Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Thanks, Mum.

 I lost my mother a couple of days ago. There is probably never a good time to have a loved one pass away from lung cancer (I lost my dad to cancer as well, eleven years ago) but having it happen during a pandemic added an extra layer of distress to the whole thing. Due to Covid restrictions, my sister and I couldn't be with our mum during the last weeks of her life, and when Mum tested positive for the virus, even her partner was only permitted a single final visit. Our experience, harrowing as it's been, is only one of many that will have played out very similarly over the last year, in hospitals, hospices and care homes up and down the country.

I need hardly say that my mother will be missed, but I wanted to add that she had been enormously supportive of my writing efforts, right from the start. My mum divorced in 1982. She had very little money to scrape together - just keeping a Volkswagen Beetle on the road was enough of a struggle - but still she found enough to pay for someone to type up a copy (with a carbon duplicate) of my first handwritten manuscript. That was before I learned to type for myself. Seeing my words in cold hard print was confirmation of two things: one that the book itself was probably no good, but secondly that there were bits of it that were encouraging enough to make me think that perhaps I could be a writer after all. And so I kept going, writing short stories, learning about the magazine market, and eventually starting another novel, which was a little better than the first.

I can't say that I wouldn't have become a writer without that jolt of encouragement, but who knows. It certainly played a part. So if at some point you have enjoyed something of mine, please lift a glass to my mother, who was there right at the start.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Monday, 16 November 2020

Hey, America

You're capable of this:


You're also capable of this:


I don't understand.

Images via CNN and The Guardian/Niyi Fote/via Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

A Minor Mystery Resolved

 For nearly fifty years I've had the faint memory of a book encountered during the very start of my schooldays, but about which I could say almost nothing at all. The book had some creatures on the cover which were somewhat reminiscent of Moomins, but it was not a Moomin book. (When I first heard of the Moomin stories, I felt that my quest was ended, only to realise that it was not the case). All I could recall with any clarity was that there was something in the book about small creatures who were easily squashed, which is really not much to go on, and not necessarily the sort of thing one wants to be Googling.

It turns out that the book in question is this one:


It was published in Australia in 1967. Presumably a British edition was available at the same time, or at least by 1971 or 1972, when I most likely encountered it.

From the Wikipedia entry:

Gumbles are the most friendly and cheerful creatures in the bush and can be squashed into any shape without being hurt, although when flattened or "spanked" out completely they cannot regain their own shapes without help. They are hopeless when they get the giggles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottersnikes_and_Gumbles

I would still be searching for this book were it not for a question on this week's edition of Only Connect, which mentioned the word Bottersnike and made enough of a connection to have me rushing to the computer. Such is serendipity.

I am delighted to have squared this circle and will be seeking a suitably old paperback copy of the book in question.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Resident

 


For the last couple of winters, or part thereof, we had roosting birds occupying this nest box. Last year a great tit was in all winter, then built a nest, although unfortunately all the hatchlings perished. Now a blue tit is in the box. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Weasel Park West

 A couple of sketches based on observations of weasels in our garden.