Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year and Thank YOU!

This is the last day of 2010 and what a strange year it is has been. Some wonderful highs combined with moments of real sadness. It was a year where I completed the first draft of two novels. One for the PhD and one as an escapism from the PhD. 2011 will be the year where (hopefully) I finish my PhD and become Dr Harbour. Also the year I polish both novels so they are ready to be sent to publishers (I have interest from one publisher for HAM & JAM - the PhD novel and two publishers interested in THE BOOK PROTECTORS' DAUGHTER) so who knows what might happen there. It was also the year that I started this blog - am I going to continue - I think so with an aim to make it more focused but prior to that please excuse a bit of self indulgence as I look back at 2010. A momentous year in so many ways.

2010 was another year of conferences. I attended a NCRCL conference at Roehampton in May and met up with old friends there including Peter Hunt and Maria Nikoljeva. I also gave a paper at Maria's excellent conference 'The Emergent Adult' back in September at Homerton College, Cambridge University which was made even more enjoyable by the presence of Meg Rosoff,Lucy Christopher and Teri Terry. This was the first of a series of papers I gave. I also gave one at a Symposium in Winchester which included three visiting Australian academics, Prof Jen Webb, Prof Jeri Krall and Prof Donna O'Brien which was followed three days later with another paper at the NAWE conference in Cheltenham. The Australians came to NAWE too and there was a great deal of hilarity and support. I first met Jen Webb earlier in the year when she had come to visit Winchester. We very soon became good friends and I can safely say that new friendship was one of the highlights of the year. Talking of new friends, I have made an abundance this year, many through Facebook who have shared the highs and lows of the year with their constant support and messages. Back in April I went to the London Book Fair, courtesy of one ex husband, Rupert (thank you btw), where I went on a fb blind date. Suddenly all these people who I speak to on fb became real. In particular Tabitha Suzuma who I spent a wonderful few hours discussing writing and the world in general plus Teri Terry (who I then dragged along to The Emergent Adult) and Kathryn Evans to name but a few. Lucy Christopher is also part of this collection of new friends, her encouragement and support has been incredible. it is wonderful to see Lucy's books getting so much acclaim. She came and did a wonderful session with our MA Write for Children students. But also Lucy and I look as if we are going to finish our PhDs at the same time next year, it is good being able to talk to someone who is in the same stressed position.

On a personal note my gorgeous daughter, Charlie, got engaged at a surprise birthday party to the wonderful Greg which was one of those perfect days. I also had the opportunity to travel. I went to Normandy in order to undertake some research necessary for HAM & JAM. This was a thrilling opportunity and certainly added depth to the novel but then things got even better when I was awarded an Arvon Grant. This allowed me to attend a Tutored Retreat at Moniack Mhor which is near Loch Ness. This was the most amazing experience I think I have ever had. I went with trepidation but was surrounded by some truly inspirational people particularly the tutors Zoe Strachan and Kevin MacNeil. I came away with a complete first draft of HAM & JAM which was hugely satisfying in itself but I also came away remembering why I love writing. I also came away with a collection of new friends who I remain in contact with through fb. Throughout this time my sons have been there, maybe not necessarily singing and shouting or doing things like getting engaged, but they have been there whenever I needed them. Always willing to give me a hug and filling the house with, amongst other things, laughter. I am very lucky with my children and my family and I know it.

The sadness came about when my darling Mummy died back in April. It was her time and was best for her as she was in so much pain but for the rest of us it left a huge hole in our lives. I was her carer and suddenly had all this time to fill but more importantly I realised how much of a friend she was to me and how often we talked about everything. There isn't a day that goes by without me thinking of things I want to tell her. Her funeral, however, was everything she would have wanted, it was a very special day. The truly wonderful and elegant Sally Ballet (Stanyard) sang 'Make me a Channel of Your Peace' which was one of her favourite hymns. I wrote a poem which I read out, whilst Jacky, my number 3 sister, paid tribute to her and all the laughs we had had as a family over the years. Then Charlie read out a bare feet as her shoes were hurting...we did apologise to the coffin. The whole service was led by Prof Liz Stuart who summed up my mother beautifully. She has also been a rock and an inspiration to me this year. Mummy always wanted a wicker coffin and it did look so beautiful particularly at the end when everyone had placed a flower on and around it.

Then back in October the small pain in my side that got increasingly worse was in fact an infected gall bladder and I suddenly found myself in hospital attached to intravenous antibiotics and a morphine pump. Not something I had planned but yet again I was surrounded by family and friends reminding me of how much I am loved. One particular, and treasured, moment was when Prof Liz Stuart came to see me outside of visiting hours. She informed them when they said she couldn't come in that she was my priest and therefore had to be let in!

I have spoken about the new friends I have met during 2010 but there are so many old friends that have just been there whenever needed. Prof Andrew Melrose maybe my Director of Studies but he is also a great friend who has shared the good times and supported me through the bad. But then of course there is Tina and her shoes, Denise and her gorgeous daughter Rebecca (and a mutual love of Audrey Hepburn), Jen, who is just Jen, Leonie who provides the calm in my life (though I think she will deny that), Debbie and Mel who started their PhDs at the same time as me, Steph and Nancy who are just great people, Cal and Kath who are people that are just made to be together and Eyelem who I still miss. All of whom, like Andy, have shared the good times and been there for me in the bad times. But also there is Michael and Karen who are dear friends that I know I haven't spent enough time with - I'm sorry. The list could go on forever and if I missed anyone I am sorry.

Tonight I will say goodbye to 2010 with mixed emotions but will look forward to 2011 as there are so many exciting things happening then already. So to everyone I wish you all a very happy new year that is full of laughter and happiness without too much stress. And a final thank you for just being you.

See you next year!

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