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Bug Woman London

April 11, 2019
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this extract from BUG WOMAN LONDON – a graduate of my blog writing course who is now celebrating five years of publishing posts online. The author set out to explore our relationship with the natural world in the urban environment, yet her subject matter has expanded to include a brave and tender account of her mother’s decline and death. Follow BUG WOMAN LONDON, because a community is more than just people

I am now taking bookings for the next courses, HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on May 11th/12th and November 9th/10th. Come to Spitalfields and spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches from Leila’s Cafe, eat cakes baked to historic recipes by Townhouse and learn how to write your own blog. Click here for details

If you are graduate of my course and you would like me to feature your blog, please drop me a line.

I do still have one parent alive though, so I ring the nursing home to see how Dad is  getting on.

‘I’m on a boat’, he says. ‘I’ll be gone for forty days’.

‘Where are you going, Dad?’ I ask. I have learnt that it is easier for everyone if I join Dad in Dadland rather than attempting to drag him into the ‘real’ world, where he has dementia and his wife of sixty-one years is dead.

‘Northern China’, he says, emphatically.

‘You’ve not been there before, have you? It will be an adventure. I hope the food is good!’
I am not sure if Dad is remembering the business trips that he used to take, or the cruises he went on with Mum, or if this is a metaphor for another journey that he is taking. But I am sure that it could be all three explanations at once.

‘And I’ve done a picture of a rabbit with a bird on its head’.

‘That sounds fun Dad, I know you like painting and drawing’.

‘It’s with crayons’.

‘Well, they’re a bit less messy’.

Dad laughs. There’s a pause.

‘I haven’t been able to talk to Mum. I ring and ring, but she never answers’.

I wonder if he has actually been ringing the house and getting Mum’s voice on the answerphone. He is convinced that she is cross with him because one of the ‘young’ female carers at the home (a very nice lady in her fifties) helped him to have a shower. He went to the funeral and was in the room when Mum died, but does not remember.
‘She’s away at the moment Dad’, I say, ‘But she loves you and she knows that you love her’.

‘That’s all right then,’ he says. ‘But I have to go now’.

‘Love you Dad’.

‘Love you n’all’.

It is as if, in his dementia, Dad is returned to some earlier version of himself – more placid, less anxious. His calls to my brother have gone from forty-three in one day to once or twice a week. I am not sure if this peacefulness will last, or if it presages a movement to another stage in the progression of the disease, but I am grateful for his equanimity. Somewhere inside this frail, vulnerable man there is still my Dad, and I feel such tenderness for him.

I walk to the bedroom and look out of the window. There is something totally unexpected in the garden.

A grey heron is in the pond, and, as I watch, the creature spots the rounded head of a frog. Once the bird is locked on target, there is no escape. The heron darts forward, squashes the frog between the blades of its bill and waits, as if uncertain what to do. The frog wriggles, and the heron dunks it into the water, once, twice. And then the bird throws back its head and, in a series of gulps, swallows the frog alive.

I do not know what to do. I feel protective towards the frogs, but the heron needs to eat too. The frogs have bred and there is spawn in the pond, so from a scientific point of view there is no need to be sentimental. But still. I have been away for two weeks and I suspect that the heron got used to visiting when things when quiet. The pond must have had a hundred frogs in it when we left. Hopefully some of them quit the water once the breeding was over, because on today’s evidence the heron could happily have eaten the lot.

What a magnificent creature, though. It is such a privilege to have a visit from a top predator. Close up, I can see the way that those yellow eyes point slightly forward to look down the stiletto of the beak, and the way that the mouth extends back beyond the bill, enabling an enormous gape. The plume of black feathers at the back of the head show that this is an adult bird, perhaps already getting ready for breeding. The heron leans forward, having spotted yet another frog, and I decide that I will intervene. I unlock the back door and open it, but it is not until I am outside on the patio that the bird reluctantly flaps those enormous wings and takes off, to survey me from the roof opposite.

I know that I will not deter the bird for long – after all, I will leave the house, and the heron will be back. But there has been so much loss in my life in the past few months that I feel as if I have to do something. The delicate bodies of the frogs seem no match for that rapier-bill and there is something unfair about the contest in this little pond that riles me. We are all small, soft-bodied creatures, and death will come for us and for everyone that we love with its cold, implacable gaze, but that does not mean we should not sometimes throw sand in its face. I am so lucky to have the graceful presence of the heron in my garden, but today, I want to tip the balance just a little in favour of the defenceless.

Photographs copyright © Bug Woman London

HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ: 11th-12th May & 9th-10th November 2019

Spend a weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields and learn how to write a blog with The Gentle Author.

This course will examine the essential questions which need to be addressed if you wish to write a blog that people will want to read.

“Like those writers in fourteenth century Florence who discovered the sonnet but did not quite know what to do with it, we are presented with the new literary medium of the blog – which has quickly become omnipresent, with many millions writing online. For my own part, I respect this nascent literary form by seeking to explore its own unique qualities and potential.” – The Gentle Author


1. How to find a voice – When you write, who are you writing to and what is your relationship with the reader?
2. How to find a subject – Why is it necessary to write and what do you have to tell?
3. How to find the form – What is the ideal manifestation of your material and how can a good structure give you momentum?
4. The relationship of pictures and words – Which comes first, the pictures or the words? Creating a dynamic relationship between your text and images.
5. How to write a pen portrait – Drawing on The Gentle Author’s experience, different strategies in transforming a conversation into an effective written evocation of a personality.
6. What a blog can do – A consideration of how telling stories on the internet can affect the temporal world.


In 2019 courses will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on 11th-12th May & 9th-10th November. Each course runs from 10am-5pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.

Lunch will be catered by Leila’s Cafe of Arnold Circus and tea, coffee & cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £300.

Accomodation at 5 Fournier St is available upon enquiry to Fiona Atkins

Email to book a place on the course.

12 Responses leave one →
  1. Jennifer Blain permalink
    April 11, 2019

    Bug Woman; a beautiful, tender piece of writing. Congratulations

  2. April 11, 2019

    Thank you, Gentle Author! Your course changed my life, and i hope that the next one does the same for your aspiring bloggers.

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    April 11, 2019

    A little Egret flew over me in central Walthamstow, yesterday.
    They are to be seen, fairly frequently from the Walthamstow-Liverpool St trains, by the intermediate spillway, just before you get to where Hall Farm Junction used to be …

  4. April 11, 2019

    That’s a great piece of writing.

  5. Coralie Mattys permalink
    April 11, 2019

    Brilliant! Reminds me of my life on the River Lea – thanks!

  6. Richard Smith permalink
    April 11, 2019

    A beautiful piece of writing that I enjoyed so much despite the tears welling up in my eyes. Thank you.

  7. Jennifer Taylor permalink
    April 11, 2019

    Beautifully written!

  8. Paul Loften permalink
    April 11, 2019

    A very descriptive and poignant essay. The conversation with her dad touched me deeply. It made me realise how lucky I was to know both my parents and their memories right up to the very end of their lives. Your tution has now brought to us some serious writers. Long may you continue with your own blog I think its remarkable.

  9. Aline permalink
    April 11, 2019

    What an exquisite piece of writing. Tears in my eyes.

  10. Sonia Murray permalink
    April 11, 2019

    A lovely and evocative article. Thank you, Bug Woman!

  11. April 12, 2019

    What a beautiful piece. Your blog course has enhanced many lives. Thank you.

  12. Jill Wilson permalink
    April 13, 2019

    Yes – a beautifully written piece and it makes me realise how lucky I was that I didn’t have to take any trips to Dadland (my Dad just declined physically to a gentle end).

    GA – you must be very proud of the work your bloggers do.

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