Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The importance of breaks

Towards the end of last week I went up to see my mum, and took her round the lovely Dartington Gardens on Friday morning where, despite the ongoing monotonous grey days, spring had put in an appearance. The grass was studded with purple crocus, violet periwinkles, dusky red hellebores and delicate fritillary, while the banks of the old jousting area were covered in a spring duvet of primroses. Magnolias sang from elegant trees towering above us, and birds rejoiced next to us.

My dear mate Av met me at mum’s and after lunch and a catch up (my mum refers to Av as her other daughter), we set off to walk Moll at Staverton, then to Totnes where Av had booked us into a B&B for the weekend.

Not having been away for a while, I was very aware of how important breaks are. However much we may (or may not) enjoy our day to day lives, having a change of scene is very beneficial. Av and I have known each other for well over 20 years now and been away many times so we know when to give each other space, what each other likes etc.

We explored Totnes market, visited the charity shops, walked miles with Moll, and found The Albert (after Einstein), a brilliant pub down the road from where we were staying, which did a home made pie and a pint (or glass of wine in our case) for £8.50 as a special offer on Fridays and Saturdays. No prizes for guessing where we ate.

We sorted the world out, had a lot of laughs, a few tears, and while I still find it hard coming back to an empty flat, it was lovely to have that time together, and with my mum.

I’ve now got another streaming cold, but despite that I’m looking forward to the next break, though having busy lives, it's important to put aside some time. Exmoor is a possibility, and Av and I are planning another weekend in October. Who knows what else may come up?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

An Unusual Job

Mylor Creek on a misty, sunny afternoon several weeks ago now. Perhaps we have had some sun after all - just not in the last few weeks!

I had a phone call out of the blue the other day, from someone asking if I’d help her write a biography for a presentation she has to give. Somewhat bemused, I said yes, I’d certainly help if I could, and only later asked her how she’d found me. On a website of Cornish speakers, apparently.

I still wasn’t too sure what this work would involve, but we agreed a fee and earlier this week she came to see me. It transpires she has to give a talk at a conference of some 3,000 people and is terrified. Would I be able to help her write her biography and give any tips about giving a presentation?

So we sat down and I made notes, then typed as much as I could, while she was there, to get the flavour of her words, who she is as a person. I’ve worked on it and sent it back to her, and we’ll do that back and forth until we’re both happy with it.

I remember practising my first talk, being terrified. Slow down, said a friend. Don’t gabble (we all do when we’re nervous). Make eye contact. Smile. Include humour. If things go wrong, don’t worry, work that into the script - just talk as you go along.

The first time I sang in public in my smaller group (being in a large choir is much less daunting), I was convinced I would dry up and no sound would come out of my mouth. In fact I sang fine, but my legs were shaking so much I literally thought I was going to fall over. The second time I sang in public, with three of us, I didn’t really know the song, having been drafted in at the last minute. I had a complete blank, forgot my notes, and laughed. So did everyone else. We started again and it was fine. And after that, I’m not paralysingly nervous any more. I’ve had lots of other things go wrong, but tell the audience what they are, and include them in whatever’s going on. After all, it gets boring if things go according to plan all the time.

But back to this job, and I realised, I love this work! I’ve always said my dream job would be Desert Island Discs - all that research and then interviewing people would be just up my street. And I love radio. But doing this is a good second best!

So if you know anyone who has to write a biographical presentation, and needs help, please point them in my direction!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Thief

Butter would't melt, and all that....

My cat, Bussie, is now 18 and as irascible as ever, though noticeably more cuddly than he ever was in his youth. Another change is in his attitude towards food. He used to eat anything and everything (like Moll) to the point where my brother in law accused Pip of killing Bussie with kindness (good for Pete), but nowadays he's much more picky, and as a result lost a lot of weight.

So when I came back a few weeks ago and saw both his dishes licked clean, I was surprised but pleased. Then it happened again, several days running and I became suspicious. Particularly when I found a broken dish on the floor.

And with good reason. It turns out that Moll has been jumping onto the chair specially put there for Bussie, and jumping up onto the shelf and eating his food. Hah! I thought. I'll stop her. So I took the chair away, which means that Bussie has to jump onto the table, from there on the dresser and make his way along a narrow shelf to get to his food.

That worked for a few days, then I got back yesterday and found smashed saucers on the floor and a very guilty looking Moll - you know when they won't look at you, and slink along the corridor? That look...

So now when I go out, I have taken to removing Bussie's dishes to the table by the cooker, where neither of them can get at them.
That seems to be working. For the moment....

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A month on....

Greetings and apologies for silence for the last week or so. I somehow managed to obtain a very painful shoulder which stopped me from functioning properly. However, it is now on the mend so normal service resuming, to my great relief.

It didn’t stop me enjoying my birthday which was full of dear friends, lovely walks, sunshine (in between torrential showers) and good food. What more can you want?!

I now have a lot of catching up to do, but sent my novel off to an agent this morning (gulp) and need to get going again on the Daphne du Maurier book which has been somewhat neglected due to ill health and appalling weather.

I’ve just come back from a good blowy walk at Trelissick Woodlands - we actually escaped rain again today as well which was a bonus!

Above is the most wonderful picture that my good friend Carol did of Moll (scanning it doesn't n early do it justice). It is entitled MOLL IS NOT AMUSED and is of Moll as Queen Victoria looking really pissed off, which she does sometimes, when Carol’s dog Pilot is being Extremely Bouncy (he’s only a year old). Whenever I look at this I have to laugh - she has captured Moll’s Piss Off expression so perfectly!

So hope you are all ploughing through germs and wintry weather - at least we have daffodils a plenty, crocuses, and rhododendrons out now as well. The evenings are getting lighter, so spring really is on the way…

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Starting Again

Well, so much for all that early January strength and positivity. Last Monday I got up, walked Moll feeling a bit jaded but sat down to work. By 11am I could hardly keep my eyes open and had to go to bed. Where I slept for TWO HOURS... And it went downhill from there, so I ended up staying in bed for most of the week, getting up to drag myself round the block with poor Moll a couple of times a day, then taking her to the churchyard in the afternoon, where I could stagger round like an old lady, and Moll could let off steam chasing squirrels round the gravestones. Cheerful companions, dead people, especially when you feel hideous.

I couldn't concentrate, couldn't run two words together, let alone string an article together, and after staring at various books without being able to take anything in, I finally started re-reading some Jo Jo Moyes novels which I devoured like one starved. One a day for the last few days: words pouring into my feverish brain, making little sense but carrying me along as I rushed, headlong, into other worlds where flu and loneliness did not exist. For being ill when on your own is lonely. Moll does her best, of course, but no one wanted flu so my mates steered clear - you can't blame them.

Thankfully I am now much recovered. Energy levels are still decidedly low, and I'd forgotten how dispiriting post-flu can make you feel, but at least I can string a few sentences together which is a great relief. So, slowly, life resumes to normal. Which, being January (or February by the time you read this), consists of grey, damp sludgy days where the first crocuses have already burst forth, and daffodil shoots are now six inches high.

Spring isn't too far away. I've got a review to do in a few weeks (I hope) and met some interesting people on a dog walk last Sunday. Daphne du Maurier beckons, as does my novel. So hope is in the air....

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Fond Memories

Last weekend I took my van over to Flushing where my mate Paul very kindly said he would service my van while his partner and I went off for the day to walk and take pictures for one of my books.

On the way there we were deluged with rain - never a good start - but thankfully by the time we got to Daymer Bay it was dry so we set forth over the golf course, taking in St Enodoc Church - which is well worth a visit if ever you're in the area. The last time I did this walk was for Cornwall Today, and must have been about 7 or 8 years ago as I remember Pip dropping me off at Daymer Bay - he was relatively well, then, as I remember. Half way over the golf course, I got lost, but some kind golfers pointed me in the right direction and before too long I found myself in Rock, where I'd arranged to meet Pip at the Rock Inn. Wandering up and down Rock like a lost soul, I kept asking people where the pub was, but no one knew (it was winter). I rang husband continually but no reply, so you can imagine the kind of mood I was in when I finally found the pub and burst in, swear words dancing round me like a juke box.

This time, Viv and I set forth over the golf course and - well, we seemed to go in a different direction. We followed the white stones, as instructed by myself, but found ourselves on a tarmac track. Then we discovered Jesus Well (inland, so way off course). So we headed back over towards the sea, wandering round the edge of the golf course, dodging low flying golf balls, until I discovered a gap in the hedge. We dived through there - and found ourselves in someone's garden. Having tried the path ahead of us, that just led to the dustbins, so we crept round the side of the house and eventually had to tiptoe round the front, and run at full tilt down the drive, dogs in hot pursuit, while we giggled like teenagers.

We then had the same trouble finding the elusive pub (we were nowhere near where we should be),and found it was no longer the comfy sailing club type place but a smart bar with a huge window overlooking Padstow. The prices matched the upgrade, and having said I'd buy the coffee, was a little nervous as I only had £6 on me. "We might have to do a runner," I whispered to Viv as we sat in the sun, and I had bittersweet memories thinking of Pip also sitting by the window waiting patiently for his wife.

Seven years ago, we headed back home where I took Pip to see Mamma Mia which was on in Falmouth, and we met some friends for supper later. As we walked out of the cinema, Pip was very quiet and I thought, Oh No. "What did you think of it?" I asked, tentatively. He turned and looked at me with a huge grin. "Pop, it was like the best party ever," he breathed.

I would like to believe that the dead can see what you're doing, but I don't. Having said that, Pip was very much with us on Saturday: every step of the way. Including getting lost, several times, when I could almost hear him laugh. However, this time Viv and I made it back to Rock with relatively few mishaps, and dear Paul delivered the van, fully serviced, and wouldn't take any money other than for parts. I insisted on buying him a good bottle of New Zealand wine, but he thanked me for taking Viv out on these excursions, though she enjoys them as much as I do.

I drove home that night thinking how incredibly lucky I am to have the bestest of friends. Who also loved Pip - for who could not?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Antidote to wobbly moments

I'm heading over to the north coast soon, to go walking, and hope the rain can hold off for a few hours. The wind is howling round the house and snow is forecast for tomorrow - the Icy Blast is on its way.

It's strange what a new year can do, isn't it? Time for reflection, start of a new chapter, and all that... I've just been talking to my dear friend Paul who is off on a Cities of Peace tour of the UK when he gets back from New Zealand.

I'm not able to attempt anything similar due to work, Moll and lack of funds, but I am still aiming to make some changes to my life. For the good, of course. But I also don't think it's advisable to raise sights unrealistically high - that way you're doomed to failure.

But I saw a lovely quote on a friend's Facebook page today - "People who wonder whether the glass is half full or empty are missing the point. The glass is REFILLABLE."

Also, I've just received a lovely note in the post from one of my nieces. She finished by saying, "Dad has your Poldarks walk book at home and I LOVED reading it over Christmas, Sue. I think it's brilliant!"

As you can imagine, that made my day, and the card is now up on my noticeboard above my desk. For, you know, those wobbly moments.