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Hello spring! (And young lovers too. And older ones...)

"When I think of Tom, I think about a night,

When the earth smelt of summer, and the sky was clear and bright

And the soft mists of England were blowing on a hill

I remember this, and I always will…"

Yes, I’m afraid I’m coming over all poetical again. That’s from ‘Hello Young Lovers’ from ‘the King and I’, which is one of my all-time favourite musicals, even though I’m always in floods of tears at the end. I don’t know why, because I ought to know the ending by now, but I love Anna, beautifully played by Deborah Kerr, and sung by Marni Nixon because she’s beautiful and elegant and stubborn and steadfast and brave and it was based on a true story.

When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged me to have heroines, and I’ve kept right on doing it as I grew up, because I find it encouraging and comforting to think ‘they did it and SO CAN I!’ So she’s one of those, and besides, what lovely words ‘When the earth smelt of summer.’

I’ve just finished putting the washing out and the world smelt of spring. It’s a windy day, and the washing is blowing beautifully so I’ve also aired the house and slaughtered the dust bunnies of winter and mopped up. Now, doesn’t that sound so much more fun than ‘I caught up with the housework?’ I’ve laid the table for breakfast too, and made it as pretty as I can. When I do it early I can almost convince myself at breakfast time that I didn’t actually do it. That I am, in fact, staying in a gorgeous Air BNB or maybe a little bijoux hotel. It’s by the sea, of course, and there are hills in the distance because I’m not sure that I can ever be truly happy when I haven’t got one of those, and preferably both. There are soft fluffy towels in the bathroom, and clean pillowcases every night in my seaside-themed bedroom. There are tastefully chosen toiletries that match, there is gorgeous, artisanal food. (Again, I love the word artisanal. It’s so much nicer than slightly wonky, isn’t it?)

It’s also a sewing retreat, where all of the sewing equipment you need is prettily displayed in baskets and boxes, ready to use. I’ve got the perfect clothes for the occasion and I am going to have some wonderful days indulging myself and doing things I love. I can sit in its beautiful garden and read the signs that make me smile and empower me. I have access to unlimited tutorials from the top experts in their fields, be it cooking, sewing or DIY. I can talk to friends when it suits me and be blissfully solitary when it isn’t.

I’m immunocompromised so my world changed forever when Covid arrived because it is serious for me, and the damage it’s done can’t be repaired. I’ve got a lot of what I lost back, but the underlying fact is that I live with a lot more pain than I used to, and there are days when I can’t do what I want to. And boo-bloody-hoo to that because all of us get those days and I am alive on a day when the world smells of spring. And yes, basically I have to avoid people or meet them outside, but we have such a gorgeous outside, and the money I used to spend on going out and away has gone into making our Victorian House into that fantasy I was writing about earlier. Yes, I am the chef, but I like cooking. I’m also the housekeeper, but, much to my surprise, I found that I liked being domesticated as long as I had time to do it. I definitely love organising things and making my space into that place that I used to imagine going to. And the wonderful world of You Tube tutorials added to the time I gained from not going out has let me learn so much.

There’s still lots to do to work around what I can’t do any more, but that’s great too because I like having a project on the go. It probably won’t ever be finished, but that’s good because having it finished would mean that I couldn’t change. I love garden makeover shows, but I always wish I could go back a year later and see what it looks like. The same goes for those shows where someone else goes in and clears up.

I can’t have a drastic all over in a day sort out. I can’t even use the sewing machine for more than seven minutes at the moment, and yes, that is frustrating. But I am a writer, so in my imagination, I am finishing clearing out a little room and getting rid of what doesn’t belong in our lives any more. And then I shall set up my modern sewing machine on the antique treadle sewing machine table and put a pretty oilcloth cover over it and a wicker hamper of things waiting to be sewn beside it and an aerodynamic chair in front of it and some pretty signs on the wall. After that, I shall sew for seven minutes each day, which is more than the half hour a week I used to do, and having that picture clear encourages me to do the work to make it happen.

Or maybe I won’t always sew. Maybe I’ll be busy doing something else exciting, because I choose to make it exciting, just as Anna in that song chose to be happy when she remembered her late husband. She could have been crushed by grief and by having to earn her own living, but instead she and her son went halfway across the world. That’s my kind of woman, and I bet it’s yours too.

So tell me about your heroines, and let’s see if we can teach our daughters that Barbie may be lovely, but there are millions of other women being heroines every single day, and they can do it too!

But even heroines need a break, so here are this weeks books on special offer at 99p in the UK and 99c in the US.

The Sword and the Stone and Away with the Faeries are two from my Christians Cross series of cosy paranormal mysteries. I like ‘Sword’ because it plays with Arthurian legends, which makes sense because one of the candidates for the site of Arthur’s last great battle isn’t far away from me. It also let me tell the back story of one of my favourite characters. Away with the Faeries is a love story at its heart, and about friendship and looking after people who can’t look after themselves and how evil is always watching and looking for a sneaky way in. The faerie princess is very like my daughter as a little girl, but thankfully, she couldn’t transport herself wherever she wanted to be or work magic. Imagine that in a toddler. On second thoughts, don’t because I don’t want to give you nightmares.

A Very Private War and a Very Personal Invasion are the first two Esther and the Professor books. The third one is out in June, and will be called A Different Kind of War. I like Esther because she’s an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things in a world she never expected or wanted. I think all of us have times when we have to do that, and it ties in with one of my favourite sayings, which is ‘women are like teabags. You never know how strong they are till they’re in hot water.’ In Esther’s case this means living in an area that’s a prime target for invasion in World War Two, working at a top secret establishment in a military area. (And would someone like to explain to me why the Powers that Be thought it was a good idea to evacuate families and situate research establishments in an area that was a prime invasion target? Because they did…) She’s also finding friendships she never expected and a sort of love she isn’t comfortable with and couldn’t live without. Oh, and she’s finding trouble. Lots and lots of trouble…

And finally there’s one of my favourite Amy Hammond books. It’s called “Echoes” and it’s set during the first big lockdown. That doesn’t mean that it’s glum or gloomy, but it was, at least for me, a very intense time that made me slow down and think about what mattered to me, about what I wanted and what I could have, and the past. I’ll never forget the VE Day commemorations, so of course they went into the book as well, and during our daily works we went hunting local history and that gave me ideas too.

So have a great week till we meet again and let me know about your heroes. And, for a change, here’s a link to a clip of that song…


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