Sunday, 30 November 2014


All over the country, on hearing that P.D.James has died, people have been talking about her and I'll bet that not one of them had anything negative to say about her.
I can't claim to have known her but I did meet her. I think it was 1980. She was sixty and I was almost thirty. I don't even remember the conference. I used to go to a lot of conferences those days. I had had nothing published but a couple of short stories and I was so excited about the idea of being a writer.
She was standing behind me in the lunch queue and I had no idea who she was. I'm hopeless, I never know who anybody is and we started chatting. I think it was that afternoon that she gave her talk about her new book, Innocent Blood. (I was so impressed that I went home and put a murder into the romance I was writing.)
I think it was the following morning. I was up early. I was always an early morning person and I went into the dining room and there she was, waving at me as though we were good friends, sitting me down beside her to have breakfast. At first I was so over awed I didn't know what to say but she could handle all that. I think her daughters were probably about my age at the time and I love talking to people about my own daughter's age so perhaps she was the same. I had the loveliest breakfast. We were joined by some bloke who was running the Society of Authors. I don't remember much about him either, other than he was very nice and wearing a lovely suit!
After that I saw her occasionally on television. I remember a year or so back she'd been asked to one of these review programmes where people tear apart theatre and books and such. It was a circle and she was the last to speak. It was about a musical and they had really gone for it. I hate musicals and probably would have done the same, but not P.D.James. She said that she thought it had been absolutely delightful and she beamed around at them.
We were to have lots in common. I'm not rich and famous and never was half the writer that she was but we both had tragedy in our lives. Her husband, a doctor, went to war and came back broken and when he died after a dreadful time, the authorities would not give her a pension and she was obliged to work very hard in order to bring up her two young daughters.
My husband died when my daughter was seven.
Tragedy puts steel into you. Yes, she was a great writer and a lovely woman but by God she knew how to get what she wanted, she was a fighter She never married again. Neither have I.
The last time I saw her in person was when she came to Durham Cathedral to speak about her work.  The place was packed and she came in on the arm of the great Ian Rankin, a tiny frail figure at his side and they wowed the audience together. Two of the greats in my favourite genre. They have both made it their own in different ways. There she was, giving it rock all, as she alway did.
She had great faith. Rest in Peace, wonderful inspiring person and thank you for the memories.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Hermit Crab Goes on Holiday

When I go away from home I usually have my daughter to light the way so when I decided to spend a week at a holiday cottage to write I was not prepared to be this strange person who takes her own tea towels.
Tired and with an upset stomach ( stress takes me that way ) I arrived in pouring rain to find my cottage cold and confusing. I had to work out the heating, the hot water, Sky television, the Kindle internet, phone internet, where I had put my toothbrush and whether to throw out the prepared beef stew which for some reason was four days old by then.  NASA rockets have been launched with less kerfuffle.
It's fifteen years since I stayed in a cottage and I had Timmy my spaniel with me then. I walked him on the glorious Northumbrian beaches at least twice a day. At the moment I have pain from arthritis in both knees so walking is more of a nice idea than an actual event.
When I was a small child my family had a static caravan at Hauxley Bay. As I began to grow up I found the place boring and longed for excitement.
Northumberland is full of memories for me, best of all being the year when I took my daughter to Lindisfarne. The bedroom was where the boats kept their sails and I can remember the night when I opened the window and held her so that she didn't fall so that she could see the moon across the grounds of the monastery.
The best part of my week this time was spent sitting on the balcony gazing out at a blood red moon on Remembrance Sunday but I need new places and to make new memories. The past is all very well but the future holds the fun.And I don't need to go anywhere to write, I do it here in the evenings with dinner and wine in my little back room which overlooks the garden. Goodbye, Hermit Crab, I'm off to Miami next year, to try to see dolphins in the bay beyond my boutique hotel. I have bought lovely full length dresses to wear in the evenings. Luxury is my way forward, making my own casseroles is over.