Forty years of bedtime stories

My son Tom, born in 1977, was part of an early generation of children to be brought up on top-notch picture books. Puffin Picture Books, at £1.25 each, were an affordable treat for all of us. We didn’t tire of reading him ‘The elephant and the bad baby’, or ‘Not now, Bernard’, or anything illustrated by Quentin Blake or Allan Ahlberg.

The books we all loved were passed on to Elinor, then ten years later, to Emily.

Then they were carefully packed away for years. Elinor (aka Fanny the Champion of the World) married and had twins. Out came the boxes of books for Alex and Ben to enjoy.

Then these books, some almost as old as Tom himself, came full circle. His son William is enjoying them as much as his dad ever did.

Last night, this is what William picked to have read to him. Though there’s no need really. He knows everything off by heart.

Fanny for Grabs.

Many of you ask me how my daughter’s getting on. Well, her treatment is over, and her hair is growing apace. She’s decided to prove how well she’s doing by training to do the London Marathon next year, to raise money for Worldwide Cancer Research, and help fund further research into oesophageal cancer.

And in other news, here’s her latest blog post.

Fanny the Champion of the World

A few weeks ago, I did a deal with my son. My angry, grieving, difficult son. It wasn’t a deal I wanted to do, and – in many ways – it felt like a pact with the devil. I told him that if he would engage with a course of counselling, then I’d do what he’d been asking for, and start to look for a new partner.

I knew that it would take several weeks to sort out my son’s head, and, through counselling, he’d probably realise that his problems were not going to be easily solved by my acquiring a substitute for his dad. I wasn’t ready for a relationship, and was otherwise muddling along as a double – not single – parent, but at my wits’ end.

Both boys have been desperate to see me happy again – and that, they believe, means for me to be married…

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This is not just any mug …..


‘Caffeine Queen’

My favourite cup.

Memories in a drink.

Twenty years.  Cracked, broken, enduring.

Ellie gave me this mug – oh – more than twenty years ago.  Straight away, it appealed to me, though it’s not an item of any refinement.  It’s not fine china. It’s not hand made, nor hand painted. Nevertheless, this piece of unremarkable pottery soon became not just another mug, but my Caffeine Queen.

I’m a caffeine queen too.  Make me begin the day without a strong shot of coffee inside me and I’ll be simultaneously cranky and listless for hours on end. Caffeine Queen and I are united daily at the breakfast table.

She lived with us in Leeds.  She travelled with us when we moved to Harrogate.  Then she went to France, and returned to England when we too came back.

Overnight visitors didn’t realise that she was mine, and mine alone.  If they chose to drink from her when helping themselves to coffee, or even worse, tea, I’d sulk and fume in silence.  Silent, because even I knew I was being ridiculous and unreasonable.

Today though, at breakfast time, I noticed something.  A long black crack running straight down Caffeine Queen’s head.

I’ve drunk from her for the very last time.   If I fill her with hot coffee she may shatter and break beyond repair. If I’m careful, she may see out her days – and mine – in a new role as my favourite pencil pot.

The Queen is dead.  Long live the Queen.

End of Part Two.

New beginnings for Ellie and her boys. A special day.

Fanny the Champion of the World

Today marks 1172 days since cancer came into our family. 1168 days since my husband and I walked through the doors of this hospital, hand in hand, for the very first time.

Those doors were the last thing my husband saw of the outside world, before being wheeled into an ambulance and brought home to die. He said, at that point, that a bag for life would probably be an unwise investment.

Today, 463 days since my husband died, and 343 days since my own diagnosis, I walk out of the same doors once again, on my own, to the outside world, for what we all hope will be the very last time. To freedom. To our children. To countless more days.

Here, they’ve given me the most precious gift – my life, wrapped up in a metaphorical box with a bow, when my husband couldn’t even begin to pick…

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A Picture of Denial.

More even than any of her other posts, I think it’s worth re-blogging this one from my daughter, my still beautiful daughter. Read and take note.

Fanny the Champion of the World

I spoke to a friend the other day. A friend who was deeply upset, because one of his friends had left it too late to check himself out… and now has a cancer which can’t be cured. We don’t yet know how long he has. It’s heartbreaking, and more so because it could have been avoided.

In the meantime, I’ve been receiving – for two bloody years – requests to put a heart on my wall, or an eight ball as my status, or to accept the challenge of posting a black and white picture, or a no make-up selfie, to raise awareness for cancer. Well, challenge accepted. Here’s my black and white, no make-up selfie, no hair selfie, no boob selfie, and no husband selfie. Our most recent portrait together, a few weeks ahead of our fifteenth wedding anniversary. ❤️

You don’t raise awareness of cancer by putting little…

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