It’s been a busy (and fraught) couple of weeks so apologies this blog comes a little late. My personal disposition has not been helped by world events unfolding in the media but I have to say, it does provide rich material for novels. The Trump administration trying to deflect attention from their involvement with Russia by accusing Obama of wire taps and, not content that Michael Flynn fell on his sword for them, they’re now labelling him a ‘foreign agent’. The new travel ban, the erosion of human rights, the lies…in the past a publisher might have said that it’s too much for one novel, that all those things happening more or less simultaneously is completely unbelievable. Not now.

We here in the UK fare no better: Brexit, the deportation of non-nationals who’ve lived here for years, the new rules regarding asylum seekers brought in (and effective immediately) when attention was on the Budget. We also have a new re-introduction of selective schools and schools who don’t enter some students for exams for fear of lowering the school’s overall ratings in the league tables. The world as I know it is going mad. So it got me thinking about a perfect world, what that would look like and who it is perfect for.

I can’t remember ever being called perfect before by anyone – family, partners, friends, colleagues – until Monday. I was having my monthly foot MOT (a luxury, I know) when  from nowhere my practitioner said, ‘I love working on your feet – your toes are still very flexible, the skin nice and soft, and there’s no damage from shoes. They’re perfect.’ I suppose at my age after standing for most of my working life, dancing away a good part of it and the rest spent hiking or running half marathons, that’s quite an achievement. But are my feet really where I want the perfection to be in my life?

I have succumbed, as so many women do, to notions of imperfection because my body was not the right shape, tone, strength. Even though I know it has nothing to do with my identity and it doesn’t define me, I still catch myself checking my image in the mirror and eat less when my waistbands start getting tight. One weekend, during a bout of depression, I decided to treat myself to a beauty therapy. I chose an organic mud wrap. I was first measured then slathered from chin to toes in mud before being wrapped in clingfilm and left in a darkened room for about an hour to relax.

The treatment was ‘guaranteed’ to help you lose 3 inches or your money back, but the 3 inches were accumulative from different parts of the body. When my treatment was finished I was measured again. I hadn’t lost the 3 inches, only 2, and the area where I’d lost most was 1 inch from my neck, which could least do with losing anything. Not quite the result I expected (or wanted). I didn’t get my money back, despite their ‘guarantee’, but it did make me laugh. Eventually.

In my perfect world everyone would be nice to each other, there would be no poverty, wars, abuse, discrimination, huge corporations owning half the planet and no-one would do anything to damage the climate, over-fish the seas, pollute the earth and her water, abandon children or mistreat animals. But if the world really was like that I’d soon become bored. There’d be no drama, nothing to write about, nothing to fight about or defend, nothing to strive for, no need to do inner work to self-improve. Life would be monochrome and what feels perfect to me wouldn’t necessarily be perfect for anyone else. Yet the perfection I seek is not found in the world behaving in a way I want it to, but in the small random moments that may not go according to plan but teach me something.

There would be no need for love if perfection were possible. Love arises from our imperfection, from our being different and always in need of the forgiveness, encouragement and that missing half of ourselves that we are searching for, as the Greek myth tells us, in order to complete ourselves. Eugene Kennedy



On The Road Again

I love travelling. I don’t travel well and get a lot of motion sickness, apart from when I’m in the driving seat, but nothing will ever really stop me from moving about and experiencing slices of this wonderful planet we inhabit. This weekend I’m heading off to The Netherlands to stay at my brother’s place in the south, near Vlissingen. He’s moved to a new flat in a nearby small town, so there’s plenty to explore and discover. I’ll also be starting to write my third novel, without the distractions of phone calls or housework, but will be spending a lot of time outdoors on his bike. It’s too hilly here for me to use a bike (I’m too decrepid) but out there it’s a dream of flatness and cycle lanes. Exhilirating.

What I love most about travelling is meeting so many people and hearing their stories. It’s not unusal to hear the life story of someone sitting next to me in the departure lounge or on the plane, and these stories I carefully store in my cheese-grater mind. A lot falls out, but the best bits stay to be recycled later as a character or an event in one of my novels/stories/poems. People-watching is great fun and as so many of flights get delayed, it’s interesting to see how different people cope with the situation. You get the ‘Do-you-know -who-I-am?’ self-important response, the satisfied-pessimistic ‘I-told-you-something-like -this-would-happen’, the  blamer ‘This-is-your-fault – if-only-you’d-listened-to-me-we’d-be -on-the-earlier-flight’ and the one when travelling with children ‘Please-let-us-go-before-I -kill-them’ response. My own is a rather fatalistic ‘Ah well, as long as we get there safely’.

A good game to play at these times is to take one or two people and imagine what they’re doing there, who they’re meeting and where they’re going. I’ve been playing that game so long I can’t remember ever travelling and not playing it. Apart from being fun and passes the time, it also cranks up my imaginative powers. I always keep a small notebook handy and in this I jot down ideas, words or phrases that capture me. Very useful fodder for later thought, particularly with a memory like mine.

Last summer, when I drove across America along Route 66 with my friend, Pat, we had lots of fun playing the game. It was delightful to be able to bounce idiotic ideas off each other and reach scenarios that dissolved us into tears of laughter. Much better than tears of frustration.

Delays are part of the journey, although if my flight to Schipol is delayed I will miss the last train to Vlissingen and have to spend the night in the airport. You can’t bed down or sleep there, so I have to pretend I’m meeting someone off a flight until I can catch the first train out at 4am. No doubt there’ll be plenty spies, undercover police, debutantes, brain suregeons and international jewel thieves to keep me awake and amused.