Many years ago my eldest brother told me that you couldn’t become a radical unless you could spell it. I had told him I’d marched in a rally and I was a radicle. He told me that meant I was a radish.
So…I would make a hole in the bookshelf, not a whole. Sorry, my proofing hat had a hole in it today, it was not whole.

Goals and Dreams

I was thinking this morning about goals and dreams and it exercised me enough to blog about it (on a tangent, would that exercise was literally that easy) before those thoughts disappear to wherever it is my thoughts go nowadays.

When I was young I had what you would describe as ‘usual’ goals. I fell for the ‘Cinderella dream’ and wanted to grow up, get married and have children. I knew their names and their genders and how many they would number. In turned out that other women would give birth to them and they would call me “Aunt” but never mind, love them just as much. And I get to create people and name them all day long, my ‘children’ number in the hundreds.

My burning goal was to walk into a book store and see my book, a book written by me, on the shelves. If the books were shelved alphabetically they would be in the “T” section and yes, it is sad but true, I used to make room for them by making a hole on the shelf. My mind didn’t really grasp the full implication of this dream. I would have to write the book AND get it published. As far as I was concerned it would magically appear and I would be an ‘author.’

So what happens when you achieve your lifelong goal at 53? In June of last year I walked in Wrights Bookshop in Cambridge and there it was…my book, all over the shelves. I took photos, I brought Mum down to see and exclaim at it. Not only was the book on the shelves but there was a whole window display and it stayed up for two months. People started to refer to me as ‘writer’ or ‘author’ and I saw pictures of myself in the media.

Life goes on and you reshape your goals. It became a second book on the shelves and to prove that I am not a one-book-wonder. Next April that will happen and I am very excited about the next book. It is not something written years ago, it is me, right here and right now. There are experiences in it that come from the bottom of my heart and soul. I have written two books and now I am writing a third.

This is all good stuff. Life has changed in other ways, I’m a regular public speaker and I really enjoy doing it. I enjoy hearing an audience laugh. Life is full of many little joys, a lovely warm pool for aqua-aerobics three times a week, hot showers on cold winter days, listening to great broadcasters on the radio, singing with the CDs in my gorgeous little blue car, the wickedly stolen delight of salted caramel chocolate mousse and cuddles from my absolutely devoted cat who follows me around the house like a shadow.

BUT underpinning all of this is the knowledge that I have achieved the main goal I’ve lived with all my life. Nothing can take that away from me. If I died tomorrow I would be happy, with no regrets and no sense of lack of fulfilment. I remember my Dad telling me years ago that he survived the war, he did his bit to defeat Hitler, and everything else was a bonus. I didn’t understand that then, but I certainly do now. I’ve published a book, I’ve shared a precious story with the world, everything from now on is a bonus.

The Price of Fame

I was genuinely shocked on Tuesday when I heard about the death of Robin Williams. Volumes have been written and said since about how sad it was and his immense talent. Like most people, I have many memories of his performances on film and in interviews and it feels like a personal loss. The depression side of the tragedy hit me because it is a condition I suffer from and it reminded me so clearly of the state I was in when I found Sir John Kirwan’s website and that sent me to my GP. Since then I have been medicated and things have been SO much easier. I know how lucky I am that a low-level antidepressant works for me. And now we know that he suffered from Parkinson’s, another level of sadness. I really hope the publicity around his death results in people seeking help if they suffer from undiagnosed depression.

Then a couple of days later, Lauren Bacall. This made me sad too. I’ve always loved Humphrey Bogart, I actually had a poster of him on my bedroom wall when I was a kid. I love his delivery and his burning eyes when he stares at his co-stars. Casablanca is one of my very favourite movies. I loved the love affair between Boggy and Bacall and she was so elegant and timeless.

Yesterday, shock of another nature. Sir Cliff, under investigation. Really? Cliff? Where will this end? And today they say that other people are helping with the enquiries which might mean that more complainants have come forward. Don’t get me wrong here, I think it is vitally important that people who have been seriously assaulted and have suffered come forward and their complaints are taken seriously…BUT, I have a feeling that people with public profiles, like entertainers, will feel a shiver when they think of all the parties, all the times they don’t remember exactly how they behaved over the years. Who is waiting in the woodwork and what will they say? The unfortunate thing is that mud does stick and no matter what happens, there will always be people who will believe everything they hear and read. There will be an aspect of convicted in the court of popular opinion. I look back over my life and remember times when someone made an inappropriate suggestion or I felt a hand or two where it shouldn’t have been, did I feel assaulted? Not at all. But I wasn’t vulnerable, I was educated and confident and I put them in their place without hesitation.

I woke up this morning and ‘leapt’ out of bed and thought to myself how nice it was to feel pain-free and flexible. This year I have decided that it is time I put a regular exercise regime back into my life. I will be 55 next month and the body needs a little help! So Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go to aqua-aerobics for an hour a day. It is in a scrumptious warm pool and I just LOVE every moment of it. Then Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I go to the gym for around 45 mins. I listen to my ipod so I have a little concert as I go through my paces, at my own speed, and have a good stretch afterwards. Sunday I walk, or dance to a DVD, or just have a really good stretching session. And my body is feeling good.

This coming Monday night I am having a little neighbourhood gathering, a few friends and neighbours over for drinks and nibbles and to meet our lovely MP Louise Upston. I’ve decided to make the food an ode to all the meetings I remember in my childhood. We often had quite important political figures around our dining room table and meetings leading up to elections. The food served was the height of fashion, so now I am recreating the food my Mum made. There will be prunes wrapt in bacon, little vol-a-vonts with snapper in white sauce, meatballs with a satay dipping sauce (not tomato sauce as Mum would have had), kiwi dip and chips and the one concession to modern tastes, a humus with caramalised onions through it and raw veges and pita chips. It will be a cold winter night so I think I’ll make a spiced apple punch, as well as wine and beer.

I have a speaking engagement at Waikato University Wednesday night, in a series of lectures open to the public. This one is about digital innovations and I am speaking about self publishing and ebooks v paperbacks. The other speakers seem to be academics so it will be an interesting evening.

Time to put the washing on the line, it is a beautiful winter day, then hit the gym and pick up my ‘Saturday weakness’ the New Zealand Herald, for a good weekend read. Happy Days.

The Closest Thing to Crazy

Life is busy at the moment, that could be a small understatement. I’m writing, gardening, electioneering, volunteering, going to church and eating, sleeping, doing housework (the last one could be an overstatement)

Last week I visited the Rest homes in Cambridge to make sure they were supplied with Special Votes and to let them know that there was help available for residents who wanted to go to the polling booths on Election Day. That meant I went back to Resthaven for the first time in seven months. The rest home Mum was in. It felt strange to pull into the car park and park a different car. It felt strange to walk in and see faces I knew and not sign-in the book, not go down the corridor. I had my “Both Sides Now” CD playing so as I drove out Michael Ball was serenading me with The Closest Thing to Crazy and then I saw my old car in the car park. Someone who works at Resthaven bought the wreck that was my old car.

Yesterday I did a stint at the monthly Trash and Treasure market. I had information on the National Party, blue sweets, free pens and a great big bear with a sparkly blue hat, blue bow tie and “I’m a Key Person” T-shirt. And for 90 minutes or so I had Louise there too before she had to go to Wellington. It was a blast. People came up and chatted away, no-one asked any curly questions and most made a comment about Kim Dotcom. One woman asked for a pen so she could write Louise (my local MP) a message “Get rid of the German!” I’m a writer and I don’t have adequate words to express my disgust at that man and his antics. Still, six weeks and it will all be over. All I can do is do all I can to help.

This morning I was listening to “Sunday Night with Michael Ball” on BBC Radio2, it plays from 6am Monday morning here for two hours and the music is simply superb. Sinatra, the Carpenters, Simply Red and he played a song I’ve never heard before. It was a request and I was so moved by the lyrics I looked it up on You Tube. It is sung by Jenn Bostic. Have a listen, it is a gorgeous ode to anyone you’ve ever loved and lost and miss and know you will see again. I suspect it is going to become a favourite.

My politics

I’ve been gardening and as I pulled weeds, I’ve been thinking about my politics.

I grew up in a household of National party activists and I remember politicians sitting around our dining room table planning campaigns with my Dad and in later years, Mum. I remember going to meetings with them, being in the car when they picked up voters and delivered them to the polls, in later years scrutineering and going to election night parties.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped by a Labour party supporter who was campaigning on our main street during the monthly Trash and Treasure market. When she learned I was a National voter she said, “why?” I replied, “why not?”

She accused me of voting the way I had learned as a child and not thinking about it. Actually the opposite is true, I think deeply about my vote and I treasure it. She said, “I can guarantee you’ve never voted for anyone other than National your whole life.” “Not true either, I voted for Act once.”

Now I know not to give my party vote to anyone other than the party I want to govern. The party with the leader I want to be Prime Minister. It’s a personal thing, politics. It’s about your philosophy, your values, the country you want to live in. But it also about personal experiences, policies that affect you and people you encounter. I have no children and that colours my views but I have had up close and personal experience of the public health system and as a cardiac patient, and the caregiver of an elderly woman, I can say it has never ever failed me. I did work in the film industry and I joined many of my colleagues and cried with happiness when The Hobbit movies were saved, some of us sent John Key a collective email to tell him how much he ‘rocked.’ I did some television work that overlapped with the Tourism department and encountered him again, his positivity was critical to our success. So many of the National party ministers really impress me and our local MP is so hard working and so dedicated to her constituents.

So I bleed BLUE, it’s in my genes, but it is also my choice.

Of Mothers, cars and elections

Ah, so many things are afoot in my busy life, it is hard to keep up. Today I have pruned large trees and small shrubs and prepared for a Japanese pebble garden…long story, but I think it will look cool and I’ll take a pic of it when it is done.

Last week I went up to Auckland in my new little blue car (of which I am inordinately fond). I had lunch with my fantastic publisher, Finlay Macdonald at Skycity. We discussed the cover of my next book and how to make it sexy and clever and blood thirsty. I will be intrigued to see what they come back with, given the ideas we had! Then I went and stayed with my Aunt who had turned 91 on Wednesday. It was her first birthday without her sister and my first ‘Mum’s birthday’ without Mum. We had some great catch ups and watched some gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. We were both rather reluctant to part company.

I found this little poem the other day and I put it here in honour of my dear old Mum.

mother poem

The writing is going well and I’m combining it with regular gym and aqua-aerobics, church and preparations for the upcoming election. Those who have subscribed to my blog since 2011 will know that I am a ‘political animal’ and I love being involved in an election campaign. Our local MP, Louise Upston, is superb, one of the best MPs I’ve ever had and it is a pleasure to work for her. On a broader note I am a ‘Key person’, I think John Key rocks and I admire what the National party have achieved during the last six years. So, counting down to the scrap!!

There is some great TV on at the moment, real quality writing and it is maintaining the pressure as the series progress. “Resurrection”, “Under the Dome”, “The White Queen” and of course one day my very favourite, “Scandal” will return. Happy Days.

A letter to My Muscles

Good afternoon muscles

Didn’t we have fun this morning? We went for a walk. Down the hill and past the pet shop where we dropped in some roasted mutton bones for the dogs and swooned over a Shitzu-Sidney Silky puppy that wanted to come home as much I wanted to take him home. Then on past the roundabout but not over the bridge. Were you starting to get worried at this point? The next building was the….drum roll…horror music…the gym!

Yes, it was the day of the first gym workout in three years. Encouraged on by the lovely (and polite) Josh you pedalled for 12 minutes then did some resistance weight machines with some grinding machine cardio in-between, some Swiss ball crunches and some triceps curls using a strange blue band. Cardio, resistance and core. It was quite impressive according to Josh, you haven’t lost as much fitness as you thought you had. And then you staggered home.

Josh suggested we do it again on Monday, today is Friday and I don’t want you to think you have the whole weekend off, oh no. Once the music starts on the ipod and the endorphins start to rush, you’ll feel as good as I did on the stumble home. I promise. Now where is that very good dark chocolate?

With love from your masochistic, but loving, master
My brain

Agatha and I

Agatha’s just taken me for a ride down the road. I would like to be able to say I’ve just had a bike ride, but at this point in time I am not the one doing the taking, I am the one clinging on for dear life. What possessed me to think that it would be, well…just like riding a bike? I think the last time I rode a bike I was around 10 maybe 12. Once I started going to St Cuths I went by bus and the bike became redundant.

So the other day I strode into the local bike shop and pointed out the shiny new Avanti Metro with 21 gears. That was the one I’d sat on and that was the one I wanted. I took it for a very wobbly ride out the back and turned a corner, sort of. So the nice man sold me a metal basket for the front and a racy grey helmet.

I pushed it most of the way home, tried a couple of wobbly runs and decided it was too dangerous. I knew nothing about gears or front brakes and no-one had given me any instruction. Finally I turned into Wordsworth St and thought, “this is ridiculous” so I got on and pedaled. When I turned into Chaucer St I had to do a massive U-turn to get to my house, hit the concrete and flew through the air.

A neighbour who lives diagonally to me and who I had never met, happened to drive past, stopped and came to my rescue. “Oh, so you’re the writer, I’ve been wanting to meet you.” Fantastic.

One knee has an interesting shaped bruise that looks a bit like a chain and the other has a bruise and a great big graze. Nothing else was dented, except my pride and my inclination towards bike riding. I put it in the conservatory and glared at it for a few days. Then yesterday I had a conversation with my ever helpful (and only slightly amused) brother who explained how the gears work and how to use the brakes. My main problem is my steering is not great and when I get any speed up I am literally, terrified. I’m hoping practice will solve that. I’ve also taken the basket off for now and I suspect the next time I take it out I will find steering easier. I’m still very tempted to put the whole thing on Trade Me.

This Saturday I can leave my transport problems behind and fly to Melbourne!! I am so looking forward to it. My notebook is full of lists, one page for museums, one page for other things to see, four pages for shopping and five pages of themed bars. Oh yes, I have my priorities right. I haven’t had a break since 2009 and this one will be enjoyed to the hilt and back again. If I’m a bit tardy about letting you know how I’m getting on, look for me in Madam Brussels, 1806, Berlin Bar or the Sherlock Holmes Inn…I am intrigued by Berlin Bar, apparently the room is split in half and West Berlin is luxurious and East Berlin is grotty and industrial. I wonder if I could sell a slightly used bike (with a despotic temperament) to anyone in the Berlin Bar??

Going On a Holiday and a Bike

Today is another one of those days when I realise how much I love my life.

From the big things…I get to spend my days writing the books I love and have a wonderful publisher who understands me and supports me…to the little things, I can have a steaming hot shower on a cold winter morning and my dehumidifier means I wake up to a house that is warm and dry.

Another thing is making me excited today, I’m going on a holiday! I haven’t had a holiday since 2009 and life has been pretty rugged at times since then. In a couple of weeks I am going to the beautiful city of Melbourne. Yes, I’m visiting three museums that are important for the book I’m currently writing. And as I wander around the city I’ll imagine what it was like in 1950 for an immigrant family from Germany, but most of my time will be spent sightseeing, shopping, eating magnificent meals and drinking adventurous cocktails, a day spa treat and catching up with a dear dear friend I haven’t seen since 2009. We laugh, a lot.

Over the last few months I’ve nearly gone to the USA and then nearly gone to Germany and now I AM going to Melbourne. My frazzled brain can hardly wait.

I’m also buying some new transport. No, not a car, a bicycle. I am going to fulfil my dream of riding a bike with a wicker basket on the front, although it will also have 21 gears and a very comfortable seat. I’m hard at work thinking of an appropriate name for it, something suitably refined and literary. Agatha is in the lead at the moment, but these things take time.

So, on this glorious day, I am off into Cambridge, the rural town I am proud to call home and which I love so much. It is very possible I shall set out on foot and come home on a shiny new bike. If this does happen I’ll take a photo and put it in my next blog. If you have any ideas for a name, please feel free to let me know. Happy, happy day.

Gardens, books and winter

I know, it’s been too long, hasn’t it? Sorry. Life has just been busy.

A couple of weeks ago I went to New Plymouth for a weekend conference and gave a speech about my writing. It was great fun and I got to go to the New Plymouth Cathedral. What a glorious church! The oldest stone church in New Zealand, it is so beautiful and the service was lovely and funky and modern and not at all what I expected. I also got to carry a banner into the Cathedral and that was a rather wonderful experience too.

Jane has been attacking the garden, with a little help from me. Many plants have been removed, along with all the weeds. Now we are planning what to put in and the discussions have included a Japanese garden with gravel and stones, a chilli garden, a garden that will reflect my current literary project and some fruit trees and lovely smelling plants. It will be a joy once again.

Yesterday I finished my first rewrite of Blood, Wine and Chocolate. It is now much darker and funnier than it was and I’ve invented a new ending. It made me laugh as I was writing it and Jane roared with laughter, so hopefully this new ending works. The book will be published May 2015 and we have some great plans for the launch. Plans that involve copious quantities of wine and chocolate and, maybe, some fake blood. I’ve loved writing this book, it has brought light and joy and laughter back into my life and I hope my readers enjoy it too.

I’m 10,000 words into “Rachel’s Legacy” which is the sequel to Secrets and it is also going well. At some stage before the end of the year I’ll go on a research trip to Germany but it is looking increasingly likely that it will be October/November. I need to be ready and to know exactly what I need to research and at the moment I am far too involved with my thriller (see above) to rip myself away and travel.

It was the first heavy frost this morning and the garden was white. The house was cold and the people huddled around the heater. So winter is upon us, the time of year I love. The bed becomes a snug cave and the food reflects the temperature, creamy mash and steaming bowls of soup, pudding and custard and hot chocolate. Happy days!

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