Riviera Reunion.

A Writing Journey.

 

Just before Christmas, I released my latest book. It’s a different genre from my previous books and is dedicated to my late father. I was actually working on another book at the time but somehow this one took over.

In June 2017 we had a family holiday in Nice. After losing my dad at the beginning of the year I wanted us to be together for this holiday. I decided on Nice as it had that mix of city culture and beach. Although I wanted us to be together as my boys are now adults, I knew that would want to go off and do their own thing without us.

The starting point for the book came in a dream; a man was looking down from a balcony into a moonlit garden and suddenly sees a girl’s body floating in the swimming pool. Although it appeared to be a Mediterranean setting nothing in this image linked it to the Riviera. Usually, most dream images fade during the day, although last night’s image of trying to eat a lobster that suddenly looked up at me is still with me! However, the swimming pool image provoked questions. Who were they? What had happened? Can he save her? I wrote down a few notes and scenarios but continued with my other book.

I was drawn back to the swimming pool idea by a competition. A ‘plot of gold’ was designed to encourage you to use Beemgee’s plotting software to produce the synopsis of your book. I decided to try it out and worked on the ideas I had begun to develop.  The software prompted me with both character development and plot arc. I also set up a Pin-interest board with visual images of characters and various items. Like other writers I use actor’s faces as a reference, I don’t consciously use people I know. However, although it is not stated many readers will notice that Paul shows signs of autism, my own son is on the autistic spectrum. Paul is not based on my son, but I am aware of the problems related to Asperger’s syndrome and I used this knowledge when developing Paul’s characteristics.

The main plot became that this was a stag party and the young girl was unknown to them, but she knew them. I always felt the guy on the balcony was French, but his friends weren’t.  University is usually the first time children leave their family homes and live with other people, friendships formed at this time tend to be strong ones, it seemed the obvious place for an Irishman, a Frenchman and two Englishman to have met and still be in contact with each other twenty years later.

Working with the software I created additional themes and the first synopsis. I didn’t win the competition, but I did receive a ‘highly recommended’. However, when I came to print out my various reports they printed in pale blue ink and were difficult to read. I considered paying the premium access price, but money is tight and I now had my synopsis. I would use it again though.

November was approaching with ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month), an American idea with the objective of encouraging people to write 50,000 words in a month. It is also useful as it brings writers from all over the world together providing an opportunity to exchange information or ask questions. I have tried the local meet-ups, but I can’t see any reason for me to decamp to a coffee shop to write, especially in November when towns are busy with Christmas shoppers. However, focusing on writing 50,000 words is a great way to kick-start a novel.

During 2018 I wrote, edited and rewrote in between visiting Japan and having a new kitchen fitted. As we entered 2019, I had my book and was looking for an editor, but my husband was made redundant. I put things on hold.

As nothing had changed as summer approached, I picked it up again and reedited. I began thinking of releasing, so I searched for a cover. Various images were tried and rejected. The image I choose is of the surface of a swimming pool, it reminded me of David Hockney paintings. I like that its surface ripples, it reflects light, it’s inviting and it’s deadly.

Letting your book go out into the world is exciting but difficult. I found myself editing and then reverting back to the original. Besides grammar and spelling checks I used Pro-writing reports. I also had Microsoft Word read to me, it had problems with some of the French words and was a bit robotic but it highlighted problems other software had failed to detect.

Finally, it is available on Amazon. I also have a physical copy with my name on the cover.

 

https://www.beemgee.com/plot-of-gold/

https://www.nanowrimo.org/

https://prowritingaid.com/

Amazon – Riviera Reunion

Beauty and the older Woman.

Aging is a privilege denied to many.

The Age-Well Project

 

When I receive details of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I create a Wishlist of events I’d like to attend based on the short description. On booking, two of my events were sold out and I just brought the rest of my wishlist. This is how I come to attend ‘The Age-Well Event’ last night without really knowing much about the authors.

Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders began by emphasising neither had any medical training. Their mutual interest in ageing was based on a desire to avoid the problems of declining health that they had observed in their family members. They began to research whether family health problems could be overcome and what changes would make a difference to their wellbeing. They also started a blog to share their knowledge with others. From this blog, a book has been published.

Besides the medical research, they discovered they also complied a genealogy of their family with their cause of death. Susan’s mother had already done much of the research on her family. One piece of medical research highlighted that generic illness was only 60% likely to be passed on, which gave you a 40% chance of not inheriting a disorder which not occurred in your mother and grandmother. I am not sure if this statistic referred to dementia or to all generic illnesses, a lot of the information was given in general conversation and was non-specific. Both women had had their own genes tested to highlight medical issues they may face. Later Susan advised an audience member to ask themselves if they really wanted to know what was in store for them, she was relieved that dementia was not highlighted on her results but aware that she may have been facing conferment it was.

From their research they had identified four cornerstones to ageing well; diet, exercise, social interaction and sleep. These have already been identified by countless others throughout history so there were no exclamations of surprise from the audience. I think there was more surprise when Annabelle stated she rarely ate breakfast, preferring to prolong the night-time fast.

Diet – basically we should eat more fibre. Susan mentioned ‘eating like our ancestors’ by this she seemed to mean less processed food. The Mediterranean diet was mentioned as being particularly beneficial.

Exercise – walking more. Jumping helps increase bone density. Walking under trees is good for our wellbeing.

Social interaction with the odd drink is good for our wellbeing. Conversation stimulates our brain. Sitting in front of the television doesn’t. A later question about social media brought a mixed response and conversation revolved around the effect of blue light on the brain, particularly late at night.  Of course, this book probably wouldn’t have been written without people’s addiction to social media, so neither were going to criticise it heavily.

Sleep, stressed that too many of us aren’t preparing ourselves before going to bed, or even getting into bed when we should. Our bodies need sleep and good quality sleep is important.

Owing either a dog or cat was viewed as beneficial to your health. Dogs need walking and they give a purpose to people’s lives. Pets also introduce germs into the house which boost our immune systems. No mention was made of asthmatics.

For the book, they also interviewed ‘super-agers’ these were people in their 70s plus who still lived active lives with few health problems. Here the emphasis was on their positive attitude to life.

I did not buy the book and overall felt disappointed by the event. Maybe if I was younger, I would have related more to the authors desire to age well by adding small changes to their life to make it happen, but that is not the reason I came to this event. My grandmother had dementia and my mother showed signs before her death of dementia. It was the mention of dementia in the summary which made me add this event to my wishlist.  I also noticed many older people in the audience and wondered if they came for similar reasons. There was little mention of mental health and, for many, getting a dog may not be the answer.

https://agewellproject.com/about/

 

Beauty and the older Woman.

Aging is a privilege denied to many.

Menopause

Let’s talk about the menopause. A few years ago, it was mentioned in hushed tones now it seems to be front-page news. Actually, the other week it was front page of The Sunday Times with the headline, ‘Menopause can now be delayed’. Reading the article, the operation being offered is not new but has only been available on the NHS to women who have, for various reasons, experienced an early menopause and want to have children. I’m not certain of the exact procedure but the result is egg production is restarted along with all the various hormonal changes included in the menstrual cycle. Now, doctors are starting to offer this treatment to private patients on the onset of the menopause, not for reproductive purposes but to stop the decline of the female hormonal production which can lead to various problems and illnesses.

Another way of preventing some of these problems is to rebalance your body by artificially introducing the hormones back into your body. The most common way to do this is with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) these can be taken orally or by patches stuck onto the thigh and alternated regularly. On trying the tablets, I had to give up as I just threw them up. My originally HRT patches were two weeks of one dosage followed by two weeks of another dosage, whilst taking them my periods continued, although they were lighter.  As they were viewed as two drugs I paid double the prescription charge on them. About five years ago, following my mother’s death due to breast cancer, I discussed my HRT with my doctor. She told me that evidence initially linking HRT to breast cancer was flawed and there was no reason I needed to stop taking it unless I wanted to. She also told me that she had women in her seventies still taking it.  She did, however, change my HRT to a single dose whereupon my periods finally stopped. To be honest it did feel like an end of an era.

As I write (July, 2019) I am amongst those women experiencing problems getting their HRT patches. I have been online and currently my brand/dosage will not be available in the UK till the end of October 2019. It could be worse one supply won’t be available till February 2020. I am hoping that the dates given are correct as my current supply will only last till the beginning of November.

I have friends who do not take HRT. One is vegetarian and tells me horse hormones are used in its production.  It is a personal choice. My husband will tell you that he pushed me into asking for HRT as my mood swings were hard for him to live with! Whilst it’s true I did have mood swings, I also had them with my normal periods. For the record he didn’t push me (or even drive me) to the doctor’s, it’s my body and my decision.

I was in my fifties before I started experiencing any signs. On checking, I was surprised to find that many of my friends had already gone through menopause. I had stopped taking the pill in my forties, now a decade later I was still having periods and my usual menstrual cycle. The first change I noticed was heavier bleeding. I then had an accident at work, banging my head on a low ceiling and almost knocking myself out. At the time I just felt embarrassed. But this led to various health problems including back pain, shoulder pain, sleeping problems, memory lapses, which of course affected my work leading to anxiety. I also had to give up exercise; my de-stressor and weight controller. It was when I started to experience hot flushes at night that I went to the doctors. Things had changed gradually, and I didn’t realise how many of the symptoms associated with the menopause I had. I was diagnosed as perimenopausal. I knew my one grandmother had suffered from osteoporosis and I now read all I could about menopause and HRT before going back to the doctor and asking for HRT. My research also uncovered a vitamin supplement, which I also take when I remember.

It wasn’t a ‘magic wand’ change but, for me, HRT has helped elevate some of the symptoms. I am also hopeful that it will help sustain my health into my seventies and eighties. I was lucky that virginal dryness was never one of the symptoms I experienced but a change to my libido was. Maybe it’s the freedom of knowing I can’t get pregnant, or the awareness I have less time than I’ve lived left on this planet, but my libido has definitely, increased. Ask my husband.

 

 

Summer TV viewing 2019

It’s 1st July but already this summer has provided some interesting viewing and a couple of misses.

One of the great things about TV today is that even if you’ve ignored a series everyone else has raved about you are able to find and watch when you finally twig you might quite like it. This was the case with Fleabag (BBC1), whose title reminded me of a tatty cat best avoided, so I did. However, on seeing the sister of the lead character (a relationship which exists both on screen and off) being interviewed on Sunday Brunch (Channel 4) I decided to give it a try. For those who haven’t succumbed the writing is sharp and funny with rounded characters who develop through the series. It is not a predictable watch, but I did work out the twist which haunted the main character.  Highly recommend.

Riviera (Sky Atlantic) returned for its second series. This mixes the glamour of Dallas/Dynasty with a murder plot, that echoes Mafia family problems, and throws in connections to ‘the art world’ all set in an amazing Italian-influenced villa on the French Riviera. The last series ended with Julia stabbing her stepson to death and this is exactly where this series began. For me, its allure was being in the South of France, the glamorous clothes and, in this series, Gregory Fitoussi. According to the credits the series was created by Neil Jorden, but he has distanced himself from it claiming his initial script had been rewritten. All the characters have a dark side and I found it unpredictable, a quality I like when watching programmes. Whereas Fleabag has a realism to it, Riviera doesn’t.  Pure escapism into a beautiful but dark world.

Another series with an Irish connection is Good Omens (Amazon Prime) written by Neil Gaiman based on a book he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett. It stars David Tennent and Michael Sheen, which was enough to encourage me to watch it. It is an apocalyptic fantasy with comic undercurrents reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams. A fun watch probably aimed at a younger generation than me. I suspect there like be a second series, although Terry Pratchett fans are protesting.

Killing Eve (BBC2) returned for a second series. The first series was written by Fleabag’s writer/actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge but due to other commitment (including script-writing the new Bond movie), she handed the reins to Emerald Fennell. To be honest I couldn’t detect a difference. The writing is as sharp as ever, and the actors just as good. It’s another unpredictable ride with some glamorous clothes and a lot of blood. Highly recommended.

Sundays had a change of viewing as Victoria (ITV) ended and Gentlemen Jack (BBC1) began. Both these are historical series about real women. Whereas Victoria didn’t believe ‘women did such things’ and crossed their committing of homosexual acts from the legalization she signed, which was to deepen prejudice and cause such suffering to homosexuals for the next century, Anne Lister wrote about her lesbian relationships in a coded diary. This series is based on her life and that diary. Suranne Jones gives Fleabag asides to the camera drawing you into her world. She is an independent, strong woman who lives her life on her terms, albeit within an intolerant society. Highly recommended.

Beecham House (ITV) is set in 18th century India created by Gurinder Chadha and starring Tom Bateman and Gregory Fitoussi I was really looking forward to this. On the plus side the location is lovely, the saris colourful and each lead has had their Poldark moment; Beecham stripped off to bravely machete the overhanging shrubbery after intruders entered his grounds, the French General was topless as he wrestled one of his own soldiers in a practice match. However, despite the attempts to induce some mystery into the plot, the script has been mainly predictable with characters who are caricatures of hero, villain, Indian servant, wayward son and doting, prejudice English mother. Disappointing, but I will continue watching for Monsieur Fitoussi.

Returning on July 14th it will be up against Poldark (BBC1) the final series. These books have been adapted by Debbie Horsfield. As the Captain is now past his prime, I don’t think there will be any more topless scenes of Aiden Turner, but I predict there will be; horse riding along the cliff path, staring at the sea and deep sighs from Demelza. The drama will continue to mix history with the domestic details of the characters lives. I am really looking forward to it and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

P.S. Forgot to mention the three series which originally inspired me to write this article!

Chernobyl (Channel 4) a dramatic recreation of the Russian nuclear disaster. At the time of the inncident, I was only vaguely aware of what was happening, to now see the reality is disturbing on so many levels. Although it is a drama the realistic unfolding of events makes it more chilling than an apocalyptic horror movie. Highly recommend.

Initially, Russel T Davis makes his Years and Years (BBC1) appear realistic by including a news report from the day of broadcast (Death of actress Doris Day). It centres on a family as we move into a future in which a post-Brexit Britain becomes less tolerant and economically unstable. First class actors bring to life a Britain I hope wouldn’t become a reality but seems frightening close. Interesting and not predictable.

Stephen Poliakoff’s Summer of Rockets (BBC1) takes us back to the 50’s Cold War. A stellar cast recreates the acting style observable in British 50s movies. The complex plot involves a young girl entering ‘the season’, fear of nuclear attack, a missing boy, the introduction of new technology and the fear of  Russia infiltrating British politics. Weirdly this links it to both of the above series.

Summer TV viewing 2019

It’s 1st July but already this summer has provided some interesting viewing and a couple of misses.

One of the great things about TV today is that even if you’ve ignored a series everyone else has raved about you are able to find and watch when you finally twig you might quite like it. This was the case with Fleabag (BBC1), whose title reminded me of a tatty cat best avoided, so I did. However, on seeing the sister of the lead character (a relationship which exists both on screen and off) being interviewed on Sunday Brunch (Channel 4) I decided to give it a try. For those who haven’t succumbed the writing is sharp and funny with rounded characters who develop through the series. It is not a predictable watch, but I did work out the twist which haunted the main character.  Highly recommend.

Riviera (Sky Atlantic) returned for its second series. This mixes the glamour of Dallas/Dynasty with a murder plot, that echoes Mafia family problems, and throws in connections to ‘the art world’ all set in an amazing Italian-influenced villa on the French Riviera. The last series ended with Julia stabbing her stepson to death and this is exactly where this series began. For me, its allure was being in the South of France, the glamorous clothes and, in this series, Gregory Fitoussi. According to the credits the series was created by Neil Jorden, but he has distanced himself from it claiming his initial script had been rewritten. All the characters have a dark side and I found it unpredictable, a quality I like when watching programmes. Whereas Fleabag has a realism to it, Riviera doesn’t.  Pure escapism into a beautiful but dark world.

Another series with an Irish connection is Good Omens (Amazon Prime) written by Neil Gaiman based on a book he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett. It stars David Tennent and Michael Sheen, which was enough to encourage me to watch it. It is an apocalyptic fantasy with comic undercurrents reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams. A fun watch probably aimed at a younger generation than me. I suspect there like be a second series, although Terry Pratchett fans are protesting.

Killing Eve (BBC2) returned for a second series. The first series was written by Fleabag’s writer/actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge but due to other commitment (including script-writing the new Bond movie), she handed the reins to Emerald Fennell. To be honest I couldn’t detect a difference. The writing is as sharp as ever, and the actors just as good. It’s another unpredictable ride with some glamorous clothes and a lot of blood. Highly recommended.

Sundays had a change of viewing as Victoria (ITV) ended and Gentlemen Jack (BBC1) began. Both these are historical series about real women. Whereas Victoria didn’t believe ‘women did such things’ and crossed their committing of homosexual acts from the legalization she signed, which was to deepen prejudice and cause such suffering to homosexuals for the next century, Anne Lister wrote about her lesbian relationships in a coded diary. This series is based on her life and that diary. Suranne Jones gives Fleabag asides to the camera drawing you into her world. She is an independent, strong woman who lives her life on her terms, albeit within an intolerant society. Highly recommended.

Beecham House (ITV) is set in 18th century India created by Gurinder Chadha and starring Tom Bateman and Gregory Fitoussi I was really looking forward to this. On the plus side the location is lovely, the saris colourful and each lead has had their Poldark moment; Beecham stripped off to bravely machete the overhanging shrubbery after intruders entered his grounds, the French General was topless as he wrestled one of his own soldiers in a practice match. However, despite the attempts to induce some mystery into the plot, the script has been mainly predictable with characters who are caricatures of hero, villain, Indian servant, wayward son and doting, prejudice English mother. Disappointing, but I will continue watching for Monsieur Fitoussi.

Returning on July 14th it will be up against Poldark (BBC1) the final series. These books have been adapted by Debbie Horsfield. As the Captain is now past his prime, I don’t think there will be any more topless scenes of Aiden Turner, but I predict there will be; horse riding along the cliff path, staring at the sea and deep sighs from Demelza. The drama will continue to mix history with the domestic details of the characters lives. I am really looking forward to it and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

P.S. Forgot to mention the three series which originally inspired me to write this article!

Chernobyl (Channel 4) a dramatic recreation of the Russian nuclear disaster. At the time of the inncident, I was only vaguely aware of what was happening, to now see the reality is disturbing on so many levels. Although it is a drama the realistic unfolding of events makes it more chilling than an apocalyptic horror movie. Highly recommend.

Initially, Russel T Davis makes his Years and Years (BBC1) appear realistic by including a news report from the day of broadcast (Death of actress Doris Day). It centres on a family as we move into a future in which a post-Brexit Britain becomes less tolerant and economically unstable. First class actors bring to life a Britain I hope wouldn’t become a reality but seems frightening close. Interesting and not predictable.

Stephen Poliakoff’s Summer of Rockets (BBC1) takes us back to the 50’s Cold War. A stellar cast recreates the acting style observable in British 50s movies. The complex plot involves a young girl entering ‘the season’, fear of nuclear attack, a missing boy, the introduction of new technology and the fear of  Russia infiltrating British politics. Weirdly this links it to both of the above series.

Beauty and the older Woman.

Ageing is a privilege denied to many.

 

Confidence

 

Last week I watched BBC’s The One Show (Friday, March 29th, 2019) which featured an 80-year-old woman who recently had a facelift. She wasn’t wealthy and had saved for the operation which was carried out by a Harley Street specialist. He had discussed the procedure with her and made her aware of the possible problems and risks. In the segment, she stated that she was tired of looking in the mirror and seeing ‘an old woman’, she did not appear to be wearing make-up and looked tired. Appearing on the show following her op she did honestly look twenty years younger, but it wasn’t just her face that had changed it was her outlook. She was smiling. Her long, grey hair had been restyled and she was wearing flattering clothes. Her story struck me on several levels.

She was asked when she first considered she needed a facelift, she replied, forty. This means that for forty years she has been looking in the mirror and not liking what she saw, no wonder her confidence had been eroded. One of the things I’ve noticed over the decades is that when you come across old photos of yourself you often think, ‘I didn’t look too bad then.’  We are our own worst critics. I speak as someone who will not leave the house without makeup, it helps me feel confident to face the world. It helps me look in the mirror and accept what I see.

Of course, it’s not just our face which ages. My mother always said, look after your neck and hands they are instant giveaways. Besides hand cream, I would add foot cream. The skin is equally prone to dryness on your feet and I hate the cracks that can form on elderly feet. I can recommend Hemp Foot cream by Body Shop which I have used for years, so far so good – no cracks. Neck cream is harder to find as the ones I used were suddenly not being made anymore. I can only assume others are either buying expensive brands or not using neck creams at all. However, the skin on your neck is drier than on your face and needs a bit more help. My face cream is too light for my neck, and as I have sensitive skin I just can’t use some brands. However, I have just found a new neck cream by Vichy, it’s very thick and needs warming before applying. I squeeze a bit into my hand and tap it with my fingers before applying to my neck. If it doesn’t work I guess the next stage of my life will be lived in turtle-neck jumpers.

Another giveaway I’ve noticed is people’s teeth. Just like horses our teeth give away our age. Tea, coffee and red wine can all stain our teeth, but the main problem is that as we get older the outer enamel thins making them appear yellow. If I was willing to have anything changed cosmetically this would be where I’d spend my money. At present, I’m using Pronamel toothpaste, whether it will make a difference only time will tell.

This article is titled ‘confidence’ and it is the change that I noticed in this 80-year-old lady. I was discussing her transformation with a friend. Her response was that didn’t feel her age, inside she was still twenty, whilst I would go for thirty, I agree with her. The old adage that you’re as young as you feel has some truth. How you feel inside makes a difference to how you look on the outside. Whatever age you are, feeling confident is important to your wellbeing. I hope this lady’s new face goes on giving her the confidence to enjoy life.

 

Although this should be the end, I had another more personal connection to this story. My mother also underwent an operation at nearly eighty, but hers was a mastectomy. Unfortunately, she died seven months later. Her appearance was important to her too, she always wore makeup and dressed well. She was keen not to look her age either. Whilst a lot of people told me how stylish she was and how she always looked good, none of them added those dreaded words ‘for her age’. Her departure left a big hole in a lot of lives, she always had time for other people and she enjoyed life.

 

The illustration I used for this article is ‘Girl before Mirror’ by Picasso. Painted in 1932, the model is his lover, Marie-Therese Walter. One interpretation of the image is that she is contemplating growing older and losing her beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer

Japan has always intrigued me. Their outlook on life seems different to ours and their artworks aren’t heavy painting but beautiful scrolls and screens. It is a country that until the 1850s managed to develop their civilisation without any Western influence. Its society was strong on hierarchy and protocol, with different religious beliefs and diet. They even looked different; fine-boned, slimmer, shorter (an average Samaria warrior around 5ft 4in). The clothing of its peasants loose and course whilst their nobles wore lavish silks beautifully embroidered with cranes or flowers.
In this historic novel we are inside a young Japanese girl viewing the arrival of men from the West and the impact their coming has on Japan Society. We also learn how a young lowly born girl can legitimately rise through society, by a process of adoption, to be an acceptable bride (consort) to the highest Shogun in the land (not Emperor who was outside the political governing of the country). Viewing from her perspective Westerns become the aliens, powerful bullies threatening their country’s stability.
The story Lesley weaves is based on fact but, although the women she writes about were powerful, they existed outside the recorded accounts of history. Lesley has researched the period and adapted the story of Atsu ‘for our entertainment’ (as they now announce on television drama supporting to depict real life events).
The novel is an intriguing look at Japanese history from the inside and an enjoyable read.
I visited Japan earlier this year and walked through Nijo Castle which inspired Lesley. It is impressive in a different way to castles at home. We did take our shoes off to walk on the tatami flooring.