It’s half way through January. Christmas and New Year have been and gone. In our house, all that remains are a couple of yellow, deconstructed sprouts in the bottom tray of the fridge, six (gifted) packs of ‘After Eight Mints’ and various boxes and cartons of chocolates with only the dodgy coffee cream and coconut varieties left that none of us like.
So, how many of you are still hanging in there with your New Year’s resolutions? You’ll be impressed to know I haven’t broken any yet (although mainly because I didn’t make any!) I figured after the year I’d had, health and writing wise in 2016, 2017 could only be better. 2016 could be defined by two words. NO WRITING. Or, perhaps I should say; ‘pain and sleep.’
Both RNA parties and various writing events and meet ups fell victim. For the first time since joining the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, I missed the Conference, usually one of the highlights of my year. My 50th Birthday celebrations were lovely but muted and I was unable to host the sacrosanct Romaniac Sparkle Weekend. The bilateral jaw joint replacements I’d had in 2010 were not working and numerous tests and an exploratory manipulation of my jaws early in the year showed my mouth opening was less than half a centimetre. One side was encased by new bone growth.
All I could eat was soup, shepherds pie, lasagne and soft foods from a small spoon. Eating in public became a no no. As my jaws deteriorated, I became hyper conscious of the pitiful ventriloquist’s dummy act my poor mouth attempted when forced to talk. Those who know me well will understand why I chose to hermit. Morphine patches and top ups of extra morphine and analgesia helped, (or maybe caused) the excessive drowsiness. Whatever; morphine and sleep became my best friends in 2016.
We take for granted the simplest actions of eating, sneezing, yawning and brushing teeth. When these basics became almost unbearable, my Maxillo Facial surgeon asked if he could consult with my original surgeon who had since retired and see whether there was anything they could do. Several weeks later I was advised that my original surgeon had agreed to come out of retirement and together they would try a major and risky operation. There were no guarantees. If the pain improved, that was a bonus, but the main proviso of going ahead was simply to help give me back a quality of life.
13th October was D Day, and, by coincidence, six years to the day since I’d had the bilateral total jaw replacements.
It’s been a long and painful recovery. As a result of the surgery I’ve developed hyperacusis and vertigo which has hindered progress but in terms of the work the wonderful surgeons did to free up my jaw prosthetics, it’s still early days, but it seems to have been a huge success. 2016 wasn’t a complete wipe out after all and the highlight of my year was being able to stuff a whole mince pie in my mouth at once! Beat that!
Not being a lover of New Year, I’d planned to go to Northumberland for Twixmas but cancelled at a low point post surgery to give a good friend chance to re hire their cottage out. However, as I improved and both my lads made plans, I got the itch to take off on an adventure, have some space, maybe do some writing. I had no intention of sitting home alone on New Years Eve to enjoy a solitary evening with the BBC and Robbie Williams, toasting Bruno, my Labrador! So guess where I ended up? Charlestown, in St Austell. Yes, I know it’s even further than Northumberland and I must be mad but I paced myself by stopping over in Glastonbury, my spiritual home, to split the journey.
For six days I relaxed, breathed in huge lungfuls of sea air to heal and blow away the past months. In between I secreted myself in the quiet corners of restaurants and pubs, and wrote. Yes, I wrote! I can’t tell you how good it felt to scribble again, to watch the words and scenes flow effortlessly across the various notebooks I’d received for Christmas. By the end of my break I’d added about eight chapters, plotted the main twists and turns and written the ending of Country Strife, my second novel.
So, to 2017 …
When I got the email from Immi inviting me to re-join the NWS this year I replied instantly to take up my place. I missed seeing my RNA friends and the Romaniac girls last year; the support, comparing progress, the banter, the fun. All the Romaniac girls are now published, agented and have book deals. Except me. In 2016 I felt less and less able to contribute to our daily messages and to add anything other than congratulations to peers on social media. There is never any sense of competitiveness within the RNA or with the Romaniacs but seeing so many RNA friends enjoy publication days, book deals and to see their new relationships with publishers and agents etc, I realised I was being left behind.
Health is the most important thing in life, next to family and friendships and I have to accept, for me it will always be a challenge. I’ve realised I may never fulfil my full potential. But I have to keep trying. Having made the inroads with Country Strife, I’m going to type up what I scribbled in Cornwall and fill in the gaps. With the jaw surgery behind me and less pain and renewed energy, writing shouldn’t feel such an uphill struggle so I’ll push ahead while the going is good. And as if by magic, this years RNA Conference returns to Harper Adams, just up the road in Telford, so there’s no excuse for not attending.
I welcome 2017 warmly. I wish those of you who choose to get up super early to go jogging or head straight to spin class after work, and my sons who have replaced the selection boxes with boxes of protein shakes and dumb bells all the best. However, as long as I can limit my wine intake and reduce portion sizes, instead of resolutions for 2017, I’ll make three promises to myself:-
1/ I WILL finish Country Strife to send off to NWS – aiming for Easter. You heard it here first.
2/ I WILL go to the RNA conference in July.
3/ I WILL live well and enjoy every day of my 50th year as best I can.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2017 too. Let me know any promises you’ve made to yourself…
Until next time