Lesley Tither - Never Too Old for Change

Published on: 16th January 2014
Lesley Tither is a freelance copywriter/copy editor/author. Born in England, she moved to France in 2007 with her brother and their elderly mother, who was suffering from dementia. Writing under the pen-name of Tottie Limejuice, she has published two books, 'Sell the Pig' and 'Is That Billinge Lump?', both bestsellers on Amazon in the USA and UK. The third part of the Sell the Pig trilogy is due out in spring 2014.
I can't remember a time when I didn't write. My late father was a newspaper editor and president of the Guild of British Newspapers, so I was always encouraged to take an interest in books, newspapers and magazines. Whilst I was still at school, where I edited the school magazine and a national magazine for sixth-formers, I used to write pieces for my father's newspaper, film and theatre critiques mostly.

One of my father's reporters back in the late 1950s was Sunanda K Datta-Ray, who went on to become one of India's most respected journalists, and who remains a family friend still.

Like my father, I trained as a journalist and served an apprenticeship on a local newspaper in Manchester. I worked as a reporter on various newspapers in England, Wales and Germany.

I later retrained as a freelance copywriter, which involved a steep learning curve as it meant working exclusively via internet, which was completely new to me - there were no computers when I first became a journalist.

It was a skill that was to prove extremely useful when my brother and I made the decision that a move to France would be in the best interests of us all, especially our mother, as we were finding too many problems with the healthcare she was receiving in England. Being able to work via the internet meant that I could stay at home and look after her full-time so she would no longer have to be cared for in a nursing home, as she was in England.

Most people thought we were completely mad in deciding to move our mother to a new country at the age of nearly ninety. However, because of her dementia, she never really knew where she was, so we couldn't see that it made much difference. The mind is very strange, especially when it starts to fail. She could remember almost everything about her childhood and youth but very little about the recent past.
tottie limejuice,Sell the Pig,Is That Billinge Lump
We didn't tell her she was moving permanently to France. She would never remember more than two minutes at a time and would probably get upset, so we simply told her she was going there on holiday. She had four very good years, enjoying the lovely weather, the good food and the much better level of healthcare.

After she died, I decided to write the story of her move. Lots of people write about moving to start a life in a new country but, as far as I was aware, no-one had ever made the move with an elderly parent suffering from dementia. Also, with people living longer on average, far more people are having experience of dementia within their own family or circle of friends. I wanted to write something positive about it as, although it became quite difficult to care for her, there were a lot of light-hearted moments too, as she used to mix her words up all the time and say some very funny things.

The first book 'Sell the Pig', tells the story of how we made the decision to make such a radical change, and how we found the right place to relocate to and the ideal house for all of us. The title comes from an old military expression for changing adverse circumstances.

The second is called 'Is That Billinge Lump?' and recounts Mother's time living in France and the difference it made to us all having made the move. Billinge Lump is a famous landmark in my mother's home town in England. We moved to a volcanic region in central France and every volcano Mother saw, and there are nearly a hundred in the region, she would ask: 'Is that Billinge Lump?'

Both books are independently published and have been very well received in the UK and Europe. The big surprise has been their success in America, where they have been taking it in turns to hold the No 1 slot in Senior Travel. The English sense of humour is famously difficult for other nations to understand but the Americans seem to love the quirkiness of it.
I am still living in France. Much of my time is taken up with marketing my books as that is an almost constant job, of course, for independent authors. In addition I run a group on Facebook called Book Group - Read, Write, Review, Discuss, which has an international membership and is a great place to discuss all aspects of literature from the point of view of both readers and writers.

Social media is another example of something entirely new which I have had to learn and adapt to in order to keep abreast of the marketplace.

I am currently writing the third part of the trilogy which should hopefully be published in spring 2014. After that I plan to write a prequel about my earlier years, since people seem to be interested.
On a scale of 1-10, how inspiring did you find this article?