As some of you may know, I have a huge interest in genealogy – I think it’s good to know where/who you came from. I was lucky enough to be able to track down the long-lost famiy of a close relation and it’s a fabulous feeling, being a catalyst in a family reunion. I happened to mention this to someone in my class, who had been fruitlessly searching for her half-brother for a long time. I love a challenge and decided to lend a hand.

As I type, I have narrowed down the search and have encountered a relative of the gentleman in question. His name is Peter Williams (am hoping this may come up in a search if my other efforts get no response). The good thing is, that he was also looking for his half-sister, Sylvia Williams, as was. However, I’m having to go through a ‘middle-man’ or rather a ‘middle-organisation’ and they don’t know how old the message on their site was – for all we know, the email address they have may now be defunct or go unchecked. So near yet so far. Then, I came across another site which would allow me to send a direct message (although this did cost a fiver – what price can you put on finding someone’s family. I don’t have much, but I don’t begrudge this). I now have two feelers out, but this last message was in 2002 – so many things can change in ten years, so I don’t want to get this lady’s hopes up. Don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog.

This is one more avenue to look at. If ‘Ally’ does another search for Doris Owen Maddocks or Donald Edward Williams, let’s hope she ends up here and contacts me, and the story can have a happy ending. Keeping my fingers crossed and I’ll keep you posted. So frustrating to be so close…

A challenging month!

Our last creative writing assignment was to write something about a bad act, as either an ambivalent or an unsympathetic narrator. It was far more difficult than I anticipated and I found it really uncomfortable to write the piece. What I did notice was, as we all read our work out, that the females in the group had all written a male character as the evil lead. I wonder if this was our way of distancing ourselves from writing about bad deeds – no-one wants to be thought capable of such horrors as those our characters were committing. It made me wonder how horror writers are able to conjure up such images without giving themselves nightmares! It’s not a writing exercise I’d like to re-visit!

I’m not going to post the finished piece here, because it’s too long (not because it’s too creepy).

I haven’t been posting too much because things have been busy here (as you know, busy for me means I need to find the energy to do moer than one thing per week). Sadly, one of the events was a funeral, which (as anyone does) I find really upsetting and draining. There seems to be a lack of good news, from illness within the extended family to friends struggling to find jobs. However, we do have two social events this week, so I am trying to do very little in order to prepare for them – sadly, on Saturday, we’re having a goodbye lunch with friends who are emigrating soon. I don’t have many friends, so we will miss them a great deal – thank goodness for modern technology, which means we should be able to stay in touch!

Tomorrow is little puppy Ivy’s first birthday. All she wants is a Weetabix. You can read her adventures here:

Creative Writing: term 2

Yep, I’m behind the times again – I’m well in to term two of my creative writing class. We’ve lost two members and gained one, but it’s nice that almost everyone returned. Before half-term, we were asked to write something based on fruit, after being given the verse A Kumquat for John Keats to read. I’m not great at poetry (that’s both writing it and understanding it) so I found it quite difficult and felt I needed to apologise before reading it out! However, it was well-received (which was a lovely, and unexpected, surprise).

Here is my poem. It’s called Ugli By Name (though it was suggested it should be dedicated to Tony Harrison who wrote the poem it was based on):

Mother Nature, o true apothecary!
What wondrous flavours did you marry
in a grapefruit and a tangerine,
with flesh of orange and skin of green?
A pair of star-crossed Jamaican lovers
who met under sun-kissed earthen covers.

Shakespeare mused, “What’s in a name?” –
I find myself pondering upon the same:
the Ugli fruit is an exotic treat
which, by any other name, would taste as sweet.
Tangelo, I’ve shared a name with you,
for I was once called ugly, too.

I was surprised to find that ‘Ugli’ fruit is a tradename and that they are actually a tangelo – so yet again, I have learned more than just a writing technique. I also learned today that peaches grow in Canada!

The Rod Liddle Article

художници на икониI am absolutely disgusted with this article in The Sun:

Rod Liddle attacks “pretend disabled” in Sun column

At the weekend, I found an old CV of mine. I looked through it – I have a LOT of qualifications, which are very good and I PAID to do them. I have a lot of experience. When I had my first big ME/CFS relapse, I had just got engaged and was working my way to becoming a Microbiology Technician with a degree in Biomedical Science. I was unable to work for several years, mostly due to the fact I was rarely able to get out of bed. As SOON as I was able, I took a part time job (still not up to working full-time) so I could afford luxuries, like wedding rings. I was unable to return to my old career, so I PAID to completely retrain as an administrator. I took a crash course in office skills, over six weeks, and within a couple of months, had secured a full time job in admin. It was a constant struggle. I completely went without a social life in order to maintain my job – both would have been impossible. I would often go home on a lunchtime, for a nap, just so I could get through the day.

Finally, I found a balance. I was working full time for a while and was able to socialise (to an extent). Then, in 2002, another relapse hit and it was worse. Worse in a number of ways: this time, I was the main wage earner; we had a house to pay for; a dog. I tried to do everything right, this time. Fighting it was futile and because I’d tried to be ‘normal’ for too long, instead of admitting I was getting poorly again, it hit me harder. So, once again, I had to give up a promising career, lost friends (who wants to bother with someone who can’t go anywhere or, often, can’t even hold a conversation), had to cut everything back to keep a roof over our heads, had no social life and had to watch the world pass me by for years. It’s undignified to have to ask for help to do things (like getting upstairs or washing your hair), that you’ve always taken for granted.

What I’m trying to say is, who would choose that life? Who would say that this is a ‘pretend illness’ if they had any experience of it? I’ve had ME/CFS since I was 12 and certainly couldn’t have kept up this pretence for 25 years. I miss kick-boxing, dancing, being able to go out on my own, having an income, etc, but I’d still rather be me than that disgraceful excuse for a columnist, Rod Liddle. Bullies always attack those who are least able to defend themselves.

Best wishes for 2012!

Haven’t posted for a while as Christmas is tough on people with ME/CFS, among other people – the work involved doesn’t stop just because you’re exhausted! Anyway, I hope that you all had an enjoyable festive season, and that 2012 will be a positive year for you.

It’s time for my recap of the year. I used to always do this on the first page of a brand new diary, when I was a teenager, but now it’s the blog! The start of 2011 was a cold one and a sad one for us: our first dog, Holly (who I took my writing name from), died on 18 January, aged 12. I was with her when it happened and it was heart-breaking. She was one of the family and we miss her every day. We could never replace her, but felt the need to get a puppy. We had no intention of getting another tri-colour, but it seems that Ivy chose us. You can keep up with her advertures at

Aside from welcoming Ivy in to our home, there were lots of good things such as new babies within the family and plenty of engagements amongst friends and family – 2012 sees us celebrating with 3 soon-to-be-married couples so far. I love weddings, though I’m feeling the pressure of being a Matron of Honour (how old does that make me sound). I worry that the ME/CFS will make its presence felt. We’re happy that our friends have entered the final phase of their wish to move to New Zealand, but will miss them a lot. I value my friends, as so many disappeared over the years. When you can’t socialise, you find that you’re no longer included in people’s lives. Sad but true. In the summer, we went to see Mrs Browns Boys with my parents – it was hilarious. I haven’t seen my dad laugh like that, ever. In fact, I didn’t think he was capable. Needless to say, we booked tickets for this summer’s show too. There are lots of milestone birthdays and celebrations due in 2012 – a 30th, a 21st and a 40th anniversary, to name but a few.

Last year, I tried to volunteer to do some things that I felt I was able to do. I can’t say it’s worked out as planned, as I’ve been sidelined (which actually makes me feel worse than not been accepted as a volunteer). On the positive side, our annual fundraising event for Marie Curie was very successful, with the support of fantastic family and friends. It makes me feel good to do something for others as, so often, I feel useless for the things I can’t do. Nice to be able to help.

I discovered that my publisher was no longer in business – can’t say I was sad for them, but I was for the staff and the other authors. This made me look at writing again, so I am still in the process of trying to turn Karma in to an e-book. I’m glad it belongs to me again. I also took a big step and signed up for a creative writing class. I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m very uncomfortable in reading my work aloud, but I was pleasantly surprised. It took a few weeks for the group to gel, but I like it (though I do wish it was an afternoon, rather than a morning – I really, really struggle on a morning). It resumes in January, and I’m seriously considering returning. I’m also contemplating my own version of NaNoWriMo in January, to get me focused on novel 2 – it may not happen, but I’m going to give it a go. Then it can be an e-book too! I’m also still working on my degree. It’s very tough, as I’m unmotivated and fnd it difficult to concentrate. I can’t attend tutorials, due to the CFS, and I almost quit when I discovered there was an exam. My ability to retain knowledge is terrible – I used to have an almost photographic memory, but now find learning difficult. I just want to prove to myself that I’m still the person I was before the CFS made its presence felt!

I’ve been invited to do some things and my instinct is to say no, but I had hoped to try and do more adventurous things (mundane to you, adventurous to me). I haven’t made resolutions, but I do have an ongoing Wish List, which I re-evaluate every year. Many of the things on my list are restricted by the fact that I’m ill, but more so because of the fact that they cost money (which is DUE to the fact that I’m ill). I’d love to be able to drive, and that’s been on my list for about 20 years now, but it could be there for another 20 years! Last year, I impulsively signed up for a few things and then fretted about them when I was accepted. However, if I hadn’t, I’d have missed out on some fun opportunities, like being in BBC Good Food magazine and being a Morrisons Taste Tester. Maybe there’s a lesson in that?

I’ve probably waffled on enough. I hope that your year has far more good things than bad things, and that your wishes are within your grasp. Happy New Year to you all. x

Creative Writing: week 9

I know I’ve jumped ahead, and haven’t posted earlier weeks’ work, but I will. It was the penultimate week, this week, and I woke up feeling rotten. This time of year is bad for the ME/CFS, as there’s a balancing act between resting and doing what it takes to prepare for Christmas. I’ve never perfected it in all the years I’ve been ill! Anyhow, I hadn’t even done the homework, which was meant to be our take on an Alan Bennett monologue. I’d had a few ideas, but hadn’t been able to face sitting in front of the computer to get it down. So, at 7.30am, I had to get typing! This is what I came up with. I hope you like it – at least the group laughed at the right bits, and understood the character.


I usually join in with the quiz. I used to be on that team over there. We even had nicknames for each other. There’s Baldy, Lofty, Pigeon Joe and I was Mr Know-It-All. I was quite touched, because usually the nicknames are a bit mean. They had to let me go when Baldy’s brother wanted to come to quiz night, and that’s fine, because family comes first. In the end, he wasn’t able to make it, but they have to keep his place open, just in case… Did you know the word quiz first appeared in 1784 and meant ‘odd person’? I memorised that fact, but it hasn’t come up yet.

Lofty is a good friend of mine. I thought he was called Lofty because of his height or because he’s a keen pigeon fancier, but it’s because his name is Lofthouse. We had a good long chat one day over a real ale. I told him everything I knew about pigeons. Did you know that pigeon racing uses a special breed of pigeon called the ‘Racing Homer’? The only related question that has come up so far was about Homer Simpson. Lofty said he’d love to chat more, but he’d given up pigeons, after forty-two years. Now he sits with Pigeon Joe and they talk about birds they fancy. It’s a shame. We had a lot in common. Except pigeons. I hate pigeons. He did drink real ale though.

I only drink real ale. I joined CAMRA a few years ago, after I heard a few of the lads discussing it. I thought it was a club, at first. I usually order Dancing Duck, if I’m on my own. Actually, it’s my usual. I drink half beer, half lemonade, because I find it a bit…bitter. Did you know that CAMRA is the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK? I find this fact impresses the bar staff. They usually raise an eyebrow whenever I tell them.

The barmaid in here is lovely. She’s nineteen. She said she’d love to stay and chat with me, but the steward complained that we were gossiping too much, and now she stands at the other end of the bar. Mother would hate her, what with her low cut tops and big hair. I was engaged to a nineteen year old girl, once, but she didn’t get on with Mother at all. Mother said she was a Jezebel. Since father ran off with a woman in 1962, she’s described every woman younger than her as a Jezebel. Jane called the engagement off. She said that she would, reluctantly, live with Mother, but that wanting to bring her on our honeymoon was ludicrous. I said we’d compromise and get her an adjoining room, but that didn’t help. I suggested she see things from Mother’s point of view: she didn’t want any ‘funny business’ going on in a hotel room. That kind of thing was for the privacy of your own home on birthdays and special occasions, on nice clean sheets. That was forty years ago. Seems like yesterday. Did you know Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal?

I’m giving the quiz a miss today. It’s my sixty-first birthday. I was hoping to meet a few people for drinks, but I must’ve given them the wrong date. That’s the second time I’ve done that. Had a big party for my sixtieth and invited everyone at the pub. Mother catered and I decided to do the entertainment: I have large organ and I love to get it out whenever I can. Did you know the word ‘organ’ comes from the Greek word meaning instrument? Anyhow, no-one showed up. How could I have been so stupid, forgetting the date of my own birthday. Mother says I have too many facts, cluttering up my head. I’ll head off before the quiz starts. Mother will be waiting, but I’ve got half a pint left. I’ve started, so I’ll finish.

Book 4: Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge

crippen-book.jpgThe last book in the Reading Challenge – and it has been a challenge, as I deliberately chose books I would not have picked up in a book shop. The final book I selected was Crippen by John Boyne.

I had heard of Crippen, of course, but given his notoriety, assumed him to be a serial killer – apparently this was not the case. He was convicted of, and hanged for, the murder of his wife. I knew nothing of the background so didn’t know if this was a true crime story or an elaboration on the facts.

I’m having a hard time with this review: the writing itself is fairly good, but the way that it is set out is quite tough to follow. You need to be alert to read this book, as it flits between place and time with each (long) chapter.

It was an engaging enough read (once I got going) but, at times, not a pleasant one. The way in which the author portrayed Crippen made you feel as though he sympathised with him, as you would with a victim of prolonged domestic violence, who had finally snapped. This made me feel a little uncomfortable. Had he used artistic licence or was this really a case of a man driven to the edge by a cruel wife and a domineering mother? I’ve never understood the yearning to write about a historical case and to turn it in to a work of fiction: either it’s based on the facts or it’s a different story altogether.

It was hard to pick up, but also hard to put down (maybe in part due to the long chapters – I hate to put a book down mid-way through a chapter). I’ve had this book for almost a fortnight and only just finished it. That speaks volumes, as I can read a book I enjoy in a day. I’d give this book 5 out of 10. I’d rather read the facts if I wanted to read about a particular crime – I actually had to do some research on finishing this book JUST to clarify things in my mind!

I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge, and hope that I get the opportunity to do this again. I think everyone should try to read something new, now and again: you never know what you might find!

Creative Writing: week 4

Had reservations about choosing to write a poem for this week’s class – I’m not a poet, but did feel I wanted a challenge. The theme today was ‘returning’, whether it be to a place or a person. Surprisingly, there was very little criticism except that the way the poem reads is a little short and ‘jaunty’, as one would write a comedic verse, rather than slow, lengthy and sombre as the material suggests. I had tried to curb my natural tendency to waffle (and inadvertently moved towards the haiku we’d studied in week one – I hadn’t even noticed this until it was pointed out). It was suggested that I omit some words, or extend some lines. Judge for yourself:

The Bungalow

I return, heavy-hearted.
My grandma, departed.
I sit alone, weeping.
Suddenly, my heart, leaping:
I hear her speaking!
Or was the house creaking?
On my face, I feel a touch…
Or a draft? Thought as much.
Her perfume lingers
like lavender fingers
stroking my senses –
my body tenses:
I catch her reflection!
On closer inspection,
was it a trick of the light
or an angel in flight?