25 November 2012



   Just what do you wear for an interview with a publisher? Oh my goodness, I was stumped! It was the early 90s in Ireland and I was living in County Mayo; a time when the late great Gerry Ryan was entertaining the nation with his RTE radio programme, the Emerald Isle’s football team made it to the World Cup and Mary Robinson was the first female to be elected President.       
Arriving home from a weekend at my friend Anne’s, and where I'd left the children for an extra overnight stay, I had the contents of my wardrobe strewn across the bed. Blue and black – black and blue - were the only colours I ever wore. Should I look smart? Casual? Smart-casual? Then again did it really matter? Yes, I decided, it did, but I needed to wear clothes I felt comfortable in so I could relax and be myself. Not too relaxed though because I had to try and convince this publisher that my story deserved to be published. Yikes, it was a scary thought.
I settled on a light-blue top and gypsy skirt with navy sandals. I thought ‘bright and breezy’ was the best option and reminded myself the most important thing to wear was a smile.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I hoped the weather remained dry. Rain would be disastrous for my curly hair. I only had to go near a boiling kettle and it frizzed up. My biggest nightmare would be arriving at the publisher’s office like a drowned rat or worse still, like I’d had an electric shock.
I arrived in Dublin in plenty of time and strolled up O’Connell Street weaving in and out of the lunchtime crowd, up past the famous Floozy in the Jacuzzi and the Gresham Hotel.
I was excited about meeting the publisher, and pleased too that the sun was shining. So far so good; all was going to plan. 

8 November 2012


    My bedroom at the mansion was on top floor in nurses home - 2nd window on the right. 

Sandhill Park Hospital, in Bishop’s Lydeard, Somerset, was built as a country house around 1720. It was later used as a prisoner of war camp, a home for handicapped children and later as a military and civilian hospital.
During World War 1, it was used as a prisoner of war camp for German and Austrian Officers. In 1919 it was converted by Somerset County Council into a home for handicapped children.
It was requisitioned by the military in August 1940 and became the 41st General Military Hospital, providing accommodation in tents and huts. From 1941 the hospital was leased to the Americans as a neurological hospital for over 1,000 patients in 32 new wards which were completed in 1942 serving as the 185th General Hospital. The hospital remained in military use until 1944. The psychiatric hospital reopened under the National Health Service in 1948 and further buildings were constructed. And, this was where a social worker and I were accompanying this little five-year-old mentally handicapped girl; a child I had looked after in Nazareth House in Bristol, until the home closed down and she had nowhere to go. The hospital was 30 miles away.
It was still raining heavy as we drove through Taunton and out into the counrtyside. We arrived in Bishops Lydeard which to me seemed bleak and isolated, left the main road and turned onto a lane which ran through an expanse of green fields onto the 141 acres of hospital grounds. A mansion stood out in the distance. I felt so sad.