Today I am delighted to welcome Jane Elson to the blog with a special guest post to mark Children of Alcoholics week which aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. ‘Will You Catch Me,’ is a beautiful, empathetic read about a girl called Nell who is craving a normal and predictable life. Her life is disrupted by the ups and downs of her alcohol dependant mother. A life where every day she has no idea if it will be a good day or a terrible day depending on whether her Mum has kept her promise to Nell. She lives with a menagerie of animals who provide comfort from her increasingly difficult life. Nell thinks her only hope is to track down her Dad so that he can look after them all, so her life can be ordinary instead of chaotic. With her best friend Michael she hatches a plan so that her Dad will have to come and claim her, but will she succeed? Heart-breaking and incredibly poignant, Jane’s storytelling brings a really honest insight into the most difficult of topics dealing with them sensitively and thoughtfully. Her stories feel so genuine and truthful. She gets to the heart of her characters allowing the readers to really feel their raw emotions and internal struggles, taking you along on this emotional journey with them. Yet again another moving and sublime read from Jane Elson, I can’t recommend it enough.
Operation Ark Care, love and routine – Jane Elson
Nell Hobs in Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent. Aunty Lou, as all the children on the Beckham Estate affectionately call her, lives next door with Nell’s best friend Michael. Aunty Lou is not happy when Nell’s mum leaves her on her own to go to the pub and insists that Nell, who has been locked in the flat by her mum, comes next door to stay with her for the night.
Nell refuses unless all her animals can come too and ‘Operation Ark’, the plan that she hatched with her best friend Michael, is put into action. So Bob Marley the tortoise, Asbo and Chaos the guinea pigs, Aunty Lou the hamster (in honour of the real-life Lou), Fiz and Tyrone the gerbils, and Beyoncé and Destiny the goldfish all get passed through the window in the middle of the night!
The inspiration for ‘Operation Ark’ goes back to World War Two when my dad was a little boy. The air raid siren would blare as the bombs started to fall and his mum, my Nana Elson, would scream at my dad to get in the air raid shelter. He wouldn’t listen and would run backwards and forwards, saving his jam jars of tiddlers, tadpoles and newts from Hitler’s bombs.
As a little girl the bible story of Noah’s Ark really captured my imagination. It made sense that Nell, who is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate, would feel an affinity to Noah, ‘the first great naturalist’ as Nell calls him, for rescuing all of those animals.
As an undiagnosed dyslexic child, school was a frightening, confusing place for me growing up. And at home I would have a permanent anxious knot in my tummy as my entire happiness revolved around what mood my dad would be in when he got home from the pub. My biggest comfort was my grey rabbit, Flopsy. Every morning as soon as I woke up I would pull on a thick, woolly cardigan over my nightie and shoving my feet in a pair of old shoes, creep downstairs, unlock the backdoor and tramp over the grass to get my rabbit out of his hutch. Then me and Flopsy would snuggle in my bed, under the quilt till it was time for me to go to dreaded school. I loved that rabbit more than life itself.
Animals bring such comfort and routine to children from chaotic backgrounds. I know what a comfort my rabbit was to me when things were turbulent at home. You have to have a routine when looking after an animal. Feeding them at a certain time, cleaning their cages and making sure they get exercise. Nell’s animal family are the only stability and routine she has. Bob Marley, Asbo and Chaos, Beyoncé and Destiny and co. are to Nell what Flopsy Rabbit was to my younger self. It was a delight creating them for Will You Catch Me?
There are 2.6 million children in the UK with a parent who is alcohol dependent. The stability and routine of their daily lives will be greatly affected by this dependency. For those children who read Nell’s story and think, ‘This is me, this is my story too’, Nacoa is a wonderful charity who run a 24-hour help line for children affected by parental drinking. For readers whose lives are untouched by alcohol addiction, I hope Will You Catch Me? is an enjoyable read which helps them empathise with the lives of children like Nell.
The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk
Thank you to Jane for sharing this very personal and thoughtful guest post on the blog today.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.
Thank you to Jane and Fritha for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Will You Catch Me,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.