Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Singing, rejections and Bill Bryson

Singing plays an enjoyably large part in my life at the moment. We have several big gigs over the next few weeks, the first being last Saturday where our three choirs took it in turns to sing in the courtyard at Trelissick Gardens near Truro. In between Seamus played the accordion, there was a bar and if the weather had been a little warmer you might have felt you’d wandered into some Mediterranean walled garden.

Then at 9.30pm we all (audience included) set off down the narrow winding road to the King Harry Ferry which takes cars over to the Roseland. When the last cars were off, all 100 of us singers piled onto the ferry, followed by audience with blankets, hats, thermos flasks and all manner of warm stuff.

Then we all sang as one choir. It was just amazing, singing into the still of a May night while the water lapped around us. The inky darkness was soft and welcoming, carrying our voices with care. If it was half as good to hear, as it was to sing, that can only be a wondrous thing.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that night. 100 singers together is quite something, but on a ferry in the middle of the river made it just magical and everyone sat, transfixed. The evening cast fairy dust over all of us and really did make me believe that in Cornwall, just about anything is possible.

Back to normal and I am trying to get an agent for my memoir of Pip and another walks book. Three rejections but all such encouraging ones about my work - and all saying that publishing is so difficult right now….

This week, on a completely different tack, I am off to interview Bill Bryson in London. That sounds so blasé but in fact I’m still pinching myself over this one.

“What are you going to wear?” cried my mother last night over the phone. “And what about your feet?” – she is clearly concerned that, at the age of 53, her daughter is unable to dress suitably for interviewing such an Important Author.

One advantage in having a small wardrobe is that there is little choice, so I had the clothes bit sorted some time ago. I am more concerned with having spare batteries for my tape recorder, making sure I have my questions and notes. (I sorted the clothes bit long ago) and getting the publicity lady’s mobile number in case my train’s delayed.

I know I will be extremely nervous beforehand, but it’s good to have nerves. It ensures that you do the job properly. But I am really looking forward to the interview. Someone who can write as magnificently as Bill Bryson does must just be a real pleasure to meet. So think of me on Thursday…..

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Bristol visit, sweet peas and trees

As I write, a bunch of sweet peas sit on my desk, their sweet scent drifting towards me making me think that summer is on the way. I wish....

My Bristol visit was wonderful. I despatched Molls round to my friend Sheila’s at 8.30 and Molls bounced in to greet her without a backward glance which, although somewhat galling for me, meant that I didn’t have to worry about her.

The trip by train meant leaving Falmouth at 9am and getting there at 2pm but it was a treat to have all that time to do nothing. I read, dozed, stared out of the window and ate my sarnies. Av met me at the station, and we walked to the theatre for the matinee of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella which was the best ballet I have ever seen.

Being Matthew Bourne, his Cinderella was different. He based it on an old David Niven film of a fighter pilot who crashes his plane and narrowly escapes death. He is given a second chance at life – and love – through his (male) guardian angel and the woman he loves.

I am a real groupie of his, but this ballet was quite amazing: the costumes were carefully researched, the sets were simple yet deceptively complex and incredibly effective, the lighting atmospheric, the surround sound worked perfectly and swept us all away for the next two and a half hours. At the end of it, we stood and cheered, our hands were sore from clapping so much. We looked at each other with tears running down our cheeks and said, “I want to see it all over again!”

To cheer ourselves up, we met my lovely niece, Luce, and had a great time with her. She showed us around Bristol and we went for a few drinks, had something to eat and for some reason ended up telling her how Av and I met and our complicated love lives at the time. (This was on the second glass of wine.) Later we wandered around Bristol and then crashed into bed, though I tend not to sleep well away from home.

A 4am there were drunken shoutings in the corridor. I had been awake for a while and found it quite funny, but someone was bashing on his mate’s door trying to get in, to muffled responses of, “Shut up. Go away!”

Eventually Av rang down to reception, they sent security up and the police arrived, who arrested the fellow who appeared reluctant to accompany his new, sober buddies. “Listen mate,” I heard the cop say. “You’ve been thrown out of the hotel. Just come with us, will you?”

Some time later he was persuaded to go with them and all was quiet again.

On our way down to breakfast later, we mentioned our disturbance and by the time we’d eaten, they had refunded our accommodation costs. “Great!” I said. “That’s our next weekend!”

So next time you want a freebie in Bristol, arrange for some drunken friends to pay you a visit….

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Spreading my Wings

Living with someone who’s depressed, or ill is difficult. Obviously. If they’re ill AND depressed, it’s even more difficult, but you get on with it. Life goes on and you have to go with it. I hadn't realised just how much Pip's ill health had affected me for it had been going on for 5 years and he had been depressed for a long while before that.

Five months on, I feel I am beginning to emerge from my shell. I have met new people and am able to do so many more things without worrying about Pip or feeling guilty. Over the past few weeks I have stayed out till midnight, gone singing all morning or afternoon and am going to be interviewed on Radio Cornwall on Friday. As long as Mollie is OK (and I make sure she is), I have - to my amazement - had a wonderful time.

I have started a photography course with Pip’s camera. Unfortunately the tutor assumes you know a lot about digital cameras to start with, which I don’t, and I’m finding it difficult to catch up. It’s a huge challenge so I am going to ask a couple of people to help. A friend, who has lent me a whole lot of his photography books, suggested I ask to go out with a photographer and learn on the spot which is a great idea. Life is very busy right now with work and rehearsing for a big gig on the bank holiday weekend, but when that’s over I will do just that.

This weekend I am going up to Bristol to see Matthew Bourne's ballet Cinderella with my dear mate Av and my lovely niece Lucy who’s at university there. Molls is staying with my friend Sheila round the corner and while it’s her first time staying overnight without me, it will do us both good. She and Sheila adore each other and Sheila is wonderful with dogs so I have no worries on that score.

While of course I miss my Pip, he is everywhere around me when I need him and I know he always will be. But now I can see a life opening up. And while there are bound to be many more tough times ahead, it’s good to see the prospect of a life with possibilities. Pip would be delighted, I know.

Last weekend I went on a Bulgarian singing workshop in Marazion. Over 100 men and women sang with this incredible woman for over two hours. As a result I can now sing suggestive songs in Bulgarian. Or I could just be singing “can I have a cuppa”.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


This is actually Titch, as often featured in Cornwall Today walks, but he is a bloke, after all....

This year has been one of constant surprises, but one of them is that I have noticed that men have a different attitude towards me now. It’s almost as if I’d been a shadow and now I’ve been fleshed out. I am a person – a woman - rather than just Pip’s wife.

I am very lucky in having made some good friends. Every Friday in Pip’s local is a group who get together to celebrate the weekend. I often join them, usually as the only woman there, and it’s fun to be with men. I like the banter and the way they include me and it does me good.

Some men like to look after me. Dear Joe upstairs took it upon himself to paint the garage and the door over Easter. He wouldn’t take any money so I bought him cans of Bass, which he loves. This week he has borrowed a pressure washer from the pub and hosed down all the outside areas, right down to my back yard, which was badly in need of doing. Again he wouldn’t take any money so I nipped down to our other local and stuck some money behind the bar for him. I feel saying thank you is so important but a gesture is always appreciated.

My dear brother in law is always at the other end of the phone and sorts out all kinds of problems, including my hoover, was there for me when I sold Pip’s boat, and is coming next week to look at one of the tenant’s windows.

One of the editors I work with asked how he could help. I said, "just carry on giving me work". But he has also written a fabulous endorsement of my work to send to agents for the memoir I'm writing.

Another friend put my new windscreen wipers on last week (something that had defeated several other people), fixed Pip’s penknife and makes me cups of tea. He’s easy company and we make each other laugh.

Richard helped me over Pip's Will, comes for walks and always sends me a text on Friday nights to say what time he will be in the aforementioned pub. He also has lent me history books that help with my CT walks and we sometimes go to gigs together.

There are other male friends, for which I’m extremely grateful, but one of the kindest things is that though everyone treats me with affection and fun – we might flirt a bit but nothing serious – they are all aware that I’m vulnerable.

Statistics show that widows who’ve been happily married tend to form relationships again relatively quickly – it makes sense that having had a happy relationship, you would want to repeat it. Many of my friends are convinced that someone special will come along before too long. (Though the man in question would, of course, have to love animals.) It’s a nice thought but at the moment it’s too soon.

If and when someone does, I know that Pip will smile and those blue eyes will twinkle. “Look after my Flowerpot," he will say.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sofe the Loaf and That Wedding

This is one of my neices, Sofe, on the Mall last Friday with - look who's behind her....

Well as a romantic and one who was married to one, I have to talk about The Wedding. I have to say I loved every minute of it, helped by the fact that I was with friends of a similar ilk. My dear brother in law came to fix my hoover that morning and we were having a coffee when Lyn rang. "Come on Flowerpot," she said, at 10.30. "I need you to get in the mood."

So I went over there, was handed a glass of pink fizz and a Union Jack stetson hat and we sat and scrutinised the dresses, the hats, the celebrities and Who Knew The Words to the hymns. And of course The Dress - or in this case, both sisters' dresses.

Lyn provided smoked salmon and cream cheese sarnies, then strawberries and cream and we wept through all the weepy bits and cheered at The Kiss(es) and I got a text from my little brother who was on the Mall, taking pictures and terribly excited. (See above picture of Sofe)

Later that day, I walked down to meet friends in the pub and the air was warm and a salt breeze blew on my face as I walked into town. Around me people laughed and joked, sat on pavements with their beers and glasses of wine. Everyone smiled. We were a nation united by pageantry, but a realisation that this is what we Do Best. What other nation could have put on such a spectacular show?

But most of all, we were a nation united by love.