Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Being Strong

I’ve just been to the funeral of my dear brother in law - brother to my late husband, which obviously brought back a lot of memories of this time four years ago. But it made me realise the importance of funerals - as a way of celebrating his life, and of gathering together those that loved him.

There’s a scene in the film As Good As It Gets (a favourite of ours that we watched the other night) where Carol is in tears of despair over her life. I think most of us have been there - I certainly have, more times than I care to think about - and without any comforting man to assure me that everything would be all right.

After my husband died, when I finally emerged from that tunnel of grief, someone commented on how strong I’d been. “I certainly didn’t feel it,” I said. “It was raw and painful as hell, and I cried for months.” Given how much I howled, constantly, I’m wondering why on earth she thought I was strong - but it made me think about what being strong means.

My dear mum stayed with me for Pip’s last days, but a few days after he died, she announced she was going home. “You have to learn to cope on your own,” she said. And given that she’d lost her husband at a similar age, she knew what was needed: this was a real example of tough love.

I was horrified, and terrified, but actually, in retrospect, I’m really glad she did. It meant I didn’t rely on her entirely, but bothered my brilliant friends instead.

We’ve just done a Stressbuster course which was extremely good, and one of the things they advised was to avoid over-dependency. For several reasons: one, if you rely entirely on one person it makes you feel weak as you believe you can’t cope without them (I was convinced I couldn’t manage or survive without my husband. But when faced with no alternative, you get on with it); two, it is a terrible strain on the other person, and makes for a very unhealthy relationship. So the course stressed the importance of talking to other friends (note plural). Apart from anything else, different people have different takes on situations. It also means you widen your circle of friends and can repay them when they have difficult times.

So if there’s someone you care about, of course be there to help them, but make sure you’re not over protective. That just weakens both of you. Encourage them to confide in other people and make sure you have enough time for yourself. It might sound uncaring, but it’s the best thing all round: everyone will be stronger, and better able to cope with whatever life throws at them next. In the long run it’s the best present you can give them.

On that note, I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. May it bring peace, joy, love, adventure, singing and sailing. Or whatever it is that will make you happy and fulfilled.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Festive Greetings

Wishing all readers of this blog a good break. Special good wishes to those who are not where they want to be, or who are missing loved ones, near and far.

Here's to a happy, healthy, fun, joyful 2015 that is full of song and laughter.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Tribute

This has nothing to do with this post but was taken at Brent Tor church on Dartmoor, where we were last week.

Last week my lovely brother in law, Pete, died. It was utterly unexpected so we are all reeling with shock, and he will be sorely missed by everyone in particular by his son, his sister and the friend he spent a lot of time with.

My first memory of Pete was when I came down for a weekend to stay with Pip on his working boat (where he lived). We sailed over to Helford as it was a lovely evening, picked up a mooring and rowed ashore where, unbeknown to me, Pip had agreed to meet Pete and his girlfriend, Pat, for a meal at the Ferryboat pub.

I stomped up the beach, head down, wearing Pip’s sailing hat and old jacket on top of my t shirt and shorts as it was late and I was a bit cold. I then came to a pair of large feet, and followed them, looking up to see a tall man with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, and the most gentle expression. There was also a twitch of amusement in his smile. “You must be Flowerpot,” he said. “I’m Peter.”

I’ve known Pete for 18 years and would be hard pushed to find a kinder, more considerate, gentle man. Life has not been as kind to him as he deserves, and he suffered from various ill health most of his life, but he rarely complained. What I do remember is the closeness of the two brothers. They had worked together for most of their lives, and often helped each other out when needed: when Pete’s marriages broke up, and when Pip got into trouble (which was frequently).

There is much I don’t know about the brothers, but I do know that while being chalk and cheese,they complimented each other perfectly: made a perfect whole. While Pete was steady and cautious, Pip was the ideas man, full of verve and enthusiasm. One balanced the other out.

Almost exactly four years ago, when we found out Pip only had days to live, Pete said, “We are like a marriage,” which summed their relationship up perhaps best. They were like identical twins, as their sister said, and neither functioned properly without the other.

When Pip died, Pete was always there for me, for which I am profoundly grateful. He thanked me for bringing such happiness to his brother's life, and for keeping him alive longer than he would have been otherwise. He was endlessly patient, and I hope I gave him some comfort as I was the nearest he could get to his little brother.

I knew how much Pip relied on Pete, but I hadn’t realised just how much Pete needed his other half. I don’t believe in an after life, but in a curious way I feel that the two brothers are somehow reunited. I feel honoured to have known such a wonderful pair, and even more privileged to love them both.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Rude health

I am, generally speaking, in rude health (now where did that expression come from?) so I was unprepared for a stinking cold that somewhat blighted my weekend with my dear friend Av in Devon. We still had a good time, of course, but the place we stayed in was cold so we tended to dive into bed (not together) to keep warm. Still, we had lots to catch up on and had a few walks and even indulged in Christmas Karaoke in Teignmouth, a sight that left the locals speechless.

I also saw my mum who’s being very well looked after by her lovely carer, Sue, and it was good to see my friends Jon and Annie who managed to tease me mercilessly (Jon) as well as cheering me up.

Back home, and I sort of crumpled. All my energy must have gone out through my nose. By yesterday morning it was apparent that no way could I give the talk (on walks) I was due to give at Flushing Sailing Club, so I had to cancel that, cancel singing rehearsal, and retreat to bed.

And what a relief to sink under the duvet. Bliss. I still have to walk MollieDog of course, but it does me good to get some fresh air before crawling back into my warm pit.

“Someone should be looking after you,” said Mr B when he rang - he is 300 miles away.

As I don’t have much appetite, my greatest needs are tissues, a good book and a big cuddle. The corner shop can provide the first, and I'm devouring books instead of food - so hurry back, Mr B, and provide the third.

I'd forgotten just how utterly wretched colds can make you feel, so I've decided my Get Well therapy will be to go and see the film of Paddington. I watched the trailer online yesterday and it had me giggling like a teenager.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


I’m doing a Stressbuster Course at the moment organised by Outlook Southwest - it’s free and very good value, with lots of common sense advice. Yesterday the benefits of exercise were extolled. Well, as someone who loves walking (and most kinds of exercise - stop sniggering in the back there), I was astonished to think that people don’t actually like doing it. (I have far too much energy to sit still for long and, as my nearest and dearest know, would go bonkers if I was cooped up inside for a whole day. Unless I was very poorly.)

To me walking is a joy. A way of letting off steam. Off being with Moll. Of getting to know people. Of sharing. Of adventuring - Mr B and I have explored miles of Cornwall on foot - as I have with other friends. To think of denying myself that is hellish. So I was amazed to think that other people would not enjoy walking too (I know, I can be incredibly naive at times).

Over the past few days I’ve had a few lovely walks, one on the Lizard, ending up at Porthallow, with Fiona. We left the car at 1.30 and walked up to Gillan Creek then along the coast to Porthallow, where we found a Christmas fair going on, so we dived in there for a cup of tea and home made cake, and returned to the car - in the dark by this time. It was a good mix of sloping fields, long dark shadows cast by the afternoon sun, and stunning coastline, before crashing back through woods in the dark. Luckily Fiona had done the walk before so she knew roughly where we were going, or we’d still be walking round looking for the car now….

Then yesterday I met my dear friend Viv at Trelissick on a sunlit winter’s morning with the first frost cast like icing sugar, and a sea of shimmering glass. It was just magical and so glad she was able to be here for it as she’d only just driven down from London the night before, in thick fog and pouring rain.

We tend to think of Cornwall for its coastline, but inland can be just as magical.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


This picture has nothing to do with the post, but was taken when we last went out in Echo a few weeks ago. Can't wait to go again.

First of all, thanks for all your comments about Moll. She is fine, thanks, though has to be on Vitamin K for the next 3 weeks, possibly longer. I think I've found it more worrying than she has - and my bank account certainly has!

I’ve enjoyed several slices of culture recently. The first was on Saturday when we took friends down to Marazion, then St Ives, giving us time to have a good look at some galleries and see what was for sale. As ever, I find not only the art but the people fascinating, and eavesdrop shamelessly whenever we’re in galleries - it’s a very intriguing pastime and, of course, vital research for a writer. (Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

On Monday we went to see Mr Turner, which, in case you’ve been on another planet, is Mike Leigh’s latest film about the famous painter. The reviews are mixed, but the cinema was packed when we went, with three showings a day, so money is being made for sure. I personally found it over long (and various people snoring around us obviously agreed), and there were inaccuracies. Mr B pointed out that Turner’s studio was not facing north, which all artists’ studios are, to get the best light. And there was a heated discussion about Painting Techniques. Some of the scenes seemed to me to be irrelevant but that could just have been me.

Mr Spall is always worth watching (even if he did grunt a lot) and despite being overly long, I wasn’t bored, and the photography was excellent.

However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous evening, when we .watched The Sessions (at home) - a wonderful film with Helen Hunt based on the article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" by Mark O'Brien, a poet paralyzed from the neck down due to polio, who, knowing that he had a limited amount of time to live, hired a sex surrogate to lose his virginity.

It’s a wonderfully clever, funny, incredibly touching film, acted superbly. I won’t say more - just watch it.

And lastly, tonight I’m going to listen to Pete Goss giving a talk at Mylor. A West Countryman and former Royal Marine, he is perhaps best known for his heroic rescue of fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli in hurricane-force winds, sacrificing his own chances of winning the race in order to save Dinelli. The pair have remained friends and competed together as co-skippers in the Transatlantic Jacques Vabre Race in 1997, winning their class.

He’s had lots of other adventures since, including sailing a lugger to Australia and kayaking round Tasmania.

Strangely enough, my good mate and singing companion Paul, met Pete on a Brittany ferry a few years ago, and has kept in touch ever since, so he told me about it.

I should think he will have a good audience, and I'm looking forward to hearing him speak (particularly as I'm giving a talk in a few weeks' time - I hope to be able to pick up some tips).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

And then there was rat poison...

Life has been a little stressful for me and several of my friends recently and we’ve been feeling a little worn out as a result.

So I was hoping that life would calm down a little. Al came down this week as he’s renovating a house in Flushing and asked Mr B to help him measure up. So Moll and I went over there this afternoon to have a snoop around and take Moll for a walk.

The house is lovely - right on the beach with some of the best views in the world, I would think, and while it needs a lot of work, I know Al will do a fabulous job.

Having walked Moll and had a good snoop, I went upstairs to tell them I was going to bail the boat out and would see them later. Mr B was investigating an upstairs cupboard with a tray of mouse pellets. Moll scoffed one and we both yelled.

I rang the vet immediately who said “bring her here soon as you can,” and I drove like the clappers (but within the speed limit of course) and got to the vet’s where she was given a jab to make her sick. 15 minutes later it still hadn’t worked and I was beginning to panic. She had another one.

Thankfully that worked, the poor mite got rid of everything in her stomach and then she had to have a Vitamin K jab, plus one tomorrow and one on Thursday, then tablets for the next 6 weeks. (All because of one or two tiny but deadly pellets.)

So keep your fingers crossed please. As the lovely vet said, “We don’t want to lose YOU, Mollie.”

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sculling, St Ives and on...

Last Saturday we went down to St ives to watch a sculling race. I’d interviewed Giles Gilbert, an oar maker in Porthleven, recently, and he and Jonny Nance from St Ives are very keen to revive the art of sculling - which is propelling a boat with one oar, standing backwards in a punt.

It was great fun to watch - each team had about six members who each took it in turn to scull the boat round a flag and back to the beach, where the boat was hauled in, the next member jumped in and was pushed out, and started again.

After that we investigated Porthmeor Beach and Porthmeor Studios, as renovated by MJ Long, another person I was fortunate enough to interview. After that spot of culture we repaired for a coffee and a scone where I’m afraid to say Moll was given her own crumb of scone with a tiny dollop of cream, topped with a pipsqueak of jam, by Mr B.

Mind you, she ran it off on Porthminster Beach which was completely deserted and the pale gold of the sand was absolutely wonderful as we ran up and down it like children.

The following day we took our friends upstairs out for a day out - car boot, auction viewing, and on to Polly Joke beach which was my dear Pip’s favourite beach - and quite by chance, his birthday.

We ended up with a drink in the Bowgie to round off a lovely weekend. As their news on Monday was much worse than expected, thank goodness we’d all had such a good day on Sunday.

Onwards and upwards…..

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Unexpected Family

The above picture has nothing to do with this post, but I felt like a soothing picture.
Shadows at Godrevy.

About a month ago a friend started having a really difficult time - not of her own volition. Just one of those incredibly unfair situations that life sometimes throws at you.

She is brave, highly intelligent and with a great capacity to see the funny side of things - even in this horrendous situation. She’s a private person, but has confided in me, which I take as an honour. A responsibility. Her poor partner is obviously also struggling - it is such a horrendous situation - but it does mean that we have all become much closer.

Yet the ripples affect us all. And that’s scary.

Her partner is at least able to talk to Mr B, and we took them out on Echo the other day, had a lovely afternoon.

God knows what the end result of this mess will be. I’d like to think a new chapter for all of us, and a better one.

But whatever happens, I have gained a sister/daughter and dear friends. We have become family. And for someone who doesn’t see her own family much, that is incredibly important.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The importance of a bolt hole

Years ago, in my early twenties, I fell in love for the first time with a fellow who, according to my aunt, looked like Humphrey Bogart. He was incredibly attractive, somewhat insecure, and all my family and friends knew it wouldn’t last. When I found him in bed with one of his clients, I felt as if my world had fallen apart. Well, it had.

It took a long time to get over having my heart broken for the first time, but the best advice was given to me by my grandmother. She was in her 70s, having given birth to my mother in her mid 40s, but nothing phased her. She just gave me a huge hug and said, “Remember, darling, always have a bolt hole.”

I thought she meant a little hideaway - I expect she did - but I have also come to realise that a bolt hole could be inside my head. Writing is one of my bolt holes. Singing is another. Walking and sailing are two others.

A few weekends ago we stayed in a chalet at Gwithian Towans. It was a reasonable size, clean, had everything you’d need for a few days away, and was only 45 minutes from Falmouth - or would have been if we hadn’t had several stops on the way. And that magnificent lighthouse was smiling at us over the dunes.

So I have found another bolt hole, and hope to return there soon.

As stress levels have been mounting with my nearest and dearest, it looks like finding this bolt hole is perfect timing!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Last week, having spent an exhausting morning in B&Q (the perils of being a landlady), then several hours unloading building materials, we decided, as it was a glorious afternoon and Getting Near the End of Summer, to make the most of the weather.

We headed down to Godrevy, my mum’s favourite beach as a child, to have a scamper along the beach and, as it was low tide, pick mussels. We were so lucky - it was a wonderfully hazy warm afternoon, there was a slight breeze and, not having been there for a while, the lighthouse is always stunning. In fact it’s got to be one of my favourite beaches, too.

There is a certain rock where large mussels grow that is only visible at low tide and we got there just in time, having had a wonderful walk over the dunes and onto the beach. Moll sheds her 9 years and becomes a puppy again, roaring over the golden flat sands with pure joy, ears streaming behind her. We picked several bags of mussels and then decided to stop at the Blue Anchor (a favourite pub) on the way home.

“Shall we have fish and chips?” said Mr B, tummy rumbling.
“We’ve got mussels,” I pointed out.
He was convinced I was going to give him food poisoning (which he’s had before from mussels) but after a pint of Middle was prepared to give it a go. I checked with Mel (my cooking advisor) just to make sure, and we soon made a meal of steamed mussels, with a white wine, garlic and coconut sauce served with noodles, peppers and prawns.

The mussels were so fresh you could taste the sweetness and the sea, and it was one of the more memorable meals I’ve had. And neither of us got food poisoning.

Just as well. I would never have heard the end of it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A Quiet Life

Snap was lifted out for the winter yesterday, so a quick goodbye to sailing on her for this year....

I decided to have a quiet weekend. Al and I had a marvellous sail on Wednesday but it was quite blowy, and the following day my scar hurt like blazes which frightened and frustrated me. I was told I’d just overdone things: not to worry, but i did feel very wobbly for a bit. Since then, the scar has settled down a bit which is a great relief.

But all that crying exhausted me, so I thought I’ll have a few days to myself. So I cancelled lunch with a friend on Saturday, knowing I was singing at a gig that night, and settled down to enjoy a bit of R&R. Good book, sun shining, walks with Moll, time to myself.

At midday a friend who lives upstairs turned up in tears. I won’t go into details but she’s had some really bad news. I gave her a cuddle, dispensed man size hankies and listened. Later, as she clearly needed a change of scene, I suggested she came down to Mylor, so we went down to bail out Echo and take Moll for a walk.

I got back, had an hour or so lie down then went out to the gig. Which was great. Exhausting but great fun.

Sunday I was in Lidls when my phone rang. The above friend’s partner was really worried because she was in agony and did I know a doctor he could ring? I advised to ring the out of hours service at the surgery and said I’d be back ASAP.

I legged it back and upstairs to find the poor thing writhing in agony on the bed. The out of hours people rang back and I said could they get someone to come here as she was in so much pain. He said yes but not for 6 hours. If we could get to Helston she could be seen in half an hour.

As they don’t drive, I said OK, and we legged it down to Helston. Joe was sitting, bend double on a chair in the back of the van with Moll. (My van doesnt have seating in the back) while M, his partner, sat in a lot of pain in the passenger seat, a bowl at her feet for when she wanted to throw up.

I drove, rubbing her back with one hand and driving with the other. Every now and then I would pass the bowl up for when she needed it. From the back Joe asked, "you feeling any better?"

"NO!" came the answer. He didn't ask again.

Eventually we got to Helston hospital where they gave her a prescription and Joe tried to straighten his spine and collect it from the massive superstore that is Tesco. It took him about half an hour as it was so busy, and finally we headed back home.

As she was still in so much pain, I said I’d be on call for the rest of the day (what there was left of it), but luckily the very strong painkillers kicked in and by 7pm she was looking a lot more human.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and poured myself a glass of wine.

Next weekend we’re going surfing. Kill or cure…..

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

MJ Long and Perfect Autumn Days

This is Moll in front of the magnificent cliffs at Burton Bradstock beach.

Last week I was fortunate enough to interview the architect, MJ Long, who was, with her husband, Sir Colin St John (“Sandy”) Wilson, responsible for designing the British Library, amongst many other works. MJ is well known for her work on studios and museums, and recently designed the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, and worked on the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Porthmeor Studios in St Ives and the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth. Those are just a few of her many and varied achievements, so I was in some trepidation at meeting her.

We’d arranged to meet at Custom House Quay so we could go out for a sail in her South Coast One Design, and she rang me that afternoon to confirm the arrangements. It was blowing a Force 6 easterly - which means very windy and Falmouth is not a pleasant place to be when an easterly wind’s blowing.

But I met her and John, who has a share in the boat, down there at 5.30 and he was to row us out in the tender (a wooden punt which is heavy) to where the boat is, off Flushing. Well, poor John had hurt the tendons in one hand pulling the mainsail down the previous weekend, and his poor hand was black and blue with bruising, so he could only row with several fingers on that hand. Still, he insisted he would do it, and we headed off in this punt (an old wooden rowing boat) through waves that smashed against the hull, showering us with salt water, no matter how skilled a rower he was.

After half an hour of wind and tide against us, we reached the boat, but poor MJ wasn’t feeling well. She’d been up most of the previous night with food poisoning so hadn’t eaten all day, and then had to give a lecture at the Tate St Ives in the morning. By the time we got to the boat it was blowing a hoolie - not too much for the boat, but enough for MJ and to be honest, the weather wasn't too enticing.

We sat on the boat and chatted, then John rowed us back (what a kind man) and I set off to MJ’s house to interview her there. Many people who are very skilled at what they do, and have been doing it for along while, often talk in ways that I find largely incomprehensible. But MJ was a delight - she chatted away explaining the importance of light in buildings, how important boats are to her, and it was a really fascinating couple of hours.

I left there, feeling very fortunate to have a job where I meet such unusual, diverse and interesting people.

In contrast to then, we’ve had a few settled days of perfect autumn when I met Al down at Mylor harbour on Monday. There was no wind, but a sense of peace and mellow stillness in the lazy, hazy sunshine which made the brightness of summer seem almost too harsh. The first nip of autumn was in the air, but the gentle sunlight warmed my hands and soothed my senses as Moll and I walked towards Flushing.

Mr B often laments that you can’t hang on to days like that. But I think you can. I don’t need a photograph to remind me of the perfection of that day. It’s like a tattered photograph, much thumbed and loved, tucked away in the wallet of my mind. On wintry days I shall take it out and share it with him.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Tamarisk Farm

Last week we were booked to do a review of dog friendly accommodation in Dorset at www.tamariskfarm.co.uk - or rather, one of their cottages, and were really looking forward to it, partly because we were both in need of a break, and also because it was a chance to see my dear friend Av.

I wasn’t sure from the website what the cottage would be like (pictures can be misleading), but we headed off on the Sunday in splendid sunshine and after a coffee and Lidls stop, went to Burton Bradstock. Mr B had camped here as a child so the area had fond memories for him, and we walked along the cliffs, while Moll raced ahead like a sprightly rabbit. We clambered down to the beach and I spent a happy half hour sunbathing on a rock while Mr B and Moll looked for fossils.

The cottage we were allocated was Whispering Pines and it was a delight, reached by a winding path through a secret garden that opened out with a big secluded lawn and patio, and this enchanting cottage in the middle, surrounded by pine trees. The whole atmosphere was very un-English - it almost felt as if we were in Italy, and the weather seemed to think so too, for the sun shone every day.

We shared this peaceful garden with dragonflies, a green woodpecker, greenfinches, rabbits, pigeons and bees, and it was wonderful to sit outside and read in the sunshine. We did venture further afield to walk Moll and had a notable trip on the Saturday to a car boot, then looking at the map we decided to go either to Dorchester or Weymouth. As we wandered round the town, looking for somewhere to have coffee, I said idly, “Dorchester’s rather like Weymouth you know.”
Mr B looked at me with gathering incredulity. “This IS Weymouth,” he replied.

When we’d finished howling with laughter, he wiped his eyes and said, “I should have kept my mouth shut. I could have just pretended we were in Dorchester. I could have kept that going for days.”

In fact, we had such a good time we asked if we could stay a few more days, until Friday which was changeover day. Then on Thursday, I asked if we could stay till Sunday and as luckily they didn't have a booking for the following week, they said yes.

We had such a wonderful relaxing week and the Pearse family, who run the farm and the cottages, were incredibly welcoming - so much so we felt part of the family by the time we left.

So if any of you fancy a holiday in Dorset, I couldn’t recommend Tamarisk Farm more highly. It’s perfect for walking (near Chesil Beach and the coastal footpath) and not far from Bridport, Weymouth and Dorchester. The scenery is just beautiful and we can’t wait to go back.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

On the water

Last week saw the Tall Ships come to Falmouth for a wonderful few days. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening ceremony so went on board the Polish ship before the mad rush started.

We took Echo out for the Parade of Sail on Sunday

and then on Monday Al came down so finally I got to have a sail on Snap and we were blessed with the most wonderful weather, and two fabulous sails.

And having had a double birthday celebration yesterday, I am now shattered.

Off to Dorset for a few days next week to catch up with my dear friend Av.
See you all soon.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tall Ships

Sadly I was unable to race in Falmouth Week which was a huge disappointment, but weather and my op and my lack of strength were all against me. I'm glad to say we had a lovely sail on Piran last weekend though, and Al will be back soon and we're planning some cruising when he returns.

We just need Mr B's knee to recover (it isn't on its own but he is one of those men that believes that injuries right themselves. I was married to someone who believed that too. No comment. Just don't mention "physician heal thyself" or I will scream).

This is the view looking up the rigging of the Tall Ship Mercedes when we sailed on her last Easter (2013).

Now, Falmouth is gearing itself up for Tall Ships 2014 - let's hope the weather cheers up a bit as the sight of all those magnificent ships in Falmouth Bay is not to be missed. You'll be able to get on board the ships from Thursday to Saturday, then the grand Parade of Sail will be on Sunday from 11 till 2pm before they head off up the coast, up towards Greenwich.

So anyone who's in Cornwall over this coming weekend, head for Falmouth. It is truly the most wonderful sight - even if you don't like boats. You won't be disappointed!

And onto other matters - on Wednesday I have a medical MOT day. Gynae clinic in the morning and an hour's hygienist appointment in the afternoon. Luckily we're having a girls night after that - I'll need it!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The best laid plans...

The best laid - or is that made? - plans and all that…

This week is Falmouth Regatta Week which I’ve been looking forward to all year. I even organised my surgery so I could sail this week.

But one way and another it doesn’t look very promising. First of all, Al came down but the boat took longer to get ready than we’d anticipated, and when we finally set off for a sail last Friday, there was no wind.We had to be towed out, then paddle back - this boat has no engine. So that scuppered that. I was so disappointed I cried (quietly, where I hoped Al couldn’t see) so Mr B took me out in Echo instead. Which wasn't the same but better than nothing.

The following day Mr B went out with the others in the boat for a shake down as he knows much more about the technical side of things that I do, so I ground my teeth as I waved them off….

On Sunday, the first day of racing, Bertha hit Cornwall so all racing was cancelled.

Yesterday it was blowing a hoolie and chucking it down with rain so I wasn't sorry not to race and they had a hard time of it and broke a backstay.

That was fixed but today they went out and broke both backstays -lucky the mast stayed up - so once again the boat is being fixed.

I’ve got to the point of being Philosophical now. If I don’t race this year, it’s not the end of the world. It felt like it the other day, looked forward to it for a long time, but like all things, there’s a reason. And you certainly can’t argue with the weather.

The good news is that I had a phone call from a friend I haven’t seen for about 20 years who’s staying down at Mylor. We met up and it was just like old times. We took Moll for a walk and caught up and might even go on holiday together.

Just think, if I’d been racing I might not have seen her.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


This was us singing in the Field of Loss - the poppy field - at Heligan last Sunday.

Last Friday my dear friend Av and I went to see West Side Story at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal - a most wonderful production with a fabulous cast. Av had organised the whole event brilliantly, so our Travelodge was next door and car park near to that. Even better, we had plenty of eateries nearby so that sorted our food problem. All in all, a wonderful evening, then the next morning we had a guided tour round the theatre which was fascinating - seeing the orchestra pit, going on stage, and the dressing rooms.

Unfortunately my train was cancelled on the way back, then the next train was late, so I got in nearly 2 hours late, which involved endless phone calls mostly to organise Moll being picked up at a different time -but all was sorted.

Then the next day we set off for Mevagissey, then Heligan, to take part in 100: The Day the World Changed. Nearly 80 of us singers, plus a few friends, came along in 3 coaches, and we started off at Mevagissey town quay where the St Austell band played, then the re-enactment of the local men who went to war a hundred years ago, and how their women and children were affected.

It was incredibly moving and it was impossible not to cry at some point in the day - for me when we sang Soldiers Farewell to the impossibly young looking men - boys - who were about to walk off to war, thinking that they’d be home by Christmas.

The re-enactment lasted all day - we sang for a lot of it - to over 5,000 people and ended up in the Field of Loss - a field planted with poppies - as the names of all those who had died in the surrounding parishes were read out.

We walked miles, sang our hearts out, and it really brought home the horrors of what everyone had to live through - and are still doing so for those who have loved ones still fighting.

It was a real privilege to be part of this production, and our thanks go to all those who worked so hard to make it happen. Our wonderful Musical Director, Claire Ingleheart, deserves so many thanks for all her hard work. We are so very proud of her.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Rosamunde Pilcher

A week or so ago I received an email from my Cornwall Today editor asking simply, “do you like Rosamunde Pilcher?”

I replied, “Yes! Whatever it is, throw it this way (she said rashly)”.

Then there was silence so I presumed nothing was going to happen, but then she rang and said she was sadly too busy to do the interview, would I like to? You bet - and anyway, when an editor asks you if you’d like to do any interview, let alone one of the most famous writers of women’s contemporary fiction, the answer is never a negative.

So Mr B drove me round Falmouth, on the hunt for The Shell Seekers, or any other book by her. Nothing in the library. Nothing in my friend Tash’s bookshop. As I had to do the interview early this week, there was no time to order anything online. Kirstie had a copy so I was going to drive to Truro to get it when I was stricken by a really horrible tummy bug so that laid me up for a few days. I had read all of Mrs Pilcher’s books before, but it would have been good to refresh my memory.

Anyway, by Monday morning, when I’d scheduled the interview, I was sick with nerves. I’m not usually that nervous, but then I don’t usually interview authors of such calibre. I had to force down a few mouthfuls of toast, and took Moll for a walk, trying to work off my extreme nerves.

I knew I’d be all right once we got going, and I was, but the Before is always nerve racking. But she was a delight. An incredibly sharp mind - she’ll be 90 in September - and with an incredibly clear memory. She’s also a wicked mimic and has an endearingly rich gurgle of a laugh.

We wrapped up the interview and I felt really blessed to have talked to her. Shame we couldn’t meet in person, but what a privilege that was.

Read all about it in September’s issue of Cornwall Today!

And on Sunday we are singing at Heligan Gardens, taking part in the Wildworks Production of 100: The Day Our World Changed. This will be a unique day of remembrance and commemoration to mark the outbreak of World War 1. The day will re-tell and re-live the lives of the brave men who went to war and the families they left behind. It’s a day for the community, about the community and involving as much of the community as possible.

So come along if you can - from 1030 at Mevagissey Harbour and ending at 7pm at Heligan Gardens.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Penzance Literary Festival

This is Moll on Snap (see below), taken last year.

Typically, in the midst of all this amazing weather I am land locked. Well, maybe not locked exactly, but unable to get on the water.

This is partly because my sailing mates are absent, and also on dry land, but also because last week I gave two talks at the Penzance Literary Festival, which has grown since its inception 5 years ago to a really fabulous festival with so much going on it is wonderful - and not just literature but arts, music, and plenty for children.

Talk No 1 was about my exploits sailing and how I came to write about it. Mr B had rehearsed me I don’t know how many times, which was very helpful, and also meant I wasn’t quite so nervous, but I was still pretty wobbly beforehand. Unfortunately we got there to find there was no laptop. Luckily Tony had brought his as well as the stick with all my images on, so all was not lost.

The audience was smaller than I would have liked but very appreciative which was encouraging, so I felt less nervous about the next talk which was about the role of independent publishers - a Q&A session with myself and another friend as authors, and two publishers.

We started off well but lost direction somewhere in the middle, and I was dismayed to find that the two publishers who were there were at pains to say how much they do for their authors, whereas I have to do all my own marketing and selling which is very hard work.

So that was a bit dispiriting. But the best bit of the day was a swim off Battery Rocks in Penzance. The water was crystal clear and felt silky and cool to my overheated skin.

As I write, Al, who owns Snap, the lovely Dragon we crew, has just arrived with the boat, so we will get out on the water soon, and Mr B is on a train hurtling back towards Cornwall after a short absence. They will shortly all be safely gathered in - I hope…..

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Married to Roger Federer

Another one of Mullion Cove - I can never tire of pictures of the Lizard.

The other day I received a phone call which said Private Number. Usually these calls are from the hospital, or the doctor, so I answered it cautiously. A male voice said, “Is that Mrs B?”

“Who’s calling?” I said, rather tentatively.

It turned out to be the marine repair people - we’d taken the outboard in to be fixed and Mr B can never remember his number, so we gave mine instead. So that solved that mystery.

Then last night I rang my mum and she said, “I had the most vivid dream last night. You danced in saying you were getting married to Roger Federer!”

She told her carer in the morning, adding, “I’m not sure about the age gap” (over 20 years). Her carer laughed and pointed out, “to say nothing of the fact that he has a wife and four children.”

Mr B groaned when I told him. “I’ve got enough competition,” he said, “without adding Roger bloody Federer. I think I’d better have a word with your mum.”

So watch out Mum. Expect an irate call from Mr B asking if you can dream about slightly less high profile men in future where your daughter’s concerned.

“I’m not doing too badly,” I said cheerfully. “I was married to you yesterday, now I’m about to be married to Roger Federer. Who next?”

Mr B turned even paler (it wasn’t helping his hangover, nor the fact that I was about to put him on the train for a week’s absence). “I don’t think I’ll go away ever again,” he muttered. “I don’t know what’s going to happen by the time I get back.”

Though something tells me he doesn’t have to worry too much about Roger turning up on my doorstep. Not in the next week, anyway……

And on another note - I'm giving two talks at the Penzance Literary Festival. One tomorrow, Thursday 17th from 4-5pm at Penlee Coach House, on Sailing around Cornwall, and another on Sunday from 230 - 330 on getting published by an independent publisher. Come along if you can or keep your fingers crossed if you can't!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Getting there

The Lizard - taken the other weekend, near Mullion Cove, where we had a magical weekend.

I’ve been so desperate to get out sailing, and so resenting the halt in progress I made last year, that doubts started to creep in about my abilities. In the company of others who had sailed all their lives, I felt woefully aware of my inexperience.

“Nonsense,” said Mr B. “You’re a natural.” But the doubts persisted, not helped by an outing a few weeks ago when someone whose boat I was on assumed that I didn’t know much about sailing and told me to sit out of the way in the corner.

Last Wednesday the forecast was good, so Mr B and I decided to go for my first sail on Piran. I was nervous, to say the least, as it’s 10 months since we last sailed her, and I was convinced that my mind would stay blank once we got on board.

Admittedly rigging her made my brain spin a bit - Mr B looked at me at one point and said, “Where does this go?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” I replied, and we both laughed.

But from the moment we stepped on board I felt fine. It all came back, as naturally as breathing. I tacked smoothly and without upset, and I couldn't believe it.

There was a nasty moment when the shoe came undone half way up the mast, and Mr B had to stand on deck and reach up the mast to tie it on - actually that happened twice - while I tried to keep the boat steady with gusty winds and a group of lasers setting off racing. But we managed it and had a wonderful sail to St Just and back.

Which just goes to show that having a go at things you’re terrified of is a Good Thing. My confidence has gone up several notches. And we’re hoping to go out this afternoon…..

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Confidence Crisis

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a sail on a Rustler 42 - a most wonderful looking yacht built by Rustler Yachts here in Falmouth. (They have built Princess Anne’s last few boats.)

Climbing aboard this boat, on a perfect evening, was one thing. Seeing the magnificent detail everywhere - down below - on deck - up the mast, the rigging - was incredibly impressive. Every boat is tailor made according to the client’s exact requirements, and it shows in the detail.

We sailed out towards St Anthony Lighthouse, nipped into St Mawes, and then returned back to Mylor. I’ve never sailed a boat that size before and the sheer power of it was mind blowing. She sails like a dream, but I’d been told she was worth half a million, so at first I was a little anxious as I was at the helm. Also the wheel was as big as me - and I’m used to a tiller, which is a different sort of steering. I was very aware of my inexperience, and not having sailed for 8 months hasn’t helped - my confidence was at rock bottom. But on the return trip I began to get into the swing of it and really enjoyed this wonderful experience. Mr B and I felt very privileged to be part of it.

But that night I couldn’t sleep. I felt a fraud, writing about sailing when I know so little. And like most of us, when that voice of doubt creeps in, my confidence plummeted.

We’d sat around chatting with Adrian and Nick (who own Rustler Yachts) that evening and they are great company, but I was aware of how much they all know, when I have so much to learn. I know I can’t compete with people who’ve sailed all their lives, but I get frustrated at how my health has had to take precedence this year.

I want to be out there, sailing and learning! I want to be good! Not just because it’s my job, but because I love it and I want to be good at it for myself and those I sail with. I want to be able to hold my own.

At least I am now fit enough to start sailing again, and I know the only way to improve my confidence is by doing it. And it’s such a joy to actually sail, that it’s no hardship. I just wish I could be better NOW!

But I am incredibly grateful to all those who are helping me along the way. You know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Balancing Acts

This is September, the beautiful 47' ketch that I was lucky enough to go out on, on Saturday. Many thanks to Josh and Sally for inviting me so I could take pictures of the Parade of Sail of classic boats.

As a journalist I always listen carefully to the people I’m talking to, note their body language and how they behave. See how nervous they are. How quickly they relax. It’s rare that I interview someone while their partner is there. Usually the interview is between me and the other person. I always make notes and record the interview as well, and it’s interesting transcribing the tape afterwards, because every often what you think they might have said wasn’t that at all - or the nuances are different.

Over the years I have developed my own style of writing which is now as natural to me as breathing. Editors seem to like it, and so do readers. Those who have been interviewed tend to like it too.

Every now and then there is an exception and as someone who cares about my work and the people I interview, it matters if other people aren’t happy. It keeps me awake at night, because I’m a professional - I want to do a good job.

Sometimes it means walking away from a job. I’ve only had to do that once before when my editor asked, “is this the sort of person you think we should be featuring?” My answer was no.

Life is about a balance and sometimes it’s not always possible to achieve that.

Unless you’re Moll, of course, who just knows that she’s right all the time. This is her at the helm.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Another sleepless night

Another picture from Pendennis Cup - sorry, I can't resist.

Ever had a disagreement with a friend and not known what to do?

Whenever I find myself in this situation, I ask myself what I’d advise someone else to do. And I talk to others about it, sometimes.

Thankfully upsets with friends happen very rarely - I’m pretty easy going but I have had several sleepless nights recently over this one. Thankfully we have worked it out. Lack of communication and lack of awareness didn't help but the slate is clear now and we will move forward again.

But enough of that - the forecast is good for the weekend and I sit here looking out on our view of the harbour, the sparkling sea, and itch to get sailing.

This weekend, my friend Josh, who has a beautiful 47’ ketch called September (www.sailaclassic.cu.uk), has invited me out with them to watch the Classics race on Saturday. I’m meeting Sally at 930, taking a packed lunch, and off we go to Custom House Quay to leave at 10am and watch the Parade of Sail.

MollieDog is going to Emma for the day, the most wonderful dog walker in the world, and she will have a lovely day up at the farm, so well both be happy.

Then on Sunday the lone sailor is going to take us out for a sail. At least, if there’s enough wind we will - the forecast is for zilch wind so we will have to see. That’s another picnic - and something for Moll too of course.

Better pack the suncream - or is that temping fate?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Adventures afloat

Last week was one of great excitement - not only was I privileged enough to watch the Pendennis Cup from their spectator launch, but on Saturday Mr B and I, and others who race with Charlie Choak were invited on his boat to watch the Red Arrows.

The morning dawned grey with heavy clouds and no wind, and as the Red Arrows were cancelled at the last minute last year due to low cloud, we were all fearful the same thing would happen. Av rang that morning and said it was lovely weather in Dorset. Good, I muttered, through gritted teeth.

Then, late morning, the sun broke through and shone, with a light breeze, for the rest of the day. And it was magical. The only downside was that the wonderful yachts didn't have their sails up so I couldn’t take pictures of them under sail, but here are a few of the afternoon.

I also interviewed the boat designer Roger Dongray on Friday which was a fascinating morning. He’s the man who designed the Shrimper and Crabber, if that means anything to you readers. Most interviews take about 45 minutes but this one went on for nearly two hours! An amazing man and incredibly modest about his talents.

Now, it’s back to real life. Taking the lone sailor to hospital on Monday. I had dentist and doctor yesterday, and life will settle down again.

Nothing like a few adventures afloat to make life special, though.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Pendennis Cup

I was lucky enough to be invited on the spectator launch for the Pendennis Cup, yesterday. This is an event where classic super yachts race round Falmouth Bay and they are just awe inspiring in their beauty. The event is held every two years and the yachts - and their crew - come from all over the world to take part. The above picture is of Adix, one of the bigger yachts.

It was a day I will never forget. And I’m wearing my free Pendennis Cup t shirt as I write.

Meanwhile I am preparing a talk for the Penzance Literary Festival and tomorrow I go to interview a boat designer in Lostwithiel. On Saturday I am out on the water on a friend’s boat watching the Red Arrows as they fly over for the last day of the Pendennis Cup. At least - we hope so - last year they cancelled due to low cloud.

Next week I will need a rest…..

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A spot of summer

As you can see, this lot were becalmed....

Summer came to Cornwall for about four glorious days last week and we made the most of it. It was actually too hot for Moll to walk in the daytime - she crawled behind the sofa at home and when we went out, panted and lay down in the shade.

But on Thursday I wore my favourite skirt to singing - “Summer’s arrived,” remarked Mr B, and we went out on Echo that afternoon which was fabulous. There was little breeze and we motored out near St Anthony’s Lighthouse where we cut the engines and drifted for a while, savouring the peace of the afternoon. Later we had a picnic at Restronguet Creek and it really was a wonderful day - Cornwall at its best.

Then on Saturday I was lucky enough to go out for the day on the lone sailor’s boat, Brigus, for the first time. I was a bit apprehensive about getting on and off it, and also how Moll would cope but both were achieved with no hassle and there was plenty of shade on board for Moll, which was a relief. We sailed over to Helford and had lunch there, then took Madam for a walk through the woods before sailing out towards the Manacles and back home to Falmouth where I was dropped off around 9pm. Another really fabulous day.

I sincerely hope it’s possible to have more of these trips - Echo has become very dear to me over the years, and when you don’t have children, dogs and boats become even more special. As do their owners, of course.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


This is the publicity shot I'm going to use for the Penzance Literary Festival - me on Gypsy Moth IV last year.

I’ve just been asked to give a talk at the Penzance Literary Festival in July which has thrown me somewhat. I’m busily writing some words and trying to think how to incorporate pictures into it. There aren’t that many of me sailing so I will have to have a good think about this. Still, it’s great to be asked, and I’m delighted that the Penzance Literary Festival has grown year on year - I have been part of it since the first one so it’s wonderful to see it thriving.

As I write, the sun is blazing outside and I am getting excited. All being well I’m hoping for a trip on Echo in the next few days, and the lone sailor is taking his boat out and has asked me if I’d like to go for a sail on Saturday. Moll is coming too, and I’m not sure how she’ll take to it, but I can take her for a walk before and after, and you never know - she might take to it.

Getting on and off the boat could be a problem but I talked to my specialist nurse who said as long as I’m careful, and don’t pull anything when I’m on board, it will doubtless do me good.

The prospect of one, if not two boat trips in as many days has got me so excited I can’t sleep. I feel just like a child on Christmas Eve. And there’s a high over us so the weather looks set fair till Sunday.

If I was a glass half empty person I’d say that something’s bound to go wrong. As I’m not, I’ll hope for the best and just enjoy begin on the water again.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Went to Constantine Woods with the lone sailor - and the bluebells are out!

Publishers don’t like coincidences in novels. Which is strange, given how often they occur in real life.

When I was in hospital, all the staff were fascinated by the fact that I’m a sailing correspondent. I daresay it sounds very glamorous, which it isn’t, but it does mean I get to write about what I love doing, and who wouldn’t want to do that?

The question they all asked was, “have you got your own boat?” The answer is sort of, but I’m promiscuous when it comes to loving boats. I own half a dinghy (Piran) with Mr B. He has a small motor boat called Echo that he calls mine because of the time I’ve spent looking after her while he’s been away.

Last summer we were walking through Mylor harbour car park when we saw someone working on a beautiful wooden boat on a trailer. I said, “we were just admiring your lovely boat”. It turns out it’s a Dragon classic boat called Snap, which he’s kept at Mylor in the summer months for many years but never sailed much as he lives in Derby and doesn’t have crew here. Mr B’s arm shot up. “I’ll crew,” he said. I gulped (we’d only just done our course, but I wasn’t going to be outdone.) “And me,” I said.

I gave Alan my card and he laughed. “Kittow,” he said. “Another Cornish name. I’m Alan Dale. From Redruth. The boat’s going in the water Monday, then I’ll rig her Tuesday. How about a sail on Wednesday?”

We said yes, jumped up and down a bit then went back to the car. “I wonder if he’ll ring,” said Mr B. But the following morning, when I was out with MollieDog, he did. We met Alan on the Wednesday, had the most fabulous day sailing and from then on we became his official crew, and raced with him in Falmouth Week. We met his wife, and they have become dear friends. And we hope to race with Al in Falmouth Week this year.

As if they weren't enough boats, a few months ago I met the lone sailor and we’re going sailing on his 35’ cruiser. Unfortunately we can only go out on spring tides, and I have to wait a few more weeks until I’m fit, but that’s something else to look forward to.

Last year I stopped writing the walks for Cornwall Today, but became sailing correspondent which has opened up all kinds of amazing opportunities.

I don’t know why publishers don’t like coincidences for they happen all the time. Or perhaps I just attract more of them than most.

This time last year, we had booked a sailing course, but I hadn’t been sailing for many years. This year, I can’t wait to get back on the water. Several people have asked me what I hope to do this year, and I say, “get to be a better sailor. And write about it.”

And I can't WAIT to get on the water again.....

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Comings and goings

The above picture was taken at Constantine woods where we went to see the bluebells - they weren't quite out, but hope they will be soon.

For the first time in nearly two months, I’m beginning to feel more myself, in more ways than one - or more than I’m prepared to write about in public….

My energy levels are better, but that’s not just it. I feel more me, which is hard to define. I know this experience has changed me, but it’s too early to work out in what ways. I feel at once stronger and more vulnerable, that’s all I know. But I guess life’s like that. We hopefully learn from all our experiences, and they make us wiser people. Shame that by the time we’ve accumulated all this knowledge, we snuff it, but such is life.

I’m reading a book called The Bookshop That Floated Away, about a bookshop on a barge. In her book she talks about people who have walk on roles but she doesnt see again because she moved on - literally speaking, in the boat.

Someone who came into my life unexpectedly, and at precisely the right time, was Emma McCurrach, who runs a wonderful dog walking service called K9 Social. She took to Moll immediately and sent me texts when I was in hospital of pictures of Moll at the farm, and updates of how she was, which meant so much to me. She’s turned into a wonderful friend - at least, I hope she continues to be so - and is coming round for a curry soon.

That got me thinking though about people I’ve known in the past who have been very important for a while, then I haven’t seen them again. One is a friend called Sandra who I would love to meet up with, as we were very close for years.

Some people burst into our lives like shining stars, as if they’ve been dropped there by a fairy godmother. Some leave deep emotional footprints; some very faint ones. Some stay and some go but I don’t think that matters so much. It’s what happens while they’re there that’s important.

And I leave you with a quote from a film I saw recently. “When happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat.”

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Six weeks on...

Here's Moll down at Mylor the other day, having been seeing to Echo...

Today I had my six week check up - all was well, though I have been incredibly tired recently, and it doesn't seem to be getting better. "Been doing too much too soon?" said my surgeon cheerfully. I explained that being freelance, I had rush of work when I least needed it, which probably slowed down the recovery period. (The lone sailor doesnt call me Speedy for nothing.)

The surgeon assured me that the fatigue will get better, but I have to pace myself - which I have been doing. And actually, it takes 3-6 months to start feeling better.

I said to the lone sailor later, "Thank god he didn't tell me that before i had the op. I would have completely freaked out." Now I'm slightly more realistic about it all as I realise I can't hurry it. I will be better when I'm better. And if I can't race at Falmouth Week (oh god I hope I can), at least I'll be able to sail.

In the meantime, I have to have some blood tests in a few weeks and another check up in three months, and after that follow up is by phone call. Job done.

My surgeon is one of those people that inspires confidence. He also has a great sense of humour, very black twinkly eyes and is constantly assessing me (us) to see how much we're taking in. He's extremely modest and, unlike some extremely intelligent people, particularly in the medical profession, doesn't talk down to you, but explains things clearly. He likes being asked questions (he knows I'm a journalist and expects me to ask questions). And he's always cheerful. Which, if you consider he's an oncologist, is amazing.

So here's to my Moll and my surgeon. Two sources of humour, intelligence and inspiration.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Missed chances and blubometers

Here's a picture of a ploughed field just beyond Mylor Harbour. I loved the furrows in contrast to the skyline and the trees..... and it's to cheer up one of my dearest friends who is having a really terrible time at the moment.
After the tumultuous last few weeks, my flat is quiet all of a sudden. Last night was the first I’d spent alone for five weeks. The lone sailor is on his boat in St Mawes, as we speak, testing the autopilot. And after the roaring adrenaline of last week, I am exhausted so it's good to have time and peace to myself.

While it would have been lovely to have gone as well, my stomach is not up to getting in and out of dinghies, let alone climbing ladders or hauling sheets (ropes) or being tossed around (it’s very lumpy out there today). I had thought that as the six week period approaches I would feel magically better. While I am much more mobile and able to get around more, I’m still wary about driving (in case I have to do an emergency stop), my stitches tug a lot of the time, and I'm still having to wear baggy clothes which makes me feel somewhat androgynous, which is not me at all.

I was to have gone on a press jolly today, on a ferry welcoming the Tres Hombres tall ship into Falmouth. Sadly the PR rang me - they’ll be going two miles out into the Bay and she was worried in case it might be a bit rough for me (ie my stitches). I consulted with weather forecast, lone sailor and others and decided, reluctantly, to err on the side of caution. Not like me, but I so want to get better as soon as I can and I daren’t risk anything that might set me back. And on the bright side, it means I don't have to cancel our singing rehearsal.

Still, I’m meeting the ship’s cook on Thursday for an interview, so hopefully I will be able to get on board without mishap and have a good snoop which will be just as interesting, and without the fear of being seasick. (Though I can't wait to get on the water.)

I went to singing for the last 15 minutes last week and we sang The Lower Lights which always tends to make me a bit misty eyed. I’d had a very busy week work wise and was coming to the end of four deadlines so I was stressed and over emotional, and the words made me think of losing Pip, as they always do. Of the special men in my life. Of how we just never know what’s going to happen (which can be a blessing). Soon I was gulping hard - not easy when you’re trying to sing. In fact, impossible.

When we finished, by which time I was a blotchy eyed mess, our musical director looked over at me and said fondly, “Oh Sue. You’re my blubometer. If you don’t cry when we sing that number, I know we’ve done something wrong.”

And lastly, here's a sun drenched bank of primroses down at Helford Village on Sunday,with Cornwall looking at its very best.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lionel Shriver and the River of Life

This was taken at Loe Beach regatta last year, on a perfect day, from Echo. Nothing to do with this post,but I'm writing a piece on regattas which has made me desperate to get on the water again soon....

When an editor asks if you would like to interview Lionel Shriver there is only one response.

What I hadn't realised was that it would entail interviewing her this week - and in addition, having not just one but three lots of copy to turn in this week. Not part of the recovery plan, but also not the kind of thing to turn down. So I’ve been working, sleeping, walking a bit, resting, working, resting etc.

The interview with Lionel was yesterday, and after a slightly hesitant start, I so enjoyed it. She's a fascinating person with a razor sharp mind - and, of course, she's a brilliant writer. I found we have a lot in common - same age, no children, both have Raynaud’s Disease, both independent and determined, both buy clothes from car boots. She is of course a lot hugely successful but wrote a fascinating piece on Failure (thanks, Mr B for unearthing that one!) which is a much neglected topic in my opinion. I left there feeling WOW with my head buzzing.

Now I have to write it up and file copy soonest - only 600 words which is a nightmare as there's so much I'll have to leave out.I've also got to file two other sailing pieces - and just sent a walk in as well. OK it’s not part of the plan but it’s the right side of challenging, and now the antibiotics have left my system, I can at least think again which is a bonus.

Last week Mr B told me about Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which he’s reading at the moment. In it, JKJ was talking about the river of life, and said something like, “Don’t think of the things we want in life, think of the things we can’t do without: a home, a dog or cat, someone to love and someone to be loved by, one or two good friends, a pipe and a drink for one is bound to get thirsty”.

At first I thought, yes what good advice. And then, as I thought about it one night, I decided that surely we should want to LIVE our lives, not merely exist. By which I mean that if we’re not happy, we SHOULD think of the things we want in life, for surely the whole point of us being here is to be happy?

I don’t mean aspiring to a way of life that is beyond our financial means, but having FUN. Even if it's making the time to go walking, a day out or an adventure. A sail! Maybe just sitting by the fire and reading. Of course it depends on the company, too. But I truly believe that if something is wrong in our lives - we’re not happy for whatever reason, we should do something about it - after all, we only get one shot at it. As a friend of mine (who is an ex-member of AA says), “there are no such things as victims. Only volunteers.”

I have what I call an Open Door policy, by which I mean if something is wrong in my life, I try and do whatever I can to change it. If I need more work I pitch to endless magazines or agents for my book. When I was in Devon and feeling really stuck, I applied for endless job interviews, accepted a random invitation to Cornwall and met my late husband. Friends of mine are trying desperately to move, and seeing endless houses. Finally they’ve found somewhere. Another friend who was unhappy in her relationship finished it after many years. She was on her own for ages, then met someone she’s very happy with.

I do believe that if you truly wish some aspect of your life to change, if you open as many doors as you can, then turn your back on the problem, something will happen (though maybe not what you quite envisaged). But you have to have done your best and really want that change, before things happen.

Lionel was talking about this yesterday. It’s so important in life to have a go - remember, it’s never too late. It it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve tried, and you can have a go at something else. And in the words of the inimitable Jack Nicholson, you won’t spend the rest of your life thinking, “I should have asked her to dance…”

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Not that this picture has anything to do with fog, but I took it on a walk with Sally over on the Roseland and loved it.

Over the weekend I started to feel like a boat adrift in fog. Actually, sailing in fog is incredibly dangerous, and I don't mean that I am in danger, more that I had no idea where I was going. I could hear the foghorn, and I knew that my nearest and dearest were nearby, but I sensed that this was something I had to do on my own. And that I wanted to do on my own.

It's all to do with the fact that life has been incredibly unreal for the last month or so, and very slowly bits of normality are seeping through. I am able to walk a little way with Moll. I have some really interesting work coming up, though my energy levels are very low, so I have to allocate short periods of time to a) walk with my Moll - the lovely Emma still takes her out in the afternoons; b) work, c) rest - I tend to crash out in the afternoons when I can and d) see friends.

The down side of having a lot of friends is that it takes a lot of energy to keep up with them all. Last week I realised I just didn’t have that energy, and really felt the need for some time to myself. So the lone sailor has taken himself off to work on the boat and I’m spending time on my own (with Moll) working, reading and sleeping, which is what I desperately need.

Friends ring which is lovely, but meeting is a bit much at the moment. So if I’ve been a bit quiet - bear with me. Do ring, but I need to recover by conserving what little energy I have. Having said that, my brothers are coming down on Friday which will be wonderful, so I need to prepare for that.

I do get frustrated at times, but I’ve finished the antibiotics and on Sunday had a delicious glass of wine and toasted my loved ones. I also had a little walk with Moll on Saturday and Sunday, and the joy on her little face was, I guess, echoed on mine. I’ve really missed our walks together and I know she’s been very confused by the whole process, wondering why I couldn’t come out with her, and why she couldn’t jump all over the bed (not on my stomach!). But on Saturday night she cuddled up to me as she always used to, and lay clamped to my thigh all night. I felt very blessed then.

Having had such a stormy start to the year, I have no idea what lies ahead. But that’s OK. I am fortunate in being well loved and as my dear friend Deb says, “just go with the flow, Sue”.

So here’s another toast. To sailing, to happiness and to going with the flow.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


A slight hiccup in the proceedings began on Friday afternoon when I started bleeding. Not badly but enough to scare me. To cut a long story short, Saturday morning saw us in the out of hours clinic in Truro where a doctor diagnosed an infection and put me on some incredibly strong antibiotics. Typically, they are ones you can’t drink alcohol with, and the day before, my lovely brother Ben had a half case of New Zealand wine (my favourite) delivered.

My dear mate Av arrived on Sunday, though, which cheered me up and gave the Lone Sailor a bit of a break, so they were able to enjoy the wine - nothing worse than me lying on my bed for a rest listening to the two of them next door clinking their glasses saying, “Cheers!” To add insult to injury, Mr B came round later so I ended up pouring him said wine and watching wistfully while I sipped my grapefruit juice…..

On that note, we were talking about Being Strong the other day. Mr B was away when I first found out about the cysts, and I was so terrified and felt incredibly alone. I thought This Is It. Ovarian cancer - no more anything.

Once I got on the NHS bandwagon, life had a momentum of its own over which I had no control and I was swept along which was fractionally less terrifying as I felt at least they knew what they were doing. But despite having fabulous friends, this is the time when you need that special someone there to hold you in the middle of the night, which was what I sorely missed.

Having mulled it over I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s how we react to circumstances that determine our level of strength. Some people perceive themselves as victims which means they relinquish control (which is terrifying - I've done it) and thereby are unwilling or unable to pick themselves up, and rely on other people. Others panic and are just as terrified, hurt and bewildered, but, having been knocked over however many times we eventually think, “**** it. I’m going to get up again and keep going.”

In my case, I felt that I just wanted to cram as much of life into the days and hours I had left. Which, now the future is looking brighter, I hope are many.

So here’s to my first glass of Ben’s delicious wine on Sunday night. To sailing again, very soon. To love, to health and to happiness. To dear friends, old and new. To music, and singing, adventures, and laughter and fun.

And to making the most of every day.

P.S. Just walked into town for a coffee - and back. It took hours - the Lone Sailor said it was like walking with his granny - and I was wiped out for the rest of the day, but I have a great sense of achievement!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Back again

Well, where to start? Firstly the operation, I guess. Several people asked me how it went, but as I was unconscious for all of it, I have no idea. One minute it was 11am, the next it was nearly 6pm. I have a dim memory of a friend who’s a nurse calling in to see me, but I could have made that up. The following day was a nightmare of illnesss and tubes. The morphine drip made me feel incredibly sick, I had anaesthetic drains into my stomach, oxygen coming through my nose and a catheter. Not a pretty sight. I was so far out of it I couldn’t face turning on my phone or talking to anyone. The lone sailor visited and I couldn’t talk to him either, poor fellow. I just dozed on and off all day.

But the following day they removed various drips and I began to feel better. The day after that, they said I could go home when I wanted as long as I had someone at home. I would have stayed another night, as I was feeling pretty ropey, but one other patient was incredibly sick, poor lady, and I didn’t feel I could cope with any more of that. So I came home after 3 days and my god was I glad to be back.

The Lone Sailor volunteered to stay for as long as I need him, and thank god for that - I hadn’t realised how utterly helpless I would be. All those little things I can’t do like drawing the curtains, bending down, lighting the fire, turning the TV on, feeding the animals, picking things up off the floor, opening windows. Getting in and out of bed is a challenge. So many little things that I need help with.

But a week on and I am a bit more mobile around the house, though walking is a No No still. My legs just don’t work, which is probably a good thing, and my scar - which is massive - aches if I do too much, so the two combined stop me doing too much.

The lone sailor has been incredibly patient and understanding. He has held my hand while I cried at 3am (can’t hold me because The Wound is too sore), and talked me down when the pain got too much. God knows why or if we will ever speak after this interlude, but he seems positive - even cheerful - about it all.

The other thing that has been worrying me is Mr B. But on Saturday he is going to take me down to see darling Echo. It’s difficult for both of us, but we know enough to secure our strong friendship which means a lot to us both.

How I will survive the next 5 weeks is anyone’s guess. But I have friends to take me out every day to prevent cabin fever, friends who bring food and friends who are just there on the other end of the phone.

Mr B said the other day how much he admired my resilience. It’s down to my friends, I said. You’re the ones who give me strength, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Nearly There

Friday approaches with ever increasing speed, like a runaway juggernaut that is about to squash me flat. To say I’m terrified is something of an understatement, but at least I know that the lone sailor and my other lovely friends will be there to carry me out the other end.

And I’ve had my birthday to take my mind off things. I’ve managed to have almost a week of celebrations which has been lovely, and gathered as many of my nearest and dearest around me as has been possible. The others I look forward to seeing later.

Driving back from Devon last Saturday I took Moll for a walk and thought, “this is the last time I’ll be able to do this for a while,” and that was not a good thought. I can’t imagine being unable to do all the things I love doing, so perhaps it’s just as well I can’t. We went down to Echo yesterday morning and bailed her out and I thought how fond I am of her, and of the many happy hours we spent on her. “See you soon, I hope, little boat,” I thought.

It’s a scary time and I don’t exactly relish the time in hospital. But it’s got to be done, and I look forward to enjoying some quiet time, after this hectic period, to read, maybe write more poetry, and catch up on some sleep. I’ve had the Worried 3ams for a while now. I must use the time wisely and actually enjoy a period of relaxing and reading.

I met Fiona last night who is already planning to take me to the cinema, out for lunch etc until we can go walking again. The Lone Sailor is planning trips, too, as are my other lovely friends.

So think of me on Friday when the lone sailor will drive me in at some ungodly hour of the morning. (Having just had a call from the hospital to confirm Friday “subject to bed space,” I hope to god it won’t be postponed.)

On the basis that it does all go ahead, soon it will be over, and I can start looking forward to the spring. And to summer, and lots of singing, sailing, walking and all the other things I enjoy so much.

This time next week I could be coming home - just think of that…

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Note to self.....

Note to self. Do not attempt to say goodbye to one relationship, start another and prepare for major surgery all at once.

So much has happened in the past week - since I wrote that last post - that I hardly know where to begin. But to cut a long story short, regular readers of this blog may have noticed that Mr B has been away for a long while, and during his absence, life has been extremely tough. Several weeks ago I met the lone sailor. Just over two weeks ago we had lunch. We'd only seen each other a few times when I realised that this had a chance of going somewhere, so I told Mr B.

Breakups are always so very hard, particularly when you really care about each other. But our parting was as amicable as is possible in the circumstances, and we hope to remain the true friends that we are, once the dust has settled.

So while I have been grappling with the raw grief associated with saying goodbye, I have also been dealing with the uncertain wonder that comes with getting to know the new man in my life. And, of course, preparing for hospital.

I’m always being told off for doing things too quickly, but recent events have broken all my previous records. Both of us are walking round, stunned and astonished. By last Saturday I felt so overwhelmed by everything I had a complete meltdown, so apologies to anyone who I may have upset by weeping and wailing by phone or email.

A few days on and I feel much better about life. Yes, my stress levels are pretty high, which is understandable, but they aren’t through the roof, as they were a few days ago, and while there is a huge amount of emotional stuff to process, at least the three major events sort of balance each other in a way, and stop me worrying about hospital too much. There’s so much to think about I can’t possibly do so - the only way is to take small chunks of each at a time.

But in all this, the Lone Sailor has been unfailing kind and patient. After all, he has to process this stuff as well. He is currently repairing my second puncture in two days, and preparing for my last appointment with the specialist tomorrow when we may know more (a terrifying prospect).

He is calm under pressure, though, and departed yesterday with two of my hospital leaflets, entitled “Your Hysterectomy” and “Pelvic Floor Exercises,” - both of which he threatened to read in the pub.

The other day, he asked, “Do you believe in fate?” I said I thought things happened for a reason, if that’s what he meant.

“I think I’ve come into your life to help you through this,” he said. “I’d like to do that, and let’s see where we go from there.”

I am stunned at such generosity. No one could possibly ask for better than that. So while life continues to be a roller coaster - as ever - just think: my convalescence couldn’t be coming at a better time. I can use it, not only to recover, but to process the massive changes in my life.

And for now, the lone sailor is not alone any more.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Comings and Goings

This is the super yacht This Is Us at Pendennis marina a few weeks ago. How the other half lives.....

Life is always about comings and goings, but over the last week I’ve had several notable ones.

First my oldest friend Lin - we met when we were 4 at the school gates - has been living in Australia for the last 30 years. She’s over here on a flying visit as her dad has just died, bless him. Sadly I won’t be able to go to the funeral owing to a plethora of hospital appointments, and the last time she came over I couldn't see her as Pip was too ill. But we had a lovely long talk the other night - “just like being kids again,” she said happily - and will do again before she leaves. And we are definitely meeting up next time she comes over.

After that (this is in date order), another Falmouth friend came back from a month in India. On her own. I haven’t seen her yet but sounds like she had a fascinating time and I look forward to hearing more about her adventures. Good and bad.

Mr B is due back next week after a prolonged absence, and he and Al are determined to get me back into tip top condition for spring, and in particular for racing Snap in Falmouth Week. I have no idea how they intend to do that, and have a feeling it won’t involve anything medical, but it’s very comforting to know.

Right now I am making the most of every precious moment. There is a lot to fit in - stockpiling articles for work, several parties, a chance meeting with someone who used to work on super yachts and is now running a restaurant, who I will interview - enjoying a rare day of sunshine on the Lizard with the lone sailor, and catching up with friends. Then on Monday I went to a wake of someone who died of prostate cancer in his early 60s. I think you can imagine how I felt about that.

Besides cramming as much enjoyment into my life as I can, and resting when necessary, I am planning. Packing a case. Going for another scan tonight then on Thursday a pre-op assessment. Next week another visit to the gynaecologist, by which time we might know a bit more. All those things happen to my other persona - the one who I will become, in a few weeks. The one who’s about to go through something too massive and life changing to even contemplate. It’s like walking in the shadow of Everest. I know I’ll have to climb it, soon, but right now I just have to prepare myself (and cling on tight to those hands that hold mine).

Someone who doesn’t know me suggested that these cysts might be seen as a wake up call. To what? The fact that I love my life? Like anyone there are several aspects of my life that could be improved upon, but nothing’s perfect.

It’s difficult trying to imagine a poorly me while I am still bouncing round, full of beans and pain free. Enjoying life to the full. So I take each day as it comes, and will do that for as long as I can. In fact, it’s a much better way to live.

But I know that my friends are the best in the world. You give me enormous strength, and I count myself very fortunate to feel so loved and cherished.

And lastly, I can solve the mystery of the two bunches of daffodils left on my doorstep on Saturday night. It was suggested I might have a secret admirer, but I couldn’t think of anyone. Although of course if they were secret, I wouldn’t know. But I’ve just found out they were from my dear friend Emma. Bless you, Em.