2014 – The Things That Matter

Southwold BeachI’ve tried several times to write that ‘review of the year’ blog post, and just can’t make it make sense. Last year, the plates came crashing down because I couldn’t do it all – this year, I’ve done it all and more, and I’m still not sure how. It’s been a very dark year, but I guess you cope because you have to.

This year has seen the chaos of my work/child schedule get even more insane, if that’s possible. As the calendar of FP events gets busier, and I need to commit more time to being work Danie, Isaac still has a schedule of his own and he still has to get there – here, there, everywhere, at the last minute and at the drop of a whole shopful of hats. Just keeping these two plates spinning is a constant and chaotic headache, and wouldn’t happen without help.

Nine WorldsAdd to that the Summer of Madness – not only Nine Worlds and WorldCon and all the events surrounding, but trying to play Tetris with my furniture to get the decorators into the house. When I came back from ExCel in August, I had psoriasis, eczema, and a cellulitis infection in my ear, all flared up through pure exhaustion. I escaped a stay in hospital by the skin of my teeth and a very smart Doctor.

Unhappy CatAnd then add to that my Mum being diagnosed with terminal cancer in February. I have no words for this – not here, not now, maybe not ever. I haven’t even been with her as much I should have been. She faced three months of chemo, at nearly eighty years old, almost by herself. And I’ve felt so helpless – needing to be there, to do more – and caught in a temporal plate-spinning impossibility that I constantly struggle to control, with no real hope of succeeding. Yet her strength and stubbornness have been beyond measure, and every time I’ve thought ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’m too tired!’ I’ve reminded myself just who is facing what, and shut the fuck up.

Race for LifeIsaac and I have been with her for Christmas, and she has absolutely insisted on doing everything herself. It still isn’t real, to her either I think. I do wonder if these things ever quite stop hiding behind the Pillars of Denial… right up until the end.

Because of all of this, the delay to Ecko Endgame has been rather a blessing. The last part of the MS was rushed when I handed it in, and it’s given me a year to spin it back out and weave it back in again. In many ways, it’s kept me sane – given me both purpose and escape. Somewhere to hide, if you like.

BrightonFinally, this year, I’ve learned a huge lesson – partially from Mum and partially from sheer chaos. That lesson is to take the time when you have it. To lay the worries down, and to go to Brighton for the day. To take the bath in Bath and to look out over the hills and enjoy the moment. To walk along the beach, to play silly games on the Pier, to take the holiday when you can, to wade in the water with bare feet and climb the rocks like you did as a child, with joy and without shame.

Gull RockJon has taught me this too – has been support, sunlight and occasional sanity through a year that’s been very dark, at times. And a year that ends with me knowing that it’s going to get darker before it gets light again.

But knowing, too, that there is a light at the end of the forest, and that I don’t walk the path alone.

My 2012 Review of the Year

So, Ecko we pretty much know about. What else has happened during 2012?

Rain. It started when we got back from EasterCon and it fucking rained until the end of July. Between all the water, and London being awash with the Jubilee and the Olympics, perhaps this was the right summer to be fingers welded to keyboard, frantically trying to edit one book and hand in a second on time. In amidst the frenzy, there was one wonderful weekend at MidFest – a weekend in the best company, where I found family I’d not seen in far too long, and remembered a part of myself I’ve never really left behind.

MidFest

Cats. In January, while during Jury Service, my poor bonkers Lilith finally went to sleep – and I missed her more than I thought possible. Fifteen years, one of my last links with my simpler life in Norwich, she left a cat-shaped vacuum that had me roaming the house, lost without her company. This vacuum led to new cat company in April – which has been something of an adventure. I still miss my Lilith, but can’t bear a house empty of creatures.

Lilith

Bikes. Facing a maniacal summer of book deadlines (and rain), finding the time to pedal was not an easy thing. Once Ecko was sorted, though, I got back in the saddle – only to have my bike written off by a tosser in a Range Rover, speeding through a red light at a major junction. He would have killed me had I been a few inches further forwards.

photo(15)

Which brings me to the big thing, the thing I don’t really have words for.

My Mum has had cancer this year – had it, beaten it, come out healthier than she went in (takes more than the Big C to defeat my Mum). For a moment, there though, that was a terrifying thing – losing one’s Mum doesn’t even bear thinking about. And it hasn’t only been Mum – I’ve had a slew of friends this year who’ve had a cancer scare of one form or other, one at least staring his own mortality in the face.

Books are cool. Rain and deadlines are all very well.

But 2012 has been about mortality. Facing a scrape with my own, seeing Mum in a hospital bed after having several yards of intestine removed, knowing close friends have hospital appointments that tread a tight line between life and death…

Lilith left a vacuum. I feel very, very lucky that my Mum didn’t leave one too.

Mum