Aug 05

Gill Pharaoh – A Life of Caring

You may have seen some of the media coverage surrounding the death of one of our authors this week. Gill Pharaoh, whose two books have featured on this site, went to Switzerland to end her life two weeks ago although she was not terminally ill.

Gill Pharaoh and Sunday Times articleI was fortunate enough to have been one of Gill’s friends and she did confide in me six weeks before she flew out to Switzerland. She also asked me to post her 'Last Word' on her website so that she could help those she knew understand her decision. She was a strong believer in a person’s right to be able to die with dignity and had, in fact, accompanied a terminally ill man to a clinic abroad last year and the account of her experience is very moving.

I think Gill would have been astonished at the amount of media coverage surrounding her death and the number of comments some of the articles have received. Whether you believe in what she did or not, it has bought this issue of assisted suicide into the foreground again and that so many people are now discussing it would have pleased her greatly, I’m sure.

However, this post is not about the rights and wrongs of assisted suicide or Gill’s actions, it is about Gill Pharaoh – the person, the carer, the author. It is a short personal account of my friendship with her and the books she wrote.

I first got to know Gill about five years ago, so we had not known each other for long, but you know how it is sometimes, although you have only just met someone you feel as if you have known them forever. So it was with Gill and me.

I found her to be a sensitive, incredibly caring, compassionate individual who must have been a tremendous support to those she cared for during her career as a palliative nurse.  She had a keen sense of humour too and we would generally end up laughing together even when we talked about death and dying. She wasn’t afraid to broach a subject that is not usually talked about easily and in her last book, How to Manage Family Illness at Home, she does it in a language that everyone can understand. There are no long medical explanations or vocabulary, it is just as if Gill is sitting on your sofa talking you through the best way to care for your sick relative. Dr Robin Howard was a consultant neurologist at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London when the book first came out in 2004 and thought it was ‘an extremely valuable contribution to the literature concerning terminal illness for patients, carers and professionals. It is a book that ‘needed to be written’ and I am delighted that Gill has crafted such an outstanding and valuable contribution’.

Perhaps this book, and her first book Careers in Caring which focuses on those wanting to enter the caring profession, drawing on a lifetime of experiences, will be part of her legacy and continue to help others well into the future. I think Tony Benn put it very nicely in the foreword to her last book:

‘Gill Pharaoh gives us hope and brings out the best in human nature...

I would wholeheartedly agree with that, she was certainly an inspiration to me and staying at her house whilst visiting the London Book Fair this year was wonderful. Each evening, after we had enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by Gill, we sat and talked for hours. She had such an air of calm and gentleness about her. The way she took control of her life has made me look at my own life and I too want to be able to say at the end of mine, as Gill said to me in one of our last conversations:

 ‘I have had a good life with no regrets’.

Isn’t that what we would all like to be able to say?

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R.I.P Gill Pharaoh July 2015

Apr 10

A Review – Echoes in the Sand by Gwyneth Williams

Echoes in the Sand 200This is a book about pain, loss, grief, love and infidelity.  It also raises some important questions about death and our right to die with dignity.  It is beautifully written and Gwyneth Williams writes to great effect about, what must be for her, a favourite place in the world – the Greek Islands.

The story begins almost at the end of the sequence of events that unfold throughout the book as the main character, Helen, travels back to the Greek Island where she met her lover.  She returns with her daughter Chloe, after the death of her husband, and as she meets up with the Greek hotel owner she fell in love with two years earlier, the author gradually reveals the events leading up to that moment.

Helen is not a sympathetic character and at times I found her really annoying.  I just couldn’t warm to her, not just because of her treatment of her husband, but also because she was so selfish.  However, I can perhaps understand why the author wrote her this way as it was important that she wasn’t someone that the reader got to like too much because it made events later on in the book more in character and believable which probably makes her a more realistic woman as a result.

It is a romance in the same vein as Shirley Valentine which may appeal to a great many women, but it is about more than just a rather clichéd romance; it is about life and how we choose to live it.  For me the section in the book which deals with the illness and subsequent death of Helen’s husband is the most interesting and is at times very poignant.  It is told with much feeling and awareness of the huge responsibility that some families take on to care for loved ones with a terminal illness.

The troubled and defiant Chloe, Helen’s daughter, is a much more likeable character and the relationship between her and both her parents changes and evolves throughout the novel.  I think many a reader will identify with something of her in themselves or in their own daughters.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to readers who don’t necessarily want to fall in love with every character in the book, and who can see past the clichéd romance to experience a fair amount of realism and drama.  I would also recommend re-reading the prologue after finishing the book.

 

Sarah HouldcroftSarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and is also the founder of www.authors-uncovered.com She loves to read and review books.

She lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her teenage son, two rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies and hundreds and hundreds of books!

Mar 10

The Power of Words

The Power of Words

This is only short, but so worth watching.  It really demonstrates the power of words and how by choosing carefully, conveying the same meaning in a different way can make all the difference.

 

Mar 01

How a book was made before the digital age

I recently shared a post on Facebook about how one of the books in the Twilight series was printed which I though was fascinating.  However, I have just come across another film from 1947 which, if you have a spare 9 minutes, is well worth looking at.

The process of printing a book then was an entirely different process obviously, but to see all the separate stages of the preparation and printing just brings home how much has changed and how much we just take for granted.

Check it out, it is even more fascinating than my earlier Facebook post:

 

Feb 17

A Review – Timelapse by Lorrie Farrelly

timelapseTimelapse is a high octane time-slip adventure which grips you from the first few pages.  It is the story of Alex Morgan and how he saves our world from a frightening and horrific alternative future.  The trouble starts when he finds what he thinks is a colleague’s mobile phone wedged into the back of a filing cabinet.  Then all hell is let loose.  He does have some help in his mission though as he tries to figure out what has caused this slip in time and how to put it right.  Jessie O’Neil is a freedom fighter in this alternative future and, although she at first thinks Alex is crazy, she helps to guide him through the horrifying dystopia in search of his son and his own time.

 

This is a gritty, page turning adventure which kept me on the edge of my seat.  It has shades of George Orwell’s 1984 and shows how one simple action of apparent kindness can change the course of history.  The main characters are immediately likeable and I really wanted everything to work out for them.  Lorrie Farrelly conjures up a nightmare land with great accuracy and transports not just Alex in time but the reader too.

 

I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes books with a good mixture of gripping gritty adventure, romance and action.

 

Available through Amazon and KindleUnlimited

 

Sarah HouldcroftSarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and is also the founder of www.authors-uncovered.com She loves to read and review books.

She lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her teenage son, two rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies and hundreds and hundreds of books!

 

 

Feb 12

The Right to Die – an author’s personal experience on this long running debate

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-helping-hands-young-doctor-giving-elderly-woman-image38079187We hear so much in the media these days about our right to die with dignity and how hard it can be for someone with a terminal illness to achieve this.  Some of us may also have heard of the organisation in Switzerland, Dignitas, which does help a number of people from this country end their own lives each year.

The following article is reproduced here by kind permission of the author Gill Pharaoh who was a nurse involved in palliative care for a large part of her working life and whose book 'How to manage family illness at home' has been a lifeline for families finding themselves caring for a family member in their own home.

This is an account of Gill Pharaoh's personal experience with Dignitas when she travelled to Switzerland last summer with a terminally ill companion.  It may or may not change your opinion on suicide in this way, but reading such a personal account helps to put the whole issue into perspective and helps us perhaps make a more informed decision about where we stand on this very controversial subject.

PALLIATIVE CARE – IN A NEW CONTEXT

This summer I saw the perfect example of holistic Palliative Care as practised in Switzerland.  I now realise that our view of Palliative Care is totally biased in favour of a small group of people, who are able to dictate to the majority.  After a life time working as a nurse and as a Palliative Care nurse, it took three days in Switzerland for me to understand the true meaning of Palliative Care.

I travelled to Switzerland with a man who had Motor Neurone disease. An interesting, erudite man who lived a very active full life, travelling, lecturing and fully enjoying his family, his work and his hobbies and interests. For him the diagnosis meant that he would completely lose the ability to live that kind of life.

I now believe that the person who is at the centre of the argument knows far better than anyone else what will bring them the most relief, and to deny them any options is both cruel and unjust. No one should have the right to with hold the drugs, or to make it illegal to obtain them, if you make a rational decision to take your own life. If the final decision about your own life and death is left to strangers, who hold fixed opinions which are not yours, the situation cannot be called democratic or holistic.

My companion to Switzerland was almost exactly my age ( early seventies) and had received his diagnosis at the end of 2013. He had planned for a very old friend to accompany him; a man he had known all his life through his sporting hobbies, but at the last moment the plan fell through.  In despair he telephoned a group he hoped would be able to help him and because of my background, one of the group called me. I offered to go with him and they put him in touch immediately.  I was very much his last resort.

When I first spoke with him he sounded terribly depressed. He explained that he could not bear the thought of being unable to work, unable to manage his bodily functions himself, to wash himself, and feed himself, and eventually chew and swallow his food, or speak.

He was unable to concentrate, or eat or sleep properly and he had been badly let down by his medical team over his diagnosis, and did not trust them to care for him.  His GP was marvellous but legally, he could not help him to die.

He could not imagine being unable to go for a run, walk in the country, climb a hill, cycle at the weekends and go on holidays. Of course he knew that some of these activities could be continued in a limited way with help from carers and family. But he did not want to share such intimacy with either family or strangers. I have heard this so many times, over so many years, from similar patients. Indeed I feel that way myself. As a nurse I never minded what I did for someone who needed care. However it does not matter whether someone does not mind doing these things because if I were the patient I would mind them being done.  As for my family ; well I did not have children in order to guarantee my care in some distant old age.

Initially he and I spoke daily. He needed reassurance that this plan would not fall though. In the short time following that first call, he changed. He began to make the odd joke, he sounded lighter, he stopped his antidepressants and he started to sleep better. He was able and motivated to tidy up all aspects of his life, to make his departure as easy as possible for his wife. He said goodbye to most of the people he cared about, without making it obvious to them that this would be a last goodbye.

He believed his condition was continuing to deteriorate at the same steady rate and his one fear was that I might not be able to help him if he became too disabled. In fact, I was also slightly concerned as I became aware of his steady decline in the following few weeks, just through talking to him.

So eventually he was going to travel a long way from home, with a stranger, to strangers who would help him to die when he wished.  I cannot imagine how he felt as he left his home and family for the last time. I met him in a crowded station but it was all too easy to identify him as he left the train.  I feel sure that he was anxious to proceed while he could still travel and still had the ability to swallow, which is always an overriding fear with this illness. In the short time we were together I could detect in him an increasing difficulty with swallowing.  He did not seem aware of it so I never mentioned it either.http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-elderly-hands-giving-helping-needy-people-image34816060

He was very emotional on the journey and I was slightly nervous that someone might notice us, and the lack of luggage, and his physical and emotional weakness, and ask questions.

We had three strange days in Switzerland as he had two further “checks” to pass before we met the people from Dignitas. Each time the procedure was brief, compassionate, supportive and non judgemental. All he had to do was reassure the doctor writing the prescription that he knew exactly what he wanted and was not being coerced in any way. I stayed with him throughout and he realised that he was glad that his old friend was not there because it was easier someone who was not emotionally involved. And as the three days passed we became less like strangers and more like friends; friends with a purpose. And we had quite a few moments when we found some humour in the situation.  We also managed to do some last minute unplanned shopping, which delighted him.

The last evening two very nice things happened. First, he telephoned the old friend who had been unable to face travelling with him, and with whom he had had no contact since the failed trip to Dignitas, because he was so angry. He was able to tell him that he could  forgive him, that he was no longer angry, and that I had been able to do things for him that someone more involved would have found too difficult.

Secondly, our restaurant was magically invaded by several dog owners with their pets, who were all the very breed of dog that he loved and owned himself. He became very animated petting the dogs and talking to the group and showing his photos. It seemed to be the perfect ending to the evening.

That last day he made some final phone calls, left his few spare clothes in the hotel bin, and we made our way to Dignitas. We were met by a warm friendly nurse and doctor and seated in a pleasant light room overlooking a peaceful garden, complete with a fish pond. We had coffee and once again he was questioned about his reason for being there and given the option of walking out if he changed his mind. He was calm, coherent and at peace but very sad. He took the first part of his medication, to prevent sickness, and after giving me his address book, his watch, and some money to return to his wife, he said he was ready. He asked me to stay with him and we sat together on the bed with the doctor and nurse sitting opposite.  He took his final medication, said goodbye and thank you to each of us in turn, and went immediately into a deep sleep. We sat and talked quietly together until he breathed his last breath a short while later.

I have been with so many people while they were dying, and it was often a gentle experience, and I was glad to be of help to them. But sitting with this man while he took his final medication was very different.  I felt his relief and almost his joy at the way it had all been managed. I felt that we three were privileged to witness the completion of his life, in the way he wanted.

Soon after he was pronounced dead I left to return to London. It all seemed quite surreal as I travelled back alone. I was told that once I left, the police would be informed and his death would be certified, and he would be cremated, and his ashes and death certificate would be sent to his family. The cause of death would not be recorded on the certificate.

I posted his belongings to his family as soon as I reached home. A day later I had a generous and thoughtful email from his wife, with whom I had had no contact, and about whom I felt a little concerned, not really knowing how she felt about the whole experience. Among other things her email said  “I hope xxxx thanked you profusely on my part, as I asked him to do, for being such a perfect friend and consolation to the end.”

I learned that in Switzerland an elderly person, or an elderly couple, can have the same experience, in their own house or garden, without having a diagnosis of terminal illness.  The same safeguards are followed, to ensure that there is no coercion, no pressure from any other source. This ensures that old people who do not want to feel humiliated by having their children or grandchildren perform intimate personal care for them, do not have to walk under a bus, or take too many pills without knowing whether they will die, or end up spending their last weeks in a ward full of old and confused people. This is all too often the way people die in this country. And if they ask for death they may be offered Palliative Care which they may not view as adequate or effective.

Surely it is time for a rational, mature response to the gradually increasing number of people who want another option to the way they end their life?  The Swiss have not found that mass suicide has been the result of this legislation, or mass murder by greedy relatives! To travel to Switzerland is expensive, and difficult to arrange since it involves getting many medical documents and records. You also need a friend to accompany you, emotionally as well as physically. The preparation a person makes is important, so that there is no unfinished business to haunt those left behind.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThis article first appeared on Gill Pharaoh's website.

Gill Pharaoh was a nurse for many years, working both in hospitals, and in the community. The latter half of her career was spent specialising in Palliative Care.   She has two grown children; a daughter in California, and a son with a family, in Australia. Gill is an enthusiastic gardener, an avid reader of all kinds of books, and a keen cook.  She lives in outer London with her partner of twenty years.

 

 

Find out more about Gill Pharaoh's BookHow to with shadow 230

Buy it on Amazon

"This sensitive and compassionate book...concentrates on the patient rather than the illness. It is immensely readable and interesting because it is illustrated with many personal stories. Gill Pharaoh gives us hope and brings out the best in human nature which sometimes happens when people are faced with a real crisis." Tony Benn

 

 

 

Jan 21

How to sell your books on Facebook

Readers love signed books.  I know, I am one and there is nothing I like more than a signed copy of a book I have just purchased.

However, unless you are at a book signing or launch event it may be difficult for a reader to obtain a signed copy of your book. You may have a website, but unless it is set up to sell your books it could be costly to get your web developer to add an ecommerce section to your site.

There is a solution though if you have a Facebook account; how about selling your book through Facebook?  You are already interacting with your readers so giving them the opportunity to purchase a book directly from you, rather than through Amazon, makes good sense, especially if they will receive a signed copy.

my fb storeI have just created my own online store on Facebook to sell some of my bookish gifts for booklovers.  It was quick and simple to do.

I created my online store using Ecwid which is, as it says...

‘a full-featured and affordable ecommerce solution that includes web, mobile and social stores.’ 

In fact, if you have less than 10 products in your online store then it’s free to set up.

I have set out below the main steps involved in creating your own online store where you can feature your own books using Ecwid.


ecwid home

Setting Up Your Store

  1. First of all click on the Sign Up button on the home page at www.ecwid.com, open an account with Ecwid by filling in your name and email address.
  2. Once you get to the welcome page, click the Let’s go! button and you can start to create your online store. ecwid lets go
  3. Follow the instructions clicking on ‘Yes, I have a website’ button.
  4. You will then be able to choose where you wish your store to be located.  In this example I am clicking on the Facebook button, but you could also set up your store on your own WordPress or Joomla website or I understand it also works with MySpace and other platforms.ecwid which platform
  5. You will now need to allow Ecwid to connect to the Facebook account you wish to use for your online store.
  6. Now Ecrid walks you through the steps to creating and adding products to your online store.  You can add a cover image of your book, a description and then the price.
  7. Add in the postal options and decide where you wish to sell your book.
  8. Finally, you will need to connect your PayPal account to it so that you can receive payments.ecwid steps

That’s it, you are ready to share your new online book store with your Facebook friends and visitors.ECWID

 

 

Jan 10

A Review – The 20’s Girl by June Kearns

 Wonderful historical read full of glamour, romance and adventure

 

The 20s Girl 3D cover

The 20’s Girl was an absolute delight to read.  It was a book full of huge contrasts, not just in the locations, but in the characters too.  We are first introduced to Gerry, very English, desperately trying to save her bookshop from closure, living in a small village where everyone wants to know everyone else’s business.  I instantly liked her and was rooting for her throughout the novel.  She gives us an insight into her late aunt’s unusual life and well, I for one, would love an aunt like Leonie.

From a ghost voice and a highly amusing psychic cat we end up being transported to the huge, dry, hot expanse of Texas and a cattle ranch, worlds away from 1920’s England.  We are now introduced to another raft of characters so completely different from those on the other side of the Atlantic.  There is adventure and mystery as the story takes on some unexpected twists.

This novel virtually warmed my hands as I was reading it.  I could almost feel the wind and the Texas heat wafting out of the book every time I turned the page.  However, to say that this is a great winter read, for that reason, would deny all those readers who are looking for a great summer read.  This truly is a book for all seasons and all weathers.

The book is full of 20’s glamour and glitz and I am so glad that Aunt Leonie left Gerry all her wonderful gowns and perfumes which June Kearns describes so beautifully.   I also liked the short quotations at the start of every chapter taken from books of the day.  They just reminded us of how it must have been for a single girl in the days after the First World War which had taken so many eligible young men.

There are also, for me, a few unanswered questions at the end of the novel which I very much hope means that there will be a sequel.

I would certainly recommend this book highly to anyone who wants an unusual, historical read with a good mixture of glamour, romance, adventure, mystery and intrigue.

 

Available through Amazon and KindleUnlimited

 

Sarah HouldcroftSarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and is also the founder of www.authors-uncovered.com She loves to read and review books.

She lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her teenage son, two rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies, an even older gerbil and hundreds and hundreds of books!

Dec 22

Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb – A Review

BCB 3D cover transBoot Camp Bride is the second book from the pen of author Lizzie Lamb.  If you like your romances with a good strong honest heroine and a smouldering intriguing hero, a sprinkling of sex, a good dollop of humour with a few twists and turns added for good measure then this is definitely the book for you!

Set in London and on the wonderfully wild Norfolk coast of England, this book is full of intrigue and questions.  It begins in London with a highly amusing dialogue between the two main characters, Charlee, a very headstrong and rebellious novice journalist and Ffinch, a well-known photo journalist with a past he wants to keep to himself.  They both enjoy a challenge so when these two meet it really is, as the author says in her blurb, ‘… light the blue touch paper and stand well back!’  Some of the pages almost burnt my fingers as I turned them!

There is a sort of vintage feel to this book with the inclusion of the much-loved VW camper van which is a great quirky touch and will delight all those ‘Combie’ fans out there.

I like the mix of sub-characters and the relationships which the author built up between them.  Family tensions which, I am sure, many readers will identify with, are beautifully constructed and dialogued and you can’t help siding with Charlee and spurring her on.  She is totally believable and I just had to like her even though, at times, I felt like shouting at her when she got herself in a fix.

There is a thread of humour running all the way through the book which gives it not only a bit of an edge, but you get a strong impression that the author really enjoyed writing this book and developing her two main characters.  I enjoyed Lizzie’s style of writing too and found the inclusion of some less ‘popular’ words very refreshing and these again added to the slightly quirky nature of the book.

I don’t know if the author intends to write another book with the continued adventures of Charlee, but if she did, it is certainly one I would like to read.

Find out more about Lizzie Lamb

Buy the book: Amazon

 

 

Sarah HouldcroftSarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and is also the founder of www.authors-uncovered.com She loves to read and review books.

She lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her teenage son, two rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies, an even older gerbil and hundreds and hundreds of books!

Dec 15

A Review – Transforming Pandora by Carolyn Mathews

transforming PandoraI am delighted to be bringing you a review of Transforming Pandora by Carolyn Matthews.  It is also a pleasure as Carolyn is one of our founder members on Authors Uncovered.

When you read the blurb for Transforming Pandora, you can be forgiven for thinking that it is going to be a spiritual ‘New Age’ story of someone ‘finding themselves’, but that is not really what it is.  Yes there is a spiritual element to this book, but it is just the icing on the cake, so to speak, of a wonderful tale of love lost and found.

The story begins with the middle aged Pandora, newly widowed, trying with great difficulty to come to terms with the loss of her husband, Mike.  However, she finds help in the form of Enoch, a sort of angel, who appears to her and sets her off on her spiritual journey.   The author very cleverly incorporates a number of views on the subject of spirituality by making not just Pandora, but also other characters, sceptical and almost mocking at times.  Pandora herself is such a likable character, grounded, but so unsure of herself at the same time.  Through the book, she reminisces about her life as she tries to work out what Enoch is ‘saying  to her’ so we are transported back to the 70’s and the young Pandora tells us the tale of the two great loves of her life, her late husband Mike and her first husband, the rock star Jay.

Transforming Pandora is full of colourful, lively, interesting characters and Pandora’s mother is probably the most eclectic of all of them.  She is a wonderful mixture of flower child/New Age Spiritualist who changes her men like she changes her clothes and gives a richness and vibrancy to the whole book.

This is beautiful love story with a good mix of sadness, fun, laughter and deep-rooted love with the words flowing effortlessly off the page in the author’s easy writing style.

Well worth reading.

Buy the book:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Listen to Carolyn Mathews

 

 

Sarah HouldcroftSarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and is also the founder of www.authors-uncovered.com She love to read and review books.

She lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her teenage son, two rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies, an even older gerbil and hundreds and hundreds of books!

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