HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Let’s all have 2020 vision and a bit less rain.
My big news is the arrival six months ago of Benny the lurcher from the Dogs Trust rescue kennels near Evesham who is great fun and takes me for two long walks per day. Now the garden is pretty much Benny-proofed his penchant for escaping seems to be over. He is turning out to be a wonderful therapy dog with my friends at the Royal Hospital for neuro-Disability and also with learning disabilities people around Oxford. Aren’t dogs brilliant as Paul Whitehouse might say?! But the poor fellow injured himself a while ago, rupturing ligaments in his back right leg and has undergone surgery at the Swindon animal hospital … at enormous cost but he’s worth it. His recovery is slow, however, even when aided by hydrotherapy treadmill sessions at WoozleBears in Witney but I am pleased to say he is running off the lead again and on his way to full recovery.
I hope life is going well for you. Here in the Cotswolds, I don’t think there has ever been such a soggy summer, autumn or early winter.
I have decided to do a complete rewrite of this ‘latest news’ page as merely tweaking it occasionally ain’t good enough!
As many of you will know second marriages are not always easy and Ella and I struggled. We are both Christians and both divorced for over 25 years, so there was plenty of ‘baggage’. Help from a local vicar then a Christian counsellor in our local town of Witney continued for some six months but ultimately failed to resolve our difficulties. Sadly I have to report that matters are now in the hands of Witney solicitors, although we are trying to keep matters amicable as we separate and head for divorce. Our decree nisi will appear soon – then it’s just the financial settlement to sort which is never easy.
My respect for Jean Vanier will forever be undimmed. The great man suffered a heart attack towards the end of 2017 and had subsequent health problems. It is with great sadness that I have to tell you he died in the early hours of 7th May 2019 in a Paris hospital, surrounded by family and friends. I am so happy to have been Jean’s friend and will continue to live by his precepts.
I was at his base in Trosly-Breuil near Compiègne in early spring last year, putting the finishing chapters together of my second book (‘Slightly Bonkers Jamie’) in the library of La Ferme. I then headed out to my default Moevenpick Hotel in Aqaba, Jordan to complete its typing in a week of alternating sunbathing with laptop time. Funnily enough I have just spent another week in Aqaba tidying up the book, getting it ready for imminent self-publication with Tandem Publishing. My editor, Sam Carter is superb at his job and we are ‘making a good book even better’, he says.
Hitting this blog a while ago is the category ‘Thoughts and Feelings’, which is probably my favourite zone. If the words are in blue I would like to claim their authorship otherwise it might be a well-known proverb or I have given credit where credit is due. One of my favourite quotes from Henri Nouwen appears at the top of the opening page of this blog.
I neglected this blog a bit while I concentrated on the charity I chaired until May 2017, Being Alongside / The Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health. With Mary Wright, another member, we worked many hours for BA/APCMH on a leaflet for churches aimed at encouraging them to do a little more for the mentally afflicted in their parishes and this should be distributed soon in ‘pdf’ and ‘hard copy’ formats. I say soon but it’s now about three years since Mary and I started this work and still the leaflet remains ‘on the shelf’, which is not good. There has been no newsletter / magazine issued by Being Alongside for some two years now – this is not good either, but wouldyabelieve it a Spring 2020 edition has just arrived. I still try to chivvy along the people involved but frankly to little avail. This is a charity dear to my heart.
At Jean Vanier’s request I have become involved with Faith & Light UK and have helped organize six meetings thus far of a fledgling Oxford group. Our national committee have now sorted out insurance arrangements so meetings have resumed. Our next one is on Sunday 16th February in Eynsham. This wonderful charity supports those with learning difficulties and their families.
I started writing up my first book on the beach at Aqaba and completed the task in the library of the Royal Hospital for neuro-Disability in Putney where I volunteer. It was provisionally entitled ‘The Least of Mine – Pastoral Care in Mental Health’. SPCK, who encouraged me to write this, have sadly lost interest and another publisher who I approached said it didn’t work for them either. I then, for my second book, enlisted the help of Ali Hull (ex Lion Hudson) in order to take matters forward and subsequently tried the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency up in London. None of these approaches has born fruit – my last chance of a mainstream publisher rested with Quiller up in Shropshire. Sadly no joy there either, so I am now signed up with Sam and Alice Carter of Tandem Publishing. This is a professional self-publishing outfit and good progress is already made on plans for 2,000 paperback copies.
Goodness, one has to get used to rejection in the publishing arena but I am persevering!
Book 1 is currently on the back-burner and I am now occupied with completing Book 2, a sort of memoir, this one entitled ‘Slightly Bonkers Jamie’ … this nickname came from Joseph Boulter when aged 6. He’s now 12 and living with parents Adam and Beth and siblings Hannah and Benjamin in Toliara, Madagascar. The idea is to get my name a little bit known and then to revisit the first more important book. Already I am thinking about Book 3 which may be a biography of my talented grandfather, Mark Patrick MP and much more besides.