How to Fail


Do You Know How to Fail?

Fear of Failure Can Prevent Us Succeeding

When I was teaching primary children, I noticed that most mothers were very good at teaching their children how to succeed. If, for example, Jimmy won a race at sport’s day, his mummy would smile and clap and tell him: “Well done! You were brilliant!” If Jimmy went on to do a victory dance in front of his class and make a ‘loser’ sign to the child who came last, his mummy would tell him no, that’s not the right way to behave, you mustn’t be a big-head.

I watched children being praised and taught not to be conceited when they passed exams, starred in performances, and painted wonderful pictures. Parents seemed to do a pretty good job of teaching their children how to succeed.

But what about when they failed? What about when Polly came last in the race? Or failed her piano exam? Or wasn’t given a part in the school play? Or painted really awful pictures? How did parents react then, and were the children taught how to fail well? Mostly not. Mostly, the parents made excuses as to why it wasn’t Polly’s fault, or why the system was unfair—or else they lied, and said that Polly was the best anyway, and that her grey/green splodged picture was beautiful.

Do you think it matters? I personally think that it’s a big problem, both for individuals and for society. For most of us, failing at things is a big part of life, and we are more likely to fail than succeed and if we know how to fail, then it doesn’t knock us on our backs, we simply accept that we have failed and carry on.

I am very aware of this as I start to learn Greek as a mature (very mature!) student. I might fail. It’s a long time since I took an exam or tried to learn a new skill, and I might not succeed. But knowing that I might fail shouldn’t stop me trying. If I fail, it will be because I am not intelligent enough. Sometimes, we are not clever enough—this is an excellent thing to learn.

Our society likes to make excuses. It seems to be an innate part of being human. Way back at the beginning of time in the book of Genesis, we read about people failing and making excuses. Whether you think Genesis is a book to take literally, and Adam was a man who physically existed, or whether you think it’s a story to show us why relationships exist as they do, the first story is very clear. Adam messed up (he ate a forbidden fruit) and when challenged he made an excuse: “The woman YOU gave me made me do it.” It wasn’t his fault. Except, it was.

If we always make excuses—the teacher was rubbish, I didn’t have time to study, I couldn’t afford the right textbooks—then things are never our fault. And when we blame others, we start to feel resentment. I think this causes all sorts of problems for society. If the bus drivers, shop assistants, manual workers all think that they are as intelligent and capable as people with more interesting jobs, then they will resent those people, and feel angry at the pay discrepancies. If people have not learnt to fail, they will avoid competition in case they don’t win. They will feel defeated when they don’t get the job or promotion they feel they deserve. They will feel angry with the world for the things they don’t achieve.

Fear of failure also makes people stop trying. They won’t sing the song they composed, they won’t audition for the fashion show, they won’t try for the promotion at work because they might fail.

I am not talking about whether society is fair. I realise that in some cases, people have underachieved due to an unfair system, but not always. Sometimes people fail at school because they don’t do their homework, or because they are not very clever. Sometimes people come last in all the races at sport’s day because they never practise, or they eat unhealthily, or they are simply born with an uncoordinated body that is rubbish at all sports. People fail music exams because they don’t practise or they have no talent.

I believe these problems start in childhood. Some parents at one school I worked in suggested that we shouldn’t have ‘winners’ at sport’s day, and everyone should receive a rosette. How does that help to prepare a person for not always winning? Some parents will buy all children a gift on a sibling’s birthday, because they don’t want the younger brother to feel left out. They always let their children win at games. Everything the child produces is praised. When the child messes up, they make excuses on their behalf. The child is not being taught how to fail. They are being taught that failing is wrong.

Parents, when you play games with your child, don’t let them win. You can play badly, so they enjoy the game, but don’t always let them win—that is not what will happen in real life and it’s sort of lying. (My own mother absolutely believed this, and would always completely annihilate us when we played cards with her!) Acknowledge that your child is not very good at sports/art/music/maths or whatever. Encourage them to still try, but let them know that not being the best is okay. If they fail at something because they didn’t study, or practise, or try, then be honest about that. Let them get used to knowing that yes, they failed the spelling test, and yes, it was their fault because they played on the computer instead of learning the words—but you love them anyway. Teach your children to say sorry. When we are adults, we will sometimes drive badly and bump a wall, or be tired and snap at someone rudely, or forget someone’s birthday. We should accept the fault and say that we are sorry. It is so much easier to accept and forgive another person’s mistakes if they acknowledge the fault and apologise, rather than making excuses.

Accepting that we fail does not stop us trying to achieve, but perhaps it helps us to aim more realistically. I have trouble learning unrelated facts and symbols. I also find abstract concepts difficult to understand and manipulate. Hence, I will never be a great physicist. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is partly the way I was made, and partly because I was lazy at school and never bothered to learn the fundamentals. You too will have things that you can’t do—and that too is possibly partly your own fault and partly not. I think we are much healthier and happier when we accept our failures, try to learn from the experience and move on, rather than perpetually making excuses and self-justifying.

This week, I challenge you to acknowledge your failures—and think about how you could possibly correct them in the future. And if you have children, please teach them how to fail well. It might make them better, happier, adults.

Thanks for reading—and do share your own views in the comments below.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson

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Ironically, I have just ‘failed’ when posting this blog! I always write blogs ahead of time, and this was meant to be posted mid-October. But I forgot to change the date before completion, and so it went to all my followers today. Which must feel like spam as they have already received one blog from me today! Apologies.

cockerel and hen

A Confused Cockerel and other complaints. . .


He Fancied His Mother, So We Named Him Pharaoh

cockerel and hen

Hello, how are you getting on with this very strange year of 2020? I keep thinking I am used to it—I  have come to terms with the fact that every book-signing and fair has been cancelled this year and I really am not going to be selling many books—and then something else is cancelled, and all the frustration returns. I am obviously not alone, because our town is planning to have an ‘open day’ on 3rd October. It was planned through our town Facebook group (usually the place for people to rant about potholes and inconsiderate parking). Lots of people make crafts, or are artists, and we are all discouraged by the lack of places to sell our work. So, on the 3rd October, we are all going to place stalls at the end of our gardens, and people can walk or drive around town, looking at what’s on offer. To be honest, I doubt if I will actually sell any books, but it’s rather nice to have something in the diary, isn’t it?

Of course, all my animals are completely unperturbed by Covid-19. The ducklings are now on the pond, and—wonders!—they are all female. (You might remember that last spring, all my females flew away in the search of mates, and I was left with a pond full of obviously unattractive drakes.)

The chicks I hatched are a cross between the white Leghorn chickens and my grey Legbar. I am really hoping that the females will lay blue eggs, but they are still too little to lay at the moment. The Legbar cockerels are no more, as they started to get vicious. I only have one full-grown cockerel at the moment, and he is very beautiful but rather sad, as his mate died last week. He keeps running to all the places she used to go and calling for her—so my garden is very noisy at the moment. The relationship was a confused one, as she was also his mother, so I named him Pharaoh, because marrying siblings and fathering children with daughters seems to have been quite a thing in ancient Egypt. I was very confused when I was studying the lineage of the Pharaohs, as there are so many weird couplings—they have a very narrow family tree—it’s probably just as well many of them were sterile and the line died out.

We went to the beach last week. I was feeling depressed with life, so Husband rearranged his schedule, and we zoomed off to Camber with the dog. Kia loved it, and it ‘did my soul good’ as my granny would say, to see her running through the waves. When she had her twisted stomach at the start of the year (really—what an awful year this has been!) my fear was that after such a big operation, she would never enjoy life again. But I can report, that whilst she is beginning to feel her 13 years, Kia is still tremendously excited by sea and sand and seagulls.

On the way home, we had lunch in a pub (The King’s Head in Playdon). There was hand-santiser strategically placed, and the staff wore masks, and the tables were well spaced, and every customer had to leave their contact details. It all felt very safe, and encouraged me to think that eating out doesn’t have to be risky.

But then we went to Ashdown Park Hotel for lunch on Sunday, and that was entirely different! The staff did nothing at all to guard against Covid. They didn’t wear masks, we were given the same menu folders as other tables, they placed the food and drink directly on the table, and I wasn’t aware of any extra wiping or washing or screening at all. Such a shame, especially when they must be struggling to cover their costs and need customers to return. It was a lovely venue, but annoying they aren’t doing more to stop another peak.

My fears for society are reflected in the vocabulary in Mandarin I am learning so that I can chat with my friends:

Jingji weiji shi hen dou gongsi daobi, ye shi hen dou ren shiqu le gongzuo.

经济危机使很多公司倒闭,也使很多人失去了工作。

Which reminds me to tell you: I have decided to study ancient Greek and Hebrew. I often feel frustrated when I discover that something I thought I understood in the Bible has a completely different meaning when you look at the original language it was written in. I realise that if I don’t start to study the things I want to study now, then suddenly I will wake up and I’ll be too old. I have signed up for a course that begins at the end of September, and I am very excited about it. I shall tell you all about it when I start.

On another brighter note, the plum trees have loved the weather this year and my freezer is now full of plum crumble. When I walk, the hedgerows are teeming with blackberries and fat acorns are dropping from the trees. weird fungus There are also a whole new lot of weird fungus growing on my lawn. We might have had a rubbish year so far, but nature remains beautifully abundant.

I hope you have a positive week. Thank you for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson

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Getting Started


Getting Started

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Do you ever feel you spend the whole day ‘not getting started’? I suspect this is especially true for writers, but probably affects everyone. I mean that whole, being busy but not quite managing to do what I intended to do sort of day, when time slips past like an oily jelly, and suddenly it’s lunch time and I still haven’t started what I intended to do.

It’s not that I haven’t done anything, more that I have not accomplished what I planned to do. Like, when you want a cup of coffee, but first you have to wash-up a mug—the washing-up bit was not your purpose, it is merely one of those have-to-do jobs that appear before the main event. I seem to have a lot of those. . .

Take today, as the perfect example. Today, I plan to write. I am two-thirds of the way through the first draft of my new novel, and I’m loving it, and the characters are completely real people inside my head, and I am excited by where the plot is going inside my head, and over the weekend it occurred to me exactly how the book should end. All inside my head. Therefore, this morning, I am raring to get writing, and put those ideas into words. Today I plan to write. But. . .

I cannot really function without my morning coffee and Bible time, so after cleaning my teeth, I go downstairs and put on the kettle. A chick hatched overnight, so I go and check it is managing to drink (touch and go whether this one will survive). I refill the dog and cat’s water and food, make my coffee, read my Bible. Then it’s time to go for a run (not far, a 20 minute yomp to the end of the road: has to be done first-thing otherwise my exercise for the day is non-existent). Husband wants to come, so I agree to wait for him and fill the time sorting out my mother’s shopping for the week with Ocado. Husband appears, we run.

Return to house breathless and very sweaty. While Husband showers, I give feeble chick more water. Then I go to the pond to check chicks outside have water and food and aren’t stuck anywhere. Mother hen is very ferocious, and tries to attack me as I change water and top up food and attempt to grab some of the dirty hay and replace it with clean bedding. I check on Matilda. Matilda is a pheasant I found on a dog-walk, clearly dying as she had been hit (I assume) by a car, and lying on an oft-walked route, so likely to be mauled by the next passing dog/fox—not a nice way to die; so I carried her home and put her in a duck hutch to die peacefully. Except she didn’t die, so I now have a one-legged pheasant living in a hutch. (I have received a lot of family feedback about this.) Matilda is fine. Change her water, and top up the duck food.

Am about to shower, when I realise I haven’t ‘fed’ my sourdough starter today. I make a loaf every Tuesday, and it needs 24 hours to ferment, so I weigh the flour and stir it into the gloop, ready for tomorrow.

Grab a few dirty clothes and shove them into the washing machine, and give feeble chick another few sips of water.

Finally make it into shower, last hurdle before I do what I planned to do, and write more of my book. Except. . . while in the shower, it occurs to me that this would make a reasonably interesting blog, and if I quickly write this first, it leaves the rest of the week beautifully clear for wring my book.

At last, I have finished, and I hope that today, you manage to achieve what you planned to achieve, with no distractions. Now, if you will please excuse me, I have a book to write. . .

Thank you for reading.
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A Matter of Life and Death


I don’t know about you, but I am always surprised by how much life bursts forth in the spring. Suddenly, every weed in my garden is ten-foot-high, the chickens start hiding their eggs and going broody, wild birds start to go bananas. It is mostly wonderful.

There are a few downsides though—like the bag of potatoes I found at the bottom of the larder, with roots practically piercing the bag. Maybe not so good for mash. I had the clever idea of planting them, so the chickens could eat the new leaves when they sprouted (wouldn’t take long!) I took them up the garden, and found an area against the chicken coop fence. Ideal, I thought, I’ll chuck them there, toss a bit of compost over them, they can grow through the fence and the chickens can eat the leaves. All good.

About 3 days later, the potatoes appeared in a bucket next to the door.

“Look what I found!” announced pleased husband, beaming all over his face. “These must be the seed potatoes you planted last year, and they’ve grown new tubers.”

I told them I thought they were possibly some old potatoes that I’d found in the larder (I didn’t go into too much detail), but he assured me that the roots were really long, and there was no way they could possibly be from this year. I checked the area next to the chicken coop. No potatoes or heap of compost. I keep trying to avoid the subject, but husband has mentioned it about 50 times since then, saying how amazing it is. Might have to confess.

The welcoming committee. . .

We also had birds in the nesting boxes that Uncle Frank made. He gave them to me ages ago, and I put them near the kitchen window (good plan) so I would see if any birds took an interest. We had some great tits in the area, and I guessed the eggs must have hatched when I noticed a welcoming committee of four cats staring at the nesting box. I started to shut the cats in during the day, letting them out at night. But then one morning, I came down to find one cat up the tree, and by the time I had run outside, he had fished a baby out of the box and was playing with it. I grabbed the baby, shoved it back into the box, and shut the cat inside. Husband then assembled some protective obstacles around the base of the trees. The view from my kitchen window resembled a cross between Guantanamo Bay and a WW1 trench. Not quite what I’d hoped, but at least the birds were safe.

A little like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ wildlife picture, but this is one of the birds.

We watched the parents feed the birds, and I did some online research. Did you know that great tits have a black stripe down the centre of their breast, and that the male has a wider stripe than the female? The width is directly proportional to how many sperm he produces, so female great tits will try to select a mate with a very wide black stripe. Our male was in the ‘acceptable but not a super-stud’ range. Cool fact huh?

We guessed the hatchlings were flying because several blue jays appeared in the garden. Am hoping they didn’t catch them all—maybe the blue jay family had a banquet that day. The next morning, the nesting box was empty except for moss and feathers.

In keeping with the explosion of life that is spring, I have some duck eggs incubating in the utility room, and my beautiful white leghorn chicken is sitting on some eggs in her nest. She has a choice of leghorn (white) cockerel or legbar (grey) cockerel to choose from. I am hoping to have a female chick from the legbar male, as they lay lovely blue eggs (though whether or not a hybrid will, remains to be seen). They are due to hatch next week, so I will let you know how they fare.

I also have a female pheasant (I can’t tell you how delighted Husband is about this!) I found her in a ditch, so am guessing she had been hit by a car. I knew the fox would get her, and I figured it would be nicer to die somewhere peaceful, so I carried her home and put her in an empty duck coop next to the pond. But she didn’t die. I’ve had her a couple of weeks now. I’m feeding her grain and apples (have to smuggle the apples out of the house because technically they belong to Bea’s boyfriend). She can’t actually walk (the pheasant, not Bea) but seems quite happy lolloping around the coop and watching the ducks. There is a ramp down to the pond, and I do have some worries that she might drown herself (pheasants are very silly birds) which means Husband will have to wade out and retrieve the body—which he will mutter about for several days—but at least it will stop him talking about the blessed potatoes!

I hope your week is full of life.

Take care, and stay safe.

Love, Anne x

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Another chapter from Counting Stars will be posted on Wednesday.

I have become a 1950s wife, but without the pointy bra. . .


Hello, and how has your week been? I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit ‘down’ now—this whole lockdown experience has moved from weird to depressing. For me, I hit a real low point when Boris Johnson was admitted to Intensive Care. Now, I have a few differences of opinion with Boris (such as whether it’s okay to lie to people) but I didn’t like the idea that our Prime Minister was now fighting for his life. It was very destabilising. I was sent various ‘calls to prayer’ on social media (I get sent lots of Christian messages and videos on social media—some are excellent, many are not). It was a reminder that we should all be praying for our leaders, whatever our political view.

Some things about lockdown are good—I have rediscovered my breadmaker, and am churning out cinnamon buns and focaccia breads as fast as my family can eat them. I find baking to be therapeutic, if not especially good for my cholesterol levels.

Our conversation has become rather predictable though. Someone will start talking about Covid-19, we will discuss the information for about 5 hours, and then someone (often the person who raised the subject) will say: ‘But we’re talking about Coronavirus again, change the subject!’ We also regularly comment on how quickly the dishwasher refills, how much bread/milk/tea has been consumed, how all the mugs are dirty again. We discuss (though don’t necessarily do) possible types of exercise, plans for the garden, general tidying activities. Mealtimes have become important, and have become the focal point of the day; there is something comforting about familiar food when the rest of the world seems to be off-kilter.

I find I am lonely. Although the house is full, everyone is busy working, doing important conference calls and ‘Zoom’ meetings, and I am left with a lot of dirty dishes and a vacuum cleaner. I have become a 1950s wife but without the pointy bra and lipstick smile, and at low points in the day it upsets me, and I wonder what the point of my life is. This isn’t something I can post on social media, where everything is jolly and jokey (as it should be) but I thought I would share the truth with you, in case you sometimes feel the same. If you are unsettled by the news, and find that you’re not sleeping as well as you used to, and worry about the unpredictability of the world, then take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. There are lots of trite solutions flying round the internet at the moment, but actually, if we are real with each other, ‘now’ is not a great time, and there is lots to worry about.

I am also fed up about my writing (if I am going to have a truthful moan, I might as well share it all!) For an author to be motivated to write, they need to know that someone is going to read their work, which for a novelist means selling books. This is not something that any author I know enjoys, but it is necessary. If no one reads our work, there is no point writing it. I found the best way for me to sell books is at book-signings in bookshops, and stalls at craft fairs. Obviously, these avenues have closed for now. I had booked stalls at several fairs (at a cost of between £40 and £60 per session—which is quite a lot of books to sell just to break even). Each day, I dread opening my emails, reading that yet another event has been cancelled, another opportunity to sell books won’t happen. Although my books are also available from Amazon, I find it difficult to promote them, and I sell very few to new customers. All very depressing, and it all gets tangled up with worries about the economy, and what will happen if people start to lose their jobs, plus the health risks of the virus, and at 2am it whizzes round my brain in a sort of never-ending loop of negativity.

And so, each morning I force myself to run down the lane (which brings me quite close to actual physical death, and so takes my mind off the depressing virtual death I worry about). I then have a decent cup of coffee, eat some cake, read my Bible, and tell God about my worries, before going and baking something delicious. It sort of works—I’m still here.

I hope that you are finding ways to cope with life as we find it.
Take care this week.
Love, Anne x

PS.

Now, after I had written the above, I began to worry, as I often do after writing blogs, that someone might misunderstand what I am trying to say. I remembered something I have seen online recently, where Ellen (famous American person) described feeling as if she was in prison due to lockdown, and instantly, lots of people sent complaining messages (or ‘tweets’ as I believe it was on Twitter) saying that it was appalling that she used that analogy, as she lived in a massive house with great views and a swimming pool. And I began to worry, maybe someone would point out that I am lucky enough to have a garden, and how can I complain, when some people are stuck inside a flat?

But here’s the thing. Yes, Ellen lives in a mansion—but for her, lockdown made her feel like a prisoner. It’s fashionable at the moment to say: “it’s okay to not be okay.” But then, with the next breath, we are outraged at someone who admits they are ‘not okay’ because there are people worse off than them, and they jolly well should be okay! Well, it doesn’t work like that. Ellen might live in a better house than me (though actually, I don’t think she has cockerels roaming her garden, so maybe she doesn’t…) but she still felt shut-in. I live in a nice house with a garden, but it’s still depressing. You may tell me that someone in a flat is worse off than me, and yes, they are, but I can still be fed-up. The person with the flat is better-off than some of the slum-dwellers I visited in India, but that doesn’t make their situation any easier.

There is something in people that likes to point out when others are worse off, to suggest that admitting we find life tough is not, actually, okay. I don’t think there is a limit to this. When I had a brain tumour (and accompanying 5-year migraine) I was often reminded that people with cancerous tumours were the ones who ‘really’ had a right to worry. And yes, they had it tougher than me, but other people had it tougher than them, and if we are going to continually tell people that ‘someone else has a tougher life’ then we are going to continue the cycle where we cannot admit we are not happy, we do not look ‘Instagram Ready,’ we are not all hunky-dory. And so, I would like to state that I know I have loads to be thankful for, I have many ‘blessings’ to count. But today, I am fed-up, and if you are too, that really is okay.

Thanks for reading.
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When I tell people I’m feeling low, they often send photos of sunshine or jolly little messages designed to cheer me up. Whilst this is kind of them, it mainly makes me want to punch them! No, what I find most helpful–and you might too–is to read the book of Ecclesiastes (which is about the middle of the Bible). It doesn’t have any trite little messages, it basically agrees that life is pointless and like chasing the wind. You should have a look.

And then, you could do worse than to read one of my books. They’re available from Amazon, and the UK link is Here! You can decide whether to choose a feel-good happy book, or one that is gritty. Depends on your mood really. . .

The Invisible Jane story continues tomorrow

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A Completely Horrible Night


We all have bad days, I think last Sunday was one of my worst, though it might have been even worse. It began just fine, Bea was here for the weekend, and we’d all had dinner and watched a film, and I was preparing to go to bed. I’d fed Kia and put her out for a last wee, but I had forgotten to sort out the heating for the night, so popped back downstairs. Bea and Jay met me in the kitchen, and said something was wrong with Kia.

Kia was pacing, looking uncomfortable, and stretching her neck as if about to vomit. I had earlier dropped an egg in the garden, and I wondered if she’d eaten it, especially as when moments later she was sick, the result was what looked like uncooked meringue. Maybe she was allergic to egg? But then my mind began to process what was happening, and that she had been fed an hour earlier, and yet none of that food had come back up. Plus, Kia was now panting, stretching out her neck as if she couldn’t catch her breath, and when I felt her stomach it was as hard as a rock. I had read about symptoms like these on one of the German Shepherd Facebook groups I belong to—Kia was showing all the signs of a twisted stomach. And that is often fatal.

I woke Husband and said I thought we needed to go to the vet. We are very fortunate—in a nearby town is a 24 hour veterinary hospital, and they have an out-of-hours casualty department for emergencies. This was an emergency. At least, I thought it was. But when I put on my old dog-walking coat, and collected the lead, Kia seemed suddenly fine. She started to wag her tail, and trot around excitedly, ready for a walk.

“Could Kia simply have had a bad reaction to something she ate? Was I overreacting by rushing her to hospital?”

Possibly, but the facts were that if she had a twisted stomach, she needed to be operated on as soon as possible or she would die. If she had simply eaten something bad, the vet would tell us the visit was unnecessary, we would apologise and return home. The risk of not rushing to the vet was too great. We rushed.

Kia was okay on the journey, obviously uncomfortable, but not in agony. We arrived, I explained the problem, and the vet agreed it sounded suspiciously like a twisted stomach, which is quickly diagnosed with an X-ray. I signed the consent form, Kia was led away, we waited.

Within a few minutes the vet returned. Kia had a twisted stomach, the vet could operate, but Kia is an old dog (12 years old, which is old for a GSD) and the operation was a major one. Did we want to take the risk and spend the (considerable) money? It was all too quick.

Pause for a minute with me, and try to imagine the situation. An hour ago, Kia had been fine, all was peaceful at home. Suddenly, everything had changed, and my completely healthy, very fit dog (lets face it, one of my best friends) was now about to die. What to do? Was I committing her to months of pain, to never properly recovering, because I didn’t want to let her go? Or should I give her a chance, should I decide that she is remarkably healthy for a dog that age, she had every chance of a full recovery and a few more years of active life, and I should not deny her that. What was the right choice? As is often the case, I have no idea. There was no time to take a moment, to pray for wisdom, to test how I felt. The decision had to be now.

I chose to operate.

I then went to sit in the car, leaving Husband to listen to the potential risks and to sign the release forms, because all the sensibleness had deserted me, and a hot fountain of tears was about to escape and I wanted to be somewhere private. I sat in the car, aware of how much I love that opinionated, determined, faithful animal, and how much I was losing if she died; and I cried.

Husband returned, and we drove home. The vet said that if, during surgery, there was too much internal damage, then they would phone and ask permission to put her to sleep. (We were unable to give consent prior to surgery; I don’t know why.)

At 4 am, the vet phoned. The surgery had gone well, Kia was in recovery, but the next 72 hours would be critical.

At 7.30am, the vet phoned to say Kia was awake, and seemed remarkably well. By the evening she was able to walk outside to toilet, and was drinking, though she still had not eaten.

Monday morning, the vet told us that Kia still had not eaten. This didn’t overly surprise me. She has always been a picky eater, and at home she will only eat when I eat. If I put her food down in the morning, it will sit there, untouched, until she sees me eat my evening meal—then she will eat. The vet suggested that if I was comfortable giving all the medication, Kia would be better at home, as she needed to eat. We collected her (and a suitcase of pills).

As I write this, Kia continues to improve. She is still very weak, and is eating lots of little snacks rather than a proper big meal. But gradually her strength is returning, and she is relaxed at home, as long as she can see me, she is happy. The drugs make her drowsy, and her shaved tummy needs to be kept warm, but I think she is going to be all right.

I am so grateful to the dog owners who described the symptoms of a twisted stomach so that I recognised them. I am grateful to the vet, who reacted so professionally. And I am grateful to God, who allowed me to keep Kia for a little longer, even though we never know how long that will be.

Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

 

You can read more about Kia in my travel book (though she was only invited on the English holidays!) You can read it free if you have a kindle. Also available in paperback–a lovely Mother’s Day gift.

Now is an excellent time to read my travel book. Happy adventures from around the world.
Available from Amazon.

UK link Here

Trying to be ‘Normal’


Trying to be ‘normal’

Yesterday, Bea brought home a friend she wanted us to meet. I knew this was a fairly big deal for her, and so I was very keen that we shouldn’t embarrass her. Usually I consider that I have earned the right to be embarrassing to my children due to suffering through their teenage years when their clothes and hair and general attitudes were often not what I had hoped for when they were 5—but not this time. This time I was keen to be ‘normal’.

Now, I would say that housework is not my forte. Basically, I hate doing it, and although my kitchen is hygienic, you might find dog hairs on the floor and dust on the window sills, so my first task of the day was to tidy the house and wave a duster around a bit. Unfortunately, Husband (always to be relied upon in these situations) had helpfully decided that this was the day he was going to empty the loft of important papers from 20 years ago, and put them into bags ready to be recycled. The whole of his office resembled a rubbish tip. We had an argument (always a good start when guests are due).

I then began to wipe surfaces in the kitchen, when I noticed an unpleasant smell wafting under the utility room door. We have one of the outside cats in there, in a cage, because she has pulled the ligaments in her back legs (fell out of a tree) and the vet said she mustn’t climb or jump, and I have no idea how you stop a cat jumping, so I have put her into the old dog crate, which is big enough for her to walk around in, but has no opportunity for jumping. She is very cross, but the ligaments are healing, so all is good. Except yesterday, she had dirtied her bedding.

I attempt to open cage door and remove dirty bedding without cross cat escaping, and am about to shove dirty bedding into washing machine, when I hear a shout from the garden. Husband is yelling that the cockerels have been fighting.

I have several cockerels, hatched last year. Until now, they have lived fairly peacefully alongside each other. Cockerels will sometimes live for several years in the same flock without incident, provided they have sufficient space and females. However, sometimes you hatch an aggressive bunch, and then you can only keep one. I hurried into the garden.

One of the cockerels was clearly suffering, having been attacked by one of the bigger ones (his brother actually—chickens are pretty nasty creatures). The bird was obviously dying, and in pain, so I quickly killed him. When chickens are dead, the nerves in their bodies continue to function, making them twitch, so it can be hard to know they are completely dead. I didn’t want it to suffer, so to be sure I chopped off the head. (A chicken with no head is definitely dead, though bizarrely they can still run around!)

Looked at time: daughter due at house with friend at any moment. The cockerel had been a big bird, and it seemed wrong to simply throw him away (waste of a life) but there was no time to do anything with him. So, I tied up his legs, and hung him in garage, to deal with him later. Sent Bea a message: “If you give friend a tour of the house, don’t go in garage because there’s a dead chicken hanging from the ceiling!”

Bea replied: “What? You are meant to be trying to be normal! Dead chicken hanging in garage is not normal!”

I felt she had a point.

The rest of the visit went okay, and we liked her friend immensely. I have no idea what the friend thought of us, but hopefully we appeared to be relatively normal.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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 I am excited to tell you that my new book, Sowing Promises, is now available. A sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, it is also a stand-alone book and my best one yet (though I always think that!) A family saga, set on a farm, it is all about a family coping with unexpected happenings. . . and trying to be normal.

Available from an Amazon near you, and if you buy a copy today it will still arrive in time for Christmas–it makes a great gift for someone who you want to make smile.

UK link HERE

US link HERE

Amazon Germany HERE

 

Secret Heroes


Secret Heroes

When we visited the death camps at Auschwitz, we were told something which has stuck with me, something which made me realise that some people are incredibly brave, even unto death, and are never recognised for it. Not in this life, anyway.

We were told that as the Nazis refined their killing systems, they realised that the part that took time, that could not be rushed, was the disposal of the bodies. They had learned (the hard way) that having thousands of decomposing bodies in the ground was something of a health risk. The only way to successfully complete their genocide, was to refine the disposal of the bodies, and thus they built the crematoriums. The crematoriums were worked by prisoners, who were themselves killed after a certain period, so that no one knew too much and the scale of what was happening could be kept hidden. (I have no idea how hidden, or how you keep such a thing a secret, but that was their claim.)

Now, Auschwitz Birkenau was something of a model camp, and they increased their killing capacity by building more crematoriums. However, things didn’t go smoothly, as the new crematoriums kept breaking down. The Nazis complained to the engineers and architects, who blamed the Sonderkommando (the prisoners tasked with burning the bodies). Apparently, they said that it wasn’t their fault, the Sonderkommando must be scraping the inside of the ovens when they added bodies, which was breaking the seal, so the furnaces kept breaking.

Now, stop and think about that for a minute. We were told this by our guide in passing, as an interesting snippet of information. But stop and consider. These people were living under huge duress, their job was to load bodies into the ovens, they knew they wouldn’t survive for very long themselves, they had no power to fight the Nazis…and yet they managed to slow down the killing by damaging the ovens. Who did this? We don’t know. Nor do we know how many lives were saved by slowing down the process, but I’m guessing it was thousands because the prisoners could not be gassed until there was a way to dispose of the bodies, so every time a crematorium was out of order, the whole system would slow down, and fewer people would be killed.

I keep thinking about this, about those brave people who managed to find a way, even in their position, to save lives. They must have known that if they were discovered doing it, they would be shot. They would have known that they would soon be killed anyway, and yet they did what they could. In secret. No medals, no honour, no recognition—they may not have even told the people working next to them. I think, of all the stories we heard when at the camps, this was the one which affected me the most. It gives me hope that even in such awful times, individuals were able to be brave and do good. The challenge has to be, would we?

Anne E Thompson has written several novels, which are available from bookshops and Amazon.
Anne also writes a weekly blog — describing her travels, her animals, and life in general — Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
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Hearing What Is Meant


When I was teaching at Limpsfield Infant School, I would very often look up from taking the morning register, to find a child standing next to me. “What’s the matter Tommy?” I would ask (though it might be Jane or Christopher or Matthew). “I’ve got a tummy ache,” they would reply. And I would guess that whatever the first subject of the day was, they found it difficult. Usually I would assure them that maths gave me a tummy ache too, and we would sit down together and try to sort it out.

(Of course, sometimes they really did have a tummy ache, and I will never forget the day that a girl – whose name I remember clearly – vomited all over me. This was not helped when her mother – who I also remember – came to collect her and seemed to find it terribly funny, even though the child was ill because she’d just been taken to have vaccinations for a holiday. There is so much I could say here, but hey, I’m over it. Sort of.)

Anyway, my point is, children don’t always say what they mean, and part of being a good teacher is hearing what they’re trying to say. Grown-ups also don’t always say what they mean, and sometimes this is good. So when, driving home after an event, my husband turns to me and says, “You were the prettiest one there,” I am pleased. Even though I know that it’s not true. But he’s telling me that in his eyes, I am still pretty, and he’s glad I was there. It made me smile recently, to watch a film on Netflix, when all the wives were told by their husbands that they were ‘the prettiest one there’, because I had thought it was only my husband who said that!

However, sometimes people don’t say nice things, they say horrid things, and part of being an adult—I think—is trying to hear what they’re really saying.

I find it much easier with children, perhaps because I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Or perhaps because they’re not so good at pretending, so it’s easier to see what they’re really saying. My mother always says she likes teenagers, because “they are completely selfish, and they don’t pretend not to be.” Adults are harder, because generally we are also completely selfish, but we try to hide it.

I hope you agree that sometimes, what people say, is not completely what they want you to hear. And usually, they simply need some reassurance, to know that no one else is perfect either, and that’s okay. Sometimes we need other people to hear that we’re vulnerable, and we’re not quite managing to keep up. Because all of us are falling behind with something. And sometimes, we all need someone to say to us: “You were the prettiest one there.”

*****

Thank you for reading.

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Which book would you like to read next? Available from bookshops and Amazon.

All Quiet On The Chicken Front…


I thought I would give you a quick update on my news. First, the family of cockerels. As you may remember, I was fortunate (!) enough for five of the six hatchlings to be male. Now, contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to have a flock with more than one cockerel and not have open warfare. I know this because I had two cockerels who lived very peacefully alongside each other for a couple of years (until a fox ate them). However, five young cockerels, plus their father, seems like a lot.

As the hatchlings grew, and were allowed to roam freely around the garden, the flock separated. The parents and the female wander around the garden together, and the young cockerels form a separate flock. A few weeks ago, they started ‘facing off’ to each other. None of them has spurs yet (the deadly sharp talons on the back of their legs) so I figured they were unlikely to kill each other, and were probably simply sorting out the pecking order. I left them to it. The dog takes a keen interest in this, and has taken upon herself the role of peace-keeper. If they start to fight, she stamps on them – which is remarkably effective.

When we went to Devon for a week, I was worried about leaving them all in the same cage, so I split them up. I waited until evening, when they were all roosting on the perch, and then went to move the young cocks into a separate cage. I have to say, it takes an amount of courage to approach a cockerel, which is staring you in the eye, at head-height, with an elongated neck and fluffed up feathers. But I managed to pick them all up, ignored all the squawking, and carried them, one by one, to a new cage; and I survived without getting my eyes pecked out (which would have made Husband cross).

When I returned home after Devon, I opened both cages, to see what would happen. For a couple of days, the father and both hens roosted in one cage, the five young cockerels in the other. Gradually, as they have established a pecking order, two of the weaker cockerels have started to join the parents. I now have ‘the elite team’ of cockerels in one cage, and the rest in the other. For now, we are at an uneasy truce. If any of them become very aggressive, they will have to go (don’t ask me how – but I am not vegetarian, and neither is the local fox, so I figure I have a couple of options…unless you would like a pet cockerel? Do let me know.)

My other news, which is sort of vaguely related, is my new book, which is set on a farm. The first draft is finished, and I began to send it out to publishers. One publisher sent back a detailed editorial report, saying they didn’t want to publish it as it was, but would reconsider if I rewrote it. I am therefore in the process of rewriting it. This is taking much longer than I expected – longer in fact than writing the first draft, because as I change things, I lose the rhythm of the story, so have to rewrite increasingly large sections. It feels like work, and is not much fun. But I do feel the book is improving, so it’s worth the effort. When finished, I will resubmit to the publisher, and see what happens. I would like it to be released in the summer, but it may take longer than that. I will let you know.

A late Christmas gift was a trip to the British Museum and having a tour of the artefacts that relate to various stories in the Bible. Do you know why it was historically appropriate for Daniel to be put in a lions den? Or the name of the Pharaoh who put Joseph (of the coloured coat) in charge of all the agriculture? Or the Pharaoh who suffered the plagues at the time of the Exodus (because it probably wasn’t Ramesses!) I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s blog.

That’s all for now. I hope you have a good week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com
Why not sign up to follow today?