a thousand holly wreaths

This morning I planned a morning of rosy-cheeked, family fun. So we loaded our two children and the powered wheelchair, an additional borrowed child, Morris-dog The Dachshund and my friend who is visiting for the weekend to help with the children in to two cars. And we drove the three miles down the hill to Ma’s smallholding for a Nice Run Round. We also had a cage with four superannuated chickens that were going to retire to there.

We were greeted by Ma’s two young sheepdogs, extremely excited to see us all. There was barking and a football and Joyful Shennanigins.

Then my friend and OH got the chicken cage out of the car and started to carry it down to the hen house. A combination of dogs knocked the top off the chicken cage. Three of the hens exploded out of it. Two of them ran out the gate and turned left, chased by a barking dachshund. One of them flew up on to the top of one of the commercial greenhouses and leaped down in to the farm next door.

The children started yelling at the dogs. I started yelling at the children. The children and OH pelted out of the gate and up the lane after the hens. OH was wearing his knitted hat with the Viking plaits that bounce as he runs. My friend threw herself on the chicken cage to prevent egress of the cockerel, who was pretty pissed off by this point.

The Pursuit Party returned with one hen clutched under OH’s arm and Morris clutched in the Child’s. We finished unloading Smaller Child and the wheelchair and took the two birds down to the hen house. In the pen of the hen-house were the seven more or less feral guinea-fowl, partaking of a little nourishment as is their habit at that time of day. We put the chickens in with them and they immediately attacked them. The chickens lodged themselves right in the corner of the pen behind an old feeder to get away. This made it quite hard to get hold of them again.

We shut the pop-hole to the hen house with the guinea-fowl outside and went to put the chickens inside. First we had to remove the corpse of a large rat that was lying on top of the straw. OH then stapled the pen-roof netting that was sagging and we shut the guinea-fowl inside. My friend had found the hen that had jumped the greenhouse by this time and we went to try and help her catch it.

This did not happen.

The Postman arrived and we asked him to keep an eye out for the missing hen as he went on up the lane. He asked what colour it was and my friend produced a handful of feathers from a pocket … “These were what I took out of the dog’s mouth.”

The Postman left.

By this time, Larger Child had been told off so many times for shouting, they were sobbing. OH took the children to get groceries and my friend and I stayed to walk the dachshund around Ma’s field to see what his recall was like with no children around.

His recall is very, very bad.

Luckily, Ma’s sheep are extremely tame and very robust and have FUCKING LARGE HORNS. I will not be letting the dog off the lead near sheep ever, ever again. Although he’s probably terrified of them now.

We went to say goodbye to Ma. Ma was in her shed, making holly wreaths. Last December she made a thousand. A thousand holly wreaths. A. Thousand. Holly. Wreaths. Ma is eighty-one and she does not enjoy December. She makes sure that no-one else enjoys it either and this is the reason why I didn’t come home for the four weeks before Christmas for twenty years.

Ma said she didn’t want the guinea-fowl shut in, because they tell her when there is anyone or anything about, so my friend and I went and let the guinea-fowl out of the pen.

And then we went home.

This Christmas Fun Infovert has been brought to you by the family of A. L. Lester. Please send us your good wishes for the holiday season, as we send you ours. Or gin. You could send gin.


I have small children and things get broken. And I tell myself that this is why we can’t have nice things. However, I have a tiny, tiny bit of spare brain space at the moment. And I decided to use that to make a couple of broken things beautiful again. I researched the Japanese art of Kintsugi – repairing pottery with gold leaf. I found lots of incredibly pricey repair services and some articles about DIY faking it. The best faking it article I found was this one from A Cozy Kitchen. So this morning I have done this. And yeah, I won’t be able to actually drink coffee out of my lovely coffee bowl again; but I can put Important Things in it, instead.

It’s a life-lesson, too. Just because we are broken and repaired, doesn’t mean that we can’t be beautiful again, just in a different way. Cherish those breaks and cherish those repairs, because they make us who we are. Individual, different from each other. Stronger, perhaps. And covered in beautiful, shiny gold.


grief and fear

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a fugue state of non-specific fear. Fear about politics, fear for my children, fear about my health. Fear that so many people seem to think it’s okay to be horrible to others. There are so many things to be scared about and I feel so powerless about them all. I am paralysed about the future, both on the micro and the macro level.

On top of that, I’m spending a lot of time feeling guilty that I don’t have the get-up-and-go to get out there and make the changes I want to see.  I feel that I should be standing for the local council, or marching with a placard or canvassing for my local non-evil political party. Add that to my general feeling of being overwhelmed, and I’m flat, like a pancake. A pancake made with too much flour and very old eggs.

However, in the last couple of days, two things have happened. The first is that I came across something in a book that really resonated with me. I’m reading Darien Cox‘s series ‘Guys On Top’. In the second book, ‘Guys On The Side’ there’s a part where one of the protagonists tells someone else that when you are dealing with grief, it’s okay that everything else seems trivial.

“What you’re feeling right now,” Angelo said, “looking at the stupid billboards and the things that don’t seem to matter, you’re actually seeing things clearly.” Mercy wiped her nose. “How do you mean?” “Well, right now you’re seeing the world as it truly is. Those things don’t matter. All of that exterior noise has been stripped away from you, and you’re left only with love. And pain. And the pain is because of the love. But eventually, maybe not next month, or even another three months, but eventually, the pain will fade into the background. It will still be there, but the love will be the crux of what remains. And you’ll stop noticing billboards, stop noticing other people going about their day, and wondering, how can this be? How can the world go on? You’ll stop seeing things that way. But right now, it’s all right to see the world that way. It’s real.”

I had to stop and have a cry last night when I read it. Because I am grieving all the bloody time. It’s a kind of preemptive grief, because I know my child’s health is deteriorating and there’s nothing, nothing, than anyone can do about it. It’s just the way it is. We doggy-paddle along from day to day, dealing with tube feeds and incontinence and medical professionals and the children’s hospice. And it’s not until we stop and look round that we realise how overwhelming our life actually is, as a baseline. On top of that, add a gender-diverse child and the health issues of OH and I; and we’re not waving but drowning, most of the time. We’ve got a good circle of friends and all the support we’re entitled to. But still. On a day to day level, it’s an achievement if everyone in the family has their teeth brushed on the same day. It makes everything else – Trump, net neutrality, Brexit – all those things – seem trivial. Because what matters is getting us all up, getting us all clean and getting us all fed. And I don’t have the energy to deal with the rest of it.

Then the second thing happened. This morning someone gave me permission for that to be okay. She said that because of all the overwhelming stuff we are dealing with on a daily basis, it’s okay not to engage with the big stuff outside our immediate circle of influence. That I can let other people hold the light for me out there for a while. Let them write letters to bastard MPs and march with placards and knock on doors to explain why voting Tory again would be such a bad plan. It’s okay for me and OH to just be here with each other and the kids for a bit. Instead of making the change, I can be the change. I can be kind to people I meet, I can nurture my friends, I can make biscuits and give them to random people on the bus. I can smile at people in wheelchairs and say hello instead of ignoring them. I can make my house a safe space for my children’s friends.

My grief is enormous. But I can’t fit the whole world in to it and I’m going to stop trying for a while.



The Gate has a cover!

Look, here’s a thing! Yesterday, JMS sent me the cover art for The Gate, my new short story.

Matty comes home to the family farm from the trenches in 1918 to find his brother dying of an unknown illness that the local doctor thinks is cancer. Matty is convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house. With the help of his friend and would-be lover, Rob, Matty needs to work out what killed his brother and prevent it hurting anyone else.

The story is set in the same universe as Lost In Time, my debut novel that is set for release in January. The Gate will be available from JMS Books as a freebie from the 23rd December.


I signed up for NaNoWriMo, just to give myself a framework for this month, really, and I’ve been doing quite well. This morning though, I am being helped by a nine year old and a dachshund who are being creative with Garage Band. We have clips of the Bus Lady’s voice (*waves to Bus Lady if she is reading this*), cut in with sneezes from both human children and canines, under-layed with a rocking back-beat.

It’s charming. But I would really, really like OH to take them both out for a walk now. Child Two has been asking to walk the dog since she woke up; and the dog is up for it at any time, obviously. We are trying to train him to walk beside the wheelchair without pulling, but he’s only six months old and the whole concept is SO EXCITING for the child that it’s all a bit more complicated than it should be at first glance.

While we are waiting, I have downloaded a new Peppa Pig game on the iPad and that seems to be quite a lot quieter. I’d like to get two thousand words done on the sequel to Lost In Time today, but I think that’s unlikely!