Skip to content

A Favourite Blog

February 9, 2023
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this favourite extract from BUG WOMAN LONDON – a graduate of my blog writing course who is now celebrating nine 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 course HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on March 25th/26th. Come to Spitalfields and spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches and 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


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.


The course will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on 25th-26th March. The course runs from 10am-5pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.

Lunches, tea, coffee & cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £300.

Email to book a place on the course.

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    February 9, 2023

    Brilliant piece of writing – congratulations.

  2. Simon permalink
    February 9, 2023

    Good morning,
    Thank you for another beautiful and thought-provoking piece.
    Wishing you a wonderful day.

  3. Marcia Howard permalink
    February 9, 2023

    A wonderful piece by Bug Woman London. It really spoke and resonated with me. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Christine Swan permalink
    February 9, 2023

    What a wonderful blog! I am now following Bug Woman on Twitter and have bookmarked the blog. This post spoke to me because I lost my father to dementia nearly four years ago. He was at home until his wanderings, falls and rages became too difficult for us to manage alone. I was ” that nice woman from across the road” and he didn’t have any idea who my mother was. He became much more settled when he went into hospital for assessment and then a nursing home. In one comedic moment in hospital, a kindly band of volunteer musicians came and sang old drinking songs including Roll Out The Barrel. My father sang along to every word. After they left, I asked him: ” Did you remember those songs?”, “No”, was his reply, “Never, heard them before.”
    I had a difficult relationship with my father but was grateful to have made my peace and listened to his stories before he died.

  5. February 9, 2023

    Thanks for shining a light on Bug Woman. Herons are nearby, and I love observing them…….
    these photos have provided an even closer look. So stately and beautiful.

    I related strongly to reader Christine’s comments. In spite of my mother’s acute memory loss, she
    was able to recall song lyrics (every chorus!) and we enjoyed singing together. There was a volunteer who brought his guitar to the nursing home, and he was always wonderful about playing my mother’s favorites; including “You Are My Sunshine”. She actually ended up teaching HIM
    a couple of the more arcane verses. Music bridged the gulf, and she and I enjoyed singing
    and humming together.

  6. Sonia Murray permalink
    February 9, 2023

    Beautifully written! I love this article. Thank you, Bug Woman! And Lynne, thanks for your comment, which brought back happy memories. My Dad used to sing You Are My Sunshine to me when I was his little girl, Sunny. Eighty years ago…!

  7. Marnie permalink
    February 9, 2023

    Dear GA,

    Lovely poignant story. It is always enjoyable to read a work by a successful student.

    Have you considered doing an on-line course for the many of us who can no longer travel
    long distances due to age and fragility but still have a yearning to share our stories?

    Your course outline is tantalizing. Won’t you please share ‘the beef?’

    Marnie in Ohio

  8. February 9, 2023

    Thank you, Gentle Author, and thank you everyone for the kind comments. Writing Bugwoman’s Adventures in London kept me sane during the period when I lost Mum and Dad, and during the lockdowns. If you’ve ever wanted to write a blog, you can do no better than go on this course.

  9. sllgatsby permalink
    February 9, 2023

    It has been a pleasure and an honor to follow Bugwoman’s blog. She has a gift. From the delight of finding and relating to a thriving “weed” in an inhospitable environment to the desire to protect the vulnerable from harm and the sorrow when we cannot, she is never better than when she explores our connection to and reliance on our greater community, whether plant, animal, or human. I look forward to her book about her parents.

  10. Susan permalink
    February 9, 2023

    Vivienne – As others have written, this is truly lovely, evocative writing. I must say I found your conversation with your Dad especially charming. Would that all of us could be as creative and go with the flow of our aging parents’ conversations.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS