‘He’s in hospital again … and he’s not eating. Perhaps you should think about coming back,’ Brenda said. ‘I don’t think your dad will be going home this time.’
When the call came, I was just setting out on a new life in France.
My two daughters were grown up. With divorce behind me, I was free, and single, and still hoping to find love once more. This was supposed to be my time.
Now it was clear my father was dying. And my mother was in a care home.
I didn’t want to go back, but I knew I would.
Though what the trip would hold – for me, for my father, and though I hardly dared voice the thought, for my mother – was too much to take in.
‘An honest and thoughtful memoir. Moving but, ultimately, full of hope. Beautiful.’
The Languedoc Trilogy
‘A beautiful, intimate story of love and understanding – candid and funny. This is a lyrical memoir of hope and forgiveness.’
The Salt Path
‘A vital subject, a really strong voice and, hurrah, humour makes this absorbing reading.’
Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime
‘A heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and beautifully humane account of loving and caring.’
What Dementia Teaches Us About Love
‘An eye-opening – and at times jaw dropping – account that will make you weep with its tenderness and compassion . . . A highly readable tale of redemption and a celebration of love’s many hues.‘
I have worked as a journalist on local papers and in local radio, made social action and documentary programmes for television, and produced for film, including a role for Illuminations on the Emmy award-winning performance film, Gloriana.
And that is not all…I have also worked as a paella chef, a hot air balloon recovery chap, a painter and decorator, and a teacher of psychology.
But I am chiefly a dad.
Shaun and his two grown up daughters – twenty-six and thirty-one years old – are setting off on a unique trip; a holiday together, before he embarks alone on the thousand-kilometre journey home by bicycle.
Their time together flashes by, but he’s worried about his younger daughter, who is distant and remote, as she faces surgery in a life-changing operation.
Alone on his bicycle – a model called the ‘Odyssey’ – riding ‘La Vélodyssée’ – Europe’s longest cycle path, Shaun takes stock of his life. He climbs the Dune de Pilat at night; he spends time in a naturist resort, and finds hope in an email from a woman he met online; until the call comes to say his younger daughter has a date for surgery.
It’s time to go home.
Shifting back into his familiar role as capable dad, the operation is successful and the crisis should be over, but it’s only just beginning.
He finds himself rejected by his daughter and suspicious of the blossoming romance that is dredging up the past and forcing him to confront his own worst fears.
He must reframe what he wants in the few years remaining, but how? And can he confront his own mortality alone? Or should he take the risk, and trust in love one last time?
All my stories are rooted in my own life. But I like to find parallels between my own experience and the tales of my heroes.
I do so with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I am no mythic hero.
I have no delusions on that front.
But I do believe in the notion that we are all of us everyday heroes, each in our own way.
Whether you’re a parent, or a child, a lover, or alone in life, it takes courage to get up each morning and meet the day; to deal with adversity and loss, to secure a little joy, and when the journey’s done, to find your way home again.
My first book, Love and Care, mirrors the first four books of Homer’s Odyssey, the Telemachia, telling the story of a son charged, with caring for his mother, who is desperately seeking his father.
Why? Because that happens to be my story too.
My second book, Love and Letting Go is about a man and his epic quest in search of home…by bicycle.
…and like The Odyssey, my tale features a dramatic homecoming…
So my story does too.
Books Twelve to Twenty-four of The Odyssey tell of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, disguised as an old man and the challenges he faces when he reaches his home.
Odysseus is disguised as a wizened old man on his return to Ithaca by the goddess, Athena. wheras my own appearance is entirely down to the ravages of time.
I’m working on the words right now…I might be a little while yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I’m done.
I think it will be worth the wait, because the story is also about what it means to be a father, and about the challenges of middle age, not least of which, is facing one’s own mortality, all told with a sense of humour…naturally!
Because there really is no other option, is there?
See you on the road one day very soon.