Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Until a week ago I thought no landscape could compete with the highlands of Scotland or the West coast of Ireland in my affections: then I spent a week in the Lakes district. It absolutely captivated me. The landscape is stunningly beautiful and seeps into your soul.

We stayed in a gorgeous cottage that couldn't have been more perfect if we'd created it for ourselves out of thin air. I have always been a big fan of hotels where someone looks after your every need. I'm now a convertee to self catering - but only in perfect cottages in tiny villages surrounded by mountains and with a good pub within staggering distance!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Domestic Try hard

I'm not much of a domestic goddess - I'm more of a 'tries hard but could do better,' then I go off the idea completely until I walk through a cobweb or something hideous like that. I then attack with the Mister Sheen as though I was Arnie waving an Ouzie around. One thing I have perfected though is the BEST chocolate cake in the whole world. You will see from the photo that its never going to earn a spot in a cake shop window but it is DELICIOUS. It comes from an Aussie cook book and there is a little comment from the writer's next to the recipe that says 'this is the best chocolate cake ever.' How could I resist? I've made it several times over the past couple of years and it is the lightest, yummiest cake. It has vinegar in it which sounds bizarre to me and I've no idea what the vinegar does but it works!

Friday, September 12, 2008

getting organised

I think I used to think I was organised - now I'm not so sure. I've been trying to drum up September energy - you know the kind - new term, end of summer, winter on the way. It always feels like a good time to examine where I'm at and what my goals are. I'm a bit stumped at the planning stage. Do I want a big white board on the wall with daily lists? Do I want discreet notes in a beautiful secret notebook where I allow my deepest dreams to rest? Or do I simply need to read a hard core 'getting on with your life book'. Think I'm in the midst of a mid life crisis.

I can't decide if I'm over the kinds of self help that say 'follow your heart and the cash will follow' or if I need to stop being so cynical and leap from my comfort zone without a bunjee rope and have some faith. I've ordered Twyla Tharps book on creativity from Amazon to see if it can give me a kick start. I may go out and peruse white boards, or buy a fresh notebook...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Off on a break

On a blogging break for the next week due to work commitments - back soon!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On my mind

I Know we talk about this over on the novel racers website from time to time and it's playing on my mind at the moment. I work full time in a 'sensible' job and over the last year the idea has ben prying on me that I'd love to cut down my hours and write more. I'm wondering how I move from 'loving' the idea in a romantic sense to making it a practical life change that I can live with. I used to think that I had to prove myself by writing more (which I've done) and making some money from fiction (which I haven't done) - then and only then could I justify it.

I have no answers at present - just pondering!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Writerly Confidence

I think I learnt something about myself last night at my writers group meeting. I took along a short story I'm currently working on to read out and get feedback on. I was initially dented by the feedback and probably didn't take it on board last night but just sat and took down notes. The one feeling that remained resolute with me though, is that the story is a work in progress and I am going to keep working on it - taking on board some of the feedback.

What I learnt - is that I seem to have finally developed some writerly confidence - not 'shout from the rooftops' I'm fabulous sort of stuff but just a little hard nugget of something now resides within me that goes 'OK listen to what people have to say, use what you think resonates and trust yourself.' I think that's it. Trusting myself. I find that the hardest part. I'm currently rewriting my first novel and I find this much harder than getting the story down in the first place. I got worried last week that actually I don't have the skills to edit my own work and finally bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Then I worked out that it's just tough and it's a learning process and I have to hang in there.

It is so easy when you don't earn any money from your creative writing and you are not currently published to feel that it has no value in the world and I do question why I'm doing it. The simple answer is - I can't not do it. I don't know if I'm going to be one of those people to get some external recognition of my writing or if I will always be just slogging away. All I know is that I just want to keep getting better and keep writing.
It's that simple.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chaos and the writer

A lovely thing has just happened to cheer my writing soul. I entered a poem in the poetry section of the writing comps at Winchester Writers Conference this year and I was highly commended. I just got a lovely certificate and comments from the judge in the post. The feedback has really given me a lift - it feels great not to be always writing in isolation but to actually feel that someone has read something (someone who doesn't know you and isn't related to you!!!) and enjoyed it.

My other writing thing at present is I was very determined to write my second novel with a level of organisation attached to it - almost project manage it I guess. The first one was written amidst chaos really - out of sequence etc. My vow has vanished as once again I'm writing chaotically and shall have to repair it all at the end. The good thing is I actually don't mind and have accepted for now that this is the way its meant to be. I'm writing and that is the best part of all!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's the little things...

Every time I come back from Oz apart from missing my family & friends I miss certain foods. I try and jam my suitcase with the priority items like Snack Chocolate bars (each piece of the bar has a different filling like pineapple, turkish delight etc). My fav missed foods are Nutrigrain breakfast cereal and chicken in a biscuit crackers (not wholesome at all but strangely compelling!!!). I also used to love making apricot chicken but I could never find apricot nectar/juice to make it with. I'm only back 5 days and I had to give in to temptation and place an online order with the Australian shop in Covent garden. I am counting the days until my goodies arrive!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back from Hols!

Kangaroo at sunset. Guess where I've been????

I'm just back from 3 weeks in Australia catching up with family and friends. It was fantastic but dam cold. I had a couple of unexpected bonuses at the end of the trip - one was catching up with a dear friend from Western Australia who I haven't seen for 7 years. We worked that one out over several glasses of champagne!
Then - the holy grail of travel happened for me - I got UPGRADED to BUSINESS CLASS for the 20 hours trip home. Anyone who has done long haul in economy knows an upgrade is the ULTIMATE. Had to put that in caps to show how delirious I was with joy - thought I was going to pass out at the check in desk when she gave me my boarding card with the letters BUSINESS CLASS stamped in royal blue across the top. Yes I am shallow but this is an experience worth being shallow for. I had a flat bed seat with a an inbuilt back massager - JOY, champagne on tap and an empty seat next to me just completed the heady experiecne for me. The food was great with several choices for each course. Oh I could have just kept flying around the world in my priviledged little bubble!!!
Still it is always fab to be home and three weeks away from my lovely hubby was pushing it for me. Now its back to work and I find that writers fear has struck while I was busy having fun. I haven't written now for 5 weeks and I have two paths to chose from. Novel number one sits behind me in a box - finished to 2nd draft, printed out and waiting for me to read it afresh. I am a bit terrified and haven't even taken the lid off the box yet. I'm scared for several reasons - worried that it will be crap and I won't know how to fix it, worried that it is not the novel I would write if I was starting it from scratch today. My writers voice has changed in the past three years and I'm just not sure that is how I write anymore but worried that I won't be able to rewrite it the way I would want to.

The second path - is leave novel one for now and start novel 2 which has been burning into me for about 10months. If I do that though I worry that I won't really have gone the distance - all I will have done is show that I can produce 90,000 words but not really finish a novel. I think I would have that hanging over my head like an anvil if I start novel 2. Well I think I've answered my own question. The box needs to be opened and I need to get on with finishing novel 1. That was easy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

On my summer holidays!

I'm off on holdiay until mid August - enjoy the summer!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Writing Gizmo

I'm very excited by the delivery of my new writing Gizmo - it came a couple of weeks ago but I've only just had time to use it in the past week. There are some pics so you can see it from several angles. It's an AlphaSmart Neo - great name isn't it? Sounds like something out of The Matrix! It's actually just a word processor - sounds very retro but it is perfect for what I need. I go to Australia at least once - usually twice a year and each time I lug my laptop and get very precious and worried about its safety! All I really want it for is to write because I only check emails maybe once a week and can use family/friends computers or pop into the local library.

I read about this on a few websites and a couple of writers magazines and it sparked my interest. It was £179 so a lot cheaper than a laptop as well. It stores everything to the hard drive automatically and runs off double A batteries - I think there are 3 in there and they are meant to last for 600hours and from all the reviews I've read - they do! It can hold the equivalent of a thick novel and you can have 6 files. You just plug it into your USB on your computer and hit send and it sends your files straight to your computer. It is a full size keyboard and you see up to 6 lines of type on the screen.

I'm a bit in love with it! It's really light as well. I don't write into a notebook as I like to type, think and write so its perfect for my needs. I am actually looking forward to 22hours in an economy seat when I fly to Oz next week - and that's a first!!!! All that time to write on this little device - very exciting!!!!! I shall stop gushing and do some writing!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Happy Anniversary Tulips

Today is an anniversary day - I've lived in the UK for 9 years. It's difficult to believe and it's impossible not to be reflective. This time nine years ago I'd been here for 3 hours and was deliriously happy, jet lagged, shell shocked, sad and excited. The first person I saw when I walked through customs was the man I would eventually marry. It was 6am and I'd been travelling for 24 hours from Sydney - and there he was with a huge bunch of flowers and a big, happy smile.

Back in Sydney my departure had been full of tears. I didn't think I'd be gone so long but life changes, no matter how radical they are, soon settle in to just being your life. It took me about 3 years before I stopped reflecting on a weekly basis about where I lived and how my life had changed so dramatically.

My husband gave me beautiful tulips to mark the occasion and I have them in vases all over the house but this is the special bunch in my study. Today I am going to reflect on how wonderful it is to be loved, how sad it is to be so far away from others that I love and how lucky I am to be enjoying a life full of adventures, lovely relationships and passion.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On Blog leave

Blogging Break is lasting a little longer than I planned. Work is hectic. Back soon and I have a new writing toy to blog about when I return!!!!!! Hopefully I'll have a chance to try it out very soon!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Hiatus

Having a little blogging break due to and more work!!!!

Back soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Again...

Ah my dark little mood of sat has lifted - hallelujia!!!!
Things making me cheerful today.
The sun is shinning...
We have yummy vegie spring rolls and other asian goodies for dinner...
Working day is over...
I am going to bed early tonight with a good book...
About to write for a sneaky and snatched 45mins...

Ah yes - life is good

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Grumpy Today!!!

I feel guilty about being a bit grumpy today - there is no real reason other than a crappy week at work and a few little life hiccups to top it off - but nothing worthy of being a bit grumpy. You know when you have a knot in your stomach? Mine is sitting like a dark shadow that refuses to budge. I tried to be good and went to bed early last night, didn't drink any alcohol and then got up and went to a body combat class at the gym this morning. I snarled, sweated, punched and kicked my way through an hour and really gave it a 100%. Then I had a lovely spontaneous chat to a woman in the dressing room afterward, came home, had a good lunch and lay on the sunroom sofa and read the paper for an hour. So what's going on?

I think it may be writing. I always get a bit grim when writing feels out of control. At the moment my day job is consuming me and I'm resenting that. I feel like the intensity of it has taken me by surprise and I haven't had a chance to get all the little boxes of my life realigned to suit this turn of events. I don't mind my day job as a rule but it has suddenly got more demanding and I've had to go to endless meetings and my writing hermit is feeling a bit out of kilter. I think that's what it is.

I have the urge to spring clean my study but I'm not sure if this is a displacement activity or a genuine attempt to get my 'house' in order and then do a plan of action for the next few weeks. I hate feeling unsettled like this - maybe that's a better term for it. I'm not really grumpy just unsettled. I'll try and write for a bit and then tidy the study. Then I'll have a glass of wine and a piece of choccy as a reward. Feeling better already!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Short Stories

I'm being a glutton about short stories recently and have just received the anthology of the Bridport prize and am part way through the Asham prize one also. A perfect short story is a delightful thing - a bit like eating just one chocolate out of the box and savouring it. I'm writing a couple at the moment and think it was in the mid nineties when I last wrote one. I'd forgotten what a craft it is and am really enjoying the discipline of saying a lot with a few words - well at last that's what I hope I'm doing! I am aiming to be brave enough to enter a few comps this year.

My favourite short story writer of all time is Raymond Carver - his command of brevity is staggering. Every time I reread one of his I am blown away by the beauty of the stories even when the subject is bleak.

Any recommendations on the short story front from fellow readers/writers?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Living on the Coast

It's bliss living on the South Coast at the moment - sun is forever shinning and it's warm. I feel rather smug when talking to Aussie family and friends and they are shivering in front of a heater - well maybe that's a bit of exaggerating. I was up in London y'day and had to take the tube - what an ordeal. Thought I was going to suffocate - it was so lovely to get back on the train and head back down to the coast - I was feeling smug again.

I've rediscovered the short story after years of favouring novels. I'd forgotten how delicious and compact they are when delivered with a skilled eye and wit. Current bedside reads are: Is this what you want? The Asham short story award winners collection, Journeys - Modern Australian short stories and Leading the Dance by Sarah Salway.

Off to consume a short story in the garden in the sun on the lovely south coast!!!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Things to be grateful for...

I'm wondering at the moment if my working life could actually get any busier and I'm in danger of throwing a 'passive postal' where instead of arriving at work armed with a sawn off shot gun I come with a yoga mat and position myself in the middle of the open plan office and spend the day chanting whilst striking a dog pose. I shall refuse to work or move until my chakras are balanced and I am in a zen like state with a heart rate so low I could be an elite athlete.

Yes well the last bit is definitely fantasy. After another hectic day at work I decided to take the opposite approach of what I really wanted to do which was come home, get into pyjamas, commandeer TV remote and ring for take away. Oh no I went to the gym. I dragged my weary body there, ignored its tears and protests and went to a Swiss ball class...and this is what I was grateful for...Elle McPherson does not come to my Swiss ball class. I could be my flabby little self in a room full of bodies not dissimilar to my own. There were no supermodel like Gazelles with legs that need a room to themselves - just all normal women in a variety of outfits. That is a good thing when you feel under par.

I had a fraudster moment at the end though. I went to the nice cafe in the foyer of the gym and ordered a salad to take away. The hunky man who served me said would you like anything else with that as though he couldn't quite believe that anyone could exist just on a salad. I fluttered my weary eyelashes at him and said 'No thanks, that's all.' What he didn't know is that I needed the salad to go with the garlic bread and pizza I already had in the fridge!!! I'm off to enjoy it and commandeer the remote...Bliss!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Accidental Carnivore

We went to our lovely local pub last week for 'curry' night. The menu was tantalising and reasonably priced - the atmosphere was warm and buzzy, conversation was great, wine was chilled - what more could you ask for of a night out? I ordered a veggie curry which sounded divine - I'm not a curry connoisseur and on the plate the food was jumbled together and looked and smelt yummy. I was munching away for quite some time then bit into...still distresses me to say it...a mouthful of beef!!!! For the carnivores in the world that probably would have been welcome but I haven't eaten any red meat for about 20 years as I don't like it.

My family tell me that my face contorted into a grimace and I whispered...beef...beef...I've just eaten beef. Husband kindly removed the fork from my frozen hand - midway between mouth and plate and he and daughter did a taste test and actually tried to fib to make me feel better - 'No, no it's not beef - just...just...strong tasting eggplant.' As if. I sat in shock for about 10minutes until a fresh glass of wine was in my hand shortly followed by a dish of chocolate ice cream - then and only then did I relax again.

The staff were very nice about it and I'm sure I was secretly awarded the neurotic customer of the week badge. Ah well. I did manage to finish a short story and submit to a competition - so the week finished on a high after the mid week culinary blip. I shall have to dine out like a royal of old from now on and bring my own living, breather taster - not to check for poison - just beef!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

In need of a sorting coach

We had an amazing winter wonderland for 24hours over the weekend. We had planned to garden but as you can see there was no hope of that!
I'm having one of those days where I feel like I will NEVER EVER have a house free of washing that needs attention -either it's waitng to be washed, dried, folded, ironed or put away. One part of my brain is in sorting mode but I seem to have run out of steam. I tried sorting photos as I don't think I've put anything into an album since 1999. I made a start and then faltered at the first hurdle when I couldn't remember which xmas I was looking at. I feel the same way about my novel at present - it's just sitting there waiting to be sorted - but my brain has gone to mush.
I'm going to take the rest of the night off. I have the house to myself, shall pour a glass of wine and indulge in mindless TV. I know I should be making an attempt to either write, sort washing or organise photos but I just can't get it together. I really NEED chocolate. I really NEED a week in a remote cottage with no washing begging for attenion. I need a life coach who specialises in washing and photos - just for starters.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tethered to the desk

After several weeks of frustration that threatened to send my blood pressure to critical I have finally got to face the fact that my beloved wireless Internet access is now denied me. I have had the friendly (but expensive!!) IT guy out 4 times in the past 3 three weeks and he has changed routers, upgraded software, downloaded all kinds of techie things but no avail...I even howled at the full moon last week looking for an answer but no joy. I get connected but then it drops me off on a whim!!! I can't take it anymore and have resorted back to my faithful 'cabled' connection. I am weeping as I loved the freedom of being able to move around the house and garden to write and work.

There is no definitive reason for why this cruel thing is happening to me - the IT guru thinks that maybe someone in my neighbourhood has recently had something installed that is interfering with my network. It better not be some sweaty oaf watching porn on some dodgy little wireless set up in his shed!!!!! I feel the need to become a midnight vigilante and stalk my neighbourhood looking for glowing lights in sheds and subversive neon winking out from bedrooms.
Ah woe is me. No actually I have decided to pull myself together and get over it. I have invested enough time and money in it and now I have to put it behind me and move on. I can't quite bear to banish my shiny, silver router to a cupboard just yet though so it shall remain on my desk - a cruel reminder of the freedom I enjoyed last year and that I am now tethered mobility to roam with laptop in hand gone for now. I'm hopeful that it may one day start working as mysteriously as it stopped working.

To cheer myself up I may need to purchase something new for my study - since I am now bound to it. A Le Corbusier couch springs to mind (see pic above) - its gorgeous and I have lusted after one for years ever since a friend bought one!!! Hmmmm shall have to go and check the pennies in the treats jar and see if I have enough!

Friday, March 28, 2008

For the love of a good mechanic

My planned few days blog break became a couple of weeks. Still busy - having one of those productive weeks where I feel OK about getting things done but my To Do list is HUGE still!!!!! I know its bad when I forgot to MOT my car - I've never done that before and for a few moments when the realisation set in I had visions of an elite squad absailing over my house and hoisting my car away by helicopter never to be seen again. And of course my lovely mechanic is booked solid for the next week and I don't have the energy to forge another mechanical relationship in a hurry - they take nurturing and I haven't got any time for that this week. So I'm going to leave my car off the road for the next week and use the hubby's car. Ahhh glad that's settled.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


...And it's not writing busy - which would be great! If only I could exist on a mouldy cracker but alas I am more high maintainanace than that - chocolate doesn't come cheap! Hence paid work takes precedence this week. No room for proper blogging or proper writing...Back in a few days.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Word count - ZERO

Oh not a good writing week at all! Too much work and other stuff in the way. My big writing knot has formed in my stomach and if I don't write soon - I shall go mad and be unbearable to live with. AND we have run out of milk and I need caffeine! Off to Canterbury for the weekend so no chance to get pen to paper. My hopes are high for next week. The word count WILL rise!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

When it it finished?

I was having a discussion with 2 writer friends on the weekend about the dilemma of knowing when a novel is finished. They had good advice based on the experiences of other writer friends. I was getting a bit anxious that I would just keep messing with my novel (aside from resolving the prologue or not issue) and redrafting and redrafting. The thing that happens for me is that I change one section which then means I have to chance another section and the domino effect takes over. I could be writing this for 10 years which I don't want to be doing. I know it took Donna Taart a decade to write the wondrous 'A Secret History' but I want to get moving along with no 2.

They advised to make it as good as I can - do all the usual checks and then send it off. I know this sounds like very basic advice but sometimes you need to hear the basic stuff to make you really see it. They are right. I know I am very close to making it as good as I can and then it will be time to send it out. I know this is nothing very deep or earth shattering but it was what I needed to hear at the moment. It is keeping me grounded.

The fun thing of the day! Two men on our roof installing a 12ft aerial to give us digital TV - very exciting! Our household's new year resolution was to watch less TV so we could do other more loftier activities - good to see we lasted until March and then went in the opposite direction. By mutual agreement the planned gym visit for tonight has been postponed so we can sit goggle eyed and flick through our 87 new channels! I'd love to say we're doing it so we can get great reception for Classic FM or the history channels - Nope! I'm doing it to get access to crap TV that sounds like fun! Totally shallow!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

To Prologue or not?

This is my burning question at present in my novel Support Act. It centres around the friendship of two women who have been best friends since they were teenagers. I originally started it with them in their thirties and the whole novel spanned a year. I showed the start to an agent at Winchester last year ( a high flyer so I listened when she spoke!) and she said you need to show the reader some history of this friendship - maybe in a prologue. I went away and thought about this for a while and initially rejected the idea then came round to it. I wrote a prologue - it went on and on and on... I realised I was writing backstory - so I ditched it.

Then I had a moment where I thought I know how to do a snappy prologue with a symbolic link in it to the present - so that's what I wrote. I now think the prologue needs to be discarded and I need to go back and rework my original start. Then a writer friend mentioned flashbacks.

I am now groaning under the weight of prologues and flashbacks and have no idea what to do.

This is my plan though to try and answer this question. Print off the whole novel (without the prologue) and read it to see whether or not I have a story that works and flows - THEN I'll think about prologues/flashbacks.

Off to untie the twist in my writerly knickers! I hope!

Friday, February 29, 2008

First Steps

The writing plan is taking shape - I have bought a new notebook to begin scribblings for Novel 2 and have a plan in my head of my approach. With my first novel I had a very haphazard process which was fine but on reflection I would like to try a different process. Novel one began from a tiny idea and several anecdotes and I didn't even know what final form it would take. At that stage the idea of writing a novel had never entered my head. Now that I have novel 1 complete - even though it needs a complete overhaul - I at least now understand the mechanics of 'going the distance.'

I've been reading Robert J Ray & Brett Norris' book 'The weekend novelist' which essentially guides you through a 'process' to write a first draft. I know I won't follow it to the letter but I am going to use it to get started. For this novel I know who the central characters are, what their relationship is (at least at the start of the story) and what the main theme is. I would like to write this in a more linear fashion as I got lost at times with my random writing process on N1. I suppose that I am looking to be more effective with my time and I would like to get this one finished quicker and maintain a more focused writing approach. Fingers are tightly crossed and I feel excited and scared - but more excited!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Next Steps

I've woken up today with more energy than I've had for ages. I haven't written regularly now for over 3 months due to my family situation and I feel it is time to get a routine happening again. I have been home from Australia for a week and I'm still filled with joy not to have to rummage in a suitcase for anything I want. After 3 months of living out of a suitcase it is really exciting to open a cupboard and extract what I need. I'm not that thrilled about winter clothes though - I miss the freedom of flip flops and floaty cotton dresses - bring on summer.

What I need now is a plan for my writing. Novel No 1 - Support Act needs a complete overhaul. I sent it out to one agent and had a rejection and I knew in my heart that it wasn't quite ready but I sent it anyway. Lesson Learnt - be patient. I want to start novel 2 as I feel the need to get on with it - and have decided to edit Support Act and write the new one at the same time. That's the plan.

My lovely husband returns from Italy tonight and I'm determined to make an untried dish for dinner. I'm going to have a crack at a yummy sounding Minestrone soup with bits of crumbled up bread on top which you dip in olive oil and garlic and then bake in the oven. Sounds really tasty. I feel it is the least I can do as he is bringing me a box of 100 handmade Italian chocolates and a chunk of fresh Parmesan cheese. Apparently I nearly had a gorgeous black cashmere cardigan but got the cheese instead as he was worried about the size. I love the way his brain works - from cashmere to cheese just like that!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm back

This is the post I didn't want to write but if I don't I'm going to stay with a big knot in my stomach. I've been avoiding it for a week but I have a strategy - write it quickly and then do another post straight after so this is not the one that stays in my mind. I thought about not writing this post but what is the point of having a writing blog if I'm not going to be honest. And holding onto this is creating a massive block for me.

My dad died in Australia five weeks ago after a short illness. He had pancreatic cancer and was given 6 months back at the end of October but he passed away almost 3months to the day after diagnosis. I got to spend 6 weeks with him and Mum from November through to early January and he was pretty good for most of that time though the morphine wiped him out. There was never any chance of treatment right from the start so we all knew what we were living with.

When I left Australia to return to the UK early in January I knew there was a strong possibility I may not see him again. I was OK with that as we had no outstanding words to share or issues to resolve but that was not really the point - saying goodbye and knowing that might be the last time we ever saw each other was unbelievable sad. There was nothing OK about it at all.

My family advised me in the middle of January to come home as he was declining faster than we had expected. I booked a ticket for Jan 22nd and my Dad died on Jan 20so I didn't get to see him again. My husband and I arrived in Australia on Jan 24 and we held the funeral the next day.

Waking up on the day of the funeral was like being in a surrealist dream. I couldn't believe I was putting lipstick on and advising my Mum on her make-up. She was in a bedroom putting it on with two of my Aunts with her. I walked in and said 'No Mum that lipstick is too pale' and she turned to my Auntie's and said 'I knew she'd be in to tell me to change it.' We all laughed. That was the unexpected aspect of the day - how much laughter there was along with the tears.

My Mum wanted myself and my two brothers to do readings but my younger brother opted not to and my other brother gave a beautiful eulogy. I was in awe of how he kept it together to read so well. I was only able to read because the words were someone else's and not about Dad. I never thought I'd be glad to have to read from the Gospel but I was grateful for the distraction of telling a story about people I had no connection with.

Various other family members undertook roles throughout the Catholic service and it was very beautiful and very busy! Always something to be done. When it finished a lone piper played Danny Boy in honour of my Father's Irish roots as the coffin was carried out by my brothers, husband, uncles and a cousin. Dad's old friends had formed a guard of honour down the steps of the church which I didn't know about. We stepped out of the gloom of the church into the mid afternoon summer sun and watched the coffin being placed in the hearse. The piper faded away and we were invited to sprinkle holy water onto the coffin before the hearse doors closed.

I couldn't believe it was my Dad in that coffin. I still don't really. It pops into my head that he has died and sometimes I question my self and ask if it's really true. One of my cousins told me that time doesn't heal the pain it just teaches you how to live with it. I liked that.

After the service at the cemetery we retired to my Dad's local watering hole the RSL (returned serviceman's league) club for drinks and snacks. It could almost have been any kind of celebration with kids running around in their 'good' clothes and everyone chatting and laughing. Later that night 40 members of my family gathered in the dinning room downstairs to have dinner. It was a great night - we played the poker machines, the kids ate chocolate and chips and feel asleep on the floor and we finished up on the snooker tables.

It was a great night and so lovely to have the comfort of family. It was like being cocooned in a familiar and happy little bubble. More than ever I was grateful to be part of an extended family who had energy and love to give in abundance. I was glad for Mum that she was enveloped in all of this as I knew the time would come when she would be on her own and have to face her grief.

Eventually the family members either returned to work or flew home to other Australian states and towns or back to America and the UK and then it was just Mum and I. My husband could only stay for a week on this second visit and I stayed on to keep Mum company for a bit longer and help with all the paperwork that comes flooding in. As my four year old niece said goodbye to Mum she said 'Who will sleep with you now that you don't have a husband Grandma?'

On Valentines day it would have been Dad's 70th birthday and Mum and I went up to the cemetery early before the heat set in. I would have liked to have gone on my own but I didn't want to tell Mum that. I wanted to go and have a good howl but wanted to be strong for Mum. As it transpired she was having the same thoughts. We arrived at Dad's grave to see a 70th candle poking put of the earth next to a handwrapped yellow rose and a 'Happy Birthday' grandpa card. That was the cue for us both to have a good howl. My brother had been up earlier and my 1year old niece had blown out the candle. She had been the one that Dad always found the energy to get out of his chair for even when we knew he didn't have the energy to give - but he always found it for her.

I came back to the UK last week and ring my Mum every second day. It is a wrench not to be there but wonderful to be back in my own home with my lovely husband. It is good to have the space to grieve. Next week would have been my parent's 46th wedding anniversary and I have no idea how my Mum will feel. I just celebrated my third and I cannot fathom losing someone you love after 46. I want to send Mum flowers and then I think that is probably to raw. I know this is Mum's journey and none of us can take it for her and there is probably nothing we can really do other than let her know we love her.

The temptation is to start organising her life for her. I would send her a plane ticket tomorrow to come and stay with us for a while but I think it is too soon and that she would probably appreciate it later in the year. I know she just wants to take it a day at a time and not make any commitments at present. We shall all just have to be patient and let her go at her own pace. I know how I feel at present - not really wanting to socialise and happy to be alone for a lot of the time - I think Mum is feeling the same from what I can tell. I console myself with knowing that we are probably able to do this because we know we are loved. It would be terrible to feel this sad and really be alone.

I had a typical relationship with my Dad given our background - he was Irish, always worked hard to look after his family and a product of an era where talking about your feelings wasn't really the thing to do. My dad would be happy to boast about you to everyone in town but would rarely deliver that kind of praise directly. I grew up in a small Australian rural town where everyone knew you and your family. It was hell being a teenager as there was always someone around who knew your parents which meant that you had to be'good'. When I left at 17 and moved to Sydney to go to Uni I was always so embarrassed when I was home to meet friends of my father's who seemed to know everything I'd been up to right down to the grades for exams.

I know my dad took great pleasure in telling people about my achievements over the years and I'm sad that when I return home and go to the RSL for a drink Dad won't be there to call me over to say hello to one of his mates who would say to me 'I've heard about all you - your Dad is always talking about you.' When I was younger that used to make me cringe, now I realise how lucky I was to have had a dad who was proud of me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blog Break

I'm away for a while so no blogging from me! Back in late Feb.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

From my window

From my study window I can see two beautiful swans pottering around the little creek that runs behind our garden fence. It is wild, grey and unpredictable out there today and their 'whiteness' is extraordinary against the sky and the vivid grass. They often cross the road on the other side of the creek and walk up to the front door of the house on the corner. They tap on it and if someone is home they will come out and give them something to eat. There are regular dog walkers who stop and give them a snack as well. The swans are a much loved part of our local community. Sometimes when I'm working away I will notice a build up of traffic on the road - this is unusual as it is very quiet around here - then I see that the swans are either sitting in the middle of it or in the process of crossing it. I'd post a piccie but they're a bit too far away. Trust me - they are beautiful and cheering on a grey day - any day really!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Defnitely Prehistoric

There is a pelican sanctuary just down the beach from the holiday flat we stayed in on the central coast of NSW. Every day at 3:30pm the pelicans get fed and it is amazing. In flight they really look prehistoric. I'd never seen so many before. They were compelling to watch. This piccie cheers me up when I look at it. Not sure why - they look so geeky and robust!

It has been a rough morning - my dad is back in hospital and it wasn't looking good for a while - in between phone calls to my family I began to look at flights to OZ. My stress levels went a bit sky high - he has levelled out a bit now and I'm going to wait 24 hours until I make a decision. I want to go to bed and sleep - I feel so tired but it's more than tired. I feel happier though knowing Dad is comfortable. I know his end is soon and it feels very surreal and sad. I don't really have the words to describe it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Space versus Clutter

I was looking forward to coming home to my study after being away for nearly seven weeks. I was missing the solitude I have when I'm in there. The hermit in me was pinning for my space. I had remembered my study as a tidy, bright room but the reality is that it's currently a wild room with pesky piles of 'things' everywhere. This morning is my morning to tidy it and claim it back. To get me in the mood for a session with the Mr Sheen I googled writer's rooms and found this fab site I really like David Lodge's room but think it will take more than a duster to create that one. My big criteria for a writing space is light. From my generous window here to the side of my desk I can see the sky, the south downs, trees and the rain pelting down. It is a great view. The plan is tidy now and settle in to write for the afternoon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Broody Day

This is the view from a beachside flat we rented for a while in Oz over xmas. It was a fab location for staring out to sea and we had quite a few tropical storms whilst we were there - this is the sky gearing up to deliver a hell of a downpower. I love being by the beach when the weather is like this - all very moody. Just like today! Perfect writing weather!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I've been wrestling with something the past few days and I don't want to dwell on it too much as I think I have resolved it a little. I've been thinking about my dad and his cancer and the past few days it has been a dead weight in my chest that nothing can shake. I was immobilised by it. I couldn't shake myself out of my grief. This is a new feeling - since his terminal diagnosis 3 months ago I have run the gauntlet of feelings but this was a new one. I figured out what it is - lack of hope.

I realised that for the first time in my life there was something important and life changing happening that was finite. There was no hope. This made me feel so bleak. Then I spoke to my dad today and even though he sounds weary and ill we still chatted about the weather - hot for him in Oz - chilly here for me. Then I realised that as long as he is still living there is always hope. Not hope for a miracle cure but just hope that he still has time to enjoy life - even in a scaled down way - even just telling me how lovely it was to sit in the garden and do the crossword. As long as he still has moments of happiness then there is hope.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dream Time

This is the Hawksbury River on the central coast of NSW. It is so tranquil here and my friend drove me to this spot to show me a very ordinary house with an extraordinary view from its garden - this is the view. Two elderly sisters live there and have done so for about 50 years. Their garden is huge and we fantasised about building a secret log cabin at the bottom of the garden to go and write in. They would probably never notice as they have so much land. The silence here is incredible - just the sound of birds at sunrise and sunset. Bliss.
You have to dream!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Summer clothes in hibernation

My summer clothes have all been washed and put away and my body is rebelling at the number of layers I'm forcing it to wear. It is cold here - thank god for hot water bottles. I have one shoved up the back of my jumper and I'm contemplating putting on my fingerless gloves. It's hard to believe that exactly one week ago I was at a beachside cafe devouring scrambled eggs whilst wearing my still damp swimmers and gazing out over the ocean. Ahhh.

The reason I spent 6 weeks in Oz was that my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late October. He was given 6-9months. I wasn't going to blog about it but I realised I need to. Blogging for me is the equivalent of writing morning pages. This is a huge part of what is going on in my life at present and to ignore it and keep it from my writing doesn't feel right. I don't feel great writing about it and probably won't reread the paragraph above - it is very raw.

My trip home was filled with laughter and tears. I went home with thoughts that I could help my Mum with caring for Dad directly but actually I soon realised that is Mum's role and one she wants. They've been married for 46years so I understand that. So I realised that my role was to support Mum. We had quite an assembly line of support going on! Some days I realised that doing the vacuuming and making sandwiches for lunch was a great thing to be doing and I'm sad that I'm not there at the moment to do it.

Mum and Dad both have big families scattered around the globe and next week three of Dad's siblings arrive to visit and help out. They have all asked me what I think is the best thing they can do to help out - I said 'cook meals, clean house and make sure Mum gets to go out into the world, even if it is just to shop or visit friends - and keep Dad company.' I'm trying to work out when I should return home again - that is the tricky part. I'm going to put faith in hoping that I will just know but I'm OK with it not working to any plan. That doesn't ease the sadness but what possibly could?

On a positive creative note - I am going to submit my novel to an agent this week. I've decided on a single submission at this stage but I have a back up list if this one doesn't pan out. I just decided that I really like this agent and the way he works so feel like just submitting to him at present. I'm going to print off my submission today, proof it (again!!!!!) have my husband proof it (again!!!) and then pop it in the post tomorrow and then commence Novel number 2 in earnest. If I didn't have my fictitious worlds to disappear into at the moment I would probably go a little mad. There is only so much reality a person can take at times.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year...again and again

I haven't washed my hair since last year. My final brush with shampoo was in Sydney on New Year's Eve. My hubby and I woke to the kind of morning that Sydney does so beautifully this time of year. Blue sky with a few kindly white clouds, pure sunshine streaming through the window and the day's heat snaking up from the pavement. We had spent the previous night (our last one in Oz) with dear friends and we'd been up to 2am drinking, laughing and yakking.

Needless to say we were all feeling a tad weary. Only one thing for it - a dip in the ocean followed by breakfast in an open air cafe. Our friends live a 5min walk from one of the most gorgeous places to swim in Sydney - Clovelly. So we ambled down the road loving the sun beating down on us. The beach was busy already with bodies of all shapes, colours and sizes enjoying the glorious start to NYE but one of the things I love about Oz is that even when a place is busy there is still room for a few more bods.

The water was fresh to start with and not exactly calm. We were swimming in a lovely cove but big breakers crashing onto the rocks at the mouth of the cove made it seem as though we were in a washing machine according to my friend. Any seedy residue of the night before quickly dissolved and I certainly luxuriated in the freedom of the ocean before our 22 hour flight back to the UK.

The beachside cafe was buzzing but we managed to snag the best table with uninterrupted views over the ocean. At that moment life couldn't have got any better. Soon it was time to do the final pack and enjoy a long, hot shower and a hair wash before our flight. We had initially been a bit peeved about having to fly on NYE but then we got excited and thought it would be an adventure. It was.

We had 3 NYEs throughout the flight and watched fireworks erupt in Hong Kong as we ascended to begin the final leg back to the UK. Champagne has never tasted so good.
Happy New Year - I hope it is a joyous, creative and peaceful one.