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suzannebowditch

Writer of historical fiction, blogger, mum, pet lover :)

Month

March 2015

Waiting

Today’s subject is about waiting. It could be about waiting for anything that you can think of in your life. I have thought long and hard about what to write (am I getting writer’s block already?).
What has come to mind is waiting for my first child to be born. You may think that I’m thinking about the actual nine months that a woman waits to have her baby, but I am remembering a more specific time – the actual labour.
My labour started on a Saturday morning. I was shopping at my local town centre, at Port Talbot, south Wales. I started to feel twinges across my abdomen, which started to feel more and more uncomfortable. I remember talking to people that I knew, such as an old boss of mine. The dates of my pregnancy meant that I still had another week to go, so I wasn’t sure whether it was indigestion…or baby. So, Saturday after noon, we trotted off to the hospital, to be told that ‘Baby was too far off yet.’
I went home and the pains stayed around the same for most of that day, but continued throughout the night (1st night). I felt really uncomfortable all of Sunday morning, so we went back to the hospital for a second time. Again, the nurses sent us back home, telling us that ‘The baby is still well off yet, come back in a few hours, and remember to rest to keep up your energy.’ You can imagine our frustration.
My husband, (not having read anything very much on dealing with childbirth) had heard that eating lots of pasta in labour kept up your energy levels, so he went straight to the kitchen to put on a large pot. He then made sure I was comfortable on the couch. He put a DVD on (a light-hearted romantic comedy) ….and we waited.
All Sunday evening I had contractions, but even though they didn’t seem to be getting any worse, they were enough to stop me from sleeping properly (2nd night). Every time I dropped off to sleep, a contraction woke me. Needless to say, by Monday morning, I was exhausted.
I had an appointment at the hospital for Monday morning anyway, so, with contractions still coming strong, we went. I was examined by the doctor, and finally admitted in to have the baby. But, I was exhausted. Monday night they gave me some pain relief, and I could finally sleep comfortably (3rd night). Oh, the relief I felt was indescribable!
Liam was born at 10.35 am on the Tuesday morning. He was a healthy 9lbs 4ounces, with an exhausted but happy mum and dad. A child’s birth is such a personal experience. The outcome of all the pain, exhaustion and anxiety ends in such a positive outcome – a new baby. Our journey into parenthood had just started, and took three days and three nights to lead to any fruition. One thing that I do remember following those first few weeks with our baby is that we ignored all advice from family and friends and hardly opened any baby books. The waiting was over for us – until the next time.

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Hope

I am now halfway through the 500 words a day challenge. It is day 16, and I am feeling the strain of writing, to be honest. I am also not sure what to write about today, so it is going to be a complete ramble.
The inspiration behind the challenge, Jeff, seems to have anticipated this (he has probably felt like this himself!), so has offered lots of encouraging words – telling us ‘not to quit’ and to have hope in our ability to become writers.
I am so glad for his words of encouragement, as I confess I have reached a stalemate. The silver lining though, is that I am still researching and writing my novel. It is based on one woman’s journey as he is transported to Van Diemen’s Land as a female convict. I am also planning to visit Tasmania in August, to get an actual ‘feel’ for the lives of the convicts that were incarcerated in Port Arthur, in particular the women who worked in the Female Factories as prisoners – how did they cope with the isolation, desolation? How did they look after their children who were sent with them?
It is a fascinating period of Australian history, and one that I am interested in the most. Considering Australia has had white occupation for not much more than 200 years, an awful lot happened to the convicts and maritime people that were sent here. There are a few memoirs written by convicts who escaped several times. One in particular, Martin Cash, escaped at least twice from Port Arthur, and ended up as a policeman on Norfolk Island. Their lives are the stuff of adventures which are incredible to believe. They say that ‘fact is more interesting than fiction’ and it is most certainly true for the people for first colonised Australia.
This afternoon, I made apple crumble and custard. I have not made this dish in years, so looked a recipe up on the internet, so found an American version of apple crumble which used rolled oats for the crumble. Jeff and the children enjoyed it but it was not my finest work!
We have settled down with a film fest this evening. There is still the remains of cyclone Nathan outside, as the rain is lashing down the window, and we can see and hear the thunder and lightning. On evenings like this, I am reminded of the weather in Wales where rain was never far away. It is a nice cosy feeling.
The films we are watching are The Holiday and The Bounty. One is a romantic comedy, and one a historical adventure. Both are oldies but goodies. The Bounty is a taste of Australian history, which I am full into at the moment. The other one is a bit corny, with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet – at a time when they were in their prime!
Well, I have written some words, and am pleased with myself. Being a writer is something that I wish to aspire to whatever shape or form it takes. On an ending note – I sent off one of my short stories to a woman’s magazine this week, with the hope of having it published. There is up to six months waiting until they get back to me – but I live in hope. I will carry on writing regardless.

My parents

My parents divorced when I was 18 years of age. Even though I knew that they weren’t getting along (and hadn’t been for years) it still came as a bit of a shock for my brother and I. When we were younger, my father ran the local football club, in which my brother played for. My brother is 3 years younger that I am, and was close to my father when he was 10-12 and playing on my dad’s team, but my father was not really happy when my father’s interests turned to karate instead. My brother was now going to his karate lessons with his friends, and not going to football with my dad. When I was the same age, my interests were books, boys and pop stars (not necessarily in that order!). I think this distance between us in our younger years may have disappointed my father all his life.
When I got married and had my own children, the situation between my father and mother never improved. Having children just highlighted this. They had to attend birthday parties for both mine and my brother’s children (there are four grandchildren altogether) and this was a real discomfort for them. At one memorable party that I gave for Liam (his 5th), my mother was seen practically running down the road from where the party was, when she spotted my father enter the room. If they happened to ‘clash,’ when one was babysitting and the other showed up unexpectedly, then there was a quick rush to ‘get out of there.’ I could never resolve this behaviour in my head. It seemed to me that my father was still in shock from the divorce, and desperately wanted to talk about it with my mother. He never had that opportunity, because she never gave it to him. It was sad to watch.
When Jeff and I decided to emigrate, I think both of my parents thought that they had pushed me away with their behaviour. This was not the case, but I could never get them to believe this, so wrapped up were they in their own hurtful feelings towards each other. I had wanted to go to college from school, and then to travel, but I hadn’t plucked up the courage to do so. The opportunity to travel and live in another country was too tempting to refuse, it was such an exciting time for us.
It was when we were living in Australia for 7 months when my brother phoned and told me that my dad had died. Even now, after living in Australia for nearly 10 years, it is surreal to me that he has gone. My mother visited me after he died, and she was so much more upset than I. She got drunk one night and let rip. Even though I had witnessed and heard her grievances against him before, it still felt shocking to me. I felt like I was back in Wales, and nothing seemed to have changed. Her reactions to his death felt weird considering their animosity when they were both alive. Their bond had certainly never diminished. As I have got older, I have realised that witnessing my parent’s relationship has taught me the various nuances of love, and its complications. That will always be my parents’ legacy to me.

Food

I have always had a love of food. Food plays a major part of my social life. For me, it is one of the main pleasures in life, and when I think about getting together with family or friends, or going out and socialising, then preparing or ordering food is a must.
When I remember taking my children out to the park to play when they were younger, food was always a part of the pleasure of the afternoon. From feeding the ducks, enjoying and ice cream, having a nice picnic, or eating a bag of chips on the way home, tired but happy, food has played a large role.
When we moved to Australia, we were so excited to be introduced to new foods. There is a large Asian influence on the Gold Coast, so we enjoyed trying out the Thai, Chinese and Japanese restaurants in our new neighbourhood. I remember Liam (who was 9 years old at the time) coming home from school and telling us that he had sushi at school! We had hardly even heard of this food, so went out to the nearest sushi restaurant and sat looking at these little rice dishes as they revolved around the restaurant on miniature railway tracks! To this day, one of my favourite foods is sushi, and my daughter agrees. We always plump for the tuna dishes with lots of soy sauce.
One weekend in the month, Jessica and I have a baking weekend. We spend most of the day in the kitchen, and bake goodies such as pasties, cheesecake, and caramel slices. We don our pinnies to look the part – I have a Welsh dragon on mine, and Jessica has a frilly pink one – so cute! We look at different recipes online, and this weekend it’s going to be apple crumble and custard, and a nice savoury beef pie. For St David’s Day a few weeks ago (March 1st) we made Welsh cakes which were eaten 10 mins flat!
At our house last night, we had some ‘dramas.’ My son is seeing a lovely girl called Nikki. They have been going out for over a year, but at just 17 years and in her last year at school, her parents do not want her to have any distractions, including having a boyfriend. They have laid down the law in no uncertain terms, and Liam and Nikki have decided to cool off their relationship for a while. As the drama unfolded last night, Liam became annoyed and frustrated that they are treating them so cavalierly by banning them from seeing each other. Her dad reminds me of a very strict Victorian father. Needless to say, food played its role as a comforting influence last night – Liam went out for a takeaway and came back with a MacDonald’s. We sat down and ate the greasy fries and burgers and tried to put it all to rights – how food can give you courage!
Food is a pleasure when things are ‘right’ in the world, and a comfort when things go ‘wrong.’ A world without food would be a very desolate place indeed. It is a main part of the way we socialise, communicate and share our emotions. It has gone way beyond the notion of ‘eating to survive,’ in a physical sense, but is an integral part of our emotional existence too.

Jessica

I was 38 years old when I found out that I was having my second child. I had Liam who was approaching 5 years old, and I was starting to feel ready for a new baby. Liam was also at school, so it felt that the time was right.
Throughout my pregnancy with Liam, I was working full time. Now though, I was part time, so had more time for shopping for the new baby, and resting more. We had a scare during that time, however, as we were told during the scans that the baby had a 75% chance of being a Down’s baby. I had to go immediately to the Heath hospital in Cardiff for a new procedure to be down. It was a nail biting 5 days wait, but the hospital told us that I had a perfectly healthy baby – and it was a girl! I remember being so relieved that I burst into tears, of both relief and joy.
The rest of my pregnancy went really smoothly. Now that we knew the baby was a girl, we started to choose names. For Liam’s 5 birthday, I threw a joint party for him and a little friend, Jessica. Liam loved that name, and after looking through numerous baby books, and tossing up between Chloe, Sophie or Jessica, it was Liam who decided it. I also gave myself a chance to relax and enjoy this pregnancy, as I was thrilled to be having my ‘pigeon pair’ (this is a saying when a woman has a boy, then a girl, weird but true!). I allowed myself extra treats and we certainly had a few takeaways, I can tell you.
The original date of the pregnancy was set for a few days before Christmas, 2001. So, we went out and bought stockings for all four of us, and proudly put Jessica’s up alongside ours. We were so excited that the baby was on its way, like an extra Christmas present.
Well, Christmas came and went. New Year’s Eve came and went. Still no baby. At two weeks overdue, I went into hospital with a determination on my face, ‘I will not leave this hospital without my baby!’ I spent a few impatient days watching other mums going down the delivery room in fits of agony, but still no sign of mine. Jessica was finally born on a lovely sunny afternoon, at 3.50pm, after I was induced several times. She was a whopping 9lbs 14 ounces in weight and was gorgeous. She looked so much like her brother Liam that I kept calling her Liam for days after. She has also a very sweet, sunny disposition and was always smiling. She hardly ever cried, but just snuffled around her cot a bit when she was hungry. I left the hospital the very next day after having her which felt a bit rushed but was glad to be bringing my baby home.
Today, she still has an easy going sunny nature that makes her so liked by all.

My favourite authors

My favourite author of all time is Stephen King. He is a master of storytelling, and I stand in awe of the different stories/characters/plots that he puts into each book. His stories are more often than not set in his home state of Maine, and each novel sometimes refers back to other events from his previous novels. This makes te reader feel at home, as if they too are part of the small town gossip, I believe that this involvement of the reader is the key to his success. I read his novels as a teenager – Carrie, Salem’s Lot, Misery. When I had my children, reading went onto the backburner of life. Now that my children are older and less dependent on me, I have rediscovered my love of reading, and have embraced Mr King’s novels again. To me, there are like putting on an old pair of comforting slippers, as he draws you into his stories, and never forgets that you are there. Recent favourites of mine include Insomnia, Bag of Bones, Rose Madder, Dr Sleep, Under the dome and 22/11/63 (this time travel one I loved!). Stephen King’s books also led me to enjoy British horror writers such as James Herbert and Graham Masterton, who I still love to this day.
Another favourite is Wilbur Smith. His Egyptian sagas River God and The Seventh Scroll stand out as very enjoyable reads. I just loved the tale of the Egyptian princess and her slave navigating down the River Nile in order to find its source. The sequel to this The Seventh Scroll, is set in modern times and in the Egyptian period. The modern story involves treasure hunters that are searching for lost Egyptian gold and treasures at the very spot where it has been hidden over 2,000 years previously. I haven’t read any other books by Mr Smith however, and I know they are set in Africa, but these two novels are stand outs for me.
In my youth, I was also very fond of Catherine Cookson novels. They were all set in the north of England, namely Yorkshire and were set arounf the people living in the 19th century. The novels emphasis the harshness of lives living near the coal pits; the poverty and disillusionment of many people enduring cold and bleak existences whilst trying to feed families, work long hours in the pits, and survive. The novels usually focus on one main character, a female, and the harshness of her life set around the cold, bleak Yorkshire moors. I loved the way she wrote, and learnt a lot about how people lived in those days, before votes, rights, benefits, or the comforts of modern living.
My favourite childhood author is CS Lewis and his stories set in Narnia. I had the whole collection of these stories, and my favourite is the most popular one, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Fabulous childhood stories of fantastic mythical creatures such as fauns and fairies, before Harry Potter came along with his wizards. I have also read all the Harry Potter books, and find then lovely reading for both adults and children alike. The Narnia tales will always have a special place though, as being a part of my childhood.

Letter of Appeal

As an aspiring writer of fiction, I signed up for a writing challenge on line. The aim was to write at least 500 words over a 31 day period. This amounts to over 15,000 words by the end of the challenge. This is day 11, and I am not sure what to write!
I have found some inspiration from Jeff and Christine Goins themselves, who have originally set up the challenge. They have suggested that we write a 500 word ‘appeal letter’ for any cause that is nearest to your heart.
I have thought long and hard about this challenge. I know that what is close to my heart is helping animals in need. The cause I feel strongly about is the blatant exploitation of elephants who are used as performing circus attractions, and also the cruel practices of bear baiting and the treatment of bears as ‘dancing bears’ as an attraction. Behind the scenes of these attractions are mistreatment, cruelty and deprivation.
Elephants in circuses for example, are shackled together and confined to small spaces when they are not performing grotesque acts for money. Whilst they are being ‘trained’ to perform demeaning acts such as standing on tiny boxes, or rearing up and walking on two legs around the ring, they are beaten into submission until the owners are satisfied that they can perform properly.
Bears are taken as small cubs from the wilds, and then beaten and starved into submission. They have their claws clipped off and have unsightly rings put through their noses as they are shackled to a post and used barbarically in the ancient practice of bear baiting. Whilst they are tethered helplessly, the bears have to defend themselves as numerous dogs are set upon them. The dancing bears are reared from cubs to stand up on their hind legs and ‘dance’ for the tourists. They are malnourished, as they are given just scraps and rubbish to eat. It is barbaric the cruelty at the hands of their owners for small change.
My appeal is to help these animals to lead normal and healthy lives, safe and secure in their own natural environment. Sadly, many of the animals are so used to living such degradation, they couldn’t live independently. Animal sanctuaries must be continuously funded in order that the animals have a quality of life that they are lacking. Funding needs to be ongoing and continuous, as there are sadly so many animals in need today.
I think it is a reflection on the social and economic ‘mess’ in many countries across the world that humans have to use animals in such barbaric practices in order to eke out a meagre living. They regard the animals as nothing more than a commodity to be exploited, which is an abhorrent and cruel regard for our environment and the animal kingdom. As humans on this planet, we have been given the knowledge to look after our environment, which includes our responsibilities to our wildlife. Let’s hope we learn this lesson before it’s not too late.

Rugby

I’m Welsh. Being a Welsh person in Wales (or anywhere around the world), means that on MUST watch and support rugby. In Wales, rugby is a passion, a calling, a religion. My first childhood years are sitting in my bedroom listening to my father, his work mates, and the neighbours yelling at the small box in the corner known as the ‘telly’ whilst Wales was on. There was lots of screams, profanities and “For God’s sake, get the ball!” Saturday afternoon when the rugby was showing, was like attending church, but with a lot more swearing going on. One memorable year, I spent the rugby afternoon redecorating my bedroom. I remember it was a warm Saturday afternoon, and my bedroom windows were open. I can still recall the shouts of glee when Wales scored, from downstairs in the living room, to the shouts of the neighbors across the road…’Come on, Wales!’ will always be a part of my memories.
Our next door neighbor was an Indian man, and a great friend of my father. Saga was in charge of the hottest curries ever, which were usually eaten after the game, and digested in glee if we had won, or to add to our sorrows, if we had done the unthinkable and lost a match. The biggest disappointment of losing, was losing to England. Any Welshman will tell you that ‘We don’t mind losing to anyone but the English!’ If ever they lose to the English, the moans can be heard across this small but significant land – from the mountains in north Wales and up and down the valleys of south Wales. All are united in the joy or disappointment of a Welsh rugby outcome.
In those days (around the 70’s) the Welsh team was on a roll. The top team players were Gareth Edwards, Mervyn Davies, and JPR Williams. This was the days before rugby became a professional sport, so the players had jobs as well, and played rugby for the pure honour of ‘playing for Wales.’ JPR Williams, for example, was a doctor, so he was regarded as a god where he worked at the hospital. They were all gods in our eyes, because they played for their country, the passionate and irreplaceable Wales.
The Six Nations Cup (Known as the Five Nations before Italy got involved), was, and always will be, the most important event in a Welshman’s calendar (not forgetting the women and children!). For a Welshman, it means that the red colours can be worn, with the leeks, daffodils and Welsh dragons that add to the passion of a Welsh rugby supporter. So, on the Six Nations Day when Wales is playing against Ireland in the Millennium Stadium at Wales’ capital, Cardiff, the daffodils will be flying around the stadium, and the Welsh songs will be in full force. They’ll be singing ‘Land of Our Fathers,’ and chanting ‘Oggi, oggi, oggi, oi, oi, oi!’ with a fervor that has to be seen to be believed. Rugby runs through Welsh Celtic blood, and is a part of our very existence… and long may it be so.

Writing

Ok, so I have been seriously writing for over a week now (10 days to be precise) and am finding it a new and enjoyable experience. Apart from the fact that I am writing about things that I had thought that I’d long forgotten about? I realise how much that I have missed putting words down onto paper, as I was required to do whilst studying for my degree.
It is a cathartic experience to put down your own thoughts on any subject that you can remember from your memories of life. For my own experiences, at the age of 50 + years (say this quietly!), I have married, had two children and numerous jobs (including retail, nursing and office work). I have moved my family across the world, from our native Wales (which I still miss wholeheartedly) to Australia. Not only that, but we have settled into one of the hottest parts of Australia: Queensland.
The humidity levels in summer are always over 90%, so the heat is tremendous to cope with. Not for us the coolness of South Australia or Tasmania (minus degrees in the winter), but no, the hot and humid QLD! The scenery here is fantastic though, and it was this that inspired me to ‘think’ more or hence write down more of this new environment that I was now a part of.
Writing is one of the new experiences of my new life, and one that I am sure I will continue. I have had an interest in the history of Australia for quite a while, especially the convict era. I have wanted to put my own slant onto the experiences of the women convicts of that time, and the challenges they must have faced. They had no choice but to ‘get on with it’ and to live their lives (and that of their children) as best they can.
I have taken numerous books out of the library on the subject, and am eagerly starting researching the subject matter for what is to be my first book! Even saying those words sounds surreal to me – but in a good way!
On a last note, I went out for coffee with my two closest friends here on the Gold Coast. As it was my birthday, I had cards and gift vouchers – one was a book voucher for $25. What shall I buy? Another fab Stephen King book? A historical novel by Fiona MacIntosh? Or a contemporary novel from a book club recommendation? Mmmmmm… ‘The Girl On the Train’ by Paula Hawkins is supposed to be real good!
I am going to enjoy looking anyway. I also has a voucher from a department store which will be a good one to browse for.
On a last, last note…my hubby and I are childless for this Saturday night. My son is at a gig with his band and my daughter is at a sleepover. Is this the sign of things to come? Not quite yet I hope…

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