Tuesday, 29 March 2016

In Rainbows ...

Apologies for the blogging break but ... well, between trying to hang on to my sanity and get a book finished, I haven't really felt up to it.

Today though I do have a story that I want to share with you. It's something that happened yesterday that made me realise that my mum is with me all of the time and she will find ways of showing me.

We need to go back in time a bit to get the full picture, so bear with me.

I lost my dad when I was eighteen.  As a Daddy's Girl, this was tough and I would cry myself to sleep at night longing for him to visit me or, at the very least, give me a sign.

Then I had 'the dream' ...

There were huge fluffy clouds and the most amazing light - pretty corny so far, huh?  Poking through the clouds was a stunningly vibrant rainbow but it was actually an arched ladder and my dad was at the top of it with a paintbrush.  He turned and looked at me - he was really happy and clearly pretty chuffed with himself - and I asked what he was doing up there.

'This is what I do now,' he said simply.  'I paint the rainbow.'

Well, as he was a painter and decorator during his time on earth, this seemed a perfectly logical explanation and - in the time honoured tradition of bad story-telling - I woke up!

But ... I woke up happier.  He'd given me that sign I'd asked for. Even my son, as a child, used to point to the sky and say, 'Look what Granddad did!'

So imagine my surprise thirty-four years later when my lovely mum called us to her bedroom to say her final goodbyes and within the hour a rainbow had appeared in her back garden.  You couldn't make it up, could you?  My dad was there, ready to take her to be safe and he was telling us he loved us.

My Dad's rainbow in my Mum's garden
Then yesterday I was going to a friend's for lunch and I was dreading it.  My mum would always come along with us and sit and chat to his elderly mum and it just seemed wrong going without her.  Our friend had been thoughtful and set the table in a different room to where we would normally eat so that we didn't feel like there was an empty space and we had a lovely lunch - but it still felt odd.

When you're grieving, you become adept at painting on a smile and chatting as if you haven't got a care in the world but suddenly I found that I was smiling and really feeling it.

Because I'd looked out over my friend's back paddock and there she was - only this time with my dad.  His MASSIVE, vivid rainbow ... and later the shadow of a double rainbow by its side, which Mr Misfit joked wasn't as bright because she hasn't been 'up there' long enough to earn her stripes!


She was looking over me, after all!

Thanks Mum - as always, you were there when I needed you and I hope I did the same for you too while I was lucky enough to have you.

I found this song - says it all.




Thursday, 4 February 2016

Grief

Grief.
Such a short word.
But it hurts.
Sometimes.
Other times it leaves you numb and feeling like you're looking down at yourself - a bit like you're detached from your body or waking up from a nightmare.

My lovely mum is gone.  How did that even happen?  Silly question.  She was 88, had come to the end of her journey and ... pffft ... passed.  But at 51, I wasn't ready.  There was still so much to say and so much I THOUGHT I could do for her. I was wrong. Time ran out and that stinks.

So what does grief and the stupid grieving process mean to me?

* feeling like my life will never be the same again. And of course it won't.
* hating the fact that my life will never be the same again. And panicking.
* lying in a bath until it goes cold because I don't see the point of getting out.
* forgetting to get dressed. Again, what's the point?
* constantly saying sorry. 'Sorry Mum. I could have done this or I should have done that.'
* wondering when I'll feel 'normal' again.
* not wanting to feel 'normal' again.
* trying to find 'me' in a new routine.
* not having a routine.
* making excuses to myself for not going back to her house.
* (this is a bad one - don't think I'm totally evil, please) looking at old people and asking why they're still alive and my mum isn't.
* contemplating 'What's it all about?' Is she really with my dad now?  Is she really finally at peace and happy?
* asking myself if I'll ever write again.  How can I immerse myself in a world of fluffy fun and frippery when my heart is black and heavy.
* knowing that my mum would give me a good telling off and tell me she was proud of me and FORCE me to write again.
* praying that the 'Oh no' feeling will stop and I'll wake up one morning and see some joy again and a reason to get out of bed.

THAT'S what grief means to me.

On the upside ... I've lost a stone in weight and truly know that I am feeling this pain because I had the best mummy ever.

And she will help me find my way.

Somehow.

With my Mum on her last birthday

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

When Data Protection fails

When does Data Protection cease to be in the interests of those it claims to protect?

Well, let me tell you a little story ...

Today was book launch day for me so Mr Misfit and I headed to our lovely local pub on Putney Common with The Alfie Dog for a quick lunch and a glass of wine.  As we crossed the common we spotted two lads on a scooter chucking (what I thought was) a bag of rubbish.  Grumbling and complaining about their lack of consideration for our environment, we approached it. It was only when we got closer that we realised that it was a hand/baby changing bag. Once we realised that the bag contained a purse, bank cards and car/house keys it was too late. The little b*stards had done a runner before we could get their number plate.

SO ... off we headed to the pub where the young barmen were very helpful, offering the phone and advice.

Far more helpful than the police when we called 101.

'We don't deal with lost property.'
Erm, it's not lost property, it's clearly a theft (or possibly a mugging and the poor woman could be bleeding to death somewhere?!)

Furthermore, they only took details of where the bag had been dumped and OUR contact numbers - not the victim's name or address, which was on her driver's licence.

We then asked if they could contact her via the DVLA, knowing they have access to their records.
Nope!
Really?  Wouldn't that make sense? Give her a call, put her mind at rest and stop her cancelling her cards or having her house locks changed?

OK. So, following their guidance (I use that word loosely), we called NatWest and asked if THEY could give her a call.  We were then told that they could only report her card as stolen.  Even when we explained that we didn't expect for them to give us her number, all we wanted was for them to contact her and say we had her bag, bank cards and HOUSE keys - with her ADDRESS - we hit a brick wall.

Madness!

It seemed easier to head to  her house - basically giving up on a world that has gone PC to the point of obstruction.

No-one home.

Left a note and our mobile number.

Eventually we received a call from a police constable who told us that he was with the lady who was terrified that the b*stards might have broken in to her home with her house keys. No sh*t, Sherlock!

To cut a long story short, we have now delivered the bag back to the frazzled mum and, had the system worked more efficiently, she might not have had QUITE such a crappy day.  She told us that the police were just leaving her house and telling her that she'd need to have all the locks changed, at considerable expense, when she just happened to see our note in the letterbox.

She called us her 'angels'.

If it wasn't for 'angels' like us and if the bag had fallen into the wrong hands, the police and the banks would have been partly responsible for the possible outcome. Surely authorities should act while the trail's still hot and realise they have it within their power to shorten the victim's agony by reuniting them with their precious belongings as quickly as possible and prevent any further angst.

God help us if the man in the street has more common sense than those whose duty it is to 'protect' us.

Monday, 23 November 2015

There’s a new Cat Café in Town

FANFARE PLEASE ... !

'Catnaps & Flapjacks' is now available to pre-order from Amazon for your Kindle.

Release date is still WEDNESDAY 2nd DECEMBER but if you order now it can be on your Kindle the minute it goes 'live'.

DOUBLE FANFARE ... !

Cover reveal, including the back cover/blurb for the paperback which can soon be bought at Lulu.com.  Details to follow shortly.

Here's my lovely new cover ... 

[Click to Enlarge]

... and the blurb on the back:
[Click to Enlarge]

Kindle copies can be bought NOW in the UK and US (elsewhere please check your local Amazon site)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Pull up a Seat at 'Catnaps & Flapjacks' !

As promised, here's the blurb and the first chapter of my next release, 'Catnaps & Flapjacks'.

If you're tempted to read more, it will be available to pre-order on Amazon for Kindle from 25 November for release on 2 December.  It will also be out in paperback at Lulu.com from the beginning of December.
 

THE BLURB

Abandoned and fostered as a babe-in-arms,
I've spent my life yearning to belong.

Pregnant at 16 by the boy I loved, I thought I'd found my happy place.
How wrong I was.

Becoming a grandmother at 34, I believed my daughter and granddaughter
were all I needed - along with the cats I cherish in my café.
Wrong again!

Suddenly people from my past are crawling out of the woodwork
and hot men are coming along like buses.

Grab a coffee and a cake at
'CATNAPS & FLAPJACKS'
and snuggle up with one of my fur-babies
as my story unfolds.

* * * * *


Chapter One

‘So, after ogling his cute little buns for approximately two hours, five minutes and nineteen seconds - not that I was counting or anything - he finally came over and spoke to me.’

Ross was putting the finishing touches to our last batch of cupcakes and filling me in on his night at a newly opened gay bar he’d been so excited about visiting.

‘And …?’ I asked as I wiped down the surfaces and checked that we were on schedule for opening time.

‘Oh Ellie.  I could have cried!  In fact, little tears of pain did spring to my eyes!  You could have stripped paint with his breath.’  He paused and wiped his hands on his frilly pinny, emblazoned with the sequinned words ‘Diva on Duty!’  As he shook his head with a huff, he continued, ‘You know what it reminded me of?  Remember that time Rupert had his gammy tooth and it cost you a fortune at the vet?  It was exactly the same rancid stench.’

Oh yes, I remembered it well and the smell, combined with the memory of the bill, almost brought tears to my eyes too.

‘Not your dream man, after all then?’ I stated obviously as I removed my dirty apron and replaced it with a clean one.  ‘Still … plenty more fish in the sea, eh?’

‘In the sea?  Pfft!  I reckon he had a whole shoal of dead ones hiding under his tongue!  Uggh.  I could vom just thinking about it.’

Poor Ross had been looking for ‘lurve’ for as long as I’d known him.  Not the type for endless one night stands, his dream was to settle down with Mr Reliable.  He hankered for cosy nights in front of the TV, weekends in the country and the ideal of living with and being cherished by his soul mate.

‘I give up Ellie!  I’m going to die a lonely old man surrounded by cats and stinking of pee and flea spray.’

‘Ross!  Will you stop it?  You’re thirty years of age - you’re not going to die lonely.  And anyway, I wouldn’t let you.’

Smiling bravely, Ross sighed and said, ‘Well as lovely as that is, Elles, I think we need to remind ourselves that you don’t have the necessary qualifying equipment so you kind of fall at the first hurdle.  And anyway, you’ll no doubt be married to the sensible Stefan by then - I don’t think he’d take too kindly to me muscling in on the act, do you?’

Opening my mouth to reply, I quickly closed it again as I realised it wasn’t the time to tell Ross about Stefan’s proposal the previous night or my lacklustre reaction and the confused feelings which seemed to have set up camp in my head, leaving me tossing and turning into the early hours.

No.  I needed to come to terms with the whole idea before I discussed it with anyone - in particular my prickly and stubborn daughter, Poppy.

That was not a conversation I was looking forward to.


*****


‘Well as long as you don’t expect me to call him Dad, it’s up to you what you do.’

Poppy was in her usual ‘shut-down mode’ as she handed cubes of cheese and cucumber to her good-natured three year old, who was happily flicking through a sticker book whilst chewing and humming.

‘Ria!  Will you please just eat and stop messing about,’ my daughter reprimanded unnecessarily - and I found myself, not for the first time, wishing that she’d just lighten up a little.

Stroking my granddaughter’s head and winking at her, I soothed, ‘You’re a good girl, aren’t you Sweetheart?  Eat up for MumsMum,’ I encouraged, using her pet name for me.

I was rewarded with the smile that never failed to melt my heart - a smile I couldn’t imagine life without.

And yet becoming a granny at the tender age of thirty-four had come as quite a shock - but what right did I have to judge?  Poppy had simply followed in my foolish footsteps and fallen pregnant before she’d even hung up her school uniform.  Yes, we’d both ‘got caught’ - as my headmistress had so delightfully put it - at the age of sixteen as a result of our first foray into the complicated world of sex.

That was where the similarities ended though.  My ‘happy accident’ had actually been premeditated.  I'd been in love, believed I was being loved in return and I'd planned to create a little being who would feel cherished and wanted - one who would become the centre of my universe.

Yes, I knew how Poppy had come to be and I also knew how close we’d been, how happy and carefree she’d been until the day she fell pregnant.

That was the day I lost her, when she pushed me away and refused to let me - or anyone else - in.  Almost four years later, I was none the wiser about the father or the circumstances behind how it happened.  It was a story she still wasn’t prepared to tell.


*****


I’d lost count of the foster carers I’d stayed with by the time I was thirteen.  They’d begun to morph into faceless, nameless blobs who offered me a bed, put a roof over my head and food in my stomach.  They did their jobs well and I couldn’t fault them but, although they cared, they didn’t love.

To be fair, most of them weren’t given the chance to even start to love me, as the authorities seemed to think that it was perfectly acceptable to move me from pillar to post at the drop of a hat.  By the time I’d reached ten, I was an old hand - after all, I’d been offloaded since I was a few months old - and so I developed the knack of living out of a suitcase - what was the point of unpacking only to move on again?

There were always reasons for my upheaval - some that I could understand and others that made no sense to a young, vulnerable girl in desperate need of stability and a family to call her own - but I learnt to spot the signs.  My social worker Pat would arrive with her briefcase and folders, there would be muffled chat in another room and then she'd join me for ‘The Pat Chat’.

Over the years I’d heard it all - foster mum was going into hospital, foster dad had changed his mind, foster mum was pregnant, foster parents had decided to adopt a baby and wanted to devote all of their time to their new child.  It seemed that nobody wanted me ‘for keeps’ and that hurt.

But at thirteen, everything changed - at least that’s what I’d thought at the time.

Arriving at 21 Flaxton Avenue on that bitterly cold December afternoon had felt different - I had no idea how but it just had.  Despite the sprinkling of snow on the pavements and the black ice on the roads, I’d felt warm and cosy for the first time in my life and I liked it.

Eric and Eileen had welcomed me with open arms and I’d stood in awe, gaping at their gaudily dressed Christmas tree, which was surrounded by enticing looking parcels and boxes.

‘Father Christmas came early this year, my love,’ Eileen told me with an easy grin.  ‘Lots of goodies under there for you - and not too long to wait now!’

She’d then taken my hand in hers, ordered Eric to get the hot chocolate ready and told me she’d show me to my room and help me to unpack.

For once, I didn’t question the logic in taking all of my things from their cases and placing them in beautifully scented, lined drawers as I looked at the comfy duvet on my pretty bed.

I was staying.  I was home.


*****


In their mid-sixties, my new foster parents had devoted their lives to caring for children.  Their flock-papered walls proudly displayed photographs of all the lives that had come into theirs - some for short stays, the majority until they were old enough to leave and care for themselves.  Most of them were still in contact with Eric and Eileen - one big happy family.

To name just a few, there was Adrian who lived just around the corner with his wife and son, Maggie who had moved to Ireland but often came back for visits and Lillian who popped in every day on her way home from work.

Sometimes I could be found engrossed by their little ‘Rogues Gallery’ as Eileen affectionately referred to it, and Eric would come in and tell me stories about them that made me laugh.  I loved to hear about each child and the funny or naughty things they’d got up to and Eric was a great raconteur - although Eileen would often chuckle and give him a telling off with, ‘Oh Eric!  That’s not how it happened at all.  You do exaggerate so.’

In short, I’d never been happier and the icing on the cake was when I started at Newton High School and met Lauren.

It had been a happy coincidence that we both started attending the school in the January term - two lost souls, nervous and terrified, we’d taken comfort in one another and instantly hit it off.

By the end of that first term we were inseparable.  Weekends, holidays and after school would see us at one another’s houses - chatting, studying, practicing our make up skills, confiding our secret crushes or listening to music.

But the thing that really sealed the deal on our friendship was our mutual passion for cats.  As much as I grew to love Eric and Eileen and felt comfortable taking Lauren home, the time I spent at her house was treasured because there were always cuddles of the furry variety.

Major Tom - the fat tabby - and Madonna - the slinky tortoiseshell - gave their love unconditionally and I soon became besotted.  When we found out that Madonna was expecting kittens I could think of nothing else.  I had to have one.

Of course, after two years of living with Eric and Eileen I knew that they were pushovers.  If something made me happy and it was within their power to make it happen, then they would allow it.

When I got the call from Lauren at just gone three o’clock one morning, Eric dragged himself from his bed and drove me bleary-eyed, in his tartan pyjamas, to see the tiny mewing scraps just after Madonna had delivered them.

I knew the minute I set eyes on Pebble that he was the cat for me and Eric nodded in agreement, dabbing at his eyes with his sleeve like the big softie I’d grown to love.

‘He’s a fine cat,’ he declared with a nod.  ‘Yes.  He’ll have a happy home with us.’

I couldn’t possibly have known that within a year, Pebble would be back living with Lauren and that I would, once again, be without love.


*****


Eric and Eileen were killed instantly in the motorway accident that was to change my life forever.  Two days after my sixteenth birthday, when I was riding on the crest of a wave and had well and truly shaken off my insecurities, they’d set off to visit Eileen’s elderly aunt and never returned.

The authorities swung into action again and, being considered a ‘difficult age’, I was allowed to stay with Lauren and her parents for a while before I was moved on to interim care.

And so I went back to living out of a suitcase - no one really wanted a sixteen year old and I just had to accept that while dealing with the grieving process at the same time.  Having Eric, Eileen and Pebble in my life I’d learnt how to love and be loved, and suddenly nothing made sense any more.

Maybe I didn’t deserve that privilege.  After all, my birth parents had abandoned me hadn’t they?  I began to believe that it was all my fault that I'd be alone and unloved forever.

Then I met Robert.

* * * * *

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Asking for a Friend ...

I have a friend ...

She's mainly happy but often sad and sometimes a little bit broken but she pulls herself up and carries on because she has no choice.

Her husband is her rock and, on bad days, she feels she'd be nothing without him.  But she knows - in her darkest moments - that if it comes to that, she would have to, once again, pick herself up and carry on. To mix the happy with the sad.

You see, she's watching someone slowly slip away from her - not dying but gradually, almost as if ounce by ounce, become another person on a journey that they can only take for themselves.

It's hard. She feels lonely, frightened, angry, isolated, tired, fed-up and sometimes - just sometimes -  a little bit sorry for herself.

Losing someone you love is always hard but when you start to blame yourself - and other people - for their demise, it's unbearable.  To the point where it physically hurts.

She asks herself what could she, and those significant others, have done differently?  Is it too late to turn back the clock now?

In reality, probably yes.

The damage has been done.

My friend will do what she can, gritting her teeth, allowing silent tears to fall whilst wondering just how it came to this sad and bitter end.

And through all of that, she'll mentally plan an inevitable funeral that won't be a fitting end, surrounded by love and happy feelings that the person she's losing so deserves.

In the meantime, she'll keep on keeping on.  With love in her heart, as much patience as she can muster, tiredness in her bones and a little piece of bitterness that will never understand why people can't see what she is seeing.

What would you do?

Asking for a friend ...

Monday, 17 August 2015

A Shaggy Dog Story

Eighteen years ago when we lost our gorgeous dog, Ralfie, I vowed that I would never have another dog again.  I was heart-broken - why would I want to put myself through that again?


 Ralfie

Eventually, when our son was three, I decided I had a place in my heart for a cat - and so Pinga came on the scene.  She's seventeen now and still going strong.  She firmly believes that she's a princess, walks like a catwalk model and has never learned to love our second cat, nine year old Fred - they merely tolerate one another!

I guess I always knew deep down that I would want to love a dog again one day and assumed that it would be when our cats went to Pussy Heaven.  But ... more and more people seemed to be getting dogs that got along fine with resident cats so I suddenly found myself Dog Broody and I've been suffering from this complaint for about three years but recently it got worse.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, you too may be a victim!

Stroking other people's dogs and imagining them living in YOUR home as YOUR pet.

Envisaging a dog in your house and planning how it would work with your routine and other commitments.

Spending your lunch break browsing the internet for rescue dogs - by now, you've got it bad and there's no going back.

This final symptom was my downfall.  I'd been doing it for a while - yes, 'My name's Amanda and I'm Dog Broody' - so when hubbie discovered my guilty secret we decided that the time was right for us to have a dog again IF we found one that was 'meant to be'.

Of course the more you look,  the more you're likely to accidently find Mr Perfect Pooch.  There were only a few things on our checklist but they were pretty important:

1.  Good with cats - for obvious reasons
2.  Scruffy - I love dogs that look like they should be with a tramp.
3. Cross breed.

So when I saw an ad on Gumtree for a 17 month old poodle cross who lived with cats, my hands reached for my mobile faster than you can say 'Walkies!'

When the lady told me his name was Alfie, I burst into tears.  From Ralfie to Alfie! It was meant to be.

He's been with us for two days now and is proving to be a very clever little chap. He's totally fine with our ginger tom but things are a little trickier with Princess Pinga.  We're getting there gradually and she hasn't left home so that's a bonus.  Tomorrow we have calming pills and collars coming.  If they don't work, I'll get some for us!

In the meantime, may I introduce you to Alfie ...








If you're as mad as I am about dogs, you might want to check out my doggie-themed book 'Lottie's Luck'!