Tag Archives: dementia

Still hanging in there …

Still here … 🙂

There’s been a bit of a long break and I thought I should probably pop in here, if only to reassure you that I’m still alive. There is a reason for my absence. First up, I was away on holiday for two weeks, during which I incredibly cleverly managed to get COVID 19. We all had it, the boys for a couple of days each. Me? Like all colds it went on for chuffing ever. First a week of really bad allergies during which I consulted a pharmacist in the resort and as it only appeared at night she reckoned I was right in thinking it was allergies.

Then, on our last day at the ski resort, I woke up with a temperature and a full blown cold (I get a temperature for the first couple of days with most colds, I’m rubbish at them). The cold turned into a two week sinus infection. After that there was a period where I felt very post viral. Once I’d been clear five days I went to church (I sing in the choir) and at the end of the first hymn I was surprised at how weak and sweaty I felt. I think it’s pretty much gone now but I’m still really tired and I feel terrible about all the people I met and spoke to over the second week on holiday, when I was huffing COVID cooties over everything. I sincerely hope I didn’t give it to any of them.

On the up side, although I didn’t know it was COVID I knew I had a cold and I felt it was only polite, in the current pandemic, to wear my mask for every and any interaction with other people. I also sanitised my hands to the point where they were so sticky I could probably have used them to climb up the sheer sides of glass buildings. Probably.

Hopefully all that protected everyone from me. I think masks probably stop more coming out than they stop going in. I hope so. The fact it was Easter and everything was shut also helped as it meant I didn’t sit in restaurants infecting people the way I might have done if any of them had been open.

While I was feeling drippy and post viral, I ditched anything that I absolutely didn’t have to do. So that meant everything except a bit of writing here and there, my monthly newsletter and Mum stuff, of which there is a craptonne right now. I also included ditching the blog. Although, I’m beginning to think that ditching blogging might not have been such a good idea. Not in the long run.

Overwhelm

I didn’t mean to talk about this today, but I’m going to because, fuck it, this is my blog after all.

The thing is. The Mum stuff has been really hard. There was so much of it that at first I was afraid (I was petrified!) Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side. At first I did just go into fluffy-bunny-in-the-headlights mode but after a few weeks of going, ‘shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!’ I managed to belt up and did what I always do in situations like this. Ignored it and pretended it would go away. No! I stopped looking at how much there was to do and divided it up into little tasks; began at the edges if you like, chipping away at it one small job at a time. Phone this, post that, check these etc. Trying to do one small thing each day.

Net result; I’ve finally broken the back of it. I should be smug and yet, I still feel a bit overwhelmed with it all at the moment. I know why, too. I’m coming up to the anniversary of Dad’s death and I miss him, real him. When Dad was sliding into insanity, I could always ask Mum stuff. But now Dad has gone and Mum is sliding into insanity and there is no-one to talk to. Well no, there is but I’m making these decisions without the ultimate authoritative input of the demented person’s spouse, whereas when we made them about Dad it was simply a case of discussing it with Mum.

This is the hardest and loneliest thing I’ve done. It’s worse because I know my brother doesn’t really agree with what I’m doing. I love my brother dearly and I don’t want to fall out with him but the stress of continually going against what he wants, and what is actually the most sensible course of action, is a bit grim. The trouble is, the sensible thing isn’t what’s best for Mum, and if I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning for the rest of my life, then I have to do what Mum wants. Even if she is as mad as a box of frogs. Even if, were I to ask her aged 50, she’d be horrified. It’s a bit of a shit position to be in.

Also, with the mountain of stuff I had to do, and the fact I was recovering from COVID and couldn’t do much else, I did have to have a bit of a sprint at it eventually. Drop everything and sort it. This approach is OK for a short time but with the COVID it went on longer and … I suppose I’ve looked too hard into the face of Mum’s dementia for too long and that always leads to trouble.

The trick with dragging the millstone up the hill is to know what’s happening but at the same time, not acknowledge it. Like some warped Magic Eye picture, I can see the image but I mustn’t uncross my eyes and let reality creep in or I will be undone, and god knows I can’t be undone.

If I allow myself to think about what is happening in the wrong way—or at all really—there are tears. But not useful, get-it-all-out tears. They’re the pointless crappy ones that achieve nothing and just fill your nose with snot.

Also. I’m so fucking angry. I’m absolutely incandescent that my parents were promised free health care and then, at a point when it was too late for them to do anything about it or plan for alternatives, it was taken away. Oh I could rail against the Government, and NHS’s institutionalised discrimination against certain mental illnesses while it happily treats others but what’s the fucking point? I could write letters, I could write to my MP and get the usual boilerplate reply referring me to the statements she has made about the issues that most concern her  on her website. She doesn’t even pretend to give a shit.

All it will get me is a sore throat or numb fingers. I could keep on asking the powers that be why, if two people have the exact same symptoms, one can be treated on the NHS for free and the other is forced to pay—not just their money but their house, possessions and everything they own, simply because their illness has a specific name. I could ask why people with dementia are taxed to the tune of all they own, unless they’re fortunate enough to die first. I could ask them if that’s just. Or right. Or building back better.

I suppose it might make me feel I’d made myself heard but I doubt it. Trying to do anything about it is like pissing in a wetsuit. Doubtless it will give me a nice warm feeling for a moment or two but it’ll make fuck all difference in the long run.

And I suppose it doesn’t help that we seem to have one of the most morally destitute bunch of stone-hearted cocksuckers ever to darken the doors of Parliament running this country right now. A bunch of feckless, misogynistic lounge lizards who also, unfortunately, appear to be completely teflon.

We have someone at the head of the nation who is an international joke and, possibly, one of the most unsympathetic and bone-headed premiers since Cromwell. Except, stone-hearted, empathy-free bastard that he might have been, at least Cromwell appears to have had some kind of moral compass and seems to have genuinely believed he was acting to help his people rather than just blatantly helping himself.

The present shower appear to pride themselves on having the kind of moral standards that make the Emperor Nero look like an exceedingly uptight nun.

Sorry, where was I?

Mum stuff and it being hard. I guess what makes it hard is that everything takes ages. Twenty minutes on hold, minimum, for a three minute telephone conversation. Then there’s the whole fact that we are mortgaging Mum’s house so we are basically gambling on how long she has to live. And we can only mortgage half so if she lives more than four and a half years, we’ll have to sell the house and move her into a home anyway.

Then

I guess what I’m saying is that it is possible I need to do some serious self care.

If you are looking after someone with dementia, this is probably the point where you’re hoping I’m going to share some amazing coping mechanism with you, right? God in heaven! I wish I could. But to be honest there just isn’t one. I guess the almighty (who I’m also pissed off with about this) has just decided that the camel WILL through the eye of the needle and 50% of people over 70 will get gold plated entry into the Kingdom of God by din’t of a whistle stop visit to hell before they die. Going nuts and spending everything they own on care.

Seriously though, one of the things not writing my blog for a few weeks has taught me is that actually, it’s pretty vital I that write my blog. By venting all the anger and weirdness and tension on here I get to be effortlessly normal in the Real World.

Well. No. That’s not exactly true. Normality is always an effort but you get the picture I’m sure.

For example, having a Basil Fawlty style rant on here and will make people laugh. It might make them think and it might make them sympathetic but by making it funny and airing it here I can cut the sense of overwhelm I feel down to a manageable size. Laugh at it and it loses it’s power and all that.

Conversely, having a Basil Fawlty style rant in real life leads to awkward silences. I’m clearly not funny enough to carry it off face on. Or maybe I’m just too desperate and too angry. Like a young woman I saw on Live at the Apollo a few years ago who did a fabulous stand up routine about nursing her mother through cancer. It was so powerful, but it was also painfully raw and the audience looked like they wanted to hug her, not laugh.

Even worse, by not ranting it all out here, it spills out when I talk to Real People. Yes, I have fallen into a terrible habit. When people ask how I am, I’m fucking well going and telling them.

This is not good. This is so, so not good.

I do not want to turn into the kind of person people hide under parked cars to avoid. I don’t want to be the dear woman my mother used to hide in the coat cupboard from (she was lovely but she was enduring very tough times and she talked soooo much).

Am I there yet? I don’t fucking know! But I fear I’m perilously close. I’m going to meet up with some of my old school friends this week and I am actually quite nervous. I have lost so many friends by meeting them during a crisis after a long time apart and then being too intense, too weird and too chatty to the point where they quietly delete my details from their address books and move house.

A big part of the stress is that I’m appalling at this stuff. Seriously. In my 20s, I had an IQ of 149. One point off genius level. But the side of my brain for maths is … it’s so stupid. Brain 1 is sitting there looking on in complete incredulity as Brain 2 tries to understand compound interest. One side of the house is mercury quick, the other is like wading through semi congealed tar. It’s weird and frustrating and thank God McOther has agreed to attend the mortgage meetings with me so there is someone there to ask pertinent questions and understand it all straight off.

Then there’s a fair bit of guilt. One of the things that cropped up, doing all of this, was how badly I’ve taken my eye off the ball. I confess that while Mum was reasonably well and not deteriorating as much, I kind of let things slide. I wrote stuff and did things with my spare time that normal people might do. IE nothing particularly looking-after-Mum related. She was very frail after Dad died, and although I knew that the Almighty is far too hell bent on crapping on us all from the stratosphere to do us the mercy of having Mum’s money outlast her, there were three years of it and logic said it should.

I really should have known. Again, it might be easier for us to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of God but I’m sure that, with the help of a blender I could— yeh alright. Moving on.

Returning to my derelict duties I discovered that Mum’s payments from Dad’s work pension had stopped and that she is on the lower rate for one of her benefits when she should have been on the higher one since she started to need carers at night (April 2019).

Gulp.

On top of that, I realised that if the council tax definition of severely mentally impaired goes on levels of dementia alone, she should be eligible for a council tax disregard, which means her council tax payments are waived. As these are over three grand a year it seemed quite a good idea to get the forms for those and ask her Doctor if he was prepared to sign them. If he doesn’t, I am now at the point where I can safely say I’m spending over 35 hours a week on Mum and I will claim carer’s allowance with a clear conscience, instead, and bung some of that her way. (You can’t do both).

None of this is quick. Oh my goodness no. But I stayed on hold for the prerequisite 20 minute plus to each of the august bodies I was required to contact and got the forms sent out. In the case of the pension, although Mum had signed a chitty to say they could talk to me, it was too long ago. They gave me an email address to send my power of attorney to and then told me I’d have to wait 10 – 12 working days before it would be ‘on the system’ and I could ring to ask my question again, at which point, they assured me that they’d answer it. I put a note in my diary to ring on the magic day and relaxed knowing the forms would arrive at Mum’s while I was away and I could pick them up a couple of days after getting home.

But then I arrived home and discovered I had bastard COVID and I couldn’t get to Mum’s to pick the forms up before they expired.

Can you guess what happened next kids?

Urgh. Yes. That’s right. I had to phone them all again. I swear the Man has decided that the new way to keep us down will be to give us pointless shit to do, like sitting on hold for a fucking eternity to ask a question that is answered in about ten seconds.

So over the past couple of days I’ve been writing covering letters and filling in forms. In black ink and in capitals. Needless to say, I ballsed up the forms extensively but hey, Tippex is my friend. I sent one form to Mum’s for her to sign with instructions to the carers as to what they needed to add (her list of meds) and bless them, she signed the forms yesterday and they put them in the post. So that’s one job done that I’ve been meaning to get round to for several months.

Meanwhile at the beginning of the week, I sat down with the next round of paperwork the mortgage broker had sent, filled that in, decided how much we needed to borrow and sent it off.

Yesterday, I filled in the council tax form and sent it to Mum’s doctor, with an SAE to send it back if he signs it. Once that comes back to me I can send that on, or apply for carer’s allowance if he can’t sign without a pukka diagnosis. Mum is doing fine thinking her memory is crap. She can maintain the illusion that it isn’t dementia, even though she kind of knows it is. But if she formally hears she has it she’ll be undone. So I can’t get a diagnosis if she has to be told about it too, it’s too unkind.

Good news is, the fucking mountain of administriviatative shite is nearly all in the bag, except for signing up to the actual mortgage, which will require the services of a solicitor. Oh yes and getting rid of the last of Mum’s shares, which are in an old family firm but needs must. They have to go.

This is not the end, or even the beginning of the end but it is the end of the beginning for this particular period of intense Mum-based activity. Once we’ve got this bit done she’s set for another three or four years and it’s like I can see the end of the tunnel on this batch now, after which there will be a calm period.

Sure it will be horrible when the mortgage is spent and we have to sell the house and put her into a home, but there’s no point agonising over that until it happens. I guess what I’m saying is that, I should be able to write some more soon.

Talking about writing …

There is an outside chance I will finish the current W.I.P. this year. There are 102k words of it so far and I have a horrible feeling it’s going to be three books. I might be able to break it up into 50k instalments though. We are only half way through but it’ll need tightened up and when I’ve done that I suspect I’ll have three 50k instalments, two 85k novels or one absolute monster. As the other books are short but the first book featuring Goojan Spiced Sausage is also 85k I’m thinking two at that length would work really well. Otherwise one 50k and one 85k (if I can keep the prose spare enough) would also work with the some books short, some books long nature of the rest of the series.

Lastly, I’m thinking of entering Too Good To Be True for a sci-fi book award. The books have to be over 50k, a stand alone or a first in series. I’d be entering it as a stand alone. Unless it isn’t. Decisions decisions. The competition is adjudicated by sci-fi bloggers. They’ll probably hate it. They usually do. But what do I know?

Right. Until next week, that’s me … although it might be after next week, but it might not because I have to tell you about my pathetic efforts to do a calorie controlled diet and my new electric bike! Woot. I’m also thinking of doing a kickstarter to raise funds for the next book in the Hamgeean Misfit series, Starting at $10 but it gets all the other books too, or something like that. Let me know in the comments if you think that’s a good idea.

If you’re bored …

Why not try the audio box set of the K’Barthan Series from my shop with 30% off. If you’d like to give that a go, click on the link and type ARNOLD at checkout.

K’Barthan Box Set Audio in Reduced Circumstances

Alternatively, if you enjoyed the books and have the inclination, why not write a review of one of them. A list of them, with links to them on the main stores can be found here

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Deserted landmarks and empty milestones …

Recently, I’ve been feeling slightly muted. Tomorrow would have been my father’s birthday and a few days ago, my phone’s calendar flashed up a reminder warning me that I might want to get prepared.

It hurt.

I still miss Dad, which is illogical, because it’s not as if he died a bad death or his departure was even a bad thing. It was a mercy. He had suffered enough and there was nowhere else for him to go. Death was the next stage for him and I am certain that he was more than ready. Although it hurt to receive it, I couldn’t bring myself to remove that notification from my phone. Maybe next year eh?

Strangely, I find that these empty milestones that were once land mark days often come accompanied by a stream of coincidental, memory-triggering events. I don’t mean the phone notification it’s more stuff like the fact that today, in church, we had a couple of hymns that Dad loved. Immortal Invisible is one where the memory of how he sounded, singing it, was so strong that I could almost hear him beside me. Likewise, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, which we have had at most family funerals on both sides of the house, weddings too — to the point where I feel guilty not having it at Dad’s.

There is a bit in Dear Lord and Father of Mankind which can be construed as rude … if you work at it very hard. Today, I found myself smiling as I remembered Dad leaning over to me after the service, in a conspiratorial manner, and telling me which bit it was and why.

This from the man who was endlessly telling me the latin or greek roots for things … which is not as erudite as it sounds because Dad was a natural rebel and liked to be a little subversive from time-to-time. That’s probably why the only instance I can remember of his efforts to educate me is constipeo (constipere, constipatatum, constipatus sum) — which means ‘I bring pressure upon’ and from which we get the modern word, constipation.

How proud he’d be!

Or not.

Dad

Then again … I do remember him gleefully sharing this information with my brother and I, and Mum’s gentle, ‘No! Darling!’ which was more for show than anything because she was trying not to laugh. Indeed, as a nipper growing up, I remember all four of us as being terrible potty humourists, you only had to shout, ‘bum!’ at my family in the right way and we’d fall about laughing.

Mum was probably the best at pretending to be normal, Dad could do it as well, but he did tend to be a bit forgetful which blew it all apart at the seams sometimes. On the up side, as I told him when he started to get dementia, since he could never find his keys anyway, he’d be quite far gone before anyone noticed. Which turned out to be the case.

In my last year at Lancing, Dad retired as housemaster. Since he and Mum had left the accommodation on site I was boarding. Dad was Head of The Common Room which basically meant he was now housemaster to the teachers. One evening, I was on my way back from supper, or possibly a rehearsal or something at the music school and I encountered Mum and Dad, in their best black tie glad rags, with the parents of one of the lads in Dad’s house.

‘Hello, what are you doing here?’ I asked.

‘We’re here for the Common Room Dinner,’ Dad explained.

I glanced over at the door of the Master’s Dining Room. It was looking a bit closed and I couldn’t hear much in the way of chat going on. Should I say anything I wondered? No.

‘It seems to be a bit late starting,’ said Mum.

‘Right,’ I said. I think I wished them well and skipped off without a thought.

The next day I asked one of the other staff if they’d enjoyed the dinner the previous night. ‘That’s not until next week,’ I was told.

Oh dear … poor Dad, I remember thinking. Poor Mum, too as she had to produce dinner back at home and she had precisely zilch with which to do so. I think she rustled up a quick risotto with tinned ham and frozen mixed veg.

Life was never boring at home indeed, it was years before I reached the point where my parents were remotely shockable. They were more open and accepting than most of my friends … perhaps I should just leave that as, ‘most people’. Mum still is.

I miss Dad a lot. I suppose that’s partly because, as time passes and my memories of the shouty bit that plagued his last few months at home have begun to fade, I’ve begun to remember who he was — which is a bonus. The only slight drawback is that when you’re stressed your brain dumps an enormous amount of intel and unfortunately, I’d say as much as half my childhood memories, and my memories of Dad, have melted away post the stress of dealing with his Alzheimer’s. So it’s kind of wiped my memory, as well as his.

That’s a point of order though, because on the whole yes, I remember who he was more. Who he really was, and that’s a Good Thing. I have a video of him talking on my phone, in his proper, non demented voice. He had Alzheimer’s at the time, advanced Alzheimer’s, but it wasn’t manifesting itself so strongly and it’s so much him, that vid, that I treasure it. I realise that I need to make a video of Mum. I might get her to record one for McMini next week, saying she’s looking forward to seeing him. That will be one for both of us to treasure then. Because that’s the first thing I find, when someone dies, you subtly start to forget their voice. Not totally, but when you hear it properly you realise how much is missing from your remembered version.

Then there’s the fact that, on top of the better memory of who Dad was, I’m finding that, as Mum follows her own dementia journey, I am keenly aware that this time round there’s no ‘sane one’. Through most of Dad’s illness, I could ask Mum for guidance if I wasn’t sure I was getting something right. She would know exactly what Dad would have done or said. It’s probable that, because of that, I know what Mum wants. But there’s no Dad to check with. Because he’s dead. And even if he wasn’t dead, he’d have been nuts.

Shortly after he died, I was out with Mum in the garden walking very slowly beside her as she crept along with her walky frame-on-wheels thing. At that time, we always made a beeline for the bottom of the garden because it was beyond the range of her panic button and she wasn’t allowed, or at least was strictly encouraged not to go there unaccompanied. She did, of course, but we all pretended she didn’t. As we walked I suddenly heard Dad’s voice in my head saying,

‘Oh darling! Just look at the state of your mother, I can’t bear it.’

Pyrimid Orchids at Mum’s

It was so vivid I turned to look but he wasn’t there. I remember thinking ‘back’ that I’d do my utmost to look after her and that while I couldn’t make her better, I would try to keep her happy.

Most of the time, I know those things are my imagination, but every now and then, one pops up from such depths that it feels as if it wasn’t me. Weird.

As well as it being the eve of what would be Dad’s 91st Birthday, had he survived, today was also the 70th anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the throne (in English, since the death of her father).

As a result, the last hymn was I Vow To Thee, My Country — a hymn I would like a lot better if the tune didn’t concentrate itself quite so comprehensively in the crackly twilight zone between my upper and lower range. Then we finished with the National Anthem which goes to a tune I rather like — apologies to Billy Connolley, who, I know, believes we’d be much better off using the theme tune to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’.

Run with me, there is a spot of relevance to this one. I remember reading somewhere, a while back, that The Queen was very upset when her uncle abdicated. To the point where she took herself off somewhere quiet and cried for a long time. Legend has it that the reasons for her grief were twofold; firstly, because her father lacked his brother’s strong constitution and she shared the view of himself and most other members of the Royal Family which was that being King would do for him. Secondly, because she had to face the godawful truth that she would have to be monarch, which is a job that nobody sane with the smallest understanding of what it entails would want.

Few people seem to see beyond the wealth but I’m sure fame, or being monarch, could be pretty grim. I can’t imagine how I’d feel having people like Robert Mugabe round to tea. Sure his name backwards sounds like Yorkshire swearing (eee by gum) but that doesn’t make any of his actions funny. Supping with murderers and meat-packing tyrants might be quite grim but since you’re part of the state machinery, it’s what you do. There’s a point where being monarch might actually be quite dehumanising, I suspect.

Years ago, growing up in the school, everyone knew who I was because they all knew who my dad was. That meant everyone felt they knew me well, even people I’d never met in my life. Every now and again someone would pop up and say hello and I’d have no clue who they were. So I’d ask after their work, and various other things until I could pin down which of the people Mum and Dad had described — but whom I’d never met — I was talking to. I was always aware that my behaviour towards other people reflected on Dad so despite being an absolute menace in many respects I was always as polite as possible to everyone, especially the people at the pointy end, the cleaners and domestic staff.

Sometimes, I felt the pressure. Especially when I hit my teenage years and boys started wolf whistling at me out of windows etc. But I could always go off site where nobody knew who I was. There’s no ‘off site’ if you’re queen. Most people want a piece of you. Anyone else hates you. Everyone thinks you like it. Everyone thinks you can say no, the way they think my brother and I could say no to looking after our parents. But actually I doubt she can say no any more than we can. Being Queen? I think it’d be a bit shit to be honest.

The point is, she’s spent 70 years of her life doing a job that she categorically did NOT want to do. OK, so she might have come to enjoy it by now, who knows. The point is, it was the antithesis of what she wanted at the start. The perfect storm of NO. You can see where this is going now, can’t you?

Yep.

There are times when I do give the Almighty a piece of my mind about putting my Dad, and by proxy the rest of us, through so much. The fact that pretty much everything about the whole care thing requires a portfolio of skills that is the absolute antithesis of any of my fucking skills. Which is, indeed, a perfect storm of all the things in life at which I am spectacularly shite. Yes. Every. Last. Fucking. One. Oh and some extra things that I didn’t even know I was shite at until this kicked off, but now I do. Bonus!

The fact that pretty much all my duties of care are about playing to my failings. OK so I can sort of cope with that, because yes, I am able to understand that many parts of my life — most of them, to be honest — are fucking brilliant. Also I am able to understand that if this is the price of growing up with parents as lovely, open, amusing and out-and-out fun as mine I’m happy to pay up. But … the mental energy required to do stuff you’re absolutely bollocks at day after day is quite substantial.

The endless requirement to enhance my sorry performance from fucking awful to godawful-but-it’ll-scrape-by … probably (that’s a technical term by the way) is not only draining but it cascades down onto the pathetic embers of my creativity like a gushing torrent of rusty bog water, further hampering my efforts to write anything or … I dunno … for my existence to have a point.

Sitting in church today, thinking about how long The Queen has been monarch I actually felt a bit of a lightweight for whinging about 5 years running my parents’ finances. I will try to shut up about it and be less of a whinging twat from now on. Seriously though.

Seventy years.

Seventy fucking years people.

God in heaven! That’s a bastard truckload of CBT. Well done Ma’am. You’re a stronger woman than I.

On the lighter side …

Another quick heads up about freebies and cheapies available from my fabulous portfolio of literature. Er hem.

The Christmas story is still up for grabs, also, the audiobook versions of Few Are Chosen and Small Beginnings are down to 99c from my own store still. To find links to buy, or to download The Christmas One, just click on one of these links:

Few Are Chosen (remember it’s My Store only at the moment. It’s back to £7.99)

Small Beginnings (The ebook of this one is free at all participating retailers and on my store. The audio version is also free on my store, but £1.99/$2.99 everywhere else).

The Christmas One This one’s an ebook, obviously. Gareth has finished performing in Worms, presumably he is now bathed and scrubbed up and ready to do … audio things. Soon. There is an audiobook scheduled for late February/Early March.

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

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This week I am mostly … wittering

So a quiet one this week. I’ve been trying to finish off some of the admin. I’m getting there but rather slowly. Big pluses this week, I have done my tax return! Woot. It’s always a weight off when I finish that. It was made easier this year by the fact I started getting the information together a while back and so I’d collated the various bits of paper I need.

The hardest thing is that originally, when I did my tax, I would have a four page short form which I’d fill out and send in. I just declared how much I’d earned, how much I’d spent and then any income from bank accounts and shares. Now that I do an online return, I have to fill in the long tax form, which appears to be written in a cross between legalese and accountant speak. Jeepers. Even the simple stuff is complicated. Where it was profits, turnover and loss it’s now turnover and ‘allowed expenses’.

Expenses used to be extra things you could claim, for example if you bought a computer you could spread the cost as a loss over three years and that was a business expense.

Now, I don’t actually know if the ‘expenses’ it’s talking about are business expenses, or the day-to-day costs of running the business. I’m allowed legal fees and accountancy fees but is paying my cover designer an ‘allowed expense’? I dunno. Everything is so much more complicated. Thank you, Gordon Brown, for mushrooming the amount of tax law from one weighty tome to an entire fucking truckload of weighty tomes.

Bastard.

Onwards and upwards.

As a person with discalculia, numbers are extremely difficult for me. We are talking wading miles up to your neck in treacle. Weirdly, I actually have some scientific and mathematical pragmatism and logic but numbers themselves are grey and amorphous. There is nothing to cling onto. I get zero intellectual traction.

Words are like bright sparks, glittering and zipping down my neural pathways at the speed of light. I can feel the tiny nuances in meaning between them. Words are sparkling, and razor sharp and glittery and accurate. Numbers are grey and insubstantial with nothing to hold onto, or they are cloying and impenetrable, like slime; thick grey slime. Words … if I hear a word for the first time in my own language, I know instinctively what it means. Numbers are drab and faceless, the dementors of my intelligence, their meanings unknown to me, their messages scrambled or parsed in a code to which I have no key. They’re like a foreign language but there is no dictionary and I lack the intellectual capacity to discern them without one.

It’s important that I take numbers very slowly, to the point where it might be close to retardation. My mind and thought processes are usually quite quick, so my incapacity it makes me feel very stupid. It would be good to be bright and not … stupid. No wonder so many of us dyslexics are chippy about our intelligence.

Put that next to the knowledge that, if I get this wrong, I’ll go to prison and obviously it’s a recipe for a neurotic hissy fit and stress fest!

Seriously though, I go through these pages and pages of questions just thinking, I have no idea what this means, I’ll leave it blank. Although I reckon if they are questions I can’t begin to comprehend, they’re probably not asking something that applies to me. Gulp.

One particular joy is that we have to declare all our foreign earnings. We have some foreign unit trusts or something and I have to declare the few quid a year I earn which are ploughed back into them. I suspect individuals such as myself are not the type of people for which this section was added. I have also told myself that I will definitely, definitely file the current year’s return as soon after 6th April as I can. Except that was what I vowed last year and here I am, filing it in during January when the do by date is 31st … then again, they’ve extended it to Feb so in theory I’m a month early. Ooo now there’s a result.

Obviously, once I have got used to it, I can fill it in much faster and I’m much more confident. However, they rephrase all the questions and change the entire form EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR. Ugh.

Next up on the admin list is to try and confirm when Mum last did a tax return. I have a vague clue but not a massive one although I think I’m homing in on that gradually. We have to dispose of Mum’s stocks and shares now because there aren’t enough of them for it to be a sound investment strategy. The balance will go into a high interest account and fund her care while we arrange to borrow a yearly sum for care fees against the house. In the UK healthcare is free unless you have dementia, in which case, you have to bankrupt yourself. When you get down to your last £23k, except it’s not really £23k it’s actually £14k, the local authority will step in to help rather than the NHS. If you’re lucky, you may end up in a decent care home. If you live in an area where there are more demented people than care home places then it’s either up to your relatives to look after you, or if they are busy doing things like jobs to pay their rent and feed their families, you get four twenty minute visits a day to serve you meals and help you dress and undress.

Mum’s local authority are very good. They were great with Dad, but even so … I hope the house is worth enough to last her out.

I was thinking about dementia, obviously, with the life I live (Thanks God, you utter, utter git.) I think about dementia quite a lot. Mum’s is different from Dad’s. Well obviously because Mum is different from Dad. That’s the thing of course, every individual is different so each person’s dementia attacks them in a different way. I guess there are general pointers which allow folks who know what they are doing to work out exactly what stage the person with dementia is at. It’s handy to have a handle on that when it comes to planning care and anticipating whether to ease off or step it up.

My grandmother ended up lying in bed for a year. She was totally unresponsive and Mum said that she used to go visit once a week. She’d just sit there holding her mother’s hand and cry. Apparently the sister in the home was lovely and used to tell Mum that it was alright and reassure her that my grandmother was different – in a good way – after her visits.

I could see Mum going that way, herself. If she did, I’m not so sure I’d mind so much. Surely it’d be better than the torment Dad endured on his darker days, wouldn’t it? I’d read to her I think. Whodunnits, or books that I knew she’d enjoyed like the Children of the New Forest, and Ballet Shoes. Or the Romany books.

On a happier note. My cousin came over this week and we took Mum out to lunch at the pub round the corner. She wasn’t in the best of form but the visit went well and my cousin had some prints of the school I grew up in which she offered to my brother and I, but I don’t think he was interested, which was handy as I’m very pleased with them.

Said cousin also kindly gave me a print of a portrait of my … I dunno how many times great grandfather who started a newspaper called Bell’s Weekly messenger. See picture. He looks worryingly like Fraser from Dad’s Army. I believe he’s responsible for initiating the use of the double s—before that they used an f. But that might have been his father. I get muddled because there were two John Bells in a row.

Even though he is wearing the most magnificent Dickensian coat—of which I am extremely jealous—I am fully expecting him to step out of the print and tell me I’m doomed.

Extra bonus content was a book of poetry by my great grandmother which I think might be termed as ‘sentimental’. It’s sort of good and also sort of hilarious, bless her. She clearly travelled to India and Kashmir and found it hauntingly beautiful. I can’t wait to show it to my Aunt, who grew up in India. I think she might appreciate the descriptions and find the sentimentality as amusing as I do, but at the same time, I think I could get away with us having a giggle about it without being disloyal.

I was going out to the theatre yesterday evening so McOther and I decided to have our big meal midday and we went out to lunch to a noodle bar in town.

What is it with people, though? We arrived early and there were only a couple of diners in there, one sitting at a table one side, by the window, the others sitting about ten feet away, at a table that was also by the window but on the other side. We sat further in, near the wall.

While we were there, four more groups came in to eat. One sat on the table right behind me, although that was still a good three feet away from ours. Another sat at the table right behind McOther which was also three or four feet away. Neither was too close but, at the same time, they could have sat a bit further away.

Finally, as we were just finishing our plates of noodles, and enormous Dodge Ram wanker-tanker pulled up outside. It backed up, parking across the drive of the house next door and a family got out. It looked like husband and wife with granny and young daughter. They were all quite big, which, presumably is why the four of them had to arrive a vehicle about the same size as some of the smaller-sized buses operating in the UK — although it probably does fewer miles to the gallon.

The presence of the daughter, who could have been anywhere between about four and seven, was notable, in that she should have been in school unless she’d had special dispensation, or was unwell. She proceeded to demonstrate that she was, indeed, unwell by producing a wracking cough, you know, the sort of thing you usually hear from people who have spent the last 40 years smoking sixty a day.

Clearly the little girl was off school, recovering from a chest infection, or possibly, judging by the sound of her cough, pneumonia.

There’s no way the kid had the Rona, nobody would be that thoughtless, but in these dodgy times, someone who is clearly off school sick, coughing as if they are suffering from TB is always going to be a bit disconcerting. Bearing that in mind, when it’s me, I will always be a bit embarrassed about it and sit a long way from anyone else, I was kind of expecting them to choose one of the empty tables away from other diners.

Maybe they’d had it up to their eyeballs with people looking askance at their coughing kid, I dunno. But they came over as very concerned that they should be allowed to exercise their own freedoms and rights but at the same time, not remotely bothered if exercising their rights and freedoms came at the expense of other people’s — parking across someone’s drive because it wasn’t illegal and nothing said they couldn’t, for example.

The restaurant contained about ten or fifteen empty tables. Including the other half of ours. Our table was the end of a table for six, comprising a four seater and a two seater, and it had been turned into a two seater by being pulled about six inches away from the other one.

Did the new arrivals go for the social distancing option and choose one of the empty tables that were a decent distance away?

No.

Of course they fucking didn’t.

They came and sat next to us. On the four person bit of our six person table. Right hugga-mugga pretty much on top of us. The daughter barking like a sea lion all the while as they took their places. I was fully expecting to see the poor kid’s lungs land in her noodles.

Not that we stayed that long. We made a very, very swift exit. But instead of enjoying the rest of our noodles and then sitting for a bit with our cups of jasmin tea, we shovelled them in as fast as we could, knocked the tea back and legged it for the door.

To be honest, these folks were clearly completely oblivious. The kid probably just had asthma. The hospital’s not far away, maybe she’d just been seeing the specialist, who know. I’m not blaming them. Folks pull this shit all the time.

However, it did get me wondering why we are such herd animals. It’s a bit like that thing when you park in an empty car park and return to your car to find that there are now two cars parked in the car park, and the other is next to yours, and parked so close that you can’t open the fucking door to get in. What is it about we humans that means we have to all huddle together in a crowd? To the point where it’s bloody irritating.

Why, in a restaurant with about seventy covers, did three quarters of the diners decide to huddle in a close knit group round our table? I have no clue. I am always one to find an empty space, if only so we can relax and converse unheard. The rest of them? It’s like they wanted us to listen.

Finally to round off the week, the theatre performance I went to was Jenny Eclair’s new show, Sixty FFS which was hilarious. I bought the last two tickets in the house for a friend and myself, in separate boxes one each side of the theatre. Then the booking office rang us and asked if they could change the tickets so we were in the same box, which was ace.

Jenny was absolutely as funny and as outrageous as I expected. She was particularly funny about post operation constipation – which is a factor of the painkillers (for more on that story, go here). She was also very funny about Nordic walking poles – we all end up using them because we’re arthritic – and she showed off her gilet ‘I bought it in yellow to go with my teeth.’

If it’s on near you and there are any tickets left. Go! It’s hilarious.

Oh and I’ve even done a bit of work on Misfit 5. Woot.

All in all, then, a moderately successful week.

And now for something completely different.

As per last week, another quick reminder about freebies and cheapies available from my fabulous portfolio of literature.

The Christmas story is still up for grabs, also, the audiobook versions of Few Are Chosen and Small Beginnings are down to 99c on Apple, Chirp, Kobo and my own Store. To find an information page, with links to buy, or to download The Christmas One, just click on one of these links:

Few Are Chosen (remember it’s Kobo, My Store, Chirp and Apple the other stores still have it at£7.99)

Small Beginnings (this one is free on my store but 99c/99p on Kobo, Chirp and Apple.

The Christmas One This one’s an ebook, obviously. Gareth is currently performing in Worms (snortle) but there is an audiobook scheduled for late February.

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

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It is accomplished

To be honest, there’s not much more to say. This is going to come over as a monstrously self-indulgent and whinge to most of you and it probably is (although it’s supposed to be funny as well). But caring is a horrible conflict of emotions. It’s hard and difficult and you are very responsible for the safety of a vulnerable person, a vulnerable person who you love very much but who, at the same time, can be utterly exasperating. Especially during the night!

However, if there is anyone reading this to whom the business of caring and the endless enduring tension feels almost unbearably heavy. This is for you. You’re not alone.  Also, I’m also going to tell you about a narrow escape from a multiple bollocking and explain how being British is probably going to get my Facebook account terminated.

On the up side, most of the Christmas period was pretty relaxing but I have to confess that, on the downside the stay with Mum wasn’t. I was hoping for the best but fearing the worst and I had got myself in a bit of a dither – the exact same way she does, incidentally – and it was everything I feared.

The last two or three weeks have basically been one long panic attack. To the point where I have been referred for an ECG. It’s not fun and I’ve had to do far to much sensible, no-you-are-not-dying CBT for any of it to have been enjoyable.

On balance, I think it cost too much. I’m not great at caring. I find it really, really demanding, I do not relax and I have hit a point in life, and an age, when I’m not actually capable of three days of high stress with no let up and very little sleep. By day three I was a hot, sleep-deprived, tearful mess.

There’s also more going on with Mum than usual. The money has run out so we are mortgaging Mum’s house to pay for care. We have, pretty much agreed on how a skin cancer on her nose is treated subject to my pinning down exactly what happens during the procedure we’ve chosen so we can be sure we made the decision in an informed manner. I also have to find out if she’s been using her capital gains tax allowance but she hasn’t done a tax return for years so I’m not sure I’ll be able to uncover much.

First night, Mum was up at 1 am to wee and change her sleep pants and then again at 3 am getting showered and ready for Christmas Day because she didn’t want to be late for Church. I’d been expecting her to get up early for church so I was ready for that one. She did listen to reason so I managed to cut her off at the pass, before she started her shower and persuade her to go back to bed. She woke at six thirty but I was expecting that and I let her do her own thing for a while and then went in and got her sorted. We got to church on time so all was well.

Getting up at 3.00 am is not a usual occurrence. It does happen when she’s excited about something or worried about getting somewhere but not usually. Mum likes to do her own thing so I’d intended to leave her to shower, dress and get ready on her own – just popping in if she needed help with buttons etc.

When it came to it, though, she was very tired and wobbly and having trouble finding words. Sometimes I could tell from the rhythm of her speech what she was trying to say but most of the time I couldn’t. Hence, instead of leaving her to do her own thing, I hovered. None of the anticipated letting her get into the shower and going back to sleep because if she is too tired to string a coherent sentence together, the danger of a fall goes up quite a lot and it was just me. There was no-one else.

I got her to church but obviously, throughout the day when she wanted a wee, someone had to help her pull up her pants. I was that someone. I found it unbelievably hard and because she was a bit more distracted than usual, most times we found that she’d filled her pants so I had to put on a clean set, which involved removing the trousers and shoes putting a clean one on, putting the old one in a nappy sack and doing them all up again. That is so much less simple than it sounds if you don’t do this stuff regularly and the person you are helping is bent and twisted and arthritic and you are aware that every time her toes catch on those bloody trousers it hurts her.

Late that afternoon the event I’d been dreading happened – I really need some dan dan daaaaaah music for this moment but I haven’t any so you’ll have to imagine that in. Where was I? Ah yes.

The event I’d been dreading happened. Mum had a poo. She didn’t really know if she had finished or not (she only gets that distray once in a blue moon, lucky, lucky me!). I didn’t know either because I hadn’t done this. Turns out, I should have reminded her to wait for the splash (oh god). Since I didn’t she started to wipe while things were very much still in motion. On the up side, that did precipitate said splash though, I have to give her that. She got it on her hands, but luckily I managed to wipe it all off before she got it over everything else.

Learning note. Wiping someone’s arse when they’re standing up straight is really difficult.

Christmas night was wonderful, she was up at 1.00am to wee and that was it. I managed to relax the palpitations away enough to sleep and got 8 hours in! Woot. Obviously she was up at crack of sparrow’s fart because she always is. On the downside, when I went in to say hello, she was still all wobbly and couldn’t find her words, so once again, I didn’t dare stray too far away from her because I wanted to be on hand to catch her if anything happened.

Boxing day was alright but despite her fabulous sleep on Christmas night, Mum still seemed to be very tired. I left her to her own devices for an hour or two while I did some metal detecting in the garden and yes, the minute I got outside she did another poo and McMini came to find me. McMini, bless his heart, stayed up listening out for Mum, in case I didn’t hear and then came to tell me if he’d heard her moving about. It meant he was knackered, too, but I am so proud of him. Anyway, back to the poo …

Things went better this time. She tried to wipe early but I was able to remind her to listen out for the splash (oh god, sorry god). Oh you haven’t lived until you’ve donned single use rubber gloves and wiped a much loved parent’s bum after a crap. Yep some people are fine with it and if you are, well bully for you, you lucky, lucky fucker! On the one hand it’s a duty of love and I am happy to do it, on another it’s so unbelievably sad and upsetting.

I think one of the things that is difficult about caring for vulnerable loved ones is that by din’t of being vulnerable they can be downright exasperating. The word finding made things difficult. I was aware that I hadn’t stayed over for two years, that I’d kept the night care on when I did so and that a lot had changed. Even so, I’d kind of expected to be guided by Mum over the new bits or the parts with which I was unfamiliar. But that didn’t work because she wasn’t always able to make sense. The most exasperating aspect of it all, by far though, was that every night when I put her to bed, she’d say,

‘Now darling, I don’t want to be a pain and get up to early tomorrow so what time would you like me to wake up?’

‘If you can relax and watch telly until half seven that would be wonderful,’ I would say.

‘Right oh, darling, half seven.’

And the next morning, or the middle of the next night, there she’d be insisting on getting up, bless her. It just made it worse.

We got her to bed early most nights and Boxing Day we managed to get her happily into bed by about seven. I was a bit worried things were going tits up when she woke at 10.00pm for a wee. I was right. I was lying awake having palpitations until she woke at midnight and I carried on having them until she woke again at 1.00pm when I helped her change her pants. I did manage to got to sleep after that one but she woke again at three and then again at half past four when I went in to discover her preparing to get into the shower.

This time, there was no stopping her.

‘NO! I NEED to get up! NOW!’ she told me. She was quite agitated.

‘Mum, it’s four in the morning, everyone else is asleep.’

‘I don’t care. I must get up and get on.’

‘Why?’

‘Because otherwise we’ll be LATE!’ she said in some exasperation.

‘But why? What what for? We’re not going anywhere!’

‘Yes we will!’ She turned and looked at me very seriously and said, ‘The mice are rising.’

‘Er …’

This is where I should have laughed, made a joke and she’d have laughed too. Then I could have said she’d be saying more batty things like that if she didn’t get back to bed and sleep some more and she’d probably have gone back to sleep until 7.30 but I was so tired I just couldn’t think and act with that sort of coherence. Instead I asked,

‘Do you mean, the others are up already?’

She said something slurred and unintelligible which I thought was probably along the lines of, ‘Of course they bloody are! Everyone is.’

‘They’re honestly not Mum. It’s four thirty am, they’ll be asleep until nine at the earliest. If you get up and go downstairs now it’ll just be you and me, on our own, with nothing on telly sitting looking out at the dark for FIVE hours.’

‘I don’t care! I MUST get up NOW! It’s important!’ she demanded.

At which point, I just burst into tears and begged. I’m not proud of this but I’ll bet I’m not the only person who’s done it while looking after a vulnerable elderly loved one when they are all in, not to mention when the loved one is also knackered and therefore at their nadir, as well, as far as their easiness-to-look-after goes.

‘Please, Mum,’ I sobbed. ‘Please. I’ve only had four hours sleep, if you can give me another one hour and we make it five I’ll be OK please, I’m so tired, I can’t look after you today without one more hour. I can’t do it. Please, help me. Please go back to bed. You can get up at six, it’s only an hour. Please.’

‘No,’ she said angrily.

Right.

She was wearing no nappy at this point and she headed off to her bed and sat down.

‘OK,’ I said, taking some deep breaths and trying to sound calm. Wait. It looked as if … surely I couldn’t be that lucky. Had she forgotten what she was doing? Please, please God let her have forgotten. ‘What are you doing now?’ I asked, meaning to ask how can I help.

‘What do you think? I’m going back to bed!’ she said she still sounded nettled.

‘D’you want a hand with your pull ups?’

She softened a little, ‘Yes, please.’

So I helped her put them on, took her slippers off, got everything ship shaped and put her back to bed.

I suspect she was just aware that we were leaving and wanting to make the most of us before we departed. Or possibly she got 7.30 lodged in her head and started getting up three hours ahead because she wanted to be ready.

Aiming to get a visit in where she was relaxed, I took McMini down to Mum’s on Wednesday and managed to disgrace myself with an impressive driving disaster. Mum has a garage near her and I always fill up with petrol there, on arrival, before going to Mum’s. There is a tiny road leading from the forecourt to the street Mum lives on. It’s single track and if you meet someone coming the other way you usually have to back up. I don’t like backing up onto the forecourt because not everyone knows there’s a road there and as I kid we were rammed several times by people running off the forecourt and into us as we motored along the road.

Obviously, in these situations, what usually happens is that the driver with the least far to back, or the easiest manoeuvre open to them backs up. That meant the gentleman in the Prius should have backed up but now, it was abundantly clear that the entitled old bedge wasn’t going to. That left three alternatives.

  1. The old git in the Prius facing me could back up to the corner – a nice straight run of about three metres.
  2. I could back round a very sharp corner into the loading bay behind the garage. Doable in about fifty turns with my stupid low profile tyres, big brakes and 84ft turning circle (OK it’s not that bad but it’s not great either).
  3. I could pull up onto the sloped drive of a nearby house.

This is the point where actually, I should have just got out a newspaper and waited, pointedly, for him to back his short straight line to the corner where I could pass.

After a bit of futtering and flustered efforts to get round the corner into the back end of the garage I gave up and had a go at the the drive.

‘Mind the bin,’ said McMini.

‘Yes, yes,’ I said. What did he say? I thought.

There was a god almighty bang.

Arnold’s fucking socks I’ve knocked their bastard wall down! I thought. But managed to get away with saying, ‘Shit McMini! Have I just knocked down their wall?’

Images of what happens when you try to take out bricks and concrete with a few hundred quid’s worth of shiny fibreglass flashed into my head, along with projections as to the size of the repair bill. Because just as there’s food and then there’s M&S food so there is fibreglass and there is fibreglass that is part of a Lotus.

‘God mum! I told you to look out for the bin!’ McMini’s eyes almost audibly rolled in their sockets as he said this.

‘Wait, it was the bin?’

‘Of course it was.’

Oh lord be praised!

… or not.

Still from the comic relief Dragon’s Den video with Harry Enfield as Deborah Meaden

Someone had just appeared at the window. A woman, who was wearing an expression of gurning disdain, like Harry Enfield doing Deborah Meaden in the Dragon’s Den rip off on his TV show – see picture; this is from the Victorian Dragon’s Den as done for Comic Relief.

Shit.

Oh and thinking about it. We still hadn’t got out of the way of the miserable old bastard in his Prius and he was glaring at us and all. With an expectant expression. I ignored him. He could fuck off. You could have backed up instead you Knut and we’d have been on our way by now. I thought.

I drove up into the drive a few feet, avoiding the prone bin and scattered bin bags to let the miserable git in his Prius drive past. He glared at me, obviously saying thank you or anything was beneath him. So I did a thumbs up at him and said, ‘thank you, thank you for being so considerate and kind you’ve been really helpful!’ all the while nodding my head but doubtless with an expression that said ‘rot in hell you rancid fuck!’ because that was really what I meant.

Next I backed into the road, got out of the car and did a very hammy, ‘oh my goodness!’ kind of open-mouthed arms spread gesture of pantomime horror. I rushed to the bin, made sure I was handling it incredibly carefully and respectfully as I put it upright. I reloaded the five billion nappy sacks that were lying about on these people’s drive, along with their bin bags and then I lobbed in very carefully placed a plastic glove that had obviously blown round from the petrol forecourt on top of the bags, for good measure. All done, I closed the lid.

Finally, I put the bin back, really carefully, taking time to park it properly in the small square bit at the gate they’d put there specially, and make sure it was straight, and check if it had damaged my car without them noticing (it hadn’t result!). Deborah Meaden was no longer looking on but I feared that merely meant she was busy unlocking the door ready to come out and have a go at me. So bin replaced, I leapt into the car and drove away.

Doubtless a video of it all will appear on idiots in cars before long. Or bad women drivers abroad or … I dunno, something demeaning. For the meantime, though, I feel I did well. The old git in the Prius didn’t have a go and neither did Deborah – although McMini is as certain that ‘Deborah’ was a bloke as I am that she was a lady.

And there’s not a scratch on the car … And the bin was completely unscathed! And Mum was in cracking form and she and McMini watched Father Brown together and both loved it. I’m so glad I made him come with me.

Win-win, I’d say.

Facebook? I hear you ask. Yeh. I think I’m going to have to carry that one over until next week! Sorry about that but I want to ham that one with the prerequisite amount of sarcasm and generally give the whole sorry tale the column space it deserves! Mwahahargh!

Just a quick reminder, the Christmas story is still up for grabs, also, starting on 13th January, the audiobook versions of Few Are Chosen and Small Beginnings are down to 99c on Apple, Chirp, Kobo and my own Store. To find an information page, with links to buy, or to download the Christmas One, just click on one of these links:

Few Are Chosen (remember it’s Kobo, My Store, Chirp and Apple the other stores still have it at£7.99)

Small Beginnings (this one is free on my store but 99c/99p on Kobo, Chirp and Apple.

The Christmas One This one’s an ebook, obviously.

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

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An incredibly witty title that will entice visitors to my site

So here we are at that time of the week when it’s blog time again. This week I have been out and about a bit but suddenly, on Thursday morning, to my delight and joy, I woke up with a brain. Hello Mary! Welcome back.

Net result I am now close to 3k up on three different projects. Yes I was able to do that real Grown Up Professional Author thing of working on a project for an hour or so until I’d had enough and then going onto another one … three times. Ooo. There are few things better for the all round well-being than when I manage to get some writing done.

Other exciting things, I put the addresses of everyone who’d done the question for Too Good To Be True into the randomiser and contacted the winner. She was delighted, which is always gratifying, and when I gave her a choice of the ritzy Hamgeean Misfit Cup or one of the new Humbertisms set. She said surprise me, so I surprised her with a wipe my conkers mug. To my delight she’s really chuffed. Woot.

This was also the week when I discovered that Zazzle do a teapot. Um … yeh. So naturally we now have this …

For more details about that, just click this link https://www.zazzle.co.uk/im_a_little-180930934370375055.

Naturally, because Zazzle puts the name of everything on the listing I’ve just called it I’m a little … and Zazzle has added, ‘teapot’ which, of course, I find completely hilarious because I’m incredibly mature.

Hear’s some audio news …

Oh ho ho. Did you see what I did there? Yes, other joyous news this week, Gareth is recording Too Good To Be True.

Excuse me while I laugh with manic glee.

Mwahahahahahahrgh! Mah hwahahahahahaahrgh! Mwahahaahrgh!

Thank you.

There is something amazing about listening to someone else bringing the words I have written to life. It’s always a joy, but the more stories I read in forums about audio where people have picked the wrong narrator and aren’t getting on, or the narrator is refusing to do any changes, or the author is being a prig to the narrator, the more I thank my lucky stars. Gareth is a consummate professional but at the same time, not in a scary overly formal manner. He just does stuff when he says he will and if he can’t he tells you why and gives you a revised estimate of when he’ll do it. And he’s decent cove and amusing, and of course, he’s polite enough to laugh at my jokes which always helps.

As we speak, we are up to Chapter 16, the denouement of which caused me to laugh rather suddenly and spray my keyboard with coffee. Oops.

One of the best bits of the process is how each book seems to improve on the last. I don’t think it’s my imagination. I suppose recording audio could be like writing in that you’re always, kind of, in the learning phase and improving but I guess we never notice our own journeys in these things so it’s quite an eye opener to see someone else’s close up. Obviously, I’d expect him to be tinkering with his production efficiency to get the maximum out of his time; you know, the way he works or sends the chapters over, when he does the alts (as they come, or at the end) whether he stands up or sits down to record and stuff like that. And he has. But he’s also found a way to fine-tune the acting, which is a bit of an eye-opener because, frankly, I didn’t think that could be any better than it already was.

OK, so it might just be that he’s more confident with the tech and the process, meaning that his performance is more relaxed, but it seems that Gareth is not content with a product that is merely top-drawer and that his ultimate aim is to get beyond, that, to the top of the whole unit, where his work will sit, resplendent, with the mirror and the hair brushes. What he has done of Too Good To Be True so far is golden, I’m so chuffed with it. From my own point of view, I do think it’s the best thing I’ve written but Gareth is certainly doing it justice. I cannot wait until it comes out and those of you that do audio can have a listen to what he’s done with it. Sometimes you can hear the smile in his voice when he’s reading the bits he finds funny which gives the whole thing an unexpected intimacy and warmth which is great.

Other things, still on audiobooks … when I proof them, I usually listen to the chapters a couple of times, first just to get a feel for the voices, the flow and the narration generally and to get into it I suppose. Then I listen with a fine tooth comb to try and winkle out any misreadings or mistakes. Although Gareth hardly ever makes any, and if there are, more often than not it’s differences in pronunciation. Yes, I obsess over my books as badly when someone else is reading the bloody things as when I write them. Never mind that’s all part of being an author, or at least, part of being this one. This Wednesday, I had some new chapters, so that was a woot as I got to listen to them in the car on the way down to Mum’s.

When I arrived, Mum was in cracking form. I always play it by ear when I visit her. Sometimes, when I turn up she doesn’t really clock it so well but stays in the drawing room with the telly on. Those days, often, she will be too tired to do a whole visit and come lunchtime her words are slury and she’s nodding off. When that happens I pop in and say hello and then do an hour’s detecting and come back in just before 12.00. Other times, she comes out to greet me while I’m still faffing about getting my stuff from the car. If she does this it’s always a good day and so I don’t do any metal detecting. I know she’ll go the distance so I chat to her instead.

Another technique is to bring some gardening homework. She has an arthritic knee which gives way on her so she falls a lot. It’s no fun but it’s also dented her confidence a bit so she isn’t comfortable going out to the greenhouse on her own – we’re not comfortable letting her either. She loves pottering in there, though, she has a perching stool so she can sit and tend to her plants and it’s warm so there’s not the worry that she’ll get cold. Usually the gardening team help her but both the main ones have cancer at the moment and aren’t able to come. The third is keeping the lawns as short as he can and he and the carers are also watering the pots round the outside of the house, the greenhouse and the raised veg beds near the house. There’s another veg garden which we’ve let go this year because watering them takes a while and it’s not really fair to ask the care team to do that or the single garden team member – who is only doing it in his spare time anyway.

One of the pheasants at Mum’s there are two.

I’ve volunteered to grow extra plants so I can bring a few bits and bobs down to Mum’s, tomatoes, four or five broccoli plants, some cut-and-come-again salad maybe, courgettes, cucumbers and some climbing French beans. All those can be planted in the raised beds and watered easily by the carers. If it gets warm enough I can also get Mum out to the raised beds and she can help me sew carrots and lettuces … although we may need more netting as we’ll have the pheasants to contend with.

A few weeks ago, I took a tray of broccoli plants down there and told Mum that her homework was to plant them into pots. I got a big tray and some pots from the greenhouse which I filled with compost and she planted them all. Then I took four home and left five for her. Mum definitely has green fingers. Those four broccoli plants are happier and healthier than anything I’ve potted on so far. That was a huge success so last week I took down some tomato plants – although sadly I hadn’t any homework she could do other than looking after them – but she insisted they be put in the drawing room where she could keep a proper eye on them. This week I’m going to bring a seed tray and some climbing French bean seeds. Mine aren’t growing at all and the ones that have come up are unbelievably weak and feeble so I thought we could see if she has a bit more success.

We set up a big soaking tray on a table with a waterproof cloth at the end of the drawing room for the tomato plants so I can sit her up there and we can plant beans this week. It’s been great doing this because I know she enjoys it and I think it makes her a lot more chirpy. She loves a bit of gardening. It’s probably not quite the done thing but I reckon that if she can’t get to the garden, it will do no harm to bring the garden to her … it’s a pity it’s an antique table but unfortunately all the second-hand, junk room furniture Mum and Dad bought when they got married is now antique. Oops.

Anyway, last week, as I arranged the tomatoes in the tray on the table she was chatting away and she mentioned that she loved my books and asked if I’d written any more. She also admitted that she can’t follow them but thought it might be easier in audio. Could I set it up so she could listen? To be honest, I don’t think she could cope with MP3 files when I’m not there, although I might add them to the tablet I got her to do Zoom church on. But setting that aside, I can play her the odd extract when I go and see her. I told her that I had some with me if she wanted to listen now.

She seemed genuinely delighted at the idea so I played her the chapter from Too Good To Be True with Goldy McSpim – another one where Gareth has excelled himself – and she loved it and wanted to listen to some more. So then I played her the chapter which follows on, with a bunch of surly Grongles doing a house-to-house search while The Pan of Hamgee hides from them and she loved that too.

Her verdict was, ‘Well, darling! That’s as good as anything you’d hear on Radio Four.’ Which is what she usually says, but it was lovely because she was able to follow it and enjoy it. And because for the moment, she knows I’m an author again and that she loved the books I wrote and read them all. So all in all a happy week.

Right. Now I have to go and paint a wall. Two walls actually. A bientot.

One … two free …

Three things … first one free, if you haven’t read any of the K’Barthan Extras series about The Pan of Hamgee’s adventures working for Big Merv the first one, Small Beginnings, is free everywhere except Amazon. Feel free to click the report a lower price button there and ping them a link to Kobo or wherever if you want to. I have been meaning to get them to price match but as I explained last week … On the upside if you enter the code 3SB at check out you can download it free from my site. If you’re on for that you can find links to all retailers here.

Second thing; and second freebie. If you haven’t already done so and you want to hear the first ever audiobook that Gareth narrated for me. Actually, I think it was the first one he ever narrated for anyone that he was prepared to share publicly. He did a great job, as ever. Anyway, if you want to hear it, you can download it for free from my author’s direct account and also from Apple Books and Kobo for the rest of the month. Links to that can be found here.

Third thing. This is the last reminder that, if you haven’t done the K’Barthan invective quiz, now is the time. At the moment we have two out-and-out leaders but the rest is absolutely touch and go. Vote for your favourite! Or add one I’ve forgotten. You can find that here.

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Another fine mess I’ve got me into …

Although also … possibly … out of.

Too Much Information Alert …

OK, this post is, officially, going to begin with Too Much Information. I’m going go talk about one of the last taboos, my monthly cycle.

As a lady of a certain age, who is fitted with an … er hem … coil … I have been spared the joy – a word I use with extreme irony – of periods for the last ten years. Gone are the days when, were I to get appendicitis at the wrong moment, I would simply fail to notice and die. I have had both (although I still have an appendix) and on the pain-o-meter the monthly cramps won hands down.

However, despite this, I still have a, you know, cycle. There are days when I am completely sapped of all creativity and depending if it’s a long or short cycle the creative down times last from between forty eight hours to two weeks. I call this the meh time.

When Meh strikes (let’s give it a capital M) the trick is just not to try too hard until it’s gone. I can do artistic creative so long as there’s zero pressure on myself to succeed. So I can draw or twiddle with things in photoshop so long as I don’t take it too seriously. With writing, I can sometimes do stuff long hand but basically, I have to accept, at that point, that my muse has gone on a bender. I’m never sure if it’s on holiday, relaxing on a beach somewhere or if it’s lying in a dark back alley somewhere, out cold, in a pool of its own sick, empty vodka bottle still clutched in one limp hand. If I give it the time to have a bath and several black coffees it might produce something intelligible but on the whole, at moments like this it’s best left to sleep it off. I let it be and get on with other things. To do so is quiching out in many respects. But I’m not really talking about failing to turn up to the chair and write, this is more about sidestepping burnout.

An interesting aspect of this is that I hadn’t thought to count non fiction in the writing I do. Because despite the muse having fucked off on a bender, I have written quite a lot of things this week and historically, have written a fair bit of stuff in these phases. The bit that’s in trouble is the bit that makes up an intelligible plot then, it would seem. It may be that it’s not all Meh, or at least, not all Monthly Meh. I’ve found it really hard to get back into the saddle with the Sussex run and the whole looking after Mum thing and, as discussed last week (or was it the week before?) we have reached the stage where there is no point in denying our arses off any more. We have to accept that her memory is not what it was or, to be honest, I could probably just leave that statement at simply, her memory is not. It is slightly as if the whole looking after Dad thing has left me too exhausted to carry on. Whenever that thought occurs to me, I just have to accept that it’s probably true, file it in the can’t-be-fixed section and then ignore it and hope it goes away. Think of me as the owner of a 1960s car with a snapped fan belt, looping an old pair of tights round the alternator so it will generate enough juice to get me home. All that increased care and concern does tend to drop an anvil on the fiction-creation centre of my brain.

Usually from a great height.

Possibly even from the stratosphere.

Ideally, what I’d be doing right now is starting some K’Barthan Extras. But what I want to write is the big sweeping epic that will take years to finish and won’t sell (not that any of my books sell) – the Betsy’s Bordello origins story – and of course Space Dustmen. Neither of these will be finished by September which is, ideally, the point at which I ought to be publishing my next book. That said I could give Space Dustmen a go as I think that’s going to be less complicated and easier to split into adventures but in my world of highly-polished, unmarketable literary turds it’s the K’Barthan stuff that sells.

That said there wasn’t anything doing this week so I decided to do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t got round to. This includes the thing for my will which I still haven’t done but hope to have finished today. Fingers crossed. It also included having a go at some of the settings on my metal detector and finally sending Gareth his share of the royalties for this quarter. Note to self: do the royalties quarterly from now on, it makes it look as if there are more of them. Mwahahaaaahrgh! Self-deception is my friend.

Chatting to Gareth via whatsapp this week, he was talking about his singing lessons and how he is trying to alter some of the physical aspects about the way he sings so it’s more natural – and is therefore more effective – I think that’s the gist. He was worried about sounding ‘wanky’ snortle – one of my own favourite descriptors, that one – so he didn’t go into too much detail.

However, it did strike me that talking to Gareth about these things is very like conversations I’ve had with an ex triathlete friend, who now mostly rides a bike. Both are extremely talented, but a big part of it, I suspect, is that they are also very aware of absolutely everything that they can do to maximise that talent. They have learned every shortcut that will speed their progress from bleargh to perfection. Actually neither of them is starting from bleargh, they start from exceptional and kind of go on from there but you get the picture. I love that artists and sports people are as insanely geeky about their various theatres of operation as any scientist – although Triathlon Man is a scientist so perhaps the geekery is slightly less unexpected in his case. But I’m drifting from the point which is that this intensity, to me, is what separates the men from the boys and, probably, me from the professionals. I have those short cuts but … I dunno … I still seem to get nowhere. I spent the last three years doing a ground-up rebuild on how I produce and think about the books I write. Maybe it hasn’t worked so well, or maybe it’s just that the background stress levels are going up again so, once more, I’m having to fight harder. I’m at a bit of a loss. Again, I’ve reached a stage with my writing where I should accept that I’m not in a situation where I can have a career of my own. I should stop and give up but I just … can’t. On the other hand, I’ve just read an article by Robert Webb during which he stated that having said he wanted to be a novelist he has realised, after staring at a blank screen for the last twelve months, that he might need to give himself some other options. Ah Robert, Robert … I feel your pain. Welcome to the writing pleasure dome.

For whatever reason, writing, for me, seems to take a huge amount of emotional energy, and after years and years of grinding, spirit-sapping stress with Dad and now Mum, a whole decade plus of playing to everything I’m shit at in life and existence – thanks a fucking bunch there, God – I just don’t seem to have that energy any more, or at least, only in very small amounts. I am so, so much closer to burn-out over that than I was with Dad, because I’ve already done ten years of worry – including five of the kind of high intensity stuff I expected to have to maintain for three or four years at the outside. Right now, after a brief dip, I’m looking at another five or ten years of the same thing again. It is not … yeh. Let’s just leave it at … it is not. But having time off in lockdown, while handy at the time, might not have helped to be honest. Not at all. It just gave me a glimpse of what could be, but which I’m beginning to think never will be. There will always be someone with dementia I need to look after, until I reach the point where it’s me. I am really, really struggling to get back into it all. At the start, I remember thinking I probably had the stamina for three years or so, five at the outside. I guess the basic gist is, I was right. But there is no option for the battery to run flat. No way out. No end in sight. Just more and more and more admin, my mother’s, my son’s, my own – blimey but I’m a miserable bastard today aren’t I?! I just have to get better at pretending it’s not happening and carry on. Tights round the mental fan belt. I can do it. I might need a bit more CBT. I’ll look into some options.

Additional Meh factors might be the fact that it’s April, a month during which I traditionally sell fuck all books but I’ve had the worst month for book sales for five years. I’ve up to earn 40 dollars this month. All on Amazon. Usually I earn over a hundred. The fact that I can no longer construct a Facebook ad of any description that gets out of the learning phase isn’t helping either. The frustrating thing with those is that I had an ad that was working well, inadvertently edited something and had to reload it and now it can’t get out of the learning phase. That said. People are signing up it seems so maybe I should just leave it. My Facebook ads always go tits up around Christmas, Halloween and American Elections. But there’s nothing worse than spaffing a load of money up the wall for zero return in a field of operations at which you used to excel. I don’t understand it. If I narrow it down it says my audience is too small to have any hits, but it’s saying my audience is to small to achieve any hits if I choose people in NZ and AU who like Terry Pratchett and Books. According to the numbers, when it bothers to say something other than that my audience is to small, that’s well over a million people. At the same time, I’m getting three sign ups a day for my two bucks so I dunno, go figure.

Out of the Meh came forth Merch …

Back to the point. Meh. I decided that if writing was difficult I’d do something book related that didn’t feel like pulling teeth but needed to be done. So it was that out of the Meh came forth Merch. I spent Tuesday and a lot of Thursday making products which featured Humbert the Parrot quotes. I also did a couple of K’Barthan swearing things. So far I’ve done a couple of badges – oh and one sticker! Mwahahahrgh. Despite feeling a bit Meh, I observed that I was still able to do stupid product descriptions. Well, they made me laugh anyway. Then again, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are funny. Still after anticipating a rather flat couple of days, I had a remarkably amusing time with myself. Mum was on good form too, on the Wednesday, which always helps and we went to the beach yesterday for a walk and it was beautiful light with bright sun.

I think these Meh periods are probably part of life for every creative. OK some folks seem to be able to produce hundreds of books and I salute them. I could do that if literary creativity was like painting. I can paint like ringing a bell just … not as well as I can write. The fact is though, I seem to be so adversely affected by every little thing that sometimes, I’m surprised I produce anything at all. What I do manage is the result of hours of analysis and effort into the how and why of my ability to create so I can squeeze the maximum juice out of each tiny drop. I suppose if you want to be good at something that’s what you do. Maximise it. But … I dunno … it’s as if I have a few drips of potent creativity and I have to make it cover each book. While everywhere I look other writers seem to be just vomiting out books. Really good books too. Burp! Oooh there’s another one. I am probably looking at the wrong people and in the wrong places.

Talking of books, Gareth is hoping to start work on Too Good To Be True soon, singing-related shenanigans permitting. Which made me think of something else and that is, how intensely physical the performing arts are. I remember reading somewhere how people who are in a production full time often have to do an extensive range of weird and arcane physio exercises to keep all sorts of obscure body parts in trim. It’s amazing how much of something that seems large cerebral is, in fact, physical when it comes to doing stuff with your voice or an instrument. I do remember talking about this kind of stuff with my violin teacher when I was small and good at it. Body posture and stance are a huge part of it because you’re not just playing the instrument, you’re part of it because the sound is resonating through you. And that’s why the way you stand or breathe can make a huge difference.

That got me thinking more about writing. There seem to be three important factors that can fuck mine up. The first is pressure. Can I make up stories under pressure? No. This is probably why I am struggling writing more K’Barthan extras. There is pressure to finish them whereas there is not any pressure to finish the other projects which are ticking along nicely. Well … not really. So I have this strange dichotomy where I can write an 85k novel in about six weeks but only if a) that’s not what I’m actually trying to do, b) other stress is reduced and c) the six weeks are spread out over the course of about a year. It’s like learning to fly Adams style. Except instead of throwing myself at the ground, getting distracted before I land and missing, I have to throw myself into writing the next book, forget why I’m writing it and just … enjoy my K’Barthan holiday.

Getting the first set up started is the difficult bit. Once that’s there, if it’s a simple story with a main character and not much else, it will get from beginning to end reasonably fast.

Second thing … admin. If I have something looming, like a tax return or, in this case, some bits and bobs for my will, I feel pathologically compelled to do it before I write. But when I come to do it, because I want to write, I get bored and my mind wanders and I stare at my computer and get distracted and before I know it a day has gone by of me staring at the screen doing … I dunno what. The way round that one is to do a short burst of writing before I start the admin. Then at east I’ve done a bit of what I’m supposed to.

Third thing, hormones. There is the one week in every four where I’m never going to write anything. This is the time I use for editing or to drop writing and have a pop at other stuff; newsletters, writing ads, booking promos. Downloading the graphics and sorting all the links I have to share … that kind of stuff.

Fourth thing, I need to take the right measures. If that means giving up on it for a day or two and doing other things so be it. Yesterday we went to the beach for a day. We spent an amusing hour having lunch in a pub garden and the conversation included inventing euphemisms for going to the loo. Starting with the well known ‘I must go siphon the python’ we built on the theme and finally ended up with McMini calling it, ‘I just have to go and deal with some yard trimmings,’ while I preferred, ‘I just have to go and fly-tip a sofa’. Yeh, I know but we thought it was funny. McOther just sat there with a contented, these-are-my-children kind of smile on his face.

picture of the sea
I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky. I left my socks there yesterday. I wonder … continued on page 94/…

Thing is though – going back to my ongoing fight with my muse – for most of 2020, pandemic aside, I was in post op recovery or a great deal less stressed. I couldn’t do the Sussex run for a lot of it and in many ways, Mum’s well-being was out of my hands – or at least, I didn’t feel as painfully responsible for it and I was able to let so much stuff go. It was awesome. I didn’t need to take measures, or follow any of the protocols I usually have to follow to write. I ate exactly what I’m eating now, but I lost weight instead of putting it on. There was no need to keep a daily word count and do the ten minutes a day thing. Now there is. Now, I’m back to the place I was in 2018. I need to pull every trick in the book to keep the tiniest trickle running from the creative well. I need to keep it alive because if I don’t the other stuff is going to get a bit overwhelming and if I get overwhelmed, I’ll be no good to anyone. I need another holiday – already – and since I can’t have a real one, I have to pretend. And if there is any talent in me, it seems that I have to support it with a lot of painfully convoluted mental gymnastics. It’s a a gargantuan ball ache but it is what it is. I just have to accept it and get on with it. I guess part of it is simply that I’ve reached a perfect storm where everything writing related is going dismally badly at once. I just need to grit my teeth and push on through. And do those bloody lists for my will. Ugh.


On a lighter note … K’Barthan invective poll results! Phark.

As discussed here, last week … K’Barthan products. Mmm. Last week I asked if you’d like to vote on your favourite Humbert phrases. Many did.

Congratulations.

As you may have gathered from my previous wittering, I took the recommendations and ran with them, well, OK, it was more of a case of, I shambled crazily for a few metres, went purple in the face and had to sit down for a minute or two … but it’s a start!

The runaway winners, if that’s the right word, were ‘Wipe my conkers!’ and ‘Bite my winkey!’ but there were many more, here are the top six:

  • Wipe my conkers!
  • Bite my winkey!
  • Windy trussocks!
  • Jiggle my tumpkin but don’t touch my drink!

Extremely close behind ‘windy’ and ‘jiggle’ were:

  • Arse!
  • Shroud my futtocks!
  • Bombs away!
  • Gits in a bag!

After talking to Gareth, I realised that I’d completely forgotten to offer ‘Futtocks away!’ as an option which is, apparently, his particular favourite, and one of mine, too. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all. If you’d like to see the resulting merchandise you can find it here:

This week, K’Barthan swearing is under the spotlight. So if you wish to vote for your favourite piece of K’Barthan invective, you can go right ahead and do that too. The ‘voting’ form is at the end of this link. Enjoy.

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Ouch …

Well it’s that time of the week to write a blog and as I sit here, tapping at my keyboard, I see from my BBC Newsfeed that the Duke of Edinburgh has died. It kind of reflects my mood. I sat down, determined to share a couple of stories about him, which reflect a warm, kindly fellow with a sense of humour. Except really what I need to write about today is Mum. Since one of the stories about the Duke is an encounter with Mum I guess it kind of ties in then. This should probably come with a trigger warning. If you do not want to read me whinging about dementia cut this one and wait until next week.

Random picturesque illustration for M T McGuire's blog, in this case Arras Grand Place.
Random picturesque illustration because I’m all out of – shrugs – y’know … pictures.

Right, those of you who are left, on we go.

We’ve had a bit of a time of it with Mum yesterday. First one of the loos at her house has broken and needs fixed. It does need fixed too because it’s the one the guests and the carer’s use. Well, it was put in 48 years ago so it doesn’t owe us anything. It needs a new siphon but odds are, we are better off buying a new loo. As sis in-law said, ‘it’s a rubbish flusher’ and she’s spot on. We could have limped on with it, but now it’s actually bust, I think it has to go. That evening, the night carer turned up to discover Mum sitting downstairs in the kitchen having breakfast. She thought it was morning.

Pretty much anyone who has a relative with dementia will recognise this. I think most of us reach this point in the journey when there is absolutely unequivocal, incontrovertible proof that the person with dementia really has dementia and that it’s getting worse, a lot worse. Not better. That’s so hard.

The thing about dementia is there is no way back, no getting better, no relief, no recourse. Nothing but deterioration and death. I try really hard, but it’s difficult to see that any which way but grim. The only thing you can do for a person with dementia is try to ensure that their days are filled with kindness and sympathy, that the moments they live in are happy and that this will amount to a feeling of overall wellbeing, even if they don’t remember why or where it comes from. Oh and that they experience the least fear possible. There is nothing else to be done. There’s a honeymoon period from the first signs to this point, where you are all denying your arses off and telling each other that it’s just old age and that a gentle peaceful death will intervene way before madness does.

Thing is. It won’t.

And when you hit the point when you realise that, odds are, there’s going to be no mercy. That’s when it’s really, really hard to stay … well … chipper. Truth be told, I do far more snivelling at this point than later on.

But you have this horrible dichotomy when you want the person to carry on living, no matter how ill they are, because you love them and you don’t want them to go. But at the same time, you know they can’t and that if they do, the person with you won’t necessarily be the one with whom you are familiar. So far, Mum is still, mostly, Mum. We are lucky in that.

Mum goes to bed very early. This is partly because if someone helps her to bed at six and she sits and watches telly in bed all evening there is less risk of her falling. She is self aware enough, in her good moments, not only to have mentioned falls but explained that avoiding this risk is a big part of her original decision to get to bed earlier. Later she was always a bit more wobbly, especially if she’d had a sleep in the chair. Now, even more so, it’s a case of doing it while she has someone to help with the buttons and to remind her what she’s doing. It’s also partly because as she becomes less mobile, she is far more worried about lighting the fire in case a log falls out and she can’t get to it or isn’t strong enough to wield the fire tongs and put it back. It’s cold downstairs without the fire and a lot warmer upstairs. Another reason to get to bed early. She is also smart enough to know the extent of her disability and realises that if a log fell out and the hearth rug caught fire, she might not be able to remember how to use the phone if she became flustered or panicked. The third thing is that she often nods off in the afternoon and she didn’t like it if she nodded off and woke up, confused and disorientated, downstairs. She found it easier to combobulate, so to speak (or is that re-combobulate?) if she was already in bed. Hence she started going to bed earlier, straight after she’d eaten her tea at half five, sixish. That way if she did wake up she was already in bed, which reduced the WTF factor when she woke up.

A couple of months ago she rang me at about half past five in the evening asking for help. She’d got herself into a right old muddle, she told me, and she didn’t know what time it was or what she was supposed to be doing. It was easy to tell that she was afraid and it was horrible. I reassured her and explained that it was about time she got herself her supper – which the carers usually leave out for her.

‘What do I do after that?’ she asked me.

‘Ah well, then, usually, you draw the curtains and go upstairs to bed where it’s nice and warm and toasty. You sit in your bed, in your room and watch telly and doze for the evening.’

‘Oh, I see, I’ll do that then.’

‘Good plan. Do you want me to stay on the line and guide you through it all.’

‘No darling, I’ll be alright. Just remind me though, curtains first then supper and bed?’

‘Yes and don’t forget to put your eye drops in.’

After that one, we upped the care so the carers now pop in at half five or six-ish and give her supper, have a chat, help her get undressed and help her to bed.

We’ve had a couple of dodgy episodes since, usually when she knows she’s got something on and insists on getting up and getting dressed if she wakes up at four am to go to the loo, so she can be ready in time. Then there was the moving to higher ground because the news on the telly about Covid was bad and her worry that I’d been trying to persuade her she hadn’t been living in the house very long – that was the other way round. She was saying she moved there in 1986 and I was trying to explain she had lived there over the holidays from 1974.

This one though. Waking up and thinking it’s morning, I’d guess that nearly everyone looking after a dementia sufferer has experienced this. It’s an unmistakeable marker, if we didn’t know it already, that Mum is leaving us. It’s more than an imagined shape in the mist this time, it’s clearly delineated shadow.

We’ve done this with Dad and do you know, I thought it would be easier. Why on God’s green earth did I think that? It’s just as shit. Except that actually, it’s worse, because it makes me miss Dad. I miss Dad with all my heart because THERE’S NO SANE ONE. There’s nobody Bruv and I can talk to who can reassure us we are doing the right thing. It feels as if it’s all guesswork. But worse than that; the most horrible thing of all, is that even though she’s still here, I miss Mum. The time I spend with her is very precious because she’s still there when I’m with her and when we live in the moment. But just as Dad got to the point when he couldn’t really talk so well phone any more, so Mum is beginning to have days when, if I give her a call, I know we aren’t going to have much of a chat. Those are the days when I’ll ask how she is and have a few brief words and then sign off. Kind of a relief if I’m strapped for time, but sad in other ways. And hard now because it’s one of the few things I can do for her and it was something she really enjoyed. But I also miss being able to ask her for advice, because she could do advice and she liked being asked and being able to help. It made her feel useful. Incidentally, that’s a really, really good thing to do in the early stages. Ask them advice. Ask them lots of it. It helps them think as well, which is also good.

This is the hardest bit really. I’m not very good at it. I thought that if we got to this point with Mum I might cry less, but I don’t. I’m not hardened to it at all. It still hurts like a bastard and if I’m going to look after her properly I have to let it, which is a bit of a pisser. The thing is, it’s light and shade, the shadows are there and we can all see them clearly now. Hence the tears. But there is also light and I just have to concentrate on the good days. And possibly up the care a little or have the night ladies come a little earlier. And exorcise it … elsewhere. Doubtless I’m going to be giving The poor old Pan of Hamgee a completely shit time in the next Extra. Either that or the series about Ada, Gladys and Their Trev at the Parrot and Screwdriver is going to get very dark.

Never mind, I have a fun quiz for you to do in a minute and since I’m here I may as well share those stories about the Duke of Edinburgh as well.

Duke of Edinburgh Stories.

The Duke of Edinburgh is controversial in many respects, I know but as someone with an inate and similarly powerful ability to cause unwitting offence he was a man with whom I could empathise. There are folks saying they are glad the Duke has died. The way others see it, the Duke of Edinburgh was the product of a generation which had seen the world very differently and whose intentions were clearly good since, while he might have seemed old-fashioned and insensitive, he had done good things, like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. I remember Dad going to the Palace with one of the boys in the house who’d got a gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. I think the Duke presented the gold awards personally until very recently. He did good stuff and the Duke of Edinburgh Award is both class and colour blind, exactly the way it should be. There’s a good article about it here. So his legacy there is not the way some people, and here-say, paint him.

Already, I know of a couple of people who’ve had a spat over this. Person A believes HRH to be a racist and stated that if Person B didn’t believe the same thing then they were a racist too. Person B said they felt that was a rather black and white interpretation. Especially in light of the fact that all they were saying was that they felt it was not compassionate or humane behaviour to be glad at someone’s death. Person A told Person B that they needn’t bother staying in touch. Person B’s other friends are now taking the mickey out of them for being a racist. Apparently there’s an awful lot of quoting Father Ted.

‘So father, I hear you’re a racist now!’ (best delivered in the voice of Mrs Doyle).

It would be hard to find a more laid back, less judgemental person than Person B, who takes everyone as they come but it does herald the kinds of comments I’m going to get from those who are a little more intransigent about their views than I am for trying to be even-handed here.

Note spud in hand …

Going back to the Duke of Edinburgh. Whatever his faults, he appeared to me, as an outsider, to be a reasonably intelligent man, with an enquiring mind who was interested in many things and, for the most part, wished to do good. He also had a sense of humour, which is a hugely underrated attribute. It’s surprising how many people, if you ask them, have a Duke of Edinburgh story. Well, it was a long old life he lived, and he did get around but that is the point. He tried to promote and help a lot of people and took an interest in many things. Hence I have a picture of Mr Potato, McMini’s godfather, seen here waxing lyrical to HRH at some agronomy do about … well, yes, potatoes. And believe me, this is a man who can wax extremely lyrical about potatoes to the point where HRH may well have been late for his next appointment.

I also look at the Duke through the lens of someone who knows that, as people age, they lose a lot of filters, or unthinkingly say things that would not have turned a hair when they were younger but now do, especially when those things are taken out of context. But I also notice that we, as people, are becoming more literal. I suppose it’s because everything is written down on the internet these days so there is no non-verbal aspect to so much of our communication. But I remember people taking the piss out of me about my looks and not being bothered at all because I understood the spirit in which the remarks were made, while other folks could say the same things in a slightly different way and I’d be extremely angry. I do understand that you can’t say a lot of stuff because even benignly meant, it could be taken out of context and will always be read as nasty rather than cheeky should that happen. But in many ways this loss of judgement and appreciation that there is a middle ground between the black and the white is unlikely to better things or make us happy. Anyway, here are the stories.

Story number one. Back in medieval times, when I was at school, a friend’s mum was big in to scurry racing. This is micro ponies with equally micro light weight traps raced round a course of twists and turns, hills, slaloms etc. Her mum was at some big event, probably the Surrey county show or the like and doing rather well, except there was one point on the course where she kept muddling her left from her right and almost going the wrong way. Friend’s dad was trying to think of ways that Friend’s Mum could remember which her left and right hand were – I so identify with this because I’m absolutely clueless at telling my left from my right. Anyway they were waiting to do their run and still talking about this with the ‘solutions’ suggested by Friend’s dad getting sillier and sillier as he tried to calm her nerves. While they were talking a Random Fellow nearby, overheard them and chuckling, he said.

‘Maybe you should try tying a red ribbon round your right wrist.’

Quick as a flash friend’s dad retorted wryly, ‘Why? Do you do that to your wife?’

There was an almighty guffaw and that’s when friend’s mum and dad clocked that Random Fellow was the Duke of Edinburgh.

Other quick one. Mum was a debutant and as such you get presented at court. I asked her what the hell happened and I wrote it down somewhere but needless to say, I can’t remember where. Basically there’d be a few days of it when hundreds of young ladies gathered in groups in the White Drawing Room, I think it was, at Buckingham Palace, to be herded through into an adjoining state room and PRESENTED AT COURT. No judges or juries involved. You were put into groups and then you were called forward, one-by-one and introduced to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who were seated at one end. Your name was announced and you walked up to them, your name was given, you curtseyed and I think the occasional pleasantry was exchanged after which you went off and the next person came in. Mum had the same knee disease as I did and had surgery aged seventeen. I think she walked with a stick until she was about twenty five although, I suspect, not for this. I remember, as a wee nipper, that every time we knelt down at the altar in church, at communion, Mum’s knees would crack. It was always the same noise, and always quite loud. I could hear my mother kneeling down in another room and know who it was from that crack. Hmm, thinking about it, that probably is quite loud. Indeed every time she bends the dodgy knee, said crack still rings out like a gunshot – only marginally less noisily than it used to.

So there was Mum in her best bib and tucker, walking the length, breadth, diagonal or whatever it was of either the White Drawing Room or a state room into which it led. There was H M The Queen and the Duke at the other end. Mum walked over to them in stately, demure fashion in her smashing debutant’s dress, curtseyed and of course, off went her knee. Crack! She was very embarrassed and as she turned a gentle shade of puce and tried to maintain her shredded dignity the Duke gave her a massive smile and winked at her. It doesn’t sound much, but remember this was the late 1950s so things were very much more austere and proper in those days. Mum assured me that wink was like a giant get-out-of-gaol free card. It was just enough to let her know it didn’t matter, and put her at her ease, without drawing attention to it and embarrassing her even more. I’d have liked to have met the Duke, if only to thank him for being kind enough to put my mum at ease, but I wouldn’t have wanted to meet them like that. Luckily all that malarkey had been done away with by the time I hit eighteen so I didn’t have to do it.

I always felt that The Duke was a man with a sense of humour – and as far as I could tell, from the anecdotes I heard, which are mostly stories like these, he clearly had a somewhat acerbic wit on occasion, and I suspect he may not have suffered fools gladly, but I can also imagine that he was a very much more well-meaning and dignified person than is made out.

And now for something completely different …

Yes, it’s quiz time … again.

Hamgee University Press Logo

OK, so I had an idea that it would be fun to use the black on white and white on black versions of the spiffy new HUP logo to make some print on demand stuff on Zazzle, Society 6 or somewhere similar that will feature favourite K’Barthan centric quotes.

In particular I like the idea of a set of mugs with the things that Humbert shouts. What could be more fun then wowing your work colleagues with a mug that says, ‘Bite my winkeyi!’ Yeh. OK, possibly quite a few things but … you get the picture.

Alternatively, some mugs or possibly even t-shirts and badges/pins featuring K’Barthan swearing would be fun and a Great Snurd (of K’Barth) Company Limited baseball cap.

That said, I think a first wave of Humbertisms, to test the water, would be best to start. To answer the question click the button or click here.

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Filed under General Wittering

That was … a hell of a week.

Last week, I’d made a list of stuff to blog about. I had a particularly productive few days because my brother was down at Mum’s so I didn’t need to ring her every day. I love chatting to Mum so it’s no bother but recently, it’s taken her longer to get up in the morning so instead of being able to phone her at half nine or ten and catch her just after she’s finished breakfast, I’ve discovered that if I ring her as late as half ten, there are mornings where she’s still been in her bedroom getting dressed.

Clearly, I don’t want her to be sitting on the bed in the nuddy with one sock on chatting to me for half an hour. She’ll get cold. The thing is though, I want to ring at the times when she’s alone. She likes some time alone but she also likes a chat during her alone time if someone rings … so I do. As phoning at eleven meant the carer was often there already, I started ringing in the afternoon, after the carer has gone, which is hideous for me because it’s slap bang in the middle of the biggest chunk of time I get to write. As a result, not having to make that call meant I got quite a lot done!

Reading on down my list of stuff to mention, the second entry says, ‘blind in office falling down onto desk and knocking over pint of water. Subsequent (somewhat miraculous) survival of electrical equipment. That was rather a narrow squeak but with distance between the event and me, it’s not one I wish to relive. Suffice it to say all was well and the blind is back up again.

Then there was the joy of bicycling. No really. I am working on making my knee bend as much as possible and trying to get it as straight as possible. While the scar tissue is still healing doing this hurts like a bastard but unless I push it – for push read hurt – it will heal with less movement. The trick is to push it enough to keep the range of movement improving without doing so much that you really hurt it and have to rest up for a day or two – which isn’t ideal because it allows progress to drift back a bit. I fell off the wagon with the physio over christmas so in this last few weeks before I am left with whatever I end up with, I am keen to make as much headway as I can. To that end, I’ve reverted to doing physio but instead of three sessions of ten reps I’m doing one bigger session of twenty first thing and then a bit more later if it seems to be stiffening up.

What about the cycling? Well I have a very nice bike. I saved up for it for about six months, popping £10 or £20 in at the bike shop every now and again until I had enough to buy something decent. The result was a fluorescent-orange, hard-tail Rock Hopper. It’s a joy to ride and it being a mountain bike my knees are about by my ears somewhere on the up pedal. I reckoned this would be a good way of bending my new knee while it was supported but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to bend it enough to actually pedal yet. Turns out I can’t quite … except that, if I just push on through, I can. So I’ve started cycling for about 20 minutes each day because it means I do loads of reps bending it a bit further than it really wants to go and after the first hundred yards or so it’s pain free. Woot. The rides are short – twenty minutes to half an hour – and not physically demanding, I’m going easy on it, so it’s gear down to the granny ring to go up the hills, but it feels wonderful to be drifting along on a bike again. I haven’t used it for a year.

Then there was the joy of getting my iPad back. The keyboard/case may be a bit sub-par protection wise – then again, I guess most things are a bit sub-par when it comes to protecting fragile electrical equipment from the somewhat rough and ready usage to which I subject it – but I’m gradually getting it sorted. I can back it up to the cloud so when the replacement – or scrubbed original, it was a replacement this time though – arrives I can just put in my apple ID and it’ll install everything that was there originally – even the settings. I’m always impressed by this, although it never backs up the file that saves all my passwords which is really annoying as it means I have to methodically visit all the sites and apps I use while I have said passwords to hand so I can input them and tell it to remember them again. It’s very annoying to get caught short at Mum’s unable to get into my blog etc.

On the book side of things, my latest arrived back from the editor and she asked me to give her a slot it would be done by so she could schedule the re-read – she’s well busy. I had to give that some thought so I hung fire on emailing her back.

Also, having got my whizzy new logo and revised book covers, I started uploading them all to Ingram. This went fine until I realised that there’d been a mix up and the designer had put them on the wrong templates. I re-uploaded them. As a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors I have a code to do this for free which is one of the reasons I migrated from Lightning Source (wholly owned subsidiary of Ingram who do NOT honour the code) to Ingram, who do. I input said code, the £50 upload fee reset to £0 and on I went.

Except I didn’t. The following day discovered that I’d been invoiced £150 for this session and they’d taken the cash from my credit card. I appealed, they agreed they’d refund but then came back to me saying they wouldn’t because the code expired on 31st December. Interestingly, it worked just fine for previous sessions earlier in the week and it appeared to work for this last one. I’m unsure as to whether they are going to honour the new code but I’ve looked it up and sent it to them anyway. I do wish their system was less glitchy. With any other discount system I have encountered anywhere else in the entire world, an expired discount code wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even appear to work. The system would just spit it out and make me stump up the cash or input a different code that worked. Ingram? Oh no. Make it look like everything’s tickety-boo the customer’s end, lull them into a false sense of security and then take £150 off their credit card. £150 which would have been £25 if it had spat out the code the way any normal, configured-by-humans system should. Because I would have gone straight to the Alliance website to check for a new code and if I couldn’t find one, I’d never have spent more than £25, £50 max because I do not have £150 to spaff up the wall in one go on that! Seriously, though, why the fuck, Ingram? Why?

The Ingram interface is horrifically bug-infested. It might be slightly easier to take if the number of areas functioning without glitches was greater than the number of borked parts. Unfortunately, smooth functionality appears to have been very low on the list when it was constructed, either that or they launched it before it was even half built. When something runs smoothly and does what it should it’s certainly the exception rather than the rule. I haven’t dared try it again in case they don’t refund me the original £150 on the grounds that I put in an old code – because the ceiling is £200 and since I can only go another £50, that will have to be ring-fenced to pay for uploading the cover and innards of Too Good To Be True, should anything go wrong and the code be non-functioning. I appreciate that I get the money back but it has to be in there to go out and it won’t be if I’m not careful.

Anyway, that was the stuff I was going to blog about last week, except in a slightly longer-winded and funnier manner. But then Friday happened.

Yeh.

Friday.

It started well enough, but then I got a call from my brother who’d been down in Sussex with Mum. He was leaving that morning but at breakfast she’d keeled over onto my sis in law, who happened to be standing beside her, and now appeared to be paralysed down her right side.

Oh.

Could she speak? I asked him. Yes but it was slurred and a bit jumbled.

Had he done the stroke test things? Yes, Bruv and Sis in-law had.

Hmm. I mentioned that it sounded like a stroke and Bruv and his wife agreed that yes, they thought it was … or a TIA.

Did I need to come down? I asked.

He thought no because his in-laws are both doctors so he’d rung them up. They thought it sounded like a severe TIA at this stage, rather than a full-on stroke. They had called Mum’s doctor who agreed because, as he had delicately put it, she had remained continent and she hadn’t had a grand mal seizure which is, apparently, a frequent occurance when you have a stroke. Also, with a TIA you recover faster. On the other hand, with a mini bleed like a TIA you don’t normally end up with one leg paralysed. Her doctor felt a trip to hospital to A&E to see what was going on would be a good idea and that Bruv should call an ambulance.

The problem is, Mum’s local hospital is riddled with covid so if they took her in for observation she would have to isolate in there for two weeks before she was allowed out again. Bruv decided no and stayed on.

But at the same time, having rallied just afterwards, Mum’s condition seemed to be worsening as the day wore on. At three thirty Bruv rang me and said she was worse, that he’d called the doctor again, and that the doctor had stressed, again, that she should go into hospital. Bruv ascertained that while they’d give her a brain scan, they wouldn’t be doing any clot busting or similar – she’s very frail and it would probably do for her. So while nipping down to A&E and having a brain scan was one thing, nipping down, having a brain scan and being kept in was another.

The thing is. Mum is DNR, which stands for Do Not Rescusciate. If she ever has a stroke, her wish is to die at home without any intervention. I knew that she wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a hospital and relayed this to Bruv. Bruv and Sis in-law were aware of it and totally agreed with my reading of her wishes. I told Bruv where the paperwork was (Lasting Power of Attorney over Mum’s health) and explained that if she couldn’t speak he’d have to wave it at them and speak for her. No hospital. (Say that in the same voice the suit designer in The Incredibles uses to say, ‘NO capes!’ for extra effect.)

Bruv agreed but what neither of us could tell is how serious it was which made the decision tricky.

Dad went into hospital with a chest infection towards the end of his life. If it was pneumonia, I’d have said make him comfortable but don’t treat him. However, withholding treatment for a chest infection is different. Sure if we did, it might turn into pneumonia and carry him off (he was DNR/no life extending treatment too) but it was a step over a line that I can’t cross. Also it might just have meant he felt really shit for three weeks and got better anyway, which is unkind to an elderly gentleman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and has enough to contend with already. The problem we faced with Mum was twofold. One: we didn’t know if it was chest infection-level serious or into the DNR zone. Two: we did know that if Mum was stuck in hospital at the rock bottom level she was at now, a lady who was already a bit confused from time to time and for whom, since she’d just had some kind of brain bleed, that confusion was currently compounded … she was unlikely to come out again.

Except that Bruv suspected he did know the answer to that how-serious-is-it question. He said he thought she was dying, that he might have to call an ambulance and that, should he do so, he probably would have to let them take her to hospital if they insisted. He suggested I came down because it wasn’t just him who believed that, if Mum went into hospital, she wouldn’t come out again. Her doctor agreed. I said that if he dialled 999 he was to stall them and not let them take her away until I had got there to say goodbye. Then I packed a bag, leapt in the car and set off.

I had no clue what the Covid rules were on my bubble with Mum impinging on Bruv’s bubble with Mum. It was probably a Bad Thing of the highest order. Then again, he believed Mum was dying and to be honest, I did too. A hurried consultation with The Rules online and I discovered that they do make an exception for visiting dying close relatives. I decided that if it was a choice between staying here or saying goodbye to my mother it was a no-brainer.  If Mum was about to die, she was going to do it with her loved ones gathered round her bed, and, come hell or high-water, I was fucking well going to be one of them.

I packed a bag, and my metal detector because I reckoned I might need the odd sortie in the garden to restore my mental equilibrium, and went.

Unbeknown to me, at about 4.30pm, as I was joining the M25 at the bottom of the M11, Mum rallied and had a biscuit and a cup of tea. Bruv and Sis in-law constructed a make-shift commode using a loo seat riser and a couple of buckets and she had a wee and felt a lot better. By the time I arrived she was very frail and her face had an unpleasantly grey hue to it, but she could move her leg again, even though she couldn’t walk unaided. From where I was standing, she looked as if she was about to peg-it any minute but I could tell, from the huge sense of relief emanating from Bruv and Sis in-law, that she was a great deal better than she had been. Bruv confirmed that she’d been completely unresponsive at half three when he called me. To the point where he and Sis in-law took her pulse and put a mirror in front of her mouth to see if she was still breathing. We got her to bed and she spent the weekend in bed.

I took my nephew and niece metal detecting on the lawn and we found a fifteenth century hammered coin from Spain … in a ex farmyard in Sussex. Well it was a big commercial area until cotton supplanted wool but I was intrigued. The only other hammered coin I’ve found on there is a 17th century Portuguese one. Bizarre. There’s also a bit of Mum’s lawn where I joke to myself that HG Well’s time machine fell to bits. It’s full of brass bits of what was clearly, once, some kind of Victorian piece of technical equipment.

As for Mum, she’s is still here. Which is an enormous relief, even if it means I’m probably in breach of The Rules and liable for a hefty fine for going to see a dying person who wasn’t dying after all. I’m not sure what the view on death bed recovery is and I couldn’t find anything about it on the Government site. We looked after Mum and on Sunday afternoon I left and came home. Bruv left Monday morning and she got up and got dressed when the carer’s came in and went downstairs. She has been frail but on better form as the week has progressed. I went to see her on Wednesday as usual – that is allowed because she’s in my bubble. She was very quiet but also calm and relaxed and I went out and detected on the lawn again for twenty minutes and found a couple of interesting bits which she was intrigued to see. She’s better but not right yet which, according to her doctor, probably means that it was a small stroke she had, rather than a big TIA.

It was also wonderful to see my brother and sis in-law and spend some time with my nephew and niece. We also cooked up a storm, or at least sis in-law mostly did, including these hilarious mutant yorkshire puddings! Bonus! I’ve had similar results, myself, from doubling the number of eggs but this was her usual recipe and they have never done it before. All very strange.

In the end we had a lovely weekend, even if we were all still rather worried about Mum. I guess every cloud has a silver lining, light and shade etc because while the situation with Mum was horrible at first, once she was on the mend it was just a case of taking stock, sorting everything out and enjoying being together until it was time to go home!

I feel … how do I feel? Well it was really lovely to see my brother and his family, really lovely. But over all I guess I’m a bit shocked.

Dad’s death was a good death, it was clearly his will and there was nowhere else to go. It’s hard to explain. But with Dad it was very clearly the end of the road. He had extreme unction (which is a phrase that always makes me chuckle because of the way the word ‘extreme’ is used about other things, ironing for example). He was ready and he was OK. That week before he left us he was in a state of grace, he was calm and I know he was totally at peace, and ready, and alright.

The thing with Mum is that this feels the same. She’s calm, quiet and in a similar state of grace to the one Dad was in. That’s good but also a little unnerving. She is not afraid and we have talked a great deal about her wish to die at home and what to do if she’s taken ill. Two or three years ago, I told her that if something happened when we were together I’d have to call an ambulance and that they’d probably ask me to do CPR. Her reply, which I may already have posted,

‘Well, you can try if it makes you feel better but I won’t be coming back.’

So I guess I’m worried because I’m aware that folks who have a small stroke often have another one soon afterwards. I suspect she is aware of that too, although she doesn’t seem remotely bothered. Like Dad, it’s more a sense of waiting. Also like Dad, she has a very strong faith and she’s totally unafraid. But I suppose the biggest thing is that Mum’s dementia is very different to Dad’s. She may not remember stuff and that is incredibly sad sometimes, but her personality has stayed pretty much constant. She’s been a bit more brusque than usual at times over the last two years or so, as she’s realised how much of her memory she is losing, and I suspect that’s because she’s been a bit scared. She has always said she wouldn’t like to ‘lose her marbles’. Also, she was as traumatised by the way Dad’s dementia ravaged him as were Bruv and I. She doesn’t want to be like that. Although luckily, the nature of her dementia is such that it’s looking increasingly as if she won’t be.

This means that, in some ways, it’s easier because the dementia side of it, while grim, isn’t as utterly heart-breaking as Dad’s was. But in other ways it’s harder because Mum is still very much herself so there’s no difficulty keeping close to her, she can follow a deep conversation, or a light one. I admire my mum hugely, just as I admired my dad. The way I see it, Mum and Dad are/were everything that is right and good in a human being. We know Mum may not be around for long and I know, on paper, that when she goes it will leave a huge, huge hole in my life, and probably my heart. But I haven’t thought about it head-on much so I think that, though we are all prepared for events like this, it was the most serious so far and was quite a shock.

Then there’s the fact that I have reached a point in the care for vulnerable parents process when I am quite exhausted – doubtless Bruv is too. When you have a duty of care to someone and you are worrying about them, sometimes you forget the point of what you’re doing. So, I think it was a bit of a wake up call for me, because in all the planning and trying to look after her and ringing her every day and worrying about her I’d slightly lost sight of the fact that the whole point of it, the whole reason I do all that stuff, is because I really, really love her.

It feels like …

I’m at boarding school during the term when I’m not enjoying it, and she’s just dropped me off, I stand at the window, waving stoically, as she drives away. I’m trying not to cry, and in the car, though I don’t realise it at the time, she’s probably doing the same thing. She’s reached the end of the drive. The rear lights of the car glow a brighter red as the brakes come on. She’s waiting for a gap in the traffic to pull out. I see the lights of the cars on the road passing in front of her in the autumn twilight. I want to run after her. Tell her to wait. Beg her to take me with her. But I can’t. She goes and I’m left behind. I turn and walk slowly back along the empty corridor.

So yeh, bit of a rough week in some respects.

Other news, despite not being sure what would be happening this week, I managed to go through the first run of edits on Too Good To Be True. I emailed the editor from Mum’s to say I hoped to have it all back to her by this coming Tuesday – well … I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the event, I got it done by last Thursday. I thought I may as well send it back in case she had time to look at it and, to my delight, she had some space to make a start before Tuesday so with any luck we will get it to and fro enough times to sort it totally and get it uploaded to the stores in time for launch and to send to Gareth when I actually said I would … It is going to be a bit touch and go and I will probably have to delay it a week on Smashwords. It won’t hit the launch date for the print book either but that’s OK, I haven’t entered anything on Ingram. I know not to do that or it’ll glitch and I’ll find it’s locked and going to take me two weeks to change the price or something.

Anyway, that’s been my week and that’s why you didn’t get a blog post last week. I’m off to write to Mum’s vicar now, just to let her know what happened!

_________________________________

If you’re interested, and you feel like it …

Too Good To Be True is out on 18th March, fingers crossed. Amazingly, I have, finally got my shit together and it is live for pre-order everywhere – if buying from retailers is your thing. Or you can pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £1 less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!

Anyhoo, here’s the gen …

Too Good To Be True

When the finger of fate points … hide!

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance) there’s a slightly saucy bit and a bit of light violence.

Even so, this is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.

To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html

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Dunce hats on casa McGuire … yes, once again #youstillcantfixstupid

There are only so many interesting headlines I can give to all these blog posts about my, apparently limitless, ability to fuck things up. Meanwhile I appear not to have come anywhere close to exhausting my ability to bomb in flames, even if I have run out of witty headings to put on my blog posts about it. No matter how earnestly I repeat to myself that we are not at home to Mr Cock-Up, life continues to prove otherwise. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Mr Cock-Up appears to have taken up permanent residence in our spare room, as my professional life lurches from one embarrassing faux pas to the next. Never mind, if I write comedy, living something like a bad sit com is probably excusable, it might even just be part of the job description.

First up, a moderate success. In the absence of an open shop, my iPad with its broken screen has been whisked off by courier for evaluation. I’m told they are normally fixed but that, since it’s a pro, they’ll probably just replace it with a fixed up second. If anything fails QS at the factory the offending part is replaced, a new battery, back and and screen are put on and then it’s sent out as a ‘new’ replacement for the cracked iPads of clumsy dunderheads or heavy cat owners such as myself. Fingers crossed that will be OK then.

In other news, there was a couple clearing out a house across the road and with their kind permission I liberated a table lamp and a couple of giant candle holders for a friend, which turned out not to be the thing she had asked me to liberate. I liberated a table lamp and a couple of other candle holders for us, too and a table lamp for her.

Cleaning the pair of giant ones ready to offer them to a different friend I thought I’d use a brush to gently sweep the gritty bits out from inside. Very carefully I swept the bits out of the first one. Started on the second and … managed to smash a hole in the glass with the top of the brush.

Twat!

Kicking myself.

So now I only have one to offer to my friend. She may not want it anyway but ho hum … my life really does seem to be one balls up after another at the moment. Often all that is necessitated is my mere presence for things to break. I don’t have to actually drop them myself. Clearly I’ve taken my eye off the ball. I wouldn’t mind if the off-ball view was even marginally more interesting than the shite the rest of me is seeing.

On the books front, the odd small success and some salutary learning experiences – or as I like to call them, absolute fucking disasters.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that, what with the length of Too Good To Be True, I should bite the bullet and change the name of the series from K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras. To be honest, this makes sense but I can’t really do it properly until I have new covers for all of them with ‘Extras’ instead of ‘Shorts’. I guess the thing that really tipped me over was discovering that I was able to change the name of a series on Amazon a great deal more easily than I’d realised. After years of being told by Amazon that they would not change K’Barthan Trilogy to ‘Series’ they gave us options and I changed it, I thought, but this simply resulted in them calling it ‘K’Barthan Trilogy Series‘ Arnold’s pants! I managed to change it properly, to ‘K’Barthan Series’ last week, although I didn’t find a way to edit the series name so I just removed all the books and set up a new one. So the original four-and-a-short book series is now called K’Barthan Series everywhere! Woot.

On the down side, I’d quite like to do sub-series so they’ll all be K’Barthan Extras but cross reference. You know the same way all Terry Pratchett’s books are Discworld but some are the Tiffany Aching series and some are the Witches etc, I was hoping to do K’Barthan Extras Hamgeean Misfit and K’Barthan Extras, Tales from the Parrot and Screwdriver or whatever. My cunning plan was to add books to two series. Sadly it seems this isn’t possible. That means they must all be K’Barthan something. That’s because, as I may have mentioned last week, no fucker can spell McGuire the way I do, therefore it has to be K’Barthan something so I can tell everyone to search for K’Barthan and my books will pop up.

There is a fair bit of work involved in changing the series name, it means changing it in the back matter of every single ebook and paperback, and of course in the opening and closing credits of the audiobooks. Then there are the covers of everything too, including the paperbacks. So essentially, I’m looking at reloading every file. Except with the audiobooks.

In March, Ingram Spark, who do the paperback print on demand thing for my books, are going to raise their prices. They always do this and it was never a problem but these days, if your price is different to the one on your book – even if it’s lower than the printed one – they simply remove the book from sale. Then you have to change the price which you can only do on one particular day once a week and it takes several days to show up – so often you can’t tell if it’s worked before the next week’s deadline for submissions has passed. This is an issue because, due to the unfortunate fact that I’m a bit of a moron, my book covers have the retail price on and after the next price rise, if I stick to that retail price, there are going to be some titles on which I’m going to be paying Ingram for each sale. The upshot is that I need new covers for the whole lot without the prices on. That’s not so bad. I have a new book looming so that’ll need a cover anyway and I can get the designer to do them all when he does those. Also, I wanted replace the shiny covers on the K’Barthan Series Books with matt ones and that requires putting the design on a new template. Now seems an excellent time to do that as well, and as I have to change the K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras in addition to taking the prices off those and take the price off Escape From B-Movie Hell.

Since I have to have new artwork for all my paperback book covers anyway, it occurred to me that I could have a proper logo for Hamgee University Press to go on the spine. Clearly the obvious candidate for that is Humbert the Parrot. So I had a go at drawing Humbert.

Humbert in black and white but with one claw on the frame

On the one hand, I’d never have credited myself with the ability to come up with an expression of sarcastic intelligence quite like that. On the other, Humbert is pretty bald so either this is a very young Humbert or he has been photo-shopped extensively. Or maybe it’s just the artist doing the portrait, who is flattering his subject the in the manner of Joshua Reynolds and his ilk.

Humbert in colour but minus the claw on the frame

While I’m mentioning books, remember that one I gave away, Nothing To See Here? Well one of my lovely readers contacted me and said she’d downloaded it from Bookfunnel and got Small Beginnings. I checked, and sure enough, the Kindle/.mobi version was, indeed, Small Beginnings.

Gulp.

I’d asked everyone to post a review on Google too. That’s going to look good. People swearing blind they are reviewing Nothing To See Here but patently obviously describing Small Beginnings.

Bum.

Then I had an even more alarming thought. On the whole, I get the .mobi file from Draft2Digital. I upload an epub there and they convert it to a number of different formats and distribute it to libraries, about 101 tiny ebook sellers and of course, Barnes&Noble and Apple Books. What this meant was, that I have, very possibly, had Small Beginnings on sale as Nothing To See Here with all those sellers. Thinking it wise to double-check that, I had a look, and … joy of joys … was it Small Beginnings? Of course it fucking was. It would be wouldn’t it?

Erk.

OK on the downside, that was quite embarrassing. On the upside … actually, no, thinking about it, there is no upside.

Bollocks.

Since I was going to have to redo it as an ‘extras’ anyway, I decided to revisit Nothing To See Here a.s.a.p. and sort out some of the other glaring errors it contains. First of all, we know The Pan of Hamgee was blacklisted aged sixteen. There’s a scene in there where I talk about him being blacklisted three years previously but then I’d put that he was twenty years old. Fuckwittery entire or what? Never mind, I changed that back to nineteen. I also managed to describe the security forces uniforms as black and white with the odd red flash on the collars epaulettes and cuffs when they’re black and red. OK so the officer in question had the odd flash of white on the epaulettes, collar and cuffs because he’s an intelligence officer. Shit. And Gareth’s done the audiobook and everything.

Head Desk.

Except hang on … I’ll have to get him to record the intro and outro anyway because they have to be K’Barthan Extras, now, instead of shorts. So there’ll be some cock up-mending recorded bits to add on the bill for the next book anyway so he may as well do those couple of sentences can do them all at once. OK that’s probably going to work then. He should be able to start recording mid March. Hopefully he’ll be alright with that. At least it won’t be too unexpected. After all, he knows I’m nuts.

Then, of course, having fixed the book, I had to reload the pukka version to Draft2Digital … about fifty times because I kept finding glaring howlers I’d missed and of course I ticked the box to supply it to Overdrive by mistake when it’s already going to Overdrive from Kobo. Then I downloaded the correct Kindle version and uploaded it to Amazon, uploaded the correct epub to everywhere else just in case, and corrected the special word document I have to submit to Smashwords and uploaded that too … and the epub. And then I realised I’d spent the whole day fixing the horrendous results of my never-ending twattery and then I realised THAT is why I write so slowly lovely peps. Because I’m an absolute knob and I have to keep going back to fix stuff I have fucked up. If I could get back the time I spend fixing the dog’s breakfast I make of most things I’d be producing books a lot quicker. Rather in the way that if I could get back the time I spend looking for my keys – which are usually in my pocket – or my mask (ditt0) or my glasses – mostly, they’re perched on top of my head – I’d have so much free time I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Then there’s Facebook. Pestering me to make a shop to sell my ebooks and audiobooks. So I spend Monday making a shop and they approve everything except the ebook and audiobook of The Wrong Stuff and Looking For Trouble. I reapply. The audiobook version of Looking for Trouble is turned down again on the grounds that it’s a digital download and they explain that selling digital downloads of any description through Facebook shops is against the rules. Then they approve the ebook versions of both. Nothing is said about the fact I have 14 other approved products in my shop which are also, all, digital downloads and, therefore, breaking their rules. The obvious answer is to delete my shop, except they’ve approved it, so what’s with that? Do I keep it or will I end up getting rumbled and thrown into Facebook gaol forever somewhere down the line. Did I spaff Monday up the wall for nothing? Head desk again.

Why is AI so unbelievably shit? And if it is demonstrably bollocks, which it clearly is, why do Facebook, Instragram, Amazon and a whole host of others insist on using it to do jobs that it’s just too fucking moronic to be left to do at this stage?

Ugh.

Never mind. Onwards and upwards. Next week, if I remember, I’m going to talk about my latest writing aid, my Remarkable 2. If you ever wanted to feel like Captain Kirk should feel when someone hands him one of those kid’s plastic drawing things to pretend to sign that’s how I feel using this thing. It’s the thing the TV people wanted us to believe Captain Kirk was writing on. Except this one has a glass screen and in light of my current rate of smashage for such things – not to mention McCat’s – that’s a bit of a worry.

____________________________________

And now for something completely different

Last week I had the joyous delight of being interviewed on the Slice of Cake Spot on fellow author Clair Buss’ blog. It was great fun and although it was quite long, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it.

If you think you’d like to have a look at it, click here: http://butidontlikesalad.blogspot.com …

While I’m mentioning it, I have to say that ‘ButIDontLikeSalad’ just the best name for a blog ever!

There you go, anyway! Enjoy!

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What? More twattery? #youcantfixstupid

So a lot of time has passed and there’s not been much blogging. To be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit meh and I have learned not to do things when I lack the energy. It’s cold and I’ve just binned the crutches so I’m tired, and sore and a bit stiff. I popped out for a walk round the garden while I spoke to Mum on the phone so I’m even more stiff now! Never mind.

The fur is not enough. Other people are cold too.

Jeepers it’s freezing out there. She hadn’t slept well so she wanted to talk. She had popped into a different room to the one she usually sits in to put the phone away and ended up chatting to me. While we were talking she sat down, on the wrong kind of chair. She was clearly bored and up for a chat, but it was only after she’d sat in it that she told me she was sitting somewhere from which, I know, she has great difficulty getting up. Oops. I think she was a little mithered as well – she often is after she’s had a bad night. I was rather pleased that I’d managed to ring at a time when she was bored and wanted company.

Mission accomplished.

So we chatted for a while and then, since she was in the wrong kind of chair and I was a bit worried she wouldn’t be able to get up again, I suggested she kept me on the line while she got up and went through to the drawing room. That way if she encountered any difficulty or fell over I’d be there to ring for someone to come and pick her up (or warn the team so the person on their way knew we had a woman down, so to speak).

‘Alright, I’ll just see if there’s a stick around here somewhere,’ she said, in answer to my suggestion.

‘Haven’t you got one with you?’ I asked.

‘No.’

Uh-oh. Why the hell not? Had she forgotten it? Yes, probably.

‘Well … how did you get in there from the kitchen?’

‘You know, the usual. I just hang onto things and move from one thing to another.’

‘You didn’t use your walker or a stick?’

‘No,’ she said, a little sheepishly and we both giggled a bit because that meant she’d been a Bad Pensioner.

‘Is that wise?’

‘No,’ she said and then cut off any further argument by adding, ‘I’m going to put you down now while I stand up.’

Gads …

Mum did manage to get up and then one of her lovely carers arrived for the next shift and shepherded her back to the drawing room where her chair is. I had a quick chat to say good bye and left her to it. She was slightly at sixes and sevens but this week she’s been on really good form. I suspect it’s more to do with the fact she’s had some good sleeps and has had people standing over her to make sure she eats her supper (in the nicest possible way, obviously).

Mum is needing a bit more care and she’s not coping with this lock down so well so I’ve started the weekly visits up again. A kindly friend found a Q&A on the BBC website; Health England answers your questions and sent me a screen shot before it disappeared again. Someone had asked if they could drive 90 mins to see their elderly mother, with whom they were bubbled. The answer was yes so I decided I can too.

That’s a bit of a weight off. Bruv came down to see her as well.

Lockdown seems a bit meh this time. I guess the weather isn’t helping. I am bored stupid with being cold and being pleased at how warm it is when we get 2 degrees. Ugh.

Also I’ve managed to smash my iPad screen … AGAIN. Another ten-out-of-ten for fuckwittery there then. I discovered it yesterday when I looked at it and noticed a hair stuck to the white bit at the edge in one corner. Closer inspection revealed it to be a hairline crack, rather than a hair, with another tell-tale crack on the white bit at the other corner, indicating that it goes right across.

Fucking arse!

Sure enough, it does. On the upside you can only see it if you look carefully. Clearly a stress fracture then, but I’ve absolutely no clue when it would have happened which is annoying. It is insured but the shop is shut for lock down so I can’t take it in and I suspect the insurance end date will come and go before lock down ends, which is a bit of a pisser.

The case is a bit useless that way. It’s a hugely expensive Belkin Slim Combo keyboard and hard case. The keyboard is excellent, really comfortable to type on. However, when the case is closed the lid part slides around and if you’re not careful the corners press on the screen and if it gets bashed they smash it. Putting an elastic band round it helped sort that out, although for £150 you expect a bit more. Worse, the iPad clips into a protective shell but it’s able to work its way out of that sometimes. Not so it falls out but just so that it no longer has the protective lip round the sides and it’s surface is flush with the edges of the case. Then pressure on the middle of the lid will crack the glass. I am guessing that’s what happened. Indeed, I’d lay bets that faticcus caticcus stood on it at some point while it was sitting on my desk with the lid closed.

Why do they put glass on these things? My Remarkable and my lap top have plastic screens. Yes, the picture isn’t as crisp but I’ll take that if it means it doesn’t smash every time a gnat lands on it. Bummer, because I love my iPad. I do have a phone number for the insurers so hopefully I can ring them to make a claim and they will honour it when they are allowed to …

On the books front, I’ve been adding the alts to the final version of Too Good To Be True. The last beta reader sent comments in today so I should have those done and dusted ready to send to the editor for a mid Feb slot.

Cockwomble that I am, I’ve ballsed up the name of this series the way I stuffed up the last one.

Originally, I had this idea that I could cross reference series. So I could have K’Barthan Shorts, for shorter reads (under 40k) and K’Barthan Extras for longer ones. Then I could class the books in … sort of sub series … by theme or character, ie Hamgeean Misfit. So the current set of stories are K’Barthan Shorts, Hamgeean Misfit Number … whatever. It seemed a good idea because I thought shorter stuff would be good as entry-level, cheaper, try-me-out kind of books. It wasn’t. Being short bars it from all sorts of stuff promo-wise even though there may well be books the same length included because their authors have not been stupid enough to call them ‘shorts’.

The next Hamgeean Misfit is not a short, it’s a novel, which makes it a K’Barthan Extra. So the title for this one should go, K’Barthan Extra, Hamgeean Misfit: No 4. And that’s the point where I realise I’ve put Hamgeean Misfit in the wrong place because as a K’Barthan Extra it’s number one. So now I have a conundrum.

The KDP series button came too late for this so neither Amazon nor Audible will be changing the name. It doesn’t look like I can change it on Ingram either – which is a bummer because on Lightning Source, I could (and did).

However, I can change it on Nielsen by the looks of things, and everywhere else, as far as I recall – after all I’ve done it before – and as I have to take the prices off the covers, and change the shiny ones to matt, now is the time to make changes, if I’m going to. Sure, they’re humorous books and I can make a joke out of the fact the ‘short’ is a long but I’m inclined to simplify things.

Plus points for changing it from shorts:

  1. I have to change all my paperback covers because Ingram’s prices have reached the point where I will have to pay them to publish a book, come March, if I don’t.
  2. Calling them shorts is too specific – if it’s an ‘extra’ the long ‘short’ is, suddenly, eligible for a bookbub – which it isn‘t now because they don’t accept shorts and I doubt being a novel called ‘short’ will cut any ice.
  3. When the more commercial straight sci fi series is finished, a section of those readers might enjoy the K’Barthan stuff and want to read these books so they probably are worth sorting out.
  4. The 20k ones can still be useful as toe-dipper, try-out books at entry-level pricing for folks wishing to dip a toe in the world of K’Barth for less cash.

Plus points for keeping it as is:

  1. Amazon will refuse to change it (series predates the KDP series button). Therefore Audible won’t change it either.
  2. In the last six years, I’ve only had two international bookbubs anyway, for 99c rather than free, so getting a bookbub featured deal is probably not a consideration I need to factor in.
  3. If Ingram insist on a new ISBN I’d rather not waste one.

Third alternative:

Just switch the names round so Hamgeean Misfit is the main series title but then the subsets become the main series and I could see that becoming a mess … or do I mean even more of a mess.?

Fourth alternative:

Just take the K’Barthan Shorts bit out and leave it at Hamgeean Misfit. I might get away with that on Amazon and could add the subtitle ‘a K’Barthan story’. All these books need to have ‘K’Barthan’ in the series or book title or in the subtitle. This is because of the number of other McGuires now writing stuff means readers looking for me by name have to wade through pages of books by my fellow, way more successful McGuires before they find me – in my defence, I was the only one when I started. Additionally, there is the fact that most people can’t spell McGuire – even if they see it written down – and search for Maguire, MacGuire, McGwire or even (shudder) McQuire instead. One lovely person leaves glowing reviews on many of my books but spells my name ‘Maguire’ in every single one.

Everything is a lot simpler if I can tell folks to search for the word, ‘K’Barthan’ and even better it works. As a result, I think I’m going to change the series name to ‘K’Barthan Stories’ and leave it at that.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. That means you have just over twenty four hours to grab your copy, if you want one. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’m giving this book away from my online store. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, Bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers! – it’s case sensitive so cut and paste and remember the exclamation mark on the end.

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