From Meme to You

Image

Quite often in my life I’ve found myself careering into a verbal cul de sac, or maybe chit-chatting myself down a one-way street the wrong way – of my own making of course. But I think I’ve gone above and beyond my usual ‘not thinking it all through thoroughly before I speak’ of late. This is something, I am sure, I will look back upon in the non-too-distant future and smile, maybe even chuckle to myself (self-deprecatingly of course) whilst shaking my head gently from side to side.

Or not.DMM meme

And the reason? I’ll be too busy trying to stick my hair back onto my head with a mishmash of Sellotape, Blu Tack and Pritt Stick – maybe some spittle, straw and cow dung to enhance the experience.

My explanation for the drama of sticky time is simple. A little like me, as it happens. The cause of my hair pulling and road offences boils down to what I have not long set myself up for. Yes. I have recently set up a giveaway of a signed copy of Driving Me Mad, or even an eBook, too. And what did I ask for in return? Just for you to let me know you wanted it – albeit, through a variety of means. Not too difficult to do, yes? For you, no. You all did it perfectly. For me, the one who dreamed up this simple and easy task, no. It was more difficult than me working on a calculus problem.

Let’s put it this way. Did I ask you which book format you would prefer? Did I bollocks. Did I query ‘Have you somewhere or thing on which you can read an eBook?’ No. I didn’t. Why? Because, as it has become blatantly obvious, I am a knob.

But. It will get sorted. I promise.

Therefore, I have to be more specific with round two of the giveaway.

I have had so many wonderful ideas for this next stage of the giveaway and I believe I’ll probably use most of them in the near future. Some of you are so imaginative and creative, I should ask you for plot ideas for my future stories. So what I did in the end was to choose the idea that had appeared more than once. Retelling a scary story was up there with the ‘possibles and maybes’, as that idea came through five times – not completely the same, a couple said about scary stories from their lives whereas the other three said about scary scenes from a book. I’ve had desert island ideas, favourite characters, aspects of our favourite characters’ lives – even to these characters performing a pop song – favourite books, scenes, movies, drinks, jokes – both about books or generally. Even selfies made an appearance. Funniest, most interesting, most embarrassing … and on the list goes. See? Original, imaginative, creative and brilliant.

But the one I will go for was mentioned six times. Seven if you included mine as I would have said this one too. If you are familiar with my Facebook page you will know I love any memes to do with books, reading, writing, grammar, stationery, dogs. Therefore, what I will write next has nearly already been written.

Here is what you have to do to win either a signed copy of Driving Me Mad or an eBook of your choice.

  • You have to create a meme (der)
  • It has to be about either books, reading, writing, grammar, stationery, dogs (sorry, no cats – this is not the purrrrrfect time to include them. Yes. I know its ruff on you cat lovers, but these are the rules) – and an honourable mention if you can amalgamate all of them.
  • You send the meme to me (fingersmith@hotmail.co.uk) – not just post it on my Facebook page (this way I can alert you if you have won AND you can stipulate your prize – like ‘have you the means to read eBooks’ … not falling for that old chestnut again)
  • I will post the best memes I receive onto Facebook and people will vote for the winners. This way I don’t have to do it. Grin.
  • All memes to be sent to me by Saturday 5 March 2016

I’ll even help you out – https://imgflip.com/memegenerator

Okay. That seems to be it. For now. Looking forward to seeing what you can come up with. Get those creative juices flowing. Make us think, laugh, cry, yearn for pens, want to go out and pet a dog. You are now in the driving seat.

Good luck.

Moaning Minnies, Plum Jam and Short Stories

Considering I’ve been on summer hols for a few weeks, it seems like yesterday that I was wrapping up the school year once more. I know to those poor folks who don’t get to have nearly six weeks off (although I do know the US have a damned sight more, but I don’t resent it – much) are probably gritting their teeth in an agonised clamp, and will bite down even more when I write the next bit.

I wish my summer holiday was longer.

I know I should apologise for being a greedy git, but I won’t – although I will say I’m sorry for the ache in your jaw. In all my spoiled honesty, I admit that I don’t want to go back to the confines of a classroom.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, love teaching, but I don’t really love the politics that is now part and parcel of each decision made, and the admin that is nearly all what teaching has become. Pupils are clients, bums on seats means money in the struggling coffers, and all kids are seen through eyes tinged with pound signs. This leads to teachers being put upon to get results from students who can’t, or don’t want to, achieve, therefore forcing the next stage of school life. Ofsted. The most feared two syllables of a teacher’s vocabulary. The threat of this organisation turning up at the school gates like the cast from Reservoir Dogs hovers over a teacher’s head like a black cloud, darkening significantly with each choice or lesson plan drawn up. And then there are the other things – the escalating hours a teacher has to work, the scrutiny from senior leaders, the complete tip of work / life balance to be in the favour of the employer and not the employee…

What am I doing? Moaning, I guess. But that is NOT what I want to write about today. I can bang on about work and slip effortlessly into the ‘poor me’ role if I wanted to, but deep down I know I’d only be doing it because I am back at work next week and I am gutted. G.U.T.T. E.D. I want to lounge, be lazy, cut my grass and tickle my flowers, walk inches off my lads’ legs, have late nights and lie ins, watch pap on TV, read and read and read, do DIY, write bollocky blogs that no one will read, and I want to continue doing it until I am bored of it. At the moment that is not the case. How can I be bored when I have a tree full of plums that need my attention? – and that is not a euphemism. I have jam to make. Yes – I am of that age that making my own jam is classed as cool. I would’ve made cherry jam, but the fat bastard pigeons ate my plump red fruit again this year, and, once again, the neighbourhood knew about it.

And then there is the writing. Sigh. I love writing, but when I’m in school it seems to take a back seat to marking and lesson planning – not forgetting all the time I spend moaning about how busy I am and rattling on to any poor sap who will listen that a teacher’s day does not end at 3:30. I want to escape into worlds of my own making, have rendezvouses with characters I’ve given literary birth to, sit and stare at the space above my laptop until the right word comes along, feel the rush of my imagination leave my fingertips and appear on the blank white space of a word document. Is this too much to ask?

To my bank manager, yes. He tells me that work is the means to which my mortgage, and other bills, get paid every month, how my little furballs get treats, and how I can have a bit of freedom in the time off work has bestowed on me. So, like one of the seven dwarfs, it’s hie hoe, hie hoe, it’s off to work I go come Wednesday. (On a side note: would I be Grumpy? I think I have shown characteristics from all of them over the last few weeks, but I think Grumpy will be the one that lasts the longest. Just a hunch.)

But I have been writing. Two short stories are finished but not edited. Attic Space is a ghost story that I originally penned for the Ylva anthology but she came out too big. I’m undecided what to do with her, but she will get my attention again before long. One thing I need to say though is that Attic Space did not have one single F word throughout. Not one! It was a challenge I set myself and through her I realised how hard it was for me to write without being a potty mouth. But, I did it. Go me. F**k yeah!

Solomon's Temple on the walk up.

Solomon’s Temple on the walk up.

Storm, the second of my short stories, however, is completely different to my usual style as the humour is lacking and it is a lot darker than my customary offering. Storm completely captivated my attention but she was the kind of story that took me a lot longer to complete. She was only meant to be a short story but she ended up over 32,000 words. I will definitely be going back to her and give her the once, or twice, over. The reason for this is because I think this story has potential. To make things even better, I’ve not long visited the places mentioned in the short story – Grin Low and Upper Hulme in Derbyshire. Thankfully, I didn’t get the same treatment as my central character. I am considering developing the storyline, tightening things up a little. It makes it so much better when I can actually visualise the surroundings more clearly. It’d been a fair while since I’d visited these places, so seeing them again really gave me a boost, something I want to inject into the story.

Talking about the Peaks, Driving Me Mad will be on its way from Ylva soon. I seem to have had a burst of inspiration based on the Peak District in my writing, and would you believe it if I said that my Sat Nav did exactly what the story’s Sat Nav did to Rebecca Gibson? Yes. It sent me through Kirk Langley when I was supposed to be going in the

Top of Hen Cloud

Top of Hen Cloud

opposite direction. Thankfully, I did not end up staying the night with Annabel Howell. Firstly, it was broad daylight for me, and secondly, I ignored the Sat Nav and read the road signs. Once again, go me! Some of you may remember the story when I released it at the academy a while back. But, if you think that is the entire story you will have a surprise coming your way. The story has been developed significantly, adding another three times the content. So what was originally a short story is well over a 100,000 words. Hopefully you will like what I’ve done with it. I did. Do. Whatever.

I have recently started a new story and am undecided whether to continue writing that or go back to Storm. Maybe it will all be decided with the toss of a coin if I can find one that isn’t a supermarket trolley counter.

Man! Don’t I go on? If you have gotten this far, congratulations! You have my upmost respect. You are definitely dedicated, or really bored. But if you haven’t gotten this far … there is nothing I need to write as you won’t read this anyway … and I think I am on the verge of writing myself into a verbal cul de sac (not to mention that my foot has gone dead because I’ve been sitting on it).

So, with no more procrastinating, moaning, rambling, or lack of blood circulating around my right foot, I will bid you adieu. Hopefully it won’t be as long until I write next time, if work doesn’t try to get in the way of course. I will keep you updated about any future stories just in case you are interested.

Right. Time to get cracking on those plums! Wish me luck.

I am a reader because …

Summer. The sounds of birds singing their love songs from the tree tops; the delicious clunk of a cricket ball meeting a bat to be followed by muffled cheering; the smell of bbq in the air; radios playing catchy summery tunes in their tinny ‘I’m on the windowsill’ kind of way; butterflies dancing from flower to flower unsure where to land because everything looks too damned beautiful; bees busily buzzing and collecting whatever it is they collect …

Perfect isn’t it. Throw in picnics, trips to the park, beach holidays and never-ending adventures whilst wearing shorts, or a sarong, and we have the ideal time of the year that makes us forget those cold, dark mornings, freezing wind, icy rain and miserable skies.

Now let’s think of the reality of the summer season. Sweaty sticky patches in delicate places; food poisoning from undercooked sausages from your bbq leaving you with the dilemma of which way to face the toilet; summer tunes that grate on the nerves after hearing them here, there and everywhere but still not knowing the dance; wasps … flies … wasps … those green funny shaped jumping things that love to surprise … did I mention wasps? What about lack of sleep? Trying to find the cool spot and never succeeding? Picnics with ants, overflowing car parks, beaches full of hairy backs (men, usually – but you never know – I’ve seen some eye openers in the last couple of weeks); bodies giving the appearance of radiation exposure and the onomatopoeic ‘tisss’ when seeing the glowing red of sun burn; screaming toddlers / teens / seagulls and so on. Don’t forget that feeling as you slip on last year’s shorts and produce a beautiful impression of a camel’s toe. Priceless. I think I’ve only just stopped crying.

Maybe the last paragraph will strike a chord with most people, but so will some of the things from the opening one too. Summer is the time of year where as a teacher I pray and pray I will survive the school year and get to the this time where the bell doesn’t dictate my life, marking isn’t all I think about, and teens are home with their parents for the duration. It is the oasis in the school year, the oasis that at times taunts me like that bloody carrot in front of a donkey scenario – definitely out of reach however hard I try to grab it.

Then BAM! It is here and I am thinking ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ To be honest, I feel a little dazed by it all. All that wishing for it to be here and then … WTF? I’ve gone from working 65 plus hours a week to being at home – it is like driving at 90 mph and then hitting a wall. I don’t know what I should do first. I have editing to finish, a short story to finish, catching up to do, and not to mention all the jobs around the home I’ve had to put on a back burner since the dawn of time.

However, all my whinging will be for nought. It will take me about a week to wind down and then I will be loving the time off. I already have a stack of books to dive in to, and I know for definite I will be writing as I have so many ideas that I just wish I could type faster than my clubbed fingers will allow.

So, why this blog? Why have I been banging on about summer and her pros and cons? Why have I been on ‘whinge mode’ about work and trying to up the pity card? These questions are very easily answered. I just wanted to get my fingers back on the key board and words to start coming from LT Smith rather than teacher me.

Oh, and to tell you about my giveaway. Honestly, I would forget my head …

Right. Here we go.

I have been meaning to do a giveaway ever since the paperback version of Once was released last month, but work got in the way. But, I don’t have that excuse anymore so here we go.

This giveaway is in two parts – firstly, you have a chance to win a signed copy of Once. Maybe you have read this book when it was first released a few years ago, but this version is new and very much improved.  If you don’t win the paperback, I am offering three e-book copies to three (un)lucky readers.

Now I don’t want to confuse anyone, although I probably have already, but it is very simple to enter this first part. All you have to do to have a chance of winning is to either message me on Facebook or email (fingersmith@hotmail.co.uk)

Now the second part of the giveaway is a little bit different.  You can choose a book of mine for me to sign for you – your choices are Once, Beginnings, or Hearts and Flowers Border.  Or if you don’t win a signed copy, I am giving away three e-books – you can choose one of my published stories to download to your reader (Once, Beginnings, Hearts and Flowers Border, Still Life, See Right Through Me, Puppy Love, or Forget Me Not).

In order to have a stake in the loot, you have to finish the following sentence and post it either on my Facebook page or send it to me via email.

I am a reader because …

Each sentence you complete is a new entry. Therefore, if you send me ten messages and have a different sentence each time, you have ten chances to win. I have already had a few people enter more than once, but it will be a case of the best reason for being a reader will get the signed copy.bookworm reader

The competition is open until 29 July 2015 – I will announce the winners as soon as … erm, I’ve decided?

And now that I have told you about the giveaway, where was I?

Ah yes. Summer. That time of year, just like all the other seasons, where you can look at life and her many scenarios positively, negatively, or as they really are. The essence of summer is in our hearts, our minds and our souls. It may be pouring with rain, just like it is now in good old Blighty, or the sun may actually be shining upon you (or from certain parts of your anatomy – I suffer from this ;p). Whatever the weather, whatever the scene, remember John Milton’s words ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ So bloody true.

Oh, and btw …

I am a reader because I cannot stop myself.

Simple.

Just thought I’d say …

mum pngTo be perfectly honest, I have written and rewritten the opening to this blog countless times and am still at a loss of how to start it. Therefore, this reflective statement on not being able to start something, but in reality doing just that (a paradox?), will be how this blog will begin.

Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day. A day where people from all walks of life celebrate the matriarch with maybe a bunch of daffs, breakfast in bed, lunch out with the family, and / or many other different gifts to show appreciation and love to ‘Mother’ or ‘Nanna’ or any other of the many different monikers that mean the same thing. Wherever I’ve been of late I’ve found myself bombarded with rows upon rows of flowers, shelves of cards, enough smellies to stun a rhino … not to mention stacks of chocolates in heart shapes, mugs spouting ‘I love my mum’, and teddies holding felt roses. Let’s add on bottles of bubbly, CD compilations hosting Will Young, Ronan Keating, Take That et al, and DVDs featuring Colin Firth or Hugh Grant, and we have the occasion sewn up.

Sounds like a wonderful day, yes? Gifts, love, appreciation, and family? Most definitely a perfectly charming day. But, alas, I wasn’t feeling the ‘wonderfulness’ of it this year. Considering it is my first year without my mum, it is no surprise that I could barely see what the supermarket had on its shelves yesterday as I fought to curtail my bubbling emotions from blabbing all over the shop. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a party pooper and don’t want to appear as such. I am ecstatic that mums are appreciated and have a special day on the calendar to highlight how positively brilliant they truly are. However, why wait for that one day? Why just show her that you love her on one Sunday in March – or May if you live in the States?

I know many people will not just wait for this day to take ‘mum’ those daffs /chocolates/ teddies, or putter out words of admiration. I also need to point out that not everyone has the same relationship with his or her parent, and don’t feel the need to continuously spill over with gratitude and love for the woman who gave birth to them on a daily basis. But maybe if they were seated where I am seated at this precise moment, they may want to change their minds. I don’t mean on my sofa in my living room, either. I mean not having the opportunity to say ‘I love you, Mum’, or ‘You are amazing, Mum’. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand there are some women out there who do not deserve any recognition for anything under the heading of ‘great parent’. Being a teacher has opened my eyes to that one. Unfortunately.

The last couple of years were not the best for my mum, and if you have read Forget Me Not, you might understand why this is. I honestly believed I had more time with her, had more time of her understanding what I was saying, or being able to process it. By the time I got to the stage of realising Alzheimer’s is a disease that progresses more quickly than I first realised, and the person I loved was slowly disappearing, I was telling my mum over and over again how much I loved her. But to her every time I said ‘I love you’ was as if each and every utterance was the first. Her face would light up and she would give me that grin of hers – the same grin that makes my heart ache to remember it.

This morning I was looking for something to post on my facebook page, something that could convey how I was feeling today. There were so many different images out there that could have filled the daily spot, but not one of them seemed to reflect how I was feeling. It was a very humbling time for me when I looked at the pictures people had put out onto the net. Not only did I see a sea of grief and heartbreak for people who had lost a parent, I was also enlightened to the plight of mothers who have lost their children too. Weirdly enough, I was also given advice how to lose weight – that will teach me for putting ‘Mothers Day loss’ in the search engine, although I did become interested in the ‘Big Breakfast theory’. But, now like then, I digress.

Let me get back to the messages created by people who were better at gathering how they felt into a pithy quote. One I particularly liked was ‘For no day dawns or ends without a thought of you.’ Simple. To the point. Truthful , albeit glaringly obvious. In the seven months since my mum’s passing, I have not started, or ended, any day without thinking of her. However, now the thoughts of my mum don’t pierce my heart so much. Sometimes now I can think of her and laugh at the things that she would do or say, talk about her without my voice hitching or me having to struggle not to start crying. Now, carefully selected pictures of her around the place give me a sense of comfort and not the initial loss of before. A huge step.

I bet you are wondering why I have spent so much time writing this blog. Why I have blurted my grief out into the world on a day where happiness, gratitude and love should be displayed. There is no reason apart from I just wanted to share it. Just wanted to let other people out there who have lost a mother, a grandmother, or a figure who embodies the traits of a mother that I can relate to you. And to those mothers who have lost a child – I wanted to acknowledge you too, although I can only empathise with the grieving part.

But, mainly, I wanted to just remind you to tell the ones you love how you feel. Tell them, and tell them, and, you guessed it, tell them again. Show them too. Take the daffs even if it isn’t Mothering Sunday. Give your sister a hug, your brother a high five. Wrap your arms around the one you love and make them fully aware of how much they mean to you, how they hold a huge part of your life in their hands. Don’t forget your animals too. Give them some excited praise and watch them awaken from the slumber they have fallen into whilst you have been reading this … if you’ve gotten this far that is … and dance about you as if you are the most important person in the world. Maybe because you are.

The reason? You have the possibility of making someone’s day special every day. How perfectly wonderful is that?

A little bit of this and that … AKA ellipses, short paragraphs and pap

Thought I would give you an update of what is going on over here in sunny / cold / raining / threat of snow / foggy / icy (delete as applicable when reading after checking the weather) Norwich. Many things have happened since I last took the time to blog about anything, but, alas, not many of them are interesting enough to engage or titillate you, dear reader – or engage or titillate me, for that matter. Work has taken up most of my time since the New Year dragged its sorry ass into 2015, followed by me and my fat one.

As you may, or may not, be aware, I have just finished a Valentine’s story for the annual Valentine invitational over at the Academy of Bards. Obviously, I was late. I tried so hard to get it completed on time. Believe me. I diligently worked at it every evening after finishing all the stuff I had to finish for work – even when my laptop gave a wonderful Oscar winning performance of a dying duck. Then it all seemed to go even more tits up. I know some nights I only got about 400 words down on the page, but it seemed as if the last 200 words had something against me and did not want to get written, or, to be more poetic, be born.

I’m exaggerating of course. It wasn’t the last 200 – more like the last couple of thousand – but it seemed as if I was so close to completion for so long that I believed if I sneezed hard enough to allow my fingers to smack against the keys, Three Syllables would have been completed in good time to send off to the lovely ladies at RAB. But, alas, I think the reason for the ending being dragged out was because I just didn’t want the story to finish. No. Not because I didn’t know how to end it, but because it had been with me for nearly a month and if I finished it, then I would have to get on with all the other stuff I had waiting to be done.

Yep. A screwed up reasoning, but one I am sticking to, your Honour.

To be perfectly honest, I was quite pleased by the way the story panned out, something I am not used to saying about any of my own work. I think it worked well with the prequel whose title I had to think up all by myself only to come up with The True Meaning After All – not one I think truly fits the story, but one that will have to do for now. (Maybe you could get your finger out of unmentionable places and send your idea to me – thereby to be rewarded with an ebook of mine of your choice. Or, if you think it more fitting, the threat of me sending you an ebook of mine being lifted.)

Talking of books … erm … tenuously, I shall link this next part … Beginnings is out and about in the big world once again. I have to admit, this edition is so different to the edition that was out before. Believe me – so much work has gone into this version and I believe she is now the book I always thought she could be. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved Beginnings, always said she was the favourite of all my stories – until I began the editing and revision process. Man. I could not believe the changes I had to make, the additions I put in … Jeez.

Mainly it is all down to a variety of things – my writing (I think) has improved since originally writing the story, the expectations of the readers are different, working with different publishers and editors … the list could, if we let it, go on. But, after all is said and done, the essence of the story has not been lost. It is still about love, about friendship, about longing for ‘the one’ to actually sit up and notice you are alive however many years have passed. To me, love doesn’t go out of fashion.  Or does it?

Beginnings still contains so much of me in her, actually even more so after revisiting her once again and adding the thoughts and emotions of me as an even more ‘grown up woman’ than I was when I first penned her. I think any writer will tell you that there is always a little bit of her or him in every book they create, and for me there is no exception. However, I can’t believe it is over nine years ago that the idea of writing the story of Lou and Ash came to me – over nine years since I leaned back in my chair, cocked my head to the side and reread the opening paragraphs only to think ‘I can do something with this’.

Consequently, I am more of a gardener than an architect when it comes to writing. I plant ideas and see what happens; plant and water and nurture and clip them until eventually I surprise myself with the outcome. I don’t think of myself as an adventurous or exotic gardener – just the run of the mill kind that doesn’t really stray far from my own back garden because I am happy to plod along and create something I feel I can relate to. Maybe, sometimes, it gets overrun with weeds, a little like now, but I always hope that the essence of the garden comes through to the person looking at it.

WTF? For a moment then I thought I had well and truly gone off the point, and, if I am being truthful, I did. However, I doubt many of you have gotten this far into this blog anyway …

What else do I need to tell you? Hmm. Let me think …

Once!!! Yes. Once. I am in the process of editing her ready for her re-emergence this summer. It was good to read through her even though I was making changes as I went. One thing I have noticed is this – I have definitely cut back on all of the ‘…’ I used to do. I honestly can’t understand why I had such a fascination with ellipsis, or ellipses if I wanted to get all plural on my ass. I peed myself off on more than one occasion whilst going through, and I know I must’ve done the same to other readers. That, and, at times, the excessively short paragraph.

Like this. Or…

Grin.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my annoying sense of humour.

Or has it?

I can remember not long after Once was published and I won an award from the Lesbian Fiction Readers’ Choice Awards for comedy. Obviously, I was really excited, as anyone would be if his or her book had been given the big thumbs up by the reader. But, I can still remember thinking ‘I thought it was sad’. Shows how much I know doesn’t it. Maybe if I write a comedy I may get an award for drama. Food for thought.

If you have made it this far, well done. I salute you. You have resilience and perseverance and deserve a medal or even a mention in the New Year Honours List. Kudos, dear reader.

On a final note, I am seriously considering writing the next instalment of Erin and Bran’s story for Easter. If you have huge objections about that, let me know will you? I don’t want to flog a dead horse.

Ahem … this is actually the final note. It will be ten years next month since I sent my first story, Hearts and Flowers Border, to the academy. Therefore, I will be doing a giveaway of my stories – and a signed paperback copy of Beginnings. So, if you are interested, watch this space. Not literally watch this space – I mean ‘figuratively’. I will let you know in more detail closer to the time.

So, this is a final final final note. Spring is nearly here. I know that fits with NOTHING else I’ve mentioned (apart from the weather), but I just thought I would shove it in right at the end. I love spring. Time for change, rebirth, new beginnings and longer days – not to mention it is closer to the end of the school year.

*fist pump*cover_Beginnings_500x800

2015 – New Beginnings or Learning Curve?

  1. Actually, it is four days into 2015 and I haven’t broken my New Year’s resolutions asyet, mainly because I didn’t really think about making declarations of ‘Losing Weight’, ‘Getting healthier’, ‘Being more organised’ or all the other things I would usually do when the clock struck midnight to tip me from one year and into the next. To be honest, I was too happy bidding 2014 farewell to worry about my big fat ass or that I will never be an Olympian – not to mention not being organised enough to actually think about making any.

As most of you are aware, I lost my mum in August of last year. The journey to that point was not a very pleasant one and I would not wish Alzheimer’s on my worst enemy. It is a very cruel and destructive disease – and not just for the sufferer.   Watching the decline of someone you love is horrific but we make sure we are there every step of the way. It is not about us at that moment, or how we are feeling – it is about how we can help them, how we can ease the pain, the torment, the absolute devastation to their lives.

In reality, I am not too sure that my mum was aware I was there by the time it got to the end, but I hope she took some comfort from having someone chatting to her, feeding her, brushing her hair. I hope when I rambled on about things that happened in her past she took some semblance of solace from those memories considering she couldn’t remember things that had happened recently. And, hopefully, when I rattled on about the ‘here and now’ she would recognise some of the things I was talking about.

The time after losing my mum was not the best. Obviously. Trying to ‘carry on’ and not dwell on what had happened was difficult, but I believed it was the best course of action. It is weird how a family reacts when the matriarch has gone – almost like she was the hand that held us all together, like gripping a fist full of marbles. Then when she passed, the hand fell open and the marbles hit the ground and raced into different directions. That is the only way I can describe it – us all being the escaping marbles trying to flee with no sense of purpose or direction.

Forget Me Not helped me to bring together some of the feelings I was experiencing. Weirdly enough, I had penned to story before my mum died, but editing it was almost cathartic. One thing I am truly thankful for is the feedback from some readers who had read the story and then shared their experiences with me. Hopefully by their sharing their sadness they too began to heal just a little bit. I really hope that is what happened. It doesn’t hurt to know that all proceeds from this short story will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Society either (a huge thank you to Ylva – especially Astrid and Daniela).

By the time it came to Christmas, five months after that awful day, the marbles started to roll back into the centre once again. Maybe it was because of my brother’s brain aneurysm – which was caught in time – or maybe enough time had passed for us all to start accepting that mum was in a better place. Some of the marbles seemed a little more scuffed than they had been, and the rolling action was a tad more laboured, but they made their way back almost to the centre.

I know I am not the only one who has experienced loss in the last few months. I know I am not alone in the heartache that comes with illness, whatever the diagnosis. Sometimes it feels as if we will never get beyond it, never live through it, but we do. We surprise ourselves by how strong we actually are – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We may feel like we are sinking or going under, and although it feels as if we are inhaling salt water most of the time, we are keeping our heads above the surface – just.

So. My New Year’s resolution is to keep moving forward whilst not forgetting to glance backwards now and again. That way I can see how far I have come. My mum will always be with me, snuggled inside my chest alongside the memory of her laugh, her smile, her scent, the way she would feel when she gave me hugs, and she will also be in my memories for the rest of my life.

2014 was not the best year for me but it doesn’t mean I should just discard it. Not everything was doom and gloom, although you are probably thinking otherwise after reading this. I will keep remembering that even though sometimes it hurts to learn from experiences, not all of them are painful and life changing. Experiences come in many shapes and sizes, and I believe we have to be part of all of these however much it can smart at times. Life is full of many things – some we love and some we try to hide from. Experience has taught us that.

2015? Bring. It. On.

And please note … not one F word.

 

Untitled – Part 4

I didn’t wait for the lift. The stairs suited me just fine. I was too wired to be standing about waiting for a ride down one level, and racing down the stairs was a good way to stop me losing what little self-respect I had left by doing something stupid outside the elevator doors whilst waiting.

As I rounded the corner and into the reception area of Alan Jackson’s office, I was greeted by the rat like face of Tim Clements who was stopping a very harried Branwen from getting past him.

‘Come on, Bran. You know you want to.’

She attempted to side step him but he cut her off and I grinned when I saw her straighten her back and glare up at him. Branwen didn’t take any crap from anyone – that was another thing I loved about her.

‘As usual, you’re wrong, Tim. It is way too late for that.’ She tried to dodge past him again but Tim stopped her once more, placing his hands on her upper arms. I felt a growl of anger surge from my gut, the feeling accompanying the clenching of my fists.

However, something very unusual happened. Something I did not expect to happen in a million years. Tim Clements looked straight at me, his dark eyes widening slightly. At this point I thought he would get out of Branwen’s way and let her pass, but no. He gave me a slight wink before he focused his full attention on the woman who was trying to look bored by his behaviour.

‘Look, Bran. Erin Staunton likes you. She does. Now you don’t work for her there’s nothing to stop you asking her out is there?’

Branwen’s shoulders seemed to sag slightly, and I heard a sigh escape from her mouth. I wanted to say something but I was too stunned to get the words out. Actually, I had to lean on the side of the door frame for support.

‘You’re just saying that, Tim. She doesn’t want me that way. I saw the picture of her and her ex.’ Another sigh accompanied a gesture with her hand as if she was dismissing something.

‘Yes. Her ex, Bran. Ex.’ Branwen made to turn but Tim caught her and pulled her back to face him. If she had turned, Branwen Campbell would have seen a mesmerised me propped in the doorway.

‘Look. Tim. No offense, but you didn’t see the photo of them together. Didn’t hear her tell me how wonderful Erin is. As if I didn’t know that already.’ She rubbed her hands over her face before looking back at Tim. ‘That’s why I asked to leave. It was obvious that the letter and photo were sent as a reminder of how wonderful their relationship had been.’

Four strides. That’s all it took me to be behind her. Four strides and I was touching her shoulder making her spin around to me, her facial expression that of absolute horror. I didn’t speak. Couldn’t. My hands lifted swiftly, cupping her jaw and leaning forwards to claim those lips that I had thought about so often but hadn’t even realised I had thought about until this moment.. But even my subconscious thoughts of those perfect lips paled in comparison to the feel of them underneath mine. Initially, her lips reflected the shock of being discovered, but I pressed more firmly with mine, moving my mouth slightly until I felt her return the action. My fingers dipped into her hair, the silken strands of darkness caressing my skin, making me pull her closer, hold her more tightly, press her against me with just my will, my mouth and my hands.

Then, I felt her fingers slip up the front of me, felt them glance over my chest, along my throat and rest at the sides of my face as if she was holding me in place or trying to work out who was kissing her.

Branwen pressed even more against me, her tongue tentatively slipping between parted lips. A moan left my mouth and entered hers and I felt a hunger I had not felt for a long long time overcome me.

But this was not the time or the place to satiate this raging need. Purposefully, I slowed the kiss, Branwen following my lead.

Pulling away from her was an agony, but it had to be done. Our hands were still on faces, still in hair, eyes locked, green into brown, brown into green. Branwen was slightly shorter than me so I leaned forward, my forehead resting on hers, our ragged breaths mingling. The heat coming from her was radiant, just like her.

Her pupils were dilated making her eyes appear darker, but there was a sparkle swimming around the glorious irises that illuminated the life welling from her. When she blinked, it seemed as if she did so with agonising deliberateness, as if it was a snippet of film slowed to project every nuance, every detail.

When her voice came, it was perfectly pitched for our proximity.

‘You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to do that.’

With her words, my stomach clenched delectably and I couldn’t help but kiss her again. I felt as if I could keep kissing her for the rest of my life and never tire of it.

As I pulled my mouth away once again, I murmured, ‘Same here.’ It wasn’t until I actually said those two words that I realised how long my wait for our kiss had actually been.

Branwen lifted her hand and placed her finger on the bridge of my nose for a moment before trailing it downward and toward my lips, her eyes following the path before they seemed to spring back to meet my gaze – the same action Carilyn Phillips had done, but the effect so very different.

‘Can I ask you a question?’ I loved her voice. Loved it. Especially this close.

I nodded, my smile open and honest.

‘What about Shannon McEwen?’

My forehead furrowed into a frown. I think this action was mainly because I wasn’t too sure why she was asking about my ex at this precise moment.

I felt her pull away slightly, but I didn’t relinquish my hold of her.

I repeated her question, although my tone was different. ‘What about Shannon McEwen?’

This time Branwen managed to pull back as she stepped out from our inner sanctum. I was surprised all over again to realise we were still in the reception area, Tim Clements nowhere in sight.

It was at this moment that I realised what she meant when she had asked about Shannon.

‘We are not an item.’ Fuck. I knew as soon as my words hit the air they were the wrong ones. I’d just announced that I didn’t believe Branwen and I were an item and not Shannon and myself. If I hadn’t worked it out with just the words, the crushed expression on Branwen’s face should have been enough to alert me of my oral faux pas. Stupidly, I tried to rectify it by blurting out something I thought would show Branwen that Shannon was with someone else. ‘The wedding is set for New Year’s Eve.’

I should’ve been clearer.

Branwen’s mouth initially dropped, then she blurted ‘You are getting married to her and you come and kiss me like this? What kind of woman are you?’

‘No, no! You don’t understand.’ My voice sounded panicky, and I’m not surprised Branwen stepped further away from me, her body language closing up. ‘Would you like to come to a wedding?’

Her lips tightened until I saw a white line. Stupidly, I couldn’t understand why she was so angry. All she had to do was say no, she had other plans.

‘How dare you. What would your intended say if she knew what you had just done?’ Branwen stepped forward. ‘To think I really liked you. Really respected you. God!’

‘I don’t understand what …’

‘When I met her on Friday, I was crushed. She was the woman who held your heart, the same heart I had yearned for since I’d started working for you.’

‘But …’

‘When she told me how wonderful you were and to give you the letter, I wanted to hide it. That way …’ Branwen dramatically threw her hands into the air. ‘Never mind, eh? Shannon won after all. It was a good job I decided to take Alan up on his offer.’

‘No. You’ve got it wrong, Branwen. Sha …’

‘Yes! I did get it wrong. Very wrong.’ Finally. ‘I should’ve pushed you off me as soon as you kissed me.’

‘I don’t think …’

‘No. You don’t. That’s the whole …’

Once again my mouth met hers, as it seemed the only way I could get my point across without her getting the wrong end of the stick.

She tried to pull away, but I wasn’t having any of it. My lips were staying against hers until she responded. Then, and only then, would I feel it would be safe to release my hold of her without repercussions. However, when she did respond, I completely forgot why I had launched my kissing attack in the first place. Well, until the kiss came to a natural end and I dreamily pulled my mouth free from hers.

A sad smile flittered over Branwen’s face and I felt the ache of it in my chest.

Trailing my thumb over her mouth, I asked, ‘What’s the matter, love?’

I could feel her shaking slightly, almost as if she was vibrating. ‘I can’t believe you could kiss me like that and be marrying someone else.’

‘Marrying someone else? Me? Marrying someone else?’ Branwen’s eyes opened widely. ‘I’m not marrying anyone else. If I was to marry anyone …’ I stopped before I made a complete fool out of myself. ‘Whatever gave you that idea?’

‘You said the wedding was set for New Year’s Eve.’ Her voice sounded a little unsure. Thankfully.

I held my hands out, totally at a loss for what to say. The situation seemed so stupid I believed if I spoke at that moment I would just cock it up even more.

Branwen looked up at me, those brown eyes absorbing me.

‘Just tell me the truth, Erin. Tell me what’s happening. If it hurts me, I’d prefer it to hurt me now rather than later.’

Reaching out, I lifted her hand and brought it to my lips. Once, twice, three times I left a kiss on her skin, my gaze never leaving hers.

‘I am not getting married to Shannon McEwen.’ Branwen just continued to look into my eyes. ‘Do you want to know the reason?’ She nodded once. Clear and sure.

With my free hand, I cupped her under her chin, lifting her face so it was in direct line to mine to make sure I had her full attention.

‘Shannon is marrying Leah on New Year’s eve. Marrying Leah. The woman she loves. Do you understand, Bran?’ It was the first time I had abbreviated her name and I liked how it felt on my lips.

‘But that isn’t the only reason why I am not getting married to Shannon on New Year’s Eve. Do you want to know the other reason?’ I stepped closer, mesmerised by how dark her eyes were becoming all over again. She nodded, again once, again, clearly and surely.

‘The reason I am not marrying Shannon McEwen on New Year’s Eve is because I am inexplicably, undoubtedly, resolutely and undeniably in love with you, that’s why.’

The kiss I received at that moment made all the other kisses pale in comparison.

Considering I’d always thought Christmas was a humbug time of year, I believed I’d found the true meaning of it as I held my future in my arms. Santa must have made his list, checked it twice, and then decided I was on the ‘Nice’ list after all. Branwen Campbell was the only thing I’d ever, or would ever want for Christmas for the rest of my life.

Now that’s what I call a gift that keeps on giving.

 

The End