Nobody said it would be easy – cake, life and curveballs

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Tonight is the 3rd birthday for The Book Club on Facebook – a fantastic group that I belong to full of authors, reviewers and readers.  Basically book people.  Yours truly has been making the birthday cake over the last few days and with a shoulder slipping in and out of socket it has been no easy task!

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Of course I have been too ambitious and I always start with an image of the finished cake, and then am disappointed in my results.  This has taken me longer not just due to my lack of a right arm – yes, I am right handed – but also down to the design and needing to let it harden in phases.  More of that later.  It has made me draw parallels with expectations of everyday life – don’t worry I’m not going to get too deep here.

But how often do we set out with expectations of how an area of life will turn out only to be disappointed.  So many people talk about their life plans from university to careers to marriage to children etc, etc.  But life has this habit of throwing in a few surprises and curve balls along the way doesn’t it? Isn’t this true for everyone?

Life with illness – be it chronic, acute, mental or physical – is something few of us can anticipate and much less embrace.  When I set off to nursing college as an eager 18 year old, I never dreamed that life would turn out like it has.  But then I guess it is a good thing because with each setback it is so important to be able to get back up, brush yourself off and continue.  If I had known when I had major back surgery at 21 that by 38 I would be heading for medical retirement, I might not have tried so hard to get myself back on my feet and back to work.  I loved those years nursing and I think that I was a pretty good nurse.  If I had known my genetic diagnosis – Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – and all that it covers aged in my teens, I might not taken up rowing and then gone on to nursing – probably the worst things I could have done but great experiences.

But then some of the curve balls can be pleasant surprises.  For me probably the biggest surprise was falling pregnant when I had been told I would never conceive naturally.  The tiredness, anaemia and nausea/sickness turned into a pregnancy when my GP carried out a PAP smear and informed my cervix was blue – a classic sign of a 13 week pregnancy apparently!  I was taking HRT and had gone for a check up ahead of a new job – but came out as a mummy.  A huge curve ball, not in the game plan but fantastic (although I wasn’t saying that half an hour ago when said babe, 21 years on, created havoc in the kitchen with a pot of pasta on the stove!).

Being Mum
The surprise. aged 4 weeks….now a cover board on Pinterest!

I suppose what I am getting at is the importance to strive hard but also to accept that not everything will go exactly to plan…..and this is ok.  For me I’ve been thinking about the periods of needing to let my cake set before I can continue with it – living with chronic illness has these periods when fatigue hits and symptoms flare equalling a need to rest and pace.  Wait for the cake to set!  Don’t rush it, don’t take short cuts because there will be some sort of pay back.  In my experience this is life – illness or not.

So back to the cake….it is for a book club, so clever clogs here decided to make a stack of books.  The individual books were made – one chocolate, one Victoria sponge and one lemon – and then the icing covers started.  This is where the patience and waiting was required and I’m not good at this part!  Then last night came the final assembly of the three tier cake to form a stack of books……it wasn’t completely straight forward, there have been a couple of corners broken, some scaffolding was required and this morning some patch were required to plaster a few stress fractures.  The result is a stack of books that are not altogether straight and definitely look like they have been well loved if a little dog eared.  Not so different to life, I’d say – starting with high expectations (nothing wrong with that and I am not saying they should be lowered), hitting a few bumps along the way, the odd curve ball and maybe the finished product not quite as expected, but nevertheless created and to be made the best of.  Not always easy to do or accept, but as the infamous anonymous quote says “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it..”

Will let you know if this holds for the cake when it is tasted, as for comparisons with life….what do you think?

Nobody said....
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Blog Book Tour: Review “Calling Major Tom” by David M. Barnett – Part 1

This week has seen author David M Barnett on a book tour flying between the online world of blogs & social media and the real life world of book stores, as he publicizes his wonderful book “Calling Major Tom”.  You can meet David at The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley  gateway to the Yorkshire Dales on Thursday 13th July from 7pm, if you are in the area!

I first wrote a book review at the beginning of the year ahead of publication and later recommended the book to my local book club as our monthly read.  I would like to share my review with you again, before putting some questions from our book club to the author.

Warning: whilst the review does not contain spoilers, the subsequent questions might!

Book Review for Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett

I was given a copy of this book(ARC) from Netgalley via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair & honest review.  All views are my own.calling-major-tom

I challenge you, whether Bowie fan or not, to read this book without constantly having Space Oddity going round your head!  Thomas Major is a lowly scientist working at the British Space Agency when he finds himself in a position to be the first man to visit Mars.  The only thing is that it is a one way mission, but Thomas has his own reasons for wishing to leave his life behind & entering a self imposed solitude.  Back on earth the Ormerod family are struggling to survive – teenager Ellie & younger brother James living with grandmother Gladys whilst their father is in jail. Ellie should be having the time of her life shopping & partying with her friends, but instead her mother has died, she is working 3 jobs, caring for her brother & worrying that social services will split them if they realise that Gladys has dementia.

It was difficult to see how these two very separate story lines could interlink and work, but they dovetail together beautifully from the day that major Tom tries to call his ex-wife from space and Gladys answers the telephone.  Their lives are linked through the most unusual series of events which see Thomas Major helping the Ormerod family overcome financial and social issues…and even come to terms with a few of his own demons.

I loved this book – it made me laugh and cry.  The view from the space ship window is described so vividly that I could see it, and the personalities of the individual main characters brim with life.  The comedy that the writer incorporated into the character of Gladys turns a sensitive situation into a human one.  She made me laugh out loud.  The back story for Thomas Major unfolds and he is surprised to find himself changing as his relationship with the family on Earth develops and makes him re evaluate.  These people were very easy to identify with and I wanted to know what life had in store for them.  Mr Barnett makes the reader care.

A feel good story showing the best in human nature without over sentimentality, and how communities can come together.  An uplifting read that I give 5 stars.

Review also on goodreads, Netgalley & Amazon

Questions for the author

Who was the inspiration for the Thomas Major character?
Why space? And specifically Mars?
If Calling Major Tom were to be made into a film, who would you like to play Thomas Major? Matt Damon of The Martian fame?
The family dynamics between Gladys and her grandchildren are tangible – has David had first hand experience of dementia and if not where did he gain his insight for Gladys’s actions that made us laugh and cry?
Did Thomas see in the Ormerod family what had been missing from his own upbringing? Could he have ever moved forward from this if he had stayed on Earth?
When you started the book, did you intend that it would be so humorous?
 I remember that at the end I felt it wasn’t particularly heartwarming because I didn’t see how Major Tom was going to survive on Mars. What did the author think would happen next – or is there a sequel?
And finally….the obvious – are you a Bowie fan?
Some of the comments from my book club included:
Just finished the book, laughed out load, and cried, loved it!
 
Not finding this easy and it is because I am not liking using the iPad to read. (Book club read it – at my suggestion – before available as a  paperback book)
 
very quick read after the initial few pages…very funny..
General consensus was that we all really enjoyed it!

Answers to follow in Part 2

The book is published by Trapeze Orion Books UK
 
Available from 29 June in paperback, currently £5.59 and ebook £1.99 on Amazon

Calling Major Tom and also from your local bookstore (prices vary).

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