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Sunday, 29 April 2018

LIFE IN NEGATIVE

When a book is finished the work has not ended. As an author, a new task begins: editing and perfecting. The prose needs picking over, knots require unravelling, and where it has strayed into incomprehension the meaning must be made clear. Like a newly knitted garment, ends have to be tidied and all parts pressed before they are sewn together. And this is how everything should have worked for me with ‘Stopping Time’. I say ‘should have’ because, of course, it hasn’t. In a month of what I would call ‘losing focus’, April led me astray. A month of ups and downs, mixed with bouts of deep depression, have brought all work to a standstill. I won’t detail the reasons, but life has a way of interfering and turning things upside down, we all know this.

Roscoff
A brief jaunt across the Channel to France brought a gust of cold, damp air and several uncomfortable nights into our stagnant routine. We needed a break and a little sunshine, but our problems sailed with us and we returned home exhausted. One of us has been unwell for a while now, so he took the lower bunk on the overnight crossing. Having made it up to the top bunk I realised that I really am getting too old for bunk beds and overnight crossings, my nausea dulled by that most excellent drug Stugeron® but nonetheless groggy for most of the following day!

Bursting into the gloom, a day of glorious sunshine made the trip worthwhile, and the goodies we purchased from those excellent French supermarkets have gone a long way towards making up for the miserable hours of driving through rain and fog.

We all blame the weather for things going wrong, but as Spring struggles to make itself known and my garden begins to emerge from Winter, I feel motivated to begin again. We’ve had some good news on the medical front too, so whilst that particular journey isn’t ended, it progresses.

Yesterday I was inspired by something I saw on the internet. In answer to a question about negative thoughts, two points were made. First: negative thoughts stem from self-consciousness which needs to be reduced. In other words: stop thinking about yourself all the time! The second is far more profound and has jump-started my writing again.

Cosmos on a Summer's Day

‘NOTHING EXISTS AS IT APPEARS’ says the Dalai Lama, and once you begin to examine this statement many possibilities flow from it. I won’t attempt to put my own interpretation on these words, because they speak for themselves. Now… let’s move on!



Thursday, 22 February 2018

'STOPPING TIME' - a progress update on my second book...


THE WAIT IS NEARLY OVER... BUT THE STORY ISN'T!

January, which used to be a nightmare month when I was an accountant wrestling with clients’ tax returns, proved inspirational this year. I drew down the blind in my study to shut out the gloomy weather, set to work and wrote. Thousands of words later the month end came and went, and on 8th February I wrote those extraordinary final words: ‘The End’. Off went the story to my wonderful beta reader in Australia and one here in the UK who always takes a little longer.
The week which followed was tricky. As an author I always wonder what my readers will feel as they read my words; I live in hope of their enjoyment, but I never expect it. I’ve poured my heart into this one, determined to up my game and make it something special, but you never know. Well the good news is that my Australian reader has given it the thumbs up – and more! I have a few amendments and a little polishing to do, as well as a cover to finalize, but as soon as it’s ready to release I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, if you haven't read the first volume 'Losing Time' - what are you waiting for? Head over to my website to read a preview and purchase a copy. www.prfordauthor.com

Now I need to get on - there's quite a bit of work still to do! I leave you with a photo from my garden this week. It appears I'm not the only one for whom inspiration has blossomed...





Monday, 15 January 2018

GLOOMY MONDAY

I write fairly often about depression, and today definitely gives pause for thought. I wonder who dreamed up the dedication of today, 15th January, as ‘BLUE MONDAY’ - the gloomiest day of the year? Well it’s easy to discover: ‘The concept was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from holiday company Sky Travel, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation’ says a national newspaper. Really? This sounds like a very negative exercise!

Over the weekend I received a late Christmas present which has filled me with joy: a calendar created from R’s own photographs, each one taken in the month it represents. Here I share January, as it would make anyone smile, and a smile lifts a little bit of gloom.

A smile is my first recommendation, but if you can find someone with whom to share a laugh, even better. This is a useless piece of advice if you live alone, but it is possible to laugh at almost anything if you put your mind to it, including TV and radio, and the internet etc.

Avoid the news. If you feel the slightest bit low, it's fatal to watch or listen to, or even read the news. It will make you feel worse - I know, because I've been there. Just now there is plenty of bad news worldwide, and enough quarrelling among politicians to drive anyone up the wall. Switch it off!

Make sure you are sitting somewhere light. Draw the curtains or blinds back and gaze out at the sky for a minute or two. If it's not too cold and wet, GO outside because it will do you good. Watch and  listen to the birds, if you can.

The other reason many people feel lethargic and depressed on a working Monday in early January is just that - work. Many of the colleagues I used to work with are at their desks this morning, struggling through January to complete Tax Returns for those clients who for many and varied reasons known only to themselves have failed to submit their information earlier. This is a time of stress and work overload for all such accountants and tax advisers for whom 31st January is the dreaded deadline they must beat. Added to their burden is the daily worry of weather conditions, traffic and transport delays and cuts reducing their available work time, as well as the inevitable sickness of themselves and their families. I'm horribly smug that I no longer have to go through this!

Enough rambling! Wherever you are, enjoy your day and make it a Monday you are glad you lived through. 



 


Sunday, 31 December 2017

END OF YEAR



At the end of what for me has been a sad year sprinkled with the odd sparkling moment, I cannot let it pass without mentioning this tiny quotation. It was posted on G+ by one of my contacts there, to whom I am grateful because it made me pause for a moment to reflect:

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot


Despite reservations about social media, I have a Facebook Page (with very few friends) for the simple reason that I need a presence there as an author in case someone wants to contact me about my writing. On my personal profile page I don't show a picture of myself, preferring the 'icon' to be a flower or - more recently - a clock.

Imagine my amusement when Facebook decided I would like to frame my picture with a seasonal 'profile overlay'. It looks rather smart, so I'm sharing it here!



Finally: wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you a very

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Friday, 24 November 2017

DINNER WITH FRIENDS


I am about to write a scene for my current book in which six people are gathered around a dinner table in extraordinary circumstances. The reader will by now be very familiar with each one of the six, and of course others are missing from the table. The story is building to a climax and these characters have recently undergone experiences which have tested them to their limits. In such circumstances the ‘calm before the storm’ will prompt a diversity of reactions.
How hard is it to enjoy yourself in heartbreaking, difficult or frightening situations? As someone recently bereaved and in a year of losing many members of our close and extended family, and friends too, I find myself comparing my situation to living through a war. My parents’ generation did just this, and my grandmother had three sons caught up in the war overseas. I cannot imagine everyday life for those left at home to worry – or to mourn – and to try living out that worn-out motto: ‘keep calm and carry on’.
Human beings have a wonderful capacity for coping with grief and worry, but I believe they are helped by finding others in similar situations. Moving back to my ‘dinner table’, the six have been drawn into a web of sinister events without choice. This dining experience will be unexpected and tranquil with candlelight and spectacular food. But can two people who disliked each other on sight become reconciled? Will two troubled and fearful souls be fortified enough to draw strength for the forthcoming hiatus? Might one couple passionately in love find a solution to their enforced separation? I’m beginning to sound like the back cover of a trashy novel!

As I begin to plan our annual Christmas lunch, the elephant in the room is the missing person from the gathering this year. Then I begin to consider how much the table has shrunk over the years as other late lamented guests have departed too soon, and a list begins to form.

Enough gloom. I leave you with a question: in Fantasyland, you may host a dinner table for six. Around the table will be you and five others who you would rather dine with than anyone else. They may be living or dead, real or imaginary (fiction). They must be people who will make you laugh, who will stimulate you or simply add quiet support. Who would they be? I know who mine are… but then again, maybe I need to host more than one of these fantasy meals. Enjoy!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

LISTEN WITH MOTHER



One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood is of my mother singing. She would sing while doing the housework, songs her mother had sung, or current songs from musicals. When her infant daughter (me) sat listening to the daily ritual of the ‘wireless’ voice of Daphne Oxenford broadcasting ‘Listen With Mother’*, my mother would sing along with the nursery rhymes and hum the closing excerpt from Faure's ‘Dolly Suite’.  

We are talking about the nineteen fifties, a time which would seem like an alien world to any young visitor from today. Put into context: Britain was dragging itself out of post-war depression, broadcasting patriotic and cheerful music on its BBC ‘Light Programme’ which was conveyed to factory workers as ‘Music While You Work’. We didn’t have supermarkets then, and the idea of music as a background to shopping would have been considered frivolous. Remember: many people were still suffering a reaction to appalling experiences during the war, while others conformed to a hard and rigorous code of living out of a kind of terror of losing everything for which the country had been fighting. Disapproval was the order of the day! Yet people sang. They whistled on the way to work, sang readily and easily when encouraged, and sang at home.

My mother’s life had been filled with music. She came from a musical family where playing the piano was a basic requirement; singing was in her genes. My father, to whom all this was novelty having been brought up as the son of a clergyman, and having served in Burma during the war where he lost many friends, delighted in her joy. We were never without a piano, which she played in her spare time, heedless of  sheet music: she had that rare talent – the ability to play by ear. 

As the years passed and her children grew up she sang less, preferring to listen to music, until even that pleasure turned to sadness as familiar tunes became tainted with sad memories. People died and she withdrew from the emotion such associations induced. Which to my mind is a greater sadness in itself, but I understand. If I listen now to the ‘Dolly Suite’ – which many years later I played on the piano with a great friend – it shouts out nostalgia and I am momentarily transported back in time…

Today as I write this I realise how much more difficult it will be from now on to listen to some of the music from my childhood. I am incredibly fortunate to have been brought up in a secure and – usually – happy household, and to have memories of songs and laughter as a background to my own stability. I want to thank my mother. I wish I had done, but I think she knew. 

Tomorrow, on her birthday, I won’t be able to listen to any music, because she won’t be there. Last month she slipped away...

Pauline 1929 – 2017 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

FIASCO



‘FIASCO!’ read the header on my brother’s email, just as my husband walked in and announced our strimmer was no longer working. In fact I had already guessed as much by the sounds of it dying and failing to restart, and a lot of groans emanating from the garage. I approached the garage with the same trepidation as I felt when opening the email. The strimmer’s instruction leaflet lay disgarded on the floor, its absurdly complicated diagrams and multilingual commands abandoned. After a quick discussion the machine itself was loaded carefully into the car and promptly disappeared, along with said husband, to the garden machinery repair shop on Dartmoor.

My brother’s fiasco began in a more orderly manner with an appointment letter from the NHS, that guardian of our health and welfare. Our 87-year-old mother has spent the last ten weeks in and out of hospital, and it’s been awful. She experienced a bad fall – if you’re 7, you fall over, but at 87 you ‘have a fall’ – and you don’t jump back up again. When eventually she was allowed to go home, all kinds of provision had to be made for care, oxygen, carers and machinery to enable her to exist in a rather unforgiving house layout. She needs oxygen most of the time, although she can now go for up to an hour without it. Her bed had to be moved downstairs (cue my husband, brother and me managing to lower it out of a window…), but the only bathroom in the house is upstairs. There is a stair lift, but I think by now you may be beginning to understand a little of the difficulty carers of the chronically sick and disabled experience in providing home care. Not that she wanted to stay in hospital – oh no! The other day I found pages of her notebook covered in ‘countdown’ dates which she had ticked off in her now feeble handwriting. The date of her ‘release’ was written several times by various people and she had underlined it. ‘I want to die at home,’ she informed all of us.

The appointment at the hospital with a urology specialist, therefore, came as a blow to both of them. She hated the idea. My brother telephoned to make scrupulously careful arrangements for her transport, oxygen and return home. He would not be able to accompany her (not allowed!) so his journey would be separate, in his car. We are talking about a 26-mile journey across Devon which according to Google Maps takes 55 minutes – and in practice somewhat longer because of the poor roads. So naturally enough when the day arrived, a carer having come in especially early to prepare my mother for the journey, and the transport did not arrive at the right time, my brother grew worried. A few telephone calls seemed to indicate that the ambulance was not having a good journey. Eventually it arrived, and after getting her into it and safely off to North Devon, my brother phoned the hospital to advise she would be late for the appointment and jumped into his car. He knows the route well by now, and using a shortcut he was able to beat the ambulance to the hospital by about ten minutes, seizing the last available parking slot at the same time.

Eventually my mother arrived, but the problems began to multiply. There was no oxygen available. The nurse who had booked the oxygen was furious and rang all round the hospital to find some. After a while a chronically old-fashioned cylinder appeared which several people were unable to connect up, so when at last a porter appeared with a more recent appliance everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Literally.

The session with the specialist is more curious, because he was so unprepared for it. After looking through my mother’s stack of notes he pronounced himself unable to comprehend the reason for the appointment. He then gave my mother a long look and told her she should still be in hospital. This went down like a ton of bricks. My brother outlined the situation at home and reassured him as to her care, and she was then able to ask a few questions and receive some encouragement about various matters, so we have one plus point to the visit so far.

In the NHS some things are doomed never to join up. When the appointment ended they returned to the waiting area, to wait for the return transport… which never came. They waited for an hour, and eventually my brother went to investigate, only to be told by a red-faced administrator that the return trip had been ‘overlooked’. By this time my brother’s patience had reached an end. Thinking on his feet, he wheeled my mother to the drop-off entrance, went and got the car and managed – with her help – to get her into the front passenger seat. In the absence of an oxygen supply, he opened all the windows and turned on the air conditioning, and proceeded to drive her home where she arrived safe and sound. And she’s fine.

We all discussed it yesterday (two days later) and came to the conclusion that no conclusion could really be drawn from such an illustration of communications failure. The oxygen debacle can clearly be blamed on lack of funding, but the rest of it is incomprehensible.

The strimmer has fared better. The garden machinery repair shop on Dartmoor has been inundated with such items, the main problem being fuel having been left in the machine over the winter, and fuel ‘not being what it was’.
Unfortunately the hedgecutter has now stopped working. Ah well, off we go to Dartmoor again…