Tag Archives | Eve Bonham

CoronaSpring

Spring 2020. We are living in strange times. Coronavirus, more deadly than any terrorist, has attacked our world and is undermining hope. People feel threatened, frightened, challenged. Our physical horizons are dwindling but our mental horizons are expanding – people are more aware of what is going on in the world in relation to Corvid -19 than they ever were about many other things. This is a result of collective realisation that disasters aren’t always uncomfortable, sad things happening elsewhere in far off places, but real life calamities which can attack us in our own homes in our own country.

This realisation is caused by a deluge of daily updates of the scope of this dreadful disease. (I love alliteration!)  Two prevalent attitudes of mind result and they are polar opposites.  The first is selfishness, which results in panic buying, hoarding food, complaints against the government, ignoring the advice about social distancing, utter disbelief that the NHS can cope – and no doubt this will lead to despair, anger or depression.  Incidents of physical abuse – from been cooped up at home – are rising.

The second attitude is one of compassion and selflessness, which has caused:-

  1. over half a million people including retired nurses and doctors to volunteer, after a call from the government, to help the NHS, and undertake food deliveries, manning telephones, etc
  2. communities coming together to set up volunteer groups (there is one in our village) to do shopping for the elderly and isolated, collect prescriptions, or phone isolated single people
  3. positive and encouraging initiatives such as online choirs, prayer groups and church services; advice forums, befriending by telephone, and posting gift parcels to others
  4. a more friendly attitude to everyone – and we chat loudly across the regulatory 2 – 3 metres to the postmen, the food delivery van men, those we meet walking or outside supermarkets

Boris delivered a distinctly Churchillian speech a while back (before he got ill) about being at war against this disease, pulling together as a nation, and obeying all the governments decrees which are for our own good. He has said quite openly that many people are going to lose loved ones. It is quite chilling. It is not going to get better any time soon and it could be many months. “The times change they are a’changin”- sang Dylan in the sixties, and by the end of this year many things will have changed.

I feel very sorry for people living in big cities, perhaps on their own in a small flat, feeling isolated and worried.  Almost worse is a large family, all trying to share facilities and a bathroom, and getting on each other’s nerves. It’s going to be tough for a lot of people.  We must be compassionate and sympathetic and do what we can. I’ve taken to telephoning a member of my family and a friend every day – and I’m beginning to learn more about them because I listen to them. We’re growing lots of vegetables with surplus to give away.  We still have a few winter leeks and parsnips, and some apples and onions left from the autumn.  Spring rhubarb is just coming up. Dig for Britain!

Coronavirus is sobering and levelling. The numbers of cases and deaths are frightening and we are all coming to terms with a truth that we often avoid – which is that we might die sooner that we expected. But there may be some good things that will come out of this worldwide pandemic.  Many of us in lockdown have idleness enforced upon us, and have begun to realise that we do need more rest and relaxation in our rushed and overworked lives. Nature too may experience some healing. Many industrialised places and cities that have been shrouded in smog with terrible air quality have begun to see blue sky and experience clear air to breathe. In the quietness, with the lack of traffic, we hear birdsong.

For myself, no social life means a better reading life.  Though a writer, I am often deprived of enough time to write, but now I have all the time in the world. I’m going to do more painting, even though the local art group has temporally disbanded. I am managing to get done a few of those jobs I have been putting off for years. And I might even start to feel guilty because I am enjoying the peace whilst others are suffering.  When I turn from listening to the bad news and go outside to get some fresh air, within minutes, with the warm spring sun on my skin, I feel uplifted and there’s a smile on my face. I can’t help it. Hope is irrepressible.

I am reminded of a short poem by one of my favourite poets, Emily Dickinson:

‘Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.’

Magpies took off a Month ago

So my book, my new novel, my fourth book, Dear Magpies, has been out for a month. It was published as a paperback by SilverWood Books on 18th November – and, it seems, people are reading it. Amazing!  I’ve been running around Dorset having book launches, doing some signings in bookshops and other places, and giving a few talks too.  It is humbling and, I have to admit, very gratifying that people are buying it – and reading it. And I’m getting back some very positive comments about the book.  Not many yet – but then it has been for sale only for a month, and I never expect those who buy it to read it immediately.  Like me, readers often have a pile of books and work their way through.  There can be nothing more annoying than buying a book, and then being asked by an impatient author to give an opinion about it, well before there has been a chance to open it!  So I never ask and I wait for people to volunteer their feedback or tell me what they think of it in their own time.  Though of course I’m dying to know!  The book is in stock in some bookshops and available to order from any booksellers, and from the publisher SilverWood, and also of course from Amazon. It costs £9.99, but there is an e-book too for £3.99.  Here is a copy of the front and back cover of my book:

 

The cover has been much admired but it has puzzled a few people.  To explain:  Josie, a woman who has been searching for her grandchildren for over 10 years, is writing letters to them, which she cannot post or email, as a way to try and connect with them. She used to call them her ‘magpies’.  This nickname arose because, when they were small children, their father had given them some black and white towels which they used at bath-time, and the boy had scampered about in his towel, flapping his arms.  When Josie writes to them, she begins her letters with Dear Magpies.  The cover, brilliantly designed by my publishers, shows the heads of the teenage boy and girl in silhouette, because Josie does not really know them after such a long estrangement and is in the dark about what they are like. The magpies flying upwards are a visual image of their nickname, but they are also soaring up into the ‘pale blue yonder’ which underlines her dilemma, which is that she has no idea where they are in the world. She aches to see them again, and misses them enormously.  The quest for her magpies has truly stolen her peace of mind. But I’m not going to give any hint about what happens – you must read the book to find out.

Book Launch in Sherborne

Two weeks tomorrow, on Thursday 21st November at 6.30pm for 7pm, I am having a Book Launch for my new book Dear Magpies, at Winstones Books in Cheap Street, Sherborne, DT9 3PX.  I will be giving a talk about my book, answering questions and signing books.  Refreshments will be provided and anyone interested in coming along will be welcome.

I am delighted to be having this launch at Winstones, which is a fabulously light and well laid out independent bookshop based in the beautiful historic town of Sherborne, Dorset.  Winstone’s has won the British Book Awards South West Bookseller of the Year four times and was winner of the Independent Bookseller of the Year nationwide award in 2016.

Dear Magpies is my fourth book and the first one in which the main character lives in Dorset. It tells the story of Josie Cuff who has been trying for ten years to trace her young grandchildren, the only members of her family still alive, who have disappeared on the other side of the world. She now lives in a small rented cottage in England after a turbulent life in South America. She writes her grandchildren lively letters which may never be sent, telling them about her past and about the eccentric inhabitants of the Dorset village where she is seeking to make a new life and new friends. Threatened by a sinister intruder who invades her home and privacy, Josie fights to cling on to hope.

Come along to Winstones on 21st and find out more. You might even like to buy the book! (£9.99)

Dear Magpies

Creating a book and getting it out into the world is a little like having a baby – though it usually takes far longer. It grows more erratically and more slowly and its birth involves many people of different skills.  But both baby and book are hugely fulfilling.

The idea for my new book, Dear Magpies, to be published on 18th November 2019, had been floating around in my head for months before I started the research for it. As a lifelong writer of letters, I had always wanted to write an epistolary novel – one that is written as a series of letters or diary entries. This book, about a woman searching for her long lost grandchildren, lent itself to the form and so I worked out my plot and worked on my characters. The writing the first draft took over a year, after which I planned to re-read, reflect and then start on the edit.

However, I got a time-consuming job and work on the book came to a halt whilst I got to grips with a very different working life, one that took all my energy and commitment. I didn’t revise or revisit my draft manuscript for eighteen months – which was not ideal, but at least I could see more clearly what needed to be changed. Then began the PEP stage – pruning, editing and polishing.  What a marathon! I took advice from a few people who had read my manuscript and I must have done at least seven edits.

Then followed the publishing which took many more months. My publishers, SilverWood Books, so helpful, efficient and sensitive, have been responsible for getting my book into print.  And so, about five years after the initial idea, last week the first copy arrived at my home and into my hands. My ‘baby’ had arrived – it was a good moment.

Dear Magpies

I love the front cover, designed by my publishers, with the silhouette heads of the teenage grandchildren, Tom and Lottie, who flew off into the pale blue yonder and, like magpies, stole the peace of mind of their grandmother, Josie, who writes them letters she cannot send.

The big question – “Will it please the reader?”- has yet to be answered and I will have to wait until after publication to know. It pleased me to write it, though at times the progress was painful. Now my child has reached maturity and is about to leave home and make its own way in the world. I wish it well.

 

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Magpies are magnificent. Distinctive by their black and white plumage, they are intelligent and inquisitive – and more superstitions surround magpies than any other wild bird. The most common one is that it is unlucky to see a lone magpie but two magpies can bring joy or mirth. Some people when they see a single magpie say: ‘Good morning Mr Magpie and how is your lady wife today?’ By addressing him in this respectful way and referring to his wife, you are implying there are two magpies which bring good luck and joy rather than sorrow, according to the nursery rhyme:

“One for sorrow, two for joy,

Three for a girl, four for a boy,

Five for silver, six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told,

Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss,

Ten for a bird you must not miss”.

These large and noisy birds belong to the Corvidae or crow family and do not migrate in winter. Once mature they mate for life and the female lays its eggs in April. They are powerful, resourceful birds and exist all over the world. Their name is derived from the French word ‘pie’ which means black-and-white or pied. They are indeed birds that you cannot miss seeing.

Folklore has it that magpies are kleptomaniacs and steal shiny things, resulting in their reputation for trickery and deception. However, there is no evidence that anyone has ever found anything silver or shiny in a magpie’s nest. This might be because their nests tend to be high up in tall trees!  It is clear from the well-known rhyme that magpies can represent both good and bad omens and opposites.

For these reasons I chose this emblematic bird to feature in the story and the title of my new book: Dear Magpies which is a novel about a woman who is searching for her lost grandchildren, to whom she writes imaginary letters about her dramatic past and her present life. She addresses them as ‘magpies’ – an endearing nickname she once used when they were babies – when she writes to the two children whom she has not seen for ten years but who are now in their teens. Her current situation is sad and solitary but not without hope for happiness.

Dear Magpies is to be published in paperback by SilverWood Books on 18th November 2019.

Slog through Snow, Blog into Spring.

This time last week it snowed.  Snow can be a big problem for elderly isolated people and stranded motorists but I defy anyone, when they open the curtains on the first morning after snow has fallen, not to gasp with wonder at the purity and beauty of the white blanket and the soft blotting out of normal sounds as if the volume of the world has been turned down. Magical!  Roald Dahl wrote in one of his final books, ‘The Minpins’, published posthumously : “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  I celebrate other marvellous things in my life at this time – books, snowdrops, chocolate, poetry, wine and a loving man.

Whilst trawling back through my archives in this blog, I realise that my first post was in November 2008 – so I’ve been writing blogs about every other month for over ten years.  What was I up to at that time?  It seems that I was doing book signings for my collection of short stories called ‘Madness Lies and Other Stories’ which had been published in the summer. It was my first book and it took a couple of years to create the stories, so clearly I have been writing fiction for at least twelve years.  Though for much of my life I’ve been scribbling stories,  doing magazine articles, writing letters and keeping diaries.

So what am I doing now? My fourth book, ‘Dear Magpies’ is completely finished after many edits, which took over a year because I work in the property business. (I have to find time for creativity in between dealing with leaking roofs and blocked drains.) The novel, which is a story about a woman with a tragic past searching for her lost grandchildren, has been sent out to a number of publishers and agents, who take forever to respond – if at all. It is a waiting game, full of hope and disappointment, but I will get it published – because it’s good. Various editors and friends of mine have read it and tell me so.

Yesterday’s weather was dire – poor visibility, depressing rain and a chill wind.  But today the sun is shining – and my spirits lift. How simple and irrational humans are! With our elevated intellect that lifts us above instinctual animals and mere plants we wilt in the cold and dark but become optimistic and energised in the sunlight.  Creative talents, buried in the winter gloom, are beginning to stir and send up green shoots through the damp grass. Nature stirs. The urge to write is rising, inspiration lifts up her head, ideas sprout, words will uncurl. As Robert Frost says in his poem ‘Prayer in Spring’, we are “in the springing of the year.”


	

Teething Problems in Paradise

I have recently returned from a short holiday in ‘Paradise’ – or to be more accurate a tiny island in an isolated atoll in a wide ocean – or to be more precise: Fonimagoodhoo Island in Baa Atoll in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.  We spent a week on this delightful island, which measures approx 600m x 200m, encircled by a white sand beach and surrounded by a coral reefs dropping off into the deep blue ocean. The temperature was balmy, the sun beamed, the translucent water sparkled. Stunning! Attractive  restaurants and beach bars supplied delicious food and enticing cocktails and we walked everywhere in bare feet on tiny sandy paths beneath luxuriant green vegetation and trees. Glorious!

There was little else to do other than lie in the sun or retreat to the shade, doze, read books and swim. Bliss! In the clear water we found the way through to the edge of the reef where we snorkelled and watched the tropical fish as they swam around the coral. Wonderful!  I am a very competent swimmer and an enthusiastic watcher of fish.  I do not like to wear fins or wetsuits, and can swim happily for hours with just a snorkel and breathing tube.   There were three gaps through the inner reef which was shallow, which gave access to the outer reef edge where more and larger fish were to be found – including rays and reef sharks (Apparently they are harmless, although a few days before, I had seen one larger than myself swimming alongside me and my heart did beat a bit faster, but he lazily turned and meandered off.)

One morning, on our third day there, I was swimming along the outer reef from one end to the other in company with two others.  After about an hour, I was two thirds of the way along, when I suddenly had a sharp pain in my leg. I realised I’d been bitten when I saw blood clouding the clear water.   Then I saw this large yellow and grey fish (about 2½ft x 1ft in size) swim straight at me again, like an exocet, and this time he only managed a small bite, by which time I was flailing around and kicking trying to ward him off. Panic!  My fellow snorkeller watched it all happen and wisely kept clear. The big fish made three more runs at me, by which time I was swimming in the opposite direction towards the shore. Fear made me move fast. I soon saw that I was getting closer to the coral as the water became shallower (I had not come through the gap), so I had to slow down and swim carefully as the coral was a few inches below my body.

Back on the beach, I was taken to the doctor on the island, and he told me that the culprit was a giant triggerfish, which is known to be aggressive and occasionally bites swimmers. Usually they just nibble away at coral with their sharp teeth.  Mine was the worse bite he’d seen for a year, he cheerfully told me, as he stitched the wound. Painful! No more swimming, he said, and I should go onto antibiotics immediately. So no more alcohol either. Dismal!  But he was kind and changed the dressing each day.  I didn’t let the incident spoil my holiday – I read lots of books and sampled every single non-alcoholic cocktail on the island!  The wound was sore and became infected, red and swollen. But its alright now and there’s an impressive scab!

I discovered that Titan Triggerfish are often more aggressive than sharks, especially when you swim into their ‘cone’ – the space above their ‘nest’.  They patrol it and when they see an intruder, they raise up their top fin (the ‘trigger’) and attack.  I found numbers of videos on YouTube of triggerfish attacking snorkellers and nipping their fins. But none showed a triggerfish sinking its sharp teeth into someone’s leg!  I’m told I must not blame the fish – it’s in their nature. Their nasty nature!

Needless to say, back in the UK, the staff at my doctors surgery found the idea of my being bitten by a giant fish hugely amusing. I’ve found it raises a few laughs (but little sympathy) in the local pub. Why should it be so dreadful when a dog bites someone, and so very entertaining when a fish does?  I’ve been snorkelling for years in many different places and successfully avoided stingrays, sharks, sea urchins, poisonous pufferfish and stinging coral.  I’d never before encountered big triggerfish with their pointed teeth, but I shall keep well clear of them the future!  I shall flaunt an elegant scar on my leg. Every scar tells a story. And I’m a storyteller.

Good Riddance to January

January 2018 is memorable (or rather unmemorable) for having the longest number of sunless days and hours of any January since records began, so I’m told.  It was a dark, dismal, dank month – and – to add adverbs (now very unfashionable) to adjectives – it was dolefully dreary, dreadfully dire and deeply depressing. But it’s over now! February has blasted in with cold clarity, clear skies and a stunning super blue moon.  I woke in the early hours when the full moon was low in the sky gleaming slyly through the jet black spidery branches of a tree and saw a carpet of white snowdrops glimmering beneath. The lunar phenomenon was ghostly enough to haunt the imagination.  Such things have been known to send one mad. As the moon sank lower into a pallid mist and I crept back to my snug bed, I realised with elation that January had fled and February had dawned. It will get colder before it gets warmer. But, as the poet, Shelley, says: “If winter comes can spring be far behind?”

Role Reversal

A year ago I retired from a long-term part-time job, which gave me plenty of time for writing. I intended to transform my life and re-brand myself as a full-time professional writer.  So why have I written so little and had no time to edit my fourth book, the first draft of which was completed over six months ago?  Much essential PEP (pruning, editing, polishing) is still to be done.  The reason for the delay is that during the summer there’s been a significant change in my role and occupation.

After a working life of several decades, and some years later than normal people, my DBH (dearly beloved husband) is to take AIR (active inspirational retirement).  The DBH has decided to ‘boot himself upstairs’ and become Non-Executive Chairman (NEC) of the family business, whilst I have been promoted to the position of New Executive Director (NED). Board meetings will no longer be held in our bathroom at 0630 every weekday morning, but will now happen on 29th February.  AGM’s will become DGM’s (Decadal General Meetings). Junior directors are invited to be present but discouraged from participation. The NED knows that discussions with the NEC about business will be limited to the hours of 1045-1115 and this only on the third Wednesday of each month.

This means that the POL (pattern of life) had changed here at home in Dorset.  We endeavour to be more organised and yet more relaxed.  To clarify how this is achieved, one asks:  what does the DBH mean by ‘active’ retirement?  This DOS (daily operational schedule) will give you some idea:

0630-0730 The NED gets up, does household tasks, eats breakfast and is at her desk by 0800.

0830-1000 The NEC wakes up, listens to Radio 4, drinks tea, reads, rises, showers, and descends.

1010 The NEC has his breakfast, reads the paper, and prepares for the day.  At 1120, he goes outside to the rear lawn to practice his putting with the aim of improving his handicap at clockwork golf. The cats, Oscar and Ella, (O&E) are banished from the rear garden at this time as they have a habit of racing after his golf ball and batting it away from the hole.  Family and friends (F&F) are allowed to observe but not permitted to make comments. (If weather is inclement, the DBH practices snooker in the games room, to improve his chance of winning against his son).

1130 NED has finished with responding to the day’s batch of emails and opens the post, including a letter from NAS (the Non-Abbreviation Society), which informs her that she and DBH have been expelled from membership. This causes her no regret and she moves on to deal with more significant matters.

1315 DBH prepares his own lunch, pours himself a single glass of wine and at 1330 commences eating.

1333 approx. NED dashes in from the office, throws some food on a plate, wolfs it down and returns to work at 1400.

1430-1530 The DBH has his PLD (post lunch doze) in situ (in his kitchen chair) or, if fine, outside on the swing chair, during which time birds are forbidden to cheep. Guests and Grandchildren (G&G) are requested to keep silent during PLD.

1545-1715 Three times a week, the NEC works out on the rower, jogger and bike at his Weight Reduction Programme (WRP). On other days he takes a hike round the land. The NED is exempted from this activity but any G&G are encouraged to accompany him. On Saturdays this is obligatory.

1845-1930 The NED metamorphoses into Loving & Sympathetic Spouse (LASS) and prepares dinner. 1900 The NEC now becomes Amazingly Genial Husband (AGH) and pours drinks for her and F&F.  Important: White wine must be no more than 12˚ in temperature and no less than 13% in alcoholic content.  LASS frantically tries to serve dinner on time.

1930-2130 Dinner.  Red wine, which was opened at 1800 to allow it to breathe, is served by AGH.

2140 AGH retires to sofa in Monks Room for PPN (post prandial nap) which may involve sleeping in front of the TV, when O&E are discouraged from jumping onto his lap and flexing their claws into his thigh.

2150-2230 LASS retires to bed, sliding swiftly into sleep.

Anytime from 23.10 until 0140 AGH wakes and goes into PAD mode (perambulation around drive) where, unobserved (except by nocturnal O&E), he muses on life, gazes at stars and hugs trees. Sometimes owls hoot. AGH then quietly locks house and goes upstairs to bed without disturbing sleeping LASS, G&G and F&F.

It is important to remember that timings are rigidly adhered to. The ROOL (rhythm of our life) must be carefully preserved. We have shared this schedule with F&F so that when they come and visit, they will be able to slot in snugly with the new arrangements. My plan to become a full-time DPW (dedicated professional writer) has been placed on hold.  But I live in hope.

 

My Dragon won’t Listen to me

At last my voice is beginning to return to how it used to be, though it still sounds pretty ragged to me at times.  I lost it back in April and  I’m disappointed that it is still strangely hoarse.   It’s been stressful, though whether the inability to speak has caused the stress or whether stress caused the speechlessness I cannot tell!  All I know is that my voice has been weak and husky for three months. blue_dragon_webBut that wouldn’t matter too much, as my friends and family are used to me sounding like an old scratchy recording, but unfortunately my Dragon speech recognition software likes me speaking naturally and it hasn’t  taken kindly to me sounding like somebody with a dreadful sore throat. In short – it doesn’t want to listen to me!  When I try to dictate, the words don’t appear on the page with the ease and speed that they used to.  My dragon has gone on strike!  And I can’t blame the poor creature. I find it difficult to listen to myself.  I shall just have to type what I write as I used to do.  But I miss my dragon.  I’m sure that when my voice returns to normal,  the dragon will recognize that an old friend has returned and obliging reproduce my words electronically.  If not, I shall breathe fire!