It’s been a funny sort of week here. I’ve followed the news about the Titan submarine with a mixture of hope and horror. Hope for a miracle, even when my rational brain said there couldn’t be one. Horror not just at the death and the apparent lack of any safety testing but at the way a few people have reacted, which has left me swearing that I plain do not care if I am out of step with the rest of the world. I intend to keep right on caring about people and believing the best of them and that most people are kind and generous and loving. If that makes me slushy, old fashioned and romantic, well, it’s part of my job as a cosy romantic writer, isn’t it? And if people don’t like it, then that’s fine by me because they don’t have to. They can read what they enjoy and I don’t have to read that either. My father, who was a lot like Peter Cunningham in my Amy Hammond stories with a dash of the Professor in the Esther and the Professor stories thrown in, was a soldier who fought, as he put it, for people’s right to say what they wanted to, and his right to disagree with or laugh at them. I think that’s a pretty good rule to keep to and I certainly try to do it and pass it on to my children.
There’s no denying that it’s been a relief to escape from the news and into writing the first batch of Christmas stories for my Christmas anthology, which brings me full circle because I started out writing short stories and was regularly in the My Weekly and People’s Friend Christmas Books and Specials. I also did twist endings, which were surprisingly gory at times, and amused me because I could kill humans but not dogs, slugs or snails. It always struck me that my editor couldn’t be a gardener, but she was my editor so always got the last word.
I’ve enjoyed doing that and doing all the research, especially for a wartime Christmas, but then you know how much of a contented geek I am by now, and how fascinated I am by local history. For me, it’s not the great events, but the people who are involved in them, and I was lucky enough to inherit a whole batch of local history books from our lovely next-door neighbour who lived in that house from birth and could remember fighter planes going over and crashing beyond. Her kindness made an amazing difference to me when my children were born, because for the first couple of weeks after my husband went back to work she’d turn up at lunchtime each day with a plate of food and the experience of years working as a ward assistant at the maternity hospital that’s a road away from our home. She’d take over the child and insist that I sat down and ate and drank a cup of tea while it was hot and nag me ever so gently. Between her and my equally amazing mum, I had the confidence to give my children the old-fashioned upbringing that suited them. Daily walks to the park. Feeding ducks and swans and geese. Looking at the world around us with the help of the old Ladybird books I’ve collected and learning to enjoy being outdoors come what may. Because, as my dad always said, there’s no such thing as bad weather. Just bad clothing choices.
I’ve always loved walking and for a while I thought my wretched arthritis would stop that, but I fought my way back, not quite inch by inch but yard by yard and now I weigh less than I did pre-babies. (When your younger baby tops six foot and is shaving it’s hard to call it baby fat any more!) I’m now onto losing my last stone with three gone and, oh, the difference it makes to everything. I wouldn’t have believed how much more energy I’d have or how much less pain, or how much I’d enjoy our walks because I'm so aware that I couldn't have done them a year ago. And that brings me round to where I came in because I never want to lose the sense of excitement and wonder that I get when I do a pre-order for a new book, or when I reach the slight hill as I go for my walk and know that, any second now, I am going to see the sea. I always want to remember exactly how lucky I am in so very many ways; and I hope you share that luck and make this week a good one with lots of simple pleasures.
Today’s photograph is of that view I was talking about, because being able to walk to the sea was something I'd dreamed of all my life and I still can't quite believe that it came true without me even moving. It was there all along, waiting for me to find it and help to work towards making it happen as a volunteer gardener, and I hope that something is doing the same for you this week and you can look beyond the news to all the amazing things there are in the world. And I’ll tell you about the baby seagulls on Wednesday…