Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Secret" essay in Full Grown People

Okay, more tears. It's 8 a.m. on one of the most miserable days of the winter, surely - dark and raining, the ground covered with filthy snow. But I am warm in my kitchen, with wet eyes. The second essay came out this morning, another about a vital childhood bond. I've carried both these beloved friends, Penny and Barbara, with me for sixty years; I worked on both essays for many years and finally have shared their stories with the world. I think Barbara's will be behind the Queen's Quarterly paywall, but here's Penny, for all to read.

I've already had feedback; someone wrote me, "What a moving, harrowing, lovely essay."

How much it means that Penny's story has moved a reader somewhere, a stranger. 

In the night, I was thinking about this blog, and this morning, I was going to write an apology. Recently there has been a lot of "blowing own horn," boasting about the good stuff and rarely telling about the bad, the things that keep me up at night. Well, as I said, suddenly as a writer, I've been on a roll. There have been so many years when all I heard was "no" that experiencing one "yes" after another is a wondrous thing. Much of what was holding me back was - me. My own insecurities, self-deprecation, doubts. And for some reason, I've put that, mostly, behind me. I think. 

Doesn't mean it's all easy from here on; there will still be doubt. But I hope it means that despite it, I will move forward. 

Penny, dearest friend, how I wish you were here. How close I came to getting back in touch with you. But now your story, the magic of our marvellous secret world, is in the open. Thank you for all you gave. I love you. 

Another tear in the coffee. 

PS. And another! I just heard from the other Penny, Barbara's sister. More than four decades after Barbara's death in 1966, when I got back in touch with her family, Penny and I became good friends long distance, and our new bond brought Barbara back for her. This is what our work can do: tell the stories for those who do not. Barbara, too, will live again for strangers. How grateful I am for this gift: writing people back to life. 

Thank you, thank you Beth - for giving me back my sister.  

I have only read the first page - then I had to stop - fearful of the emotion that will come and reluctant to waste it mid day when I am in the midst of other fuss. I will save it till I have time and space to give to this precious read.

But I can say that although I had a shadowy image of you visiting our Wimbledon home in 1964, my own memories of my big sister and playmate were fast fading black and white, and it was not until I started writing to you that the colour and the detail returned.

I have to go out now - and do not want to waste the moment by rushing your words. But I know that what you have done is very special and I am so glad that your work is being recognized.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Theresa. This one has been many years in the making.

  2. Beth - I have just read you essay about Penny. What a beautiful, and sad story. The magical world you shared was absolutely captivating and I imagine it must have been a lovely escape for both of you. Helen

    1. Thank you, Helen! Yes, we had a whole world that was very real to us. A lifesaver.