Friday, 19 December 2014

Lonely Christmas Songs

For a number of years I've published festive photographs of my impressive 7 foot tree decorated with a mixture of baubles and ornaments, many of which have a memory attached to them and a special place in my heart. I used to take great pride in putting up the Christmas decorations, it was something I looked forward to doing, and would shoo The Farmer and Amy out of the house for a few hours whilst my creative juices flowed. I'd transform the drawing room and drape a large and rather hefty length of garland over the Grandfather clock in the hallway, which always caught my eye when I'd be walking up and down stairs. Amy's room was also transformed with her own decorations, and even though the whole house was a complete mass of various colours and mismatched ornaments, it looked quite spectacular. But it still didn't make it feel like my home; that place that one sees in their mind's eye as the place they'd like to spend Christmas in.

I spent 13 Christmases at the farm house. Each one was the same, consisting of me doing just about everything from buying to wrapping presents, to making list upon list, to food and grocery shopping, to making sure we all got what we wanted, to transforming the house, to cooking the Christmas dinner, to ensuring my family had a bloody good time and would look back on the festive season as a pretty awesome few weeks. There were no miserable faces in our house at Christmas.

Except for last year. When my face was so long you could have stuck a mane in my hair and called me Dobbin. I think part of me knew that last Christmas would be my last at the farm. When I look back and remember how irritated I was throughout December, knowing it's my birthday month and the time of year my dad loved so much, I can't believe I didn't pack my suitcase and sod off to sod-offs-ville. I guess I did it for Amy. I was sick of having to cook a free range turkey, the 13th Christmas dinner at the farm house, and sick of the fact once that turkey had been finished, the remains would go into a very large pot and be mixed with rice to make The Farmer's soup. Fortunately, he did that himself. But I was always left to clean up the mess and wash the very large pot. I left it last year.

So what's happening this year? I have left all those decorations at the farm and I refuse to buy any new ones because as I've stayed in touch with The Farmer, I know I can go and collect them anytime I wish. But to be quite honest, I don't wish to. I simply can't be bothered. I haven't even put any cards up this year. Amy and me are going to my mum's for a few days over Christmas where we'll get our Christmas dinner cooked for us - first time in 13 years - and even though I'm looking forward to going because I love spending time with my family, I'd actually be quite happy if someone fast forwarded Christmas and we were now on the brink of January 3rd when I'll be safely back home and it'll be Amy's birthday.

I'm not as depressed as I was, fortunately, but I'm still on that bloody roller-coaster that I'm itching to get off, and I just feel as though I'm going to find myself a very lonely woman, especially this Christmas. I love being on my own, which makes my feelings of loneliness seem rather confusing, but it kind of made me think the other day, when The Farmer spoke to me on the phone and said he's been invited to three different houses for Christmas dinner and refused them all because he wants to stay in with the animals. But when he told me he'll be making his own Christmas dinner this year, and hasn't had one takeaway since I left because he's cooked for himself every night, I have to say my hackles rose slightly. Mug, springs to mind. That's obviously what I've been all these years. So at least in my lonely Christmas song this year I'll be reciting the words, "Right Decision."

Monday, 1 December 2014

Amazon Monopoly...

...do not pass Go...do not collect your royalties...

Well, the free promo went well last week. The book (Discovery at Rosehill) reached Number 1 in two separate categories on Amazon US, so of course I was extremely pleased. It seems to have been really popular with my American readers, and that's brilliant.

Then the storm hit the day after the promotion ended when Amazon Kindle emailed me with a particularly strong-worded lecture about the fact they'd found Discovery at Rosehill on another eBook site you may know called Kobo. There were a few things that didn't add up with their right royal bollocking, which included the fact the book they were talking about was the old version with a different cover and isn't even listed anymore on Amazon. All rather confusing. The Giants used bullying antics to try and intimidate me by taking all my books out of their Select programme which enables an author to offer free promos. But of course we don't "need" to offer our books for free, so I decided to concentrate on the fact Amazon obviously hadn't done their homework and had taken the wrong book off Select. I sent two emails to them, both of which were completely ignored. I sent an email to Kobo to ask for the old version of Discovery at Rosehill to be removed from their listing, and that has also been ignored.

Am I missing something here, or are these companies just so full of themselves that they think it's perfectly okay to ignore someone, treat someone with utter contempt, and bully someone to the point that that person starts to feel like they've committed a crime? Amazon's email was out of order. I wonder if my name was JK Rowling would they have ignored me... As for Kobo, I tweeted them and even though I got a reply, nothing has yet been done. So I'm now left unable to enrol any of my books in the KDP Select programme because Amazon have cocked up. Fortunately, you can still buy them, so I only hope people will.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

FREE BOOK PROMO

I'm running a 

FREE PROMO TODAY AND TOMORROW 
(TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY) for 

Discovery at Rosehill



Download it on either day for absolutely nothing. Tell your friends. Tell your friend's friends. Tell everyone and let's get my first book back out there, where it belongs.



AVAILABLE ON ALL OTHER AMAZON SITES


"Finding your dream home is difficult enough, but what if you found it and then discovered it was haunted? Medium Camilla Armstrong is led to the beautiful Rosehill country estate after communication with her deceased grandmother. On first inspection she senses tranquillity within the house; the gentle atmosphere of a Georgian manor that is crying out for new life. But when she moves in, Camilla discovers the house contains a dark secret, one which is to change her life forever..."

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Mum Blames No One

I'll be honest with you, my life seems to be on one of those paths where I take one step forward then two steps back. I'm settling into my new home and feel much happier about living here than I did when I first moved, and I really don't miss the farm at all, which has actually come as a surprise to me. Living in an idyllic location, the dream and lifestyle that I'd wanted since I was a little girl, was so very hard to give up. I spent 13 years there and I do feel fortunate that I've experienced a completely different way of life to the one I lived up until 2001, when I was 31 years old. Amy seems settled here too, although I sometimes worry that she might be missing the expanse of farm land and the animals she so loves. It's been hard for both of us, but as the only grown up in our house, I'm obviously expected to be the supportive one, the strong one, the one who makes the rules and keeps stability within our routines.

Amy's going through that difficult teenage phase and some days I feel like I'm going to lose it when she gets all bad attitude and insolent towards me. I know it's normal and so 9 times out of 10 I ignore it and let her get the frustration out of her system. But recently, I've been finding it hard to deal with. So many parents of autistic children blame everything on autism, and quite frankly, it's a get out clause; an excuse because they simply can't deal with the way their child has become. We often forget what we were like when we were teenagers, and my mum has reminded me often that I was "a bugger up the brew" - that's local slang (where I come from in the North West) for, "a pain in the arse". I refuse to blame Amy's autism for the fact she is currently going through puberty, because I know she's a perfectly normal teenager with perfectly normal needs. Her autism is a part of her, but it doesn't define who she is. It prevents her from understanding many things in life and it clouds her judgement of people thus leaving her more vulnerable than your average mainstream 14 year old. But when someone said to me that it is her autism that's making her like this, I can only say they know nothing about my child and should therefore keep their "expert" opinions on autism and being a teenage girl to themselves. I didn't say that of course, I'm much too polite, but that's what I thought at the time.

I know we'll get through these difficult years of puberty and hormones and everything seeming so against the norm, and I know I'll spend most of those years fighting my way through. But however hard my life has been this year, and I say that with respect to those who have faced much tougher situations than mine, I will help Amy and support her, and maybe one day she will look at me and smile and think, "My mum's the best mum in the world."

Friday, 14 November 2014

Does Social Media Divide Opinions?

We see many divided opinions on social media. Of course, people have always had different views and we've always been entitled to voice those views, but until social media came into its own, the world seemed so much quieter. Now we switch on Facebook and Twitter and see how great the division between people's thoughts really is, because so many of us don't feel afraid to talk to a computer screen. No one will answer back or push for the last word; no one can stare us in the face and make us feel uncomfortable for believing in something that they totally disagree with. We can write our views then walk away. We can read other's opinions and shake our heads, knowing that what we think matters more. Does anyone stop and ponder that someone else's take could just be a little more significant than our own? Do we ever let someone talk us round to believing otherwise?

I think it's important that we voice our opinion on something we feel strongly about; it means we have a strong personality and we're comfortable standing by our views. I often see people on social media trying their hardest to make a point, and in some cases failing miserably, mainly because there are stronger personalities out there who won't settle for anything less than having the last word. We have to be mature enough to walk away, say enough is enough, and leave the conversation. But how many of us then think about who's right and who's wrong?

Someone tried to make me look like a fool once. Just the once, mind. I knew I was right. They thought they were right; that their opinion was more justified than mine and that I had no right saying what I did. I walked away from them. And the following day, I saw the same person arguing with someone else about their opinion, trying to make them out to be wrong. Sometimes, feeling strongly about something means walking away, knowing there's no point trying to argue or justify ourselves, because however much we try, there will always be someone out there on social media, waiting in the wings to knock us down - usually in front of an audience. Let's face it, knocking someone down face to face rather than having the population of social media goading them on isn't as much fun. Either that or the person doing the knocking down is just a coward.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Are Some Mediums Fake? (Radio Northumberland Show)

I'm publishing this blog post on here, taken from my Paranormal Blog, Marvellous Mable, as I'll be discussing it on the forthcoming radio show on Radio Northumberland where we'll be asking, "Are Some Mediums Fake?" With co-hosts Paul Green and Claire Sloan, there'll be a recorded interview with medium Derek Acorah. Definitely worth a listen. I'll let you know when the show airs. This reading was one I gave to an associate of mine whose mum had recently passed away:-

For many years now I have been able to sense spirit activity around me; some refer to this as being "clairsentient". The use of the syllable "clair" is becoming more commonly used but something happened to me very recently that made me realise that I do indeed have this ability. Being able to communicate with my dad who passed away in 2001, and more recently with my father-in-law who passed in 2007, I find it increasingly fascinating to be able to feel these incredible souls around me, albeit from their spiritual plane. Here's what happened the other week - I've copied and pasted most of the conversation that took place between myself and an online associate whom I only know through the internet and have never met in person:-

As I was chatting with Anna on Twitter who's mum passed away five years ago, I could see a diamond encrusted watch in my head. It was very clear as though I had actually seen it in real life. I knew this was related to Anna and I also knew I had to mention it to her because thoughts were being impressed on me to mention it. 

Me: I keep being told "the watch". I know it sounds daft but why am I associating this with you?

AnnaNo idea. Anything more? 

It was really strange because I didn’t know where all this information was coming from.....

Me: I don't know, it's as though you need to check a watch, or hold a watch or something. Do you have one that belonged to your mum maybe? Or one that your mum bought for you? It's not going away and my heart's racing!

AnnaJust going through her jewellery box now. Found an old nurses watch. Weird! She was a secretary! 

MeI think you should spend a little time holding that watch. Try to meditate while you hold it, could be a link to something and your mum is trying to tell you about it. How's your dad?

AnnaIt's a beautiful very old diamant√© nurses watch. Not sure I've ever seen it before!  Dads fine but now you mention it he has a really fast heart beat! On tablets for it! 

Me: That's what I was getting. I wasn't seeing a nurses watch as such but was seeing the stones as though it's encrusted with diamonds.

AnnaOMG. I'll email you a pic of it tomorrow (above). Am going to try to meditate with it now! 

A little while later:-

Anna: Held the watch and it was throbbing in my hand, really hot! I had this before when Lara (a medium friend of Anna's) gave me a crystal for my birthday that mom told her to give me. She charged it with moms energy and that throbbed in my hand too! 

Me: That's wonderful, she's made contact. I'm so pleased you found that watch, it was driving me nuts, lol.

Anna:  I'm going to ring my moms best friend tomorrow to see if she knows anything about the watch. They were friends from age 13 till mom was 70!

The following evening when speaking to Anna again, this happened:-

Me: Ok, I really don't expect you to know but last night I was given the name Barbara and again I've just been given that name when I asked for more information. I'm sorry if it doesn't mean anything, just ignore me.

Anna:  That's quite funny!  My Dad had a "friend" called Barbara!  Mom never liked her, an old acquaintance! He doesn't see much of her now! We went out for a meal for my 40th (a couple of years ago after Anna's mum had passed) and went back to Dad's afterwards. Dad was seeing Barbara out of the house and we'd brought some wine back and put the cork 3/4 of the way in the bottle.  When someone asked what Mom would have made of it, the cork flew up out of the bottle at force! 

Me: Sounds to me like your mum was perhaps a little jealous of Barbara, lol. I wonder if your dad has seen her recently. We women still have feelings from the astral plane!

AnnaShe's been to see Dad in the home, but he's told her not to go as it’s too far.  He's been trying to put her off because he gets fed up with her talking all the time and just getting him to take her out for meals. He's never been that bothered about her.

A few minutes later Anna DM’d me again with this:-

Anna: All my direct messages have disappeared from my DM page on twitter.  How strange. Only yours there now! Bizarre!

Me: I think your mum knows she's been and this is her letting you know that she knows! Your mum has definitely brought us together. 

Then, something else that was impressed in my thoughts:-

Me: Policeman. Something else that's just come to me.

Anna then confirmed that her husband is a policeman. We ended the conversation there, but she told me the following day that no one knew anything about the nurse's watch after she'd asked everyone she could think of. 

N.B. Anna and Lara's names have been changed for confidentiality. Anna gave her permission for this post to be published.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Santa, Don't Stop Here.

I know it's only October, but for some people that's panic-mode-buying-time for Christmas in their eyes, and there have been years in the past when I've been that very person. Doing my bit for mankind where I frantically scour the shelves in toy shops looking for that must-have item that Amy's had on her Christmas list since May. I've been caught out a few times; one year it was with a Nintendo Wii and everywhere had sold out. When our kids are young we think it's going to ruin their Christmas if they don't get that one item they've been so desperate to own, but when we look back in hindsight and remember the masses of wrapping paper and discarded toys, not to mention the diminishing bank balance after yet another dash for those last minute Christmas bits, we tend to see that really, the thing they remember most about Christmas is the excitement of it all, the anticipation and the thought of Father Christmas materialising down our chimneys (even in those houses that don't have one).

A lot's happened this year in my life and apart from needing to watch my pennies like a particularly hungry hawk, I've decided that going minimal is the order of the season. I hold my hands up to spending way too much over the years on presents, some of which were never touched, and on Christmas decorations in order to make the house resemble a rather outlandish grotto. The farmhouse looked great, I won't deny it, and I'd sit back and admire my handy work once I'd finished transforming our house. But it isn't going to happen this year. I've brought a few decorations with me to my new home and there won't be a peep of tinsel to be seen. I've already told my family that presents will be much cheaper this year and my budget has dropped dramatically. We all know it isn't about the presents and the glitz and who can cook the best turkey dinner, but it's so difficult to stop buying extravagant gifts when you've done that for so long, you can't ever remember not spending a fortune.

It's ridiculous though, really, isn't it? It's one day in 364. One day when we gather on the carpet to see how many bottles of bubble bath we've got for the charity shop to give away, and how many bin bags of fancy wrapping paper will need to be taken to the tip. I'm going to send cards, I'm not such a misery-guts just yet, but my list of presents this year will be rather short. I didn't think I'd ever not want to decorate the house or get excited about Christmas, but a part of me is actually dreading it. I don't know why at this moment in time, I can't quite put my finger on it. But it's two months away and that means there's no need to even contemplate cards and presents and fluffy white beards. In a nutshell, I can't be bothered with it all. And that's not like me one bit.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

My New Job

I started my new job this week: transcribing. Some may know it as audio typing (headphones and footpedals...). I did this type of work in the 90s when I worked for temping agencies and was posted to various solicitors' offices. One of the jobs back then was a train journey into the City of Manchester every day, where I worked for eight months for a solicitor who was, (thinking of the right word here so as not to cause offence) an arsehole. Yep, that just about sums him up. He would speak to me like I was something he'd trod in and would bark instructions at me from his office. If I ever made a typo or a mistake, or misunderstood a word he had said, he would bark at me again, throw the letter on the desk and instruct me to do it again. I have no idea how I stuck his attitude for eight months but I was married to my first husband at the time and we were saving up to buy a house, so I suppose it had something to do with needing the money. Anyway, after being crammed on a two-carriage train like cattle, unable to sit down half the time because men had already grabbed the seats so as to read their newspapers or have a snooze (this was the 90s - gentlemen were a dying breed even then), I got increasingly fed up with the rush to the station after work, desperately trying to catch the earlier train - most times it didn't turn up - I decided enough was enough and left. From there, I got more employment through the recruitment agencies in Bolton town centre and then in my home town of Atherton, again, working for solicitors.

This job still means I'm self-employed, I guess as a freelance transcriber, if there is such a position, and I get sent work from the lady who owns the transcribing company. It's very flexible so as long as I get the work done in a reasonable amount of time, I can do it at my leisure - more or less. I do prefer to work during the day, however, as by evening my body is winding down and I'm ready to relax with Amy and the television. Working from home is convenient for me right now as it means I'm always here for Amy. Now that she's older and more responsible, I can shut myself away in the office and get on with work whilst she's entertaining herself. Of course, I want to spend some time with her in the holidays but at least she's old enough to understand that I need to work. I'd like this job to continue for some time, if I'm honest. I'm trying my best to make it work and I really hope it does. I did think of applying elsewhere for part-time work also, but if the transcribing gives me a decent amount of hours (and salary, of course), then I'll just stick to this.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alien World

I sat in the Citizen's Advice Bureau and all I could think about was getting back in my little car, driving home and shutting the door to the world. I've never been in a CAB before. I've never had the need. My life has consisted of good salaried jobs and luxurious surroundings. Now it consists of worry and paperwork and coming to terms with being unable to sleep at night for thinking about the fear of falling into the poverty trap.

It wasn't meant to be like this. It wasn't meant to see me stepping into an unknown world where I would feel anger and resentment towards a country that penalises a single parent for wanting to find a job and show her child the best example for the future generation.

I've changed my circumstances. It has a knock-on effect right through my life and no one cares, not really. I don't want to visit the CAB again. I didn't like it there. It was a grubby building with an interview room in desperate need of decoration. It was filled with an atmosphere of poverty and hardship and benefits being the only way forward. It was filled with someone else's life.

I was an alien today. An alien on the planet I was meant to feel at home. Other people will feel like this, too. But I'm not other people. I just wanted to find happiness, freedom and a new life. Should I have settled for discontentment, living in isolation and not being able to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Would it have been easier to just stay where I was and live the rest of my life knowing it wasn't where I wanted to be? People need to move on. I need to move on. I need strength to get through this and find a solution to the constant feeling of dread that overwhelms me when I wake in the morning; the fear that envelops me when I think about my future. I've worked hard all my life. I've had good jobs. I don't want to be reliant on hand outs that will be snatched away from me the minute my circumstances change. My heart breaks for what I once had. Yet I don't want what I once had, so why does my heart break?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Being a Teenager

We're much nearer to Amy's school now; it takes just 15-20 minutes to get there. The transport department kindly kept her in the same taxi with a driver and escort whom she's familiar with. I was particularly grateful for that. The upheaval of moving away from the farm, a home that has been Amy's for 13 years since she was just 18 months old, was quite considerable. She coped with it though, much better than I did. She had no friends where we used to live, no one she could call on to discuss the challenges of being a teenager, and boys of course. Her life consisted of coming home from school and either sitting in her bedroom watching television, or spending time on the computer. Admittedly, when she was younger, she would play outside, albeit on her own. Since becoming a teenager, the thought of fresh air and hanging out by yourself isn't all that tempting. Amy might have autism, but she's a typical teenager. She does typical teenage things, becomes melodramatic by just getting out of bed, raids the fridge and the 'goodie' cupboard when she gets in, loves listening to music and watching horror films. 

Since living here, a new housing estate with neighbours and traffic and street lamps, all the things Amy has never been used to, she's adapted remarkably well. She's made two very nice friends, both girls. One lives next door and the other a few doors away, and the three of them are the same age. Amy gets in from school now and tells me she's going to see if her friends are in. She spent a few hours with them last Friday night, playing board games. They're typical teenagers, too. They don't have a condition like Amy does, but it doesn't bother them. They're too nice to let Amy's autism bother them. 

Amy's sociable and she's missed out on having friends at home. I'm incredibly proud of the way she's quickly learnt a new way of life. She did lose a friend recently - a good friend. They were close and had feelings for each other. He broke Amy's heart and I've had to spend the last four weeks picking up the pieces. Of course, Amy is only 14. She has plenty time to find a boyfriend and I'd much rather she didn't go down that road for a good few years yet. But this was a special kind of friendship. Like a childhood sweetheart kind of friendship. And it was also the first time Amy has been devastated by the loss of a friend, mainly because this friend meant so much to her. Life is cruel at times. My girl will experience much worse, I imagine, reluctantly. And I'll always be there to pick up the pieces. Like I say, I'm proud of her. She's coped and got through the upheaval of moving and then the destruction of being heart broken. She's my girl. She's my Amy.