You’ve Written One Memoir, Should You Write Another?

Better or Dead, my second memoir follows on from Shadow Across the Sun, beginning on my wedding day.  Not everyone likes memoirs but I love them, not celeb lets-make-an-easy-million ones or the typical Jeremy Kyle stuff but those of every day people, I love to read about how they deal with both the good and bad that life throws at them.

I got married for all the right reasons; I adored him, but as I stood there taking my vows an errant thought flashed through my mind, ‘This is absolutely right now but how can I say I’m going to feel the same in 20 years time?’ I pushed it away and got lost in the day.

The first flaw appeared with my first pregnancy. My loving husband decided half way through that he wanted neither wife nor baby. I was devastated, at a time that should have been the happiest of our lives. I wanted to feel cherished, loved, both me and my unborn child, not rejected.

Time passed, divorce was inevitable but worse than my failed marriage was my failing health. I didn’t mourn the loss of my marriage but I grieved relentlessly for my former life, the life when my body hadn’t let me down, and I still grieve for that life to this day.

M.E, myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, C.F.S, destroys lives. Sufferers look well so are not believed by society and worse still by the medical profession. I couldn’t believe it when I read, ‘Your first hurdle will be getting your G.P to accept it.’ How could they not? I was ill. How could they dispute that? But dispute it they did and the years that followed, by then a single parent, were the biggest challenge of my life.

I’ve updated the cover to give it a more personal touch. The background image is a photo my son took when he was out dog walking in the Derbyshire Peak District, somewhere I used to love in my well days but can sadly no longer walk in myself. The inset picture is of a makeover I had when I was 50, slap bang in the middle of M.E, so you see on days when I’m well enough to get out for an hour there doesn’t look a thing wrong with me. Here’s a short excerpt from the book.

‘I’d thought that my strange weak attacks were a thing of the past and I’d be fine after having a rest during August. Everything had got on top of me: the divorce, the solicitor, the building society, the worry over Dad’s and Auntie Eth’s illnesses; I’d been spinning out of control on that speeding carousel of stress. However whilst I thought I’d be fine, my body had other ideas.
Occasionally I’d leave the boys playing in their rooms on their video games if I was only going to be out for a few minutes. One such time I only needed a few things from Wilkinson’s in town and would be no more than half an hour. I parked up and was just about to get out of the car when an overwhelming wave of exhaustion swamped me.
‘I can’t do it,’ I thought.
The vision of the shop full of people and queues at the tills engulfed me.
‘What if I go weak again and can’t get out quickly enough?’ the voice of panic said.
‘Don’t be ridiculous! You’ll be fine,’ said the scathing voice of reason.
I got out of the car and walked up the street at the side of the bus station on legs of jelly. Every step was forced and the words alternately pounding my brain were, ‘I can’t do it.’ ‘Yes you can.’ ‘I can’t do it.’ ‘Yes you can.’
In the end ‘I can’t do it,’ won and I turned round and almost ran back to the car trembling from head to toe. It resulted in another visit to the doctors.
I saw Dr Collins and he gave me some tablets called dothiepin and referred me to the community psychiatric nurse, (CPN) who gave me a relaxation tape to follow. She also said that to turn round was the worst thing I could have done. I didn’t agree; to have gone on would have produced a negative experience like the one in Asda. She gave me bits of advice after assessing me and when I said that I couldn’t do things, or get to places she had this to say.
“If your sons needed you now, at this minute you’d get there.”
Of course she was right but it would be the after effects that would be the problem, the weakness that would follow. Clearly they were treating this as a psychological illness and no-one was addressing the physical problem of the weakness. However, I expected the two things to have a magical effect on my weird feelings.
To try and help myself I bought endless packets of Lucozade energy tablets and drank Lucozade glucose drink to give me energy. I also tried tonics but nothing helped.
On the second day trip to Llandudno the weather had changed and it was overcast and chilly. Barry, the boys and I went in my car this time and I drove. As I followed Alistair down the A55 I was fighting to stay awake. I was never so thankful to see a McDonald’s where we stopped for breakfast. I think it was the influence of the tablets but I felt uptight trying to stay awake. I thought I’d have a doze when we got to the beach although it wasn’t sunbathing weather and we were wearing jackets as opposed to the swimwear of the last visit.
I’d expected to fall asleep straight away considering I was so tired but I was wrong; my brain was on overdrive and I couldn’t drop off. Instead I leaned up and watched with the others as Alistair flew Cassie’s pink bunny rabbit kite and she clapped her hands with delight. The wind was so strong it pulled the string right off the handle and the kite fluttered delicately over the rooftops, much to his and Cassie’s dismay.
They both said, “Oh no,” Alistair in a resigned, helpless tone, Cassie in an altogether more grief stricken one as she watched the wind carry her kite out of sight.
We all fell about laughing except for Cassie who had to be pacified with the promise of a new kite.
After our picnic lunch we wandered round the town as we had before. Matt wanted to go into a shop to get a footballer’s name printed on the back of his new Man U away shirt and as we stood in the queue I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker.
“I’m going to have to go back to the car,” I said and Alistair agreed to wait in the queue with Matt while all the rest of us went back to the cars.
“I can’t drive,” I told Barry, “you’ll have to.”
I must have felt ill to allow someone else behind the wheel of my precious car but I couldn’t have driven if my life had depended on it. Presently Alistair and Matt joined us, Matt all smiles sporting Lee Sharpe’s name on the back of his shirt. We stopped somewhere for chips and I felt fractionally better after a rest and something to eat but I could neither walk nor drive so Barry drove home.’

If you are interested in the paperback it will be better to buy from the publisher (link below) as any stocked by Amazon marketplace may be the old cover. It’s also slightly cheaper from feedaread and P&P is about the same as Amazon. The ebook is available from Amazon with this cover.

If you purchase, many thanks and I hope you enjoy it and fellow M.E sufferers may relate to my experience, also divorcees/single parents. A review on its Amazon page would be most welcome, thank you.

Better or Dead

Should You Write A Memoir?

Memoirs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love them. Not the celeb ones which  make an easy million for the already famous and not the Jeremy Kyle DNA tests, but the memoirs of everyday people – who’ve written them themselves, like Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes – and how they deal with the adversities of life. I’d always had a notion to write mine after losing my mum in childhood.

My story is a memoir of childhood and youth. I have recently updated the cover to give it a more personal touch with a background image of the bluebell woods where we played as children, which feature in the book, and an inset photo of my mum and I at Trentham Gardens Staffordshire UK c1957.

I had the best childhood but it was always overshadowed by illness. My introduction to worry was when my sister almost died next to me in the double bed we shared when I was nine and she was four. If I hadn’t been teaching her to say her prayers she’d have just closed her eyes and died. It had a profound effect on me and I’ve never stopped worrying since.

My mum was never well although she had a very bubbly personality and was always singing. She baked weekly, gorgeous scones and cakes and she put on wonderful birthday parties for my sister and I when my dad would make us all laugh by joining in the games. Mum made all of mine and my sister’s dresses and knit lovely cardigans to go over them for the typical British summer weather with its unpredictability.

We lived like any normal, happy family, that was until she got breast cancer. Here is a short excerpt from the book of her discovery of it:

‘I am listening more keenly than I have ever listened in my life. When Mum is talking to Dad, to Auntie Eth, to Auntie Myra, to the neighbours; I listen. Something is wrong and it all stems from that night that she called Dad into the bathroom.
She’d found a lump in her breast. The following evening they went off to the doctors and Emily and I stayed in. We had all of the usual instructions to behave ourselves and not to fight, but we didn’t feel like getting up to anything. People only go to the doctors when something is wrong, and we were a little uneasy because we didn’t know what it was.
They weren’t gone long, only about half an hour, then they went into their bedroom to hang their coats up and I sort of lingered about in the hall to try and hear what they were talking about.
“He said mastitis or early change,” this was Mum’s voice, “but I thought that mastitis was very painful and I’ve got no pain at all, and as for early change, well, surely I’m too young for that; I’m only forty two.”
I’ve heard Mum talking with other people about the change. They laugh about it when they get hot and say, ‘Ooh I’m having a hot flush; I must be on the change.’
Dad laughs even more than Mum at this because she is always cold. In winter she wears about five layers, and still she isn’t warm enough. Dad affectionately calls her ‘Old bloody never sweat.’
“I suppose he knows what he’s talking about,” Dad answered.
“I’m not so sure. Look at what he was like when Emily was ill; he hadn’t a clue what was wrong with her. His hands were shaking and he seemed more nervous than us. Then there was that baby in The Avenue that died of pneumonia because he wouldn’t come out to it. You know when his mother answered the phone and said he’d come out in the morning.”
“Ah, I remember that.”
“I don’t think he’s much good as a doctor, he’s not as good as the last one we had.”
“No you’re right there, he isn’t. Well just leave it a few days and if it doesn’t go we’ll go back again.”
They went back a few days later only for him to tell them the same thing and not to worry, but they did worry and went back a third time, two weeks later. Luckily this time there was a locum doctor on; a younger man called Doctor Collins. He sent Mum straight to the hospital for tests. I heard words like biopsy, benign, malignant, and I found out that malignant would be bad. If this lump was malignant Mum would have to have her breast off.
I wondered if this was like Yvette’s cousin having her tongue cut out, but having your breast off wouldn’t be as bad as that because you don’t need them, they are just for show, although Mum doesn’t seem to think so. I once heard her saying to Elaine’s mum that she doesn’t want to lose a breast because that is what makes you a woman. It must be bad to have to have that done but I don’t think it’s as bad as Yvette’s cousin because I’ve never heard anyone mention the terrible thing that is cancer.’

The ebook is available from amazon and also the paperback with the old cover but for the paperback with the new cover it will be best to buy from the publisher (link below) the price is a little less than amazon and P&P about the same.

Many thanks and I hope you enjoy it. If you do enjoy it a review would be most welcome.

Shadow Across the Sun