The Last Letter

 Tears are the silent language of grief ~Voltaire

I lost my grandmother four days ago. Just writing those words rips at my heart. I know she’s gone, but she can’t be. Not Grandma. She was ready to go; she told us so as kindly as she could. But never were we ready to let her go. Not Grandma.

The world, my world, my children’s world, is poorer for not having her in it. She would laugh at that, my grandma. Tell me I’m a wonderful child then tell me to stop being silly. Joan Mary Spedding never saw the greatness that she was. She was humble, wise, loving and kind. And she was stubborn, boy was she stubborn.

But she slipped away in the early morning hours last Sunday, ninety-five years young, leaving us but now reunited with my grandfather – the love of her life. Eric and Joan. Together again. And that mends my heart just a little.

Eric and Joan

I write this because the world needs to know what it’s lost, for it’s those who toil quietly who seem to pass into obscurity, and it’s those who should be remembered most, especially my grandmother.

She had two great loves, my grandma. Family and words. She was a writer, my grandma, a storyteller. Her last book, and her most prized, Ten Men of Resolution, was published when she was 89. There’s beauty and wisdom in words, courage and magic, she told me, and I know she was right.

My grandma wrote stories and poems, history and anecdotes, but it was her letters I most cherished. From my earliest memory I received them. Hand-written words on paper. Letters. And when my children were born, they too received letters – “all the way from New Zealand!” Each one addressed to them and opened with excitement at what was to be found inside. Sometimes it was a poem, other times a story, and always there was a newspaper clipping or two she thought the kids would find interesting. There was love in these letters, in each beautiful phrase, and lovingly formed word.

I wrote back often, but now I think never often enough. Grief does that. It brings with it guilt, and I can hear my grandma calling me silly, telling me I’m a wonderful child, but … grief. I treasured the moments I could sit down and put pen to paper, writing to my grandma of all that was happening here, what the kids were getting up to, how I missed her. We shared memories of the year when I was 19 and my grandfather had had a heart attack. I’d flown over to stay with her – just me and Grandma in her house, staying up ‘til all hours just talking. Of me climbing One Tree Hill in Auckland the ‘wrong way’ – oh, how she and Grandpa had laughed at me. Years later I told them I’d hitch-hiked back from the Hill to the hospital; my grandfather was livid, my grandmother smiled and said (in the English accent she never lost): “What an adventure! Just don’t tell your father.”

When I became a journalist she was proud; when I became a storyteller, she told me this was where my heart lay, and she was right. Grandma didn’t read horror, it wasn’t her thing, but she read every story I ever wrote. Even the ones I warned were explicit. She didn’t care. I wrote them, she’d read them.

She loved unconditionally, all of us. And we saw it in her letters. Letters I will no longer receive. Hand written notes of love my children will no longer receive. Letters.

I found my last letter from Grandma sitting on my bedside table. I’m sure I put it away with all my others. I know I did. But there it was. The last letter. The writing was a little more shaky, the words painstakingly written, but always, there was love. ‘My wordsmith’ she called me, ‘there is always magic in what you do, creating worlds from imagination is a gift, don’t waste it. But remember the greatest magic you have ever created is your children. Magic. Wonder. Love. Kindness. Take that with you wherever you go.”

But the magic is dulled, the wonder floundering, the love is aching and the kindness hard to fathom. My grandma… Grief. It clouds it all. But I know she’s not truly gone, for I see her in the sweet nature of my children, hear her in the words she passed to my father – those same words he passed to me, and I, in turn, to my children. “Nothing is fair in this world. If you know this, really know this, when life knocks you down, and it will, you can pick yourself up and go on. Stronger because of it. Kinder because of it.”

I know this, I really know this. Nothing is fair in this world, because it took from us one of the most remarkable women I know. Am I stronger because of it? I’m too deep in tears to know. Am I kinder? I hope to be. For my grandma, I hope to be.

Joan Mary Spedding… Grandma, though your flame burned bright, the world is darker now you’re gone.

Me and Grandma

Don’t Colour Me Pink

It’s been a particularly crappy couple of weeks when it comes to the gender divide, and people getting their hate on for feminism (yeah, I’m gonna poke that bear again). But it was while out shopping with my daughter yesterday, that the ire in both of us was roused. Why? Because of the colour pink.

I’ve never been a fan of the colour (although I do have a pale-pink skull cap I adore), and that dislike has only deepened over the years as its use as a marketing ploy to lure half the species. It basically equates to: female bits = love of all things pink.

Yeah… no. When I see aisles of pink in the toy section, it pisses me off. As parents, are we too stupid to know which toy our child will like unless it’s painted a particular colour? Will my daughter or nieces not play with Lego unless it’s pink? Will they not pick up a Nerf gun or crossbow unless it’s pinked-up with ‘Rebelle’? (Why not Rebel?) Is that blue truck not for them?

So prevalent is this gender-marketing, my daughter refuses to buy into its blatant bias. But yesterday, it reached a new low. We were out shopping when she stormed over to me, anger etched clearly on her face, and I wondered what had garnered her ire. She dragged me over to the ‘girls’ clothing section and pointed out a t-shirt. “What the hell is this?”


“Wrong is what it is,” I told her, my ire matching hers. My daughter loves to read, she loves books and she loves comics, and she’s just been told by company marketers that if she’s a girl, the only way she can like superheroes is if they’re pink.

Am I jumping to conclusions? No. Because she then took me to the ‘boys’ section and showed me this:


Superheroes as they’re depicted in the comic books.

“Why’d they pink it up?” she asked. “They don’t even look right. Am I supposed to like it more because it’s pink and I’m a girl?”

Honesty was all I could give her. “That’s what some people think, yes.”

“People are idiots,” she said. “I’m not buying that. No one should buy that.”

She’s smart my daughter. Strong and opinionated. She won’t be swayed by the stupid pink marketers put on merchandise, and she’ll speak up when she sees how wrong that is. But most of society is conditioned to ‘girl = pink’ and ‘boy = blue’, and what happens to those kids who identify to so-called opposing gender colours? You see it’s more than just an ‘identifier’, it’s a separator. Girls here, boys there. These are for them, not for you. And just to make it easy, let’s colour-code the crap out of it. Are you pretty in pink? Or dark and tough?

It’s this gender divide that begins at birth (or even pre-birth for those who discover the gender of their child), and is reinforced via gender-stereotyping of toys and clothes, and infused with colour. It’s something my husband and I never bought into, and something we explained to both our daughter and our son – colour, like everything else, has nothing to do with gender. You like what you like. If the marketers have done one thing though, they’ve shown me and my daughter that we don’t like being coloured pink.

And for those of you who want to know how to pick a toy for a child? Here’s a simple flow chart:

gender toys

Review: ‘Davey Ribbon’ by Matthew Tait

Woo hoo! It’s review time again! I’ve been going strong with my reading of Aussie writers this year, and Matthew Tait is the next Australian author whose work I’ve had the pleasure of reading. As mentioned in previous reviews, the Australian spec fic community is a close-knit one – the horror community, more so. Yep, you guessed it, this review comes with a disclaimer. I know Matt quite well, you could even say we’re buds. We have a mutual love of Clive Barker, and horror as a whole. I’ve never worked with Matt on any of his projects, so when I purchased Davey Ribbon, it was as a reader (and to support the work of Aussie writers, of course).

Alrighty, with the disclaimer out of the way, the next order of business is the spoiler alert:


davey ribbon


Davey Ribbon (released through HodgePodge Press) is the first of Matthew Tait’s work I’ve read, and if this is the mettle of what he has to offer, then I will fast be rectifying this fact.

Let’s begin with the cover art – yes, I know the old adage ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ but as someone who works both sides of the desk, aah, yeah, I do (if you’ve got crap cover art, I’m gonna assume—rightly or wrongly—the words inside aren’t going to be much better). No problem here with Davey Ribbon; the cover art is as hauntingly eerie as it is beautiful.

The story begins in the past, 1969 to be exact, where Angus Fisher has stumbled upon the murder of a child – Sarah Capeshaw – in the middle of the forest surrounding Cyclone Cove. Angus is in dire straits; the murderer, Reginald Avery, won’t have any witnesses to his crime. As Angus begs, reasons, yells for his survival, in strolls Davey Ribbon, a child-savant with a love of ribbons (which trail behind him wherever he goes).

Things go from bad to worse, and while I won’t spoil this scene (it really does deserve to be spoiler free), it’s this dark past that will come back to bite Cyclone Cove and its residents on the arse.

Fast forward to the present day, and Davey Ribbon has become the stuff of urban legend, but there are those within Cyclone Cove who will not let the past die. Cyclone Cove is reminiscent of many a small town with secrets (think Stephen King’s ‘Derry’, from IT), and when you add in a huge conglomerate that has come to the Cyclone Cove as its “saviour”, things aren’t going to end pretty.

We’re slowly introduced to those townfolk who will become major players in the story’s finale, and Tait does well to weave the many characters within the story, although there were, at times (about midway through), where I began to wonder whether I could keep the characters straight in my head. With the twins (Beatrice and Michelle), their religious-nutter mother (Patty), their babysitter (Miriam), the head of the cult-conglomerate (Samara) and her boy-toy (Nathan), the town’s recluse (Norman Perks), renowned musician (Jerry), returned resident (Sean), town cop (Bill), Samara’s acolytes, pub owner… and those characters from the past.

It’s a big character list, but this is a small town, and there are a lot of things at play behind the scenes and from the past that sit like a volcano beneath Cyclone Cove. It’s not a matter of will the eruption occur, but when.


This is a story of secrets – everyone has them – and the biggest secret of all is Davey Ribbon. As with any urban legend, it differs in its telling, growing more macabre. Tait works the legend and the secrets well, giving the reader a little more then a little more as the story slowly unravels (and the townsfolk with it).

The crux of this story revolves around the book’s namesake – Davey Ribbon – who begins to show himself to those who have been chosen to fight the big fight. But Davey isn’t the only one behind the scenes pulling the strings. While Samara Reagan and Norman Perks are working overtime and double-shifts to bring Davey into the now (each with differing agendas), there are those within Cyclone Cove who are the puppets for the puppeteers. Each of the players in this finale have only pieces of the puzzle, as does the reader, and I enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on as the characters’ did.

From about midway, though, I began to wonder when Angus Fisher would make a reappearance – Tait does well with his misdirection, and when all is revealed, I was able to look back and see the clues – whether other readers will see it before I did, I’m not sure; if they don’t, will they feel cheated with the misdirection? I can’t say.

The ending of the story was brutal, bloody, and over a little too cleanly. I like messy endings – I don’t mean blood and gore (although huzzah on that point), but rather I don’t want to have all the answers. Tait doesn’t give us everything, and if I have one misgiving about the telling of this tale, it’s the chapter where the survivors – those who truly know what happened that fateful day – get together to try and figure out what exactly happened and why. Personally, as a reader, I’d rather ruminate on that myself. I was given enough within the confines of the story and the ending to make those connections.

All in all, this was a strong story with a great premise that was delivered in an engaging and sinister way. It isn’t shy in its brutality, and it doesn’t hold back when tackling themes some find disturbing. A special mention goes out to the editor of HodgePodge Press – this was one of the cleanest reads I’ve had in a while, thank you!

On a Goodreads scale, I give Davey Ribbon 4.5/5 stars.

Four and half stars