Thailand Travels Week One. . . Bangkok

It was a long flight and fairly bumpy for the first half but it settled down for the final six hours and eventually we landed at Bangkok Survarnabhumi airport. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and the heat as we exited the plane struck us full force. The intensity is indescribable, and it was incomprehensible to my English body and brain how this much warmth could be just in the atmosphere without some mechanical or other kind of assistance. We were tired but still had to get through immigration and the queue was long. But, there was nothing could be done except wait and be patient. The bags arrived on the belt well before we were there to collect them, which makes a change. A bit of a hassle to get a cab but we managed to jump the queue unintentionally. Forty minutes later we were checked in to our hotel room. Showered, a change of clothes and we were ready to go out into Bangkok city and meet my son and daughter-in-law for supper.

Naturally we lost ourselves within the first five minutes. We were staying in the Centre Point Hotel Sukhumvit 10. Sukhumvit is the name of the area as well as the street name but ALL the streets were named Sukhumvit but with different numbers. A grid system. Simple but not for a couple of jet lagged Westerners looking for a restaurant who assumed Sukhumvit 11 would be next to 10. Additionally, there were not street names on the walls of the buildings and for some reason (probably jet lag again) we didn’t notice the huge street signs on poles at every corner!

As you can see by the photographs the signs and cables in Bangkok abound in their thousands. The railway was running above our heads as we walked along. Street vendors, the music blaring our walk around the area close to our hotel assaulted all our senses. Bangkok is colourful in every way. The smell of stir frying vegetables, and deep frying foods such as spring rolls β€” we didn’t see any chicken feet that night thank goodness. There are loads of stalls selling ready prepared fruits; pineapple, melon, grapefruit and pomelo (a new one for me, like a grapefruit). Also of course the ubiquitous coconut! The photograph at the top is a coconut smoothie, a delicious blend of ‘things’ passed off as a mocktail.

Our hotel was wonderful and the salt swimming pool an absolute delight, as well as a must for cooling off. Even though I stayed in the shade for ninety-nine per cent of the time we were there I still managed to get sunburn and prickly heat! I went to the beauty salon in the hotel and got a pedicure, foot massage, nails painted, the full works for an astonishing 200 baht (around Β£4.80).

We were in Bangkok to celebrate my son Matthew’s 50th birthday. Eventually the whole family arrived in the city and we were joined by a few of Matt’s friends for a meal at Mr Ribeye. There were sixteen of us sitting around the table. I think we gave him a good evening.

A slideshow of Bangkok sights including the hotel pool, Bangkok at night, a walk around a nearby city lake which was only 400 metres from our hotel. Bangkok is a busy city and very hot.

I’m adjusting to the heat gradually. We left Bangkok last Monday to travel down the coast with a few stops, (Cha-am, Nana Beach Chumphon, Khao Lak )along the way to Phuket. More about this little road trip on the next post.

Just Had To Tell You About The Fossil Walk. . .

We have lived in Dorset for seven years and every now and then we visit the coast. West Bay, Charmouth, Lyme Regis etc., I know it’s the Jurassic Coast but have never given it that much thought. A couple of weekends ago some friends from Essex came to visit and Helen, booked for she and I to go on a fossil walk on Charmouth Beach. We ended up as a group of five, two others from Weston Super Mare and the lovely Victoria who led the walk. We all met on the footbridge leading to the beach from the carpark. Several people had a problem with paying at the parking machine but I was able to use the app on my phone. Honestly, you can do anything with an app on your phone these days. It’s convenient but slightly worrying. Apps are definitely taking over. . . but that should be another blog post. Back to Charmouth.

Vic (as she liked to be called) gave us a short talk about the Jurassic coast. She gave us two booklets and the following paragraph is an extract from one of them.

It is one of the world’s great natural wonders. It extends for 95 miles along the Dorset and East Devon coast and offers a unique “Walk Through Time” starting at Orcombe Point near Exmouth and continuing to Studland Bay in east Dorset, it is the only place on earth where you can walk through three distinctive geological eras. It captures the remains of the arid deserts of the Triassic, the shallow seas of the Jurassic and the tropical swamps of the Cretaceous. For more information click HERE

Vic giving us the pre-walk talk at a picnic table.

After the talk we picked up our bags and headed down to the beach. There were plenty of other people and dogs on the beach, many of them with their heads down scouring the sand and pebbles for any sign of a fossil. It’s hard to tell at first and several times I picked up a little something thinking I had made the find of the century only to be told it was just a bit of pottery or a few stones stuck together with clay. Very disappointing. But it wasn’t long before one member of our party found a small ammonite and we all cheered even though we were a little jealous!

This was the terrain where we searched for fossils.

Eventually I found two small ammonites and several belemnites. I sound like I know what I’m talking about but honestly? I’m none the wiser really. A couple of hours on the beach is not long enough. I’ll have to go again and maybe take the grandchildren with me. But, they’ll probably find loads and know all about it. . . that’s just how it is with the old and the young 😊

I was pretty pleased with my haul and I came back home full of enthusiasm for more fossil hunting. One of the other party members gave me a rather lovely (and certainly larger) ammonite than the one I found in exchange for a copy of Dear Tosh. I hope he enjoys reading it! Tosh would have loved searching on the beach for fossils. I thought about him a great deal.

My little haul of fossils. The top left is not a fossil but a quartz stone, I rather liked it. You can see the ammonites (the largest I was given) and the belemnites are the little bullet type shape. The ends of tentacles from a squid like animal I believe.

Watch out for a blog post or two over the next few weeks as I’m off to Thailand for a family 50th β€” not mine but my eldest son. I know, I know I don’t look old enough to have a fifty-year-old son (she says modestly) but when you’ve been amongst the 180+ million year old fossils for a day it does make one feel pretty young and insignificant!

See you from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos…watch this space.

Oh and by the way, Victoria also has an alpaca farm where you can experience a walk with the alpacas and other activities. Click on the link to see more. Little Orchard Alpacas

Two Years On And . . . A New Letter to Tosh. . .

Today it’s twelve years since we lost Tosh. I thought the pain of grief would not be as raw now as it was in the beginning but sometimes it just jolly well is. It’s been a difficult month, with the weather being so dismal and I felt a little low. But, I spoke to my son in Thailand a couple of days ago and told him how hard I was finding it this year. He asked if I wrote to Tosh at this time of year, bringing him up to date with the family and world news the same as I had during the first year and when writing the book Dear Tosh. It felt like a good idea and I actually smiled at the prospect.

At the end of the book I’d signed off,

Love you and miss you Tosh.
Bye for now. I’ll write again soon.
Mum xx

I had every intention of writing again soon, but I didn’t. Getting on with life took over, and I never got around to writing another letter until today.

Dear Tosh,
14th January 2023

Today I woke up late, feeling muggy and tired. I’d been dreaming about eating, probably because I’ve been trying to lose weight so cutting down on my intake of carbs. As soon as I opened my eyes I thought of you. Most days I think of you first thing and then several times again throughout the day. Twelve years ago we were on our way to Porto, to the hospital. We had to get from Italy where we were living at the time. I was trying to remember how we go to the airport at Bologna, we must have driven but I have no recollection of the journey there or much else. I spent a few days in a world of numbness and confusion. The last letter I wrote to you was on the 1st February 2021. I cannot believe two years have almost passed and I’m sorry I have not written again before today. But here I am. I’m sitting at my desk in our cottage in Dorset. Through the window I can see the driveway of the farm opposite, the barn and the stables. Yesterday the sun was shining but today it’s raining and windy once more. The weather so far in 2023 has been dismal. The rain causing floods everywhere in the Southwest and further afield. You wouldn’t like it β€” it’s not good weather for graffiti!

Let me give you a bit of an update from January 2021. When Geoff and I returned from France in May 2021 I published my book about you called Dear Tosh . It’s the 27 letters I wrote to you for the 10th anniversary while we were staying in Caux, South of France. A lot of people have read it and it has helped many people come to terms with their own loss. I think you’d be very pleased about that.

I’ve not written anything big since your book, I’ve tried to write a novel but haven’t had much success. I find plotting very difficult! At the moment I’m sticking to short stories and poetry, which I find less stressful to write.

Geoff and I went to France again in 2022 and stayed near Lorgues in Provence. It was a beautiful area and Geoff did loads of cycling. Unfortunately, just before we were due to come home he fell off his bike on a cycle path, broke his collarbone, a few ribs and had a nasty concussion. Bad eh? It was quite nice for me and Jpeg the dog though, because he came walking with us for the last two weeks of our trip. Jpeg loved that! He’s back on his bike now though, albeit indoors because of our awful weather. He does 45 mins in the morning and I do 30mins of keep fit with a Youtube video. Fabulous Fifties β€” who am I kidding!

Sadly Jpeg died at the end of August 2022, she was thirteen and a half, so she had a good life. She was a well travelled dog. Even though you never met her I know you would have loved each other. We had her cremated and then took her ashes back to the farm in Italy where she had found us all those years before and you had convinced me we should keep her. On our way to Italy we stopped at the small village in Lorraine, France, where some of your ashes are in a beautiful village cemetery overlooking the French countryside. I shed a tear or two, I love the headstone there because it has your photograph on it. We left some of Jpeg’s ashes behind the stone so that she could be with you.

World news over the last couple of years is dire. Russia invaded Ukraine. The Climate Crisis is taking hold. I know you would be definitely behind any cause that would save our environment. There’s flooding, war, starvation . . . the world doesn’t get any better. As for the UK well it’s a disaster right now. We had three Prime Ministers in 2022! Everyone is on strike, the NHS is falling apart. We have gone back to the 1970s. I won’t say any more as it’s too depressing.

I think about you every single day, more than once, we talk about you all the time and look at pictures of you, when you were little and as a grown man. Of course I can only imagine what you would be like now. Forty this year! It doesn’t seem possible. But then again we’re all getting older year on year. Your eldest brother will be fifty this year β€” now that’s really something. I cannot possibly be old enough to have a fifty-year-old son. We are going out to Thailand to celebrate with him as are Emily and her girls. It will be a lovely couple of weeks. Geoff and I are going to take the opportunity to travel to Laos and Cambodia while we’re close.

Today we are trying to be upbeat about the anniversary of your death. Thinking of so many good things. We’re going to have a lovely meal, I have a new toy, an air fryer (I keep calling it an air dryer ha ha) and I’m roasting lamb, Persian style, with yoghurt and spices. I’m celebrating your life and know that if you were still around, I’d be chatting to you about my new air fryer and all the things I can make with it.

Miss you as ever.
Lots of love
Mum xxx

PS I tried to get a couple of walnut whips today so that we could ceremonially eat them, but couldn’t find one anywhere.

I know you loved them. I think Emily has been successful. I hope so.

Three Days in Trieste…inspirational for writers, or for anyone really…

If you receive my newsletter (you can sign up for it HERE on this website) you will have seen that The Man and I did rather a lot of travelling in November. November is a difficult month for me, it’s the beginning of a series of family anniversaries (births, deaths etc.,) Going away was a great thing to do. We travelled down to Le Marche in Italy where we used to live but took several days to get there stopping in Belgium, France and Switzerland on the way. All the stops were really my choice so I had to allow The Man to fulfil his dream of staying in Trieste. Which we did, for three nights at the end of November. I chose the hotel, right on the front with a sea view and The Man got us a free upgrade to include a balcony.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Although it turned a little cold, the sun shone for most of the time we were there and we had a magnificent view of the Mediterranean sea β€” until it was interrupted by the arrival of an enormous cruise ship less than 100 metres from our hotel window.

Just a few photographs of the hotel in Trieste and our view with and without the cruise ship! It was a special treat for us and we very much enjoyed it.

There was so much to see that we had difficulty in choosing but as James Joyce lived here for some time during his life, it was a must to find some of his haunts. We didn’t make it to the museum but we will next time. You can read about James Joyce in Trieste here on the museum website. We walked up the Via Roma to find his statue. I of course hoped for some inspiration. The Man was walking in the steps of a writer he much admires. We visited the James Joyce CafΓ© on our first evening in Trieste but it was closing and a bit of a disappointment. We saw one of the blocks of apartments that Joyce lived in, a pretty pink one beside the water inlet in the Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuova.

We chose to visit the Banksy exhibition which was staged in the old fish market. An enormous building with high ceilings and big windows. That was impressive to begin with, never mind the art works on display. The Man said, ‘I have never given Banksy anywhere near enough credit for his satirical observation, probably because I just hadn’t seen enough of his work. It is eye opening to see so much here.’

It was a big exhibition with many familiar pieces and many I had not seen before. There was an area containing pull-down rolls of blank paper and pens for the public to do their own piece. I couldn’t resist of course. Afterwards, I wanted to tell Tosh all about it. . . So I did.

We also chose to visit the Revoltella Museum. Founded in 1872 by Baron Pasquale Revoltella (1795-1869), one of the most representative figures of Trieste society in the 19th century. who left to the city, in addition to many other bequests, his house and all the works of art, furnishings and books it contained. Apart from wandering around the beautiful house and viewing all the wonderful works of art and furniture, we attended I Macchiaioli exhibition housed in a gallery within the building. In the words of the museum website:

The term “Macchiaioli” defines the most important group of Italian artists of the 19th century.
Independent and rebellious spirits who abandon the historical and mythological scenes of neoclassicism and romanticism to open themselves to a realistic and immediate painting, without preparatory drawings, painting precisely “in stains” dense and colourful everyday life, with short brushstrokes that make the subjects much more truthful. The outlines in their paintings are blurred in an attempt to reproduce reality as it appears at a glance.

This was a movement I had never heard of. I’m not an art critic and I know very little about the history of art, unlike The Man, but even he didn’t know of it. So, a great deal to be discovered by both of us. We agreed that paintings we saw, mostly of ‘ordinary’ working people in different environments were pleasing to look at. The light and shade and the subject matter all making an impression on us. Here are just three examples:

I particularly like the young boy, painted in the 19th century but looking very much like a boy of today. The young girl reminded me of the In Summer painting I had seen in Berlin, remember? The street scene is just fabulous, the sunlight and shadow, the children playing in the street and neighbours chatting.

Here now are a three photographs of the house:

A carriage, the library and dinner for four.

As I said, we did a lot of walking. We do a lot of walking wherever we go and Trieste was no exception. One rather long and uphill stroll, took us from behind the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre to the top of the city where we found the war memorial on the hill of San Giusto. A cathedral, an old monastery and on the plateau of the hill were the remains of an old Roman forum and beside it, after climbing several steps. the memorial for those lost during the first and second world wars. There were benches dotted around and a few people sitting on the old broken down stone walls. A kind of meeting place, I thought, and it inspired me to write a short story β€” not finished yet β€”Typical I hear you say. But it will be.

A few photographs of the Roman amphitheatre ruins, our walk to the top of the city, the war memorial and surrounding area.

Finally, some photographs of the food from Trieste. We do love a good breakfast, lunch or dinner!

I enjoyed my visit to Trieste. The architecture is Mittel-Europa (so The Man says) heavily influenced by centuries of the Hapsburgs. Trieste lies in the very north east of Italy with Slovenia and Croatia on its borders. It was Austrian for many years and was the principal port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The food has Teutonic influences (the pastries magnificent). It’s a city of great interest to literary and historical buffs and a must visit if you are either of these. We’re planning a prolonged visit next year so watch this space.

Flash Fiction Festival . . .

Last Thursday, rather late to the party, I signed up to attend the Flash Fiction Festival for just one day – it was absolutely brilliant and I wished I had realised earlier that it was on. I would have attend the whole weekend, from Friday 7th July until Sunday 10th, but as you know, if you read my last post, I’m already committed to a week long online course with Mslexia Novel School starting tomorrow (11th July) and I thought I would not be able to cope with a full weekend ahead of that.

Trinity College Bristol – Venue for the Flash Fiction Festival 2022

The Flash Fiction Festival was full on with some terrific workshops, readings, panel discussions and other activities (I missed out on the karaoke on Friday night but I’ll be there next year!) The house was a perfect venue with beautiful grounds in which to relax or explore. Lots of trees for shade which was needed this year.

The first workshop I did was with Kathy Hoyle from WritersHQ She ran a fast and furious session when participants had to pick a genre out of a hat β€” hopefully one they didn’t normally write in β€” two opposing prompts given: ACCIDENTALLY v ON PURPOSE. We were then given twenty minutes to write a story of up to 500 words. By the way, a ‘Flash Face Off’ is run each week on their website. Kathy Hoyle was an enthusiastic and energetic workshop leader and brought out the very best in us…I even ‘won’ a book because I stood up and read out my short piece, which was okay but will benefit from some editing and a better ending! I picked Magic and Myth from the bowl, definitely not my usual choice of genre!

After a coffee break everyone took part in a ‘Word Cricket’ session with Vannessa Gebbie. She started us off with a sentence and we began, with instruction to write quickly and continuously. Every now and then she threw us a random word and we had to immediately insert it into our writing. I had done this before and it’s great fun. It’s amazing the variety of stories that can be created in a very short time.

I absolutely loved the second workshop I attended with Carrie Etter she was a brilliant facilitator. The title of the workshop was ‘Writing the Prose Poetry Sequence or Series’. It was an hour and a half long and it flew by. I could have done a whole day without any problem. She introduced us to a couple of prose series, the first was from Nina Andrews’ The Book of Orgasms (Bloodaxe, 2003) I thought I might feel uncomfortable with this subject, but no, they are light hearted and very clever. I laughed a lot and even read one out loud when asked. Great fun. Sorry I can’t find a link to share these poems. The second example Carrie gave us was from Hilda Sheehan’s debut pamphlet, Frances and Martine (Dancing Girl, 2014). Another series of amusing prose poetry with anecdotes about two middle aged friends. You can get a glimpse here .

We were given the chance to think about and create our own series of prose poems. The idea was to create say three prose poems using one of the following prompts: The Gaze, The Kiss or The Whisper. For example if you chose the kiss you might think of writing the following poems: The Kiss at the Barrier, The Kiss of the Reptile and the Kiss of Death. Get it? The option to expand is endless.

We then went on to talk about Prose Poetry Series, which differ from the above because each poem continues from the poem that comes before it. The example we worked from was Rosmarie Waldrop’s White Is a Color (Guillemot, 2017. It’s 19 short prose poems that tell the story of the speaker’s husband’s fall and recovery. It’s very good.

I am enthused to create some of my own prose poetry series or sequence…watch this space.

During the afternoon I attended a panel on Writing Historical Novellas-in-flash. A very interesting discussion and informative. I was never quite sure what constitutes a novella-in-flash. I thought it had to be a series of flash fiction stories that stood alone but with a story arc. I learnt that each flash-fiction should not exceed 1000 words β€”but they sometimes do β€” they don’t ALL have to stand alone but usually a good percentage of them do. There doesn’t have to be a story arc but there should be some connection between them. This is what I now understand, but I’m sure others will say something different. It seemed to me that the ‘rules’ are there to be broken.

My last workshop of the day was with Michael Loveday, ‘Writing the Novella-in-flash: Developing your characters’. I have to admit to being pretty exhausted by this point and could not really focus as well as I had earlier in the day. But, it was a good workshop and Michael gave us all several handouts to take way and use at home. Thank goodness ….I’m going to use his many tips for getting deep into my fictional characters. I think the worksheets might come in handy for my novel school next week!

I’m going to leave you with this photograph… how and why do you think that little yellow duck ended up on the top of the dresser? I have no idea but my eyes kept being drawn to it during one workshop.

Writing Courses. . . Yes or No?

It is now well over twelve months since I published my memoir Dear Tosh and during that time I have not finished any other work in progress. I have two novels on the go β€” actually three β€” but none are anywhere near finished. I also began, in earnest, to write a memoir about my life in Italy but this fell by the wayside when I realised that it was probably not going to be of interest to anyone. It’s been done too many times before. I have to think of a different angle for it rather than a series of anecdotes about being an expat abroad. Quite a few poems were created or edited over the last few months but nothing good enough to put into a pamphlet, at least not yet. Also, a radio play which has been put in a drawer then pulled out and edited several times over the last ten years! I am, if you like, in a state of ‘half-dressed’ with everything I do, and I find it a lot easier to choose clothing and complete my outfit than to bring any of my WIP to a satisfactory conclusion.

In an attempt to actually finish something, I’ve signed up to the Mslexia Novel School next week. It’s an online course from Monday to Friday aimed at those of us who want to β€” but don’t seem to be able to β€” begin or finish a work of fiction. I’m a believer in courses, any courses; online, in person or a hybrid of both. On the whole I find them inspiring and I need the interaction with tutors and other writers to keep me motivated. I know that sometimes feedback can be harsh and often full of words you don’t want to read or hear but you have to learn to pick out the more objective notes and take them on board.

I have an MA in Creative Writing and I facilitate creative writing sessions on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to attend writing courses myself. I believe that you can ever stop learning.

I’m full of enthusiasm and can’t wait to get going. . . I’ll update you at the end of next week as to how the novel writing course went.

A Quick Update…Dear Tosh and Other Things…

I was going to save some of this news for my actual newsletter but I want to keep everyone in the loop as to what has been going on.

First of all Dear Tosh has been shortlisted in The Selfies Book Award in the Autobiography and Memoir category. I am so thrilled about this and look forward to hearing the results next Tuesday 5th April. Watch this space only don’t hold your breath.

Secondly the lovely Clemmie Telford featured my list on her website ‘Mother of all Lists‘ and I had the most amazing response on Instagram with many people saying how much they could relate to the things I wrote. Especially those who have suffered adult child bereavement or sibling bereavement. I was overwhelmed by their comments and the love that poured out. You can read it here if you haven’t already.

Newsletter will be out next week and it will be coming from France! (If we ever get packed!)

Research. . . It’s invaluable to an author if you want to get it right. . .

Town Hall Barnsley. Photo from Barnsley Town Hall website.

I was writing a dual time line novel set partly during the second world war and partly during the 1950s. For certain reasons, I decided to set the story both in a small fictional town in Yorkshire, and in a small district of North East London. My protagonist hailed from the Yorkshire town. As I am not from the north I felt I should do some research before the second draft and editing of said novel.

It was an eye opener!

I spent only three days in the town of Barnsley, in South Yorkshire. I was shown the local sights by a friend who lives there (thank you Helen) and I spent several hours in the museum, and archives department at the town hall. The visitors service assistants in the archives were absolutely fantastic. They searched out old maps, magazines, newspapers, photographs and took time and care to show me how to find the resources I needed. I wish I could have spent longer studying there. It was a joy, honestly, I loved it. Fascinating reading about other people’s lives and their memories of growing up in this town.

But. . .that’s the nub of it: Other people’s lives.

The result of my research was a massive reality check, and frankly a blow to my hitherto confidence in my ability to write about anything and everything. I realised that I had romanticised my protagonist and underestimated what my small town in Yorkshire might actually be like. The more I found out the more I saw massive plot holes in the story and flaws in my characters. I have rethought the whole thing. Even though I had written 85,000 words and now edited 20,000 of them I thought of what my son Matthew said to me a few years ago: never be afraid to put it in the bin and start again.

I realised that writing about the north/south divide with my protagonist hailing from the north and me, a writer from the south was neither ethical nor indeed possible. How could I have the audacity to try and write from her point of view?

It made me see that I should write about the things I know. There would be nothing wrong with me writing a war story set in Greater London where I was brought up. I would still have plenty of research to do but I could draw on my own family history for much of it.

Onwards I go. . . but now with a different genre, different time and different story!

Please leave a comment if you have the time, it would be appreciated. Thank you. 😊

Writing to Someone you Have Lost…

There are a great deal of posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and podcasts etc., all about loss and grief. It is spoken of more often today than in the past. Especially over the last couple of years it seems. We are encouraged by social media to talk about our losses and share our feelings..

Last Friday, the 14th January, was the eleventh anniversary of the loss of my lovely son Thomas Hartley. Last year I wrote a book about him and for him, for the tenth anniversary. This book is called, Dear Tosh. This year, I didn’t write another book, but The Man and I went to Dartmouth and visited Dittisham where I used to holiday with my children when they were all younger. It was a trip down memory lane. 😊

I try to write in my journal every day. Here I can write what I like and not worry about anyone reading it. . . not until I’m dead anyway. In my journal I can be honest, say what I really think but even then I hold back a little bit, just in case I leave it somewhere and another pair of eyes read it. I don’t like to, pour out my grief on social media, but sometimes I just write a paragraph or two hoping people will understand what it’s like to lose a child, even when that child is 27. Writing about it does help. At least, I think it does. I wrote my book as a tribute to Tosh, I didn’t publish expecting it to become a bestseller. Dear Tosh is slowly finding its way around the world and I’m happy to report that readers have reached out to me, often saying the the book has helped them with their own loss, or they finished it and gave it to someone else they knew who had lost a child.

This year I have found the anniversary of his death harder. Many people would say that’s not right, and that by now I should be okay. I should be ‘moving on’ and forgetting about the past. But I just don’t think that’s possible. My daughter and I exchanged text messages yesterday (the 15th January). She was feeling upset about things and I told her this: I feel low too. . .almost worse than yesterday. . .It’s like I don’t want the anniversary to be over. . .it just means I’m even further away from Tosh. πŸ™ She replied: Yes I totally relate to the further away thing. It’s weird isn’t it?

I wonder if other bereaved parents and siblings feel the same way? It’s as though you cannot or don’t want to let go. Clinging on by your finger tips to stop them slipping away.

I miss writing to Tosh, that’s the format of my book, twenty seven letters written to him. I have missed writing him those letters, and I think I’m going to write a few more. I did scribble a note to him while we were away for his anniversary. I used the hotel’s headed note paper and told him what we were doing and how things were for me. I folded it up and put it in my journal and I felt better.

I firmly believe that writing ‘stuff’ down is good for mental health. One can write in a notebook, on a computer or even a scrap of paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not. It can be so therapeutic; getting things out of your head and onto the page. But. . . I have an idea for my blog readers. Why not try writing a letter to someone you have lost. A mother, a father, a child. . . anyone whose loss has affected you. Write them a letter or two, or more. Tell them what has happened since they died. Tell them things you wish you had said to them when they were alive. Ask them questions β€” you may find the answers to those questions just by writing them down β€” speak to them, tell them your thoughts. I’m sure it will make you feel better.

I’m going to write to my father who died well over fifty years ago. Who will you write to?

Counting, counting, counting…

It is 31 steps from the sofa in the sitting room to the bathroom upstairs in our cottage. It’s 82 steps from my desk, down the stairs and out to the shed and back to my desk β€”Β we have a small garden. How do I know this? Because I have treated myself to a band I wear on my wrist which logs every single step I take. I am trying not to be obsessed but…

The fact is that being a writer necessitates sitting at my desk for a good part of everyday. I do get out for a walk with the dog but I’m apt to cut it short when I’m stuck into a WIP which at the moment is a novel I have been working on for several years and which I am determined to finish editing (for the tenth time) by Christmas.

I am in danger of becoming obsessed with the grey band and black face that sits on my wrist. My 10,000 steps a day goal eats away at me. Whereas before I could tell myself I’d done enough walking for the day, I now find myself running up and downstairs in the evening just to get the steps up to the point where the dear little gadget vibrates in order to congratulate me for reaching the desired walking distance for the day. It flashes at me, and I smile. Happy. It is almost β€” but not quite β€” the same feeling as writing The End.

I know it’s doing me good and I’m hoping that the novelty doesn’t wear off too soon because I must confess to being one of those people who can be enthusiastic in phases, but this time I’m going to try and keep it up. I want to lose some weight and ‘walk’ through my seventies with ease. The dog of course, is delighted with the new gadget as I am less likely to cut her walks short to get back to my WIP. Walking in the country lanes and across the fields is much more pleasant than running up and down the stairs in the evenings β€” at least it is for the moment. I might not feel the same when the weather is less clement.

Now, I’d better get on with that editing if I’m to hit the deadline of completing that novel. Scrivener tells me I’m at 11,022 words edited so far, only another 68,978 to go! I do have the 80,000 words written, I’m just bringing them over from another manuscript and massively editing as I do.

You can just read the title of the book in the screenshot…look out for it in 2022…

That’s if I can hit my targets…😊