Friday 6 December 2013

“For The Love of Peaks,” by Fran Houston

Not everyone may be aware of the fact, but High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is not Fran Houston’s first book.

Inspired by Peaks Island’s rich history and conversations with those whom islanders lovingly refer to as old timers, Fran contacted many long time island residents, photographed and interviewed them, and collected their stories. Her sensitive portraits draw out the essence of individual personalities; the twinkle of an eye, a distant thought, dignity, joy and memory.

In Fran’s own words, “My hope is to capture the heart, history, and humor of those that have resided here, weavng a rich tapestry of which we have been the beneficiaries.”

A strictly limited number of copies of this landmark book are available direct from the author.

Fran is very happy to sign copies, please ask when ordering.

The price is $19.95 plus shipping, payable by check or PayPal. To order your copy please contact Fran by email (

Thursday 14 November 2013

Living in exciting times

This is an exciting time for us, and we wanted to share some of that energy with you.


This Saturday, Fran is moving from her beloved Peaks Island to the mainland, specifically Portland, Maine. Finding an apartment and preparing for the move has been a struggle emotionally, and yet it has happened effortlessly, with great help from friends. Her new apartment is lovely and spacious, twice as big as the cottage. It will be quite a transformation from island girl to city girl, after ten years on Peaks, but Fran is up for the challenge. Portland is blessed with restaurants, arts, music, theater, and parks, and she will be able to visit Peaks Island as much as she likes.

Writing and editing

In recent weeks we have completed rewriting the Introduction, chapter 5 (renamed as "A hand to hold") and chapter 7 ("The S word"). The rewrite of chapter 2 ("The way of illness") is underway and on target to complete this week. Next up is a rewrite of chapter 1 ("The measure of us"), after which we will start work on chapter 6 ("High tide, low tide") focusing in on mania and depression.

Taking things forward

It is too early to reveal any details but we have passed sample chapters to two people with hands on, professional experience of working in the mental health arena. Initial reaction has been very positive and we look forward to working with them and others to refine the content and approach of our book to make sure it is as relevant as possible to others.

Time to Change

The UK based mental health campaign Time To Change (run by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness) were recently looking for people to feature in their next tv campaign. We applied (fun but scary!) but haven't been shortlisted, so it will be a while yet before you get to see us on your tv screens! No experience is ever wasted, though. Putting our application letter together helped us to focus on what is really important, which is to add our voices and energy to those working to end stigma and fear surrounding mental illness. Marty has this week registered an interest in becoming a Time To Change "Champion" (anyone now humming the theme tune to "Champion the Wonder Horse", please keep it to yourself!) No clear idea yet where this might lead, so keep an eye out for updates.

Sunday 20 October 2013


This fine collection of goodies will soon be on its way to our lucky giveaway winner Fran C Vit. The package includes Fran Houston's book For the Love of Peaks, my own poetry book, also two gorgeous greetings cards and two postcards from Farfield Mill art and heritage centre near Sedbergh in Cumbria. Farfield Mill is where Fran first suggested to me the idea for the book, one year ago, so the prize is a real connection to the start of our Gum On My Shoe journey.

We had such a great response to the giveaway that we decided to draw one extra name today. I am delighted to announce that Janine Freeman has won a fun fridge magnet. Friends may not be a replacement for conventional treatments.. but heck they are cheaper!

Saturday 19 October 2013


The lucky winner of the Gum On My Shoe giveaway is....... Fran C Vit! Congratulations Fran! If you let me know your postal address we will get your prizes off to you!

Tuesday 8 October 2013


On October 15, 2012, Fran suggested to me that I could write a book about what it is like for me to be friends with someone with illness (specifically bipolar 2 disorder, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia). A year on, our book, “Gum On My Shoe”, is well underway, and we are holding a FREE GIVEAWAY to celebrate the anniversary of its conception.

The giveaway prize is rather special and is our way of saying thank you for all the support we have received in the past year, and continue to receive.

The lucky winner will receive a free copy of my poetry book, "Collected Poems: 1977–1984", and a free copy of Fran's book "For the Love of Peaks: Island Portraits & Stories", and some other nice things too!

To be in with a chance all you have to do is leave a comment here on this Gum On My Shoe blog post, or sign up to our FREE Gum On My Shoe email list. Do remember to leave your name!

I will draw one name at random on Saturday October 19, 2013, and will announce the winner here on the blog, so keep an eye out so you can pass me your postal address if you win!

Good luck!
Marty and Fran

Monday 26 August 2013

A Brilliant Madness: living with manic depressive illness, by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman

I have just finished reading Patty Duke’s book A Brilliant Madness: living with manic depressive illness. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I found myself in tears again and again, reading her story. The book is especially effective because the chapters telling her personal tale are interleaved by chapters by Gloria Hochman providing background on the condition, its impact on those with bipolar (called manic depression throughout the book) and those who love and care about them.

As I told Fran just now: “Patty Duke’s story isn’t yours, of course, but it helps me see a bigger picture. I don’t know her at all. I couldn’t pick her photo out in a line up or recognise her in a movie or a show if I saw it. But I love this woman. Her courage and heart and honesty... I know those... I recognise those...”


Thursday 15 August 2013

Don’t be shy

Make the effort to introduce yourself to some of the people in your loved one’s support team. It is not necessary to become friends with them all but it can be reassuring to know who they are and to have their contact details to hand. Early in our friendship I exchanged details with a few of Fran’s closest friends.

  • Name and address
  • Email addresses (work and private)
  • Telephone numbers (landline, mobile and internet)
  • Social networking accounts

Fran has a more formal list of “just in case” contacts built into her Travel Wellness Plan. I have never had cause to “press the panic button” but it is reassuring to know who to contact should the need ever arise. I recommend also keeping to hand some emergency crisis line numbers such as the Samaritans, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA). Befrienders Worldwide ( maintains a directory of international helplines. You will also find the following details in the Resources and further reading appendix.

Samaritans (UK and Ireland)
08457 90 90 90 (UK)
1850 60 90 90 (Republic of Ireland)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Gum On My Shoe
Draft chapter 1
August 2013

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Through the Eyes of a Manic, by Lesley Watson

A few days ago I was on Amazon and chanced upon "Through the Eyes of a Manic" by Lesley Watson. It is a short enough read, a very real, very harrowing account of one woman's life suffering not only manic depression but rape and abuse.

I finished reading the book this morning and went back onto Amazon to leave a short review. It was then that I noticed the single (one star) review (entitled "Impossible to read") that had been left there some time ago. It had not caught my attention at the time I saw and purchased the book for download.

Reading the reviewer's comments, I was shocked and stunned. It is one thing to find fault with a published book, quite another to berate and deride its author in personal terms. I can scarcely imagine how the author, having had the guts to write and then publish her life story, must have felt to have it scorned by someone by their own admission had not even finished reading it.

I hope the review I left goes some way to redressing the balance:

"Powerful and compelling: My best friend is bipolar and I came across this book whilst looking to increase my awareness of the impact of bipolar disorder / manic depression. I was not disappointed. The account is frank, powerful and compelling and I would recommend it to anyone. The author's story is harrowing, but told plainly without self-pity. Ultimately the message is one of hope, I hope the author's life has continued positively from where the book ends.

"I feel compelled to mention the single other, intensely negative and frankly abusive, review here on Amazon. I am glad I did not notice it before buying and reading the book. Having read the book myself now I can recognise none one of the criticisms this person makes. The book may not be perfectly formatted and there are a (very) few typos, but that in no measure detracted from my engaging with the author's story, which moved and affected me deeply. The reviewer has a right to their opinions of course, but I am left gasping at their utter lack of empathy or understanding. The review says far more about the reviewer than it does the book."