I had part of my right thumb amputated last week which has held me up a bit with the writing part of my fundraising challenge for Tina and Anna. However, that’s nothing compared with what Tina is going through. She has just come out of hospital after 3 days of very demanding treatment for her liver cancer, which has been extremely painful and has left her very weak. It was traumatic as she was the last patient to receive the treatment, and could hear the others crying with the pain.  She’s now at home and resting.

Anna is being cared for by a church member who is taking her to school and to visit her mother.

However! I’m back at my keyboard and today have reached 22,140 words out of my target of 25,000! Best of all, thanks to your amazing donations we’ve reached 88% of our target.




Thumbelina is still tightly bandaged and has had to be kept aloft for 72 hours … and when I tried to do my hair yesterday the effect was disastrous.

So I did something I have never done, which was, to phone the hairdresser and ask if I could come and have a wash and blowdry.  Normally I only go for a cut.

Anyway, I really like my hairdresser:  she has a lot about her.  Instead of getting off her face with her friends at weekends, she loves  fishing and goes out with her Dad and sister for all-night fishing trips.  She’s been going since she was little, she says.

Today she said she has reached the stage when she wants to be independent.  She’s been with her boyfriend for 4 years – she’s 22 – and living with his parents.   They get on well, she says;  but she would love a place of her own.  And, she adds, not just so that I can call it my own – I want to be responsible for paying the bills and the mortgage, and buying my own food.  And being a grown-up.

I think that’s brilliant, I say.  I’m all for young people being as independent as possible.

Except.  She’s not sure how her boyfriend will like it.  He’s always lived with his parents and he doesn’t want to move.  He’s never had to do anything for himself and when she remonstrates with him, counters with ‘why should I do the chores when the family does them for me?’

If they move in together I foresee a lot of discussion …

But it made me think.  She’s so young, and ready for independence.  She could be having adventures and trying out new ways of doing things.  Instead, she feels she’s likely to become an old nag.

I’m not sure about young people getting hitched up at such an early age.  What would have to happen, to persuade them that they don’t have to move in with each other so soon?  It’s as if her identity has already been swallowed by the relationship, before she’s had a chance to find out who she is and what she wants out of life.

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(image from the.iapolis.com)




We first met Tina (whom I called Serena in previous posts on this blog) when she came to our church in Birmingham in 2009. She had been trafficked to this country from Burkina Faso, had a daughter, Anna, of two years and had been abandoned by the father. When we met Anna she was an elective mute – she would not speak. Gradually, with the love and security of the church, things improved for them. Today Anna is a healthy and confident nine-year-old doing well at school.

We left that church to retire to Devon in 2012, but have kept in touch. Two weeks ago mutual friends rang us to say that Tina has been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the liver.

She now faces the very sad task of providing for her daughter, which will include making a will and arranging guardianship, which is likely to cost lawyer’s fees. We can’t really bear to think about it, but there will also at some point be the cost of a funeral, unless there is a miracle. Although Tina is extremely careful with the little money she has, there is no way she will be able to meet these costs.

Would you sponsor me to raise money for Tina and Anna? I am writing a memoir, and I’m committing myself to completing 25-30,000 words by the end of this month, September 2016. I  update regularly on the Justgiving site to let you know how many words I’ve added. You could either sponsor me for the whole project, or per each thousand words. Whichever way you do it, I can assure you that Tina and Anna will benefit from your kindness.




So Marie Anthumbette’s time has finally come, after all the trouble she’s caused me. She’s been in the Bastille for years, with clever lawyers arguing the toss.  She’s ducked Mme La Guillotine time and again and has lived to torment me.  But today – today, Robespierre finally gets his way.

Ah, oui.  She has had doubts for some time now about her head anyway, given that her hair has turned white – only with these stubborn black streaks, which have brought her so much attention.  But helas!  they are poisonous, n’est-ce pas, and Mme La Guillotine is always starving.

So she’ll be bound and put in a cart and taken through the streets to la Place de la Revolution, and the sans-culottes will jeer and lick their lips …

OK, it’s not that bad.  But the thumb which has given me trouble for so long with black streaks of melanoma is not getting any better, and today the surgeon said he thought that amputation of the top joint was probably the best thing to do.  He gave me a skin graft 4 years ago, but the melanoma keeps reappearing and is now spreading, so …

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(image from polyvore.com)



I was riveted, watching a guy digging apparently randomly in the sand on the beach yesterday with a garden fork. He had a red bucket and I could see he wasn’t just building sandcastles. I ambled nearer and he said ‘I’m digging for sandworms (lugworms). They make excellent bait.’ He showed me the wormcasts on the beach,

which you see all the time … but then pointed out that not far away was a little hole in the sand.

That is where the worms burrow, and the casts are what they chuck out of themselves … worm loos, I suppose …. ‘if you dig there you’ll find the worm between the hole and the cast.’ Suiting the action to the word, he produced a large wriggly object looking like a live bit of intestine.

LOATHSOME!! – but apparently the fish love it, and he had caught two bass yesterday just by fishing from the beach as the tide comes in.
You learn something every day.



I love the way the poet in the MRI scanner sees himself being ‘scanned’ in the same way that he ‘scans’ his poetry.  Great fun and very clever.  (And by the way, when he got the results from his scan he was fine).

How To Scan A Poet

My doctor tells me I will need a scan;

I tap a nervous rhythm with my feet,

‘Just count to five’, she says, ‘and then sit down.


The gist of it is printed on this sheet,

So read it over when you are at home.

We’ll have a clearer picture when we meet’.


I read the letter in a waiting room,

It’s language strangely rich for one like me

Image, Contrast, Resonance; a poem


Slips into view amidst the litany

Of Latin terms that make our medicine

A new poetic terminology.


The door is opened. I am ushered in

To lisp my list of symptoms, to rehearse

The undiscovered art of naming pain.


‘Its called deep inspiration, says the nurse,

‘Draw deep for me then simply hold your breath

And stay composed.’ So I compose this verse.


She says ‘We dye for contrast, to unearth

Each hidden image, which might bring

Some clue that takes us closer to the truth.


Be still and I will pass you through the ring,

Three passes, all in rhythm, and you’re free,

The resonance will show us everything’

Be still and I will pass you through the ring

And now my Muse says much the same to me,

Scanning these lines, and calling me to sing.

(by Malcolm Guite)



Over the past 8 months we’ve been living with Daughter 2 in her house in Surrey.  Last November she had a child care crisis and we were worried about the effect on the grandchildren, so we offered to move her to her new house, move in with her and look after them until the wedding, when her husband would move in.  Then there would be two adults in the house again and childcare would get a whole lot easier.

There were a lot of other things going on as well.  She got married last Saturday, but first, there were 2 new bedrooms to be built in the garage for her two new stepchildren.  So lots of building work this year, not to mention endless cups of tea.  We were very blessed to have a real-life ‘Bob the builder’ who was a pleasure to have around.

Then D2 announced that she and her fiance had decided to hold the wedding reception in the garden … we took a look at the weedy patch outside and silently wondered ‘why’? … but trying to get it under control kept us out of mischief, especially as we aren’t gardeners.  And thereby hangs another tale.

The best way to communicate with her was by text – she could pick it up when she wasn’t in surgery.   Occasionally the kids would have a crisis.  So here’s how the texts went on my phone …

Grandson:  Dear mummy can you tell me where the phone is? (lots of blue emoticon faces.  The phone is an ancient, cracked one but he’s allowed to play Candy Crush on it … provided he’s ready for school/breakfasted/teeth cleaned/hair brushed/done his homework/done his music practice.  To ensure this we took to hiding the phone so he would have to ask for it …)

D2:  is it behind the printer in the bureau?  that’s the last place I remember hiding it …

(the answer however arrives after he has left for school.)

I send a photo of lampshades in Wilco:  D2 is looking for them for the new bedrooms.  Am told when she gets back from work that she’s leaving it to the stepkids to choose.

Fathers’ Day:  they all go to Daventry for a barge day with the fiance, and I get back to the house on my own from seeing an old friend.  ‘I could only get into the house by breathing in’, says my text.  The sections of the arbour D2 had ordered for the garden had been stacked inside the tiny front porch and it was a squeeze getting the front door open and edging my way into the house.

Then I discovered the goldfish have died again … we kept buying them, and putting them into the little pond we’d made out of a big belfast sink in the back garden.  We’d put aereating plants and a tiny water fountain and all sorts in the water, but despite our increasingly desperate efforts, the wretched goldfish just kept dying.  Why??? says my text … followed by discussion on possible causes.  Maybe she didn’t leave the water sitting outside long enough to get rid of the chlorine  before topping up the pond??  On the other hand I’d bought some stuff to make the water safe for fish.  Still haven’t solved that mystery.

Then the bedrooms are sufficiently ready for Hub and I to put up the curtain rails and new curtains.  I send a pic to D2, but things are tempered by the news that Bob the builder’s wife is having to go into hospital for all sorts of tests, and he’s just told me the news is not good.

Although he had to take a lot of time off work to be with his wife, who has a hospital phobia, and the work was late being finished, he would turn up at odd times in order to get done, including working most of one evening to finish the shower so that the lino could go down.

There’s more.  Much more.  Our lives have been made up of such trivia, but the trivia were about real people, and relationships, and family.  The little things that make the world go round.