Breaking The Silence #BLAW2018 #babyloss #breakingthesilence #WaveOfLight #groupBStrep #GBSaware #Blogtober18

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Saturday is my youngest daughter’s eleventh birthday. She’s getting very excited, as eleven is the age at which her elder sister got a mobile phone, so she has certain expectations of her present. She is having six friends for a sleepover party on Friday night. There will be cake.

Today is my eldest child’s birthday. It is fifteen years today since he was born. He will not be having presents, or a party, or a cake, because his birthday also marks the day that he died.

Every year my son’s birthday falls within Baby Loss Awareness Week, which this year began yesterday. Normally, I just mark this on Facebook, but this year I can do something different. This year I have a platform. This year, I am giving my son the gift of raising awareness. It is time to talk about baby loss.

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People don’t like to talk about it, it is one of the last remaining taboo subjects. Those who have experienced it find it hard to talk about because it makes other people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say, and any mention of the fact you have lost a child tends to bring a conversation to an awkward, stumbling halt. So we learn not to talk about it. We hug it to ourselves like a dirty little secret we can’t mention in polite company. A form of social leprosy, as if baby loss is something contagious. I doubt people realise what pain this causes. When people ask me how many children I have, I say two. Two – because if I say three, I have to explain why one of them is missing, and this makes people uncomfortable. So I deny the existence of my son. And I do it to protect other people from embarrassment.

People who haven’t experienced the loss of a child find it hard to talk about because they are afraid. They are afraid that they will remind us of our loss. They are afraid that they are going to be the one that causes us to relive the pain of that loss. They avoid the subject with the best of intentions, I know. It is a hard subject for everyone.

But I’ll let you in to a secret. If you mention my loss to me, you aren’t going to suddenly remind me of it. I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten about my son and the fact he died on the same day he was born. What you will do is remind me that you remember he existed. That you remember my pain and that you want to acknowledge it and share it with me. That you are there if I need you. I can’t tell you what a gift that is. It means everything.

And you aren’t going to be the one to cause me to relive that pain, because I carry it around with me always. I’m reminded of it every day in a hundred different ways. When I drive past the cemetery that holds my son’s grave. When I see how much my other children have grown and imagine how he would look now. When I watched last Tuesday’s series finale of Upstart Crow. And here is another secret I can reveal – I don’t want to forget that pain, because the pain goes hand in hand with the only memories I have of him, and they are all that is left. When you share that pain with me, you share my memories of my son, and they are precious.

My son’s grave bears a line from a poem by Margaret Postgate Cole called Praematuri:

“And so our memories are only hopes that came to nothing.”

This poem was written in memory of young men lost in the First World War, but its sentiments ring so profoundly with me. It talks about the loss of loved ones when you are young and all the years you have to live without them. I live every day with the loss of my baby. If you keep silent, trying to protect me, all that means is that I am left alone in my grief.

Well, I want to say now to anyone who has lost a child, you are not alone. There are people out there you can talk to. Let them know you need support, that you want to talk. Talk to your family and friends, talk to professionals. Talk to me. It’s been fifteen years and it still hurts, it always will. I understand. Don’t feel that you are alone in your grief.

For those of you who want to reach out, but don’t know how, you don’t need to say much, or make a big fuss. A ‘how are you doing?’, a hug, a text, a heart on Facebook, some flowers, a card, an invitation to coffee – a squeeze of the hand. Anything that means ‘I remember, I am here,’ is enough. A genuine sentiment of empathy, however inadequate it feels or awkwardly it is expressed, is much easier to accept, much less hurtful, than a back turned in embarrassment or discomfort.

When I lost my son, two people I had been close to for a long time cut off contact for a while after I told them. Later they both explained that they hadn’t known what to say, so they decided abandoning me was the right approach. Another friend phoned me as soon as she heard and when I couldn’t speak, simply sat and listened to me cry on the phone for twenty minutes. I’ll let you guess which of these friends I stayed close to.

So I’m appealing to all of you now, let’s break the silence about baby loss. This affects thousands of people every year across the UK and we need to raise awareness of the effects that such loss has on families and make sure that facilities and help are in place nationwide to support them through those worst of times. More needs to be done. We need to let them know they are not alone. There are lots of ways you can get involved. For more information on what you can do, please visit babyloss-awareness.org. Wear a pin, write a letter, join in the conversation on social media, join in the Wave of Light on Monday 15 October at 7 pm. But most importantly, reach out to someone. Break the silence. Do it in remembrance of all the babies we lost too soon. Do it in remembrance of my son.

And if you are someone who has been affected by what I have discussed here and you need help, please reach out. Don’t suffer in silence. Contact https://www.sands.org.uk for help and support.

“The Time Has Come,” the Walrus said … @gilbster1000 @RNAtweets @NaNoWriMo #Blogtober18

of-dodos-karma-free-software-in-the-library-3-728Hello and welcome to the first day of October! Anyone who has read my blog religiously (probably no one, but one never knows) will recall that this is my favourite time of year. I just love autumn and everything that goes with it. It is also a time of year that feels like a new beginning for me. Odd, I know, when this is traditionally the time of year when things begin to die off but it you read my post Hello, Autumn from last year, it will make a lot more sense.

In the spirit of new starts and new adventures beginning in the autumn, I have a few new projects on the go. I have recently taken the big decision to change careers and I am embarking on some training to take my career in a different direction which will lead to more involvement in the publishing world, I hope. I am, with some sadness, leaving behind the world of travel, but only in a career sense, and have more trips planned, both actually and in my dreams, but more of that to come. I am also pushing on with my own writing plans, eagerly awaiting feedback on my manuscript from the Romantic Novelists’ Associations’ New Writers’ Scheme so I can improve it, whilst also prepping for starting work on my second novel for NaNoWriMo.

I also have some new plans for the blog. Some of you may have noticed that the format of the blog has changed slightly over the past week – that’s right, pay attention at the back there! – and I have some new categories set up. Truth be told, I have found myself a little jaded over the past few weeks. I made the rookie book blogger mistake back in the spring of getting over-excited and taking on way too many blog tours. This all came to a head in September, when I was just so over-extended that I found myself really not enjoying my book reviewing, or reading constantly to a deadline. I got to the point where I felt like I had nothing original or interesting to say about the books I was reading and I was boring myself, so heaven knows what I was doing to you lot! My blog stopped being fun, which is the really the whole the point of the thing. I was suffering from the dreaded blogger burnout. So, I have made a couple of big decisions regarding the blog which I hope will shake it up and make it fun for me again, which in turn I hope will make it more fun for you to read.

Books will still be at the heart of the blog, because that is why I set up the blog in the first place and they are fairly central to my life. Also, I just love talking about them with other book lovers and helping to support and promote all the great authors out there. However, I have decided to cut back on the number of blog tours I am doing, limit them to one, or at most two per week and be really choosy about which ones I join. (I can hear Rachel Gilbey laughing like a drain as she reads this, given how rubbish I am about turning down her tempting tours. Rachel. I’m serious. I really mean it this time, cross my heart and hope to die!). This will hopefully give me time to read some of the other books I have on my TBR which I have been dying to read but have had no time on my schedule to get round to.

Along with the books, I am going to write about some other topics that interest me. Travel is a big one, both in the UK and overseas, as that is something I just love to do. I’d like to share more about my own writing journey and how that is progressing, and I am sure bits of stuff about my family life might creep in. I’ve also decided that, as i approach my fiftieth birthday, I’d like to draw up a bucket list of things I’d like to do and, what better place to explore this and keep a record than here?

I’ve decided to kick the new look blog off by taking part in Blogtober, with a new post every day on a mix of the new topics, starting with this as number one. So, I hope you will come along with me on my new journey and pop back each day this month to see what is happening, and maybe link me in to your blogs if you are doing Blogtober too. Hopefully we can learn a bit more about each other, outside of a mutual love of books. Maybe you lovely folks might have some comments or suggestions on the things I plan to do that will help me along the way. Feel free to chip in any time, I love to hear from you all.

Happy Blogtober then, to all my lovely followers and thank you for supporting my little blog. I really do appreciate you taking time to visit my tiny corner of the internet and interacting with my inane ramblings and I hope you will like where it is going.

 

 

 

What is Blogtober? What to Expect and How to Take Part

Excited to be featuring on Hazel’s excellent blog on 21 October as part of her Blogtober programme. If you haven’t checked out the lovely Tea and Cake for the Soul before, go and have a look, it is one of my favourite blogs to follow.

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Blogtober? I had never heard of it before but then this is the first year that I’ve really delved deeper into what blogging entails. Read on to find out what Blogtober is,  what you can expect to read here on Tea and Cake for the Soul over the coming month, and how to take part if you are a blog reader or a blogger.

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Would you like a quiet walk around the farm with us? Let’s see what wildlife we can spot…

As a child of the countryside, I love this post by Viola Bleu

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How cute are these baby pine cones? (I’m assuming that’s what they are – maybe you’re a flora and fauna expert and can confirm!)

New growth is simply everywhere; spring time is so full of promise, growth, a future. It’s difficult not to be affected by that positivity 🌸

Of course, crops follow a growing season too and here is your Sainsbury’s loaf of bread in its most basic form; a field of winter milling wheat…..

… being watched over by Man of the Woods’ dog, ‘Rock’. This border terrier cross Lakeland can be simultaneously cute and a real sod. He has to stay on a lead because if he smells a rabbit, rat or hare, he’s off at very high speed with no return-radar until his need to chase has been fulfilled. That’s terriers for you 🙈

I was serious about the Sainsbury’s thing. The next time you…

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2018 – The Year of Writing (#amwriting)

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‘And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.’
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, 2017 is over and it was a year of mixed results as far as my reading challenges went. I managed to read 101 books to beat my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 100 books last year, which was pleasing. However, as far as my self-imposed ban on book-buying went, I had slightly less success.

I was rock solid until the end of May, which was a huge achievement. However, in June I allowed myself a little loophole when I bid on some signed books in the Authors for Grenfell auction. Turns out this was a slippery slope. I managed to resist through July and August but then, in September, I went to the launch of Cathy Bramley’s new book and decided it would be rude not to buy a copy for signing, and that was that. The floodgates opened and I caved in and bought loads of books in the last third of the year, so my TBR is bigger than ever!

Still, I lasted longer than I, or anyone else who knows me, could have predicted. I also launched my blog and as a result got to meet and interact with lots of great new people, so it was a worthwhile experiment but one I won’t be repeating. I have a book-buying addiction and I have resigned myself to it gladly- after all, there are more harmful vices.

Despite my failure in last year’s challenge, I am keeping my blog alive and have set myself some new challenges for 2018. I have set my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2018 goal at 105 books, please link up with me using the button on the right to follow my progress. I have also joined a fabulous Facebook Book Club called The Fiction Cafe Book Club and will be taking part in their Reading Challenge for 2018, which is bi-weekly. First up we have to read a book with food on the cover so my first read for that will be Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello. I will also be reading at least one of their monthly book choices, starting with The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, a fellow group member.

I have also set myself the individual challenge of reading one classic novel per month that I have never read before. I am going to try and tie this in with my other challenges if possible. The title for January is Howard’s End by E.M. Forster. I am not sure how I have managed to overlook this all these years, especially as I adore A Room with a View, so I am looking forward to reading it.

I am going to endeavour to be much better about reviewing all my reads this year, and be more active on my blog, so watch out for the reviews of these coming up. This is all part of my main resolution for the year, which is to prioritise my writing. The blog is a small part of this, but the bigger part is finishing the novel I have been promising myself that I will write for years.

On turning 45 last year, I realised it was now or never for my writing so I have taken certain steps towards making it happen. I started my novel for NaNoWriMo in November and, as part of that I was lucky enough to spend five days on a writing retreat with the author Veronica Henry. Not only did I get a lot of writing done, I got to pick the brains of one of my favourite authors, and made a great new friend in the process, so that was an amazing experience.

I did not reach 50,000 words in November but I do have the first third of my novel done and, in an effort to push my writing on, I applied for and managed to gain a place on the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of this great programme, you can find some information here. As a member of the New Writers’ Scheme, no only will I be able to attend the many fabulous events they hold throughout the year and get to meet other (proper) authors, agents and publishers, but I will also get an expert critique of my manuscript by a published author, in an attempt to get it into shape for publication. So, I now have a deadline. I need to have a full manuscript in the best shape possible ready to submit by 31 August at the latest. If that doesn’t motivate me, nothing will.

As well as the above, I will be attending an Arvon writing retreat in Shropshire courtesy of my generous and supportive partner, The Irishman. I have also joined a wonderful writers’ group online, who are full of amazing support, encouragement and advice. I feel like, in them, I have finally found my ‘tribe’ that I am always hearing so much about so, if I don’t get a novel written this year, it will be no one’s fault but my own. Whether or not it gets published will be a story for another time, but I am determined to finish the book at the very least.

So, a busy exciting year ahead and I look forward to sharing my progress with you all. What are your goals for 2018? I’d love to know.

HAPPY NEW YEAR & MAY 2018 BE A SUCCESS FOR ALL OF US!

 

Hello, Autumn! (@CathyBramley @wurdsmyth #TeamSparkly @veronica_henry)

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I love autumn, it is my absolute favourite season.

‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

This quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby always feels so relevant to me.

For me, this time of year always feel like the time most full of promise and potential, much more so than new year or spring. It is the time of the new school year – shiny new shoes and stiff uniform, new pencil cases and new friends. The beginning of my university life and leaving home, starting my first full-time job, qualifying as a solicitor. I got married in October, two of my three children were born at this time of year, I started my own business in September 2013….all of the big milestones of my life are indelibly connected with autumn.

I started this blog back in January to keep track of my pledge to buy no new books this year and I had no plan beyond writing for my own pleasure – kind of like an online diary – with no particular hope or expectation that anyone else would read it or that it would be any more than that. I haven’t done a huge amount with it, I haven’t got hundreds of followers, I don’t follow any of the blogging ‘rules’ or do any of the things that you are supposed to do (the older I get, the less I like being told what I ‘should’ be doing. With age come the realisation that individuality is a lot more fun than conformity!). I haven’t even done any of the things I thought I was going to do with it by way of regular posts and book reviews.

However, this blog and its related Twitter feed have, nevertheless, opened up a whole lovely, welcoming community of book bloggers and some really exciting opportunities that I never expected. I have been able to connect to some of my favourite authors and help to promote their books. I have even got some exciting meetings lined up with some over the next month. I am attending the launch of Cathy Bramley’s latest novel The Lemon Tree Cafe in Nottingham tonight, and having afternoon tea with Cathy and Miranda Dickinson next month, courtesy of the Authors for Grenfell auction. I am part of Miranda’s #Team Sparkly, currently guarding an exciting secret on her behalf, which we will be revealing on 7 September, so watch this space. I’ll also be meeting Veronica Henry in November, as part of a hugely exciting new project for me and I have big plans for 2018.

So, at the grand old age of 45, autumn still holds a lot of excitement and new opportunities. I am, once again, starting some new studies this September and looking forward to looking at some new career options. I’ve got exciting travels planned with my family, meeting some of my favourite authors, another secret assignment on the go, and who knows what else might happen. My blog has moved on from what I thought it might be, and I have had to bend the initial rules I set for myself in order to take advantage of some of the chances I have been offered, but that is what life is all about. This blog may not be what I had thought it was going be, but it has given me things I never expected and for that I am very grateful. I do intend to do more with it going forward, especially once we get past Christmas and I can but new books again but, if that doesn’t happen, c’est la vie. As Katherine Hepburn said, “If you follow all of the rules, you’ll miss all of the fun.”

So, here’s to a new ‘year’, I hope it is the start of exciting new times for you all.

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

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Well, this isn’t going very well so far, is it?!

By that I mean this blogging malarkey – which I just cannot seem to make time for or get into a rhythm with at all, but more on that later.

I bet some of you thought I meant that the goal I set for myself this year, which is the subject of this blog, wasn’t going well, didn’t you? The goal of not buying or borrowing any new books in 2017 and only reading from my TBR. Well no, that project is going surprisingly well, and no one is more amazed about that than I am, I can tell you. So far, so good. Despite many temptations, including a visit to The Book Loft in the German Village in Columbus, Ohio that has 32 ROOMS OF BOOKS*, I have stood firm, and have not bought, begged, borrowed or stolen any new books yet this year, and its now June! Big fist bumps to me, I don’t think anyone thought I would hold out this long, least of all me.

(*If anyone is ever in the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, I highly recommend a visit to the charming German Village, which is a unique and beautiful neighbourhood and the fabulous The Book Loft, where any book lover could spend hours lost in a world of literature. And I mean literally lost, this place is a labyrinth. Walking out without a couple of new tomes was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My fellow traveller and blogger, Liz, is made of less stern stuff and succumbed to the lure of the amazing array on sale. What the hell, go to Ohio anyway, even if you don’t love books. It is a truly wonderful state with a raft of delights to tempt a person with any interests. Make sure you combine Columbus with a trip to the equally fascinating Cincinnati, and maybe pop over to Kentucky while you are down there. The American Midwest is a much over-looked travel destination that I would not hesitate to recommend, whilst wearing my travel agent hat. Contact me via my business page at Jaunt Travel if you would like to hear more.)

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Luckily, in this barren new-book wilderness, a small oasis appeared last month in the shimmering form of my birthday. You may recall from my initial post setting out the rules for my challenge, my nearest and dearest were to be allowed to gift me one book each as a token of their love and affection on my birthday (If you missed my original post, Here it is). I may have added one or two (or 30) much desired titles to my Amazon wish list to encourage this largesse, and those that know me best were duly generous. So I now have 8 shiny new books to gladden my deprived heart and strengthen my resolve for the second half of the year. The titles I received are pictured above and I must express my sincere gratitude to the kindly souls who bestowed them upon me. I particularly want to thank my step-daughters, Twin 1 & Twin 2 and the Tumbling Tornado for abandoning their usual joint present approach and buying my one each to maximise my book haul. I know, as all my children are avid readers, they feel my pain and wanted to ease it as much as possible and I am very grateful.

So, the next major hurdle to get over is sacrificing my annual ‘beach read’ book-buying session and selecting my lounger literature from the pile I already have. And given how unusually well this resolution is going, I have decided to make a few mid-year ones, first and foremost to get to grips with this whole regular blogging thing. However, I move in to the rest of the year with newly strengthened resolve and a belief that I might actually do this impossible thing – go a whole year without buying any new books. And if I can do that, what other impossible thing might I achieve?