inside writing on a beautiful afternoon.)  I really hate the cold weather, but it allows my imagination to come out to play.  So right now, I am enjoying having the time to make up stories, play with ideas, rest up and plan for the future.  I'm working on my novel, and kicking about a few other ideas too.  I'd forgotten how much I really enjoy stories.  So my Christmas present to myself is going to be, well, having fun with more stories.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Frozen Peas (Pass it on)

Picture: Birds Eye
A lot of people have been very kind to me in the last week:  the neighbours who rescued me after my fall in the snow, tended to my bruises, sacrificed a bag of frozen peas to the cause, and lent me cling-film when I found I had run out at a crucial moment in a recipe;  the dentist's receptionist who rang me back to reassure me that she had got my voice message cancelling my appointment because I had fallen, and wanting to know if I was okay;  my brother who rang me out of the blue to see how I was; friends who didn't mind me cancelling our coffee dates because I couldn't get out; everyone who offered to pick up things I needed from the shops; and especially Pat for putting up with my utterly foul temper tantrums.  I feel very grateful to everyone who has helped me. Thank you.

Christmas is traditionally the season of being kind to others.  But reading this post today got me thinking.

It doesn't take much to be kind.  A smile, making a cup of tea or offering to help in a small way can really mean so much to someone. Even just being polite, even if  perhaps your own heart is breaking or you are ready to snap someone else's neck with rage.  My nieces, who both currently work in retail, often tell me of customers who rage at them for no apparent reason, taking their own problems out on anyone who comes across their path.  While there is no excuse for such behaviour, there is often a reason for it.

It is especially hard at the moment, with all the snow and the rush for Christmas shopping.  We all lose our tempers and have our frustrations.  I am trying to remember at all times that behind every face or voice there is a story, a person who might be suffering their own trials and miseries.  And even if they are being foul to me, perhaps there is a reason, so  I will strive to be kind to them, just as those around me have been lately.

This December, be kind.  (Pass it on.)

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Regular readers will have noticed a distinct dearth in activity here lately.  Well, first, I went on the writers retreat.  Great.  Got really focussed on the novel, felt like I had made real progress.  Then I went down with a nasty cold.  Fuzzy head.  Couldn't think straight.  And then, joy of joys, it started to snow.  Resulting stress of 'are we going to be able to get the car off the estate because the track is snowed up?' Answer - we didn't.  Then, when I was walking up the track to see if it was safe to get the car out to go to the dentist on Monday, I fell.  Result: severely bruised lower back and tailbone.  I would never have believed how painful a bruised coccyx can be. Kudos to my mother for living with similar damage (tho worse) resulting from my birth!  Sitting down is uncomfortable, and liberal application of cushions doesn't help.  Im telling yout his because :

a) I want you to be careful when you are walking on these snowy surfaces - I was well prepared, had shoes with a thick tread on, but it still happened to me.

b) I want to apologise for not posting dazzling photographs of our idyllic country cottage in the snow.  Let me tell you, the country is NOT idyllic in this weather.  Its bloody hard work.

c) I want to make excuses, albeit good excuses, for not having written anything since I got back from the retreat. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

And now I am going to have to end here, because I can't sit down any longer! Take care on those icy pavements, people, and I promise I'll write again when I can adhere my posterior to a chair for longer than about 5 minutes! 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Sneezles and Wheezles

Nose - pencil and watercolour!
Okay, I confess it.  I am one of the first to turn my nose up in disdain at sufferers of 'Manflu'.  Luckily I am not married to one.  It would take an axe to fell my husband when it comes to a cold.  He just won't give in.  He just says, 'It'll be a one day thing,' (even on the third day) and gets on with it.  (Though he does swear by Lemsip Max!)

The thing is, I never remember how hideous having a cold is when I haven't got one.  I just think, well, its a runny nose.

So this is an official announcement.  I take it all back.  Having a cold is one of the more insidious tortures known to mankind.  And I should know, because I've got one at the moment.  I came down with it just as soon as I left the Writers' retreat on Sunday afternoon.  My usual warning signs. Sore at the back of my nose and a stiff neck.  (Unfortunately for me, because my ME was triggered initially by a flu-like virus, I tend to come out with some of the symptoms of that original bug.  And its always the more annoying ones.  Like the insatiably itchy rash on my back, the itch that doesn't stop no matter how many times you scratch it.)  Now I'm nearly drowning in mucus, and feeling very sorry for myself indeed!

It seems to me that the cold is specifically designed to make you as miserable as possible.  Its not anything particular that you can put your finger on that really does you in, not the woolly-headed-ness, or the sore throat, or the cough, or the endlessly runny nose, or the nostrils that get so sore and chapped that you can't bear to touch them with the tissue.  Its everything together.

True to my philosophy of  'Its only a cold, and I'll feel better tomorrow', I tend to soldier on.  Yesterday I had to go into Norwich to do some errands before my counselling appointment.  I found myself sitting on the floor in front of the Filofax section in WHSmiths, not really remembering how I'd managed to get there, or why, and just wanting to cry.  All because of a silly little cold!  Its infuriating.

When I got to my counselling appointment, my counsellor/Guru said, 'What is your cold stopping you from doing that you don't want to do?'

Hmm, tricky, eh?  (Given that I'd just got back from a weekend concentrating on my novel, and with a list of plotting jobs that needed to be done!)  So one of my homework assignments this week is to think about whether the cold is stopping me from writing, or whether the cold is specifically to stop me from having to write....

And finally, to all those of you out there who are similarly struggling with the dreaded lurgy, you have my sincerest sympathies.  Honestly.  (And Vicks Vaporub really helps.)

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Right now I am away on our annual writers retreat.  I am supposed to be working on my novel this weekend, but I am sneaking a bit of time out on the conference centre's wireless network - naughty but nice!  That's because I am feeling stressed about the whole issue of product, achievement, measurable and quantifiable goals.  You know how it is.  We measure our days in terms of success, depending on how much we have achieved, and the value we attach to each of the things we have done.  As an ME sufferer, this is a constant mantra in my life.  How do you describe a good day or a bad day for other people (not least the Benefits Agency) unless you do so in terms of what you can achieve?  So my days have become measured in terms of how many loads of washing I put in the machine, how far I can walk, how long I stand at the cooker.  I live in a quantified world.

But when I think about it, my life has always been like this.  It was always how many 'O' Levels was I doing, or 'A' Levels, or what my degree coursework marks were.  My life has always been about measuring myself against some scale or other.  And because of the way I am, always finding myself wanting.

This retreat is another measurable outcomes fest.  I feel like I am here to do work, so I had better do it.  And I had better have a measurable outcome, preferably something I can read to my fellow retreat-ees when we gather at the end of the weekend.  I feel like a need a concrete thing to waive to say I haven't wasted my time.

The thing about writing is that from the outside, a lot of it looks like wasted time.  I remember hearing Iain Banks at a book reading delighting in how being a writer allows him to spend a great deal of time sitting in the pub or staring into space, under the heading 'WORK'.  I am trying to redraft my current novel, 'The Seventh', and I've decided its going to need quite a big facelift.  I like the idea, but the work at this point is about planning.  Which requires lots of thinking, and plotting tiny bits of information on spreadsheets and scraps of paper.  Not necessarily finished, polished prose.  And I am not entirely sure that choosing a 'deliverable' for the end of the weekend is going to be helpful in the process.

But then the question is, because I don't have a measurable result, will I feel like I haven't achieved anything?

The issue that keeps coming up in my life at the moment is neatly summarised under a simple phrase 'ENJOY THE PROCESS'.  So I am trying to refrain from measuring myself at all this weekend.  It's hard, but I hope that in doing so, I can allow my creative muscles to flex, and remember how to enjoy writing again.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Diary Gap

I've fallen into the Diary Gap.  It happens every year about this time, because if you don't buy one early, all the best ones are gone.  I always buy my mother-in-law a diary for Christmas, so that invariably gets me started. 

This year, as every year, I am in a conundrum about what to purchase.  I've always been a bit of an obsessive about personal organisers, and I've been through several different versions, manufacturers, binders, and methods, but I always find myself fed up with the bulkiness of them.  Personal organisers, especially Filofaxes, are about playing the role of the suit-wearing professional, the City type.  I've found from bitter and expensive experience that they just don't work for my (short attention span) personality.

For several years I used the lovely Mslexia Diary.  It has lots of very useful features.  And it makes you feel like a Proper Writer, especially when you get one out in company.  (Although its hilarious at a writers' meeting when the subject of booking future meeting dates to find that everyone gets out their own matching copy!) The thing is with the Mslexia diary is that despite its many laudible and interesting features (it doubles as a book to read on the train, it's got so much information in it), its rather big, and it won't fit in my handbag.  Perhaps I should mention that because I have a lot of shoulder pain, I limit myself to a small cross body handbag which  carries very little weight, so portability is an important consideration for me.

For 2010, I decided to go back to the Collins slimline diary I had used with some success years ago.  It fitted into my bag, but it still took up quite a lot of space, so I found I tended not to carry it with me.  I left it floating around at home.  I lost it for a while a month or so back, and I was utterly at sea without this central compass for my life.  I realised that a diary is as crucial a way to navigate my life as my watch is (and I almost went nuts when my old watch broke and for three weeks in September I didn't have the money to buy a new one!).  But the problem is that the ones on the market don't do what I need them to do.

I am a creative person without a job, but with a serious illness.  I have to keep track of my days, but I don't need and hour-by-hour appointments section, a huge contacts resource (I have an address book at home for that), or project management, meeting outcomes and actions forms, and goal regimen sheets.  All these things stress me out utterly.  What is more, I want a non-bulky binder that is soft and satisfying to handle but doesn't cost a fortune.  I don't need road atlas pages, but a tube map is always handy if you carry your diary with you in London on day trips.  But then, who wants to lug a diary around on a day trip when you are planning to concentrate on having fun?

Other things I'd find useful?  Well, weekly menu planners would be nice.  A sheet of emergency contact numbers for things like plummers and the doctor.  How about a list of novels I want to read?  A section with inspiring quotes?  Sections devoted to the different areas of my life, like art, writing, blogging, healing, spirituality? A list of items I'd like to save up for?  I want pages that don't have watermarked flowers on them, which is distracting to write on, and a month-on-a-page planning sheet ahead of the weekly pages of each month, so I can see how my month will pan out, when I need to block in rest days, and to keep track of my medication.  And I need to be able to take out and add pages where they suit me.

Is this a lot to ask?  Apparently it is.  Because it looks like I am going to have to build my own planner this year, as its the only way I am going to get what I need, and what works for me.

How do you choose your annual diary?  Are you a pen and paper addict like me, or do you go the electronic route? What features are utterly essential to you, and what do you find utterly superfluous?  Add a comment and let me know your thoughts, because maybe, just maybe, we can come up with the perfect creative person's planner system.....

Friday, 5 November 2010


The beach at Aldeburgh makes a high rampart between the sea and the town.
Pat and I had a mini holiday in Aldeburgh in Suffolk, enjoying time by the sea on a fabulous blustery day.

Pat creeping up on herring gulls...
It was so relaxing!  Pat has been working so hard lately, pretty much seven days a week, and he really needed to stop.  So we did!  It was so liberating to realise that we didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time, that we could just potter about and take as long over anything and everything as we wanted.

I even made the decision not to take dozens of photographs.  This is because usually I am so involved in taking pics and fiddling with my camera that I forget to just be there, actually look at what is around me, and enjoy the place.  We walked around the town, amongst all those pretty little buildings, and I could appreciate them there and then, rather than trying to take good shots that I could look at later to remember what I'd seen.  Better to actually see it while you are there! (And there is a BIG difference between looking and seeing!)

And as you can see from this picture, the rest did us both good - we look so mellow, don't we?

Incidentally, I've worked out how to upload photos onto Blogger again, but it takes forever - I read three chapters of a book while waiting for these to upload.  Maybe its my laptop, or just our rural broadband speed, but its a whole lot of hard work....

Monday, 1 November 2010

Secrets of Adulthood

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's marvellous book, The Happiness Project, in which she comes up with a list of great Secrets of Adulthood, which are the things you wish you'd known all along, and only understand with (often bitter) experience.  It got me thinking about my own list.  I'm still working on it, but here's what I've thought of so far:
  • People are usually far too immersed in themselves to spare the time and effort to hate you as much as you think they do.
  • Do a little each day, and you'll get a lot done (with thanks to Gretchen Rubin and Michael Nobbs)
  • You don't have to be good at everything.
  • You don't need at outfit for every occasion in your wardrobe.
  • Not everyone is going to like you.
  • Never have anything to do with a man who says, "I love you, but as a friend...."
  • Don't sleep with the boss.
  • Always keep a supply of spare light bulbs and loo paper in the house.
  • Don't sleep in after the age of 40.
  • Always keep a journal.
  • Take a sweater (and an umbrella).
  • Eat your frogs first...
  • Wrap cut onions in foil before you put them in the fridge.
  • You can't change other people; you can only change yourself.
What would your list of Secrets include?  Add a few to the comments section below....

(Oh, and apologies, but I still can't get my machine to upload photos onto Blogger, so I am sorry for the lack of illustrations lately.)

Friday, 29 October 2010


Well, apologies that I haven't written for ages, which is because its been bedlam here!  Travelling from pillar to post for family gatherings, and in between, trying desperately to recover.  The great news is that I am doing well, apart from the feet (!), and feeling optimistic. 

I am harvesting the fruits of this year's emotional work in abundance, and feeling ready to go down into the Dark Time of the year, that period between Samhain (31 October) and Yule (21 December), the time of the Underworld, if you know your Persephone myth, during which we have the opportunity to turn inwards and consider our mental and spiritual worlds.  This is the time when I write best, and believe me, I'm writing furiously at the moment.

Right now I am particularly thankful for living where I do.  It is hard to believe we have been here fore two years - it doesn't seem so long, and the trauma of the move is still very fresh in my memory.  But since I have been here, I have grown and healed tremendously, and realising it has reconciled me to this new place.  It is especially lovely at this time of year too, which helps. 

However, I just saw my neighbour on my afternoon walk, and she cheerily told me that a 'Siberian Winter' is predicted for this year, worse even than last year, during which we were snowed in twice!  I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about living in the middle of nowhere if we do get a repeat performance of last winter.  So its time to lay in the logs and oil and hope for the best.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Art Therapy

I was reading Carol Lloyd's book, 'Creating a Life Worth Living' this evening, as part of a thinking process I am going through, gathering ideas for how I can move my art and writing work forward, and I came upon the following passage:

"For many, the most difficult challenge is discovering what they really want to do.  For others the challenge lies in planning the life and committing to it.  Others have no trouble dreaming or planning the dream, but giant, tentacled obstacles impede their everyday progress and prevent them from reaching their goals..." (page XX)

The image of the tentacled obstacles really stuck in my head, reminding me of the dreaded Creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions which appear in the Discworld novels of Sir Terry Pratchett.  I thought I'd do a quick watercolour sketch, because I am definitely a person who is able to find an endless number of beasties to get in my way, even if I have to invent them myself.  What came out was this:

Uniball eye micro pen and watercolour on paper

Yes, that's me, standing in front.  Its a quick and dirty scribble, but I think it is revealing (actually, probably quite scary to have this stuff in my head eh?).  I didn't think about it until I had finished it, and looked at what I had done properly.  Is the tentacled monster my ME?  Or is it me getting in my own way?  Is that, therefore, what I really think of myself?

Please leave a comment, and tell me what you think.....

Friday, 8 October 2010


I've spent the last week trying to upload a funny photo for this blog that I really wanted to share with you.  But either Blogger or my laptop doesn't want to cooperate so I guess I'll have to let that one go.

At the moment I am laid up in bed trying to recover from a really bad spell.  No strength in my arms and legs, and feeling distinctly woolly-headed.  But at least I know that if I stay still long enough, I'll improve.  That's the one thing about ME that I am grateful for:  that if you stick with the treatment long enough (i.e. resting), you know you'll have the benefit.  Its not a permanent improvement but it makes me feel I have at least some control in my own hands.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Perfect Protest

I'm joining in with the amazing Brene Brown's protest against perfectionism:  check it out!  Perfectionism is something I battle against every day.  It creates sooooo many OUGHTS in this house, and as an ME sufferer, I just don't have the energy to keep trying to be perfect anymore.  Letting go of the behaviour that equates what clothes I wear, or what my house looks like with how much people will like and accept me, or how good a person I am, is extremely hard, but I am getting there.  After all, trying to be perfect is what wore me out in the first place, and I'm not going to get better till I realise that.  So Brene's work really hits the spot for me, and I can't wait to get my copy of her book.  In the meantime, here are some of my perfectionist OUGHTS:

  • People will only like me if I wear Boden dresses.
  • People will only like me if my hair looks perfect every day.
  • People will only like me if I wear makeup.
  • People will only like me if I wear the right brand of makeup.
  • People will only like me if I have the right brand of liquid soap by the sink.
  • People will only like me if I vacuum the house every day.
  • People will only like me if I scrub my oven inside and out once a week at least.
  • People will only like me if I am the perfect cook
  • People will only like me if I have a career and earn lots of money.
  • People will only like me if I am a stone lighter.
  • People will only like me if I buy all my furniture brand new instead of having hand-me-downs.
  • etc etc etc....
When I see my OUGHTS written down in the cold light of day, they seem ridiculous.  Worse than ridiculous, in fact.  But the majority of the time, they are what drive my thinking.  What are some of yours?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Messing About

I've taken a lot of photos lately, and not posted a thing on this blog, so I thought I would make up for it today.  We have been clearing out old videos, buying groovy new shoes and having fun on the beach with our friends Sara and Richard.

(Oh, and that blue tuby thing you can see in the bottom right hand side of the video pictures isn't a 'Swedish-made penis pump' a la Austin Powers, but a Lakeland spider vac, which has come in fabulously handy with all the monster arachnids that have been driven inside by the change in the weather.  I recommend you get one!)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Time Passes...

"Time passes.  Listen.  Time Passes..."
Dylan Thomas,Under Milk Wood.

Pat went in to have an operation on his knee on Friday.  I dropped him off at the hospital at 7am (6.15am departure from home, urgh) but decided to sit with him as the nurse went through all the paperwork.  It was only day surgery, and she said they would phone me when he was ready to be collected.  When was that likely to be, I asked, as a ballpark figure?  She reckoned, given that he would be going down to theatre about 9am, that he'd be ready about 11.  Fine, I thought, and trundled home.

By 2.30pm I was starting to worry.  I had figured 11am was a bit optimistic, but three and half hours is a long time to wait, on top of the three I had already sat through after arriving home.  In the end I rang the ward, and they said, oh yes, he's fine.  You can come and get him now if you like.  It turned out that the cartilage they were mending was far more badly damaged than expected, hence the operation took longer.

 I was struck how much the day felt like taking an exam.  I remembered all the times I kept telling myself, back in my school and college days, sitting at one of those rickety little tables, waiting for the most terrifying words ever uttered ('Please turn over your paper and begin...'), this is only three hours of your life.  Time will not stop and leave you stuck here.  The minute hand keeps on ticking away. Time passes. And you will still be here at the end of the morning, you will still be alive; the world will not stop turning.

Fortunately, nothing bad had happened to Pat, (Thank the Gods!) and even if it had, they would have rung me immediately to tell me.  That they had not rung was simply an oversight on a busy ward.  It was tremendously comforting to keep reminding myself throughout that worrying day that tomorrow would come, that this would all be over soon, for better or worse, but it will all pass, as all things pass away.  So I will try to remember that, next time I am horribly nervous.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Cricket Cartoons

If you would like to see the cartoons I produced for the Saxlingham Gents Cricket Tour 2010, they are now on the Saxlingham Gents website   The originals were presented to the team members on the tour itself.  I was very relieved that none of them have decided to sue!

Saturday, 28 August 2010


The Amazing Singing Feet. Yes, I know my toenails need cutting...

It's been a bad week, but today I am celebrating.  "Is she mad?"  I hear you asking. No.  But I have been listening to my feet.

Okay, yeah, probably I am mad, but whenever I listen to the pain in my feet, I find out what I need to do.  Usually it's as simple as: 'Sit down, you idiot, we're hurting because you've been walking around too much!'  But this week, they've been shouting through a megaphone pressed right up to my ear: 'LISTEN TO US!!!!!'

I'm celebrating because yesterday I listened to my feet in an active way, and they showed me how to move forward.  The pain was really getting to me, and I curled up in bed with my laptop and began to type whatever came into my brain.  All the whining, moaning, complaining, the anger and resentment, the 'why me?' stuff came out.  As if the pain itself was speaking.  And as I was typing, I realised I'm not the only one who feels like this.  There are thousands of us in Britain, millions all over the world, all locked inside bodies that are angry with us, bodies that have downed tools and are refusing to cooperate.  The difference is that I can write and draw.  And maybe, just maybe, there are people who want to hear my pain speak because it is their pain too. A community of people who think they are alone, and who need to know that they are not.

Lying in bed feeling pale and pastie.
Don't get me wrong.  I don't want to be defined by my illness.  I don't want it to be the only thing in my creative life.  But I've got skills that enable me to communicate how this dis-ease feels, and maybe I could use them to make my life and those of others a better place.

So here is the project.  To rifle through my journals from the last 12 years and find passages that relate to the experience of ME, then collate them into a manuscript, together with drawings and cartoons, and a bit about how I got here.  And then see if I can find a publisher who is interested in marketing to the ME community.  It may come to nothing, but on the other hand, it may motivate me to keep listening, keep moving forward, keep healing.  And in the end, it may help other people too, and that would be nice. Really nice.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bad Feet

Yesterday I wasn't having a bad day.  Today I am. Terrible pain in my feet and hands.  But I managed to do this:

Bad Feet day, Rotring Artpen and ink

Monday, 23 August 2010

Bad day

I've been having a few bad days recently, which is why Michael Nobb's latest post rang bells with me.  He talks about the things he does when he is having a bad ME day, to nurture himself, cope with the exhaustion, and find a sense of achievement.  When I am having a bad day, its usually because I haven't been giving myself a break.  I haven't been listening to my body, so my body shouts at me in the loudest way it can - by stopping me in my tracks.

The other day I spent two delicious hours mooching about in the Millennium Library in Norwich, which is one of my favourite places.  Two hours just choosing books, just looking at the pictures in books, just reading a little here and there, to whet the appetite.  Bliss!  One of the books I came across was this one by Bobby Baker, an album of watercolours she did during a period of serious mental illness.  It's very moving, and at times a little disturbing.  I've been looking for ways I could use my drawing skills to help my healing process. Bobby Baker drew how she felt.  I find that hard to depict.  But I can at least draw how it looks when I have a bad day:

Bad day, dip pen and acrylic ink.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


The Vestry at Herstmonceux Church, East Sussex.  

Just wishing for this kind of serenity right now.

Monday, 2 August 2010


For me as a Pagan, Lammas is a religious holiday which I observe on the first two days of August.  Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals, the celebration of bringing in the cereal crops, hence it's name, a derivation of the Medieval 'Loaf Mass'.  For me it is a time of looking back over the year and considering the fruits of the seeds I have planted in my life.  There is still time to plant, though, so I also consider what else I want to do to get to where I want to be come October, and Hallowe'en.

In the last post, I talked about the cartoon I made to commemorate the 'Help for Heroes' charity match.  It was a big deal for me that there were three professional artists there who all praised my work with enthusiasm.  And the recipient clearly liked it too!

(And then, when I arrived here in Sussex, at the home of our friends, I found that they had framed and hung a little cartoon I did of them last time we were here - I was so touched!) 

This time last year, I would never have even put pen to paper, let alone let anybody see my drawings.  And I had totally forgotten how to use watercolours.  The seeds I have planted this year have been about my art - about getting out of my own way and drawing and painting, in whatever small way I feel I can, without judgement.   I won't say without fear, because its still a scarey process just to get me as far as the drawingboard, but its a start.  Lately I've begun to feel I am really getting the hang of it, and the General's cartoon was an enormous milestone.  So this is the 'loaf' I am celebrating this Lammas, the fruits of my labours, the first step on my way to becoming more 'myartistself'.

Enough of the cereal crop, then.  What will the Autumn Equinox bring, the fruit crop of my life?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Help for Heroes

Sheppard's Flock, the opposition team.  Spot the celebs!
My cartoon: "Hope you don't mind, Sheppard, but I've brought a runner!"
 Tonight we've been at a charity cricket match in which Pat was playing, in aid of 'Help for Heroes'.  It was a great match in aid of a great cause.  One of the charity's patrons in General Sir Richard Dannatt, former chief of the British Armed Forces, who agreed to take part, as did former Norwich City goalkeeper, Bryan Gunn.  I was asked to make a cartoon to present to the General to commemorate his visit, so I have spent a lot of this week staring at pictures of him from the internet, trying to draw his nose of his chin right!  It turned out to have been time well spent because he really liked the picture, and I got a kiss for my efforts!  Bryan Gunn was game enough to auction off some lovely paintings donated by our friend, painter Martin Battye.  Organiser Tim Sheppard, the former physio to Norwich City, thinks we should have raised about £500, but you can get a more accurate total when its all totted up from the Saxlingham Gents website.  I've talked myself hoarse and had a great time, and its late, but I thought I'd put up some pics to share what was a lovely evening with you.

Bryan Gunn hamming it up as auctioneer.

General Sir Richard Dannatt and the proud artist. 

Getting a snog from a military icon (yes, I am such a tart for a man in uniform!)


Pat and I at Somerleyton Hall at the weekend

It's been such a busy week, and more to come.  The weekend was filled with our friends Sara and Richard from Sussex, who came to stay.  Followed quickly by my cousin Margaret who came for lunch.  Now I am busy preparing for the 'Help for Heroes' charity cricket match tonight, and then off on hols briefly tomorrow.  No idea how I am going to get everything done...

Me and my pal, Sara.

With my cousin Margaret - I'm starting to look pretty frazzled at this point!
(In case you are wondering, that's not the same t-shirt worn several days in a row.  I like red so I have several.)  Wish me luck as I try to get everything done in time!

Thursday, 22 July 2010


So here  she is, the birthday girl, and she doesn't look like 50 years, does she?
Birthday girl and her mum.  Well if you can't have silly sunglasses on your birthday, when can you?

 Enjoying the party on the stern.  Yes, that's me on the left. Great dress, isn't it?
Lavinia, Nina and Sue enjoying the sunshine outside the boatshed before we set off.
Sue in the sun.
 Nina and Lavinia.
Nina and her big sister Sally.
Saturday evening's entertainment - specially rewritten version of 'The Drunken Sailor's song by Lavinia and Richard.  Top marks for inventiveness and costume, especially the glow-in-the-dark bear tooth necklace.
Comedy moment of the trip.  The handle came off the teapot as Lavinia was carrying it out of the galley, and she and I both got scalded legs.  She had the sense to retreat to the shower to cool hers, while I ended up standing in a bucket of broads water!
The wherry - White Moth of the Norfolk Yachting Company.  White Moth and her skipper Kim come highly recommended.  Kim's endless patience and good humour were a delight, as were his huge store of stories and Broads information and history.
Sailing home....

Monday, 19 July 2010


The garden at Charleston, Sussex, a place that makes me very happy.

I was looking at a great website today called the Happiness Project, basically because I am feeling stressed, and I came across this quote:

"To live in perpetual want of little things is a state, not indeed of torture, but of constant vexation."  Samuel Johnson.

So I thought about the little things that make me happy:

  • the sound of rain on the roof
  • the way Pat makes me laugh (His excuse this morning for stealing all the duvet in the night was that it wasn't him, it was the Duvet Troll.  Well, it was funny at the time...)
  • cake
  • pink peonies
  • giving myself a pedicure, and the resulting painted toenails (bright red today)
  • the sea
  • Terry Pratchett's books
  • our huge, comfy bed.
There are lots of other things too, but these are just the ones that come to mind.  What is making you happy today?

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Today I am busy cooking and sorting things out in preparation for our wherry trip.  We are very excited to be sailing on the Norfolk Broads for three days, but I have plenty of munchies to cook up to take with us.  The weather looks promising, but I'm not banking on it, because its always colder on the water than you think it's going to be (I know this of old!). So I hope I shall come home with lots of lovely pictures of our gorgeous Broads to share with you, if the weather is fine.  If not, well, as my niece said  to me this morning, you can only get so wet!