Twenty Years Ago, I Had a Dream About John Lennon, and He Told Me Off

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Actually, this happened slightly longer than twenty years ago because I remember the job I was in and who I spoke to about this vivid dream I had about John Lennon. He told me off and I was gutted.

I was born in the mid seventies, I missed the Beatles boat age wise. However they were still EVERYWHERE when I was growing up in the north of England (Manchester, not Liverpool). Mum always had Radio 2 tuned in before we set off for school, and I do remember John Lennon’s death in the news. I would have been five and a half years old. Old enough for a significant news event to stick in my head I suppose.

John Lennon 1969 (cropped).jpg

Here’s the dream, all I remember is that John Lennon told me off. He really shouted at me and I remember being gutted because John Lennon’s showbiz persona always seemed so friendly. I knew he had his causes but there was no need to give me a telling off.

YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS (he meant my job), YOU SHOULD BE MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH.

I knew that John Lennon meant my job, because the dream was ‘set’ at my place of work at the time (I won’t lie, it was a stressful place to work in the care sector). I thought I was good at my job, and leaving my nursing career was not my choice. I eventually retired due to ill health (I have MS). At the time I had this dream, I was completely healthy. Yet here was the most famous and talented Liverpudlian ever to grace earth with his presence telling me I was in the wrong job.

The dream was so powerful that my mind was still blown when I turned up for work later that day (I was most probably on a nightshift, knowing my luck).

I told one of my colleagues that John Lennon told me off in a dream and she was very interested. ‘There’s a book about that,‘ she told me. Now, this was well before smartphones, so I couldn’t ‘Google it’ and the work colleague could not remember the name of the book, but she was convinced of its existence. She had read about it somewhere, or someone had told her about it. I know there is the magic of Facebook, but even if I was in touch with this person I wouldn’t ask ‘Do you remember a conversation we had over twenty years ago?’ I already sound potty.

The dream has stayed in my mind and I have been reminded of it every now and then (the Beatles are still everywhere). I haven’t managed to find a book about what it means to dream of John Lennon.

I did find a book on Amazon about John Lennon’s actual dreams – I think this means John Lennon’s ambition. It is an inspirational book for children, rather than what I am talking about.

John Lennon (Little People, BIG DREAMS Book 52) by [Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Octavia Bromell]
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LR2DNHX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

And if you search for ‘Dreams about John Lennon’ then loads of results come up about Paul McCartney. Apparently he regularly dreams about John Lennon (but does not get told off). That’s understandable, they were best song writing mates (and had actually met, not like me – some random fool).

Paul McCartney smiling

Photo from Wikipedia, Here is a link to one of the articles about Paul McCartney dreaming about John Lennon. https://www.nme.com/news/music/paul-mccartney-john-lennon-dreams-the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert-interview-the-beatles-2550940

This could potentially be a great idea for a book – if someone hasn’t already written it (so many books out there it is really hard to search).

What about John Lennon’s message, ‘I should be making people laugh?’

This could have been a weird psychic, intuitive glimpse into the future. At the time I had the dream, yes I loved reading but I had no idea that I would one day become writer (that’s not strictly true, I do remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an author, and wrote the word on a box then put a doll in the box. Who knows if I had just found the word ‘author’, but I like to think I meant it). I also said that I wanted to be a nurse. How accurate young Samantha was!

Twenty years later I have made a few readers smile with my Curmudgeon Avenue series. And some have actually laughed – they said so in a review!

I’m dying to know if anyone else has had a celebrity dream – especially one with a message. And especially a dream including a message from John Lennon!

Some time after the dream, but before this post I did see this John Lennon quote; I think this is his real message:

Happiness Is The Key To Life | John lennon quotes, Happy quotes, Words

(Actually, I saw this quote originally as ‘the teacher told me I didn’t understand the question’ – they don’t say ‘assignment’ in Liverpool 😉 ) Just be happy, innit?

Have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

PS two of my books are listed in promotions at the moment. The final of Curmudgeon Avenue can be found in the Christmas Fun in the Summertime promo until the 31st of July 21. And ‘1962 (an uplifting tale of 1960s Lancashire) is part of the Soulful Reads promo, which runs until the 19th of July.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01M4LPH9U

Literary Fiction is Not Dead (and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise)

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I love books, reading has saved me, and writing has provided me with a true sense of self after my career ended.

So imagine my surprise when I read (a communication) that ‘no one reads anymore’, it was as though the internet was saying ‘what is the actual point of you?’ I will not have it!

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Our modern brains may not be as geared up to settle down with a lengthy novel, we have been raised on television and we have the internet and social media to fill our minds with. I presume that readers who are already ‘into’ reading are still novel lifting (I know I am).

In Dickensian times, folk had less time to read, People often worked six days a week for eighteen hours per day (thank you source). And really, it was only towards the end of the 19th century that literacy improved in Britain. Rich folk had all the tea to drink (see photo), but those lengthy classics that we see today were mostly serialised – even in Victorian times, readers were choosing an accessible medium.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Books are an essential tool to tap into if you are feeling under the weather mentally.

You may feel that you are unable to commit to reading a full novel, or most likely reading sounds off putting because you are struggling to concentrate.

Firstly, about concentration. Remember, reading is a solitary hobby. NO ONE IS MARKING YOU, You are under no obligation to give what you are reading your full attention. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but you are reading to relax, for fun, you deserve it… you will not be expected to write an essay about what you have read. Imagine the sense of achievement you will feel after finishing a book (even if that means ‘I gave it a try, and now I’m finished with it’). It is only natural to feel guilt for not finishing a book, but it is also freeing to let it go and have a look at another book (there are plenty to choose from). And if you can’t – no biggie, come back to it or try something else… But…

The benefits of escaping into another world are even more important now.

Don’t give up! The book on the side in your bedroom that is covered in dust? You will get to it eventually. Reading became difficult for me when both of my eyes (at different times) were affected by MS. With lighting, modern technology (Kindle) and a good old fashioned trip to the optician’s I can read as long as I don’t overdo it and look after my posture (I am on about my neck). I am breaking away from the sick role, if I can adapt and find a way to do something I want to do – I will.

Photo by u041eu043bu044cu0433u0430 u041du0443u0440u0443u0442u0434u0438u043du043eu0432u0430 on Pexels.com

You don’t have to commit to a lengthy novel. Again, no one is marking you, so it does not matter what you read. Reading is a very personal thing. People do recommend books to one another, but soon, you will be choosing your own. It does not have to be literary fiction.

You can always try audio books.

Go with the cover you like – that is fine people DO judge books by their covers.

There is no law that says you have to finish a book – even if you don’t like it.

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I refuse to believe this hype about ‘people not reading anymore’. Stories are what makes us human, after all. The evidence is all around us, and as for me there IS a point and I will continue to write.

The following are links to reading evidence that springs to mind when I think about this subject.

Research finds reading books has surged in lockdown source The Guardian 2020.

BBC Radio 4 Book Club (running currently)

Nearly half of young people reading more in lockdown (Source: Penguin)

The Graham Norton Book Club on Audible

Between the Covers BBC2

Richard and Judy Book Club

The Only Way is Essex Book Club

20 Inspiring Virginia Woolf Quotes on Knowing Oneself

Happy reading everyone, Samantha.

PS I wrote these books:

A New Cover For ‘1962: A Nostalgic Tale of 1960s Lancashire’ (the relaunch!)

I had a great time writing ‘1962: A Nostalgic Tale of 1960s Lancashire’  which I published in 2017. I had an even better time revisiting the book and have relaunched it this week with a new cover. Later, there will also be a collection of four short stories I wrote at the time, all set in 1962.  😊 My dad provided inspiration for this novel. He was a cycling enthusiast, entered races (and won), and he was in his late 20s in 1962 – so the characters were not based on him, or his life story. He just gave me the idea. In 2012, we were watching a programme that marked 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dad turned to me and said ‘You know, people were petrified that we would all be blown up, but I just wanted to get a good time in the time trial race I had entered on Sunday.’ This conversation sparked something in me, and the book was born!  Dad helped me with a bit of research, including asking everyone he knew if they remembered how they felt about the looming threat of nuclear war in 1962 – as a person living in the north of England. Interestingly, Mum said she hardly remembered anything about it! 

I have been lucky enough to join a book promotion called ‘Soulful Reads’ which runs from June 19 to July 19. Well worth a nosy, I’ve had a preview of the titles – some will definitely end up on my reading list. 

Click this link : https://books.bookfunnel.com/soulfulreads/t6p3xc0jiz to check out the Soulful Reads promotion.

I will be releasing the prequel to 1962: A Nostalgic Tale of 1960s Lancashire later this year.

The Queen’s Speech (and other shorts from 1962) is a collection of four short stories I wrote in 2017 when I was researching the novel. I think this prequel will get readers in the mood for reading about 1962.

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

Unfortunately, there are no MINI’s in the short story collection, just one in the novel.

Happy reading everyone, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

Daft Things Folk Have Said to me Since I have Been Writing.

We all say silly things from time to time, but saying daft things to a writer is a favourite subject of mine. My husband told me I MUST start my own YouTube channel (I didn’t) but when I had a nosy, I found an author talking about the things that people have said that really irritated her. She seemed really angry (this was some years ago, I don’t know if the film is still there).

The red writing is my response (which, yes, I should have said at the time but meh).

  1. ‘I don’t like dystopian books – I only read science fiction’.

Err…

Star Trek Picard Writer Blames Patrick Stewart For The Dark Tone & Dystopia  : Star_Trek

2 ‘Hmm a five star review for your first book? I bet she gives everything five stars.’

Me: That’s a horrible thing to say to an author.

3. ‘It’s you, isn’t it?’

No, ‘it’s’ not me, it is a fictional character that I invented. Think about it, Stephen King is not a teenage girl is he?

4.’ Are you still writing your ‘book’ ?’

Yes I am, this one will be my eleventh book.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

5. Similarly ‘Oh, you’re an AUTHOR‘ (sing-song voice)

Me; ‘Oh you’re a (insert occupation here)’ ~ actually, the person who said this to me is not a builder/plasterer/decorator, the photo made me smile.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

6. ‘My friend is dying to meet you – he wants to be a writer.’

Meets friend, friend says nowt. (I’m not going to steal your book ideas!)

William Shakespeare - Quotes, Plays & Wife - Biography

7. ‘I’ll definitely write you a review.’

That old chestnut.

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8. ‘I can’t see what’s being satirised (in a review)’

Me: let’s just check with the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms by Dr Baldick shall we? Satire: A mode of writing that exposes the failings of individuals, institutions, or societies to ridicule and scorn. (Oxford University Press, 2015). That sounds EXACTLY like my six part series, ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’ .

9. ‘What do they call a six-part-series? Me ‘A six-part-series’. There ensued a long conversation ‘Is it a sextuplet? Is it a hexagon?

Me ‘NO IT’S A SIX-PART SERIES. IN LITERATURE IT’S A SIX-PART-SERIES!’ No one listens, but they do all look at me like I’m stupid (despite my 10 published books and creative writing degree).

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10. Who published you? Because my mum has written her life story and… (long story here about someone’s mum writing a book).

Me: This was obviously someone trying to find out if I’m self published or not. I am – I’m proud to be an indie author and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I don’t know why, but I feel I have to add that I have been editorially selected when I had a short story published in a magazine).

11. And here is the most popular one: I would write a book if I had the time

Me: What’s stopping you?

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(When I published my novel ‘1962’) You can’t possibly have been alive in 1962! How can you write a book set in 1962!

Me: correct – I was born in 1975. Hilary Mantel was not alive during Queen Elizabeth I times either.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thank you for reading today’s blog. Please share your experiences of daft things that people have said to you since you have been a writer. I may seem a little curmudgeonly today – no doubt I will think of something else I should have included in this blog/someone is about to say something daft after I have published.

Have a great weekend and here are my curmudgeonly books:

Samantha 🙂 https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01M4LPH9U

On Why I Use a Walking Stick

Accepting walking aids.

Why I Use a Walking Stick (written originally for the MS Society blog)

Recently, my physiotherapist has encouraged me to try and increase my exercise routine. I used to go to hydrotherapy, but this is not running currently. This got me thinking about why I use a walking stick when out and about.

     It all started when I was still working. I used to be a nurse, and my final post was a community psychiatric nurse. One winter’s day, I was tasked with escorting someone to an important solicitor’s meeting in Manchester city centre. This person was really shy, and had difficulty understanding others, he used a lot of non-verbal communication to make himself understood.

     It was all going well until I parked up in the nearest available space. As soon as I stepped out onto the street, I suffered the familiar sensation of blurred vision, indescribable dizziness and a feeling that I MUST grab onto something to steady myself.

  Even when I was a child, I had a sensation that ‘tall buildings might fall on me’. I suppose this is an irrational fear, and some have suggested this is anxiety, but I don’t think it is.

    I must tell you that we did manage to make the appointment although I must have looked rather strange clutching onto walls, lampposts and traffic lights. This made me feel terrible in my role. I was meant to be easing another person’s worries by providing physical support, and I must have looked as though I wanted to crawl along on the pavement. I could not explain what was happening because of the communication barrier. The man clutched at his chest, appearing even more anxious himself. I knew then that I had to do something – this is when I started using a walking stick.

     The feeling I described earlier has worsened over the years. Although I do get blurred vision at home, it is manageable in familiar surroundings. Triggers to the problem for me are bright lights (such as fluorescent lighting in supermarkets reflecting on shiny floors). Wide-open spaces (such as the big field that dog walkers use near my house). Or the opposite – city centres with a dense concentration of tall buildings. Looking at the sky, and then back to straight in front of me causes it too. I think that this is something to do with moving clouds, the contrast in lighting and my eyes not catching up.

     I am told that optic neuritis is quite common in MS, eye problems were the first thing I noticed, and I have been treated for it several times in the past. An MS nurse once told me that the lasting results of optic neuritis can be spatial awareness. I would say this is true for me because I do sometimes think there is a step there when there isn’t. And again, sticks come in handy in this instance.

   The walking stick has helped me immensely over the years. I feel more confident when out and about. I have noticed that if I try and walk without it, I am very unsure, slow and looking for somewhere to sit or lean when I should be looking ahead of me at my destination. I believe walking with a stick acts as a visual marker in a crowded situation that I might become unbalanced if I don’t have space.

     A couple of things to think about with walking sticks: as a person who follows the advice of my physiotherapist, I am conscious not to hunch over the stick. Get it at the right height (most walking sticks are adjustable and there is an NHS page on how to use them). My physio is always advising me to ‘turn my stomach muscles on’ and so I actively do this when moving. If anyone asks me ‘why are you using a stick?’ I try and keep my answer short and sweet because strangers don’t need to know my life story. Accept that the walking stick can only do so much, I use a scooter for longer journeys – planning is everything.

     Ultimately, I wanted to write about walking sticks because I did feel self-conscious when I first started using them. Now I embrace it. I have many sticks in different colours and patterns to match what I’m wearing, and I keep them in the car and just by the front door. I think it is essential to make life easy for yourself, whatever your particular problem is living with MS.

Me at the big field – sunglasses always help!

Happy reading everyone, Samantha 🙂

PS I wrote these books ~

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FQXFV6R

I’m Back! (and other mini-dramas)

I haven’t blogged for a while, or participated (properly) with social media. It’s all been for a good cause – I concentrated all of my energies on my BA (Honours) English Literature and Creative Writing degree, of which I have now completed the first half of my third year.

I used to be able to do more – either my MS is getting worse, I’m getting older, or the course is getting more demanding. Probably mostly the latter but also (probably) a combination of the three.

I have still been reading for fun, of course but all the other things (book promotions, reviews, adverts) have had to take a back seat.

I plan to use my summer to write my next standalone novel – I am too anxious to reveal the title today, although I’m not sure why.

First, I plan to relaunch my 2017 novel ‘1962 (an uplifting tale of 1960s Lancashire)

You know, someone hurt my feelings about this cover earlier this year and I could really have done without it. There’s a long story behind the cover, my dad didn’t want his face on the cover (!) and the person I gave the photograph to to draw a picture from didn’t illustrate an image of the bike. Amazon KDP were not happy with the original cover (too blurry) until eventually I was forced to change it. The cover you see above is aiming to be an old Penguin.

Postcards From Penguin: 100 Book Jackets in One Box: Amazon.co.uk: Penguin  Group USA: 8601404201011: Books

Anyway, I plan to change the cover when I relaunch.

One advantage of being an indie author is that I can make these kind of decisions and change things whenever I fancy it. (Although it doesn’t provide protection from busybodies)

Thank you for understanding, I hope everyone has a fabulous summer, Samantha 🙂

PS I wrote these!

Book Review Alia Henry and the Ghost Writer by Christine Betts #IARTG

This great book is part of a multi-genre promotion about books set in France! https://books.bookfunnel.com/fromfrancewithlove/1un9lt0lk6

I read loads… loads and loads of books everyone is using that word ‘voracious’ these days (huge appetite lol!) I do love reading, and apart from a few of the set books chosen by the Open University, I usually only read what I enjoy.

Anyway… this week I found a book that was right up my street!

Alia Henry and the Ghost Writer by Christine Betts

The blurb from the book’s Amazon page :

After a stunt lands heiress and comedian Alia Henry in lock-up, she finds herself under house-arrest in a crumbling mansion owned by Whitehall International, a company she discovers controls much of her ‘free-range’ life. Detoxing and device-free, she must write her contracted novel or face dire consequences.

But she is not alone on the once-magnificent estate. Phillip, Whitehall’s unquestioning aide-de-camp, intrigues and infuriates her in equal measure and wandering the house at night, she meets Braith, eccentric writer-in-residence and mixer of marvellous cocktails.

Each day she struggles to write but at night, under the light of an increasingly implausible full moon, Alia delights in exotic drinks and dazzling conversation with the mysterious Braith.

Not usually one for asking questions, she wonders is Braith a ghost…?

Or is she?

Funny, smart, and full of heart, Alia Henry discovers what happens when you look up from your screen long enough to see the people in front of you.

Actually, when I started reading this book I wondered if it reminded me of anything else I had read. I think that’s why I liked it so much, it is a good fiction that did not fit into any pigeonhole. Women’s fiction, I reckon. It did remind me in a funny sort of way about a new series I started watching this week – The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco. Because both of these fictions have a female protagonist who can see ghosts (if that’s what they are!)

The Flight Attendant Poster

Here is my little five star review:

5.0 out of 5 stars You will be rooting for Alia

Don’t you love France? Alia (short for Thalia – brilliant) is a talented young heiress with a bright future ahead of her… although… things have not always been great; she lost her parents and dealt with this bereavement by drinking.

Oh… and when we meet her, Alia is in a bit of a pickle, getting arrested for a naked stunt in London.

Fortunately (although it feels unfortunate to Alia at first), she ends up on house arrest in a gorgeous Paris chateau with NO MOBILE PHONE (imagine!), and forced to write the children’s novel she is contracted to. At night, the building is different and Alia starts seeing things that others don’t, staircases that others can’t climb, and then she meets Braith, a poet, novelist and charmer.

A brilliant read for those who like a mystical narrative, literature and backing a character who needs a shove in the right direction!

Photo by Czapp u00c1rpu00e1d on Pexels.com

Happy reading everyone! PS, don’t forget to click the link for all the books set in France 🙂 Samantha xx

https://books.bookfunnel.com/fromfrancewithlove/1un9lt0lk6

Edna and Genevieve are Having a Whale of a Time in France #Bookpromo

I am thrilled to bits that  Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue (book 3 of Curmudgeon Avenue) is part of a BookFunnel promotion celebrating stories set in France.

The promotion is called ‘From France With Love’ and here is the link to a selection of multi-genre books https://books.bookfunnel.com/fromfrancewithlove/1un9lt0lk6 all written in with carefree, passionate, European style.

In Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue the lovestruck pair move away from Manchester’s grey streets to Genevieve’s home country of France. Edna is thrilled to bits to leave her idiot sister Edith and husband Harold (Edna’s nemesis). Genevieve returned to Whitefield in book one and although she had previously broken Edna’s heart their romance was soon rekindled. 

Initially, Edna and Genevieve stay in a gite in Brittany, but quickly find out that rain in this part of France can be (almost) as persistent as in Manchester. They then continue their adventure and move to somewhere on the Bordeaux border in a fictional chateau called Chateau le Grincheaux. This is a very loose and creative translation of Curmudgeon Avenue. When I say ‘very loose’ – my 1980s high school French did not stretch that far… 

Edna is enthralled by a place in Dordogne called Rocamadour and persuades her hosts Diane and Jackson Bove to take Genevieve and her on a day trip to this medieval treasure. However, Genevieve refuses to go and instigates a tiff with Edna to support her plan. Later in the book, the same thing happens again when Edna wants to go to Paris! What is Genevieve hiding? Will the couple ever return to Curmudgeon Avenue? 

Speaking of Curmudgeon Avenue, as this is the third book in the series the existing Whitefield residents go about their business under the watchful eyes and ears of Curmudgeon Avenue. Yes, it is the house that tells the story in this social satire series.  

I am lucky enough that Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue is part of a multi-genre promotion called ‘From France with Love’  These twenty-one books are well worth a look. Apart from my book, I have read ‘Hotel Deja Vu’  by Christine Betts which is a unique story beautifully written and set in Paris. 

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Just for fun, I am about to share some photos from a holiday we took to France seven years ago… (eek seven years!)

This is Rocabadour, where Edna managed to climb the many, many, many stairs because she had been drinking wine. I don’t know how I did it!

I’m rubbish at Jenga.

Inspiration for Edna and Genevieve’s French home (no one tell my husband I have posted a photo of him!)

Happy (French) reading everyone!

https://books.bookfunnel.com/fromfrancewithlove/1un9lt0lk6

Samantha xx

The End of Lockdown (and why ‘popping round’ is still banned at my house).

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is not my front door, but I chose this photo because of the colour. Green – how does green make you feel? This image makes me feel safe, and in harmony with my surroundings (I can’t wait for spring-time light-gardening weather). Also, I can’t stand up for long if someone knocks on my door.

The last twelve months have reminded me of when I had to finish work. It was awful – and I refuse to return to how I felt.

Writing about the end of lockdown in the UK may be premature but it is worth writing about. A word I heard on the news this morning was ‘caution’. This got me thinking… Especially as during my (phone) appointment with the MS nurse last month, she reminded me to be careful about anxiety when ‘things start getting back to normal.’

I have lots of words about the pandemic, but I suppose the most fitting one is ‘fraught’ the past twelve months have been fraught.

Upsetting/stressful/quiet/boring… these are all words that pop into my head when writing this.

I’ve got MS and I lost my twenty year nursing career (I was a band 6 community psychiatric nurse). Now I am used to being at home. While everyone was getting used to the weirdness of seeing the inside of their kitchen and front room at 11.30 am, nothing much had changed for me… except I had company.

I also had understanding, I knew what a culture shock staying at home was going to be for my family. I feel like we were lucky, and we’ve broken it’s back. We are now about to go through another change – I am not going to rush it.

It wasn’t the being at home… I am very comfortable spending time in my own house. Cabin fever is not something I suffer with. It is odd being at home all the time, though.

When I stopped working, I felt like I was losing my identity… my sense of self was stolen, and this wasn’t my employers fault – it was how others treated me. That is the absolute truth.

I’d been so ill… The worst relapse ever. My complete right side of stopped working from my right eye- blind with optic neuritis, a weird pins and needly painful nuisance feeling in my right arm, my right hand was completely useless – I couldn’t even put my glasses on without hitting myself in the face. And I couldn’t walk.

I looked the same, though.

And that’s where the problem began.

I looked the same so people thought I could still do the things that I used to be able to do. I can’t, listening to people talking is draining. If it wasn’t, I’d still be working. Likewise, we should be careful not to expect everything to quickly return to ‘normal’ after lockdown.

Since my diagnosis of MS in 2005, I have worked really hard to follow the advice of the neurology team at the hospital, occupational therapy and physiotherapy (which has been the consistent rescue of my condition – I swear by those appointments all these years later).

But even when I was still off sick, my life quickly became a stressful series of visits – people (not friends… these people were not being friendly) ‘popping round to see how I am’. All I heard was the chatter of loaded themes and bossy statements which all started with ‘What you should do/why don’t you do this/you NEED to do this. All the while, I should have been staying away from stressful interactions and looking after myself. I was so ill I did not feel strong enough to say ‘leave me alone’. Actually, when I did say ‘please don’t visit’, people ignored my requests and still knocked on my door. This is what I don’t want to return to after lockdown.

Sorry to go on about things that happened years ago, but it has all come flooding back in nightmare and flashbacks during this recent turmoil.

(I did speak to another MS sufferer and she experienced the same thing – she even woke up one afternoon to find a visitor sitting on the end of her bed… how rude!)

It took a long time for me to accept and move on. AND I’M NOT LETTING MY NEW LIFE GO. Now I have a routine of physio, rest in the middle of the day and work in the afternoon. I write books instead of being a nurse, and yes, that is work. Also, keeping my fingers crossed for good health. Before lockdown, if I wanted to see my friends, this would be at the weekend – especially as I need my husband’s help to get around. Not Sundays though, Sundays are for COMPLETELY chilling out – husband agrees.

Even though we all look the same as we did, there is no denying that things are different now. Let’s learn from this, and adopt a new routine – with caution.

During this time, I have appreciated (even more) how important it is to be careful, I think we all have.

I can remember clearly (before all this) people had sneezed right in my face. It was disgusting, let’s not go back to those times. Face masks or not, let’s not spread germs.

When things re-open, let’s support local businesses and go to the pub or café instead of ‘popping round unexpectedly’. We can all (gradually) have a safe and enjoyable summer.

It is OK to be wary at the end of lockdown.

Since the start of the year, people have been hinting at breaking lockdown rules and ‘just popping round’. Even though, last week it was announced that people with some risk factors should shield until the end of March. I felt I was right back where I started my house full of people, not strong enough to say no. But that isn’t true anymore…

Although ambivalent, I am strong enough now to say do not flood me. It is ok to be cautious.

I don’t care if this makes me sound antisocial – I’m not, ask any of my actual friends.

Now leave me alone, I’m working from home (as Zandra Bennett said in my novel ‘The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue’).

I wrote these books:

Enjoy the next few months, Samantha 🙂

Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue: A Comparison

Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue both written about houses.

Imagine my surprise when this years first book of my creative writing and English literature degree was announced as Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Bleakhouse serial cover.jpg

I had never read this book before, and it rolled onto my Kindle with an estimated reading time of twenty seven hours (I think they guess these times on your personal reading speed). The first thing I did (not for academic purposes) was to have a quick nosy on Wikipedia… Then I read this sentence ‘The novel has many characters and several sub-plots,’

Let’s just have a look at that again  The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, 

Remind you of anything?

Yes, Curmudgeon Avenue – the six and a half part series also has many characters and several sub-plots but I promise… or as we say in Manchester I swear down I had not read Bleak House before I started writing Curmudgeon Avenue.

Image result for gif I swear down
Here is a Gif of the American version of ‘SWEAR DOWN’ just in case my North West England vernacular confuses you.
(Also, we don’t spell it Northwest England).

When the multi talented Lindsay McKinnon of Theatre of The Mind Productions narrated the audiobooks of Curmudgeon Avenue, she wrote a post on her website ’50 Shady Characters & More’ which you can read and see her contact details (if you are looking for a narrator) by clicking on the words in bold.

I didn’t realise I had written 50 characters, but with all the supporting extras they do add up! Especially if you include all six and a half books.

Bleak house has 52 characters.

Incomplete sentences, some reviewers (in the US) have picked up on this. Yes I write with British English grammar and spelling, this includes a creative turn of phrase. My character Wantha Rose likes to refer to herself in the third person – particularly if her boyfriend Ricky has upset her (as so often he does).

Nobody upsets Wantha Rose. NOBODY.

See what I mean?

Charles Dickens was also a fan of incomplete sentences. The opening to Bleak House starts with the one word sentence ‘London.’ Say what you like about Curmudgeon Avenue but even George Eliot’s fancy-piece George Henry Lewes (famous philosopher and literary critic) was unable to review Charles Dickens into submission – even though they were ‘dear friends’.

Charles Dickens, the Victorian literary genius and me (I can’t say and I – I’m from Manchester) both like incomplete sentences in our books.

That’s books about houses, Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue.

Bleak House is set in London and Lincolnshire – there is an actual Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent

Curmudgeon Avenue, is of course, fictional. This street could be anywhere in Whitefield, which as you know is a real life town north of Manchester.

Whitefield is located in Greater Manchester

Narration

Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue both have unusual narration choices.

Dickens’s Bleak house was serialised and the finished novel version appeared in 1853. The serials published in three or four chapters. The novel is narrated by a third-person omniscient narrator and the first-person limited account of character Esther Summerson. Though these narrative voices greatly differed, Bleak House worked because the narrations were not mixed within the chapter, (so readers either got Esther or the omniscient narrator speaking to them). This meant that Victorian readers of Dickens’s Bleak House knew what was going to happen next before the narrator Esther Summerson.

I’m about to write a long explanation… wait for it…

The Curmudgeon Avenue Series is written from the point of view of the first house on the street. The house becomes an omniscient character and so, the name Number One Curmudgeon Avenue has capital letters. This means that the books are second person witness narrated.

Very unusual, most books are either first person ‘I’, third person ‘they’. Second person is hardly ever used, the reader is addressed ‘you’. I couldn’t help it… I wanted the house to tell the story, and this technique allowed me to satirise the people who lived in the street:

‘Edna’s costume jewellery jangled like tinnitus’ [Who said this? Number One Curmudgeon Avenue, of course]

There is a review on Goodreads that explains it all from a reader who ‘got’ the Curmudgeon Avenue Series. The reviewer said something like ‘I wondered at first how the house got to know everything. But then I remembered I was reading a book where the house told the story, so why wouldn’t the house know everything?’

As writers, we must trust our readers to make what they will of our books. Otherwise, we would write books that TELL rather than SHOW. And although I am not against telling a little, it is much more fun to show the reader what you mean, that there is a house with a personality with eyes and ears watching every move and making fun of it (for our benefit).

A bit like Charles Dickens having fun with his readers when Esther Summerson doesn’t know what we know because we’ve already read about it when the omniscient narrator was having a turn. (I was going to pop a spoiler in here because Bleak House is a famous book, and if you were to Google it, you can read a plot summary, but I decided not to because that is cheating!) All I will say is the book is about Esther Summerson’s parentage and the long running Jarndyce and Jarndyce legal case.

Image result for Charles Dickens free image

Repeated phrases.

Charles Dickens used repetition to remind his readers which character or location they were reading about. (Ideal for those early readers who caught the serialised editions in Household Words). Fog is mentioned thirty times as a literary device, a curtain of fog… readers must wait for the fog to clear before they get to know the plot. Mud is mentioned thirteen times, ‘mud and mire’, all a bit grim around Chancery and Tom-all-Alone’s. Mrs Bagnet’s domestic dinner-times. Grandfather Smallweed who does not go out without his Grandaughter, Judy who he speaks to as though she is his servant. And Mr Krook’s bottle shop and lodgings are said to symbolise ‘rock bottom’.

Repetition in Curmudgeon Avenue is just for fun really, I suppose I could say that I was trying to reflect the house’s disdainful personality. Repeated phrases (that I slotted in wherever I could) are ‘For longer than reasonably necessary’ or ‘quite some time’. Both probably reflect that Curmudgeon Avenue has been hanging around since Victorian times.

Social satire

Yes, both Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue are social satires.

Time

Bleak House was written as a contemporary novel in 1853, Curmudgeon Avenue is a contemporary novel of current times.

Dialogue

Dickens wrote Bleak House is a social commentary. The upper middle class characters are very well spoken ‘Anything to vary this detestable monotony. Oh, go on, do!’ This is Lady Dedlock, she sounds very posh to me. Dickens’s poorer characters have a colloquial vernacular which Dickens wrote in non-standard English grammar. ‘I know wot she’s come for!’

Curmudgeon Avenue is a bit of fun… All the characters are Northern, working class and speak with a Manchester turn-of-phrase. Using this technique aims to bring character to the… characters. Nobody ever says ‘and I’ in North West England. When we greet each other, we say ‘Alright’ sometimes, the exuberance of a hello sounds like ‘Alrite’ . These are not typos – it is how things are round here. ‘I knows someone called Ricketts(from The Terraced House Diaries)

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

I regularly watch a film or read a book and think ‘that reminds me of’ another film or book. Reminds doesn’t mean the same as. I love it.

Have you read a book/watched a film that reminded you of another story?

Happy reading, Samantha xx