Unusual behaviour

This is a first for me. I have never responded to a bad review. They are part and parcel of being an author; you get good, you get bad.  That’s the way it goes. Not everybody likes what you write. As long as some people do, that’s OK.

But this was interesting, a study of the human condition.

One of my books was featured on BookBub recently. The e-book was reduced to 99cts. for the duration of the promotion.

It was downloaded just over 3,000 times over 48 hours.

Rapidly the first review during that period came in:

 Easily the MOST disappointing Kindle purchase I have ever made., July 27, 2014
 1.0 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry… (Kindle Edition)
This book was ridiculously depressing and dissatisfying. After you suffer through her whole stupid, sad life, no answers! The author dwells on all the awful stuff that happened to her – everybody has some lows – and passes over the good happy stuff. I must say I totally misinterpreted the title, lol! I thought, “I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry….” would finish up with “….but I’m not!” and there would be details on an interesting life well lived. But no, just drudgery and complaints.I see it’s rated highly and I am baffled. When you recount the people in her life who should have been there for her and weren’t, I just want to line them up and slap them.

Hey, Susie, I’m here, you can apologize to me anytime you want. Thank goodness I only paid 99 cents.

Blackbird Digital Books, who publish my books, responded by offering her a refund of the 99cts she had paid for the book, but this did not satisfy her, and a long stream of comments ensued. They became increasingly unpleasant, and one of them was removed by Amazon. That’s fairly unusual, even when asked they tend to let people have their say, so she must have stepped outside their boundaries.
But – this has obviously really wound her up. She believes that her comment was removed because of a complaint, which is  not the case which, if she contacts Amazon, I imagine they will confirm.
As a result of her frustration, she took to her blog and to Facebook to see what damage she could do.
Here is a screenshot from her Facebook page (ignore the photo, I don’t know what that’s doing there, it has nothing to do with my book):
Diane Maggie McInnis Miller
“EFF off,” she says, declaring that she is going to spread the word as far as possible about this ‘crappy book. LOL’
Then she takes to her blog to tell the whole story of her review and the ensuing comments, ending with:   “For pity’s sake, don’t people know better than to try and stifle me by now????”
As a writer and amateur shrink who studies human behaviour, I am genuinely fascinated. What would motivate anybody, over a few cents, to become so angry and vengeful, and publicly boast about it?

Daring to hope

As a teenager, I was never still for a moment. Always on my feet, trotting hither and thither, bursting with energy.  Skinny as a rake.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when that energy level started dropping, but it was certainly at least 15 years ago. I’d find myself feeling suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue, falling asleep if I sat down. Being a vegetarian I put it down to possible anaemia, and took iron tablets or tonics, which helped a little, but not a lot.

Five years ago I seemed to be asleep more than awake, always, always tired. Sometimes too tired to clean my teeth, to get dressed, even to read. If I started reading, I’d be asleep in seconds. Likewise if I sat in a parked car. Zzzzzzz

During a routine visit to the doctor a couple of years ago, I mentioned in passing that I was always tired and needed to buy some iron tablets. No, he said, you need a thyroid check. Which I had and which revealed that I was indeed suffering from hypothyroidism.

I’ve been on thyroxine since then, and haven’t really felt any better. My idea of a perfect day would be to stay in bed and do nothing. That’s neither practical nor possible. I drag myself around, plucking up a weed from time to time, loading the washing machine, cooking a meal, when in truth I’d sooner be sitting doing nothing. The tiredness is like a veil hanging over me, draining my energy.

Since we came to live in France, I’ve always bought natural Guérande salt, both in crystal form for cooking, and fine for seasoning. But having high blood pressure, I was told by the doctor to minimise my salt intake, so I use it sparingly.

Recently I was reading an article on hypothyroidism, and the fact that lack of iodine can be a contributory factor.

A couple of weeks ago I began taking iodised salt. Natural sea salt does not contain iodine. During the last week I have felt definite small spurts of energy. I’m less lethargic, less prone to falling asleep during the day, and also finding it a little difficult to get to sleep. Dare I hope that iodised salt could be the answer?


Bearing in mind the doctor’s stern advice to limit my salt intake, I have to balance the increased risk of heart attack against constant draining weariness. Thinning eyebrows, dry skin and the impossibility of losing weight I can cope with, but the fatigue really drags me down. So I’ll take the risk.


Our family and other animals

Every night, about 10.00 pm, a mouse appears in the living room. It scuttles around the edge of the room until it reaches Rafiki’s cage. Then it begins to climb up into it. That’s no easy feat, as the legs of the cage are slippery. Sometimes the mouse almost reaches the lower tray, then falls back to the floor. But it keeps trying until it can squeeze through a narrow gap which allows it into the tray where the food waste falls. I can hear it scrabbling around. Rafiki knows it’s there, too. She sits on her swing with her head tilted, watching it benevolently. She likes furry things, and sometimes flies to sit on the bookcase with a teddy bear.


When it’s satiated, the mouse takes on a new challenge – the water bowl, which is high up in the cage. Once there, it drinks its fill, then abseils back to the floor and vanishes.

Sometimes I see it (I’m saying ‘it’, but of course that is delusional. There are probably dozens of them) during the day, as it whizzes around my office. I don’t know why, the only food here is the biscuit crumbs in my keyboard and there’s no way it can reach there. Anyway, I’m quite used to it.

This morning while I was writing I caught a glimpse of movement beside the cushion where one of our dogs was sleeping next to me. Thinking it was the mouse I waved my hand to frighten it away before the dog woke up and jumped on it. But it didn’t move. I had a better look. And this is what I found.



Just a little chap, about 3″ in length.

We’re used to wildlife in the house. Newts, tree frogs, birds, beetles, mice, it’s nothing new. I just wonder why? They have nearly two acres of field, dozens of trees and bushes, and a pond. But this house seems like a magnet for them. 😀

I wanted to photograph the toad on my desk, but it was very squirmy and very dry, so I took it outside and put it on a stone, near the long grass.

Next, please. 😀

Someone, somewhere …..

….. must be wondering what happened to their beautiful dog.

Tommy has been with us for three and a half weeks now, and we still haven’t found a single vice in him.

He sits and waits for his dinner until he is told he can have it.

He can be walked off the lead, never goes more than 20 metres away, and comes when called.

He is fully house-trained.

He is incredibly affectionate.

He gets on with other dogs.

He goes to bed when we do and sleeps all night.

He understands “No!” and stops whatever he is doing.

He is really rather beautiful – although I may be biased. 🙂

In the evening, at about 8.00 pm, he wants to be cuddled. I mean a proper cuddle, on my lap, all 24 kilos of him. He sits and looks up at me like this

Cuddle time.

Cuddle time.

until I make space for him, when he climbs up, digging his dear little claws into my thighs, then puts his head on my chest and falls asleep. When his weight becomes more than my legs can bear, I put him down and tell him to go and lie down, which he does instantly, either curling up on one of his blankets, or climbing onto a chair.

He has been somebody’s well-loved pet, I am certain. Wherever they are, whatever caused them to be separated, I wish I could tell  them that he’s well and happy, because they must be wondering.


Not breaking, but entering

Living in a hamlet of only 7 permanent residents, you may think nothing exciting ever happens. On a large scale, it seldom does. I think the most dramatic event was when our English neighbour was arrested and imprisoned for drug running; and there was the time the medical helicopter came to transport a neighbour to hospital.

But there are always small day to day events to interrupt the peace. Trapped birds, lost dogs, a drunken woman delivered to me by two handsome Frenchmen at 1.30 m, when I wasn’t looking my best, and the Jehovah’s twice-yearly visits…..

Today it was Mrs Nextdoor in a state of laughing embarrassment. Having returned from a shopping trip she found herself locked out of her house. She had failed to properly secure the safety lock on her front door, and as she went out it had clicked into place. Now she was out in the sun with two baguettes, two bottles of good Bordeaux and a set of useless keys.  The only solution was to find somebody to climb a ladder, undo the first floor window through the missing pane, scramble through the window and down another ladder in the pitch dark to the ground floor, and undo the safety lock.

burglarLuckily TOH was here, because I’m pretty hopeless  on ladders, especially in the dark.

Mission accomplished, Madame, her wine and baguettes safely indoors.  It’s small things like that which enliven our lives, dragging us away from the chilled rosé as we sit indolently day after perpetually sunny day on the patio, watching the tomatoes and courgettes ripen while the French fairies do the weeding, lawn-mowing, laundry and housework. 😀

Two Steps Backwards, about our first few years living here in France, was published in 2004 by Transworld Publishers. It is still available in paperback and continues to sell in modest numbers.

Two Steps Backward


Death of a milk bottle



From the photo, you may think that this milk bottle has fallen victim to a French hunter with his shotgun. But no.

Like half a dozen similar milk and water bottles littering the house, this is one of Tommy’s very best toys. The investment in large chewing ropes, Kongs, Dogwood pine cones, “indestructable” jelly-like shapes of various kinds was a waste of money. After a cursory play, Tommy discarded them and devotes his time to seeing how many perforations he can insert into a bottle before it disintegrates. Both he and Tally love removing the caps, crunching on the plastic (especially when we are on the phone), and shoving the thing around the tiled floor. It makes the kind of noise that is beyond description.

Yesterday we took him to the vet for an MOT, and he passed with flying colours. All well. His weight is up to 23.5 kilos, which is probably right for his size. The damage to the tip of his tail, and the skin flap on his chest, both caused by friction on cement, are unlikely to get any better, thinks the vet

Play, food, cuddles are Tommy’s exclusive interests. At night, he becomes a lap dog, more comfortable for him than for me, but it’s only for 2-3 hours, then he takes himself off to bed. 🙂

He is very puppy-like in his behaviour, extremely boisterous, and Tally has had to reprimand him severely. That would be like being punched by a butterfly, but it causes heart-wrenching howls and yelps.


Tally – as gentle as a buttefly


We don’t know whether he is 100% Vizsla, although he certainly has the looks, and with true Vizsla Velcronicity he hasn’t left my side until today. The upside of that is that when we go out for walks, he can safely be let off the lead and will not go more than 20 metres away, and returns immediately when he’s called. The downside is that he panics if I go out of the gate without him and tries to ooze beneath it, and I haven’t been able to make a move out of his sight.

Today there was a breakthrough. I noticed that he was absent from his mattress next to me in the office, and went to look for him. Here he is, on one of his blankets he had dragged into the dining room.


Yes? You wanted something?



I am calm and relaxed.

We are, of course, besotted with him. It seems to be mutual. 🙂

Here are some things that Vizsla owners have found out.


Bed games

All photos taken by TOH.