Monday, 27 February 2017

More about formatting books for print or Ebooks: Back to front Apostrophes

As writers formatting our own books, we can fall foul all sorts of hiccups. One of them is apostrophes facing right instead of left! It spoils the book for me as a reader and screams ‘self published.’ What we all want is nice professional text. So how can we fix those pesky apostrophes.

Now I am not talking about those apostrophes which denote possessiveness, as opposed to plurals. There are other excellent notes on those should you need to look them up. No, I’m talking about those denoting missing letters. And not to be forgotten are the speech marks.

As everyone using Word knows, apostrophes do not always do what you want them to. For example, in historical speech, or in colloquial speech, a writer might want to drop an initial letter, as in ’tis for it is, or ’ard for hard. Each time an initial apostrophe needs to be added. The trouble with Word is that if you put an initial apostrophe at the beginning of a word, it comes out back to front, eg.:

            ‘Tis raining ‘ard tonight.

How can we turn the apostrophe around?

Depending on which version of Word you are using it might be a simple matter. Such as holding down Control and hitting the apostrophe key twice to get a left-facing apostrophe.

            ’Tis raining ’ard tonight.

Another method is to put in two apostrophes. Because two together will face each other.

            ‘’Tis raining ‘’ard tonight.

Then go back and delete the unwanted one. Long winded but effective.

A third method is to go to Insert > Symbol > and scroll through until you find what you want, and click on it, click insert. Also long-winded. But from this menu, before you click insert, you can make a permanent code for this symbol by going to shortcut key. Add a code of your choice, in this case control + ’ + ’. (Word automatically adds the + and , symbols. ) Click assign.

By this means (and using a different code) you can add any symbol you like. For example, in my book Gentleman of Fortune, the heroine was called LĂșcia. So I needed to access the accent mark quickly. I put that also on the apostrophe key, and made it control plus one tap on the key. So I would type:

L[control + ’]ucia.
When the ‘u’ was hit the accent would appear above it. (In the end after about fifty thousand times of doing this, I decided to put LĂșcia on the autotext. Wish I’d thought of it sooner!)

Finally, a word about dashes—that is the two –  (small dashes) together to make a long dash—If your version of Word doesn’t do it, it is found on Insert > autotext > auto format as you type; check the appropriate box. This looks nice and professional when you have a printed book.

However, suppose you want to say at the end of a paragraph:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t—

If you just type the sentence, when you hit space, or return for the paragraph it will come out like this:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t--

No long dash. You need to add a full stop, apostrophe, etc., to the end, or a letter then space, you will get the desired effect:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t--n plus space

Of course you need to delete the letter [n] or full stop, or whatever, and the dash will remain a long dash. Job done.

Simple when you know how!

Evelyn Tidman is the author of four historical novels.
Available on Amazon at

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

How Could 17th Century Exiles Receive Money from England?

As a writer, there are times when a character in a historical novel needs to get their hands on some money. In seventeenth century Britain, how did they do it?

I came across this when I researched life for the exiles in the court of Charles II in Holland and France. Many were running out of money, and Edward Hyde writes of the generosity of the Princess Royal (i.e., Mary, sister to Charles II, wife of William I of Orange) in providing a house for him, rent free:

During that time the Princess Royal had, out of her own princely nature and inclination, cultivated by the civility and offices of the Lady Stanhope, conferred a very seasonable obligation upon him [that is, Edward Hyde] , by assigning a house that was in her disposal at Breda to his wife and children, who thereupon left Antwerp, and without the payment of any house rent, were more conveniently, because more frugally, settled in their new mansion at Breda.

Which prompted me to ask: How did he survive? Where did he get money to live on? Was someone sending him money? If so, how? And not just Hyde, but all the exiles. Some struggled in poverty.

Roger L’Estrange, while he was in Newgate, needed money to pay the jailer,  and for his food and lodging. When he slipped out of Newgate with ‘the privity of [his] keeper’ where did he get the money to survive? He had no inheritance yet, but he did have an allowance from his family in Norfolk. But he did not go to Norfolk, he went to Kent. So how did his allowance reach him?

A glance at the banking system in 17th century England might be useful.

The first provincial bank was opened in 1650, two years after Roger was in Kent, and it was not until 1694 that the Bank of England was founded. Until then, the prototype of banking was through goldsmiths. They had acquired much gold following the dissolution of the monasteries. However many goldsmiths were associated with the Crown, and Charles I seized the gold held at the Royal Mint in the Tower of London, making the Royal Mint no longer a safe place to keep gold. The goldsmiths turned to the gentry and aristocracy.

Goldsmiths, the ‘keepers of running cash’ accepted gold in exchange for a receipt. Further, they accepted written instructions to pay back either to the depositor or to a third party, which instruction was the precursor of the cheque or banknote. So Roger could have received written instructions from his father, or his father’s agent or clerk, to receive money from a goldsmith.

But what about those abroad in exile?

In unrelated research, I came across a thesis on Sugar plantations in Jamaica in which the writer cites  documents relating to bills of exchange in the 1650s. A bill of exchange enabled a person from England to send money to his ‘agent’ (in this case, a brother) in Jamaica, or, presumably, anywhere else in the world.

What is a bill of exchange, how does it work? Basically, it too is a forerunner of the modern cheque. It is a written order made by one person (the drawer) to another person (the drawee – in the case of a modern cheque that would be the bank) to pay a third person (the payee). The order is addressed to the drawee, and he has to agree to pay the money to the payee. So, while Roger was in exile, his father could have sent his allowance by a bill of exchange.

A bill of exchange is negotiable. That means that the payee could endorse the order in favour of someone else for them to draw on it. In turn, they could also endorse the order in favour of yet another person and so on ad infinitum. The last person to hold the bill of exchange may claim the amount against the drawee, no matter who else may think he has a claim on it. Which is why it is called ‘negotiable’ and why modern cheques are crossed and marked ‘non negotiable’. Of course a negotiable bill of exchange could be subject to theft, forgery, and so on – I see a plot developing here!

In the case of the plantation, the owner lived in England and sent bills of exchange to his brother in Jamaica. The owner had a network of associates in Jamaica, neighbours, family, friends, one of whom could have been willing to act as the drawee, one who trusted the owner to compensate him. Or perhaps the drawer had already deposited money with the drawee in advance, say, before the drawee left England for Jamaica. The account does not say. The same might be true of those in Charles II’s court in exile. With regard to the goldsmiths, had the drawer already deposited gold with them for use in the future? Or was there some kind of network arrangement between goldsmiths? If anyone knows, please tell me.

So that is the technical bit. Through bills of exchange, or orders to goldsmiths, money could be sent to anywhere in the world, and our characters need not be pining in poverty.

Rebellion - Roger L'Estrange and the Kent Petition by Evelyn Tidman is available now in Print and Kindle or visit her website.

Monday, 19 September 2016


While researching for my latest WIP I wanted to know on what day of the week a certain date in 1644 fell. So I found an online calendar for that year. Easy peasy? Well, no, not exactly. For when I came across some information which gave me a different day and date for that year, and guess what? It did not tally with the online calendar. And that meant a headache for me. Why the discrepancy?

Eventually, it dawned on me that the calendar changed, from Julian to Gregorian.  Actually it was in 1752. Could that be the reason? Was my 1644 online calendar wrong? Never let it be said, but that was the case.

After some digging, I found a Julian calendar. If you want to know, it is here: . And guess what! The dates and days tallied with the historical record.

So why did the calendar change from Julian to Gregorian?

It is all to do with the sun. The Julian calendar, which had been in use since Julius Caesar for whom it was named, did not properly reflect the actual time it takes the Earth to circle the sun. The Julian calendar had a formula which included a leap year every four years. It meant that eventually the vernal equinox and the winter solstice did not occur on the right date. The Gregorian calendar brought it all back into line.

Pope Gregory XIII (hence the name Gregorian, of course!) issued a papal bull in 1582 decreeing that ten days should be dropped when changing to the new calendar. But not every country adopted the new Gregorian calendar immediately. While France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Austria and Germany (Catholic states) changed in 1582-3, other countries took longer, Turkey, for example waiting until 1926/27. And the longer they waited to change, the more days had to be dropped to bring it into line with the Gregorian Calendar. Britain and most areas of the US and Canada changed in 1752 and had to drop 11 days, while the Turks in 1926/7 had to drop 13 days.

Why the discrepancy? It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days to circle the Sun. That is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds. If we did not have a leap year every four years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar each year. After 100 years, we would be out by 24 days. Notice the word almost. Almost six hours. Not six whole hours. Therefore, a leap year is not every four years. To identify a leap year, therefore, the year must be divisible by 4. If, however, the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is not a leap year, unless it can also be evenly divided by 400, then it is a leap year. (Confusing, ain't it!) So the year 2000 and 2400 are leap years. 1800, 1900, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are not leap years. Got it?

My thanks to John Chapman on Facebook who drew my attention to the following:
“1750 ran from 25 March to 24 March, 365 days
1751 ran from 25 March
 to 31 December, 282 days
1752 ran from 1 January to 31 December, 354 days (it should have been a leap year but, the 29 Feb. and 11 days from the 3 to 13 September were missed out to bring the calendar back in line with the Sun).
1753 ran from 1 January to 31 December, 365 days.
The US was still British at the time so it is the same. Other countries in Europe changed their calendar from the Julian to Gregorian on different dates - some earlier - some later.

He further added:
 The tax year in Britain used to start on Lady Day(25th March) When they changed it they didn't dare shorten the tax year which is why the UK's tax year starts on 6th April now.

His comments sent me off on another tack. Prior to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, New year was considered to be 25th March, or as my friend John says above, Lady Day. This has led to great confusion about dates. In the 17th and 18th centuries, dates recorded between 1st January and 24th March were often written thus: 22nd February, 1642/3. If there was no second figure there could be confusion over whether the date was actually in 1642 or 1643 as we view it. This is particularly true of dates of birth or death, leaving one wondering if the person were actually 89 or 90 years old when they died! It took a long while, probably until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, for people to make the change properly.

So when you ask Google the day of the week for a certain date, if it is before 1752 beware. They are probably using the Gregorian calendar. Though why anyone would want to know what it should have been according to the Gregorian calendar is beyond me. Don’t we want to know how the people at the time viewed it? That means looking at the Julian calendar.

Now I have some corrections to make! 

Evelyn Tidman is the author of four historical novels.
Her latest work, set in 1648 during the English Civil Wars is out now on Amazon in both Kindle and Print versions.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Pinterest seems to be an enigma for many just starting out. And I must admit when I first signed up to the site, I put on a few pics, named one or two boards, and promptly forgot about it. Periodically I'd get an email from Pinterest suggesting boards I could follow, but I wasn't sure how that could be of any benefit to me.

I am assuming you have a Pinterest account, and have signed in. So now what?

What can you use Pinterest for?

You can use it for any pictures that you like, really. It keeps them in one place. You can refer back to them. For example, if you like gardening or are planning to design your own, you might like to collect some pics of gardens that you like or give you ideas. In that way, Pinterest is like a scrap book. In my case, I'm writing about the English Civil War and I want to see action shots, pictures of real people, the clothes they wore, the items they used and so on. It gives me ideas when I am writing, and will give me ideas for a book cover later. I am also fascinated by pirates and sailing ships as I wrote a pirate novel. The Pilgrim Fathers are another favourite. Spin offs are seventeenth century clothes, Tudor clothes, and so on. I am also fascinated by China (the country) and art and cooking - well as you can see the list is almost endless.

How does Pinterest work?

Pinterest is a social media site. Just as with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and others, you follow someone, they follow you. Simple. Well, not quite that simple. How do you know who to follow? Probably the easiest way is to put a subject in the Pinterest search box. If you like gardening (let's assume you do), search for 'gardening'. Now you are presented with some options. Click on one, say 'gardening DIY'. Now you are presented with a page of pictures. Hundreds of pictures. You can narrow the field if you like by clicking one of the icons above the pictures, or you can scroll down and look at whatever you want.

Choose a picture. If you hover your cursor over it, you will see the 'pin it' button in the top left hand corner. Like this:
If you click the red Pin it button, you will get something like this:

I don't particularly want a picture related to gardening on my English Civil War board, so I need to change that to something more appropriate, or even create a new one. If you want to share it to Facebook or Twitter click those boxes, but remember next time to un-tick them if you don't want to keep sharing your pins with Facebook and Twitter! It tends to remember the last thing you did in that respect. If you want to add or change the description, do so now. Click 'Pin it'. Job done.

Now what happens next is that the person who put the picture on Pinterest in the first place will get an email saying that you have pinned one of their 'pins'. Now they may decide to follow you. If they do, you can decide to follow them, either all their boards, or just some of them, or one of them. To see all their boards, on the email notification, click on their profile picture, and you will see the options of all or some boards. You can repin other pics from their boards too, if you like.

When you follow someone's board, every time they pin to that board, you get their 'pins' on your feed. To find your feed, click the red 'P' button at the side of the search bar. The feed is updated regularly. You can 'repin' from anything that comes in on your feed, thus starting the cycle of follow and follow back all over again. Be selective when following all of someone's boards. They could have lots, many of which will not be of interest to you. As you get their pins on your feed, you could find a lot of stuff that just clogs up the feed.

That's the basics of how Pinterest works.

How can you use Pinterest for marketing?

You can pin pictures not only from Pinterest, but also from your own computer, or from the net. To do so from your own computer is straightforward. To do so from other sites, you can do one of two things. One, you can download the picture to your computer first. For those who don't know, put the cursor over the picture, right click, click 'save image as', and put it where you can find it again, then upload it to Pinterest. Fine if you want a lot of extra pics on your computer, which rather means you don't need Pinterest then!

The easier way is to get a 'pin it' button. You can try two ways. Put 'pin it button' in the search bar, or go to the question mark at the bottom right of the Pinterest page, and put it in the search there. Follow the instructions. It's very quick and this gives you a red 'P' at the right hand end of your task bar on your internet browser. Now, and here's the clever bit, when you are on the net and you come across a pic you want to pin, put the cursor over the pic, and the 'pin it' button magically appears in the top left hand corner:

Click it. This one is from Twitter, but you can get pins from anywhere on the web, (unless they have managed to disable that.)

Now there is another clever bit. If others have pinned from anywhere on the net, you can find the site they pinned from. This is how.

Go back to the gardening picture that you found on Pinterest, and hover the cursor over it. Now just click on the picture, and suddenly you've got a bigger version of the picture. Now you have some options at the top of the image. You can, of course, 'pin it'. You can 'Like it' (in which case the original pinner gets an email notification), you can 'send it', that is send it to someone who is also on Pinterest, or you can Facebook share. Or, you can go to 'Visit Site':

Clicking Visit Site will take you to the original website. Very useful if you want to know how to put plants in bottles, or if you want a recipe or whatever.

Also very useful if you want to advertise your stuff. Create a board for the items you want to advertise. Start putting pictures on it of anything related to the item. With my pirate book, as I said before, it is anything to do with pirates or ships. Also add a pic of the item itself. You probably don't need me to tell you to go to your own site or selling platform as a member of the public would, and pin a picture of the item of interest from there. Don't upload it from your computer, because it will not take the person looking on Pinterest anywhere. You can add a note about it if you like on the bottom of the picture. You can also add a URL, but it would need to be a shortened one. Periodically, pin a picture of your item of interest again as it will get buried under other pins you've done on that board. Remember, your pins will go out to your followers' feeds, which may cause them to look at your board.

Does Pinterest help in marketing? Yes, definitely, but it is difficult to say how much, as there is no way of monitoring how many people will go to your website or whatever from Pinterest.

I hope this helps all you who are wondering what to do with Pinterest.

Happy pinning!

Evelyn Tidman is the author of:

 Available on Amazon

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Previously, I wrote about formatting a book file for Kindle, which you can find here:

However, I thought it would be a good idea to also explain a little about formatting for Create Space, Amazon's print on demand subsidiary.

I will assume you have your book already completed and ready to go, without the formatting in place. However, if you happen to be at the beginning, having not written a word so far, then you can implement the what-have-you's before you start, which will make life a whole lot easier.

You are going to want your book to look like any other printed book. If you take an ordinary book off your bookshelves, you will notice several things about the way the pages are set out. This is what you are going to do with yours.

First, it all needs to be in single line-spacing. On Word 2003 and probably other versions of Word, you should have the option of single or double line-spacing on your toolbar. If not, go into Tools > customise > commands > format and in the right hand pane scroll down until you find a box with two horizontal parallel lines (single line-spacing). Click and drag to toolbar. Do the same for one and a half line-spacing and double if you like.

On your document (and I am assuming you have all the chapters and all the bits and pieces like title page, and copyright page etc. all in the same file) Highlight All (control + A). Click your single-line-space thingy.

You do not need extra line spaces between paragraphs, unless you are starting a new scene. Then you have an extra line space to indicate that.

You need to justify your margins (that is, make them level each side.) You have an icon on the toolbar for that. Or you can control + J. A note here, especially for the English. We do not need two spaces after full-stops (periods in American!), colons, question marks,exclamation marks etc. If you have put them in you will find out why we don't need them when you justify your margins! Reduce them to one space. (Find/replace menu on Edit.) When you're checking your work before publishing, this is something you need to be vigilant about - we do not want hulking great gaps in our text, now, do we?

Take out 'orphans and widows' and 'Keep lines together'. This is an infuriating thing Word puts in. Basically, it is designed to stop you splitting paragraphs, so that you do not have one line of a paragraph at the bottom of one page and the rest on the next. Fine if you are writing a letter. A pain in the nether-regions when you are formatting a book. Because you will notice in books that all the pages are nicely lined up at the top and bottom with no dirty-great gaps until the end of the chapter. That's what you want. So, highlight all (control + A) go into Format > paragraph > lines and page breaks. Make sure everything is unchecked. Hopefully that will take it all out. If you find you still have a problem with it at a certain location in the text, you will need to go directly to that problem, and go through the sequence again. Sometimes Word can mess you about on this one. If anyone from Microsoft reads this, can you please stop Word automatically installing orphans and widows in future!

Now you will perhaps have indented your paragraphs using the tab key. Apparently, this is a no-no. To undo that, Highlight All, (control + A) Format > Indents and Spacing. Where it says 'Special' and beneath it in the drop down box 'First Line' click the down arrow beside it. Click 'none' and OK. You will lose all your paragraph indents throughout the file. Do not panic. Go to Format again, indents and spacing. Now on the left hand side where it says 'Indentation' in the box marked 'left' you will see 0 cm. Change that to 1.0 cm. Click OK. Now it will seem to you that nothing has happened to your text. Actually, what has happened is that all the text has moved over 1 cm to the right. That is because you now have hanging paragraphs. You need to un-hang the paragraphs. To do this, if you do not have the command on your toolbar, you need to go into Tools > Customise > Commands > Format and scroll down until you find Hanging Indent and beneath it Un Hang. Click and drag Un Hang to your toolbar. When you've done that, and with your document highlighted, click Un Hang. Suddenly your text has indented paragraphs.

Now each new chapter and each new scene where you have a break in the chapter starts with a block paragraph. There is no easy way to tell you this! You just have to go through the text and each time you come to it you have to alter it by hand. This is how you do it. Put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to align on the left. Format > paragraph > Indents and Spacing > special and in the drop down box click none. Sorted.

If you want to centre anything, like title chapters, you can highlight it and click control + E, and it will go to the centre. But if it is already indented on the left, it will put it slightly off-centre to the right. To correct this, highlight the centred object, and take out the indent as above: Format > paragraph > Indents and Spacing > Special dropdown: none. THEN do control + E and it will be nicely in the centre. Sometimes, you find that Word centres the whole of the next paragraph as well! Don't ask me why! Just highlight it and on your toolbar click 'justify' or control  J.

Begin each chapter on a new page. At the end of each chapter you need to Insert > page break.

To centre the title pages: You will have selected your font and size, etc. You will have centred your title page as you want it. But it will be at the top of your page, not in the centre where you want it. Make sure you have inserted a page break after the last letter on the page. Highlight the page. Then into File > page setup > layout. Then:

Make sure the section start is New Page. Make sure under Headers and Footers Differet odd and even and different first page are both checked. Make sure Vertical alignment says centre. And make sure you apply this to 'This Section' or it will do the whole book!

Repeat for your copyright page etc.

Numbering pages. Oh what a pain this can be. Reason being if you want your numbers on the outside top corner of the page, each odd number will be on the right of the page, and each even number will be on the left. You do this on the Header and Footer menu on View on your toolbar. It should look something like this:

Next bit it that blue bar. You need to go to page setup on that - slide the cursor along until you find it. This what you get:

Notice, again you have Different odd and even page and Different first page checked. Your vertical alignment is Top. And you apply to Whole document. Click OK.

Now back to the blue bar. Since you do not want a page number on the first page, go to page 2, decide where you want the number to be by going into the dotted line box at the top of the page and clicking the position. Now go into your blue bar and the first icon is Insert page numbers. Click it, and a 2 should appear where you had clicked in the dotted line box. Move down to the next page, go into the dotted line box, move the cursor to where you want the page number to be (opposite side to previous page) and click. Then in blue box click Insert Page number. It should say 3. The next page should automatically say 4, the next 5 and so on, with the numbers alternating sides.

If you do not want page numbers on your title pages, then go to where you want the numbers to start. On the menu in the illustration above, instead of Apply to Whole Document instead in the drop down box you want This point Forward. You will now see that it is labelled in the dotted line box section 2 and also you will see Link to previous. That means the numbers will run on, but this section is different to the last. You can repeat this for each chapter heading. I have a new section for each of the Title, copyright, dedication pages, etc. Mess about with it. You can always re-do it. Close the blue bar.

Remember, you will want Chapter 1 to start on an odd page number (Think about it!)

Now for the actual pages. You can download a template from Create Space, highlight all (control +A) copy, (control + C) and paste (control + V). However, you may find you need to do some adjusting, especially at the beginning. I leave that bit to you.

If you wish to do it yourself, this is how it is done. File > page setup. Make sure it is on Portrait. >paper. Select the size, or type in the size you want. It is a good idea to make sure it is a standard size for Create Space files, or if you are printing independently, for them too. Create Space like 6 in x 9 in. Independent printers like A5 or something like.

Now you need to adjust your margins. This is what Create Space gave me for a 6 in x 9 in book.

You will note that there is .33 cm for the gutter. The gutter is a print industry term for the bit of the page nearest the spine, so that the text doesn't run into the spine. Notice also that instead of left and right margins, you have Inside and Outside. That is because we have put 'mirror margins' in the drop-down box. Make sure the orientation is Portrait. Click OK when you have done that.

Convert to a PDF file. You can buy a PDF converter disc on Ebay for as little as £5.00. Or you can pay a whole lot more for an Adobe one. I got a £5.00 version and when I converted the file, all the letters were on top of each other! I threw that one away and bought a different £5.00 one and it is fine. Easy to use. And as an added bonus, it will also change the pixel density in pictures and convert them from anything to J.PEG or anything else. A good £5.00 worth I think.

I think that just about covers it.

The next job is to get your Create Space account and go through the motions of uploading files. If I've forgotten anything, let me know.

Evelyn Tidman is the author of GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE, The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate, and ONE SMALL CANDLE, The Story of William Bradford and the Pilgrim Fathers. See website.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Day my Daughter Nearly Died of Toxic Shock Syndrome

I was just about to get into the shower to go out when the phone rang. My son-in-law Duncan asked: 'Do you think you can come over?'
'Why do you want me to come over?'
'Nic's not well.'
'What's wrong with her?'
He told me that my daughter of twenty-seven had been ill all night with sickness and diarrhoea and that he had to go out. Would I sit with her? 'I'll be up later,' I said and went off to have my shower.

Well you know how it is when something doesn't sound quite right. Duncan never phones me. For him to ring and ask for me to come over was Duncan's shorthand for: 'We need help!' So when I came out of the shower I hurriedly dressed and drove the fifteen miles to their house.

Nic had a temperature, I could see that, but she had taken paracetamol and she felt a little better. 'I think I've got food poisoning,' she said, but she added that she was at the tail end of her menstrual period. She had been taken ill on the Thursday while in London and had made it back to Norfolk later that day. Friday she was still feeling unwell and that night she started the vomiting etc. Today was Saturday, so no doctors except the emergency doctors.

OK, we've all had food poisoning. And we've all recovered. After Duncan had been out and done whatever it was he had to do, I left them. It was lunchtime by now. I phoned at five o'clock to see how she was, expecting Duncan to tell me she was much better. But no! 'She's worse!' he said.

I ordered him to get the emergency doctor, and he came, reluctantly, and pronounced that it was appendicitis. 'I don't think it's appendix,' I said to my husband. 'She's got no stomach ache.' Well, anyway, the doctor ordered an ambulance.

By this time we were in the car and on our way - first to the hospital where there was no sign of Duncan's car, and then to their house (which was not far away from the hospital) where they were still waiting for the ambulance. Now I was shocked to see my daughter. She was drifting in and out of consciousness, and was bright red, so hot with fever. It took the ambulance two hours to come, owing to the fact that it was Guy Fawkes night and half the county was busy getting themselves burned! If we could have got her down the stairs we would have taken her to the hospital ourselves.

At the hospital the doctors said it was definitely not appendix (so I was right there!), but they did not know what it was. They admitted Nic to the ward with a rehydration drip in her arm, and reluctantly at 11.00 pm we left her, still none the wiser, but now extremely worried.

At about midnight, by which time she had seen about eight doctors, they informed my daughter that they would give her an internal examination, for which she demanded a female doctor. Which decision saved her life. The only female doctor they could find turned out to be the gynaecologist who took one look at Nic and said: 'Toxic shock,' and ordered intravenous penicillin.

The eight (male) doctors who were scratching their heads had not added up the facts - the menstrual period including tampon use, the high fever. The vomiting and diarrhoea had everyone thinking it was food poisoning.

So, just what is Toxic Shock Syndrome? What are the symptoms.

From Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service at we learn:

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but very serious illness that can develop rapidly in anyone From a UK population of around 60 million there were about 40 cases reported each year, half of which are associated with women using tampons [Source: UK Public Health Laboratory Service 1985-1995]

Men, women and children can get toxic shock syndrome, for example following burns, boils, insect bites or infections after surgery. About half of the reported cases are linked to women who use tampons; the other half are not.

With early diagnosis toxic shock syndrome can be successfully treated. Sadly, however, out of the small number of people who fall ill each year, 2-3 people die from TSS. It is important to remember that if TSS is diagnosed and treated early there is a good chance of recovery.

Most doctors will never see a case of toxic shock syndrome. TSS is so rare that most doctors will not come across TSS during their medical careers.

From the last comment, perhaps that is why the doctors did not know what it was. So just what are the symptoms?

The same site tells us:

Some of the symptoms of TSS are much like severe ‘flu’ and usually include some or all of the following:
  • a sudden high fever (temperature)
  • vomiting
  • a sunburn-like rash
  • diarrhoea
  • fainting or feeling faint
  • muscle aches
  • dizziness
  • confusion
What should I do if I have these symptoms?
Consult your doctor at once, if you or anyone you know, has some of these symptoms and suspect TSS. If you are wearing a tampon remove it and tell your doctor that you have been using tampons. Don’t worry about being alarmist – it is important to rule out the possibility of having TSS and if necessary your doctor will then be able to begin treatment early.

Well, you will be pleased to know that that incident was some twelve years ago and Nic recovered well, although it took some six weeks or more for her to be fully over it.

As for me, I will never forget the night my daughter nearly died.

Evelyn Tidman is the author of GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE the Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate and ONE SMALL CANDLE The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Sunday, 15 June 2014


A 19 year old boy died of methodone overdose our local paper told us yesterday. Another junkie bites the dust? No, the story goes on to say that he became addicted to ordinary prescription painkillers. He had a dislocated shoulder and had been given the tablets for the pain. In a short while he was addicted. The methodone, of course, was supposed to break the addiction.

Meantime, my own dear husband developed arthritis in his hip. X rays showed that he had no cartilage whatsovever, bone on bone, with excruciating pain. He was given co-codamol for the pain on prescription, which continued after his hip replacement operation. Came the day when there was no more pain, and he thought he didn't need the painkillers any more. But he too was addicted.

Stopping the tablets made him feel very ill, with aches in arms and legs, restlessness, depressive feeling to the point of suicidal thoughts, heart palpitations, breathlessness, feeling cold, and a general feeling of being unwell. It took us a day to realise it was withdrawal from the tablets, and reading the leaflet in with the pack, it told us exactly that! Back on the tablets, he returned to normal within an hour!

How common is prescription medication addiction? Well, there doesn't seem to be any information that we could access. But there are sites on line which talk about codeine addiction. A friend who works in a local pharmacy, said that there were a number of people who came in regularly for codeine/paracetamol tablets whom they had on a 'watch' list.

Why is codeine addictive? Simply put, it is an opiate in the same family as tramadol, morphine, and heroin. And we all know how addictive heroin is.

So, if you found yourself addicted, what can you do about it?

The sites we looked at all recommended going 'cold turkey'. That is, to just stop the tablets. It would take five days to be free of the tablets, but each day of those five days would increase the symptoms of withdrawal. The pain would increase. (We assumed they meant headache, although my husband did not suffer that; perhaps they meant other, nerve or muscle pain, particularly in the arms and legs.) It did not sound like an option for my husband who has suffered a heart attack two years ago and we did not feel we could risk the palpitations and breathlessness.

So we went to our doctor, who flatly told us that he didn't think the symptoms my husband experienced could be co-codamol withdrawal! He thought the symptoms could be down to thyroid dysfunction, so he ordered a blood test (ten days to get a blood test, and another five to get the results.) Then come back and see him.

Back to our friendly website, where one person in America said that her doctor had told her to halve the medication for a week, then again for another week and so on. She decided to go cold turkey, so we have no idea how she got on. But we decided to try that method on our own.

As the tablets were 30 mg codeine and 500 mg of paracetamol each, and the dose had been two tablets four times a day, making 60 mg of codeine per dose, or 240 mg per day, we could halve the dose by cutting out one tablet. So that's what we did. Initially, he had a few small effects, especially as the time for the next dose came near, but in a short time the body adjusted, and five days later we felt ready for the next drop.

However, where could we get 15 mg of codeine? Well in Britain, you cannot buy codeine on its own over the counter. You can buy 20mg codeine with ibuprofen over the counter. But heart attack patients cannot take ibuprofen. But we could buy 8mg codeine/500mg paracetamol tablets. And only 32 of them at a time. Why? Because the pack tells you in plain language that they are addictive!

Anyway, so now it was 2 of those four times a day, and that lasted for four days until the next drop, which was down to just one 8 mg tablet per dose. The first day he had four doses. The second day he had three doses, but the arm and leg aches returned just before each dose. The day after (getting impatient here) he dropped it again by cutting the tablet in half. He had one half (4 mg) twice that day, but just before bed the aches got worse, so he succumbed to an 8 mg. The next day he had no tablets at all until just before bed, when the arms and legs ache came on again, when he had a half tablet (4 mg.) But he did have a very bad night. The next morning he didn't seem to need any, but again just before bed-time he had to have another 4 mg.

The day after he decided he wasn't going to have the one before bedtime at all. So a completely codeine free day. The aches came on again, but he took two ordinary paracetamol. He had a bad night's sleep, but survived it.

Yesterday he had no tablets, and no aches only a 'slight feeling' in his arms, and a good night.

The whole process took us 17 days to be completely free.

We found also that a good all-round B vitamin tablet helped with the depressive feelings.

Was it easy? Well, no. Each time we halved the dose, the body reacted, especially at the time just before the next dose was due. The reaction, though was a lot less than the day when he thought he would go cold turkey! It was do-able.

As for me, I have needed a lot of patience to support him. I had to keep encouraging him. He could do it. I had to remain positive. And when he was bad-tempered (unusual for my normally placid husband) I had to try not to be bad tempered back. Well, we've been married over 42 years now, so we have learned to support each other in love.

Another thing that helped was keeping a chart of the time and what tablets taken. When we found it hard going we could look back and see the progress he had made.

Now he is free. Never again will those wretched things darken our doors. It's been a fight, but we got there.

I have published this post because others may benefit from our experience.

Evelyn Tidman is the author of factual historical novels GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate; ONE SMALL CANDLE The Story of William Bradford and the Pilgrim Fathers; FOR THE KING, Roger L'Estrange and the Siege of King's Lynn.