Wednesday 30 July 2014

Describing a life in 500 words

By the end of August I hope to have completed most of the text for the Website that records the cataloguing of all the graves in our local cemetery. As soon as it’s done I will post up the url because I’m starting to feel quite proud of it, but there’s a lot of hard work still to be done.

The original project plan was to select one or two of the older stones and research the life ‘behind the stone’. In other words we’d write up a short biog in no more than 500 words. In practice it’s almost impossible to describe a life in 500 words especially as we are including contributions made to the local and wider community, family, interests, career, and the journey that led to Leicester – particularly interesting as a lot of the graves are for people who survived pogroms and holocaust atrocities.

It soon became obvious that the word count was the least of my problems. There were too many interesting stories to tell. My job was to decide which names to include in this ever-growing list, but by definition, this also meant that I had to decide which names to omit because we just can’t produce over 900 individual stories. The problem is that everybody has got a story to tell. We may not all have had a long and dangerous physical journey to arrive where we are today but many of us have had long emotional journeys. 


I’m giving the researched stories side-headings but that made me think about me. What side-headings would I give to my own story-so-far? 

Teacher That would have to be there.
Writer I couldn’t miss that one off.
Mother Goes without saying but I’ve said it anyway!
Animal Lover I’ve rarely been without a pet throughout my life.

But would I include the more painful periods of my life? 

Divorce It can’t be ignored.
Family Illness I couldn’t omit my husband’s stem cell transplant, my mother’s long and final illness, my daughter’s recent major operation, and then there’s my own struggle with agoraphobia as a teenager.
Not a Good Traveller That is very much a part of who I am but would it find it’s way into my story-so-far?

I suspect I would gloss over the negative, play up the positive and provide the reader with a ‘rose-tinted’ version of myself.

What side-headings would you give your life’s story-so-far?

Saturday 26 July 2014

I'm at Hedges Towers

Today you can find me lounging on that lovely Pink Sofa at Hedges Towers

Thank you, Carol, for a lovely *hic* time and if you've never visited Carol Hedge's blog then now is the time to do it. Her blog posts are always an excellent read... *polite cough* ...especially today. "Yes, please, Carol, I will have another drop of mead." *hic*!

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Photos of an amazing day

Yesterday was an amazing day. We had two book launch events for The Children's Book of Richard III and each one was the kind of exciting event that gives you an inner buzz.

This blog post is going to be totally self-indulgent with photographs of both events, in case anyone is interested in looking at them.

The morning event was a media launch held in Leicester's Guildhall, an appropriate venue because the hall predates Richard III. This is a picture of Alice Povey and myself (Alice is on the right) posing for the Leicester Mercury photographers. I've started with this photo to show you what an amazing room we were in. Just look at that wonderful fireplace!

A clearer photograph of Alice and myself.

We were delighted that Richard Buckley, Head of Archaeology at Leicester University, was able to join us. This photo shows him talking to us about the book.

We were interviewed by Bridget Blair from BBC Radio Leicester and that interview can be heard on the Radio Leicester website here

In the evening we had a private launch party at The Reading Shop. The crowds were overwhelming. This photo was taken by Dave Goodman from Soar Valley Press, the lovely people who printed the book for us.

We were delighted that Tori King, Leicester University Geneticist, the lady who announced the DNA results on Richard's skeleton, was able to join us in the evening. A number of guests asked if she would also sign the book and this photo shows her joining our 'signing table'. She's sitting to my right in the middle of the photograph.

I shall end this picture show with a photo of some of our writing group members. From the left there's Alex Gutteridge, me, Josephine Feeney and Bridget Blair. They have been so supportive and they piled me high with flowers and chocolates last night making me feel like a real star!

If you'd like to buy the book it's for sale at The Reading Shop, Oadby, Leicester or online at The Reading Shop.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Nurse Mum

I’m relieved to report that Daughter is progressing as well as can be expected, considering the major surgery that she had. The specialist Endometriosis Unit at London’s UCH is, as I said in an earlier post, excellent. 

But to more mundane matters… how I coped as Nurse Mum for two whole weeks!

For the first two nights after the operation I stayed at the Premier Inn, within walking distance of the hospital. On the third night I made my way to Daughter’s house to prepare for her homecoming. It was a long, bag-laden walk to the station and an even longer walk along the platform looking for the second-class carriages. It took me five carriages to realize that the word ‘First’ referred to First Direct and not First Class.

My biggest test as Nurse Mum came when they discharged Daughter with a catheter fitted to ‘rest the traumatised bladder’. On her first day home she couldn’t even bend to reach the drainage tap, never mind tackle the night bag! Have you any idea how heavy a bag of wee can be? The post-hysterectomy inability to lift meant that the night bag was a ball and chain around her leg. I won’t go into the fear and panic when, on Sunday morning, the bag became blocked, I will merely thank the efficiency of the district nurse who arrived in time to save us a rush to A&E.

While I was staying at Daughter’s I was ‘sleeping’ on a blow-up bed in her living room. Strange how you can sleep anywhere when you’re exhausted! On the eighth night of blow-up-bed-habitation, Daughter’s cat brought me a present… a shrew… a live shrew. She placed it lovingly beside my head, which was mere inches from the floor. Needless to say my head didn’t stay there for long! I rescued the poor little shrew, set it free in the garden and spent the rest of the night on the settee. For my last two nights as Nurse Mum I checked into a nearby hotel. That, as it turned out, was a good plan because it gave Daughter a chance to see if she was ready to manage on her own.

I’m now back home and catching up on a little paper work and a lot of sleep. I hope to resume normal service as soon as possible, especially as I have a major book launch to attend next week for my Children’s Book of Richard III. Apparently I have to make a speech. I dare say I’ll blog about it and I’m quite sure there will be photos to post up so you can kind of join in too.

Thank you to everyone who sent get well wishes to my daughter. We both really appreciate all the messages.

Thursday 3 July 2014

*New Release* The Children's Book of Richard III

I'm proud to announce that

The Children's Book of Richard III 

is now published and available for you to buy. 

Here's my copy...

When I started writing this book the plan was to explain the last years of the Wars of the Roses in easy terms. As I progressed through the story of his life I became more involved with Richard, his life, the way that his name was treated after his death and the excitement of the archaeological dig.  Consequently this book has become much more than my original plans for it. To give you a taster of what's in the book here is a photo of the Contents Page and aren't Alice Povey's illustrations amazing!

The most exciting bits to write were... well, all of it really, but I did enjoy writing the interview with the Witch of Daneshill. She was said to see Richard riding out to the Battle of Bosworth. His foot hit the side of Bow Bridge and she predicted that the next time he crossed that bridge it would be his head that knocked against the side... and she was right! I also loved writing about the science and archaeology aspects of the search for his body.

(Update posted on Friday 4th July: Apologies if PayPal tried to add £10 shipping on top of the p&p. This has now been resolved. We will be including payment by credit and debit card very soon. )

If you'd like to buy a copy, you can get one at The Reading Shop either online or phone through your order on 0116 2717077 and it will be posted to you. Alternatively you can pop into the shop on The Parade, Oadby, Leicester.

Note for teachers:
 I will be visiting schools next term to talk about Richard III and the book, which covers a range of Key Stage 2 areas in addition to history. If you are interested in booking a school visit then please email me on

Daughter update: Thanks to all those of you who have sent your kind messages to my Daughter. She is starting the slow post-op recovery and, yes, I'll still be Nurse Mum for at least another week.