Friday, December 31, 2010

Ring in the new

Righty. 2010 was awful; I want 2011 to be a much better year.

I was tempted not to make any goals this year; but that’s possibly because at the moment everything feels very chaotic. I function much better when I have structures in place (hence ‘Scary Kate’ and the organisation/time management stuff – and it has to be my structure, not something imposed on me, or I feel boxed in and it doesn't work). Bottom line: I need to do some streamlining and take certain actions to get my life back into balance.

The best thing there is to keep it very simple. So, this year’s goals, in order of priority:

1. Learn to say no.
2. Work smarter rather than harder.
3. Find some kind of exercise that I enjoy doing, schedule it in and stick to it.

And I’ve started already because I’m not justifying them – that comes under #1 :o)

Do you have any resolutions or goals for this year? I’d love to hear them.

I wish you all health, happiness and fulfilment for 2011. Happy New Year!

Ring out the old

Today’s a day for looking back: and 2010 is going to be one of those years I will be glad to see the back of.

Given the situation with Dad, I was expecting it to be a rough year, which was why I planned lots of nice research trips with DH and the kids to keep me going. Those were the good bits of the year: visiting Venice and Paris for the first time, and finally getting to see Pompeii and Vesuvius.

The rest of it – Dad was seriously ill with pneumonia in January and we didn’t expect him to pull through. Somehow, he did, but we lost an awful lot of him. There were several further ‘blips’ throughout the year, where we lost a bit more of him each time, until he passed away in December. It was a very long and painful goodbye, and I spent the whole year grieving. And then another family crisis blew up just after the funeral. (Not blogging about it, but I am not impressed by certain people’s behaviour.)

As for how the resolutions went – er, they didn’t. Complete lack of headspace resulted in complete lack of progress.

I am determined that 2011 is going to be much, much better.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful new year. (And for those who don't celebrate Christmas, happy holidays.)

Normal service will (hopefully) be back in 2011 :o)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

lunar eclipse, and blogging elsewhere

Current work: revisions
Listening to: whatever the kids are playing
Reading: next on TBR

Didn’t even set foot outside yesterday as it was subzero all day. So I worked in the morning, and spent the afternoon playing board games with the children.

This morning, there was a total lunar eclipse - the first visible from the UK in 3 years, AND it's on the winter solstice. (Edit: this is the first time the eclipse has coincided with the winter solstice since 1638, when Charles I was on the throne.) Sadly, the position of the moon (low north-werst horizon) meant that I didn’t get to see it properly – the view was blocked by the trees in the field at the back of our garden. Did anyone else get a good view (and/or pictures)? (There is also going to be a partial solar eclipse on January 4. Yup, Kate Nerdy is back. Actually, I can remember my parents being fascinated by eclipses as well, and they both taught me constellation names when I was tiny.)

Today, I’m blogging over at the PHS in the Travel Tuesday slot. You can guess where I’m talking about *g* - and do go over and say hello.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Current work: revisions
Listening to: whatever the kids are playing
Reading: next on TBR

Touching wood as I write this, we seem to have been spared the major snow dumps that the rest of the country have suffered. We had maybe 4cm of snow on Friday (just before we went out for a Christmas meal with friends) but it has been incredibly cold here – when DH went Christmas shopping on Saturday morning it was minus 9.5C, and it’s meant to be minus 11C tonight. (Oh, and we were officially the coldest place in the country on Saturday night, with minus 16C recorded by the assistant head gardener of Blickling Hall.)

Quiet weekend – visited both parents’ graves on Sunday (it was my mum’s anniversary; I knew the first time would be tough, but it had to be done) and then popped in to see my stepmum.

Plans for today: work this morning, then board games/Wii/X-box with the kids. It’s freezing fog outside and the ungritted roads (i.e. the half-mile between my house and the main road) are skidpans, so I’d rather stay home safely in the warm than go out. Plus, having taken the last three weeks off, I need to catch up with myself.

Does anyone out there have nice plans in the lead-up to Christmas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

end of an era

Current work: revisions (if I can talk my work head into coming back)
Listening to: Christmassy music in car for the kids; more sombre chamber music for me
Reading: next on TBR

Dad’s funeral service was lovely. The reading was 1 Corinthians 13 – which was what he read at my wedding, so I had a bit of a lump in my throat (and I did crack a bit during ‘Abide With Me’ – it’s that bit about ‘death, where is thy sting?’). It was very poignant, attending my dad’s funeral in the church where my mother’s buried, in the same week of the year that she died. Not my favourite time of year.

But I hope I did him proud with the eulogy. It was nice to talk to his friends and colleagues afterwards, as well as family I hadn’t seen since my mum’s funeral, and share some of the good memories.

And I’ll leave you with the poem I read as part of it: 'Remember Me', by Christina Rossetti.

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Monday, December 13, 2010

back, sort of

Current work: had planned to work on revisions, but I'm not quite up to it
Listening to: Bach violin concerti
Reading: Nicola Cornick – Confessions of a Duchess and Scandals of an Innocent (both very enjoyable and just what I needed to take me out of things)

Apologies for my continued absence (and for worrying people). Apart from sorting out things for the funeral, I’ve also been laid low by another lurgy. I hadn’t stopped coughing from the one I had more than a month ago, so whether this is just a worsening of that one or another one on top of it, I have no idea. My GP says I have croup and am clearly brewing something as, despite judicious use of paracetamol, I still have a temperature. I hurt all over (from coughing), my throat feels as if someone’s scrubbed it with wire wool, and the cough means I’m getting sleep in chunks of an hour or two before a coughing fit wakes me up. I’m just hoping that the antibiotics will sort it before Wednesday, because I absolutely cannot cough my way through church. I have a eulogy to deliver, and it’s very, very, VERY important to me.

Tomorrow is rushing round sorting things out: aka car service, dropping cards in to the florist for laminating and attaching to wreath, taking a pile of parcels to the post office, and doing my Christmas shopping (now my royalty cheque has finally arrived with my agent and I can flex my credit card, knowing that I will be solvent again before the bill comes in. One downside of being self-employed is that your income stream is neither regular nor predictable).

And then, on the work front, Wednesday is the Harlequin ‘Open House’ party. I am going to do my best to show my face and sound cheerful. It isn’t fair to readers who enjoy the annual bash to go in being all mopey, even though Wednesday will cut me to the bone. And if you want to mosey along, here’s the link to the publicity about it and there will be links there to the parties. Lots of authors (including me) are offering books as prizes, and the hosties are usually great.

Thank you to everyone who’s emailed me privately with good wishes, or left me messages here or on FB, or sent cards. It’s really appreciated. (And apologies to those I've worried by not replying - unintentional, just am not my usual organised self right now.) I guess as I’ve lost my father gradually over the last couple of years, I’ve had time to do much of my grieving already. But it’s the little things that make me cry now. The odd phrase, a snatch of music… ‘The look of a room on returning thence.’ I couldn’t read that Hardy poem in my eulogy. It’d break me, and I want to do my father proud and not cry my way through it. My aim is to make everyone remember the good bits, and to make them laugh through their tears: because that’s what he would want.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

sleep tight and God bless

John Roy Sewell, 1935-2010

I spent a nice quiet morning with Dad yesterday, reminiscing, and came home while it was still light as I know he’d worry about me driving on the icy roads. He passed away last night; and, although it's a happy release because the last year hasn't been kind to him, I'm going to miss him terribly.

It's a comfort that my last words to him were ‘I love you’, and I know he knew that. And I also know he’d expect me to mark his passing with a bit of Shakespeare (very long-running gag about how I can come up with a Shakespeare quote for almost anything, which used to drive him crazy when I was in my early teens, but then became a ‘what can I challenge her with now?’).

So I think it has to be from Hamlet. (Very apt, because dementia really is a poison.)

He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.

Dad wouldn’t want people to remember him as he was towards the end of his life. He’d want people to remember him how he was: a larger than life character who was the life and soul of every party. At any social do, find the group of people who were laughing loudest, and my dad would be at the centre.

This is how I remember him (1997 - and there was indeed a dog about to leap on his lap).

A dog he'd cuddled right from his puppyhood. (He no longer had dogs himself at this point, so he used to come and borrow mine.)

And back when I was little.

With my son, happy to play with him.

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With my daughter, giving her a cuddle (and he made time for both children).

With me, in summer 1986.

He was always happy to dress up and play the clown (son in particular was delighted with this).

And he passed on to me a love of cake...

Rest in peace, Dad. Sleep tight, and God bless.

Friday, December 03, 2010

update - Dec 3

Spent the day at Dad's bedside yesterday. Made the decision to come home while it was still light and before the roads got treacherous (main one is OK but the road to the home is a single-track, ungritted road that goes on for a mile, has about two passing places, and it's twisty and hilly and not very nice). I think my mum might be looking out for me, because this part of Norfolk (touch wood, please please stay this way) hasn't had the big snow dump and I can get to Dad.

He had a comfortable night but is still the same today (albeit with much shallower breathing). I'll be going over later this morning.

It's officially publication day - A Christmas Knight in the UK and US (and in advance from the Mills & Boon website in Australia) and Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex in the US. But I hope you'll forgive me for not being quite in the mood to be professional author, all rah-rah-rah publicity and talking about the books/updating my website properly. Right now, being there for Dad at the end is my top priority.

Stay safe if you're in awful weather conditions, and have a good weekend. Mine, I hope, will bring peace, because Dad's really suffered enough. Bless you all, and thanks to those who've emailed me, texted me, left nice messages here or on FB. It helps in what's been a very raw week. xxx

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Update - Dec 1

Dad's still very poorly. They're keeping him comfortable at the nursing home; they really go above and beyond and I am so GRATEFUL for that. The staff are absolutely marvellous and really do care about their patients.

Thank you so much to everyone who's left messages of support here or on FB or emailed me (especially the ones from readers that I wasn't expecting) - really, really appreciated. In tough times, you really do find out who your friends are - and I'm both humbled and heartened to discover that (a) more people care than I knew, and (b) my worldview (i.e. that everyone is nice until proven otherwise) is spot on.

It's going to be a bit of a tough week, I think. December is not my favourite month of the year, as I lost my mum in December (and had Chloe in hospital for a week for her first Christmas, and I knew too much about her condition than was good for me!).

Anyway. Hope everyone else is having a better week than I am, and that if you're in the UK you stay safe in this horrible icy/snowy weather. And, um, happy December.