Maria de la Mann

Maria de la Mann

Writing & illustrating the 'Verity Red' series

Diary styled books, uplifting and informative

Scroll down to see my books

My latest 'Verity Red' book.

Published in Dec 2023
  • Verity Red has admired beach huts along the Kent coast for as long as she can remember.

    Unable to afford one, instead, over the years she has collected artwork, bed linen, towels and fridge magnets featuring beach hut designs.

    Creating a small, model beach on a shelf in her bathroom with sand, shells, a miniature deckchair, bucket and spade, and a beach ball; the main feature was a blue and white wooden – yes you guessed!

    Will Verity realise her dream and find happiness in the place where she most likes to be, beside the seaside, beside the sea?

    Read on….

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628878

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

My previous 'Verity Red' book.

Published in Apr 2022
  • Verity Red is having third thoughts...

    Why is she staring out of her bedroom window and wondering - Is this really happening?

    Why is she trapped in a cold, pitch dark room. With a voice in her head saying - Is this really happening?

    Why is she sitting in a dirty, depressing, uninhabited house and saying to herself - Is this really happening?

    Why is she watching the news and thinking -

    Read on....

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628861

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

The first part of my 'Verity Red' trilogy

Published in Dec 2019
  • Verity Red’s (veri tyred’s) story begins in April, her favourite month of the year. She loves to see yellow. The yellow of daffodils in springtime, sunflowers, and sweetcorn on a fresh pizza. But lately, she has been seeing red. Not the nice red of fresh plump strawberries, tomatoes, or red peppers – the bright red of anger towards medical people who treat her badly.

    Every day she endeavours to find ways not to feel blue. The blue of coping with M.E., boredom, and stressful situations. She would rather gaze at a springtime blue sky, bluebells, Prussian blue in a jigsaw puzzle, or her turquoise (an energy giving colour) tee-shirt from Top Shop.

    A friend gives her a herb cutting for her birthday, so it’s not long before she is seeing green. The green of mint leaves growing in a terracotta pot. And when her partner buys flowers, she delights in purple and orange hues.

    Sometimes on rainy days, Verity enjoys umbrella spotting (golfing ones being her favourite) and if the sun appears, she can play find-the-rainbow.

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628830

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

The second part of my 'Verity Red' trilogy

Published in Feb 2020, Verity's story continues apace...
  • Verity Red’s story continues in May, with lots of love and laughter, anger and uncertainty, and more laughter – as she copes with her day-to-day life.

    Her scarecrow hair grows scarier, the cracks in her leaky-cauldron-memory grow wider, Ben’s waistline becomes trimmer, and Minty branches out.

    Verity enjoys many adventures in her ever colourful imagination, often with some help from jigsaw puzzles depicting scenes abroad. But it’s not long before she is full with excitement, making plans for a real life fairytale adventure.

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628847

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

The third part of my 'Verity Red' trilogy

Published in May 2020, this Verity Red narrative draws to an end - but of course there is more to come...
  • Verity Red feels she has suddenly aged – and wonders why?

    What is in the large unexpected parcel?

    Is her next appointment going to be another disaster

    Why does she text Ben to say she has been a naughty girl?

    What happened at the seaside?

    Why is Verity outside a stranger’s house, peering through the window?

    What happens next?

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628854

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

My very first 'Verity Red' book, now only available as a Kindle edition.

I've come a long way as a writer since it was published, but 'Ben' insists that he still loves it and it's not to be forgotten... "Oh, alright then dear!"

Published in Apr 2005
  • Verity Red’s Diary (or Veri Tyred’s Diary!) takes you on a journey with Verity as she deals with leading a new and very different life after contracting M.E./C.F.S.

    Written with the realism that only real life experience can provide, yet suffused with great wit and a wry humour, Maria Mann had lived with M.E. for over ten years by the time it was published, and spent many of those years writing the book in bed. One reader described the book as, "Bridget Jones meets Adrian Mole", which as a one liner summary always makes Maria chuckle (as indeed you might while reading the book).

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available as a Kindle edition worldwide from Amazon, the ASIN is: B00AZMTE5U

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA)

The sequel to my first 'Verity Red' book

Published in Dec 2015
  • Verity Red (veri tyred) is back, with her mischievously wry wit and bad hair days. She still loves a chocolate treat, watching Coronation Street, collecting stray cats that appear on her doorstep, and Christmas gift catalogues that appear on her doormat. Her new love is sending text messages from her mobile phone, and she is going to learn to love jigsaw puzzles.

    Verity's diary begins on 1st September, because in previous months, all her precious energy has gone into writing a book (Love & Best Witches) and getting it published. Christmas gift catalogues have started to arrive with the post, and she is looking forward to curling up under a blanket of warm cats, while her fingers do the walking.

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628816

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)

    Note: also available in Kindle edition at Amazon

A book inspired by visits from my niece when she was little.

A fun read which will help both young and old people understand about M.E./C.F.S as they enjoy the adventures!

Published in Jul 2013
  • Once upon a time there was a little girl who had a special pen-friend, her auntie Nettie. Auntie wasn't very well because she had an illness called M.E. but she could write lovely letters when her hands didn't ache and she was fun to be with, when well enough for a small visitor, if she hadn't been overdoing it.

    Auntie overdid it if she spent too long in the kitchen baking Harry Potter chocolate frog cookies or making magical sparkly lemonade; travelling on her broomstick in cold weather without wearing witchy thermal underwear, or doing spells involving: lots of chanting, anointing, collecting of herbs, picking up heavy goblets, picking up heavy goblins, ringing bells or wand waving.

    Click here or on the cover to be magically whisked to some extracts...

  • "Where can I get it?"

    Available worldwide from all good book stores, the ISBN is: 978-0957628809

    There are some handy direct links below to Amazon (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA)


I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Wednesday 27th April

11.21 a.m.

BEN: Oh. It’s a bit breezy.

ME: A bit breezy?! A bit breezy!?!? Are you joking? It’s flippin’ arctic, freeze you to the bone, blow you away, gale force something – probably nine – very strong winds from the North Sea.

BEN: Yes dear.

ME: I saw little arrows flying across the weather girl’s map this morning, zooming into this coastline. In fact, I’ll swear one of them was stabbing right where we are now.

BEN: You may be right. I should have parked the car nearer the path down the hill.

ME: Or what Ordnance Survey maps call the path on the coastal slope.

BEN: Yes, little Miss Cartographer.

ME: I think I must be a little Miss Crazy. Has it finally happened? Have I lost my tiny mind? Here I am at  the seaside. Icy cold winds. And although I’ve wrapped up well – well I thought I had – I’m going to turn into an ice cube at any moment. And I’m going to look at beach huts, with the intention of buying one.

Friday 6th May

10.00 a.m.

ME:   Another day
            Chilly and wet
             I think that Lovely
             Needs the vet

             One glance at the calendar
             No, not yet

BEN: My music needs a mix
             My car needs a fix

             Our next door neighbour
              Is up to his old tricks   

ME:   Two birds are on
            The bird table fighting

            Time for me to
            Knuckle down to writing

10.23 a.m. I continue with March.

Wednesday 3rd

8.46 a.m.

BEN: Coffee?

ME: Yes. Your real coffee please.

BEN: Gone off the decaf?

ME: No, I just fancy a bit of a lift.

BEN: A broomstick riding lift?

ME: More a mental lift. And a bit of a buzz.

BEN: Buzzy bee honey on toast too? I got a jar of Rob’s honey from his hives when I saw him yesterday.

ME: Made by very happy bees.

BEN: How do you know they are very happy?

ME: Because Rob has happy hens, or his girls, as he calls them, that he looks after well. So I imagine he looks after his bees too. They need a lot of care. The hive needs to be kept –

BEN: Bee-kept.

ME: Yes dear. It needs to be kept dry, airy and clean. And the colony checked regularly to make sure they are doing well, and extra frames added in peak season. I wonder if vets come out to see bees if they seem unwell. You can’t really take a hive along to the vets can you. Imagine sitting in a waiting room with a little hive on your lap, bees buzzing round your head.

BEN: Only you could imagine that dear.


Sunday 8th May

11.00 a.m. It’s a beautiful day. The sun shines brightly, reminding us that summer is on its way. There’s a buzzing sound of neighbours mowing their lawns, and I open the kitchen window, letting the grassy fragrance flow in.

ME: I like the smell of fresh mown grass. One of the smells of summer. Don’t you?

BEN: Yeah. I like the smell of toast and coffee too.

ME: Fancy a coffee?

BEN: Please.

ME: Toast?

BEN: Yeah.

ME: Do you know, the poet William Wordsworth who –

BEN: Wandered lonely as a cloud?

ME: Yes. He didn’t have a sense of smell! How sad that he wrote about the beauty of daffodils but didn’t experience their wonderful springtime fragrance. How different his Wordsworth words would have been. He loved to grow wildflowers at his home, in his garden at Dove Cottage in the Lake District, and like me, loved daisies. He wrote about them.

BEN: You wrote about daisies once didn’t you?

ME: I recall writing about feeling as fresh as a daisy under a cow pat!

BEN: Having no sense of smell would have been useful to Wordsworth when he wandered lonely as a cloud among the cow pats.

ME: He wandered lonely as a cow pat
          Among the cows that go moo
          Then came home tired at sunset
          Something smelly on his shoe


Monday 9th May

8.06 a.m. The early morning sun blazes through a gap in the bedroom curtains. Golden fingers of light gently stroke Diamanda’s silky, black head. I softly sing to her as I caress her warm coat. She purrs. A beautiful contented, silky, black purr.

The sun has got his hat on
Hip, hip, hip hurray!
The sun has got his hat on
And he’s coming out to play

ME: I’ve got a good feeling about today.

BEN: Oh good (yawning).

8.26 a.m. The kettle is boiling. Toast is toasting. Eggs with golden yolks from happy hens are bubbling away. Lovely pads silently into the kitchen through the cat flap on her huge, grey, fluffy paws. I stroke her soft, grey head, give her a little scratch behind the ears and under the chin. She purrs. A prize winning purr.

Tuesday 24th May

3.33 p.m. Pottering in the attic, I found a very old book, The Witche’s Cookbook. I had forgotten all about it. The heavy, dusty tome, with a midnight blue and purple cover, sprinkled with silvery stars and silhouettes of flying bats, looked magical. Under the title, written in beautiful, ornate gold lettering, was an illustration of a cauldron full of a bubbly, green broth, the green bubbles rising into the air.

I slowly and reverently turned the biscuit coloured pages – smelly, covered in age spots, and a little frayed at the edges, like some old witches I’ve met. But full of wickedly-delicious, witchcraft-inspired recipes, and knowledge – like many other witches I’ve met.

I noticed quite a few recipes I thought my niece would like to try. I may send them to her now, instead of  writing them in my witchy book. Haven’t decided. But I have decided to try out a couple myself, to take my mind off waiting for the beach hut papers to arrive.

Is this really happening?

Wednesday 5th December

2.03 p.m. SHOCK! HORROR! It’s gone completely black! I can’t see a thing! I’m trapped! Where’s the door?Need to find the handle!…. Can’t find the handle! Where is the handle?…. Where is it?!... I’m shaking. Must calm down. Must calm down…. Deep breaths. Must not panic. Must not panic. Must... Not.. Panic.

2.04 p.m. PANIC! PANIC! I can’t breathe! This tiny toilet cubicle is SO claustrophobic. I want to beat my hands on the door and shout – ‘HELP!’ But think it would be pointless, there’s an outer room with the wash-hand basin, then a corridor with all the doors shut. No-one will hear me. And there’s noone in the waiting area nearby. Ben is searching for a parking space. He could be ages, we are in London! And I’ll feel silly anyway……… This blackness so suffocating….. Where is the handle?…. Ah. Got it. Didn’t expect it to be so low down. It feels stiff. Am I sliding it the wrong way?……… Phew! At last, I’m out. But outer room is pitch black too. God, I hate these automatic lights. It’s so long since I’ve been to the clinic, I forgot about them. Vaguely recall, last time I switched the light on when I entered the ladies’ room here……. Where is the light switch? Where is the light switch? Is it on the inside of the room? Can’t…. find….. light…. switch. Must retrieve handbag. Where’s my handbag?… Where is it?…. Where is it?…. Must be next to the toilet. Somehow hold toilet door open and at same time feel around toilet for handbag. Have touched something soft and damp on the floor….. Ugh….. Horrible!

Thursday 10th January

ME: Look at the label on this can of lentil and vegetable soup. I thought it had a warning on the front, a heart warning. And that it was thickened with rough-chopped root vegetables and split ends!

BEN: Ah, it’s hearty and warming, thickened with rough-chopped vegetables and split lentils. Is painting by numbers making your eyes extra tired?

ME: I must admit it’s more tiring than I thought it would be. I’d forgotten just how much concentration it takes to paint, and I didn’t think I’d become fatigued so quickly. BUT it does make time fly and I’ll get there in the end.

BEN: In the split end?

ME: Yes dear. It’ll feel like a HUGE achievement.

Thursday 7th February

11.37 a.m. Clothes scream – wash me!…. Plants weep – I’m thirsty!…. The stair carpet shouts – hoover me!

11.38 a.m. I recall mum used to say, ‘No peace for the wicked’ (in her lilting Irish voice). I must be very wicked for not doing enough housework.

11.39 a.m. I will not have peas with dinner tonight – no peas for the wicked.

11.40 a.m. I curl up under the bed covers. So tired. Is this really happening?

Sunday 1st September

10.02 a.m. I sleepily watched a tiny, fluffy white feather float dreamily down from the heavenly blue September sky – as if falling from the warm wing of a passing angel. A white butterfly appeared from out of the blue and fluttered around it. They danced together for a while to the rhythm of the cool morning breeze – Mother Nature’s waltz. Then disappeared from view like lovers deeply in love, wanting to be alone together, and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. And kiss with gentle butterfly kisses. Forever.

Wednesday 4th September

12.49 p.m. I sit. Very, very still. I’m playing statues. Just like the squirrels do on our our fence when they sense a big, hairy feline with lots of claws and teeth is nearby. I don’t turn my head or make the slightest movement. Just blink. And slowly turn my eyes sideways to watch one of our squirrels spring sprightly onto the bird table next to me. I turn my head very slowly, very slightly, and delight in watching her stuff her little grey, whiskery face with as many peanuts as she can, till her cheeks bulge. Then she bounces away along the fence to find the next place to bury her stash – beautiful, bushy tail twitching…. little paws galloping at super-speed.… hurry… hurry... Autumn is on it’s way... boing!… boing!… boing!

Tuesday 2nd June

BEN: We’ve got a Tesco delivery arriving soon.

ME: I’ve had my M.E. eyeballs in. When you printed out the shopping list for me to see if I wanted to add anything, I read Farmhouse Wholemeal Loaf, as Famous Wholemeal Loaf. Fair Trade bananas as Fairytale bananas. Reduced fat hummus as reduced fat humans. Then, Meat Free Pasties as Meat Free Parasites. Where it said, Updated Order Confirmation, I read this as Update and Order Your Coffin!… I’m wondering if the pandemic is getting to me a little. Reading an advert for an insurance company that said they guarantee to pay every claim, I read this as, We quarantine to pay every claim. And in TV Weekly I read the film Look Who’s Talking as Lockdown Talking.

Saturday 7th November

ME: Can’t you just see us cosy under blankets, riding on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

BEN: Singing Jingle Bells (laughing).

ME: Of course! And there’s places to stop off and drink hot berry juice, and eat freshly baked ginger cookies. And look at this beautiful photo of the setting sun, making the snowy scenery magical and sparkly – don’t you just want to be there right now!

BEN: No, not really. After the stress of the journey and finding the accommodation isn’t what was advertised, and there’s hardly any vegetarian food, and you get upset because reindeer is on the menu, and you want to take a husky dog home with you because he looks too old and tired to be pulling a sledge and he takes a liking to you – we might wish we had stayed at home in the warm, instead of shivering in our boots with frozen toes. And you do catch a chill very easily, you’re not getting any younger dear. You do feel the cold more than ever. You will need at least two cardies over your thermals and woolly jumper under a thick, heavy jacket. With all the weight you will hardly be able to move, which will make you fatigued. And cold air will make your asthma flare up.

ME: Thank you. That’s my wonderful winter wonderland holiday daydream over!….. But you are right.

* * * * * * * * *

Verity Red ~ Part One

Sunday 6th April

2.50 p.m. I'm thinking of past birthdays, when I had M.E. more severely. I'm so fortunate now I can sit upright for quite a while, without feeling exhausted or in pain. I can tolerate the heat of a bath for more than two minutes, without feeling madly ill. When I climb out of the bath, I don't have to lie on the floor for an hour or two, to find the energy to dry one arm. Then another arm a few minutes later, while the rest of me dries in a big towel. I don't have to lie in bed, in silence, in a darkened room, on my birthday; texting people to thank them for their birthday card, and saying I'm having a lovely birthday (so I don't make them feel sad). Or texting my man to say I'm having very nice birthday, in the company of my cats, when all I want to do is weep into their fur. I don't have to spend my birthday wishing it was my death day. Or wishing I was having a death day party like the ghost Sir Nicholas, in one of the Harry Potter films.

Monday 7th April

Late morning sunshine, shone brightly and warmly through the bathroom window; as I perched on the side of the bath, resting after washing my hands, and brushing my teeth. I gazed sleepily at the silhouette of tulips and lilies, weary after yesterday's excitement (I was weary, not the tulips and lilies, although they may have been weary, after enduring my bathtime singing), opening cards and presents, and the effort of blowing out all those candles, one by one. But I did make lots of lovely wishes.

I was pleased to see that, although the tulips were opening, the lilies were still closed up (like lips tightly shut, green with envy). Hopefully, they will bloom when the tulips get M.E. and their petals drop off. But for now, the tulips are laughing with cheerful tu-lips.

I thought my tired M.E. eyeballs were seeing things when I noticed movement on the tulips. Were there small beetles on the petals? On closer inspection, I noticed the tiny creatures were our usual visitors at this time of year. Ladybirds.

Wednesday 9th April

I felt quite excited today, as I dipped toast soldiers into golden duck egg yolk, and sipped After-Eight-box-coloured peppermint tea. Excited, about an unusual birthday present that arrived on Monday from a friend. It was a small lump of damp soil. Yes. A lump of soil. It was in a plastic bag, cocooned in a jiffy bag with a note. Intrigued, I looked closely inside the bag (tentatively, in case something alive and wriggly emerged out of the soil), and discovered little white roots, and a couple of short stems with the tiniest sprouting leaves (alive, but not wriggly). A most unusual gift. A most thoughtful and amusing gift, from one of my pen-friends, Jim, who has M.E. He knows I like peppermint tea and chocolate (especially mint chocolate), so he sent me a cutting from a chocolate mint plant. Wonderful!

I'm looking forward to watching Minty (it's a boy, weighs 2 ounces) grow in a pot, that I will sit in the big bathroom window, where there's lots of light and laughing tulips. The bright happy atmosphere, love, and nurturing, will help him grow from tiny baby leaves, to a mature confident grown-up plant.

Tuesday 22nd April

After my bath I felt less hot and bothered, as I flicked through magazines in the garden. A cool breeze sometimes turned the pages for me. This always amuses me, especially on megatired days. I was interested to read an article in Weekly Wife, about foods that help with depression. Asparagus is abundant in tryptophan, which helps make serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. And spinach is packed with magnesium, a nutrient essential for the biochemical reactions in the brain that boost your energy levels. I read about the herb sorrel in Weekly Witch, the ancient Celts associated the leafy plant with leprechauns. In Irish folklore, there are many images to be found of little green men, clutching a sorrel leaf. It can make a great substitute for spinach too. I may try that.

I felt too weary to read much more, so I just sat. And sat. Until I found the energy to shuffle indoors, make a minty tea, and pick a pocket or two of After Eight mints.

Wednesday 30th April

Fortunately, by lunchtime (and after just one Cornetto) I was in a more joyful, Dolce & Gabbana reds, yellows, orange, and minty-green mood. The sun shone on the bluebells at the bottom of the garden, and as I gazed at the beautiful sight, two tiny blue butterflies danced like fairies over the purplelyblue haze. I smiled, and counted my blessings. I’m so lucky I have my sight, to enjoy blue butterflies, fluttering over bluebells, under a soft-bluebelly-butterfly-blue sky. Did I feel poetic? No. Not today.

Verity Red ~ Part Two

Wednesday 7th May

2.34 p.m. Resting under a blanket of warm cats, I slowly close my puzzle-weary eyes……. and I’m there……... in the puzzle………... at the table by the open window……… beautifully set with roses and fruit………... about to enjoy the bread, cheese and wine……….. but first…… drinking in the view...…….. as the curtains flutter in the warm Parisian breeze………. I can hear romantic accordion music, the melody carried on the breeze across the street from one of the cafés…….. the little French birdies seem to twitter along……….. there’s a fabulous, fresh fragrance of fruit and flowers from the market stall nearby. Parfait.

Friday 9th May

3.17 p.m. It’s so important to have something to look forward to.

3.18 p.m. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to leave your bed.

3.19 p.m. Although from experience, I know there are many things you can look forward to, when you can’t leave your bed. Letters, e-mails, or a text message from friends or family…. Something you’ve ordered from a catalogue, a new catalogue to peruse, or a weekly magazine….. Eviction night on Big Brother. Placing a vote yourself, by phone, for the housemate you want to be evicted – the perfect phone call for a person with M.E. because you don’t have to speak, just press a number on your phone, and a nice person with a friendly voice tells you who you’ve voted for…… Part two of a really good drama or the next episode of Coronation Street. A sense of achievement when you complete a word search, a poem, or a jigsaw puzzle…. A bath or shower, when you have the energy.

Wednesday 28th May

4.00 p.m. Lying in a deep warm bath, under a mountain of lavender scented bubbles. Deep in thought.

4.01 p.m. Serious deep thought.

4.02 p.m. I really can’t take any more insulting treatment from the medical profession. I really wish my dear old doctor hadn’t retired. I really need to see an alternative-medicine-person. Someone that will treat me with respect and understanding. And I know just the person. I really hope he’s still practising.

4.05 p.m. It’s I-don’t-know-how-many-years since I last saw him for osteopathy. Well over twenty. He may be working at another clinic now. Or has retired. Or died. Or the clinic is now a veterinary surgery. I heard from a friend (who used to attend the clinic) several years ago, that he (the osteopath) had started doing only two days at the clinic and works abroad a lot. France I think. Maybe he works in France now. I will consult the Yellow Pages to see if the clinic is still there. If it is, I will give them a ring.

Friday 30th May

1.46 p.m. I’m relieved the bands performing at the Faerie Festival will be playing in a tent. And I have the perfect warm jacket to wear for a woodland theme – quilted embroidered cotton and velvet patchwork in softshades of sage, walnut, ivy, olive, tobacco, chestnut, teal, plain chocolate, and coffee. I’ve had the jacket for about twenty-two years, so the embroidery is looking a little tatty. No, very tatty. I really should do some repair work, but if I leave the jacket as it is, it’ll look like I’ve been wandering through a forest, catching the material on twigs.

1.47 p.m. The long cotton fairy frock (with spaghetti straps) I’ve chosen to wear is old too, almost as old as the jacket – the material, soft shades of green and blue, with a cosmic design. It will be warm enough if I wear a thick, fern green, long sleeve top underneath. The hem is coming down in places and needs sewing up. But (like the jacket) if I leave it, it will look like I’ve caught the dress on undergrowth as I wander through the forest.

1.48 p.m.Those are the two best excuses I’ve ever had for not doing any needlework. I’m so pleased, I’m almost moved to write poetry.

1.50 p.m. Sipping de-caf coffee, I start to feel inspired.

No needlework

For tired hand

I’m off to fly

To fairyland

1.56 p.m. Finishing my coffee, I’m full of inspiration.

No hunting

For cotton

And thread

I’m off

To lie down

On my bed

Verity Red ~ Part Three

Monday 9th June

ME: He, he. I had a touching moment at the Faerie Festival.

BEN: That’s nice.

ME: Yes, it was in the music tent when you’d gone to get some drinks. The band had just finished a song and I was clapping. Well, you know it’s hard for me to clap, so I was just gently patting my hands together, wanting to look like I was showing my appreciation.

BEN: Yeah.

ME: I was wearing velvety gloves, and the man sitting next to me noticed. He laughed, mockingly, and said I wasn’t going to make much noise wearing those gloves. And do you know what I did?

BEN: Amaze me.

ME: I actually replied. Instead of sitting quietly feeling embarrassed, and wishing a sink hole would open up in front of me, and I could disappear into it. I actually replied, for the first time in the millions of years that I’ve had M.E.

BEN: I am amazed. It must have felt good.

ME: It did. I think the fairy mead gave me courage and energy. I wasn’t a snail, retreating into my shell of self-protection.

BEN: You stuck your neck out and pointed your horns at him.


BEN: What did you say?

ME: I can’t remember exactly. I just told him why it was impossible for me to clap, even if I wasn’t wearing gloves. Then I thought I sounded a little sharp, so I apologised.

BEN: You apologised! What are you like (rolling eyes).

ME: Do you know what he said?

BEN: I’m all ears dear.

Wednesday 11th June

4.27 p.m. The bright smiling sunshine, beams warmly at me as I leave the surgery. I feel light as a primrose fairy. A fairy who has been treated for wing-flop, and can feel her energy returning. Her damp, heavy wings are crisp and dry and ready to fly. It feels wingfully wonderfully wondrous to be alive.

I want to BURST into song (Julie Andrews style) about my wings being alive with the sound of music, and write poetry – all at once.

4.28 p.m. As we head laughingly towards our car (parked just down the road), there’s a refreshing gust of wind, followed by tapping noises all around us on the path. Then something falls on my head, startling me. Pennies from heaven? A little bird? No, it’s a pine cone.

Monday 16th June

6.25 a.m. Lying awake in bed.

6.26 a.m. Listening to birdsong.

6.27 a.m. Thinking nothing much.

6.30 a.m. Feel a poem coming on.


I’m doing nothing much

I’m thinking nothing much

I’m hoping nothing much

And wishing nothing much

I’m moving nothing much

I’m improving nothing much

I’ll say nothing much

It’ll come out double Dutch

So I’ll explain nothing much

Or complain nothing much

Revealing nothing much

Or concealing nothing much

I’ll peruse nothing much

And choose nothing much

I’ll lose nothing much

And snooze nothing much

I’m planning nothing much

I’m scanning nothing much

Though I must write that letter

Nice to keep in touch

Friday 20th June

ME: I can’t believe how absent-minded I’ve become!

BEN: I know dear. I found an empty soup carton in the washing machine.

ME: There was an article about absent-mindedness in one of my M.E. mags. It was quite funny. A woman found a packet of smelly sausages in her shopping bag, and her purse was in the fridge. Another woman’s husband asked her why her bra was in the bread bin. The mag asked people to write in with their stories of absent-mindedness.

BEN: You’ll have to start making a list.

ME: I will! I recently found myself trying to turn the brightness of the sunshine down, with the TV remote control. And on the same day, I tried to turn down the sound of noisy children outside, at going-hometime, with the remote. And sometimes, I attempt to change TV channels with my mobile phone.

BEN: Do you try to text me with the remote?

ME: I have done (guilty-smiling-face).

BEN: I’ve seen you trying to change channels with the remote on your little TV, but can’t because one of the cats is sitting in front of it.

ME: It’s weird. I just forget for a moment, that the remote won’t work through lovely, warm cat body. Always makes me laugh.

BEN: I’m sure Cleo and Purrdi find it amusing too dear.

Verity Red's Diary

Saturday 1st January

9.51 a.m. It’s still raining cats and dogs.

9.54 a.m. Huge, long yawn... like extremely tired person. Lay awake half the night listening to the cats and dogs.

9.56 a.m. Ben turns over again, taking his enormous wobbly belly with him. He’s happily snoring away last night’s Christmas port and dreaming away the blue cheese; curled up in an untidy pile of limbs, duvet and pillows, like his discarded papers and clothes.

9.57 a.m. Wonder if I sleep in a tidy way, neatly folded up, making gentle feminine breathing noises.

9.58 a.m. Grab some bed covers for myself and try to go back to sleep.

9.59 a.m. Eyes tight shut; brain wide awake.

10.00 a.m. Don’t want to get up till springtime.

10.02 a.m. Want to hibernate in a box in the wardrobe like next door’s tortoise. He’s a very old, thirty something tortoise, hasn’t moved around much for the last few years and likes a little nibble on something tasty when he’s in the mood; we have a lot in common.

10.04 a.m. Want to be a hedgehog but I’m too spineless.

10.05 a.m. Need bathroom.

10.06 a.m. Tempted to lie still and wet self.

Saturday 8th January

There’s one doctor in particular who makes me so mad I’d like to tell him M.E. stands for Magic Encyclopaedia (a rare form of brain strain brought on by reading too many spell books). He already looks at me as if I’m a barmy old witch. Or I could give him a long list to annoy him.

Wednesday 2nd March

Rain. Wind. Rain. Wind. Rain. Rain. Rain. A little girl and her mum had difficulty holding onto their umbrellas.

Couldn’t be bothered to comb the tangles out of my mad March hair this morning; I’m wearing a style to match the season – the windswept overgrown hedge look. I am so in tune with nature these days.

I remember the women I once saw at the Glastonbury pop festival behind the food tent. They were close to nature, and to the vegeburger mix. As they bent over plastic washing-up bowls, mulching the burger mix with their hands, their long hair dangled and sweat dripped from their hairy armpits into the ingredients.

Couldn’t face vegeburgers tonight.

Friday 4th March

There was a strange smell in the house this morning like something had died and was rotting quietly in a corner somewhere; thought maybe I’d died and when I looked in the mirror there would be no reflection, like the couple in the ghostly film Beetlejuice.

Sometimes I wake up amazed that I’m still alive. Sometimes I think the sheer effort of trying to keep my sanity will kill me. Sometimes I’m too exhausted to be amazed or think about anything... sometimes. Anyway, I’m not worried about the smell. I expect the rubbish needs putting out.

10.05 a.m. Brewed peppermint tea in a Kit-Kat mug.

Friday 1st April

9.00 a.m. Another morning. Another month. Same me. Same M.E. Same room. Same clock, second hand ticking tirelessly... tick... tick... tick... like a long, thin, white, pointy-nailed finger... tap... tap... tap... on a cauldron... one frog, one snail, one puppy dog’s tail; that’s what little boyfriends are made of. Two birds peck at the overgrown herb garden... peck... peck... peck... water drips from cottage eaves after April rain... drip... drip... drip... the witch’s garden has survived another storm... I’ve survived three months of the year... I’ve survived three minutes of wakefulness today... tick... tick... tick... a big warty toad jumps into the pond – plop!

Wednesday 27th April

... she watched thousands of tiny specks of dust frantically doing what specks of dust do in afternoon sunlight...

I was a busy speck of dust once, milling about with other specks in the great living room of life. Now the great yellow duster of chronic illness has flattened and trapped me and, like a duster that’s all used up, I’ve been thrown in the washing machine to go round and round in circles. At the end of my cycle, I’m all limp and screwed up.

... she felt slightly crazy as she sat in the stripy deck chair on Folkestone’s stony beach, staring out to sea. It started to sprinkle with rain and a chilly wind blew her hair across her mouth. Her eyes watered. She was not crying; it was the wind. She was not going to cry; someone might notice and try to comfort her and she didn’t want to speak to anyone. They might also notice her thin clothing and the soggy uneaten sandwich on her lap, and think her very silly. They might say something kind or tell her off and if she started to cry she knew she wouldn’t stop. Everyone had gone home now anyway...

Sunday 18th September


I’m a pen

With no ink

I’m a kitchen

Without a sink

I’m a kite

Without a breeze

I’m a runner

With no knees

I’m a pond

No water in it

A top with

Noone to spin it

A puppet

With no strings

I’m a bird

That never sings

I’m a drummer

With no sticks

I’m a die

Without a six

I’m a cake

Without a mix

A Magician

Without his tricks

I’m a dog

Without a bone

I’m a house

That’s not a home

I’m a door

That never closes

Something’s eaten

All my roses

Wednesday 21st September

Dreamt of silhouettes of birds circling outside the windows all night and awoke feeling as if I’d been watching an Alfred Hitchcock film. Consulted my dream book: birds in flight signify a desire to escape some present situation and also an intense idealism. An eagle often reflects a concern with matters spiritual and the ancient Greeks believed that different kinds of birds symbolised kinds of people: eagles were rulers; wild pigeons were immoral women. The Hebrews believed birds were good omens. Good.

Wednesday 9th November

Cleaned the kitchen floor. Well, not exactly the whole floor, half of it; about a quarter, really. And it wasn’t a proper clean with a mop and Flash and me standing smiling proudly at a job well done, the tiles sparkling, the enamel on the cooker twinkling, the sun shining through the window on to clear, polished work surfaces and saucepans you could use as a mirror to do your make-up. The only flashing being done was my knickers showing through a big hole in the bum of my leggings, as I crawled on my hands and knees, using damp kitchen roll (lovely autumn leaf pattern) to wipe muddy paw prints near the cat flap and crumbs near the cooker and bread bin area. I now have the energy to keep the filth at bay; I’m so fortunate. Must remember to lay fresh sheets of Adscene by the cat flap every time I pick up the dirty soggy pages, which isn’t very often.

Late this afternoon, Murphy crept into the kitchen with wet black spiky fur; he’s going through a punk phase. He’ll be wanting his ears, nose and belly button pierced next, and spend all day hanging around in bin bags. Paddy told me he’s going on a demonstration against testing on animals: he’s joining the Feral Demo-cats; I’m very proud of my ginger son. Mary is so beautiful, she’s attracting all the boy cats in the neighbourhood, but she ignores them and teeters along the fence, head held high, like Marilyn Monroe in stilettos. The boys howl outside her window at night.

Rain tapped the window pane and reminded me to lay newspaper down by the cat flap. When I left the kitchen, a gust of wind blew the paper across the floor. My teenagers padded round it, jumped onto the fridge and work tops and made pretty paw-shaped tracks for mummy to admire.

Verity Writes Again

Friday 3rd September

Oh God. I’ve actually written a book. One hundred and fifty three whole pages. Will anyone buy it? I need to promote it. I’m not well enough to travel about doing book signings, but many people who have M.E. are housebound anyway. Those well enough to attend a book signing would find standing in a queue exhausting. Well, I’d like to imagine there would be a queue. More than three people would be quite nice.

Must promote my book. It would be much less effort, so much easier, if I could just dream about book signings. Must get a grip on reality. I would love a review in the winter edition of InterAction. Will ask Ben to email the Action for M.E. charity. It would be so fantastic to get a review in time for Christmas, but I think it may be too late for that. I will try. Nothing ventured, nothing strained.

It’s too late to ask the M.E. Association for a review, their autumn edition of M.E. Essential is out next month. I’ll ask Ben to email the man in charge of editing and advertising, Tony Britton, next year. A review or advertisement, mid October, would be perfect timing for a witchy book, just before Halloween.

Oh God. I may get awful reviews, it is a rather eccentric book. Will anyone want to read a book about a witch who has M.E.? Fans of J. K. Rowling’s wonderful Harry Potter books, possibly. I will have to keep my fingers crossed. My broomsticks crossed too. Must remember to ask Ben to email Action for M.E. soon, I have a memory like a leaky cauldron.

Monday 27th September

More catalogue browsing. I like the vintage-style wallmounted wirework mannequin. Sometimes you feel like a wall-mounted mannequin when you have M.E. Stiff. Lifeless. All you do is hang around the house all day.

Tuesday 5th October

Received a lovely reply from Colin Barton of the Sussex and Kent M.E./CFS Society today, saying he would happily include the advert for my witchy book in the winter edition of his newsletter. Wonderful!

I parcelled up a copy of Love & Best Witches with a letter of thanks, a cheque for thirty five pounds, and a donation to Colin’s charity. I’m looking forward to seeing the advert for my book. Finally done. Completely completed.

Saturday 9th October

Bloom catalogue arrived today, full of beautifully colourful silk flower arrangements and small silk trees in pots. I’ve never liked plastic or silk flowers, but since I’ve had M.E., the thought of plants that don’t need tending have a certain appeal. A certainly huge appeal. A blooming good idea!

Saturday 16th October
Thursday 21st October

Today I received a letter from the Chairman of the Kent and Sussex M.E./CFS society, Colin Barton. He thanked me for my donation to their appeal; saying it would improve the lives of people affected by M.E./CFS across Kent and Sussex, which I thought was really nice.

Ben received an equally lovely email from the press and publications officer at Action for M.E., Clare Ogden. She said they were planning pages of their next issue of Inter Action, and thought it would be grand to use an extract from my book, about eight hundred words, and some blurb about me. She also asked for five copies of Love & Best Witches, for their readers give-away. I will send seven copies. For luck.

6.30 p.m. Some blurb about me! Little me, who has M.E. In a MAGAZINE! Oh God. This is wonderful, but I can’t think of a single thing I want to say about me. All I can think is; cranky old witch, who wants to live on the Cornish coast, next door to Dawn French. My mind has gone completely blank.

6.35 p.m. I still don’t know what to write.

Friday 22nd October

6.10 p.m. Ben arrived home from work. Took off shoes. Checked emails.

6.11 p.m. WOW! Witchily wonderful! A.F.M.E. Have decided to do a double-page spread, and would like a photo of me to go with the short biography and extracts. I will have to see if I can find one, I’ve rarely had my photo taken since I got ill. But there will be a few, taken at home with my cats. I’m not going to do one of those author at desk poses, looking intelligent and writerly, with pen poised or book in hand. I never sit at a desk anyway. Or look intelligent. Or writerly. But pale and witchy, yes.

The last book I read was by the fabulous American writer, Rita Mae Brown. I love the titles of her books: Murder – She Meowed, Claws and Effect, Puss ‘n Cahoots, Santa Clawed, The Purrfect Murder; to name, only a few. There is a photo of Rita at the back of her book. She is not posing at a desk, but sitting in a comfy chair looking tranquil with her tabby cat. I will find a photo of me looking tranquil. In a comfy chair. With a cat. Purrfect.

Tuesday 26th October

On the way to the checkout, we passed aisles of Christmas goodies: bags of chocolate money, cuddly toys, stocking fillers, festive decorations and festive confectionery. I chose a wind-up penguin and chocolate snowmen, for Louise’s Christmas stocking. Then, suddenly, I wanted to lie down on the carpet, curled up with the huge white cuddly toy polar bear, and sleep till Christmas. I’ve no idea how I got to the checkout counter, and then to our car in the car park. The world went misty, and I felt like I was crawling in a snowstorm, exhausted with hypothermia.

My snowstorm gradually became soft flakes, as we drove through country lanes, past sleepy country cottages and sleepy horses of every horsey-shade, in the fading light. Ben suggested we have a relaxing drink in The Horseshoes pub, where he sometimes does an Avocado Pair gig. He said there’s always huge log fires there in the winter, and comfortable chairs. I found the energy to smile and nod in agreement, as I thought about buying a wheelchair. It was about time I treated myself to one. I had recently seen a reasonably priced chrome steel chair, advertised in Healthy Living Direct; it folds up so you can put it in the boot of a car, very convenient. I could float around Notcutts in my heavenly carriage, with a basket on my lap, so Ben wouldn’t have to carry our purchases, just push my chair.

ME: I think it’s about time I had a wheelchair. I’ve seen one in Healthy Living Direct, it folds up so you can put it in your car boot.

BEN: Sounds like a good idea.

ME: I’ve never liked being pushed around by a man, but in this case I’m all for it.

BEN: Ha ha ha!

Sunday 5th December

As I coughed my way to the bird table this morning, I noticed the rain had melted away some of the snow. My seven dwarves were peering out of their fluffy white blankets, and their little faces made me smile. For a moment I felt inspired to complete more of my Disney jigsaw puzzle, but I knew I had to save energy for writing Christmas cards and letters.

Two jolly snowmen greeted me when I opened the window marked with a number five, on Santa’s sleigh. The chocolate robin melted on my tongue, like a Cadbury’s Flake on a hot summer day. Summer seemed a very long time ago.

Gazing out of the bedroom window mid-afternoon, I saw another snowman in the car park. He was melting and his head had fallen off. I couldn’t help thinking that M.E. is like being a snowman after a rainfall. Your energy dissolves away, you feel like you’ve lost your head; and you end up feeling like a puddle of slush, unable to do anything but gaze up at passing clouds.

Love & Best Witches

We decided to make a fairy ring to dance in, with lots of Tesco fresh button mushrooms. We put the mushrooms in a big circle on the living room carpet, then we danced and made up songs. Auntie was too tired to dance for long so she did a witchy wiggle.

We fell on the floor cackling. That was auntie’s exercise for the month. She said spelling wasn’t too tiring as long as there wasn’t too much chanting involved; pagan aerobics, collecting of herbs in the rain, pouring from heavy jugs, picking up of heavy goblets, picking up of heavy goblins, waving of wands, ringing of bells, anointing this and anointing that, staring at the moon on a frosty night or having to mote this and mote that.

* * * * * * * * *

It’s best to use cotton for the dream pillows because it’s a natural plant fibre. We are going to use different coloured cotton too, like pink for love and white for meditation. Auntie said meditation is a good thing to learn if you have M.E., if you have the energy to learn anything. She said just sitting in her herb garden, rubbing a rosemary leaf between her fingers and smelling the herby scent helps her to relax.

We are going to make an amber coloured pillow for me because amber will help develop my witchy skills. Then we’ll make a blue and purple one for auntie because these colours are for health and healing. I read in auntie’s Book of Shadows about making little bags to fill with herbs that you can put in your bath.

* * * * * * * * *

Before tea auntie told me about making a witch’s wand. I wrote some things down in my Book of Mirrors. Wands are made from lots of different trees. Apple is for love and spirit food, vine for happiness and alder for water magic and strength. Auntie is going to make me a wand out of poplar to help me pass my exams when I’m older. She has a wand made out of willow.

Willow is also known as the witches’ tree, a moon tree. It is used for protection, moon magic, healing, love, divination and friendship. Auntie would like to wave her wand over everyone in the world who has M.E. to make them feel better. Also she would like to take cauldrons of potato and onion soup to people all over the world who are bed-ridden with M.E. because it is good for making the immune system strong. She would give them all a big healing witchy hug too.

* * * * * * * * *

Auntie told me about candle magic in her last letter. Candles may be used for offerings, meditations, spells and divinations, and something about pausing to remember the Divine within us, which I don’t understand. Auntie will explain everything to me when I next see her. Witches don’t do magic against other witches, this is something to do with Karmic retribution. I will ask her to explain that too.

I can’t see auntie this weekend because she has been overdoing it again. She went to Tesco on her broomstick to buy button mushrooms. It was cold and windy and she wasn’t wearing her thermals. Instead of resting when she got home, auntie made winter witch soup with the mushrooms, then did a spell to make the mushroom fairies fly out of the bubbles. She said they did the washing-up for her anyway! Mum said she would like some washing-up fairies. I said, ‘We’ve got Fairy Liquid!’

* * * * * * * * *

We cackled a lot, then I read a bit about Christopher Robin in The House at Pooh Corner.


‘Yes’ said Pooh

‘When I’m – when – Pooh!’

‘Yes, Christopher Robin?’

‘I’m not going to do Nothing any more.’

Auntie says you have to learn to be good at doing Nothing when you have M.E. She is much better than she used to be, so she is not doing Nothing any more.

* * * * * * * * *

Auntie likes to water her herbs when she has the energy, but she never has the energy to mow her lawn. The grass is often so long that you can hardly see her cats. They look like tigers, black panthers and leopards in the jungle.