Yeah, I hold my hand up. I confess. It is an obscenely long time since I last blogged here.
I noticed it today; my last post was back in May sometime. At this point in time it's not the end of the world in terms of Blog Professionalism, since I can tell from the viewing ratings for this one that precisely nobody has been reading it so far. (Except for me of course - and I kind of have to, if only to make sure the brain-dumps I'm putting up here contain what I intend them to.) So, at this current moment in time, I am not exactly letting anyone down by failing to regularly post.
But thinking towards the future, when I've finally finished 'The Renegades' and I'm attempting to flog it to the world as a real, proper novel and everything... well, if that goes well people might start looking at this here blog and wondering why there was this humungous gap in the distant past of its lifespan. So I feel duty-bound to explain, so that you don't feel it was down to monumental laziness on my part. Well, not entirely anyway.
The reasons are many - but I'll start with the trivial ones. First, the older your primary school-age child gets, the more demands it seems their school places on the parents. These days it's not enough that your kid learns the three R's (which, as a phrase, is in itself a mistake unless 'not being able to spell properly' is a hidden fourth subject.) Now they have to learn them in the modern, new-fangled way that is completely different from the way you learned them when you were at school. This means that - even if your 'old' way gets exactly the same results as the new way - YOU ARE WRONG, and you must not infect your little darling's mind with your out-of-date wrongness when helping him with his homework. So YOU have to go to Special Classes, held by teachers at your child's school, to re-learn how to do all the things you're perfectly capable of doing your way in a completely different way that seems to you to take twice as long. You MUST do this, along with make costumes for your child's school plays and bake cakes for all of their fundraisers (no shop-bought muck, thank you every much - oh and can you also list every single ingredient in your home-baked offerings? For Health & Safety reasons, naturally...) Because, if you don't - YOU ARE A BAD PARENT. And that's worse than being - ooh, I don't know, a Liberal Democrat - these days.
So that's the trivial reasons dealt with. Now for the more serious one.
In December 2012 my father-in-law suffered a serious heart attack which almost killed him. He was in hospital all through Christmas and New Year before finally being discharged in late January. But even after this, it was clear that something was still wrong. He complained of pain in his neck and shoulder, and as time went by the area swelled and grew bigger and more painful. Soon it had grown so big he was unable to turn or move his head at all, and was having difficulty swallowing solid food. There was no two ways about it; he was ill, and whatever was making him ill was not just going to go away on its own, "so just keep taking the paracetamol until then..." In the meantime he lost nearly half his body weight, while doctors ummed and aaahed about maybe sending him for scans and tests...
For those of you not in the UK, our NHS can be a wonderful thing. It does save the lives of millions of people daily, and most of the population would be in dire straits indeed if it disappeared. But the financial pressures it is now under means that the quality of the care you receive can be something of a lottery. You can and, quite often, will, get the treatment and care you need from the NHS... IF you're prepared to push and demand and nag and shout and stomp your feet for it. If you're of the Old School, however - the kind of person who doesn't like to make demands on an already overburdened system, or be pushy or awkward with People In Authority because it's not good manners to demand good treatment - you will be ignored and shoved to the bottom of the pile. I can't say whether that's right or wrong - that's just the way it is.
My father-in-law was a man in his seventies - which, straight away, put him in the To Be Ignored Category. Add to this that he is of the aforementioned Old School stock, and... well, you get the picture. Suffice to say, it was only after a great deal of pushing and demanding from my mother-in-law, myself and my husband that, just last month, he finally got a diagnosis; a cancerous tumour in his neck. By this time it was so big it looked like a neck brace underneath his skin, all the way around. And it was terminal - or rather, they could operate and try chemotherapy, but he was now so weak he probably wouldn't survive the treatment anyway. They told us in no uncertain terms that there was nothing they could do for him, and they had no idea how much longer he had left.
After a further month of constant pain and rapid deterioration, my father-in-law died two days ago.
I don't intend for this to be a rant at the NHS - even though I can't deny I do have some very negative feelings about the way he was treated by some sections of it. Had he been fifty-four instead of seventy-four, I know for certain he would have been sent for the tests he needed - and had the results and, consequently, the option to have surgery and chemotherapy - months before he finally did get them. I'm not sure how angry I'm 'allowed' to be about that though, in this modern age when everyone's living longer and the NHS budget is being squeezed to strangling point. I can appreciate there's only so much to go around... but that doesn't make the months of suffering my father-in-law endured any less unfair - for him or any of the people who loved him and had to watch him go through it.
So yeah, that's why this blog took a back seat for a while. Along with quite a lot of writing in other areas of my life. Sometimes, however much you want to write your first, full-length novel and prove that you're not all talk and no action, etc. etc... you have to slam on the brakes and pull over to the side of the road. Because life throws more important stuff at you, and you need to deal with that first.
Writing is a big part of my life - but it's not all of it, and I would probably be a very strange and twisted person if it were ever to become so.
If you were expecting one of my usual pun-fests today... well, I can only apologise if I've disappointed you. Normal service will be resumed again soon, I promise. I suppose even a blog like this needs the occasional shot of darkness amongst the light stuff.