St Patrick’s Day

floor puzzle

I’m first generation British; my dad was from Dublin, my mum Cork.  As a teen I spent Easters and summers across the sea.

My granddad was six feet; a sinewy, strong fisherman of few words.  When I was small I thought he was an Apache Indian with his red, weathered skin.  He called me ‘girl’.  I was totally in awe of how he mounted his bicycle in motion; I’d keep him in my sights till he cycled off the horizon. He was so old school dinner was eaten in silence. After, he’d sit by the fire, roll up a smoke and watch RTE news on a black and white telly the weight of a people carrier.

My nan was five feet; I could pick her up and spin her round.  She was a lady; softly spoken who I remember picking mushrooms with, rolling pastry, playing cards, catching the bus into Youghal to mill around the quaint shops while she had a purple rinse put in her grey hair. We had soda bread with homemade jam for breakfast,  barmbrack for lunch then fish from granddad’s haul; no variations. Don’t sit in a draft; you’ll get piles she’d say.  Thinking back now she must have been so lonely, my granddad out on the boat from the early hours, in a house surrounded by fields of wheat, her three daughters in London. It makes me want to wrap my children in my embrace and keep them so close.  They’re grown now; real Londoners but proud of their Irish heritage.

goat-island-ardoMy grandparents lived on a cliff, in a whitewashed, stone cottage, which was painted pink one Summer.  An idyllic location surrounded by blue flag beaches, bays and coves. The house had no toilet or running water.  We had to walk up the road, only 5 minutes, fill buckets from a well, then spill half the contents walking back. It was a two up, two down; no kitchen as such just a cooker that worked off a gas cylinder, a table and a large churn of well water.

Up the road were my best pals; a sister and brother from Dublin whose cousins resided in an adjacent bungalow.  We were literally The Famous Five, but a threesome. I can say without reservation the best of my childhood was spent there, condensed into a few weeks reprieve from the loneliest years of my life.

As a young adult Paddy’s day was huge. There’d be Irish bands and dancing at The Galty and National. I’d waltz, jive and swing to the Seige of Venice…and alcohol would be consumed in large quantities by young and old alike.  Although I rarely listen to Foster & Allen now or The Pogues I still support young Irish music talent: Flynn, JyellowL, Tebi Rex and Liquor by Rushes. But the tune I’m featuring today is one of my favourites by Dublin band Kodeline.




As an adult I drifted away from Ireland.  I fell in love, started a family, had a mortgage and worked full-time.  I wrote my nan but not often enough. I didn’t attend my grandparents’ funerals; finances were anxiously tight and avoiding debt was priority.  I have few regrets in my life but not seeing my nan before she passed is one.

Before I ever thought about writing I had favourite authors who I broke up with because I felt our relationship was going nowhere. That they were taking me for granted and churning out books following an overbaked recipe.  So having written two romantic thrillers set in London I decided to attempt a romantic suspense with a hint of the supernatural set in a quiet seaside town in rural Ireland.  It’s not a fanciful whim, it’s a labour of love, a stroll down memory lane, a tribute to my grandparents. I hope they, along with my dad and aunt are looking downward and feeling proud of how I’m trying to hold it together and forge a future for myself.

I want my third book SEPTEMBER to be my strongest to date; I strive to be a better writter with each novel. I’m hoping to attract a fan base that will grow with me. That’s why I like to celebrate occasions with book giveaways because I want my book out there, being read and if I’m lucky getting feedback via reviews, ratings, social media. I can take the bad, the ugly along  with the good. It’s the only way to grow.

I always had in the back of my mind retiring to the little cottage by the sea. I’d be in and out my friends’ house, an old dear, with a bottle of wine, gassing like the years hadn’t passed between us. Maybe waiting at Arrivals at Cork Airport for my children, perhaps grandchildren even.  We’d go rock pooling, swimming, shell collecting, walking for miles and miles. I can’t describe the rush I feel thinking about how one foot goes assuredly in front of another. How I miss my meandering thoughts as I’d walk from one place to another. You take the car hon, I’d say to my husband, I’m walking. I had no idea I had a serious condition that would hinder my mobility and quality of life considerably and steal away my dream.

wellHaving myelopathy and spinal cord damage is not only debilitating it’s erratic; making it hard to commit to anything. At book club I sit all perky one minute and the next I’m up and out, even before dessert, struggling for home before very real pain strikes. Like yesterday. When after a week at home, following my last physical crash, I dared go out for coffee. My problems started with trying to get out of the car, then up from the coffee table, to finding I’d lost power in my legs and my arms hadn’t the strength to open the door. Next was the swaying, my feet not lifting, tripping…pretty quickly pain ensued. A kind of pain that seems intolerable at times  These are the before and after media; a difference of a couple of hours.



Today I am again on house arrest, not daring to go out, scared to trigger another grim day of agony.  My life is: coffee shop, pain, housebound, repeat. When your spinal cord and surrounded nerves are damaged your body mimics MS, ME, stroke, paralysis, delaying diagnosis.

It’s a mind game, to be well one day, in pain the next, mobile one day, in a wheelchair the next. My youngest can’t remember when I was well.  It’s difficult for others to understand the fragility of my health. I’ve lost friends who thought I did’t make the effort, even extended family have thrown in my face I went on holiday. Hopefully I’ll go on holiday again, loaded with morphine, tramadol, oxycontin and wheelchair support, to a very hot country. I need sun on my bones, a swimming pool and wheelchair friendly terrain but what I want is the coarse sea air, to walk along the cliffs, to scramble down to Goat Island, to walk into town. It’s a dilemma; my heart may be in Ireland but my spine needs to be in Mali. Still I find some comfort in the novels of Irish authors, connecting with Ireland through characters and places.


There will always be the part of me that wants to wind back time, to cherish what I had, to hold on to it longer than I did. Often we don’t appreciate moments until they are memories…and even happy memories can make you sad.


I applied to renew my passport this week.  It’s much easier now with online application; my son took my photo and I uploaded it.  Before I’d pressed the HM Passport Office send button I’m screaming fake. That sour faced, elderly, wrinkly is not me! But she is. She’s just so altered. Long gone are beautiful bright eyes and clear, even skin.  The me now looks exhumed. I could put it down to poor lighting and a straight face but it’s the two anterior dissections causing an expanse of chicken skin where my toned neck once was. My sparkly eyes are watery and sunken. It’s hard to swallow how much I’ve changed in ten years.

airplane blur close up desk
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

2009. I didn’t know it then but I already exhibited major symptoms of myelopathy; the black ops of degenerative disease. It’s so stealthy and gradual I never saw it coming.  Who knows how long it was that tell-tale signs were there; the doctors think my early thirties.  But I had limitations from conception; fused discs, a too narrow spinal canal.

2010. Following multiple mis-diagnosis I end up in A&E, spend considerable time in hospital, ending up with my first operation.

2011. My second operation

2014. My third – possibly my last – one lives in hope.

2019. I’m not living the life I imagined but I am living. I wake up each morning to uncertainty. I don’t know how much pain I’ll be in, how mobile I’ll be or what I might be able to achieve. But I’ve adapted.  I rely on my strengths: cheerfulness – which used to be fairly annoying but this is the toned down version, tenacity – I refuse to break, I do crack though and my love of music and literature.  I’m that determined not to be beaten I’ve written a book and it’s not one wallowing in myelopathy or self-pity.  It’s pure fiction: a thriller with romance, crushes, stalking, abduction.

man wearing denim jacket singing on stage
Photo by Eric Esma on

I’m blogging and vlogging. I’m learning how to edit clips. I’m finding a little social media family. My mind is buzzing away trying to find free ways of promoting Random Attachment. I’m editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. I’m trying to create a life for myself.  I’m not going to get better.  I need to work around my disability, not give up.

Sometimes I think how the f**k am I going to get through today.  Other days I’m so caught up in my new life I think where the f**k did  the time go?

I think my life is going to consist of contrast and contradictions. Realistically I will struggle with my mobility, mental health and general sense of well-being.  But life is a gift and adventures are ahead if I can keep mine.

So even though I’m a fifty-one year old disabled woman, I’m going to listen to hiphop and write Young Adult romantic thrillers until I can no longer type…then I’ll just listen to hiphop.




Us myelopathers live in a higgeldy piggeldy world. Nothing is straight forward, nothing is set in stone when it comes to our condition. It’s eight years ago this month that I had my first operation. When I think of the physical and mental battle I’ve had since then it’s amazing I’m still here never mind have written a book. I don’t say this lightly; my battle with myelopathy has been as exhausting mentally as it has physically.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve been on the edge of madness.  Connecting with others sufferers through has helped me understand my condition as well as supported my mental health.  Any long term illness with chronic pain can lead to depression, acting out of character, gambling, drinking, debt – blogging is a way of letting off steam whilst connecting with the myelopathy community.

My husband and children have been total rocks. They understand the condition well because they live it with me. They’ve seen me on my hands and knees trying to get from the sofa to the kitchen to put the kettle on because I want to do it for myself.  They’ve seen me bent over double, breathing like I’m in labour because the pain is so acute it takes my breath away.  I’ve spent the last seven years stumbling, swaying, knocking into, tripping over, falling onto a world that seems to be erratically spinning around me.

I’ve always been a glass half full person. When I couldn’t work, walk, sleep I wrote.  I poured all my pain, frustration and despair into blogging and writing Young Adult romantic thrillers.

Two weeks ago I self published Random Attachment. For me this is a huge thing.  A massive achievement.  Also it’s my ray of hope.  I won’t bore you with what I’ve lost, with what my condition has stripped me of because I don’t feel sorry for myself. But writing has enabled me to reinvent myself, to be Gertrude T Kitty, author. It’s taken the spotlight off my condition and has given me back some self esteem.

I don’t imagine my book will make multi million sales or I’ll have royalties into the thousands but whatever I have once Amazon take their cut I hope will support my writing and help YMCA West London, Centrepoint and  Up to now I have written for myself, now I am writing for others.  I’ve worked this last fortnight on Twittering, Facebooking, vlogging, anything to get my book promoted. My husband has been photocopying and cutting up little adverts for Random Attachment. I’ve been very unwell and immobile during this time so have only left the house once but I did put it up in a newsagent and coffee shop in Pinner.  I am up and feeling well today so have my photocopies and pins in my bag ready to pin it up whereever I legally can.  I’m asking you, if you could print out the advert and pin it up on a board where you work, or where your children have clubs.

My lovely bookclubbers have bought my book. Thank you for supporting me. I’m dreading feedback because I know how high our expectations are when we critique some of the greats in literature…remember I’m a minnow.

So here I am before Christmas, with a book that is all the more precious to me because my daughters were so instrumental in supporting me during writing and getting it out there.

Yesterday I filmed my first vlog about my book.  It took me five attempts because I was so waffly and repeatedly said ‘you know’, ‘so’, ‘erm’.   But here is the link to it and the link to my Young Adult (unsuitable for under 14’s) romantic, thriller.  I would love if you’d follow me on Twitter @gertrudetkitty. If you buy my book that would be wonderful…if you read it that would be even better and your critique would be the icing on the cake…oh and sharing it. It’s a lot, I know, because it’s hitting your purses, wallets and your time. God I hope the book’s not terrible after all this.



Thank you.








The BB’s Book Club


I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 27.  He was in a friendship group of boys and girls he’d gone to school with, or that lived on his estate.  I was a loner; fairly reserved, so I was socially out of my depth among the tight-knit, strong, sassy, independent women in the group.  They knew who they were, they were in established relationships, they were loosely friends with my husband’s x – it was awkward.  But I was in awe of their bond, their easy banter, their shared experiences.  Thirty years later I’m still a little envious of their remarkable rapport; they have this honest and pure sisterhood.  They’ve been there for each other through school, boyfriends, breakups, pregnancies, miscarriages, raising kids, losing family; they are totally solid.  I still sit on the peripheral of this dynamic but it’s a warm, accepting, fun place for me to  be.  It’s a bit like when you are given a honoury degree.

There was a baby shower a while back.  It would have been so easy not to go.  It was a long enough car journey for my unsteady neck to be bobbing up and down.  My alcohol intake was down to water with a hint of wine and my conversation was dried up.  But I pushed myself.  And I’m so glad because Jen, who’d recently lost her husband, who I barely know, had formed a book club.  They’d met once and she said come along.  Whilst coping with her loss, she was thinking of me and my limitations and I thought fantastic; I can do this.  To live with myelopathy you need to focus on what you can do and let go of what you can’t…otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad and into a wheelchair.

So I find myself part of this sisterhood which I am totally embracing.  I have not missed a book club night.  They are a Come Dine with Me/Through the Keyhole fusion.  I’ve had great food, lively conversation and I’m living.  I’ve been so pleased with myself reading the book and engaging with friends.  It’s been a struggle because I am deteriorating and I am an unreliable guest.  Two weeks ago I was in Charing Cross, with head pain that immobilised me, half distraught thinking what the f**k’s gone wrong now, half angry that ninety percent of the health professionals attending me are clueless about my condition.

Since coming home my priority has been making it to Book Club.  Not tidying, not cooking, not shopping, not pleasing anyone else, just managing my pain and my mobility and getting to my lovely friend Paula’s birthday who was hosting Book Club.  I’d spent the week doing the complete minimum only stretching and moving around the house.  Come Saturday morning I laid in bed, pain in every joint, my head a ton weight sitting on a brittle neck, my stiffness wretched.

Three things got me to book club:

  • celebrating Paula’s birthday who’d put on a scrumptious dinner and dessert,
  • ensuring I remain in the inner circle because it’s a very lonely, miserable existence if you don’t help yourself to socialise
  • MYELOPATHY.ORG – being in hospital was a painful reminder of how misguided so many doctors and neurologists are.

My situation is ridiculous.  There’s Paula, at work all week, shopping for food for twenty guests, spring cleaning, cooking and I’m struggling to participate.  It’s my perfect night and it’s touch and go whether I’ll be well enough.  But what’s been lovely is no one pushes me for answers about my condition, I’m just accepted and treated gently.  I feel so lucky to have these ladies in my life.

But the icing on the cake is their enthusiasm and willingness to support our charity.   When I was in hospital I was so demoralised by the complete lack of interest neurologists have in myelopathy.  I thought, I’m doing something about this NOW!  When I say ‘I’ that means someone else because I can’t raise money for Myelopathy.Org without being helped myself.  So I asked the girls to donate a pound each time we meet for Book Club and Paula was so gracious about me hijacking her birthday to plug and collect for Myelopathy.  Particularly as I’m already the most needy member.  And I feel guilty that my participation is like hit and run.  I’m in there with the food and the book review and then I’m off.


But seriously when my husband came for me at about eight thirty my head was pounding and the car journey made me sick.  I was up till 2.30 am with severe body pain but I kept thinking this will pass and then I’ll count the money, blog and get my husband to deposit the funds raised during the week.  I’m still in pain, I’m doing breathing exercises right now like I’m in labour, I’ve taken Oxy and Tramadol but it was worth it; I had a great time last night.  I know I was fuzzy headed toward the end, I had to keep moving around because pain was creeping in and my balance was starting to waiver and my phone confused me.  It affected the quality of my goodbyes.  I wanted to hug and say thank you to each book clubber.  They probably don’t realise what a positive impact they have on my life…but I am so grateful – thank you ladies. xxxx.  Also you gave more than a £1.

On our Facebook page we often chat about how our disability comes into question.  That how we look doesn’t reflect our inner pain; which is true of many debilitating conditions like arthritis, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia. Then there’s how our mobility alters so precariously; it’s no secret that I could be in bed, rigid with pain one day and in Nero’s the next.  Also age is used against us.  For some reason people think the younger we are, the better placed we are to cope.  Actually it means our spines have given up way too early and if we don’t conserve what we’re left with we’re in trouble.

There is so much heartbreak and agony in the world; it’s hard to know who to help and how; often we don’t have the time or the resources.  Usually I donate to Crisis at Christmas.  This year I want to donate something to homeless teens/young adults.  I can’t fix the world but if you help one person then that’s brilliant.  When those around me support Myelopathy.Org they are supporting me.  I find coping with day to day life challenging. It’s very hard to fight your corner when you’re in pain and exhausted and so we rely on our friends to accept us and charities to be our voice.

Thank you ladies you raised £33.10 for MYELOPATHY.ORG.  Thank you Paula for your patience, I’m getting disruptive in my old age, but it’s because you’re my friend that I had the confidence to butt in.