Tuesday 31 October 2017

The Madness of Twins

I have two little sisters. They're not 'little' as such. They're 40-something and not even shorter than me – only my mum is shorter than me – but they are younger, so they shall be forever little to me. Anyway, they are also twins which makes them slightly bonkers. It always has done, and I've always found it fascinating. Even though they're grown and have families of their own now, the 'twinniness', as our older sister first coined it, hasn't let up.

They have this psychic thing. Granted, they shared a womb and a bedroom their entire childhood, some of the same teachers and of course, many of the same friends, so they're bound to be in tune.  And they look the same. Exactly the same. Having someone who shares every one of your features has got to bond you to them, right there, hasn't it?

But it's more than that.

They have had those weird unexplainable shared moments and shared pain, such as when one had a medical emergency in Italy and the other felt it in Wales, pre- mobiles, pre- even entertaining the idea of calling from abroad because it was way too expensive. They've bought the same clothes without realising and yet, somewhat surprisingly, they don't have the same taste.

The previous episode to make me gasp before this morning's, just-too-weird moment, was on the day of the launch party for Glass Houses. One was coming up to Yorkshire from the South of England and the other from South Wales. Both aimed to arrive 'around mid-afternoon'. Neither of them has tendencies to lateness – ahem, that's just me – but one is much more punctual than the other. The less punctual one rang the second, hands-free, to ask how she was getting on. Struggling! She was going to stop at the next services. How funny, says the first. It was exactly what she was thinking and she was only two miles away from being able to stop. Me, too! says the second. And they laughed at sharing yet another nugget of 'twinniness'.

Now, bear in mind that both sisters would join the M1 eventually but neither until the second part of their journeys and they hadn't discussed what time they'd leave their respective homes nor their ETA at my house. So when one says, Hang on a minute, isn't your registration '*$!"?~%'?, she wasn't expecting to see her (identical looking) sister at the wheel of the car immediately in front, now glancing in her rear view mirror as both stop talking and gasp because they are one behind the other, at the exact same time, on the exact same section of motorway, both craving a drink (and they're not like me, the kettle back on, the moment the previous cup of tea is gone) having set off from homes over 100 miles from each other. Well, that blew my mind.

But this, this is even better than that.

Today I get two pieces of post. One from each sister. They are lovely and I can happily report that all four of us sisters are very close, but we don’t send each other post every week. It's high days and holidays at most, so that in itself made me smile.

On closer examination, I see that one sister was rushing or multi-tasking when she addressed the envelope because it contained only my house number, street and the name of our tiny village. No town or postcode, let alone county. Consequently, the letter, a thank you for a present given in September, had taken a while to get to us. Although I must say, well done to the super sleuths of the Post Office and thank them for their determination as the letter had been to two other counties first.

Next comes the other sister's mail which is a Christmas card. This wasn't just any old Christmas card however, this had flashing lights and a picture frame type stand, because we both LOVE a bit of Christmas bling. We all send each other Christmas cards, and granted, of our entire family, barring perhaps one auntie, my Christmas cards are always the last to arrive, but still, I have never, ever in my 49 years on this wonderful planet, known any member of my super-sized family to send a Christmas card in October.

Something, some external force, and what I can only label as extreme 'twinniness' decided that this year, on that day, my sister was going to send me a Christmas card before Halloween and that card would arrive on the same day as a letter which had taken a very circuitous route to get to me.

This is the madness of twins.

And I think this is why a twin has crept into the first draft of my latest novel. This twin arrived unannounced and bears no resemblance to either twin in looks or temperament. And (s)he – no clues – may not survive the first edit cull, but for now, (s)he's amusing me. 

So, are you a twin? Do you have twins in your lives? Please do share your stories - I do love a good 'twin' story😊

Thursday 26 October 2017

Spotlight Award for Tea & Chemo

If you held my hand when I had cancer, showed me it wasn't all bad -
If you sent me a message because you'd read a blog post and it had helped -
If you shared my posts, commented on Facebook, retweeted or liked -
If you told me I should have my blog posts published in a book…
… and said it again when I laughed.
If you are reading this now - 

Thank you!

Because of you I put on my big girl pants, thrust back my shoulders and submitted the idea for a book: It's Not All Bad, to Urbane Publications. And there we were, two days later, the husband and I, a year after my diagnosis and travelling to a cottage in North Yorkshire for a cheeky weekend away, when an email arrived from Matthew Smith, Publishing Director.  

He liked the idea, actually, he said, 'love'. He 'loved the idea'; I nearly smashed the windscreen with my squeal. 

And so it was that Tea & Chemo was born.

Without you all, the book would still be a figment of my imagination. And yet, here I am, very chuffed and rather stunned to learn that Tea & Chemo is the winner of the Live Better With's inaugural Spotlight Award for Best Cancer Book.

Please join me - the cyber bubbles are most definitely on me!

Monday 23 October 2017

Don't tell me…

There's something you'd be wise not to say to me. I can bite my tongue if necessary, but would struggle to find an empathetic response.

It starts in September and is at fever pitch around now. It's the one about Christmas being over-commercialised.  

Of course it is. Of course it's sad that some people spend too much money and spend the next year paying it back. Of course it's obscene that we live in a world where some children's presents would fill a small garage and the next child is praying for a home. Of course we don't need the adverts which cost millions and oh, for the stores to give that money to charity instead. We don't need the shops to be selling stocking fillers before the clocks go back and to be buying each other duplicates of things we don’t need.

But we don’t have to subscribe to it.

We can just be together. That's still Christmas. In fact, go to church, have a special meal together because we all have the day off, raise a glass to absent friends (and to the wonderful people who do have to work on Christmas Day - the mid-wife, nurse and GP in my family to name but a few) and hug and laugh and play games and maybe give the odd well-chosen present and you know, all of a sudden, Christmas isn't so very different to how it used to be.

But if we choose not to spend Christmas with family and friends because it's over-commercialised, not to give even the smallest gift because it's got out of hand, and if we choose not to link arms around the piano, crooning alongside as a talented person bashes out Silent Night, simply because Christmas isn't what it used to be, then we should be dragged forthwith onto the set of A Christmas Carol.

Whilst I absolutely understand that for those who have lost people, Christmas can be so terribly difficult and my heart goes out to them, as far as abstaining because it's not what it used to be, I've always thought like this and the past few years have hammered it home.

Christmas 2013 and the hubby and I were waiting for the results which were to come on 27 December following my earlier tests for breast cancer. Apart from the two sets of parents, no one else knew we were waiting. It just felt the right thing to do. A couple of things had been said during the tests and in hindsight, it was blooming obvious the experts were worried but I think I probably didn't want to hear it at that time, that time being five days before Christmas.

I remember Christmas day vividly, our family all around, everyone happy, just doing their thing. It wasn't any different to any other year really: the hubby and the daughters begging me to exchange the traditional carols for some 'proper' music, secretly wondering if we might manage Christmas lunch before 5pm, some openly wondering if we might forego the walk, but all keen to play games and there were no phones in sight.  And I remember thinking, I'm so grateful for the 45 years I've had because I've had adventures and work I've always enjoyed, some achievements and enduring friendships and loads and loads of laughter but most of all, I love and am loved and that's all we need, and all we can ask, really. I decided this is what I would focus on if the news was bad - which it was.

I have a smile to myself every Christmas now about that, think yep, still here, still fortunate, still loving life. And you know, getting the diagnosis over Christmas time means I love Christmas even more than I did before :)

Today? Well, it's October half term in our house and for the first time EVER, not only am I saying I'm going to bake my Christmas cake tomorrow, it's been given its own special time slot, which means it might just happen. Wish me luck…

* Update *

*Update: I'd hate you to think I don't keep my word - and no, I never do the baking paper correctly but it hasn't proved a problem yet... Oh, and the baby one? Well, that's for deliciously cold November nights 😏* 

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Misplaced Orcas and Worrying Bears

I was back with the so very lovely three presenters, Sue, Tina and June on their Girls Around Town show on Radio Newark last Sunday. We were talking Glass Houses - in theory - but we managed to start with silky soft voices which can't be raised, close encounters with stray orcas in Canada, aka killer whales, and beautiful bears foraging in barren undergrowth with their families which, although incredibly fascinating and the babies so gorgeously cute, were quite heart-breaking in their efforts to find an alternative to the salmon stock depleted by the 'wrong' type of farming. 

And then we went for coffee and cakes, OK, scones. But scones from Strays Coffee Shop in Newark which are very good indeed.

No, it is work, honestly...

With grateful thanks to Raymond Ip
for the photographs.
If you'd like to know what we did when the orcas got a little close, you can listen to the podcast here

And I do talk about Glass Houses and my Work In Progress: In The Taxi, or rather, what happened that windy night in Birmingham in November 2013...

If you'd like to find out more about the threats to survival of ocean salmon and the knock-on effect for the environment, it's explained well here.