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I see myself. I am an observer. An ordinary holiday maker laying stretched on a white plastic sunbed; my towel scrunched beneath me, my hot cheek stuck to my hand as my head rests upon it.
Marinating in Piz Buin my ears are filled with 80’s, 90’s, keep going, pop songs. A paperback; yesterday’s pages crispy, today’s pages damp, is visual on top of my beach bag – Primark – £6.99 – more than I’d wanted to pay for a throwaway but it has adorable pink pom poms dangling from the handles.
Sauntering toward the pool, in a fitted floral bikini, I’m not self conscious; I’ve had a full leg wax and Brazilian. I’m slim in a comfortable way. My hair is styled in a short wavy bob. I look down at my feet; my nails are painted in Russian blue. I love them.
I linger at the poolside appreciating the hot sun baking me nicely at 39 degrees whilst I search out my children among the bobbing heads. Caitlan and Paddy are negotiating a gigantic rubber ring; laughing, plunging, splashing; their factor fifty legs and arms entangled. With large green diving goggles suctioned to their faces they are the sweetest frogs I’ve ever seen. They wave madly at me. I return with an SOS wave, smiling so wide there’s no posing for cool selfies here. I like my smile; the sensation of its corners stretching up and outward. I don’t care if I’m inviting wrinkles. I want a face that’s lived, not a smooth, alabaster bust capturing a version of me.
Leisurely swimming, my arms stretch out wide in a circular motion and my knees come together propelling me forward. I feel the strength in my limbs. My stomach muscles tighten as I surge back and forth. Twenty lengths – easy!
At the deep end, folding my legs, I use my hands to wall walk to the pool floor. I resist my body’s instinct to float up. I sit cross-legged, holding my breath, enjoying a moment that’s completely mine. Until I see a set of Russian Blue toes that match mine. Submerged I pull Caitlan’s leg. Surfacing I meet her mischievous green eyes; she constantly looks like she rolled down a hill, she’s bursting with adventure. Paddy’s face pops up over her shoulder. His smile is totally disarming. A friend To Everyone states a school certificate on the fridge door back home. I hold my hand straight and stiff, the thumb resting against my forehead to form a shark fin. I hum the soundtrack to Jaws and the games begin.
They play water polo. My husband is ultra competitive. He lunges for the ball, throws it to Paddy who tosses it to Caitlan who scores; she is her father’s daughter.
Resting my back against the pool side, the tiles rough against my skin, I look up at the glorious sun; its heat rejuvenating. I want to bottle this moment. I could selfishly say I wanted this minute to last forever but then Caitlan and Paddy would be 14 and 13 eternally.
My husband swims toward me. I like how he looks in sunglasses, his hair wet. Putting his arms either side of me, we kiss. It’s slow and tells a story. A marriage, not made in heaven but made from sunshine and rain.
Reaching up to the handles of the pool ladder, I put my foot on the first step and feel the muscles in my arms tense as I pull myself up. Water falls from me. I run my hand through my hair, droplets race down my already hot back.
I’m running with my husband, to the beach, the kids up front. My breathing synchronizes with my stride. The grassy ground, hard-baked and cracked by the intense Turkey sun, is beneath me. Running is my thing; I fall into a comfortable rhythm. I’m connected to the earth, to the infinitely clear blue sky above me; In my own way I’m beautiful: my strength, my gregariousness, I make every day mean something.
My husband passes me, he becomes a dot in the distance, I can’t see the kids and I feel a tightness across my chest and a hoarseness in my throat. At the beach bar I’m breathing hard, bent over, puffing out a stitch. My family are in the sea, jumping over waves with frothy white crests. I look a little mad but I’ve an aura that catches the attention of the odd passer-by. For a brief, infectious moment they too feel carefree. My happiness is contagious.
Sitting at the beach bar, my throat a little raw from running, I enjoy a cappuccino. I recall the night before. Our early dinner to avoid the all-inclusive rush hour The amphitheater sipping mojitos and tequilas with rainbow umbrellas pierced through limes and oranges. Below us, the stage with twirling mini princesses. We played gin rummy, twenty one and traffic lights, serious stuff with Euros at stake. Something niggles. I hadn’t won a game. I couldn’t keep track of what card, what suit, went down. Me the master cards woman outwitted by teens?
After the entertainment, the kids meet up with their German friends and we follow them to the beach disco. They are not shy – I like that about them; there’s no awkwardness. They prank around and dance in a circle. Pop and Garage beats out, its base shuddering through my feet and upwards. The kids jump in unison, arms punching the air, singing along, chanting. I notice the tall blond boy; he’s playfully pushing Caitlan around. I see the first spark of attraction between them.
I glance nostalgically at my husband. His eyes reflect a nineteen year old girl, in a bright red dress, playing pub darts. She’s at the bar counting coins from a pink, soft leather purse she purchased in Greece. He cheekily chats her up. He’s confident; she finds him alluring. He’s says his name’s Tinker.
Hips swaying, shoulders shimmying I’m dancing and I feel on top of the world. I look above at the glitter balls and the pink and blue LED disco lights and WHAM and DURAN DURAN pop randomly to mind. Tinker pulls me to him and we move in unison. Thirty years and we’re each other’s shadow. My head nestles into his neck. I kiss it gently. I’m still in love.
I think I’m tired, too much sun perhaps. The music becomes an aural assault. The glitter ball stings my eyes. Walking to the chalet the kids tell me the night was bangin’ but their voices are distant. Their is a nagging persistence in my brain that all is not well; nothing it what it seems.
I see myself; the rose tinted glasses removed. I’m the same but different. Still the short wavy bob, but my frame is fuller, my poise diminished, my posture stooped but the easy smile flickering at the first glimpse of my family is me. My heart is still huge but my head is muddled. My body is awkward. I laugh; it’s warm and real and I feel comforted by that.
I’m putting sun lotion on Paddy’s back; it’s what mums do. My arms feel weakly heavy; they are alien to me but I continue to rub and I massage a little into his ears. He’s so gorgeous, I want to encircle him in my arms and keep him safe; always.
A member of the animation team spots us. He knows Cait and Pad. Yesterday they went paintballing with him. He’s a bit of a joker. He’s young, about 26, his nose is large but it suits his face. He has a six pack and is hench as Caitlan would say. I note a glimmer of interest in his eyes; he’s not sure what to make of me, of us.
“Hey Paddy, Katrin (he can’t pronounce Caitlan), hoopa hoopa it’s pool games.”
In unison Paddy and Cait scramble off their sun beds and join the forming crowd of teens and menopausal men.
Tink is already in the pool. Shit! Getting off the sun bed, without help, is a feat in itself. I turn onto my side and raise my outer leg toward the ground – my bottom is now upright and on full HD view; wide angle). Straightening takes a while. The muscle spasms, the rigidness at my joints, the pain that’s deep in the marrow of my bones, make moving exhausting.
“Yeahhhhhhh – I’m upright – independently; joy!” I’ve begun to talk to myself. It began as quick, motivational comments and now I mutter most of the day, often incoherently.
Squatting I retrieve my camera from my bag. It’s not lady-like but I can’t bend over; I get dizzy and fall. “But it’s hard getting up from a crouched position; very stressful on the knees.” See! I’m talking to myself again.
Chart music vibrates from a large speaker, it floats into my ears and beats in my heart, I feel light and elevated and young. I linger momentarily and embrace it. My hips sway gently. I yearn to dance so fucking much “But it’s difficult, my legs beat to their own drum now”.
I reach for my cane; my fingers are stiff, it’s hard to grasp. Walking slowly toward the pool, I consider each step, it’s a slippery surface, I teeter then regain balance. My gait is unusual. I see sunbathers speculatively watching me.
“What do you think is wrong with her?” they ask in hushed tones “MS, Motor Neurons, Stroke”; they’ll never guess; on holiday with little to distract I’ve become the center of attention. “I’m a celebrity. Cool!“
Sitting on the poolside, my legs dangle in the water; they are lean no longer – such a shame. My husband swims over and lifts himself out of the pool.
“You’re scaring the holidaymakers,” he says abruptly. He’s not impatient with me, his voice just always sounds abrupt, a little rude, He’s telling me I’m at it again. Giving a running commentary to my life.
I look straight ahead and feel the increasing pressure of keeping my head upright, unsupported, only a neck brace, between me and pain. Paddy is racing across inflatable stepping stones. He’s a whippet in neon orange shorts. The way his body moves, hia quick reflexes astonish me. He’s on video, I rewind and watch, again and again!
Caitlan is so cheeky. She was out first round but no one noticed. Now she’s in the final of the ‘Spoon Diving Competition,’ with two bulky Belgiums wearing inappropriate shorts. We all know only Daniel Craig does Speedos. I watch her, she’s got a killer look, her toes just touch the edge of the pool and she’s leaning forward. She has a glass hour figure; her legs are strong and tanned; her flamingo bikini is perfect; feminine but modest. She glances at me and I give her the thumbs up; she’s already a winner. I love her so much I can barely breath.
My husband assists me to my sunbed. I’m a disaster: my leg dragging, my fingers involuntarily flicking, my neck hunched into my shoulders. Sitting on the edge of the plastic bed, I’m withdrawn as he covers me in sun screen. I say something benign, to fill the silence of reality, of disability. Something about getting a full flush at cards tonight. He says something equally meaningless, yet his pause speaks volumes. We both know I’m not the wife he chose.
I lay stiff; an embalmed mummy unable to alter position. I lose myself in music: Latin, Maroon 5 and Eur. I retreat to a parallel universe. I’m the old me, gracefully leaping from one inflatable step to another. Paddy is behind me but I’m too fast, I stick my tongue out at him and leap for the sky and plunge into the water.
I’m plunging to the bottom of the pool, waiting for the bubbles and white water to settle. Where is that spoon? My heart is racing and I’m struggling to breath. My lungs are bursting but as I spot the spoon excitement oxygenates me and I grasp it tight to my chest. Resurfacing, the animation team clap and my husband gives me that look and I know in about ten minutes we’ll be naked somewhere…but it’s SciFi.
Walking from the pool to our room is wearing; the day takes its toll. Friends don’t always understand…that when I’m with them, that’s my best genre; Chick Lit. Behind the scenes I’m Drama, Thriller, Horror. Pregabalin, Amitriptyline, Tramadol, Naproxen, Oxycontin; my hand trembles slightly as I pop pill after pill. I’m a rerun of Trainspotting.
Our room in spacious with two sets of twin beds divided by a lattice partition. We take turns in the bathroom getting ready for dinner. I sit on the wall of our patio; the kids intermittently appear with a snippet of information about endangered animals (satellite T.V.).
“You look pretty mum.”
It true I’m wearing a green emerald dress that cups my breasts, comes in at the waste and floats round my legs. My skin is golden. I look a picture of health.
It’s still hot; we walk together toward the restaurant. It’s ironic that the hotel gardens are home to tortoise. I watch Shelly move, each step she plods is laboured. ‘Forest Gump’ comes to mind. The impulse to drop my cane, pull my arm free of my husband and run, strikes from nowhere but I swallow it. Instead I move closer to him shutting out the loud voice in the silence, “Run Alison, run!”
Dinner is always a success. I absolutely love all-inclusive. I sit at the table and Patrick places a dinner plate in front of me with tasty morsels from seven continents – of course noodles go with chicken tikka! I look at my son who thinks of me before himself and I feel joy.
Getting food from plate to mouth is taxing. I’m grinning because my meatball rolled across our table and onto the floor; oops! I look at Kitty, she spotted my misdemeanor and we share a secret smile.
Laying motionless in bed, my husband asleep long ago, I feel sad. I live a life I didn’t choose. I won it in a game of fate. My bones are hollow, dry, brittle, dusty. I was born with this malformed spine, with its missing discs and fused vertebrae, that sits in a spinal column that’s too narrow, where the cord is pinched and compressed. My heart tightens; my husband and children didn’t chose this life either.
Tomorrow we go home. We say goodbye to adventure, to a hot, burning sun, to soft golden sand, to pool games and teenage romance. I say goodbye to me.
Lately I feel this rotating bubble of energy inside. Filled with possibility. I want to say I can to everything instead of I can’t. I can’t implies weakness; my body maybe weak but my aspiration to become a successful author is strong. It’s ironic that at this point in time my balance, walking, neck pain, headache, fibromyaligia strikes so haphazardly that embarking on anything is a risk…but I don’t care. I’m taking my chances…and a cocktail of painkillers. I know the side effects of all my different tablets but I’m fifty two this year, ridiculously healthy other than my spine’s crumbling like Flake, so I need to embrace life now. God. Yes. Take the drugs. I need to live my best life now. Just typing these words evokes a thrill…a flicker of a future beyond my four walls.
Like last Saturday was Book Club. The consensus was, I should stay put the day before, the day of, the day after. I couldn’t. This restlessness that has a hold of me had me heading to the local tanning shop. For the first time in thirty years the buzz of bed three flashing on, heating my skin, warming my bones, browning the pale skin of my wasted muscles was medicinal. I can’t describe how peaceful and content I felt for five minutes. My son bought me a course and I’ve been three times now; skin cancer is the least of my worries. For a while I was in this vortex of negativity; the sunbed is a form of self care. Something I need a lot more of. I’m off to the House of Lords on Tuesday, to a reception for Myelopathy.org the charity supporting my condition. So that day I’m getting my nails done, it’s a luxury, but essential to my well being. It’s going to be a tough day travelling to Westminster, standing around, turning my head to talk to people, getting home but I need to be with others with my condition, I’ve not met anyone else like me todate. I’m excited to meet those that had the determination to create first the facebook group myelopathy.support then the charity. It goes without saying I hope there is champagne and canapies.
Book club was great fun. It’s very sociable; nibbles, dinner, alcohol, pudding, Jeffrey Archer. I love it. I’ve made new friends, there’s catching up with old buddies, everyone is so considerate of my condition, the book chit chat is topical and indepth. The charity https://myelopathy.org/ is supported by the group; I deposited £18 yesterday.
Once Random Attachment takes off a little more I’ll be putting a percentage toward Myelopathy.org. Once I cover the printing cost of paperbacks, paid Amazon their share, there is hardly anything to put toward promotions. I’m trying giveaways in return for a review should the person enjoy the book, Instragram promotions, Random Attachment merchandise for photos. Published authors tell you it’s near impossible to self promote, you need professionals and I agree but I’m not in that financial position. It’s fun though…coming up with mad ideas, arranging random items for a photo. I think at the beginning I exhausted myself, I’ve taken a step back. That’s why I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a while. I have to avoid dips in my energy level as negativity will creep in. Inside all of us is a pocket of self-doubt, helplessness, anxiety, anger…having a long term illness with chronic pain my pocket balloons with negative emotion if I’m tired or rundown so I must take a steady pace. So, sprawled on my soft, pink sofa I binged watched The Crown. It never appealed to me on TV but during Easter Kitty and I came upon it after procrastinating over Netflix and Now programmes. I’m so happy we did; it was addictive whilst being relaxing and a change from our American teen dramas.
Anyways the Sunday after Book Club I had a taste for more adventure. I can’t just go anywhere. The longer I’m on London transport the more my neck will jerk. The further I walk to a location the tireder my limbs will get. Together this leads to pain, immobility and my enjoying the event less. So we trained it to nearby Harrow, to an Italian coffee shop that’s more a cafe. It was highly rated on Trip Advisor and rightly so because the atmosphere was vibrant, the choice of food was varied from a full English to lasagna to cake. Kitty had a vegan breaky and I had the most delicious cheesecake. The average person probably doesn’t give a passing thought to going for coffee. That’s how different my life is…my flare ups are not fibromyaligia or myelopathy…these conditions are my norm, my everyday life…my flare ups reduce my symptoms: a burst of energy, remission of pain, a steadiness on my feet. Once, I too ran around the city from coffee shop to wine bar to brasserie. Popping off to Oxford Street, going to the theatre, clubbing in the West End. I count myself lucky I experienced that. I’m glad I was unaware of my congenital defects. That I’ve paraglided, abseiled, danced the eighties away, birthed four beautiful babies who make every day brighter for me.
My ‘hold onto the seat of your pants’ life reduced to a ‘slippers in front of the fire life’ and the carer became the cared for. I felt like I was lost in space but actually I was an astronaunt in hypersleep because I woke up with an idea that I could be an author…that I had another life yet to live. So it’s a great high when I get positive feedback. https://www.instagram.com/p/BwnQQeTnPtp/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=6l7axdn0aghk&fbclid=IwAR2D_rM4mGI4MlOEK0jsFcn5FVJY_2nGbhfEjnhFOBRjNu3WvP05NgUpN50
My favourite book of 2019 so far is A Curse So Dark and Cruel, a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I knew it would be hard to follow and it was tough reading my book club book Kane and Abel. I read it in my teens and couldn’t get enough of Jeffrey Archer material until his court case. Back then, before social media, authors were as enigmatic as popstars, so it wasn’t often you heard their dirty laundry. Also I found him a bit pompos and up himself so rereading Kane and Abel, although it’s a simple rich man, poor man tale, was pants. However I did come across some jems recently: the endearing Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine who like Mia from RA has serious mother issues and two YA sure things by the fantastically named Rainbow Rowell: Fan Girl and Eleanor and Park.
Music wise my song of the week is Lil Nas’s Old Town Road; both versions, his and the collaboration with Billy Rae Cyrus. Where do I get this bare chilled music from? Spotify and my son Tommy who is constantly dropping me links of new music. I don’t like all rap or all Emo, it’s got to have a distinctive voice and a killer corous.
Not only have I not blogged in ages I haven’t vlogged so I’m hitting it hard today.
Realistically I know I’m not going to be an overnight writing sensation but I don’t need a miracle I need for readers who like RA, to star it on Amazon, mention it on Instagram and copy by copy my identity as a writer will be validated. So if you love YA and you’re considering your next purchase take a chance on Random Attachment. It’s a simple romantic thriller, nothing highbrow, nothing fantastical or magical but I’m proud of it. I think it holds its own among other YA thrillers. It would be lovely if you subscribed to my channel or followed me on instagram…slowly I’m building up my numbers. Even if you don’t do any of this thank you for reading my post.
Feel quite guilty that I haven’t blogged for a while, but this self promoting business is time consuming. However watch this space. 🌸 Or even better download my book so I can catch my breath. No refunds…couldn’t cope with the admin 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Just kidding, you’ll love it, RANDOM ATTACHMENT is WICKED, ACE, PENG, SICK, LEDGE
Recently I joined Instagram and my first thought was how perfect the images are…and those in them. If you check me out you’ll see a handful of snaps. I am a tidy, colour coordinated person so I should fit in here. And wanting to be followed and liked as much as the next person I spent an allowance of energy, I can’t really spare, on colour schemes, interesting juxtaposition and avoiding images of myself; a very ordinary, middle-aged woman, with unruly hair and a penchant for everything pink and flowery. But I realised I couldn’t compete, other book bloggers had images down to perfection and honestly I’m a mess. I’ve the spine of a centenarian; it’s weak and crumbling and my spinal cord is damaged and I can barely dress myself. So although this image above is an arrangement it’s more reflective of the person I am which is a struggling author, used to her own company, mad enough to read extracts of her book to her mutts.
I write two blogs one as an author and one as a sufferer of Myelopathy called My Hell Opathy. I haven’t a great deal to offer in terms of exciting places, holidays, clothes, restaurants so I strive for honesty…which doesn’t always look attractive. I want to be the kind of writer who looks for hidden gems: a good heart, fairness, grace, pure unprejudice. I am a total believer of, no matter what bad things you’ve done in your life you can change, maybe you can’t take it back, you should be punished, you may never be forgiven, but a new life is possible.
How we look matters; there is no escaping that fact. It seems to matter more when we’re young. We have this negative image of ourselves in our head which is out of proportion; our pessimism photoshops it, so we hate ourselves. Then we fall in love, and it’s like our dark bloom has flowered into something extraordinary until we are dumped. We are like Pandora’s Box with each crack that appears escapes: doubt, hate, anger and we do the most damaging things to ourselves and others because pain is sometimes unbearable.
Random Attachment is Mia’s story…but she shares it with a trillion young people. I don’t say girls or women because boys and men equally feel the same hurt; their self-worth, love, desire, hope is no less fragile. How do I know this? Well I’ve a husband and two sons and if that’s not confirmation enough there’s Lil Peep, XXXtentacion, Juice WRLD. These artists are part of the soundtrack to Mia’s self-hate, despondency, loneliness and heartbreak. I still listen to them now, whilst editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle because they are as relevant to Phoenix Whittle as they are Mia. I scribble words, names of artists, doodles, my appointment for waxing. And I was about to change my sheet for a fresh one when I thought: this is life; imperfect, full of half-finished ideas, riddled with emotion. Then I checked my Insta. Why am I doing this to myself again? Trying to fit in, to be liked, to wondering why my post has 200 likes but nobody wants to see my profile. What effect does this have on a teenager. Especially one who feels overlooked, worthless, crap at school, never invited anywhere, struggling with their sexuality, their identity. Jesus, it’s terrifying, I can feel my heartbeat increase just by typing these words. So I’m rebelling, my house isn’t perfect, it smells of dogs and the kitchen light’s been out of action for three months. I’ve got the worst cellulite in history. I’m so tired all the time. Everyday I think about giving writing up. Everyday I want to curl up and sleep forever.
My emotion isn’t the raw, gut wrenching bleakness a teen feels but I’m not fooled by how damaging it can be. Music gives a relevant, bittersweet insight to the teen psyche. At 51, writing YA, this resource is probably as close as I’ll get to young adult thinking unless I become a councilor. I’m not pretending to know half of what’s being expressed. It’s almost a foreign language to someone like me who only swears when the banoffee tarts run out. But the emotion is there; this dark energy that I claim as once my own. There’s a brutality to emo rap that’s beautiful; a vocabulary that at first seems vulgar, violent, sexually explicit. But if you forget who you are, and listen, you start to understand who they are.
Mia is a dreamer…which sounds exciting and ambitious. If I had to colour dreams, they’d be soft hues of yellow, sky blues, light green…but what if your dreams twist like you’re wringing out a grey, stained dish cloth. What if they gnaw away at you? What if you desire something so badly is hurts? What if you think of a cold, damp, earthiness, six feet under? Mia’s desperate to escape, to be loved, to be lovable. But where’s the emotion in that? Where’s the taste of hurt so bitter even when you spit it out it lingers. Where’s the fucking loneliness. Why the fuck does Mia care about her mother. She’s a fucking bitch! Now there’s the hurt, the loneliness, the hate. So I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are born from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed Mia’s way; from how her mother picks her up and puts her down.
Beamer Boy is Mia; she feels like a nobody, like she’s a buffer for her mum, a gofer. So she dreams about boyfriends, being slim again, dancing, having friends…killing her mum…and she is a girl who doesn’t need a boy…but she desires Flynn; there’s a difference. So it’s my song of the week.
Lil Peep and many emo rappers are well tattooed up. Not the popular, well placed, top ten tats but totally random words and art work in visual places. Their stories written on their skin; their songs emotionally and intimately revealing. It’s hard to think this talent, this young man is dead.
We start judging so young. In the playground abusing one another. Hurting each other when there’s sandpits to play in and who doesn’t love paint?
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times; it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s not just names its: texts, snapchats, facebook, instagrams, twitter; each mistake, each misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion is crushing.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. Hearts aren’t bullet proof and minds do dwell on every word spoken, every wardrobe choice, the phone calls that never came. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That’s advice for someone who’s lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low; imagining a darkness where all your pain disappears, you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia thinks – what’s the point? She doesn’t care about herself or school. She’s sixteen and a crutch for her mother. She barely exists…until she sees Flynn. It’s not a case of a knight in shining armour; that’s romantic but outdated. Flynn’s the spark, the catalyst, not the hero…why should he be under that pressure? Mia has to find what she needs from within.
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep. Some writers, JK Rowling for instance, have an imagination that is boundless. Not me. My imagination is very much on earth, living in a head that can’t imagine past the high street. As a middle-aged women, my emotions’ sharp edges have become blunt from experience. I rarely cry, I find it hard to comfort others, I don’t care what people think of me. Yet when I write, I feel everything as fiercely as I did in my teens…but me, the woman recognises negative emotion as a trap. It’s like a vampire; you’re drawn in by it because you feel so shit about everything. It comforts you with this cloak of darkness that numbs you to the point you feel a sweet sense of peace that you want to hold onto…forever. So unlike the brilliant Thirteen Reasons Why my YA characters will never do the unthinkable…they might want to…they might be on the brink of…but I can’t let that happen because of the insight age brings. I know this:
- no matter how much you hurt pain dulls with time even when you don’t want it to
- around the corner is possibility: friends, lovers, achievements, adventures
- Life is hope and Death is hopeless.
One of my favourite films, WRISTCUTTERS, is the journey of three people who commit suicide and end up in a limbo for suiciders. It’s here they learn to value life and go on this mad adventure to get back to the living world.
I know from experience that when you’ve really hit bottom you don’t want to go back to living.
To put it like emo rappers we are all fucked up inside. Sometimes it’s our parents that fuck us up, sometimes it’s friends, boyfriends, complete strangers, events, abuse. Some of us will never fit in. What’s the saddest thing is some of us won’t make it. We’ll never know if love, friendship, acceptance, happiness was only around the corner. For Mia it had to be. For me? I’m not spending four hours putting my books in piles according to colour; my energies need to go on writing and not feeling sorry for myself.
I want to live till I’m a hundred, writing books and loving my family. I know some days I’ll forget this…but I’ll listen to Lil Peep and XXXtentacion and I’ll know we all feel like we are walking a tightrope between the living and the dead.
If I was in a room full of teenagers I’d give this advice. People will always judge you, let you down, hurt you, but that’s the life they are living, one of ignorance, bitterness, dissatisfaction, jealousy, competition. You need to LIVE YOUR LIFE; don’t let someone or something cut it short. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS tell someone how you feel, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be scared of hurting them, don’t think you’ll look like a dick or weak, don’t think people will blame you or that somehow you deserve it, or it’s your fault.
When I felt threatened, coz that’s how you feel when parents dump all their shit on you, I hadn’t anyone to talk to and I worried my mum would find a diary and use it against me and I genuinely loved her and didn’t want my words to hurt her so I wrote letter after letter to John Taylor (Duran Duran). My friend had seen him going into a house in South Kensington so I had the address (we think). It didn’t solve my problems but it lightened my heart. I hope you all find a way to lighten your hearts and LIVE!
My Channel: Ramblings of a Mad Woman…actually Gertrude T Kitty.
I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are bourne from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed your way, from how people pick you up and put you down.
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times and it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s just so much worse insults, slurs are
Every mistake, misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion crushes.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. I don’t think there is a recipe for healthy self esteem, for shielding yourself against bullying, for thinking positively. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That advice is for someone whose lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia sometimes thinks – what’s the point? Her trouble is her mum’s isolated her, relied on
Teens live now
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep.
I wonder if anyone, anywhere is celebrating with a popcorn party? I’m worried they’re not; that popcorn lovers are unaware of this celebration of the simple maize kernal. It’s a little bit of magic the way this hard brown seed like thing heats and bursts into either a snowflake or a mushroom shape. When I think of popcorn I remember the ban I put on microwave popcorn because it left the kitchen smelling like a tanning shop. Every sleepover that weird smell would linger whilst girls drifted around looking for phone chargers whilst their eyelashes remained stuck to my pillows.
I’ve grown up with popcorn. It was part of the attraction of going to the cinema; Butterkist toffee popcorn. Definitely the best in my opinion.
Last Monday my daughter returned to uni after being home for a few days. It was a Netflix…I mean a reading week. She’d taken a short break in Germany with her boyfriend and mates. Landing at the airport she got a coach home and just appeared…with her dirty laundry and an empty purse. Although we phone, text and face time we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas. I’d been feeling pretty lousy for a while; very slow and unsteady with constant head and neck pain. For some unfathomable reason I can’t settle down to Netflix alone; I’m wired only to watch TV when I’ve company so her visit was a real pick-me-up.
What I like about my daughters is they’re givers…other than when they empty the fridge and leave with shower gel and makeup remover. Kitty made dinners, numerous cups of tea, painted my toe nails, gave me a manicure and lifted my spirits.
In pjs all day, eating an abundance of sweet popcorn, we binged romances: I Feel Pretty, To All The Boys I Loved Before and Kissing Booth. It was our love of this genre together with thrillers that led me to writing. There just isn’t enough romance. Right now our screens are dominated by fantasy, superhero and reality TV. I need a dark, mind games, noir romance. As a fully trained popcorn eater I can transfer popcorn from hand to mouth without my eyes straying from the tv screen; even under intense movie pressure. I want to feel unsettled, desperate, filled with longing as a man who can’t be trusted moves in on a girl who can’t trust. So I write what isn’t available on Netflix and I genuinely think Netflix would benefit from a movie version of Random Attachment.
My boys love reality TV; there’s not a hint of romance unless girlfriends are on the scene. They are brill in that they are self-reliant; they cook, clean, launder. Paddy makes me a coffee when he has one but they are lads and it’s mainly gym, football and Netflix boy stuff in our house now.
Anyone who follows me knows I have bad days; physically, mentally and emotionally. I swing from confident to self-doubt, buoyant to sunk, thoughtful to selfish, mobile to housebound. Myelopathy with fibromyalgia is a very limiting, unpredictable condition. Reading and writing brings the world to me. I’m living through my books and that’s why they are emotional. Social media remains a friend and foe. Everyone has been lovely, not a negative word has come my way but it’s harder than I imagined to get followers to like your comment or retweet. It’s a bit demoralising when you put heart and sole into a blog and it gets seven views and one like. Daily I check out others’ blogs; they are aesthetically brilliant, relevant, witty; I can see how hard it is to stand out. But it’s a challenge. I’m on a journey to become an established author and blogger and on the way I hope to make genuine connections with YA readers and popcorn enthusiasts.
This is a hard one for me. I’ve no interest in wealth, status or looks. Due to health issues I rarely travel beyond my High Street. This makes instagramming and twittering a challenge. Would I love to win the lottery? Oh my god YES! But I’ve never had spare cash…ever…in my lifetime so I don’t chase it. However I do want to sell my book…because when I give it away I feel more like a mum than a writer. Selling it cements my identity as an author and that I do need, that I am chasing. I want Random Attachment to pop up all over Twitter and WordPress and maybe I’ll have to travel the world (1st class because of my condition) making tv appearances. For someone with no money I dream big.
Perhaps no one will read this blog…I get that I’m not cutting edge but I still have opinions and ideas. It’s nice to while away the time with such a diverse community. I love talking about books…especially mine…sorry I can’t help it; I’m a version of The Picture of Dorian Gray!
So here’s my round up of last week. Grab a bag of popcorn and settle down.
DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann
YA. A missing child is reunited with his family nine years later when he is sixteen. Great concept; not original but reinvented nicely. SPOILER ALERT!!!! I swallowed the fact that a DNA test would have been conducted early on, before Ethan was reunited with his parents. Sometimes for a great story to unfold there might need to be a little neglect of procedure; acceptable in YA but not Adult. SPOILER OVER I loved Ethan; he was authentic, vulnerable and angry. Lisa’s male POV was convincing. I loved Cami and how natural she was with Ethan. Their relationship was tender, honest and believable. I enjoyed Lisa’s quality, pacy writing style.
Unfortunately the timing was flawed. First the extended family reunion? This boy barely knows his immediate family; it would be totally overwhelming! Then school? I can’t imagine in any missing child case a child being rushed back to school after such a short reintroduction to family life. “Mama says you’re going to school on Monday.” WTF? He’d been missing nine years! He’s 16, having panic attacks, doesn’t want to go to school but dad says he’s got to go? If my son was missing a week and said he wasn’t ready for school I’d say fine, I’ll sort it. But I’m enjoying the book so I let the writer off the hook. This ‘Mama’ business is odd. In most books it would be the precursor to a haunting. Why couldn’t she just be mum or mom? My last point. Although it’s YA and from Ethan’s pov, for the ending to hit hard I needed more invested in the relationships between Ethan and his parents. I was very disappointed in the abrupt ending. Almost as if it’s tripping over itself to set up for a second novel; without giving care and attention to the first. It should have been the most moving chapter where we feel bitterly disappointed for Ethan and his mum. It was too casual and rushed. So its a 3.5/5 for me
Right. This is a fairly disturbing movie. It’s not your slasher or paranormal jump out of your seat horror. I don’t want to define it; part of why I liked it was it didn’t immediately fall into a horror category. It’s an uneasy watch and a film I would rather have missed out on. Reason being I know one night I’ll wake up at 1.11 or 3.33 and feel a little uneasy and this film is going to creep under my skin and give me the heebee jeebies. As usual Toni Collette is excellent but the film is stolen by Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff. My only criticism would be length; it’s about half an hour too long. 4/5.
STATE TROOPER by Bruce Springsteen
In my teens I was a big Springsteen fan. I saw him at Wembley Stadium on 4 July in the 80’s. Not that it’s relevant but my dad died five years later on 4 July. I’d not thought about Bruce in years because there is just so much amazing new music that I roll forward more than backward. One of my top films is Rust and Bone which features this song. It’s just so melancholic and a reminder that the choices we make during our lives can leave us surrounded by loved ones or lonely as a cloud.
WHILE YOU SLEEP by Stephanie Merritt
Adult. A woman with family issues crosses the sea to a remote Scottish Island where she rents a house with a dark history. Being a writer has not softened my reviewing of fellow writers. I hope that I’m fair but I do worry I have a touch of the Simon Cowell’s; that perhaps I’m a little mean. It’s difficult when I’ve been raised on literary giants like Val McDermid. Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to be original because it feels like everything’s been done…and done brilliantly. I’ve read some good thrillers recently and While You Sleep did not come up to scratch. ‘Edgy and terrifying’ this was not. Stephanie Merritt can write; I think she’s capable of weaving a good tale, I liked her writing style very much. Unfortunately the sexual, Rosemary’s Baby, hocus pocus was thrown at us too soon and too obviously. Either something bold strikes quickly or tension should build. Also there are only so many times I can read: hairs stood on end, goosebumps; it was very stereotypical fear, sex, occult. It didn’t grab me. It had potential but if you’ve ever experienced living in a spooky place by the sea, you’ll have heard every Gothic tale a hundred times so it takes something original to creep you out. Sorry this was very tame and I didn’t feel about the characters one way or another.
So that’s it but I want to say be kind to yourself, be forgiving, read a little and love a lot.
PS If you like YA here’s the link to my novel x https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=random+attachment&qid=1552570680&s=gateway&sr=8-2
I genuinely think a book can alter the course of your life. For children uninterested in reading, the right book can open up an infinity of worlds, trigger new emotions and enable children to think outside the parameters of their own life and their parents’ views.
A book is a companion to those who find it hard to socialise. You simply don’t feel lonely when you’re reading quality books. There’s no pressure to respond; to say the right thing. Even the super confident can struggle conversing in this climate of political correctness. The older generation are under pressure to remove vocab and phrases they’ve used for decades. Their language might be narrow, racist, sexist; unacceptable but not easy to delete when you’ve been fed it from infancy. So I could see some of the elderly losing confidence and relying on books as company. A book accepts you regardless of your disabilities, struggles, insecurities and prejudices.
I’m unsure if YA books were around when I was a teen. I’m losing my memory and my faculties because I feel like I progressed from The Famous Five to P D James. I can’t remember any books in between, other than difficult English Lit books. Chaucer? For goodness sake what were the examining boards thinking of. A teen is not going to develop a love of books when faced with The Canterbury Tales at fifteen/sixteen. They need novels that captivate, with characters they identify with. Adults might love reading YA but that’s not automatically reciprocal. I have four children and Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls four flippin years is a killer. Some contemporary books please!
I introduced The Famous Five to my children and Gerty, Tom and Paddy stalled. They couldn’t connect with the kids, they were too far removed from their reality…but Kitty was well in there and funnily enough Literature emerged as her career path.
From my first born to my last, YA has sprouted like dandelions. I was literally salivating each time I took my kids to Waterstones. I loved touching the books, feeling the covers, especially when titles were embossed. I wanted my kids to be swept up in fantasy or on a knife edge or gooey over kissing.
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Darren Shan, Martyn Pig, Shadows; some fantastic YA literature was emerging. I fell into a habit of reading my children’s books probably to justify the cost but also to make it a shared experience. Just like we watched Disney together, Dr Who, X Factor, Buffy and now Love Island
Alongside I’d be reading Val McDermid, Stephen King, Mark Billingham, Jilly Cooper.
I can easily reel off my three favourite books:
- Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I don’t read for reading’s sake; I’d rather watch NetFlix. I’m not someone who can read any genre, in any style. I avoid overly descriptive novels with a plethora of multiple syllable words. Not because I don’t understand them but because the author showing off can effect the flow of a book and the depth of the characters. My only exception to this is Donna Tart; I’ll happily engage my brain there.
I can’t help think how fortunate I am to have access to so many books. When I’ve a little spare cash spending £7.99 on a book is worth it. Consider the cost of the cinema or any activity that takes an hour or more and you’ll see it’s a bargain. When I’m broke (regular occurrence) it’s the library and the charity shops for me.
As a teen, living on a council estate, in a flat charged with emotion, I would escape to the library. I actually remember resting my head against a row of novels, silently crying. It was my refuge; here I could be anyone and go anywhere. Libraries need to flourish, to connect with the kids that aren’t coming to the library. We, the people of Britain, debate no end why children turn to antisocial behavior? Millions is probably spent analysing and procrastinating when the answer is simple. Children need free facilities: school breakfast clubs, social clubs, swimming and libraries; lots of libraries. Ones with cafes and I don’t mean Costa, I mean a hot chocolate for 50p, a bag of crisps for 50p, a coke for 50p. There should be sofas and cushions and a free book section where a kid can take a book without being a member. Let’s be fair, unfit parents don’t sign you up to the library. I was terrified joining the library. I thought they wouldn’t want someone like me. I never understand how, surrounded by amazing literature, some librarians can be unwelcoming and unapproachable. Jolliness should be on the person spec and there should be book recycle schemes.
As an author I love that my book is on a journey, from one reader to another, one home to another. I’m more than happy for my book to be passed to a hundred people. I count myself lucky if someone has purchased my book and liked it enough to pass it to a friend. I just hope I didn’t disappoint…but it’s good to know…I’d like to think being new to writing I can improve. That the girl holding a book in front of her face to hide the tears can learn to put a smile on a similar kid, forty years later.
I hope every reader and writer has a lovely WORLD BOOK DAY.