Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Not back, just an update

I had my appointment at the Probate Office earlier which was upsetting but at least it's done.  The process was so simple, I'm delighted I did it by myself. 
Now I have to wait for them to send the grant, then I have to apply to have Mum's house put in my name. 
No further news. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Bye for now

I’m going off the radar for a while.
I’m tired of moaning on, I’m tired of hitting my head against brick walls. I simply can’t bear to do this anymore.
When something good happens, I’ll be back. Until then, enjoy the sunshine.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pic of (part of ) my garden, taken from the hosue

A little less foggy

I’ve been making more decisions today.
I had a wardrobe full of my mother’s clothes which I wasn’t sure what to do with I’ve listed her favourite 1950s dress and a jacket on eBay and given the rest to my ex to dispose of as he wishes.
I’ve also decided to make better use of bedroom 2. At the moment it’s home to a lovely desk on which I’m meant to do my painting (I have done virtually none for two years), my keyboard which I haven’t played since Mum died, a cheap wardrobe, two chairs and a single bed. I’ve just put the bed and wardrobe on eBay. When they’re gone, the plan is to get a sofa bed so that I can lounge about and maybe even write stories up there (I prefer to write fiction by hand first) but still have a spare bed IN CASE I ever get any visitors. The bed had a 99p bid minutes after it was listed so that’s great.
At long last, the sun came out today. I tried, but I couldn’t resist going outside and working in the garden, but only once I’d sorted out a few things. I’ve been writing more letters trying to get to the bottom of what really went on back in March 2011.
I found a letter today the significanec of which, although I’d read it many times before, had never actually dawned on me. I still prefer not to go into details in case I end up in the law courts, but let me just say this, I’m starting to think I might get somewhere. |Justice may actually prevail. 
I’ve also begun to realise just how thick a fog has been clogging up my brain for the past fifteen months and starting to think that it might, at last, be clearing. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Busy doing nothing very much

After a quick browse on eBay I found the perfect chair, with 3 minutes left to run. Bid, won it, and collected it two hours later, so that’s the living room done as far as the furniture goes. On the way back from collecting it, I called into a garden centre and used a garden token I’d found at Mum’s house to buy a very healthy looking Venus Fly Trap. I used to have a few insectivorous plants but they’ve mostly been killed off. My favourite used to be in the pond but 2 vicious winters killed it off. I was responsible for the demise of the others as when I get down, I tend to neglect all kinds of things including watering plants (and the dusting!)
I still have a list of things to find before the overhaul of the house is done – new desk for my office, a music system with power and a headphone socket that works, a tall cupboard/cabinet for conservatory, a small sofa bed for my den/guest room, but at least one room is looking good (about time too).
I have heard nothing from Exeter which is really getting to me. I’m going to have to send another letter, recorded delivery and hope that prompts a reply.
I spent yesterday evening at a friend’s, drinking some wine and playing Rummikub (a great game, and one of my favourites, probably because I’m good at it).
I don’t feel I’m achieving anything at the moment but as I gave myself until my birthday before I made more of an effort, I’m having to convince myself that it’s OK not to do very much actual work.Shame the birthday will soon be here and I'll need to find another excuse.
Every now and then something happens to give me a boost. A lady who asked for feedback for one of her stories has done a rewrite, taking everything I said on board. I’m hoping her hard work is rewarded as she deserves it. I also had a lovely email from a man in the USA who not only loves my book, he sent a story that had been inspired by it, PLUS he recommended a book which sounded so fascinating I promptly bought a copy.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Nothing to report

As time goes by and there’s no response from Devon, I’m becoming increasingly stressed.
It was an effort, but at least I managed to get some stories recirculated today. I’ve been very lax with this lately. I noted with some surprise that I hadn’t sent anything to The Weekly News for three months. It just goes to show the state I’ve been in.
When I read a piece on ELFM last night about Mum and how her solicitor prevented me from registering her EPA, I almost broke down half way through. It’s hard to keep my emotions under any kind of control at the moment because they’re so near the surface. I jump every time the phone rings.
I’ve spent my life being nice to everyone. Having to stand firm doesn’t come easy to me.
It’s been pouring all day. I’m out AGAIN tonight. Going to a friend’s for a drink and a chat. She says she has a really good solicitor, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I want this to end.
I want my life back.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Overall, a tiring day

I’ve been selling some of my mother’s things on eBay plus some music and postcards so I’ve had to pack those that had sold.
After a quick detour round the charity shops, narrowly avoiding the torrential rain, I went to crossword class. Once again Jack had been allowed out of hospital for the afternoon so that was good.
On the way home I bought the Yorkshire Eve4ning Post to see what they’d written about last night’s poetry event – not much was the answer, so I checked on line where the coverage was rather better.

If you want to read my poem (it’s very short) You need to look hard as it follows straight on from the first poem about a discus thrower and is by Catherine Howard, my pen name.

Just after five, John gave me a lift to Seacroft Chapel, sometime base of ELFM, the local digital radio station. All week, people have been reading out their work  based round true events that shaped their lives. I read two pieces, one by another writer who could not get there that evening and my own piece about Mum’s solicitor and the EPA.

You can listen to it on the radio using catch up, but as I was a bit shaky, it follows here too.

In March 2011, completely out of the blue, I received a letter from Devon Social Services. Unless I registered the Enduring Power of Attorney my mother gave me in 2000, they would take over my mother’s financial affairs.
That letter gave me a huge headache. I’d moved to Leeds in 2009. It was my duty to register the EPA but at the same time, doing that from three hundred miles away and with no co–operation from Mum’s carer would be well nigh impossible.
As I battled with the problem, I couldn’t work, and I couldn’t sleep. I finally came to a decision. Whatever the emotional cost, I would register the EPA and find a way to take over Mum’s affairs. The one thing I was sure about was that my mother wouldn’t want strangers taking care of her business.
I wrote to her carer, asking for his co–operation.
On Monday 14th March, while I waited for him to reply, which he never did, I called Mum’s solicitor asking them to register the Enduring Power of Attorney for me.
I was told that my mother had issued new instructions and that as they were her solicitors, they were unable to act on my behalf. They refused to send me the document.
This was such a shock, I felt crushed. I asked the woman to tell me what was going on but she said she couldn’t.
I pleaded with her. If she couldn’t tell me what this mysterious new instruction was, could she at least tell me when it was issued? She refused. I pointed out that my mother suffered from dementia and I needed to make sure that whatever the instruction was, it was issued while she was still mentally capable. The woman still refused to answer.
I asked why this hadn’t been mentioned when I visited Exeter in August the previous year. I’d been given me a registered copy of the document, so that  I could show it to people like Social Services.  
Eventually, the woman’s boss came on the phone. His manner was cold and unfriendly. What it came down to was simple. My mother was their client. They did not have to tell me anything unless she instructed them to.
I argued how ridiculous that was. How could my mother instruct them to do anything? She had severe dementia. It was like talking to a brick wall.
After that phone call, I cried like a baby for hours.
Despite letters to her doctor, social services, and employing another solicitor, I got precisely nowhere. My mother’s affairs were taken out of my hands. Little more than a year later Social Services put my mother into a care home without even informing me.
On March 23rd 2012, I had a phone call, telling me that my mother had died late the previous night. She’d been in hospital with pneumonia. Nobody had bothered to tell me she was ill.
I didn’t expect her death to upset me half as much as it did.
Until 2009, when I gave up and moved away, my mother had been the focus of my life. All I ever wanted was for her to love me, or even just care a little bit about me. Now that  was never going to happen. I fell apart at the seams.
Several weeks later, when I could think straight, I wrote to Mum’s doctor. He informed me that Mum’s solicitor had contacted him in February 2011, asking whether she had the mental capacity to revoke the EPA. His reply had been an unequivocal no. My mother’s dementia was so severe that she was no longer capable of making any such decision.
I can’t understand why Mum’s solicitor did what they did.
They prevented me from registering the EPA which meant that it might as well have been revoked. In the end, a comparative stranger, with no training in dealing with dementia sufferers decided what was best for my mother. What’s more, he chose to ignore instructions she DID make when she was capable.
So now I have to fight for justice. If I don’t, other people who give their children power of attorney might as well not bother because solicitors can do what they like.
Surely that has to be wrong?

It’s only 8.20 but I’ve had enough for today, so it’s time to finish wrapping parcels and then I’m going to hit the chair, maybe even open a bottle of wine and have a bit of a chill.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Working on the next book

Thanks to all the lovely people who commented or sent emails (thanks again, George) after my recent blogs. It really is a great help as standing up for myself and for what is right, is hard for me. Your support is very valuable to me.
I forced myself to go to the poetry launch last night as I’d told the writer (David Agnew) ages ago that I would be there. I stayed until the break, then came home, having bought a copy of his book and getting him to sign it. I could have stayed longer, but with just the one train every hour, I felt it better to go sooner rather than later.
I’m glad I did. 
This morning, I checked my diary only to realise that I’m booked on a Spice dinner shuffle tonight. That would be OK but I’m meant to be going to the Peace Poetry prize giving tomorrow (I’ve been short listed but definitely won’t win anything), then on Thursday evening I’m at ELFM reading out a short piece about my mother, and on Friday, I’ve made plans to go and see a friend who reckons she knows a great solicitor (hopefully I won’t need one but it’s best to be ready). It’s hardly living the high life but right now, going anywhere is proving hard. I’d much rather stay safe in my shell  but that is probably not the best idea. I have to stay strong. Hidign away and getting depressed again is NOT the way to do it.
The weather is good at the moment and I’m finding the pull of the garden hard to resist, so I might just give in and go murder some weeds.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Good vibes needed

Last night I had terrible chest pains, so bad, I almost dialled 999. It went after two hours, so it was probably stress/panic attack. I’ve had them before but it’s hard to know what to do. Obviously it wasn’t a heart attack as I’m still here.  
I had a letter from Mum’s solicitor today, as I’m still trying to get to the bottom of why I wasn’t allowed access to the Enduring Power of Attorney. They are now saying that a Consultant Psychiatrist was involved but give me no other information, not even their name. I’m sure they think I’ll just give up but I won’t. I can’t. I have to get to the bottom of all this. Right now my faith in the legal profession is at an all time low. The law should be easy to understand. Either an EPA is revoked or it isn’t. Had I been allowed to register it, anyone who wanted to – family, doctor, Mum herself if she was capable, could have contested it. Surely that’s the way it’s meant to work, isn’t it??? If anybody knows, PLEASE get in touch. My email address is
On top of that, I have the other problem I mentioned yesterday. After a great deal of thought (and a panic attack) I have come to a decision. What’s more, I’ve acted on it too. Now to wait and see what happens. Anyone who has any loving vibes to spare, could they please send some my way. I really could use them (again!)
Tonight, I have to go out. A friend and member of Leeds Writers is launching his new poetry collection. I’m a big fan of his as he writes from the heart. I’ve had the date in my diary for weeks, but right now, I really really don’t want to leave the house but he’s expecting me. I might just go, grab  a copy of his book, get him to sign it, and run home!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Straws and camels

You know that old saying about the straw that broke the camels’ back? Well, it’s just happened to me. Having forgiven my Mum’s ‘carer’ for all the trouble he caused me over the past eighteen months (I wanted a good relationship with my soon–to–be tenant)  he has now done something that I can’t forgive – told me a blatant lie.
Obviously, there’s money involved (isn’t there always?) but it’s never been about that for me. It’s about trust. My Mum’s house is nearly 300 miles away which is far from ideal. I need to be able to trust the man who is living there and this I can no longer do.
I spent much of yesterday trying to decide what to do.
I finally made up my mind earlier today but can’t say what my plans are as this is an open, all too public blog. I just pray that things go well as I really don’t want any more stress and aggravation.
This afternoon, I took part in a readathon at East Leeds FM, a digital radio station that operates from a chapel not too far from where I live. I found the book a bit dull and hard to read but it was heaven to be able to get out and do something that took my mind off things. It was a real tonic (there were great cakes and biscuits too).

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Hitting another rock

I have hit another obstacle. One of the letters I wrote for probate purposes has  revealed that the man living in my late mother’s house has, as I knew along, actively set out to defraud and cheat me. What’s most upsetting is that he lied to my face.
It’s more complicated than I’m making it sound but until I know what I’m going to do, I can’t say any more.
I know what I’d LIKE to do which is ask him to leave. Then I can sell the house and buy something closer to home. The problem is, will he leave quietly? And do I have the guts to make him?
Complications too on the probate front. I have an appointment for the 27th, but it takes another TEN DAYS after that for them to post the paperwork. That means my plans to treat myself on my birthday have evaporated.
It’s chucking it down with rain too, so I can’t even go outside and take it out on the weeds.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Answering Chloe's question

I wanted to answer Chloe’s great question (posted on yesterday’s blog) as it made me think.  The stories I am happiest with are those that deal mainly with character and emotions rather than those that are more about what happens. When I think about my favourite stories, I remember the people in them because they live on the page. My problem has been that since losing my husband in 1997, I had to look to writing to make some kind of living. His death shook my world and killed my confidence so that I could no longer cope with a ‘proper’ job. Now I have more stability, money–wise, I can afford to write for love again. My advice to Chloe is simple. If you want to write, write what you enjoy. If you need to write for money, concentrate on the womag market.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I THINK I know what to do next

After weeks of driving myself crazy, trying to figure out what I want to do, now that my finances are stronger, I think I might have an idea. When I started writing, I was writing articles about fish and holding down a ‘normal’ job at the same time.
Back then, writing didn’t feel like work because a – I enjoyed it, and b– it wasn’t my only source of income. In recent years, writing has become my main occupation and gradually the pleasure it gave me started to get worn away. I concentrated on writing stories for the best paying markets simply because the rewards were highest.
I need to get back to writing for pleasure. Today I realised that writing The Writer’s Treasury of Ideas didn’t feel like work because I enjoyed doing it so much so now I have a better idea of what I want to do – write the next book and start to think about going back to fiction, but this time writing stories that please me, not necessarily those that bring in the most money.
I haven’t done much writing today as I had to pack a few things that I’d sold on eBay, then go to the shops, followed by crossword class (great because our leader had been allowed out of hospital for the afternoon) then I spent an hour and a half mowing the lawn. Why so long? Several reasons. I have a lot of grass. It was still quite damp so the cut grass (and moss!) kept clogging up the blades.  I had to take a short break or I would have keeled over.
It’s fast approaching eight o’clock so I think I might spend half an hour working on the book while I’m in the mood.   

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Back but not back on track yet

I had hoped to get back from Great Yarmouth to find I had an appointment letter to go to the Probate Office but was disappointed. I really would like to get the money side sorted by the end of the month. Having to wait, when there’s nothing you can do to speed things up, really gets to me.
I forgot to take my camera with me so I have no photos to share. I was lucky with the weather. The gales were awful but the rain stayed away which is all you can ever really ask for in England. Saturday was a really really good day. When I go away with a coach company I don’t go on all the excursions as if you did, you don’t’ actually get time to see the place you’re actually staying at, so on Saturday, I did my own thing. I crammed a lot in – a visit to Amazonia (a reptile zoo), the model village including a round of crazy golf, a tour of the shops, topped off by a couple of hours at the Pleasure Beach. There I finally fulfilled an ambition that I’d had for decades – I had a go on the carousel, one of the old fashioned merry go rounds with horses that go up and down on their poles. It was ridiculously enjoyable and only cost £2.  There were so many rides and things to do. They even had a Segway track and a huge see through plastic bal you could climb in and roll about on the water. Needless to say I passed on both of those.
The journey to and from Great Yarmouth seemed to take for ever, so I’ve learned another lesson. Either go away for longer or go somewhere that’s easier to get to. Norfolk is very badly off for motorways which means it takes a lot longer to get anywhere.
I HAD hoped to write a bit while I was away but in the end, I wrote zilch. I think I’m scared that when I DO try short stories again, I will have lost the knack, even though I KNOW that’s not very likely.
I’ve spent most of today feeling grumpy. As part of my ‘start a new life’ I’ ve been gradually replacing my old, tired, cheap, shabby, chipboard furniture. I’ve just bought a job lot of six pieces because they match. Two have gone to my ex’s house, one I need to sell on, and the other three I’m keeping. Two are replacing book cases, the other is intended to house my new music system. Of course that means that the pieces they replace are cluttering up the place while I wait for somebody to buy them on eBay, plus I daren’t actually buy the wonderful, expensive new music system I want until the probate money comes through
I have to go out tonight. It’s another quiz at Spice and I’ve missed the last two so I really do need to make an effort. The problem I have is that when I’m feeling down, I tend to  find other people (almost all of them!) hugely annoying! I expect they feel the same about me when I’m down too.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Taking a break

I’ve been out most of the day. First, creative writing class at Good Neighbours where I not only wrote something fictional (!) I also sold 3 more books. Then I grabbed a quick lunch with some people from the group before going back to crossword class. Not a bad way to wind down and get into holiday mood.
It’s raining, of course, but as I’m going away to chill out, who cares!
So it’s bye for now and in case any ne’er do wells are reading this, don’t think my house is empty. My ex is housesitting for me.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Moving furniture, again

This morning, I was asked to put together 300 words about my book – ‘I am writing a feature about books on how to write and wanted to use the regular contributors to Writers’ Forum. Would you like to contribute 200 – 300 words about how you came to write your Treasury of Ideas? How did you come up with the idea? Are there other books covering the same subject and, if so, what does yours say that makes it different?
Could you also tell me if you have a favourite how to write book or has there been one that has inspired you?’
Obviously I was very happy to oblige as anything that gets the book out there has to be good. You should be able to read my reply in a couple of months in Writers Forum under Phil Barrington’s by line.
It’s been a funny day. I started off by reading a sample of work that my latest pupil had sent to me. It’s part one of a serial aimed at Womans Weekly. It’s always worrying, reading somebody’s work for the first time as you have no idea what standard they wil have reached. Fortunately the writing was good. Most of the problems came from the plot and from the dialogue. As these are both fixable, I am hopeful that she will soon improve. I do enjoy teaching and giving feedback but it is hard work. It’s so important to offer encouragement but at the same time, not to beat about the bush regarding any weaknesses.
After lunch I decided to do something different which loosely translated meant moving more furniture. This time in my dining room/office. I’ve moved the desk so that’s it’s more central rather than tucked into a corner, swapped carpets and moved the filing cabinets. It’s made a big difference. My plan is to buy a wave music system. Once probate is granted and I have a bit of spare cash. That will need a cupboard to perch on and then, well you get the idea. Until recently, all my clothes, furniture and possessions have been decidedly cheap and cheerful. I’m not talking second hand as some used goods are great. I’m talking cheap nad nasty. I had one decent piece of furniture and I only bought that because it was ex–display and therefore cheap. The idea now is to gradually replace all the cheap and cheerful chipboard furniture with things I can take some pride in. It’s going to be a long job. Once that’s sorted, I have to think about my (dismal) wardrobe). I had planned a trip to Watford to visit my friend Rae who has dress sense in spades. 
She was going to take me round and pass on some of her expertise. Sadly that had to be put off and hasn’t been rescheduled. There’s not a lot of point at the moment as some of the weight I had shifted has climbed back on . I don’t’ want to buy clothes then lose weight and have to buy some more. We have planned a day’s shopping during Swanwick so I have until mid August to get round of half a stone. I will do it too.
Now to think about packing for my long weekend away. I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery. It feels like for ever time since I had a proper break.
I’m almost afraid to say this, but I feel so much better right now. I only hope it lasts.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Busy holiday weekend

I’ve had a busy few days while the rest of the country’s been on a Jubilee break. I’m quit pleased with how much I’ve got done in the garden. This afternoon I was delighted to see that a colony of bumble bees have set up home in my bird box. I took a photo (very very difficult, bees don’t sit still!) and sent it and an email to a gardening mag as a filler. If you don’t know what a filler is, see my web site ( I hope they like it. I could use a few more gardening tokens.
I’ve also managed to catch up with my 2 pupils and send a true story to East Leeds FM for the live event coming in a week or two. ELFM is an on line digital radio station that operates from Leeds. The main man is also the one who runs the East Leeds Writers Group which I try to get to.
I’ve also looked at my pile of magazines that goes back at least three months and sifted out some competitions so that when I’m away, I MIGHT try to write something for one of them. Oh, and I also pitched another book to my publisher. He seemed to like the idea so now all I have to do is write it.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Ebay, gardening and Alfiedog

My aim today was to put some items on eBay, do some gardening now that I have my new flower bed to fill, and send some stories to Alfiedog and other markets.
I managed the eBay, but spent far too long in the garden as the weather was perfect. That meant I sent 2 stories to Alfiedog but didn’t have the energy left to send any anywhere else. It’s taking a huge effort to even type this.
Not long ago, I’d more or less decided that I couldn’t cope with the garden and would move, again. Last year, I did nothing out there and it’s proving hard to get back on top, but half an hour ago, I decided that I really do love my garden, and what’s more, it’s starting to look like the garden I’ve always wanted. No summerhouse yet but you never know.
Right now, I’d rather work outside then do anything else but if I do too much, I end up regretting it because I’m just not that fit.
I’m looking forward to my few days away next weekend (note to any burglars out there, my ex will be housesitting for me). I might even take some paper and pens and try a story or two. Of course, I might take paper and pens and not write a thing but somewhere, buried deep down inside, I can feel the story writing part of me beginning to come to life and when she does, I want to be ready.
PS If you don’t know what Alfiedog is, take a look some time (

Friday, 1 June 2012

Washing up can be fun

I set out this morning intending to go through the box of probate paperwork and start filling in some forms, ready for when I have the grant of probate. As I did this, I realised I hadn’t heard from the Halifax, so I rang and asked what was going on. Answer, nothing. Then they said I could go into the local branch with proof of ID and close Mum’s account and get a cheque. Why they didn’t tell me that when I went into the branch on the 9th of May, I have no idea.
By this time the gardeners had arrived to finish off the job they’d left undone.  Once they were settled, I went to the local Halifax and this time they let me close the account and gave me a cheque. It’s all very confusing and, I admit, a little annoying as if they’d let me do that when I first went in, I would not have had to take out a large chunk of my ISA to pay the care home fees.
It also makes you wonder why Barclays and Nationwide can’t do the same, especially as they’re the people I actually bank with. It’s all such a muddle.
When I got back home, I wrote a letter to Mum’s doctor asking him to put what he’d told me on the phone yesterday in writing. (Note to Jacula – it’s not a probate problem I have her, it’s all bound up with the power of attorney question.) I also wrote another letter to the solicitor, repeating what I’d said in my email and asking for future correspondence to be done by post.
Now I have to wait, again, to see how they respond. If I’m not happy then, next step is either the Ombudsman or Watchdog.
At 2.45, the gardeners having, finally finished, I went to Good Neighbours where they were putting on a Jubilee party for 150 older people. My job, to do the washing up. This is going to sound perverse, but it was great fun. I love boring, mundane repetitive jobs. When you get into the rhythm you can make the work seem like a game.
They’re a lovely bunch of people there and for me, it’s always a pleasure to feel needed  That’s part of what’s missing in my life – that sense of purpose. One day, I’ll go back to doing more voluntary work, but I don’t want to commit myself until I’ve made up my mind where I‘m going with my life.
The odd thing at the moment is that things that wouldn’t normally tire me out, like a trip to the building society or filling in a form, knock me for six. All my plans to catch up on a few odd jobs have flown out of the window. I’m glad this be– nice–to–Linda phase is due to end by the 28th (please, Universe!).