Living in the Past

rose-tinted-specsNostalgia is a bittersweet thing. Sharing happy memories  and sighing wistfully about simple pleasures which we seem to have lost over the years, is undoubtedly a pleasant and entertaining activity, particularly when undertaken socially with friends or family.  We all enjoy looking back fondly at our childhood or youth when things seemed simpler, free-er and less stressful.  Being able to play outside unsupervised by adults,  until the street lights came on; eating sweets and fizzy drinks without an accompanying sense of guilt; never even thinking about wearing sunscreen or worrying about  paedophiles. And later as students with all of the carefree optimism, energy and idealism of youth, skipping lectures to spend the afternoon in the pub, or in bed with a lover. Staying up to the wee small hours talking, drinking, listening to music and still being able to get up and go to tutorials the next morning with only the teensiest hangover. Ok, so I lied about the last bit… I meant the next afternoon.  But you get the picture and it is one best viewed through spectacles of the rose tinted variety. This is the fun side of nostalgia.

The not so fun side of nostalgia is that invariably when discussing the past with other people, the conversation moves from  how great things used to be to “what is the world coming to” and tut-tut-ing about “the youth of today”.  The whole sentimental yearning for times that have long gone tends to focus the mind on what has been lost rather than what has been gained and a lot of people seem incapable of looking back without complaining about the present.  I am as guilty as the next person of mourning the loss of certain aspects of my past but I refuse to succumb to the “whatever happened to the good old days/the world is going to pot today” philosophy.

For every moan and groan about the state of the world today I can think of a dozen more reasons to be grateful.  I feel sorry for those people who are so obsessed with the things that we can no longer do (or at least feel that we can no longer do – and there is a very real difference) that they are blind to the many things that have improved.  As a small example, had I been born a hundred or even fifty years earlier than I was, into similar circumstances in a small northern town, I would not have had the opportunity to continue my education beyond 15 and social mobility would have been nigh impossible. I would probably have died from the appendicitis that I experienced aged 37.  My Dad would not have recovered from his heart attack and my sister would also have died as a consequence of the difficult birth of her daughter.  Even if, by some miracle I had managed to escape a life of working class drudgery, I would not have had the same career opportunities and would have been paid less for doing the same job as my male colleagues.  Within living memory prejudice and sexism were far more overt and widespread than they are today.  Three things I remember from my late teens:

  • Whilst shopping in the local market with my Mum, just before I left home to become a student, the stall holder tutted and told us what a waste of time and money it was letting girls go to university because they only got married and pregnant anyway (!)
  • I was advised never to use “Ms” as my title on job application forms because it implied I would be a bolshie feminist trouble-maker and that it would go against me (!!)
  • A friend of a friend was discouraged from going to university by her family because they said that not only would she be left on the shelf and be too old to marry by the time she graduated but that men didn’t like intelligent girls anyway (!!!)

The fact that we no longer have to put up with shit like that is reason enough to not be too nostalgic for the past and to be more grateful for the present.  I would not want to turn the clock back. My son may not have some of the freedoms that we had as children but he is growing up in a world which is more open, diverse, tolerant and where he is likely to live a longer, healthier life.  He is not being forced up a chimney or to work in a mill for 12 hours every day for a start.

Of course we have a long way to go before everyone feels these benefits globally but I truly believe that the world is a better place today than it was a hundred, fifty, even twenty years ago. By all means reminisce about your happy, carefree past but wear those rose-tinted spectacles with caution and remember…

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be”  Marcel Pagnol.

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DON’T Curb Your Enthusiasm

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There are occasions in life when everyone asks themselves “Is it me? Am I abnormal or what?” I have asked myself this question lots of times over the years and have come to the conclusion that I am most definitely NOT “normal” (in the sense of “similar to most people I know”) with regard to…well quite a lot of things actually. I will give you a few simple examples and then explain further.

  1. I like classical literature. I also like detective stories, fantasy and sci-fi, light comedies, young adult fiction, biographies, mysteries, ghost stories, holiday trash and general modern literature. In fact I’ll read the back of a cornflake box given half a chance.
  2. I listen to an eclectic range of music. Nirvana, Ella Fitzgerald, Justin Timberlake, Stravinsky, Wham, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Adele and Youssou N’Dour. There is something listed in every single genre on my iPod.
  3. I enjoy world cinema. And big blockbuster events, rom-coms, zom-rom-coms, period dramas, action, sci-fi, small indie films and old black and white weepies.
  4. I like food. Period. There is not a single cuisine that I will not eat with relish. Indian, Chinese, Mexican, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, Middle-Eastern, Japanese, Thai, Turkish etc., etc. Sweet, savoury, sour, salty, bitter. Fishy, meaty, veggie, spicy, crunchy,  smooth and creamy. Love it all. Except beetroot of course. Food of the devil.
  5. I am interested in history. And art. And the history of art. And cosmology, botany, geology, social sciences, dance and drama, astronomy, natural history, psychology, physiology, language, etc., etc. Basically I fascinated by the whole world and all of the wonders of life.

Well,  what am I getting at?  The fact that I am constantly surprised, and often disappointed and a little saddened by other people’s rather limited and restricted interests and enthusiasms. I struggle to understand how some folk can be so narrow in their likes and how wide their dislikes spread.  I get that everyone has personal preferences and tastes and I am not so un-discerning that I don’t have personal favourites, of course I do.  But (cliché alert #1) variety is the spice of life and if you have only a few “likes” then life must be pretty dull and uninspiring.

I have friends, dear, intelligent, thoughtful people, who refuse to read anything written more than 50 years old or to watch black and white films. Others that only read (or watch) non-fiction, or a single genre of fiction/film.  I know fussy, faddy eaters who won’t try anything with a hint of spice or herbs, or sniff at one pot dishes where the ingredients are “mixed up”. Lovely, funny, kind people who disdain ALL sciences. Or arts. My own beloved brother shocked me last week by admitting that he had no interest whatsoever in natural history. I could write a whole separate blog entry about why I think that is weird but getting back to my original point…personally there are not many topics that I am not interested in, not many genres of books I would refuse to read, films I’d refuse to see, music I wouldn’t listen to at least once and few foods I’d refuse to eat. Except beetroot  – it really is deeply unpleasant.

Why am I so enthusiastic for so many different things? Well I have a natural curiosity, a greed for sensory pleasure, and a fear of missing out on anything. I also suspect that there is a deep,  sub-conscious reason…I want to avoid being pigeon-holed or becoming a stereotype. You know the sort of thing I mean; I am a middle-aged, middle class, white woman in suburban Cheshire and therefore I must prefer to read “chick lit” and “aga sagas”, watch rom-com films, listen to Michael Buble, and to drink only white wine and eat grilled chicken with a light salad. Bollocks. It’s not that I don’t like doing those things (I am quite partial to all of them) but I don’t want them to typify me. So, I enjoy  the odd pint of Guinness as well as a glass of sauvignon blanc, I read “A Game of Thrones” as well as Jane Austen, watch “Boardwalk Empire” as well as “The Great British Bake-Off”, and listen to Linkin Park as well as Take That. I am not contrary or rebellious by nature but I hate being pre-judged…

The diversity of my enthusiasms is genuine and I honestly do have way more likes than dislikes in life. Anyone who is a personal friend and linked to me on Facebook will testify that I click “like” an awful lot more than I moan and groan. The odd rant slips in but I like to be a “radiator” not a “drain”.  My favourite people are the ones who are happy and enthusiastic about life – their energy and warmth is contagious. I tend to hide from the energy sapping “I don’t like THIS, THAT is boring and the OTHER is not my cup of tea” brigade. My philosophy in life is that you’re a long time dead and that you should make the most of every opportunity.  There is so much to enjoy and enthuse about so (cliché alert #2) open your mind, broaden your horizons and don’t be dismissive of new experiences … yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Sorry – I know that you’ve heard it all before but in short,  as my old Dad is fond of saying, “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”. You never know, you might LIKE it. Unless it’s beetroot – yuk.

Evil foodstuff...

Evil foodstuff…

The Return of the Wandering Wordsmith

An editor's work is never done...

An editor’s work is never done…

If it were not for the seedy and sinister connotations that now come to mind when reminded of Gary Glitter, I would open this blog with a hearty rendition of “Hello! Hello! It’s good to be back, it’s good to be back!”. It has been far too long since I last wrote anything more exciting than a ‘Configuration Management Plan’. Don’t bother asking what one of those is because you will have yawned and lost the will to live before you get to the end of the first explanatory sentence. The point is… I AM back, writing stuff that interests me (if no-one else).  The enthusiasm and excitement I felt when I first plucked up the courage and confidence to articulate my random musings publicly (see “Baby Steps”) has returned with full gusto – huzzah!

In all honesty it never really went away but I have been somewhat distracted by a miscellany of real world stuff. Like starting a new job last February which, although was no more demanding of my time than my previous job, was a lot more demanding of my brain. For the first time in ages I was (and indeed I still am) enjoying the chance to think, use my initiative and interact with intelligent and committed people. Great news, but this leaves me pretty much exhausted and less than keen to spend any more time in front of a computer screen after the 8 or 9 hours in the office each day. However, I have not been entirely idle on the literary front, having spent the summer proof-reading and editing my friend Mike’s[i] second novel (coming soon to a large online bookshop near you). My editing speed is almost but not quite, as slow as my writing, so I am now going to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to the lovely Mr Holley…sorry mate. Hopefully I have made up for my tardiness by handing your baby back in a sleeker, sharper and  shinier condition.

Editing is fun if you are a slightly sad, anally retentive wordsmith like me. I do like WORDS and working out ways of stringing them together in a way that best suits the message being conveyed. That’s why I enjoy writing, even (heaven help me) rather boring technical documents for the day job. I find it deeply satisfying to re-shape a sentence to make it snappier, wittier or more accurate. Bizarrely,  I actually enjoying dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s and I like to tie up loose ends. So if you need someone to spot the plot holes, character discrepancies and timeline errors then I’m your gal. Just don’t ask me to do it quickly…

But now I am back to writing and I repeat, I am a slow writer. I mean really slow. Glaciers have carved fjords in the time it takes me to produce 500 words and I am in awe of those who knock out 3000 words a day as if it were the easiest thing in the world. The problem is not that I am uninspired or that I have writer’s block, on the contrary, I have a plethora of ideas and my inner voice never shuts up. I just spend too long trying out different ways of saying the same thing, agonizing over every word in an effort to articulate accurately what I am thinking and feeling. Sadly the inner voice which sounds so erudite, charming and witty in my head rarely survives the transfer to the written page, but hey-ho, I still enjoy trying 🙂 .

And whadyaknow? I’ve managed to churn out this brain dump (604 words and counting) in less than 3 hours, which is a Usain Bolt like performance for me. Something must be wrong and I’ll almost certainly re-read it again later and dismiss it as utter rubbish which needs completely re-writing… quick Trowers – publish and be damned!

P.S. Oops one week later and I’ve finally finished. Not a solid week working on it you understand, but a snatched 30 minutes here and there. Tinkering, polishing and looking for suitable images to use. Still, productivity is up on the last six months so I will publish my next post before I acquire too many more grey hairs I promise.


 

[i] Michael J Holley. His first novel “The Great Corporate Escape” is both funny and charming. And it was also edited by me.

Musical escapism

field of dreamsEveryone has songs or pieces of music which they associate strongly with certain times and places in their past and which automatically spark memories or emotions long forgotten. For me there is one piece in particular which awakens all of my senses, instantly transporting me to a grassy field, miles from anywhere, on a perfect spring day…

I lie on my back gazing up at a blue, blue sky watching occasional feathers of white cirrus drifting slowly by. My fingers brush the cool, soft grass and the scent of fresh “green” is intoxicating. Overhead, the sun is warm, while a cool breeze brings both a pleasing tactile sensation on my naked arms and a delicious smell of meadow flowers and May blossom. My eye is distracted from the clouds by a sudden speck in the blue, rising ever higher. I tune in to the song of the lark, complex, beautiful and joyful. My heart fills with the perfection of the moment and I am moved, almost to tears as I am swept away by the achingly beautiful and emotional music of  “The Lark Ascending”.

This Vaughn Williams’ piece affects me the same way every time I listen to it, even in a windowless office, plugged into my iPod and pondering some tricky conundrum of information management. It has an actual physiological effect on me whenever I listen to it. My heart rate lowers, my shoulders relax and my breathing slows because this sublime piece of music has the power to take me to a very personal and private place in my head where nothing, nothing matters apart from The Moment. And how precious these moments are. No fretting about the past, no worrying about the future, no distractions from the bustling, noisy, insistent “look-at-me-listen-to-me!” world around me. The demands of work, friends and family are forgotten as I close my eyes to lie on the grass in my field, absorbed in the gentle, sensory pleasures of being alone outdoors in a field in May, utterly relaxed and at peace with the world.

In absolute honesty my reverie is not rooted from a single, specific memory but rather a nostalgia for a time in my life when I lived in rural Lincolnshire and was lucky enough to enjoy many an idyllic afternoon lying in a field, reading or walking across open country and listening to the glorious song of the skylark. The moment I first heard Lark Ascending I was taken back twenty (plus!) years, to that period in my life which was filled with big open skies, fresh country air, and birdsong. Of course it is easy to view the past wearing spectacles of the rose-tinted variety, and in reality there are many things that I don’t miss about my few brief years living the rural lifestyle. For a start our unheated and distinctly chilly farmhouse suffered a regular influx of spiders, which, judging by their size, could only have been the offspring of some unholy union between Shelob and Aragog. There are stories there for another time… In the interim I’m going to hit rewind, listen again to Vaughn Williams and enjoy fourteen minutes of sheer bliss.

The farmhouse we lived in  in North East Lincolnshire in the mid 1980's

The farmhouse we lived in in North East Lincolnshire in the mid 1980’s

And the Award goes to…

Good lord the pressure! Having been nominated for two blog awards over the last couple of months, I am now stressing about how to respond. Firstly, just before Christmas, came the Versatile Blogger award from the lovely Tracy on FecThis. I was thrilled that she thought me worthy of an award and deeply flattered because she is such a brilliant, articulate and moving writer herself. My sincere thanks go out to her.

Then in January an ex-colleague from the corporate world, now full time writer and coach, and my friend and inspiration, Michael J Holley, nominated me for a Liebster.  I’m blown away to receive another endorsement in such a short space of time and again from someone whose work I greatly admire.

So why the pressure and the stress I hear you ask? Well let me tell you it’s NOT like winning a BAFTA or an Oscar – there are “Rules” to follow:

The Versatile Blogger:The Versatile Blogger

  1. Display the award certificate on your website. Tick!
  2. Announce your win with a post and include a link to whoever presented your award. Tick!
  3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers. Fifteen? OKaaayy – I’ll certainly have a think and another read…
  4. Create a post linking to them and drop them a comment to tip them off. Will do…
  5. Post 7 interesting facts about yourself. Easy enough…

The Liebster Award:

  1. Post the award image on your blog. There are several varieties. Google them and find the one liebster-blog-awardyou like the most. Tick!
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself. Can I just add 4 to the 7 from earlier – is that cheating?
  3. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person/people who nominated you. Can do.
  4. Make up 11 questions for those to be nominated. No problem!
  5. Nominate 11 people to receive the award. They should have fewer than 200 followers on their blog. Errrr – less than 200? And do these have to be different from the 15 earlier? Really?

I cannot, hand on heart, drum up 26 or 15 (or even 11!) names out of the blogosphere, with less than 200 followers each, that I either regularly follow or know well enough to pass on the awards with sincerity and genuine affection. So what should I do? I could just cheat and pluck names at random to keep the chain mail going, but this would feel disingenuous and dishonest. I have about 10 blogs that I follow regularly and 2 of those are from the people who nominated me. Others have either more than 200 followers already or are of the magazine style, produced by a number of writers. So my list of recipients that fit the rules is pretty slim. I have been researching new blogs recently but it is very time-consuming and I still find that the ones I really like are already huge and unlikely to be interested in an award from a very small and minor newcomer like me.

It doesn’t feel right to pluck random names for the sake of it  but as an amateur blogger with a full time day job and a family I’m struggling to fit in the research to look for 2 dozen new bloggers…and now I sound like I’m whining and whinging. Oh dear. See? I’m stressing about this rather than enjoying the recognition and compliments which I know were genuinely intended.

If I just nominate those few writers that I know and love, I suppose I could give them the choice of award. But  then I won’t be strictly complying with the rules and I’m naturally a law-abiding citizen. Will I be black-listed for breaking the rules?!

Hamlet quotePerhaps I should honourably withdraw and decline to take part in the award season love-in altogether…Does this mean that I will never be “recognised” again? Am I taking it too seriously and being a spoilsport by refusing to take part? Should I just cheat and nominate others for the sake of “networking”? My moral dilemma may not be quite up there with Hamlet’s but I understand his procrastination. To participate or not to participate, that is the question…

Please let me know what you think. Who knows…if I like your response you may find yourself on my regular reading list and nominated for an award yourself!

Bosom Buddies

"Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow..."

“Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow…”

I recently read an interview with Miranda Hart, actress and comedian, in which she bemoaned what a nuisance her large breasts were and how mortified she was when on one occasion they actually made a clapping sound as she rolled over in bed.  “That’s no biggie sister ” I thought to myself “it happens to all of us who couldn’t fall flat on our faces if we tried…”  Usually when dashing across the bedroom floor from the en suite and trying to hop into a pair of knickers at the same time. Slap, clap. Not very dignified but hey ho – any pretensions I ever had of being dignified, elegant and sophisticated went the way of the dodo after experiencing childbirth anyway.

No-one really spends much time talking about noses or belly buttons but opinions about breasts proliferate.  I’m sure that no other part of the human body is written about or photographed more whether from the perspective of gender politics, health, sexuality or child development. I won’t rehash any of that here because it’s all been said and done (and frankly I can’t be bothered)  but I will share a few of my personal experiences and observations.

I have always had a somewhat complicated, love-hate relationship with my breasts but I suspect that many women do. Certainly I have had many a conversation with my girl friends in which we sound like sheep of the “grass is always greener” variety. There is a mutual envy between those with  small chests and those more well endowed.  I’m not sure that I know many women who claim to be in their own personal  “goldilocks zone”…

Anyway, a short history of my own breasts goes as follows:

  • Early teens – when the time comes to purchase my first 30AA a chorus of angels sings “Hallelujah!” and I know that I’m on the path to womanhood. It was a rite of passage and I clearly remember my first pack of two bras from BHS, white and embroidered with pale blue and pink flowers.
  • Mid teens – they develop at a slightly alarming rate and begin to attract more attention from greasy, spotty oiks than make me comfortable so I employ disguising strategies. Baggie T-shirts and jumpers etc.
  • Late teens – they continue to develop but now I begin to appreciate the awesome power they provide me – I can make grown men (well slightly less spotty-and-greasy-nearly-grown men)  weak at the knees with a well timed stretch of the arms or by leaning over wearing the right blouse.
  • Early twenties – still growing (!) and back to the self-conscious “these are attracting too much attention and therefore I must hide them in all manner of shapeless sacks”. On one occasion a complete stranger walks up to me as I’m minding my own business whilst mooching around in HMV, reaches out and squeezes both tits before marching off grinning, leaving me speechless and horrified. If that happened to me today I’d probably attempt to land a sharp right hook or a knee to the groin but at 21 (ish) I was too shocked and embarrassed to respond quickly…
  • Late twentiesstill growing (good grief!!!) and tailoring becomes a pain in the ass. Shirts, blouses and dresses which fit perfectly under my arms and around my waist, gape or pull across my chest. Buying a larger size doesn’t help because though they then fit across the chest, I’m left with huge flaps of excess material under the armpit, across the shoulders and around the waist.  More seriously, I hear of women in my network affected by breast cancer. One of whom died leaving two small boys and another who chose to have a double mastectomy rather than risk the disease which killed a number of close female relatives.
  • Early thirties – A period of relative stability (hurrah!). Well fitting clothing is still a problem and underwear is either beautiful or comfortable but never both. The  prettiest/sexiest bras tend to provide insufficient support and look awful under clothes. They also feel  like instruments of torture after a couple of hours. Whereas the bras which provide the firmest and most comfortable support are engineered like a Sherman tank,  making it impossible to wear anything with a lower cut front. I may be comfortable but I look like my Nanna rather than a sex goddess… Oh and I have a mammogram after finding a lump, which mercifully turns out to be a cyst nothing more sinister.
  • Mid thirties – pregnancy and breastfeeding make my already ample bosom look like comedy breasts, ballooned to Les Dawson in drag proportions. But for the first time in my life I don’t give a monkey’s. I love the feeling that they have a purpose in life and the time I spend bonding with my baby son at my breast is precious to me. It wasn’t always easy, with sore nipples, mastitis (twice), leaky boobs and another lump scare (and mammogram) caused by a blocked milk duct, but breast feeding is an experience that  I’m glad I went through.
  • Late thirties and onwards – they shrink back to almost, but not quite, pre-pregnancy proportions and sadly begin to make a gravitational move southward…

Now, as I approach 49,  and whilst they don’t quite resemble “spaniel’s ears” just yet,  they definitely need a bit more lift than they did. With age I have finally learned to love my boobs irrespective of their size and shape and these days I can even buy clothing designed to fit over them properly (courtesy of Bravissimo). I do still get irritated when trying to talk to a man whose eyes are firmly fixed at my chest rather than my face but I’m not embarrassed or flustered anymore. Let him stare – they are worth looking at. And I give the best cuddles because, in the immortal words of Cornershop (Brimful of Asha) “everybody needs a bosom for a pillow”. Remember that and rejoice in your big breasts Miranda.

Reflections on Writing “The Story of Henry the Third…etc”

critical reviewHaving received some very lovely feedback from friends for my second short story, I thought that, once again, I would share some of my thoughts and observations on the writing process I undertook. If you have not read “The Story of Henry the Third and the Midwinter Miracle in Manchester”  then click the link or scroll down to the previous post to read it first and avoid any spoilers.

When I decided to write a Christmas story, I knew that I wanted to include some of the traditional seasonal themes such as kindness, charity, the importance of family and love, renewed hope and a touch of magic. How to do this in an original and engaging way was more of a challenge…

The Inspiration

This was the easy bit. The setting was very much inspired by my own recent experience, working in the centre of Manchester again after 13 years in various out of town campuses. I was shocked to realise that there are still so many homeless people on the streets because my infrequent trips into town, during the period I worked elsewhere, were to the main shopping areas or busy bars, restaurants and theatres etc and not through the side streets and back alleys that I had used regularly as a daily commuter. As the weather became colder at the back end of November and early December, I pondered every morning on how the huddled bodies I saw in doorways coped in such cold conditions and who they were; what was their own story and history? I wanted to prompt the reader to think a little more about the human being behind the Big Issue.

The Characters

Debbie’s lifestyle, curiosity about people and her empathy are mine, so she was very easy to write. I hasten to add that my own family circumstances are quite different  (my Mum is alive and well thank you very much and I am a mother myself) but she basically speaks with my voice. In fact I’m wondering now if I should have written her in the first person…hmmm – that’s a future consideration.

I always imagined Henry the Third as looking and behaving like Eddie the whiskery Jack Russell in Frasier. eddieI wanted him to be friendly but not overly excitable, small so that he could be carried, loyal, protective and intelligent. Although he is of course crucial to the plot, he has no self awareness and is simply doing what dogs do, so there was no need to give him much depth of character. I’m still rather fond of him though.

 

Pam the dog lady was a little trickier to create. I wanted a homeless woman rather than a man, as I thought it would be easier to believe that Debbie would converse with a mysterious woman than a strange man. The resemblance to her Mum was included to make her even more approachable and attractive. Her letter at the end was deliberately written in a style to show that despite her lifestyle, she was intelligent, articulate and kind.

The peripheral male characters, Dad, Mark and Jon are, I admit, sparsely drawn but hopefully realistic enough to serve their purpose of moving the story along and/or the exposition of relevant past events.

The Plot

In my early musings about the plot I contemplated making Pam the long lost mother, returned to help the daughter she had abandoned.  But this seemed too bleak and emotionally complicated – forgiveness and redemption would be more difficult to dispense for someone who left  a young family, to live on the streets.  I also considered turning her into the mother’s ghost, but it would not have made sense to have had three life-saving events as both Dad and Mark would have recognised their wife/mother at the time of their own salvation.  This was also why Pam herself did not openly act as Guardian Angel and why I employed a succession of dogs to help save the Moffats. It seemed more believable that they would not have made a big deal of it at the time if individually they had thought that a dog had somehow stopped helped them.   And I liked the sound of “Henry the Third” as a name!

I hesitated for a long time as to whether to include Debbie’s childlessness in the story at all, but I wanted something else to make the dog lady mysterious and magical and to add a final little twist to the tail. It seemed like a good way to round off the story; Pam dies, somehow knowing that Henry the Third saved not only Debbie but her longed for  unborn child. It is almost like her parting Christmas gift.

I thoroughly enjoyed engineering this story and have been delighted with the emotional impact it has had on some of my readers. It’s the greatest compliment I could wish for. Not entirely sure what I’m going to write next but will endeavour to entertain you again.

Happy New Year!

P.S. If you are feeling generous or inspired then I recommend you make a donation to either of these two UK homeless charities.

http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/support-us.html

or

http://england.shelter.org.uk/