Prompt – Place

In my early twenties like Dick Wittington  I ‘set out’ for the big city of London.  It was exciting, vibrant, fast-moving as I immersed into the background of the rich and famous, attended first nights and iconic concerts.  Then, once in a while I would travel to Paddington and board a train.  As we travelled past Tiverton Parkway my body would begin to feel warm and start to twitch, my chosen reading book became uninteresting, I was too young for a hot flush.   A little further on from Cullompton I would sit tall and rue the fact I took after my short mother rather than tall father because only a few extra inches in stature would surely allow me to see over the hills to my destination; home. By Stoke Bridges (about 10 minutes before Exeter) I could no longer sit in a seat and would be stood waiting for the train to stop, so I could be the one to put their arm through the window and open the carriage door from outside.    And, there he was; Dad always ready to greet me and take me home.  The world was at one.
There are a couple of places that can still bring that feeling of belonging, inner peace and deep relaxation.   This weekend we travelled up to the valley that has the ability to bring me almost to that childhood euphoria. It is the holiday cottage deep at the bottom of a valley surrounded by mill ruins, running behind a bubbling river deep in the ravine. I might meet another dog walker but heron, ducks and fish nestle amidst the flora and fauna and are my daily companions.   Unbelievably, I only need to climb the steep steps either side of the river to find myself in a modern metropolis of shops, pubs, and railway stations.
I feel at home with the ambience of history which has fuelled many a short story. My phone and internet reception is as precarious as the gorge’s steep cliffs but unexpectedly invigorating not being on 24/7 call.  We are here on sad business but the thrill of feeling totally at home will comfort my week bringing only solace and inner peace to my troubled soul.   I already feel revitalised with belonging and a need to capture some of the history in a story.
So let’s think this week about:
Following on from this week’s workshop, think about how to show your character, use their actions to portray the feelings to the reader.   Use the colour, tastes, and sounds to enhance your story and bring it to life showing your reader that same place.
This could be a place from your childhood or your main character’s youth.  In my case, there is an inner peace at my place but your character may have grim memories – do they have to face their fears by going back.
Think about competitions, take it outside the box and give it a different spin. Who won 1st Place in a writing competition and is off to claim their prize?  What rank could the character reach or lose, what is at stake if they don’t attain it?
Place is a word with many meanings play on it and have fun.
Please remember if you have your own project to work on, keep going with that and only use the prompts if you feel you need them.  If a prompt triggers an emotion in you and you find you don’t want to write about the prompt itself let your heart dictate what you commit to paper.  Sometimes that can be the most powerful writing when it is triggered by a strong emotion.
100 words are just your start, try doing 100 words today and another 100 words each day until Friday gives you a competition piece of 500 words!  100 words can take about 15 minutes.  Can you steal that time back from your daily routine?  Just a quarter-hour!

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Writer’s block hits every writer at some time or another in their writing life. Finding plot lines can seem totally beyond our ability. The more you try, the more you can’t think of anything to write about. The dreaded blank page appears to grow with terrifying speed as it haunts our every thought.
It’s not often I find myself lost for words but when the situation does arise, I love sitting in a coffee shop, watching the world and listening to an odd snippet of conversation. A word or a line of dialogue can conjure up such adventures, stories or fictional escapades that are probably so far from the truth of the original line but work as a perfect trigger.
I met my husband for a coffee at an exclusive restaurant this week in a town a little way from home. We met in the car park and tried to get a table. I always feel a bit cloak and daggerish when we meet somewhere in separate cars. I wonder what onlookers might make of our movements and anonymity. It was late and the restaurant was only serving lunches. They were packed but managed to find a long table in the courtyard with a couple of women deep in conversation and asked if we could join them at the far end.
The sun was scorching, and we were just out of the shelter of the canopy. We agreed to have lunch. While we were waiting, my husband took a call for work and was gone a while leaving me alone.
I looked around the amazing array of different characters all eating, deep in conversation with their lunch partners, over plates of exotic salads and unpronounceable menu items. I had plenty of time to close my eyes against the heat of the sun and immerse myself in other worlds as several conversations washed over me.
“He used to be a dealer you know.”
“You are not supposed to be down this weekend?”
“He uses a lot of chemicals to build up his collection”.
“I have not taken a drop since the beginning of the month.”
“Jersey Royals have not had such a good reputation of late. We have been using red roosters for that.”
I cannot tell you who he was or what he dealt in, or where the couple came from that had arrived for the weekend. I cannot imagine what the collection was or why he would ever need to use chemicals on it. I can guess possibly at the drop but why since the beginning of this month rather than dry January, what was the trigger for her not taking a drop and a drop of what? I did not notice Jersey Royals on the menu but my assumption was a chef discussing his meal although why he was eating and not cooking I could not tell you.
Hubby returned as our meals arrived and I wonder what listeners would have made of our conversation. How the call had gone, what an unusual eclectic place we seem to have stumbled upon and had he eaten sourdough sandwiches before.
So, this week’s prompt is:


What can you do with this? Drop into a conversation you hear in the course of your day. Take one line from it and create your own story. Maybe you hear something illegal, how will you react? Do you hear somebody whispering about a person’s private diagnoses and then discover it is you they are talking about?
Use any of the conversations I heard, or one you were involved in. What did they mean and who are they? Remember to take your character on a journey and give them a problem.
Think about competitions, take it outside the box and give it a different spin. Could your main character work at GCHQ or for the FBI and could they be listening into the Chinese?
How much information can Amazon’s Alexa or firestick pass on to whom and are they really that interested in the family arguing over BBC or ITV? Or could you just be bugging the flowers in a hotel room of a VIP?
Please remember if you have your own project to work on, keep going with that and only use the prompts if you feel you need them.
100 words are just your start, try doing 100 words every day at the same time and let the story develop over the week. 100 words can take about 15 minutes. Can you steal that time back from your daily routine? Just a quarter hour!
Our next meeting will be Thursday 13 June at Conversion Studios in Milton, at 7.30pm.
Bring some work along to read out. It can stem from a prompt or it can be part of your ongoing project.
Keep Writing and keep submitting there are plenty of places online and in print for you to give it a go!


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Story Snippet – Edith

Stan wove the green spotted tie round pulling it as tight as he could manage.  His hands trembled. It had been years since he’d tied his own tie.  Edith had done that for him.

He checked himself in the mirror, a tear escaped.  Edith would have told him not to be so silly.  He wondered how he was to carry on without her, she had done everything for him.

A knock interrupted his thoughts.  Tom entered, his wife Stella stood behind him, both dressed in the formal black Edith hated.  “Ready Dad, the funeral car is out the front?”

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Story Snippet – Poppy

Standing tall, sentinel almost, the deep red caught the rising sun. A gentle breeze allowed it to sway chivalrous in its solitude.

Acres of grass reach out to the new day, not knowing it would be hay before the sun set again.   The solitary poppy splashed a transitory flash of colour in the golden field. A token to the once fallen soldier who fell at this point in a time far removed from today’s stillness.

The field next door where the battle main took place, is strewn with poppies; red, green and the occasional oxymoronic white one marching in the wind.   A constant reminder of the cruel history of this place; the blood, the innocence of youth and the reluctant all fallen together.

Next day the poppy lays felled, I pick it up.  Not for fodder this one but my table at home will offer it a final resting place.

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It came as much of a surprise to me as to many others I suspect.

I have noticed a determination to take my writing somewhere, this year, almost a hunger tinged still with a big sense of self-doubt. I take it along to my two writing groups monthly and receive feedback, sometimes really good, often advisory but always helpful.   We discuss often at length where stories can be sent, the opportunities seem to be diminishing in tandem with the number of writers increasing.

I have for the last couple of years braved my own limitations, to write two stories for the Writing Magazine, ‘Win a Place at Swanwick’, I have even with hours to spare sent them off, not expecting to ever hear of them again.  They have been critiqued sometimes quite severely, but in the end the resultant edited copy has been as good as I could make it, and I was happy to send it.  Naturally as soon as the winners were announced I checked, with that same comforting reassurance I check for the winners of the euromillions, consoling myself with ‘always another time’.  This year was no exception, two very deserved winners had won their places both with runners up who had done well to be placed so near the winners podium. ‘Maybe next year!’

It had been a busy day at work, many issues had cropped up with the website and try as I may they had not all been ironed out by the time I had to leave.  It goes against my nature to leave things unfinished, but this was bigger than me and to be fair I was picking up the pieces after another member of staff had left abruptly and nobody was able to cover her.   The problems migrated to my desk as I maintain the front-end web pages, those that the public hopefully see and buy from.  Her back-office side was like reading Japanese with the different wording, and coding.

I arrived home and opened my emails, I had one congratulating me on being shortlisted.  A jolt of excitement cursed through my body.  The mornings issues forgotten, I wondered what on earth he was talking about.  I had checked the winners already; there were no shortlisted names.   Another email congratulating me.  Time to log on.

They were right, the shortlisted writers’ names had been published that morning.  He was right, there in the list was ‘Tiggy Hayes’.  I sat heavily down and stared.   Waves of nausea coursed through me as the words wobbled on the screen. I looked again, it was still there on the screen.   I logged on to my laptop and went to twitter, yes it had been published there as well. I sent a text to Sexy Sporty Dad, “call me when you can”. I walked around and then went back to the screens.  They hadn’t changed.

Would I ever take this smile off my face.    I don’t think so.  Later I showed the whole family, this was one time when I was telling them about my success.

“Well do you win any money?”

“Will this mean your book will be published?”

“Will you be famous?”

No this means I am a writer, my name is in the same list with some writers who I admire, and it means that maybe I could make it in this business.  Do they not realise how big this is?  It releases a whole bucket load of self-doubt.  They are all very congratulatory and impressed that I am pleased even if they have no idea of the enormity of being shortlisted had on me.

I did force them to read it, even Sexy Sporty Dad took the time.  “Well somebody must have liked it, I didn’t understand it.”  Luckily Mini Son was able to explain it to him.

Yes, somebody did like it and they understood it enough to list me.   So where am I now? Still smiling, even more determined, and a lot more confident.  I may not have won the top prize, it will not deter me and  I will be going to Swanwick anyway, but I have won a whole lot more than just a prize.

I have sent off a story to the Bridport Prize, not because I expect to win, but I need to be sending out stories.  There are places if not Womags that want my stories but there are plenty of competitions around.

“You need to be in it to win it” was the lottery slogan, but that goes across the board.  If I don’t send off the story, I will never again be shortlisted or even reach the dizzy heights of winner.  Somewhere on some judging panel there are people on my wavelength just waiting for my offering.  So here they come!


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Stilettos – Story Snippet

She entered the room last, everybody turned to stare.  Her dress down to her ankles clung so tight to her slim body, it revealed nothing underneath.   It clung snakelike as she moved, the colours shimmering and catching in the light.   Rich colours, golds, reds, oranges all blending in shell like patterns; sprinkling of blues and greens softening the brightness.

She appeared tall, taller than most until your eyes could be torn away from the mesmerising fire red hair tumbling down her back in rivulets of semi-curl.   She walked with confidence and ease on the high single pin stilettos.   Gold with hints of red and orange. Straps of delicateness holding them seemingly in place.

Difficult to imagine then, the next time I would notice those shoes, they would be embedded in the large lifeless chest of Count Dergo.

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Zulu Warrior

I do not actually own a copy of “The Zulu Principle” by Jim Slater although I have often quoted the phrase.  Maybe if writing does not work out for me, it might be money well invested if I buy the book.   His book is about share dealing, but the principle he refers to is;  his wife having read a lot of information in a short space of time became an expert on the subject of Zulus.

I have no plans to learn about the minutiae of South African warriors but these past few weeks I have seen the principle at work as I investigate various subjects on behalf of clients and even middle son.

I was asked to give a presentation at a meeting recently.   I was terrified, just what could I talk about.  How would I convince my audience I was an expert, when really I had just fallen into the job and lacked the requisite skills any self-respecting boss would have asked for?   Weeks of not sleeping, were followed by days of researching my own documentation; had I really put all this together; it sounded quite professional.  I finally had a lot of information to deliver a long and boring essay on ‘how to market your company to the people who matter’. Thankfully for my listeners, I had a time restriction so cutting it down drastically was essential.  Is there an affinity with my writing here?  I found examples of adverts to back up my comments and produced a ‘free’ laminated tips sheet plastered with our logo, I was set.

‘Targeting your Marketing’ went well although my hand waving and exposition of examples was a deliberate ploy to cover the shaking.  The squeaky wobbly voice I heard in my ears seemed to come across as passion and knowledge. The questions afterwards, even though I talked almost to the end of my time, I knew the answers and others in the business actually concurred with my comments.    I was a Zulu Warrior.

Last week one of the girls I work with came to me with a problem our client had raised; regarding “reverse VAT”.  If you happen to work for an international trading VAT registered company, you know exactly what happens.  We were both stymied by how to account for this.    By the time she left me to go and see the client, we were not only whizzes at its meaning, we also knew how to deal with it for his system.  I did not mention to her she too is a Zulu Warrior.

I have managed to bag myself a client who askes for a monthly blog on some aspect of business.  Although not the writing I want to do, it does mean I have to sit down and put pen to paper or rather nails to keyboard, and I can charge for it.    This month they asked for guidance for their members on GDPR.   I would never give any admission to being anything remotely approaching an expert in this expansive subject and I did not feel that the blog post should tell people what to do as each company is individual and ‘no one size fits all’.  A lot of research was involved and the deeper I dug the more I realised just how big the subject was. Several re-writes later and the blog appeared on their website with a list of suggested areas for businesses to look at within their own organisation and hierarchy.  I am not sure there are any experts in this field, but I am most definitely just the apprentice.

When middle son and girlfriend approached us the other day to say they were planning to go to Australia for a year to work I was hit with the inevitable barrage of emotions; dread, fear, excitement, envy and joy that they are living their lives.   We have a ticket for them and that is where the adventure begins.   They will arrive in Adelaide in August.

They have plans but no knowledge how to get work, accommodation or travel across the country.   They also have no money!

I am emerging this weekend from downloads, emails, reviews about work visas, Australian tax rates not to mention job vacancies and youth hostels.   The pile of research material is mountainous, but I will work through it and by August they will have an itinerary and outline schedule and probably a pot of ‘borrowed money’ and I shall be as close to Zulu Warrior as it is possible to be.

How can I apply this ‘Zulu Principle’ to getting ‘Memories’ published? The research has already been done.  Maybe this was where I learnt to dig so deeply into my subject matter; I have lots of downloads on repressed memories and their re-emergence, not to mention family law and court procedure, although a bit of licence has been taken at this stage.

I have finished the latest edit, as I am sure there will be further ones. I tentatively handed over my edits to someone I work with to type up the corrections in the hope she will be able to add a few grammar or spelling changes as she goes through it.  A scary moment, even though a couple of beta readers have read very early versions.  This was like handing over my child to the nursery teacher, a deep emptiness suddenly as the draft I had been carrying round in my bag for weeks was no longer there.

Like a child I hope ‘Memories’ grows up to begin adventures of its own.










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New Chapters

I don’t even know where to begin…

2017 is done and maybe for the best.  There were many things that happened to me over the year but the one that will always be connected to that year will be the death of my mother.   I find that I struggle to take her out of the equation.  I was very wrapped up in her life and she in mine the older and more dependent she became.

My writing suffered badly particularly towards the end of the year.  That wasn’t all her fault or my reaction to her death but it started soon after Swanwick in August.  I came back full of inspiration and eager to build on the confidence gained both from attending the writing school and having been to Winchester Literary Festival earlier in the year.

As my mother deteriorated and went into hospital I spent weeks driving back and forward to hospital most days.  Juggling work, understanding bosses and getting very little sleep; writing became a distant dream. The fortnight after she died was a whirlwind of limbo.  Emotions stopped, autonomy kicked in and my body went on to autopilot, I ate because I had to produce food for others but there was no taste, no passion in the preparation, just functional.   I breathed because my body needed no input from me.  All real thought processes closed down, blocking any insight to my mind or heart.

The funeral was an ordeal, now head of the family it was up to me to lead the proceedings.   Not that anyone but me had that expectation.  Duty and family positioning is however, ingrained in the makeup of personality.   I have attended funerals in the past but never taken any notice of etiquette, order or ceremony.  This was up to me and as such with sibling help we did it how she wanted.  I know that because she had left copious notes with detailed instructions and she had gone through it with me so many times even as I determined that she would outlive us all.

Finally, that part was over and two days later, I was able to relax on board a cruise liner.  The holiday of a lifetime; years I had been building up to this and now it was here.  Like a coiled spring I walked onto the ship. My back, neck and all manner of limbs that I knew of, and ones I didn’t, wound so tight each step ached with pain and a deep longing to sleep forever.

For me, writing is a deep exposure of myself, my innermost thoughts and often feelings.   That is not to say all my novels are about me, but there are elements of my beliefs and hopes in each protagonist. My fears and hates wrap themselves tightly into the package of my antagonist and the journey of the story reflects my inner search to discover my part in the battle of good and evil.

I joined the cruise writing group, in a way it was an automatic response.   I had been planning to regale the small group with lots of anecdotes and stories of my favourite writing school or the trial of editing a book.  Instead I stayed quiet, not even sure I had the appetite to expose my words, let alone feelings to the world or a small intimate group of writing novices.  I hid in the corner where the first exercise ‘to write of someone in your past who meant a lot to you but is no longer with you’ caused more than its fair share of writers’ block as a crescendo of emotions crashed into my pen causing it to stop inscribing the letters.

I stuck with the group, quietly in my own world I tried the exercises, pretending to be a novice and scared to vocalise anything.  Some spark went deeper; overcoming the blank page. Back in the privacy of my cabin, Sexy Sporty Dad away at the gym or swimming pool, I tried more of the exercises.  By the return home, I had a collection of written mementos of the trip and rather than read them out, I emailed them to our tutor.   Weeks later a mail arrived in my inbox with a collation of the group’s writings set to pictures of the trip.  I was back in print.

Even in grief there is a cathartic component about writing and having started again I was not going to stop.  November arrived so quickly bringing in NANOWRIMO along with a long-awaited operation.  The letter waiting for me on my return from the cruise.   Timing could not be better four weeks of recuperation while I tried my hand at 50,000 words what could be easier.

I found it very difficult this year to concentrate on the story, my mind wandered and emotions erupted cascading down into a melting pot of contrasts.   I had time, but couldn’t focus.  I had a story plan but there were too many similarities to my life, real and imagined that were too raw to write.  My laptop constantly by my side but in too much pain to sit for long periods.   I did it, by some miracle I did manage only on the last day to pick up the additional word count, but I finished.   ‘Bucket List’ now joins ‘Destination’, ‘Mans’ World’ and ‘Scrum Down’ in my bottom draw waiting.  All quirky and basic, needing a lot of magic to transform them into novels but they are ready for when I am.

December came and went in a blur, as it always does.   A lot of build up and fractiousness beforehand and then it was over in a blur.  I am not sure how much I really felt or remember.  As a family we again all did our bit for the Community Christmas meal and returned home nourished by a peace and inner warmth that we had given something special back.  Our Christmas tree was still surrounded with presents and I managed to see my siblings, Sexy Sporty Dad’s family and my mother’s remaining family over the period.

January; I have woken up to a determination, raw and hungry.  I want this book out there.  ‘Memories’ has been too long in the writing and editing stages it is time to move on and produce it.   A good friend of mine who has many books to his name, produced his current work in progress as an edit copy paperback.  He finds it easier to read a book than a tablet or laptop.

I took his advice.  The thrill, anticipation and excitement that bubbled over as I opened the package was a moment I want to savour forever.  There is only one way to feel like that again and that is to get on and publish.  So back to the book for me then.

2018, I hope is the year that Tiggy Hayes makes her debut into the world of publishers and a whole new scary journey.






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Tribute: Paddy Lawrence

It has been a whirlwind and maybe I have survived and maybe I didn’t, I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure I never want to go through that again.  The other thing that is sure is that I never will.  The death of a parent is a unique event that can only occur twice.  I was protected in many ways when my father died not least by the strength of my mother’s protection and the birth of Mini Son.

In August, I went to my favourite place on earth, back to the home I draw my inspiration, my determination and my support; Swanwick.  For a whole week, I was myself; a writer.  Whether I am any good, will ever be published or will always just post blogs or articles for my clients doesn’t seem to matter there.  I am a writer and accepted for my choice to be one.

Even before I left for Swanwick, I had concerns, my mother wasn’t well, she was struggling but then these days she did that, a lot.  Few people really knew how she struggled.  This, however, was early in the season for her to be so melancholy and defeatist but I knew she’d be ok.  Number 1 Son would look in regularly on her, probably each time he got hungry so most evenings; she would love that.

I returned and found her cheerful and determined to attend her granddaughters 21st. It was a family affair and I knew she was determined to walk along the shoreline, she said one more time before she dies, but so often had she said that.  She loved that party and it was certainly her last embedded memory while she was lucid.

By the following weekend even I realised she was not well.

Born the youngest of 8 children, Paddy never met her older sister Mickey who had died of meningitis before she was born.  The first clue to her character was the flaming red hair, typical of the family and their Irish heritage and a hint at the determination and vivacious person she became.

Born in Portsmouth, she’d just started school when war broke out. Evacuated aged 9 with her 3 sisters to a convent school in Wales she was able to be herself, learn, have fun and get up to all the mischief you would expect from a boarding school.  She loved her school days and it was where she met her best friend to this day Anne. She and Anne shared everything, rooms, homework, detentions.  Both incredibly sporty, played for the school in various sports, gaining love and respect from the nuns.  They grew up passed their exams and both set off on different paths.

Paddy went to St Marys Hospital Paddington as a trainee nurse.  She enjoyed the work, she valued the camaraderie and she loved the social life.  She found herself out on a blind date with a dashing young doctor making up the numbers at the Doctors’ ball. One morning found her camped out on the streets of London with a group of nurses.  They found a corner where a group of royal marines were stationed in front of them to guard the young Princess Elizabeth as she made her way to her coronation.  A day of flirting and banter followed.

Anne then joined St Marys and they ended up sharing a flat in London until Anne introduced the man she was to marry who would become a life-long friend to Paddy and her future family. The two recognised each other from their blind date.

Private nursing took her away from the high life until she was offered a job as the nurse aboard the cruise liner Arcadia, where her love of gin was certainly enhanced.  She travelled the world meeting an array of people and visiting many a port. One of only a few people to celebrate their birthday twice in the same year.  They sailed in a westerly direction on the 18th January, reaching the international date line in time to celebrate the 18th January her birthday, all over again.   Somewhere round the other side they missed a whole day but that is not documented or remembered on the same scale.

Sadly her mother fell ill and passed away so she returned to look after her father in the quiet village of Topsham.   The most momentous milestone in her life was about to hit her full force and one she would never recover from.

Just a regular night out at the Diggers Rest in Woodbury Salterton with her father, her sister Norah and brother John who was staying. They came across a couple of young Marines who joined them for a rather long and definitely raucous late night.    Peter Lawrence was entranced and despite their courtship taking place mainly through letters, (he was posted away and she went to Kenya to help her sister-in-law with the birth of their third child) they married a year later.  Apparently, several years earlier he had guarded the Princess Elizabeth on her Coronation day and was entertained on his corner by a group of young nurses.

Their first Christmas, 9 months later was spent in Topsham.  The following day as the snow began to fall, Peter left a heavily pregnant Paddy to go back to work.  She would follow a few days later.   The snow continued.

By her due date, 7th January, she had ventured out a few times but returned unsuccessful.   Determined she packed the car, her father drove and sister Frannie followed behind.   It took all day to precariously pick their way to Aldershot, slipping, sliding and stopping. The baby staying put till the 12th.   It was 3 months before the roads were clear enough for her father to return home.

Peter finally left the forces and enrolled in teacher training college in Devon.  They found the perfect house for them, The Vroe!   It was old and needed more than a lot of TLC but she was a Lawrence now and the village Clyst St Lawrence. 3 toddlers, a tiny baby, several chickens and a puppy, in an old style mini-van she left Fordingbridge and drove to Devon.  Another chapter began.

While Peter studied, and looked for employment she became one of the first mothers working from home around her still increasing family.  She had, against the doctors wishes had two more children.   Now they needed feeding.

Somewhere the money came to buy two properties in Exeter which she converted into flats and let out.  Friday night was rent night and Peter was dispatched to collect the rents and a new trend of picking up a Chinese takeaway on the way home.  As the market became more difficult the properties were finally sold.

She renovated section by section the home opening it as a very upmarket B&B for executive business men.   Three course meals, gin, wine, after dinner drinks and the cigars took their toll on not only her waistline but her health.  Undeterred she built a swimming pool and tennis court in the uncharted areas of the garden and opened a school for foreign students.   The world was in turmoil and getting your children out of Italy, Spain and Iran if you were someone of note was imperative to keep them alive.  Black limos, bulging suits and brown envelopes of used notes peppered her life.  The excess land was home to Susie the Jersey cow, all the pigs and chickens and geese and any other animals that passed through the family.

The world moved on and children stayed with their families, the school was diminishing.

Paddy loved antiques, houses and furniture, she took to attending auction houses.  One trip took her all the way to the barbican in Plymouth where she espied a craft centre in a warehouse. That night she uttered the dreaded words “I have an idea”

Peter and the family braced themselves and before long she had all the children, and former teachers working at her coffee shop where her love of cream teas had the opportunity to thrive correctly; cream first and then jam….  The remaining building, she let out to local crafters on Exeter Quay.

Several years later the local council forced a sale to pass on to a developer.  Reluctantly she gave up the craft centre.  Little did she realise the smart offices that were developed on the site were to be inhabited by WS Atkins who in years to come would employ her future son in law; Sexy Sporty Dad.

She took a job down the road on a building development and began a long chapter in her life selling houses. Her own property development taking a dive when having bought and converted a couple of barns, a battle with the builders left them bankrupt.

Time moved on and she went back to studying and became a reflexologist working from home while Peter who had retired by now, battled his own health issues. Another court battle over buying their home caused them to move out for 6 months into the home of good friends Diana and James.

Suddenly the light went out of her life with the death of her beloved Peter and she had to carry on alone.  The last 15 years of her life were a struggle, she missed him terribly but managed to sell and buy two properties on her own, she fought to keep driving until she no longer had any feeling in her feet and made a multitude of friends in new areas.

On her 70th Birthday she flew to Hong Kong by herself to visit her daughter Siobhan.  On her 80th Birthday she brought together friends and family back to The Vroe, for a weekend party.  She joined family on a mini-cruise to Amsterdam and flew to Cork to visit her father’s childhood home, being invited in to look around by the current owner. Her grand-daughter Millie’s 21st was her last party.  Surrounded by her grandchildren whom she adored and was so proud of, she wined and dined in true Lawrence style.

She will leave a gaping hole in the fabric of all our lives but we do know she is at peace and with the one person she loved the most – Peter

What’s left for me anger, fear and hope.

Anger that she was let down by the NHS who she had served and defended for so much of her life.  Anger that I spent so long with her but I ended up not making it back in time leaving my youngest sister alone at the moment of her passing.   Anger that she will never get to read Memories, I think she would have loved the story and seen so much of herself in some characters but she always said ‘I will read it when its published’.

Fear of the future without her, my life revolved around her more than I realised; how will I adjust.  Fear for my own old age; as things start to stop working as well as they should, I don’t want to be dependent, ill or old.  Fear of failing to recognise the chances I have now while I’m still able to do something about them.

Hope that now she is at peace with my father who she never got over.  Hope that we gave her the send-off she really could have been proud off. Hope that in the future I show a bit of that in-dominatable spirt and do what I set out to do; because maybe that saying is just to accurate; life is too short.

My determination is now to finish ‘Memories’ and hope that wherever she is, she will get the opportunity to read the published version.



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Owl – Story Snippet

Hours of endless waiting; I stayed.  I drove to you daily.  I slept on the chair resting my head on your bed, many a time.  I held your hand and fed you sips of water if nothing else. I listened to your cries of no more and tried to reassure you; till in the end I too, cried “enough”.

You hovered between him and me for days longer than we thought possible, till they said “go home, rest, we will call you”

Too long; was the journey and the phone rang as I arrived.   I drove.  Speed limits blurred.

A white owl was waiting for me, half way, and flew across my windscreen. I nearly crashed.


I arrived 20 minutes later; a hug from the nurse “she’s gone”. Pale but peaceful you began your eternal rest, free from pain and suffering.

Hours later; numb, guilt ridden at not being there, angry with the world, I drove homewards.   As tears and emotion threatened my driving.  An owl, white and beautiful flew ahead of my car guiding it back to the road.

Then I understood.

7.30 you left to go to my father.  His claim stronger than mine now.


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