Newsletter no.166, January 15th, 2021

Great news! I was called up by Gloria at my doctor’s surgery who asked if I would like to have a vaccination. I said, ‘Yes, please!’ In a hurry. Some of my friends had had theirs already and I was wondering when my turn would come. This time it was to be done not at the Town Hall, but in a disused cinema in Southall which is some distance away. Quite an adventure, made easier by their sending a volunteer in a minibus for me.

Anyway, I arrived and took my place in the procession of over 80s, all with our sticks and walkers. Some had grown-up children looking after them. It was all very orderly. The nurse asked me date of birth and so on and so on. And then she said, ‘Are you pregnant?’ So yes, I laughed out loud. She said, ‘I have to check. Yesterday I asked someone and she said she didn’t know!’ So that’s done now. The second jab will be in 12 weeks’ time.

My ‘Corona Christmas’ story was duly published in the combined Christmas and New Year edition of the Methodist Recorder. They re-titled it as ‘What will Christmas mean to you this year?’ On the whole I prefer shorter titles, but yes, I think this change was for the better. We were worried about this story because I’d had to write it before we knew exactly what regime we’d be under by Christmastime. The rules kept changing as the days went by. Nearer the printing date, we did tweak the story here and I think we got it about right. If anyone would like to read this story and can’t get hold of it by the usual means, then let me know, and I’ll send you a copy free.

The next short story from the archives can be accessed here. It’s called ‘Accident and Emergency’ and no, it’s not about the virus! Kerry has an accident which causes him to be worried about his future, until his friends decide to help.

Meanwhile, I’ve been tackling the pile of paper on my printer. You know the one? Bills to be paid, letters to be answered, notes of books to be ordered, reminders to phone someone . . .? When the pile gets high enough to slip off onto my desk, I know it has to be dealt with. With much grinding of teeth, I get down to it. It takes me all morning, but at the end of that time, I can actually see the top of my printer. You and I both know that tomorrow another piece of paper will have arrived on site, to be joined very soon by others . . . until I have to stop work again to deal with them. But so far, so good.

Work continues on the next Abbot Agency book. People sometimes ask me if I know how a book is going to end, and I say I wouldn’t like to start a book without knowing who dunnit, and why and how . . . and how he or she is brought to justice. This time the character that I most dislike is, unfortunately, not the killer. I don’t want to be mean, but perhaps she’ll get her comeuppance in a different way. Now, how can I manage that?

A blessing on all those who open heavy shop doors to someone walking with difficulty and a stick!

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.165, January 1st, 2021

This is the time of year in which we are supposed to write thank you notes for the presents we received at Christmas. Well, nowadays I suppose it is acceptable to do it on e-mail or with a phone call. I’m not entirely convinced that this is enough. Should the amount of thought and preparation entailed not be reflected in a handwritten note of thanks? On the other hand, if the present is a voucher or something delivered direct from the supplier, then perhaps some heartfelt thanks delivered electronically or by phone is sufficient. What do you think? Mix and match?

The people I really want to thank today are those who have been so good to me while I have been recovering from my knee operation. I am not used to being looked after like this because until now I was always the one who tried to help others.

There is also the Kindness of Strangers. When I approach the queues outside our local independent shops, walking on my two sticks, and see that there is nowhere to sit and wait my turn, I have been surprised and sometimes quite overwhelmed by how many people have offered to assist me. Usually there is an offer for me to take someone’s place in the queue, or someone arranges for a seat for me outside or inside the shop till it gets to be my turn to be served. Being pretty sprightly for my age, I had never thought of playing the Age Card and asking for special attention until now, but I must admit that once or twice recently I have done so. Mind you, these are local shops which I have been using for fifty odd years, and it does help that I am an ‘old’ – in every sense – customer.

So, Christmas has come and gone with a mixture of laughter and tears. Perhaps more people than usual remembered what this special day was all about. And perhaps not. My ‘Corona Christmas’ story went out as planned in the double issue of the Methodist Recorder for Christmas and the New Year. If you can’t get hold of it but would like to read it, then drop me an email and I’ll e-mail it to you free. Meanwhile, continuing the tradition of attaching a story from the archives for your delectation, I find the next in line is called ‘Summer Holiday.’ (Oh well, things will be better by next summer, won’t they?) So if you would like to read what our three friends did for their summer holiday, you can access the story here.

I am continuing to work on the next Bea Abbot while the rumbling continues about minor corrections to the next Ellie, Murder-in-Law, which will be published in March.

Somewhat late in the day, we have received a very good review from Booklist, dated 4th December, for ‘False Conclusion,’ the latest in the Abbot agency series. I quote: ‘A likeable heroine who cracks challenging cases . . .combines suspenseful twists, quirky supporting characters, and a satisfying ending to make this a delight for fans of British mysteries.’


Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.183, 1st January 2022

I wish you a Happy New Year

       and may it be less stressful than 2021.

When you are surrounded by miserable faces and all you hear are tales of woe, then you can either shut the door on the outside door and reach for a cuppa, or – as Shakespeare said – by taking arms against a sea of troubles, you can end them. Well, OK. We can’t end Covid by wishing but we can embrace the spirit of the Blitz and stiffen the upper lip and get on with life as best we can. I may be the only one around here who can remember the blitz, but even as a child I can well remember the feeling of anxiety that pervaded those days. And now? Is it the same? In some ways, yes. But I do know that a bit of fun here and a spot of laughter there make all the difference – as they did then.

Let us consider Parsley

Parsley has adopted a smaller lamb, as you can see here. Now I bought this little lamb in Prague many years ago. He sat on a ledge in the bedroom and seemed perfectly content there, but now he’s arrived at Parsley’s side and apparently intends to stay there. I’ve tried moving him back where he used to be but he resisted like mad. All right: it’s companionship for Parsley. The only thing is, the little lamb never had a name before and now he needs one. Would anyone care to think one up for me? (No, not Thyme.) All suggestions gratefully received and there will be a naming session in due course.

Work continues . . .

Things may go awry in the world but work – thankfully – continues. There’s nothing like a good book to renew one’s spirit and I hope that the one I’m writing now will both amuse my readers. Another Ellie, MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT is going well, and I should be able to deliver it in about a month’s time. One of the characters who appears in this book has given me a lot of pleasure. He’s not a pretty boy; in fact you might call him ‘plain,’ but he’s kind and a good listener. When we were going out on dates way back in the dark ages, my friends and I used to judge the men by things we thought important and at the top of the leader board was ‘Is he kind?’ I suppose nowadays the criteria are quite different, but it served us well in the old days and, come to think of it, none of our group ended up in the divorce courts.

The short story with this newsletter is ‘Christmas Mislaid,’ in which Bruce and Sally set aside their own plans to help a relative in distress; with surprising consequences. Access it here.

A blessing on those who are kind to those around them.        

Veronica Heley