The 08:12 Overture

My Mum died on this day last year, I hope Tchaikovsky doesn’t mind me riffing on his work for the title of this piece.


If there is a time to die then it is when your loved ones have bought a new candle

So there will still be light when the old one burns out

When it felt disrespectful to extinguish it the night before

It’s after the talking, the reading of stories

The turning off of Humphrys’ on Radio Four

It’s in the peace of the morning, with a quiet cup of tea

when sun has arisen on a new day once more

And when you took your last breath we were with you

Us and the robins in their nest by the door





Just Breathe Out

“I need a little room to breathe” ~ Linkin Park

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Breathe (vb): to exist; be alive


I was with my Mum as she took her last breaths. It’s a position as privileged as it is painful; to be able to provide support, comfort, yet at the same time knowing that it is goodbye. A goodbye that is still incalculable, unfathomable, these months down the line and I believe will remain so for some considerable time to come.

It’s the breath that gets us all in the end; coming, going, sustaining us, leaving. We can live long lives without many things but breathing is not one of them.

But to take rich full breaths of life is not a simple matter of just breathing. It is to consciously breathe in life, breathe out what is no longer needed. That breath has to go out to make room for something new.

Yet we hold on so tightly, too tightly, to shallow breaths that do not serve us, that do not allow us the openness that is required to let go, to allow space for what comes next.

Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

Just breathe out, a good friend told me once in a time of emotional hardship. So it is no coincidence my next book is called one hundred breaths. Writing some of these stories has been me breathing out, learning not to hold myself so tightly, letting things go.

A percentage of my profit from these sales will go to Ashgate Hospice who supported my parents and my Mum’s breathing until the end.



one hundred breaths is available to pre-order from Cynefin Road: one hundred breaths

For more information or to support Ashgate Hospice: Ashgate Hospice

For more information on Multiple Sclerosis: MS


“Right here, right now” ~ Fatboy Slim

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Here (adj): in this place; at this point


No-one has ever been here before.

Did you miss it? That’s ok. Pause, catch your breath. There’s another here now. It’s here for me as I write this, here for you as you read this, here for the person who saw notification of this blog in their inbox and thought ‘that’s not for me today’. And that’s ok.

Life is a series of moments, of catching breath, reacting, and sometimes pausing to just allow the moment to be here and for you to be aware in it.

Because no matter what we plan for, sometimes you do not know how you will feel or act when something expected comes along. And sometimes we have life planned out and something different happens that can leave us uprooted, drifting. And we definitely can’t plan for those moments.

But in another breath life is different again. It might be so delicate a difference you may be unaware of it but somewhere a leaf will have fallen from a tree, a flower will have unfurled its first petals, shale will have slipped down a mountainside. All in a moment, all making the world different to how it was before.

So just breathe out, gently. Be here, as you are, in this moment right now.





“Just have a little patience” ~ Take That

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Patience” (n): the capacity for calmly enduring difficult situations; the ability to wait calmly for something without complaining or giving up


In many ways I am not a patient person. In material matters if I want something I want it now. When it comes to money I am a spender not a saver; or, as the indomitable Sue Perkins once said when asked in interview if she was a saver or a spender replied “An evaporator, really”. This outlook sits at odds with my job, where I can sit for hours at a time ostensibly doing nothing or how I can embrace a long period of travel without succumbing to the ‘Are we nearly there yet?’s. Perhaps because in those scenarios there is the knowledge that something is being achieved, albeit incrementally. But patience is a virtue I have had to learn to apply to my life outside the fields of work and travel.

At some point soon (soon being a relative concept) I will have my first anthology of ‘100 Word Stories’ published. These are short stories/prose/poems/fables/call them what you will all comprised of exactly 100 words. This means, barring story titles, the book will be 10,000 words in length. 10,000 words is not exactly many. But if I were selling them in a craft shop these would be artisinal words, hand-crafted from the moon and blood magic, written to the beat of a soulless city, and creating a sense of the Otherwhere. Or something like that. My point being that it took me a long time to write all those words, to create those stories. It took me a long time to admit that I wanted to be, was actually already, a writer. And even longer to get over the self consciousness of sitting down and writing, grinding out ideas and plots and magic spells at my keyboard. No book is created overnight. Mine won’t be. I have a lot of editing ahead when I desperately want to forge on to the next new shiny thing. And even when I do start that it will be a long time in the creation. And so I have had to learn to be ok with this, to give myself, my ideas and my words, time to be created and crafted and shared.

This mindset has helped enormously with my running. I want to get out there and run. I want to eat up the miles and sprint like I ran as a kid. I can’t. My body can’t take it; my poor operated-on foot can’t take the pressure, my lungs certainly can’t maintain sufficient airflow. And so I have learnt to rein myself in, to take slower strides, to walk when I don’t feel like I need it, to save those reserves of energy to keep me out longer and further. Sometimes when I catch my pace increasing and I slow myself down it feels like a band across my chest hauling me back, like Wile E. Coyote pinned by a giant ACME magnet when he has yet again been foiled in his attempts to catch the Road Runner. Humour helps when you are learning patience with your own body and stretching against your limitations.

And so now I am learning to apply this patience to my heart. Apparently it’s not the done thing to just grab a man you like and say “I’ll have this one”, no matter how strong the temptation on occasions. That being said the latest piece of advice I’ve been given for my lovelife is shout French at men then attack so who knows? Other notable pieces of advice have been “Find a school teacher” (a colleague) and “Go to church” (my mother). But I digress. Love, in all forms, can arrive swiftly but it will always and rightly need work. I have made lifelong friendships that started from a couple of tweets, I’ve fallen in love over gin & tonic, but all relationships, with friends, with lovers, will take time to develop. I have a greater sense now than ever of what my heart wants, in my friends, in a lover, in a partner; and whilst knowing does not make a thing so it does mean I can allow myself to be curious and open, to accept the vulnerabilities of my emotions as I can accept the shake in my thighs as I try to run another mile or the despair of my imagination when a story reaches 96 words and I am grasping for 4 more.

In essence, patience with ourselves as we would be patient with others gives us time to develop, to grow; to find new skills and forge new friendships. That, and maybe just a little bit of French.

Bonne chance, mes amis.





“Try a little tenderness” ~ Otis Redding

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Tenderness (n): gentleness and kindness; kindliness


I came home from a couple of nights away to find a box of Bloom & Wild flowers waiting in my hall. If you don’t know Bloom & Wild then let me explain that they send their blooms in a box in nets, it’s a manner designed to keep them fresh. They had been sent to me by, let’s call them a society, who knew about the time I had been having and wanted to send me a hug.

I didn’t even wait to take my coat off before I carefully unwrapped each bloom, trimmed their stems, and arranged them in water so they could perk up after their time in my hallway. Such a beautiful and caring gesture, they are brightening my mood every time I look at them.

Like the flowers needing to be freed from their nets and put in the water, we all need the right environment in order to thrive. And that is why I took myself away to Budapest. If my trip had not have been booked and paid for I would’ve travelled back to Derbyshire to spend time with Mum in hospital. But I was assured by my siblings that things were in hand and to go and take the break while I could.

So I walked and I drank and I took plenty of photos. I switched off from checking social media and I allowed myself to have time that wasn’t posting hospital updates, that wasn’t about the negatives. I gave myself that time to remember that even in hard times it is still ok to laugh, it is allowed and indeed necessary to enjoy the good things in life. And as I eventually ended up in an outdoor rooftop spa in almost freezing temperatures, I felt something in me unfurl, just like the flowers I was later sent, I, too, had needed a change in my environment.

As I have been writing this, I have been told that my family are breaking Mum out  the hospital again. She is being signed out, we aren’t indulging in Mother-rustling, but it is just so much easier for us to take her home than to rely on the hospital transport system.

Mum has been in a hospital a lot this year. There have been strong medical changes in how her MS is being managed and they have been hard on her and all of us. But her time there recently has also been eased by some of her regular carers coming in; showering her, sitting with her, spending time doing the crossword and the newspaper quizzes. The little elements of care that make it easier on Mum and by extension the family, the care that nurses understandably cannot provide, but that make her time there so much more bearable.

Hopefully these latest adjustments, this latest change to her environment, will mean she can be home for longer, that she spends Christmas with her family, that she has time to enjoy, in as much as can be, life as the new normal.

It’s her birthday soon. Presents will be focused on things with a pleasing scent, something soft to touch, audiobooks she will enjoy hearing. It’s the smallest of care but it’s what we can do. That, and time. Time spent with Mum, enjoying every moment there is.

And so I turn to you, dear reader, to return to theme of this blog; tenderness. Life in so many ways, for so many people, is hard right now. Maybe you are one of those people. And so I urge you to treat yourself with the tenderness you would show to a dear friend, to an adored lover. What ever gestures of kindness you can show yourself please do it. You are too important to neglect.

And if perhaps you are doing ok, perhaps you could call a friend, send a message, write a letter. We all need our friends, our loves, our support networks; sometimes to lean on and sometimes be leant on.

Either way, the world needs more tenderness right now. I believe Nayirah Waheed says it best with these lines:


With love,