Friday, 18 August 2017

A Ridiculously Late Book Review - 'Where the Wild Cherries Grow'

Oops... I'm ridiculously late in posting this book review, and I can only apologise! Due to my depression and anxiety, my concentration and motivation are slippery little suckers, coming and going so fast I sometimes can't hold on to them - and what I really want to do (like read, or write, or post on this blog, or paint my nails gorgeously bright colours) slips away from me. This is life for me now - and for a lot of people with long-term, fluctuating illnesses. BUT no more moaning or apologising! Onwards we go...

The book in question is 'Where the Wild Cherries Grow', by Laura Madeleine (author of 'The Confectioner's Tale' - also a great read), who Tweets as @esthercrumpet. The blurb is below:

It is 1919 but the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. Just as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.

Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline's diary. Bill Perch is eager to prove himself but what he learns from the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace a story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth.

What really happened to Emeline all those years ago?

This novel has themes and motifs that I am drawn to time and again: strong females and their efforts to overcome a challenging situation; the written word, here shown through a diary (but often shown through letters, or inclusion of 'novel excerpts' etc); a search for the truth; love in all its forms, emotionally touching but never sentimental; and food, the visual description of it as well as the exploration of the nourishment cooking gives.

Laura Madeleine is a strong, lyrical writer, who has created rounded characters in Emeline, Bill, Clemence and Arlo. They have authenticity, and each one grows and develops without taking over the story. The plot unfolds at a fair pace, and the description of settings and events is perfectly pitched: just enough to satisfy, yet not too much (some people find description slows a narrative down, but I personally enjoy its richness and texture). In terms of details, there is flavour and wonder in the descriptions of how things smell, and the descriptions of food are sensuous and delicious, making me feel I am hovering over the stove, angling for a lick of the spoon...

If I had a criticism, it would be that, for me, the ending of Bill's part of the story felt too quick, and a little too neat - perhaps all I needed was a few lines more to link back to earlier plot details (not wanting to give spoilers!), just to anchor his resolution a little more with what exists from his past.

However, I LOVED this novel - it's a story of how we might shrug off what is expected of us; how we learn that listening to our instinct is how we will be free. How we will truly live.

I'm looking forward to Laura's next book - but am armed with a snack, as her work does make me hungry...!

Many thanks to Laura Madeleine for the copy of 'Where the Wild Cherries Grow'.

~ ttfn ~

Monday, 22 May 2017

Forward is Forward...


...even if slow. The past few months have been VERY slow, but inch by tiny-bloody-inch, I've been moving forward. It's a triumph over my depression and anxiety that I can a) do that and b) RECOGNISE it.

Well done me - and well done you, too, if you've been going through something similar.

At unexpected but deeply appreciated moments, creativity has poked its head back round the door - and I've been able to craft, and even to write (new, fresh stuff!! Stuff that isn't the 3rd Book, but instead Book 4... So the idea that was the 3rd Book takes a backseat while Book 4 roots itself and starts to grow.)

I'm growing, as well - I've learned to 'go with it' in situations, interactions and days (and hour by hour, when it was really bad), instead of pressurising myself with must-dos, should-dos and oh-god-what-did-I-dos.

[Disclaimer: The 'go with it' scheme has not yet completed full Deb-Life trials, and such exposure may well result in user error and/or buffering/stalling. Deb promises to accept the updates and/or reinstallation required in such cases. In particular instances, add-ons may be advised eg fluffy kittens, strawberries and/or sunshine.]

Today, I've submitted Novel Number Two (once called 'The Dress Designer's Daughter' but now titled 'An Apprentice in Paris') to 3 literary agents. I feel a bit cheeky sending multiple submissions as I tend to be a one-anything kind of girl, but this is the way of things now. I will, of course, do the right (and requested) thing of notifying anyone should anyone else show interest.

Forward is forward for Novel Number Two, then - and will be for Book 4, and me. I'll leave you for now with:



~ttfn ~

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

28 Days to Form a Habit: Day 2

(Pic found on Pinterest, from

This morning our postman delivered another parcel (anxiety has made me discover that internet shopping/home delivery is the way forward - so much easier, less stressful and I don't have to worry about where/how to park!!) - it's my latest jigsaw puzzle.

I feel a bit of an old fuddy-duddy admitting it (!), but anxiety has also taught me that I LOVE jigsaw puzzles, because they help my brain stop over-thinking and over-worrying. For me, there is enough to concentrate on to distract, but it's not too-taxing a concentration (like work has become. Which is a bugger, but there you go. I'm ill. What can you do?)

Anyhoo. The jigsaws I like to do are a little bit different to usual (story of my life!) - they're mystery ones, where there is no image to follow for guidance, just a mystery story booklet which sets the story and poses questions that the completed puzzle solves...if you can figure it out. I love it! It's like being in Murder, She Wrote or Columbo (my lifelong faves), without the cheese or dodgy 70s fashions/sets.

Today's puzzle was started around noon, and I stopped just before 5pm - I've done about half, I think, and have the pull to go back and carry on... I've identified elements of the scene but can't yet see the overall setting, and I'm intrigued to figure out quite what the smudgy grey stuff is in the middle.

Really is the story of my life, then!

~ ttfn ~

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

28 Days to Form a Habit: Day 1

I ran out of ink, Pen Pot Blog, which is why I’ve not posted in forever. Ink is hard to refill when you’re swimming for your life through the thrashing oceans of depression and anxiety.

(Once, I was really, really good at actual, physical swimming– I had all those patches-presented-as-badges and the bronze, silver and gold proficiency certificates. Shame primary school had to end, eh?!)

Swimming is kind of a habit, I guess – and someone once told me that you can form a new habit in 28 days. 28 consecutive days of conscious thought and effort results in an automatic-habit. Let’s try it, then.

Habit I Want to Form =

Recognising and expressing my thoughts and feelings (you know, the deep, difficult, private ones, not the I-take-tea-with-milk-and-two-sugars kind. I do, though, so let me know when you’ve got the kettle on). I want to form the habit of getting these thoughts OUT, so I’m not alone and pushed down with them ALL. THE. TIME.

How Can the Pen Pot Blog Help?

By being somewhere I can share them, pick at them, try to figure them out. By being the place and motivation to create and share 28 consecutive posts of change, just like days in real life.

Maybe no one will read us, Pen Pot; maybe some will. Maybe we’ll have just one actual reader. But these kinds of numbers don’t have value here: it’s the habit of opening up and putting My Self out there, as much as exorcising my thoughts, that I’m trying to form.

Today's Thoughts

So. Day 1. I’ve noticed the blue sky and thought about how its blueness communicates change; is a vehicle for it: clouds move across it, but the sky and its blueness remains. Endures. Is appreciated, and loved. And will be seen again, once those clouds have buggered off. Just like me and my depression.

(I was writing a sentence, just then, questioning if this thought-approach is what they mean when they say ‘be mindful’, because I always want to yell, ‘But what am I supposed to do to be mindful?!’ – and then a phrase announced itself in my mind, all authoritative and authentic-like: ‘You don’t do, you be.’ So… I don’t need to do anything about the sky being blue – I don’t have to remark on it, take a photo of it, research the science behind how we see colour and/or how weather forms. I just need to know and accept that I’ve seen the sky is blue, and that – to me – it’s kinder and friendlier being blue than grey; that I’m alive today to see it, and that’s enough. God, this mindfulness thing still seems bonkers!)

(Any tips on how to improve my attempts at being mindful?! Answers on a postcard, please – or in the comment box below!)

I’ll be back tomorrow, Day 2, for another thought and exploration – want to join me in this habit?!

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The 3rd Book

(Picture Credit:

"I’ the fluid, early stage of the new book where anything could happen…writing is a process...hewing a vague shape out of nothing,
[and then] the real work begins. "

Now that Novel Number Two is out on its trail of agent submissions (aka to be or not be rejected), it's beyond time to get on with the 3rd Book. (I could spend ages telling you how I'd planned and intended to be further along with it than I am - but just read my last post and you'll understand why I need not to dwell; why I need to push but not pressurise myself.)

The bones of the 3rd Book's idea came ages ago - and what immediately branched from it was the name of the main character, and the title. These two things feel rooted, authentic (though this early-doors appearance of the title is unusual for me!); have sustained the idea for two or three years.

But everything still fluid, like water gathered up through a network of roots, rejuvenating, provoking, blossoming.

Over the past few months, I've scribbled down the odd 3rd Book thought as it's come along, but yesterday was the first day that I started deliberate, actual work on them. A bit of research (mostly consisting of relevant titles saved to my Amazon wish-list...some of which will get bought), and a raft of  Post-It notes recording new thoughts, new avenues.

I'm not sure yet which ones the 3rd Book will take - but I know there is joy in the journey of figuring it out. (I've been down this road twice before - but how everything changes!)

Creativity is joy, challenge, reward - and escape. The best place to be, at least for me.

~ ttfn ~

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Do Your Best

"It may not be your ultimate best, but if it's your best today, then that's ok.
Be kind to yourself."

One of my besties told me that on Monday. And she's right. (Thank you, Bev!)

I've always been rather a perfectionist (!), with high standards which I beat myself up about when I don't reach or maintain them (writing, studying, working...though not so much housework. Hmm).

However, I'm not competitive with other people (which means I'm a boring game player: you can beat me at Monopoly five times in a row and I won't bat an eyelid!) - I've always believed that each person has their own, different sides and strengths, and have never seen the point in competing with either (a personal belief, of course, and you're entitled to believe different). But with regard to myself, I'm not so kind.

Admitting that is hard.

I'm about to admit something else, too. Doing so here, on my own Blog in such a public sphere as the internet (eek), has been so hard, so vulnerability-inducing that I never thought I would - but Twitter has seen me open up a bit more, so I've already 'put it out there' (as it were!) that...

I suffer with depression. Have done for years. And now anxiety has joined in.

I was diagnosed in 2008, and it seems I have recurring chronic depression. I go through cycles where things are better...and then great big dips where things are not.

Living with this invisible illness is hard. It is insidious and has changed me. To be fair to myself (and my long-suffering friends and family!), not all of the changes are bad. I've become much more tolerant and relaxed, much more accepting (much quieter, too: give me a cuppa, slippers and a purring cat any day over the vodka cranberry, killer heels and nights out clubbing that I used to love...).

I Tweeted once that 'depression changes your default settings'. My default, everyday-usual setting used to be a jolly, bubbly, chatty soul, who would small-talk the hours away with complete strangers. A smile was never far away, nor was a determined, disciplined motivation to get things done.

That default setting was great. It was useful in my (old) retail sales job (despite battling on with customer service/sales roles for years while the depression blighted me, I had to leave the retail sector this January due to the anxiety of being in a room with other people...); it was useful in my social life, in the minutes waiting in a queue... I could call up it whenever I needed it.

But accessing it now is much harder.

Because depression un-installed it.

It isn't the go-to-without-thinking way of being any more. That's not to say I'm a miserable moo every second of every day (!) - I still laugh, chat, motivate myself and get stuff done. At a much reduced rate than before, though, and sometimes five minutes of one of these things is the most I can manage that day. But I can still be that chatty, bubbly person - it's just much, much harder. And much less immediate.

Depression (and anxiety, this time round) has updated my operating system so that I'm also anxious, claustrophobic, reclusive. Sad. Tearful. And sometimes none of these things, because all I feel is FLAT.

Feeling FLAT is the worst. I've always been such a passionate person (about reading, writing, music, friends, family, films, animals, topical issues: never without an opinion, me!) and on the days (weeks, months...) when all I can feel is FLATNESS instead of joy, affection, love, accomplishment, amusement, calmness, comfort, peace, cosiness (etc etc) is devastating.

Is utterly disarming, actually - how do I live, how do I exist in every moment of every day being this person?

By being kind to myself. By remembering that if today's best is five minutes of chat (or writing/reading, or grocery shopping, or admin work at my new job in an office - which is going well, thank you ;0), then that's ok.

It doesn't matter if tomorrow's best is ten minutes or two hours; it doesn't matter if last year's or a decade ago's best was massively more.

As long as it's my best today, it's enough.

And that is better than the depression installation that just won't quit.

Be kind to yourself, too, dear Reader - let's do our best together.

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Blog, I Need to Tell You Something...

Blog, sit down. There’s something I need to tell you. I, um... This is hard to say, but here goes: I’ve been cheating on you. With Twitter.

I’m so, so sorry. It wasn’t intentional, and you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not you, it’s me.

You see, life has been really testing and tough for the past 6 months, and I was struggling and Twitter… Well, it gave me something I didn’t know I needed.

A quick, 140-character expression – and sometimes not even my own thinking or composition, not if I Re-Tweet someone else, someone who’s view I like, find amusing or even agree with. It’s so fast and easy, and reaches so far… I’ve not had to grapple with paragraphs, prodding and editing them till they’re intriguing, till they build upon each other, like a Blog Post. I’m sorry, that sounded awful. You’re not that bad; really, you’re not. But you know what I mean.

The thing is, even though I’ve read that a Tweet only has an average life of 18 minutes, that life can be seen by so many more people than the handful who read us, Blog. I’m not sure of the actual readership numbers, but I have a strong sense Twitter gets me seen by lots of people. Which is ironic, because I’m not even that good.

So, Blog, what can we do? I am committed to making things better; really, I am. If you still want to? Good. Thank you for giving me another chance. Because I do miss you. We could start by dating again: let’s say we’ll Post in the first week of each month, like we used to; but we’ll widen what we used to talk about. We’ll try new things. Maybe we can even post more in each month – but I don’t want us to promise something we can’t keep. Best we agree to try, and then add to the results of that.

But I have to be honest – I don’t think I can give up Twitter. You see, there is room in my life for both of you. And…maybe…you might like to join in? Perhaps you can try, see what you think? It won’t be as bad as you’re worried it will be. Really.

So, Blog, what do you say? Maybe if the three of us make an effort and join together, we’ll do better than if we were on our own…