Sadness on New Year’s Eve

With the death of my mother Clare (Doreen) on 31st December 2015, my “annus horribilis” has drawn to a close. I have never experienced such a concentrated series of sad events. In summary:

June: the dear family dog Khymer had to be euthanised. Clare and I had been walking him on Takapuna Beach for eight years.

July: I learned that one of my closest friends in England had terminal cancer.

September: my husband Brian had a near-fatal heart attack and subsequently underwent major cardiac surgery, again almost dying from post-operative complications (as documented in earlier posts on this blog).

October: just a week after Brian was discharged from hospital, still in a weak state, my mother suffered a huge bowel prolapse. She too almost died, but survived an emergency operation which left her with an ileostomy.

December: my mother had a stroke which deprived her of speech and paralysed the right side of her body. After ten days in hospital she died peacefully with me at her side.

The decline in my own health over this period clearly shows how the repeated experience of stress – the long nights in emergency departments, the practical demands of caring for two sick family members, the continual worry about their welfare – can play havoc with the balance of body and mind.

The good things? My mother was able to live almost independently in her own home nearly till the end, retaining her sharp mental facilities – she still took an active interest in world affairs, enjoyed doing crosswords, and was able to read and comment on the novel that I completed shortly before she died. Acute medical and nursing services in the Auckland hospitals are first-rate. The kindness and helpfulness of family, friends and neighbours has been overwhelming. And my husband has made a splendid recovery.

Surely 2016 will be a happier year, though maybe not an “annus mirabilis”. I hope to recover my well-being enough to enjoy some outings and holidays with Brian, now that he has a new lease of life; to cope successfully with the task of managing my mother’s estate; and then maybe start writing again.

The lure of the murder mystery

I’ve always enjoyed reading crime fiction, especially the more benign kind of murder mystery epitomised by Agatha Christie’s books. Old-fashioned though these may be, they are still popular today. I think several elements contribute to their enduring appeal: An intriguing puzzle, with a credible solution that is not too obvious, although it could in theory have been worked out from the clues hidden in the text. An ending that demonstrates the triumph of good over evil, and the restoration of justice. Descriptions of crime and criminal psychology that manage to be both sympathetic and entertaining, and never sordid or sensational. Perhaps the universal fascination with death. I could never aspire to anything near the standard set by Agatha Christie, but her influence may be apparent in Fatal Feverfew, one of the books I wrote about thirty years ago but did not publish until now.

The main action takes place in an isolated healing retreat in England’s west country. Lucia, accompanied by her husband and cat, arrives there to recuperate from a recent illness only to find that she is suspected of poisoning their hostess. Lucia reluctantly takes on the role of detective and, with the help of the local doctor, succeeds in uncovering the true course of events.

It can be purchased online as an ebook in various formats from; and also from the Amazon website for your country of residence, either as a paperback or for a Kindle device.



Tit Willow

Last night we attended a vibrant performance of The Mikado at the Torbay Theatre on Auckland’s North Shore. The Mikado is among the most popular of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, and I’d certainly seen it a couple of times before, though that was a long time ago and I couldn’t recall details of the plot. So I didn’t understand why I seemed to know all the songs by heart. They were familiar almost note-for-note and word-for-word.

Afterwards, I remembered once being told that the first thing I ever said was “Tit Willow”. This sounded rather unlikely and I supposed it was some obscure family joke. But when I asked my mother this morning she said “Yes, that’s true – your Uncle Geoffrey taught you to say it.” (Uncle Geoffrey being the WW2 Spitfire pilot who wrote Geoffrey Guy’s War). She explained that when I was a baby her own mother, my grandmother, had bought a record of The Mikado which I liked very much. Apparently, as soon as I was carried downstairs in the mornings, I would wave at the gramophone demanding that it be played over and over for as long as the adults could bear to listen.

I don’t recall any of this, but it seems to prove that early childhood memories are indeed retained in our subconscious minds, and can surface many years later in the right setting.

For a Youtube video of the song, please paste this link into your browser: