the thing with feathers

This week has been hellish. Being shut in the house with two wildly differently-abled kids, attempting to support one with Year Eight home learning and keep the other occupied and safe when she can’t be left unsupervised is just…great.

selective focus photography of white hen
Photo by Todd Trapani on

I’m a hundred percent certain that other families have it just as hard–the one with six children and one computer, for example. But. Talking Child is still feeling the squeeze of having to keep to her regular timetabled lessons but not see her peers in person. Littlest is still bored. Bored bored bored. She doesn’t understand why she can’t go to school. She doesn’t want to play by herself and is still lobbing things on the floor. The dog chews them if you don’t pick them up immediately. This week he’s eaten two meerkats and a doll’s house towel rail.

The cat’s been sick from a rat bite gone septic and had to go to the vet for an injection. The car failed it’s MOT and needed new tyres, which meant Mr AL had to go and collect it, take it to another garage, make an appointment to go back because they didn’t have the right kind in, then when he went back the wrong ones had come in with the order and he had to go back yet again. Then the day the re-MOT was scheduled I had a massive seizure an hour before he was due to go, so he had to cancel it and rearrange for today. Obviously we are supposed to be shielding because of Littlest, so it’s all been a bit nerve grinding.

However. My Mama had her first vaccination last weekend. Our carer is back from her break and we have a few hours off. And I’ve finished the Chicken Story! I’m now cracking on apace again with Dr Sylvia Marks. The chicken diversion was very cleansing. I’m going to rough out all three of the books–different pairings in each book but a through-arc of a main story–before the first one is released in early July, which I hope will make the series more cohesive.

I’m just so, so, tired. Yes, it’s partly the lockdown and its impact on us as a family. But I think some of it is a reaction to the end of the Trump era, too. It feels to me rather like it did here in 1997 when Labour finally got in after years out of power. An enormous weight lifted of the collective shoulders of the country.

We have hope again.

it’s all quacking along

The big news at Lester Towers is that we have some new ducks!

We lost Mr Duck last weekend–he’d been ailing for a while–and Mrs Duck was distraught, calling and calling for him. So yesterday Mr AL went down the lane and did a socially distanced pick-up of a new pair, a lady and a gentleman. They are in house and Mrs Duck is here in the little pond having a nice swim, whilst they are in the house behind her. You can hear her chuntering on to herself if you turn up the volume.

Apart from that, this week has been hard. Talking Child is still having a conniption fit about home schooling. She is wandering round with a beanie pulled down so far over her eyes it’s touching her nose, grumbling that education is pointless as it’s just the government turning out good little citizens that won’t argue with it and anyway we’re all going to die of covid.

I am finding this quite wearing.

We have hopefully beaten her into shape today (not literally) and are all spending five hours a day sat around the dining table working together rather than retreating to our respective corners with headphones. As I type we are running over kinds of computer hardware.

I am stuttering along with the Chicken Story. It can’t quite decide whether it’s set at Valentine’s or Christmas, although it’s definitely winter. On a good day I usually write about twelve hundred words and I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of next week, depending on life chaos.

Cover of Dark, by Paul Arvidson

In the meantime I’m helping Mr AL with his marketing (you can buy his first-in-series, Dark, for 99c/KU: his tagline is basically it’s hobbits in space if that’s your kind of thing) and I’m just fiddling with the distribution of Inheritance of Shadows to try and make it easier for people to find on Amazon, and making some pretty pictures for social media.

We had a visit from the children’s hospice earlier this week to provide us with some respite, and Mr AL and I went for a walk by ourselves, the first time we’ve been out of the house together by ourselves for weeks. Littlest is still throwing things on the floor the moment you turn your back on her and it’s exhausting. This week our carer has been poorly so we haven’t had any respite at all apart from that. On the one hand it’s quite nice not having people coming into the house every day; but on the other, being ‘on duty’ 24/7 is utterly draining.

It’s sunny today and I’m looking forward to the weekend–apparently we are playing Carcassone and having pizza.

Introducing #TheWeekThatWas

This is going to be a new post feature thing, hopefully, if I can keep my momentum going. I’m going to do an update on a Friday about what’s been going on at Lester Towers.

So this week:

Four chickens in a line staring accusingly at the photographer.
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

This is week has mostly be taken up with release promo for The Hunted and the Hind. I got really behind and half-organised some facbook and blog drop-ins in good time in late November and early December. And then family life got really, really complicated for a few weeks and my mental health plummeted, so I booked a launch tour with the lovely Lori at Indigo Marketing. That took quite a bit of the pressure off, but I’ve still had a list as long as my arm of things to do.

In the meantime I’ve been trying to get back on the Writing Horse and start the new trilogy I’ve roughed out centered around Dr Sylvia Marks, one of the side-characters in Inheritance of Shadows. I’m trotting along all right with that, but it’s complicated because there’s foreshadowing and short story arcs and long story arcs and generally having sit and think and stare into space a lot.

My usual writing style is throw about thirty thousand words about two characters at the page randomly and see what sticks, then fill in the bits that need filling in. So this is a completely different process for me. There’s lots of words and they’re on the page but I’m not quite sure where they fit together. It’s a bit like only having half a really large jigsaw and you’re waiting for the other half to arrive in the post.

In the meantime this week in the UK, we have had: Your kids must go back to school, it’s safe/oh, no strike that, don’t send them back, the pandemic is out of control; Brexit is fine, nothing to see here; and, oh, America is exploding.

My brain has clearly decided that it can’t cope with anything more complicated than short, fluffy stories, so this morning I’ve begun to write a meet-cute based around a lost chicken.

Do not judge me.

Personal post: it’s a lot, folks

I’m genuinely struggling to know what to post about this week. I’ve got all sorts of things going on–Littlest had another COVID scare in the week and had to go in to the Children’s Ward to be tested and my Mama had her radiotherapy orientation yesterday and has her fortnight’s treatments scheduled to start in a week’s time and both kids have needed bloods taken and we’ve all had flu-jabs.

open book on table
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

Then…Morris got out whilst Mr AL was taking Littlest in to the ward on Wednesday and when I went to collect him up, he wouldn’t be collected (because badger setts are more interesting than people, doh) and I ended up having a mahoosive seizure in the middle of a ploughed field a quarter mile away from home, in the dark, in the rain. Without my locator-watch gadget, which meant that poor Talking Child, the passing Lovely Jogger, my sister and my friend–both of whom I managed to call in a garbled fashion before I went full-on kipper–spent quite a while searching for me. I’d just got out of the bath and was in my nightie and house-trousers and unsuitable shoes, and I’d semi-fallen in to the ditch whilst trying to jump from one field to another.

Morris Dachshund of Lester Towers, Badger-Hunter Extraordinaire. Butter wouldn’t melt, obvs.

I felt pretty grim on Thursday–I get a sort of hang-over after the siezures–and that was made even worse by feeling so useless with everything else that is going on. Mr AL will be driving my Mama the ninety minutes up and down to the hospital, with my sister. It’s more comfortable and less tiring for Ma to travel in her powered wheelchair in our vehicle rather than transfer in and out of my sister’s and take a folding chair. I can’t participate in any of that, because I can’t drive any longer and no-one wants me to ride along only to have a fit in the middle of Mama’s appointment.

In addition, it’s not really safe for Littlest and I to be on our own without supervision. She’s a choking risk and I’m a fitting risk and if those two things happen simultaneously, well, that’s not ideal for her. This has been the case for quite a while and we work round it, making sure we always have oversight.

But after Wednesday, my nearest and dearest are having a conniption fit about me being alone at all.

Littlest, when she was in hospital for something-or-other earlier in the year. Honestly, we lose track.

I’m really, really pissed off about it. I relish my time alone and need it to recharge. Being stuck with a carer in the house is horrible, however much I like them personally. It’s not that I want to hoover naked or turn cartwheels in my underwear; but that possibility doesn’t exist at all if you have someone else in the house. And if they are pottering around unloading the dishwasher and changing the beds…both of which I am massively grateful that they help with…I feel guilt-wracked sitting on the sofa watching them and not helping.

In addition to all that, we have lost our usual support from the Children’s Hospice. Because of bloody COVID, they have had to change the way they look after their families. Usually we all go for three or four nights every three or four months, Littlest gets twenty-four hour care and we get looked after too. There are people to talk to and discuss different care approaches, there are comfy sofas and a nice garden and lovely food and we have a real rest. Now though, they are only open for end of life care for children (both COVID and other ‘normal’ conditions) and emergency stays for children when families are on their knees. Littlest went in the summer when we were doing really badly and she didn’t enjoy it as much as she usually does–it was all a bit different, the main parts of the house were shut off, she couldn’t interact with everyone like she usually does and of course all the carers were in scary PPE. They have us on the emergency list again, but it’s not the regular respite that we have been relying on.

Plus I’m bricking it because although we’re in a relatively low-incidence area COVID-wise, it’s on the rise everywhere and if we get locked down again we will have to cut back on some of the carers we have coming in to the house, just to keep everyone safe. That will mean we get progressively more exhausted–Littlest needs help in the nights. And there’s the risk to Littlest on top of her general respiratory fragility. And the risk to my Mama, with the lung cancer.

My mental health is for shite, basically, and not really because I’m becoming extra-depressed, but because there’s so much going on.

I’m trying to crack on with the rewrite of The Hunted and the Hind, but I’ve stalled a bit. All I want is to be in an alternate fantasy world, to be honest. Somewhere I have control over, unlike here. But I’m not sure that makes for good writing.

That’s it. That’s the blog post. Tomorrow is another day, we’ll laugh about this later etc..

It’s just a bit tiring, is all.

let’s move to France!

A blatant plug for my friend Lorraine today – she is a smallholder from Cornwall who has retired* to France with her husband. She has a smallholding book that has lots of good advice teamed with fantastic pictures, but also a very recent release about moving to France. This seems like an ideal book to buy now to plan out either a real-life or fantasy move!

Fed up with the rat race? Dreaming of a simpler life? A better life? A GOOD LIFE?
Since the 1990’s hundreds of thousands of people left it all behind and moved to France.

Are you dreaming about moving to France to live a simpler, rural life; perhaps on a smallholding or simply in the countryside? Then THIS is the book for YOU.

This practical and up-to-date book will lead you through the many questions you may have including:

* How Brexit will affect you
* Owning animals or setting up a smallholding in France
* Finding & securing the right property
* Starting a rural business

Benefit from Lorraine Turnbull’s own experience and read the case studies from real people who have moved to live the Good Life in various areas of France. It’s a big step to a brave new world and this timely book aims to help you in your journey to your Good Life in France. Lorraine is an award-winning smallholder and former cider maker who relocated to rural France in 2017.

Buy the book here!

* I use the word advisedly