My name is Rachel Sherfield and I live in Amersham. I am happily married, with one young son (who keeps me on my toes!). I have recently written and illustrated a children’s book called Mrs Blossom and Sniffy (the dog that was a little bit whiffy!), which was published in December 2015.
The story as to why and how this book came to fruition is not only one of personal triumph, but is also a tail which I feel should be shared; as it may give hope to others that are going through some sort of ongoing illness; as art really is a great healer!
Nearly two years ago I was struck down suddenly with what the medical profession called ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’. After much investigation, I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency (which, was certainly a major contributing factor as to why I got ill) and I was subsequently put on vitamin D supplements (it should be noted however though, that Vitamin D tablets are not a quick fix as they can take months to get into your system properly).
I had never suffered from anything like this in my life before. I’d always been someone who was forever busy. I worked hard in life; not only personally, but professionally. The illness completely came out of the blue and was one, which was totally debilitating. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for 3 months solid. My husband was not only ‘daddy’ to our son but ‘mummy’ for a very long period of time and for that I am forever grateful to him. The worst of my symptoms were what I called ‘lead legs’ (a very weird sensation where my legs were so hard to move it felt like they were full of lead). Other symptoms (which came with the illness) were ‘vertigo and dizziness’ along with ‘severe tiredness’ (but, it didn’t matter how hard I tried to get to sleep, I physically couldn’t and as a result I became seriously sleep deprived).
I realised that to get well I needed to cut all stress out of my life. So I ended up leaving my job (which had a very long commute) to give myself the time to focus on getting well.
After 3 months of seeing virtually nothing but the 4 walls of my bedroom, I started to give myself goals. To start with, the goal was just to go to the toilet and back, then as things improved, the goal was to go downstairs and make myself some lunch! But as time went on the goals became bigger, like getting in my car and driving to my local cafe to get myself a coffee. It sounds crazy (even to myself now), that my goals were what others would perceive to be tiny; but believe me at the time, they were mountains!
I had written the majority of my Mrs Blossom and Sniffy book before I became ill, writing verses on holiday and tweaking the story in the evenings, when I felt inspired! But when I got ill, I found the thing that gave me focus was writing; and eventually I finished the story. As I started to get better, my creative side (which I hadn’t used in a very long time) started to come back and I began to draw. I had never done children’s book illustration before, but when I felt able to, I would draw some of the Mrs Blossom and Sniffy characters; and as I slowly got better, I was able to create whole illustrations (collages).
We are now nearly two years on and I am fully recovered. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t got ill, I would never have written, illustrated and published a children’s book. I would have carried on with my day-to-day life, merely dreaming of creating my own book one day, but would never have had the time to do it. The illness gave me the time to focus on the book and drawing the illustrations really was ‘art therapy’ for me. The book helped me get well and for that I am very grateful. Part of me thinks that getting ill was ‘meant to be’….was I destined to do this?……..
• What do you love most about where you live? The thing I love most of all about where I live is the scenery. I look out of my window and I see stunning views of the Misbourne Valley. I am very lucky to live surrounded by countryside.
• Your favourite place to:
o Visit locally – Wendover Woods. As a family we loved ‘The Gruffalo Trail’ and we can’t wait to visit the new ‘Stick Man Trail’ there.
o Shop at – Fired Works in Chalfont St Peter. The shop sells handmade glass pieces and jewellery. I have bought so many Birthdays and Christmas presents from there. The prices are really reasonable and the glass pieces are stunning!
o Go for a meal at – Tom Yung in Amersham. It’s a Thai restaurant and the food is amazing!
• How do you relax? If I’m feeling creative, I make homemade cards for friends and family, or do some drawing with my son. But if I am really tired, there is no better way to relax than a hot bath!
• What’s your favourite tipple? I am always partial to a white wine spritzer with lemonade; or a glass of rose!
• Top dinner party guest? I think Graham Norton would make a fabulous dinner party guest! He’s extremely funny, but not overpowering. He always finds a way to get people to relax in his presence and in doing so manages to get them to tell some really interesting and funny life stories. Dinner would be a laugh a minute if he came!
• Favourite Meal? I have many favourites! One of my favourite meals would have to be, roast chicken (with all the trimmings) and my homemade gravy! Yum! Another favourite, which is really easy is Tikka Masala Fishcakes! I serve them with salad and coleslaw.
• Favourite book? I’m not a great reader (funny enough!?), as I never seem to have the time; but I would have to say, the one book I found most enjoyable was Richard Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity. I am always inspired by entrepreneurs; and people that have risked everything to follow their dream and ultimately be successful. Their bravery is commendable. Whatever people’s opinions are of Richard Branson, you can’t deny his tenacity.
• One thing on your bucket list? To go to Iceland and drink in one of their amazing ice bars!
• Website: http://mrsblossomandsniffy.co.uk/