Post Christmas, mini-strokes, and a brief contemplation on Death and Christmas, by Enid Richemont

Perfect December weather - I love it - freezing temperatures, spectacular sunsets, strangely wonderful skies, and darkness at four, twinkled by all the Christmas lights in my north London suburb.

But the other, symbolic aspect of winter can also be old age and dying. My husband, David, had a mini-stroke four weeks ago, and was (happily) whipped into hospital and operated on within a few days. During his convalescence, the partner of a very close friend died, so my attention, this month, has been somewhat focussed on a combination of death and dying, along with the irrelevance of constructing some kind of Christmas.

The tree is our first ever fake one. It came from Tesco, and contained IKEA-like instructions for setting it up, which were, unexpectedly, a perfect distraction from what was going on in our lives. We built it. We covered it with our decades-old baubles. Forget the plastic tree - the baubles look fantastic. All that was missing were the dropped needles and that wonderful piney smell (can we get that from a spray bottle? Go totally fake? Shame, shame...)

Tonight, because we haven't been able to go out, I picked up a DVD of the recent Snow White and the Huntsman film from our library, thinking escapism. This must be among the worst films I've ever attempted to watch - the dialogue and plot appalling. In the past few years, I've been involved in script writing, and as a writer, I do care about plot. How did this stuff ever make it? I prefer the original story which also lends itself to endless subtle psychological interpretations... ageing mother and sexy young daughter - a tinderbox of emotions. David enjoyed it, though, so maybe it was just me.

Back to real-life drama, and so to death, the end, that only-too- imaginable loss. Earlier in the year, I read Diana Athill's book, 'Somewhere Towards the End'. It's the story of her life, much of it her sex life, and I loved it, but recently I began to wonder... at present, Diana lives in sheltered accomodation. Her private space now consists of a bedroom, living room, mini-kitchen and bathroom (I know because I saw the place advertised). We currently live in a house filled with books, pictures and 'stuff' - the usual much-loved clutter. Hers must have been like that too. How do you compress a whole lifetime of living into such a small physical space, and survive psychologically? An e-reader with its immense book storing capacity could be a solution to one problem - a whole library packed into something the size of a flat paperback... I wonder if she has one?

Next year I will officially become a Two Mouse Woman, because my first two picture books, each one based on a mouse (but not the same mouse) will be coming out via two very different publishers. One mouse will go to the Bologna Book Fair - I hope he'll thrive on Italian cheese. The second mouse may or may not make it there - at present I don't know. Talking of picture books (I'm an aficionado), I picked up a copy of Debi Gliori's 'No Matter What' in our GP surgery. This is one of those very special books which touches the deepest feelings of both adults and the child being read to. The animal infant, having just had a tantrum, is told by his mum that she'll love him no matter what. So if he/she turns into an unloveable creature - a crocodile, perhaps - he/she will still get a cuddle. Then the infant pushes it to the extreme - so what if he/she is dead? Mum's reply to that one is incredibly moving. 

Right  now, we are about to re-publish my Young Adult novel, THE GAME as an ebook. THE GAME was first published by Walker Books in the Nineties, and, as in 'Snow White and the Huntsman', it features an evil queen - not just one, but hundreds, maybe thousands of them. The original plot grew out of an odd cocktail of Thatcherism, Musak and the Greek Furies. Do take a look - the print version is still available, and the ebook should appear on Amazon's listing soon.

Talking Amazon, I'd like to mention Amazon's ratings system. Five star ratings apparently move us up the sales ladder, and these depend on reviews. Reviews, I was recently horrified to discover, can be bought online by the metre/yard, which means many of them are meaningless. What can serious professional authors who are abandoning traditional publishing do about this trend?

And finally - BORN TO GIGGLE, Ian Billings's anthology of rude and funny verse, the profits of which will go to Save the Children. I am very proud to have my poetic set of insults included in this anthology (but please don't show my poem to your grannie).



madwippitt said…
What to say? Nothing helpful - I am useless at comforting words - so sending ehugs instead and hope David continues to make a good recovery.
Oh, and a suggestion on films - The Princess Bride. Every time.

Good luck with the books!
Hi Enid,
I like that idea of mixing Thatcherism with the Greek Furies...
That story about the child fearing being unlovable if turned into a crocodile-creature got me thinking of Kafka's Metamorphosis...Gregor waking up as the dung always struck me that his father seemed to accept that this was still Gregor, his son...but the mother...just wanted that big Dung Beetle out of the house really!
(Which reminds me of your great book, Gemma and the Beetle People, which I recommended yesterday on the phone to a friend who had just bought his ten-year-old grand-daughter a Kindle Fire for Christmas!
All best to you and to David, for 2013.
Enid Richemont said…
Oh thanks for the plug for GEMMA, John. The original book had great line drawing illustrations - pity I couldn't use them (but the cover illustration, which was available, is fab).

Debi's book, which I picked up in our doctor's surgery, really chimed with me because my very close friend had been seeing her partner slowly changing/dying in the last six months, and Debi's book was talking about real love, uunconditional love, which rises above anything that's thrown at it, and yet written for 3/4/5 year olds - that's writing at its best.

David's not out of the 'merde' quite yet, but he'll get there.

Happy 2013, everyone. Our anthology's looking great, isn't it?
Hywela Lyn said…
I hope David will continue to make a good recovery and that 2013 will be a good one for you, Enid.
Lydia Bennet said…
Enid, I hope you and your family have a happy and healthy new year!

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