I was a nurse before I became a novelist and did my training at a time when nurses wore starched caps and collars and the wards were ruled by strict discipline. The hours were long, the work was hard but the patients always came first and I loved it from the start. I enjoyed a long career but had to leave to become a full time carer for my partner.
I wrote my first novel at the kitchen table on a quest to explore the history of nursing. Inspired by stories from the Crimean War, I discovered Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale and other ordinary yet extraordinary women who worked as nurses or were army wives. ‘This is amazing, somebody should write a novel’, I said out loud one day as I scribbled yet more notes. That ‘somebody’ turned out to be me and Miss Nightingale’s Nurses was published in 2018.
I know how to mix concrete and once lived in a caravan with no electricity or running water whilst we renovated a farmhouse. It was so cold in winter that the calor gas wouldn’t come out of the bottle and we had to tie the caravan down with ropes and weights so it didn’t blow away in a storm. I wouldn’t ever do it again but it was ‘fun’ at the time and I enjoyed getting stuck in with the building work – especially demolition.
I once helped to push a patient in a wheelchair for thirteen miles at night as part of a moonlight walk with my nursing colleagues. We were raising money for the hospice where we all worked. It was an unforgettable journey up and down every kerb, around every obstacle, through the centre of town on a Saturday night with all the late night pub goers cheering and clapping as we passed by (and one group mistaking us for the biggest hen party they’d ever seen!)
I love to watch sweeping historical sagas with strong female leads – Doctor Zhivago, Titanic, Far From the Madding Crowd are all favourites - and once settled in front of the TV, I don’t like to be disturbed.
I tend to be superstitious so I’m always chucking salt over my left shoulder (sometimes repeatedly if it’s a large spill!), I don’t walk under ladders or put new shoes on the table and this is a nurse-related one – I can never mix red and white flowers in a vase. Back in the day, when hospital patients were allowed to receive vast amounts of flowers, all student nurses were told that this was definitely bad luck. No one was ever quite sure of its origin but ‘blood and bandages from the war’ were often mentioned.
I grew up in rural Lancashire and always feel like I’m ‘going home’ when I head out into the countryside. I love to walk the fells, breathe the air and listen out for the cry of a curlew.
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In my day job I am a science journalist. Journalism taught me to observe people and situations, research facts and question motives. And I can hit a deadline like no other... to read more click HERE