What Makes Us, Us?

Large Baby Toula pic

As a child at school, I often spent much of my time daydreaming and looking out of the window whilst a teacher (possibly Mrs Gilhooley) warbled on about things that I didn’t think would ever be relevant to me or my life. I was right. One of the most common trains of thought I had was that although the 30 of us girls in the class had this experience in common, what effect would all the different experiences in our lives lead us to…and is it those things that make the difference?

I am now grown and for the most part have had an interesting and somewhat out of the ordinary life, filled with many exciting experiences and people and still wonder what it is that made me, me.

Perhaps there are clues amongst these 10 little known facts about me.

What do you think – what makes us, us?

1. Although I have been known as ‘Toula’ my entire life, I recently discovered during a conversation with my mother that my given name is actually ‘Fotini.’

2. It wasn’t until I was 36 that I met my father. I discovered at this time that he had lived only a mile or so away from me throughout my entire childhood.

3. 4 days after meeting my father, he was extremely unwell so I took him to the hospital, only to hear the doctor give him 3 weeks to live.

4. My mother has dementia and Alzheimer’s so her oldest memories are easier to access than recent ones. I am finding out more about her now than I ever have before, like she was brought up in an orphanage.

5. The first ‘famous’ person I ever met was the Spurs goalkeeper Pat Jennings. I was 7 and had no idea who he was.

6. The most amazing ‘famous’ person moment I have ever had was when Audrey Hepburn personally returned my call and in that unmistakable voice said,”Hello, Toula darling – it’s Audrey here.”

7. The book(s) that most shaped my personality as a child were the What Katie Did and What Katie Did Next novels written by Sarah Chauncey Woodley and Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. I first read them as a 3 or 4 year old and have regularly read them ever since. *

8. As a 12 year old, I won a coveted Blue Peter badge for writing a screenplay for an episode of ‘Grange Hill.’

9. Ten years later, I won a computer in a women’s magazine ‘Write A Blockbuster’ competition with something I hurriedly composed a few hours before the deadline called ‘The Adoption Option.’

10. I am convinced that if I were ever to be regressed I would discover that in a previous life I had lived in a Charles Dickens novel.

[*affiliate links]


Anything but writing….

Every single blog about marketing yourself as an author says to write your own blog. “Let people know all about the real you and you will soon build up a following.” That sounds marvellous and easy enough but nowhere do those blogs say how difficult that actually is to do.

Most of you don’t know me from Adam. I don’t even know who Adam is, which possibly makes me even less interesting that you already suspected BUT here’s the thing, I have friends who do find me interesting and oftentimes quite amusing. I’m not going to try to be clever or funny – hopefully over time you will begin to learn who I am by my writing but for now, I am just going to talk about things that strike me in one way or another.

Firstly, and I am not sure that everyone will agree with me but yesterday I was baffled by the fact that Andy Murray’s Mrs, having given birth THREE days earlier, was deemed ‘Breaking News.’ Happy and positive news, especially for those who are interested (ahem) in such matters but breaking news, no?

During those three days BIG things had happened: a devastating earthquake had hit Taiwan and killed and injured hundreds, two trains had crashed head on in Germany…..and so on.

So, it got me thinking.

What has happened to us, if anything at all, that real and important news is pushed aside to make way for news about celebrities and such like? Is that really what people want to read about? Is there some kind of comfort in glossing over the heartache and painful news and revelling in the lightweight happenings of the day. Either way, for the majority of readers neither (the good, nor the bad news on a daily basis) will actually touch our lives in any significant way (thank goodness).

Secondly and totally unconnected to that, I am finding it hard to actually write my books. It wasn’t like that before – they seemed to write themselves – but now I feel a pressure that wasn’t there and so instead am distracting myself with other tasks that I can pretend are worthwhile, like: the kitchen is spotless and everything has been put away/ laundry is washed (not sure my writer’s block is enough to resort to ironing it) and commenting on Humans of Bombay on Facebook (I even got the top comment on a post today – that has never happened before). So, today has sort of been a successful writing day – even though it was only with a random comment! I have been rewarded for typing some words and in normal circumstances would now be able to flop guilt-free on the sofa and watch Psychic Detectives but not today.

Today I am a grown up and acknowledge that I have complete control over my actions. Therefore, I WILL before the end of the day, have written at least 1,000 words of a book (the prequel or the sequel to Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery), although I will be keeping those words to myself, so you will just have to trust me that they exist.

A friend (a very successful author and screenplay writer) once gave me the best piece of advice about writing, which was to keep the story to yourself until you are ready to tell it (i.e. it’s all written down and ready to go) because, like with any form of storytelling, the reward is in the response from your audience. Once you have had your hungry ego fed the urge to tell the story has been satisfied.

Talking of which, it is okay to take time away from writing to eat, right? Just feeling a little peckish…..


RIP Margaret Forster

I am incredibly saddened by the death of one of my favourite authors, Margaret Forster.

What an incredible writer with a talent to see right into the heart of her characters, many of which were real life people, including her own family.

In fact, one of the books I have read over and over is her ‘Lady’s Maid,’ the story of the poet Elizabeth Barratt Browning told through the eyes of her maid. Storytelling at it’s absolute finest.

Rest In Peace Margaret Forster.

Lady’s Maid – Margaret Forster

The Four Walls Of My Mind

Due to an ‘interesting’ childhood, I have PTSD.

In fact, to be more specific, I have c-PTSD (c=complex) and for quite sometime had no idea. Unfortunately, neither did anybody else and so in order to feel ‘better,’ I took myself off to various counsellors in the hope that they would magically fix me.

No magic took place.

Instead, those people with qualifications in psychology and psychotherapy made matters far worse. Rather than understand my textbook PTSD symptoms and provide appropriate treatment for it, or refer me to someone else who could help, they instead asked me to talk, in detail, repeatedly about the situations that had caused the PTSD in the first place.

In other words, for years and with a number of different ‘therapists,’ I was reliving over and over again the worst possible experiences of my life contributing enormously to my PTSD.

The Four Walls of My Mind was something I wrote for one of those therapists to express my feelings about what was going on in my mind as we said our goodbyes during our final session.

My belief at the time was that I was the only person who could change how I felt. Years later, after discovering an incredible therapist who is highly trained in PTSD, I learned that there is appropriate help available that can make all the difference.

The Four Walls of My Mind: 

I stare at the four walls, day in and day out and wonder if I will ever escape. These four walls are the walls of my mind. They are my conscious and my subconscious, my heaven and my hell. Wherever I go and whatever I experience all I am ever aware of are these four great walls. They are walls of infinite height and of the greatest breadth and I know that however hard I try I’ll never be able to climb over and make my way out into a vast expanse of space. Of freedom.

There is no colour in my life. Although, I am certain that behind my prison walls is an artist’s palette with every hue and shade of all the colours ever created. Those colours are so close that I feel I can smell them. The musty greenness of the ivy clinging and crawling up and up, higher and higher along the outer-side of my walls. The citrus yellow of the lemon sun and the icy-blue freshness of a morning wind and cloudless sky.

The fortress in which I am held prisoner has no sensations. The white hot heat of hell is kept at bay by the cooling spirals of heaven’s gentle exhalations. There are no people to hold and touch.

Each miniscule bubble of thought is released so gently into the atmosphere for fear of bursting one already freed. Stealthily, it wafts up and out, bouncing from one thought too many to another, trying to find a gap in which to rest it’s weary soul knowing that any moment now it will have a battle on it’s hands. Does it give in to those stronger spheres of heavier notion or does it use those bigger ideas to lean on and rest, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to launch itself higher?

My non-existent taste buds have been worn away with eating abrasive phrases and hosting an ever sharpening tongue. I have no taste for life or life for me. Life’s menu, displaying mood dishes of exotic names is tacked with a rusty nail onto the outside of my encasement, maybe faded and torn by the elements and time, away from my overwhelming hunger.

Redundant, my ears are closed to the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking, the buzzing of bees and the gentle whispering of leaves on trees and the soft caress of a summer’s breeze stroking my skin.

I am blind.  Blind to the joys of life and the strength of pain. I turn my face from the outside world afraid of being seen by those with eyes that seek. Cowardly, I hide from those who can barely make out a shadow or an outline of reality and responsibility, knowing that they will see me clearly for what I am.

I am ashamed that I have lead you to believe that the walls of my creation are beyond escape. Please forgive me. They are high, towering way beyond the stratosphere and they are wide encompassing my world. But the bricks from which they are made up are nothing more than the worlds which they surround: my conscious and my subconscious, my heaven and my hell. With one determined kick I could raze this flimsy yet invincible barrier to the ground.

I stare at the four walls, day in and day out and wonder if I will ever escape and know that if I really wanted to I could carve a doorway in one wall and windows in the others, giving myself the choice little by little of seeing more, feeling more, living more and one day when I have enough courage, joining the more enlightened of you somewhere out there along the paths of destiny.

Copyright © 1994 Toula Mavridou-Messer 
All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright owners.

If you would like to read more about the circumstances that caused me to develop severe complex PTSD, you can click through to my short story on Kindle/Amazon – ONLY DEAD ON THE INSIDE.

British & American Drama Schools Going Crazy for ‘Pocketful of Poesies’


Pocketful of Poesies is unlike any publication ever previously perused and that is quite a phenomenal pursuance.  It is also pocket-money priced.

Pocketful of Poesies is a pick of perfectly plangent dark tales suitable for big kids and adults alike…and so it seems, drama students, too.

The book is an astonishing array of very short stories that take alliteration to a completely new level with absolutely EVERY word of each story beginning with the same letter…perfect for drama students practising their diction and pronounciation, or so it seems.

The author, Toula Mavridou-Messer says,”we had a team of reviewers read Poesies before it was published and the feedback we got was astonishing and quite a surprise. One girl, an actress, immediately contacted us suggested we contact drama schools to let them know about the book as it’s perfect for students’ voice training and diction.  Another woman, a teacher in a primary school, suggested that all Year 6 children should read it as it was a perfect teaching tool for 10 and 11 years olds and would fire up their imaginations whilst expanding their vocabularies. So far, the feedback from schools has been 100% positive.”

Gone are the days of, “Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers,’ and ‘She sells sea shells on the sea shore.’ Instead, students are now being introduced to a whole new volume of these incredible and modern short stories written entirely in alliteration, to get their tongues and minds around.

Stories such as “Annie and Adam’s Adventure at Arthur’s Animal Aid Association,” “Betty Bets Billy ‘Bout Blowing Bigger Bubbles Better,” and “Colin Couldn’t Comprehend Chafing Cream” WILL soon have the next generation of Olivier’s, Attenborough’s and Taylor’s enunciating perfectly.

This collection is also full to bursting with delightful and dark illustrations that bring to mind that old and extremely successful partnership of Roald Dahl and Gerald Scarfe.

The alphabet may have 26 letters but there is no rule that each word you use has to start with a different one each time and Toula Mavridou-Messer proves just that in Volume One of Pocketful of Poesies.

You can watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlVPE6Dh3YQ

Available from Amazon as an illustrated paperback, a Kindle ebook or FREE from Kindle Unlimited.

Mortal End: Hansel & Gretel Meets Sweeney Todd


Here’s something I wrote a while back to promote Mortal End. It explains all about the book.

“I have written a book: 

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery. 

Hansel & Gretel meets Sweeney Todd. 


A male Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple-type

 Saves the day. 

It’s an adult fairytale. 

A murder mystery. 

A whodunnit. 

It’s really quite fabulous. 

It has all 5 star Amazon reviews. 

And celebrity supporters.

CroppedJonathan Thunderclap Tweet

It’s twisted. 

And macabre




In a British literary way. 

Y’know, like Dickens. 

Or Victorian Gothic horror. 

Larger than life. 

With soul. 


With bright spots. 

The characters are writ large. 

Albeit physically small. 

The world is imaginary. 

Albeit the horror is real. 

Missing children. 

Bodies in toffee. 




And slashers. 

A Rector named Ænus 

A grave-digger named Poe. 




Hollywood came a-calling. 


Animated for children? 

Or, live action for adults? 

FREE with Kindle Unlimited. 

You decide. 

Click the links. 

Buy now. 

Propel us to success one book at a time. 

Now tell your friends. 

I have written a book: 

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery. “