I’m grateful to be sitting writing this blog because three months ago my adorable wife saved me from certain death. Instead, I find myself enjoying every day as if it’s my last. It makes my writing more important and enjoyable. This is what happened: in late August 2022, I began to complain about persistent headache, lethargy and extreme tiredness, then I became unsteady on my feet, which is when my dear, intelligent wife, Maria Antonietta, intervened and called in the cavalry—doctors, paramedics and friends. I was rushed down the motorway in an ambulance to the main provincial hospital in Cosenza.
We all know that A&E doctors are overworked and stressed, especially with the pandemic still in course, so they limited themselves to checking my vital signs and pronouncing that there was nothing wrong and that I should return home. My courageous and tenacious Maria was having none of it. She pointed to the general situation rather than specific measurements, relating my atrocious medical history, and importantly, that nobody better than her could comment the deterioration in my condition. Her persistence meant that I was in the right place at the right time. For, while the doctors continued to maintain their position, I unwittingly contributed to Maria’s stand by having a severe epileptic seizure. That convinced the doctors to send me immediately for a CAT scan of my brain. Yes, I do have one!
The outcome was to show a massive cerebral haemorrhage. After an emergency operation, I regained consciousness and frighteningly, could neither speak in Italian nor think in English in any coordinated way, nor could I walk. Frankly, I was terrified. However, within forty-eight hours, I began to speak with a rather strange growling voice, so communication was restored.
Soon, the hospital decided to transfer me to a rehabilitation clinic at Laurignano, some kilometres from the main hospital. In the midst of my disaster, this clinic shines like a beacon. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff: from the CEO, through the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and the cheerful ladies, who daily cleaned my room (No.16). Everyone there is so dedicated and while I’m aware that not every day they have an English writer as a patient, they treat everyone in the same way, firstly, as friends and secondly, as patients. I made new friends there and they gave me the will to fight to literally put me on my feet again.
The other great incentive, and this is an unfair comparison, was the clinic food, cooked on the spot but in an institutionalised way. How could it compete with Maria’s culinary genius? So, I worked really hard in the gym, impressing my physiotherapists and everyone who daily measured my progress in a desperate attempt to persuade them to send me home.
Maria was allowed (covid restrictions) to visit me just one hour per week. On one of her first visits, I begged for a pen and an exercise book, I don’t possess a laptop computer, preferring to work on my desktop Mac. Here was a return to old-fashioned handwriting. I was working on a new trilogy. Having researched why the Vikings, who colonised Scotland, Ireland, England and the Isle of Man, did not succeed in colonising Wales. I was curious and decided that there was a historical fiction trilogy to be written there.
Indeed, I had already almost completed Book 1 of the Bretland Trilogy (Viking name for Wales) when with only three chapters to write, the medical error that provoked my haemorrhage struck. To be brief, I had been given too high a dosage of anti-coagulants, which provoked the crisis. I found myself unable to write for weeks, but I knew my story and astounded the clinic staff by writing pages and pages of longhand when not occupied in the gym. This was a blessing on Sundays, with no gym twice a day and alone in my room, I really made progress and finished Rhodri’s Furies. You can imagine my delight when I signed the contract for this book last month. It was published on 12 December 2022. I’ve attached the cover to this blog.
Despite my astonishing progress, there was no way the clinic would be irresponsible and allow me to return home until they were certain that I would be all right. So, I began Book 2 Avenging Rhodri, and wrote the first five chapters in the clinic until the great day arrived. On 29 October, my friend Dino arrived with Maria to take me home.
This morning, December 17, as I sat admiring the Christmas tree next to my desk and praised the Lord that I wasn’t left with permanent damage, I only had to decide whether to continue with chapter 21 of Avenging Rhodri or to bore you (like a typical elderly man) with my medical woes. I hope I haven’t bored you too much.
The circumstances leave me with a quandary. To whom should I dedicate this trilogy? I’m spoilt for choice. The obvious one is my darling Maria, but I’ve already dedicated books to her because without her devotion and understanding, none of my 32 novels would have been completed. Then there’s my physiotherapist Annalisa, to name one of a team of dedicated professional people. I can’t bear to neglect any one of them!
So, I have much to be grateful for and would like to share the importance of writing my novels in keeping me going. The secret to longevity is not wanting to leave an unfinished work! That’s why I’m prolific, starting one as soon as I finish another. I know that I can only cross the Rainbow Bridge when I don’t have a work-in-progress!