Posted in Personal life, Reading, Type 1 diabetes, Writing

The Alchemy of Chocolate

Logo for the SilverWood Authors Spring Hop

Welcome to the SilverWood Authors Spring Hop!

“Some of SilverWood’s many authors have come together to share a variety of articles and items of interest on their blogs for your enjoyment.

“There are some lovely giveaway prizes, and – to stay in keeping with the Spring and rebirth theme at this time of year – some colourful Easter eggs.

“Feel free to collect the eggs, and use them where you like. They were drawn by SilverWood author Peter St John who writes the ‘Gang’ series about a boy who was evacuated to a village near Ipswich during WWII. Meet Peter and his characters on the Blog Hop, along with a host of eggcellent SilverWood authors. 😉

“Have fun!”

Helen Hart
Publishing Director
SilverWood Books
www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk

About My Spring Hop Post

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
Cover design by SilverWood Books

My contribution to the blog hop is a light-hearted very short story that takes as its theme every woman’s love of chocolate. I’ve always loved chocolate, though my relationship with it hasn’t always been easy, especially since my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 3.

But it is a complete myth that diabetics can’t eat chocolate – they can, they just need to give themselves enough insulin to offset it before they eat it. So if you know a diabetic and are wondering what to give them this Easter, don’t hesitate to give them a chocolate Easter egg – and not “diabetic chocolate” either, an evil concoction made with a sugar substitute that spoils the flavour and has no health benefit compared to normal chocolate. (Yes, there IS a health benefit – to dark chocolate, in moderation, and it’s a useful source of slow-release carbs, which is why Paula Radcliffe eats a couple of squares before running.)

This and other myths surrounding life with Type 1 diabetes will be dispelled in my new book, Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes,which SilverWood will be publishing in paperback form for World Diabetes Day, 14 November 2014. The ebook edition, for which SilverWood provided this beautiful and appropriate cover (the blue circle being the international symbol of diabetes), was published for World Diabetes Day 2013 to raise awareness of the condition and funds for research into a cure.  and has gathered many 5* reviews and has been called by a leading GP “one of the best things I’ve ever read about diabetes”. The paperback will have new bonus material added. To keep informed about the book’s progress, and for an invitation to the launch in Foyles’ Bristol Bookshop on Thursday 13th November, please click here to sign up for my mailing list.

Prize Time!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my chocolate-inspired short story below – and if you like it, please leave a comment. As an incentive, one commenter drawn at random on the day my book is launched will receive a free signed copy of the new paperback – plus a slim bar of chocolate to use as a bookmark!

 

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Image of an Easter egg

 

The Alchemy of Chocolate

If you dip a wafer biscuit into a chocolate fountain enough times, eventually it won’t fit in your mouth. Much the same had happened with Jennifer’s body. It was as if every bar of chocolate that she’d ever eaten had been melted down and painted onto her frame.

Oozing into hidden places, the fat encroached so slowly at first that Jennifer was slow to notice her transformation. Then, one summer’s day while sunbathing on her lawn, she realised that she’d no longer pass the fat test she and her friends had used at school: the ability to lay a ruler flat across her hipbones. (That was the best use they’d found for their geometry sets).

By the time she came to squeeze into an old pair of cords for Bonfire Night, Jennifer observed that where her stomach had once been concave, it now billowed out, like a ship in full sail. No wonder sleeping on her tummy had become uncomfortable.

Trying on a party dress for New Year, she spotted that her waistline only curved inwards when elasticated clothing constrainied her flesh.

By the Spring solstice, the fat had found new places to hide. Her eyelids were thicker, and when inserting an earring, she had to push harder before the post emerged on the other side of the lobe.

Jennifer was glad when spring sunshine came early, because it gave her licence to go bare-legged. Lately, tights had become irksome. Unless she aligned their waistband precisely with that of her knickers, skirt and petticoat, her silhouette resembled the scalloped edge of a doily on a plate of cakes.

At Easter, Jennifer was quick to remove the temptation of her Easter eggs – by eating them. But then, at last, she decided to take action about her surplus fat. Precisely what action, she was not sure. She was unwilling to relinquish chocolate, or indeed any kind of food. Nor did she fancy exercising her way into shape. Poring over a list of how to burn calories, she was horrified by the ridiculous distance she’d have to run to work off a single bar of Dairy Milk. There had to be an easier way. It was just a question of dispersing fat rather than storing it.

Then, lulled to sleep on Midsummer’s Eve by an exceptionally delicious hot chocolate, Jennifer had a remarkable dream. She dreamed of the perfect recipe for weight loss.

Next morning on waking, she knew exactly what to do. She rushed downstairs to her kitchen and assembled in a mixing bowl the ingredients dictated by her dream. Instead of stopping to wonder how this magical formula could require only store-cupboard staples, she got on with beating the mixture, her wooden spoon a biscuit-coloured blur.

Once the batter was blended, she tipped it into a saucepan and set it over a low heat, chanting the mantra that had also come to her in the dream. When the mixture was smooth and warm as the perfect waistline, she decanted it into a jug and popped it in the fridge. She knew instinctively that this was the correct next step.

When she arrived at her office for work, she was so impatient for nightfall – the witching hour, or so her dream had told her – that she could hardly concentrate on her job.

As soon as she arrived home, she slipped on her nightie, took the jug from the fridge and with a medicine spoon measured out the dose prescribed in her dream. She swallowed the quivering spoonful in a rush, before she could change her mind and retired to bed to await the results. The anxious fluttering in her tummy didn’t stop her from tumbling into solid, dreamless sleep.

Waking next morning, she climbed out of bed, slipped off her nightdress and flung it distractedly on the bed. Reaching with her right hand behind the back of her neck, she grasped what the previous night’s dream had told her she would find just above the nubbly bone at the top of her spine: a trapezoidal zip-pull. She grasped the metal.

Bending her head forward to clear her long dark hair out of the way, Jennifer tugged the zip-pull between thumb and forefinger as far as she could. Then she stretched her left hand up behind her back to meet the right one, and continued pulling the zip down, slowly, slowly, till it reached the base of her backbone.

As the zip-pull stopped abruptly at her coccyx, the thick flesh covering Jennifer’s upper back and shoulders started to feel loose. Soon she was easing off the entire outer casing of flesh as instinctively as a snake sheds its skin. Wriggling her hips and thighs to dislodge this pudgy onesie, she sat down on the bed, peeled it off her calves and finally stepped out of it on to the bedside rug.

Only now did she have the courage to glance in the dressing table mirror. There, to her delight, in a flawless casing of fresh skin, was her slender teenage outline. It was like meeting a long-lost, much-missed friend.

Glancing down at the discarded, Jennifer-shaped fat that lay perfectly still on floor, she wondered what on earth to do with it.

But of course! It was recycling day. She could simply put it in the green wheelie bin. After all, it should compost down as readily as bacon rind. Better to throw it in the wheelie bin than put it out in the garden for the birds.

With a new lightness of tread, Jennifer took a few steps around the bedroom. She felt decidedly different. The top of her thighs no longer rubbed together, her arms lay straighter against her sides, and she no longer felt that her stomach had been lagged, like the insulating jacket wrapped round a hot water tank.

Beginning to enjoy the full effect, Jennifer turned this way and that. But it wasn’t the slim reflection in the dressing-table mirror that caused her to smile. It wasn’t the realisation that her low-cost recipe would fetch a fortune on the heaving market for diet products. Nor was it the recognition that she’d achieving every slimmer’s dream of alchemy, turning fat into gold. It was the thought that she could now eat as much chocolate as she liked, without ever having to worry about gaining weight. It was a dream come true.

 

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Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collectionThis story features in “Quick Change”, my first collection of flash fiction, which you can buy from Amazon here:  Quick Change.

My post is just one of many interesting articles in the SilverWood Spring Blog Hop. To hop forward to read these, please click on the links below. You’ll also find more colourful Easter eggs to collect and some more giveaway prizes!

 

Helen Hollick :  Let us Talk of Many Things  – Fictional Reality http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/fictional-reality-silverwood-blog-hop.html

Alison Morton : Roma Nova – How the Romans Celebrated Spring http://alison-morton.com/2014/04/17/how-the-romans-celebrated-spring-2/

Anna Belfrage: Step inside…   – Is freezing in a garret a prerequisite? https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/is-freezing-in-a-garret-a-prerequisite/

Edward Hancox: Iceland Defrosted – Seaweed and cocoa http://icelanddefrosted.com/2014/04/16/silverwood-blog-hop-seaweed-cocoa/

Lucienne Boyce: Lucienne Boyce’ Blog – The Female Writer’s Apology http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-female-writers-apology-or-then-and.html

Matlock the Hare:  Matlock the Hare Blog –  Pid-padding the self-published Pathway… http://matlockthehare.blogspot.co.uk/

Michael Wills:  Michael Wills – A Doomed Army http://www.michaelwills.eu/2014/04/a-doomed-army/

Isabel Burt: Friday Fruitfulness  –  Flees for the Easter Hop… http://isabelburt.com/ (her post will go live shortly)

John Rigg: An Ordinary Spectator – Television Lines http://www.anordinaryspectator.com/news-blog%20

Peter St John: Jenno’s Blog –  My Village http://jennospot.blogspot.fr/2014/04/my-village_16.html

Caz Greenham: Caz’s Devon Blog Diary – Springtime and Flowering Baskets http://www.wp.me/p3oYnS-n1

Helen Hart: SilverWood Books Ltd http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Personal life, Self-publishing, Type 1 diabetes, Writing

International Friendships & Chance Meetings Online

FIS logoA post about making new friends and keeping old friends all over the world via the internet

As the former pupil of an international school, one of the reasons I love the internet is that it has enabled us to reconnect, decades later, wherever we now live.

I spent four of my teenage years at Frankfurt International School (FIS), which in those days was attended by children of around 60 nationalities. Not only did I make friends from countries I’d never visited, I even discovered some new countries that I’d never heard of, and some, in those Iron-Curtained days,which didn’t even officially exist. Yes, Estonia, I’m talking about you. Kudos to Paul who in the school yearbook stated his nationality as Estonian, even though I suspect his passport was either American or Russian.You can take the boy out of Estonia, but…

I asserted my own national status equally proudly, retaining my British accent when my few fellow countrymen in the school acquired the American twang dominated the classrooms. All lessons were officially taught in English, apart from French and German.

Opening International Doors

The author graduating from her American-style high school in 1978
As valedictorian at the 1978 FIS graduation ceremony: “And in 30 years time, I’ll come back and tell you how I became a writer”

Despite spending most of my first 14 years in a sheltered London suburbia (Sidcup, to be precise), passing the next four years in an international community made it second nature, once the internet had been invented, for me to make new international friendships online, as well as renewing old connections from my schooldays.

I get a particular thrill when friends from different parts of my past hook up with each other online, such as a Becky, former neighbour befriending Janet, a past Californian classmate, and Katherine, a Sidcup schoolmate meeting – yes, meeting in real life – Jacky, a newer friend from recent years. They’d got into conversation while replying to my Facebook posts and something just clicked between them, if you’ll excuse the IT pun.

I now look out for and encourage such connections, loving the feeling that the internet is turning the world into a village. As an optimist, I prefer that rosy view to the more cynical notion that the internet’s turning global citizens into international spies. (Don’t get me started about Google Earth…)

Publishing Connections

Glu logo

Decades after leaving school, my career and family developments have caused me to join many new networks. Occasionally these also spark serendipitous connections. Just lately, in my role of commissioning editor of The Alliance of Independent Authors’ blog, I was pleased to receive a request from Christine Frost, a self-published author who’d written a blog post for me about the Boston Book Festival. She now invited me to write for the website of a US-based online community called GLU aimed at those affected by Type 1 diabetes.

Cover of "Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabte
Now out in ebook – paperback to be published later this year

I’d had no idea that Christine had any interest in diabetes, but she’d noticed my ebook, Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes. Long story short: the result was the publication earlier this week of my article on Glu’s website. Being a British writer, I was very pleased to have this opportunity to reach a largely US audience, and also to find out about this interesting diabetes-related website that otherwise might have passed me by. Thank you, Christine, for this opportunity – another fine example of serendipitous connections on the internet!

Global Presence

My friend Norio in front of Mount Fuji with my book
Our man in Japan, near Mount Fuji

For any author, getting your books into foreign parts is always a thrill, and I couldn’t close this article without thanking Norio, a former classmate and good friend from my FIS days, for taking my first book on his travels, like some kind of global ambassador. Thank you, Norio – old friends are pure gold!

  • Who have you connected with from your past on the internet?
  • What’s the most obscure place the internet has helped you reach?
  • Do tell, I’d love to know!

 

 

 

Posted in Type 1 diabetes

New Diabetes E-Book Takes To The Airwaves

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"Last Thursday I officially launched my new e-book in style. I took to the airwaves of our local BBC radio station for an interview on its popular morning show to tell the world (or at least the county of Gloucestershire) all about Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes: One Family’s Story of Life After Diagnosis.

Still buzzing with the adrenalin triggered by a busy few weeks preparing the e-book, I drove to the station’s Gloucestershire study in glorious late autumn sunshine.

Welcomed with a cup of tea by a helpful, smiling receptionist (what a great job to have, listening to the radio and meeting people all day!), I was soon shown in to the studio where Chris Baxter’s three-hour long programme was already in full swing. (I’d been listening to it in the car on my journey to tune myself in.)

I’d never been interviewed inside a studio before – previously it’s been down the line or as part of an outside broadcast, most recently at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last month. (More about that here.)

In The Hot Seat

After the bright sunshine outside on the noisy London Road, the thickly padded studio was dark and peaceful, womb-like and comforting. A big smile across the desk from presenter Chris Baxter put me immediately at my ease, and we were soon chatting at length about my book.

Chris Baxter is a kind, sympathetic and caring type whose programme is a real community service, reporting on achievements and concerns of local folk and bringing them together for common causes. I was delighted when a listener phoned to join to our discussion.

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 68 years ago, and I still do all my own gardening,” she said proudly. “I’m coeliac too, but that’s just another diet to get on with.”

Just what the anxious patient wants to hear, or the anxious parent of a newly-diagnosed child, or indeed the medical professionals whose lives revolve around keeping the chronically ill healthy.

That’s exactly who my e-book is aimed at, so you can imagine my delight when one of the earliest reviewers turned out to be Dr Carol Cooper, the medical journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer to doctors in communication and consultation skills. She summarised the book as follows:

“It’s a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how. I think it will appeal to anyone with Type 1 Diabetes and their family. Health professionals would also find it useful. The book is beautifully written. A little treasure as well as a ray of hope.”

Over And Out

Debbie Young at BBC Radio Glos studio
Photo credit: BBC Radio Glos receptionist!

After the interview was over, the receptionist kindly took a souvenir photo of me looking a bit pleased with myself. Then I stepped out, blinking, into the bright sunshine, only to realise halfway back to my car that I’d left my black beret on the floor of the studio. I  retrace my steps to retrieve it. (I think I was stretching the limits of the receptionist’s job description that day.)

Later, the show’s producer kindly emailed me some .mp3 files of the interview, spread across two files because I’d talked too much to fit into one easily emailable package. I have BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s kind permission to share them here with you, for the benefit of my friends who can’t catch the show on BBC iPlayer because they live outside of the UK. I hope you enjoy the interview. I certainly did!

Click here to hear the first part: 

Click here to hear the second part: 

To my delight and surprise, by the time I got home, my e-book was already in the Amazon bestseller charts in its category, #4 in the “Health and Fitness > Disorders and Diseases” chart! Admittedly, I’ve never had a burning ambition to top that particular chart before, but if it helps raise funds to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, that’s fine by me!

To order your copy of my e-book in the UK from Amazon, click this link . In any other country, just enter my name and “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes”, and it should magically appear. UK price is £1.99, US $2.99, and all profits go to the Type 1 diabetes research charity, JDRF. Thank you for your support.

Posted in Family, Self-publishing, Type 1 diabetes, Writing

Sneak Preview of My Next Book – A Charity Fundraiser for Diabetes Research

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
This beautiful book cover design has been generously donated by the assisted publishing service SilverWood Books. Blue is the international colour for diabetes, and the circle is the symbol of World Diabetes Day.

A week today, on World Diabetes Day 2013, I’ll be launching my latest book, a short e-book about how Type 1 Diabetes has affected my family. Its prime purpose is to raise funds for the search for a cure, via Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF

As close friends, family and regular readers of this blog will know, my husband and our ten-year-old daughter Laura both have Type 1 Diabetes, a serious incurable condition that requires careful management every day to guard against unacceptable short-term and long-term health risks.

The book started out as a series of occasional blog posts here, addressing different aspects of living with Type 1 Diabetes. It brings together all of these posts in one place, plus extra material written especially for the book.

One of the new additions is an excellent Foreword, kindly provided by the broadcaster Justin Webb, who co-presents BBC Radio 4’s influential Today programme, and who also has a child with Type 1 Diabetes.

English: BBC Television presenter Justin Webb
BBC Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb has written the Foreword (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an extract:

“For families around Britain and around the world – today and tomorrow and for every day until a cure is found – a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes is a life-altering, life-worsening piece of news…

“For parents, for the children themselves, all is changed. Some cope badly and suffer the awful consequences of complications and added misery. But some people have within them … the strength to fight back…

“This book has been written by someone who is ready and willing and able to fight back, and I commend her for it.

“Debbie Young has written a moving and personal testimony. I hope it inspires people to support the work of JDRF. And to salute the pioneers who first helped Type 1 Diabetics to stay alive, and nowadays helps them to live increasingly normal lives. This is a story that begins with harsh reality but encompasses success as well. It is a story of hope and progress, and one day it must end, in triumph.”

The funds raised by this short e-book will help bring that triumph closer.

Publication Details

SilverWood Books logo
SilverWood Books logo

The e-book will be available exclusively from Amazon from 14th November. The retail price will be £1.99 in the UK, and the equivalent in all Amazon territories around the world. All profits from every copy sold will go to JDRF, the international charity for Type 1 Diabetes.

The profit will be around 70% of the retail price. because the book has cost nothing but time to produce. Justin Webb and my author and publisher friends have given their services free of charge. Special thanks to SilverWood Books for their beautiful cover design, to novelist Joanne Phillips and poet Shirley Wright for proofreading, and to many other friends for reading the draft copy in advance of publication.

I will also be very grateful to anyone who is willing to post a book review on Amazon, because the more reviews a book has, the more visible it becomes on Amazon, thus increasing sales opportunities.

As the book is relatively short – around 8,000 words – there are currently no plans for a print version, but next year I’m hoping to publish an anthology of essays by other writers whose lives have been affected by Type 1 Diabetes, and I may incorporate this first book as a part of that project. Anyone who would be interested in contributing a piece to the 2014 book is warmly invited to register their interest via the contact form on this website.

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

For World Diabetes Day: So here’s to you, Dr Banting (with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

World Diabetes Day logoThis World Diabetes Day, let’s not dwell on the trauma and heartache of the millions of people surviving around the world with Type 1 diabetes.

There’s no point blaming them or anyone else, because it’s a disorder that occurs through no fault of their own. They can’t help the fact that diabetes changes their lives forever – and not in a good way. They’d rather not have to submit to the multiple daily blood tests and insulin injections or infusions. It’s not such a big thing to make a fuss about – all they’re trying to do is  stay alive. Oh, and to ward off the complications that can occur from badly controlled diabetes. It’s a long list, it’s dull and it’s not pretty: blindness, amputation, premature heart disease. Oh, and I almost forgot the biggest one: death. Almost immediate death is inevitable for those not lucky enough to have access to modern diabetes management therapy. Better not to talk about it.

Laura with JDRF mascot Rufus bear
My daughter Laura with her JDRF mascot, Rufus Bear, given to her when she was 3 because the coloured felt patches on his body showed her where her multiple daily insulin injections had to go.

And anyway, it’s not as if Type 1 diabetes is a new or original story:  it’s been around for centuries. It’s just that before Dr Frederick Banting identified and isolated insulin in 1928, death would have been imminent for anyone unfortunate enough to develop Type 1 diabetes, so there wouldn’t have been so many of them around as there are today. Well, not for long, anyway.

Nor is it something that matters only today, on World Diabetes Day, because for those who have Type 1 Diabetes, every day is a Diabetes Day. There’s no day off. They’ll have it for the rest of their lives, so why all the fuss today?

photo of insulin discoverer, Dr Frederick Banting
Diabetes research pioneer Dr Frederick Banting: great mind, big heart (photo: Wikipedia)

So let’s make light of it instead. How about a song? Here’s one to sing in celebration of the extraordinary pioneering work of Dr Frederick Banting for his Nobel-prize-winning research that made that magical substance, insulin, available for therapy today. It’s not a cure, but it least it lets diabetics live in hope till a cure is found. Today is Dr Banting’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dr Banting! Let’s hope that some day soon, scientists will take your revolutionary, life-saving work to the next level, and make diabetes history. I’m sure we’ve all got better ways to spend November 14th.

Frederick Banting was not a materialistic man, selling the patent for insulin for just one Canadian dollar, so that everyone could benefit. Modern drugs companies, please take note.

So not surprisingly, Dr Banting says he doesn’t want any birthday presents – just send money to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Because he couldn’t wish for a better present than a cure.

Song for World Diabetes Day

(to the tune of Mrs Robinson,

with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

And here’s to you, Frederick Banting,
Diabetics love you more than you can know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Dr Banting
At least since your research we’ve had a way
Alive to stay…hey, hey, hey

We’d like to celebrate the many lives that you have saved
We’d like to thank you for your research
Look around you, all you see are grateful patients’ eyes
That Nobel prize was the very least that you deserved

And here’s to you, Dr Banting
Diabetics love you even when hypo (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Dr Banting
Your insulin injections help us stay 
Alive today… hey hey hey

(Hide your syringe in a  place where no one ever goes
Put it in your pantry with your dextrose
It’s a little secret, just our T1D affair
Most of all, hide complications from the kids)

Coo, coo, ca-choo, Dr Banting
Diabetics love you more than you can know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Frederick Banting
We wish that we could meet you just to say
Thanks to you, we’re alive today

(Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Counting out the carbs before our dinner
Cry about it, shout about it
We don’t get to choose
Ev’ry way we look at it, we lose)

Though now it’s gone, our old carefree life, 
Still we turn our grateful eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
For thanks to you,  Frederick Banting 
Though normal life has left and gone away
Thanks to you, we’re here to stay

For more information about the pioneering work of Dr Frederick Banting and his Nobel prize, please click here.

If you can bear to read them, here are some other posts I’ve written about our experience of Type 1 Diabetes. I promise they don’t contain any more songs.

Not All Dreams Are Impossible

Diabetes – Another Fine Mess for Laurel and Laura

On The Fourth Anniversary of My Daughter’s Diabetes