It feels like I haven’t written any updates for you in ages as things have been tough health-wise recently. I seem to say this often but I didn’t think that I’d make it up to Hebden Bridge a few times because I was struggling.
With a dodgy eye, heart and various other problems starting to feel insurmountable, I took a deep breath and decided to climb the mountain of a seven plus hour drive through packed roads filled with cones and non-existent road workers. Normally, it would take four hours to reach Nottingham but we hit it at the five and a half hour mark which I’m pretty sure felt like longer. The road signs kept telling me not to drink and drive but by the time we reached the junction to Huddersfield, I was wondering if drinking might have helped!
If you’ve never been there, from Huddersfield to Halifax to Hebden Bridge, there is so much beauty, it calms even the sorest of eyes. If you know of Edinburgh’s Old Town or the Cotswolds or Bath stone, you’ll be able to picture the master craftsmanship of every house and mill chiselled into shape. Set that against mountains, hills and valleys lush with the deepest greens and vivacious rivers and you realise you’re driving through a masterpiece. It’s really no wonder that creativity blossoms in such amazing settings.
We were lucky enough to stay in Cragg Vale (and their holiday lets) which had everything. You could move in easily and the owners left the kind of welcome touches that lifted me even as exhausted as I was. I seriously recommend them and they are officially Ferb-sanctioned.
Unfortunately I had a rough night (unsurprisingly) with Ferb doing his job beautifully but I was thinking to myself how I was going to get to the reading if I had to go to hospital at one point. Mountains are not without challenges.
Welsh weather followed us and it bucketed it down in true Welsh fashion on the Saturday which didn’t make a dent on any of the amazing people who brought Pride to Hebden. Brass bands in the rain is a time honoured British tradition!
Thankfully, we were in The Little Theatre which was a fantastic little place. The staff were brilliant and the technician made us all chuckle when Clare Lydon told us she breaks PA systems and… yup… the microphone went off.
Ferb was… not in the best of moods after working the nightshift but he did enjoy being cuddled by a member of the audience and lured in staff members and readers alike. And, the readers were amazing. If you were in the audience, thank you! It’s always a pleasure to see someone who has enjoyed your book or something you’ve said on the panel. It’s difficult for a lot of writers to switch from hermit to conversationalist (although when you get me going, I don’t shut up!) so knowing that people didn’t fall asleep and fancy picking up one of your books means so much.
So, this is a picture for you: Ferb is barking like crazy with Em hanging onto him because he is trying to yell at me. My heart is doing crazy things and I’m shaking, my eye is driving me nuts and I’m pretty sure the (wonderful) wig on my head has turned sideways and I look like Cousin It. I can’t feel my left arm and I’m so beyond exhausted that I want to pass out on Clare Lydon’s London Calling or Sam Skybourne’s Alice because if I rest on mine I’ll knock the stands over and Em will tut. Oh, and I’ve got tinnitus like a foghorn in my right ear to the point that Velvet Lounger’s soft tones are flicking in and out like someone is fiddling with a radio. I’m in a great mood though because I didn’t pass out on stage (hurray) and I think I look like there’s not much wrong with me… at least physically, the squinting eye, shaky handed, Cousin It look isn’t really showing my sane side.
Anyhow, I’m squished in between Sam and Clare who are patiently smiling at me trying to dig books out from under the table (where Em stored them tidily) and two readers walk up (names remembered but kept to myself.) One says “which one do you recommend?” to which her friend replies “I’ve got all of them.” Then she points at The Above & Beyond Series. “These have a bit of everything in them…” and this wonderful, kind hearted reader goes on to say how much she loves the books in a way Clare swears I might have employed her as PR. I sat there chattering but just hearing how much someone loved Aeron stopped me. In my head, I was thinking, “thank you. You have no idea what a wonderful gift you’re giving me right now. I really love that series and it is so special to me. You just made seven hours worthwhile in a single sentence.”
What did I say? A garbled thank you and I think I managed something like, there’s seven books but the Whistleblower is on my site free. Yep. I’m pretty sure that came out all wrong and the reader was like “what?” but hey, if I could say out loud all the joy I feel, you wouldn’t be able to shut me up at all.
To that lovely reader, you made a difference to me on Saturday and I hope that you smile knowing you did. Thank you.
I’ve mentioned readers and Velvet (who was beyond awesome as always) and I’ve mentioned Sam and Clare. I haven’t mentioned that Andrea Bramhall wasn’t faring a whole lot better, health-wise, than me and soldiered on through with true class and that she might have mentioned The Welsh Cake Drop as her weirdest moment… I haven’t mentioned that Clare Ashton abandoned her children to tell us all about how her first character was a high-class escort when asked which character she was most like. I also haven’t told you about the most patient hostess, dear colleague and utterly fabulous lady that Jen Silver is. I’ve been to a lot of events but she hit a home run and then some in my eyes (even the dodgy eye.) It was brilliantly organised and ran smoothly, we all sold books and we all had fun catching up in The White Lion afterwards… although I need to stop leading Sam astray and feeding her Welsh Cake addiction.
On the Sunday, we headed to Shibden Hall and, although I’ve been exhausted, unwell and too unwell to write much, the visit completely boosted me. I could see all the enthusiasm of the visitors asking where Ann would have strode through the door. I soaked in the ingenuity of a very incredible lady and Ferb found a muddy puddle in the grounds. It inspired me to the point I couldn’t sleep because ideas and inspiration were zipping around inside my head.
We drove back today (we managed it in six hours) and energy has reignited inside and I feel achy and all the challenges are nagging at me but I’ve just hammered out 1200 odd words because I beat a mountain. Jen Silver, thank you for inviting me; lovely fellow writers and friends/spouses/dogs, thank you for putting up with my verbal spillage; readers and staff, hostesses and people of Shibden, Hebden and all in those in between: thank you, you are truly amazing and it’s not grim but great up north!