The Butterfly Season

So excited!  My new book is out!  Available as ebook (Kobo, Kindle, Narnes nd Noble et al) and as paperback on Amazon.

butterfly photo

How well do we really know our friends? How honest are we with each other and ourselves?
On holiday in an Edwardian house on the Kent coast, 5 female friends from school, now 35, try to deal with fears for the future arising from problems in the past.
With them are two 13 year olds and watching from the shadows is Annie, who was a servant there long ago.  How does her life contrast with women’s experience today?
What does Annie see? 
What will she do?

This is Part 1 of The House on Cliff Road.  If you would like to know more about the life of her employers’ family and whether there is any resolution for Annie, look out for Part 2, The Tunnel of Years,  which is coming soon.
Together the two sides of the story present snapshots of English history over the last one hundred years and ways in which women’s lives have changed.

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Christmas Presents

I’ve been a bit busy, but just in time for Christmas here is a piece of verse.  Does it make you think of anyone you know?!

There are presents in the attic, there are boxes in the hall
Some are hidden under beds, or between the sofa and the wall
It is coming up to Christmas and the house is overloaded
If the presents don´t come out soon, it will be the house that has exploded.

She started back in January to make the most of New Year sales
And continued through to Easter with end of season bargain rails
Even when she was on holiday walking down beside the beach
She had an eye out for the gift shops that at home were out of reach.

Come September starts the build up to consumer panic buying
The latest film or TV fashion is what the children now are eyeing
The threat of stocks sold out and a disappointed daughter
Means buying things up quickly, spending more than you really ought ter

So at last there comes the wrapping and it´s clear for all to see
That there are far too many presents, no more space beneath the tree
So back into the attic go some toys for when they´re older
And hopefully some clothes will fit when birthdays come round later.

So at Christmas this year, she’s started stockpiling for next
Giving is her favourite hobby and she never takes a rest.
If you ask what she wants for Christmas, you won´t get much reply
“Whatever” – she’ll be thinking of next year´s spending high.

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Sometimes the stars do not exist
Obscured behind the thickening mist
Of cloud punched up by weather’s fist.

Sometimes they are beyond our sight
In darkness, hidden by our light,
By our electric day from night.

But in the dark we are laid bare
To fears that can all hope ensnare
And need a light to guide us there.

So stars shine forever in our minds
As metaphor for better times,
When we cross the artificial lines

Drawn by the practice of our days
That keeps us in the darkened haze
Of blinkered thoughts and bridled ways.

Starlight, up high but inside too
May pierce the fog and give a view
Of what we can, not cannot do.

Starlight´s a dream, that can inspire
Freedom from a prison’s wire
And hope to reach for ever higher.

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Our Song

There is a new review on Amazon UK for my book of short stories “Our Song” under my maiden name Heather Douglas.  I have copied it exactly (with minor typos) below:-

“The short stories in this collection draw the reader in very skilfully and each one has an intriguing and eagerly anticipated denoument.They are satisfyingly unpredictable and in some of the stories,are powerfully and darkly disrturbing.The layers of deception and the origins of resentment and disharmony in relationships are revealed with careful insight while the psychology of the protagonists is well described.The observation of socal interactions (both overt and hidden) rings true throughout and gives real life to the characters.This collection represents writing of a high order, embodying strong imagination and well crafted plot structures.”

How lovely is that!


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Evening Falls

For grandparents everywhere!
Evening Falls

A small baby’s time is full of needs with feeding every hour.
Winding, changing, soothing cries, his Mum runs low on power.
Her world’s so small, it seems she lives behind a prison’s bars.
No rest for him, no rest for her as evening falls beneath the stars.

A toddler’s day is long and full, so many things to learn.
He has to run and shout out loud “I’m here!” at every turn.
Then sleep wins through, he’s lying down with bedroom door ajar.
She takes her rest while he rests as evening falls beneath the stars.

At school he finds a different world, tied up with many rules,
Teachers and new friends to meet while learning facts as tools.
There’s reading, sums and language, the sun and moon and Mars,
He needs his rest, so she can rest as evening falls beneath the stars.

A teenage world is an alien place, they live largely on their own,
Locked inside their bedrooms, they are home but still alone.
Though noise comes out, computer games, discords on loud guitars
And she dreams of restful silence as evening falls beneath the stars.

Then he’s at work as she is, struggling through the daily grind,
So many calls upon their time, so much energy to find.
She’s tired now but he’s off out, she’s left listening for his car.
She cannot rest til he returns as evening falls beneath the stars.

Now he’s left home, she must move on, be all that she can be,
Enjoy more space and energy, more time that’s hers and free.
But she’s forgotten how so long ago, it is emptiness that jars.
She feels alone and restless as evening falls beneath the stars.

Change is good, she does adapt to freedom and to fun.
How did she fit in going to work when there’s so much to be done?
But she loves babysitting, now a busy grandmama
She sings her grandson to his rest as evening falls beneath the stars.

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(Let’s escape from electioneering for a while and visit a far away planet …)

The men were coming home.  The children were excited as they watched the preparations, though some were so young they could not remember a Homecoming and none could really comprehend its significance.  Oh, to be so innocent!  To enjoy preparing food, making decorations and building bonfires without this purely physical ache, this awakening of cells lain dormant for so long.  Each day Kari watched the skies for a speck on the horizon that would gradually lead to the darkening of the light, listening for the drone that would start like a prickle in the inner ear and grow until the whole body throbbed with its vibration.  The women had trained themselves to concentrate on their work in the fields and caring for the children, remembering that they lived and breathed as one with the world.  Now they became aware that they were also individuals, with their own nerve endings to vibrate and resonate with the drum beats coming closer, borne on the air.
Kari’s fingers stroked the fruits they picked, seeking to recapture the rough and smooth, the hollows, hairs and risen veins of flesh known long ago.  What a mercy that the memories lay dormant through the years and waited for the signs of Homecoming to come alive, for how could one live at this pitch of excitement?  Every day she thought she had reached the ultimate in endurance, yet still her flesh throbbed with an increased awareness.
She watched the children play, wondering if next year hers would be among them.  All the conditions had to reach synchronized perfection for the brief moment when conception could occur, but surely it must be enough when the heart soared, the flesh swelled with the need to be crushed, the skin itched with the need to be washed clean.
The children waited in the gardens, away from danger, when the bonfires were lit.  Kari turned her face to the skies, straining for a sign.  At last the yellow moon rose above the crescent hills, turning the purple gorse to green and the grey clouds to pink and orange.  The drone swelled and a huge black cloud appeared over the horizon.  The children jumped and shouted in excitement, but they were safe behind the hedges, beyond the reach of the flames.   Kari felt the vibrations rock the core of her being.  All her energy was concentrated on holding back, controlling every cell of her body until the perfect note was sounded which made all of creation sing as one.
The Homecoming blocked the light and the sound was so loud it threatened to overwhelm all of her senses, but she could at last make out its separate bodies, each individual call from male to female.  Now! her body sang.  She rose through the air, seeking her chosen one from the thousands flying over the village.  Her sensitive flesh flinched from the sharp coldness of the air, craving heat. He was there! She lay back beneath his huge hot strength and all her nerves sang in the effort to sustain her position mid-air, to receive the pulsating cascade of his seed, cooling her inner heat, warming her shivering shell, filling her hollows until at last she lost all control and fell towards the ground.
Yet at the last moment her limbs assumed control and brought her safe to land.  She wept in desolate disappointment as the shells of those who had achieved successful union fell dead to be consumed in the embers of the fires, while their new children unfolded wings and flew like bright stars towards their sisters waiting in the garden.

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Before I visited Glasgow, I knew very little about it and my impressions had been formed by (a) incomprehensible accents on TV shows (b) a picture of desperately poor, crowded and filthy tenements from some history book  and (c) a vague idea that Jack Vettriano had a presence in an art gallery there.  I did find Jack Vettriano, along with many other artists and art galleries, but I was not prepared for beauty in the city streets.

The huge building  expansion of the Victorian era had also produced large middle class tenement apartments with splendid, curved staircases and high-ceilinged parlours displaying polished wood floors, tiled fireplaces and intricate cornices, while leaving many large grassland areas untouched.

I have never been in a city with so many beautiful parks where wooded hills give way to open plains and lakes while providing views of city churches and distant mountains.

There is a huge variety of music and fine dining on offer as well.  It is indeed a city of culture and a very friendly and welcoming one too.


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A May Anniversary

May and Tom celebrated their Diamond Wedding in May 2003.  They had not may enhancedapplied for a telegram from the Queen.  Tom, a local government officer who had left his Northumberland mining family far behind, would perhaps have appreciated a royal recognition of this 60 year marriage achievement, but May would not have appreciated it at all.   She carried all her life a burning love for the father who had died in her teens and who had been a socialist in the 1920’s and 1930’s when it mattered.  While Tom had the final say in all things practical, May ruled when it came to people and what was politics but people writ large?

They had a lunchtime party in the small hotel in the centre of the old village and then went back home for tea and cake.  It was a repeat of the Golden Wedding celebration, but everything had faded somewhat since that vibrant occasion.  Quite a few of the friends and relations from before were no longer there, while May and Tom were like an old photograph, losing colour and already fixed somehow as a snapshot of themselves.  A lifetime of being the perfect gentleman carried Tom through his duties as Mein Host and his loud asides of “Who are all these people?” only made his daughters more proud of his performance.  May was already very ill and stayed in her seat instead of mixing, but she had dressed up beautifully in lilac with her usual pride and smiled on her guests’ delight in meeting each other again with her carefully honed awareness of other people’s pleasures.  It was a lovely day and if Tom was somewhat bewildered and May struggled to maintain her gaiety, everyone else thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  May and Tom had always given a good party.

In a matter of months May was dead, her strong will finally allowing her heart to stop and someone else to look after the world.  Tom succumbed more and more to dementia, but never behaved less than politely.   He stoically endured for 5 more years until he too decided enough was enough.  In that time he never mentioned May and no-one knew what was going on in his head.  He had never displayed sentimentality.

tom uniform enh Going through the house afterwards, his daughters came across a small bundle of flimsy airmail paper closely written in the 1940’s with permanent ink.  From the North African desert, to South Africa for the hospital ship home to Newcastle, on to jobs in London and Huntingdon and Sutton Coldfield, through to retirement first in Hathersage and then in Dronfield, Tom had always carried with him the letters May had sent him in the war years to anchor her boy safely to herself, his true home.


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A Story for Christmas

Christmas presents – such a lot of effort and in the end nothing but trouble!  Lizzie got me a theatre trip to London, train fare and hotel and tickets for a show, what a lovely idea.  She was that mad when I said I couldn’t go.
“You’ve done Christmas, Mum,” she pointed out. “You’ve done all the work.  Can’t you have some time off?”
“I can’t leave your Granddad, love, you know I can’t.”
“Dad can look after him,” she said.  “It’s only one night.  He can give Granddad a bowl of soup, can’t he?”  It sounded reasonable enough.
“Oh Lizzie, sweetheart,” I said, “Your Dad can’t –“  Can’t what?  How could I explain?  Can’t get Dad into his pyjamas and out of them again when there is no resistance in the limbs, dressing babies is simple compared to that.  Can’t tell him to wipe his bum or do it for him if you’re just not getting through.  Can’t persuade him back to bed at three in the morning when his teeth are chattering because the heating went off hours ago but he thinks it’s the middle of the day.  Can’t find the right reassuring answer to questions like where am I, who are you? Though it’s not the detail, not really.  What Jack can’t face up to is the big picture.  He and Dad used to have such a laugh together, used to enjoy the football and the quiz down at the pub.  Now Dad doesn’t know Jack’s name.  “He just can’t,” I said firmly.
“I wanted you to come with me.  I wanted some time for us, for me and you together.  I can’t go on me own.  But I should have known.”  Oh what a tear jerker.  She thinks she’s doing it for my own good.  She’s always been manipulative, our Lizzie.
“Yes, you should,” I said tartly, then tried to soften it a bit.  “One day, darling.  I’d love to go.  I’d love to go with you.  But not now.”
For a moment though, I was that upset, thinking how I’d spent my life taking care of Jack’s feelings and knowing he couldn’t spare a night to think of mine.  Did he never wonder what it was like for me, it was my Dad for goodness sake who’d gone somewhere deep and dark.  When it started I used to think his head was like a honeycomb, how if you were lucky you hit a connection and everything was OK, but more and more often you fell into the holes in between.  Now his head seems like an overgrown forest and he’s inside like a scared child, feeling monsters might lurk in every corner and thinking if he sits very still and doesn’t say a word, then they won’t get him.
But on that very day, in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year, when in another universe I might have been in London, all dressed up in some glitzy theatre waiting for the drum roll – that was the night I saw our Brian’s Jamie playing with a balloon.  He’s a quiet little lad, good as gold, you don’t notice him half the time and I suppose we’d kind of forgotten he was there, sat playing under the tree while Dad sat same as always in his chair in front of the telly.  People can be quite snotty about old folk parked in front of the telly but what they don’t realise is, it’s an anchor.  It keeps them still and safe and attached to the world.  They don’t follow it, they don’t know what’s going on half the time, but it’s colour and noise and it is familiar.  Most important of all, it’s someone talking who isn’t demanding an answer.  Real people come up close and put on a funny voice and ask questions more difficult than what’s the meaning of life, questions like how are you today?  The telly makes no demands at all.  It is everybody’s alibi and that includes the person with dementia.  People should remember that.
Anyway I’d been in the kitchen making a cup of tea while Jack was hiding in the back room listening to some match on the radio.  Janice, Brian’s wife, had taken Rebecca off upstairs to change her nappy and Lizzie was picking a fight with Brian in the hall about who had had the most to drink and who could go to the off licence to get more gin.  Brian mostly goes along with his sister’s ideas, years of experience, anything for a quiet life, but every so often he makes a stand.  I was coming through the living room doorway when Jamie patted his balloon to Dad.  I was just about to interfere like I always did, to distract Jamie from disappointment, to protect Dad from expectation, when at the last minute Dad’s arm shot out and he batted it back.  Back and forth that balloon went and I stood frozen, wanting this moment to last for ever, praying the others would stay where they were.
It was dark outside, but the lights were sparkling on the tree and the fire was crackling in the grate behind the fireguard and I could smell the pine needles  and the mince pies warm from the oven.  It could have been another Christmas, any Christmas from before, from long ago. Then all at once Brian and Lizzie were laughing and agreeing to walk to the off licence together and Janice was carrying the baby down the stairs singing Jingle Bells off key and Jack came through to ask where was the tea.  The balloon lay still on the floor, but Jamie sent his Great Granddad a secret smile and my Dad nodded and patted the balloon with his toe before withdrawing back inside himself.
That moment was my Christmas present.  It’s the one I’ll try to remember.

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Our Song

Just out on Amazon under my maiden name Heather Douglas is my book of short stories

Our Song, Stories in the keys of love and death


These dark stories of unexpected death explore the different viewpoints of family, witness, victim, policeman or murderer. They are sometimes disturbing, sometimes humorous, always gripping and take place in variety of locations and situations.  Just as the popular songs of the titles are recognisable, so too are the emotions of love, loss and jealousy revealed here, but the steps to revenge, murder and remorse taken in these chilling tales are smaller than we might realise.


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